Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Darling, fetch the caviar for our guests, won’t you!

Some people enjoy the privilege of an exceedingly charmed existence. One can only hope for their sake that such generosity continues for a lifetime. Yet not all are so lucky. The subsequent loss of social face through the unanticipated changes of fortune can trigger some bizarre and unhappy results. In an effort to cling to the past, people sometimes re-enact polite niceties which have virtually no foundation in fact, though they certainly sound obliging enough. "We simply must have you for dinner sometime soon!"

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Notions of Regret

A lot of people have been edgy for the past year, on the heels of the so-called "global economic downturn". With so many people having seen their investment portfolio diminish by 30% or more overnight (actually, I think the dreadful event - the unprecedented collapse of the stock market - took place exactly a year ago today), and the subsequent worldwide bankruptcy of major financial institutions, the loss of jobs and the foreclosure and repossession of over-leveraged houses, it is small wonder people are still feeling timid, unsure and less than buoyant. It is especially disturbing that no one is immune to the effects of the catastrophe. There was a time, for example, when those employed in the public service, including teachers, would not have imagined that anything as pedestrian as the private sector economy would have impinged upon their accustomed daily routine and reality, but the shake-up is generally acknowledged to be pervasive, if for no other reason than that the malaise goes to the heart of pensions (the well-known provocation for public service). Add to this the further indignity of a rash of perfidious financial advisors who have spent the private resources of their Clients, and the balance of the world seems even more precarious.

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Theory

It is probably peculiar to aged people especially to dwell upon the development of theories for living. If one has any inclination at all to tell other people how to run their lives (as older people so often do), it is expedient to have in one's arsenal a collection of theories to apply to the situation at hand. Not that these theories are only for others; indeed, the compelling feature of any really good theory is that one knows only too well how clever it is from having used it skilfully in the conduct of one's own affairs.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday Dinner

About a week ago - also on an early Saturday evening - we were watching one of the Two Fat Ladies episodes on DVD (we have a box set). The particular recipe which caught my attention was their Boeuf Stroganoff. It reminded me that I once included that recipe in my limited culinary repertoire (the others being Caesar salad, Caribbean pasta - one of my own creations - and fettuccine Alfredo). Today, when we were shopping for groceries, I suggested that I could make Boeuf Stroganoff for dinner tonight, which Denis accepted as a proposition. I should have known, however, that it would be impossible for me to usurp his jurisdiction in the kitchen. The evidence against me began mounting innocuously enough, with Denis making enquiries about whether I would dust the filet with flower before frying it, and whether I intended to use Dijon mustard, little things like that. He then disclosed that he had been doing some research into the recipe, both on-line and in his collection of cook books. When I replied that I intended - as I do in all my recipes - just to wing it, that pretty much put him over the edge, and he insisted that I must seize this opportunity to turn from my vagabond ways and adopt the preferable habit of reading a recipe. In an instant I knew I was doomed. Asking me to read a recipe is equivalent to asking me to play the piano (which I play by ear) by reading sheet music. In either case, the result is assured to be a failure, if not indeed a disaster.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Island Living

When you hear the expression "Island Living", no doubt what comes to mind is some glossy American magazine about how the smart set live in Florida on the intra coastal waterways, in large mansions with endless bamboo and overstuffed furniture. In our small Town, however, the enclave known as the "Island" is considerably different, though equally exclusive in its own way.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Now There’s a Thought!

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation carried a story this morning about a groundswell idea. While I can’t recall the name of the group advancing this latest bit of popular legislation (I think it has something with the word "patriotic" in it), and in spite of its nationalist overtones (which I have always found about as inviting as the Fascists - though in this case its personal yet superficial appeal gives it more the flavour of something comfy like the Green Party), the idea struck me as not only novel, but more to the point, illuminating. The proposal is to give everybody in Canada who is over the age of 50 years the sum of one million dollars, on the condition that the recipient retires, buys a new car, pays off his debts and sends his kids to university. One hardly need dilate further upon the subject to disgorge the theory behind the plan, namely to create employment, revitalize the retail sector (after all everything is somehow connected to the automobile industry), put a stop to the preposterous debt/equity problem, and do what every developing nation knows - educate our youth.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Something there is about a rainy Fall day that captures the very essence of Autumn. Already the skies are dreary enough in the morning when we rise, so the crying Heavens throughout the day sympathize nicely with the soggy landscape. We’re only missing the violent winds to rock the trees and dislodge the drying leaves. As yet we haven’t made the move to woolen goods, but the current warm temperatures are reportedly soon to drop to more seasonable numbers. It is likely but a matter of hours before the Summer blanket is ceremoniously retired for another year to the cedar box. The young fellow who looks after the grounds at the house and the office was in this morning (with another bill, naturally - he has a tiny son at home), already complaining that things are drying up on his agenda. Likely he’ll have but one last visit before yard maintenance becomes entirely redundant, and he must start to think (as do so many labourers at this time of year) about what he’ll do over the Winter and whether Employment Insurance will figure in his plans.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Big Picture

I am currently reading a History of England (one of the many books on the subject). The author regularly has rather scathing comments on the Lords and Ladies about whom he writes; though in fairness he can at times be equally generous towards them whom he considers the mental giants of the era. In one instance, for example, he applauded the capacity of one of the leaders of the time for being able quietly to survey the broad political and military landscape, then cleverly and unflappably to draw conclusions about the action to be taken. The author distinguished this gentleman by saying that he was able to see the big picture (which I take to be a combination of wit, wisdom and most especially foresight). For someone like myself to hear this sort of thing is withering to say the very least. I am a confessed obsessive when it comes to detail; and an admitted nincompoop when it comes to seeing beyond the end of my nose, much less the front sight of a gun.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Good Old Days

Unbelievably (at least to my archaic way of thinking), it is now virtually impossible to buy a new typewriter. Granted there are not many who would even want one, but it nonetheless alarms me. It is perhaps a slight to my office that we still use a typewriter (although my capable Assistant assures me that she enjoys using a typewriter, as accomplished as she is in the use of a computer). In the past several days I have been contacting people about repairing the typewriter we now have, but without success. The best that I have managed to do is locate an old typewriter sales firm which may be able to find a used IBM Selectric typewriter, one of those heavy, black metal machines which were once ubiquitous in every law firm in the country. When I spoke with the elderly woman whose husband owns the store, she expressed dismay that typewriters had been so callously abandoned. She considered it a mistake, though I would be hard pressed to advance a commercial argument in her favour.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Saturday Routine

As Saturdays go, this really could not have been better. We awoke with a bounce this morning (having for a change reined in the customary permissive habits of a Friday night last evening) and at once determined we'd go out for breakfast. At first we settled upon the Antrim Truck Stop (which oddly is no longer in Antrim - a move necessitated by the building of a new four-lane highway between Ottawa and Arnprior - but is now on the edge of Arnprior). However, upon further reflection, and knowing that we intended to visit my parents in Ottawa afterwards, we switched horses and decided instead to go to the more proximate Golf Club in the Village of Appleton. Besides, the venue of the Club, located as it is adjacent the meandering Mississippi River, is always a panoramic treat; and the breakfast is very much to our liking.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Is Nothing Easy!

The country law chambers were echoing today with the cry, "Is nothing easy!", a philippic uttered more than once by both myself and my very capable Assistant. Given that my Assistant is so much younger than I, I felt compelled to remind her to whom she was speaking (assuming, that is, that her denunciations in the adjoining office weren't merely rhetorical). After thirty-four years of practising law (albeit as a lowly rural conveyancer), I consider it standard fare to have to endure one road block after another in the consummation of even the simplest transaction. Why is this so, you might well ask? Well, it has something to do with choreography, that's for sure. Marshalling all the elements of a legal transaction is considerably more complicated than one might fully appreciate from the other side of the swinging gate. I suspect the rub is in the detail, those nit-picky little details which (apart from distinguishing the skilled practitioner from the hoards) are the very substance of the matter at hand. Make no mistake - getting the "gist" of the thing is never good enough! One must batten down the hatches, so to speak; hammer in the nails; straighten the crooked way; lay it out one measure after another, one step at a time. As I have so often observed, the law is a jealous audience and cannot be rushed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Ride Home

After a bit of a struggle to get my large cruiser bicycle out the back room of the office where I had parked it upon my return from lunch, through the oaken front doors and onto the veranda, I lift its lightweight aluminium frame down the steps and settle the Fat Frank balloon tyres onto the cement, pointing the mechanical missile towards the Town Hall and the path that will lead me home after another day at the office.

We’ll Meet Again

In 1939, British singer Dame Vera Lynn made famous the song written by Ross Parker (music) and Hughie Charles (lyrics) entitled "We’ll Meet Again":

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Lazy Saturday

We hadn't anything planned in particular for this Saturday, other than having decided last evening that we'd go to the Golf Club for breakfast this morning, as the season will soon be over for another year. On our way through the Village at 8:00 o'clock this morning en route to the Golf Club, we stopped at the home of some friends who live along the River to see if they were stirring, but as I peered through the glass panel alongside the door I could see no movement. Some documents had been faxed to me from Toronto yesterday, and the parents of one of these friends needed to sign the papers, so I thought I'd see if we could arrange a time this afternoon. As it turned out, we returned to the house after breakfast and after having done some grocery shopping, and plans were made to rally at my office at 1:30 p.m. this afternoon. I was also given instructions to prepare some further documentation, so after returning home, I made my way to the office to complete that additional paperwork. Accordingly it wasn't long before noon rolled around. We had a light lunch, then headed back to the office to meet my Clients.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Back At It

When the air is as crisp and clear as it is today (an early September morning in the country), even the shaving soap smells sharper. There is none of that Summer humidity to thicken and weigh down the atmosphere; the household has an uplifting and ethereal air about it. The squared windows are all thrown up as widely as possible. Although the morning air was still cool, I rode my Electra cruiser to the office again today, flying downhill almost the entire way, rounding the corner at the old Town Hall, dipping under the railway bridge, then sharply braking in front of my office steps (secretly proud of my minor accomplishment).

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What If?

Have you ever thought about what you'd wish yourself to be? Have you ever thought you'd like to be someone else, something else, someone with different characteristics? It really is a pointless exercise of course. We can't possibly change the putty of which we're made, though granted we can shape it to a degree; but after a certain point in life, the chance of making any remarkable alteration (much less an improvement) is pretty slim. So we're pretty much stuck with what we are.

We Just Need a Deed!

It is especially not uncommon in a rural conveyancer’s practice to encounter situations in which the Parties on both sides of a proposed real estate transaction are related to one another, and in a concerted effort by them both, they seek to reduce the anticipated costs by trivializing the extent or quality of legal services which they consider are required to give them what they want, usually based upon such irrelevant facts as the length of time the property has been in the family (customarily a bad omen, since no one has had a critical look at the property for years) or the vastness of trust which exists between them (a warm and fuzzy feeling which dissipates the instant the money comes into question). Invariably, such aggressive economic efforts are preceded by the word "just", which is meant to convey not only a sense of urgency to the lawyer but also the paucity of work which must be undertaken in the learned view of the Client. To the uninitiated, such reasoning is daunting and tempts one to take up step with the advancing column. For the old lawyer (or should I say, the "seasoned practitioner") such self-serving diminishment of legal services is both misleading, uninformed and ultimately dangerous. Nonetheless, as a facilitator (that is, a "deal maker" rather than a "deal breaker"), courtesy prompts the Solicitor to bridge the gap between negligence and diligence, hopefully providing the Clients with want they want, subject to intelligible and meaningful qualifications. As an aside, it is also common in such family transactions for the lawyer to be urged to act for both Parties (again, as a perceived cost-saving vehicle), even though the standard for non-related Parties is independent representation. The Law Society of Upper Canada does in fact provide an exception to the general rule of independent representation where the Parties qualify as "related persons" within the meaning of the Income Tax Act, Sec. 252 (which broadly includes blood and marriage relations). Where the Parties are obviously imperfectly matched as far as business acumen goes, the decision to opt out for either or both Parties is easier; otherwise, the decision to proceed on behalf of both is made.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

St. John's, Newfoundland

The flavours of St. John's, Newfoundland are distinctly and transparently military and maritime, both steeped in history. The backdrop to the City is its traditional harbour-front, housing the massive stone buildings of the Court Houses, financial institutions, legal firms, churches, Masonic Lodge and the like. Upon touching down in St. John's (I am guessing that most arrive by air, for the only other alternative is by sea), it is immediately apparent that there is more that is ancient about the City than the rock upon which it sits. Its inaccessibility to the outside world has preserved the City from the monotony of North American cities, and I understand it is an unyielding and sometimes aggressive obsession of those who live there to keep it so. It is easy to be quickly transported into another world, far away from anything we know about city dwelling. The great thing is that it appeals to young people, not merely retiring bureaucrats and professionals who are now seeking to enjoy a slower pace in life. Make no mistake, however, there is a distinct smell of money about the place if you know where to look, and thankfully even that display of richesse has been crafted in a unique way.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

La Vida Breve

When I think of the tragedies in life - the car accidents, the wars, the cancers, the brain tumours, the kidney failures, the suicides, the untimely deaths, the alcoholism, the business failures, the unemployment, the marital breakdowns - it’s a wonder I get out of bed. The miracle is that, once I’m on my feet, the oppressive weight of the contemplation of this life is somehow lifted. I’m not saying it’s always easy to throw oneself back into the flow, but there’s an almost immediate sense of reward for having done so. Knowing that the fortunes of life can turn on a dime doesn’t help, either. Such philosophical reflection does little more in my opinion than paralyze the process of living, being akin to a confession of the futility of life. One has to get into the act to experience any relief.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What’s on the Horizon?

What a spectacular way to start the month! At six o’clock this morning the sky was a dome of azure blue as I silently cruised on my bicycle along the Appleton Road towards the Village, five miles distant. The overnight temperatures were distinctly cooler than they have been for months, and as a result the mists on this early September morn were spilling off the fields onto the highway in volume. If ever there were an impetus to do the right thing in life, this was it! It was good to be alive! As the sun, a hazy yellow ball of blinding brilliance, rose flashing between the dark green tops of the corn stalks, I could also make out a slight tinge of rouge on certain clumps of high tree-tops in the distance along the River. We’re not quite to the point where the "morn in russet mantle clad breaks o’er yonder hill", but it won’t be long. Nature gathers speed pretty quickly at this time of year.