David Bouchier


David began as a print journalist in London and taught at a British university for almost twenty years. After coming to the United States in 1986 he continued to teach and to publish a regular humor column in The New York Times regional edition.  He joined WSHU as a weekly commentator in 1992, becoming host of Sunday Matinee in 1996. His latest book of essays, Peripheral Vision, was published in 2011. His other books include A Few Well Chosen Words, The Song of Suburbia, The Cats and the Water Bottles, The Accidental Immigrant and Writer at Work. He lives in Stony Brook, New York, with his wife who is a professor at Stony Brook University, and two un-musical cats.

My father never gambled, except for a few penny bets on card games with friends at home. My mother and grandmother allowed themselves what they called “a flutter” on the big annual horse race called the Grand National. But that was only because the queen had a horse in the race, and the bet was never more than a couple of dollars. I am quite risk-averse myself, but I will occasionally buy a lottery ticket, as a gesture towards financial planning. So our family was never in much danger of gambling addiction.

Jeff Roberson / AP

I’m thoroughly tired of this winter already, and I bet you are too. There’s something ominous about a long spell of cold weather. It’s a harsh reminder that we are living on a slightly warm ball of rock in the middle of an infinite space where the temperature is around -250° C, just a few clicks of the thermostat above absolute zero. How fragile our comfortable lives can be! If our machines fail or our fuel runs out, how quickly nature will reclaim her territory, and her temperature.

Thibault Camus / AP

Nobody can complain that we have had a dull year and, on this first day of January, we are more or less forced to make a choice between optimism and pessimism about the year to come. 

Let’s face it, no matter how much we worry and complain, we are lucky to live here and now. If we consider the history of the human race as one big party we arrived at just the right moment. The party is in full swing, all inhibitions have been cast aside, and the drinks have not yet run out. We older folks may even miss the worst of the hangover.

Christmas was the most exciting season of the year when I was a child. I don’t think anything has quite lived up to it since. On Christmas Day itself the house would fill and overflow with aunts, uncles, friends, cousins, my formidable Grandmother, and anyone else who could squeeze in. But until Christmas Eve we were alone, my parents and I, and it was very quiet, the way soldiers describe the calm before a great battle. The anticipation was almost overwhelming.

Courtesy of Pixabay

The Holiday letters are coming in, those annual news reports from friends and relatives that have become almost as traditional as sprigs of holly. These letters are a wonderful way to keep up with those who live far away, but sometimes I have doubts about their accuracy, or at least their believability. Like photos on Facebook, these letters are all smiles. 

Here, for example, is what we may call the generic or universal Holiday letter, written in the third person superlative, on which all others seem to be modeled.

Dear Friends,