Wednesday, July 31, 2019

a mere 68

Tomorrow I turn 69. Hard to believe. What, lithe, youthful moi? The nice woman doing my eye tests this morning noticed the date on my chart and asked if I was excited about my birthday. Well - I'm excited to be alive. I'm excited my family is gathering tomorrow for a barbecue, plus a few beloved friends. This will be my first birthday in more than a decade without Wayson. He will be missed.

I have told the guests it will be a cucumber-based menu. Because just like last year, fat, straight, delicious cucumbers are dropping from the vine. I am definitely the cucumber-whisperer; there are five in the fridge right now. Not to mention Swiss chard, cherry tomatoes, and basil. I've got a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe for "Quinoa and grilled sourdough salad," and Nigella's recipe for "Chopped salad," both with lots of cukes. Sam is going to barbecue meats. There will be corn. And - because grandsons - cake.

The rose of Sharon has started to bloom just in time for tomorrow. Chris sent a wonderful YouTube interview with the cast of Grantchester - I could watch those actors forever, even without James Norton.
Lani sent a hilarious card. Jean-Marc brought over the Sunday New York Times. Carole tortured us all as usual, nicely, at the Y. My second cousin, or first cousin once removed, I forget, in New York sent snippets of interviews with her mother Lola, my father's cousin who's now 97, as Dad would have been if he hadn't died 31 years ago. She told once again the story of being forced to go to her first prom with my father as her date; Ethel Merman was the entertainment. She also mentions chatting, later, with Bette Davis and Frank McCourt. An interesting life. What a great idea to tape her talking about her past.

So, dear friends, it's 5.45 p.m. so time for aperitif, a nice cold glass. My baby blue toes and I will forget for a bit about the horrors that are happening to our planet and simply celebrate being here, mid-summer, a mere 68 for the last time tonight. I will eat cucumbers and watch TV, including Samantha Bee, and read the new New Yorker. 


Monday, July 29, 2019

summer joys

 When I went down to the kitchen this morning, I thought about February. Today, the world was alive with colour, sound, and scent - flowers, birds, green, yellow, pink, red, purple, orange, and more green, the smell of lavender, phlox, gardenia, rosemary, jasmine. Sparrows and cardinals chatting. In winter, grey, brown, white, no smells, almost no sounds. Toronto in winter is a sensory deprivation tank. But we are Canadian, we get through, and here we are, in the richness of high summer.

Annals of aging # 647: two medical appointments this week, one with the supercilious and unpleasant Doctor Khan to check for glaucoma, and with the dermatologist to inspect and I hope remove white bumps on my face. Today's pains: the left foot, some ongoing unidentified ache; in the left side of my mouth, a nerve issue under the teeth getting more acute. The rest - back, hips - the same. Lucky. My friend John, who has hip and knee issues, goes up my stairs on his hands and knees. I went to a yoga class today to try to keep the joints well oiled. I'm reading the obituaries more regularly now - two deaths close to me so far this year.

Blistering heat - 29, feeling, they say, like 38.

Sent the manuscript to two other publishers today. One I sent to last month has already written a polite no - miraculous that it came so quickly. He wrote very nicely that the nonfiction at the press is mostly focussed on political and social issues, not on memoir. Phooey. To cheer me up I had a pedicure. My toes are now light blue.

Supper - the garden's cucumbers are beginning to pile up, so creamy cucumber salad. Fresh corn with lime. Salmon. Peaches. Rosé. Summer! Thank you.

The other day, I took a bunch of old books I wanted to sell to Acadia Books, a used bookstore on Queen Street East. What a lovely wonderful place. There are several homeless shelters nearby, so the street outside is very rough. Inside, a haven of old books, posters, maps, cherished paper of all kinds. It belongs now to Rochelle, the daughter of the man who bought the shop and ran it for decades. Can't imagine it'll last - who is buying old books on the roughest part of Queen Street East? And yet there she is, buying some of mine: a collection of the works of Edgar Allen Poe, ten small volumes, inherited from Great-aunt Helen; a Beatrix Potter from the 1920's, and more. My latest attempt to tackle debt.

If you're in Toronto or nearby, please make sure to visit Acadia Books. It's like the film Being There but in reverse. Peter Sellers leaves a sheltered environment for the madhouse of the real world. Here, you leave the madhouse and inside is tranquillity, books and art and kindness.

Grantchester last night: no one seems to note the absurd supposition that the handsomest young men in England in the early sixties are becoming vicars. Have you ever seen a minister as divinely handsome as James Norton? I think not. Now, the new guy, also a cutie though not quite like James. Absurd that these gorgeous virile studs would enter the Church of England to spend their lives as men of the cloth. But fun to watch. And then John Oliver came on at 11, excoriating Boris @#$# Johnson, a shyster since childhood. Ghastly. What did the poor planet do to deserve these guys?

Sweaty, very sticky and sweaty. Where is that lake?

Saturday, July 27, 2019

peaches and time

Where does time go? Why do the days disappear? I saw an explanation on TV, where else? It said that when our brains experience something new, our neurons are firing and lots is going on in our systems, so as we process it all, things seem to take a long time. That's how life feels when we're young - when everything is new.

And then we get older. We've done it all before. No neurons are firing. And so time seems to vanish, because nothing is slowing it down.

Makes sense, no?

This beautiful Saturday vanished. I'd done it all before. No, that's not true, let's slow down this narrative. When I got to the market on my bike, there was my dear friend and handyman John, sitting outside waiting for his wife to finish shopping. John spent yesterday morning lying on my bathroom floor with his head under the sink, replacing the faucet. Yes, another of the only things that didn't get renovated during the winter broke. Thank God for John. I sat with him awhile and watched the market goers. "There's peaches for the first time today," John told me, "and corn for the second week." I bought both. The first peach of the year! Took a long time to enjoy it properly. Neurons were firing.

Later I submitted my manuscript to a publisher; hadn't done it exactly that way before, so that was new. Made various arrangements for various social events and gatherings and a road trip, new but not really, have done it all before. Thus, my afternoon flew out the window.

I pruned my raspberry bushes, also something I'd not done before. I've been worrying they're not fruiting as they should, so went online and saw what to  do - prune the woody stuff. So my snippers went to work, clearing the underbrush. I love feeling like a gardener, though I hardly know what I'm doing.

And later I watched one of my absolutely favourite programs, Upstart Crow, a moving and very clever comedy that brings Shakespeare hilariously to life. I've seen most of the episodes twice but this one was new, starring the divine, the always sublime and very funny Emma Thompson as Queen Elizabeth I. Perfection. Now I'm watching a CNN documentary about films of the 2000s and making a list of ones I still need to see: Lord of the Rings, Almost Famous, Lincoln, Chicago. Black Panther.

Here, in photos sent by his mother, is what it feels like to be young, with those fresh neurons relishing every moment. 7 years old, on his way to the Raptors. Hope you had a nice slow Saturday too.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

summer rhapsody

My heart overflowing this glorious morning - we've had a few days respite from the heat, it's fresh, light, clear. The garden is nearly at its peak; the pale mauve phlox are out, delicate and tall, and so is the jasmine, scenting the air. The raspberries are in profusion and the cukes too. It's quiet, and after a few busy days, I've little on today - an editing client coming at 2, that's it. My own very long list of things to do, of course, including, most importantly, my least favourite job, back to trying to find a home for my memoir.


On Tuesday, a shocking encounter; a woman I'd never met, an old friend of a recently deceased friend, came for coffee and told me that things I'd suspected but did not know for sure about my friend's living arrangements were true. That he lived, by his own choice, in a near abusive situation. The profound injustice of what happened. It made me sad and angry in equal measure. But when people make their choices, she said, there's nothing we friends can do. And I know that's true. Still. There are bad people in this world.

As if we didn't know that, with the spectacle in the news every single bloody day. Including a nauseating story in the latest New Yorker about the pillorying of Senator Al Franken, victim of the excesses of #Metoo, a principled hardworking man who lost his job for the flimsiest of reasons, while the pussygrabber-in-chief reigns supreme and threatens to obliterate Afghanistan. But stop. The morning is too beautiful to let him in.

Yesterday, a gathering here of runfit friends, the group of us who've been going around in circles together on Wednesdays for years, led by our inspiring Carole, the marathon-running grandmother of three adults who looks no more than 50. We had a potluck feast on the deck and got to know each other a bit better, as we have only the briefest of conversations as we puff and sweat. It's thanks to Carole that we're all even a little bit fit, though I least of all, the slowest of the bunch. And yet, as we always say in the gym, we're here. The miracle is, we're here.

I read somewhere that the main predicator of happiness is the ability to be grateful. I guess that's why, despite the news, despite Boris Johnson and global warming, despite my own debt and doubt and disappointments, I call myself happy much of the time. Right now, I am grateful for the sweet scent of jasmine and phlox, and much much more.
And now, up to the office, to work.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

workshop heaven

Such blessings. My garden workshop today, thunderstorms predicted, and not only did they not come, the day wasn't even too hot - just breezy and mild until late afternoon. The whole day could not have gone better: a lovely group of 11 writers, interesting, brave writing, good food - if I say so myself - and good timing for the various prompts. By the end of these events, I am drained but thrilled, to share my garden and what there is of my expertise with a group brave and/or crazy enough to commit time and money to sit poking about in their own entrails. Some had been students, but half of them were strangers, and yet, by the end of the day, they were all almost like family.


What's so important is not just the writing, but the quality of the listening. We were all listening with careful attention to each other. How valuable that is.

Now to recuperate, eat leftovers, wonder what's the name of that bird singing such a loud song at dusk. I'd run these workshops more often, but they're exhausting - not just guiding people through the process of telling the truth safely, but the food and drink, making sure everyone is comfortable physically as well as psychically, and that the house and garden are in good shape.

But by the end they were all telling their most important truths, the stories that mattered to all of us. A treat and a gift.

Speaking of a treat and a gift, here's a photo that brings me joy - Macca played in L.A. recently and Ringo came onstage to play two songs with him. There was a rave, an absolute rave, of Macca's show in Variety, which is no humble mag. Reminder: he's 77, and Ringo is even older.
This morning I awoke to a brand new pimple on the side of my face and had to scrabble about for the Clearasil. The Clearasil. I'm going to be 69 in two weeks, and still with the pimples. Is that fair?

But the good news: my raspberries are overflowing. In all these years, this is the first time I've had a bowlful, with more to come.
Come on over and share. I promise,  I won't make you write a story. Or perhaps I will.

Now my summer really begins.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Ben is four

Sitting here in front of the fan with the AC on too, at last - it's brutally hot outside with a storm predicted, a blessing for the garden. We're still clicking happily together, my new Mac and I, though it does something annoying; it likes to add periods before I do, before I've finished writing, as if it's editing me mid-sentence. Have to figure out how to stop that; it's bad enough with human editors cutting us to bits without machines doing it too.

Yesterday's joy - Mr. Ben's fourth birthday party. By some miracle, it was meant to thunderstorm, which would have meant myriad children rampaging through the apartment, but after a light sprinkle the sun came out and so did the children, straight into the wading pool, where the submachine water guns were waiting. And that was it, they were out for the rest of the day.

What made me marvel was that, of the ten or twelve children there, my two grandsons were the only Caucasians. The mothers originated in Sri Lanka, the Caribbean, Japan; a First Nations grandmother, one of Anna's good friends, is raising her 3 grandchildren for her daughter who's working and in school. These women know each other - and each other's children - from the drop in at the school run by Miss Claire, who was also at the party. One woman brought her tiny 8 month old baby who'd been born premature; every woman at the party held that baby. Anna said she's the "therapy baby"; any woman longing to have another child can hold her for a bit and maybe satisfy that itch. Miss Claire said when the principal of the school is having a bad day, she comes to the drop in and says, Where's that baby? One hug and she feels better.

When I was eleven, a girl from the Caribbean arrived at my Halifax school. She was like a Martian to me. My parents had a few African friends, it wasn't as if I hadn't met any people of colour, but they were exotic rarities, few and far between. Eli and Ben have grown up so immersed in a multicultural world, they simply do not see colour. For that matter, because many friends of their parents come in all shapes, sizes, and sexualities, they don't see any of that either. The way we should be. (The very fact that I'm writing this post about it means that I DO see colour. A dinosaur.)

I escaped from the party to my friend Lynn's; she has a shady, plant- and tree-filled backyard, a forest glade with a wonderful pool like a tiny lake. We floated and chatted for an hour before emerging for rosé and supper and a second swim. I can feel that cool water on my skin even now. Wish I could create a tiny lake in my own yard; the summers are not going to get cooler. Maybe I'll get my own wading pool, and a slide too.

Today, hard work getting ready for tomorrow's Write in the Garden workshop: twelve writers arriving at 10 a.m. to spend the day in my garden, with lunch. I have lots of interesting prompts ready; today was about making four big salads - potato, tabbouleh, tomato/bread, pasta with veggies - cooking the quiches, cleaning the house, doing the garden.

And then sitting in front of the fan.

PS. I see that I started posting 3482 times ago. Feels like yesterday.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Welcome to the Silver Hammer

Welcome into my world, sleek gleaming steely grey new computing machine whom I have named MacSwell's Silver Hammer. Oh that satisfyingly snappy clickity clack, the speed of typing, fingers skimming over the keys, the brand new keys. I am poor but happy. Very poor. Very happy. No idea what happened to the last one. People keep telling me about their ten-year old machines, and mine went completely bust at a year and a half. And I was careful with it. Just my luck.

But now there's the Silver Hammer. Onward. Will have a session with my personal genius Matt tonight, to get me back into the cloud and to download Office and get my camera, printer, and phone linked up. Can't post pictures yet.

Very hot today but with a breeze; editor friend Rosemary was just here for lunch on the deck, as we sweated and drank and got caught up. For dessert we walked to the end of the garden and picked raspberries to scatter on ice cream.

Wanted to say and couldn't because of no computer - that at Ruth's cottage I finished Middlemarch. What a joy. It was difficult and long, lengthy passages about 19th century issues incomprehensible to a modern reader, but George Eliot's humour and wit, the depth of her understanding of all her characters, major and minor - breathtaking. Magnificent.

And - the Wimbledon final was tragic. All of us, surely all the world, was rooting for the marvellous, indomitable Federer, grand old man at 37. At the end, after more than 4 hours of exhausting play, he was up several points, just needed to finish the job to win - and he missed two shots and lost. This is a man who has hit a tennis ball a trillion times, but the two times he needed most to hit it perfectly, he didn't. How cruel is that! I know, the firstest of first world problems, but still. Djokovic is like a tennis machine. We love our Fed.

However, as compensation, Grantchester was back Sunday night with the divine James Norton. But sadness again - it was his last show. Talk about eye candy. Come back, luscious James.

Okay, so here she is, drivelling on because she can. I've missed being able to zip out a message to you. The Silver Hammer and I - onward.

PS 9 p.m. All working.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The joy of sadness

Weepy today. It’s the Wimbledon final, Federer versus Djokovic, and my mother and aunt should be watching. Avidly. I really don’t care about sports but I love federer, as Mum did. A great wave of anguish swept over me about the missing. Dad died in July, just after Wimbledon. He lay in the living room as Mum and Do watched. I miss them all today. I just called Una, one of Do’s best friends, to get caught up and reminisce. They’re playing Scrabble today as always. But two key players will not be there.

So, weepy. Not to mention the sudden need for a new computer, plus the estimate just received from the electrician- $1300 to wire my office. I had no idea this had not been done and would be needed.

First world problems. It’s a gorgeous day, fresh and bright, the raspberries are coming in, and I’m going across town soon to visit my boys. I’m even glad to be sad. It’s good to know that the living remember the dead. That the missing are stored forever in our hearts and minds. At least, until those of us who remember die too.

And now as the summer air wafts in with the scent of lavender, mint, and roses, time to weep some more.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Mac misery

Purring computer literally on the blink - was working perfectly then screen began to blink on and off, like a neon sign. Hot bike ride uphill to the repair store to leave it with Jeff. He just called. It’s kaput. The $500 plus repair fee will go towards a new Mac. It’s a year and a half old!!!
Ah well at least my genius Matt has stored everything in the cloud. But until I get a new machine I can’t access my documents, or my bank account since my password is stored in a document. Think I have enough liquid cash to pay for a new Mac. Phooey.
However John repaired the hose. Small mercies.

Friday, July 12, 2019

cottage catch up

Heaven is this little machine in my lap, purring like a pussycat. For a mere $533 (!), my computer is fixed. Jeff from RiverdaleMac called at 5.20 this evening to give me the good news. They close at 6, so I changed out of my at-home-schlepping clothes, leapt on my bike, peddled furiously uphill to the Danforth, and reclaimed my treasure. I knew I was addicted, did not realize how much. Yes, it's a true addiction. Wine, sunlight, words on paper, this machine, and peanut butter - some of the things I cannot live without.

So, just to recap, because I'd wanted to share a few pix from the cottage and could not - here they are. (click to enlarge)
My fine hostess - dinner on the deck. The food was so good, I gained 2 pounds.
MANY sunset shots, so just chose one. This is from their "beach."
Ruth's son John and his partner Rob with their adorable baby Rhoda, aged 3 months, who was thrilled with every single thing - an acorn! a hat! some sandals to chew!!!! - and brought us all much joy.
 Off on a hike around the island, following the indefatigable leader, who recently turned 80. Inspirational in every way.
That's the cottage. So very beautiful, calm, restful for the soul. And because located on a breezy "point" - almost no mosquitos or bugs.

I was sorry to leave but also anxious to get home to fix my computer. I used not to understand cottage people who load up the car, sit in ghastly traffic for hours on the weekend, get to the cottage, unload, try to relax, load up the car and drive in ghastly traffic home. But Ruth stays for weeks at a time; her cottage has high-speed wifi, Netflix, tons of books and magazines, and a clear, quiet lake. I felt ten years younger when I got back.

Both Carol and the recently evicted Karen had kept the house company; Karen stayed one more night. JM and I are still trying to help her find a decent place to live. Her situation is horrendous.
This greeted me - the clematis and the astilbe have gone mad, and the roses are as lovely as ever.

Immediately, of course, there was the computer to deal with, letters to write for Karen, much email to tend to on my phone, garden, groceries, kids. Students, editing clients, friends, tenants. Last night, a wonderful evening - last year's CNFC conference committee, minus only Pam, came for dinner on the deck.
Yours truly smiling once again around food, wine, good company, greenery. Dear Cathy, now the CNFC President and living near Kingston, stayed the night; much much talk. What a story she has.

Friend Gretchen called today; her husband Jack, who has been battling cancer, died a few days ago, and today, her daughter is having a c-section to deliver her second baby. So much to deal with at once. But what a blessing this baby will be.

And my beloved Lynn turned 70; tomorrow is her birthday party at their home in Provence, with an estimated 65 people; 40, she wrote, for breakfast on Sunday. I cannot believe that beautiful, hilarious young woman whom I met in 1967 is now 70. Which means I'm not far behind. As some writer once wrote, "How is it possible that I feel 17 and am actually 81?"

The birds are noisy tonight. It was cooler today, a perfect summer day. My raspberries are ripening and the cukes are on their way. I can access my manuscript! Federer beat Rafa at Wimbledon and will battle Novak on Sunday, once more; how I wish my mother and aunt were around to discuss this. They would have devoured every moment.

I'm online, folks. The fingers are home again.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


Still typing with one finger on my phone. Jeff from RiverdaleMac, my new guru, called. Part needs to be ordered from California and that’s just to log in so he can see if there’s another problem. Waaah! My fingers twitch, so much I need and want to do and cannot. Plus today the electrician came to fix what I thought was a simple problem- of course not! A full day job which involves cutting a trench through my office ceiling. Plus my hose developed a leak and is now spraying in all directions. Plus my neighbor’s roofers were hammering and shouting all day. No food in the fridge.
More wine.
Went with Ken to see “Yesterday. “ silly and fanciful, yes. Sweet, tender, joyful, yes. An acknowledgement of how very much that music means. And one small scene, aching with the sorrow that John Lennon is no longer on the earth. The movie, the music, made me sob, of course.
More wine.
This too shall pass. Off to pick some chard and improvise a meal. With, of course, more wine.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

City life

Home. Was at RiverdaleMac with my dark-screened computer as it opened this morning, hope to hear diagnosis by end of day tomorrow. It’s only a year and a half old! I feel lost without it. Have to write longhand. Can’t send group emails or e-transfers. Doing everything slowly on my phone. I know kids live on their phones but not me.
 Glad to be home though there seems not to be a cool refreshing lake in my yard. But the garden is gorgeous. Was awakened at 3 a.m. by police questioning someone outside in the street- that did not happen on Ruth’s island. My neighbor is having her roof repaired and they started at 7.20- that also. A bit discombobulated. Luckily going to see Yesterday with Ken this afternoon. Sad that I missed Macca in Vancouver on Saturday. But it’s a beautiful July day and the air smells of roses.

Monday, July 8, 2019

broken Mac

Leaving the cottage in a few hours after days of heaven. But my computer broke. Like breaking an arm. Will head to Mac repair asap tmw. Hope to post pix and details for you soon.

Friday, July 5, 2019


A surreal moment yesterday - sitting with my friend Ruth on an island in a lake in the Muskokas, right by the water, sand in our toes, the glorious landscape around us - rocks, trees, water. And she is on her cellphone, chatting face to face with one of her sons, who's in Jerusalem.

What a world.

Lucky me, I've been invited to spend four days at Ruth's heavenly cottage. My teaching term ended Wednesday night, just the garden workshop coming up and a bit of editing, but otherwise, the summer begins. We left at 12.30 yesterday, crawled up the Don Valley, and by 3.45 were in the water.

Ruth came to my Ryerson class years ago and has since continued to work with me and become a dear friend. She's a fabulous writer, a star of the So True reading series. Eleven years older than I, she was recently widowed after 57 years of marriage. Her energy and drive make me feel lazy. She's a reader, piles of fascinating books everywhere, and last night, after a day of pressing conversation, swimming, and a delicious dinner on the deck with lots of rosé, she suggested we watch the latest Ricky Gervais show on Netflix. So there, on an island in the middle of the woods, we did. "After Life" has been described as his darkest show yet, and it is, but here, in the sweet air, far from the news, nothing seems dark.

This morning - dragonflies, chipmunks, hummingbirds, the waves of Kahshe Lake slapping the shore. A huge heron just glided serenely past. Today, we will perhaps walk around the island; we will read and talk a lot and do some cooking and some swimming, though it may rain. I feel the pressure falling away. Yes, a noisy motorboat or six. But mostly - birdsong and dragonflies, so many of them.

My phone isn't downloading the pictures - have to figure that out - so here's yesterday morning instead. Yes, it's the inner city, very few dragonflies, no waves, but can't complain. My friends Carol and I hope Karen are there right now - their own cottage get-away, sort of. If only I could offer a lake.

Monday, July 1, 2019

arguing wth love

One of life's great pleasures - being insulted by your grandchildren. At the playground with Eli and his new basketball - that I bought him - and our frisbee, he said, "We're here to play frisbee and basketball, and you're bad at BOTH OF THEM."

Then he showed me how to shoot baskets - hold the ball this way, shoot out from the chest. I got better, but nearly not as good at this boy. Who is seven.

A sleepover with Glamma. We went to Loblaws on the way home to get supplies. What did he want for supper? The usual - salmon, rice, and avocado. This young man is very fussy, but he can eat an incredible amount of salmon, rice, and avocado. Followed by his favourite ice cream - and, coincidentally, mine - mint chocolate chip, only he has his with crushed up Oreo cookies. We'd already played basketball in the Sprucecourt playground and watered the garden thoroughly. After dinner he wanted to watch a movie and eat junk food which we'd also bought according to his specifications: Cheetos and ketchup potato chips. His knowledge of junk food is encyclopedic. I told him it's possible to watch a movie without eating junk food, but he did not believe me. We watched some of the new Spiderman with a bowl of that stuff, and I have to say the crispy neon orange Cheetos were going down well for us both.

But then that was enough, time for bed and reading. I read the last six chapters of Charlotte's Web and wept. One of the great endings in literature. "It's not often someone is both a good writer and a good friend. Charlotte was both." When I'd finished, Eli said, "Which one is this, 1, 2, 3, or 4?" He was, in his way, requesting a sequel. "This is the only one," I had to say. And then finally, he slept, while my upstairs tenant and her father moved her out.

At one point, we were talking about age, and Eli said, "I know how old you are. You're tired."

This morning I was having a wonderful dream - I was talking to a receptive group about, strangely, dialectical materialism (about which I know nothing) when my dream was interrupted by a soft knocking. Someone was knocking in my dream, and then in my bedroom. It was my grandson at 6.15, wide awake and ready to party. I had to get up, and by 6.30 he had eaten the leftover salmon, rice, and avocado. "Can we go play basketball now?" he asked. "NO!" said his grandmother. But I didn't want to be "tired," so by 9 a.m. - 9 a.m. on a holiday Monday - we were back at Sprucecourt where I proved my incompetence once again. But I tried. "This is why I go to the Y," I thought, as I tried to block the young man who was dribbling and sinking with great skill. "I'm going to play for the Raptors," he said, echoing surely 85% of the youthful population of this city.

And then to the Regent Park playground to hang upside down and scrabble in the filthy sand. And then home, for the great treat of pancakes.

At midday we joined his mother at Queen's Park. Since the disgusting Doug Ford cancelled Canada Day there so he would not have to listen to the province booing him, many groups arranged to meet and picnic there. Eli and I went to meet his mama, who'd had the night off. She had warned me but I did not understand - she was there not for the main Canada Day celebrations but with an Indigenous group on one side, who were protesting colonialism. She had brought a lot of food to contribute to their potluck; they held a smudging ceremony, and Anna wrote a sign.
I want to celebrate this magnificent country, which has made terrible mistakes, as have all countries, but which does so much right. But my daughter is determined to hold up a mirror to our flaws. I see this as a recipe for eternal anger about an 150-year-old injustice. I think she sees me as a complacent dreamer. 

I have to get used to the fact that I think of myself as a progressive empathetic leftwing person unless I'm with my daughter, when I'm a white middle-class stick-in-the-mud. 

Nicole came, and we cleaned the top floor. The tenant who left yesterday, a young playwright, was - let's be frank - a complete slob. It hurt to go up there when I had to and see the squalor. It was sheer joy to clean and dust and wash and tidy. It's now transformed, ready for the next tenant, who I hope will understand the word 'clean.' The word 'recycle.' 

It's an interesting life.