Scribble, scribble

I just finished writing a book. It was a four-year-long project. You’d think I’d want to take some time off but you’d be wrong. When you’ve been writing pretty much every day since Grade Twelve, you get twitchy when you’re not typing away at something. The whole thing started with a weekly high school news column in my hometown paper, the Guelph Mercury. I was paid nine cents a column inch. It was due Monday morning so I’d sit down at 9 p.m. on a Sunday night and write until I fell asleep. My forty inches of copy earned $3.60,...

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The ghosts of Christmas past

The earliest Christmas dinner celebrations I can remember occurred at my maternal grandparent’s home in the west end of Toronto. They just had a small bungalow but somehow my mother, father, me, my mother’s brother, his wife and their two children who were both younger than me, could all squeeze around the dining room table with our hosts. In my mind, the turkey was the size of my elder cousin and carved with gusto, after much sharpening of the knife on a whetstone, by my grandfather. My grandmother always ate the roundish nub at the turkey’s rear, something she called...

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Death and indifference

Have we all become inured to deaths caused by Covid-19? Every day the front page of our newspapers and the top of the broadcast news highlight the number of new cases and the mounting death toll. Odious comparisons are made with other jurisdictions; pundits talk about deaths per one hundred thousand; words such circuit-breaker and lockdown take on new meanings. Obituaries cite Covid as the cause of death. But, the problem is that there is no means of grieving. Funeral services will be held at some future, unspecified, date. There’s havoc being wreaked in long-term care facilities where those who die in...

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Make haste slowly

The just-released memoir by former Bank of Montreal CEO Tony Comper is an unusual achievement. To the best of my knowledge, no other Big Five Bank CEO in the modern era has published a memoir. In “Personal Account,” Comper writes that he didn’t want to follow the usual “when I was three” chronological rendition. Instead, he picked out twenty-five incidents in his business life that demonstrate qualities of leadership or character. Among them is his explanation how he went into banking rather than join the priesthood or become a professor teaching Chaucer. With help from Calgary-based ghostwriter Bruce Dowbiggin, Comper...

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Ups and downs

My morning paper delivers good news and bad. Today’s edition contained a legal notice under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA). CCAA is the last gasp of a firm that has become insolvent. Justice James Farley, who reigned from the insolvency bench and has now retired to arbitration work, delighted in pronouncing CCAA as “caw.” Farley had other jokes, too, that always made the lawyers who appeared before him laugh uproariously. He liked to hear their laughter; they hoped it would improve their cause. The legal notice was for Sears Canada Inc. and was aimed at unsecured creditors, the last in...

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The road less travelled

By now, everyone in the world must have viewed that TikTok video of the man roller-boarding on a roadway, lip-synching a snippet of “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, and drinking juice from a jug. He’s just an ordinary guy, living in an RV outside his brother’s house, on his way to work as a labourer in a potato factory. Yet his carefree mood, the music, and the movement created magic for so many. I guess the explanation must be nostalgia as we recall the easy freedoms of pre-pandemic times. Covid-19 has drastically changed the way we communicate. A businessman told me...

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Fit to print

Earlier this week, the Globe and Mail ran an ad promoting a new member of staff at the newspaper, Tanya Talaga. She certainly has a high-achiever’s background: nominated five times for the Michener Award for public service journalism and twice a contributor to stories that won National Newspaper Awards. As an Ojibwe, Talaga brings a particular perspective, said the ad, “to give voice to those who were not being heard.” Moreover, she will set “the record straight on Indigenous peoples’ lived experiences.” This is all very commendable, but is this the right job for a newspaper? Can such a role...

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From the shelf

The fastest-growing activity during the pandemic must surely be reading. A neighbour recently told me that he’d read sixty books. I’m behind that at about two dozen. Among them are some re-reads such as Gentlemen, Players and Politicians by Dalton Camp, still the best ever Canadian political memoir. I’ve also read books I’ve always meant to but never did such as Jim Bouton’s Ball Four, written fifty years ago. The best I’ve read so far is Radical Wordsworth by Jonathan Bate, telling how William Wordsworth changed poetry forever in the late eighteenth century by writing about nature, imagination and feelings,...

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