With forty-five's recent visit to London, we thought this column about an encounter with another controversial politician was appropriate.
I used to say, when people would accuse me of being a hopeless romantic just because I studied the Middle Ages: "If you want to understand what is going on today you have to understand the Middle Ages." It never worked of course. Everyone "knows" that the Middle Ages was full of all the things we have risen above: ignorance, superstition, cruelty, and--the list of horrors always concludes--dirt. "People never bathed, did they?" is the usual rhetorical question. To which the unrhetorical answer is, “Of course they did,” but the deodorant industry has convinced us otherwise.
An age which coined the word 'genocide' - the term first appears in print in 1944 - and made it a common term on the evening news, and in which 'holocaust' acquired both a definite article and a capital 'h' seems to be on rather shaky ground when it comes to pointing fingers and calling names, but then we always see our own times in terms of what is best and all other times and places in terms of what is worst.
Middle Ages and modern times came cheek by jowl during my time in Oxford, England, some years ago, and the Middle Ages came off rather well, I thought. It all happened this way....
"You came to town to see your president?" the Pakistani driver of the bus asked, hearing my accent as I asked for a ticket on returning from a four-day trip to Cornwall.
"What president?" I hadn't heard of any president of mine being in Oxford.
"President Clinton!" he crowed. "He's getting an honorary degree from the University tomorrow."
"He's not my president," I replied and dragged my suitcase to a seat and sat down, wondering as I did so at the firmness of my reply and its promptness. After 32 years in Canada since coming from the States I was delighted to discover where my loyalties lay.
"If everything seems to be going well you've obviously overlooked something." -Anon.
I don't remember my parents' home being filled with little slogans or plaques covered with the "Serenity Prayer" and that sort of thing. Nowadays you can't even get a teabag that doesn't feel it has something uplifting to tell you.
I do remember some of the places we rented on vacation went in for homey things like the verse about the owl. The crash of rhythm and meter in the last line -in a desperate attempt to get some thought in before the form died - has stuck with me all these years:
Words & Images
We moved to our farm in Sussex, New Brunswick from Toronto in 1977, only moving away in 2014.