LONDON, ONTARIO - To mark this 75th anniversary of the first publication of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, I have re-read my favourite 20th century Catholic novel for the third time and – just tonight – finished re-watching the magnificent, eleven-episode Granada TV adaptation of the book for at least the fourth time. When that mini-series originally aired on the PBS network in 1981, we had neither cable nor a colour TV but we did have a brand new baby – our very first – who very graciously consented to sleep through the 60 to 90 minutes of air time when we invaded my in-laws’ living room for eleven weeks in a row.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Life got in the way this week, so here’s a little talk I delivered to the Baconian Club of London almost exactly fourteen years ago:
A dream I had in my late twenties strongly suggested that my predilection for reading was getting out of hand. My wife and I are carefully navigating King Street just west of Clarence during a rush hour dusk when I see a beautifully illustrated book lying open right there in the middle of the road. Though I can scarcely make out the words in the falling light, I apprehend that the great secret to life I’ve urgently been tracking is contained in those pages. Paying no attention to the bumper to bumper congestion all around us, I drop to my knees to ferret it out and my wife pulls me up by yanking on the collar of my shirt. “Before you crack that little tome,” she reasonably suggests, “perhaps we’d better get off the road.”
LONDON, ONTARIO – In this first full week after Labour Day, I’m grappling with a sudden sense of loss as – for the first time in my entire life – I am not having to torture myself with the question, “Should I try to get out to the Western Fair this year?” Thanks to the Wuhan batflu pandemic, the Fair is sitting out 2020. I really do ask that question each year even though, I’m a little ashamed to admit, I haven’t answered it in the affirmative so far this century. I’m never happy to stay away but with no young kids tugging at my elbow to burn up a hundred and fifty dollars on violent rides and dodgy food like elephant ears and corndogs, and with the winnowing out of so many of the traditional rural attractions that had increasingly beguiled me as an adult, the thrill and charm of the Western Fair has largely evaporated for me.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Those of us susceptible to come-ons from book and record clubs always remember with a pang of nostalgia and lower back pain, the greatest, heaviest and bulkiest membership offer the Book-of-the-Month Club ever made. As luck would have it, I wasn’t in that afternoon in the fall of 1978 when the postal delivery truck tried to drop by all eleven volumes of Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization – 10,000 history-packed pages covering six millennia from Our Oriental Heritage to The Age of Napoleon. So a little card was left in the mailbox instructing me to pick up this great literary motherlode myself at the old central post office in the main floor of the Dominion Building on Richmond Street at Queens.
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THE AQUINAS LECTURE
G.K. CHESTERTON AND THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE
ALL LIFE IS A GIFT :
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRADITION :