LONDON, ONTARIO – For a full quarter century through a City of London program called Focus 60, I worked as a discussion group convener for senior citizens – at least 90 percent of them women. While I also hosted one group which discussed current events for a few years, the two real mainstays of my convening years were weekly, two-hour sessions with a group of aspiring writers and another group of very accomplished readers; folks who’d read widely and avidly for 60 or 70-some years and were a goldmine of suggestions and recommendations. My reasons for finally packing in my job in June of 2012 were four-fold.
I had just turned 60 years old myself and figured it was probably time to toss this plum position over to a younger person. A lot of my enthusiasm for the job drained away when the front office started demanding police checks and diversity training workshops for all of their conveners. This demeaning irritation arose almost 20 years into my gig during which my employment record was utterly unstained by incidents of harassment, groping or (except for one addle-brained scribbler who wouldn’t stop writing about her bloody cat) disparagement. And for my final year they had retired the reading group due to dropping enrollment while the writing class just kept getting bigger and bigger – too big, in fact, to give an adequate amount of attention to each student. Also, that spring I had received my commission from the Catholic Art Guild to write Three Artists: Kurelek, Chambers & Curnoe and needing to undertake a large amount of research, I dreaded breaking my concentration every Friday to monitor this one discussion group.
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