Personally, I blame Wendy MacDonald...

Back when Oliver was in elementary school I resolved that if any member of our household was to become involved in the Home and School association it would be me; Catherine is an inveterate, dedicated volunteer and I was certain that, if she were to be the one, we would wake up shortly thereafter and she’d be running the whole show (believe me, it’s happened before).

I resolved that I would “take one for the team,” so to speak, and this is how I ended up sitting around a table in the staff room at Prince Street School with a bunch of strangers talking about how to raise money to buy window blinds for classrooms that didn’t have them.

One thing led to another and, irony of ironies, eventually I agreed to act as treasurer for the Prince Street Home and School and then, a series of horse trades later, as President.

Somewhere in there, Wendy MacDonald, then serving as Past-President of the provincial PEI Home and School Federation, and a dedicated former Prince Street home and schooler herself, casually asked me if I’d be willing to put my name forward as a candidate for regional directory for the provincial body.

Wendy is one of the smartest minds on PEI, and not someone whose requests you take lightly; she’s not pushy, she’s simply straightforward.

And so I said yes.

And one thing led to another and, irony of ironies, eventually I agreed to act as secretary for the PEIHSF and then, a series of horse trades later, as Vice-President.

Nobody is more surprised than I that I not only participate in home and school but that I actually enjoy it and have become a passionate believer in the power of home and school as an actor in the education system.

Which is how, I suppose, I ended up with my name put forward for the position of President yesterday. There being no contrary-minded, by the end of the day I joined a group of dedicated new and returning directors as part of a new board for the PEIHSF.

I’ve written in this space before why I find home and school so attractive; yesterday’s experience at our annual meeting was no different: we considered eight resolutions, each of which was developed and put forward by a local home and school, on topics ranging from lice to technology. There was vigorous discussion on each, and democracy was coursing through the air.

Later in the day there was a similarly-vigorous discussion with the Hon. Alan McIsaac, Minister of Education and his Deputy Minister Sandy MacDonald and with English Language School Board Chair Fred Osborne and the board’s Director of Curriculum, Doug MacDougall. While not everyone’s questions were answered, the transparency was, I think, appreciated by all (and something, I know from discussion with those from other jurisdictions, we are privileged to enjoy).

And so, for the next two year, when Kerry Campbell intros “for reaction from Island parents, I spoke to…” the name will be mine. I’m daunted by the prospect, but also excited: stickhandling a broad-based Island-side democratic organization with a long history is a great challenge and a great honour. I’ll try not to screw it up.

Gabrielle Papillon

After four days of wall-to-wall music at East Coast Music Week, and a few days to let it all sink in, my favourite discovery has emerged as Gabrielle Papillon, a Nova Scotia singer-songwriter I had the pleasure of seeing, accompanied by large and talented band, at the Pourhouse at the Music Nova Scotia showcase on Saturday night. Listen here:

Lubricate often.

It suddenly dawned on me, after a year of use, that I hadn’t been properly lubricating my Golding Jobber No. 8 letterpress. I’d been greasing the axel, yes, but I’d completely ignored the little “lubricate here” holes that can be found in every corner of the press.

To drive this point home to myself – and to any others who might suffer the same fate – I printed up some reminder cards:


Once the ink is dry, I’ll find a way of making them available to others similarly ill-lubricated.

Update: you can now buy your very own “Lubricate Often” card in my Etsy shop for only $2.00 plus (very reasonable) shipping.

The place you go where old people aren't old anymore...

I turned 48 on Saturday, which we celebrated with breakfast at Kettle Black followed by an enthusiastic shovelling session to extricate our car from the ice and snow. I could swear we were picking strawberries on my birthday when I was a kid, but that’s probably not true; but surely there were never snow banks in April in the 1970s, were there?


There’s a funny thing that I’ve noticed in the last few years, the kind of thing that get’s punctuated at birthday time: as we all get older it’s like we split off into generational squads, a sort of “shirts and skins” of life, with the people on our team those with whom we share history, pop-cultural references and the degree to which we are shop-worn.

As Fibber McGee and Molly was to my parents, WKRP in Cincinnati is to my squad.

What I didn’t anticipate in all this was the sense of common cause I have with those of, say, plus or minus 5 years. It’s not “kids today!?”, it’s not “I walked a mile and a half to school,” it’s more like a knowing wink, an increased sense of confidence, and the surprise at the sudden realization that, hey, we’re running this thing now.

I notice this most around the Home and School table, an organization that, because it’s composed entirely of parents of school-age children, generally excludes the younger and the older and thus is perhaps the closest we have to a generational clubhouse. Around that table are people with whom, in many cases, I share almost nothing; we’re from different upbringings, have different politics, different life experiences. But we’ve all got kids making brochures about heat pollution and learning about vertices and worrying about the school dance. And that’s enough to join us together, sometimes rather profoundly.

As it happens, I’ve been walking around for the last year thinking, mistakenly as it turns out, that I turned 48 last year. And so this year is like a special secret bonus year. I promise to try and make it worth it.

Photo from Flickr by daren_ck, Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

The One Where the New Bathtub Pays for Itself

It’s coming up to the end of East Coast Music Week here in Charlottetown, a yearly celebration, showcase, and conference for the music industry in eastern Canada and, for those of us lucky enough to live in the heart of the downtown of the host city, a fantastic opportunity to see a lot of very good music packed into four days of performances at venues 5-minutes-walk-or-less away.

I was determined that, unlike the last time ECMW was in Charlottetown, I was not going to miss out, so, against all my procrastinatory impulses, I purchased an $80 wristband well in advance, entitling me to access to most everything.

And thus it was, armed with the (excellent) ECMW app on my mobile, I headed out into the night on Thursday to go clubbing. One of the great things about having a wristband is that you can be promiscuous in your habits, jumping genres by just picking up and heading down the street. Over the course of the evening, then, I was able to see Amy & Rachel Beck, Brianna Gosse, Eartbound Trio, Colour Code, Breagh Mackinnon and Dennis Ellsworth in as many venues.

On Friday night, thanks to my generous brother Johnny, who stayed home with Oliver and Ethan, Catherine was able to join me and we headed down to the Delta for the “roots” showcase and saw Ryan LeBlanc, Amelia Curran, Samantha Robichaud, Catherine MacLellan, Chrissy Crowley, Dave Gunning, Mary Jane Lamond and Wendy MacIsaac, and Tim Chaisson. All this accompanied by the culinary stylings of Leo’s Thai Food (chicken basil rice) and the Big Orange Lunchbox (lobster tacos), who saved me, not having had time to grab dinner before, from a grumpy hungry night.

On Saturday night I was back out on my own, with my eyes set on the Music Nova Scotia showcase at the Pourhouse, the craggy little venue atop The Old Triangle. Having been turned away at the same event on Thursday because it was over-capacity, I arrived 90 minutes early only to find the room packed already, with not a seat to be found and most everyone there jealously guarding their turf knowing that they were lucky to have secured a seat. No eye contact, in other words; no “you could squeeze in here.”

I was close to giving up and heading home, but decided to stick it out, find a windowsill, pull out my copy of The New Yorker (brought along for just this purpose) and wait, finding a place to stand once the music started to roll.

I was well into the Talk of the Town, minding my own business when someone approached and called me by name.

“Peter!”, he said.

I looked up. Vague recollection spread over my face, which he recognized. Oh, right, yes.

It was the chap who, when we moved into our house at 100 Prince Street fourteen years ago, we contracted to gut our second floor bathroom and build it back up to modern standards (i.e. no carpet on the floor, no shower head coming out of the side of the bathtub). It was a dusty, complicated job, and, as these things often go, we got to know the crew pretty well.  Which is why my interrogator, working as a volunteer in the venue, recognized me and why, eventually, I recognized him.

We chatted for a moment, and, just as he was heading off to his volunteer duties I said “Hey, if you happen to find an extra chair somewhere, I’d really appreciate it.”

Five minutes later he poked his head out with a contraband chair, purloined from the green room (meaning, I assume, that Old Man Luedecke’s sideman was sitting on the floor; which is why I won’t mention my benefactor’s name, lest Old Man Luedecke seek retribution).

With heartfelt thanks, I held onto the chair for dear life and headed back into the fray looking for a place to park it. With luck now on my side, I reasoned that this was no time to be timid, so rather than finding a dark poorly-sightlined corner at the back, I maneuvered myself and my chair right up to the front, set it down in a tiny, convenient patch of floor beside a large enough group that it would look like I was just fitting in, and proceeded to act as if I was supposed to be there, shirking off the imagined barbs of those who’d been camping out for hours just to get a table in the same region.

And I didn’t move for the next 3 hours.

I had a completely unobstucted view of the stage; here, for example, is Gabrielle Papillon and her large retinue of players:

Gabrielle Papillon

It was a fantastic night of music: Ron Bourgeois (a talented singer-songwriter from Cheticamp), Old Man Luedecke (not, to my surprise, old at all; crackerjack banjo-based duo with a set of irony-tinged songs), the aforementioned Gabrielle Papillon (an unexpected joy) with Jimmy Rankin (a pure pleasure: such an entertainer).

As the night played on I became ever-more-thankful for my luck, as the venue filled up and filled up and people were hanging from the rafters and perched precariously on the floor. By 11:30, with the night, relatively speaking, still young, I headed out, willing my chair to the couple who had been patiently standing beside me for 2 hours; I would have stayed longer, but I needed to ensure I didn’t completely lose my hearing.

I great night at the end of a great week.

And proof that, if you live on the Island long enough, it will reveal its fringe benefits to you at unexpected moments.

Thank you, bathtub.