LONDON, ONTARIO – Here’s a lightly tweaked feature article that originally appeared in The London Free Press forty years ago this winter. It’s an up-close account of a hostage-taking incident that took place four years before that; a horrific home invasion which fatally blighted the young marriage of an old high school friend. In 1990, I added a whole lot of invention to the situation that is laid out in this story, to construct my third play, The Anniversary. In both this feature and that play, I find it fascinating to watch this crime play out in a way that would be quite impossible today with the ubiquity of cell phones and computer technology.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Early this year I was commissioned by the good folks at Centred.ca – an invaluable local resource which bills itself as, “A place where thoughtful (sometimes provocative) art meets thoughtful (sometimes provoking) art reviews in the London Ontario (Canada) area” – to contribute the following essay on the legacy of London’s oldest private gallery. You can visit the Centred website here: https://centred.ca/
LONDON, ONTARIO – “It is I find in zoology as it is in botany; all nature is so full, that that district produces the greatest variety which is the most examined . . . Men that undertake only one district are much more likely to advance natural knowledge than those that grasp at more than they can possibly be acquainted with; every kingdom, every province, should have its own monographer.” – Gilbert White in "The Natural History of Selborne" (1789)
LONDON, ONTARIO – Gagging just a little on all the witless accounts wafting out of the States about their newly-installed houseplant of a president and his wonderfully devout Catholic faith, I have sought out some sanity-restoring refuge this week by re-immersing myself in the story and example of Henry Edward Dormer (1844–66). London’s only credible candidate for sainthood, Henry Dormer was a twenty-one year-old British Army ensign who only lived in our city for a grand total of 222 days – the last seven months of his life – but his selfless piety left such an indelible impression that he still inspires his adopted townspeople more than a century and a half later.
LONDON, ONTARIO – I got my very first job in the newspaper biz at the age of eleven, working for the Toronto Star. Three years later I landed a job with The Globe & Mail and two years after that, The London Free Press. The minimum age for newspaper boys in the 1960s was actually twelve but that first paper route came with a few mitigating differences that made it less physically demanding so they figured they could bend that rule a little. It’s true that I didn't have to memorize an entire neighborhood's worth of streets and houses nor endure any sort of extended exposure to nasty weather because this was an indoor route. But in other ways – psychologically in particular – I doubt I would have been much better equipped to handle some of the stresses of that route if I’d been twice as old.
LONDON, ONTARIO – About fifteen months ago I was invited to contribute an essay for a sort of Festschrift which is being compiled to commemorate the life and work of local historian, archivist, librarian and publisher, Ed Phelps (1939–2006). I feared I was actually running a little late when I dispatched this piece to the editor precisely one year ago and was surprised to be told that I was actually the first to send his contribution along and that perhaps my sterling example would now inspire the other contributors to step up their pace a little. Not for the first time I shook my head in bemused admiration for just how elastic the concept of a deadline can be in the scholarly/academic world.
LONDON, ONTARIO - My grudge against the claustrophobically belligerent year of 2020 lightened considerably in its very last week when the meteorological elements presiding over this patch of the globe summoned the grace to deliver a substantial and transforming snowfall on Christmas Eve. That generous blanketing was augmented over the next twelve days with a few more dustings and falls so that even a bout of freezing rain wasn’t enough to significantly diminish the white bounty that was still in place for this week’s close of Christmastide on the Feast of the Epiphany. With its sublime knack for slowing and quieting everything down, snow has a way of sharpening our senses and broadening our perceptions; as does Christmas itself when we take the time and the care to observe it well.
LONDON, ONTARIO – If you should happen to hear a short but profoundly satisfying clicking sound around two o’clock this afternoon, do not be puzzled or alarmed because you cannot immediately trace its derivation. That will only be the sound which the digits on me and my wife’s marital odometer make every December 28th as they flip over to display our updated tally. This year’s magical number will be forty-three. You might be wondering, what sort of goofballs decide to get married in the already celebration-packed week between Christmas and New Year’s? Young ones – I, twenty-five, and she, twenty-four – that’s what kind. Goofballs who loved the season of Christmas and wanted to make it even better.
LONDON, ONTARIO – This week we bring you a new work of short fiction . . .
MY MOTHER'S BEST and oldest friend was Sarah McDougall with whom she shared one of the most extensively documented friendships I’ve ever known. They were only children, born within four months of one another on the very same street, and served in many ways through the succeeding seven decades – Sarah died first – as the sibling that neither one of them had. It may have been simple proximity that threw them together at first but even as their circles of acquaintance expanded to include others with whom they might spend more time for a while, Mom and Sarah never fell out or drifted apart and maintained to the very end a familial sort of ease in one another's company.
LONDON, ONTARIO – As these dispiriting state-imposed sanctions to squelch the spread of the Chinese Batflu drag on, I’m all a-twitch this Advent season with withdrawal symptoms brought on by the unholy ban on choral concerts and singing in our churches (which are only allowed to operate at thirty per cent capacity anyway). A life without the regularly applied ministrations of choirs and congregational singing – aural bombardments which can be as soothing and stirring as a deep spiritual massage – is a real impoverishment at any time of year. But that deprivation feels particularly acute over Christmastide when so much of the music that I have loved best – carols and hymns with nourishing roots that go tendriling all the way back to my infancy – is sealed away under a quarantine that one might call whimsical if it didn’t feel so sadistic.
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 :