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Reading the National Narrative

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Two Icons

November 27, 2019

The day's news includes the deaths of two British cultural icons.

You might say that Clive James, poet and all-round man of letters, has been dying for a decade. It has been that long since he received a terminal cancer diagnosis and announced it to the world. His lovely 2014 poem "Japanese Maple" contains the final lines:

Filling the double doors to bathe my eyes,
A final flood of colors will live on
As my mind dies,
Burned by my vision of a world that shone
So brightly at the last, and then was gone.

James was 80 years old. My favourite quote: "If you don't know the exact moment when?the lights will go out,?you might as well?read?until they do."

Also passing this week is the theatre director Jonathan Miller, age 85, one of the original members of the Beyond the Fringe comedy troupe. My older brother had brought records of BTF into the house when I was a teenager. They were screamingly funny and?on a?visit to?London?in the 1960s I took the opportunity to take in the?show live. I laughed so hard my stomach hurt, literally bent double over the seat in front of me. It was a small theatre and I wondered afterwards if the foursome had asked themselves who the young hysteric was in the fifth row.

Peter Cook and Dudley Moore are both gone so that leaves Alan Bennett as the only surviving member of the troupe, which I was pleased to see?featured in an?episode of the latest season of The Crown.

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November 9, 2019

On today's CBC website there is an item about a reunion of survivors of the Athenia, a passenger ship torpedoed by the Germans right at the beginning of World War Two.

Loyal readers may recall that my mother-in-law, Dorothy Dean Brealey, was a passenger on the doomed vessel. She was returning to Canada with her mother after visiting relatives in England.

In 2006 I wrote an...

November 3, 2019

Is the City of Vancouver Book Award the most ineptly?publicized book prize in the country? It feels like it.

The annual award was handed out last month in a ceremony at the Vancouver Public Library. My pal Rob Watt had a book in the running -- his gorgeous volume on the indigenous artist Susan Point -- and I was interested in knowing if he had won.

But just try to find out.

Neither of the local daily papers reported the event, at least not so far as I could discover on...

October 9, 2019

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer believes that the purpose of history is to "celebrate" the past. To this end?he has announced that if elected his government will remove admission fees from Canada's national museums.

I'm all in favour of free museums, but Mr. Scheer is dead wrong. His views would lead to the destruction, not the strengthening, of our...

August 28, 2019

The Blue Cabin project launched last weekend in False Creek so I went along to have a look.

I've written before about the project but now it is up and running, welcoming its first artist-in-residence this autumn. In the photo above, the rebuilt?squatter's cabin is on the right, the modern living quarters on the left.

The...

August 24, 2019

Last weekend I joined a walking tour of historic Mount Pleasant led by Christine Hagemoen of the Mount Pleasant Heritage Group.

Basically the tour followed part of the route of historic Brewery Creek as it used to wind its way from the old Tea Swamp at 16th and Main down to False Creek. The creek is gone now, or at least buried, but there is lots to see in the area, which was the...

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