In July I gave my show at a Westmount residence for seniors named Place Kensington. It’s a fine, lively place (or Place) and the residents include two authors of mine, the charming Ted Phillips and my friend William Weintraub, the author of City Unique. Bill Weintraub is also famous for the classic novel Why Rock The Boat? and I proudly edited his last novel , Crazy about Lili, providing it with a very funny cover illustration by the wonderful Anthony Jenkins, whose path was later to cross mine, as my readers know.
In the course of my show, when I was talking about James Houston going into the North, an older man in the audience asked me, “When was this?”
“In 1948,” I replied.
“Yes, that sounds about right.”
He went on to explain that he was setting up his medical practice around then, and had wandered into the Canadian Handicrafts Guild shop, and had come across a very fine portrait of a young woman (in those days a young “Eskimo” woman) in full sealskin traditional outfit. He stood there admiring this piece of finely drawn art that revealed another world, far from Montreal. Then another customer, a young dark-haired man, came and stood beside him, looking over his shoulder at the drawing.
“Do you like it?” the stranger asked.
“Yes, I do,” said the young doctor, “but I’m just setting up my medical practice, and I’m sure I can’t afford it.”
“Can you afford $50?” asked the man.
“Yes,” said the surprised doctor, and James Houston made the deal with him right there and then, remarking that this was the first of his Northern drawings that he had ever sold.
The doctor told us that he still had James Houston’s drawing, after all these years. And I told the audience that we had all been part of the sort of coincidence that weaves its web around us every day, in unexpected ways.
Later that evening Jane and I had dinner in Old Montreal, celebrating the coincidence that had brought us together at The Couchiching Conference, so that exactly 11 years earlier we had got married.