November 2018


For almost a dozen years now we have lived close enough to the equator that the changing of the seasons, although a reality, are almost imperceptible. The winds change directions, there is more rain, the seas become rougher or the temperatures become marginally cooler in the evening.  While we love the warmer climates, we do miss the uniqueness of each season: the clear, crisp, sparkling of the snow, the vibrant burst of new life in spring, the warm sunny days of summer and especially the brilliant array of fall colours. With that in mind, we opted this year to confine our summer travels to the west and spend our October mid-semester break in Ontario.

We were only off for one week but managed to pack each day to the fullest so that we were able to tie up loose ends in terms of our finances, condo and some purchases that need to be made in London. We were happy to be back enjoying the gracious hospitality of Randy and Sylvia in their cosy grannie suite, which is full of wonderful memories for us. It was an incredible joy to worship at West London, surrounded by dear friends with whom we have shared fellowship and served alongside for many years.

   

It was a whirlwind week, starting with a baby fest meeting six new great nieces; all under the age of 19 months. Spent a lovely evening in the new home of my nephew Jesse and his wife Christyn and had Chinese with three brothers and their wives. Long time friends, John and Bonnie treated us to their signature salad and pumpkin soup and Al and Shelley created an amazing brunch.  Kim made us quiche at her allergy friendly Urban Oven business and we had a nosh of India food with friends Matt and Kate. Made a quick trip to Cambridge area to catch up on the lives of precious and like-minded friends Beth and Stephen. We even stole a morning away in which I had tea with my dear high school friend Jane, while Steve headed to our old stomping grounds in St Thomas to meet up with teaching friends. Still, there were many others that we longed to see but time did not allow.

 

Saturday morning we left early for a three hour drive to meet up with Jon and Nic and the kids in Fort Erie for lunch and a quick visit by the Niagara River. The weather was cold, rainy and the fall colours not yet in full splendour but it was a beautiful drive and a fun visit. We then drove three hours to downtown Toronto to have dinner with Joe and Jane and catch up with the news on Steve’s side of the family. Finally crashed at an airport hotel to get a few hours sleep before heading to the airport at six for our flight home.

When you see people as infrequently as we do, every conversation is intended to share our hearts joys and struggles of the past year. Each conversation is rich, precious and often deeply painful. We went back to work exhausted, with our hearts burdened for many of our friends but rejoicing in the joy of being part of wonderful families and so blessed by the friends with whom we have had the privilege of sharing this journey.

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When Richard Burbage died all of London mourned. He was the greatest actor of his generation: the thoughtful Hamlet, the heroic King Henry, the deceitful King Richard, and the lost and lonely King Lear. He was carried in pomp and circumstance through streets so thronged with mourners that the event overshadowed the death of Queen Anne 10 days earlier.

But when Shakespeare who created all the characters and plays that Burbage acted in died his passing was almost unnoticed. Now think of our day. Name some great movies you know. Wizard of Oz? Star Wars? Who were the actors? Judy Garland? Harrison Ford? Now who wrote the screenplay for those films? See? The problem is not just the silly Brits of Shakespeare day.

Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep is one of the best and most underrated American novels of the last century. The metaphorical language. The gritty dialogue. The filmic prose. It is a wonder of concision and tension. But when it came to putting that into a screenplay Chandler declined and even William Faulkner faltered. So the studio brought in Leigh Brackett to whip the script into shape. Under her skilled hands both Humphrey Bogart’s Philip Marlowe and his doll Lauren Bacall shine in what has become the classic film noir.

Fast forward 40 years to George Lucas struggling to follow up the success of his first Stars Wars saga with a sequel that will take the story to the next level. Who does he tap? Leigh Brackett who is still churning it out at 62 but who tragically dies of cancer shortly after completing the first draft. So George Lucas brings in Lawrence Kasdan who has just recently written the screenplay for the first Indiana Jones film Raiders of the Lost Ark. Kasdan writes a second and then final draft of what will become The Empire Strikes Back, widely considered the best in the franchise. Kasdan will also go on the write the screenplay for Return of the Jedi before going off to write and direct his own projects.

Where is this all going to might say? Well I recently saw Solo, the most recent and most poorly received of the current rash of Star Wars films. It is, in my humble opinion, not only the best, but likely to be seen as such 30 years from now. Why? Because Lawrence Kasdan is back as the screenwriter and he knows what he is doing. The script is tight, revealing only as much of Solo’s backstory as is necessary to keep the plot moving, and eschewing maudlin sentimentality on the one hand and studied ironic cynicism on the other. Kasdan’s Solo is a believable and charming rogue, both cunning and conned and well worth second look in a sequel.

Whether he will get that look is more up to politics than the power of pertinent prose. It is Burbage that England mourned, not Shakespeare. Money and popularity have always wowed the crowd But is is Shakespeare who is remembered and studied 400 years later. And who among you knew the name of Richard Burbage before you read this post?