LONDON, ONTARIO – I regret to announce that thirty-one days shy of her fifteenth birthday, Grace (March 1, 2009 – January 28, 2024) has taken leave of this world.
Precisely one month before the end, on what happened to be our forty-sixth wedding anniversary - talk about a ceremonial buzzkill - Grace suffered a spectacularly upsetting ‘vestibular event’ (basically a stroke) that looked like it might carry her off right then and there. But, much to our delight, Grace managed to pretty well build herself back up from that calamity over the course of the next week. Yes, there was a new weakness, an unsteadiness, in her back legs which tended to splay if she was standing on a slick surface. She couldn’t back up so easily and had to think about how to navigate stairs; particularly when going down. And although it had nothing to do with perplexity, per se – unless she was holding some great inner dialogue about ‘What on earth is happening to my body?’ - she frequently tilted her head which made her look like a distaff version of the RCA dog cocking his ear at the bewildering sound of ‘His Master’s Voice’ emanating from that phonograph horn.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Quite early in my life I recognized that summer is the season I find most oppressive. Not wanting to be a year-round whiner, I made a sort of pact with the world that I’d restrict my meteorological grumbling to June through August and this hasn’t been a hard bargain to keep. Not being a driver I’ve been able to maintain a child’s love of snow – the heavier the better, say I – up to the present day. No matter how inconvenient snow might be or how boring it is to shovel the stuff multiple times during the same day, I can never go out into a freshly polarized landscape without thinking to myself, “This really is one of the most beautiful things that our world gets up to.”
LONDON, ONTARIO – The first time Donald D'Haene registered on my consciousness was around 1993 when I was editor of Scene and trying to work up some enthusiasm for that magazine's annual cover model contest. Like a lot of fellows, I've always been indifferent to what strikes me as the higher neurosis of high fashion. Hemlines could go up or down or straight to Hell for all I cared. I shouldn't have been on the committee to choose that year's winner, because, frankly, I didn't understand the underlying premise of the contest. The big prize was a makeover, followed by a professional photo shoot. This struck me as a kind of madness. Having just chosen the best-looking girl out of a pile of photos and CVs, we'd then pass her off to a small army of beauticians, stylists and consultants, who'd work her over until she looked like someone else. Where was the sense in that?
"Maybe we should be choosing the homeliest girl," I helpfully suggested. "Someone who could actually use a few pointers in improving her appearance." This was met with stony silence.
LONDON, ONTARIO – In addition to some of its more routinely trumpeted pleasures and solaces, as you get older Christmas becomes an annual opportunity to spend time communing with the ghosts of the beloved dead. One old friend who’s taking up more pronounced residence in my thoughts this week is Jane Loptson, who died ten years ago in the hallway outside of her apartment at the Mary Campbell Co-op in the early afternoon of December 27th. She had been venturing out to buy some groceries following a rough Christmas when she’d had more than her usual difficulty breathing.
LONDON, ONTARIO – The celebration of Christmas is about the personal intervention of the Divine in human affairs. In the first book of the Old Testament, God creates man and woman and invests them with free will which, a mere five pages later, has so completely caused things to run amok that this temperamental Deity sets out to destroy everybody but Noah and his family and those lucky beasts and birds which have male and female representation on board the ark. In the New Testament, disorder and chaos have returned to mankind (actually they’ve been pretty constant through both Testaments and continue to this day) and this time God elects to send His only Son to instruct people how to live and to win us salvation.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Colleagues and patrons were completely blindsided when London artist, Alan Dayton (1949–2013) died ten years ago this May at the age of 64. It took several months for family and friends to pull together a memorial and retrospective exhibition for him at Eric Stach and Catherine Morrisey’s riverside studio as not even those closest to him knew anything was wrong until very shortly before the end. Dayton may have justified his secrecy as a strategy to spare others anxiety and dread. But shocked as his friends were to learn that he had even been ill, they also shook their heads in rueful recognition that so discreet an exit perfectly accorded with the man they knew and so suddenly missed. The shy and reticent Dayton never did call attention to himself. Indeed, his forte as London’s foremost portraitist was to lavish his attention on others.
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.
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 :