The accountant working on my tax return asks: Do you have a website to promote your books?
I confess: I have three – a book website, and a book trailer website, and a blog.
How many books do you sell as a result of them?
Ha ha ha.
Canada Revenue wants to know.
Ha ha ha.
You’re serious?

I handle numbers about as well as I do chainsaws, with equally unpredictable and disturbing results. So at tax time everything goes to the accountant, leaving me with nothing to do except brace myself for how much I owe.

And that’s mostly fine with me. (I hate governmental waste and self-serving extravagance, and it’d be nice to owe nothing, nicer still to pay nothing in the first place, but even I’m not hypocritical enough to believe in the Common Good and expect to pay nothing towards it.)

The annoyance is not the taxes themselves, but the asinine questions Revenue Canada yearly manages to come up with, the unintentional humour of which doesn’t compensate for the time you have to waste answering them, although at the same time I have to thank them for prompting me to look up the noun form of asinine, and in the process to discover the word has been around since the 15th century and derives from the Latin asinus, meaning – you guessed it – ass.

Last year the tax people wanted to know why I travelled to Saint John to see a heart specialist. Had to explain there weren’t that many heart specialists in St. George, New Brunswick, population 1,200. (Not that many heart specialists in New Brunswick. Period.)

And this year they’re excelling themselves with the question about sales resulting from web sites. Not having a clue how many books the sites ‘sell’, if any, and with no way of finding out, even if I had the time and inclination to do so, in the end I made up an answer, probably perjuring myself in the process.

Books sold as a result of book website: 1
Books sold as a result of book trailer website: 2
Books sold as a result of blog: 3

Sound about right?

(Free book for anyone from Revenue Canada reading this in return for not ratting me out.)


Rocking St. Patrick


Never been a fan of St. Patrick’s Day (sorry, Ireland), or of the saintly day of any country, my ‘own’ countries of Canada and England included.

Brought up in England but never celebrated St. George’s Day. Had to look it up to know when it was. (Sorry, George.) (April 23rd if you want to put it on your calendar.) When I visited Ethiopia, I found George doing double nationalistic duty as Ethiopia’s patron saint, too, and using that role to do something really useful, namely, decorating bottles of St. George beer. (Liked his amber best).

Lived in Canada most of my life and never celebrated … er … er …

(Quick, Canadians – name our patron saint. Buy yourself a pint if you said St. Jean de Brebeuf. Bonus pint if you know Jean’s Special Day is … October 26th. We – i.e. us Canadians – are also under the care and guidance of St. Joseph, whose Special Day is March 19th. Whoops. Just missed it. Did anyone out there celebrate? Didn’t think so. Neither did I. Maybe next year.)

I have nothing against patron saint days really. I just find false and unpleasant the sentimentality and hearty jingoism they sometimes foster, and also just can’t bring myself to care much about St. George or St. Jean de Brebeuf, or, come to that, St. Cyprian of Carthage (Algeria, in case you don’t know), St. Henry of Uppsala (Finland), or St. Andrew (Barbados, as well as, of course, Scotland), let alone when their Special Days are celebrated.

So why am I rattling on about saints’ days?

Because, if nothing else, they’re a good hook to hang a celebration on, especially St. Patrick’s Day, which the band I play with, Stepping Out, took advantage of last week, with a dance at St. Stephen Legion, New Brunswick, on the U.S. border.

We’re hardly a stadium band (just five of us – Tony on the drums, John on guitar, Dave and Julie doing vocals, and me on keyboard and occasional sax and clarinet but not at the same time), but we got the hall bopping with our usual mix of old rock ‘n’ roll, a bit of country, a few standards and oldies (we’re nothing if not eclectic), plus of course a bunch of Irish songs.

Maybe later this year we’ll have a St. Jean de Brebeuf dance, the playlist for which could include … er … hmmm … Un Canadien Errant? (Nice song. Nice waltz.) The Hockey Song? (No comment.) The Huron Carol? (Bit too seasonal.) O Canada? (Not very danceable but I suppose it could be a sing-a-long.)

Suggestions, anyone?


Back to School

Back to school this week, which has always meant for me, as student and teacher, pangs of anxiety and apprehension that nibble more and more at any peace of mind I’ve managed to establish through the break as The Day approaches.

Been waiting for years to grow up and get over it.

Still waiting, although the pangs are immeasurably diminished, more a self-indulgent memory of anxiety than the real thing, because all Back to School means for me now is the resumption of teaching music at home.

But their continued presence makes me wonder: What insecurities do they stem from? What fears of inadequacy and failure?

Do all teachers feel this way?

From time to time, even after all these years of teaching, I have this recurring dream in which I’m in a classroom and I’m totally unprepared and have to face a class for the next 45 minutes or more with not one foggy clue what I’m going to do. Where does the dream come from? Did it actually happen to me? (Don’t think so. If it did, I’ve successfully blocked it from my memory.) I’ve had the dream all the years I’ve been teaching. Had it again a week or two ago. It seems to lurk in my subconscious and just when I think it’s gone for ever, there it is again, creeping out of the mud of my mind to disturb me all over again.

So why do it? Why still teach?

I’ll get to that.