David Bouchier: A Few Well Chosen Words

David Bouchier’s weekly essays are full of unexpected observations and whimsical opinions. Listeners will relish his entertaining, enlightening, and sometimes exasperated commentaries on the routines that carry us through the year, the surreal rituals of politics, the unsettling experience of foreign travel, and the confusions and comedies of everyday suburban life.

You can hear David Bouchier on-air Monday mornings or by subscribing to his podcast, A Few Well Chosen Words.

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My life, like yours, is made up of routines. They begin in childhood with feeding routines, play routines, and then the unforgiving timetable of school. By the time we grow up, if we do, we are thoroughly accustomed to the idea that certain ritual activities are repeated every day, week, and year. We live, quite literally from cradle to grave, in a world of routines. It’s what keeps us sane. These are not just the habits of life; they are actually life itself, and we get very upset when they are interrupted.

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One of my New Year’s resolutions was to read or re-read more classic novels, and I have been enjoying “The Pickwick Papers” by Charles Dickens. This ever-changing carnival of stories within a story offers many pleasures, but what astonished me was that the author, writing in 1885, had such a deep grasp of politics, not just then but now.

Dickens describes an election in the small town of Eatanswill, contested between two parties, the Buffs and the Blues. These parties had no ideas, and no programs except to despise and frustrate the other side.

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New Year: it’s a strange liminal date, full of anxiety and hope and empty resolutions. The artificial changing of the calendar makes us feel that something important should happen, but what? Are we looking forwards with hope, or backwards with nostalgia? In 1825 John Quincy Adams admonished the nation to “Think of your forefathers! Think of your posterity!” Well, that’s not the kind of message we want to hear nowadays. 

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Christmas Eve was the most exciting day of the year when I was a child. I don’t think anything has quite lived up to it since. We were alone in the house, my parents and I. Christmas Day was the big day for us, when the house would fill and overflow with aunts, uncles, friends, cousins, my formidable Grandmother, and anyone else who could squeeze in. For years I thought this was because we had the best house, or because my parents were so popular, or even because I was so popular.

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This is celebrated as the season of good news, and nobody can deny that we need some of that. We’ve certainly had plenty of bad news lately. But on the other hand we’ve had no shortage of bad news ever since I was born, starting with World War II, then the Cold War, when for more than forty years we had the daily expectation of being bombed into radioactive dust by those wicked communists. Oddly enough, they never got around to it. 

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