All the nice girls…

…love a Sailor.

Almost undoubtedly, this is not true.

Now, I admit that I have not researched the subject extensively, but I believe that if my mother had any daughters they would have been told to stay as far away from Sailors as they could get.

Nothing against Sailors, don’t get me wrong.

It’s just that I grew up in an age when one avoided rudeness and inappropriateness.

So if a nice girl were found to be unaccountably starting a family… When fault was assigned, as fault would most assuredly be, it would be assigned not to the by now wisely floating around the other side of the world Sailor, but to the nice girl who had disobeyed her mother and consorted with him.

The whole issue of sexual encounters seemed less around morality (unless being bandied around as a topic in a sermon) as

Infection,

Detection, and

Conception.

Well, these days, by applying Available Options, 1 and 3 can be avoided by the wise and self controlled.

Detection doesn’t seem to be an issue in many parts of western society although if one is considering being Born Again, the Facilitator is likely teaching otherwise. Doubtless all those people begatting each other at the beginning of the Bible were only doing so to move the plot along, and had certificates.

What I’m actually leading up to, but haven’t seemed to be able to smoothly introduce, is how our Universities are handling the changing situation.

In my day, the big fuss was that the University was being sued by a Condom company. As I recall, the bid selection was made by what it was claimed by the losing bidder to be unqualified young female students.

I could digress into talking about the defence of extensive product testing. However, I am scared of my wife and will move on despite the lost comedic opportunities.

After extensive research (checking in with a student at a university whom and which shall not be named), I have discovered that the latest potential for lawsuits against universities is:

Consent.

Or lack of it.

Thorny enough issue these days, even without people whizzing in from cultures and the United States, from all around the world. The concept of No meaning No, or of even asking, is alien to some in Canada also.

So First Year University Student Orientation includes a chatty session on Consent.

I know this is a serious issue, please don’t get me wrong.

But imagine how you would phrase it if YOU had to present the topic to a wild variety of young students away from home with diverse plans of their own. 

You would have to balance Protecting the University, with Academic …ummm… Freedom. If you had a conscience you might even want to protect the students.

I support Employment Equity, but one of my happiest memories is of an exhaustingly politically correct speaker talking about unnecessary restrictions on women being firefighters in Ontario (a White Boys Club if ever there were one).

She took 10 seconds to say how good the firefighters are in South Korea. And then ten minutes to say it was despite most of them being, by our standards, on average, being …ummm..  short.

Imagine her talking on this topic instead.

I’ll leave you to work out how you would phrase it, if you were the presenter of the joys of Consent to a bunch of first year University students away from home for the first time, without turning the whole speech into a Monty Python farce. Pay particular attention to:

1

At precisely which critical juncture of the Sexual Endeavour the lucky couple, or, Heavens, threesome, should adjourn to agree further progress; and more importantly,

2

Who was going to rush over to the Administration Building and pick up the Official Consent Form in both Official, plus 63 other, languages represented on Campus; and equally importantly,

3

Who was going to witness the signatures at 2.30 in the morning; and after all that-

4

Who was still going to be in the mood?

Leadership matters

In May 1940, Britain very nearly made peace with Hitler.

We can all have a good guess at how that would have worked out.

Had the Duke of Windsor not abdicated, and remained King, his right wing sympathies may well have kept Churchill out of power and left Europe, Africa, parts of the Far East, and ultimately Britain, under the Nazis.

The historical guessing game at that point becomes endless. One assumes the isolationists in the United States would have sat and watched while Germany developed a northward looking power base in South America and while Japan prepared for a more successful bombing of Pearl Harbour.

And so on.

Of course, Charles is an interesting name for a King, given what happened to the first King Charles.

His head got voted off the Island.

And his shoulders.

However, a dozen years everyone agreed that the Puritans were sanctimonious, no fun, and just plain icky, so in came Charles II, who was succeeded by future monarchs who continued the Kinging and Queening business up to Charles III.

They took careful note of King Charles I’s success rate and were very careful not to piss off the populace.

One of the advantages about having a King is a check on a wicked politician coming into power and being what in the book 1066 And All That (a supposed schoolboy version of history) would be called a Bad Thing.

In Canada, for example, the armed forces report to the Monarch’s representative, the Governor General, who among other things gets to say who qualifies to form a government.

The GG acts as a Check and Balance, and the system works because he or she has to get it right … or else.

One Governor General, who after a lifetime with the name Byng had surely suffered enough, refused Mackenzie King when he asked to call an election in 1926, but when the election was finally called Mackenzie King aced it. Checks and balances create a crisis, winner take all, and Byng was de-Governor Generaled and consigned to the outer darkness.

Actually, with or perhaps without a Monarch, the Westminster System of Government seems to work extraordinarily well.

A sort of Shining City on a Hill that you can actually count on. Avoids all that chronic stupidity with two elected bodies, a President, and a judicial system locked in an eternal struggle to stop each other from achieving anything and causing the decline and fall of an Empire that never fully rose.

Aside: I remember watching a desperately competitive pair of twins paddling a canoe to a standstill as they tried to go in opposite directions. I guess the obvious analogy would extend to triplets or quads and the canoe capsizing.

But add a King or Queen to the Westminster System of Government and it makes it possible to give allegiance to someone other than the political leader half the country didn’t vote for. And a Monarch only rules by the will of the people, so … checks and balances but the work gets done north of the world’s longest undefended border..

A Monarch allows the folk to rally behind a non political person, instead of pledging allegiance to a constitution, or something else really silly like a Flag.

Even before the days of voting machines and a country where an astonishingly large portion of the population managed to complete, or at least attend, high school without actually learning anything, a Monarch could have decided who won an election.

And if the loser refused to leave quietly , or treasonously tried to interfere with the orderly transition of power:

Off with his head.

Search Warrant

I am on the board of a well known Dance Club.

Stop laughing. It isn’t for my dancing skills. You are doubtless thinking it is for spiritual guidance and moral leadership.

More like, because nobody else would do it.

When we are “elected” (this word usually presumes others ran for the job), we are required to look very silly and say an oath.

I forget most of the oath, but a key section comes to mind: we promise faithfully to hand back any Club documents at the end of our term.

Now, Our Donald, former brief leader of approx 50% of our southern neigbours and despite claims to the contrary, 0% of the Free World, did not take that oath.

I think there was a Policy Book assigned to me, but I never took it off the shelf in the Club office, but had I done so I would gleefully give it back.

These were not Presidential documents, certainly not Classified documents. (My wife is President of the Dance Club, but that is, arguably, a lesser post than Lead U.S.A. Cheese.)

The only similarity between my job and an Aide to the American Pres. is that I also follow my Pres. around with launch codes. Ours are limited to the rival Dance Club, though we prefer just being better than they, rather than ratcheting up the Defcons.

Donald seemingly hoped to skip past a couple of rules (okay, not just these two):

1

No removing, mutilating or destroying records.

2

Nobody is above the law.

We don’t know the nature of these alleged removed, mutilated, or destroyed documents, but…

…Donald may wish he had settled for his original idea of shooting someone in broad daylight on Pennsylvania Avenue.

A far more wholesome and, apparently, legal All-American activity.

But here we are, back to Donald the Victim.  Doubtless the legally executed search warrant will be recognized by the faithful as a Raid (Donald’s word already).

Doubtless Ron DeSantis, who sees himself as the heir apparent, will leap to Donald’s side, while hoping the FBI come up, no pun intended, trumps.

Now it is well known that if you want to keep something away from the Authorities, the law allows you to put it in your safe and, fair ball, no-one can look there.

A convicted felon can’t be President. (Not sure if this applies to the Dance Club, but I do see my wife as a poor man’s Donald Trump.)

But worse than the FBI placing his home “under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents”, what is most shocking,

shocking,

is Donald’s revealing that:

“They even broke into my safe!”

The Authorities are not allowed, search warrant or not, to look at what you hide in a safe so no-one can see it.

THAT is why it is called a safe.

Glory   Part 4

I hate to kill your suspense, but it’s not going to happen.

Spent my time at a huge family Super Spreader, nice people but all exhaling frequently, at a lunch catered in the family Vineyard. Great food, choice of very English menu (but seriously, Eton Mess? My mother would have approved of most of the menu, but something called Eton Mess?)

Put on 2 lbs.

And no Knickerbocker Glory.

Stayed with relatives and got fresh fruit for breakfast and home cooked meals with hundreds of desserts.

Put on 3 more lbs.

And no Knickerbocker Glory.

Stayed in the Denbies Vineyard Hotel, and got a full English Breakfast. And was taken out to a fancy-assed lunch with family in their hundreds.

Didn’t offer to pay.

Put on 4 more lbs.

And no Knickerbocker Glory

Went to the coast to Eastbourne, to mooch again off relatives in their seaside “flat”. It’s a great thing having a large family, mooch and move on, mooch again…

Aha! Seaside! Knickerbocker Glories in abundance! Taken out to dinner by nephews who incorrectly remembered (didn’t disillusion them) that we had been good to them in their childhood, they suggested they spring for Chinese food but the Pizzeria they settled for didn’t have any.

Or Knickerbocker Glories.

Put on 5 more lbs but it could have been worse.

Walked  5 miles around Eastbourne today uphill all the way, lost .025 lbs but ate in a very nice French restaurant and later an Italian restaurant and put on a further 6.025 lbs.

Even walked along the decaying pier, but all the Ice Cream shops (and there were many) sold wrapped stuff straight out of the freezer.

No Knickerbocker Glories.

If our Canadian Victoria is the City of the Newly Wed and the Nearly Dead, Eastbourne is competitive except for lacking the Newly Wed.

The elderly flock… or are wheeled… here to take in great gulps of healthy fresh sea air. The town motto, roughly translated from the anglo-saxon, is:

“It might be your last breath

-but at least it’s a healthy one!”

Sudden memory of 1966 before I was thrown out of England. I had a friend with a girlfriend from hereabouts, her parents funeral directors cashing in on the local mortality rate.

I remember primarily because the girl had been named Joy.

Moving on.

Anyway, some signs of younger life, a row of rentable beach huts for those preferring not to follow the English custom of a strip tease on the Beach, wriggling a wet swimsuit off while desperately holding a towel to cover the necessaries.

A few creative people had set up tents just above the waterline, for use as windbreaks and changing rooms. As the gusts of cold air proved England’s heatwave to be over, I had visions of the tents being lifted up, with occupants, and blown across the English Channel.

A bit of your Fair Stood The Wind For France.

But most of the people were past their prime swimming in ice-cold water time, and more likely to be sitting in a deck chair.

Well, most appeared past anyone’s prime, to be honest.

I remember pictures of older Englishmen with  handkerchieves, knotted in all four corners, covering their balding heads from the sun.

Just for the record, it doesn’t work with a kleenex.

Don’t ask how I know.

So, the typical English Seaside town has Italian, Greek, and French (right beside a Martello Tower built in the 19th Century expressly to keep the French out of England) restaurants.

And a Placque unveiled in 2020, honouring those killed by enemy bombing during WWII but not naming the enemy because they might be tourists.

But no Knickerbocker Glory(ies).

Anyway, I’ve eaten so much already the last week I couldn’t face one if I found it.

Glory  Part 3

A plunge through the Looking Glass.

An alternate reality.

A parallel universe.

Etc.

You would know what I mean if you had stepped onto the British Airways 787 last night, which we did, belatedly, a trifle before midnight.

A world without Covid.

Cabin Crew oozing their way around the Cabin, smiling over-the-topedly at all and even sundry, leaning over and breathing close with not a hint of a mask in sight.

Most of the fee paying throng leaped into the breach and joined in, tearing off their masks with the misguided enthusiasm of the rarely attending Strip Tease Dancer when told at the Church Door by the Archbishop

“We would like to see more of you!”

But let us not digress. We have sworn to eschew vulgarity, if only temporarily.

In Toronto airport, we were required by Canadian law to mask up, and there were regular announcements that masks were to be kept on except when in the actual act of eating or drinking.

I had eaten in the lounge, BA providing a hot buffet so as to ensure we were well nourished when we contracted Covid on the flight.

With Business Class tickets provided by the kind of relative everyone should have, I could have eaten well on the plane, but decided that with a late departure I would spend my entire time on the plane sleeping.

So of course everyone else tucked into the trough and then passed out for the duration.

I, of course, didn’t sleep a wink.

Marjorie, lest I worried for her, thoughtfully slept like a baby.

I was able to take the time to calculate how many passengers could be given Covid by one infected Cabin Crew member.

Once the lights went off, the traffic in the hallway died down, and there was no chance of a Cabin Attendant leaning close- so I was able to take off my mask.

I stretched out fully, but realized the gentleman in the window seat in the row ahead would have to step over my legs to go potty during the night. 

I guess BA crammed in the seats to make up for lost Covid.

Happily, although he would have to go, so to speak, three times, he had assured me he had long legs and could easily step over me.

I have three sets of bruises on my shins, to prove it.

Fortunately, Marjorie was able to even the score by lacerating the lower limbs of the person in the row behind me.

The night passed e’er so  slowly, but as I may have mentioned in the past, I have the ability to suffer nobly and in silence.

Eventually, a Cabin Attendant, spotted me watching a movie as all the other swabs (pausing only to kick or be kicked during bathroom breaks) slept their way to London. He offered me an early breakfast.

Before exiting to a remarkably empty and fast moving airport full of unmasked Brits with generous workplace sick leave policies, I queried a Crew member as to the likelihood of a full, cash, refund because everyone else slept and I didn’t and that wasn’t fair.

She smiled, Covidly.

Glory Part 1

I suppose that, when one is no longer a Spring Chicken, any trip to the country of one’s birth and childhood must become a search for Paradise Lost.

Particularly if the last visit was a decade or so ago (not counting a four day melancholia for a brother’s memorial service).

So, all aboard British Airways for a journey through Covid-infested skies to another Covid-infested land.

A land, scarily, where they don’t believe in viruses. This disadvantage, as Marjorie would assure you, is more than offset by the land being absolutely teeming with my kith.

And, to add to the joy of it all, kin.

Actually, to be honest, I lost touch with the kith fifty years ago, so I am left with the kin. Fortunately, although I regret the absence of long standing kith, I have kin in abundance.

Well, an excess of kin if one is to be strictly honest.

The purpose of our overseas venture is, ostensibly, to attend a Super Spreader event with 40 or so of my closest relatives.

One of whom sprung for our tickets.

So it seems churlish to admit that this whole venture on my part is primarily a search for Glory.

Next Part tomorrow, if you can stand the suspense, then on to the terrors of airports and beyond in my search for the Grail.

Glory Part 2

I was desperate for a Knickerbocker Glory that seaside day years ago.

Every Summer, we had a family Holiday by the sea. I suppose this was expensive enough for the parents of six boys (of which I was the youngest and indisputably the best) without springing for non essentials.

Sadly this included Knickerbocker Glories.

Now, while the annual Family Holiday was a drain on the Family Resources, it was a thrill, excitement and joy. My distant recollection is that there weren’t a large number of extras beyond going down to the beach between rain showers, and making sand castles while wearing a wet sandy towel to warm up from a Polar Bear dip in the local portion of the English Channel.

The only variety for me lay in being an unwanted but tolerated junior participant in family cricket games on the Beach, and dealing with the guilt of playing cards on Sunday under Uncle Ted’s kind but in this instance disapproving eye.

Apparently card playing was (I suspect, marginally) acceptable the other six days of the week, although I fear I shall never find out the theological basis for this. Perhaps I should Google it.

However, I sensed that Uncle Ted’s presence may have accounted for our being able to vacation at all, so he has my gratitude.

Back to the roots of my inner and prolonged misery.

I remember, as a small child, sitting in a thrilling seaside ice cream emporium, and eyeing the exotica on display for the child with discerning tastes.

I should remind you that the only other real excitement lay in the possibility of a live mine being washed ashore to help us recall there had been a recent war.

Mines floated around and had little pointy bits sticking out, to make contact with unwary destroyers, corvettes, or small boys, who would then blow up and sink with all hands. Or in the case of small boys, with just both of them.

The huge deep glass full of red and white stripes of frozen or syrupy unidentified ecstatica…. was something for which I yearned as I stared at the display of Seven Year Old Heaven.

And for which I begged but was refused, entreaty by heartfelt entreaty.

Thwarted yearning, never fulfilled.

The sadness, the emptiness, has remained with me, even though there are those who would argue I am not the scrawny runt I once was.

“Horrible!” You cry.

Was it denied me, you ask, for kindly fear of the mixture of sugar and 1950’s English dentistry?

Or perhaps an objection to what appeared to the insensitive as the kind of excess only found above or below the middle-class?

Or maybe, more likely, a lack of the ready cash on the part of my parents?

I know not.

But ever since then I have desperately wished for, angsted over, and feared that I would go to my reward without, luxuriating my way through…

…A Knickerbocker Glory.

Years passed, my desperate wish unfulfilled, and then my family kindly gave me a one way ticket to Canada.

Still Knickerbocker Gloryless.

But I have a last chance at redemption.

We will be in England just long enough for a trip to the coast, compliments of a bro. and wife lending us their seaside flat.

England is just coming off a terrifying heatwave.

The coastal resort towns are certain to be loaded with Knickerbocker Glories, to cheer the Covid denying, overheated population.

As soon as I arrive at the Coast, I shall rush in to the first available Emporium, rip off my mask, grab a long handled spoon, and shout-

“Let’s do it!”

So heigh-ho and off to the airport. Follow me and ecstat vicariously.

Bocker Heaven awaits the Brave!

And to be clear, Marjorie can buy her own.

I’m not sharing.

Author! Author!

It appears possible that this Pandemic thing, which you may have heard about, is actually on the point of, at least provisionally, cooling off a bit.

Again.

Ah well, all good things must come to an end.

Temporarily.

The tragedy of a permanent cessation of major home sticking would, of course, be that my opportunity to spend the vast amounts of enforced spare time afforded to us would be wasted.

I never got around to writing the Great Canadian Novel.

Call me a poor man’s Margaret Atwood.

I’ve been about to write it since this Virus business started. It just hasn’t quite happened.

It takes planning you know.

I have been close to inspiration, most often while dozing off while watching Netflix. Unfortunately, sometime ‘twixt sleeping and waking, the moments of sheer genius dissipated to nothingness and a stiff neck.

A Tom Clancy movie led me to develop a plot based on blood, guts, and loyalty without conscience, to Country.  A macho story about a fearless leader of lesser (though almost equally tough, unyielding, and patriotically murderous) men. 

The hero would be a leader who led by example.

If his men run 10 miles, he runs 20.

If his men do 50 sit ups, he does100.

If his men do 100 pushups on each arm, he does 200 on no arms.

You know the sort. The trouble is, it would unavoidably be taken, by those who know me, as autobiographical. Our hero would, of course, be Canadian regardless of accent, certainly not some awful American.

So if he flew into someone else’s country and slaughtered people it would only be because:

A.

He was wearing a uniform. At least this is one thing on which the Russians and Americans agree. Slaying people is, apparently, O.K. if the slayer is in uniform – and marginally even more so if the slayees are also in uniform* even if basically unarmed and untrained. *Girl Guides, generally, excluded.

AND

B.

As a Canadian, he would say sorry afterwards.

Moving on. 

A historical novel instead, inspired by watching CNN etc etc?

I could easily get behind the desire to set up a country where the local white landowning men get to keep the tax money instead of shipping it overseas.

Though I would, meanwhile, burst the bubble on those twerps they call Founding Fathers.

At some point, someone with brains and a conscience, as well as a little foresight, would stand up and say that having two Senators from each State regardless of population size would not only buy more participants in the Union, but also help sow the seeds of its downfall.

The story would end with everyone working out the absurdity of a system requiring Congresspersons fighting Senators fighting their President fighting any available hopelessly unqualified but adequately clueless Judge.

The Founding Fathers would go home and talk it over with their Founding Wives and agree to be sensible and beg to join their northern neighbours, forming a parliamentary democracy called The United Provinces of Canada (based in Ottawa whenever it was not being taken over by protesting horse and buggy drivers and their idiot friends).

But then a happy ending, good as it would have been for Viet Nam, Iraq, Texas, Cambodia etc., just doesn’t seem the way to end a novel.

Perhaps I should write a tragedy, but then reality to the south of us, a great dream turned into a nightmare, is writing itself.

Maybe Schoolboard 451, in which educators burn any book referring to sex not performed by missionaries, or containing Black people unless they are uneducated and subservient.

Too late, they are already doing that, T-Shirts in production.

Perhaps a Chaucer thing, Air Canada Centre Tales with pilgrims going to a Leaf game. BUT the Leafs are normally done like dinner, or about to be, soon after the end of Aprille with its saures saute.

Maybe next year.

Perhaps a steaming romance?

After all, at some point, 43 seasons of Heartland on CBC will have to give way to a new epic.

My all-Canadian sordidity could be serialised for TV.

After several months on the Best Seller list.

Bare skin might be a bit much for prime time CBC, although I have always argued that acceptability of nakedness on the screen really depends on what the nudes are actually doing.

Sexuational ethics and all that.

Canadian Red and White? Fifty Shades of Pink?

I would have to research all sorts of wild stuff, and have the Canadian hero and heroine apologize to each other at the end of each chapter for any spontaneous rudeness and inappropriateness.

This would help fill home front coffers that are hardly brimming over, what with the -demic as it staggers towards En- from Pan-.

Trouble is, if I did write the All Canadian Raunch Novel and Screenplay, my family would disown me.

Until the royalties came rolling in.

Home Thoughts From Abroad

We see scenes of people fleeing Ukraine, not knowing when, if ever, they will return.

Doubtless many will never return, except to visit. They will have established new lives and realize that for them, Thomas Wolfe was right – though accidental emigrants, they can’t go home again.

Wolfe’s point was that “home” doesn’t freeze in time, it and you continue to change and so home is no longer what you left…it is more a figment of your imagination.

The longer the separation, the greater the change.

As an immigrant myself, I have been sensitive to those from other countries, perhaps understanding, but ultimately sadly unsympathetic with, those who were attempting to preserve their culture intact.

Decades ago, a couple of emigrant heritage invited me to join them and their friends at an Argo game. It was a very cold night, our tickets were in the end zone, the score was ridiculously low (4-3 if that is even possible), there was no action at our end and not much anywhere else, but someone had smuggled in a flask of wine. Coffee would have been better.

We must have been pretty desperate to be At One With The Common Canadian.

I remember being at their wedding in the branch plant Church from an Eastern European nation. None of the service was in English, except for a brief break into English to sermonize about The Evils of Divorce.

(Quick aside- yes, it turned out to be a Western marriage, I suppose. It ended in divorce. Two nice people, though.)

At the Reception, the joy of our meal was interrupted by an older person berating his teenage descendant for not learning and using his family’s native tongue.

I worked with a Ukrainian, during the last time Ukraine was under Russian domination. He told stories of visiting relatives in Ukraine who wouldn’t talk about anything even vaguely political, for fear of retribution. It was obvious then, that the culture of those who stayed had grown apart from those who were Canadianized but trying to hang on to the old ways.

He taught his children the old language before they learned English, part of an attempt to forward his culture. I understand, but had he been English he might have recalled the one about King Canute sitting on the sea shore trying to stop the tide coming in.

He may have had second thoughts on the language issue after he took his small daughter into Emergency at Sick Childrens’ Hospital.

Climbing out of the car, the errant child had attempted to land in a puddle, as errant children will. Father grabbed her arm, as caring fathers will, and turned a potential soaking into a dislocated arm.

He had to translate for the doctor, who asked how she hurt her arm. Full of three-year-old unforgiving beastliness, she answered by pointing angrily at her father and said something that required no translation.

Okay, I admit to a certain satisfaction that it happened to someone else, not to me. At one point, our children were wrecking themselves so regularly that we thought about rotating hospitals to protect the innocent.

(Us)

But back to the point.

Once you leave, the society you quit keeps on evolving … and you and your new environment keep on changing in their own way.

Victoria, B.C. is supposed to be English, but it is not England. The Bahamas still shows signs of English colonialization, but even those signs are corruptions of the England I knew in childhood.

The England I knew was Orpington, a village grown into a town on its way to being lost in Greater London.

The country was reluctantly recognizing it had won a war and lost an Empire. The pink bits were still ours, if only on old world maps.

People were still frolicking in the cold seas on the English coast rather than topless in the South of France.

Black people were seen in London but remarked upon if spotted on Orpington High Street.

The sexual revolution hadn’t reached Orpington.

Damn, about that.

I’m now of an age when one thinks of what might have been. So I think of the 18 year old who could have stayed in England.

But the England I knew isn’t there, and I am not the person I would have been had I stayed.

I have a Canadian wife and love.

A Canadian family.

A Canadian life.

Canadian friends, often born elsewhere, Viet Nam perhaps. Even Americans.

Forget my accent. It isn’t pure English any more, either. Its just a mess.

Forget my skating skills. Or lack of them. My children skate for me, though they mock me.

But screw Thomas Wolfe.

I can go home again.

To visit.

But my old home is a geographic location full of memories that have corrupted over the years.

Mind you, I will be sad when I know that I have had my last dinner and show in the West End of London, and inhaled my last sniff of the English air that I still imagine fresher than anywhere else in the world (perhaps because one is never far from the sea).

Might even miss the relatives, though the feeling may not be entirely mutual.

When Browning wrote Home Thoughts from Abroad, he was in exotic northern Italy, though just visiting. At least he could go home again, as can I.

But home, for me, is Canada. The featured alternate is imaginary.

Harder for Ukrainians to see it that way, when they come to Canada through force of evil circumstance.

The Slap Heard Round The World

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, compliments of The Shot Heard Round The World, took place in 1914. As you will doubtless recall, the assassination is popularly believed to have led to World War I.

This is not to be confused with the competing Shots that were heard, according to our American brethren and sistren, Around the World during either a baseball game or their Revolutionary War.

The exact time of the baseball game Shot was 2.58 p.m. on October 3rd, 1951. The precise time of the Revolutionary War Shot seems to be unknown even though numerous Minutemen were involved.

Whatever.

The Americans got to televise their next attempt, but we will return to this later.

Competing with these Shots are the various Defenestrations of Prague. In these, selected contestants were chucked out of top floor windows (1419, 1618, and 1948).

The subsequent carnage on Prague roads caused by horse drawn carriages (and later, cars) is a well known fact.

Less well known is that it was entirely caused by people avoiding the sidewalk under windows where they feared being flattened by Defenestratees, and instead stepping out onto the road.

The best known and most popular Defenestration of Prague (1618) is generally agreed to have caused the 30 Years War.

Quite a good result, given that the three Defenestrated Catholics landed on their bums and were left with nothing more than well-hidden bruises and a lasting and quite understandable dislike of Protestants.

None of these Shots (or Defenestrations) were broadcast live, or recorded for future evaluation.

But the latest iteration was unarguably heard, and seen, around the World, unlike the previous American attempts during baseball games or local revolutionary punchups.

Of course, bullets out of guns, and blokes out of windows, may be effective in starting wars, but there are other ways of doing long term harm.

As we all have by now heard, Will Smith, he of the family oriented good disposition and winning smile, walked up on stage and sucker slapped a presenter at the Academy Awards.

Smith then returned to his seat and shouted his defence of his wife’s sensitivities, using a very rude word.

North American viewers, who have never heard rude words before, were saved by quick pushing of the Mute button by an alert censor.

Meanwhile, in Japan, and perhaps elsewhere, viewers were treated to the full Monty. One would like liked to have seen the English subtitles without the asterisks.

Mr. Smith has since apologized, with appropriate tears, but the damage is done. Young people have learned that real men solve problems by inflicting pain, and cursing out the competition.

And the stereotype of young black American males has been confirmed, by those who wished to, round the U.S.A. and the globe.

It was difficult, logistically, for the bosses to respond quickly, so Will Smith was left sitting by the stage (although, we now gather, he was asked nicely to leave) – not only a bad image for the Academy but also unnerving for the remaining presenters. Doubtless they were very careful what they said.

All this, before Smith was able to collect his award, and hire a Crisis Control team to tell him when to turn on crocodile tears, pre-emptively resign from the Academy, etc. etc.

Call me simplistic, but I would have walked the errant Smith up a few staircases and shown him a convenient window through which he could voluntarily Defenestrate himself.

If it were not too far a drop, he could have walked away, but the Splat would have been heard and appreciated Round the World.

Perhaps not in Ukraine, where they know too well that violence is rarely a singular act.