Wither Emily Post?

Back in the 1950’s a fixture on my parents’ bookshelf was “Emily Post’s Etiquette”. It was the definitive guide to everything involving manners or decorum. If you needed to know which knife or fork to use at a state banquet, or how to properly address an ambassador or a bishop, Emily was your source.

I am told that the book is still around, now into its 18th edition, and updated for the digital world by Emily’ s descendants, but somehow it seems to me that the world has become so incredibly complex that propounding rules of etiquette may no longer be possible. At the very least, a new set of rules is sorely needed.

What triggered these musings was a spat of obituary announcements that have shown up recently in my Facebook feed, and my consternation as to how to deal with them.

The first was the easiest, as it announced, not unexpectedly, the death of a very dear family friend, at the venerable age of 101. The announcement, via Facebook was tasteful, and welcomed, since those of us affected by the passing are scattered across the continent. There was no question that I would post a comment, but I baulked at clicking the “like” button as well. Surely one should not “like“ the announcement of someone’s death?

The next was a bit more difficult, a guy I had paddled with on an extended trip two summers ago, and a last-minute no-show for this year’s expedition. He passed suddenly, a day after our last Facebook exchange, bantering about the missed trip.  He died with many friends and acquaintances, but little in the way of close family, certainly no-one that I knew. Not knowing the actual circumstances of his death I didn’t want to blunder in with an inappropriate comment, and certainly didn’t want to appear to be applauding his death with a big thumbs up. To whom was I paying my respects m and, would it be disrespectful to say nothing at all?

Then a business acquaintance posted an announcement of his father’s passing. I had met his father once, years ago, but didn’t feel that my tenuous connection to him made any type of comment appropriate, although I still wanted to reach out to the son. What to do? Barge in with a post, or simply “like” the announcement, or use a silly emoji to try to express myself.?  Again, I find myself resistant to the idea of using an emoji to recoqnize someone’s death.

The last was more difficult yet, It was a local politician, whom I scarcely know, except via social media, and the odd political event. She was announcing, in somewhat coded language, the sudden and devastating loss of her son, whom I had never met. My suspicion, from the language of the post (later confirmed) was that the child had perished as a result of a drug overdose. How to respond, in order to comfort a very nice lady, using the limited tools in Facebook’s toolbox ?

It is, I suggest, past time for a new tome on etiquette, to help those of us who struggle with using social media in a respectful and caring manner. Perhaps Facebook needs to expand its repertoire of available responses, to include  some which are a bit more  formal than a contorted happy face. Or perhaps, we should just eschew social media entirely in such circumstances, and dust off our copy of Emily Post. Emily, I’m sure, would counsel a kind word, a handwritten note, and a comforting hug.

 

 

Categories: death and dying, Etiquette & manners, Reflections | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

A Wind in the Willows kind of morning

Hither and thither through the meadows he rambled busily, along the hedgerows, across the copses, finding everywhere birds building, flowers budding, leaves thrusting “

My early morning run took me through Rocky Point Park, a tranquil, empty space brimming with budding trees and tulips in full bloom, shared only by a dog walker, a strolling couple, and a fisherman launching his small boat.

nothing,- absolutely – nothing, is half so much worth doing, as simply messing about in boats” I mused as I turned at the end of the pier

Suddenly, the tyke came thundering towards me on his scooter, tiny leg pumping furiously to propel it at breakneck speed.

“As if in a dream, all sense of right and wrong, all fear of obvious consequences, seemed temporarily suspended. He increased his pace, and as the car devoured the street and leapt forth on the high road through the open country,” 

I smiled, then glanced around. The young speed demon was far too young to be out unattended, but the path behind him was empty. Had he made good an escape from his custodians?   I slowed my pace, partly to avoid the careening scooter, but mostly to ensure there was some passing adult oversight of his adventure.

“— the terror, the traffic-queller, the Lord of the lone trail, before whom all must give way or be smitten into nothingness and everlasting night–“

A long minute passed, and I  turned to keep  the young Lord of the lone trail in sight. Then at last I spotted her- loping over the bridge, head on a swivel, body tense with worry. There was no doubt who she was frantically looking for. I waved  broadly to catch her attention, then pointed down the path towards the tiny retreating figure.

By the time she passed me she was laughing, the tension drained away,she had her quarry in plain sight and was closing the distance rapidly. We high fived, and I resumed my run, pausing again briefly  at the edge of the wood to watch the reunion, before slipping into the forest .

I couldn’t suppress a chuckle as a I thought to myself – ” well, aren’t you just  a poor man’s version of the Piper at the Gates of Dawn this morning !” . It was indeed a Wind in the Willows kind of morning, -a glorious spring day, full of life and promise.

“All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.”

And as I ran on I could swear I heard the soft notes of a song wafting on the breeze:

                          “Lest the awe should dwell—And turn your frolic to fret—

                           You shall look on my power at the helping hour—But then you shall forget!

Lest limbs be reddened and rent—I spring the trap that is set

                         -As I loose the snare you may glimpse me there—For surely you shall forget!

                          Helper and healer, I cheer—Small waifs in the woodland wet—

                           Strays I find in it, wounds I bind in it—Bidding them all forget”

 

( excerpts from  The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame )

Categories: fiction, Parks, Port Moody, Reflections | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Little Free Library

This spring marks the fifth anniversary of the arrival in Port Moody of our first Little Free Library. For the uninitiated, these mini- libraries are actually weatherproof boxes mounted on front lawns or in parks, capable of holding a couple of dozen books. The instructions for use are simple – “take one, leave one”

I think they are a charming addition to the local landscape, and I’ve been an occasional user ever since the first one popped up on San Remo drive, using the box to purge my bookshelf of any highbrow material I’m finished with ( I’m still too shy to share with my neighbors the trashy novels with high body counts that comprise most of my actual bedside reading!)

A couple of years ago another box popped up at Old Orchard Park, and five more in Port Coquitlam  and I’ve spotted several during  visits to Victoria. Curious to know how widespread the phenomena was, I took to Google, and quickly learned that there are upwards of 40,000 registered locations worldwide.

To my utter shock however, I  also discovered  via my google search that these benign little community affairs are actually the subject of controversy in many places. The boxes have attracted complaints about zoning and by-law compliance in a number of communities ( one municipality even deemed them to be “illegal detached structures” ) and some folks just plain don’t like ad hoc structures popping up on boulevards and front lawns

They have even prompted the ire of the Journal of Radical Librarianship (yes, they are for real!) who suggest that  these tiny book exchanges are elitist, often showing up in more affluent, better educated, and predominantly white neighbourhoods, and accuse the volunteers who build them of “self gratification” and “virtue signalling”.

I must say,  I find impugning the motives of those who go the extra mile to make our community a better place to be highly offensive, and I shake my head over petty bureaucrats trying to stomp out these friendly little, Thankfully as far as I know, our local boxes haven’t offended anyone.

So, when I ambled down to San Remo drive this weekend, I gave thanks : for a gorgeous spring day,  for a community that supports quirky endeavours such as the Little Free Library, and especially, for a neighbour who thoughtfully deposited a couple of dog-eared John Grisham novels that I haven’t read yet !

Categories: libraries, Port Moody, Reflections | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Credit where credit due

My introduction to the frontier lifestyle of the West Coast came shortly after I began my articling year in Nanaimo, when the herring fleet hit town.

Those were the glory days of the herring fishery, when high-balling crews of “Cold water Cowboys” exuberantly chased enormous schools of  herring around the Straits of Georgia, loading  their skiffs with fish until their gunwales were almost awash, then frantically signaling to the hovering packer boats displaying “Cash Buyer” signs, to sell their catch before they capsized. Herring roe is a delicacy in Japan, and the  Japanese were flush, paying huge prices for the roe. Continue reading

Categories: First Nations, Nature, Politics, Reflections | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Reductio Ad Absurdum

Like lawyers everywhere I relish every opportunity to throw around obscure Latin phrases, to confuse and confound the uninitiated. This blog’s headline is an example, although it will be instantly recognizable to students of logic amongst the readership, as well as those who keep a copy of Aristotle’s Prior Analytics on their bedside table.

It refers to a type of argument that seeks to destroy a proposition by taking it to the extreme. In legal argument it is sometimes employed along with its sister, the “Floodgates” argument (“judge, if you find in favor of the idiot on the other side, it will open the floodgates of litigation”)

Let’s have some fun with Reductio Ad Absurdum. Readers of my companion blog will know that I’ve been alternately bemused and incensed by the swelling tide of political correctness that seems bent on erasing the names of Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie from public view, because of their actions against aboriginal people. There have been shrill demands for their names to be removed from schools, bridges and even pubs that have been named after them.

Logically then, any historical public figure whose actions were abhorrent by today’s standard should receive the same treatment. May I present Chief Maquinna, a well known chief of the Nuu-Cha-Nulth. While history will remember him best as the chief who welcomed Capt. James Cook to Nootka Sound, it also records that he was an enthusiastic owner of slaves. Slavery of course, was an established part of First Nations culture, pre-European contact, but Maquinna is also known to have captured European whalers who strayed into his territory, keeping them as slaves, and putting some to death when they attempted to escape. It seems to me that the chief’s conduct ticks all the same boxes as Sir John A. and Sir Matthew.

So, when various school boards vote to rename schools named after Sir John A. McDonald, surely  the name of Maquinna  Elementary school  should also get axed (there are two schools named after Maquinna, incidentally, one in Vancouver and one in Port Alberni )

Last, but not least, since the Kingston  pub Sir John’s Public House recently felt compelled to change its name to simply ‘The Public House’ to avoid offending patrons, should not Tofino’s  venerable Maquinna Hotel follow suit ? Ironically the Maquinna  Hotel bar is  a favorite First Nations watering hole, being conveniently located just above the pier where the water taxi from the Ahousaht First nations Reserve  docks.

Reductio Ad Absudum ?

 

Categories: First Nations, humour, law, Reflections | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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