12:23:53 am on
Monday 01 May 2017

A Reminiscence
Sjef Frenken

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Bill Hawkins, recently, then and once upon a time

It’s been a few months since Jack’s death.

What brought that fact to my attention today was that I learned of the demise of my old friend Bill Hawkins – Ottawa’s poet-singer-songwriter-taxi driver.

If there is a waiting room in the beyond, where the plusses and minuses of one’s life have been painstakingly documented and are now being carefully weighed, it seems to me that there’s a good chance that Bill will run into Jack. It would take quite some time to assess the heaven-worthiness of either man, and no assessor is likely to be in a rush – think eternity here.

I doubt the two ever met while amongst the living, at least I never heard the one mention the other. They didn’t move in the same circles. And yet I think they would have got along quite well.

Did they have anything in common? Let us count the ways:

Bill was a poet, above all other things; Jack was not.

Bill wrote songs; Jack did not.

Bill for much of his life earned a living driving a taxi; Jack was a civil servant, although a restive one.

Bill (except for one foray into Mexico, and a brief visit to the West Coast) was tethered to Ottawa, although by driving a taxi he was always on the move, so to speak; Jack couldn’t wait to get on the road to faraway places.

Bill had female admirers, but they mostly came to him; Jack, on the other hand, for most of his life was a hunter, ever on the move for his next target.

So, on the face of it, the two didn’t have much in common. And yet …

Perhaps it was their creativity, their mental agility, their cerebral gymnastics that would have struck a sympathetic chord between them. Bill as a poet and songwriter played with words, images and notes; Jack juggled with words and ideas. Bill would have a dragon pull a barrel organ; Jack would put a cart before the horse.

Both were full of life.

And now they’re not.

It’s our loss.


Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.

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