As any keen-eyed reader will already have noticed, the time has finally arrived for the demolition of the (almost) in the headline to these Chronicles.
Rather to my surprise, the great day has arrived, and passed. I have moved into my Tenth Decade at last. In other words, I have had my 90th birthday. When I turned 80 I had this idea to write a regular chronicle from my ninth decade, and did so for 20 or so days, before allowing it to drift off. Then as my 90th began to approach, I had the same idea for my Tenth Decade, but sometime in December I began to feel I would never make it to the day, so I began to write the Chronicles on, I think it was Dec 22.
For almost two months I wrote a 1500 word article every day of the week, taking time off for weekends. It became almost like a full-time job. And I didn’t have any trouble thinking up subjects to write about. Occasionally I cribbed from a book I had published about my working life, but since hardly anyone ever read the book, I figured my few readers would never have heard the stories before (except possibly my children, to whom I may have told every story by word-of-mouth.) Eventually it became a little more difficult to think of what to write about, but my son Thom kept urging me on, while saying I didn’t need to write one every day. When I began to say I felt that the effort was getting close to fizzling out, he said I would have to write one explaining why.
In addition, Thom said that every Chronicle seemed to have the material for half a dozen novels, if only I would allow myself to go in deeper. Still, what I learned to do during my life was to write a journalistic article, and these, by definition, were not even close relations to novels.
Well, anyway, here I am, 90 years of age, the very age at which elderly people are widely accepted as overflowing with wisdom, although in my experience, this wisdom has turned out to be extremely simplistic in nature, and worth not much more than the burbling of a five-year-old child. In any case, as Robert Benchley, the American humourist, once wrote, (claiming it was a maxim from the Chinese, which, of course, it wasn’t), “too much wisdom gets on the wise man’s nerves.” I haven’t written these Chonicles to exhibit any wisdom, but merely to show that at 90 I can still remember a few things from the distant past, can still write a literate sentence, and am not to be pitied or condescended to just because of my age.
The fact is, like most journalists of my acquaintance, I have gathered a smidgen of information on a whole lot of subjects. What use this is apart from enabling one to write the occasional article, I have never been able to discover. On one occasion I actually taught in a university for a few months: and when I was finished they offered me the chance to create a course on environmental journalism. (A neighbouring university wanted me to run heir extension programmes for a year while the regular inhabitant was on sabbatical). It was when considering these offers that my inadequacies were laid bare to me with a startling clarity. I could no more have designed any course whose object was to transfer information to younger people, than I could fly to the moon. And as for organizing a programme of study, I ask you! Who could possibly ever want to do such as thing? So I thanked them profusely for their misplaced confidence in me, and headed off with my tail between my legs to carry on with what I hoped would be a viable life as a freelance journalist.
This could have been a disaster. I had four children to support, and was sort of expecting to make a living off the CBC. That organization hired me for two jobs in the next 40 years, so that source of income was never open to me. And I was really fortunate that the National Film Board, by sheer accident, stepped into the breach with an offer of some research work for them that developed into some actual film-making (even though I had no experience in film-making, and, as they well knew, I didn’t know one end of a camera from the other, and still don’t, 30 films later).
I think it is here that I have to repeat something that I never tire of repeating: from my birth in 1928 I have lived an almost magically favored existence. I was too young to really be affected by the Great Depression of the 1930s, which hung over the heads of my older brothers like the sword of Damocles, dominating their teen years; I was too young to go to the Second World War, into which three of my older brothers were conscripted, chasing the Germans and Japanese around the Pacific and the Egyptian desert and fighting up through Italy, while I was having a cheerful life running, jumping and playing games throughout my four years of high school; and then, when I quit school at 17 in 1945, I embarked on my working life in a world that, for the next twenty-five years, until 1970, was living through possibly the most favoured years that humanity had ever known --- favoured in terms of full employment; favoured in terms of equable global climate conditions giving rise to wonderful growing seasons; favoured in terms of (compared with these days) relative freedom of movement around the world.
If you put all that together with the accident that I discovered I could write a decent sentence quickly, without too much trouble, and you will be able to see how fortunate I have been in my life.
And that’s about all I have to offer in the way of wisdom.