Saturday, March 06, 2010

REDUX 1: Not Wanted on the Voyage (Sept.00)

As already noted, this was the inaugural Grouse column back in the last year of the old century and millennium, which, of course, was 2000 - you wanna argue about that??


Well, yes, I know that! Grouses technically don’t perch. I thought that in taking wing, so to speak, with this the first of what will become -- given the power of public demand -- a long series of not so amicable perspectives on the world near and far, I’d give you (those few who know or care to distinguish passerines-- perchers -- from phasianids - literally, pheasantish things) at least the first complaint.

Now, down to business at hand. And speaking of creatures whose plumage far exceeds what is necessary for the ordinary conduct of one’s affairs, my first topic concerns the very pinnacle of formal authority in this fair province of British Columbia, his vice-regalness, the Lieutenant-Governor, the very honourable Garde Gardom, QC, who in early incarnations served the Bennett government and more recently opined how BC at the time of George Vancouver’s visit only needed the presence of humans to fulfill its destiny (somehow forgetting that there were already more than a few indigenous folks wandering about the future province).

Notwithstanding, it was with cardiac palpitations that I opened a gilded letter and learned of the latest perk in my brief tenure as your faithful Area D Director (Central Coast Regional District): The Honourable Mr. And Mrs. Gardom requested the pleasure of my ever so humble company aboard the HMCS Regina one fine late summer evening in September 2000.

Now I know very well that in the echelon of real political power the Lieutenant Governor stands somewhere in importance between the deputy assistant to chief legislative janitor and her majesty’s royal rodent exterminator. But, no matter, I have a confession: I am a devoted royalist (and I hasten to say that this disposition preceded indeed managed to survive the overblown claptrap that grew up around the life and death of the late Princess of Wales). I think having a chief nobody who, in very rare historic circumstances of legislative and/or executive insanity can exercise his or her prerogative, is a remarkable if serendipitous safeguard against American-style nut-bar leadership.

This and the fact that many the summer evening passes in beautiful downtown Bella Coola when there is -- may I say ? -- something of a dearth of entertainment options, made me anticipate with uncharacteristic enthusiasm this coming pomp and circumstance. We the elected were to be ferried out to the royals’ yacht at precisely 6 o’clock for goodness-knows-what ceremonial and gustatory delights!

Especially given the issuance of the invitation by both Mr. Gardom and the missus, I assumed that my long suffering wife, Sue Ellen, and other spouses of the select invitees would be welcomed on this excursion. But being a man of proper protocol myself I thought it best to confirm and so called one Allison Collins, the designated staff person on the invitation.

To my surprise my modest request met with a polite but firm “no way, José”. The good Miss Collins explained with great and firm patience that spouses were not invited because that would lead to excessive numbers and thereby limit the total number of regional dignitaries on the list. Maybe they’d run low on hors d’oevres. Perhaps the tub would tip. No congestion, please, at this floating levee!

I was caught quite off guard because I had never heard of a reception by royalty, or its proxies, which treated so offhandedly the critical role spouses play in making public life bearable. I sputtered out something about knowing that there would be room because I knew of several RSVPs already conveyed to the Lt.Gov. But Ms. Collins knew the self-promulgated laws of the voyage was unyielding. She explained that if an exception were made for any one of us, why others would be very upset.

And now I did get offended. The belief that community leaders of the Central Coast would break out in petty bickering over such a matter spoke volumes of an unflattering image apparently held about Central Coasters by our more southern, urbane and presumptively “civil” servants. Seeing the unrelenting nature of Ms. Collins on the matter, I informed her that the pleasure of my company aboard the vice-regal vessel was not to be had that evening. Then, as is my wont, I dispatched an e-mail to Mr. Gardom’s office to this effect:

“As explained over the phone we locally elected officials work on an entirely volunteer basis and are required to spend many evenings away from our loved ones, not on pay like provincial politicians or government staff but pro bono. To expect that we would want to go out on a Friday evening solo is, to say the least, insensitive. It is especially grating to see that his Honour, Mr. Gardom is co-hosting this event, at taxpayer's expense, with HIS spouse. Protocol and respect would dictate that the invitation be similarly and equitably extended to our spouses.”

“The fact that there were absences from your original invitation list (of which I am aware by official communication) but that inappropriate "rules" limiting attendance are still being enforced because you think there would resentment, displays added evidence of disrespect for the leaders of our region. We are much too busy around here trying to do our jobs as political leaders to be so childish.”

Alas, I have not had the favour of a response and two weeks have passed. Not to worry. My late, dear Uncle George told me that each of life’s tribulations is really a teacher, and, oh, haven’t I learned quite a bit what protocol – and common courtesy – means at BC’s loftiest governing altitudes!

Reduxing the Grouse

It usually can be only the widely acclaimed -- which the Grouse is not - to get away with regurgitating old columns as if they are or should be held with general reverence by the readership. Nonetheless, the felicitous coincidence of having run in to a rather busy spell away from Grousing and, part of that busy-ness, doing some long overdue housekeeping on my various hard drives and related storage devices, thereby finding past writings - that I want to put out into Blogland a few forgotten "treasures." These are from the glory days of the Grouse's Perch and the Coast Mountain news.

As noted briefly elsewhere on this blog, the Grouse really began in September, 2000, when I got royally pissed off by the BC Lieutenant Governor who sailed his yacht into North Bentinck Arm at Bella Coola pre-inviting elected officials of which, I was one (Area D representative on the Central Coast Regional District). Sounded like a lark even if it might mean having to tidy myself up, something I am rarely inclined to do. Just for courtesy, never for a moment expecting anything but an enthusiastic "yes" I called to confirm that spouses could attend. The startling answer was "no" and from that sprang the much ruffled first grouse that soon became a regular column.

So such as they are I shall mount a number of those much earlier grousings, opening, as needed with some context-giving.

Hope you enjoy this waddle down memory lane...