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.

When I was a kid we took summer vacations on an island off the British coast. There was always some battered old boat on the beach with a battered old captain in a sailor’s cap offering a "Mystery Cruise." The boats smelt of dead fish, they always seemed on the point of sinking, and the mystery destination was always the same: a pub on the other side of the island. Since then cruising has become a much larger industry, but there’s no more mystery to it than there ever was.

According to an ancient legend, Leap Year Day (today) is the window of opportunity for women to propose marriage to men and, if they are rejected, to claim a silk gown as a forfeit, or perhaps a little item from Victoria's Secret. A Scottish law of 1288 prescribed a fine of "anepundis" or one pound for any man who refused to accept his fate in a gentlemanly fashion. A pound was a lot of money, in those days. More recently, Sadie Hawkins pursued L'il Abner so relentlessly through a thousand cartoon strips that some people call February 29 Sadie Hawkins's Day.

The proposal floated recently by two army generals that women should be required to register for selective service is definitely a step in the right direction, but only a step. If we follow through on the logic of this idea it would solve at least one of our global problems.

Do I hear a collective sigh of relief now that Valentine’s Day is over? It’s one of those occasions in the year when so many things can go wrong. Cards with red hearts may arrive in the wrong mailbox, plush bears may end up in the wrong bedrooms, flowers may be delivered to the wrong address, and the candlelit dinner may be inedible. Then the whole uneasy balance between romance and commercialism collapses into tragedy or farce. Other annual festivals are stressful too: Thanksgiving, The Holidays, and even New Year.

For ten years now the television series Downton Abbey has been the flagship carrier of international nostalgia. It will be coming to an end next month, no doubt to great lamentation among its 120 million worldwide viewers, and will immediately go into reruns. Fans are already gripped by a kind of preemptive nostalgia at the thought of seeing it all over again. It is a genuine cultural phenomenon.