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Sunday 26 May 2024

Tempest at a Tea Party
David Simmonds

The folks at St William’s Church in Demorestville weren’t expecting this. The historic Church has announced it will hold a Valentine’s tea and sandwiches event, “Meet your Sweetie for Tea” next February 12, a Saturday, from 11:30 until 1:30; five dollars a ticket. The drumbeat of protest is getting loud.

Event denounced swiftly.

The forthcoming event, denounced swiftly by an ad hoc group calling itself PASTPEC. That’s short for People Against Stupid Traditions in Prince Edward County. Acronyms are hot these days.

Loretta Blenkinsop is a spokesperson for the group. “This whole tea and sandwiches bit has gotten way of hand,” she says. “There is no sign the shrimps for the shrimp paste, used in the sandwiches, have been raised sustainably.

“We don’t know,” says Blenkinsop, “whether the cucumbers in the sandwiches will be locally grown. They could have come from a grocery store and, who knows, before that some factory in Detroit. How do we know whether the tea will come from a fair-trade arrangement or not?

“Plus, If the past is anything to go by, the burden of the work will fall on women. It’s hard work cutting sandwiches into triangles to feed a hundred people, never mind fishing enough of three types of pickles out of pickle jars; but given enough time, some men can learn to do those things. 

 “I’m also worried that their volunteers are almost entirely over the age of 80. Where is the representation of young people and other groups comprising our diverse community?”

PASTPEC maintains the whole affair is out of sync with the times. “Why should we be doing anything to celebrate a day when women flutter their eyes, demurely, and blush, as droves of hitherto secret suitors show their affections, if not their intentions? Women are strong and empowered these days.

“Women don’t need to perpetuate an ancient stereotype. Let’s not forget about the poor women who don’t get a Valentine’s sandwich, with or without a pickle, offered to them as a gesture of love. How do you think that makes them feel?

Damaging the County brand.

The big worry for PASPTEC is that this Valentine’s Day tea event could damage the County’s brand. Says Blenkinsop, “We’d be laughed out of hipsterdom if they found out about this event in Toronto. Small businesses catering to hipsters in the County would falter to ruin. It would be worse than the pandemic.”

So, Blenkinsop and her group plan to raise the matter at the first Council meeting in September and ask the event be banned. They already began making the case to our councilors. I asked around and here’s what I heard. 

At least two councilors are supportive of the goals of PASTPEC, saying the event might inconvenience those living on Rednersville Road. They, collectively, carry most of the County property tax burden, which, at every opportunity, we should try to defer. One councilor was prepared to support the Church if he could be satisfied that there was no negative effect on the usage of Wellington Beach.

Several councilors seem worried for the effect of the event on the County Road maintenance budget. “Driving on County Road 49 weighed down by a heavy lunch is a recipe for pothole disaster,” one said. Others agreed.

Some favour asking staff to develop a church teas policy to supply a context for their decision and to forestall controversy over similar future events. Other councilors want a broad public consultation before it’s time for a decision. Some are concerned the issue might prompt yet another go-round of the size of Council debate and some cling to the idea that we’ve always had church teas and always will. That’s the end of discussion.

A spokesperson for the Church said, “We don’t really understand what all this fuss is about. We’ve been running this event for over a hundred years and the clock is ticking down. If they’d like to help unload pickles jars, they’re more than welcome to join us. We only roll up our tent for blizzards and pandemic.” There’s the fighting St William’s spirit.

A final question.

One question to end with, though. How can you raise any money when you’re offering all you can eat triangular crustless potted shrimp and cucumber sandwiches, three types of pickles, home-made cookies and a big pot of tea for five bucks? Is there something we don’t know?

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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