Saturday shopping

Readers who take an interest in the progress of civilisation and of the useful arts will be grateful to the humble topographer who has recorded these facts, and will perhaps wish that historians of far higher pretensions had sometimes spared a few pages from military evolutions and political intrigues, for the purpose of letting us know how the parlours and bedchambers of our ancestors looked.

Excerpt From
Thomas Babington Macaulay
“The History of England, from the Accession of James II — Volume 1”

The tonnage of our small Cadillac was deployed today to its limits.  I have lost track of the shops we frequented since ten o’clock this morning until now, some four hours later. The only obtrusions of the dedicated retail expedition were stops at Petro-Canada for gas and at Halo Car Wash® for a quick vacuum of the interior front rugs followed by the usual cleanse of the exterior vehicle. Then it was back to shopping!

The retail stops we frequented were a combination of so-called big box stores (Pro Hardware, Canadian Tire, Marks, Farm Boy and Independent Grocers) and specialty retailers (Grace in the Kitchen, Canadian Co-operative Wool Growers and Dandelion Foods). At one point we also chose to sit in the car (rather than attend the enormous warehouse in a congested urban area) and telephone the head office of the business to arrange matters relating to the delivery of new furniture we had lately ordered on-line (after I had previously endured the trip to the sprawling showroom to get a close look at it).

The items purchased today include food, The Riddick Family Virginia peanuts, gas, shoe storage organizers, undergarments and laundry soap concentrate for woollen goods. It is all part of assimilation of our new digs. The reduced square footage of this modern apartment corresponds with the diminshed size of the new car. Currency requires adaptation. The latest expression of this accommodation is the addition of an Acon rebounder to the premises. For those of my dear Readers who are beyond 70 years of age I strongly recommend this miniature trampoline as a prompt and decidely adequate form of exercise for heart, limbs (especially thighs) and overall endurance. After a mere three minutes of rebounding I was ready to drop!  I naturally intend over time and after judicious application to broaden my forbearance; but fot the moment I have instead regained a seat at my desk, enlivened by a triple il caffè espresso.


Shamefully I am an inveterate shopper (which is to say, an unapologetic materialist).  Now however I am guided in my delingquence less by acquisitiveness and mere consumption and more by strictly utilitarian objectives. The Acon rebounder for example is my answer to the looming challenges of bicycling and tricycling; namely, inordinate and prolonged congestion of lower limb muscles caused by ceaseless repetition. This is an affliction peculiar to one such as I who seldom walks or runs (both of which I despise – probably because of a longstanding spinal deterioration).

Although you may question the putative utility of the purchase I am about to relate, it is one directed to the advancement not of any immediate visceral or even artisitic necessity but rather to tranquillity of mind.  Strange though it may sound to the uninitiated (pardon my irrepressible arrogance) I have reactivated my subscription to Country Life magazine. It is by any measure suitable especially for the torpid intellect. In the past I have subscribed to both the hard copy (delivered by regular mail from UK to here) and the electronic copy (which I found impossible to read because of the hopelessly small print). The latter subscription, combined with our erstwhile semi-annual absence from the jurisdiction, led to my disfavour of the magazine. But for whatever reason (honestly I don’t know what prompted this revitalization other than some overwhelming domestic persuasion) I have re-initiated the project and presently I anxiously await the arrival of the first issue by trans-Atlantic steamer.

The voice of the countryside

Country Life, the quintessential English magazine, is undoubtedly one of the biggest and most instantly recognisable brands in the UK today. The magazine comments in depth on a wide variety of subjects, such as architecture, property, the arts, gardens and gardening, the countryside, schools and wildlife. This eclectic editorial mix, combined with stunning photography and high-end property advertising ensures that week after week, Country Life is read by people who live the real country house lifestyle.

Country Life

“In the seventeenth century the City was the merchant’s residence. Those mansions of the great old burghers which still exist have been turned into counting houses and warehouses: but it is evident that they were originally not inferior in magnificence to the dwellings which were then inhabited by the nobility. They sometimes stand in retired and gloomy courts, and are accessible only by inconvenient passages: but their dimensions are ample, and their aspect stately. The entrances are decorated with richly carved pillars and canopies. The staircases and landing places are not wanting in grandeur. The floors are sometimes of wood tessellated after the fashion of France. The palace of Sir Robert Clayton, in the Old Jewry, contained a superb banqueting room wainscoted with cedar, and adorned with battles of gods and giants in fresco.” Sic

For the record I was unwittingly introduced to Country Life magazine by the late Louis R. Irwin. Lou was married to one of the legatees of a celebrated forestry agricultural company from Buckingham, Québec.

James Maclaren (March 19, 1818 – February 10, 1892) was an early settler and entrepreneur in western Quebec.

Maclaren was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1818. He came to Richmond in Upper Canada with his family in 1822. The family then settled in Torobolton Township and then moved to Wakefield in Lower Canada in the 1840s. Maclaren and his brother David opened a general store, grist mill, woollen mill and brick plant in Wakefield. James also became involved in the timber trade.

In 1853, Maclaren leased a sawmill in New Edinburgh from Thomas McKay with partners including Moss Kent Dickinson and Joseph Merrill Currier. By 1861, he was able to buy out his partners and, in 1866, he purchased the mills after McKay’s death. In 1864, again with partners, he bought sawmills at Buckingham, later buying out his partners.

Maclaren also helped found the Hull Iron Company in 1880, the North Pacific Lumber Company of British Columbia in 1889, and the Bank of Ottawa, later merged with Scotiabank, in 1874. MacLaren also had business interests in Vermont, Massachusetts, and Michigan.

Maclaren died in Buckingham in 1892.

Lou casually informed me of his interest in Inco and 35,000 acres of forested property in Vermont, USA. In spite of this entrepreneurial distinction, whenever Lou excused himself from his nearby country estate (on which he housed his airplane and Highland cattle) and visited us next to the fireplace en ville for what he generously described as the best martini, he accentuated his humility by leaving his Cadillac on the farm and drove instead a small nondescript vehicle which he left in the driveway under the auspices of his faithful sheep dog.

Inco Limited was a Canadian mining company and the world’s leading producer of nickel for much of the 20th century. In October 2006, Inco was purchased by the Brazilian mining company Vale for $19.4 billion.