Tuesday, August 8, 2017

high summer

The other day, I was at the Regent Park playground with Eli when I looked around and thought, here it is, the best of Toronto. On one side was a transgender parent with his kids, a man, indubitably once female, with hairy legs and a beard and a woman’s demeanour and voice. On the periphery nearby was a woman – I assume a woman – completely covered, head to foot, including her eyes, with black cloth, like a black ghost. There were others walking past in niqab, covered but with eyes showing, or just in hijab, with heads covered; there were Somali mothers wearing long robes but with faces revealed, and Caribbean mothers wearing almost nothing. There were Oriental children, black children and brown children, indigenous children, and even a few white children, like my grandson. Who went right up to a multicoloured group of boys playing on a roundabout and joined them. And we were off.

Thus began the latest sleepover with Eli. We had Sunday dinner on the deck with Eli’s extended family - Wayson and Carol, my tenant and friend. In the morning, he woke me at 7.15, got into my bed and slept for another hour, giving me time for peace and coffee before the fun began again – Snakes and Ladders, books, watering everything in sight, playing hide and seek, always hiding and waiting, with screams of pleasure, to be found. And stories, tall tales of things he has seen and done (not). A trip to the farm, ice cream. When we finally left to go back across town by streetcar, he sat on his own in the single seats on one side, while I sat on a double seat across the aisle. He sat alone the whole way, looking out the window and studying the Pokemon cards a friend had given him. He’s growing up too fast!
Then off to another treat for me – to TIFF, to see “The Trip to Spain” with Sam. We’ve seen the first two in the franchise, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, British comedians and actors on the road, staying in heavenly hotels, eating fabulous food and doing ridiculous impersonations at each other – Michael Caine is their favourite, though this time, they both did a perfect Mick Jagger. It’s silly and gets tiresome and yet is compelling, scenery, cuisine, and skilful comedy combined, the perfect film for Sam.

We walked to Terroni, one of the best restaurants in Toronto where Max, a good friend of his, works, and sat at the elegant bar in this beautiful restaurant eating pizza and ravioli, drinking rosé and talking with each other and with Max. It was like being in the movie.
It has been the strangest summer – some days hot, some chilly, almost every day with a bit of rain, then perfection like right now, then rain again – even a tornado out of town and a sun shower sometimes. No complaints, as the garden is flourishing – my cucumbers are enormous and plentiful – but my friend Rosemary is frantic, trying to plan a wedding luncheon in her garden next weekend.

However. Into each life. After dinner on Sunday, Wayson read some pages of the memoir, the new stuff I thought finally might be working, and had some harsh words for me. Not going deep enough. Too flat, cool, distant. Reporting not recreating, summarizing not showing. Etc. etc. etc. It was brutal, and it hurt, especially when he said that with this memoir I might be flogging a dead horse. A dead horse – just what I wanted to hear about three years of work. I need to stand back, take some distance, work on something else for a bit. In any case, luckily, I had already arranged to send a few of the new pages to Colin Thomas, my editor in Vancouver. I hope he’ll be able to give me some perspective.

So, up and down, but mostly up, very up. I am proud to announce I’ve become a major killer with the saucers I put down in the garden, not of milk for kittens, but of beer to murder slugs. When I come outside and see the saucers full of little dead slugs, happy in their beery death, I feel triumphant – basil, tomatoes, saved from their munching jaws. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.

This does too:


  1. Thanks to you, Colin Thomas is my new editor and he's brilliant. From him I received structure, encouragement, compliments and, most importantly - what's working and what's not working. I now have lots of re-writing to do; work that I'll take to Holland with me on Saturday.

    As for the niqab-wearing women in Regent's Park ... you call that the best of Toronto? A religion which is highly politicized, instrumentalizes and makes a fetish of female submission is something that we in the West should not have to tolerate. Thank goodness I live in France, not a niqab in sight.

    Juliet in Paris

  2. Loved this, Beth. And remember that opinions about your work are useful but you own it. Go with your best sense of it.

  3. Thanks, Theresa. I need to take a bit of time anyway, a breather, and then I'll see where I am. This morning I was at Mt. Sinai Hospital for a routine eye exam - glaucoma runs in the family - and thought of the people I know who've recently escaped the finger of fate, primarily you. Brava!
    Juliet, so glad Colin is working out for you. Because I had a niqabi in my U of T class, a strong, articulate, very bright and well-educated woman, and now know others from my immigrant women's conversation group, I have a much more tolerant view of this practice. I do not understand it, I do not like it, but I do not condemn the women who wear it. So yes, a society that tolerates women who want to swathe themselves in black from head to foot - that is the kind of society I want to live in.