Wasting away in Geezerville

Earshot

A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest” One of the advantages of being both hard-of-hearing and slightly daffy is the luxury of nattering away to oneself when there’s no one else within earshot. I spend the majority of my time alone, which suits me just fine. Why I should I impose …

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Reaching out for that long-distance feeling

I just finished a long-distance chat with my nephew. Really long-distance; he lives in Hong Kong. The line was clear, and the conversation lasted nearly an hour. The cost to each of us? Not a single penny.

Trolls and ogresses for Christmas

Christmas promises to be white as a Bing Crosby croons. As we Canadians hunker down for the Yuletide to come, let us raise a wassail bowl to the fact we don’t live in Iceland.

In the right sauce, mine could be a corpus delicious

Ken starts talking about pushing up… mushrooms Never, in any previous column, have I considered the need to provide a trigger warning. Regular visitors to Geezerville are generally mature, clear-minded and emotionally stable enough to put up with whatever nonsense I spill into this 450-word frame. Nevertheless, I recognize that certain subjects are sensitive for some …

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In praise of those who actually know what they’re doing

This morning, Kyle showed up with his bulging leather tool belt, his cordless shop vacuum, and a clutch of 16x25x1 furnace filters. It’s one of those annual rituals I’ve come to both welcome and dread. As sure as fallen leaves and frosty pumpkins, a visit from Kyle heralds the unofficial beginning of the season that lies …

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Taking flibberties with the (Widdle) English language

How do you solve a problem like “flibbertigibbet?” Unless you had a grandmother like mine, that’s a word you’d probably never heard before Oscar Hammerstein II used it to describe a postulant manquée named Maria in a musical he and Richard Rodgers wrote about a plucky family of Austrian warblers. It’s a fabulous word, especially when one pairs it …

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Literacy is one of the best gifts you can give

Walking past the library on a recent Friday evening, we passed a young woman pushing a stroller with a very young occupant. The baby was contentedly gnawing on one corner of a cloth version of Dorothy Kunhardt’s children’s classic, Pat the Bunny. (sometimes known as Sleepy Bunny.)  Instant nostalgia. “That was one of my favourite books when I …

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Another opening, et cetera

Ken is back producing a performance on the stage of big dreams Six hours after I email this column to Danny Macdonald, and long before you read it in What’s Up Yukon, these words by Cole Porter from the 1948 Broadway smash, Kiss Me, Kate, will be part of my remembered experience:  The overture is about to …

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This is what I think about that – Just saying

Opinions are like belly buttons. Everybody has one. Except Adam and Eve, reportedly. Even a casual glance at Facebook, Twitter, or similar social media platforms confirms a disturbing fact: opinions are actually far more numerous than belly buttons. Anyone can have an unlimited number of the former, but usually just one of the latter. Many …

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P and Q can make for some perky Saturday hookups

The last entry in this space provided a platform for a more-or-less true tale of undeserved punishment recalled (and still resented) from the mists of time. That column began with an innocent reference to the ancient wisdom about exercising care when using the letters ‘P’ or ‘Q’. While these are both perfectly serviceable, well-established members of …

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At least I’m not a giraffe’s backside this time

The time-honoured English tradition of the Christmas pantomime (known affectionately as just “panto”) was not part of my childhood. For the benefit of those of us who weren’t weaned on this particular theatrical fare, it’s important to bear in mind various traditions, tropes, and stereotypes of an English-style panto.

It’s time for Mr. Green Jeans to hang it all up

It’s official. Apart from a few hardy species that relish cold weather for some absurd reason, backyard garden 2018 has now been decommissioned. Several less-hardy species—tomatoes, peppers, et alia—clung valiantly to life in their wheeled, rodent-resistant enclosures much longer than I had expected. But once the overnight temperatures headed into negative territory on a regular …

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I concur: contrition may be consolatory

It’s confession time in Geezerville. I recently spent my allotted 450 words in this space musing about some of the beguiling delights to be found in the “be” section of the dictionary. Among other things, I wrote that the verb “to be” may be “substantive, copulative or auxiliary; sometimes active, sometimes passive, sometimes subjunctive.” Immediately …

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Let be whatever may befall

To be, or not to be. For advocates of plain writing, Shakespeare’s most famous monologue is a touchstone. Its opening sentence consists of nine one-syllable words in a row, followed by one containing just two (depending on whether one reads “question” as two syllables or three). It’s a simple sentence, based on a four-letter infinitive …

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Advice to the unwise: I have the questions, if you have the answers

One of the more interesting jobs I’ve ever held was hosting an open-line show (we secretly called it “open-mouth”) on a private radio station in Charlottetown, PEI. Unlike some parts of Canada—especially B.C., with its tradition of brash (often infuriating) talk-radio hosts such as Jack Webster, Raif Mair, Christy Clark and others, mid-’70s PEI was …

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The humiliation of having a 5-cent timepiece

In the hyper-sensitive world of childhood, an ill-chosen word can sometimes have a devastating impact, even if no harm is intended. I’m not talking about the kind of taunting, bullying talk that was unfortunately common on the playgrounds of my youth and is still far too prevalent today. I mean a casual, harmless remark – often …

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Calling both the pot and the kettle black

No matter how you wish to phrase it – “act in haste, repent in leisure” or “what goes around comes around” – the piper will eventually show up to demand payment. My wallet is considerably lighter this week because of one such lesson.

Thoughts of Hitchhiking Sometimes Follow Strange Trails

One of my favourite pastimes is exploring the origins and meanings of common English words and expressions. Our language is such a hodge-podge (dare one say “hotchpotch”?) of thefts, borrowings and adaptations from others, that an etymologist can go haring down many a rabbit hole trying to plumb the depths of a simple phrase. English …

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On Market Day, Everything Old is New Again

The way some people talk, you’d think farmers’ markets were a recent invention by eco-conscious millennials spurred to action by reading a book about the 100-mile diet. Nothing could be further from the truth. People have been hauling their goods to communal selling and trading places ever since humankind began the transition from hunting and …

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I Love the Smell of Perfume in the Morning

Which brings me to one of Canada’s neatest little music festivals. To protect my sources, I won’t identify it, except to say it has been an annual event in southeastern Ontario for more than four decades. But this year, the festival’s very existence may hang in the balance. Not because of financial irregularities. Not because …

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There’s No Escaping: Family Is as Family Does

As family reunions go, the event I attended in Ontario’s Georgian Bay district on a recent weekend was a fairly small-scale affair. At its peak, a mere 24 people were in attendance. Officially, it wasn’t really a reunion, just a gathering in Canada’s quintessential cottage country to mark my oldest brother’s 80th birthday. Judging by …

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Too Curious George

He was a foundling on the streets of Edmonton – a golden cocker spaniel whose hair was so matted with burrs that much of it had to be shaved off. It was my 6-year-old daughter and two of her friends who brought him home, after he had attached himself to them on the playground. Of …

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Those Were the Days. They Still Are

The emptying-out of Yukon’s schools signals the official start of that much-anticipated annual ritual: the Summer Holiday. We all know the narrative arc of that story. For the first little while, the kids are bursting to be outside every moment of the day, burning off the pent-up energy held hostage inside the classroom for months. …

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Shake Out Those Memories and Shine ’em Up

Until fairly recently, I had no interest whatever in the idea of writing a book of memoirs. Like most people, I assumed nobody would care to read about the life journey of a nobody-in-particular. After all, autobiography is the purview of politicians, movie stars, generals and other colourful scoundrels. If I ever had the hubris …

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Just Planting a Seed Here, Folks

Somebody once said a gardener is just a philosopher with dirty hands and an aching back. Well, maybe nobody actually said that until I just did, but I believe it to be so. Of all life’s pursuits, few can match gardening when it comes to bringing body and soul together. Why? Because it’s hard to stay mad …

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Is That Thing Called a Knick-knack, or Bric-a-brac?

Recently, I was meandering through my trusty Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (shorter, as in not quite as gargantuan as the Encyclopaedia Britannica). This is a habit I acquired in my youth, but indulge less frequently these days, usually when I’m trying to curb my morbid addiction to Facebook. I hadn’t probed far into this two-volume …

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So, Is Our Planet Round, or Flat?

Until a couple of years ago, there was a wonderfully entertaining fantasy writer by the name of Terry Pratchett. Perhaps there still is, somewhere on an alternate plane of reality, since Sir Terry Pratchett succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease in the Earth year of 2015 at the tender age of 66. Let me be clear: I …

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Saving Time in the Grocery Line

Consider Murphy, whoever he was. When anything goes wrong, people assume it’s somehow his fault. Being a forgiving sort of guy, I try to give ol’ Murph the benefit of the doubt. Still, there are some situations in which I am convinced his famous Law, or one its many corollaries, is at work. Case in …

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Faint Praise for a Coarse Cultivar

Three foods top my No Thanks list: schmaltz herring, Marmite and kale. My sole experience with schmaltz herring – basically, raw fish preserved in rancid chicken fat – was anything but a gustatory delight. I also tried Marmite once. I even sampled its malevolent cousin, Vegemite, during a visit Down Under. Ptooey. Fortunately, in this …

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Life hacks for the kids

In previous columns in this space, I have offered various suggestions of ways to improve life for those who roam the earth on two legs, especially those of us who do so burdened by creeping senescence. The recent holidays provided an opportunity to put my brain in idle mode, where it often does its best …

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The opposable thumb was not actually a Canadian invention

Ask any randomly-selected group to name mankind’s greatest invention, most will probably say the wheel. Fire doesn’t count; it was discovered, not invented. If you ask about the second most important invention, the answers will range widely: the lever, the pulley, the cotton jenny, moveable type, the internal combustion engine. Someone will inevitably say sliced …

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That new guy next door is definitely one of a kind

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the 32nd president of the United States of America. The wealthy and patrician New Yorker, whose New Deal policies helped pull the U.S. out of the Great Depression and laid the foundation for much of its existing social policy, was the guy in charge the year I was born. Roosevelt died …

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My Resolve to Resist Resolutions Is Resolute

With increased age comes increased wisdom. That’s the theory, anyway. Naturally, those who are still young find this notion ridiculous. How could anyone be wiser than a 16-year-old?  During my multiple revolutions around the Sun, I have acquired a prodigious amount of knowledge about sundry matters. Granted, the knowledge that has escaped from my neural …

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Farewell to a Gentle, Genuine Funnyman

The first time I saw the iconic Canadian funnyman, Dave Broadfoot, was during a tour of the musical-comedy revue, Spring Thaw, sometime in the 1960s. Later, I would get to know him much better through his delicious character profiles on CBC’s Royal Canadian Air Farce. Who could forget the hilariously-stunned Big Bobby Clobber, who clearly took …

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Like the Man Said, Those Precious Days are Dwindling Down

The great American lyricist Maxwell Anderson summed up the imperatives of this time of year better than anyone else:  “Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December / But the days grow short when you reach September.” No, wait. We’ve already slid into November, for Pete’s sake. Definitely time to gather nuts, pack …

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Long Live Print! Long Live What’s Up Yukon!

Ever since the advent of the internet, pundits of all description have been predicting the demise of print journalism. Traditional newspapers and magazines, once so prolific and influential in Canada and elsewhere, are undergoing seismic change and downsizing in an age of instant access to news, opinions and images from the most remote corners of …

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Basking in the virtue of boiling-water baths

The smugness attack hit a few weeks back, while my wife was visiting an out-of-town friend. Perhaps it was boredom or the way the pre-autumn sun slanted down on a Saturday morning. Perhaps it had spotted a binful of perfect pickling cukes, cheek-by-jowl with lacy fronds of fresh dill the previous evening. Whatever factors were …

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