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.

Power in association

The occasion was a municipal debate at Toronto City Hall, that I witnessed some months ago. The issue arose over the purchase of a small, insignificant piece of land by the municipality for the expansion of a city service. And before the debate even began, the city clerk called for city councillors to declare. Then, several stood up and did.

“In accordance with the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act,” one councillor said, “I excuse myself from the debate.”

Shoe leather and storytelling

CBC News reporter Terry Milewski
CBC News reporter Terry Milewski

The first he knew of the story, came from a phone call early one Sunday morning in 1985. His producers at CBC told him to get on a passenger jet bound for Shannon Airport in Ireland and then to travel south along the Irish coast to where families from India were assembling.

Actually, they were scrambling to the coastline where they hoped they might find their relatives from Canada. CBC reporter Terry Milewski had been assigned to find these families and report on them.

“It was just a bizarre and horrifying situation,” Milewski wrote. “Most of the bodies (of their loved-ones) were never found. Most of the bodies went to the bottom of the sea still strapped in their seats.”

Quiet victor

Nelson Mandela emerges from Robben Island prison in February 1990.
Nelson Mandela emerges from Robben Island prison in February 1990.

The morning the world changed, I had tumbled from my warm bed, found a cup of coffee to help me on my way and driven from the countryside to the old CBC Radio building on Jarvis Street, next to CBC corporate head offices in downtown Toronto. By 5 a.m. I had cleared my head and my throat to deliver one of my first newscasts for the CBC Network that morning. Little did I know within the first hours of my shift, I would be part of something momentous.

“Here is the CBC News,” I said at the top of each hour that morning to begin the five-minute hourly newscast. But that day I also got the chance to announce repeatedly as the top story, “Nelson Mandela, the black African leader imprisoned for treason since 1963, has this morning left notorious Robben Island prison, a free man.”

Maybe Chaucer was right

Geoffrey Chaucer wrote "let sleeping dogs lie" in the 17th century with implications for 21st century politicians.

When my younger sister and I were growing up, our Greek-born American grandparents visited our home once a year. They came from the U.S. to stay during warm Canadian summer months. While visiting, my grandfather generally tolerated anything my sister and I did or said, with a few exceptions. We could never swear in front of him. We were never to call wrestling a “fixed” sport. And under no circumstances were we to criticize the U.S. president – in those years Richard Nixon – or the U.S. Vice-President (of Greek origin), Spiro Agnew.

“Let sleeping dogs lie,” my mother would warn us. By that, she meant that unless we really wanted to face my grandfather’s wrath, we should just avoid any discussion of Nixon’s near impeachment and Agnew’s resignation over tax evasion.