Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Happy Birthday, crime division

Just ran into my neighbour Rob, who was invited to my birthday party but couldn't come.
"Did you get the wine I left?" he asked. "What wine?" I asked. He left four bottles of wine and a birthday card on the front porch early that birthday morning, because he had to leave town. Someone, somewhere, enjoyed some mighty fine wine. Phooey on a person who'd steal a birthday present! But then, in this neighbourhood, leaving four bottles of wine on the front porch is definitely not a good idea.

Wow - heat wave here, over 30 degrees, up to 40 with the humidity. I am abstemious with my air conditioner, but not today or yesterday - it's a lifesaver. Especially as I had a tough day, cleaning the basement apartment in preparation for the new tenant, who arrives tomorrow. I imagined myself like the Monty Python characters in cleaning lady garb, with hair encased in scarf, shapeless print dress, Cockney accent, cigarette and mop. I cleaned not only the toilet but AROUND the toilet and scrubbed the floor on my hands and knees. The joy of being a landlady. But it's nice and clean.

Trying not to pay much attention to the newspapers, as summer winds down. Too depressing. Though it seems Bush's Iraq war is over. I'm thrilled to note that once again, the "New Yorker" is at the forefront of political discussion, with its current article about the ultra-right wing Koch brothers who are funding the Tea Party, the "grass roots" movement paid for by Fox News and assorted billionaires. The face of evil, there in my favourite magazine, people who want to dismantle every social program and let anyone who's not a billionaire fend for themselves. Incomprehensible. Badly treated as children, perhaps - starved of affection and so incapable of empathy? Or just soulless and, yes, evil? What I've read of the article implies that their father, who made a lot of money through Stalin, felt guilty about it and grew to hate the Communists and anything that smacked of the left. So the brothers are just parroting Dad. He'd be proud, boys. Good job, getting poor people to believe in your agenda. Amazing, how you managed that.

The political discussion is so far to the right down there that I don't know how left-wing people can stand it. Thank the blessed lord for Jon Stewart, who shows us that they still exist, people of the left with minds and hearts and, for him at least, a voice. Shout it out, Brother Jon!


My mother called a few minutes ago, to remind me that it's her wedding anniversary. My parents were married on August 31st, 1949, while visiting friends in Chicago, and I was born nearly a year later, in Manhattan. It would have been their 61st wedding anniversary, had my father lived. How I wish he had lived.

And yet I know that had he lived, that extremely powerful, difficult, marvellous man, my life would have been very different. In some ways, his death was a liberating gift to his children. I think perhaps it's always like that, whether we acknowledge it or not.

Rob just came by with a birthday gift, delivered into my waiting hands - a bottle of good pinot noir.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ryerson advanced class cancelled

Important if sad news: MY ADVANCED CLASS AT RYERSON HAS JUST BEEN CANCELLED. It's more than two weeks before class, but no one had registered yet. I apologize to those of you who told me you wanted to come back. The lesson is: you have to register early, my bosses at Ryerson can't wait till even the week before. They need to be sure a course is going to run because space is at a premium.

The advanced course "True to Life 2" will be offered at Ryerson again in January. A course for those who've taken my class twice is offered at U of T; "Life Stories, Advanced" starts the first week of October.

True to Life 1 at Ryerson on Monday nights is definitely a go, as registration is already healthy. In fact, it sometimes happens that that one has the reverse problem - it becomes over-full and students are turned away. So if you're keen, register now.

Monday's bliss

Another stunning hot day dawns - summer redux. Yesterday I went to pick a dead leaf from the black-eyed Susans, and discovered a praying mantis, long and crumpled green in perfect camouflage. Later, Shari and I found him - her? - upside down, munching on an ant. The spider on the front door has spent three days hanging motionless, but this morning the web is vacant. But then, she vacated once before and reappeared. I figure she went out for take-out. These days are a butterflyfest - giant Monarchs sipping from the buddleia, flapping their geometric wings, what pleasure they give.

Okay okay, make me shut up about the garden.

I had a wonderful time on Saturday night at Shari and Julia's concert at C'est What? Unfortunately, the house was very small, not surprising considering all that was going on in Toronto that night, including the Buskerfest, thousands of people watching shows on the street right outside door. My, that woman sings and composes beautifully. And her daughter, at 20, is an accomplished musician already; she provides not only harmonies but plays violin, harmonica, squeezebox, piano, flute and guitar. And probably more. They both do, so they switched back and forth through the show. Virtuosos!

But the best bit of concert was here at home, when I asked Shari to play "Fear of flying." It was the show-stopper when she toured with Pied Pumkin in the 70's. I stood in a crowd of hundreds of hippies in the Kootenays, weeping at her soaring voice and Joe Mock's gorgeous song."Everything we do/Is just another trying/ Some never lose/ the fear of flying..."

Yesterday, 35 years later, she sang it just for me.

They left this morning for Montreal, for one last gig and to set Julia up for her next year at McGill, and then Shari is off to the States to meet up with Mike and his mother. Mike is the son Shari gave up for adoption when she was barely 16 and whom she just refound a few years ago - a joyful and welcome reunion on both sides. Recently, Shari and Mike's adoptive mother searched for Mike's father and found him, so he is in close contact with both his birth parents. Shari has written several haunting songs about him, and he has played percussion with her and his new sister Julia in concert. And Shari has not only a new-found son, but a daughter-in-law and a grandchild. What a story!

And now - some quiet days to get a lot of work done, before teaching starts and fall displays her wares. I called my friend Patsy in despair about writing yesterday and got her usual invaluable advice. Once again, I was trying to do too much, cramming too much in. Divide the story in two, she said, and suddenly - it all made sense! There's that story and this story, they do not belong together, and separating them has made all the difference. Thank you, my dear friend.

Beautiful long end-of-summer days, work flowing and a garden full of happy bugs and birds - what more could a woman want?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

my letter yesterday to the Editor of the Star

Re: Star article "Hundreds of cyclists, pedestrians caught in blitz"

So our trusty police force is busy protecting the city against its nefarious pedestrians. Recently, when the frightening increase in Toronto pedestrian fatalities was being discussed, the police solution was to tell pedestrians to use crosswalks and not to jaywalk. Nothing was said about another solution: making sure that cars in the city slow down.

As a pedestrian and cyclist, I would like to inform the powers-that-be, who seem not to have noticed, that the drivers of cars and trucks in this city are out of control. For years, at intersections I cross regularly such as Gerrard and Church or Jarvis and Carlton, I’ve watched cars, SUVs and trucks, already going too fast, speeding up to get through yellow lights and often zipping right through red lights. Streams of dump trucks have recently been hurtling over the speed limit along Gerrard. Over and over, I’ve asked myself, where are the police? Out ticketing jaywalkers.

People on bikes and foot can be careless and foolish, absolutely. But in an encounter between a careless 150-pound pedestrian or cyclist and a 3000-pound automobile or 6000 pound SUV that can’t stop, who is going to lose? Why aren’t police targeting speeding and aggressive driving?

Toronto shining and not so much

Why is summer more perfect as it ends? This weekend, I've heard, will be the loveliest of the year - and so far, that has been true. It's been a great pleasure to show the city to my friends from beautiful, tranquil Bowen Island, and the place has done me the favour of providing perfect weather and the choice of a hundred interesting things to do.

Today we went to St. Lawrence Market in the morning, loading up on the outpouring of produce - oh the berries, veggies, peaches, corn! Not to mention the Buskerfest just outside, the street closed down for street food and street performers of all kinds.

Later we headed to the water on bikes - neighbour friends were kind enough to lend theirs for the occasion - but the line-up for the ferry to the Islands was so long, we decided to meander along the water on this side instead. It's the tragedy of this city that access to the waterfront is so limited, but what bit of waterfront there is, today, was packed. Shari and I went as far as the Bach Garden, where I used to stroll with my beloved friend Sarah, and then rode home under the trees and by the river, along the Don Valley Trail. Now they've gone to their sound-check at C'est What, where I'll go in a few hours to hear them sing and play.

I had a Toronto-style shock yesterday - I saw the end of a real "take down" on Parliament Street. The police apparently had been chasing a car and actually shot out the windows - the car, with its smashed windows, careened to a halt on the sidewalk on a crowded corner, just outside one of the busiest restaurants on the street. I saw them handcuffing a young white male and stuffing him into a patrol car, and then the more than a dozen police officers, male and female, strutted about, opening the car and taking out golf bags. Perhaps it was a stolen car, or those were stolen bags, but I wonder if the loot was worth the risk to passersby; it's a miracle no one was killed by a stray bullet or by the out of control car.

I realized, watching the cops, that since the G20 debacle here, I have lost all respect for them. I now expect a Toronto police officer to be brutally authoritarian and stupid. That's a terrible thing to say, but it's true. Anyway, luckily my gentle Bowen friends did not see that scene.

And a final word - I've been having nightmares about those miners in Chile. May they emerge safely from the bowels of the earth, and never have to go underground again.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

nature's music

Dear friend Shari Ulrich is in town from Bowen Island, B.C. with her young daughter Julia, to play some gigs; they're staying in my basement suite, luckily not rented out till next week. Shari and I met in 1975, when I was doing a show with a band of musical, theatrical hippy nut jobs in the Kootenays, and she was touring with Joe Mock and Rick Scott in Pied Pumkin. She's as beautiful and talented now as then, a fountain of music - voice, violin, guitar, piano - and has never stopped composing, touring and singing. Now her daughter, when not at McGill in Montreal, tours with her. Shari and Julia are at the club Guess What at 9 p.m. this coming Saturday. I wouldn't miss it. Highly recommended.

Ah, feeling old - going to see Nancy White's talented children, the Good Brothers play with their sons, Shari and her daughter ... the next generation, taking over. As they are meant to do.

Mysterious drama tonight in the thick ivy in my yard. At 7.30, I was enjoying the usual dusk chorus of the birds who live in Ivyland, much twittering and getting ready for bed, when suddenly, in a great cloud and a loud whir of wings, dozens of sparrows whooshed from the ivy to a nearby tree. What disturbed them? A young hawk landed nearby once, but there was no hawk that I could see. Sometimes squirrels and raccoons make their way through, hunting perhaps for eggs. Anyway, after a few minutes, they flew tentatively back, and now the full evening twitterfest has resumed. All's as it should be.

On Monday, I was about to eat dinner on the deck when I noticed the birds at the feeder. I knew it was empty, and was delaying the purchase of more heavy bags of seed until Shari came with her car Thursday. But there they all were, absurd little birds perched on top of the feeder, waiting for sustenance. I couldn't bear it, and, telling them to be patient, I walked with my bundle buggy to the pet store, hauled back some seed and loaded them up. Well ... they're used to that feeder being full, and I'd let them down. A girl has responsibilities.

Nearby snores my cat, who twitches at the doorway only for squirrels, pays birds no mind. I don't think she can be bothered to look up that high. The other day, a rare and marvellous event, she climbed onto my chair, stretched out beside me and began to purr. She purred! The old crab does know how.

Today, I stood inside watching a spider spin a web in the outside left corner of my front door. She went round with that one minuscule shining thread extending from her body, patiently hooking it onto the radiating strands ... neatly, perfectly, around and around and around. Now there's a notice with an arrow on my front door. "Watch out for web." After all that work, I don't want her home carelessly destroyed.

BK, champion of birds and bees. I used to have a nightmare that all the insects I'd killed would be in heaven when I arrived, waiting to confront me about my murderous ways. If so, I hope all the Ivyland sparrows will be there too, to vouch for my years of seed hauling and distribution.

Saw in the "Star" the other day that the tree outside the house that sheltered Anne Frank and her family and friends for two years has finally died - the tree that gave her comfort during her times of loneliness and despair. It made me weep to read that saplings from her tree have been planted around the world. I always talk about Anne to my classes. She's one of my greatest heroes, a young girl with a notebook who told her story and changed the world.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

love from flagrant lunatics

I've just discovered a book I must read. It's called "Reality Hunger" by David Shields, a manifesto about literature. Shields says, as I have for years, that he can no longer read novels, that he isn't interested in imagined lives but in real ones, in new kinds of literature that break old formats and play with truth. At least, I think that's what he's saying, from the reviews and excerpts I've just read on-line. Will now search for the book to see if I've got it right. Music to my non-fiction-loving ears.

And more music, these days - I've been receiving words of praise, which echo merrily in the ears. Several people have expressed enthusiasm about the blog book. One fan, who has read it 3 times, said it's the "one of the nicest, warmest, funniest books I've ever read." Yes, it's my mother so not the most objective of critics, but still, she didn't say that about "Finding the Jewish Shakespeare." (She did, however, express some concern about a passage in which I speak of my family as "a bunch of flagrant lunatics." "Why flagrant?" she asked with indignation.
"What family isn't a bunch of flagrant lunatics?" I replied, and she had to agree.)

But today, a new friend emailed to say she and her husband were driving home from their holiday in a blinding rainstorm, so she read the book aloud, and it kept them good company for hours. "What a fabulous treat of musings, adventures, misadventures, and intimate insights about life," she said. Talk about music!

And a student who was at the writing workshop on Sunday wrote to say, "The whole day was such a pleasure - the joy of meeting interesting and diverse people, the chance to exchange words with and listen to the wonderful, funny, philosophical, wise and real Wayson Choy.

Between the two of you and all the ideas and knowledge imparted, I left with my head (tired) happily spinning! In addition, a perfect and tasty spread, with a glass of wine at the end - a delightful way to close off. You know I'm in, if you ever do other workshops."

Wonderful to hear, things like this. Especially on a day when I read in the "Star" that Rob Ford is leading in the polls. I'll just go back to reading nice things about me.

Two very different women friends today, one a widow and one married, both musing about where to live, now that their nests are empty. Many of us are having this discussion, trying to figure out the next chapter. At least I know what I want to do for the rest of my life. There's no looming retirement; instead, I hope, more writing, editing and teaching work than ever. I hope. But where I do these things is not so sure.

Watched "A Hard Day's Night" yesterday, for the twelfth time probably, not a few of those times as an adult. It's just a wonderful film, even if you're not a Beatlemaniac, but if you are, the music and the personalities are luscious. What's so clear is the sheer joy they are taking in their new-found fame, in the music and in each other. John Lennon positively beams his way through this film. How sad that joy was lost, but not surprising, after the madness they all went through together.

Over and out, on Tuesday.

Monday, August 23, 2010

getting better

Head still clearing; each day, I'm feeling better. The weather has changed completely, this past week. Right now, at 9 p.m., I'm wearing a sweatshirt and my battered sheepskin slippers. My WINTER slippers. This afternoon I put on socks for the first time in months. Yes, a chill in the air. But it's temporary; summer will come back, and vanish, and come back; the tease will continue on and off for a bit, until, finally, she breathes her last and the cold comes in for good. For months, anyway. Then my beautiful garden will shrivel and hide till next year.

It must be strange to live in a place like Florida, without real seasons except not so hot, hot and really hot. I like the cycle. But no one is as enthusiastic about the seasons as my daughter, who never complains about the rain (well, almost never) or snow, in fact, relishes whatever nature dishes out. Just too darn cheerful, that girl.

French friend Denis had an adventure in Canada this week, to rival mine in France last year, when I left my handbag and passport on the train and miraculously got it back. He and Lynn returned to Montreal from their travels down east the day before their flight back to France, to discover that he had lost his passport. It had vanished somewhere on their peregrinations, camping in Algonquin, in New Brunswick, somewhere.

After endless searching and phone calls - the French consulate of course closed on the weekend - he reported the disappearance to the Montreal police, and that evening, he and Lynn went to the airport. They decided to bring his luggage on the extremely unlikely event that they'd let him on the plane. Well - with some consulting and viewing of the police documents, it was ascertained that his French identity papers would be enough the other end, and he flew. They had a marvellous flight and a safe journey back to Provence. Amazing.

I remember the summer of 2002 when Sam and Anna were flying from Toronto to Kelowna to visit their grandparents. Anna had brought her passport, but Sam, who was 16, didn't have his, and they would not let him fly. A skinny 16 year old couldn't get on the plane in Toronto to visit his grandparents in Vernon because he didn't have a passport. I was so livid, they almost detained me. We had to drive home, pick it up and drive back; Anna flew alone, Sam had to wait hours and didn't get in until 2 a.m. So absurd.

And now, someone can fly from Canada to France without a passport. The world of travel is perhaps a tiny bit more sane.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

muggy rainy writing Sunday

Life returns, along with a normal throat and temperature. Thank you, health gods.

Even with my fever, I couldn't resist my daily visit to Doubletake, where yesterday for the first time, I had a real conversation, instead of a cursory chat, with one of the women who works there. They're all from Bangladesh and they're all nice. The woman I was talking to, N., somehow knew that I teach at Ryerson and am a writer. And then she told me that she has a Master's degree in Applied Mathematics from the best university in Bangladesh, and before emigrating, was a high school math teacher.

Here, because Canada treats its educated immigrants so well, she wanders around a second-hand store, making sure people aren't stealing the goods and opening the change rooms with her key. I asked her about teaching here, but she said she's too insecure about her English. I'm going to bring her the George Brown calendar, which lists lots of ESL courses in conversational English and grammar. They cost over $300. I wonder if someone earning minimum wage working full time can afford that.

Imagine - a Master's degree in something so complicated. I'll do my best to make time to talk with her when I go in, to do my bit to encourage her English, and to give her someone to talk to during what must for a mathematician be a long and tedious day.

Watched "Harper," with Paul Newman last night - a jazzy mid-sixties detective noir film with huge cars and a great cast. Paul Newman is also on my Top Ten Men of the Planet list - luscious, fine, talented, smart, compassionate. Faithful. Manly, in the very best sense of the word. The ending was infuriatingly ambiguous, so I Googled, and read various opinions of the ending that set my mind at rest. Thank you yet again, friendly question-answering Google.

Today, my writer's workshop, which was not in the garden as it poured all yesterday and today - but worked just fine inside the house. Lots of very good writing and a great lunch graced by Mr. Choy, who bequeathed many words of wisdom, enjoyed the quiche and was on his way, leaving everyone particularly fired up for the afternoon. It was exhilirating. Thank you, writers.

I may be better but I'm not that better. It's 9.30 and I'm dropping like flies.

Friday, August 20, 2010

defining "kvetch"

I am going to show you what is meant by the wonderful Yiddish word "kvetch," by doing some kvetching right now. Phooey. I do not do sick very well; what a stupid waste of time. I want it to be over, all this aching and sweating and sore throat business, that's quite enough.

This morning, no jackhammer drilling, that was a relief. So I looked forward to a tranquil day sitting on the deck getting some important reading done. Nyet. The annoyingly meticulous man who does the care-taking of the expensive condo's directly to the south of me decided that today was the day to paint the fence between our properties. He has been out there all day, radio blaring and oil paints flying. The air stinks and the incessant muzak drives me mad. I don't have the energy to go to the Y or do much else. It's been a stunning soft day with a touch of fall in the air, and I've been trapped inside by a painter and a stupid cold.


That is what is meant by kvetching. And I have a pain in my side that won't go away, and a fever and a headache. Phooey. And two more people have dropped out of my writing workshop. Having one in August was a very poor idea. PHOOEY!

Okay, that's enough. He'll surely be gone soon - how long does it take to paint a @#$#%^ fence? Turn off the @#$#% radio! Normally, you understand, I am a sweet-natured and tolerant person, it's the cold that's making me so #$%%$#% crabby.

Time for more food. Chocolate, bread, cheese. That helps. This is like an elderly version of PMS.

PS An hour and a half later, the painter is STILL HERE. I ventured outside to sit on the deck with earplugs in, and he climbed a ladder and peered over the top of the fence at me as he painted. Make him and his stinky paint and his radio go away. And now I can't find my wolf book ANYWHERE, I've looked for HOURS. And there's a 100% guarantee of rain on Sunday for the garden workshop.

Otherwise, everything's great.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

as a dog?

Well, folks, you won't get much that's sparkly out of me today. I'm ... was about to write "sick as a dog," but where does that expression come from? Do dogs get really sick on a regular basis? I'm just sick. And it's not a surprise, as I tend to get sick in August or December, months when I can afford the luxury. Believe me, I don't plan or want this, but it happens.

So now there's a flu-like cold sitting in my body, chest and nose - aching legs and eyes and head, made worse by insomnia. I couldn't sleep for stuffiness, even my sleeping pills didn't work, and after finally dropping off at dawn, I was awakened at 8 by two, count them, two jackhammers just around the corner, digging enthusiastically to Australia. They continued for hours.

But as Chris says, I'm not in Pakistan. When I get sick like this, I'm especially grateful for two things: one, that I'm not on the road but home, and two, that I'm not an actress in a show any more. There's food in my fridge, and friends and family to call if help is needed; I rented a couple of movies. and right now am lying on the deck reading the most fantastic book "The Philosopher and the Wolf: Lessons from the Wild on Love, Death and Happiness," by Mark Rowlands - about how his lupine companion, his brother wolf, taught him what it is to be human. I'm drinking herbal tea but will soon have a tiny glass of wine, though I shouldn't. Nothing is expected of me today, and not much tomorrow. This too shall pass.

The magnet Wayson gave me for my birthday is on the fridge right by the door; I see it so often, it has burned its way into my consciousness. "It doesn't get any better than this," it says. Even as I snuffle and moan, I know it's true: I'm alive, Wayson and other beloveds are alive, the sun shines, the birds sing, the world is full of books to read and peaches to eat. My mother called to express her concern and so did my son. I can think about recuperating and not about my hatred for Stephen Harper or the Mike Harris Library for a minute or two.

I'll have that tiny glass now as I go back to reading. To my right, three new peach-coloured roses are blooming between the purple buddleia and the darker purple clematis, and the camelia Wayson gave me has produced one huge fat sweet white bloom. Could it get any better than this?

PS Just saw a bright yellow bird at my feeder - entered "yellow bird with black wings" into Google and found out that it's a male American goldfinch. Imagine, such an exotic creature in my humble garden.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

a few McCartney concert pictures

Those are the screens at the side, and the white spot in the middle is the real man at the piano, singing "Yesterday."


A few fans. 17,000, to be exact.

A few party pictures

Lynn and Denis and son Christopher in the background help with the set-up in the garden. Note: terrible rainy day and gloomy people. Not a good omen.

The old bag with her baby girl just before the excitement began. Everyone had a name tag. Mine said: Beth. Aging gracefully.

Sam wrote his own name tag. It said, "Sam is tall."

The Incandescent Smiles Award goes to Auntie Do, 90, Anna, 29, and my mother, nearly 87. Talk about aging gracefully!

synchronicity and Yiddish

Yesterday afternoon my internet suddenly, miraculously, returned, but I'm waiting for a Rogers guy right now anyway, to find out why it keeps dying. In the meantime, I have caught a cold, am sniffling with a sore throat and a balloon head. I'm not surprised - now that everything has settled down and I have a minute to spare, my unconscious has decided to take a break from activity. I don't do sick very well, though - hate stopping the body in motion. But there's no choice; if I do too much, I'm going to fall over.

And here is a wondrous example of synchronicity, defined on-line as "the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection." I'm a big believer. Last night, as I tossed about, I thought about the funny little book I'd bought for a dime at Doubletake that day, "Yiddish with Dick and Jane." It looks just like the Fifties reader, only inside is different. Here's one page, for example:
"Look, Dick," says Sally. "Tom's wife, Susan, is kissing Phil."
"Yes, Sally, they are good friends," says Dick.
"That is not how friends kiss, Dick," says Sally. "I think Susan and Phil are shtupping."
"Oh no," says Dick. "They are just happy to see each other."

I thought about a book called "The Joy of Yiddish" that's buried somewhere in the boxes of books I used for the research of my book, and thought, I should have kept "The Joy of Yiddish" out, I need it. I'll never find it in the boxes. Maybe I'll find another.

Today - twelve hours after that thought - my former student Kathy came over to deliver a chest of drawers I'd bought from her a few weeks ago at her garage sale. She's getting rid of everything because she's moving to Wales. Kathy walked in with a big book and handed it to me. "I thought you might need this," she said. It was, you guessed it, "The Joy of Yiddish."

Human beings are connected in ways we have not even begun to chart. Even without the internet.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

O Rogers, Rogers, where art thou?

After a month of internet frustration - my service spotty, going in and out, various frantic calls to Rogers resulting in me in the basement, in front of the spider-infested electric panel, trying to figure out where the ends of various cords went - finally, yesterday, an actual man arrived. He decided the problem was that raccoons had gnawed on some wires; he replaced the wires, and the internet worked perfectly. Yesterday.

This morning, completely dead. Another 15 minutes poking past the spiders with the Rogers lady on the phone, and now they have arranged for a repair person for Wednesday evening. Two and a half days without the internet! I may go mad.

No. My friend Chris just bought a brand new fridge which instantly ceased to function twice; right now, he keeps his perishable food in ice-cubes in the sink. "It's like camping!" he says cheerfully. "It's frustrating, but I keep things in perspective by thinking about Pakistan." Absolutely. Besides, here I am at my neighbours Jean-Marc and Richard's, in their basement office, where I will come with my computer twice a day until I have my own service again.

But if you're emailing me and expect a quick response, don't.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Unbelievable but true - the Harris Library!!!

Just sent this email, on the creation of the new Harris Library:

To Nipissing University:
You have made a cynical joke that insults every citizen of this province by naming your library after the man who did his best to smash every facet of learning in this province.

I can understand naming a demolition facility after him, but a library? The man whose favourite book was "Mr. Grumpy"? Who drove teachers and schoolboards to the edge of destruction?

It's the height of insult to those of us who suffered through this man's tenure - especially my children, whose education was nearly destroyed.

Shame on you!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

after the storm

Wow. We just had a much anticipated thunderstorm, with lightning cracks and ferocious downpour; we spent the long, heavy, breathless day waiting for it, finally at 4.15 it hit, and five minutes later, the sun is out, the drops are trickling, there's a swimming pool at a low spot in my yard, and it's nearly over. The birds hid for five minutes and are out at the feeder again. That's what we do for excitement in the city in summer - wait for the storm.

Before that, I had a busy day doing the final post-party clear-out, laundry and cleaning out the fridge. I'm making some sort of soup with the yellow plums Kate brought which have gone past their prime; have grilled an assortment of aging vegetables on the barbeque while listening to Eleanor Wachtel interview C. Milosz, the Nobel-Prize winning Polish poet. If you douse things with enough balsalmic vinegar, they're delicious despite their age. And at some point, I will read the fall "Elle" I actually paid cash for today, and figure out which of my Goodwill clothes to put away for this season, and which might spring into focus.

Over the last 2 nights, I've watched two films rented for my guests - we all watched "Waltzing with Bashir" together, which was superb, but they watched "It's Complicated" without me, so I watched that and "Rachel getting married" alone. I have to say that, just as I often do after reading something, at the end of both films, I wanted to shout, "Where were the @#$%^ editors?" Where are the people crying, "ENOUGH already?"

"It's Complicated" has funny bits but in the end is tiresome and shallow. Imagine a film that strangles Steve Martin's comedic abilities and makes him look dull. I lost it when Meryl, the divorced but otherwise perfect modern woman with an extremely successful and glamourous catering business that takes none of her time, an incredibly upscale house and three unbelievably perfect children, strolls in her kitchen garden, yes, her enormous kitchen garden which has perfectly neat rows of every kind of vegetable with nary a weed in sight; she's wearing a stylish straw hat with a winsome basket, picking perfectly fat red tomatoes. Excuse me - has the director Nancy Meyers ever actually SEEN a garden? Could we not admit a tiny bit of imperfection, dirt, maybe a weevil or two, in this Hollywood fantasy? No, we could not.

Meryl did her best, as she always does, and so does Anne Hathaway in "Rachel," which was a film with something important to say about dysfunctional families that got drowned in sappy live music and its own good intentions. Where are the editors? It was at least 3/4 of an hour too long. I read a book through the interminable end, sticking it out to see how it ended. Predictably.

Ah well. Everyone's a critic, and that's the fun part.

But now - down to business. I need to rent my apartment and find writers for my garden workshop, and get back to my own writing work.

Started today. YAY.

Friday, August 13, 2010

the idyll ends

Emerging, finally, from the warm cloud of good will, friendship and food preparation that has enveloped me for the past 3 weeks. Lynn and Denis, the last of my visitors, departed yesterday. Only to return 15 minutes later to pick up Lynn's computer which had been left here. And then they departed again, and I was truly alone. I was truly alone and sixty, sitting in silence with my memories. What a time!

First, I have to thank the weather gods. Last summer in Toronto, non-stop rain and a garbage strike. This summer, mostly mild sunny days, with one big rainstorm and a few hits of mugginess to remind us how big a favour the weather gods were doing us. On Wednesday, I packed a picnic, and Lynn, Denis and I set off for Stratford, where we lunched by the river watching swans and ducks sail past on the sweetest day of all - an impossibly baby blue sky, puffy clouds, willows trailing in the water, the riverbanks dotted with fellow picnickers - and then, on the Festival Stage, a superb piece of theatre. We saw "The Tempest" in a sublime production directed by Des McAnuff, whose "Jersey Boys" Lynn and I had seen the night before. The man is phenomenal; "Jersey Boys" is an exuberant good time, and "The Tempest" is grave, haunting, profound, mystical.

Christopher Plummer as Prospero - well, I do not think I will ever see a better actor in such full control of his craft. There was a moment early on when, alone on stage, he stood still for perhaps ten or twelve seconds, waiting for the audience to settle. And like a restless animal, it did; it was - we were - suddenly absolutely still, listening. And only then did he begin to speak. The production was one of the best I've seen for clarity of diction and phrasing, to help us understand a complex, wordy play. (Though still, unfortunately, almost impossible for francophone Denis to understand.) Plummer performs with grace, ease and warmth. The set could disintegrate around him and he would still be 100% in character, completely relaxed, drawing the audience to him, into the play and its words and its world.

But there were many other rewards in the production, especially the Ariel, a tiny, extraordinary performer called Julyana Soelistyo. Almost all the performances were good, and the set and costumes were to the usual Stratford high standards. At the end, I wept with joy. It makes me so glad and proud when the theatre works, like that.

Then we went straight to dinner at old friends' Lani and Maurice's house on Shakespeare Street. They had prepared a large ham two different ways, in the slow-cooker and on the barbeque, they had salads and fruit and cheeses and much wine ready and other friends to meet us, and we sat in their garden, petting the dogs, laughing till the tears flowed at them both, the most wonderfully eccentric, unique, interesting couple on the face of the earth. And then we drove home.

"That," said Lynn, "was a perfect day." Words every hostess is happy to hear.

Both were crazy about the new Ontario Gallery of Art, where they spent a full afternoon, and Lynn, who'd seen the band the Four Seasons play at Expo 67, had a fantastic time at "Jersey Boys" which tells the story of the band's rise and fall and rise again (it didn't hurt that we were in fabulous seats given me as a birthday present by my ex.) Lynn and I shopped at Winner's, Goodwill and Doubletake, stores she cannot find in France, while Denis rode around town on my bicycle. Each day, we ate well and talked non-stop. Denis fixed all the broken things in the house, which I much appreciated - for example, he is not used to screen doors, because they don't have any in France, so he walked into mine and pulled the screen from the frame. He rooted around, found the perfect tool and fixed the door; the tool turned out to be the hook used for pulling escargots from their shells. I didn't even know I had one. How very apt.

They were highly critical of the "Star," finding its relentless focus on sensationalist material ("Girl pretends to have cancer!" the big story for 3 days) shallow, so I bought the "Globe" regularly for balance. I don't read the "Star" for hard news, I told them, but for editorials on my side of the political spectrum and for local news. Denis could not bring himself to eat hamburgers the Canadian way; he simply cannot mix hot and cold foods as we do, so he eats his meat patty with a knife and fork, then the lettuce, tomato and onion as a salad. Well - whatever gets you through the night, as they say. But we had great bread from the local markets and from the Epicure on Parliament Street, and great cheese, and I managed to feed the French successfully for a week, no mean feat.

We did not go to the Toronto Islands, which is too bad, and Lynn and I did not get to dance as much as we wanted. Otherwise, we did it all.

And now it's over. My cupboards are full of dark chocolate and several bottles of fine champagne waiting for the next great event. Life and work resume; a writing student came by yesterday, there are piles of laundry waiting in the basement. I have an apartment to rent out and the writing workshop next Sunday to advertise.

And already, I am thinking about next year, dreaming of spending a week with Lynn and Denis in the south of France. We'll just keep going back and forth, I sharing their world and they sharing mine. What are old friends for?

from the Montreal Gazette about Sir Paul's concert last night

"... McCartney is, let's face it, the sole carrier of the Fab legacy now - fun though Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band can be. And his every live note suggests he feels a responsibility to honour that body of work. In Thursday night's masterful marathon performance, with more than half its songs coming from the Beatles era, he lived up to that responsibility over and over again, assisted by the stellar band that has played more than 200 shows with him.

It was a wonderfully generous, perfectly-paced and relentlessly energetic night of classics, delivered with 100 per-cent loud rock muscle as required - special credit goes to powerhouse drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr. - and melodic sensitivity at every turn. It was a show with no flab and no missteps.

... In the end, what sticks in the mind - apart, obviously, from the strongest body of work in pop history - is the sight of an arena full of people, young and old, with smiles stuck on their faces as they sang along for three hours. You can't find that kind of positive energy in too many places anymore." bperusse@thegazette.canwest.com

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/entertainment/McCartney+honours+body+work+Montreal/3392329/story.html#ixzz0wUeTfN9h

Monday, August 9, 2010

Paul Paul, we love you most of all

That's something I wrote and chanted in 1964. Already demonstrating my enormous talent for rhyme.

It's midnight and I'm just home from a fantastic evening with my sweetie, Paul McCartney. Thank you, my Paul, for delivering such joy. He is the most amazing performer - indefatigable, on and on, song after song, chatting endlessly with the audience - I don't know if I've ever seen a star make such an easy-going, sweet-natured bond between stage and crowd. And it was a crowd, the Air Canada Centre full to the rafters, 17,000 people - not the 2 or 300,000 of Quebec City, but this was inside, much easier to see the band, amazing special effects - and I on the centre floor in the 31st row. Yes, he was small, but not that small. I could see that lithe, energetic figure quite clearly - though the giant screens helped, of course.

He bantered constantly. He arrived in a plain black jacket, the same one, I think, that he wore to win his award at the White House. When he took it off and rolled up the sleeves of his plain white shirt, he said, "That's it for tonight's wardrobe changes. That's the only one." He told a long, funny story about Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton (ask me and I'll tell it to you), he told us that his Auntie Edie, who'd emigrated from Liverpool many years ago and is now a Canadian, was in the audience and dedicated a song to her. When his drummer danced during one song, he said, "No expense has been spared on this tour. That's our fancy choreography. Lady Gaga, eat your heart out."

He told us that it's hard work up there, he has to remember the chord changes, the words, the harmonies, and so he says to himself, when people below wave signs in his face, "Don't look and get distracted. Concentrate." But he looks anyway. One girl had a sign asking him to sign her arm, and he joked that she'd cut her arm off and sell it on eBay. But at the end, he asked her up on stage. There she was - Lila, was it? - from Saskatchewan, about 18, wriggling with ecstasy in her shredded jeans, when he signed her arm.

He mentioned how much they enjoy the "spread of the audience," and it's true - from small children (who I hope had earplugs) to the elderly. On one side of me, a couple in their late sixties who'd driven down from Barrie; on the other side, a very skinny gay man with chains drooping from his jeans. In front, a couple in their seventies, both as wide as they were high, and beside them, a boy of about 21 with a long pony-tail, either stoned or extremely musical, who waved his arms, danced and sang the words to every single song, and beside him, a tight forty-something man in a Grateful Dead hat who kept checking his Blackberry. By the end, everyone was dancing and singing. Especially moving, always, is Hey Jude - 17,000 people singing to Paul.

I wept, of course. The songs are so often about love, kindness, the wide world. There was a montage of Obama, at one point, and a slender globe descended from the heavens at another.

And oh ... the music. The band is even tighter than it was in Quebec, playing stunningly good, tight, rocking blasting sophisticated fabulous rock and roll. Paul switching guitars for each song, then playing incredible honkytonk piano, then Blackbird all alone with his guitar, then a ukelele, a mandolin, a steel string, back to the bass he played in the Sixties. The band go from quiet ballads to Helter Skelter without a second's pause. Oh the joy of those songs, Obladi Oblada, Eleanor Rigby, A Day in the Life, Let it be. Get Back, Paperback Writer, what great songs, what a beat. He sang George's Something with film clips of George in the background. (There was a terrific video backup for every song.) He paid tribute, as always, to John too, and to Linda. This is a man with many ghosts on stage with him.

He played Mull of Kintyre and a pipe band appeared, in full Scottish kilted regalia, with many bagpipes and big drums - the Paris/Port Dover Pipe Band. He came on waving a Canadian flag and at the end, when he played Sergeant Pepper, a giant Canadian flag appeared behind him and then a blue Leafs flag, and when he left the stage, the air exploded with red and white paper, raining down like patriotic snow. We were all smiling. He was generous, funny, quick, he played for more than 3 hours, and I have loved him for 46 years.

My cab driver home told me about the concert he went to yesterday, the greatest Pakistani star called Atif Aslam, ten thousand people in a field north of Toronto. We both sighed with pleasure at our memories. Music music music. What a miracle it is.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Garden workshop August 22

There is still room in my next garden workshop. Come one, come all!

And could those who have registered or expressed interest please contact me again asap? In the chaos of the last few weeks, I have lost my list. Many thanks.

And if you know someone who might be interested, please do me the favour of forwarding this to them. Thank you.



A one-day writing workshop.

Inspiration, structure and support for those with lots of writing experience and for those with none.

Spend a day learning to trust your voice and tell your stories. Listen to your creative self. Gain confidence and perspective from contact with other writers. Write in the garden and enjoy positive feedback, bushy perennials and lunch.

Laughter, camaraderie and insight guaranteed.

Who: Writer and teacher Beth Kaplan has taught writing at Ryerson for 16 years and at U of T for 4.

When: Sunday August 22, 10.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cost: $125, including food for thought and actual food.

Where: Beth’s garden in Cabbagetown.

For more information - www.bethkaplan.ca/coaching

To register – beth@bethkaplan.ca

“I’d like to express my deep appreciation to you, Beth, for making your garden workshop so memorable. You have a special gift for creating a safe learning environment, with a well of positive things to say without passing judgment. It was a joy to be there with you and the others. Your garden is magical, and you created a magical day for me. Ann C.”

and still ...

Alors, les amis - I'm still sixty. Haven't had a chance to digest my new mature state yet, though - my friends Lynn and Denis came back from their camping trip in Algonquin Park on Thursday and are staying with me till next Thursday, which is why I haven't been passing on my nuggets of wisdom about aging - I've been drinking wine, shopping for food, cooking, and organizing sightseeing expeditions. And talking, talking non-stop, to the point that yesterday evening, I said, I have to stop talking now, and was silent for an hour. And then we started talking again.

Right now Denis is cooking quails. Yes, quails, for us and our friend Ken who's coming for dinner. Last night we had arctic char cooking on a cedar plank, after a method taught us by a young man at the fish shop in St. Lawrence Market. Today, we went with Ken to Kleinburg to see the Group of Seven in that beautiful gallery, and then had a smoked meat sandwich at Caplansky's and walked around Kensington Market. The other night, while I had dinner with a friend, they went to a fantastic free evening of music at Harbourfront and walked along the water. The city is doing us all proud, my fellow Torontonians.

But now I have to go and help cook the quail and open, yes, a bottle of wine. Sorry. Haven't even had a chance to talk about Paul McCartney, who's in town about to start his first concert right at this moment. EEEEEEE! I'll be there tomorrow. Even at a wise and mature sixty, the little heart goes pitter pat.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I still seem to be sixty, for some reason

This celebration has been a full-time job for the past week and is still - though at last it's winding down. Today was emailing thank you's for gifts and help and writing thank you notes and responding to others who sent wishes. And getting the garbage out (there was so much that just before the truck came, I distributed my bags in half-full bins up and down the street, shhh, don't tell) and clearing out the fridge - found SO MUCH food we forgot, shoved into corners - now trying to figure out what to do with it all. I went mad for red peppers on our last shopping trip and now have at least 12. What exactly was I planning to do with them? They were on special. And onions, bags and bags of onions. I was really raving by then.

Then, downloading the few photos I took or that were taken before the affair began, and emailing them to the participants and interested others. The bouquets of flowers - cutting back, fresh water. Laundry - the sheets and towels of house guests, the tablecloths soaked with wine and food. Sweeping and washing the filthy kitchen floor. Reconnecting with the garden, ignored yesterday. Back to business - bills, banking, forms that need to be filled out for my pension. Let me say that again - my pension. Yes, that sure sounds sixty.

But then I went to the Y, and dear Carol, who was at the party, asked if I would lead the first run of her class. So there I was, the slug who only started the huff and puff of very short jogs at the age of forty, leading the Runfit class around the gym. I am strong I am invincible I am Woman with a Pension. Well, as soon as I get those forms filled out. Thank you, Carol, as always a great inspiration. And then her granddaughter, aged 13, and the 11-year old daughter of another runner, led the runs - long-legged gazelles with a minus percentage of body fat. To every thing there is a season, and my season is puffing slowly. But still in the game.

And then eating leftovers, putting away gifts - my, what a lot of good wine I have now, and many boxes of dark chocolate - heaven. Cleaning up the stuff that got thrown into the basement, washing dishes, hanging up clothes, taking the party outfit to the dry cleaner. A call from the library - a book I ordered months ago is in: "Parisians: An adventure history of Paris," by Graham Robb. Delicious. Yesterday I stopped at the heavenly Ben McNally Bookstore on Bay Street and bought "The Philosopher and the Wolf," by Mark Rowlands, an author I'd heard interviewed on CBC. So - lots to read.

But spent the evening instead with the latest "New Yorker" which has a stunning article about how we do not know how to help the dying die. Very moving, beautifully written, highly recommended. I'm wondering, as I sit here in the city heat, how my friends are doing in their canoes in Algonquin Park, where there's a thunderstorm risk. I am so very happy to be here in my little sun-dress, tapping on the sofa, surrounded by books and magazines and a piece of peanut butter toast.

My friend Kate just appeared at the door with a present - a huge box of yellow plums she just picked at her boyfriend's farm. They're delicious. They're in copious quantity. Does anyone know of a recipe that uses red peppers, onions and plums? I know, someone is going to say chutney.

I think I'll just eat them all raw. I can do anything now. I'm a senior.

No, I'm not. It's utterly impossible. There must be some mistake.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

it's my party and I'll babble if I want to

I've been feeling guilty all afternoon - there I was, actually trying to put some order in the unbelievable jumble of my life and house, when I know all of you out there - well, Brucie, anyway - are waiting to hear how the festivities went. It's 8.30 p.m. on my third day as a sixty-year old, and I'm on the deck in the sticky Toronto air, cicadas and air conditioners blasting all around, glass of rosé in hand, the house behind me empty for the first time in days. Let's chronicle.

It was the best. The absolute and utter best. Even the weather. A friend said, Someone up there must like you because the day is perfect. And it was - mild and sunny with a breeze. By the time the guests started to arrive at 4, I thought my legs would fall off, after two solid days (and the weeks before) of shopping, organizing, cooking, gardening and cleaning, and then the last-minute rush - Anna making hors d'oeuvres, the house guests making up the skewers and Sam barbequing, and Anna's friend Jay setting up his official DJ booth with speakers the size of Cadillacs - quite a surprise, those speakers that could have broadcast our music to Winnipeg. Auntie Do and Mum deadheading in the garden, Denis doing a bit of everything, people rushing out for more ice, more this and that. It takes a village to make a birthday party - at least, one this size.

At 3, Lynn's daughter Sarah, who is of course French, said to me, Beth, isn't it time for you to go get ready? It hadn't occurred to me that I'd need some time to prepare myself - but yes, when one is sixty, primping does take time. I showered and dressed and got ready for my close-up, so felt quite regal when the guests began to arrive. I'd prepared name tags - Hello/Bonjour, with the name and a funny tidbit about each person to stimulate discussion, in case anyone was wandering in the backyard with no one to talk to .. but it all seemed to leap into life on its own, clumps of animated people, drinks flowing, people arriving, kissing me, greeting each other, eating the hors d'oeuvres that miraculously appeared. Gentle music from the Cadillacs.

The cool people - aka the smokers of both licit and illicit substances and everyone under 30 - and Auntie Do - made their way to the back and stayed there for the entire event, entertaining each other in clouds of smoke. My friend Mary went back too, and told me that at one point, she and Do were the only women in a crowd of young men, four of them named Matt. "Just us and all those Matts," she said. In the 60 years I have known my mother's 90-year old sister, I have never seen her beam as she did on Sunday. My mother too, chatting to everyone, animated and beautiful - what joy to see them there. What sheer heavenly bliss, so many beloved friends and family members gathered in my garden, talking to each other, the strangest combinations of people meeting for the first time with lots to say, and so much laughing. And a breeze.

I glided about in a haze of goodwill, managing to focus periodically. We got the food out, dishes, cutlery, the wine still flowing, much much beer vanishing to the end of the garden. Truly - I would not do the cooking for an event of this size again. What we didn't realize was that caterers have special equipment - large pots, for example. I had to go to the Dollar Store on Parliament Street and buy four huge buckets to keep the salads in, and then we had nowhere big enough to store them. But the contents ended up in decorative platters and bowls and looked great, and people seemed to think the food was good. There was more than enough. Way, way more than enough, though there were around sixty people here.

By now it was nine and there was something afoot, I was pushed to the back and everyone gathered, and there were two cakes brought in, one with "Happy Birthday Beth," and the other, "and Do and Ron and Lani and Lynn," the other birthday people. I blew out the candle on one cake and Auntie Do the other. My son made a moving and beautiful speech. Lynn made a hilarious speech in which she sang snippets of songs and recounted various amusing bits of my dysfunctionality to the merriment of all.

And then I spoke. And this is what I said, I think. So happy to see beautiful mother and auntie. To see the Blin family from France and great and glorious friends from my childhood, work, the neighborhood, the Y - from all over. And my amazing and wonderful children who did such a great job to make this event possible.

I spoke about my luck - in health, family, work. And, I said, my great luck in having a gift for friendship. At some point, I said, I looked at each of you and thought, Yes, we'll be keeping you. Or perhaps you looked at me and thought the same. And here we all are. I quoted the article in a recent Globe saying that they've found that people with strong relationships are 50% more likely to live a long life than those without. "So," I said, "what we are doing here is not just celebrating a birthday. We are keeping each other alive."

If strong relationships are a sign of a long life, I said, then I'm a lucky parent, because my very social children are both going to live to be 140. And because all of us here are people who value friendship, I asked them all to come back on August 1st, 2020, same time, same address, for the next big party. Which will be catered.

I told them I loved them and to please pick up a blog book on the way out, and I didn't cry. And then we ate cake and there was music and there were many good people all around. By 1 a.m. the place was nearly empty except for the cool people at the back. A bunch of us did a big clean up, empties, garbage, recycling, dishes, it takes a village to clean up after a party. At last I went to bed, and got back up at 2.30 to ask the young ones to keep it down. Just like the old days when they lived here.

The next morning I could hardly believe it was over, but when I came down, I saw that it was. We'd managed to cram the massive quantities of leftovers into the fridge upstairs and the one in the apartment downstairs, the piles of presents were untouched in the living room, the garden was the worse for wear - but bit by bit, things came together. Monday was wonderful, so relaxed, more than enough food and dear people dropping by - Lani and Maurice, Mum and Do, Karen and Marta-Elena, Louise, Ken, my brother Mike and his partner Emilie and 3 year old Jake, who'd danced till 1 a.m. himself. A high point, dancing with my nephew. People ate and told stories, and the day was hot, and many empties were returned to the beer store. At some point I opened presents - wine and dark chocolate and books, CD's and Champagne, a hand-embroidered tablecloth and a wall hanging, a handmade print, flowers, a silver bracelet from Lynn that's just the same as hers, and contributions to my new bicycle fund. Thoughtful, my friends are, generous, kind, fun.

Among other things from Wayson, a fridge magnet that says, "It doesn't get any better than this." French neighbour Monique went on about my kids as cooks and hosts and the garden and the very nice guests. "You must be proud of your life, Beth," she said, and I said, well yes I am. It was a long, hard haul to get here, and I am proud of my life.

The French crowd were getting ready to go camping today, so there was list-making and packing and finding of GoreTex to lend. Today eight guests, including six campers, left, and I got Mum and Do from their hotel to the airport, and on the way home, stopped in at the Y for a long stretch and a long shower. Home to a house piled with food and stuff and garbage and recycling, but empty of people. Blessedly, temporarily, silent.

And here I am, just at home, sixty years and three days old. It doesn't get better than this.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

the beeg day

I'm snatching a moment in the chaos, my friends - it's BDay, the tribes are gathering, and I am officially in my sixty-first year. And all I have to say about that is that Paul McCartney rocking at nearly 70 shows me what I'm headed for. Singing till the end. Fingers crossed.

My friends Lynn and Denis have arrived, on a long pilgrimage from the south of France to Lynn's natal home outside of Montreal, to here and then on to Nova Scotia. Their son and his partner are here, staying down the street, and their eldest daughter with her husband and baby girl, in my basement suite. My mother and aunt are at the hotel, pretty frail but up for the event. My beloved Patsy emailed me a birthday birthday poem last night that made me burst into tears. Anita from Helsinki sent a glorious bouquet, and Ben Torchinsky sent a dozen red roses. My dear friends, I tell you, hype your birthdays and events! Make people celebrate you! It works.

Mind you, there is work involved - in fact, an incredible amount of work, two solid days so far plus what was put in in preparation. Exhausting.

Worth every minute.

That's all I can manage right now - my daughter has just arrived by cab with two buckets - that's literally buckets - of the salads we made yesterday, and we're off. More anon.

My love to you all, from this old and very young woman,