Friday 30 Sep 2016

Squaring the Circle
David Simmonds

A reader, not my mother, the other reader, recommended I read a book entitled “Clochemerle”; so I did. Written in the 1920’s, is a farcical story of how a republican mayor in a small village deep in tier two French wine country thumbs his nose at the clergy by erecting a urinal directly in front of the church. This reignites old grudges, civic unrest and military intervention, while sparking some quite frisky behaviour. 

I think I was being invited to draw a 'life imitates art' comparison to the newly constructed public washroom now dominates the western aspect of the United Church parking lot, But what’s to compare? I haven’t seen any resurrected grudges, civil unrest or military intervention. If the frisky behaviour is rampant, it must be in other people's domains where Pierre Trudeau would never take the state. So, much I would love to draw a parallel, I can't see any basis for the comparison.

It got me to thinking: what projects in this burgh generate civic pride? Clearly, not this one, because there has been no outcry about the rumoured $120,000 cost of the new facility, even if the solar powered faucets didn’t work on Canada Day; nor has there been an appreciable uptick in the use of the facility to suggest people are treating it as some sort of shrine. 

Meanwhile, our new “Wellington and District Community Centre” is officially opening November 28; mark it down. I’ve taken the tour and the place is truly impressive. We will all take pride in it, even though it is a little difficult to imagine cheerleaders popping up and down yelling “yeah, yeah, Wellington and District Community Centre, aka the Dukedom.” I asked those in the know whether we were now in the big leagues and had to come up with a big league nickname like "the hangar" or "the garage," for instance, "the barn" or "the cement mixer", but I was politely told I need not bother.

Yet, this is very subjective. I still hear rumblings that we need a public works project worthy of our village. To be more precise, I hear word that Wellington deserves a roundabout. After all, Picton has one. 

Would a roundabout work in Wellington? Off the top, it seems like a bit of a challenge. We couldn’t put it at the Belleville Road and Main intersection because, well, because the LCBO parking lot is heavily used, and you wouldn't want to trifle with the privileges of the drinking public. Who pay Mr. McGuinty quite generously every time they leave one of his stories. And if it went in at the Wharf and Main intersection, you wouldn’t be able to create much of a circle unless you knocked down the Foodland and half a dozen other buildings. The best you could hope for would be a tiny island in dead centre into which you could shoehorn a statue of, say, the Duke of Wellington directing traffic, or a rotating display of prize winning pumpkins. It would be more a traffic do-si-do, and allemang right, rather than a traffic circle.

I suppose you could put a traffic circle with just two spokes at each end of the village, just to say we had one that in the aggregate equalled Picton's, and dress it up with some of those portentous signs that say ‘traffic calming in effect’. Not the day-to-day traffic needs much calming by it gets to Wellington; in fact, it gets quite exciting when a tractor rumbles through the village leaving muddy footprints. Maybe you put one where our vibrant new growth will someday take place, at the intersection of Belleville Road and Gilead Road. It would probably be a more successful homebuyer lure than a golf course.

Perhaps, we should settle for some other roadwork: an overpass, perhaps, or collector lanes. A stretch of highway divided, maybe.

None of that seems very Wellington. We are prudent and practical - we don’t do things just for flash and show. Nor do we want something just because someone else has it: that would be beneath us. No, we want something demonstrably better, so those Picton Joneses are left eating our dust.

So how do we square that circle: prudent and practical, but better?

I have an idea, even thought the phrase that sends my wife running for cover. I suggest a traffic circle, suspended, with cars and trucks driving underneath; a traffic circle that uses universal standard and is useful. It would add beauty to what is patently ugly. I suggest a traffic circle that would cost next to nothing; that would involve all levels of government as well as the public, say, a federal facility, provincial energy efficiency standards, with local design, construction and service? This project has begged for completion, according to the management of the property in question, for some 20 plus years. That would do Wellington proud.

In case you want to treat this as a puzzle, the answer is upside down below. Here’s a clue. If you become uncomfortable during the opening ceremonies, there’s a brand new washroom right across the street. It might not be in fully working order yet. By the way, is anyone feeling frisky?

My idea is to build an up-side-down clock.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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