Author Archives: George Hancocks

About George Hancocks

Biography of George Hancocks George Hancocks is a writer and editor with a half-century of experience. He has worked as a newspaper and radio reporter and editor, a wire-service editor, script-writer, group publisher, and editor of more magazines than he cares to remember. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario in Honors Philosophy, he gained his first working experience with The Canadian Press as a wire editor in 1956. He is a former editor of Canadian Homes Magazine, at one time Canada’s largest home-building and renovation magazine, with more than 1.3 million readers, and is well known as an industrial journalist, having worked for CN, Maclean-Hunter, Southam, and Alcan. For the latter company he was editor for more than a decade of Alcan News, an industrial publication with a circulation of 40,000 in English and French. Mr. Hancocks remained a freelance writer and consultant throughout his working career, and his articles have been published in many trade publication in Canada, the United States, and overseas. Experienced in virtually any type of writing his clients require, Mr. Hancocks has worked for industry, government, and private associations. His assignments have included everything from letters, briefs, and professional resumes, to complete corporate advocacy and advertising campaigns, film and video scripts for a variety of clients, magazine and newsletter writing and editing, product brochures, annual reports, and books. Following his retirement, Mr. Hancocks collaborated with speaker Peter Urs Bender in editing Mr. Bender’s five internationally recognized business books, and co-authored with him in 2002 Gutfeeling, Instinct and Spirituality at Work. Recently he has collaborated with speaker and comedienne Catherine Lawrence in her forthcoming book Even the Winds Were Laughing. Mr. Hancocks has also been active as an historical editor and writer, and has edited and published books for more than 40 private clients, including Guide to the Archives of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario for the Anglican Church of Canada. In 1970 he founded, and edited until 1979, Canada’s only national family history periodical Canadian Genealogist. He also edited and published two major research aids for genealogists and family historians with his wife Elizabeth: County Marriage Registers of Ontario, 1858-1869 and Surrogate Court Index of Ontario, 1859-1900. Other publishing projects have included The Encyclopedia of Canadian Cuisine with the late Jehane Benoit, and Recipes for Life: low sodium, low sugar, low cholesterol, by Jean Lawton. Mr. Hancocks was an early member of the Ontario Genealogical Society, and watched it grow from a few hundred members in 1962, to an organization of more than 4,000 today. He named, and was editor of its journal Families for more than a decade. Mr. Hancocks is familiar with the transition of the written word from the imagination to the printed page from both sides of the desk: both as an editor who dealt with manuscripts on a daily basis, and as a writer who himself was required to create work for other editors. He has lectured widely on how to get material into print, and is has worked as a ghost writer for a variety of clients. Now retired, he enjoys reading and cooking,, and is currently working on a book of his own recipes, mainly for family use. His website at www.GeorgesPlace.ca Is his newest venture, partly biographical and partly active political commentary.

If tonight were the last night of the world

If tonight were the last night of the world
I’d regret not having taken time
to listen
or even really sound you out
about the things that deeper lie
against your heart than mine.

If tonight were the last night of the world
I’d wish I’d kissed you, Ruth
upon the mouth;
embraced you Allen,
let my arm along your shoulders lie
in comradeship;
dropped a word of love
on you,, Roseanne,, when most I saw
you needed it
 and least expected it would come

If tonight were the last night of the world
I’d wish I could once more, before I go,
walk upon the mountain tops
hear the needle fall
listen to such vast silences
they make the earth grow small.

If tonight were the last night of the world
I’d sit here talking quietly to you
before this fire
holding hands
watching the embers fall
knowing that what’s gone
is gone now, past recall.

 

Transfiguration

At times like these I feel the years upon me

the slow aching in my limbs

as reluctantly they face the floor

for yet another chastening day

the downward curl of lips as jowls sprout

yet another line.

Ah gravity! You’ll make jelly of me yet.

 

The season of snow’s upon me

the light november warmth caresses only slightly

as the sun passes the thrusting tips of the maples

it seems I planted only a hundred years ago.

 

Deep deep down, curled among the roots

somewhere a burrow there must be

a place for me in significant soil

where I can sleep the season through

to waken only when the sun has kissed the crocus

and the melting snow has breached my winter coat.

 

O then to spring again . . .

white and tough, pushing up through the sward

to the springtime world above knowing that

though winter comes

the earth in this enchanted land will nourish

me a thousand seasons through,

that my own thoughts

like leaves each season blown

return to earth that richer makes them grow.

unstoppable male thoughts

And now for something completely different. I make no apologies for this. Men are incorrigible when it comes to women. I wrote this when I was much younger and it really is about a young woman I worked with. There’s no hiding that male lust comes upon us inadvertently, and though I’m now well past this manifestation of it, I still laugh at the feeling. I hope you do too.

 

There’s a girl I know
I’d love to stick my face in her boobs
and inhale.

None of this “what a lovely dress you’ve on today
my dear and how-that-tight-top-does-suit-you” stuff;
“let me suck your tits” would do.
She knows it, too.

Once we met
me rushing down the hall
she stepping out of the john
we struck and stuck.

She has a sweet face
but I just couldn’t tear my eyes
from her magnificent breasts.

“Oh Mr. Hancocks,” so sweetlly she said
“how pleasant to meet you this way . . .”
“You bet,” I said
as my nostrils flared and my digits curled . . .

One second more wold have torn it . . .
my hand in her blouse
and the rest of the girls would
have been  treated to screams
from the storeroom next the ‘ladies’
to which, at that precise sescond it blazed through
my mind,
I had the key.

It was only her checks that stopped me.
“I’ve got to deliver this money,” she murmured.
“You’ve got the money, honey . . .”
I leered in my finest dirty-old-man style,
leaving the rest unsaid.

“Later,” she breathed
and bobbled away.
Gad!
There’s no question about it!
Lust at first sight!

 

 

2014 Journal: just a few notes

2014 Journal: just a few notes . . .
How the years fly by! Seems only yesterday we were shepherding teenagers, and welcoming new babies. Libby and I are a year older, and things have been relatively quiet for us. Libby had a scare with a pulmonary embolism that hospitalized her for nearly a week but there was no way it was going to keep her down. She went through endless tests, then was discharged to my tender care with an oxygen generator and a new easy chair. She’s doing well and as feisty as ever—still working hard as Dominion Genealogist for the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada.
I got over my bout with bladder cancer, thanks to a doctor’s careful care and several hospital examinations. I amuse myself by writing, shopping, cooking for the two of us and working on a new project—a website—which my son Seaghan helped me set up. It’s still in the formative stage, but if any of you care to look you’ll find it at www.georgesplace.ca. I have just a couple of entries in it at the moment, but I will be adding more in the new year, including my Alaska Travel Diary (which was one of the high points of my industrial life), and my poetry “Closer to the Flame”.
I enjoy hearing from all of you, especially on Facebook. I hear regularly from my granddaughters Coral (Casey’s daughter) and Cristiona (Seaghan’s daughter) Another favorite correspondent is Peter Loy-Hancocks, whose foreign adventures and garden ventures I greatly enjoy. He is also a great photographer and has given me some fine shots of the many places he visits. My friend Harold Morrison (we went to school together in Hamilton, Ontario now 80 years ago), has a website called “Harold Says”. Seaghan is helping him, too, and Harold is a faithful Facebook user.
I have two other people I enjoy hearing from, and never thought I would ever make contact with. One is Ila Lawton, who was the daughter of our next-door neighbors in Scarborough. She is now living in Kingston, and active in the theatre, and promoting women’s issues. The second is Gary Freeman (who once dated my daughter) and is now not only a garrulous Facebook user, but a senior executive for Corus Entertainment in Calgary. Our contact began by accident one day when he answered a comment I had made on a Facebook page. And that’s what keeps life so interesting—hearing from people you thought you had lost track of forever.
Sorry to seem to be loading up this not with what might seem like trivia—but the older you get, the more confined your circumstances, the more you appreciate how valuable social media have become. I not only use them to communicate with my friends, but the world at large, and I actively participate in many political causes through them. I think the social media, taking them seriously, are one of the most important aspects of our new democratic society. Used properly they can prevent our politicians from making asses of themselves (and us), and keep us in regular contact, especially in those things that matter most to us.
As for the rest of my family—briefly—Casey is still with Shoppers, as is his wife Kim, and both are doing well. Coral, their daughter, is still helping people plan winter vacations at Ski Canada.
Seaghan’s wife Sandi has survived a very bad year with throat cancer. She went through some very difficult days with chemotherapy and radiation, but thankfully now seems to be on the mend and is back at work, part time. Seaghan is building websites for customers, and is about to be involved in a co-production on the life of Sir John Franklin. I don’t see much of his children Cristiona, Mike, and Stefan, but all are on Facebook and we touch one-another from time to time.
Shannon, Arastou, Roya and Emma have moved from living with Arastou’s uncle, and are now just as stone’s through away from Libby and I—across the golf course that separates our house from the apartment building where they live. Both the girls are now in high school and right into the thick of things. We see them regularly, and both girls are becoming attractive and intelligent young women. No one is ever going to put them down!
And so, dear friends and relatives, another year draws to its close. Let us pray that 2015 will be a year of peace and prosperity, and that the year will see the cessation of hostilities wherever they occur. Libby and I send you our warmest wishes for success in all your ventures.

George and Libby

So why is stronger better?

Have you eve noticed that once a substance comes into use, humans somehow feel that the stronger the substance, the better?

Take sugar, for instance. When it was first discovered it was regarded as a natural sweetener. Then came rock sugar, a handier form to use because it came in a lump and you could chip off a piece for sweetness instead of pressing sugar cane to extract the sweet liquid.

But humans wanted even more sweetness, so they came up with cane syrup and molasses. Sweet, sweet sweet,, but storable in glass jars and ladled out carefully spoon by spoon. Then we sought even more convenience so we came up with brown sugar, one step down from molasses, and refined sugar–dry, sweet, easily storable, and available in a variety of forms from coarse to fine grains, to powder.

And that still wasn’t sweet enough so we came up with glucose and fructose, the ultimate sweeteners with which we have given ourselves and epidemic of diabetes. At each step of the way, stronger became, in our minds, better.

Or take coffee. When first discovered it came as a coarsely ground bean. Then we discovered that grinding the beans  finer gave us a stronger tasting brew. Finally we ground it so fine that it became espresso that was so strong we could only drink it a demi-tasse at a time. And just for laughs we decided to take the caffeine out it it and called it decaffeinated coffee, as if that made it stronger but safer.

The same thing is true of tomatoes. First the fruit, then the slices, then the dices, then the slurry, and finally the tomato paste. Each step made the final product stronger and stronger for the limited space it took.

I never felt that stronger was better. Stronger was stronger as far as I was concerned. And stronger did not  necessarily lead to safer or better. It often led to more harmful and dangerous. We seem to never be able to let well enough alone, but always seek to improve and strengthen the characteristics of the substances we use or consume.

Apply that same thinking to atomic bombs. First we learned to release the enormous energy of the atom. Then we wanted it stronger so we went to the hydrogen atom. Then we wanted really strong but “safer” so we invented the neutron bomb with the delightful characteristic that it kills any and every life form it touches, including insects, but  leaves everything else intact. Imagine an earth full of empty buildings. What a charming thought, but that’s where we’re headed.

Our constant pursuit of the stronger, which we ironically call the “purer” is going to destroy us in the end. Stronger is not better. For lack of a better word, is is worser. I just hope we realize it in time.

Sunday morning in Toronto

I had a Tim Horton’s morning today. For all those of you who do not know what Tim Horton’s is, it’s the biggest coffee house chain in Canada, originally started by a famous hockey player who alas, never lived to see the results of his investment. He died in a car crash at a very young age. But the chain prospered, and was eventually sold to a big American company with other chains to its credit. In Canada, however, it has remained true to its identity, and is the quintessential place for meeting Canadians from all walks of life. Coffee and a donut is a Canadian ritual.

My morning began slowly. Daylight Saving Time. I forgot to turn the clock back, so I enjoyed an extra hour of dawdling while I reset my bedside clock and checked my Facebook messages. A lot of them this a.m.

Then I decided to get breakfast. I often go to Tim’s in the morning, especially if I don’t feel like cooking, and this morning it was raining hard, so I decided to forego my own cooking and visit the coffee house instead. When I got there, I bought a paper, the Sunday edition of the Toronto Star. I always carry my iPhone, but Tim’s has this annoying habit of logging you in to their wifi network complete with ads and other extraneous commercial info, so I usually forget it while I’m there.

Much to my surprise, the paper contained not only an edited version of the New York Times news section, but the Times Book Review section, which used to be my bible. I haven’t read it in years, but I immediately looked to see if it contained any mention of Elin Peer, Wendy Douglas, or Francesca Vance. No such luck. But I’ll keep looking.

My breakfast order was typical, but involved Tim’s unique ordering experience. I get a large dark-roast coffee, double cream and triple sweetener, a back-bacon breakfast sandwich, and an apple pie fritter. The attendant who takes my order I’ve had before. She doesn’t speak English very well, so ordering becomes a comedy of errors.

She (and even the attendants who do speak English) don’t understand the word “triple” very well, so I hold up three fingers and say loudly “three sweeteners.” I don’t know why I say it loudly–probably because I think if I say it loudly someone who doesn’t speak English very well will understand me better. As in, “Do I make myself clear?”

I always feel like a fool when I do this. I have tried to stop myself from doing it. But if I speak normally I just get blank looks, and Tim’s is always noisy in the morning. Strangely, I never have trouble with the breakfast sandwich or the apple fritter, although I sometimes have to repeat “biscuit” loudly several times because she’s so used to people saying “muffin” that it takes a while to register.

Finally my order comes, so I put it on my tray, and find the only open table in a crowded restaurant on a Sunday morning. And then I people watch surreptiously from behind my paper.

First thing I notice is that I’m the only one reading an actual paper. Everyone else is busy on their phones, tablets, or computers. Yes laptops. I swear some of the Chinese men use Tim’s as their office. The students use it as a homework haven, and the rest are either surfing or talking to relatives or bsuiness associates–yes, even on the weekend. But not everyone is iphoning.

Across from me is a table with eight Greek men I have seen here before. They talk intensely among themselves, laugh frequently, and I am sure are busy solving the problems of Greek society in Canada. There many Greeks here, probably as many as live in Athens. I don’t understand a word of their discourse, but I don’t care. They’re just Canadians of Greek origin having a fine time at Tim’s.

Next to me is a table with two women. They are an interesting pair. First, I can tell because I caught a few words from them in English before they switched to another tongue. They are Muslim.

The contrast between them is startling. One is hooded,  dressed almost entirely in black, although I could see a pair of blue jeans sticking out from the bottom of her costume. The other is as modern as The Gap. She is clothed in a red athletic outfit with grey piping and gray sneakers. The outift is the height of fashion for such clothing. She is strikingly beautiful with a neatly coifed sort of pony-style bun. Her hair is dark, but beautifully shiny.

They  appear to be close friends, but since many Muslims in Canada stick with old world costumes, the difference is remarkable. They sit as long as I read my paper, and I can’t help wondering if they represent the old and the new in Muslim culture in Canada. I sort of hope so.

I remember when the Italians first started immigrating to Canada in the 1950s. The women all wore the shapeless black garments that were the rule for women in their homeland. Then the second generation came along, and the third and now we’re into the fourth. No more black. Italian women are as chic as the runways of Paris, New York, and Milan. And many of them are very beautiful.

The same thing will happen with Muslim women, and the nonsense about banning burkhas and head scarves in Quebec will vanish. There may be a few who will still cling to religious mores, but gradually, as the generations change, so will their clothing.

My son-in-law is Iranian born. Men in Iran frequently wear large beards. In Canada in the 21st century it’s the exception to see one with as beard. Customs change with the environment and culture. When in Rome . . .  So my lesson for this Sunday morning is clear. Quit worrying about language, and clothing. It’s not worth the effort. Change is coming, and it will come as fast as the next generation. Just watch what’s happening in Tim’s. It’s the melting pot of the nation.

I remember a scene from Elin Peer’s book The Protector. In search of his wife, Magnus goes to the Motherland to find her. Does he retain his giant beard and leather clothing? No, he dresses like a Motlander. He hates it, but he knows that he must fit in if he’s to  succeed. I talked about Hadiya in a former rant. She dressed like a lawyer to fit in. When she left the law she dressed more informally and comfortably. She may not realize it, but she still fits in. Those who must dress for the law are in a cultural straight jacket. I’m glad Hadiya got out of it.

Bitches about 21st century picky things

If it’s the little things that matter, it’s also the little things that sometimes drive me nuts. I’m speaking about things that don’t really matter but somehow put a kink in my customary rituals. One of those things for me is labels on clothing.

I don’t know much about women’s underthings, but ever since I’ve been a boy I have been buying the same kind of men’s underwear, specifically jockey shorts. Now I know you don’t want to hear about my jockeys, but forever and a day they have always had labels sewn into them to tell you what size they are.

Didn’t matter whether they were Jockeys, Fruit of the Loom, Denver Hayes, or whatever, they always had cloth labels that said what size they were. I’ve worn some shorts for years and washing after washing, I know the labels still say the same thing.

Then, all of a sudden, they didn’t have cloth labels any more, but printed labels. Cost saving, right? Sure, but after about three washings the size information disappears. Why is that important? Because, like a true male, I cannot remember from purchase to purchase what size I wear. If I can’t remember what size I wear I inevitably buy a size or maybe two sizes too small, which after I’ve opened the package I can’t return because in most Canadian stores there is no return on undies

You would think the size would somehow be engraved on my memory, but oh no. It’s one of those trivial things I can’t be bothered to store in a grey cell somewhere, with the result that I am constantly mis-sizing. Before I could just look at a label before I went to buy, and get it right every time. Grrrr!

Another thing that bugs me are the “best before” dates on food. I religiously look for these labels (the result of years of domestic training) but I know in my heart that no matter what they say they will NOT be best before the dates shown. I have bought best before cream with a date that shows it to have a month to go, only to open it and find it curdled. I can return it, of course, and I often do. But what use are the dates when you have no idea how long the product has been on the shelf.

Next on the list of picayune things that rustle my psyche are the tiny little labels on fruit. I know they’re bar codes to help the dumb cash registers tell what the cost of the fruit is, but my intestines must now surely be cluttered with self stick labels saying “McIntosh Apple 9052” or “Pear Bartlett, 3214”. And if I remember to peel them off, it takes ages to get my fingernail far enough beneath the label to get rid of it.

I know I’m whining, but isn’t it possible just to buy fruit by the gram or kilogram  or ounce and pound, rather than by the individual label? There’s a scale at every cashier’s wicket. And just think of the extra labor affixing all those tiny labels to every apple, pear, pomegranate, or avocado that’s grown. Farmeers can’t find enough labour to pick the ferschlaggen crop, without having to label everything.

The more I write the more I can come up with the little things that irritate me. We have some great technology in the 21st century–just not in labelling. Sorry for the rant. I think I’d better quit while I’m ahead. Peace!

Unusual friends, unusual circumstances

I went to my lawyer today for some help with some routine legal matters. He told me he thought I was looking exceptionally well, and that started a conversation which turned into a real revelation, both about him and me.

His comment for some reason started me talking about Peer’s Peeps, about the exchanges I have had with Elin and some of you. Then we got onto the subject of Hadiya Rodriguez, the lawyer about whom I wrote s few days ago.

Frankly, I didn’t know whether or not I was on dangerous ground. My lawyer is black, a very large middle-aged white-haired person of Caribbean origin to whom I had gone to settle my wife’s estate. His name is Caleb Emmanuel Irish, and he has the most mellow, soft-spoken voice of anyone I know. It is so memorable that even my daughter speaks of him fondly because she remembers his treatment of her during our previous legal encounters.

I shouldn’t have worried. Turns out he is a remarkable man. But then, I always knew that without knowing the details.

In the course of our conversation he told me he had come to Canada at the age of 16 or so, with the express purpose of going into law. He landed in Montreal in October ( a cold month there) with the express purpose of signing up to the McGill Law School, a prestigious Canadian institution with the same kind of reputation as Harvard. What an impossible dream!

But the thing he told me was that he was focused and determined to geet a law education. In the course of seeking employment he was offered a job in the Canadian Arctic, at a small Cree village by the name of Poste de Baleine, which just means Whaling Post. The government functionary reluctantly offered him the job because as he said, “You’re from the tropics. This is October. You won’t want to be in the north from the tropics.” Emmanuel asked what the pay was. It was six or seven times what normal pay was at that time, but his immediate reply was, “I’ll take it.”

So he went north, and spent a year and a half among the Cree, living alone and saving his money (there was nothing to spend it on) for his law-school tuition. He emphasize to me that he was focused, and that though he had the opportunity to extend his northern stay and make even more money, he was determined to get his law education.

So he went back to Montreal and enrolled. Three years at McGill Law School, then then the inevitable struggle to article with a law firm for at least a year, without which he could not be called to the bar. We glanced somewhat over the difficulties he must have faced finding an articling position, but the gist of it was that it was every bit as difficult as it had been for Hadiya, with the added difficulty that he was one of the first black people to attempt this in Montreal.

The long and the short of it is that he succeeded, and now has his own law firm in Toronto. I don’t know much else about his background, but it turns out that he is going to have a book of poetry published in December,, and has promised me a copy. I will share with you when that happens.

I told him about my attempts to stamp out racism, and my own efforts to purge my language of the subtle racist undertones I did not even realized I had. The really good thing about our conversation is that it was just that–a conversation between two mutually understanding adults with no hint or racism in the exchange. I came away feeling not only good about the exchange, but promising him one of Elin’s books. I feel I need more such exchanges before I can even feel confident that I am making inroads on the racist substrate of our Canadian society.