I was at an event at my workplace, Loyalist College in Belleville, yesterday, at which contributors to a large capital campaign at the college – individuals, families, businesses and municipalities from the area – were being honoured and thanked. There were lots of prominent people from the Belleville/Quinte/Hastings County community there, and it was interesting to watch and listen and get a sense of who the local movers and shakers are.
I found myself thinking what an odd feeling it was not to know these people, and here’s why: in my former job at deputy editor of the Montreal Gazette, I used to attend a ton of similar events – fundraisers and celebrations of fundraising work – at which the movers and shakers of Montreal, and Quebec generally, would be on hand. I’ve sat at head tables and rubbed shoulders with provincial cabinet ministers, premiers and former premiers, MPs, former prime ministers, university presidents, military generals and prominent businesspeople. When you attend enough such functions, you get to know the lay of the land and who’s who, though of course it doesn’t hurt that lots of them are in the news fairly often. By contrast, yesterday there I was in Belleville, all at sea. However, one reason I was attending was precisely to try to get to know some of these local folks who do a lot for the community.
Anyway, where am I going with this? Well, I guess it’s turning into a bit of a reflection on how pleasant the simple rural life in a place like Queensborough can be. Because despite how my former Montreal existence could be kind of fancy-schmancy, I tended to get stressed out at those events. In contrast, over the last couple of days Raymond and I have attended some simple and extremely pleasant local Christmas-themed events. And it has been so nice and unstressful to hang out with unpretentious and un-fancy people – because we are un-fancy and (I hope) unpretentious people ourselves. Basically I always felt wildly out of place at those dress-uppy Montreal things (though I have to say Raymond was brilliant at them). Here, I feel at home. Because I am home.
Last night Raymond and I were invited for dinner at the home of our nearby neighbours. It was a warm and convivial evening, filled with friendly chat and lots of laughs, and we enjoyed an absolutely excellent meal. It was exactly what I needed at the end of a long day at work: a great meal, friends and fun. Totally unpretentious. And all just a few steps from our home at the Manse.
And then this evening Raymond and I were among the invitees at an annual Christmas dinner that the Municipality of Tweed holds to thank its employees and the volunteers who do things in the community. (We get invited as members of the Queensborough Community Centre Committee, which is technically a municipal body.) It was a simple but jolly time, with a very nice turkey dinner cooked and served by Selena’s Country Catering, entertainment by two local singers, and a chance to rub shoulders with volunteers from throughout the Greater Tweed Area and the politicians who represent us. By contrast with those fancy Montreal events it was simpler than simple, but you know what? We had a really nice time.
Low-key is good, isn’t it? As is spending an evening with people from your own corner of the world, with whom you have lots in common. And celebrating the season with those folks, simply but happily.
And then heading home to your Manse afterward! Life is good.