Friday, July 31, 2015

Queen for a day

And more - this from my genius friend Chris, who's so creative with a computer. I wrote to him, "This is hilarious. Hideous, but hilarious." I have to say - I would NEVER wear that champagne colour or those huge earrings or fluffy curls.  But the sparkly necklace and head thingy and a medal or two - hell yes.
It's 10.15. I'm still 64! Paul wrote a song about me!

Just watched Jon's show from yesterday. My age is showing already - for the last few days, I couldn't stay up as late as 11 to watch, went to bed early and saw the show on my computer the next day. OMG. The end is nigh. But my Jon, though obviously waiting for the last show, is still wonderful - a brilliant bit on the extremely low bar set by the Republican candidates.

And now, humble little people, it's time for me to play with my corgis.

boithday, Bethday

First - just talked to a very nice man called Bruce from Bell engineering - and we have an appointment for next Thursday! Progress. Amazing. Stay tuned.

Then, birthday wishes are flooding in. Friend Suzette, who's in L.A. with her husband and fellow producer Pierre Sarrazin (Michael's brother) just sent this :
Thinking of you, ma chère Beth, on the cusp of seniorhood. Which reminds me of a story.

Years ago Michael Sarrazin heard a house alarm coming from the house next door. At the time he lived in a lovely California bungalow on a hilltop in Beverly Hills. He always kept an eye on this house because the owners, an elderly couple in their mid-nineties, were frail.  So he went to investigate and helped the lady of the house turn off the alarm which had been accidentally triggered. She knocked at his door with a cake the next day to thank him. She saw that he looked morose and said, What's the problem? And he said, I just turned sixty-five. And she replied, Oh Michael, your whole life's ahead of you!

So Beth, your whole life is ahead of you.  Have a great party.  Wishing we could be among your peeps.  

Me too, Suzette. 
And from Carol my tenant and friend, who's at home in Ecuador: 
Wishing you all the best as you enter upon the seriousness of senior citizenship. We are the generation that changed it all! LOVE LOVE LOVE! LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED!
It is a pleasure to be on the Magical Mystery Tour with you. Have a wonderful day! Have a lovely party. Enjoy your 65th year! Honestly, it just keeps getting better and better! 

And this from poor Lynn, suffering as usual in the south of France. Lynn, whom I've known since I was 17, and her husband Denis, worked for many years at Jean Vanier's L'Arche :
My little anecdote for your entering into seniorhood comes from Pierrot Crépieux. Pierrot was the first handicapped person Jean Vanier welcomed to L’Arche in 1963. Last year he was awarded  the Légion d’honneur from Président Francois Hollande- the first time ever someone with a mental disability has received the coveted Légion d’Honneur. One of his most quoted statements to the press is the following :« Tant qu’on n’a pas vu qu’on a une belle vie, on a peur de devenir vieux, on râle tout le temps et c’est cassepied pour les autres. »
 When we don’t realise how good life is,  we’re afraid of growing old. We complain all the time, and we’re just a nuisance to others. (my translation).

To you who celebrates life daily and never ( well… hardly ever) complains- you are a true witness to how it’s getting better all time. Getting so much better all the time.

Would give my two front teeth to be there tomorrow. But twin three olds with lots of life to celebrate are keeping me here in France. But will be drinking and making merry in celebration of you tomorrow. 

Thanks for quoting my beloved Paul, Lynn. Dear readers, it's important not just to have friends, but to have cheerful, loving, supportive friends like these. There's a package here sent from Gabriola Island by Patsy, who helped me celebrate my 20th birthday, and now my 65th. Lucky, lucky me.

when I'm no longer 64

It's 8 a.m. and I've had my first (bitter) laugh of the day - Bruce just sent this wonderfulness:
And just because that didn't provide enough frustration, I called Bell again - half an hour, talking to one person who transferred me to the "varied wire control centre" - isn't that a great name? - where a nice woman called Daya assured me that she would send my issues to a manager called Jay who would send my issues to the Engineering Department. Who will throw them in the garbage.

I told Daya nicely that I am writing all this down in detail on my blog and won't stop until the problem is fixed, so though they are hoping otherwise, I'm not going to go away. And thanked her for her help.

Stay tuned.

I watched a CBC documentary last night on our over-connected age - people wearing data-gathering wires in their clothing (this will soon be common, we were assured), people who digitally track every detail about their bodies and their lives. Hello, I wanted to say - I've been doing this all my life, it's called a diary! But no, they do it all with apps.

What interested me most was "digital detox" - people having to learn how to disconnect. Silicon Valley folk go to a place called Camp Grounded - "disconnect to reconnect" - where they are forced to put all devices away and actually talk to each other. There's a "human powered search engine," which is a giant billboard replacing Google - when people have questions, they post them on a piece of paper on the billboard, and someone else answers - in pen. There's a "typewriter range" where they can type - "learn to express yourself unedited" - and an Inbox, a giant cubby where they can leave letters and notes for each other. We're going back to the Fifties!

So on that note, my beloved friends - I have decided to take a radical step. Part of my day is spent thinking of you, of what to write here, and then sitting down to do so. And perhaps I need to detox a bit too. I would very much like to share the next few days with you, preparing for my birthday on Saturday and the small gathering of my peeps, as they say, on Sunday. I have to tell you about that. But on Monday, I am going to struggle - and it will be a struggle - not to write here for a few weeks. Just to live my life, without chronicling it.

Except for my battle with Bell. THAT I'll write about. But otherwise, I'm going on a brief digital diet, as they said in the doc. It's not that I don't love doing this, I do. But it's good to change things up sometimes, and August is a good time to do that. I'm going to focus on other kinds of writing. Please don't go away forever; I'm a born chronicler and won't be able to bear not reporting on life on a regular basis.

This is my last day as a non-senior person. 64 - the absolute oldest that the young Paul McCartney could imagine. Tomorrow, I'll be older than that.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


Hot continues. Today Anna had a meeting with her lawyer, so we met downtown and I took Eli to CBC's kids day. On my way, I passed Ben McNally's beautiful bookstore. Ben is a Toronto hero - somehow, as independent bookstores vanish left and right, he keeps this stunning, tasteful, valuable oasis going. But note how many people are shopping.
I was in a rush and would be out all day so couldn't really shop myself - but I did buy two treats for my daughter and her family - the hilarious "Go the fuck to sleep," which I'd meant to buy when Eli was a baby, and the new Dr. Seuss, "What pet should I buy?" This manuscript was discovered posthumously and has just been published. But it's not like the new Harper Lee, a major disappointment, apparently; I don't know, I haven't read it and won't. It's a true Dr. Seuss book. Another great hero.

Eli and I had lunch, his favourite, sushi. What pleasure to watch this barely 3-year old cramming California roll into his mouth - I who first ate sushi at age 35. The CBC atrium was a zoo with hundreds of kids and parents and camps. We saw some overheated actors dressed up in giant costumes with huge feet and wooly heads - Arthur et al - and played with some Lego. Then a concert began, so we managed to squeeze onto the floor, where Eli promptly climbed into my lap and fell asleep. I managed to protect him for 3/4 of an hour as other kids climbed over his legs and as the musicians clapped and danced and sang. Then a wait and another concert, which he was awake for and nonplussed by. Budget cuts are evident - the idea of a kids' day is great but the performed material was lame. Really lame.

But then - joy of joys - they released hundreds of balloons from the ceiling. Pandemonium.
We stepped over thousands of balloons, got out into the great heat, met Mama and baby brother and had a quiet sit, if such a thing is possible, in the Eaton's Centre.

When I looked in the mirror on my return, I saw that rivulets of the sunscreen I'd put on before leaving home were trapped in the wrinkles on my face. I guess that nearly-65 year old woman in the mirror is me. Ah well. Here's an extremely kind note I just received from my friend Margaret in Vancouver, along with birthday wishes:

A few of the things I’ve learned from Beth. 
  • Make lists. Then make more lists.
  • Donate generously to your friends from your curated Goodwill collection.
  • Respond with alacrity and wit to emails, letters, postcards and phone calls.
  • Make people laugh. 
  • Write entertaining and thought-provoking books.
  • Go on memorable trips with your friends.
  • Write reviews that get to the heart of a painting. Darn it, how do you that?
  • Cook fab meals at all times.
  • Write the best line I’ve heard about our current PM : he with ‘'the timber wolf eyes.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

my sentiments exactly

How can you tell I'm stuck inside because of the heat and hanging around FB? Reading about Cecil the lion.

Now, this is my idea of a wonderful woman. Wish I'd known her.
In lieu of donations, Catherine would want you to do everything you can to drive Stephen Harper from office, right out of the country, and into the deep blue sea if possible. Also, she would like to fix the CBC...

where I was yesterday - and where we should all be today

at the beach

Yesterday, heaven - a bike ride with Jean-Marc and Richard to get the 5.30 ferry and then to Hanlan's beach. We swam in the lake, we ate a delicious gourmet meal, we walked and swam again. It's an interesting place, because where we were was right next to the clothing optional beach, where many men and women were unselfconsciously naked. So unCanadian.
 But first - may I introduce you, again, to my roses of Sharon, with whom I'm a little in love? Who was Sharon, anyway?
Hello, beautifuls.
My handsome and erudite neighbour keeping in touch with the world. See that group behind him? It turned out to be a group of bartenders and servers on their day off, barbecuing and playing in the water and having a good time. Among them was a very tall decorated young man who happened to be my son.
Another handsome neighbour, also keeping in touch.
On the ferry home. The one on your left will become a senior citizen on Saturday. I know - unbelievable, right?
My city.

A word about JM and Richard, who are the best friends and neighbours anyone could ask for. They animate our whole block, making friends with everyone, helping people garden and clean up; they care. About children, too - they have a Tickle Trunk in their house, with gifts for any kids who happen to visit. Just good human beings - and, may I say at the risk of embarrassing them, they have one of the best couple relationships I've ever witnessed; though they're so different, they accept each others' foibles with tolerance and humour, and give love to each other and to the world. I'm grateful to know them.

A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers. -Robert Quillen, journalist and cartoonist (1887-1948) 

From my son's FB page:
The best part of any staff beach party, besides all the drinking and bbqing and swimming.... Is when your mother and her friends are 15 feet away, just by chance, doing the same. Beth Kaplan you are the fucking best.

the better Bell battle

It will be fun to share with all of you the details of my battle with Bell - fun for me, that is, if not for you - and of course, good to let Bell know that many are along for the ride. Because otherwise, I just might spend too much time screaming at the wall.

There are hideous telephone lines running right across my backyard - the phone lines for this entire block start in my garden, for some reason, and then Rogers Cable piggybacked on them, so there's a thick wad of wires anchored by a big metal junction not far from my house. From the house, the ugly sight is partially hidden by an old lilac branch that will soon have to go - so I now want the wires moved. Bell has no legal rights here, no easement on my property. I just want the wires moved further down the yard, away from the house.

Called, got cut off twice, called again, got through to someone. After much talk, they arranged for someone to come and take a look. On the appointed day, I waited for the 3 hour window. No one came. The next day, I called back. Oh, the call must have got lost; I explain it all again. Someone else will come. A few days later, someone did - a nice young man who had no idea what to do with the wires. After standing and looking for some time, and agreeing that yes, they're very ugly, he said he'd get in touch with the engineering department, who would call. Later that day, another young man appeared, answering the same service call by mistake. He had no idea what to do either.

That was two weeks ago. In the meantime, my daughter had a baby, so I let it slide. Now I'm trying again. Yesterday, another long call to a nice woman who was very concerned. So so sorry! She would get in touch with the right department and get right back to me. That was yesterday morning.

I know, this is what Anna calls "a first world problem." I am also arguing with U of T, because I discovered, to my shock and surprise, that the marketing department has rewritten the creative writing course descriptions in the course catalogue on-line and in print. They want all the blurbs to sound the same, apparently, so have cheerfully changed the copy. I don't know about the others, but my course descriptions are not only badly written, they're both completely wrong. I have asked my boss for them to be changed, and he's not sure they can.

My hackles rise. This morning, I went to to an eye appointment, my file got lost in the shuffle, and several people with appointments after mine were taken first. Hackles. I know, first world problems. And - they affirmed, once I finally got in, that unlike my father and grandmother, I do not have glaucoma, which is the good news. However, the terrible blurbs and the hideous wires are still there. Somehow my Buddhist serenity is failing me this morning. Maybe it's the heat.

Any advice, O serene readers?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

joy in human beings

 A student just wrote to ask if I'd work with her privately on her writing. She concluded:
I would very much love to work with you as I admire not just your teaching ability but how you savour life and find joy in human beings. 

How nice is that? Speaking of savouring life - on this boiling hot day, I'm meeting dear friends Jean-Marc and Richard to cycle down to the ferry terminal and take the ferry over to the island beach for an evening picnic and a swim. Mmmm.

Another student sent me a blog post about writing, that I think expresses beautifully what we're trying to do in our work:
No doubt you’ve all heard the expression, often attributed to Hemingway:“Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.”
The first time I read this quotation it resonated with me, but I didn’t realize that what I’ve been talking about – translating both the happiest and most painful experiences in life into one’s work – is how we bleed. At least, that’s my take on it. 

This kind of writing – writing with a kind of brutal emotional honesty – is uncomfortable because we feel a bit like we’re undressing in public. It’s a bit like living out one of those stress dreams we’ve all had where we walk into a crowded room, stark naked.
But, in a way, that’s what we’re doing. We’re revealing our essence, exposing our soul.

Yes, yes we are. I sent the manuscript of my exposed soul, aka the current draft of my new memoir - a mere 49,000 words - to two readers yesterday. Writing a book, for me, is like climbing a mountain; periodically I need to stop on a plateau, rest and take in the view, which means getting some feedback, assessing where I am before continuing the climb. So we'll see what they say and what I decide about the next draft.

In the meantime - it's majorly summer. Time for a swim. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Robin Phillips, R.I.P.

While he was here this past weekend, Edgar my ex learned that Robin Phillips, one of his best friends and colleagues, former Stratford Artistic Director, had died on Saturday July 25. Almost 30 years ago, Ed was pushing through the merger of two Toronto theatre companies to become Canadian Stage when he met Robin. Eventually, he produced the "Macbeth" that Robin directed with Glenda Jackson and Christopher Plummer, which should have been a huge hit but which fizzled on Broadway. He and Robin worked together several more times as director and producer, and were close friends for years afterwards.

I worked with Robin once myself, not as an actress, but as his assistant for a weekend on a new play workshop. It was an eye-opener. The man was such a fierce perfectionist, so hardworking, coiled and intense, always brilliant but sometimes unbearable, it's amazing he lived as long as he did. He used what I came to call "the theatre of abuse" - he pummelled actors into working the way he wanted them to work, and often, his methods worked incredibly well and drew out emotions and skills actors didn't even know they possessed. Sometimes, however, they were defeated instead, and I fear that other directors, far less brilliant, learned his methods without the incandescent genius behind them.

When we visited as a family, he was lively, warm and open, he and Joe in their beautiful farmhouse in the Ontario countryside - interested even in our children, in my thoughts and career, in everything. The kids loved him. I know that many in Canadian theatre did not; he came here at a time of intense nationalism in the arts as elsewhere, and his very Britishness, not to mention that he was a supremely visionary and talented and yet difficult man, led many to dislike him. But most of the time, he was so very good. I remember a production - "King John"? - in the Patterson Theatre he'd designed himself at Stratford, clean, spare, profoundly moving. He brought a new expertise and pride to the theatre artists of this country, and left behind a generation who'd been transformed.

Thank you, Robin. I hope you received as much pleasure as you gave.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

all you need

8.30 a.m. Sunday morning, quiet and fragrant and blessed. The garden is moving into its mauve period - phlox, rose of Sharon, lavender - with a pop of yellow rudbeckia, the white balloons of hydrangea and the giant toppling golden glow behind. I thank you god for most this amazing day ...
We are gathering here for bagels and smoked salmon this morning.  We are a cliché of togetherness. How I love being a cliché, for once.

With all this going on, I've still managed to carve out a bit time for work on the new memoir, working title "1979". As usual, all I can think is - who cares? Who wants to read about a confused 29-year old woman who doesn't know what she wants in life? This one isn't even funny, it just rambles on and on. I'm sure it's terrible. But I also think there's a kernel of something that will work, if I can just figure out what it is. So next week, this draft will go to two trusted readers, to get a sense of where I am and where I have to go.

In the meantime, I have to go get dressed and prepare for brunch.

There's a wonderful website, Pop Sonnets, that does Shakespearean versions of well-known pop songs - very clever and skilful. Your morning smile.
(There's nothing you can do that can't be done
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It's easy
There's nothing you can make that can't be made
No one you can save that can't be saved
Nothing you can do but you can learn to be you in time
It's easy
All you need is love)

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Friend Suzette just sent this great quote:
From the NY Times Sunday Book Review interview with novelist Etgar Keret:
"I...try to avoid...memoirs, since I tend to distrust people who are telling a story they have such a great stake in. As someone who has just released a memoir I must add that unlike others, I'm totally trustworthy when it comes to telling my story."

Me too, Edgar, totally trustworthy - and all my students too!

Suzette also wrote "More baby pictures, not less." How can I deny her? But baby right now is across town.

Yesterday, the team came to Glamma's - babycakes, big brother, Grampa and Mama. Baby slept and the rest of us ate take out sushi in the garden. And then Mama and babe went home, and Eli stayed for a sleepover with his grandparents.
Grandpa, who had spent the day in the sun, went to bed before Eli, who was bouncing until - yes, it was unfortunately true - 11.15 p.m. His weary grandmother just let him bounce, until he was finally still.

This morning at 7 a.m., there he was, bouncing. "I woke up and dere was Mr. Sun!" But he got into bed with me - looking out the window, "We're so HIGH and dere's birds," - and went back to sleep for a bit. The morning with us,

listening to a CD, doing numbers with Grandpa, and a tour of Parliament Street looking for a hat to protect his grandfather's head. Now, off to meet his mother and brother at a First Nations powwow, part of Panamania. Tonight, a barbecue at his mama's with his father and hers, and tomorrow, everyone to Glamma's again for brunch. A busy social life for someone who has just turned 3.

I count my infinite blessings yet again, that this man and I, who loved each other profoundly once and lost that feeling along the way, have found it again. And here he is, a wonderful grandfather, father and friend, staying in the house we bought together in 1986, where our children grew up. Something has come full circle, something has been healed, we are family.

Speaking of family, there's an unusual obituary from the Toronto Star making the rounds. Here's an excerpt:
Pat Stocks, 94, passed away peacefully at her home in bed July 1, 2015... She left behind a hell of a lot of stuff to her daughter and sons who have no idea what to do with it. So if you're looking for 2 extremely large TV's from the 90s, a large ceramic stork (we think) umbrella/cane stand, a toaster oven (slightly used) or even a 2001 Oldsmobile with a spoiler (she loved putting the pedal to the metal), with only 71,000 kilometers and 1,000 tools that we aren't sure what they're used for. You should wait the appropriate amount of time and get in touch. Tomorrow would be fine. 

Here's a link to the whole thing:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Grampa's here

Dear readers, I promise this plethora of baby pictures will end soon; my brain will return and life will go on. But for now - here are some more. My dear ex came to town today, is staying here at the house till Sunday. He went directly from the airport to Anna's to visit his new grandson, one week old today, and his old one, who has just learned to ride a two-wheeler without training wheels, fast, up and down the alley. Spectacular. Uncle Sam, aka Stinkbutt, came over too. 
We may not be an ordinary family - after all, he and I have been divorced for 25 years - but we sure felt like one today. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


O joy - Jon Stewart is back. He seems exhausted and even admitted that he's relying on Donald Trump to provide him with lightweight loony material so he doesn't have to delve into the heavy stuff. Which, luckily, the cretinous Mr. Trump is happy to do. Paul Rudd, at the end of a very sweet interview last night, said, "I love you, Jon Stewart." Which is what we all feel. Bereft in 3 weeks.

It seems that President Obama will be Jon's guest tonight. How's that for clout?

I am dealing with sensitive neighbour issues - nothing serious, just misunderstandings. Things like this always remind me of a favourite quote from my dear friend JP Sartre: "Hell is other people." And no matter where you go, there they are.

On the other hand, heaven, also, is other people.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

tonight's lessons

It's great to spend time with smart, informed people, who have history and geography and current events at their fingertips, whereas I flounder in idealistic generalities with only the vaguest sense of where and why. At Monique's usual delicious and fascinating francophone dinner tonight, we talked a lot about Greece, what the Germans have done to the Greeks and what it means. But also many other things. Here are a few of the things I learned, while drinking and eating vast quantities:

Stalin did not believe the Nazis would invade Russia because he had signed a pact with Hitler. When he realized they'd begun to cross the border, he had a kind of nervous breakdown and vanished for ten days. So for the first days of the German invasion, Russia was essentially leaderless.

Kruschev was the commander in charge of Ukraine, and not long after the Russians began their onslaught, he told Stalin the war was over; he was going to surrender. Stalin’s commander in chief told his boss to inform Kruschev this was unacceptable. Stalin told Kruschev that if he surrendered, Stalin would take his mother, wife and children, who were nearby, and kill them. Kruschev did not surrender.

Germany has always wanted to annex Ukraine, one way or another. Hitler wanted it for “lebensraum” – more space for Germans.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are waging a kind of proxy war in Syria.

Greece has been eviscerated by punitive Germany and may never recover. The euro was a mistake – to tie the currencies of large prosperous nations to smaller southern ones with much further to go, was disastrous. The ideal was good. But the reality should have been to attempt to bring the southern nations further up the economic scale before liason.

Francois Hollande is a feeble disaster. The smartest economist in Europe is Dominique Strauss-Kahn. If he'd been able to keep it in his pants, the world would be in much better shape.

According to Jack, the Iran nuclear accord is a mistake because too many dangers have been ignored. Iran, for example, he says, still has huge military and espionage presence in Cuba, Venezuela and Argentina. But then, Jack is 1000% pro Israel. He is not a fan of Obama. 

There’s a great restaurant on Wellington St. called Pravda, that serves many kinds of vodka and has a big ironic picture of Lenin. Lenin, however, did not drink. He had a very soft voice, and so at Soviet congresses, with no mikes, could not be heard. That’s where the famous banging a shoe on the table came from – started by Lenin, continued by Kruschev.

How's that for a bunch of interesting stuff? There was more, but I'd drunk a great deal - Prosecco, rose, beaujolais nouveau - by then and can't remember. And a happy Sunday to you too.

baby brother Day Two

Went across town to visit the little family, to find everything miraculously tranquil and organized. Holly had taken Eli to Sunnyside pool and Ben was sleeping.
You can see his funny little sideways right foot. It's a perfect foot, it's just sideways. It will be easily fixed.
The midwives came to check everything and brought an old-fashioned scale.
Just over six pounds - a little more than a bag of sugar. 
Then big brother came home sleepy from his swim and had a nap in the arms of his grandmother and then his mother. 
Anna said he came into her room this morning and said, Good morning Mummy. Good morning, baby brother. 

There are still complications of various kinds, but Mummy is on top of everything right now, particularly because she'd had some sleep and the AC was on. She made me a BLT with avocado, delicious, and then I went home. Tonight, the Francophone gathering next door at Monique's. I think my brain will work enough to speak a bit of French. Or perhaps not, but I can eat. I can always eat. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015


Recovery time, at least, for me - I've been in a stupor all day in 30 + degree heat, getting over the stress and exhaustion of the 24 hours before. So I can hardly imagine what it's like to be Anna, on much less sleep, with her body recuperating and her throat still burning, dealing with a tiny newborn, a bouncy 3-year old who doesn't want to let her out of his sight, many friends, her household, and other complicating factors. Plus a heat wave.

She had a bit of a meltdown this morning, in fact, understandably, but by afternoon was fine. Very cheerful, in fact. She said she'd tell her friends that when the time comes to bring forth their babies, they will not want their husband in the delivery room, but their mother. 

And I said, wait a minute, it depends on the mother. For example, I would not have wanted my own mother in the delivery room. Oh my god, no. Afterwards, yes - when I got home with Anna, she was waiting in our apartment with freshly made scones and a bouquet of sweetheart roses. Wonderful. Not earlier. But I am glad I was useful to my daughter. C'est mon job. 

Can't believe how little I accomplished today - it felt like I was swimming underwater. Got my hair cut. Did a lot of emailing, letting people know about the baby. Talked and texted to the family across town. Got myself all worked up. Got myself calmed down. Sat. Should have tried harder to look at pictures of Pluto. Just watched a ridiculous Masterpiece Mystery featuring Hercule Poirot and bits of two Ryan Gosling movies. He is so adorably Canadian. 

My hairdresser, who's a dear friend, told me that several of her clients are Harper supporters. Terrifying. Thank you, John Kenneth Galbraith, one of my heroes, for nailing the issue for once and for all.

Friday, July 17, 2015

so small!

little brother Ben

There's an obvious power struggle between the midwives and the nursing staff at St. Joe's, not sure if it's true of other hospitals - and Anna got caught in the middle, yesterday and today. Yesterday, after hours of labour with little result, she asked to be transferred from the midwives to the doctors so she could have an epidural and be induced; she had to wait more than five hours for a nurse to become available. And today, she had to wait again as messages and paths crossed. Anyway, it all came out all right in the end, as the saying goes.
Mmm - mitten.

I'm so happy, she said, to have my body back. 
Ready to go home. The pouring rain stopped just in time.

When Eli met his brother, he asked how the baby got out of his mummy's tummy. "He came out through my 'gina," she said. "You mean you sort of poo'ed him out?" he said. Well - pretty close.
First glimpse.
Opening the fantastic remote control monster truck that was a present from his little brother! How could his brother know so well what Eli would really really love? He played smash crash for hours.
 "That's Mr. Big Brother to you."

Friends, my daughter's journey will be complicated and difficult. But she will triumph. Because that's who she is and that's what she does. But it won't be easy, and Glamma may worry. Occasionally. Because ... ditto.

Benjamin Edgar

Benjamin Edgar, born just after 2 a.m. Friday July 17, 2015, 6 pounds 10 ounces. 3.010 kilos for my European friends. A tiny young man. (His brother was a bruiser - 9 pounds.) I cut the umbilical cord. There was a perfectly tied KNOT in the cord; they'd never seen anything like it. And yet he's fine.

Eli's birth was incredible, but this one - the most intense experience of my life, by a million miles.

I can't write much now - got in at 5 a.m., got 4 hours sleep, must deal with my own life for a bit and then get back across town to help spring my daughter and her new son from hospital. It was a long hard day and night. She threw up so often that her throat is burned and it hurts her to swallow. During the process, I marvelled that women ever, ever, do this twice. But then a baby is born and profound amnesia sets in, which is why there are seven billion people on the planet.

My daughter is magnificent. There are no words to do her justice, so I'll just go with magnificent.
I took a break in the middle of yesterday, leaving her with her best friends Lana and Nicole, and went back to her place, a fifteen minute walk. She had all the littlest shoes ready on the change table.
Big brother was out with his dad. This is what Anna's living room looked like.
Benjamin Edgar, five minutes old.
He nursed instantly.
Anna was hoping for a midwife birth, but that was not to be. The midwives missed the actual birth but were there right afterwards and were wonderful, as was the whole phenomenal staff. Thank you, as always, Tommy Douglas.
Safe and warm.
And so very, very small.

He is perfect, except that only God is perfect and so there is one issue his mother will take completely in her stride - he has a sideways foot. A club foot, which his father also had. We knew about it from the very first ultrasound. It can easily be fixed, it'll just take some extra care. And if there's one thing that's sure, it's that he'll receive as much extra care as he needs. And more.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

on his way

Have just heard from Anna, who had an ultrasound at St. Joseph's half an hour ago - they have decided to induce her today. So I will spend this perfect mild breezy summer day with my daughter. Great excitement. Please keep her in your thoughts today. Thursday, July 16, 2015. A great day to be born.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Robert Lepage's stunning "887"

First - no, not yet, no baby yet. But at least it's cool - amazingly cool for July, so Anna's not sweltering. The midwife today told her this baby is not as big as the last one, so it's not as urgent to move him out. Not today or tomorrow anyway, probably, the midwife said.

Haven't been able to get tickets for Panamania events because I'm on hold, though two friends who were at Robert Lepage's new show "887" last night wrote to say I must see it. I'd intended to anyway, having read that it was about memory, an exploration of his own life - my kind of thing. So when I heard the midwife's words, I immediately went online to get a ticket. There were only a few seats left and I was urgently scrabbling for my password when the site told me my time had expired and I'd have to wait half an hour to log back in. I was sure all the tickets would be gone so called and was cut off, called again, frantically, and got the second last seat.

Well - finally Toronto gave a standing ovation to a show and a performance that really deserved it. I don't think I've ever heard such a roar of approval from our cool Anglo crowd. What a superb show, a brilliant work of art. I walked out of Lepage's last show here; it was so overproduced and complicated and relentless, so cruel to the constantly moving actors, I thought of it as theatre abuse.

But this, though it had his usual extremely inventive use of technology, was relatively simple and beautiful and moving. He is exploring memory, his own, his family's, his society's. He takes us inside the apartment building where he lived in Quebec City, at 887 Murray Ave., and shows us all the inhabitants. He builds a world of the past, and then of the present, when, with a push to the walls of the brilliant set, he is suddenly in his own modern stainless steel kitchen, charged with memorizing a revolutionary Quebecois poem that is giving him trouble. He - from a half-anglo, half-French family - takes us through the birth of the FLQ,  Charles de Gaulle's speech, the murder of Pierre Laporte.

Mostly, he introduces us to his father, a handsome man who left school at the age of eight to work and could hardly read or write, once a lifeguard, then in the Canadian navy during the war, relegated to being a cabdriver for his entire adult life. Lepage portrays him with unforgettable tenderness, sorrow and pride. He portrays himself as a bit of a blowhard and an egotist, which may or may not be true but provides lots of much-needed laughter.

Haunting. Yet again, a superb work of autobiographical theatre. I am lucky to have seen it.

Thanks, my grandson, for giving me tonight off. A night to remember; a fine memory. Let's explore.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

waiting for little brutha

on missing men and trees and hating "Minions"

Two males of whom I'm extremely fond though we've never met are playing an annoying game of no show. My second grandson is comfortably lodged inside his mother and refuses to budge, though she is very hot and uncomfortable and most anxious for him to come out and play. If there's no  movement by Thursday morning, she's going to the hospital for an ultrasound, and if there's any concern at all, they'll induce. I'm accompanying her, in case.

That's where we stand today. Many thanks to everyone who's writing to ask. Stay tuned.

And - to my chagrin, I found out last night at 11 that my dear Jon Stewart is taking another week off - cruel when we have so little time left with him. I can understand the July 4th week, but why this week? Is he also celebrating July 14th, with the French? And by the way, Happy Bastille Day to all my patriotic French friends (which is none of them.)

Yesterday afternoon, Anna suggested meeting at a cinema, where it's cool, so we all went to see "Minions," a new animated movie. Usually I check Rotten Tomatoes, but this time, I'd heard it was cute and had Beatle music and good actors doing the voices - Geoffrey Rush - so was happy to go.

I hated it - loud, crass, violent, stupid. What Eli thought, I can't imagine, though he was transfixed. I hope he understood none of it. The music, true, was wonderful - many fab Sixties hits. It's set in 1968, only, I guess, so they could use that music and also show funny hair styles. But otherwise, it's got nothing, absolutely nothing, to say. Not a single thought invades the screen.

On the other hand, there's "Poldark" on PBS and "Borgen" on TVO, fantastic TV shows. "Poldark" on Sunday night was delicious - a period romance brought beautifully to life, with a smouldering hunky hero who's loyal, generous, true, and, oh yes, sexy as all get out. As they say - I am so there.

Old friend Lynn came for dinner last night - among other things, we had salad made with my lettuce and tomatoes, and dessert of garden rhubarb compote and raspberries we picked ourselves - my new thing, making my guests pick their own dessert. Lynn and I have seen each other through decades of upheavals and are now both in a place of relative tranquillity. We drank a bottle of good French Champagne and had barely scratched the surface of talk three hours later.

It's summer but still not too muggy or hot - fresh fruit, sweet air. The garden stops my heart every time I look out. There's an article in the Star today on how, if you have lots of trees on your street, you're proven to be healthier and live longer.

I hope you're in luck with your trees, my readers. My kids live among the trees of Parkdale, and I among the towering old east end trees. If you don't have any, please plant some.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

women at work and play

In my rough translation: "What's your opinion about the shortage of food in the rest of the world?"
Africa: What is food?
Europe: What is shortage?
U.S.: What is the rest of the world?
Arab states: What is opinion?

Nailed it. Unfortunately.

All quiet on the other side of town. Lucky Anna - our beloved Holly, professional nanny, who luckily for us has not yet formed her own familial bonds and so is more than happy to be part of ours, has come back from a work stint at a cottage with her prestigious bosses and is committed for the next while to helping her best friend and her godson. So though my daughter is hot and uncomfortable, she's not coping alone with a very energetic boy child.
Busy day on the home front. My piano tuner Anne Francis came - and what a difference after she left. Oh the golden tones. Too bad it's only me playing the same things over and over. But what joy nonetheless. Anne sold me a moisture system for the piano, to keep it hydrated. As well as my plants, now I have to water my piano.
She told me my old Heinzman was made in 1929 - a Toronto piano my mother bought at auction in Halifax in 1958. My childhood piano, once a device of suffering, now a source of great pleasure.

Before that, I went to the very end of the garden, where it's quietest, to get some work done.
The red cup is for the raspberries, which are still pouring forth in all their juicy redness. When friend Ken came for lunch the other day, we picked raspberries and had them for dessert over chocolate gelato. You notice there's just a notebook and pen - I did not bring my computer to the end of the garden. But I couldn't stand to be without it for more than half an hour. Addiction!

I gather that Federer has gone down in defeat at Wimbledon. Never liked Djovokic and neither did my mother. An emotionless tank. But do I really care? Not a whit.
This is did care about - sitting on the King streetcar home coming home from Anna's, at a red light, I heard beautiful music and  finally located it just as the car started - an old man with an autoharp, standing among the tall buildings as the crowds streamed past. I took this as quickly as I could as we pulled out of sight. If we hadn't started, I think I would have got off to listen and give him some money. He was creating such delicate beauty in the middle of concrete.

It is 8.45 p.m. The light is soft and fading, the sky blue-grey and frilled with cirrus clouds, air still, birds growing quiet. A small airplane, my neighbours muttering, a whiff of marijuana - or is it skunk? Nothing else. And all I can think is this:
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
e.e. cummings