Column

Two Dr. Foths? Oh, please say it ain't so!

Allan Fotheringham February 2 1998
Column

Two Dr. Foths? Oh, please say it ain't so!

Allan Fotheringham February 2 1998

Two Dr. Foths? Oh, please say it ain't so!

Allan Fotheringham

Two lawyers, one by phone, one by mail, have been inquiring about this scribbler.

This is not surprising, since your favorite computer-stained wretch has seen the inside of more libel cases than Bill Clinton has seen secretaries.

On this occasion, it all turns out to be innocent. One Tom Fotheringham, it seems, is sought out as a witness in a relatively harmless, minor court case and has told someone, somehow, that he is my brother. And the legal beagles, understandably, would like some help in discerning his phone number. Brothers should know such things.

This is very strange. Unless my 89year-old mother, the strongest person I have ever met, has been lying to me all these years, I have no brother by the name ofTom Fotheringham. Does she have a secret she has been hiding from me, all those 40 years when she led the choir in the Carman United Church in downtown Sardis, British California? Perhaps we should have a phone call. Does the alleged Tom Fotheringham actually want to be related to a guy who spent a night in jail in Macao, the Portuguese colony down the coast from Hong Kong, for stealing a fire extinguisher from a casino after a losing night and fleeing in a rickshaw, only to be blindsided by the following rickshaw armed with the casino’s security guards? We think not On reflection, I do recall last year seeing a byline—Tom Fotheringham—for a few weeks in The Toronto Sun. I immediately felt sorry for the poor chap. Would he become accustomed to all those leggy blonds from Bay Street pressing martinis down his protesting lips? Could he actually produce photographs that he has heli-skied on the top of the world on the glacier above Whistler Mountain? I would want to be in serious criminal trouble before claiming to be the brother of someone who has met more lawyers than McDonald’s has sold hamburgers, and who has a left knee with the solidity of spaghetti and can’t either screw in a light bulb or balance a cheque book.

My children, the famed Fothlets, run screaming from the room at the sight of my world-celebrated Meadow Muffin, the Sunday morning omelette that contains everything but the kitchen sink (on bad days, parts of that, too).

Tom Fotheringham—being about their age as has been ascertained—would be appalled (as they are) by my collection of 78s and 45s of Billy Eckstine, Kay Starr, Tommy Dorsey (mit Jimmy), Jimmy Durante, Ethel Merman, Mort Sahl and Fred Allen—“you could take all the sincerity in Hollywood and tuck it into the navel of a gnat, with room left over for an agent’s heart.”

No jury, on examination, would ascribe any credibility to a relative asked to verify the qualifications of a witness in whatever harmless legal case.

As someone who hates computers, telephones, microwaves, soap operas, snow (but likes skiing), televised hockey (but likes hockey), fake Vandyke beards on 23-year-olds, asparagus, cauliflower and artichokes, what credibility would such a bloke have before a politically correct jury?

Under deep research, the Tom Fotheringham who is my alleged relative turns out to have worked at The Toronto Sun briefly and an editor described him as showing promise and imagination but they unfortunately did not have room to squeeze him in.

This fits. The Celtic gift of the blarney. Why not invent a relative? Fotheringham, if you must know, the family name somehow came from Normandy France to Scotland, where it became Fotheringhay. Everyone thinks Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded at the Tower of London. In fact, she was beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle outside Nottingham, where I once sat on the ruins with a « lunch of nut-brown ale and cheese.

£ Capt. Douglas Fotheringham, on g leave from his post as paymaster at “ Aldershot Canadian Army base in England, went to Edinburgh one weekend and was referred to a home that would give a bed to a serviceman. “Hello,” he said. “My name is Fotheringham.” “Hello,” said the white-haired lady, “my name is Fotheringham.” There are some 130 Fotheringhams in the Edinburgh phone book.

If the truth be told, I actually do have a brother. Dr. John Fotheringham who worked, while raising a fine family, for 14 years in night school and summer school to earn his PhD to become a superintendent of schools in Seattle and now has built a magnificent home in Mount Vernon, in Washington state, so high on the slopes that he can see Victoria from his deck.

Tom Fotheringham, whoever you are, I admire your guile. Every Fotheringham, wherever in this small country, I apologize for the inconvenience. There are 15 Fotheringhams in the Toronto phone book. Not a one has phoned in exasperation—to their credit—when some nut has phoned at 2 a.m. to scream about my views on vivisection, Spanish separatism or the sex appeal of Sheila Copps.

I admire Tom Fotheringham, whoever you are, for your chutzpah. If I ever could discern your mysterious phone number, or address, I would pass on my faded little black book, now redundant. To you I throw the torch. Keep the flame alive.