Too Big

Camp was already parked in his seat by the window in our seaside pub, focused on his small screen like a teenager. Maybe his bookstore is financed by Credit Suisse?

‘Hey Camp what do you think of the implosion and subsequent acquisition by its rival of one of Switzerland’s and indeed the world largest banks? Was Credit Suisse Too big to fail?’

‘That’s an oxymoron right there my friend. It should be: too big to function, too big to trust, too big to protect, too big to be responsible. As it turns out the Swiss taxpayers are on the hook for billions of dollars of unconditional bailout money and guarantees.’

‘You nailed it: Too big to trust. On the other hand, I have to trust my bank teller who knows everything about my financial situation at the click of a mouse. They know more than my family and sometime even myself, like: Are you aware that your account is overdrawn or your term deposit needs to be renewed?’

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World on Fire

Camp is away in the big city today for a book event. My chance for a monologue. Every day when I wake up my phone dings and beeps with depressing news flashes on the one side and quirky WhatsApp messages on the other side, plus emails, more daily news, bills and the odd personal note. Depending on how I feel I thumb first through the humorous stuff, add my smilies, thumbs-ups or hearts, then move on to the calamities of the day. Today: A mass shooting in a Jehova Witness temple in Hamburg; intense missile attacks rain down on Ukraines infrastructure; Tiktok app banned from all Canadian and British government phones; visa denied to Chinese diplomat on security grounds and on and on. The best one was a new book by Trump: Dear Donald, a collection of letters from politicians and celebrities. Everybody apparently loves Donald. 

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The Canadian Way

Camp and I talked about differences between Canadians and Europeans and I told him a story that highlighted the polite nature, sometimes painfully so, against the cut and dry and pragmatic central European way. 

 ‘If a Canadian wants to have a day off, say Friday, they will write an email that reads something like this:

            Hi Jack (presumably they are on first name terms) Sorry to bother you. How are you and your family? Did you have a nice vacation back East and how is Fluffy, your adorable poodle?

            ‘I hope I’m not imposing on your time but due to my cousin Erin having had a baby and her husband being away on a work commitment, I promised to help her out next weekend. Due to this ‘family situation’ I want to ask you a big favour. Could I take next Friday off? I’ll make sure that Bernice will cover me and nobody would be inadvertently affected. I hope that works for you and please let me know if that’s possible. Sincerely, Yours Truly.’

            ‘Ok, I get it, too much information. Too much blah, blah. What’s the Swiss way?’

            ‘Here It is: Hi Jack, I need to have Friday off. Thanks, YT’

            Camp laughed and said: You missed something in the Canadian way. Where and when does Yours Truly apologize for nothing? Like: I’m so sorry Jack but I hope I’m not imposing…

            We both took a sip from our brews and contemplated the different ways of the world. ‘I remember my French friend during his first time in Vancouver. We got on the bus and the driver said a polite: How are you?  Pierre looked at the driver taken aback. ‘Why do you care how am I?’

            ‘Even strangers used to say a polite hello, when they passed each other. Today not so much. And thanks to Covid we even step aside when we encounter somebody coming towards us, as if in passing we could infect each other. Mind you, I find Canadians on the whole a very friendly and polite bunch and I’d rather be known for being too friendly and too polite than a curt pragmatist or a snob or loud and uncouth.’

            ‘May I ask you a personal question Camp?’

            ‘Are you being sarcastic now? Trying to be a super-Canadian?’

            ‘I just want to know if you feel like a Canadian or an Irishman? You are after all from good old Irish stock, aren’t you?’

            ‘I feel like myself, most of the time, not fitting some label or stereotype. I’ve been known to be abrupt and short fused but that’s just me, neither Irish nor Canadian. How about you? Are you Swiss or Canadian?’

            ‘I’m a hybrid,’ I said, ‘mostly friendly and polite but I don’t say I’m sorry, every time I want to ask a question and I try to be exact and to the point and on time which is an exact measurement not a fluid and flexible commodity, like some other people think. And I don’t start sentences with ‘if’ or ‘when’ and I don’t answer questions like: ‘What time is the ferry today?’ with” ‘I think…” I either know the time or not.’

            ‘Point taken but Canadians are usually on time except they make sure as in: Oh, I’m sorry, I hope I’m not late.’

            ‘Sorry to bother you two. How are we all doing? Ready for another one?’ Vicky asked and we both said in stereo. ‘Yes please?’ She gave us a funny look but then she knows us by now.


‘Camp isn’t it ironic that we’re living the most comfortable lives of any generation since the beginning of time. We are the most mobile, the technically, medically, socially and financially most advanced, the best fed, pampered and educated of any species ever to wander this planet. and yet, here it comes: we are not happy and the future looks shaky.’

‘I could say something silly like the future always looked rocky, as in the middle-ages, as in the depth of a world war, as in the middle of an earth quake. But you’re right, Instead of a natural disaster, we’re on a path to self-destruction. We are so successful and ingenious that we’ve introduced problems that we have neither the political will nor the resources to solve. Ronald Wright outlined this brilliantly in his 2004 book: A Short History of Progress, a series of Massey lectures about societal collapse.’

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