Metropolitan Homesick Blues

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I walked the Cemetery Road the other morning. It leads to the remains of Southampton’s original cemetery that lies, long since abandoned on a high, crumbling cliff overlooking the Saugeen River. This road is always at winter’s mercy, as the Town doesn’t maintain it except in late spring.


A cold east wind soughed through the trees. There was a chill in the air even though the sun did its best to pierce the battlement-like tall cedars that lined each side of the road. The shade from these trees is the reason for the slow melt on the forest floor. Even so, water runs freely in the ditches that hug the shoulders of the damp, rutted, pot-holed road. Overhead a Bald Eagle inscribes lazy circles in an unbelievably blue sky. A sentinel Crow sounds the alarm as I round a turn out of sunshine into shade.

On the road, a short distance ahead of me, I see a man, slightly stooped, slowly walking with the aid of a cane, his gait steady, measured, deliberate. It isn’t long before I’m beside him, my pace now moderated to match his.

“Good morning.” I say. “Great day for a walk.”

He stopped. Smiled. Nodded. “Indeed it is.”

We walked, side by side for a ways, talking of nothing in particular and everything in general. His eyes were bright blue. His smile suggested gentleness. He wore a greying mustache that gave him the rakish look of someone who flew Lancaster Bombers in World War Two. His leather Bomber Jacket with a fur collar fit perfectly with the mental picture I was drawing of my new companion.

“That’s quite a camera you have there. You must be a photographer.”

“No.” I said. “I play at photography. Just a hobby.”

“I had a Mamiya 6. Got it after the war. Fine camera…a lot different than what you’ve got there.”

“Times change,” I said politely.

At that moment I felt myself becoming impatient with the slowness of our walk. That if I wanted to keep chatting, I was compelled to move at his pace. I wondered if he was aware that because of our chance meeting, he had slowed me down…forcing me, however subtly, into his world.

Don’t be ridiculous, I thought. Then again, don’t we all do that every day of our lives…gently steer people to meet us on our terms…to agree with our outlook on life…our thinking…our opinions…to move at our pace? And more often than not, our resistance is a source of conflict in our lives.

“I think I’ll head home now” His words broke through my silly train of thought. “I’ve gone far enough.”

He had no thoughts other than a pleasant walk with a stranger. On this quiet country road this elderly gentleman had reached his limit. I watched him retrace his path leaning on his cane more than before; shoulders hunched…his step a little slower now. “Cemetery Road,” I muttered to myself.

I picked up my usual pace and moved on…not sure of when I would turn back. Before I rounded a corner I glanced over my shoulder, but he was nowhere in sight.

Regrettably, I never asked him his name.


Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

April 20, 2015 at 3:13 PM


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Sun shadows fall on the diminished snow and wind wicks away whatever white grains remain as the contradiction of sun and cold conspire to sacrifice only the surface, revealing nothing but more of the same. Winter is not yet done with us. 

snow rise2

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

March 22, 2014 at 2:56 PM


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Eight years ago, when the thought of retirement began to creep into the routine of our frenetic city life, the idea of finding quietude and simplicity in a place close to nature became a worthy objective. We knew of Southampton. Friends of ours retired in this simple summer town spreading up from the shore of Lake Huron at the mouth of the Saugeen River. The Bruce Peninsula, with all its natural allure and waiting-for-us-to- discover trails, was full with the promise of a much simpler life. Saugeen Shores would be the ideal choice for us. Oh, we were aware of the size of the nearby Bruce Nuclear Plant. Yes, we saw the Wind Turbines at the Information Centre. But we never gave either a second thought. We found our Shangri La, so to speak. The quiet contentment we were looking for would be all around us.

Not so today.

There is a fault line running under the length of Saugeen Shores. Two tectonic plates, one the proliferation of Wind Turbines (especially the C.A.W. Turbine), the other the proposed Deep Geological Repositories (DGR) for Nuclear Waste, shift and grate against each other. This once quiet community has become a community of protestors. Concerned citizens have formed committees against both. There are coalitions, review panels, mountains of research on both sides, accusations against local politicos, a claimed lack of transparency from council and nuclear authorities and the specter of a hosting agreement that suggests that surrounding municipalities are receiving upwards of $500,000 annually to support DGR plans. It is said that these municipalities will be splitting a 34 million dollar windfall by 2034 for their willingness to back the DGR. Conflict of interest, closed door meetings, a lack of transparency and questions of resident support all add to the tremors now shaking the foundations of innocence that once bolstered this town.

It saddens us to see this happen. This kind of controversy isn’t what we expected when we retired here.

Even so, our life hasn’t changed. There is still a slow, simple pace to our daily comings and goings.

With the potential of nuclear waste beneath us and wind turbine turbulence surrounding us, perhaps the magnitude of the controversy will one day change things. Perhaps not.

Right now it matters little. The reality of the DGR, if it happens, is decades away. Past the time when we will even care.

Upcoming generations will be affected. They should get involved now. From what I’ve seen they are not.

Meantime, we will live our lives as we intended. For all of the back-and-forth, the finger-pointing, the denials, the he-said-they-said and the hand-wringing – the sun still shines – most days.


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Controversy is always lying on our doorstep like some tattered old doormat. Big city, small town, wherever you live, wherever you go, controversy finds a way to seep through the cracks of life drawing you into its core. It is invasive, like a weed you can’t get rid of.

I thought I’d avoid controversy when I retired to my small town. What I have sadly discovered is that it is whirling all around me like a hurricane, touching down at will, spreading chaos into every corner of small town life. Some of the damage done is minimal, some major. Some has the potential to permanently and perpetually change what we now have. In my beautiful corner of the world (Southampton, Saugeen Township, Port Elgin) controversy is healthy and destructive.

In the parking lot of their sprawling summer retreat and convention center, the C.A.W. (Canadian Auto Workers) has erected a Wind Turbine that breaks all the setback rules and stands boldly over the homes of concerned citizens. The controversy swirling around this has seen many protests, some quite bitter. The potential of hundreds more Wind Turbines on the North Bruce Peninsula is alarming both permanent and seasonal residents, spurring town hall meetings, media finger-pointing and raucous confrontations with local councils.

Saugeen Shores Council has decided to enter the competition that could result in the burying of all of Canada’s high-level radioactive waste somewhere in our community. This waste would be buried in a Deep Geological Repository (DGR),  in an estimated area of 930 acres below ground and 250 acres above ground; deep enough to hold up to 144,000 metric tonnes of used nuclear fuel bundles that are still radioactive. And if you talk to people on the street, read the flyers, attend the SOS rallies (, council meetings and listen to the interviews, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) aren’t helping to bring a balanced perspective to the situation. The NWMO is totally funded and its Directors appointed by the nuclear industry. They answer to no one except the PMO.

Vilification is in the air. Accusations of ‘who said what and lied to whom’ are part of every conversation. The negative impact of a high lever nuclear DGR is evident people who live here. They worry that this DGR is too close to Lake Huron, they fear quality of life; tourism and property values will suffer. They say we already have the Bruce Nuclear Plant just down the street where they already store low/medium level fuel bundles…why do we want more.

This controversy is far from over. It will rage on for years as people and politicians grapple with the pros and cons, the right and wrong, the morality of the situation. The damage this will do to relationships will probably have a half-life of a generation or two.

Controversy always leaves scars. Unfortunately.

If only folks would take a deep breath, wander down at sunset and read the advice posted on the side of the Range Light at the harbor mouth of the Saugeen River…




 Words to live by.



Winter Sunset on Edward Street

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Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

January 10, 2012 at 5:04 PM


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If you’re a summertime visitor to Southampton and you don’t know your way around town – all you have to do is look up – look waaaay up – and we’ll point you in the right direction.

There are big blue signs – WayFinding Signs – as the municipality calls them – strategically placed at the side of streets in town and roads leading in and out of town, showing you the way to all of our fabled attractions.

And while these WayFinding Signs are probably helpful to first-time tourists, some locals and summer people are not happy with the way they’ve suddenly popped up all over town. Words like ‘ugly,’ ‘unnecessary,’ ‘waste of our tax dollars,’ ‘can’t read and drive at the same time,’ have appeared in the Letters to the Editor column of our weekly newspaper.

Some folks who live here full or part-time are insulted at the insinuation that they might not where the town dump is. In fact one letter-writer was upset that council approved the idea while he was spending winter down south…the cheek of those public servants getting on with business and not waiting for his return. Truth is this WayFInding Sign concept has been on the books for a while. Public meetings have been held and Southampton media outlets have filed stories. You would have to be blind, deaf, illiterate or just not here to miss it.

Anyway, it is my observation that small town folks like to have their say at the strangest times. Reacting after the fact will never convince council to take the signs down. Money has been spent and that’s that.

So, if you’re up our way this summer you can still stop and ask someone how to find the beach.

Or you can just follow the signs.

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

June 1, 2011 at 4:43 PM


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Morning sunrise on my drive to Mac's.

My very first adventure into Blog-Land was an entry about the routine pleasure of venturing out for my morning paper. There’s no home delivery of big city newspapers here in small town Southampton. So each morning after getting up, getting dressed, and getting in my car I ventured into town to Mac’s Milk on Highway 21 to see if the Star had made it from Toronto three hours down the road. No matter what the weather, somewhere between 6:30 and 7:00 AM I’d be at Mac’s making small talk with the not-yet-awake cashier. Twice a week I’d pick up some lottery tickets and hope for the best. (No luck yet!)

It was a routine. A boring pattern. A rut if you want to call it that. A totally personal, predictable, pedestrian 4 season habit that unfolded like clockwork regardless of weather. And I was proud of it.

But then the great god of change began to creep into my life. Store ownership changed. Counter staff changed. And newspaper arrival times changed. Sometimes The Star wasn’t there during my window of arrival.

“Fine.” I would say to my friendly Mac’s attendant. “I’ll take the more expensive Globe & Mail. Better paper anyway.”

But just as my morning newspaper quest became routine, so did the lateness of The Star. The 6:30 – 7:00 AM window expanded to 8:00 – 9:00 AM. I complained gently because I knew it wasn’t Mac’s fault. Their answer was a frustrated shoulder shrug. They had no control over deliveries. My only options, at times, became the Toronto Sun (no thanks) or the Globe. I was reduced to calling the store and asking if the paper had arrived yet because I didn’t want to get there and feel the disappointment of a wasted trip. Nothing could be done.

So, I stopped. Dropped my morning habit cold turkey. No more morning paper for me. After almost six years of doing the same thing day in and day out, I was forced to acknowledge a blip in my simple life. It wasn’t all about me and what I wanted – no – had come to expect. It was some cosmic outside influence, a controlling force extending from Toronto all the way to Southampton setting its own schedule and paying no heed to mine.

I no longer rush out before sunrise. I don’t buy the Toronto Star any more. They’ve driven me to the on-line edition. It’s easier. It’s always there on time. And with gas prices the way they are today, it’s cheaper.

If newspapers complain that their losing readers to the internet…its their own fault.

But I do miss the small talk at Mac’s in the morning.

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

April 8, 2011 at 5:00 PM


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“Have a good winter,” she said.

“You too,” I replied, not realizing exactly what she meant.

Then it quickly struck me. She said, “WINTER, not DAY…Have a nice WINTER.” This wasn’t the customary well-wishing you expect from the friendly salespeople at Highberry Farms.

Looking around I saw that most of the pumpkins were gone. The bins were empty of vegetables. The cupboard was bare so to speak. That’s when I realized that this was ‘goodbye.’ At least until next spring. They were closing down for the winter.

We drove to Smith’s Apple Orchard. The chalkboard out front had SOLD OUT scratched in beside all of the apple varieties. Inside their bins were empty too, except for squash. The last of the apple pies were baked and being scooped up by the few customers that were there. Along with the fresh baked pies, the ladies were grabbing the uncooked frozen pies to store over the long cold months. This was Smith’s last day as well.

Down on the beach, the steel poles for the snow fences are up. Most farmer’s fields are harvested. Hunting season opens tomorrow. Armen’s is closed. There are no motorcycles. Traffic is normal.

All is quiet. Southampton sleeps.

On this last day of October, the town readies itself.

Winter is coming.

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

October 31, 2010 at 4:14 PM


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Ralph Dymer is back at his usual post.

Only this time the concrete bench has been replaced by a lawn chair and a TV Tray.

You will recall from my September 29 entry – The ‘Sign Guy’ Against The Establishment – that Ralph lost his beloved bench to disgruntled neighbours and Town bylaws. But he vowed to return. And he has. Out front – in his usual spot – waiting for the school buses so he can wave at the kids as they lean out the windows waving and calling out to him.

The lawn chair is a fair compromise. The TV Tray holds, among other things, his cigarettes and a portable radio. He’s not totally happy with the wobbliness of the old tray but he says he can’t complain. Ralph is just happy to be back acknowledging the honking horns and passers-by with a big smile.

Ralph plans to hold the fort until Thanksgiving. So come on by before disappears to hibernate for the winter.

Awesome indeed!

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

October 4, 2010 at 4:29 PM


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A long line of muddy water flows out from the harbour into the lake making its way to Chantry Island. It blends with the variying shades of blue and turquoise that line the lake – lighter near shore and darker off towards the horizon.

There is a hint of wind. Just enough to rustle a little surf near shore.The Big Flag isn’t up yet. Next weekend probably. The small flag that’s been there all winter just droops around the pole.

Cars and motorcyles are parked around it. People are out walking. A few chuildren are playing. The odd sunbather is getting an early start on their tan.

The shadow of a gull glides across the freshly raked sand. Following its path eventually leads to a view of it circling in for a landing. It lowers itself effortlessly to the beach and immediately begins to call and scream as only gulls do. It spreads its wings and struts along the sand. They like to announce their presence. You would think that the beach was cleaned and graded just for him.

Not so.

May 24 holiday weekend in only days away. This first official pre-summer holiday will bring in the out-of-towners. And that’s why the snow fences are gone…why the board-walk has been sweep clean…why the benches have been dug out from under the winter sand drifts…why the barricades are up around the few dunes with new beach grass. The “No BIkes – No Dogs On The Beach” sign warns of a $!50.00 fine for transgressors. But, as in seasons past, people will ignore it.

We are getting ready for the summer influx. The crowds with come. Our simple little town will probably double in size. The quiet will disappear and the sound of tourists and summer people will dominate. Good for business…but you’ll have trouble finding a place to park on HIgh Street.

Right now, though, the folks we meet are all smiles. The sky is an unbelieveable blue. The sun is warming. Life will change…but only for a few months.

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

May 16, 2010 at 4:29 PM