Sunday, April 29, 2018

"The Whirlpool"

At the Y on Wednesday, my locker mate Tina, who changes next to me and whom I have never met outside the Y, said, "Welcome back. I followed the blog and feel like I was in B.C. with you."

I didn't even know she was aware of my last name, let alone the blog.

Today, in the Sunday morning class at the Y, I realized how out of shape I am. Forest bathing and wrestling with a wooly puppy over her favourite slipper do not a fitness regime make, and let's face it, I was mostly sitting in Chris's studio fussing over words or cooking or eating Chris's baking. So the legs, arms, and heart need some upgrading. How - my usual cry - how to find time to do everything that needs to be done, including fitness? I am still overwhelmed, though gradually feeling more in control - finally got some groceries, that helps. But the house - the house needs so much time and tending, and each time I enter a chaotic room, especially my office, I am tempted to turn around and walk out again. So I do.

Yesterday's treat: a student's book launch. Laurel Croza took my course many years ago, transformed one of her class exercises into the picture book "I Know Here" which won many prizes, put out a second picture book, and, now, a book of stories for pre-teens. She sent all of them to me to edit in the early stages, so it was a huge treat to read them again in a beautiful little book, "The Whirlpool," put out by Groundwood. Laurel had never done any creative writing before coming to my class; she's tenacious, hardworking, focussed. Very proud of her. (And grateful - when she gave her speech, she thanked family and friends, then turned to me and said "Beth is the best writing teacher in Toronto." And I didn't have to pay her much to say so.)

To be honest, I would give my eye teeth for a book launch here, at the offices of acclaimed Canadian publisher House of Anansi.
From there to the Emerson, a great little restaurant nearby that happens to be where my son works. We had time before his shift for dinner together; I haven't seen him for months. The owner, who's a high school friend of Anna's, bought me a glass of champagne. It's amazing how good the service is when you're dining with someone who works there. Beef Wellington, tomato salad, champagne followed by a Cote de Rhone, with a charming beloved companion - I'm a lucky woman.

Today it's chilly but the sun is strong. I have to say, I'll take this over mild and dark cloudy grey. Now to write a list and get moving, figure out what's most urgent. Top of my list: centipedes. There are always a few around, but they're moving up and out: there was one in the bathtub last week and in my bedroom last night. Not welcome. Must kill.

I don’t need time. What I need is a deadline. -Duke Ellington, jazz pianist, composer, and conductor (29 Apr 1899-1974)

Friday, April 27, 2018

the little battles of life

An extraordinary day yesterday, battling both of the academic institutions for which I work, where my courses are due to start in two weeks. It seemed, yesterday, as if they were both out to make sure I can't do my job, which surely - don't you agree? - is counterintuitive.

As I've written, the numbers for my Life Stories memoir course at U of T are strangely low this term; I couldn't figure out why, so I went on the website. And found to my disbelief that they are running another memoir course, taught by a better-known writer, at exactly the same time on the same day. I've been teaching Tuesdays 12.30 to 3 at U of T for more than a decade, and that is the day and time they decided to give to another teacher of memoir. When I wrote to ask, they replied this was a mistake and apologized. Nothing to be done. My class will either be cancelled or extremely small.

Hey ho.

So then Ryerson's turn. My course there is almost always too full - the cut off number is 18 but I've had 19, which is absurdly big. The time, they wrote to say I'm at 12 and the class is full. What? At Ryerson, if we have fewer than 10 students in a class, we're paid less, so with only 12, with a few no-shows or dropouts, I'd end up with fewer than 10 and less pay. When I wrote to enquire about this strange cut off of 12, they replied that they've put the class in a "breakout room" which only seats 12 so they've cut off registration.

Let's get this straight: Ryerson is a vast sprawling campus through the downtown core of Toronto, and they cannot find a single room for my class that holds more than 12? Plus I've already battled them about breakout rooms - they're tiny glass boxes designed for a few students to sit and work alone, completely wrong for a memoir writing class.

Still not resolved.

So on top of the other stuff that was already roiling in my gut, I felt as if the world was conspiring to keep me from doing my jobs, the jobs that help pay my considerable bills. Phooey.

First world problems. I have a job. I have a roof and bread on my plate. Nothing to complain about, but it makes a great story. I love to whine.

And then my home class students arrived, writers who've been working with me, some of them, for years, and what fabulous stories, what skill and focus and honesty. Bad day forgotten. And now the sun is shining again. Only one thing to say: onward!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

my Beatles talk at Miles Nadal May 24

An absurdly difficult day, to be explained some other time. But the sun is pouring in, and this just arrived, and soon my home class students will too. So all is well.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

ode to chocolate

During Monday's visit. What Glammas do best - help smear chocolate on the face.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

I'm down, I'm really down, as Paul McCartney sang

Your cheery correspondent is despondent tonight. The world is too much with me. Sometimes reading the newspaper is unbearable, and today in particular, after my own city was attacked and ten people slaughtered by a young man who, it now seems, was enraged because no woman would sleep with him. It seems that his loathsome assembly of Incel friends used to meet on Facebook to celebrate the murder of women and men who just might be sexually active. No, it's too insane, what's happening in the world is beyond comprehension. Syria, the Iran nuclear deal, climate change, immigration and refugees, increasing income disparity, ghastly Doug Ford looming in this province, every single thing that comes out of Trump's mouth, much much more. Sometimes, it's unbearable, just rubs me raw.

And then today, on that same FB, an intelligent woman who used to be a friend posted a racist comment by Winston Churchill with a diatribe shouting that he was "a mass murderer," and I made the mistake of asking for a bit of restraint, for us to be conscious of the mores of his times, as we will surely be harshly judged for our follies in times to come. Followed by a series of even more violent comments in rebuttal. Did Winston Churchill make a racist comment about black people being an inferior race? It's possible he did; he was born in 1874, a product of his times, for better or worse. Did he also help win the war against the Nazis? I guess that doesn't matter.

And then deciding not to wade further into that swamp, I read my dear Chris's blog, where he indicates that he's having a breakdown perhaps because of too many visitors staying too long. That means me. I know he was not blaming or accusing, but still, it hit hard.

Plus I spent the afternoon doing grunt work for our conference, fiddly work which needed to be done, and we were a great cheerful team doing it, but truly, that shouldn't have been the sort of thing we were called on to do.

Plus with two weeks till it starts, my class at U of T is very small so far. Though we did have a good meeting there yesterday and I got to meet some of my colleagues, that was nice.

I'm overwhelmed by all I have to do here, an endless list in this house plus the renovation to come. I'm sad and deeply concerned for a family member who is making what I think are poor, self-destructive choices, plus after two days of hot sun, it was grey and damp today, plus ... maybe I'm still jet-lagged and will cheer up tomorrow. I'm sure I will. I bet you are also hoping this sad sack will.

Plus my printer is out of ink and I have to go remember how to wrestle the new cartridge in.

First world problems, all. But tonight, not even wine helps.

PS Within two minutes of my posting this long self-pitying whine, dear friend Nick sent a kind email. What a blessing are friends. Now, time for peanut butter. That always helps.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Itzhak Perlman plays and the sun comes out

Bliss. This is bliss. All Toronto was out today - as all Vancouver was out a few days ago - celebrating the sunshine. Hot today, for here - 14 degrees, blasting non-stop sun. Spring is just beginning here - in the garden, three croci are out, the daffs are up but not out, a few tiny buds barely appearing on the trees, and still some patches of snow. But with this sun, it'll be full on spring in no time.

What I saw right away, on my return: that Toronto's roads are terrible, potholed and extremely bumpy; that my house is beautiful but too cluttered (who knew?); that my neighbourhood is amazingly quiet given its location. Mind you, that's because there was an extra gift this weekend - the Don Valley Parkway is closed till Monday morning. The background hum from the DVP was missing all day today. So I went for a walk down on the Don Valley trail, beside the river.
 No, not Toronto - the last gorgeous view from Bruce's balcony Saturday morning.
And now for something completely different - a path off of the Don Valley trail - not quite the beautiful woods on Gabriola or Vancouver, but in a few weeks, it'll look quite different...
And ... I saw this! Can you see those toothmarks? This, ten minutes from my front door, is a tree nearly felled by a beaver. I didn't see the dam, but there must be one nearby.
The mighty muddy Don river. No, not the beauty of B. C., no question. But ...

But then after this walk, I got on my bike and rode to Roy Thomson Hall to hear Itzhak Perlman play Schubert, Beethoven, Dvorak, and more, accompanied by his pianist. A 25 minute ride from my front door to hear the greatest violinist in the world, who was sublime, especially his encores, because he chatted with us, and this great musician is warm, funny, endearing. Much adored by the audience, thrilling. Oh, and dear Nick, who told me about this concert, was there too, plus friend and student Mona, whose son took her to the concert as an Xmas present.

And then rode home to potter in the garden, make dinner, and listen to Randy Bachman, who's still on, so I am - you knew it - dancing around the kitchen.

And I thought - I love the trees, the tranquillity and mountains and ocean of a place like Gabriola. I don't get nearly enough of that kind of profound nourishment. But I have to say, I love Itzhak Perlman more. That is, I'd rather visit beautiful places in the country and live in the city, than the reverse. That's me - a citadine, as my friend Lynn says - a city woman who enjoys all the riches a city has to offer, knowing that the many negatives are the price we pay.

But now I also know, I need to make more time for the natural world. It's not just a frill, it's a necessity for this city dweller.

And now for Sunday night TV. One happy camper.

My dream dinner guests: Itzhak, Macca, and Obama. And Suzuki. And to shake things up, Emma Gonzales. Wouldn't that be something?

Saturday, April 21, 2018

the last temptation

At the airport, dying to be outside - it dawned of course a heavenly day, hot and sunny. The city, giving me the finger - diss me, will you, you Toronto nudnik? Let me SHOW you what I can do. And she fans her magnificent feathers. There was a brief sun shower and then a rainbow against the mountains.

Brucie and I took a walk on the seawall and through the park. Made me want to cancel my return ticket.


Smog, cold, slush, complete lack of mountains, deer, otters, HOME, here I come.

Friday, April 20, 2018

the rain will see me off

Guess what it's doing outside? Pouring. Grey, chilly, very wet. The poor kids - there were many thousands this afternoon celebrating 4/20 just down the street from Bruce's place. He and I walked there, through the very smokey air, the hundreds of little booths selling kush, cookies, brownies, paraphernalia ... and munchies. How times have changed. But then came the rain, and of course, most of those kids have no umbrellas. A lot of wet puppies.

So I'm glad to leave Vancouver as it was when I came 30 days ago. In between, a few days of heavenly sun. But let's not forget, there's a lot of this here.

Bruce and I have lunched and dined, and now he's off seeing his nephew and my friend Angus play the piano, as Bruce used to, as an accompanist for a difficult Strauss opera. I am having a quiet night in, listening to the rain.

It has been wonderful. Usually I'm returning around now from Europe - Paris, the south of France, maybe Italy with Bruce. Instead, the gorgeous wet west coast of Canada, where I bathed in the forest, got a lot of work done in the peaceful sweet air, and spent time with a number of great friends. Grateful for it all.

Grateful for home tomorrow. And they say the snow may have nearly melted.

last day

End of the great voyage of 2018: I'm checking out of the Victorian Hotel this morning to spend my last day and night with Bruce on Beach Avenue, where today the city is celebrating 4/20 - marijuana day. I remember the huge festival from past years and know certain of my relatives would love to be there. It's possible, however, that Bruce and I will give it a pass.

Yesterday was the best day of the whole year so far - put all that rain completely out of mind. Sun all day, the whole city out playing beach volleyball, paddleboarding, dragon boating, sailing, and walking dogs. I began the day in Gastown, where my friend Monty, a retired architect, looked at the plans for my renovation to give me some advice. But what we discovered is that my house is so eccentric, it was nearly impossible for him to visualize, especially because there are no old brick semi-detached Victorian houses in Vancouver. "No, this is a nook, there's a cranny here, and that wall just kind of ends ..." I'd say, and he'd try to figure it out. It was fun.

Had lunch with him, friend Margaret who came to join us, and Monty's daughter, also an architect, who was arrested on Burnaby Mountain protesting the Kinder Morgan pipeline and, along with about 250 others, including the Green Party leader, faces a criminal trial. Suddenly idealistic activism has scary consequences - a jail term or a heavy fine and a possible criminal record, serious stuff. But thank god for those struggling to preserve our endangered planet.

Strolled this part of Vancouver with Margaret - an almost incomprehensible mix of chichi - Gastown - fascinatingly ethnic in Chinatown, and on the downtown East Side, the direst poverty I've ever seen, more extremely than anything I've seen in Toronto. I was on a mission - to find the plaque honouring Wayson Choy at the corner of East Pender and Gore. Found it! How proud I am for him; this solid celebration of him and his beautiful books will be there forever. (click to enlarge)
And then realized - I used to live in a rented house on East Pender, only a few blocks from there, when Anna was a baby. Walked with Margaret, who'd visited us there in 1982-83, and found the house, changed - it was covered with dark brown siding then - but I knew it right away. It was a bewildering time - I was suddenly a wife and mother, retired from the theatre and taking an MFA in creative writing, and stuck without a car in the middle of Chinatown. It was a lovely house but a terrible location - nothing close by and not a single neighbour, at that time, who spoke English. My back went into spasm, and I had to go to bed for a month. Not a happy memory.
Visited the tranquil Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden for the first time on the way back.

Rested, then the little ferry, again, across to Kits, to meet Judy for a walk and talk in the sun - as I've said before, when the weather is like this, you wonder why anyone would live anywhere else ...
and then to dinner with two old friends from theatre days, Colin Thomas and David Diamond, who live in a co-op on 1st, near the water. Thai food, gossip, reminiscence - wonderful. Colin, a brilliant editor as well as theatre critic, drove me back to the hotel.

So it ends. Back to reality, back to family, back to work, back to the beeg ceety. I'm grateful for every moment out here and can't wait to get home. I am a very lucky woman.

P.S. Yesterday was my aunt Do's 98th birthday - had a nice chat, glad to learn her friends had taken her out to lunch. And today is Wayson's 79th. Inspiring elders.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

sun and sea

Left the hotel at noon and spent the day as a flâneuse - walking walking walking. Took the ferry to Granville Island, walked all around the Island, poking into shops, lunch - then the ferry to the Maritime Museum side to sit on the beach, walk up to 4th Avenue and flâner some more - bought a plastic holder for half an avocado, what a useful thing, at Ming Wo, a great cookware shop, and since I had time to kill, a bathing suit. ("I used to have a waistline, I assure you," I said, wincing, to the saleswoman who was checking for fit.) Had a wonderful Italian dinner with Judy McFarlane, fellow writer and now Acting President of the Creative Nonfiction Collective, and her husband Jim, great new friends. And then the little ferry back. There was a wind but the sun shone all day. Heaven.  
 Lunch outside on Granville Island, one of my fave places on earth
 The ugly city in the sun
 Sitting on the beach
My bus home.

Vancouver friends, including that bright thing in the sky

I have moved the chair in this tiny room so I can sit in a patch of what I believe is commonly called "sunlight." Yes, something delightfully warm and bright is coming through this east-facing window. And this strange thing was there for much of yesterday, too, struggling through the clouds. Heaven.

First, a huge thank you to my dear friend Nick Rice, fellow actor from the seventies in Vancouver, now a Toronto-ite who avidly follows my blog and writes me letters - actual letters - both when I'm home and when I'm travelling, three to Chris's place on Gabriola. How rarely we have the treat of opening an envelope, unfolding some paper, reading. Yesterday, Nick emailed to let me know, after reading my post about the doc on Itzhak Perlman, that the man himself will be playing in Toronto the day after I return. I went online instantly and got one of the last tickets. What a thrill, thanks to my old friend.

Off to Kitsilano, to the offices of the David Suzuki Foundation, to connect with more old friends - Tara and David. David was one of my father's most beloved friends; after Dad's death in 1988, David wrote a tribute to him in the Globe that I have framed on my wall. So our lunch together involved a lot of reminiscing, but also a lot of talk, as you can imagine, about the state of the world. David is 82, with the agility and vitality of a teenager - an inspiration in every way. Tara is a beautiful, warm, hospitable soul.

Tara and I took their new twin grandbabies in the wide stroller for a windy walk in the park. She told me their 8-year old grandson, who lives on Haida Gwaii, has volunteered to spend time picking up garbage. Hooray for the next generation of this exemplary family.

From there to the west side of the city. Jane Ellison teaches the fabulous dance/movement/meditation class Boingboing at the Western Front 4 times a week; I try to go at least once when I visit - this time, have managed twice. She begins with a long detailed warm-up, then puts on 3 or 4 fantastic pieces of music, always different and with a strong beat, and we all dance. Just dance, move, fling ourselves about. There's always a moment when I imagine my children taking in the scene, all these lumpy bodies boinging around, but I put that thought away and shake my booty. And then a cooldown. I adore Jane and her vital class.

From there to dinner with Kathryn Shaw, who was my director a number of times during my acting days in Vancouver. Kathryn has run the terrific Langara acting school for decades and has turned out many of Canada's finest young actors. So, more reminiscing and gossiping with another old friend, with two glasses of wine for me. At one point, the woman in the booth next to us turned around, and it was Cathy McKeehan, one of the only other people I've reconnected with in Vancouver. "What are the chances?" she said. Pretty good, as it turns out. She's a close friend of Chris's so I was able to bring her up to date on him and his move. She'd seen the picture of us together on his blog, "like an old married couple," she said.

And then home. All of this done on the first rate Vancouver transit system, busses and subway, efficient and speedy. And though I carried an umbrella all day, not one drop of rain. Instead, that unaccustomed warm thing struggling to appear in the sky. And there again now, through the clouds. Time to go out and say hello.

Oh yes, almost forgot - arriving at the restaurant where I was meeting Kathryn, I told the hostess I was meeting a friend. She said, I think she's here already and has gone to the washroom. Is she an elderly lady, like you?

Kill. Kill immediately without regret.

Monday, April 16, 2018


It's 9 p.m. on a very rainy night in Vancouver, and I'm drying off in bed, in a tiny all white hotel room, with a glass of a spicy Chilean Pinot Noir, a platter of Lebanese takeout, and thou.

Rain on Gabriola this morning, where I'd hoped to take a last walk in the woods. Instead, many cuddles with the most adorable dog in the world. The minute I got up, every morning, Sheba bounded over with a slipper in her mouth, hoping to play. I will miss her a lot.

Patsy and I took the midday ferry over to Nanaimo, returned my piano - I still can't get over that it cost $11 to rent for 3 weeks - got me waitlisted for the 2 p.m. floatplane, grabbed a bite to eat, and hugged goodbye. Last night was truly a gift, to be with two of my oldest and dearest friends, now living on the same island. To think that though we've been through decades of change and the batterings of life, yet, somehow, we're still fundamentally the same people, with the same bond, as nearly 50 years ago ... I asked Patsy, since she threw my 20th birthday party, if she would consider in 2 years throwing my 70th. Only joking, of course - she's much too busy for that.

So - goodbye to the island. It's right that one of Chris's favourite pastimes is watching "Escape to the Country," the British show about rural people wanting to buy a home in a country village. He has done exactly that, and what a perfect escape to the country it has proven to be. How grateful I am to have been invited to share it with him.

I got my standby fare - standby is half price for seniors, so $60 for the 20 minute flight. And then to the Victorian Hotel, recommended by my blog friend Theresa. What a find - very reasonable because the bathrooms are shared and the rooms, at least this one, are small - but in a great location, quiet, pretty, with breakfast.

Reading the "What's On" online, I saw the documentary "Itzhak," about the great Israeli-American violinist, was playing at VanCity. I'd wanted to see it in Toronto and missed it. Headed out without an umbrella - my non-Vancouver reasoning, "There's been so much rain, surely it must have stopped." Idiot! The film was sold out but there was a standby line, so again, I waited for standby and was successful. What heaven is this film. Yesterday, Chris's TV was tuned to the Knowledge Network and an orchestra came on backing YoYo Ma playing the Schumann cello concerto. As an encore, he played one of the Bach Unaccompanieds. I wept. And did again today - Itzhak Perlman, one of the greatest of the great violinists, is a mensch, a beautiful man, joyful, generous, kind, very funny. The film portrays not just his musical career but his lifelong marriage to Toby, a woman who saw him play when she was 15, went backstage, and asked him to marry her. A few years later, he did, and many years later, they still have a glorious partnership, 5 children, 12 grandchildren, and several musical foundations that they run together. He was crippled by polio as a child and yet has lived an incredibly full life. He talks about driving with Toby when on the radio came a spiritual sung by Marian Anderson that was so beautiful, he nearly crashed the car. "I feel very lucky to love and appreciate music that way," he said, and I concur.

Perlman was born in Israel and is deeply connected to his Jewish roots. Someone says, "Isaac Stern was asked why so many Jews play the violin, and he replied, 'Because it's the easiest instrument to pick up when you have to run.'"

The film brought me to my father, a nice Jewish boy from New York who played the violin; to Uncle Edgar, his brother, who played the viola and the flute; to my mother, who played the piano and the recorder and tried to play the cello so she could be part of my father's string quartet. How they would have adored this film. So I watched it for them and with them.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

last day - dinner with Patsy

This dog is not real, she's a stuffy I'm bringing home for Eli and Ben.
Large bits of wood look like sculptures in the forest.
Fresh daffodils from the garden? Yum!
 Friends since 1970.
Friends since 1975 - and, miraculously, still friends after 3 weeks in a log cabin and constant rain and 3 crazy animals together.

Saturday, April 14, 2018


Tomorrow is my last day in Lorangerland, Chris's magic hideaway in the woods. As a parting gift, last night and tonight, he showed me two of his favourite movies, films I've been meaning to see for many years and never got around to: Strictly Ballroom and Muriel's Wedding, both Australian, funny, moving, great great fun. Heavenly to lie on the chaise by the fire and watch a very enjoyable film. And eat his lemon meringue pie while doing so. I've gained five pounds, I'm sure - much eating of much baking, followed by much much sitting at the computer and lolling in the hot tub, not offset by a bit of walking in the woods.

Some sun again today here - this is getting to be a habit, B.C.! And this while poor Ontarians, my family and friends, are suffering an ice storm of frightening proportions. My heart went out to them while I was walking another solitary trail. (click to enlarge)
 Someone tried to build a lean-to. Now leaning.

So many shades of green.
Not sure you can read it - the sign says "Woodpecker Training Skool." Some wag not only made it, s/he had to climb quite high to nail it on.

On Wednesday when Chris and I were grocery shopping, I saw a Globe and just had to buy it. It's beside me now, but I still haven't got around to reading it. I'll get to it at some point. Have I caught island-itis? The good news: I emailed two pieces of work this afternoon, the final version of the Beatles' talk and the next draft of the memoir. It felt very good to hear them zoom away. So tomorrow is my DAY OFF. I'm going to be doing this:

Friday, April 13, 2018

"The Outside Circle"

Yesterday, some blessed sun, so another walk in Drumbeg Park where we met all kinds of nice dog people who wanted to meet the adorable Sheba. (click to enlarge)

Tom Thomson, anyone?

Harder to work when the sun’s out, but the morning was rainy so we did get stuff done. When Chris went out to do errands, Sheba took full advantage for a little nap on his bed.

Later, Patsy came to get me; we had supper at the Surf pub with the most glorious view of ocean, mountains, passing ferries - and a seal. 
I ran into a couple Chris and I had just met at Drumbeg. “Where’s your husband tonight?” they wanted to know. “Say hi to Sheba.”

Patsy and I were there for a “Reading and Reconciliation” literary event, two indigenous writers discussing their books, hosted by Shelagh Rogers who lives here. The discussion was particularly terrific because one of the writers, Patti LaBoucane-Benson, half Ukrainian and half Metis, who runs Native Counselling Services in Alberta, spoke of her graphic book, The Outside Circle. About a violent young indigenous man who enters a healing warrior circle, learns the history of his people, and manages to heal and change, she says it is nonfiction based on her work. Its powerful story illuminates First Nations history and life, and Patti was extraordinarily articulate about what’s needed to change our society, to “dismantle the colonial foundation of systems of despair.” “We don’t need Indian agents,” she said. “We need caseworkers to walk with indigenous people on the healing journey.” Amen.

The other writer was Monique Grey Smith, author of “Speaking our Truth,” also interesting. A moving and stimulating evening. And then the ride home on the nearly empty roads lined with thick forest. Not what I’m used to after an evening at the IFOA.

Today, dark and wet again. I truly don’t mind, because it makes working so much easier – spent the entire day finalizing my talk on the Beatles for the Miles Nadal JCC on the afternoon of May 24. With music, slides and video – and a bit of singing from me - it’s going to be a LOT of fun. Then during a brief lull in the rain, taking Sheba for a romp, and then more work before dinner. Only two more days here to finish this rewrite, and then I hit the busy, distracting world. I’m already missing the millions of trees, the sweet air, the silence, the many wild animals and birds, my dear friend and his gorgeous pets and house, his fireplace, his baking. Today he brought me a present to the studio – a tiny pot of the divine lemon meringue pie he just made.

But I’m sure he’s had enough of this intruder, and it’s time for me to go to Vancouver, my re-entry point to city life, and then, next Saturday, home.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Phantom Thread, 3 Billboards, Unforgotten

Yesterday, what a blessing – the sun came out. In the morning, it was as usual dark and raining, and then – thank you God for the surprise of light and warmth! Chris hightailed to Drumbeg Park with Sheba; I couldn’t go because I was waiting for a committee Skype call about the conference. So later, I went for my forest bathing walk on the nearby trails. In more than an hour of walking, this time, I met not one soul.

How do all those very tall skinny trees stay up? And see - steps of bright moss on the path. 

While I was out, my friend baked an apple pie. Is there nothing he can’t do? It was sublime.
Last night, we watched Phantom Thread, which haunted us both – we discussed it at length at lunch today at the Kitchen restaurant, where we went to get out of the house during another dark, rainy day. I saw it partly as a quirky meditation on power, the power of men over women and of women over men. How a strong woman plots to get her man to change – in this instance, by nearly killing him – and it works! Talk about quirky. Superb sets, costumes of course, and performances – Daniel Day Lewis never better, restrained, utterly convincing, as was Leslie Manville, the great actress who played his hovering, repressed sister. A much more interesting film than expected.

On Monday, there wasn’t much sun but it wasn’t raining, so we went to Drumbeg together, and while there, the mountains revealed themselves for the first time, not hidden by clouds.

And then a sea lion charged through the water. That morning, I went for my first bike ride into the village – about half an hour, lots of uphill, not an easy ride but great to have some autonomy. I went to Colleen’s, a wonderful shop with shoes, Irish clothing, tons of cookware and linens. And then rode back. I thought I’d go insane stuck here for 3 weeks without a car, nowhere to go by foot except the trails, the bike mostly unusable because of rain. But no problem – I am very happy here in the studio, “the office,” as I call it – “I’m going to the office,” I say to Chris as I set off across his yard with my computer, notebooks, water – working on the memoir. I’d thought I’d be doing new work, but instead I am honing, polishing, cutting the memoir, work I should have done months ago before I sent it out. I’ve cut 1800 words so far, though I’ve also added a few where I thought more explanation was needed. Hope I’m making it better and not just fiddling. But I think I am and it is.

CLo and I also watched 3 Billboards, which was not a huge hit with either of us. Just plain weird, much of it unpleasant for no real purpose that I could see, and far too much that made no sense at all. I don’t regret seeing it, it wasn’t dull, but not a success. We also watched “Unforgotten,” a new Masterpiece Mystery on PBS, normally something I wouldn’t watch, but my, so good, those Brits sure know how to hook you. Can’t wait for Sunday when the next episode airs.

So, thus unroll our days – he gets up early, I get up late, he sits at his computer, I go to the office, lunch usually together, then an outing and/or more work, then supper together, then TV. By then the early riser is ready for bed and I read and tap some more; there’s no internet access in the office, so I need to get it all done in the house – many emails about the upcoming conference, the upcoming renovation, my three upcoming courses, family, house, renting the basement apartment… My city life will hit me full force when I’m back, in ten days.

So  - now back to the office to work, and then a bit of piano practice, and then, be still my beating heart, a slice of apple pie. It’s dark and cold and raining, and even so, I’m in heaven.

And here's this, that Chris just sent me, so, so true: