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The Fotheringham Speech
By Allan Fotheringham
(Ed. Note: What follows are excerpts of a speech that this widely-renown Canadian writer and foreign correspondent recently made to the Ajijic Writers’ Group.)
I was born in Hearne, Saskatchewan. People from Hearne are called Hernias. One church, one blacksmith shop, two grain elevators, 26 people. In fact, the town was so small we couldn’t afford a village idiot. Everyone had to take turns. At age nine, my family moved me to British Columbia and this improved the IQ of both provinces. BC was cut off by the Rocky Mountains from the rest of Canada. The other nine provinces thought we were so goofy, they called us British California.
I grew up eventually and wrote for 27 years the Back Page of Maclean’s, Canada’s equivalent of Time and Newsweek. I had a national newspaper column reaching from Vancouver to Halifax. I was 10 years on Front Page Challenge, the Number One CBC show in Canada. I wrote a book a year, eight of them in total. I went to Russia in a Volkswagen, accompanied by 22-year old Soviet tour guide Ella Dimetrieva. I introduced her to lipstick and pantyhose and we said goodbye in Odessa on the Black Sea where I was headed to Istanbul. She kissed me goodbye and turned me over to the Soviet police who seized my camera and all of my photographs.
What I learned in my travels is that mature countries always have their capitals in their largest cities. Immature countries like Canada and the Excited States of America put their capitals in obscure little towns. The mature nations know that their politicians have to go out every day and bump into the voters, traffic problems, lining up for food, etc. Washington is well away from the center of the US. The actual figures show that there are five lobbyists for every Congressman. Ottawa is even worse. A backwater where the only inhabitants are the press, the politicians and the swivel servants. The only real voter a member of parliament ever meets is a bartender or a taxi driver.
Canada, of course, envies the United States, especially John Kennedy…rich, handsome, dazzling. Pardon my language, but a close friend of JFK once said to a New York Times columnist, “This guy is going to do more for f . . . . . . than Eisenhower did for golf.”
My employer sent me to Washington for five years. I gave myself a personal ambition to visit each of the 50 states. I would take a rent a wreck each year and go off to Alabama, Arkansas, wherever and introduce myself as a Washington correspondent. After the second drink, once they realized I was a Canadian, they would look at me rather strangely. America became the most powerful country on earth because it fought off an English king and became an independent country. It can’t understand why Canada still has, in this century, the head of state who lives in a castle 4000 miles across an ocean. Queen Elizabeth, a nice lady whom I have met three times, is 85 and won’t abdicate because she knows her son Prince Charles is a kook. He talks to flowers, and he has the Bill Clinton disease, a leaky zipper. I don’t blame Americans for looking down on Canada because my country has not yet grown up. It never will until it junks those jerks from across the water.
My ninth book will be published at Christmas and is called, “Boy From Nowhere.” I hope you will enjoy it.