10:33:30 pm on
Thursday 18 Jul 2019

Fishwrapped
David Simmonds

I’ve just been fishwrapped. I’m still smarting from the experience. It started innocently.

• For a birthday dinner, we had fish and chips.

I decided to take my wife out for dinner, with a couple of friends, to celebrate her birthday. Nothing too fancy; hearty pub food right here in Wellington, Ontario, sufficed. We chose the Midtown brewery.

I was keen to order the fish and chips, as I had heard good reports of it. When the order came to my place, I was pleased to see the plate lined with a piece of newspaper. This followed the traditional British fish and chip shop practice of wrapping an order up in newspaper.

At first, I couldn’t tell whether it was real newspaper or recreation. As I worked my way through the dish, it became apparent. This was indeed real newspaper.

As I finished my plate, more of the newspaper revealed. I noted, first, that it was the Wellington Times. Quite a bold statement, I thought: using the local paper as fishwrap. At least they were reusing it.

You may recall the Urban Dictionary defines fishwrap as “Slang for any printed journalistic medium … with such low credibility and standards in acceptable journalism that it’s only useful function is to wrap fresh fish in.” I might use the term to describe the late and unlamented Rupert Murdoch publication, News of the World, but surely not the Wellington Times.

I cleaned off my plate. I became aware that this was not just the Wellington Times covered with grease from the fish batter and ketchup from the chips; it was page eight of the 12 December 2018 edition. The oily picture on the page staring out at me with its trademark smirk through the greasy, oily film was my own.

I had truly been fishwrapped. I had one of my friends take a picture of it, just to confirm it was true. See above.

Was this a put up job? Briefly, I suspected my wife and friends. Their protestations of innocence seemed heartfelt, as did their amusement at my predicament.

• The obvious suspects for this gag had alibis.

I suspected my waiter, a moonlighting Times reporter or the cook, who is another friend. Still, they seemed equally unburdened by guilt. Did my publisher arrange for the fishwrapped photograph to signify his displeasure at my output? Why should he have to resort to subterfuge, he could just dress me down or even fire me if he wanted?

That left two possibilities. The first was that I had a clandestine detractor. This would not be unprecedented. Just as, a few years ago, I had a secret admirer who kept delivering me un-labelled gifts of liquorice allsorts; it was equally possible that someone would want to send me a negative message about my journalistic merits. If so, they had chosen a peculiar issue to make their point, because the column was about the lack of a pedestrian crossing in Picton, Ontario, which is hardly the source of great howls of outrage.

If it was a clandestine detractor, I felt a little sorry for them. My secret admirer had grown impatient with my deductive skills and eventually revealed him or herself to me. Unless I had sprouted some new intelligence genes, all I had to do was sit tight and they would in due course reveal themself to me out of sheer frustration. Still, my clandestine detractor, if there was one, should have even able to figure out that there was no point in going about their business on the sly. There was always the option of writing a letter to the editor if they took issue with me.

The second remaining possibility seemed most likely. The fact that my image in my newspaper showed up as my fishwrap could be a complete coincidence. It was no more farfetched than, say, finding that in a room of twenty-five strangers, three of them share the same birthday or running into your neighbour from Wellington while you are promenading down Portage Avenue in Winnipeg. “What are the odds?” you laughingly wonder, until some math geek sits down to try to work it out more precisely.

Going through fishwrapping-shock had one positive outcome. It helped me accept there is something pleasurable about accepting how coincidence happens. You needn’t dawn the psychological toll of seeking a culprit or a conspiracy or even an explanation. What seems like a dark plot can take on a rosier hue when cast as a coincidence.

• Was this incident a form of karma?

Perhaps I’ll order the fish and chips again. Who knows? I may get lucky next time and hit page six.

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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