06:48:36 am on
Sunday 21 Jul 2024

David Simmonds

It’s been a week filled with disappointments, so the least I can do is to share them with you. They came in the form of Thomas the Tank Engine, Dental Floss and Hank Williams.  

Thomas the Tank Engine is first.

I grew up in England, during the last years of the steam train era. My grandparents lived right across the street from railway tracks. When I heard a train coming, I would, like any other eight year old boy, of the time, rush out to exchange waves with the crew. 

When there was no train to wave at, I would eagerly browse the books of the Rev W H Awdry, the “Railway Series,” featuring Thomas the Tank Engine, Henry the Green Engine, Gordon the Big Engine and so on.  As an adult, I was excited when the “Thomas and Friends” animated series came to television; especially, as Ringo Starr, my favourite “Beatle,” narrated the initial episodes. Gradually, Thomas the Tank Engine wooden trains and other paraphernalia have become ubiquitous. Just the other day, hotels in New York and London announced new Thomas-themed rooms, for children, of course.

Alack and alas, just the other day, the Toronto based company, which produces “Thomas and Friends,” locked out its 500 employees. Apparently, its creditors lost confidence it could manage to produce Thomas and his friends at the same time as a “major animated movie” called, “Blazing Samurai.” Why does no one put out minor motion pictures? I hope that the Thomas phenomenon is bigger than is its defunct current creator and will survive in some form or other, free from samurai or creditor attacks, blazing or otherwise. 

On to dental flossing.

The US government has discredited flossing. There was no creditable scientific evidence to support its position that flossing is one element of a combined approach to effective dental care; so, the statement was withdrawn.  At the same time, the Associated Press released a report that examined twenty-five studies looking at flossing and brushing as opposed to flossing alone. These studies concluded that the evidence supporting flossing was weak or unreliable and carried a moderate to large potential for bias.

Flossing is one of those activities with no secondary benefits. Compare it to going for a walk. Even if the experts are wrong and the exercise does you no good, at least you’re out getting some fresh air; if you’re walking beside the Loyalist Parkway, near Wellington, Ontario, exhaust fumes, which may also conceivably be pronounced good for you some day. 

Even flossing, you’re just standing in front of your bathroom mirror, contorting your face, as you pull string through the gaps between your molars. Am I not entitled to feel a tad indignant that I have spent the best years of my life perfecting a skill that has no utility? I could have spent the time training to be an Olympic shot putter. Dentists have some ‘splaining to do. 

That takes us to Hank Williams.

I love Classic Country music. Hank Williams is the undisputed king of Classic Country. I asked the Wellington library staff, which, until now, have welcomed suggestions, if they would show the recent Williams biopic, “I Saw the Light,” on monthly movie night. 

I figured that, following the lead of movies like those about Johnny Cash, Ray Charles and James Brown, the music would justify the cost of the free ticket, even if the film were not of much interest. Well, the music was good and the lead actor looked terrific, in an embroidered white suit and hat.  Frankly, the movie was terrible.

Williams was portrayed, okay, let’s even say he was accurately portrayed, as a two-timing drunkard, but the viewer was given absolutely no insight into what drove him to create his avalanche of still popular hits. Even as a film about a two-timing drunkard, it was nigh impossible to follow. I just managed to refrain from cheering, when the ‘plot’ finally reached that fateful New Year’s Day, of 1953, knowing the film would soon end.

As the credits rolled, I actually felt a twinge of sympathy for all the people who had worked on the movie. Their names were indelibly associated it. They could have been out having a riotous time as insurance claims adjusters or taxidermists.

I almost offered cash compensation to the other few people who had made the voluntary decision to watch it. In case any of you are reading this column, note that I said “almost’ and used the past tense; everybody was free to storm out. I couldn’t because as it was I who had asked for the movie and etiquette demanded I stay to the end and be miserable. 

Three disappointments, but I’ll have you know I have made it through them and come out a better man for it. Of course, if some serious tragedy were to happen, say the Tall Poppy closing down, I don’t know how I’d cope.


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, not infrequently laced with savage humour. 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 Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and 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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