|August 23, 2020 - Age 77|
Not a selfie - a self-portrait it is
Somehow the beginning of what will probably be a long and serpentine blog happened in the early 90s when writer Sean Rossiter and I were having a beer at the Marble Arch a Vancouver strip club. With an exotic exposing most of her body behind us I said to Rossiter, “Beaver.” He chuckled. I then corrected my one word to, “I mean the de Havilland Beaver.”
From that first chuckle we decided that we would pitch a story about the DHC-2 Beaver to Charles Campbell, Editor of the Georgia Straight.
Campbell not only approved of the story but it also became a cover story for us.
On October 13, 1996 I was given a dedicated copy of The Immortal Beaver – The World’s Greatest Bush Plane by Sean Rossiter. The book was published by Douglas & McIntyre.
On October 21, 1996 at 2PM a pleasant but frumpy woman, Baroness James of Holland Park (P.D. James), summoned me to the window of her Holiday Inn – Harbour Side Hotel room and asked me, “Alex what’s that?”
I then went into a very long explanation of what the de Havilland Beaver was and how it had been so important into opening up the remote parts of our province. P.D. James was 76 years old.
In 1999 she published Time to Be in Earnest: A Fragment of Autobiography Faber & Faber, London 1999 ISBN 0-571-20396-5.
The significance of that book is twofold. Dr. Samuel Johnson is quoted as saying, “77 a time to be in earnest”.
I photographed James when she was 76. Samuel Johnson died when he was 75 so what could he have known about being 77?
That whole story would have ended right here.
Except in my car, on my way to pick up my Rosemary in Pemberton, I listened to Eleanor Wachtel in CBC’s Writers and Company on a repeat broadcast from 2000 with P.D. James.
James mentioned the significance of being 77 (she was 80 for the interview) and how it lead her to write that reduced autobiography which was and is a re-written diary of that year.
The podcast inspired me to think about the fact that shortly, on August 31 I will be 78. This means I have time to weigh in.
In September of last year my Rosemary and I went to the wedding of a niece in Buenos Aires. We enjoyed ourselves. Once the pandemic hit I have been asking Rosemary almost every night if we will be alive to travel again once the pandemic fades.
I have an uncertain heart and recently I have been diagnosed with hypertension. In September I am undergoing a right eye cataract operation. As Argentines often say, “I am not zero kilometres, and the warranty is long gone.”
The pandemic has isolated me from in-person, face to face, conversation with friends. On the plus side this has brought my Rosemary and me more together and we really depend on the companionship of our brother and sister cats, Niño and Niña.
In a small and mostly not too literate blog, I have been writing a diary, certainly not one that P.D. James would write. But what makes my blog writing these days is its importance since so many of the other things I used to do have faded. Nobody comes for portraits and I have tried to lure (and failed) my older granddaughter Rebecca, now 23, since last Christmas to pose for me with her new knife (my Argentine knife) tattoo.
The spring garden is now a late summer one. The excitement of the growing season has faded.
That blog and feeding my Rosemary every day is all too important because of its double singularity.
If by being earnest, Johnson meant one must take stuff seriously, I am on the money. I am serious, melancholic and on some days I wonder about the merits of a continuing existence.
Perhaps Johnson knew this and did his best not to confront 77.
There is one aspect of life that has become for me an obsession. This is the idea that any memory of my past, when I had the experience before it became a memory, is a memory that I never stopped to question or think, “One day I am going to look back on this.” There is something here of a circular time that somehow happens clockwise but not in clockwise, like Borges said, ”To remember one must first forget.”