LONDON, ONTARIO – Our old friend Chris Aikenhead had no sooner greeted us as we touched down at Vancouver Airport on the first leg of our West Coast tour on Monday, July 9th, than he gently, gingerly asked if we’d heard the news out of London which we’d only left behind about seven hours earlier. Oh God, the dog-sitters had screwed up and Gracie got hit by a car? Kirtley’s mom had taken another tumble and we’d have to fly right back and stand sentinel at her bedside? “Marion Woodman has died,” he said and was perhaps a little miffed when we practically sighed in relief.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Hermaneutics is still on holidays this week but here is a piece from two summers ago about our discovery of the glories of Catholic tourism . . . .
IN THE LAST DAYS of July my wife and I elected to take our place among 49 other pilgrims on a chartered bus of the incongruously named Badder line out of St. Thomas that took us to St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal (stomping ground of the newly canonized Brother Andre); Our Lady of the Cape in Cap-de-la-Madelaine near Trois-Rivieres (the most thoroughly Catholic town I’ve ever visited on this continent); the Basilica of Ste. Anne de Beaupre (a magnificent cathedral dedicated to Our Lady’s mother and the oldest pilgrimage site in North America); Notre Dame Basilica-Cathedral in old Quebec City (our first visit to that exquisite burg since our honeymoon in 1977) and the touchingly modest Shrine to the even more recently canonized Kateri Tekakwitha in Kahnawake.
SALT SPRING ISLAND, BRITISH COLUMBIA – You were promised a field report this week from our continent’s west coast, otherwise known as the zone of the woke, where I suppose the politically correct might say we’re having ourselves an endangered whale of a time. I’ve had my very own I Ching hexagram thrown on Hornby Island with a change line in the fifth place which means that I am proudly transitioning from ‘#33 Retreat’ to ‘#56 The Wanderer’. I’ve wolfed down a gluten-free muffin on Salt Spring Island while standing outside a public washroom designated “Universal” and have charted the transit of Venus (she was perched right on the lower tip of a waxing crescent moon) from an observation tower in the northern Washington seaport of Westport while chugging a can of sugar-free Fanta Orange.
LONDON, ONTARIO - Hermaneutics is on the road this week, sampling the progressive fleshpots and political flashpoints of our continent’s west coast. In place of the customary up-to-the-minute commentary which has made this blog such an internet phenomenon, I offer you this essay from precisely one year ago in which I announced my reckless decision to get married for the second time:
LONDON, ONTARIO – The single book with which George Orwell (1903-50) is most identified – Nineteen Eighty-Four - was published 69 years ago this fall. An oppressively dark vision of social manipulation and political tyranny in late 20th century Britain, few books have so completely worked their way into the popular imagination and vocabulary. Borrowing from Orwell’s dystopian novel, we call euphemistic or neutered language ‘newspeak’. Politically incorrect ideas are ‘thought crimes’. An epidemic of surveillance cameras monitoring public and private spheres makes us no strangers to the concept of an all-seeing ‘Big Brother’.
LONDON, ONTARIO –
Here’s an essay I wrote 29 summers ago:
I stepped out our front door at one p.m. to sample the humours of the new day I’d risen to, when my five-year-old son came running up to me with an amazing bit of news. “Did you know old people bleed?” he asked. He’d been riding his bike on the sidewalk with his friend when they saw an old lady keel over and smash her face against some concrete steps across the road. “That’s her over there?”
LONDON, ONTARIO – I’ve been revisiting two of my favourite American writers of fiction this month, Willa Cather (1873-1947) and Flannery O’Connor (1924-65), and have been fascinated by what each of them has to tell us about an explosive problem which currently bedevils our planet – the question of how people of markedly different backgrounds, temperaments and convictions can peacefully coexist when they are brought together in the same locale. Something else which links these radically different authors is the high regard they both had for the way in which the Roman Catholic Church addressed this complicated and heavily freighted question.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Last month for reasons that are starkly unfathomable to me, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was invited to give the commencement address at New York University; an event which takes place each year in the academically hallowed venue of Yankee Stadium. I do wonder just what the agenda is of the University’s board of governors in selecting a speaker so lacking in intellectual, moral or even oratorical heft. Do they regard such speeches as a species of light entertainment; an opportunity to let the kiddies feast their eyes on somebody who’s famous for being famous and what does it matter if he has nothing of actual value to impart?
LONDON, ONTARIO – About a month ago following the spring banquet of the Baconian Club, I made my way through the snarled up construction zone at Dundas and Richmond to the Scotiabank’s ATM cash booth. Just outside was a lavishly tattooed gentleman who stepped right in front of me and asked if I wanted to make a hundred dollars. “No thanks,” I told him.
Even if he’d been decked out like Daddy Warbucks, I would’ve given his proposition a pass but this pushy guy was obviously skint and up to no good. As I squeezed my way around him he said, “All my ID got stolen but if you just cash this cheque for me, you can have a hundred dollars.”
LONDON, ONTARIO – I regaled some friends this week with the story about the time I got the strap and I was struck anew by a couple of things. One was the remarkably convoluted chain of events that led to my persecution at the hands of my public school principal. And the other is the aura of fascinated horror that now attends such accounts; the appalled disbelief, particularly pronounced in younger people, that we ever allowed our schools to dispense corporal punishment.
Believe it or not, they didn’t have to send a note home first to get permission from one’s parents. They didn’t even have to check in with their own superiors in the Board of Education’s bureaucracy. They had complete autonomy to act as they saw fit and if some kid in their charge was being a complete pill, then it was okay to lay into him with a leather strap.
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