Sunday, May 15, 2016

Autumnal Sunday

As we hovered about the kitchen to finalize the preparations for this evening's meal, in an unrehearsed moment of synchronized lightheartedness we both announced how pleasant it would be to drink a frozen vodka Martini! No doubt because of the uncommonly cool air today, this Sunday has reminded me of an autumn Sunday.  And that inevitably engenders fond memories of crackling fireplaces, grey tree branches tossed about in the wind and yearnings for drawing room coziness generally. The very sight of the sparkling Sherry decanter moves me! Earlier this morning we had cranked the heat on to remove the chill from the apartment.  Nonetheless undeterred we went for our routine morning bicycle ride (complete with wool cardigan, jackets and gloves) along the nearby country roads; and afterwards when I went for a drive in my car to visit my elderly mother I insisted upon wearing my short pants (something I began to regret when standing in the icy wind by the gas pumps to fill the tank).

Friday, May 13, 2016

Drug Free

From what best I can recall my habit of taking an over-the-counter pain killer started in 1967 when I was studying Philosophy in undergraduate university at Glendon Hall, Toronto. It was after I had left boarding school and when booze began to figure regularly in my existence (though even then the legal drinking age was 21 years so we "fooled" the authorities by frequenting upscale lounges and restaurants in downtown Toronto where our minority of 18 years wouldn't be questioned as would likely have been the case in neighbourhood pubs). Interestingly the professors at the university encouraged weekly "Sherry parties" in the residence common rooms (Glendon was unquestionably elitist in its foundation) but of course Sherry didn't provide much more than a possible alcoholic springboard to greater heights. Eventually I and others learned to "stock" a supply of the liquor of choice (which then, upon the heels of our latest visit to the Caribbean, was rum). The drug of choice was Aspirin, the round, white, common Aspirin pill before the days of "Extra Strength". This was also before Tylenol or Advil were either invented or certainly before they were popularized by the rapacious drug companies. I believe I used the pills to calm me down, not just to eliminate a headache or sore throat for example. And often I combined the digestion with strong, black instant coffee (generous tablespoons of the stuff and hot water).  The concoction was partly a stimulant of course, with the assurance of a smooth ride. Unwittingly I had learned to cultivate a recipe which formed the basis of what eventually became an addiction. It was the first of my "dressing drinks" which were a preamble to a subsequent social engagement. Aspirin was routinely part of my bathroom commodities and certainly was always found in my shaving kit when traveling. I considered it an innocuous and effective additive, as much a part of my daily consumption as an apple.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Speak with music in your voice!

The Platonists tell us, that the soul, during her residence in the body, contracts many virtuous and vicious habits, so as to become a beneficent, mild, charitable, or an angry, malicious, revengeful being; a substance inflamed with lust, avarice, and pride; or, on the contrary, brightened with pure, generous, and humble dispositions: that these and the like habits of virtue and vice, growing into the very essence of the soul, survive and gather strength in her after her dissolution: that the torments of a vicious soul in a future state, arise principally from those importunate passions which are not capable of being gratified without a body; and that on the contrary, the happiness of virtuous minds very much consists in their being employed in sublime speculations, innocent diversions, sociable affections, and all the ecstasies of passion and rapture which are agreeable to reasonable natures, and of which they gained a relish in this life.

Excerpt From: Addison, Joseph. “The Tatler: By the Right Honourable Joseph Addison, Esq;.” Oxford Text Archive, Oxford University.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Middle-C

In the compass of my admittedly shallow experience, the triflings of my existence have today changed from off-key to Middle-C. I had begun to think that the Forces of Evil had conspired against me; dissonance characterized my universe. To begin, several days ago I discovered by accident when examining my Moissanite "gem" in my pinky ring that there was an unmistakeable smudge on the centre flat surface resembling a small oil slick. As with any of these ostensibly negligible issues I at first pretended to ignore it.  But my obsessiveness kept me re-examining the stone to see if by chance I had possibly been deceived by the mere refraction of light. I cleaned the jewel every morning as usual with Ivory dish soap and an old toothbrush.  But the stain persisted. Because the blemish was so difficult to isolate (the exact light and angle were required), I entertained the further possibility that the smear was an anomaly only, a mere accident of circumstance, one that might never be repeated.  This thesis also gave way in short order. Finally I concluded that the stone was defective and forever stained.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Why I'm voting for Donald Trump

There are just too many people, organizations, movements and institutions that already object to much of what I do or think to persuade me to alter my view of Donald Trump. Long ago I stopped being impressed by contrary opinions generally.  Not just because they were contrary but because they had no substance or were playing upon sensitivities to their own advantage and for no other purpose. Really! Who for example in their right mind in the year 2016 pretends to get offended by coarse language! The worst I can say about coarse language is that it lacks imagination; but to portray its usage as less than presidential is preposterous beyond belief!  Do you really think politicians don't regularly lapse into the vernacular when they're not in public!  Give me a break!  Wake up!  Let's start dealing with the real world!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Pictorial Summary


Of course I had a life before I met Denis.  But things didn't really start to pop until then.  We've been together since 1996 - over twenty years - and unlike many couples we have spent most of our time together since that date. Certainly work initially interrupted our congress during the day but because Denis retired at age 51 and we sold our condominium in the By Ward Market, Ottawa and began cohabiting in our house in Almonte (and he's now over 62 years of age), our time apart has been minimal comparatively speaking. The thing is, we enjoy being together, we're like the inseparable Mutt and Jeff, two peas in a pod, that sort of thing. We've even been likened to twins! And more than once! I can only conclude we exude a commonality of spirit. I guess it's generally true to say that we like the same things, furniture, cars, booze, food, hotels and places of travel. Naturally there are differences between us but rather than alienating us we have learned to thrive upon our distinctions, an important mark of our individuality and singularity. We view it as an imperative to preserve our uniqueness, not just because the differences are real but because we wouldn't want to compromise our separate characters by becoming a blur. Although Denis is perfectly bilingual (French/English) we comically share our private Esperanto of bastardized "Frenglish", an artificial language which even has its rules of pronunciation!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Nadine

If I may be forgiven for using that preposterous and transparently dated epithet "cleaning lady", ours is a woman named Nadine. I am certain there must now be a more suitable term to describe someone who looks after cleaning one's house or apartment but employing "housekeeper" for example sounds rather more grand than the occupation implies. In any event what matters for purposes of this narrative is that Nadine visits us every two weeks and we favour her with the courtesy of getting lost when she is here, about a 2½ hour duration.  The bi-weekly visits have become the occasion for an outing, one that normally takes us away for most if not all the afternoon.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Family, Friends & Acquaintances

Occasionally I have heard people remark as proof of their affection that their parents are their best friends. I prefer to preserve a distinction between family, friends and acquaintances.  Each is important; but each is different. Neither requires the signals of one to elevate the other. Indeed to commingle the qualities of one with the other is a mistake and can lead to unfortunate results not the least of which is disappointment. One must learn to distinguish the substantive differences in order to avoid unintended contamination of the relationship.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Rejoining the Herd

Last evening I had a long telephone conversation with my physician who for the instant has alighted in Town before soon departing again for the other side of the Atlantic. Though I have in the past two weeks since our return home reconnected sporadically with friends and acquaintances, today's encounters were unexpectedly and pleasantly sustained. Perhaps being in the mix on Mill Street before ten o'clock this Monday morning contributed to the intensity.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Tax Day (2016)

It is precisely 6:30 a.m., Saturday, April 30th.  This day of the year is of course most commonly significant as the date by which one must submit a tax return for the previous year.  I understand however that when the day falls on a weekend - as it does this year - the filing period is extended to the next business day which in this case is Monday, May 2nd.  Yesterday we arranged to meet with our accountant at 10:00 a.m. this morning to sign papers.

Friday, April 29, 2016

What an odd day!

Seldom do I feel that absolutely everything is boomps-a-daisy! Today was however the exception.  Try as I might, I could find nothing about which to hinder the carefree sensation. Normally I am encumbered by some modest disturbance, some niggling preoccupation or distasteful duty. But not today.  No, the horizon was perfectly clear!  I conducted a summary examination of all that normally amuses me, from things to people, and therein I could find no limitation.  It was if truth be known mildly distressing that I want for nothing. From head to toe I am happily outfitted, including accoutrements and spectacles. Similarly the mandatory prerequisites of food, shelter and transportation are satisfactorily settled. The wedge of spiritualism widened before me, projecting me towards a rare state of intellectualism, as though a severance of the mind/body dichotomy.  My erstwhile visceral state vanished from view. Instead what pressed upon me was an uncommon and curious condition of satiation.

Perhaps it was this morning's intelligence from our accountant that liability to Her Majesty had at last  - and none too soon! - been quantified.  We immediately settled the account as the final act of fulfillment. What could be more uplifting than determining that overhanging mystery! Or it may have been the very agreeable bicycle ride in the cool morning air, nurtured by the flourishing buds on the trees. Whatever the reason I was stranded in an atmosphere of perfect delight without a care in the world!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Catching Up!

It was about ten days ago that we returned home to our beloved Almonte from our winter hibernation on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Since then we've been flying high. As usual, when things get going as fast as they have been lately, I start to feel out of touch and I become overwhelmed by the need to recapitulate in order to catch up emotionally! Sometimes the pace is so intense that I lose touch where I am. Trotting out the agenda of the past week or so would hardly capture the turbulence engendered by those frenetic events. It has been a marked distinction from our lazy regular day on Hilton Head Island; viz., breakfast, bicycling on the beach and settling in for the evening. Yet the notable element of being home is the strength and variation of the competing emotions. Dormant sensitivities and passions have been revived by reacquaintance with family and friends and having to deal with the sometimes highly personal intelligence shared by people whom we know.  How much easier it is to remain detached and unperturbed when listening to the babbling of a stranger!  But friends and family command a  measure of attention and responsiveness.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Bumps, Scrapes, Tarnishes and Tears

As a general rule, bumps, scrapes, tarnishes and tears are unwelcome. Consider the illustration of a new car. Upon discovering a nick on your new car, do you ruefully regard it then gently rub an index finger over the offending score as though you could expectantly make the blemish gradually cease to exist, hoping against hope that it were but the unintended and serendipitous smudge of an airborne fowl? The phrase "wear and tear" (an undisguised import from the legal exclusions of warranty contracts) is hardly the answer! In an instant the integrity of your vehicle is compromised. Indeed the entire point of getting a new car is under siege! The spiritual heights of the impermanent flight are unceremoniously grounded. Cinderella's vanishing carriage has nothing on this vaporization!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

New Pair of Socks

Saturday morning!  I can't explain it, but even after retirement, Saturday morning still elevates me!  This is particularly so when as today the sun shone and there was not a cloud in the bright blue sky!  Rather like listening to the atmospheric music of Erik Satie's "Gymnopédies". I did however suffer a modest dampening upon briefly recalling the disagreement I had had with my elderly mother last evening.  But I was, at least upon awakening this morning, satisfied that my intransigence about returning her vacuum cleaner had triumphed and my general approach to the new day was one of refreshment not hesitation or regret.  This, I was about to discover, was to be a short-lived buoyancy.  But for the time being, ignorant as I was of my overhanging destiny, I prosecuted the morning ablutions without reserve and prepared myself for what I then anticipated to be a perfectly splendid Saturday. As I dressed I amused myself to contrive to purchase new white socks and to discard the old ones.  White socks are like toothbrushes, common, hardly a luxury and certainly not something one should feel the necessity to keep forever.  Long ago I discovered the unusually gratifying result of capitalizing upon such petty indulgences. Rejuvenation requires far less exertion than one might imagine; the simplest modification can afford incalculable fodder!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Back to Basics

The return from our winter sojourn has been a blunt confrontation.  It's as though we've been back for weeks though it is but slightly more than twenty-four hours. We crossed the border (where I am pleased to report we had a very satisfactory encounter with an unusually pleasant Canadian border guard) and made a bee-line to home and by-passed the customary longer route which would have included a purifying car wash and grocery shopping. Our re-entry to the condo was (as frankly I had anticipated) instantly gratifying, re-uniting us with the serenity and gem tones of our familiar environment. There were no unsettling discoveries other than a note from our housekeeper regarding the malfunctioning of the aging vacuum cleaner.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Last Day on the Beach (2016)

Imperceptibly over the course of an hour upon awakening this morning, we resolved to leave Hilton Head Island tomorrow instead of two days later as planned. The weather forecast is for rain tomorrow and the next day so there isn't much point lingering here. After five months on the Island we are of course content to get on our way; in fact, we're somewhat anxious to return home in a general way.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Banks and Insurance Companies

To speak of banks and insurance companies as though they were separate and unrelated entities is a misconception. They are the Janus face of the financial market. They each have one hand in the other's pocket and they each have their other hand in the public's pocket. The popular household mortgage and insurance binder are roulette games with about as much risk for the lender or insurer as for casino operators. If one extrapolates the association of banks and insurers they are one big family.  By the time one ascends to the rarefied atmosphere of re-insurers it is an apex similar to tracing one's ancestry back to the Mongolians, the beginning of time.  Just to be clear, the risk factor is not limited to insurance.  It doesn't require much speculation to discover that lending $300,000 - 800,000 to someone on the street to buy a house has an element of risk.  The mortgage lenders spread some of that risk among their insurers to cover foreseeable downturns. If, as sometimes happens, the real estate market is at "risk" of declining, the banks resolve the issue by acquiescing to the inflation of housing prices then reducing the cost of borrowing (while of course at the same time co-operating with the increase of capital borrowed).  If things get totally out of hand it is never beneath the big guns to sacrifice the lesser of their own (who were likely to have succumbed to the false allure of securitized debt which had no financial cushion to absorb large loan defaults).

Monday, April 11, 2016

It's a festival!

Hilton Head Island was unexpectedly calm today, something I hadn't anticipated in view of the upcoming RBC Heritage PGA Tour to be held at Harbour Town this week. I read somewhere that 100,000 visitors are about to arrive. But apart from a few decorations and the occasional road sign there were not many other indications of a looming festival.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Fuck you!

Nothing quite so succinctly captures a dismissal as the expletive "Fuck you!" Oddly it is an imprecation suitable to almost anyone, young or old, staid or whacky, man or woman. It does of course have the advantage of being direct and easily understood.  It similarly does not admit to ambiguity or misinterpretation. The possibility of inviting comment or correspondence is slim; it normally represents a conclusion rather than an initiative.

Morning

A fresh start is more than a carry-over from my law firm billing practice of latching onto a discernible alteration in the progress of a file as an occasion to render an account. It is a daily rejuvenation which permits me to start with a clean slate.  As trying as it might be at times to withdraw from the warmth and shelter of the duvet, the reward of the opportunity of a new day invariably kicks in.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Sandy Day on the Beach

As keen as I am on the beach and matters Maritime in general it was only today - after almost five months on Hilton Head Island - that I interrupted my ritual afternoon bicycle ride on the beach to lay on the sand to soak up the sunshine. Granted today was a spectacular beach day, dazzling sunshine, searing heat (79℉) and a glittering sapphire Ocean. The riotous Ocean breeze swept the clouds wildly about the azure dome, enlarging one's thoughts and warming one's mind to new ideas. Suddenly shadows raced over the face of the beach like a changing mood. The wind filled the lungs and buffeted the soul; it tanned the hide, tousled the hair and billowed the garments. It was an overwhelming and arresting blend that transported me to ineffable reveries.

Filling the Void

As distinguishable as are youth and maturity, employment and retirement, ups and downs and almost any other binary juxtaposition one might assemble to describe the polarities of life, the components which have filled the void of my own life are oddly constant. If any difference exits it is largely characterized by my having more time now than formerly to dwell upon my ambitions.  For example I have always sought a degree of excellence not only in what I performed but also in what I experienced. While this may resonate with a degree of haughtiness it is in fact no different from those who dedicate themselves to a lifetime of economy (though obviously the products of the two inertia are frequently at different ends of the scale). My father couldn't bring himself to rationalize the utility of sterling service, René Lalique crystal or Crown Derby china, much less Breitling watches or yew tree furniture. I on the other hand could never succeed to rationalize the compromise of quality for the sake of austerity (even though I knew it propelled me to a destiny of perpetual fiscal misfortune).

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Marker 97

Just to recapitulate, the 10-mile beach on Hilton Head Island's Atlantic Ocean coast is punctuated by steel markers every 1/10th of a mile. Starting at the "toe" end of Hilton Head Island (a metaphorical reference to the astronomic appearance of the Island as a foot, where the toes are at the south end and the ankle and heel are at the north end), the first marker is Marker 1. Around Tower Beach (just north of South Beach where we reside) there is Marker 12 (approximately).  This of course denominates 1.2 miles from the most southern tip of the Island. At Marker 39 is Beach Club (still within Sea Pines Plantation); then Coligny Park at Marker 59; Sonesta Beach at Marker 72; and finally Marker 97 at Burke's Beach at the upper (north) end of the beach where a break of large rocks effectively terminates the beach before having to transcend the inland waterway to continue further north.

Monday, April 4, 2016

My other car is a Porsche

I told a lie this morning.  Just a little lie, one of those "white" jobs, nothing really awful but nonetheless a lie. And if you can believe it, I told the lie to the gardener!  Of all people!  To begin with, why would I possibly have felt the necessity to lie to the gardener!  The only thing I know about him is his first name. But there it is!  Within minutes of my resurrection this morning I had succeeded to contaminate my existence by telling a lie.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Things are getting busy here!

After what was undeniably a quiet and relaxed winter on Hilton Head Island - what I often likened to a private retreat  - things have begun to change.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Rainy Easter Sunday

Today is Easter Sunday. The religious theme is lost upon us. Apart from having listened to ecclesiastical music this morning (which I do every Sunday morning anyway) the day is more remarkable for its ceaseless rain. The last time I pretended to care about Easter was about forty years ago when I was in Montreal on my own for a weekend holiday.  I can't recall exactly the stage of my career at the time but I do remember having purchased a Sony Walkman.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Not a bad Good Friday

Without intending to be irreverent, I want to draw upon the metaphor of Easter Weekend; namely, rebirth. My focus upon this normally atmospheric subject began with a much earthier event yesterday afternoon. I had just consumed a large piece of Key Lime pie (liberally decorated with rosettes of whipped cream), the third piece in the previous twenty-four hours!  Seldom does pie last more than twenty-four hours in our household.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Immortality

“THERE are two kinds of immortality; that which the soul really enjoys after this life, and that imaginary existence by which men live in their fame and reputation. The best and greatest actions have proceeded from the prospect of the one or other of these.”

Excerpt From: Joseph Addison. “The Tatler: By the Right Honourable Joseph Addison, Esq.


Overnight I had begun to plan my day.  I had first to confirm that Sea Pines Resort had delivered a replacement bicycle following the unexpected explosion of my rear tire yesterday, though conveniently immediately upon my return to the parking lot of the condominium.  The shattering sound had startled Simon the gardener and he approached me mirthfully and with due enquiry.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Grey Day


The first time I set foot upon the beach on Hilton Head Island - over six years ago - it was a cloudy day. I shall forever recall that day as I celebrated our arrival and wandered on the beach by the roiling sea eagerly absorbing the sights and sounds of the Atlantic Ocean.  My immediate reaction was paradoxically that the colours - particularly of the muted sand - were vibrant. Today was another grey day and a similar experience. The colours of the beach on a cloudy day are always the same, grey sand, grey sea and grey sky. And yet there is is nothing washed out about the appeal.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Thinking of home

The countdown has begun.  Our departure from Hilton Head Island is in the offing if not indeed imminent. Exactly one month from today we are scheduled to land back on terra firma in Canada. We left Canada on November 6th last. We're rounding out an agreeable five-month stint. We plan to wrinkle the smoothness of this descent by returning to Jekyll Island, GA for a weekend jaunt in the second week of April. Otherwise we'll simply endure the Island flavours until then. We're safely assured that the weather will be warm over the next month. Yesterday I bought two tropical shirts to match two pairs of vanilla shorts. Call me carefree! Every day I strengthen the bit of colour I've managed to acquire over the past five months by bicycling on the beach and afterwards reposing by the pool. It's a routine, a pleasing ritual. Fortunately as a matter of discretion I acknowledge there is no likelihood of my having to display myself in the buff.  Accordingly I confine my ultraviolet exposure to my legs, feet, face and arms. At worst the refinement may impart the appearance of a dedicated golfer. Upon reclaiming our digs in Canada my out-of-doors routine does not deviate from similar precaution and modesty. Admittedly this represents an abandonment of a youthful habit but clearly there is no foundation to support any other posture. Age and corpulence have trumped all fantasy! It's just one of the hard realities of living, not unlike having to relinquish a fervour for a Mustang automobile.  Some things just don't fit - literally!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Auspicious Day

Today the principal item on our admittedly less than enthralling agenda was the renewal of our monthly Guest Pass to Sea Pines Resort where we currently reside. Sea Pines is a 5,200-acre private residential gated community located on the southern tip of Hilton Head Island.  As recently as yesterday morning I overhead an Island resident complain that she and her family had moved out of Sea Pines because there were too many restrictions.  It requires little imagination to recognize that the pristine appearance of Sea Pines is no accident.  Aside from the obvious manicured nature of the entire resort, the homogeneity of the homes and the noticeable absence of so-called "personality" traits peculiar to residences in other communities, Sea Pines practically screams militaristic conformity.

Middle of the Night

It's 2:06 a.m. on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 2016.  We made the mistake of going to bed at 9:00 o'clock last evening (no doubt saturated and exhausted by the rehashing of the Republican primary results and all that pertains to Donald Trump including the foreshadowed implosion of the GOP).  Now we're both perched at the dining room table drinking black coffee and listening to the sprinklers on the lawn through the open patio door.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Ditto

There is perhaps a fine line between gloating and gratitude. I trust that I shall be excused my indulgence and permitted to dilate upon the current invigorating circumstances. After another day under the cerulean sky, cycling on the beach and basking in the sun by the pool, I am driven to capture the elation which attends. It is unquestionable in my estimation that never have I had so frequent a cause to rejoice as I have had during our stay on Hilton Head Island for the past four months. As we pass the demarcation of our final month here for the winter, we have moved into a period of noticeable transition. The Island has begun to proliferate in every sense of the word, blooming flowers, burgeoning crowds and rising temperatures. A couple of days ago was the advent of Daylight Savings Time; the hours of sunshine have commensurately widened.  And the prolongation of red and pink in the evening sky before sunset is a treasure to behold.

Egg-in-the-Hole

Several years ago we travelled to Sardinia and stayed on the coast at the north end of the Island near Porto Rafael in a mountain-top residence called Villa Luna overlooking the Mediterranean sea and nearby Corsica and the Maddalena archipelago.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Revert and Recoup

Not long ago on Jekyll Island, GA I wandered into a local gift shop and spotted what I have lately noticed on Pinterest is becoming a new fad - inexpensive bracelets made of varied materials like string, leather and rubber and decorated with equally common items such as seashells, stones, glass chips, plastic and wood.  Although the targeted demographic is undoubtedly youths (surfers, skateboarders and the like), the fashion has oddly become popular among young adult men. The ostentation is spared the accusation of effete paradoxically through multiplicity. The trend is to wear three or more bracelets at once on the same wrist, often in addition to a watch. There is nothing discrete about the affectation!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Soft Blue Day

Living on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina (a distinction I presume to arrogate after having resided here for four months with another yet to come) there are two things I do every morning (even before I get out of bed).  First, I check the weather. Second, I check the tide chart. I conduct those enquiries by grabbing my iPhone on the bedside table and tuning into the weather App and the internet. The forecast this morning wasn't alluring - a cloudy day was predicted. That meant I didn't bother to check the tide chart.  I perform this preliminary investigation every morning not only because it directs what I shall do during the day (rain for example is a dampening factor) but also because it tells me whether I may linger under the duvet with impunity.  If a sunny day is foreseeable it burns me up to imagine missing even a moment of sunshine and blue sky.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Donald Trump

There was a time when I practically prided myself upon my ignorance of political activity.  Don't get me wrong, I always - without exception - voted in any election, whether municipal, provincial or federal.  But my lead-up interest in the outcome was token at best and it usually predominated the local municipal elections far more than the provincial or federal battles. Years ago when I began practicing law in Almonte in 1976 and assumed the office and swivel chair of the late Raymond A. Jamieson, QC, I was initiated to an admiration for American politics by Mr. Jamieson.  At the time I thought it somewhat peculiar that Mr. Jamieson specifically preferred American politics but as I got to know him I learned to attribute the peculiarity to his own general eccentricity.  Now - forty years later - after having spent the winter on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and having been submerged in the unfolding fortunes of the Republican nomination caucuses, I can see precisely what I imagine Mr. Jamieson so loved about American politics.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Dreams

I have never slept particularly well.  Perhaps I am what is described as a "light sleeper".  The fact is, I sleep best in the oddest circumstances - for example, in the dentist's chair, in the waiting lounge at an airport, on a chaise longue by the pool or when sitting at my desk.  But when it comes to going to bed and sleeping at night - unless I am at the point of utter exhaustion - I am a reluctant candidate.  This lack of routine accommodation means that I have trouble getting to bed and then trouble staying asleep.  As a result I spend a good deal of my time in bed lying awake or half-asleep.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Greedy Hedonist

I have said already, that on a subject so important to us all as happiness, we should listen with pleasure to any man’s experience or experiments, even though he were but a plough-boy, who cannot be supposed to have ploughed very deep into such an intractable soil as that of human pains and pleasures, or to have conducted his researches upon any very enlightened principles.

Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (January 1, 1859)
Thomas De Quincey


There is an astonishing inertia acquired over 40 years of zealous and uninterrupted employment. It is a seasoned and inescapable condition, an unrelenting propulsion, a perpetual and seemingly unstoppable ambition. It does however eventually subside, almost precipitously. Quite to my astonishment I am cultivating a habit of a new order: unmitigated leisure, my own brand of purposelessness, as fine and bland as the beach on which I aimlessly stroll and roll. Instead of bolting to the ringing of the telephone or the knocking at the door I listen to the soothing chorus of the churning waves of the Atlantic Ocean. It is the desktop music for nowhere to go, nothing to do.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Should we choose our friends carefully?

To cast the choice of one's friends as a calculated selection process is to counsel a dangerous admonition. Except for the most egregious examples, the advice (even if directed to the young and ostensibly foolish) has about as much authenticity as an arranged marriage. Even if love were by some febrile distortion of pragmatism represented as the comparatively serious business of family and economics, friendship is supposed to be the playground of relationships. To impose stricture on friendship is to contaminate it; it is the one association which can be free of sycophantic or parasitic utility.

Windy Day

From where I was on the beach today the roiling Ocean appeared to be above me, a massive pool straining to break its banks.  The sea was being churned by a gale force wind from the northeast, seemingly pushing the burgeoning volumes of water to breach its natural bounds. The Ocean had the appearance of a huge bowl of soup which might spill over its edges, in danger of slopping out of its vast container.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Busy day!

It would be a shameful exaggeration to suggest that my timetable today was one of endless drudgery. Yet within the context of retirement there is at least some thrust to the poetic observation. Having to acknowledge anything approaching dutiful performance is guaranteed to spawn a veneer of labour. The obnoxious element of exertion is a transgression upon the habit of cultivated leisure which has lately seen incremental enlargement. The science of nature abhorring a vacuum is amply illustrated among those of us no longer caught in the web of employment.  My matutinal routine for example has dilated over the past two years from what was once a succinct 30-minute ceremony dedicated to a ritual breakfast to what is now a two-hour vaporization involving prolonged cups of coffee, progressive courses of mixed fruit, protein boost and even a gloss on dessert. Small wonder therefore that the imposition of the most inconsequential obligation succeeds to contaminate a life of inactivity.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Thanks be to the gods!

I have no intention of evaporating or blending in with the wallpaper before acknowledging the beneficence of my private universe! I am tempted to observe that even if my exquisite luck were to change for the worse, I owe it to the unseen powers to preserve unbending gratitude for all that I now have and have once enjoyed.  At my advanced age and given my history of indulgence and serendipity, it would amount to unforgivable thanklessness to do otherwise.  Life owes me nothing!

Adventuresome day!

If you dispel the obfuscating fog of everyday living, life has I think you’ll concede its discernible – though subtle – drama. The source may be unpredictable and even unlikely. Don’t let a facade of placidity dissuade you! Behind a veneer of composure may subsist one of daring enterprise. Permit me to observe that while I am not perpetually living on the edge I too have my moments. Consider if you will the following example.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Jekyll Island, Georgia

Than Jekyll Island, Georgia there can be no greater proof of the adage that good things come in small packages! Jekyll Island measures 7 miles long by 1.5 miles wide, a mere 5,700 acres. Like other barrier islands along the Atlantic Ocean, Jekyll Island is easily accessible from Interstate 95. When motoring southward for example it is nothing more common than a left turn across what invariably are inland sea marshes to the equally predictable signpost of the Island.  The initial trumpeting of Jekyll Island is a singular bit of landscaping. There are two large ponds at the entrance on either side of the comparatively private-looking causeway to the Island.  The ponds each sport splendid water fountains.  Not much further along the decidedly quaint road from the highway to the Island one encounters a gateway reminiscent of a staid and grand entrance constructed of mellow stucco plaster with heavy wooden doors imparting a faintly tropical flavour boosted by the roadside palm trees and vast tidal marshes which afford an expansive view and which instantly cheer one's spirit.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Noli me tangere

It was exactly 20 years ago less a day that Denis and I began our confederacy.  Instantly we bolted from the starting gate and began in earnest the race that is life!  The very next day was a memorable luncheon for six close friends at the house in Almonte where we would eventually cohabit. Mere weeks later we inaugurated what became a succession of trips.  Our initial jaunt was to New York City where in keeping with our now well-established preference we landed at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. This weekend visit was illustrative of what was to come: we have since perched at other renowned hotels (including the Carlyle, the Plaza, the Boca Raton Beach Club, the Chateau Laurier, the Royal York, Le Reine Elizabeth and many other five-star hacienda  - rounded out by First Class airplane seating and once with a private helicopter ride to the airport); we were completely sober (a condition which although somewhat mercurial has largely been sustained); we had unforgettable dinners (steak et frites at Chez Ma Tante and Osso Buco at the Gershwin Theatre); we took a water tour on the Hudson River (characteristic of our serendipitous affection for water generally specifically the Caribbean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean); I misdirected us on a rainy night walk almost into the Hudson River (the impetus for our "first fight"); we daily took long walks (a love of regular exercise which now focuses upon bicycling); and, afterwards we immediately began to plan our next venture together.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Daily Wonders

Lately I've experienced a number of very pleasant events, small events admittedly, but nonetheless exceedingly pleasant events.  Today for example we punctuated our customary weekend celebration by going for Sunday breakfast at a place we've never before visited. The restaurant has the preposterous  name "Watusi" made all the more enigmatic by the nameplate addition "It is what it is".  In spite of its obscure dance theme, Watusi is an exceptionally well-appointed venue, having a charming outdoor patio and a terrific soda-fountain-style bar (where we chose to sit this morning). Because I not writing a food chronicle I won't reiterate either the menu or what we ordered other than to say the breakfast was nonpareil and the espresso coffee was the best I've ever had!

Friday, February 19, 2016

You are what you think

It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour. If we refused, or rather used up, such paltry information as we get, the oracles would distinctly inform us how this might be done.
Walden (Life in the Woods), Henry David Thoreau (1854)
It is almost universally accepted that the character of our lives is a matter over which most of us have dominion. This is normally translated as an acknowledgement that we are what we think.  This in turn becomes the popular prescription for having happy thoughts. Customarily the recipe amounts to motivational speeches or the power of positive thinking. Not infrequently we are encouraged to capitulate, either to ourselves or to a higher power (usually a religious god). Whatever the course adopted or proposed, the object is invariably that we shall discover accommodation for what is blithely called happiness. Pointedly however the very ambivalence of the object trivializes the formula for getting there.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Axiomatic Living

As a guest speaker addressing a graduating class I am bound to advance, in addition to well-deserved congratulations, something helpful about navigating the future. There likely isn't anything in this life which hasn't been said before and I can pretty much guarantee you won't hear anything novel from me. There are however certain truths which bear repeating and I would like to share them with you. I propose to set out ten concise principles for daily living. These principles are what I call axioms, adages which are not only undeniably true by definition (such as 1 + 1 = 2) but importantly are self-fulfilling prescriptions for success.

By way of introduction and to provide an overview of the flavour of these principles consider this brainteaser. It's a reminder that things are not always what they appear:
If a baseball and a bat cost $1.10 together, and the bat costs $1.00 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?

While you cogitate upon that (and hopefully without diverting yourself from attending what else I have to say) permit me the effrontery to say I have welcome news for you; namely, life doesn't have to be hard. An outsider looking at this privileged assembly might readily be forgiven thinking that not one of you has reason to be wary. If as I suspect you don't wholeheartedly embrace that unqualified proposition I'd like to share indicia which might persuade you otherwise.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Winter Blahs

Can it be?  Do the winter blahs affect even those of us who are fifteen hundred miles south of the snow belt and sitting within yards of a swimming pool, palm trees, the beach and the Ocean?  Apparently so. Just over half-way through our five-month sojourn on Hilton Head Island we are slumped in a trough which is reminiscent of the winter blahs. There is an aching feeling of repetition; the glamour of the sea has evaporated; sitting by the pool in the afternoon sunshine has become routine; novelty is a thing of the past. It is undeniable that the local weather suffers the reflective pain of Northerners as the cold, Arctic air spills southward.  The fronds of the palm trees sympathetically lose their verdant sheen; the grass shows its remission; there is no excitement to do anything or to go anywhere. It's the winter blahs!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Clouds

The news from home was devastating.  A murder-suicide was the summary story in the media. I learned of it in the same blunt manner I first heard of the World Trade Centre attacks on September 11, 2001 - akin to abruptly banging one's head when standing up. In both cases I was making what in hindsight were trivial enquiries about matters affecting my personal affairs, only to be drawn up and told in reply the rude and brute intelligence. It is no surprise that in the days following the revelation an air of disturbance has prevailed. Nature itself has aligned with the misery, lulling me in my bed until late in the morning, heavy rains and widespread clouds throughout the past several days. I have tried as usual to maintain my regular agenda but a dark void consumes me and weakens my spirit. Any remorse that might exist is speedily replaced by pallid dejection.  It is impossible even to arouse anger at undeniable madness. A shattered treasure, no one to blame, nothing but a horrible and irrevocable incident.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Sideline Politics

Wintering on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina - one of the more distinctive Confederate States - I have incrementally submerged myself in American politics. The media is equally immersed in political saturation as the Presidential Election in November approaches. As gripping as I have found the topic to be, and as regularly as the accusation of self-absorption is levelled at Americans, strangely it is of little interest to many. When for example a journalist recently asked some what they thought about the candidates of the competing Democratic and Republican parties, it was acutely evident that they had no idea who was involved. If nothing else, the result affirms the value of spending astronomic amounts of money on television ads in the hopes of persuading those who might ultimately deign to vote.  Additionally it perhaps sadly signifies that many Americans could care less and are largely estranged from the political process, dismissively imagining that things will unfold one way or another without real difference or change. It was only in 2008 with the prospect of election of Barack Obama as the first black president that the numbers of voters spiked and that is mainly attributed to the unique involvement of African American voters.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Let's get away from it all!

It is gratifying to report that we haven't lost an appetite for adventure and discovery.  We have just returned from an agreeable jaunt to Florida.  What however conspires against this frivolity is that we have been on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina for the past three months. It's not as though we have at hand a ready excuse to "get away". Nonetheless the capitulation to go abroad reinforces the equally persistent adage that a break from anything is welcome.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

There's such a lot of livin' to do!

Bye Bye Birdie
 - Lot of Livin' to do


I got a lot of living to do!

Sizzlin' steaks all ready for tastin'

And there's Cadillacs all shiny and new!

Gotta move, cause time is a-wastin',

There's such a lot of livin' to do!


My late father and I hadn't a lot in common. But we both had a passion for automobiles.  His was boundless compared to mine.  He surpassed my superficial fascination with horsepower and appearance by combining it with technical savvy, an elevation I was never inclined to imitate. Neither of us required encouragement to drive. My father was notorious for going on extended drives from Ontario to New Brunswick.  Granted he had the plausible excuse to inspect the 170 acres of land he owned there, but I am certain he would have gone there or somewhere in any event.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Moving on...

Even if it is your good fortune not to have suffered greatly in life, I suspect you have nonetheless endured the challenge of moving on. I reckon no one is spared the occasional trial. We all have something we’d prefer to leave behind. It really matters very little that the strength of one’s particular encounter with fate is of comparatively weak intensity; in the end, accommodating a tribulation of any degree exacts some measure of duress. The consequence of moving on is letting go; the two concepts go hand-in-hand. One concept (moving on) is prospective; the other (letting go) is retrospective. You cannot move ahead if your foot is on the brake.

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Grand Day!

This morning I broadly hinted I was done with what must by now have become a perilously unvaried repetition of my undiminished rapture for this place. Already I have reiterated my utter sense of fortune to be here. But I simply must report that today was perhaps one of the most pleasant we've had on the Island! A moment ago when exiting the beach at Tower Beach I exclaimed to two wayfarers on the boardwalk, "It's a grand day!"

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Idem

Are you one of those brainy birds predisposed to reflection? Do you idly muse upon your life and think about what you've done and who you are. You may be one whose life is - to speak charitably - unpretentious? Perhaps you consider that you are justifiably self-effacing? If so, I'm right there with you, make no mistake. To be candid an account of my life is unexceptional, passable at best I'd say. For one thing it would impart far more tang than merited to my insipid reality to suggest that any day is much different from another. How often have you rejoined to a friendly enquiry about what's new, "Oh, same old, same old!" Nonetheless - and this may startle you for its complacency - I rejoice in every boring moment, even to a fault. Indeed as inclined as I am to itemize the particulars of my ineffable existence, I will resist if only because I fear their public recitation may be tedious (though strangely that does nothing to dampen my private gusto).

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Something Personal

Apart from my health and welfare, there aren't many things I "have" which are irreplaceable.  Of course every thing is replaceable.  But it might require money.  And I, like most people, prefer not to spend money to replace something.  What stirs me in this matter is that there are very few things I still own which are of any particular importance to me, not because what remains has lost its appeal but because what remains of value is limited. In the past several years I have unloaded almost everything of value I ever owned.  There was nothing spiritual about the divestment.  The motivation was - to use a suitably lofty phrase - strictly economic.  After a lifetime of profligacy I awoke to a choice between money and things if I were to enter upon a new career - specifically retirement. I am actually proud to say that the transition from extravagance to moderation has been not only painless but also welcome. Nonetheless I never completely abandoned my appetite for certain things, things which historically have always captured my attention - cars and jewellery.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The View of the Sound

It would in my opinion amount to constructive negligence to forego historical commentary upon the details of my daily navigation on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. In spite of the obvious repetition of everyday events there are too many delicious ingredients to ignore. Besides a faithful record of this trivia may one day provide truck for fond recollection.  It is after all sadly true that the wings of many Canadian "snow birds" are eventually clipped by incremental poor health and a corresponding escalation of health insurance costs.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Dent

It would likely surprise most of us to discover how common we are. But hang on!  This isn't going to be a bad thing! I employ the word "common" in this sense; namely, prevalent (as opposed to ordinary and unexceptional).  In fact, in the sense that I am using the term "common" there is nothing either ordinary or unexceptional about it. It is on the contrary quite extraordinary and equally exceptional that many of us share almost identical inclinations regarding certain things in life which privately might often engender a degree of personal embarrassment.  I am not talking of anything lascivious nor of bodily functions, just everyday things.  In matters of many everyday things, we're all alike.

A Real Breakfast

There are few topics about which I am more willing to prattle so vibrantly than breakfast. Scoff if you must, but the subject is a noble one illuminated by the hopes of a new day, new beginnings and fresh starts. It may as well be the fodder of poetry! It enjoys the benefit of maternal condonation, not to mention the nutritionist's admonitions regarding cognitive functions, energy needs and long term health. Like politics, religion and the weather, it is something about which any one of us can have an opinion. Entire nations have adopted their own partiality - French pâtisserie and coffee; Italian Cappuccino and biscotti; Canadian eggs and pea meal bacon; Québec cretons; American waffles; Jewish lox and bagels; Mexican Huevos Rancheros; Russian blinis; Vietnamese Chao Ga (chicken rice porridge), Chinese Baozi (steamed filled buns) and Dim Sum.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Mechanical Contaminants

While I hesitate to reiterate today's trifling annoyances (because in a general way they are typical of what happens regularly), I feel compelled to do so if for no other reason than as a matter of record.


Speaking of records - if you will permit me this brief detour - I have within the past several days undergone a significant change of heart about my literary medium of choice.  Since I was fourteen years old (when I began keeping a diary) I have continued to write as a hobby in one form or another.My first media involved so-called "hard copy"; that is, books of one description or another in which I usually wrote in long-hand using a pen (ballpoint or fountain pen).  Then I began typing everything and inserting the pages into a three-ring binder (one which I dignified by having it bound in leather and my name embossed in gold lettering).  Finally with the advent of computers I shifted to electronic production.  Within that latter framework I first used primarily WordPerfect (that is, just one big file on my computer).  I then discovered blogs (in fact, the one I am using now).  And about two years ago I had a web site constructed in anticipation of my running for election to municipal Council.  When I withdrew my election application I decided to keep the web site and convert it into another blog, although one which I fashioned more private than this Google blog.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The New Year

As I breezily sailed home on my bicycle along the beach this afternoon I was hailed by name.  Normally that would have been quite unexpected. But not on this occasion.  I knew that acquaintances of ours were staying in a nearby condominium and my hurried deduction was of course correct.  It was indeed one of those people who had beaconed me from the shore where he and another were sauntering.  I turned and joined them by the water.  I dismounted from my bicycle and extended my hand to my fellow-traveller, wishing him compliments of the New Year.  He introduced me to his companion, a middle-aged female friend with a short hairdo. We engaged in predictable banter about their recent journey here but primarily focused upon my friend's wife who had been stricken ill for the past two days and was at the condominium in bed. I was naturally sympathetic, the more so considering the short duration of their holiday here, a mere week. Privately I reflected that the wife's illness would potentially contaminate the foursome in more ways than one, not the least of which was a general damper on their holiday plans.  Several years ago while on the Island I had suffered a 24-hour stomach illness from which I quickly recovered; however, from the intelligence I gathered about the wife's condition, things for her were more serious.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Not bloody likely!

Happy New Year!  Welcome to 2016, a new year on the civil calendar (also known as the "Western calendar" or "Christian calendar") commonly denominated the Gregorian calendar named after Pope Gregory XIII who introduced it by papal bull Inter gravissimas dated 24 February 1582.