Thursday, June 30, 2016

Write in the Garden in three weeks

off to New York

This morning, I walked to the end of the garden early to eat breakfast and read the paper. And there I saw a fantastic construction - a minuscule spider had built a web, with one strand attached to the umbrella and another to the swing, at least a 4 or 5 foot span, two delicate threads leading to the perfect web with its builder and occupant at the centre, waiting. Can you see it, gleaming there in the middle?
And I thought, that's what we writers do - we build a web, a seemingly delicate but actually powerful creation, to draw people in. I'm not saying our readers are like flies - but I guess in a way they are. We don't eat them, though, but the reverse: we feed them.

And then I walked back through the garden onto the deck, past this,
and thought, somehow I have to tear myself away, force myself to go to New York tomorrow for five days, to stay at my cousin Ted's at 77th and 3rd, see theatre, see family, see my agent and the exhibit about the Yiddish theatre. I will have to force myself, though I'd much rather sit in my garden smelling the camellias, the jasmine and roses and lavender.

But I will make the sacrifice, leaving my son and my friend Louise to water the garden and take care of the house.

The big news is that I received a major edit of the memoir draft today from Colin Thomas in Vancouver. Ye gods, he has done a phenomenal job. It's many pages long and in great detail, and what he says basically is, it's in good shape but needs work. Of course. He suggests many cuts, which leave me wondering if the ms. will be 63 pages long when the cutting is done. But he suggests needed additions too. Luckily, I will have time over the next five days to ponder what he has said, as I march about consuming culture in NYC. Thank you, Colin. A great deal to digest, and very helpful.

Eli came for a sleepover on Sunday, and did much watering of the garden.
On Monday we went to the gorgeous Regent's Park pool for the preschool swim. It was amazing: every possible colour of adult and child was there, every race, plus a trans (wo)man with breasts and a beard and several children. And we were all doing the same thing, guarding very small people while encouraging them to splash and play. A great time was had by all. Eli jumped into my arms 4,692 times. And then it was time for lunch.

And on Monday night, a huge treat - I went to Books on Film at TIFF, to watch the film "Kes" and then listen to Eleanor Wachtel interview Helen Macdonald, author of "H is for Hawk." It's a haunting film I'd never seen because I knew it would be painful - but worth it, definitely, very moving and true, one of the top ten British films. Horrifying, though, the brutal world of working class Britain that it depicts, this kid so beset and alone, both home and school full of bullies, most of all his neglectful mother, his vicious brother, the teachers.

Helen Macdonald is a great speaker - almost too self-deprecating, so British, she apologized for everything. Imagine pitching her book to a publisher: here we have a memoir about an unemployed academic floundering in terrible grief who decides to train a goshawk, which process she describes in great detail, and also the life of T. H. White. Sound like an international bestseller to you? And yet it was, because she's a stunning writer and very honest. What a confusing business. Eleanor did her usual brilliant interview; it was as if we were eavesdropping on a conversation between friends.

I was her guest at the evening, and after buying her new book "Best of Writers and Company: interviews with 15 of the world's greatest authors" - and if that doesn't make your mouth water, I don't know what will - I went out after with her and several friends to a groovy bar on King St. West, for mussels and wine. I don't get out enough.

But tomorrow I'm getting quite far out. Last teaching of the spring term tonight. Next post from Noo Yawk.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

the James Plays at the Hearn - must see

I spent the afternoon watching the first of The James Plays, part of the Luminato arts festival at the Hearn Generating Station, an abandoned hulk of a building near the lake. The play is brilliantly written and produced and extremely timely, telling of the internecine warring of Scottish factions and their hatred of the British - just as, after the Brexit vote, Scotland may try once more to separate and go it alone. The play is truly a marvel, in plunging us into 600 year old characters and their lives, amid complicated issues of succession and blood, and making it all feel as fresh and urgent and personal as yesterday's newspaper.

So the production is thrilling, but so is the Hearn, a giant of crumbling concrete and shards of steel, with lumpy concrete underfoot and art installations every few yards - extraordinary, unforgettable, including the biggest mirror ball in the world. At the play, I sat next to three elderly ladies - at least in their late seventies - who had come in from Ottawa for this. They'll be spending the entire day at the Hearn seeing all three plays, with a two hour break between each one - 8 hours of performance in a day for the actors. I would have loved to see the two other plays, but hadn't bought tickets because I thought one might be enough. I do not feel deprived by not seeing the others, particularly as it was a stunning day and I was happy to leave the vast wreck of a building, hop on my bike and cycle into the sun. But I know I've missed something spectacular.

Brava to writer Rona Munro, who put as much emphasis on James as a man, a lover and poet and a struggling husband, as on him as a nascent king of a bloody-minded nation. She made Joan, his English wife, perfectly understandable as a very young woman trying her best in an impossible situation. A brutal time. And yet what infuses the story is love of Scotland, love of the land and its people.

I could not recommend this experience more.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Onion and the New Yorker nail it, as usual

And now, since we all need a good laugh right about now, please enjoy this, sent by Bruce. And scroll down to the next piece about the small town throwing a Pride Parade for its one gay citizen.

And here's next week's New Yorker cover - by the brilliant Canadian Barry Blitt:

And this - I have to stop now, this could go on forever ...

Britain and the big no

Woke up to find out that Britain is no longer in the E.U., and felt not just sad, but frightened. Angry white people are in charge now in the western world, and it's not a pretty sight. Racism and profound, vicious intolerance of all kinds are in the ascendance. And all of this adds up to ... Donald Trump.

How could Cameron have made such a fatal mistake as to rip his country apart with this terrible referendum? He deserves to lose his position and his career. The world today feels like a much less safe place than yesterday - and after Orlando and all the other hideous events in the States,  not to mention the rest of the world, it didn't feel very safe yesterday. A student told me about a mutual friend who's moving to Oklahoma, and I thought, why would you do that to yourself? Open carry machine guns, just what a nice Canadian boy wants to encounter at the grocery store.

The same friend told me about visiting family in a wealthy enclave north of Boston, where all the upper middle class guests spoke loudly about their loathing for Obama and Hillary and their admiration of Trump. I have spoken before, jokingly, about the end of the world, but this feels closer. The British vote reminds me of what I say about divorce: that when people are unhappy and unfulfilled in a marriage, all they want to do is throw it over and move on. And when they do, certainly, they have left behind the problems of the marriage. What they now encounter, however, are the problems of the divorce, and these can often be worse. This the Brits - and the rest of us too - are about to discover.

I am even more grateful than usual to live in Canada. Photos the other day of Justin paddling the Rouge River in a canoe with his wife and daughter, wearing his father's fringed jacket - is he real? We are in a bubble of sanity - clarity and open-heartedness - here in Canada. A wonderful article in the Star on the weekend, pointing out that every western country, including the U.S., Britain, France and Germany, has a right-wing anti-immigration party in the ascendancy - except here in Canada.

I wonder if our bubble of generosity and community will last.

Oh it's good to be able to write to you again, even if I'm feeling apocalyptic!

Moving right along. It's the most beautiful day of the year so far, a heavenly June day, the air in my garden scented with roses, camellias, jasmine, lavender, mint. Okay, now I need to get serious. I need to write about facial hair. Yes. It seems truly cruel of nature that just as women reach the age when their sexual allure vanishes along with their waistlines, they start to grow moustaches and beards. I spend a good ten minutes a day, at least, with my magnifying mirror and my tweezers and am now considering more invasive treatment. So readers out there who are middle-aged women - what do you do about chin and upper lip hair? Advice please. Nellie Natural here needs to find another solution.

All right, that's done. Don't say I never tell you my secrets.

Oh - and the good news: I have heard from Colin Thomas, the editor in Vancouver who's reading the manuscript. This is what he said: I’m in the final lap with Loose Woman and I’m having an excellent time. It’s going to be a terrific book. There’s already a whole lot to like in this draft and with more focus—a fair bit of cutting and some new material—the next draft is going to be even better.

Yes. Yes, I hope so. I'd like to think so. Perhaps there's hope. Cutting WHAT? WHAT new material? I can't wait to find out the specifics. 

On the other hand, also received this, below, about a children's board book I've sent to two publishers. It has taken a year to get two refusals. The nice people at Orca took six months to say no to a manuscript that consists of 200 words. Ah well. Onward. 
Thank you for submitting your manuscript to Orca Book Publishers, but we feel, with regret, that this project is not right for us. 
We receive a tremendous number of submissions every month—far more than we could ever publish. While this work doesn’t suit our present needs, it may well be of interest to another publisher with ... bla bla bla. 
I'll say it again: Onward.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

return after a long absence

Sob - I'm back! It has been DAYS since I've blogged. On Sunday, asked for my password, didn't recognize it, and set off a chain of events that led to me being LOCKED OUT of my own blog. Despair. So many things to tell you about, and no way to do so.

I do now have the Facebook page, as well, which I'll use to explore ideas, links and quotes specifically about writing. Whereas the blog on my website is about life generally. I hope I have that difference figured out; it's the young genius Grace who is setting these things up for me, and also who came over today to get my blog back on track. She's a wonder.

So what are these millions of things I have to recount? Not much, in fact. Late afternoon Sunday, at the end of a perfect sunny day - a bike ride to the Toronto Islands with Jean-Marc and Richard for a picnic on the beach, a ride around the island at dusk, a stunning ferry ride home and a stop at a glorious ice cream store on Queen East called Sweet Jesus. And sweet Jesus, their stuff is good.
 My wonderful neighbours and friends, at the start of our gourmet meal with wine.
T Dot. The Six. Trawna. My kind of town.

And now I have to run out for a piano lesson. More anon. Just wanted to say hello, I missed you.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Happy Birthday, Macca

Have spent the last two days at the Canadian Writers' Summit at Harbourfront. My mind is fried. Here's today's bon mot: Poets are obsessed with death and commas.

I will write more about the experience when I've had time to process it  - lots of workshops and encounters, many scribbled notes. The weekend could not have been more beautiful, hot and bright, on the lake - Toronto at its best. And I made a new best friend - Judy McFarlane from Vancouver, whom I'd met at the non-fiction conference at Banff and reconnected with at the summit. She ended up coming here for dinner tonight, and as women do, we flung ourselves immediately into the story of our entire lives. We are born the same year, spoke about our parents and children and our MFA's from UBC, but most of all, about writing. A wonderful bond.

But for now, as I decompress, I have to celebrate something equally important: it's June 18, Macca's birthday. He's 74 today. No doubt singing his lungs out somewhere in the world right now. We love you, Mr. Music. Please don't stop.

A few pictures:
Playing guitar some years ago, and the other day, at a
concert in Berlin, in solidarity with Orlando. LOVE!

Thursday, June 16, 2016


So busy, no time even to sit here and tell you about it. Nothing special, just the usual - work, family, house, friends, stuff. It's all great, and it all feels a bit too much sometimes.

Had a sleepover with Eli this week, most importantly, as brother Ben was sick. On the streetcar back to my house, he looked at me seriously. "Glamma, is it today or tomorrow?"
How to answer such an existential question?
We decided to plant his little garden, as we did last year. What did he want to grow? "Strawberries," he said, after careful consideration, "and sushi."
Jean-Marc and Richard, who love kids and are wonderful with them, came to visit. JM told Eli they were going to fly home. After they left, he said, "How did those guys fly home? What if they lose their superpowers?” 

I realized what a gift it is to spend time with a small child - to enter that world of limitless possibility. I had to keep stopping myself from being rational and a wet blanket - as in the improv exercise, to say "Yes and..." rather than "Yes but..." Go there with him and learn to play once more. At least to get my creaking old self to try. Though in fact, not so creaking - we went to the new Regent Park playground, and I did quite a bit of climbing on the climbing things. That was fun, releasing my inner 4-year old.

When we got back to his place next day, brother Ben was asleep and getting better, under a little blanket Auntie Do knitted for his mother Anna, lo these many years. 
Apparently after I left, Eli said, "I miss Gramma already." And if there's a greater gift than that, I do not know what it is.

The power of genetic continuity - what a miracle. I was looking through family photos and found one of my dad at about age 4 - looking exactly like Eli. I sent it to Anna, who wrote back, "They're like twins!" 
Eli last year - couldn't find a pic of him in the same kind of pose as Dad below, but you get the idea.
Dad in about 1926. Highly sceptical, as is his older great-grandson. How thrilled he would have been to meet Anna's son. Anna was just seven when he died, but she remembers him clearly. They played checkers - she was six and he was dying, but he did not let her win. 

Was looking through family pictures for my meeting at the JCC - I'm giving a talk there about my great-grandfather Jacob Gordin on November 17, and met with the efficient and energetic Lisa Roy, who's producing the event and the Power Point presentation, and the witty Jack Newman, who will perform a few excerpts from Gordin's plays in both Yiddish and English. That'll be a thrill to hear. Mark your calendars. And today, I went to the stage door of the Ed Mirvish Theatre, where the great Mandy Patinkin is performing, and left him the gift of my "Jewish Shakespeare" book. I hope he likes it - I've always wanted him to play Gordin, he'd be perfect.

Then rode further down Victoria Street to the passport office, to pick up my brand new passport that's good till 2026. I'll be 75 the next time I need to renew it. The picture in this one of a crabby old lady will be replaced by a much older and crabbier one. 

The term is winding down - classes nearly over. The roses are out, the garden flourishing - except that today, at last, the guys arrived to begin burying the backyard wires. They dug a trench across my yard and the neighbour's, trampling not a few plants in the process, but it's all worth it if that hideous tangle disappears.

Downloaded an article: "54 of the festivals in Toronto this summer." Ridiculous, more than 54 festivals! Tomorrow, one of the first - the Writer's Union of Canada conference at Harbourfront. I'm attending for two days. Hundreds of writers in one place. Be still my beating heart.

Finally, I and the whole world shout this: GO HILLARY! 

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Tony Awards provide solace

I don't want to read the papers or listen to the news. How many more murders? How much lunacy and self-destruction is one great nation capable of?

No, don't answer that question. We see the answer playing itself out every day.

I watched the Tony Awards last night, which turned out to be extraordinary comfort and solace on a hideous day. From the very first moment, when charming host James Corden eloquently addressed the television audience about what happened in Orlando, the evening transformed from a night of cosy mutual congratulations to a celebration of creativity, artistry, generosity, talent and skill - and especially, diversity and tolerance - from an industry filled not only with people of all kinds of sexualities but increasingly of all races, colours and creeds.

I am now seriously in love with Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the mega-hit "Hamilton" - not only brilliant and gorgeous but humble, open and funny. He goes on my Best Men list. A thrill for him, I'm sure, not matched by the innumerable Tonys he won last night.

I was very proud of have been a theatre artist last night. Am still one in a very small way, I guess, producing my reading event and the Christmas pageant, teaching. The folks we watched at the Tonys are at the top of their game. Last night was about everything the Americans do better than anyone - all that unbelievable energy, honesty, cheer. How is it possible that powerful well of positivity has been so utterly poisoned?

Ah well. Speaking of great artistry, I went to see Nettie's film Koneline again on Saturday night, and enjoyed it just as much the second time. Beautiful, powerful and vital. May she win an Oscar.

Yesterday, sheer exhaustion - I took my two grandsons to High Park, the first time I've been out with them both. 3 1/2 hours, walking, playing, having a picnic on the grass, and, mostly, hunting for the elusive capybaras that escaped from the zoo there and have been roaming free. We almost saw one. Glamma barely made it home, however, from fatigue. That's a lot of little boy energy right there.

Today, Ben is teething and has a cold, so Eli is coming for a sleepover. I'm taking a few days off after mailing the ms. to the editors, to enjoy the summer days, the roses bursting out. As the fabulous star of "The Colour Purple" sang last night, "I'm beautiful. And I'm here." And so are you.

"Love is love is love is love is love," said my new bff Lin-Manuel in one of his acceptance speeches. "Cannot be killed or swept aside." Today, I'm going to take time for love.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Toronto Beatles fest in August and Joan Baez

In the wouldntcha know department: I've never rented a summer cottage before, but this year I did, through the friend of a friend, a week in Haliburton for Anna, the kids and me. I took one of the two weeks they had left, thinking - mid-August, what happens in mid-August? Nothing!

Wrong. The city is producing a celebration of the Beatles in the Sixties and the fact that Toronto is the only city they visited 3 times. There will be activities for months, but especially one full week of concerts and other major events. Guess which week? Yes, I, super fan who would also like to promote my fine Beatles book, will be floating in a lake in Haliburton for that one entire special Beatles week.

Ah well. Such is life. For those of you who will be in town - enjoy.

Friend Nettie's film Koneline opens at the Bloor tonight; it has been getting incredibly positive reviews, and I hope the place is packed. Go Nettie! I am inspired by her energy and commitment, and also by what I watched on PBS last night - Joan Baez's 75th birthday party, a fundraiser for Amnesty. Joan looks and sounds fantastic, not to mention Emmylou Harris, Judy Collins and others - what an example of aging those women are, beautiful, socially active and gloriously musical to the end. No, not the end, to a mere 75.

And soon, on June 18, my Macca, another ageless musician and exemplary world citizen, will be 74. I wish he'd let his hair turn silver, as those women have. But no, a lustrous brunette he remains.

Grace was here again today, teaching me about Facebook, setting up in Events page and an Album of my books. This old dog is learning new tricks. Or not - if Grace weren't there, not sure what I'd be able to do on my own. But it's exciting. And while she worked, my friend Dan the housepainter was also working, painting deck, porch, walls. He's the best and nicest painter in the business; let me know if you need his number, I'd be happy to give it to you and recommend him without reservation.

Now - Nettie is at the Bloor, Grace and Dan have gone, my deck is spotless, my glass of rosé freshly poured. Time to read and think. I wish you a wonderful June weekend, my friends. It doesn't get better than this.

And ... just have to slip this in. Playschool graduation! Big brother Eli and his little brother Ben on the right, friends Finn and Marcus on the left. Bravo, boys. Harvard is next.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Paul McCartney the life, by Philip Norman

It's cold! What happened? It was sweltering and then it wasn't. I was riding home from U of T at 9.15 last night when I got so cold, I parked my bike at the Y and took a nice warm cab the rest of the way, looking out at people shivering in shirtsleeves and shorts.

Friends have been making good use of my garden: a stunning butterfly, Wayson and his Little Prince colouring book, my son who barbecued us a wonderful meal, and now Nettie, who has made an office and is promoting her film on the chilly deck.

I'm proud to say that this morning, I finished the new Macca biography, Paul McCartney the Life, by Philip Norman, which is over 800 pages long! I did skim many parts, not that interested in the convoluted business disasters of Apple. What comes through most clearly is that this decent, flawed man never stops making music, even when his life is falling apart. After losing Linda, in the midst of his vicious divorce proceedings from wife #2, he wrote and recorded CD's, not to mention his classical compositions, his investment in the Liverpool school of the arts where he teaches songwriting every year, his other charities, his warm family relations.

What you do not see, after the demise of the Beatles, is men friends. This is a man who loves and needs a woman, as he says, to be backstage every night when the show ends, saying, "That was wonderful, darling." He had this with Linda because she was on stage too. Hope it's working out with Nancy. It can't be easy being married to a workaholic, driven, tireless, brilliant, world-renowned icon.

The book has just received an embarrassingly snarky, mean-spirited review in the NYT, which should know better. It's a pop biography, not Proust, but it's thorough and well written, and for those of us who need our Macca fix, it shows the trajectory of this storied life from beginning to last year. Time to get out the CD's and listen again, now knowing more about how and when they were made. A phenomenon, a genius, the most successful songwriter in history. But to me he's just Paul, my great love since February 1964, when I was 13 and he a grand old 21.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Koneline: must see

My friend Nettie's stunning film Koneline: our land beautiful received a rave review in the Globe the other day. But more importantly, Nettie told me, it was also given a great review in a magazine called The Northern Miner. Showing just how balanced and fair the film is.

It's opening Friday for a week's run at the Bloor. Please do yourselves a favour and go to see this film. You'll see an incredibly beautiful part of northern Canada and enter the lives of its people. Unforgettable.

The schedule at the Bloor:

Sunday, June 5, 2016

grownups discuss things they wrote as kids

A day of catastrophic rains - though not like Paris, of course. Dark and gloomy, then very hot and muggy, then dark and then thunderous rain again. Anna was supposed to go to a barbecue with three small children. Perhaps she did not. Or, knowing Anna, she suited up and got them in their boots and went. Anna loves barbecue.

I had a marvellous meeting with a kindred spirit - Dan Misener, producer of the hysterical storytelling event Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids, which I did once a long time ago, reading my Macca stuff to general hilarity. Dan and I connected as story geeks and radio geeks. His show was on the CBC last summer and was acclaimed as one of the funniest shows ever. So naturally it was not renewed. Because we are talking about the CBC here. Sheesh.

Dan has come to most of the So True events, has taped a few for us, and is full of ideas about what we do as producers of story-telling events. We talked for hours. He's 32, that is, less than half my age. He has never heard of a bunch of things that are second nature to me, and vice versa. I will learn a lot from him. What fun.

And then, radio geek that I am, I cooked food for the week while listening to one of Eleanor Wachtel's best shows on CBC - interviewing Julian Barnes in front of a live audience, he relaxed and very funny, such warmth between them, truly she is a master at what she does. Highly recommended and surprisingly moving. And then danced around to Randy Bachman, ate a vast dinner, did more work sitting in my chair. My friend Nettie Wild is on her way from the airport, to stay here for a week. Life is as always chock a block. (Where did THAT expression come from?)

Now listening to raccoons scrabbling and shrieking.

Today's treat, what we all need:
And today's downer/wisdom:
True and sad. And Mohammed Ali is dead, and, I just heard, so is Bobby Curtola. Bobby Curtola - Fortune Teller! "You can see it all in your crystal ball..." Loved that song. I bet that my friend Dan has never heard of Bobby Curtola. I need some Prosecco.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

of teeth

The little family visited today, to take in the fun fair at Sprucecourt School across the street. But it was very hot and the lines for the bouncy castles were very long, so we didn't last long. And I made a terrible faux pas while we were there. We ran into a schoolmate of Anna's, F., whom we had not seen in a long time. 20 years ago, he was a funny, interesting boy with a very neglectful mother who fed him little but Coke and sweets, and by the time he was 18 his teeth had rotted, making him look like a bum. I thought it was a shame such a nice young man would be handicapped in life by looking so terrible and got a bright idea: I persuaded a very wealthy friend to pay my Quaker dentist to remake F.'s mouth.

Me on my white horse - Lady Beth the Good. Sigh.

The dentist tried to teach a boy who had never brushed his teeth dental hygiene, fixed what he could and gave him implants. But it took so long my rich friend got impatient and refused to pay the second half of the huge bill. So when I could, years later, I paid my dentist back. I had not seen F. since. And now here he was, by the bouncy castle, with his children. I asked to see his teeth and exclaimed in disappointment that the whole top row were missing again. Anna was furious, saying I'd humiliated him in front of his kids. I wasn't thinking and was sorry, but still. An expensive philanthropic project was for naught.

I am a deeply flawed person. Should I even be telling you this story?

Okay, as Anna would say. Let it go.

It's 9.30 p.m. and there's that smell - I never know if it's skunk or my neighbours smoking weed. Tonight it's the latter. I as usual am sitting, sitting, sitting cloistered with reading and editing work. There's a deadline: the manuscript goes to my editor in 2 weeks. And there are 3 library books on the go: the new Paul McCartney biography by Philip Norman, which I'm ashamed to say I'm reading cover to cover; a great book called "New Order: a decluttering handbook for creative folks," which just might change my life; and the intimidatingly huge "The four seasons farm gardener's cookbook" which shows you how to lay out a vegetable garden. As you can see, I am not reading the great literature of the world. Not right now, anyway.

Here's the good news, from a serious study. Go for it, I say.

Drinking champagne every day could prevent dementia and Alzheimer's.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Write in the Garden July 24


Beth's new subscription option

Readers, my beloved friend Grace, who's 24 and who comes to help me with social media, has updated my blog. As you'll see on the left, there's an addition: if you want automatic updates about blog posts, please enter your email address, go through the simple procedure, and once a day, if I've posted, you'll receive notification of my golden words and dewy prose. Yay!

Forgot to tell you, speaking of golden words - during the recent visit of Anna and her two boys, we were all sitting in the living room when Eli, who just turned four, turned to his mama and said, "Mum, how do babies get out of their mummy's tummy?" There was a pause as Anna considered her options. "Did Ben come out of your mouth?" Eli said. Anna made up her mind - he knows the names of body parts, no euphemisms in this family.
"Babies come out of their mother's vaginas, Eli," she said. Pause. He grimaced and pushed his face into the sofa cushions. And then he popped up.
"Mum," he said brightly, "can I have some goldfish crackers?" And that was that.

Later, he said to me, "Glamma, do you wear diapers?" And I wanted to say, "Not yet, Eli. Check in later," but I didn't.

So much fun.

Robin Phillips and Shakespearituality

Just heard from my student Kathy, a university psychology professor in her day job, that after I sent a contest outline to her class, she decided to send in a piece she'd read at So True. And she was a finalist. She did not win, but just entering is a feat, let alone placing in the top finishers. This is the second student whose So True piece was a finalist for a prize - Grace's was too. Brava to you both! Kathy wrote:
Of all the instructors I have had, you have been the one that has truly moved me forward, so most of the credit goes to you. Thanks for your continued mentorship. 

My great great pleasure.

Perfect days - not muggy and too hot, as it was last week, but fresh and sunny and breezy. Good to be alive, thank you June! And on top of that, I ran into a male friend yesterday. "Beth, you're still a hottie," he said. "What's going on?"

I have to tell you that of all the things I aspire to in my life, being a good teacher and editor is high on the list, and being a hottie is pretty far down, if not at rock bottom. And the "still" - well, I guess that means, "at your age." He made me laugh - I had barely brushed my hair, was in old yoga pants, my favourite "Stop Stephen Harper" t-shirt and Birkenstocks; if that's his idea of a hottie, so be it. But still. It means I'm alive, and it's June.

Yesterday, I went to see the documentary "Robin and Mark and Richard III," at the Bloor, made by my friend Martha Burns and her friend Susan Coyne. And all I could think, as I watched this brilliant man illuminate the play, was, "Why didn't someone do this before? Why wasn't Robin Phillips filmed as he directed at Stratford, in his prime? Why isn't there a full-scale documentary about him?" This is one hour of Robin near the end of his life, going over two speeches of Richard's with an actor famous for goofball comedy. And yet it's riveting, supremely moving, to hear the passion and detailed knowledge in Robin's words, and to watch Mark McKinney transform under his focussed guidance. It's a master class for actors. "Half an actor's job," he says, "is to recall all the emotions."
"Technique is the pathway to the emotion," he says, as he talks about "Shakespearituality," what a brilliant word. At the end, he gives his favourite line from Shakespeare: "It is required you do awake your faith." I Googled - it's from "Winter's Tale." "The line takes my breath away," says Robin. "When I hear it, my heart stops."

He was a very difficult man, no question. My ex-husband worked with him, on and off, for years, and there were nights when the phone rang at 3 a.m. with yet another hysterical Robin demand. He was nearly impossible sometimes. But he was worth it, because he cared so deeply about what he was doing, and most of the time, he did it so very well. He knew so very much. We see a parade of great Canadian actors - Brent Carver, Martha Henry - and the great Maggie Smith speak with enormous affection and respect about his work and his person. His time at Stratford encompassed the flowering of Canadian culture. Thank you, Robin, for all you gave. You are much missed.