Monday, May 22, 2017

"I am Heath Ledger"

My garden helpers Dan and Alex came today; Dan has a torn tendon and can mostly just prune and consult, so Alex and I spent 2 1/2 hours weeding, fertilizing, moving stuff around, planting. It's only begun, there's a ton more to do, but at least it's started. And now my body aches.

Yesterday afternoon, heaven - cooking while listening to CBC's Tapestry, and then Eleanor Wachtel interviewing Helen Macdonald, author of "H is for Hawk," such a glorious writer she makes me want to give up. I cooked roast chicken with roast vegetables, ratatouille, red cabbage with apples, and leek and potato soup. Should keep me going for a few days.

Tonight, Wayson came for dinner to help me plough through some of this grub; we sat on the deck enjoying the smell of lilac, and then watched "I am Heath Ledger," a documentary about the beautiful  young actor who died of an accidental overdose at 28. I knew he was amazing but had no idea just how talented - a filmmaker, musician, producer and incredibly talented actor with adoring family and friends and so much going for him - it's just too sad. I remembered an expression I used to love: to burn with a hard, gemlike flame. This incandescent man did. Very glad to have seen the film.

Last night, two TV treats - "Call the Midwife," which as usual had me sobbing, just the BEST television drama, going to the heart of life. And then a doc about Freud, fascinating. Can't beat TV like that. Watching the news, though, never - can't bear to see that travesty of a man sucking up to the Saudis and now to Netanyahu. Makes me sick.

Two people have now read this draft of my memoir and liked it, though of course they're friends and biased; Carol my housemate says she loved it, and Chris my dear friend in Vancouver enjoyed it also. He had a few critical comments which I will take seriously but not many. It's not "H is for Hawk" but it exists, it has something to say, perhaps before long it can make its way into the world. Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

turning five

So, yesterday was Eli's fifth birthday party, and yes, the expected multitudes did appear: 18 adults and 19 children, almost all boys, under the age of 10. Luckily the sun was out and they rampaged in the backyard, though a few went inside and wreaked havoc with the toys in Eli's room. All the boys needed was some water guns, a lot of water, and some dirt to make mud. Happiness is. Little Ben kept getting so wet, he needed to be changed three times. After hours of mud, it was time for hot dogs and chicken drumsticks. And then Glamma slipped away, before the orgy of cake and presents. A good time, it's safe to say, was had by all.
New bike.
Watermelon with cousin Dakota - like Eli's older twin
 washing the car
 the female end of the party - colouring the boys' hair
filling the water guns. Lord of the Flies.
more mud

I have to say, I don't know anyone else who could pull this off. How did Anna get to be so relaxed? She has been a people person since birth, never enough friends in her room. I realize her father is a theatre producer and her mother is also a producer of sorts - my reading series, the Farm Christmas pageant. Without question, Anna is a producer too, of events like these, which she does regularly, where hoards of people have fun and get to know each other and are fed. It's one of her gifts to the world.

Her gift to me, besides becoming a welcoming, wise human being, is two very muddy, happy little boys.

I just heard from her - Eli's other grandmother, one of his aunts, and her four kids stayed the night and are still there. Anna and family live in a two bedroom apartment. "Cousin parties are the best parties!" she wrote.

Miraculous.  She just sent me this, too:

Thursday, May 18, 2017

King Charles III

We just had two days of full-on summer - 30 degrees feeling like much more - and now it's going back to a normal springtime. Which is a relief, because I haven't even had time to bring out my summer clothes yet. Plus good weather is important because my beloved daughter is throwing a birthday party for her older son on Saturday and is expecting 18 adults and 19 children. Yes. She is insane. But Thomas comes from a big family, there are lots of cousins and step-cousins and she wants Eli to know his family. So 19 children, including some extremely energetic boys. Luckily the weather will be good and they'll be outside; she devises all kinds of fun things for them to do. And then there's opening presents and cake, which will occupy them all for at least seven minutes.

Eli is FIVE. How did that happen so fast? I know, that's what boring old people always say. And now that's me.

Have been immersed in teaching work and trying to get the house and my life in order all week, hence not writing here. The cultural appropriation controversy continues to rage; another magazine editor resigned and a CBC producer was reassigned, as a result of their intemperate responses. In one way, the Writers' Union did us all a favour in bringing this important issue to the forefront.

Last week I saw there was a rerun of the second episode of The Handmaid's Tale, the film adaptation of Margaret Atwood's dark dystopian fantasy, and started eagerly to watch - it has had very good reviews. But I had to turn it off. Dark doesn't even begin to describe it - it's unbelievably depressing, and there's already far too much that's depressing - and terrifying - going on out there. Instead I watched King Charles III, a British production imagining a few years hence when the Queen dies and Charles takes over. He is however out of touch and finds himself shoved aside by his son. Strange to watch Will and Kate and Harry and Camilla, not to mention Charles himself, portrayed on film in a kind of Shakespearean tragedy in blank verse. An excellent production.

But mostly, I, like most of the planet, am preoccupied with something vastly more sleazy, avidly reading the papers for the latest scandal, the latest unbelievable stupidity. And the man never disappoints.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Beth was wrong

Dear bloggees, I was wrong. I am rarely wrong, as you know, usually sublimely right in most every facet of life. But in this vital controversy, I was wrong, and as it often does, it took my glorious daughter to set me straight. It stems partly from a misunderstanding about the actual meaning of the words 'cultural appropriation,' which I took merely to be a benign imagining of another culture, but which, as the writer pointed out in yesterday's post, is not the case, it has a much more venomous connotation of theft and exploitation.

But Anna also reminded me about the suffering of indigenous people in this country, not just in the past, but to this day - the lack of clean drinking water, hospitals and schools, the phenomenally high suicide rate among youth, a situation caused by neglect and indifference, and for a time, actual government policy, an aim to destroy indigenous languages and communities. So anything we can do to set that abysmal situation straight, to make it better, is what we should be focussed on, and not a sarcastic rant about how we white folk should be able to write whatever we want.

Anna sent me this, Jesse Wente on CBC radio this morning, a profoundly moving talk about what the issue means to him as an indigenous man.

I am sorry for rushing to judgement and recrimination. What's good about this is that it has blown the lid from long-held assumptions and thoughtless notions, and, perhaps, a kind of racism we were - or at least I was - not even aware of.

Here's my wise and beautiful daughter. We had dinner there yesterday. Joy.
In my cab home, the driver, who watched my grandsons waving goodbye, said, "You're lucky. My mother is in Ethiopia." Yes. Very lucky and very blessed. Though sometimes, remarkably obtuse.

P.S. This is not to say that sometimes the forces of political correctness do not go to absurd extremes, because they do. But not in this instance.

Saturday, May 13, 2017


The appropriation controversy rages on. Everyone is weighing in, some with helpful calm perspective and some most decidedly not. On a friend's FB page, someone replied to a comment with this, which is helpful.
You can write anything you want, though you might be criticized if you take ownership of someone else's culture in a way that is shallow and opportunistic. Cultural appropriation is not the same as imagination or intercultural dialogue or any other nuanced idea. Cultural appropriation refers to a kind of exploitation of others with less power.

That helps me see the issue in a new way. And that's my last word on this issue. The whole world is disintegrating, climate change and the weather are destroying the planet plus there's a fascist lunatic with his finger on the nuclear button, no, two fascist lunatics, no, more, THREE, North Korea, Russia, and the U.S. Plus Turkey and the Philippines. Imagine, a worldwide gang of fascist lunatics which includes the United States. So it's the bigger picture that preoccupies me now.

To the point that I almost want to stop clicking here, stop reading the newspaper. The relentless explosion of news, yet another absurdity, another atrocity, another reason to tear out your hair. More importantly - another good friend is battling cancer. Brucie is still recovering in hospital in Italy. It seems perhaps he had a stroke; his sister is on the case. We are fragile, we older human beings. That's enough to deal with, without the horror of all the rest.

And yet despite all this, for the first time in a long time - I feel great. Because I'm home? It's spring? All that. I'm home, and it's spring, and I have some energy. Today, my friend Grace came to help me with technology - we upgraded the Mac to the latest operating system which so far has only caused two giant headaches - and she helped me take the plants that wintered in my study outside. It really must be spring.

Now I'm going to go watch a repeat episode of "The Handmaid's Tale" on Bravo. A dose of Margaret Atwood dystopia, just in case I'm feeling a little too perky.

And here, for your delight, is my beloved Macca, a bit hairier than usual ...