A Dickens of a story

Church of the Ascension, immediately after our reading of A Christmas Carol, Dec. 3, 2017.

I found Christmas over in Port Perry last Sunday afternoon. I wasn’t alone. And, no, there wasn’t a sudden conversion in my life. But I was in a church. A few minutes after 3 p.m., last Sunday, I was invited to a lectern to initiate a fundraiser with these words:

“Marley was dead, to begin with. There was no doubt whatever about that. … Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.”

Testosterone-free meeting

The Griddle Pickers – (l-r) Mike Milner, Sean Patrick &  Dale Patrick. Photo: Jim Campbell.

It was following their second or third song, that the two youngest members of the acoustic country and bluegrass band, The Griddle Pickers, paused. The two brothers in the band were enjoying the relative peace of the moment, performing in a church sanctuary in front of a capacity audience.

“Gosh, it’s sure different singing and playing in here,” commented banjo player Sean Patrick.

“Yeah,” his brother Dale, the guitarist and lead vocalist, agreed. “Most of the time we’re trying to play over a noisy crowd, or a bar fight.”

Ted Barris invited to join honoured neighbourhood

Meet “150 Neighbours,” and be inspired by the stories of those who work tirelessly to enhance community for all residents in a way that makes this uniquely Scarborough, and uniquely Canada.

“150 Neighbours” is a photo-documentary series marking Canada’s sesquicentennial, celebrating local accomplishments as part of our national festivities. This social-media driven and crowd-sourced campaign has featured 150 Scarborough community and nation builders—past and present—over 150 days, from Saturday July 1st to Tuesday November 28th.

For more information about the “150 Neighbours” doc and a short feature about the invitation to join, go to: http://www.150neighbours.ca/ted-barris/

Beyond the Wall Tour – June 10-23, 2018

On Jan. 19, 1989, the head of the East German state exclaimed, “The Wall will be standing in 50 and even 100 years.” Ten months later, both he and the Berlin Wall were gone. For 40 years, concrete and wire had physically divided a Germany already ruined by WWII. It had often brought the Communist Bloc and the Western Democracies to the brink of another world war. Perhaps most important, its existence and its demise changed Europe.

From June 10 to 23, 2018, the wartime experience before the Wall, the Cold War deadlock during its existence, and the nature of the Europe since it came tumbling down, are the focus of Merit’s “Beyond the War” Tour.

Again, co-hosted by award-winning author and historian Ted Barris and his wife Jayne MacAulay, the tour gives travellers a unique exploration of stops in Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany where war, politics and people knew a history that can only be touched to be understood.

Please use this link for full itinerary and travel details: http://www.merittravel.com/product/eastern-europe-beyond-the-wall/

It’s more than Scarberia

Aileen Hill, one of 150 Scarborough Neighbours honoured.

I wouldn’t have known that she was my neighbour. But it turns out that in more ways than one, she and I have been connected. First, we have both supported the arts and those who create them. Next, we are both the children of immigrants. But for me the surprising aspect of our neighbour connection is that Aileen Hill and I both have Scarborough roots.

“I was born here,” she told me, “then, moved with my family to the Caribbean, but have now come back to Scarborough.”

Ethics versus life

Carol Off reading at Blue Heron Books & Brunch event, Nov. 12, 2017.

Last Sunday morning, I watched a seasoned journalist get uncharacteristically emotional. Previously a foreign correspondent, a reporter who’d covered hostilities in the Middle East and a long-time current affairs radio host, Carol Off’s eyes welled up. She recalled, in 2002, convincing Asad Aryubwal, an Afghan father of five, to go on-camera to expose the warlords the U.S. military was courting to overthrow the Taliban.

“Asad’s courage in speaking out was rewarded only with the calamity when, in response to (my) documentary,” Off told Zoomer magazine, “Afghanistan’s most powerful warlord sent a death squad to kill him.”

Simple actions. Astonishing results.

Leslie M. Miller, lieutenant in the Canadian Corps.

The padre stepped up to the lectern this past Sunday morning in Shedden, Ont. The audience at the community centre for the Remembrance service settled into silence. The clergyman unfolded his papers, that I thought would contain a prayer, a piece of scripture or perhaps the words of a hymn. But, no, he looked out at the assembly of cadets, veterans and the public in the audience and introduced his Nov. 11 thoughts this way.

“From simple actions, come astonishing results,” he said.

Retail apocalypse

A few weeks ago, I sat down with an old friend. He’s retired now. But when we met 30 years ago, he was a happy, enthusiastic and very upbeat employee in a Canadian retail success story. But when we chatted recently, he shook his head in amazement.

“I cannot believe that Sears is going under,” he lamented. “When I worked there, it seemed as if we’d go on forever.”

Teach our sons

It’s not just about showing sons and grandsons … but about teaching them too.

The young man was showing off in front of some of his buddies. The conversation shifted from small talk to basketball – one of his favourites – and then to some of the women in his college class. At the time, I was one of his instructors, and he didn’t know I could hear pretty much everything he was saying.

“Oh, you know what they say about women,” he joked. “They’re like city buses. If you miss one, there’ll be another along in a minute.”