Re-Tour Day Thirteen, Regina Day One

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

We knew this Re-Tour would become its own saga. After the previews and five ports of call (we are in the midst of the fifth), we are beginning to see what that looks like. There remains the possibility, of course, that it will evolve differently, but here are the emerging strands:

Wonderful hospitality and conversations. We won’t mention people by name until we have permission, but they know who they are. Another one this morning at the Regina Public Library where we will talk-and-tell Thursday afternoon before moving on to Saskatoon.

Variable driving weather. We have travelled about 3200 kleacocks so far, with about 450 through the snow and then high winds from Sioux Lookout to Winnipeg, and perhaps another 80 yesterday as we passed Portage La Prairie on our way to Regina. Not bad for the time of year. The rest of the time the conditions have been excellent.

The Laughing Leacock, the one people know about if they recognize the name at all, still holds his charm. People who come to our concerts to hear him have gone away well amused.

The Thinking-and-Advocating Leacock, the one we would like people to discover and remember, is a totally different person. People are intrigued by him, there’s no doubt about that, once they hear. But in general they are not intrigued enough beforehand to come out. Attendance has been sparse at most of our talk-and-tell events, unless they were sponsored by an organization (such as an historical society) that people trust.

The Human Leacock, the man with his own story which is hot the stories and ideas he wrote (even when he was telling his own story — he is a singularly inaccurate teller of that) is proving as interesting to people as we hoped it would. But how can we get the word out so that people will know? By the time our presence has registered in the words of mouths we are gone. All the social media posts, web site posts, e-mails, etc. that were within our means, and all the work of our local partners, may not have been enough. We had neither funds nor time to do more, which is a pity.

Still, the Re-Tour will be what it will be. We will plant the seeds and nurture them well in the months and years ahead. This process, this organized quest to remember properly a great Canadian literary figure, is a worthy cause, not only with respect to him, but many others.

If we, in some meaningful collective sense, can forget Stephen Leacock, and remember him inaccurately in the little we do, then what else that matters in our history can we forget, or remember inaccurately? That is a sobering thought, because if Leacock is correct when he says that the past is included in the present, and if Sellar and Yeatman are correct when they say, somewhat jocularly, that “History is not what you thought, it is what you can remember”, then what are we if our memories are bad? If they are deliberately bad, because powers and influences around us want them to be bad, and we lack motivation to straighten them out?

Memory. Memory. Memory. That’s what this Re-Tour is becoming. Not only itself a remembrance, but a testimony to the need for remembrance.

One further note: When we are at home, in the midst of our “own quiet and measured existence” (Leacock), age does not impinge unduly, An expedition like this, more suited to younger constitutions, brings out the age. Leacock was sick for most of his tour. We understand why. We are not there yet, but we are feeling our age.

But never mind. Onward!


Re-Tour Day Twelve: Winnipeg to Regina

Monday, October 30, 2017

Back on the Prairies again, and all that goes with them, including great vistas of gently rolling country, huge fields, and blowing snow. The snow, however, was limited to the area around Portage La Prairie — something to do with the lakes, no doubt — but we simply drove through it with scarcely a bulge in the pulse. We who live in the land of real lake-effect snow, surrounded by giant lakes with real snow-power, are quite happy to take prairie lake-effect snow in stride.

We are aware, of course, that the prairie when riled has other tricks, and we may see them before we are done. But for the time being the prairie has done its bit and we have weathered it.

With only 575 kleacocks to drive, and a reservation waiting for us at the Hotel Saskatchewan when we got there, we drove relaxed and easy, taking our time. The road is four lanes and well maintained, the scenery is beautiful, and we had a good day.

The Hotel Saskatchewan, where Leacock stayed, turned out to be just right even in its renovated form (or maybe especially in its renovated form) and we have settled in for a pleasant stay, a little more luxurious than our customary, but most welcome.

We decided to splurge a little on supper, which we were able to do with the enthusiastic cooperation of the Copper Kettle Restaurant across the street.


Re-Tour Day Nine, Winnipeg Day Two

Friday, October 27th, 2017

One event today, in the evening, with the Winnipeg Storytelling Guild at the Strong Badger Coffeehouse. Most pleasant.

In the afternoon we enjoyed scintillating conversation with cousins Rae and Winston, yielding much to think about and follow up after the tour.

Winnipeg was a fabled place for Leacock, for family reasons, and the footprint remains. Follow-up on Ralph Connor, a Leacock contemporary, also clearly necessary. A man of his time, who wrote for his time, as Leacock did. Leacock also wrote for our time. Did Ralph Connor, or is his present obscurity justified? Leacock’s certainly is not.

Memory forever!


Re-Tour Day Eight: Sioux Lookout to Winnipeg, then two events

Snow, snow, and more snow, then high winds. Driving difficult but simple enough once we got the rhythm. Seven hours to travel 440 kleacocks.

The very latest we could arrive at the Fort Garry Hotel to meet our obligations there would be 2:00 pm. We arrived at 1:58. Precision driving!

Met there by Winnipeg storyteller Sue Proctor, who invited us to stay at her home, an unexpected and most welcome invitation. Comfort indeed.

In the evening the University Women’s Club at their Ralph Connor House: wonderful meal, wonderful audience, wonderful conversations. Some expressed determination to read more Leacock. That’s what we want.



Re-Tour Day Seven: Sioux Lookout Day One and Only

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

We arranged to come here when we thought we might travel by train. We might have cancelled when we decided to drive, but chose not to. We are glad we did, because we received a wonderful northern town welcome and had a most excellent time. Meredith the town’s culture and museum manager a real gem.

Two events: a talk with high school students in the afternoon, a rare and special treat, and then an evening concert in the Legion Hall. A warm audience indeed including Annie, daughter of friend Irene on Bruce Peninsula.

A memorable day.

Re-Tour Day Six: Thunder Bay Day Two

Skeleton Post, Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A very busy day indeed — four events — Lakehead University, Port Arthur Rotary Club, Thunder Bay Public Library Mary Black Branch, and Thunder Bay Museum.

This may be the busiest day of the whole Re-Tour.

Leacock is proving interesting and entertaining, but whether that will help much with the memory problem remains to be seen. As in battle, the immediate outcome is one thing, pursuit quite another.