‘It’s such a beautiful day today and I hear it’s your birthday,’ Camp, my friend and stalwart drinking buddy, said, hosting his pint in a toast. ‘That makes you a borderline scorpion. Shouldn’t you be at home with your wife, instead of whiling away the time at the pub.’
‘Clare has a garden club meeting – in November – and she’ll meet us here before we’ll go out for dinner,’ I said. ‘In fact, you and Muriel are invited to join us.’
‘Where do you plan to go?’
‘Therein lies the crux of the matter. Gibsons isn’t exactly known for its culinary adventure spots. We decided on going Greek.’
‘Oh, I could watch the store from there, see if anybody likes my Christmas window display? Muriel wasn’t so sure if the slouching, overweight Santa holding Atwood’s Testaments in one hand and Dickens Christmas Carol in the other is in good taste.’
‘I’m sure it captures the spirit of the season. Misery, uprisings and wars in much of the world, disfunction and an emperor without clothes in the US and labour strife at home. Not much to rejoice and ho-ho about,’ I said.
We clinked glasses once again. ‘Birthdays after a certain age are a pretty mundane affair, best celebrated in private,’ I said.
‘Well, beers at the pub is about as private as it gets,’ Camp said.
‘I walked up to the mall this week and took a shortcut through the bush near the football field behind the high school. It was a rough path and led me through some obvious teenage hangouts which were completely littered with trash. I could tell this wasn’t from bears because of the defacing of the trees with garish paint and bears don’t drink booze.’
‘I grew up when littering was considered a major sin,’ Camp said. ‘Throwing trash out of moving cars carried a fine of two thousand dollars, I remember.’
‘Well, obviously whoever partied there didn’t know or care about the fine. I was very disappointed and somewhat disgusted. At the front of the school they are protesting the destruction of the environment and at the back they toss their fast food garbage, empty bottles and pizza boxes without regard. There is really no excuse for not picking up your trash, it’s the least everybody can do.’
‘You’re once again preaching to the choir my friend. Here is another fact about the generation of our grand kids. A third of them are illiterate and cannot put together a proper sentence. This from a conversation with a teacher at the store. She was referring to kids in grades 4-7, who cannot write an essay, have no idea of English grammar and have never read a book. Quite discouraging news for a book store owner.’
‘I bet they are fast and furious texters,’ I said.
‘Yep, screen time comes right after sleep time.’
‘What’s going to happen to these kids when they go to university.’
‘Shock and awe,’ Camp shrugged, ‘they will have some furious catching up to do, especially if they chose to study anything to do with science. Meet Calculus. Who is he? A roman centurion in an Asterix & Obelix cartoon? They will be in class with the foreign students who will have a much more solid grounding in their education.’
‘I suppose it has something to do with class sizes and integration,’ I said. ‘I’m no teacher but I wouldn’t want to sit in front of three dozen teenagers, trying to teach them biology.’
‘Teachers need to be entertainers with a bag full of tricks and rewards. No punishments because just sitting in class is apparently punishment enough. Kids are not in school to learn but to make friends, figure out their social standing and be supervised away from their busy parents.’
‘That’s a skewed view,’ I said, ‘coming from a seasoned cynic.’
‘I hear it’s your birthday,’ Vicky said surprising us with two foaming mugs of goodness, ‘and these are on the house.’
Just at that moment Clare and Muriel walked in the door and to my horror started singing the song, joined by an enthusiastic Vicky and Camp as a reluctant baritone.’