LONDON, ONTARIO – Like a lot of fellows, I exhibit minimal interest in matters sartorial. Sure, I can be fussy and stubborn about what I will and won’t wear. But I primarily dress for comfort and compared to the massive collections of books and recordings that I consider essential to a life worth living, my (if you’ll excuse the expression) ‘wardrobe’ is a pitiful and stunted thing. There is one suit and a couple of sports coats (donned for funerals and days when I give the readings at church) and otherwise I get by with three pairs of trousers, a half dozen shirts, two sweaters, a couple pairs of shoes, and a limited assortment (if that’s the right word when all of them are identical) of unmentionables.
LONDON, ONTARIO – We had a distressing little moment with our pooch on Saturday night. After supper we had settled in with tea to watch The Ox-Bow Incident (1943); a surprisingly dark meditation on conscience, justice and the tyranny of mobs which comes in the easily digestible form of a black and white Western starring Henry Fonda. For about the first fifteen minutes of the flick, twelve and a half year-old Gracie – a mostly collie and German shepherd mutt of such arresting beauty that I walk her at 2 a.m. to keep interactions with random admirers to a minimum – discreetly positioned herself to the immediate right of my chair.
LONDON, ONTARIO – It’s the funniest darn thing about poetry; or at least it used to be back in the day when I was making my first forays into the publishing world. There was this alarming disparity between the rather large number of people who fancied themselves as poets with a bundle of gems in their haversack that the world urgently needed to imbibe, and the actual number of readers who would ever be willing to take up any sort of poetry and give it a chance. When I submitted my first novel to London publishing house, Applegarth Follies, in September of 1975, they were so thrilled to finally have something other than poetry to consider that they raced my book up to the head of their queue (dislodging a few poets in that process) and brought it out by Christmas.
LONDON, ONTARIO – English playwright Terence Rattigan (1911–77) enjoyed enormous popularity in Britain and North America from the 1930s through the ‘50s; first making a splash with an atypically frothy comedy, French Without Tears, and following that up with a series of exquisitely designed dramas like The Browning Version, The Deep Blue Sea, The Winslow Boy and Separate Tables. His prolific contemporary, J.B. Priestley, generally tossed off three plays and a couple of novels in the time it took Rattigan to carefully construct and polish one script. The first time through a Rattigan play, his superior attention to detail and nuance might not show. But all of his scripts uniquely and amply reward return visits.
LONDON, ONTARIO – One of the unanticipated delights of my dotage has been the emergence over the last decade of a sort of electronic chain letter that is in constant circulation among me and my three older brothers. When we’re each doing our bit to flesh out some particularly gripping conundrum from the very dawn of our consciousness, the correspondence can see multiple updates in a day. Then the fraternal forum can cool into a kind of dormancy when a two or three-week silence is broken by nothing more than a hoary round of jokes about our feefers. But even such apparently retrograde fare can turn out to have unexpected pertinence. For instance, an early exchange among the elder trio which I found pretty mystifying, compared how many times each night they were hauling themselves out of bed to whiz. Little did I suspect that in a few years as one spent more time sleeping at less depth, that actually becomes a thing.
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THE AQUINAS LECTURE
G.K. CHESTERTON AND THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE
ALL LIFE IS A GIFT :
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRADITION :