Opinion Column

Still doing this 15 years later? Hard to believe

By Grahame Woods, Northumberland Today

Yes, hard to believe. For someone who has occasional, age-related memory concerns, I can see it as though, well, as though it was yesterday.

Around this time of the year in 2002, in the office of Mandy Martin, editor of the then Cobourg Daily Star, whose DNA is part of this newspaper, we were discussing different forms of writing. I had been a newspaper junkie since I was a kid and, in my late teen years, worked at a news agency as a photographer and, occasionally, wrote short news items.

In 2002 and recently retired, I rather brazenly floated the idea of writing a bi-weekly column for the paper. Something along the lines of observing the local passing scene.

And here I am, 15 years and some 400-plus columns later (sometimes I wrote more than two a month) tripping down Memory Lane. In fact, it's quite a long lane, reaching back almost 40 years to the days when I approached the editor of the Warkworth Journal in 1979 wondering if he would be interested in an occasional column on observations of our new life?

In many ways, I did it out of a sense of male insecurity. My wife Glorya and I had moved from The Big City to our farm in Morganston and, with a horse in the barn and dreams of exploring a completely different lifestyle, were dependent on the advice of our new neighbours, Jack Carr and Claude Puffer, as we took one cautious step at a time into the unknown. Jack and Claude's families had been farming in Morganston for

generations and were very generous with their help and advice. Our farming experience? At first, zero, but it grew - to a barn full of horses, cattle, sheep, peafowl, chickens, guinea fowl, delivering foals and calves, and nurturing the inherited barn cats; milking, shipping cream, shovelling manure, stacking bales of hay and in a smaller barn, eventually looking after some of Claude Puffer pigs (our seal of approval?); all providing, over the years, remarkable experiences and wonderful fodder for columns.

Later, after the Warkworth Journal closed, and meeting the editor of the Colborne Chronicle, Eileen Argyris, I wrote the occasional column for the Chronicle until, as in a movie, the scene dissolved to 2000 ... after 27 remarkable years at the farm, moving to Cobourg where, as a member of the paper's Citizen's Advisory Committee, I met Mandy from which came the birth of The Passing Scene.

It's been a remarkable run, never having a column turned down because of subject matter, though many readers over the years have disagreed with what I have written. Through the advent of the Internet and email, I have had many, many conversations with readers, made on-line friends and, yes, have been chewed out by dissenting readers, including late evening phone calls (as well as positive ones) creating interesting dialogue. As well, in Cobourg's premier coffee house, I often get face-to-face, discreet comments and nods.

Over the years, I have had remarkable support from readers for my extra-curricular activities - my 1,000 Miles for Mzuzu bike ride and My Thanks for Life bike ride for Northumberland Hills Hospital - for which The Passing Scene's updates were an excellent conduit to inform readers on my progress and to thank them for their remarkable generosity.

So, tonight, oh around 9 p.m., I'll raise a glass to toast 15 energizing years and to you, the readers, who have made The Passing Scene so rewarding for me. Cheers!

Well, maybe two glasses. I mean, why not?

Grahame Woods can be reached at ggwoods@sympatico.ca