Memories of Neil

Neil's picture

Catharine writes :

It was an incredible privilege to share nearly 40 years of marriage with Neil. In the end, no matter what he could always make me laugh. I remember one particular December evening there in our beloved Farmhouse home in the heart of Victoria village. On dark nights like this one I always made sure to place candles of all sizes on an ancient dining room table (we had bought this one for $35 from neighbours who were moving out as we were moving in).

On this winter evening I had set a scrumptious Shepherd’s Pie in front of Neil so he could serve us both. As he reached across the table to hand me my plateful, the fuzzy sleeve of his bright red dressing gown caught fire. To my horror, the flames began to run up his arm. Neil calmly stood up, stepped our from the table and moved steadily towards the kitchen, saying calmly to me “Catharine, don’t panic!”

I followed him out to the kitchen, picked up a big green canister of flour from the counter and threw the contents over him. The fire went out. Neil returned to our meal as though nothing had happened. Sitting there in his black-tinged dressing gown while I dissolved in near-hysterical laughter.

Many times since, in moments of crisis, those words “Catharine, don’t panic!” have returned to stand me in good stead.

Stephanie writes :

One of my memories of  Neil that came to me was when I when to his home. Almost every time, when I arrived he was in this big blue comfy chair, reading the news paper or a magazine or even work on this blog.

After our big hug, we would sit  together and talk about everything. But each time he would ask me a question like : what do you think about that, did you read about this or how do you see this situation ? Like he always wanted to know my opinion about the currents news or event. Today when I look back, I have the feeling that for him I matter, that my opinion or my view on certain subject was interesting. That I had something to say and that he was willing to listen.

What is your memories of Neil ?

What do you remember the most about Neil ?

Read the part 1 of text written by Neil for his very good friends Clare and John Hallward below:

Over the last twenty-five years I’ve learned a lot from my friend, John Hallward, but two lessons stand out: look at the big picture and don’t wear a tie. On the tie, I have no problem. Not having to fuss with a tie helps both John and I to play a little game that we have been engaged in for years : how to arrive for a social engagement (not as most Montrealers do, a half hour late) but buzzing the door at the precise moment clock is striking the pre-arranged hour.  If I do say it myself John and I are as precise on this matter of time as a radio host beginning a program. If there is any competition in the game, the score stand a a draw.

Now the matter of the big picture, taking a global view, blue-skying it — that is more complex.  In this area John thinks big and when I say big I mean John thinks in term of countries. He’s already helped save one and he’s doing his damnedest to save another.  First, there’s Poland. I take my hat off to John and the whole Hallward family for the sterling contribution to Poland. Roaring along polish roads in the middle of the night at the wheel of a transport truck loaded to the rafters with relief cartons is worthy of the highest Polish decoration which, indeed, John deservedly received.

My own involvement in the Polish relief project, though minimal, was memorable. Catharine and I spent several hours in a god-forsake warehouse somewhere in the outer wilds of Montreal wrapping diapers and sorting baby bath-powder. We didn’t do much but we have always felt our efforts made a small contribution to the survival of Poland.

Alas John’s second and more sustained effort at nation-building, so far at least, has had more problematic results. It will take more than diapers and baby powder to save our own dear and native Land. Here we are rarified atmosphere of trying to built a society that is distinct without a difference, of constructing a federalism that is centripetal while at the same time strengthening the periphery, and finally and most challenging of all to maintain a marriage where divorce papers have already been served. Maybe you think we don’t know what we’re doing. We know exactly what we’re doing. Our objective is to achieve the exact opposite of what the Catholic church achieves by an annulment. Our problem is we don’t know how to do it.

Part two, to follow

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