Saturday, October 31, 2020

a gathering of indie writers and more sweet words about the book

It was a cold but sunny ride to the market this morning. All day the yellow leaves have been showering from the neighbour's tree. But next week we'll have a few more warm days, they say.

Two more blessings today, two reviews (edited) from friends in B.C. David wrote, Beautiful and courageous writing... As of 1976 I was one of the people at the Arts Club bar trying to find my place, not fitting in. Those sections were really poignant for me, as were many others. Really well done. 

And Theresa: How beautifully you've woven the strands of your early life--the uncertainties of finding a way to live in the world, the attractions and dangers of that world ... This is such a richly-textured book and I loved the details: the landscape of southern France, Greece, the Vancouver theatre scene in the 1970s. I admired your younger self, her bold spirit and her curiosity, her loyalty, and her willingness to open the door to the community at the Moulin. 

Admiration, and gratitude, because you've made something fine and beautiful, and it deserves to be read, to be savoured, to find a place in the cultural conversation.

Again, thank you friends, not just for reading, but for making time to make this writer very happy. Tears in the eyes happy. 

Yesterday, another great writer experience - the Writer's Union of Canada ran a Zoom get-together for "Self-published writers." Some 35-40 of us were there in our little boxes on the screen, and after an intro, were divided into breakout rooms. My first breakout room! What amazing technology - there we were, six of us, from Gibson's and Hornby Island in B.C., New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Toronto, and Yellowknife ... Instant friends, advice and ideas exchanged.

The first thing we decided, thanks to Gwen, is that we will no longer call ourselves "self-published," a tainted word. "Indie movies are movies the directors produced themselves, and there's indie music," she said. "We should call ourselves indie writers. Independent." 

Yes! INDIE is who we are. We discussed various issues including the problems of marketing before returning to the main group where a summary of each breakout room was given. Superb!

I sent Gwen a private birthday greeting, with another moan about marketing, and today she wrote back, At its best, marketing is just another word for connecting with like-minded people. It needn't be salesmanship or pushy. If we try to reframe it as a positive connection to another human being, one curious or compassionate soul at a time, then it has the potential to expand us. Easier said than done, of course.

Given the heart and subject of your Loose Woman memoir - woof, it should speak to and reach many thousands. They just need to know it is there, waiting to fill their hearts and mirror their sorrows. Believe in your book's power and potential to shift lives, Beth, and then perhaps the 'marketing' may not feel so onerous.

Now that's sensible and thoughtful and wise. I will try to take your advice, Gwen, and I thank you. 

The most important thing, today, besides Hallowe'en - the kids are gathering for a private party - is that it's 3 days until, we pray, the world changes. Last night, Bill Maher had on a cybersecurity expert scaring us by wondering what manipulative damage the Russians or Iranians are going to do before or during election day. And his panel discussed what will happen to the Repulsives after the election, if Biden wins. "It's Trump's party now," said one. "There is no moderate wing. It's the racist and misogynist party of white grievance."

An article on FB today about the appalling things Steven Miller has in mind for immigrants if Trump wins. Imagine, this disgusting man is so utterly without redeeming qualities that Trump hasn't found a need to fire him, one of the only rats to cling to the sinking ship. May these foul creatures vanish. 

But we know they won't. As someone said last night, "Remember, he can run again in 2024. And then Don Jr."

The sun is shining. Let's hang onto that, for now.

Anna in a past life, as Amy Winehouse. Happy Hallowe'en.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

"No nation should kill children," said my dad.

A lovely moment the other day - As it Happens speaking about Joey Moss, a man with Down's syndrome, the brother of Wayne Gretzky's girlfriend of the time. Wayne got him a job as a locker room attendant with the Edmonton Oilers where he remained until his recent death. Gretzky's voice quivered as he spoke about Joey, what he meant to the team, and so did that of another hockey insider. At the end, they played Joey singing the Canadian anthem at a game - at the top of his lungs, tunelessly but with so much enthusiasm and joy. 

I thought, as I wiped away tears, how foolish it is to be as self-conscious as we all are. My friend Judy, whose beautiful book Writing with Grace is about her friendship with a young woman with Down's syndrome, tells me that because of extensive genetic testing, people with the condition are becoming an endangered population. They have a great deal to show us, to teach us, to share with us.

That, too, is the subject of my new book. 

Speaking of which, a few more reviews: From Karen: Your book is brave, honest, touching, funny, very well written and -- above all -- real.  While reading it I felt as though I were right there with you, inside the print. What I particularly like is the way you lead the reader through your train of thought, rather than from event A to B.  You are a terrific writer and a remarkable woman. 

Wow! I'll take it.

And from Isobel: I think you capture the zeitgeist of that era perfectly, especially for young women -- the naivete, the incomplete, just-forming notions of feminism, the trying-it-all-on, the forging ahead on headstrong yet flimsy aspirations.... which don't turn out to be so flimsy after all!

What struck me in Loose Woman is your great flexibility with different situations. A little like a chameleon, you moved through different worlds, leaving one for an entirely different set of others, yet with energy, enthusiasm and a lot of curiosity and compassion that made each transition and new experience really live for the reader. Your writing is full of love. 

Oh that's good to read: Your writing is full of love. Many thanks to you both! 

Had my flu shot yesterday, so sore arm and a bit wonky today - but how well organized it was, everything in the clinic wrapped tight in plastic, almost no chairs, alone in a room for the shot, which I hardly felt, by a doctor also so wrapped in plastic, I could hardly see her face. And then dinner with Monique and Cathy, with a great deal of Beaujolais Nouveau. Perhaps that's why I'm wonky. And about to teach a Zoom class.

But mostly - I've realized how glad I am to have started this new book about my parents. The other day I opened another box left by my mother, which was overflowing with paper, including scores of newspaper clippings about my dad, who travelled the country for years speaking against nuclear proliferation and the war in Vietnam. There are reams of his writings, including essays he wrote for his BA in 1942! A lot to take in. But there's my story - these people were extraordinary, engaged, making a difference, admirable. They were also, much of the time, terrible parents. 

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

a prayer for Joe Biden and the Democrats - save the world!

Dear God, the nightmare - at least one of the nightmares - will be over in a week: the US election, even if it'll drag on while the orange blowhole makes trouble with his criminal friends. I'm terrified in the next few days the Reprehensibles will pull something out of the hat - or out of Putin's hat: a war, perhaps. A huge terrorist event to scare people that will turn out, later, to have been engineered by them. Like Hillary's emails last time, a false alarm sounding the knell of doom for our planet.

Those people are so evil, it's hard to believe they are flourishing in our world. And yet they are. I think of my friend, my former friend, who wrote to me that his bottom line looks good these days so he's voting for Trump. And I thought, of all the hideous things this man has done, pick ONE. For me, children in cages. Ripping children from their parents' arms, putting them in cages, and then losing track of who goes where. That's enough to send this man and his team to the burning pits of hell forever, let alone everything else, the hundreds of other appalling, unforgivable, inhuman things.

Since I did not, unlike my parents, live through a world war and did not myself experience the massacres in Rwanda or Bosnia or other places, this election is the clearest battle of good versus evil that has touched my own reality in my lifetime. Staring at evil evil evil evil and more evil. Mitch McConnell's repulsive face. And that new woman, I won't even be able to look at her. How did these people without the tiniest speck of conscience or decency or honour come to hold so many millions in thrall? 

It's dark and chilly and raining, perhaps that's why I'm feeling apocalyptic. It's so dark in the mornings when I wake, I'm not sure if it's morning or the middle of the night. I was up at 7 Sunday, 9.30 yesterday. Today, taught a class at noon and now need to get myself back to work. But I find myself dragged back into frantic updates on FB and Twitter and the NYT - what's happening now? How will our planet be destroyed today? 

Go Joe go. I beg you - save us. 

Even if he's elected with a landslide, even if the country gets through all the obstructions the Reps will throw at them - how will he ever dig out from the heaping piles of steaming shit Trump has created and is creating right now? 

Take a breath. Friends are helping. JM appeared at my door with Sunday's NYT - he brings me his, neatly folded, when he's finished. John appeared with chocolate cake and crabapple jelly from Sylvie. Gretchen brought me the most delicious dark chocolate biscotti that vanished in seconds. But now those gifts, too, are problematic: the Y is closed, all I do all day is sit with the new book, and people are bringing me chocolate treats! 

Ah well. Life is short and there's horrible stuff out there. Another slice, please. 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

health report: all clear

So many of you have been emailing and texting in concern about my possible exposure to Covid that I need to post immediately: Holly just tested negative, so we are all negative too. Incredible relief. Sam would have had to quit work for weeks; Anna, to isolate with sick boys, or even more difficult, healthy, bouncy boys, while sick herself. Horrendous.

Whereas for me - well, yes, I'm old(er), a senior, definitely in the AT RISK category. But if I had to isolate, not that much would change in my life, because these days especially, I live in solitude. I'm so drawn into this new book, delving into the past, that I do little else but sit all day - what a privilege! Today I had to force myself to do Jane's Zoom class at 1 and then to have aperitif with Monique at 5 - and later to watch 60 Minutes, gazing in fascination at close-ups of one of the most repulsive faces on earth. 

But otherwise — with what hours I can spare from teaching and editing work, housework, trying to get the memoir out, and of course too much blasted social media — I spend my days now fiddling with letters and paragraphs for the story of my parents and their offspring. My mother working to resettle Jewish refugees after the ship the Exodus landed in Germany in 1947. My father nearly dying of polio in 1951, the miracle of him picking up his fiddle again. Mum writing to Dad, a few months after they'd met in France and spent four heavenly days together in Paris and Brussels, about having to have an abortion - in war-torn Germany. 

At the moment, I'm following their love affair just after the war, back and forth, she in Germany, he in New York - in their letters you see them hesitate, then go for it, then pull back again. There was love and desire, but also fear on both sides. And they express it all through the mail.

There's a remarkable confluence here - me, the chronicler, the memoir writer fascinated by family story, helped by my mother the packrat, who saved every letter, every scrap of paper. How many people can delve deeply into the inner lives of their parents before they were born? That's what I'm able to do, thanks to Mum, and it's remarkable. Because luckily, they were fascinating, complex people, and even better - THEY WERE GOOD WRITERS. The letters are amazing. My problem will be cutting. I'll need help with that. 

In other news - I opened the blinds this morning to see a big skunk strolling along Sackville Street. Oh - and I don't have Covid. Otherwise, onward. 

a marvellous review brings the sun on a chilly grey Sunday

Started a quick scroll through FB this bleak Sunday morning, to find this. Happy and beyond grateful. It's all worth it! I had many doubts about this book because it was turned down by every publisher and agent I sent it to, save one who rejected it in the end. I decided to publish anyway, to clear it from my life and move on. The fulsome praise from readers has filled me with astonishment, wonder, and joy. 

Lynn's Reviews > Loose Woman: my odyssey from lost to found

U 50x66
's review

it was amazing

The Oxford Dictionary gives 10 definitions of the word ‘loose’. Beth’s memoir takes the reader along with her on her odyssey through 8 of those definitions. From her growing up with fabulously glamorous but complex parents from whom she strives to break loose, on to the joys and heartbreaks of her years on the Vancouver stage as a very talented actress tasting the sometimes bitter delights of the sexually liberating loose 70s, and through to her stay in a L’Arche community in France, this fast paced, very funny, and poignant account will stay with the reader for a long time. It is thanks to her contact with the mentally handicapped men at L’Arche ( the most gripping moments in the memoir) that Beth - a self described half-Jewish atheist, will slowly discover a looseness that sets her free. She is particularly good at capturing a moment, a character, and a whole ambience in a few quick phrases. You will never encounter a cheese platter in the same way. Not only a Goodread, a very Excellentread. Highly recommended.

Friday, October 23, 2020

a beautiful day, with sadness

Just had to let you know that it's the most stunning day of the year here: 22 degrees feeling like 25 - radiant. The sparrows are splashing in their dish of water on the deck bannister, rainbow drops scattering as they bathe and drink. Awhile ago there was a blue jay at the feeder, then the cardinal family. I'm finishing the ceremonial taking in of the plants, washing geraniums and coleus, taking them to their winter home upstairs. 

Because tonight there'll be a thunderstorm and it's going to feel like 2 degrees, with possibly a tornado further north. The temp is dropping over 20 degrees overnight. Ah, autumn in Canada. The ground is thick with leaves. The burning bush in the garden is glowing yellow and red. 

Yesterday, I went across town to celebrate Thomas's birthday. It probably wasn't a great idea Covid-wise - Ben is now back in school, and though Anna is very careful, the whole family is out and about. But there was no way I'd miss my son-in-law's birthday and Anna's roast beef and Yorkshire pudding followed by chocolate cake made partly, or at least the crunchy sparkles added, by Eli. And, mostly, to see my boys. I will say again, with complete objectivity, they are the finest boys the world has ever seen. They were throwing themselves, shrieking with laughter, at their dad, and he was carefully tossing them upside down and sliding them to the floor. If that's not what fathers are for, I don't know what is. 

Words are starting to escape me. Earlier today I couldn't remember the word 'bureaucracy.' And now I can't remember the word for the sparkly things on the top of cakes - no, not candles, like tiny smarties. It's pathetic. 

I just Googled: sprinkles. Oh oh. Worrisome. Brain disintegrating?

Very sad news: the other day, a lovely young man I knew from the Y was murdered. Shane Stanford was a calm, kind presence in the gym, smiling, helpful; he was hoping to become general manager. Instead, as he sat in his car on his way home, he was victim of an apparently random gun attack. Horrifying and tragic. Far too many guns and gangs, angry young men with no future.

Speaking of angry men with no future - watched the last US debate last night. May we never have to confront that hideous orange human being again, except as he howls on his way to jail. 

Friends, now that I've opened the last bottle of rosé of 2020 and had a glass, it's time to go for a walk in the sun. 

Your smiles for today: The kids are going to do Hallowe'en with friends. Holly and Eli made his Bart costume themselves, with yellow cardboard, styrofoam, and ingenuity. 

And ... my Macca has a new solo album coming out! 

Happy to end with something cheerful.

PS Now not so cheerful. Anna just called because Holly, who works in the school system, just called her. A co-worker of Holly's, someone she works with in the lunchroom, has just been diagnosed with Covid. Holly's going for a test tomorrow morning. But this means I should isolate at least until Holly's test comes back. She and I were side by side last night, inside, without masks. 

Suddenly scary.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

picture ledges save the day

People are saying such nice things about the book, I just might, reluctantly, have to believe them. Debra sent this today: 

God, I loved it, Beth. Wow, can you write. It was a pleasure to dig in with a writer who magically spins her way around a fabulous sentence or paragraph, crafting them so well. And hilarious! I laughed out loud many times. I will definitely be recommending this book to my friends.

Gina wrote, I started reading your book, its wonderful! You’re wonderful. Brave Honest Insightful and Funny. Brava Bella.

And former writing student and friend Pat, whose prose is like poetry:
Finished your book at 5AM this morning .
Had no idea you were so 
Wild and Crazy .
Need I say
In your Youth .

Who knew you weren't always thin ?
Or of your life on the stage (only hinted at before )
Or of your travels ?
But mainly about your amazing time at L'Arche ?
Congrats ! Kudos ! and Mazeltov ! I'm looking forward to the next installment , your next 40 years (be sure to include your Paris Blog )

Thanks to you all. Good thing my friends write beautifully! Not sure about the next 40 years, though, Pat, taking me to 110. 

Pouring and dark this morning, turning into a stunning warm day, the leaves spectacular. A busy day of housework - Dan came to finish the stairs, pictures and explanation to follow. And my dear John had been to Ikea twice to get me picture ledges. Pictures ledges! Found by chance and the answer to my prayers. For years I've had family pix stacked up against a hall wall, intending to find a laborious way to arrange and hang them. And then I discovered pictures ledges! Today John and I put them up.

Heaven: my grandparents, even as small children, my parents and children, others in the family - more to come, they can be rearranged and changed. Here is one of the pictures now on display; visiting my mother in Edmonton in about 1992, my children discovered a party dress and tutu of mine that Mum had kept, and posed. 

Then spent an hour washing plant containers and bringing them in; winterizing is nearly done. Quite a job, just the hardiest, the geraniums and coleus, still to come. No writing work today, except for a pitch to a CBC radio program about the book. Yesterday, I began to dig into my files on my parents and again, had to stop, it was touching too close to home. But that's the job — to touch too close to home. 

To bring the pictures to life.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

"American Utopia," and the brilliant, unforgettable Angela Hewitt

Received two beautiful notes today about the book, one from musician Louise, friend since high school, and one from Shelley, whom I don't know. 

Louise: I love your writing style, fluid and lyrical with a satisfying rhythm. And you can be very funny too! ... Your account of your time at L'Arche made my soul ache. 

Shelley: Having read your blog these last few years, I was looking forward to reading your new book. Absolutely wonderful! There is so much life and joy bouncing off the pages! I especially loved reading about your experiences in France. What a lot of heart goes into your writing. Thank you for what you do!

Thank you both very much. As you know, I can grow profoundly discouraged about this crazy profession or calling or whatever you call something you do all your life that does not provide enough money to live on. And then I'm reminded - oh yes. That's why I do it. 

Two marvellous artistic experiences in the comfort of my home: yesterday on HBO, American Utopia, the musical by David Byrne made into a film by Spike Lee. It was on Broadway in NYC when I was last there and though I wasn't a Talking Heads or Byrne fan particularly I'd heard such great things, I wanted to see it but it was sold out. It's wonderful - the music spectacular, made by musicians, especially percussionists, wearing their instruments on harnesses so they can do choreographed moves while they play - difficult, rhythmic, infectious. Byrne is so good-looking and vigorous at 68 - unfair how some men (and sadly, how few women) get better looking as they age, George Clooney here's looking at you. Byrne is a fascinating performer, and his band is unbeatable. A must-see.

Today, the sublime. One of my students gave me a gift certificate to a Koerner Hall concert as a thank you, and I chose Angela Hewitt playing Bach's Art of the Fugue. It was set for this spring, cancelled, put off until today - and cancelled again. But they sent out a Zoom link. This incredible musician taped an introduction, explaining each of the fugues and the canons, and then, at 3, she walked into an empty concert hall and played the most brilliant concert I've ever heard. What's extraordinary about Hewitt, who's from Ottawa, is the complete lack of ego, of distracting theatrics - no Gould stuff, sitting low or humming or grimacing, she sits straight, her fingers fly, and the music goes straight from Bach's heart to your's. 

Bach always makes me weep, but today - she'd explained that the 14th fugue ends suddenly because Bach died before he'd finished it. Some pianists fill in that gap, but she does not. She plays on and on, the music incredibly complex and layered, we are watching closeups of her slender, powerful hands, seemingly effortless brilliance, and then suddenly she stops in mid-bar and bows her head. It's shocking, a punch in the chest, the sense that this inimitable soul has died, that I burst into sobs, sitting in my kitchen. She played the short piece tacked on by CPE Bach to finish, and then sat, spent, motionless, in a silent, darkening concert hall. Alone in my kitchen, tears streaming, I clapped.

How lucky we are, that artists are creating as fervently as ever and sending their art right into our homes. Today, I loved seeing the closeups of her hands, her face, the music, on Zoom. What I missed was the chance to leap to my feet with hundreds of other people and thank her by shouting "Brava!"

Here, from yesterday's walk -  Brava to Mother Nature too.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

In which Martha Henry writes a review and Annamie Paul says hello.

First, the best news: the magnificent actress and director Martha Henry, the queen of Stratford, read my book and sent me a review. Here it is, condensed:

Beth, I loved it!!  

You’ve led an interesting life. The book is fascinating reading. I adored your parents and your association with them. And of course I found your journey from actor to writer highly intriguing, with lots of the emotions we have all felt. AND the whole sojourn in France, clearly the heart and soul of the book. You are a brilliant, talented lady. I am so proud to know you, even a tiny bit!

I hope it sells like hotcakes.
With love and admiration,

Talk about being proud to know someone! Thank you so much, Martha. Long may you reign. 

Hotcakes, however ... Sigh. 

Ruth and I did our walkabout yesterday in the sun, discussing whom to vote for - there's a by-election in this leftie riding, and the Green's new leader Annamie Paul is running. We'd heard she's a terrific woman who deserves a voice in Parliament. I've never voted Green because almost everywhere in Canada, they split the leftwing vote without a chance of being elected, often allowing the Cons to slither in. But the Cons don't have a chance here, so perhaps, Ruth and I were saying, we should vote for her this time.

And then there she was in Riverdale Park, talking to voters. She's marvellous - lively, engaged, knowledgeable, with - importantly - a great sense of humour. An intelligent woman who for some incomprehensible reason has entered this crazy arena. She has my vote.

Speaking of crazy arenas, Anna helped a few days ago organize a demonstration against big unsafe class sizes; she was interviewed on television, and the boys were asked to wave at the camera. They're used to that. Screenshot of their TV appearance, below. "I MISS SCOOL."In the middle of Tuesday night I woke up with a raging sore throat and headache and was terrified, not just that I had Covid, but that I'd given it to my son who'd shared Thanksgiving dinner with me - that would mean isolation for him and shutting down the bar, everyone out of work ... But after a couple of days, I felt better. Psychosomatic Covid? Or a bit of a cold. We're all so frightened. At the dentist yesterday, where I went for the first time in almost a year and a half, the technician Angela told me she wears a mask constantly, even alone on the beach with her dog. 

Just to cheer me up, I'm reading an article in the Economist about dementia. A huge ever-growing problem; societies have not begun to prepare for the tsunami that's coming as we boomers hit old age. This concerns me particularly because my grandmother had it. Is it genetic? They don't know. Now that's terrifying. 

BUT for now, the brain is alive, and it's going to be a beautiful weekend. I'm as always drowning in things to do, including too many books and an overflowing inbox, making turkey soup, a bike ride today in the sun. Tomorrow, Angela Hewitt plays Bach, and I have a Zoom ticket. 

My U of T class should have started next Tuesday, but it's cancelled. Eli, I miss scool too. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020


 Blessings. My son was just by for his 36th birthday celebration, combined with Thanksgiving - a turkey with all the fixins for the two of us. But a big container of leftovers went back with him for his sister and another for him. 

36 years ago, I was at the Civic Hospital in Ottawa, where they didn't believe me when I said my first baby had come fast. This one came even faster; my doctor was renovating his kitchen and didn't make it. The birth itself is not a happy memory, but holding my son for the first time is as happy as it gets.  And today, despite our Covid concerns, several big hugs. 

My daughter spent much of yesterday in a church kitchen, part of a team helping to make a huge meal for Indigenous elders and the 'unhoused', as she says. Sam took her boys to the playground and then came over, where he was asked to deal with the carrots, two enormous sacks of carrots that he hauled in, peeled, washed, and cut. My kids spent Thanksgiving making a feast for Indigenous elders. Pardon while I dab my eyes.

Meanwhile their non-Indigenous half-Jewish elder was cooking dinner for THEM. As it should be. The two of them love each other. He loves her children. He loves his work, even with the extreme insecurity of right now, when they don't know from one day to the next if they're going to stay open or not. 

A moment, right now, of peace in my life, after a stressful year. Leaving aside the pandemic and the political situation in this tinderbox of a planet, just thinking in my narrow way about my own tiny life - after the complete nightmare winter and spring of the downstairs apartment, all has been set to rights, and the man down there now keeps telling me how grateful he is to live there. The book, the source of so much stress, is flying on its own power - yes, a source of some anxiety, how to help it fly, but at least it exists. Another book has begun its very slow saunter into the world. And my father did not have an illegitimate child with a student of his. (A friend of Mum's who read the blog wrote to say, "Yes, she told me the story about a student having your dad's baby. Why would she invent such a thing?" Why indeed?)

U of T got in touch today to cancel my class, due to start next week, because of the Stage Two shutdown. The shit show in Washington is devastating, crushing the soul. Spent part of today pruning and closing down the garden, as the days grow shorter and colder. A beloved friend is losing mobility to ALS and has arranged for assisted dying for when she's ready. A ghastly woman who once called herself a handmaid, the polar opposite of RBG, is going to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court for decades. 

But right now, I'd like to take a moment of celebration. They're making their way, my children, my grandchildren, my books. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

an extraordinary revelation, a mystery solved

Because I share most things with you, I need to tell you immediately about something amazing that happened today. Something joyful and welcome involving my extremely complicated parents.

Those of you who've read "Loose Woman" will know that when I went in 1979 to Amsterdam, to stay at the flat of the pseudonymous Kate, a favourite student of my father's, I was given a special task. My mother was convinced Kate and my father had been embroiled in a passionate affair. She told me Kate had had a baby and given it up for adoption; she was convinced the baby was Dad's. I was to look in Kate's apartment for "love tokens" from my father.

There were none. But I've lived my adult life believing I might have a half-sibling somewhere. Though I found it hard to believe my father would allow a child of his to be given away, I did not know. 

Recently I got in touch with a former student of Dad's to ask about his scientific and academic career, and he mentioned he could also put me in touch with other former students, including, as it happened, Kate. Excited, I wrote to her, she wrote back immediately, a friendly email, and so, finally, I asked her point blank, without mentioning the baby, about her personal relationship with my dad. 

She replied instantly. This morning, I found a long, gracious, beautiful note. My dad was like a second father to her, she wrote, warm and funny and encouraging. She knew my mother had accused them of illicit romance, but they were very close friends, never sexual or intimate. An incident reported to me by Mum, to prove their affair, had been completely misrepresented.

The baby, she told me, was the result of a one-night stand. Her son found her in adulthood, and she has a great relationship with him and his young family. 

As you can imagine, I wept. Oh the solving of family mysteries, what an important task it is. 

This forces me, again, to deal with my mother's poisonous paranoia - and why she insisted on divulging every sordid detail of her suspicions to me. But most of all, I feel a joyous liberation. It's not as if I thought of these things often, I did not. But Dad's affair with Kate and their possible baby was one of those questions that nag and haunt. Now the locked door to the story has been blown wide open. 

And I have a new friend. Can't wait to get to know her better.

Giving thanks. 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

In which Beth manages an interview in French

I hope I didn't sound self-pitying yesterday, because I truly was not feeling sorry for myself, just expressing what it's like to live a solitary life. But also very much not solitary - with tenants, family close by, dear neighbours and many other friends in the neighbourhood, and of course the internet full of familiars ... hardly lonely! I Skyped for an hour and a half with Lynn in Provence yesterday, laughing as we always do as our conversation ranges from politics to recipes. She suggested a new way to make ratatouille that I tried - baking instead of mushy stovetop. Excellent.

Didn't get done what I'd hoped but did practice the piano for a bit, do a bit of cooking and seasonal clothes sorting, went for a walk in the sun and ran into a bunch of people - "How's your book going?" "When does your teaching start?" "Happy Thanksgiving!" The 'hood was beyond beautiful as the trees glow. And as always, I was thankful to live in this lovely place.

Today Sylvie-Anne Jeanson sent me the interview we did that aired last week. I'm grateful to Monique with whom I've been speaking French since March during our near-daily aperitif at 5, so was able to get through an interview about the book in French. I don't think this will sell any since the book is in English - but still, there it is, maybe someone will care.

Yesterday also I got a review on Amazon by someone I don't know. Now that's thrilling - a stranger liked it enough to give it a good review. Lani asked me to send one to her sister-in-law. "I love the book, Beth," she wrote. "Thank you for writing it." My dear friend - thank you for reading it!

Had planned last night to watch Dame Harriet in the Donmar Trilogy - 3 Shakespeare plays cast entirely with women. Will do so soon, but instead, needing froth, I watched 2 episodes of "Emily in Paris." It's shallow and absurd - an incredibly handsome French chef emerges from the kitchen, unruffled in spotless white, to stand chatting patiently with an American about her "underdone" steak - oh sure. But it's wonderful to see that glorious city. When will we travel again? 

A few tears today - I turned on the last few minutes of the French Open tennis championship and saw Rafa resoundingly beat Novak. Felt my mother and Auntie Do cheering with me - Fed is our favourite but the adorable Rafa comes second. Hooray! As if it matters. But it mattered to them, and so it does to me. Sending love to you both, Mum and Do. 

Now to listen to Eleanor's "Writers and Company" and cook some more. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. 

PS Just got a direct deposit from Access Copyright for my books in the library - $105! Thanks, Gov't of Canada. The money just keeps pouring in. Can vast wealth and fame be far behind?

Saturday, October 10, 2020

on a solitary Thanksgiving, giving thanks

There are times when I think of all of you out there, my bloggees, as my companions. Today is such a day. It's a long weekend; Monique and many others have gone to the cottage for the last time this year. The morning was bright and warm but now it's gloomy and overcast, rain expected. I have a bit of a cold. The house is silent. We in Toronto are now experiencing the much-expected second wave, and things are shutting down again. The Y is shut. Sam's bar will only have patio and take-out service. There are no movies, not that I'd gone to one, but it was nice to contemplate. 

It's also time to shut down the garden; John will come soon to take down the pergola, we'll clean the BBQ, put away the cushions on the deck. Time to prune and cut back the perennials and bring in the potted plants, hoping they'll survive seven long months inside. 

The plan was for the family to come across on Tuesday, Sam's birthday, for a Thanksgiving and birthday meal; the turkey Anna gave me is defrosting in the fridge, and I've bought the huge bag of potatoes for Sam. But my daughter, sensible and cautious as ever, has decided it's too dangerous. This may be the only family where the oldster was urging a get-together and the youngster said no, it's unwise. She said she didn't want to have the guilt on her shoulders of her children, who are probably carriers, killing me. As I said, she's a wise woman. 

But the turkey is defrosting, so now I'll cook a huge dinner on Tuesday for me and Sam and send leftovers across town. Not quite the same.

I'm feeling the solitude and silence acutely, right now. But I'm used to it. There's a ton to do - at Ben McNally's bookstore yesterday I went a bit nuts, bought hard-cover books which I never do - but what else am I buying these days? Jim Carrey for Sam and the others for me. Delicious. 

I have started writing a new book, so far 5500 words I like - will continue this afternoon. Haven't practiced the piano in ages, will do that. Need to cook all the yellow tomatoes I bought at the last local market on Tuesday, make a tomato sauce and a ratatouille. Need to put away all the light clothes and get out all the heavy ones. Should try to exercise, though that will come last. But I can listen to Randy Bachman tonight and dance, as I cook and/or eat. And drink wine - went to the liquor store yesterday, have four bottles to keep me company that should last a day or two. LOL. 

Will not mention the VP debate, except that the fly and Pence's red eye turned into such wonderful endless jokes. And now there's a new meme. Last night on Bill Maher, a beautiful and very smart black woman was addressing an issue when Maher, who can be impossibly rude, interrupted her. "Mr. Pence, I am speaking," she said to him sternly. Woo hoo!

Back to my quiet kitchen. For my daughter with her children always there, for fellow writers with families, this kind of solitude would be a gift. And yes, it is for me too. It's also a weight I carry. 

But lonely as I may be sometimes, at least I do not have a face as sad and weird as Barbara Amiel's, aka Baroness Black of Crossharbour, printed in the Star today in an article on her tell-all memoir. She's 79 and has had so much plastic surgery, she looks like an alien. Ye gods, that must have cost a lot. And hurt.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

"Hamnet and Judith" and unwanted presidencies

Today would have been my mother's 97th birthday. Happy Birthday, Mum. I've started the book about you and Dad - 3300 words or so. I'm not sure if that's good news for you, but I think it is - it's about how you were far from perfect, but you were spectacular. 

Favourite tweet from last night: "I sent the fly. RBG."

I'm feeling hope for the first time in ages, at least about the battered country to the south. Kamala Harris is intelligent, honest, articulate, and forceful. The man "debating" opposite her - actually, interrupting and pontificating, at length - is so creepy and such an unctuous liar, it's hard to believe he has any job at all, let alone one of such visibility and importance. But the fly showed us what he's made of. 

It may be that the U.S. will return to some form of stability and decency. Is that possible? Yes, though it will take time, I actually think it is.

My cousin in Bethesda, Washington, saying at least we here are finding some humour in the situation, sent this:   


Yesterday's excitement was being driven to Canadian Tire by John. A tenant's very old microwave broke down and he needed a new one. OMG, the excitement of Canadian Tire! So much great stuff! I bought birthday presents for my son and my son-in-law, both with the big event in the next while, and tried to restrain myself from snapping up stuff on every aisle. I haven't been shopping in so long - had almost forgotten how much fun it is.

But how glad I am to be out of the habit. Imagine, I used to buy new clothes on a regular basis, as if I don't have enough clothes already. I now know the few things I actually need and will one day go out to buy. Sometime.

The best news, as I wrote to Mum, is the new work. I'm pleased with it; I think it's a solid start. There's actually even a title, something I didn't have for sure for "Loose Woman" until the day before it went to press. Stay tuned; the downward slide will begin shortly. And then, I hope, we'll rocket up again.

Have finished the novel "Hamnet and Judith" by Maggie O'Farrell; she recreates, in incredible detail, Shakespeare's family life in Stratford, focussing on an imaginative invention of his wife Anne, here called Agnes, and his 3 children including the doomed Hamnet. It's beautifully and vividly written, as was her last book "I am I am I am," this one with a phenomenal amount of research. Any encounter with Shakespeare is welcome. But as with the last book, I found this one overwrought and ultimately unsatisfying. Putting me in the minority. 

Tomorrow I have to go to Ben McNally's to pick up a book I've ordered: "Petra," by my hugely talented friend Shaena Lambert. And then I have to go buy wine. Books and wine - what more does one need? Well - a sane planet, that would be good too.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

researching Dad, revealing the truth

Yesterday I started, again, delving into the mountains of material I have on my parents for the next book. There's so much, it's overwhelming, which has led me for years to stop and start. I just found the address book that was on Dad's desk when he died; inside, a letter I've never read before, a beautiful, funny, loving letter to Mum written in 1950, when she was in NYC with infant me and he was in Halifax finding us an apartment. There are boxes and bags of these treasures - how to sort, how to file, how to figure out what matters most and try to make it matter to others? 

No idea, yet.

I Googled Dad. A research award was created in his name at the U of A, so lots of names come up that have nothing to do with him now. But other stuff does, including, this time, a research paper published in 1980 with a Ph.D. student of his whom I remember well; he spoke at the memorial for Dad in Edmonton a few months after Dad's death. He's now an important scientist at a university in Denmark. I emailed the university, asking them to pass my email address on to him. 

This morning, there he was, happy to hear from me after more than 30 years. He knows other colleagues of Dad's, too. I hope to get another side of the story, the professional, university, scientist side I know little about. Exciting work!

Otherwise - life. The dumpster fire to the south of us. Monique and I will be watching the VP debate tonight - hard to imagine Harris and Pence on the same stage, let alone discussing anything. And I have to say - I think the whole Covid thing with Trump was staged, an attention-getting stunt. No obese 74-year old walks out of hospital like that, no matter how many experimental treatments he's getting. No?  

May he go away forever and soon.  The whole loathsome crew. To jail. 

Went to the Y again - it's sadder there than ever, with the second wave crashing over us they've had to reduce the class sizes even more - maximum of ten people in half the enormous gym. The place is so empty. But I'm there, happily being ordered around, with music. Works for me.

Blustery with sun today. Soon time to shut down the garden for good, and then we're locked inside for months. A good time, it would seem, for a big writing and research project. Onward. 

Finally, a stunning image for you. My friend Annie's daughter Amelia, who took the ballgown photograph I now use as my head shot, was diagnosed this summer with breast cancer. Though the whole experience was terrifying for her and her family, in the end, they found it was Stage 1, low risk, not even needing chemo. But she did have a mastectomy, and in honour of breast cancer awareness month, she decided to take pictures and make them public. I salute this brave and incredibly beautiful young woman, mother of two, photographer, artist. 

Monday, October 5, 2020

More than life

Imagine - that man has insulted and denigrated just about everyone on earth. But when he himself was felled by the virus he mocked, and his opponents had fun with the irony of karma, they were accused of cruelty. Imagine, he got in a limo and was driven around so he could hear some cheers. No, don't imagine, we already know what he is. A few days ago, when he and his appalling cast-mates were all being struck down, I thought, Perhaps there is a god. But apparently he's getting out of hospital today and saying he's better than ever. So perhaps there isn't.

And the fact that we are thinking base things like that is thanks to him. We're all so much more vile than we were.

I'm going to bitch some more. There's a cancer in our society: cellphones wielded by parents. When my grandsons visit we go to playgrounds, and what I see are children playing and parents or caregivers on cellphones. Today, as pushed my boys on a swing, a blank-faced little boy in a stroller watched us as his mother, ignoring him, was absorbed in her cellphone. Last time Eli was over, I watched a father ignore his 4-year old daughter as she played; when she wandered off I kept an eye on her, in case. What are these children doing at home? We can guess. What will they grow up to be, when they get their entire world, including their parents, through a screen? 

Okay, rant over. Had a wonderful time with the boys here for a sleepover. This time, they came Sunday afternoon and I had them for the evening and next morning, just enough time for them to destroy the house and exhaust me, but not to the point that I was ready to scream. Could we have figured out how to preserve Glamma? Oh, they make me laugh. Eli likes to pour milk into his bowl of ice-cream, so I told him, "That's a milkshake - you know who likes milkshakes? Your grandpa," I said. "He loves milkshakes more than anything." 

Eli looked at me cooly. "More than life?" he asked.

Friday, October 2, 2020

the best bartender in Toronto

Very exciting news: a young man of my acquaintance, a certain very tall Sam, has been nominated as the Best Bartender in Toronto. Imagine - he's one of only five nominated in this entire metropolis. He works at a very small bar, so that means quite a concerted effort by his faithful patrons to get him on the list. And you too can vote. So - feel free.

In other news - there's other news?! Someone joked on Twitter that in future, Ph.D. students in History will say, "My thesis deals with October 1 2020, with a bit of overlap on October 2." They'll take it day by day. It's hard to tear away from Twitter, FB, the NYT, wherever news is erupting next. To think, as someone else joked, once there was a scandal on Fox because Obama wore a tan suit.

Since I'm blowing my son's horn, if you don't mind, I will blow mine too, or at least my book's. People still saying nice things. Carole in England, whom I've never met, emailed I’ve just this minute finished reading your superb book, I didn’t want it to end, a total page turner and believe me I read a lot of books ! It was totally engrossing, told with such honesty, heart and openness, well paced and full of beautiful descriptive prose transporting me to the depths of France and the glories of Greece...yum! Your rite of passage really touched me, being of the same age, and made me reflect on my life, the paths we choose at the fork on the road, the self discovery, the repercussions which follow us through our lives and make us who we are. What a life you’ve led, Beth. I had a tear in my eye as it ended; it moved me, particularly your dedication to your family at the end. Loved it. More please.

Thank you so, Carole - you've no idea how much that means. And someone else I've never met wrote, from Vancouver, I finished your book last night - what a wonderful read. It's so beautifully written and thought-provoking. 

But though reading these things brings me joy, none of it means as much as a Best Bartender nomination for my boy. He has the family showman gene, not playing parts but making people laugh and feel comfortable and welcome. It's hard work, and it's a gift. How wonderful that his gift has been recognized.