A house that was a home

My neighbour's house comes down piece by piece.

My neighbour’s house comes down piece by piece.

The demolition had been going on for over an hour. Layers of roofing, above the second floor were now caving in. Rafters that hadn’t seen the light of day for over a century and the walls that could tell stories of many of those years came cascading down. It was all quite controlled. With the precision of a surgeon, the excavator operator was bringing my neighbour’s house down piece by piece.

Murray Huntington spots an important clue.

Murray Huntington spots an important clue.

But suddenly the excavator shovel – Murray Huntington’s industrial scalpel – powered down. Huntington opened the excavator door, stepped out of the cab and climbed over the debris that had been the second floor.

“What’ve you got?” I called out to him from ground level.

“Maybe you can use this,” Huntington said.

And he gently tugged at a few of the floorboards atop the pile of rubble to reveal some paper. He’d spotted it in the debris, brought it down and handed it to me. It was a newspaper. [more…]

Backyard stories for the universe

Reading room as a broadcast studio.

Reading room as a broadcast studio.

We sat down on a couple of plain chairs at a wooden table. We both splayed reference papers and notes across the table in front of us. The setting could easily have been his or my summer kitchen. Then, after some casual conversation, he hit the start button on a pocket-sized audio recorder in the middle of the table.

“It’s a warm sunny day,” he started. “I’m seated in a reading room in Port Perry Library overlooking Lake Scugog…”

I couldn’t resist. “… And under normal circumstances, we should be down at the lake enjoying the water,” I interrupted.

“But we’re not,” he continued. “This is the inaugural podcast of ‘Durham Past and Present.’” [more…]

Mid-summer’s day dreaming

When I wasn't napping, here's what dawn at a friend's cottage looked like.

When I wasn’t napping, here’s what dawn at a friend’s cottage looked like.

It kind of snuck up on me. Caught me off guard. My wife and I had taken a few days off from a relatively hectic few weeks of work. We’d joined some friends for an extended weekend up North at a cottage on a lake, whose name I’ve forgotten. To feel less guilty about abandoning projects that needed attention back at my office, in fact, I’d even brought along my laptop and some files. Then, somewhere between transcribing an interview and writing a letter to a publisher, it happened.

I moved from my impromptu desktop – a table and chair in a screened-in porch – to a summer couch in a quiet corner of the cottage to read … and I fell fast asleep. [more…]

Character in comeback

Michelle Obama illustrated the importance of not giving up. csmonitor.com.

Michelle Obama illustrated the importance of not giving up. csmonitor.com.

It’s no wonder she is a model mother. It’s no coincidence she has earned such great respect as the U.S. first lady the past eight years. But if the new leaders of her country – whoever they turn out to be – are wise, they might turn to her often to deliver positive energy and a way through the rhetorical mess that is sinking America. I mean, who paints stronger images than this one?

“I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves,” Michelle Obama said to the Democratic delegates on Monday, “and I watch my daughters, beautiful, intelligent, black young women – playing with their dogs on the White House lawn…” [more…]

By any other name, it’s still theft

It was a case of: She said – She said.

In 2008, Michelle Obama said, “Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: like you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and that you do what you say.”

This week, Melania Trump said, “My parents impressed on me the values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say.” [more…]

When it’s wrong, say so

The liner St. Louis, loaded with Jewish refugees, was refused entry to Canada in 1939.

The liner St. Louis, loaded with Jewish refugees, was refused entry to Canada in 1939.

As people often do, a colleague of mine sent me what he considered a joke by email, the other day. I read it and I didn’t laugh. It painted a scenario of an immigrant who, through odd circumstances, had a lot of dependents. Eventually, the man of Arabic background requests assistance from the government. The story concludes with this response:

“I’ve arranged to start mailing cheques … as soon as you arrive in Canada,” signed Justin Trudeau. [more…]

A dog’s life

A boy and his first dog.

A boy and his first dog.

Just the other day, I bumped into one of my acquaintances in the park. Of course, the people I meet in the park generally have a companion with them – of the four-legged variety. Anyway, as often happens among dog walkers, we got talking about breeds, dog compatibility and ages of our pets.

“This Kerry’s a bit older than my last dog,” I said to my dog-walking acquaintance.

“Mine too,” he said. “She’s been with us throughout the lives of our kids.” [more…]

A little taste of Canada in London

Canada House on Trafalgar Square - June 2016.

Canada House on Trafalgar Square – June 2016.

It was one of the quickest checkpoint passages I think I’ve ever experienced. Not that the security officer wasn’t thorough. Not at all. First he asked us about the nature of our visit. We said we wanted to visit the Canada Gallery just beyond the checkpoint. Next, he asked to scan my backpack. No problem there. Then, I offered my passport.

“Canadians?” the security guard said.

I nodded and in we went. My wife and I had just gone through the security check at Canada House, in London, England. [more…]

Duty to say nice things

Maud believed in pointing

Maud Montgomery believed in the pointing of duty.

Earlier this week, in the town where I live, there was a little incident on the main street. A car jumped the curb and ended up sideways in front of a few shops. I noticed it because the police were there. I ventured closer and saw a woman, I think the owner of the car, sitting on a storefront step. What intrigued me was that everybody gathering around had the same first reaction.

“Are you OK?” everybody asked the woman.

She appeared shaken, but otherwise all right.


Vimy 100th Anniversary Tour – April 6-16, 2017

VIMY_MEMORIAL_FOR_BROCHURE_EThe Americans called them “an inspiration … for a generation.” The British described what they did as “the greatest victory of the war.” The French declared their achievement an “Easter gift.”

What the world witnessed that Easter Monday morning – April 9, 1917 – was a near miracle of ingenuity, co-operation and courage among volunteers of the Canadian Corps. That day, 80,000 of them – fighting for the first time as a national army – swarmed up that strategic ridge in north-central France and in a matter of hours accomplished what no Allied army had, in nearly three years of blood-letting in Europe. They seized Vimy from an entrenched German army. Some say those young citizen soldiers also breathed life into a fledgling nation – Canada.

Behind.Jacket hlaThe year 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. So, for 10 days next year, travellers will return to the scene of those historic four days in 1917. Ted Barris, author of the bestselling book Victory at Vimy, will lead his fellow travellers to the centennial observance at the Vimy Memorial on April 9, 2017. But in addition, the tour will visit other important First World War sites, such as Beaumont Hamel and Thiepval, Ypres, Passchendaele and the Menin Gate. As well, in the latter half of the tour, Ted will lead his group to Second World War sites at Dieppe and the Normandy beaches to recognize the significance of the D-Day invasion and beyond.

For the full itinerary, accommodation, travel details and pricing, visit the Merit Travel website http://www.merittravel.com

Or call Georgia Kourakos, Senior Manager, Product Development & Groups, Merit Travel, 416-364-3775 x4259, or 1-866-341-1777.