Thursday, March 23, 2017

almost gone

9 a.m. Canadian scene #2642: sparrows on my deck pecking at the last little patch of snow, the garden a vista of green, grey and brown, but so much life waiting beneath. When I get back April 23, it'll be starting to burst.

I'm more or less packed; my suitcase weighs 32 pounds, but that's with some gifts, including children's books for the small people I'll be visiting and a heavy pot of peanut butter for Lynn. Son Sam came over to say goodbye and is asleep upstairs; later I'll meet Anna and the boys, have lunch with all my nearest and dearest. Yesterday, the English conversation circle - Nurun, Foyzun and other new friends. Then Carole's class at the Y, a gathering of old friends, some I've known nearly 30 years, sweating around the gym. Lunch with Ken, who at 81 is as lively as anyone I know, though with a big scab on his head from a melanoma cut out recently. I told him I'd been to the shrink and the doctor, so had taken care of my body and mind. "And now," he said, "you're going to France for your soul."

This morning, waking up in my room with its row of framed portraits facing the bed - Beethoven, Matisse, Colette, Paul McCartney, my great-grandmother Anna, and other notables. My British grandmother's sewing basket, my childhood books, my mother's teddy bear Donald Leonard Brown and her china doll Janet - the comfort of beloved artifacts, of familiarity. Tomorrow morning, I'll be groggy at the end of the long flight, about to emerge into adventure, glad to leave responsibilities behind for a few weeks - house, tenants, children and grandchildren, students, editing clients, garden, conversation circle, Y, piano lessons, and all the rest (though not writing). Just me in the wide world - with, of course, a computer and smartphone, my Canadian life a finger's touch away. Thank God.

More sparrows have discovered the snow. This I will not see in Paris. My flight doesn't leave till 9.45 tonight. It will be a long day.

So my friends, my dear bloggees, I bid you farewell. Hope you will come along for the journey - Paris with Lynn, Provence and Montpellier with Denis, Nice with Bruce, and a week in London alone though with a visit from Penny. Not a bad little jaunt for an old bag.

Onward. Or as they say in the country with the cheese, En avant!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Another stunning day - a girl could get used to this. People outside in shirtsleeves. I just ran into JM and Richard, who said, "How can you leave weather like this?" Oh, but I can. Or at Pierre Elliot Trudeau once said, "Just watch me!"

Had a tuneup and a check-up this morning, the first with my shrink, whom I see now once or twice a year to touch base, let her know how I am, get advice - she's the ideal mother, calm, accepting, and completely trustworthy, and she knows me better than anyone on earth. Today we were reminiscing about my visits to her during the early days of the divorce, when I was a terrified, depressed, unemployed single mother of two fairly difficult kids in a falling down house. Things, shall we say, have changed. Thank the good lord.

Then to get myself checked out with my GP, a wonderful tall woman with big feet, also rather like my mother, only also supportive and trustworthy. We talk about having big feet a lot, as she pokes and prods. All seems well so far. Fingers and toes crossed.

End of the Ryerson term last night - another very interesting group. Today a bunch of emails I will post here because they say nice things, so why not? Obviously, the people who didn't like the class did not send notes. The first is from a young woman who's getting married in April and announced that she's coming back to take the course again in September.
I LOVED the class. It's one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I didn't feel a burning need to tell a secret story, but just wanted to find a creative outlet and I have always loved to write. It's such a great forum. Going to take the summer off and enjoy it, but can't wait to start up again! 

You were so very genuine in your approach without babying us. You have a wonderful sense of humour. I will miss my Monday nights and look forward to reading your memoir when it is published. 

It has a been such a wonderful experience sharing and growing through your wonderful class. Thank you for creating a supportive environment where we could all feel free to share - it has truly been a liberating experience.

Good to read these as I sit in a patch of sunlight, with my laundry drying outside on the deck.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

la Boucanerie Chelsea

My Aunt Do is truly amazing. I don't think there can be many other nearly-97-year olds who live alone in their own apartments, taking care of everything themselves except for a caregiver who comes in once a week, to drive her to get groceries and clean. She doesn't want help with anything, because she thinks doing for herself is what has given her such staying power. And I guess she's right. 
It was such a stunningly beautiful Saturday that I said let's go for a drive, and once in downtown Ottawa, I realized where we should go - to my brother's shop, la Boucanerie Chelsea in the Gatineau, which he bought a few years ago and Do had never seen. It's a wonderful place where he brines and smokes salmon,  sturgeon, and other fish and sells all kinds of gourmet treats. We had a tour and left with a bag full of goodies which the security guys at the Ottawa airport had a good time with today - what's THIS on the x-ray machine? A big chunk of hot smoked salmon. Mmmm.

Do and my brother Mike.

I took her for dinner afterward as an advance birthday present and actually got her to drink a small glass of red wine, as we talked, of course, about family. She said, heartbreakingly, that she felt her mother didn't like her, starting at birth because she was a baby with a lot of black hair, and then later, not as pretty and smart as her sisters. That is, smart in a different way that wasn't recognized by her parents. She has struggled all her life with low self-esteem. But now - she wins! She's the last one standing. Go Do go!

This morning I did my usual walk in Britannia Park - another brilliant sunny day. So much crunchy clean white snow. Love this sign by the beach.
Now, a few days left to get myself together, to NOT get the cold that's trying to invade - both Anna and my tenant Carol have bad colds - and to somehow blow this pop stand. At this stage, it's always hard to believe it's going to happen. But I have the distinct feeling that it will.

Friday, March 17, 2017


Okay, getting close to crazy time - leaving in less than a week for a 3-week jaunt around Europe, including the metropoli of Paris and London - one incredibly chic, the other almost certainly cold and wet - and the south of France which is chic and warm, and to visit my friend Denis who is the furthest thing from chic and will want to go on hikes up hill and down dale. What to pack? No idea. Underpants and socks, that much I know, and an umbrella.

I know you do not want to hear me whine. So I won't.

The big news is that I let the latest draft of the new memoir out of my grasp, shoved it into the grasp of Colin Thomas, my editor in Vancouver, who has allotted me a couple of days in early April. I had to send it - I was fiddling, obsessed, many hours, as Oscar Wilde said, taking out a comma and putting it back in again. I know it's better than it was, but I suspect it's still not good enough. I read good writers and despair, and then I hear myself adjuring my students to buck up, and try to do the same for myself. What a crazy business. Have I said that before? Met for coffee today with dear friend Rosemary Shipton, master editor and founder of the hugely successful Ryerson publishing program. We both marvelled that the writing business is falling apart, almost nobody makes any money, and yet writers and publishers are more numerous than ever.

On Tuesday, Uncle Sam brought his nephew Eli over to hang out at Glamma's house. What a treat, two of my 3 favourite men on the planet, the third being somewhat smaller. Sam made a big spaghetti dinner for the 3 of us and Wayson, my fourth favourite. Eli looked around the table and said, "There are 2 young people and 2 old people." And I said, "If you want to be invited back, watch your tongue." LOL.

On Wednesday, the conversation circle in Regent Park - it's thrilling to meet women who normally would not cross my path and will change my mind about a lot of things.
Four of these women are from Eritrea and Bangladesh, two from Canada, and one an immigrant born in New York City; several who wear niqab had left already. One is holding a poster about the fight for the $15 minimum wage. Another had 8 children by the age of 28, and then her husband died. I am learning a great deal about other ways of looking at the world.

Tomorrow I fly to Ottawa to take Auntie Do out for dinner. She will be 97 in a few weeks and I'll be away. But I'll be able to bring her favourite Neal's Yard face cream back from London.

Here's a hilarious video about a new tranquillizer that we all need. Cheers.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Etgar Keret, my new crush

Huge moments of pleasure on a cold and snowy day: this morning, looking out at the all-white landscape, and there, an impossibly scarlet cardinal and his pretty brown and red wife, pecking at my feeder. Later, talking with my Vancouver friend Nettie Wild, staying here for the weekend, whose film Koneline for some incomprehensible and unjust reason did not win Best Documentary at the Canadian Film Awards on Sunday night, but who was there and had stories to tell before flying home. And cheesy though some of it may have been, as I watched the awards on TV, still, the Canadian diversity celebrated on that stage was impressive - black actors, Asian actors, First Nation actors, Quebecois filmmakers speaking French, Christopher Plummer who is as old as time and still magnificent and very funny ... Rick Mercer talked about the phenomenon of Canadian humour. "It's one of our greatest exports," he said, "between canola and asbestos."

Tonight, a great class at Ryerson, coming home ready to snack on the superb goat cheddar by Black River Cheese, from Maddoc, Ontario, I've recently discovered and had taken out of the fridge, ready for my palate. To discover that Carol, my tenant and friend, had made turkey-vegetable soup and left a note for me to help myself. A bowl of soup, a glass of wine, a large slice of sourdough bread and cheese, and a beautiful, hopeful op-ed by Timothy Egan in the NYT, seeing light in our dark time, while the snow glistens outside - all I can say is yes. Yes and yes and yes.

On Sunday, I went to the Toronto Reference Library, their fantastic program of writers being interviewed, free tickets, to hear the Israeli writer Etgar Keret.
I very rarely look at a man and say, Please come home with me. But I said that to Mr. Keret. Unfortunately, surrounded by his admirers, he didn't hear me, and in any case, he's happily married. Aren't they all. It was a fantastic interview, funny and wise. He told us he is the child of Holocaust survivors and spent his childhood making sure he never caused any pain to his mother, who'd had too much pain in her life already. So, he made clear, his devilish side, adventures, rebellions, all had to be carried out on paper. I've heard many reasons for becoming a writer, but that's one of the most interesting. He told us his wife asked him once why there are so many unfaithful men in his stories. He told her, would you prefer me not to write about it and actually BE unfaithful? He said that though he adores his wife, of course he meets women and fantasizes, and then immediately goes and writes a story, and that's that.

What a guy.

I've ordered his new memoir, Seven Good Years, from the library, and look forward to reading it when I get back from France. OMG, should not have brought that up. Panic. I have to get ready, and there is too much to do.