Though my humdrum daily customs are the norm, things began more diversely this morning. Perhaps it was alterness to the approaching Winter Solstice or the advent of Christmas (a festivity I routinely indulge from November 25th so that I may partake a full month of seasonal choral music by Handel or schmaltz by Mantovani and Bing Crosby before confessing mutual exhaustion). Or it may have been the squaring of an early morning cycle about the neighbourhood when the air was chilly and clear. Exercise even of this modest portion (6.26 Km) is distinctly part of my every day ceremony. Inexplicably today I had strength to venture to higher ground than usual.
I channeled into an historic dead end beside the Anglican church (where once I was a warden) and the former Land Registry Office on Brougham Street (where I initiated my legal practice and met Land Registrar J. C. Smithson who subsequently rushed me for membership to the Masonic Lodge). In the process of this unique perambulation I recalled many years ago upon my arrival in Almonte in 1976 having spied George Slade from the the kitchen window of the house I rented from the incumbent chaplain of St. Paul’s Anglican Church Rev. George Bickley. The rented house (60 Martin St N) was immediately adjacent George Slade’s house on Clyde Street. George was one of the original Borstal “homeboys”. It is my understanding that he had been bequeathed the house by the family (or the surviving spinsters) by whom he was formerly employed.
A borstal was a type of youth detention centre in the United Kingdom, several member states of the Commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland. In India, such a detention centre is known as a borstal school.
Borstals were run by HM Prison Service and were intended to reform young offenders. The word originated from the first such institution established in 1902 near the English village of Borstal in Kent, and is sometimes used loosely to apply to other kinds of youth institutions and reformatories, such as approved schools and youth detention centres. The court sentence was officially called “borstal training”. Borstals were originally for offenders under 21, but in the 1930s the maximum age was increased to 23. The Criminal Justice Act 1982 abolished the borstal system in the UK, replacing borstals with youth custody centres.
When I saw George that day (it was the first time; and coincidentally about this time of year) he was in his backyard chopping wood. This seemingly negligible observation is in fact a tale of its own. George was at the time about 80 years old. He was skinny with wiry arms which noticeably bulged with muscle. I subsequently learned that the house then inhabited by George relied upon a wood stove for heat.
Years afterwards, upon the death of George Slade, I was visited at my law office by Ian LeCheminant. To my astonishment he informed me, first, that he had bought George Slade’s old house; and, second, that he was formerly employed in western Canada as an artisan by Kim Graybiel, brother of Jan Graybiel who was a colleague (and later former client) of mine from Glendon Hall, Toronto where I had obtained my undergraduate degree in Philosophy. The Graybiel family then owned the Windsor Star.
The founders W. F. Herman and Hugh Graybiel purchased the existing daily newspaper, the Windsor Record (known as the Evening Record from 1890 to November 1917) from John A. McKay on August 6, 1918.
LeCheminant subsequently departed for British Columbia and sold the house to my erstwhile physician Franz B. Ferraris MD who had arrived most immediately from western Canada whence he was tracked by Ray Timmons, Executive Director of the Almonte General Hospital. The house had been meticulously refurbished by LeCheminant in a bespoke manner.
As you, my dear Reader, may well imagine, these casual memories were uplifting. Thus energized I pushed off once again towards home along the Mississippi River.
The honking of the geese was interminable. Their delicate flight patterns suddenly disrupted upon precipitous descent to their landing pad upon the thin layers of ice at the edges of the river.
I made my way home, and after having completed my ritual drive to Stittsville for a car wash (I adore driving especially on a dry, clear day such as today), I propped myself at my desk in the drawing room, equipped with a sliced apple and chilled espresso and gazed upriver into the nearby meadow. It was then I recollected having bought a singular binocular (Nikon 7 x 15 7°). The device is housed in what I believe is a genuine leather pouch with a zipper. But of course I couldn’t remember where I had put it. This for two reasons; one, we only relocated her last May (so I rely upon having misfiled it); and, two I seldom use it. Nonetheless it appears I had the foresight to store it in my desk, top left drawer with my Bose® headphones, no doubt in anticipation of frequent application. Today was the first time I used it since our arrival. I wanted a closer look at a dilapidated wooden shed in the distant field nearby the now cultivated corn fields. I believe it is not an uncommon spiritual handiwork of the human mind, when focussing upon an open farm field, to become preoccupied with dwellings in the distance; something to do with after-life and redemption.