LONDON, ONTARIO – At summer’s end, Jim Chapman hosted a packed out launch party at Unity of London hall for his long-promised and most lavishly indulgent compendium of London cultural history, Battle of the Bands: London Ontario’s 1960s Teen Music Explosion. This book won’t be everybody’s ticket to dreamland. But for Londoners of the right vintage and aesthetic temperament, this glorious cache of imagery and lore grants magical re-admittance to an age of sensation and delight that most of us assumed was irretrievable until our industrious packrat of an author put in the mind-boggling effort to compile this riveting and shamelessly nostalgic document.
(Here is a re-posted essay which in slightly modified form, ran in Quillette August, 2023 as Memories of a Childhood Arcadia.)
LONDON, ONTARIO - One of the sweetest aspects of childhood is how common it is that your best friend is that chap of similar age who just happens to live on your block and is the first person you bump into on that day around your third birthday when you get it into your head that you’d like to ditch Mom for a couple of hours and go exploring in the outer world. For me that friend was Beezer and on weekdays for the next two years from September to June when my older brothers were all at school (and I didn’t have to accompany Mom on some errand that usually involved bus rides downtown) he became my constant companion.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Expecting I’d find it a little surreal – and I do – a friend recently sent me a real estate posting of a spanking new home on an avenue named after Roy McDonald (1937–2018) in the Longwoods neighbourhood of southwest London, not far from the intersection of Wharncliffe and Southdale. We’ll get to Roy presently but let’s talk about real estate values for a second. While it’s been more than forty years since I’ve been in the market for a house, I know that prices generally have gone pretty crazy lately. But I still would have thought that nearly one million smackers would get you an abode that’s a little splashier than this.
LONDON, ONTARIO – I journeyed to the Holy Land this spring as a Christian pilgrim, primarily seeking to deepen my historic understanding of the faith, and this goal was most happily achieved. Along with that illuminating process of discovery came a keener appreciation than ever before that Judaism isn’t just another religion which I can lightly regard as a distraction or mere sidelight to Christianity. I now understand that geographically, historically and existentially, Israel is the carefully prepared and cultivated ground from which the latter faith sprang.
LONDON, ONTARIO – After twelve hours in a climate-controlled metal tube sailing through the night from Toronto to Tel Aviv, I was staring into the mirror of a public washroom at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport in the late morning of Thursday, March 16th and marveling at what had become of my baby blues. I’d paid extra for a little more leg room which eased the strain from the waist on down but stiffened things up in the upper body; planted as I was a dozen rows ahead of my wife between similarly long-legged strangers who wouldn’t have understood if I’d curled up on one of their shoulders for even a minute of blessed oblivion. I did reportedly slip under for at least one short and shallow nap when my equally sleep-deprived wife walked past, saw me sawing logs and enviously muttered to herself, “You lucky dog.”
LONDON, ONTARIO – Yes, it’s early days yet but I think we may already have London’s feel good story of the year. Oh, what admirable sense and quiet resistance to witless tendentious mischief was shown by the parents of more than a third of the children enrolled at Eagle Heights elementary school on February 10th. Apparently without voicing a single word of protest to the principal or staff, those parents kept four hundred young students home rather than hand their tots over for a special day-long celebration of “diversity and inclusion” which the organizers were stupid enough to call ... hey, no red flags here, right? ... “Rainbow Day”.
LONDON, ONTARIO – For my birthday last May, our favourite son gave us tickets for the Jordan Peterson lecture that month at Centennial Hall; a gig that got bumped to a very chilly night three weeks ago by a sudden conflict in Dr. Peterson’s schedule. (On the off chance that you’re reading this and don’t know very much about JP, this Hermaneutics post from March of 2018 will fill in his back story and give you some sense of why I regard him as one of the most important – and most urgently necessary – thinkers of our time: Dr. Peterson Will See You Now.
LONDON, ONTARIO – A few months back in a sprawling essay on the Brontes, I recalled my delight at visiting Britain’s National Portrait Gallery where I encountered dozens of full-sized portraits of beloved authors that I’d previously seen only as miniature, muddy, black and white frontispieces to classic editions of their works. No single painting in that gallery’s forty rooms was harder to tear myself away from that day than Conversation Piece (1932) by Herbert James Gunn (1893–1964).
LONDON, ONTARIO – Not a big honking screed today so I won’t bother sending this one out to my subscribers but will just slot this note in here to be discovered, incidentally, as it were.
The Baconians had their first banquet this week after a three-year pause for the Batflu. It was great to gather around the groaning board once again but our dinner did come with a couple of jarring signifiers of how relentlessly history keeps marching on, even when you think you’re just going to sit over here on the sidelines for a few dozen months until things get straightened out.
LONDON, ONTARIO – This month the Wrinklings, for the second time in their twenty-seven years, devoted an evening’s discussion to one of the shortest (sixty-four pages) and lesser known titles in the gem-packed canon of British author, Oxford literary scholar and Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis (1898–1963). The book we explored once again was The Abolition of Man: Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools (1943). That main title may seem to set off an alarm which the subtitle then tries to muffle. But the seasoned Lewis reader confidently proceeds, knowing that if any writer can make the latter fully redeem the former, it is he. Inspired and inspiring teacher that he was, Lewis’ uncanny facility for revelatory expression enabled him to develop any insight – no matter how abstruse or insignificant it might appear at first glance – into compelling expositions that are thrilling to read.
If you would like to contribute to the ongoing operations of Hermaneutics, there are now a few options available.
THE AQUINAS LECTURE
G.K. CHESTERTON AND THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE
ALL LIFE IS A GIFT :
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRADITION :