Sunday 04 Dec 2016

The Grass is Cut
David Simmonds

Much of life's necessary business is drawn out and painful. It can be almost pleasurable when it turns out otherwise.

When you go to the dentist, for example, and your tormentor finishes his preliminary jousting and says "well, I'm afraid I can't see anything we can drill through today," you feel like you've just won the lottery.

My wife and I had that experience a few days ago. We had reached the mutual conclusion that we were mortal - in fact, I think my wife reached that conclusion about me very shortly following our marriage. We had only just got around to asking one another where we would like to spend eternity.

Both of us, it turned out, had a primary preference for heaven over hell. There was a secondary preference for cremation and having our ashes interred.

We had never given the "but where" question any thought. However, we have always considered the Wellington Cemetery a beautiful place, so we honed in on that location and arranged to inspect and purchase a plot.

I suppose we thought there might be a massive advertising blitz coming, "buy your plot before the big rush and save on the HST," but we probably outsmarted ourselves because we saw no signs of any pick up in business.

"You'll just need a single plot then," the cemetery official told us. "We've got three left: 223A, 223B and 221B. Which one do you want"?

Good question: how do you go about choosing a plot? Our consumer selection skills were in high gear. The obvious choice - to replicate Sherlock Holmes' famous Baker Street, London address - didn't occur to me until too late.

Our first inclination was to ask, well, which one has the best view. Then we thought, a view from which vantage point? Is it something like choosing a mattress? Or is it more like choosing a carpet? In the end, we selected the plot that would likely enjoy the best shade from a nearby young tree in 10 - make that 20, no let's say 30 - years. But we were pleased that we faced not northward to the dump but southward to the lake with a commanding view, for those above ground, of Wellington's tallest free standing structure.

While we didn't have to decide on any inscription, it was also a bit of a relief to know that our marker would have to be flush to the ground. It's right in the By-Laws of the Wellington Cemetery, section I.3: "Flat markers shall be flush on top and set level with the ground so that a lawnmower can pass safely over them".

One less decision to make, I guess. There's no need to worry about whether our headstone should look like the Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal. And sort of nice to know that a lawn tractor would be coming over top of you fairly regularly to make sure you weren't overgrown and forgotten.

In fact, I feel particularly good to know that someone else will be doing the grass cutting from some yet to be determined point, until, well, indefinitely. I can also add to my sophisticated patter repertoire by saying I will be not be lettingthe grass grow under my feet: it will be growing over them. s a one-time lawyer, I even get a small kick from the factthat I am sheltering under an exemption to the Perpetuities Act. Cemeteries are an exception to the rule against perpetual trusts that are not charities.

The Preface to the By-laws states the laws ensured improvement and upkeep of the Cemetery; to keep it a becoming and respectful place for the burial of the dead. I'll bet cemeteries, not being in the flash and glitz business, don't get many compliments; so I salute the Cemetery Board for accomplishing just that.

Our purchase bought us interment rights and care and maintenance promises, not a marker stone and a burial. While there is further expense to come, and while we fervently hope that time will prove we made an investment at far too early a date, the emotional investment more than makes up for it. It feels good to think, Wellington. This is where our earthly remains will remain together. This is our home.

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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