Candidates for currency

It brought a smile to my face. It made me prouder than I’ve felt about being a Canadian in a while. Although, I think we all might have felt better about the entire episode, had Ottawa considered making such a decision years ago. But there it was, the image of a Viola Desmond on the $10 bill. And when I saw her story in the news, I thought the comment from the Governor of the Bank of Canada was entirely appropriate.

“It was long past time for a bank note to feature an iconic Canadian woman,” Stephen Poloz told reporters last Friday.

Run with distinction

It took a little while, but I found out what the overseas area code for the United Kingdom was. Then – this was 1980 – I asked for directory assistance in London. I naively inquired about a residential phone number. To my astonishment, they had his number. I carefully composed myself, dialled, and fully expected either an assistant or someone running interference to answer. The phone rang a few times. Then, a man answered.

“Hello,” the voice said in an Oxfordian accent.

“Hello,” I said, not believing someone had actually picked up the phone. “Ah, would Dr. Bannister be there?”


Phoney spring

Ice fishing is only part of the attraction.

None of my family members – as much as they love me – wanted to consider what I was saying this week was possible. Certainly, my friends won’t believe me either. But I was up in a part of Ontario the weather forecasters call Huronia. It’s that stretch of the Georgian Bay shoreline that runs from about Victoria Harbour to Penetanguishene. Actually, it was along the Midland, Ont., waterfront. And when I got there to visit a friend, last Saturday, I looked at the bay in front of his home and said we had to walk.

“It’s my chance to walk on water,” I told him in fun.

Youth versus Bullets

Tank Man, 19-year-old Wang Weilin faces Chines tanks on Tiananmen Square in June 1989. Wikipedia.

It’s an image that endures. It’s not old enough for us to call it historical yet. It only goes back about 30 years. But the frames of video taken by an amateur videographer show a man in a white shirt, dark pants, facing a column of military tanks. It was June 4, 1989. It was the final day of the student-organized, non-violence demonstration at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, just before China’s People’s Liberation Army gunned down hundreds of civilians for protesting government corruption and lack of free speech.

“Tank Man,” they called him. But the Sunday Express newspaper in Britain later claimed the man was Wang Weilin, a 19-year-old student, who’d joined the weeks-long protest, despite the threat of annihilation.

Savour the Salchow

Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue deliver golden magic, slow and easy. Kevin Light – CBC Sports

Every family practises one ritual or another. One of ours comes each Saturday morning. After my wife and I have consumed the weekend newspaper and a few cups of coffee, I take orders from my daughter and son-in-law for their coffee, hot chocolate or decaf preferences. But before I buy the beverages, I hit our local bakery for chocolate donuts. For me? Well, only if after I bring them to the grandkids there are any left. Generally, I have to get our youngest not to wolf them down. And I’m often heard saying:

“Whoa, buddy! Nobody’s going to take your donut away from you. Slow down and enjoy it.”

History in person

B.C. Aviation Museum guide Robbie Anderson at display of one of his favourites – the Comet passenger jet.

It didn’t appear too busy that day when we pulled up. We walked to the entrance of the museum, which was essentially a number of aircraft hangars strung together near the airport in Victoria, B.C. As soon as we came through the front door, we were greeted by the cashier taking admissions and a man wearing an identification badge. It read Volunteer – Robbie Anderson.

“Hello,” Anderson said pleasantly. “I’ll be your personal guide today.”

Well, that was new. I’ve visited a lot of museums in my time, but not unless I had specifically arranged for a guided tour, had I ever been personally greeted at the museum door that way.

Tommy Banks, the star who helped others shine

Tommy Banks, at home anywhere, but mostly at his piano.

The show always started the same way. At the top of the clock – 7 p.m. on Wednesday – there was a jazz fanfare, a flourish of trumpets and saxes and a drum roll, as the title flashed across the screen. The audience in the studio began whistling and applauding, just as the CBC voice-over announcer, Larry Langley, introduced the show.

“From Edmonton,” he called out enthusiastically, “It’s Tommy Banks Live!”

Just off-stage, out of the range of cameras and microphones, the two writers of the weekly show – Colin MacLean and I – used to stand, joining the audience’s applause in anticipation of the next hour of live-to-air television. Inevitably, as Tommy entered the studio to acknowledge the studio audience’s applause, either Colin or I anticipating the start of another show would lean to the other and say rhetorically, “Does TV get any better than this?”

A companion suddenly gone

A boy and his first best friend – c1955.

It was a reflex. An involuntary response. It’s what I’ve always done when it starts to thunder or rain really heavily, like it did the other evening. It was during that thaw Monday night when all of a sudden we got a cloud burst over the house. Being in my office upstairs, and close to top of the house, as soon as I heard the rain begin to pound on the roof, I pushed my desk chair back, turned for the door and called out.

“It’s OK, Bud,” I said. Then, I stopped myself.

Accounting for more than numbers

Ebenezer Scrooge at his ledger – more important to him than his nephew’s Christmas greetings. Victorian Web.

The new year brings annual habits. Some of my friends are already eating crow about their promises to eat less, workout more and save somewhere in between. Others are still writing cheques (remember them?) with 2017 in the date box. Me? Well, I ran into my annual problem, especially at the franchise stationery shop.

“Do you have any ledgers?” I asked the clerk.

“You mean like lined-paper ledgers?” she said as if I had just asked her to fix my typewriter, give me a roll of pennies or fill ’er up. Then, she shook her head unsympathetically and I realized this was a no-go.

Baked, but bored to tears

There we were. A spirited game of oldtimers’ recreational hockey done for the night. Sitting around cutting everybody down to size – who botched what pass, who couldn’t score if his life depended on it, or, which tender let in the worst goal. Then, not surprisingly, the conversation shifted to comparing planned or dreamed-about vacations in the South. There was this pool-side service or that all-inclusive price or this best beach for just lying in the sun. And I couldn’t resist.

“Yes. Sounds OK,” I said. “Then, what do you do after that?”