Friday 02 Dec 2016

Pancake Politics
David Simmonds

As they have done for eons, the Friends of the Wellington Heritage Museum are holding their self-styled “Famous Canada Day Fundraiser Breakfast” on Canada Day at Town Hall.

It will run from 8-10:30; it will cost eight dollars for a regular breakfast and six dollars for a small breakfast, with a dollar saved on an “early bird” breakfast at an unspecified time; feature pancakes from scratch, syrup, County sausage, strawberry/rhubarb compote, coffee and tea; and offer live entertainment. I am part of the live entertainment, so note my.

This year the Wellington Rescue is holding a pancake breakfast, on Saturday the 23rd, eight days beforehand and at Town Hall. It will also cost eight dollars. It will feature eggs as well as pancakes, sausages, juice, coffee and tea. It starts at 8:30 and there are no-early-bird or small breakfast discounts.

Now admittedly, there are differences between the breakfasts, and they are on distinct weekends and different days, so that tourists may not be here for both events. There is a short, simple philosophical maxim that fits. “A man who is tired of pancakes is tired of life,” in which case, the case is closed. 

The question nags at me a little bit. I have deliberately not tried to ask either breakfast sponsor its views. I haven’t asked either sponsor if expressed or tacit permission exists, one to the other. Nor have I asked whether the Rescue to hold a pancake breakfast so close to the Museum breakfast is cutting in ever so slightly on the Museum’s signature event, which it repeats at Pumpkinfest. 

It’s possible, you could argue, that a person might get the two breakfasts confused or only have the stomach for pancakes once a season, or only have the patience to donate via pancakes every so often.  Certainly, if the Rescue had tried to pip the Museum to the post and book for Canada Day, the Museum would be well within its rights to ask for a first right of refusal. Even on Canada Day itself, our potential rivals for revenue the Anglican and United Churches are scrupulously careful to offer complementary services: the Anglican sandwich lunch, bake sale and tea can dovetail quite handily with the United Church strawberry shortcake, as I can attest from field-testing the proposition. In addition to the churches, the Legion is offering its regular Friday supper on June 29 and then its chicken barbeque on the afternoon of Saturday June 30; while on Canada Day, itself, there will be Rotary ribs in the park between 1:30 and 2:30. Thus, everything ties up, in a loose sort of way, at least for those with the stronger sort of stomach.

Where is the line to be drawn? Is the Rescue going offside? Must we choose between saving our heritage and saving lives at sea? 

Take another example. On Wednesday July 4, the South Bay United Church is hosting a fish fry and craft sale, with tickets priced at $15; and yet on Saturday July 7, its neighbour the Mariner’s Park Museum is also hosting a fish fry dinner, costing $20, but with music by the Frere Brothers. Is that one still closer the line? It might appear to be at first; but then again fresh fish, like the strawberry, has a limited season whereas the pancake is a year round delicacy. The issue is more complex than it might appear.

Do we now have so many fundraisers in the county muscling in on one another’s territory that we are going to have to come up with some sort of adjudication method? Is the president of the Federated Women’s Institutes going to have sit in some darkened back room and listen to supplicants before she decides, godfather-like, which of two organizations has a clear path to a bean supper for a two week period and a 20 kilometre radius? I hope not; and I imagine she would be of the same view.

The solution seems simple. Let the market sort find our way. First, I find it hard to imagine a world in which there are too many pancake breakfast, fish fries, strawberry socials, bean suppers or what have you; and if there are, well then let the better warrior survive. Second, those who have qualms about attending back-to-back events will vote with their feet, and those, if any, who perceived to have muscled in on the territory of a similar event, will feel it in their box office receipts. If they sell out anyway, see point number one.

Bring it on!

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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