This is a new venture for me, as my site has been used primarily for displaying art up to now. The publication of my new non-fiction book “Your Turn To Find The Hammer” now in the Kindle e-book format means a “Writer’s Blog” will be more appropriate to handle any social media comments or discussion.


Mind you, few readers ever contact writers (when did you last do that?), but in this age of social media and ease of sending messages back and forth, this tradition is changing. I will use this blog with occasional entries, just to keep my hand in, so to speak.




July 2021

A whole year has gone by since I last added anything to this site and the record must show the great pandemic of 2020 disrupted our lives beyond any anticipation. The introduction of vaccines was an astonishing feat of science and as I write these notes many countries are opening up after a year of lockdowns, economic distress and over 26,400 deaths in Canada and 4 million world-wide.

Re-reading my first “pandemic letter” to my writer friend, Kirsty Stevenson, I’m reminded how the economics versus health issue became so politicized. For some ideological zealots, being anti-vaccine was actually an act of patriotism – a sign that our “freedoms” were being trampled as government sought to achieve herd immunity. I have no way of knowing how history will write the outcome of this pandemic, but there are grave doubts we will quickly return to what we regarded as “normal.”

I now live in an Ontario seniors’ retirement residence and we were all vaccinated in February, 2021, using the Pfizer double dose vaccine. Lockdowns at senior and long-term care homes were strictly enforced after multiple deaths across Canada. At the moment we are all required to wear masks outside our rooms and only day absences are allowed and drivers are required to check in and be screened first. The economic disruption is probably comparable to my remembrance of the beginning of World War 2, when we face six years of rationing, blackouts, limited travel, gasmasks and identity cards.

My own personal problems were relatively light during the pandemic. I missed the intellectual simulation of being able to mix with younger people and limited travel beyond where I live in Collingwood. Our writers’ group couldn’t meet of course so we met once a month via Zoom. This was very successful and resulted in changes we will keep in future. We will continue submitting our assignments in advance of any meetings so we have time to better set out our critiques. It was good to see each other without masks and helped our morale.

One of the biggest problems I faced was shared by all seniors with hearing problems: the ability to “read” a face or get visual signals about the conversation. I am almost 95 and wear two hearing aids, and as our staff must also wear full protective gear everyone seems to be shouting at each other. The chief casualty of this is the loss of banter or light-hearted talk that makes human contact so special. Almost unconsciously one makes the decision that the effort isn’t worth it and it tends to increase the feeling of loneliness and isolation.

During this time of lockdown I managed to complete the first draft of my novella “Sting”.  I was hung up in the middle for a while and my (I thought) neat ending came undone when my characters refused to do what I wanted. I battled them through several ideas that were just too clever for words, and finally came up with the idea of an Epilogue. This seemed ok with me, and them. When you live with characters for a year or more, they become real people to you! I’ll put aside these 35,000+ words until the Fall and re-read them with a fresh mind. It was like doing a complex crossword puzzle – the fun is in doing it. It keeps my senior brain from lapsing into complete senility and I had a lot of fun.

June, 2020

 The Pandemic Letters

As you can see, there is a long gap between entries and much has happened since I last posted in this space. The great Covid-19 pandemic has upended everyone’s lives – mine included.My old Blue Mountains Writers’ Group faded away but one of our founding members and I decided to put our experiences in the form of letters to each other. We felt it important for our children and grandchildren to have some record of this challenge. Here is the first one.

Number 1. Letter from John to Kirsty   April 14, 2020

Dear Kirsty:

I’m so glad we decided to exchange letters as we go through one of the most challenging times since the Second Word War. Between us, we represent two generations: I am 93 and you are a Baby Boomer. We’ve known each other since we created The Blue Mountains Writers’ Group in January, 2017, and our mutual friendship has given us an insight into our writing styles and interests. Together, we produced the first anthology and helped inspire our members to contribute a solid body of work in every genre. Now the challenge is to use our writing skills to look into uncharted territory and contribute to what must be a new discussion on what comes next.

Let me start things off by discussing an idea floating around by economists, claiming there is some kind of trade-off involved in this pandemic. The cure cannot be worse than the disease they tell us, cleverly glossing over the number of deaths involved if they have their way and “open up” the country so we can get the economy rolling again.

There is much talk of the elderly being willing to sacrifice their lives in order to save the economy for their children and grandchildren. There is an almost Churchillian call to arms: “Never in the field of human history have so few been asked by so many to give up their lives to save what we all regard as vital”

I think we’re asking the wrong question. At age 93, they are asking me to risk my life to open up the economy – what economy? The one that insists we can continue in this suicidal belief that an unsustainable dominant social paradigm can squeeze in a few more decades before the planet shuts us all down through irreversible climate change? I give up my life so Australian coal mines can continue to assist in polluting the air in other countries? I give up my life so some hedge fund manager in New York can have three cars and two houses, and Apple can bring out the iPhone 15. Seriously? And don’t tell me this is no time to discuss such difficult subjects. If not now – when?

Just asking.

Open up the economy so the restaurant business can go back to exploiting its workers by underpaying them and expecting us to subsidize their income through the odious tipping system. Perhaps it’s time the government stepped in and outlawed such a system? Just asking. If not now – when?

Perhaps it’s time to suggest new measures to modify old myths? A guaranteed annual income’s time may have come. The horror with which this idea is greeted is almost funny. Without the incentive to work we have visions of hordes of people watching daytime Netflix while munching on potato chips and beer. The normal upwardly mobile middle class would be sipping Chardonnay and bruschetta of course. Why would we care? Most of us find fulfillment in a career of some sort, and a modest guaranteed income would hardly encourage a majority of people to drop out of society.

My generation arrived at a consensus that post-war Britain would never go back to “normal”, and five years of war, death, destruction, rationing, blackouts, restrictive travel, identity cards and privation of every sort, formed the backbone of subjects rarely considered practical. We decided on a decent old age pension for all, unemployment benefits, a single payer health care system, greater educational choices and an attempt to bring about collective solutions to collective problems.

My hope is this pandemic will make us realize we are all this together, and there will be no return to what we thought was normal. Powerful political and economic forces will attempt to return us to the status quo, but pushback is already forming.

I would like these pandemic letters to reflect our interpretation of the coming changes. Change is certainly coming to us in our personal lives and I hope to get into that as we get going. Change always seems to come slowly to those watching, but there’s no going back. Future generations will hold us accountable and may well ask: “What the hell was wrong with those people? Didn’t they know what was happening? Why didn’t they do something?

Stay well my friend,


 March, 2019

Spoken Word Poetry

Our Blue Mountains Writers’ Group took on a new challenge in one of our recent assignments, and I must admit I’d never heard of spoken word poetry. Although I’ve been a professional writer most of my adult life, poetry rarely crossed my path. I had the usual poetry in school and rote-learned many of the classics of yesterday, but poetry just didn’t stick with me; it seemed time consuming and out of place in a busy commercial life. Our assignment included watching a number of videos, and my favourite was Sarah Kaye  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYAiYMlOCI4&t=77s. Spoken word poetry is best spoken, obviously, but few of us feel comfortable reading intensely personal writing in public, even before small groups. It needs constant practice before a mirror or using your iPhone to make a video. Some of us bravely volunteer to go “live”, and the experience was quite unusual. My contribution was called “56 Years” and was an emotional experience for me as I told of keeping my wedding vows as my late wife sank deeper and deeper into the effects of Parkinson’s Disease. I was near tears as I read out my piece and my audience was right along with me. The gestures that seem to come naturally. The longer than normal pauses. The raising and lowering of your voice. These techniques make spoken word poetry effective. Here is my contribution in print.

“56 Years”    A spoken word poem.

You look into her eyes and a stranger looks back.

You hold her trembling hands and feed her trembling mouth.

And long ago a minister asked “Wilt thou take this woman to be thy lawfully wedded wife?  Will you love her, cherish her, keep her in sickness and in health, as long as ye both shall live?”

And you said yes! yes! yes! And yes again.

And now it’s payback time.

And then she’s gone.

You looked into her eyes and a stranger looked back.

You held her trembling hands and fed her trembling mouth,

And now she’s gone and you’re angry. Angry that she left you  all those lonely days and nights. Angry that you never got to say goodbye.

Never again to look into her eyes and see a stranger looking back.

Never again to hold her trembling hands and feed her trembling mouth.

And now she’s gone.

And then you felt relief. A burden lifted you said. Your days and nights were yours again you said. Life must go on they told you. It gets better with time they said.

Anger faded and guilt began.

Guilt as you gave away her things. Guilt as you filled out forms making her death a bureaucratic burden.  Guilt that you never got to say goodbye.  And all the while that minister’s voice “……… as long as ye both shall live.”

And now she’s  gone.

The trembling hands. The trembling mouth. All gone.

As you lay in bed alone with your tears, guilt and anger, a small voice quietly said “56 years. A promise made and a promise kept.”

You looked into her eyes and a stranger looked back.

You held her trembling hands and fed her trembling mouth.

You could do no more.






January, 2019

Blue Mountains Writers’ Group Publishes First Anthology

I help found the Blue Mountains Writers’ Group in January 2017, and we recently published our first anthology. We formed an editorial group of three: John Fisher, (Founder), Kirsty Stevenson, (Current Facilitator) and Pat Murdoch (Founding member) and asked each member to submit four pieces of their choice; from these, we selected a variety of types and subject matter.

Kirsty guided the group through assembly and production, and outsides sources developed our cover. We had a grand opening at The Heritage Depot, our home base in Craigleith, Ontario, and in appreciation for all her many hours of work I presented Kirsty with one of my original watercolours. I also presented my original black and white illustration of the depot used in the book to Andrea Wilson, Curator of The Heritage depot

















September, 2018

I become a Fan Fiction Writer

On September 25 2018, I joined a chat group that popped up on my Facebook page called “As Time Goes By”. My late wife and I loved this series that ran from 1992 to 2005, and I joined out of curiosity as I’ve never had much time for social media chat groups. After a pleasant interchange with like-minded viewers who displayed none of the usual outrage and foul language so prevalent in social media outlets, I wrote an imaginary script for how the cast might be thirteen years on. I astounded by the response. Within 24 hours I had 49 “Likes” and 19 comments. As the weeks progressed I started doing regular scripts, and getting dozens of people asking me to please continue. It turns out this is called “Fanfic” and I had no idea this was going on. Here is one example:

A visit to Sunnybrook Manor.

For those of you following our imaginary script for “As Time Goes By” the 2018 Reunion, here is a script as Alistair and Judy visit Lionel and Jean at their retirement residence. I decided that snippets of dialogue interspersed with descriptions fit this format as television scripts tend to take up lots of space. Reducing them to a single spaced text would make reading tiresome. Most of you can imagine how the characters sound and act, so I’ll try this format for a while and see how you respond. I’m going with the assumption that in real life this series would have to segue gently into the next generation, and allow us to link one generation with another.

Scene: A typical upmarket seniors’ residence called “Sunnybrook Manor”. This is one of several units in a nicely landscaped area somewhere in Sussex.

A Land Rover drives up and parks. Cut to: Alistair and Judy walking along a corridor as seniors pass by using walkers. They push the doorbell beneath the sign “Lionel and Jean Hardcastle”. As they wait Alistair looks grim.


“Now I know why they call these places God’s waiting room.”


“Don’t start –  Mum and Lionel had no choice.

They needed a place on one level, and more round-the-clock help.”

As another couple passes by pushing a wheelchair, Alistair looks grimmer.


“If I ever get to that stage – shoot me!”


“Don‘t tempt me – ah – here’s Lionel.”

Cut to inside shot as Lionel lets them in.


“Welcome to Fort Sunnybrook. I see you got past security then?”

Jean enters the shot and hugs them both,

“Oh don’t mind Lionel. He loves it here – don’t you Lionel?”


”Do I have a choice?”

Alistair puts on a brave face.

“Hi Li. How’s my main man? Great digs you have here.”


“Bloody place treats you like retarded children.” He imitates a female voice. ‘Oh Mr. Hardcastle, we MUST remember to take our medication. Going out again Mr. Hardcastle? You really HAVE to sign in and out you know’”.


Oh, Lionel, they’re only trying to help.”


“Well………. trying to get out of here for a swift half is like a major prison break. They never leave you alone either. It’s join this, or join that. Join the chess group. Join the book club. Join their stupid exercise classes where you sit on chairs and throw beach balls at each other.  They even tried to get us to join their amateur theatrical group…………..”

Jean looks flustered.


“You didn’t – tell me you didn’t?”


“Well, not in so many words. I said – well – I said maybe we’d consider it. I said I thought we might be interested – if we weren’t too busy.”


“Hey, hey. I can just see old Li playing lead in The Man Who Came To Dinner. Great casting!”


“Well – they wouldn’t have to go far to borrow the wheelchair.”

Lionel glares at her.


“Sorry – let’s have some tea shall we?”

The rest of this visit is devoted to explaining that Judy is running for mayor of the village, against a younger woman who  is in favour of widening the main street, pulling down the old village square building, the old pub, and making more parking areas for tourists.  They invite Lionel and Jean down for the next weekend for a strategy meeting.


“Oh, good. We’d love to come, wouldn’t we Lionel?”


“Have you forgotten the last time you intervened in village politics? You managed to get on the wrong side of village opinion about a by-pass road and almost made a complete fool of us.”


“But this is different. Judy’s involved.”


“We don’t want you to be involved Mum. We just thought you might like a visit to see what we’re up to. Alistair is my campaign manager.”

Lionel reacts.


“Everyone will be there: Sandy and Harry junior, our girls, Mrs. Bale of course, and probably Lol and some of his brothers; even Stephen said he might turn up.

Lionel (sarcastically):

“Oh great. Jean can make protest signs again”






“We’d love to come. Yes. It will do us good to get away from here for a while.”


“Do you think they’ll let us out without a pass?”





July, 2018

At my advanced age the death of old friends is inevitable, so is the shock that comes my way and the acknowledgement that my long and lucky life is winding down. The Judeo Christian tradition has each person endowed with a soul, and comforts the living with the thought that the soul lives on beyond physical death to some sort of existence on the other side. Some cultures open a window so the soul can escape. Others comfort the living with elaborate ceremonies to bury the body with certain earthly possessions thought to be of use in an after life. All seek to help take away the shock and finality of death.

As a non-believer, I sometimes envy those whose faith is so strong that it helps answer complex questions with simple answers. It’s God’s will. He/she has gone to a better place. Rest in peace.

I can’t answer the question: why are we here? What is the meaning of life? Look up at the night sky and wonder. In cosmic terms the human species has been in existence a very short time, and will no doubt become extinct and written off as an experiment that ultimately failed. To propose that the human soul lives on in some other form is a natural form of denial. For me, when my life ends – that’s it. I can’t know if I’m right or wrong, so I must live my life to the best of my ability, knowing that some small part of me does, in fact, live on, as my genes are passed along to other generations.

June, 2018

The Blue Mountains Writers’ Group I help found in 2017 is planning an anthology of our best efforts, to be published this Fall, and I volunteered to do a pen and ink and wash drawing of The Heritage Depot at Craigleith. Although the Blue Mountains are our base, the Depot is our home.

Down the years Craigleith Station has changed owners and purpose. When the last train pulled out of the station in the 1960s, the building fell into disuse and was once a weekend cottage, and then a popular restaurant name The Depot. In July 2001, The Town of Blue Mountains, with the support of the Craigleith Heritage Committee and Blue Mountains Watershed Trust Foundation, purchased the Depot. On September 21, 2008, the Craigleith Heritage Depot opened its doors as a community heritage interpretation centre and tourism office.

Our meetings are held here twice a month, and at each session, we are challenged to write a specific assignment. Each is read out and critiqued with the author technically “away from the table” on the grounds that writer and reader rarely meet. Then the author “comes back to the table” to discuss the reviews. One assignment was to write an imaginary newspaper report on the depot. Here is my submission:

The Ghosts of Heritage Depot

Toronto man claims he saw the ghosts of Heritage Depot



Toronto resident Arnold Simoni, 74, planned an early morning hike with some friends along the railway path at the Craigleith Heritage Depot but felt unwell as they set out. He told his friends he would rest up at the depot and join them later. He found his way to the passenger bench on the old railway platform and used his rucksack as a pillow. It was a quiet Sunday morning and he felt relaxed. “As I lay there I heard a train whistle,” he said, “and then the rumble of an approaching train. It seemed to stop right in front of me.”

Simoni claims he could smell the hot oil and steam as the train clanked to a stop, with doors opening and closing, a guard shouting, and throngs of people seemed to pass by him. Then the guard blew his whistle and the train seemed to fade into the distance.

“I sat up with a start,” says Simoni,”and thought I must have been dreaming, but then I saw this little girl dressed in Victorian clothes just standing there, smiling at me. It scared the hell out of me. We both just stared at each other and she didn’t say a word, but held out her hand. I reached out to touch her and ask who she was, but she seemed to fade away into the lilac bushes.”

Curator Andrea Wilson says there is no official record of ghosts at Heritage Depot, but Simoni’s experience doesn’t surprise her.

“There is a lot of history at the Heritage Depot,” she explains, “but any ghosts here are friendly ones as this has always been a joyful place. When I work late and on my own, I often feel a presence around me and every historic building has its own sounds, creaks and groans.”

Who was the little girl?

She points out that no tragedy took place at Craigleith, and visitors were usually on happy trips: from family visits to ski trips and visits to when the building was once a popular restaurant. “As for that little girl Mr. Simoni saw, well, this was a home for past station masters and their families. Maybe she was greeting him as she would have greeted all those people from the past?”

That past goes back to the 1880s when the Craigleith Heritage Depot was called Craigleith Station, and the Northern Railway operated five trains a day. In 1882, the Northern Railway company was purchased by the Grand Trunk Railway and the Craigleith station building was constructed. Two children were born at Craigleith Station when the families of the stationmaster lived there. Phillis Gertrude Wilson (no relation to Andrea Wilson, current Curator) was born in 1909, and Hellen Speck Gibson in 1922.

“If you believe in ghosts,” says Curator Andrea Wilson,” Phillis Gertrude is the most likely candidate for the little girl Mr. Simoni thought he saw. She would be the right age. A nice friendly ghost keeping up the tradition of joyful occasions.”

 Heritage Depot evolves

Down the years Craigleith Station has changed owners and purpose. When the last train pulled out of the station in the 1960s, the building fell into disuse and was once a weekend cottage, and then a popular restaurant name The Depot. In July 2001, The Town of Blue Mountains, with the support of the Craigleith Heritage Committee and Blue Mountains Watershed Trust Foundation, purchased the Depot. On September 21, 2008, the Craigleith Heritage Depot opened its doors as a community heritage interpretation centre and tourism office.

Arnold Simoni came back to Heritage Depot to some research on who the little girl might be. “Now I know her name,” he says,” the next time I see her, I’ll call her Gertie and see what happens!”

Ghosts or not, visitors are always welcome at Craigleith Heritage Depot. There is no charge but donations are always welcome. The hours are: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday 12:00 Noon to 5:00 pm. Wednesday, 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm Saturday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Closed Mondays.

April, 2018

Much of March and the beginning of April looked like this in Collingwood, Ontario, the Canadian town in which I live. Great for the ski and snowboarding crowd, but quite dangerous for the senior crowd – and at 91, I’m about as senior as they come! I got my four-wheel scooter out of storage, but managed only one trip before being totally snowed in again.






I received the first royalty statement from Amazon Kindle eBooks, and it appears I sold three copies! I never expected to sell many copies so I’m not exactly devastated. I published the book because I could, and to get it out there in case future historians might be searching for material about the early 1950s, and for my great-grand children. It was a good make-work project for much of 2017, and I have no regrets,

Our Blue Mountain Writers’ Group re-organized itself in early April, and author Kirsty Stevenson, http://www.kirsto.ca/  will chair future sessions. Kirsty was one of the founding members when I helped create the group in January of 2017. I stepped away from the group to research and write my book during much of 2017, and on my return, we decided it was time for younger leadership. Kirsty is a fireball of energy and enthusiasm and we’ve set the path to bring our group back to its original statement of intent.

This is a proposal for the creation of a writers’ group where people can come together in a non-competitive atmosphere to increase their knowledge of writing techniques, subject matter, pacing, and creative inspiration. This course does not assist writers in finding publishers, although manuscript preparation and presentation will be discussed.

Plans are in hand to produce our first Anthology of assignment projects, and to organize a public reading at our Thornbury library to showcase local writing talent.

February 2018

Publishing industry’s business plan is broken

When I had my first non-fiction book published in 1968, it was a simpler time in Canada. I had been fired from my job as Marketing Manager, New Product Development at Salada Foods, in a corporate purge just before Kellogg’s took them over. I would have been fired anyway, as I had almost completed what would become “The Plot To Make You Buy” McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1968, an expose of what I thought was the exploitation of consumers through a wide range of tactics commonly used in the days before consumer regulations took hold in the late 1960s.

I had plenty of time to complete my manuscript as I made up my mind to try my hand at becoming a professional freelance writer. What happened was sheer luck and good timing, although I had no control over either. I sent the unsolicited manuscript to two publishers, one of which was McGraw-Hill Ryerson. Within days someone phoned and told me they “loved my book and people all around the office were reading bits of it.” Would I please come in and talk about it. A contract was offered, along with a small advance, and I was on my way.

Nothing like that could possibly happen today, which is why my latest book “Your Turn To Find The Hammer” has been published as a Kindle e-reader edition. Publishers refuse to accept unsolicited manuscripts unless you have an agent. You cannot get an agent unless you have been recently published – a perfect “Catch 22” dilemma.

The so-called “dead tree” editions present publishers with enormous economic risks, so their reluctance to take gambles is understandable. Everyone is looking for the next J.K Rowling and Harry Potter. Their socio-economic target group is literally dying off, as millennials and those coming along behind them, read less and less, and get their news and creative materials online through streaming services and various e-reading companies. Amazon is eating their lunch as margins fall and reliance on blockbuster projects means younger writers find it harder and harder to gain a foothold. The publishing industry has increasingly merged into a few powerful corporations whose fiduciary responsibility is to its shareholders, as it should be in our current economic system, and solutions are hard to suggest. Government subsidies are hardly the answer, although advocates try to make the point that “culture” is not a commodity like any other. I have no solutions. We are in a time of dramatic changes to our dominant social paradigm, and Amazon Kindle e-reader editions are one solution. Stay tuned.

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