The world within

Six months into the pandemic, where do we stand? In Canada, 9,000 are dead; in the U.S. it’s 170,000. Did anyone really think it would hit this hard and last this long? Worse, no one knows how much more is to come. A friend remarked recently that we will be dealing with Covid-19 for the rest of our lives. It was a jarring thought. I worry about students returning to school. Too many will be taught virtually. Anybody who suffered through online lectures during the spring term knows that method doesn’t work very well. Moreover, there isn’t the same socializing...

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Roots and wings

My daughter Alison and I recently spent a day visiting Guelph, my home town. We began on Wyndham Street, walking from the train station to the cenotaph and back. The main street still includes a few restored architectural gems such as the Petrie building with its unusual metal facade but all the retailers from my youth are long gone. No more Treanon, Vorvis or Peacock restaurants. No more Ryan’s or Budd’s department stores. No Marshall’s or Stewart’s drugs. Only the Big Five Banks still do business there, a sure sign of their eternal life. Two places where I worked summers...

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Reads and re-reads

Like everyone these days, I’ve had more time to read than usual. I normally stick to nonfiction, but I did read a few fiction books, reread some old favourites, and enjoyed several new titles. Here’s part of my list, with brief comments. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens, is well told, full of twists and turns and the “marsh girl” is a compelling central character. Why are so many of the best fiction writers all from the Deep South? Another good read was one I should have already read long ago: In the Skin of a Lion. Michael Ondaatje...

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My kingdom for a horse

I love equestrian statues. There, the secret’s out. Just about any equestrian statue will do, but I have a few favourites. In New York’s Grand Army Plaza, there’s the gilded bronze of William Tecumseh Sherman. Another gilded bronze is Joan of Arc in New Orleans and the Place des Pyramides in Paris. In fact, it you visit the cities and towns of France it’s amazing how many of them have a copy. Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a united Italy, is on a horse in the centre of Ancient Rome. I don’t know if it’s the tallest equestrian...

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The China Shock

Sometimes you read newspaper articles, complete with studies and statistics, that seem far from reality. Such a commentary written by Andrew Sharpe and Myeongwan Kim ran yesterday in the Financial Post, (you can read it here) based on a study conducted by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards (CSLS).  The study sought to discover the impact on consumer prices in Canada and on inflation caused by an increase in goods imported from China, an effect known as “China Shock.” First, the bad news. An earlier study by the CSLS estimated that Canada lost 113,500 manufacturing jobs in the...

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Shelter from the storm

Since mid-March, my partner and I have been sheltering at her farm 90 minutes north of Toronto. We make brief trips back into the city, but this is where we’ve spent most of our time. A stay of such duration allowed us to see spring arrive in all its splendour. For example, we could admire a wide variety of wildflowers that came and went during our daily walks in the woods, including trout lily, Dutchman’s breeches, and a carpet of trilliums. Returning bird life included olive-sided flycatcher, Baltimore oriole, brown thrasher, red-eyed vireo, Eastern bluebird, and a pair of hooded...

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Lessons of history

In Italy, where coronavirus has hit the hardest among European nations, the country is all but shut down. Italy is used to such quarantines. In fact, the very word has its origin in Venice. During a plague in the 14th century the port city forced all ships to wait forty days – quaranta giorni – before passengers and crews could disembark. Another Italian city followed with even broader precautions during the Middle Ages. The February 20 issue of the London Review of Books includes a review of a book by John Henderson called Florence Under Siege: Surviving the Plague in...

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Nowhere man

Some men grow a beard on holiday, but think better of it when they get home, and shave it off. Not Justin Trudeau. He thinks a vacation beard can change him. In fact, the beard has rendered his life untenable. He no longer knows who he is. Until now, Justin’s life has been ever-so-easy; he was Pierre Trudeau’s son. People praised him even when there was no reason. Being in the public eye so much, Justin became all about the performance arts. He was like Robert Redford playing the all-American boy in “The Way We Were” when Barbra Streisand asks,...

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