That’s it then. Summer’s gone for another year. Not that it was much to write home about. Plague. Fires. Smoke. Donald Trump. More Donald Trump. More plague. Donald Trump WITH the plague. An election in the lunatic asylum that used to be the United States and a very provincial election of nice people voting for mostly nice people with the genteel decorum of a church barbecue.
The long lazy days of summer became long crazy days stretched to breaking point by the misery of COVID but we coped, didn’t we? We kept our distances while those of us with IQs above that of a house brick mostly wore our masks. We soldiered on, heads high, upper lips stiffened, backbones rigid.
It could have been worse, we told ourselves. We could have been living in Trump’s America or Boris Johnson’s Britain, but here on our tiny sanctuary, we were safe and sound in Bonnie Henry’s BC. We were calm and kind (can’t say I was if I’m honest. I’m more inclined to panic and malice, but we’re none of us perfect.) And on that note, I should probably apologize to the people I confronted about not wearing masks. I ought to, but have absolutely no intention of doing so since I’m still inclined to regard you as selfish, self-indulgent pillocks, but I’m working on it.
One of the unhappiest moments for me in this whole wretched business so far has been watching a young mom in Country Grocer, fully masked and with her new baby strapped to her chest. She was approached by other women, all masked, who did what women are inclined to do when confronted by a new baby. They cooed and clucked and presumably smiled at the tot – who would have seen nothing beyond their masks. The poor little mite had been robbed of the expressions of joy and happy faces it was ordinarily entitled to and watching this heartbreaking little scenario unfold left me ineffably sad.
But as depressing as it was, these are the times we live in and the baby was at least a little safer from the droplets of doom.
So here we are, fall already and marching inexorably to winter which is as good an excuse as any to revert to my usual quantum of dourness.
To make matters worse I was brought face to face with my own mortality just last week, so pass me my walking frame and reserve me a slot at the crematorium. I bought a pair of trainers – with Velcro straps. Velcro for crying out loud! And I bought them at Walmart because they were “comfy”. Comfy!
This is the man who once wore Cuban-heeled boots that were so agonizingly uncomfortable I wept with every step and was reduced to a shuffling wreck with bleeding heels and toes when there was no one around to watch me swagger.
I’ve worn trousers so tight it’s a miracle I ever sired three sons and don’t sing contralto. Now I favour track pants with a crotch to the knees and I own (and actually wear) a cardigan. (And if you ever hear me call it a “cardie” you have my permission to shoot me!). It’s only a matter if time now before I hitch my trousers up to my armpits, held up by a belt AND suspenders.
Furthermore, I’ve started tut-tutting at TV shows that are a bit edgy and letting go deep sighs of contentment when I sit down with a “nice cup of tea”.
But I have a plan to remedy all that and to put some youth back into my step …
I’ve taken up – one, two, kick – line dancing – one, two, side step – because I thought it looked easy – two, three, collapse weeping to the ground. I mean, come on! How hard can shuffling across the dance floor with your hands in your pockets be? It’s not as if you even have to touch a lady of the opposite sex which can be pretty damned mortifying if you have the coordination of an inflatable car yard dummy.
I’ve always wanted to dance. I am a frustrated Fred Astaire, only held back by a clinical and psychological inability to chassé. Inside I am Rudolph Nureyev, leaping and pirouetting across the stage in indecently tight tights, outside I am as lithesome as a rock.
It’s a lucky thing I didn’t go the whole nine yards – one , two, shuffle, shuffle – and splash out on a Stetson, western boots, string tie and a belt buckle the size of a dinner plate because I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I am as likely to line dance with panache as I am to pole vault for Canada. And cowboy boots don’t come with Velcro straps…
The only part I’ve mastered so far is a pathetic “Yee Hah!” and only then in the privacy of my own bathroom. In fact, I’m not even certain the line dancing cognoscenti would be seen dead shouting “Yee Hah!” but it has a certain Wild West je ne sais quoi about it, like “Hoots Mon” is to Scottish reels.
But I think I will persevere. I’ve paid for eight lessons and who knows, at the end of them I may even have mastered a graceless shuffle.
This column was previously published in the Gulf Islands Driftwood.
Paul McElroy retired to Salt Spring Island nine years ago at the end of a 40-year career in journalism in the UK, Australia and in Canada. He now writes a regular column for the Gulf Islands Driftwood.