Nov 2019

Unless otherwise credited, all words and photographs are © David Ritchie and may not be used without permission.


Nov 24   Thoughtful thriftiness. Are you a thrift store prowler? Search for that retro fashion find that’s sure to be a hit at the party? Do you secretly dream of discovering a valuable painting behind that cheesy framed print of cigar-smoking dogs playing poker?

None of the above is motivation for me to visit a thrift store. I shop for different reasons.

First, my Scottish DNA drools at a bargain-  if it’s an item that I need.
Next is the feel-good recycling factor of donating and buying useful goods.
No sales tax is always a win.

Last week I was searching for a toaster. I haven’t had a toaster that lasted more than five years, so only a bargain will do, and something simple that doesn’t beep at me. Put bread in, push down tab to start toasting.

I scored. A simple toaster, older and hopefully, reliable. As in it won’t die a sudden death because I demand that it, well, actually toasts the bread regardless of thickness or variety. The best part: a $5 price tag.

But it gets better. The thrift store is moving to a larger location and everything was half-price. A $2.50 toaster to warm a Scotsman’s blood. A bargain works as well as a single malt.

The art find I mentioned earlier? A few months ago I found a set of pristine watercolour prints from A Silent World portfolio of Edward Hopper works, published in 1960. The price? The staggering sum of $4, and no taxes.

“I feel good about taking things to Goodwill and actually, I do like shopping at Goodwill. It’s so cheap that it feels like a library where I am just checking things out for a while until I decide to take them back.”  April Foiles


Best of luck to the Hamilton TiCats in today’s Grey Cup. The TiCats have certainly given their fans a lot of joy this season with an unbeaten at home streak and the best record in the CFL. They deserve to be there.

Post-Game  Well, that was not the expected game. Hamilton really sh*t the bed.


Nov 14  Another word trend that can’t die soon enough.

I thought it would have perished by now, but the annoying trend of beginning a sentence with the word so continues.

Listening to an extended radio interview today really torqued me. It was a scientific topic featuring an agricultural expert. He prefaced every answer with the word so. I wanted to reach into the radio and bitch-slap some sense into the fool.

A look at the dictionary produced many definitions of the adverb, but not one of them fits the current usage, ie beginning a sentence with the word so. The nearest definition is referring back to something previously mentioned. Doesn’t fit.

Not one question in that interview began with, “Why does the … act that way?” as an example. In which case, it would have been appropriate to answer with “So that..”

It’s rampant, like a bad rash. Do we jump on these trends to appear current? At times it sounds like a non-answer by a slimy politician trained in the art of evading questions, never answering directly.

Q. Where is the peanut butter?

A. So, I thought I’d build a sandwich, but there was no bread.


“The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand.”  Lewis Thomas 1919-1993


Nov 13 Canada’s Van Gogh?

My July 15 post spoke of a motorcycle journey to Owen Sound and visits to the Tom Thomson gallery, as well as discovering his grave at the nearby Leith family home. It was a moving experience for me to have a legend come alive in my memory.

I’ve long admired the art of the Group of Seven, perhaps the first artists to give us a glimpse of our uniquely Canadian identity. An identity that showed our land and our relation to it in an unadorned, unsentimental fashion. Neither Paul Peel romantic nor Cornelius Krieghoff heroic idealism.

It’s interesting that Krieghoff was a Dutchman who spent little time in Canada, preferring the social life of Paris. He died in Chicago. Peel, although born in London, Ontario, studied in the US and Paris, France where he died. They both received awards and praise from the Paris Salon.

Thomson and his fellow artists preferred life at home developing their own Canadian impressionist style- a straightforward and honest look at our land and cities.

northern-lights-1917.jpg              Northern Lights  by Tom Thomson

John Little’s new book, Who Killed Tom Thomson, calls Tom, “Canada’s Vincent Van Gogh”. While I won’t debate that statement there’s no denying the accusation posed by the book title. In case we missed the point the sub-text reads, “The truth about the murder of one of the 20th century’s most famous artist.”

I’ve read several books about Thomson and his death. Most allude to the very sketchy details of his death, with perhaps equal opinions as to the cause. Yes, there are accusations of murder but drowning is the accepted verdict.

I never believed that he drowned and I do not think his body is in the Leith family plot. You’ll have to read the book to get the whole picture but one event alone is enough to convince me.

Due to Thomson’s body being immersed in the waters of Canoe Lake for 10 days it was necessary to bury the badly decomposing corpse quickly before a proper autopsy could be performed. Later, the Thomson family requested disinterment and shipping of the body to Leith.

An undertaker from Huntsville was tasked with the grizzly job. This is where it gets strange. Refusing any help he supposedly dug down six feet, removed the oak casket and the wood box from within, transferred the body to a solid metal casket, sealed it with solder and back-filled the grave.

All that he accomplished alone, in three hours. At night, in the middle of July. Have you experienced a warm July night in Algonquin Park? Ferocious swarms mosquitos feast on flesh, enough to drive people and animals mad. There was no Backwoods Off in 1917.

The author has a personal connection to the story and wisely takes a backseat. He gathers facts and evidence and presents it to two provincial police homicide detectives for forensic scientific analysis.

No spoiler alerts here, read the book. It’s a fine murder mystery about a gifted artist whose life was far too short.

Who Killed Tom Thomson?: The Truth about the Murder of One of the 20th Century’s Most Famous Artists

by John Little

ThompsonGrave.jpg                        Does the casket actually contain a body? Did he really drown?


Nov 7  Custom Framing Fail. Proper framing materials and techniques on the Framing Information page mentions the classic bad image backing- cardboard.

A new low has been reached, and I almost lost bladder control laughing at what I uncovered when removing a photo from a frame.

I was asked to scan and restore a framed photo purchased at auction. The photo is of historic importance, although it is a reproduction. Nevertheless, all photos should be framed properly if any permanence is desired.

I’m no longer shocked at what I find when dismantling frames, but I almost lost control when this photo “backing” made an appearance.


Fortunately, it hadn’t been in the frame for an extended time and there was only minor staining (from the acidic cardboard) on the reverse side of the photo.

Pepis: you owe me a pizza for advertising. Thin crust, veg with hot peppers, please. Delivered. It appears that the nearest location is Kitchener, so you’ve got at least an hour’s drive. It better be hot when it arrives.

A reader writes: “Holy crap, was that a used pizza box or a fresh one? I hope it was not professionally framed because that would be unbelievable. The care you put into framing is awesome. If people only knew how many crappy framers are out there.”

Thanks for that, and yes, it was a used box. Fortunately, the lid.  Pepis still owe me a pizza. And nobody who uses cardboard should consider themselves a professional.


The photograph from the frame is interesting. It appears to be from the late 1890s to the first decade of the 20th century.

StationPortDover.jpgReproduction of an early postcard


StationPortDover copy.jpg

The people are interesting. Kids being kids, a boy looks up at the mighty steam engine. Every man and woman wearing a hat, the formal dress of the adults. Ladies: no ankles showing, please! Except there is one daring lady with scandalous skin exposed. Find her in the cropped image.

The lady alone by the wall on the right has a pensive quality. Isolated from the crowd, hand raised to her chin, gaze averted.

Is she lost in thought? Avoiding the attention of the gentleman to her right? Uneasy about travelling?

We make up own stories looking at old photos, don’t we? That’s the power of photography, stopping time.


Nov 6  Obituary entertainment. My fixation on current word usage has included the US use of “wrecked“, cliches & platitudes (scroll down), and further back in my first rant in which “passed away” was mentioned.

Passed away was the most sensitive, feel-good, it’s-not-so-bad, whitewash of the verb died to date, but the stakes are raised in this obit:

” *** passed onto his glory”   That sure is a mouthful.

Why dress up death, make it attractive? This is gonna be great, you’ll love it, rapture, glory! 

Then decry teen suicides.

George Carlin called it “Soft language”, taking the life out of life.” He states his case perfectly here, beginning with toilet paper becoming bathroom tissue. 

I never tire of watching: George was a genius comic and observer of life.



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