Sunday, September 24, 2017

Word on the Street in the heat

Again, I apologize for the blowing-own-horn that follows, but what I received today via email is so beautiful and means so much to my battered writer's heart that I must share it with you. I've been corresponding with a writer who wants me to work as editor or coach on her next book, so I got her last memoir out of the library and loved it, found it powerful and profound. I wrote to tell her so, and she wrote back that she is reading "All My Loving."

Sometimes I read at night if I can’t sleep. I can usually do that without waking my partner who is a sound sleeper. But I’ve been waking him up lately because All My Loving is so damn funny it’s making me laugh out loud. You have drawn such a wonderful portrait and I am so drawn to her and all her trials. I also realize that over time I forgot the details, not just of us, but of our time, and you have brought all of it back to mind so beautifully, with such virtuosity and detail and intelligence. I am in awe. 

I forgot to adore myself at least as much as I adored Paul, and the portrait of your character is so hilariously potent and magnetic that I’ve now remembered how wildly potent I was too! It’s like reading a really smart love letter and the title so perfectly reflects the warmth that I’ve felt reading it. It is a gift to us on so many levels, and I am grateful.

Not as grateful, dear reader, as this author. As I wrote to her - we send our slaved-over, beloved works out into the world like defenceless children, without knowing if they will ever matter to anyone. So to receive something like this means more than I can express.

Okay, though I'd like to linger here ... moving on. The weather, insane, surely record-breaking heat, broiling, brutal, like a mid-summer heatwave only it's nearly October. And unfortunately, today was Word on the Street at Harbourfront, where there's no shade. I heard someone lamenting the past venues for this great festival of the printed word, and I couldn't agree more - I've been going for decades, since it was stretched out along Queen Street, and then in Queen's Park where there were TREES and real grass. And now Harbourfront where it's very crowded, all the little tents packed together, madness in the heat.

I was there first with Eli; we watched a show at the TVO marquee but mostly he wanted to run up and down the wavy wooden street over the water, so when his mother arrived, we sat in the shade and he ran and slid in the sun with a new friend. He is indefatigable and wherever he goes, he makes friends. Yesterday I took him to the Wellesley Street waterpark and he ran screaming through the water for a solid hour with his new BFF who was certainly on the autism spectrum, at one point punching the jets of water and shouting, "I hate you I hate you!" Eli just kept running and jumping and getting wetter. He'd just lost his first tooth, pulled out by his mama with dental floss, as her father did with her's.

And then a sleepover with Glamma. He climbed into my bed at 3 a.m. and proceeded to thrash about and snore, so I got up and carried him back to the spare room. Once I appreciated having a handsome young man in my bed; not so much now.

Later today at WOTS I met up with Kirsten Fogg, who is also on the committee to produce the creative non-fiction conference next year, and we went about listening to possible candidates for our event and then hiding in shady places. Two more days of this blazing heat, apparently, and then it starts to fade, and soon we'll be complaining about the cold. We're Canadians.

Friday, September 22, 2017

hot, with cucumbers and a rant

It's the autumn equinox, first day of fall, and tomorrow there's a heat warning in effect; with the humidity, the temperature will feel like 39 degrees. It's a full-on heatwave in Toronto, after a mild summer with lots of rain. Absolutely perfect timing - it means so much more to feel that warmth blasting your bones when you know what is lurking around the corner. What's hard to comprehend is the citizens of Toronto swanning around in tank tops when half the world, it seems, is under water or on fire, fleeing slaughter, struggling to survive in refugee camps or battered, smashed, destroyed, buried under rubble. Hard to be anything but grateful, and bewildered at our luck. Not to mention the fact that Canadians have, not a giant orange blowhole of a leader who at the U.N. threatens to wipe out a country of many millions of people, but one who speaks with painful, almost embarrassing honesty about the failure of this country to deal fairly with its indigenous population. What a contrast.

Immediately Canadians leapt onto FB and Twitter to bitch, to say it was "just rhetoric." Jesus God, could we not, for a tiny moment, celebrate a courageous generosity of spirit? Just for a minute or two, before piling on to criticize? It's like, if they're not inflamed, they cease to exist. Bitch on, my angry friends.


Yesterday, John came with his helper, Ricky in his gold high-tops, to do the massive job of trimming the dead ivy branches on the south wall and giving a haircut to the overgrown willow. Tons of work, a wonderful workout, much better than the Y. John was cutting back around my vegetable cage and found a giant cucumber growing outside, unfortunately yellow and so inedible. What a waste! But there are still LOTS more. I just made my grandmother Nettie's "cucumbers in sour cream and lemon" recipe, that I loved when I was a kid. Asked for the recipe in the early years of my marriage and never made it. Now's the time. Delicious.

Then, tea with the old friend who gave me my job at Ryerson 23 years ago and then moved to Vancouver, here to visit her son who now lives in TO. How grateful I am to her for a job I still love, after all this time. She gave me the terrible news that her husband, a dignified, very smart arts bureaucrat who was the model of diplomacy, intellect, and articulacy, is now in a nursing home suffering from Parkinson's-related dementia. The most tragic story. God preserve us all.

I took back a library book today, "Do I make myself clear?" by Harold Evans, editor extraordinaire, who rants wonderfully about obscure or needlessly complex language and provides page after page of translation into good plain English. I picked up two other books, but first, a treat - I've received "Euclid's Orchard," the new book of my friend Theresa Kishkan, a dear blog buddy though we have never met. I can't wait. She is a passionate thoughtful very wise writer, and I'm sure the book sounds just like her. And that Harold Evans would think so too.

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race. -H.G. Wells, writer (21 Sep 1866-1946)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

the reality of real estate

Wow, interesting. Just read my friend Kerry Clare's fascinating post, to the left, under "Pickle Me This"; apparently celebrating not buying a house is a controversial opinion in Toronto and provokes furious reactions. If people travelled more, if they spent time in Europe or southern countries, where a huge percentage of the population rent and could not dream of owning a house, they'd see how much we take for granted here. My father's French friend Jacques, a graphic artist, and his wife Henriette, an office manager, raised 3 sons in a small rented apartment in suburban Paris. But with careful husbanding of their money they managed to buy a tiny apartment and rent it out for many years, until the boys were grown and they sold it to give a small amount to each son toward a down payment. On an apartment.

My children will never own a house in Toronto, at least until I die and they inherit this one, and by then, they'll be so very old, they won't want all these stairs.


As usual I've been relishing my garden, which is my cottage. My neighbour Monique has an actual cottage on a lake, three hours away, so she regularly drives for six hours to sit in tranquillity and swim. I cannot swim here, but an extraordinary green tranquillity is mine in the centre of the city, right outside my kitchen door, and it keeps me sane. Incidentally, 31 years ago my husband and I were able to buy this wreck of a house for $180,000 because I wrote to my childless uncle in New York, who'd told me I was in his will, asking if he would mind giving me the money I'd inherit now rather than later, because after his death I'd be too sad to enjoy it. And he did, providing a good part of the down payment. So I am here gazing at my garden because I was lucky enough to have a generous uncle with no children of his own. And, to be fair, a husband with a good steady job who kept paying our enormous mortgage even after the divorce, so the kids and I could stay here. Otherwise, I'd have been renting too, Kerry, all those years.

Speaking of real estate, those of you who follow the other blogs on this page will know that my beloved Chris has sold his minuscule but perfect Vancouver condo for double what he paid for it ten years ago and is hoping to buy a place on Gabriola Island. So we will follow his adventure into a rural paradise, a man who has lived in Vancouver all his life moving to a remote island two ferry rides away from the city, with lots of interesting people and artists and space and nature - otters! eagles! - but also the isolation of a very small community cut off from the mainland. For me, a recipe for losing my sanity, but for Chris, we hope, the exact opposite, a way to regain his.

My dear neighbour Richard came for dinner last night on the deck, such an interesting man, twitching only occasionally as he reached out to his phone to check Twitter and his various other feeds. We discussed the problem of political correctness; the ridiculous extremes of identity politics was one of the reasons, he said, Trump was elected. I've been dealing with this issue as I work in various ways with millennials, who sometimes, it seems to me, are absurdly over-sensitive to every perceived injustice and slight, bending over backwards to accommodate everyone who might possibly have a grievance. Being white and middle-class and middle-aged makes me a target for their scorn. Obviously the old bag is a dinosaur.

Had my first Ryerson class on Monday, a wonderfully vivid group, as usual. I was glad to see on the class list beforehand that there were 3 men registered, as 2 is usually the maximum; men are rare in my memoir class and very welcome. However, when I got there, I found that one of the men is now a woman in the process of transition. So only 2 official men after all. How interesting life is. How I love my work. It was great to get dressed in my respectable teacher clothes and set off on my bike, riding through the chaotic swirl of Ryerson students packed into the downtown streets. And then to sit in a small room and begin the journey to truth.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

the best tabbouleh recipe

One of those blessed days, rare in a busy life - no obligations, no company, nothing but the sun, the garden, my own little life to tend to. Anna and the boys are still away, Sam is busy and happy on the other side of town, and what I have to do today is fiddle and potter and dither and tidy and edit and, of course, spend just a tiny bit of time right here, plunging into the internet.

Last night, Bill Maher's show, one of the best ever - his guests Salman Rushdie and Fran Lebowitz and later Tim Gunn. Lebowitz, so dry and witty, has no time for Bernie Sanders. "He left New York when he was eighteen!" she said. "Can you imagine being eighteen in New York and saying, no, can't cope with this, and leaving for (she shuddered) Vermont?" She looks like a wise, wizened older lady with badly dyed hair, and I was horrified, after Googling, to discover that she's a few months younger than I am.
This morning I rode to the market fairly early, to find the Mennonite farm butchers were not crowded; they're often overwhelmed with people. They raise their animals without hormones or chemicals, free range, in pens not giant barns, so that's where I try to buy my meat. Though I want to become a vegetarian and try as often as possible to eat meals without meat, I'm not there yet, and today I stocked up on my favourite, pork, most for the freezer - a roast, back bacon, ground for spaghetti sauce, chops, tenderloin. Thank you, brother pig, for the pleasure you will give for weeks to come.

And then both peaches and apples - O happy day, when we can buy both peaches from summer and apples from autumn, the first tart, juicy Macs; raspberries, blueberries, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, new red potatoes, happiness. A heavy load on the back on the uphill ride home.

And so to work - today is cooking day, though I'm working also, editing students for So True, which is almost full already, more than a month early, and of course my own stuff. Just listened to Sheila Rogers while making gazpacho - still using up cukes - then spaghetti sauce, ratatouille, tabbouleh. A tomato based diet this week.

The tabbouleh recipe was given to me by my friend Isabelle in France in 1979. I have made it endless times - it's perfect for pot lucks, for example, particularly as I have so much mint taking over the garden, which is why I made it again today. I realized that the recipe is falling apart.
So I typed it up in my own translated version, and am sharing it with you today. Invaluable. I hope it's useful to you.

Isabelle's Tabbouleh

Prepare 2 hours in advance, for 6 people.

200 grams couscous – 1¼ cups
500 g. tomatoes – approx. 16 oz or 1 lb.
a small onion
a bunch parsley
a bigger bunch mint
6 tablespoons peanut oil (maybe less)
juice of 1 lemon (maybe less, maybe a bit more)
salt, pepper

In a food processor, chop the onion, tomatoes, parsley and mint. In large bowl, mix the couscous with the tomato mixture plus the lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper. Mix well, cover and put in the fridge, stirring from time to time. Add a bit of tomato juice if it's too dry. 

C'est tout. Isabelle says to add mussels, if you want. 

There's a load of laundry drying in the sun, things on the stove, the humming of the fridge and the silence of the city. The tapping of fingers. The gratefulness in my heart. This week, I realized that through the years, I have emailed our beloved family doctor, mine, Anna's and Sam's -  her clinic has a website through which it's possible to reach her by email - with various complaints. So yesterday, I sent her an email, the headline "Nothing's wrong." "We are all well," I wrote, to say that right now, for once, there's nothing to ask or tell her.  

Right now, this minute at dusk on this sweet Saturday in September, nothing is wrong. Except with our dear battered world.

Also discovered my mother's famous recipe for cheesecake, that I have not made for years. Let me know if you'd like me to send it to you.
P.S. Last night, at Madison Square Gardens, Macca had a special guest - Bruce Springsteen. They sang "When I saw her standing there" together. So sorry to have missed that.

Friday, September 15, 2017

nearly there, I think

We're having summer now, in mid-September - hot hot every day, stunning. The roses have decided it's July and are out again in full glory, and so is the fall-blooming clematis, like a swath of white stars climbing up my neighbour's giant pine tree.
Other people are out there busily having lives, especially at TIFF, where Jean-Marc and Richard have undoubtedly seen every soon-to-be-Oscar-nominated film, several a day. The theatre season is revving up, music, art, concerts, even TV. But for this writer, the world is this chair by the back door, the frozen bum on the seat, finishing this opus. Yes, it is nearly finished, at least, I think so. I've written to several friends who might help open doors to publishers and/or an agent. I'm going over and over now, taking out every single word that doesn't belong. Best of all, my home class started last night - wonderful to see those dear writers again - and at the end of class, I read them the first few pages of the last rewrite. They have followed this journey from the start, have heard some of the other beginnings - how many have their been? A dozen, anyway - and so when they said they thought it worked well, that it was much better and ready to go, it was a tremendous relief, a gift. I felt it, though, before they said so. I know it's more solid than it has ever been. Whether that's enough for my "nobody memoir" to interest a publisher, however, in this age of mass confusion in the publishing world, who knows?

In any case, I am hoping to have it finished and out there by the end of the weekend, because on Monday, my Ryerson term begins with a full class, on Wednesday it's the U of T event welcoming instructors, on Sunday it's Word on the Street, and the following week the U of T term begins and the home class continues. I have to tend to the rest of my life. My clothes are in a giant pile in the bedroom, the fridge is nearly empty, the garden is parched, my body is falling apart. Time to put this squalling, demanding baby to bed.

The English conversation group continues with my new friends Nurun, Foyzun, Razia, Delwara, Roshnaza, Rokeya, Moymun, Jesmin, and Neghisti. Our topic this week was things to do in Toronto, and they spoke with great animation about the swim just for women at the Regent Park pool. Twice a week they pull down the blinds so the glass walls of the pool are covered and women can swim in whatever they want. I talked about swimming at Hanlan's Point wearing nothing at all, but I'm not sure they understood, I think that was just too far from their experience. I've been to that women-only swim and many wear t-shirts and leggings, even with only females. However. They're there, that's what matters, and nine of them or so are at our conversation group, chatting, more or less, in English. It's wonderful.

Sam Bee had an extremely moving segment on Wednesday, with the founder of an organization called "Life after Hate," which helps white supremacists overcome their rage and find peace. Magnificent. He said Obama gave them a big grant and Trump immediately rescinded it, of course, but they are crowd-funding. The segment pointed out with statistics how very much more violence in the States comes from white supremacists, not Muslims. But you wouldn't know it from the media. Sam Bee is a lifeline, fearless and full of heart. I adore her.

This is my life, perfectly captured by Roz Chast in this week's New Yorker:

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Cabbagetown Festival

What a weekend. I see that Angelina Jolie is in town at the film festival with all her beautiful children, the wonderful Helen Mirren too and George Clooney and all kinds of other stars. Somewhere over there.

Here, it was the Cabbagetown Festival on the most gorgeous weekend for it I can remember - hot with a touch of chill. The streets were packed with garage sales, music, street food, thousands of people ... today, walking down Parliament Street marvelling at the diversity of the huge crowds, I ran into a firetruck with, sitting on the back bumper, five firemen in a row, relaxing in the sun. What a wonderful day, I said, they concurred, and we talked about the peaceful mixing of people from around the world in this blessed neighbourhood. Need I say these firemen were handsome? A great moment, surpassed only by a moment not long before, sitting outside Riverdale Farm listening to a big band play my favourite song in the world, Macca's "When I'm 64." Hot sun, great music, all around booths with a curated show of artisanal products, jewelry, painting, weaving, food ...
 Fresh oysters on Parliament Street.
A transgender stiltwalker, very popular. Where else, O lord, would there be a transgender stilt walker in sexy frontier clothing walking down the middle of the high street?

So yes, it was a good weekend. At the garage sales I found exactly what I was looking for: a red bicycle for Eli for when he visits here, rubber boots and Crocs also for him when he comes, a giant bag of Fisher Price animals for $10, a set of Paw Patrol sheets, and a glow in the dark skeleton Hallowe'en costume for Ben. (I consulted with their mother, who's in Nova Scotia, before all these purchases by text. "@#$# yeah!" she'd write back.)

Some artisanal dark chocolate with almonds and a notebook, of course, for me, and some pretty cards painted by a local artist. And then I discovered a woman on Gerrard Street selling her own shoes - a big-footed woman who runs drumming classes and whose husband lives in Africa - and bought just what I need for fall, two pairs of boots, for $20 each. Hardly worn. In my enormous size. @#$# yeah!
Just one glitch - I registered, as always, for the fundraising mini-marathon on Sunday morning, a gruelling two kilometre run through the 'hood. Sunday morning, I got ready, stretched, and headed out at 9.40 to run at 10. Couldn't understand why a big crowd was gathered and prizes were being given out beforehand. The race, I discovered, starts at 9. As it has for the last 25 years that I've done it. Oh oh, the brain is toast already. So I missed the run, which meant that my legs didn't hurt for the rest of the day. What a shame. Otherwise, fun.

I know, the rest of the world is in such dire straights, it beggars belief - hurricanes, floods, the Rohingya, North Korea. Here in a little corner of the planet, a weekend of bargains, street food - my fridge full of pad thai, tacos, Chinese noodles, Afghani leek and lentil patties - and fun. Thank you.

My friend Gretchen just came over - she'd read the manuscript and had a few pages of thoughtful commentary, nothing too drastic, places where the timeline or the structure were confusing. After we'd talked about the book, we talked about our young lives, where she was and what she was doing in 1979 when I was having the adventures described in the book. Another great thing about being a writer - when what you write triggers memories in a reader, a need to delve into, explore, and understand his or her own past.

@#$% yeah.

Friday, September 8, 2017

gearing up for fall

Last night the police closed down the block outside my house and were patrolling the street with guns and dogs. There's a rumour of someone doing random shootings in Regent Park, and it's possible they thought he - presumably a he - was hiding on this block. Or something else. Anyway, it was pretty exciting and even scary for a bit. So much for tranquil little Cabbagetown.

Which this weekend hosts the Cabbagetown Festival - the streets flooded, not with hurricanes, but with garage sales, street food, shoppers and strollers. I will be shopping the street sales for a bike for Eli and Christmas presents. There's a curated artisanal sale outside Riverdale Farm, and the run on Sunday morning, the mini-marathon, one mile or so, that I never miss. Eating, running, shopping: I excel at two of these.

On Wednesday morning our Regent Park English conversation group started for the fall, and there were nine women, the most ever - almost all as usual from Bangladesh, sitting with us to chat about "What I did on my summer vacation." They mostly visited family in other cities, though one went camping - imagine a family of recent arrivals from Bangladesh in the Ontario woods. About half the women are veiled, though all wear traditional headscarves and draped long robes. But when they come in, they flip up the scarf and there are our friends. I don't understand the niqab, I don't like it, but I do like the women who wear it, at least the ones I've met.

That night was the Cabbagetown Short Film Festival, a fantastic event my neighbour Gina Dineen has curated and organized for 26 years. At the start it was in a pub; now it's held in swanky splendour of the Daniels Arts Centre on Dundas, about 16 films from 2 to 18 minutes long, from around the world - animated, documentaries, dramas, all fantastic, and some of the filmmakers and actors were there. Thrilling, hilarious, a tour of the world without leaving your seat.

Yesterday afternoon, Anna and the boys came to visit. Amazing what two very small people can do to rip the house apart in only a few hours.
The sofa: both fort and trampoline
As you can see - Ben is small for two and Eli is tall for five, but there's a fine brotherhood there.

Last night, as I hosted one of my oldest friends Margaret from Vancouver - we met when pregnant with our older children - we watched a NFB film called "Window Horses" on the movie channel. An odd title for a superb, truly gorgeous film, animated, about a young poet from Vancouver who goes to a poetry festival in Iran and finds herself and her past. Highly recommended; seek it out.

And finally, on the home front - sigh. Sigh. I received a no from the literary agent I wrote to about the memoir, which is just as well, as I also received another book report from a former student and very perceptive reader who nailed the problems - still there - with the first 40 pages or so. Once again, the France stuff is great, getting there not so much. I thought I was nearly done, but I'm not.

So, the autumn to do list:
1. finish the book.
2. find a way to get the book into the world, the worst part of the job as far as I'm concerned
3. teaching: Ryerson, U of T, home class
4. October: prepare a talk for the 20th anniversary of my son's high school Rosedale Heights about the parents' arts council which I helped found
5. prepare a talk with Powerpoint for the Fairfax, Virginia JCC about my great-grandfather book
6. November: the next So True - eight essays to find, edit, finalize, plus my own
7. December: the Babe in the Barn pageant Xmas Eve - meetings about finding babies and cast members etc.
8. End of October: my basement tenant moves out and a new one moves in, much cleaning to do
9. ditto with the attic - Carol is going back to Ecuador for six months and a young Frenchwoman is moving in
10. got to get to Ottawa to visit Do
11. online and in person meetings about the Canadian Creative Non-fiction conference next May that I'm on the conference committee for
Also: food clothing housing exercise health reading friends family and writing this blog.

Otherwise, nothing to do.

Did I mention finish the book? No question, the above list is one reason I've produced so few books. Not just that I was an actress for ten years and a stay at home mother for another ten, but that I get involved in so many things and can't imagine not getting involved. So - the output is slow, but the life is pretty damn interesting. Though it's true, last night I couldn't sleep, thinking of all I have to do. What I did on my summer vacation: worry.

Monday, September 4, 2017

labour day podcasts

There could be not a nicer Labour Day - hot with a breeze, after yesterday's chilly late afternoon rain. And the city is still, except for the air show, blasting around in the sky every so often. And then, still again.

Amazing even myself, I went to Carol's Boot Camp at the Y at 9 a.m. this morning. Carol is my spectacular Wednesday teacher, a woman nearly 70 who looks 50 at most, is off to run a marathon soon - where did she say? Singapore? Dublin? Rio? She has run all over the world. Anyway, I have never made one of her holiday boot camp classes because they start at 9 a.m. and because of the words "boot camp." However, today's was on the green roof of the Y, so I went. And it was wonderful - the Y's roof is planted with wild grasses, and we ran around in the morning sun, most of the participants fast, some of us slowly, and did other boot campy things, some with a great deal of energy and commitment, and some, not so much. I was one of the slowest and weakest. But I was there, exercising on the roof of the Y at 9.15 a.m. on Labour Day. It felt great.

And then, continuing my virtuous streak, I cooked for hours in the afternoon, listening to podcasts while using my own basil and garlic to make pesto and my own tomatoes, garlic and basil to make pasta sauce. I picked one of the biggest cucumbers I've ever seen and made a cucumber avocado lemon salad with my own parsley. For the next few days, I will eat well, little grasshopper. Come on over and join me.

And while I worked, these fabulous podcasts. The Anne Lamott one I've heard before but it bears hearing again, perhaps regularly - she's so funny and wise. And the other - not so funny but very wise. Happy labour day to you all.

Tomorrow, Eli goes to Senior Kindergarten. He's a senior already.

PS. Tears in my eyes. Rosemary, who's read my first 40 pages, just emailed that she will send them soon. I make the occasional small suggestion, but generally I think you’ve nailed it this time – it moves along, without any dragging at all. 

Nailed it! No dragging at all! Can a writer ask for more? 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

"working very well"

Looking at photos of the flooding in Texas, of the far worse disaster in Bangadesh, feeling so very safe and dry - at least today - in Cabbagetown. How lucky are we, with our relatively stable government, our health care... wait, there are brutal forest fires out west, there's flooding in this country too, there's racism everywhere. But the key word is relatively - we're relatively safe. On Saturday I was riding my bike through Regent Park; suddenly I thought I was in Mecca. There were many hundreds of Muslims gathered in a field south of here, the men in long white robes and little round hats, the women in hijab or niqab. It was Eid, the end of the great celebration, and they were gathered to pray and feast. Extraordinary. My city, open to all.

Today, brunch with the best neighbours on the planet, Jean-Marc and Richard, in their beautiful garden, with other neighbours, such interesting people. I've lived across the street from Susan and David for 20 years, only found out today what fascinating lives they lead, she a cancer researcher and triathlete.  The other couple, two handsome young men, one from Lima and the other from New Delhi, met on Church Street. I love this place. We had a discussion, not just about politics and travel, but about Cabbagetown wildlife - opossum, raccoons, ferocious squirrels - not far away, deer, beaver, coyotes, and one very large cat who terrorizes the whole street. The wilderness of Toronto.

But I'm not much fun these days, still sitting sitting sitting, poking at the manuscript, wanting to finish it and get it out. I emailed the rewrite of the first 40 pages today to Rosemary, uber editor, who has seen previous drafts. After reading a few pages, she emailed, So far I think the revisions are working very well. Much smoother and good momentum.

May I scream? Cheer? WOOHOOOOO!!! Of course, that's after only a few pages. But still, encouraging words. Smoother! Momentum! I'll take it.

Ryerson doesn't start for two more weeks. What a gift. It's almost full already, so it's going to be one of the big big classes. I'll be up for it.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Kathy Dawn Lang

A heavenly heavenly day. It has been colder than usual, to the point that riding home from a concert a few days ago in a wool jacket and beret, I wished I had gloves. Gloves, in August! But today there's heat with a cool breeze, and the garden is in full bloom, especially the fall-blooming clematis, like little white stars, bursting out all over. I went to the market this morning to get apples, but there aren't many yet, so I had to make do - sigh - with peaches, peppers, and blueberries. And multi-seed sourdough. And - of course - corn.

In the early eighties, when my parents were living in Edmonton, a colleague of Dad's invited them out one night to hear a friend's daughter sing in a bar. The young singer's name was Kathy Dawn, and my parents were bemused but impressed. She was wearing strange cowgirl clothes and was very funny, they said, but with a magnificent voice. That voice took her places, and the other night, Kathy Dawn, now known as K.D. Lang, was at the Sony Centre where I went to see her.

I have to say - the concert was not my favourite, didn't hold a candle to Bonnie Raitt for warmth. It turned out the tour was to celebrate the 25th anniversary of her album "Ingenue," which is full of moody young woman songs. It took an hour before she warmed up and began to sing something lively. She was barefoot, wearing a most unflattering square suit, looking like Wayne Newton. (When I told Carol that, she exclaimed, "I saw her a few years ago and thought exactly the same thing - K.D. is turning into Wayne Newton!")

Many people in the audience were ecstatic, however. Canadian audiences are starting to become an embarrassment, I have to say. If an actor actually remembers his lines - if a singer like K.D. holds a note longer than normal - people explode into rapturous applause and even standing ovations. Phooey.

Okay, enough, crabby old lady, on this stunning day. Yesterday I went with Anna and the boys to the beach near Sunnyside - we ate at the restaurant on the boardwalk, our summer ritual, and played in the sand. Oh little boys and water and sand, nothing better to watch. Now there's the chip chip chip of the cardinal - time to fill the bird feeder. Wayson is having a little nap on the deck, the willow is swaying in the breeze, and life does not get much better than this.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Stratford and Ingersoll pix

 Carol's lovely Victorian house
 Lani at the cheese museum - info on the biggest cheese in the world! ...
... and with Mr. Hapi, who lost a leg in Taiwan and landed in the most loving home on earth. Nothing holds him back now.

My new resolution: turn all electronics (except the TV) off at 9 p.m. It's that now, so I'm off. "Don't look back," the Bob Dylan documentary is on, and I'll watch a bit. I do not want to leave my manuscript though. I am truly at the obsessive stage, going over and over and over - only a few more weeks to finish it before teaching starts. I wrote today to a literary agent. This mama is nearly fully dilated and ready to push.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Stratford 2017

Last month, I emerged, blinking in the light, full of joy, from seeing a fabulous musical - and found myself in Times Square, surrounded by a trillion people and honking cars. This weekend, I emerged from seeing a fabulous musical and found myself in beautiful downtown Stratford, surrounded by swans floating on the River Thames, fields, gorgeous old Ontario houses, towering old trees, fabulous gardens, almost no one. That's the Stratford experience - incredible theatre in the middle of cornfields.

On Saturday morning, I got the Stratford express bus - $10 each way, from downtown Toronto directly to the three theatres, about two hours. My friend Carol was waiting. Carol and her sister Mary-Jane took my U of T class twice - wonderful writers, both of them, and also inventors of a clever game. But eventually they both moved out here, and finally, I had a chance to visit. Carol lives in one of Stratford's many perfect Victorian houses. We had a chance to get caught up in the sun before I went to the Festival Theatre to see a matinee of my favourite musical, Guys and Dolls. It was written in 1950, a very special year as far as I'm concerned, a year that produced a LOT of great stuff. And it's just the best musical ever written, brilliant book, music, concept - but especially the music, one glorious song after another, I had to restrain myself from singing along at the top of my lungs. "When you see a guy/reach for stars in the sky/you can bet that he's doing it for some doll..." So so good. I was in heaven.

Out into a mild August afternoon in this lovely little town, back to Carol's for a glass of rosé, then to her sister's for dinner. MJ and her husband live in a Victorian mansion; we ate out by the swimming pool surrounded by flowers, and I told her it was like being on the Riviera. Another catch up there. And then to Bakkhai, a new translation of Euripides' The Bacchae by Canadian poet Anne Carson. The production could not have been further from Guys and Dolls - and was terrific. Greek tragedies are almost impossible to pull off, and this one is about a mother who is roaming the hills with her wild feminist sisters and eventually rips her son to bits. She appears with pieces of his body and carries his head around, before she realizes whom she has killed. Not your everyday kitchen sink drama, but beautifully done with haunting music by the very talented Veda Hille from Vancouver.

And then out into the still Stratford night, to walk home to Carol's elegant spare bedroom. Lucky lucky me.

This morning, I bought sourdough bread and cheese at the little Stratford market, and friend Lani appeared for lunch in Carol's pretty garden. Lan and I have been friends since 1975, acting together in Vancouver; recently she and her husband Maurice moved from Stratford to Ingersoll, about 40 minutes away. She was coming in to have lunch with me and Carol, we'd see a show, and then drive back for me to spend the night in their new home and meet their new dog.

We saw what is meant to be a groundbreaking new play, The Breathing Hole, about the life of the Inuit in northern Canada, ranging in 2 acts over 500 years, with, as the chief character, an imaginatively made polar bear activated by a man underneath the costume. Very evocative. But the play, unfortunately, though with an interesting first act about the Inuit experience, fell apart with cheap choices in the second. Very disappointing, though the polar bear was almost worth the price of admission.

And then zipping through the green fields of southern Ontario to the small town of Ingersoll, pop. 12,500, where my friends now live with their dog, Mr. Hapi, who was a street mutt in Taiwan, hit by a car and crippled, rescued by a wealthy Taiwanese woman who takes in stray dogs, neuters them, heals and trains them and finds them owners. This one went to a shelter in Hamilton where he was found by my friends. He only has 3 legs, bounces happily along, and is the luckiest of dogs, in this house which overlooks a park by a river. Lots of people are moving from Toronto to Stratford because they can get more house for the money; Lani and Mo moved here for the same reason. They certainly got a lot more house, and greenery too.

The air, right now, is redolent of skunk.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Pam's memorial

Suddenly the weather changed - it was actually quite cold for a bit. Summer is winding down. I am still ploughing through cucumbers and tomatoes, give me strength. And the book, ditto.

Saw Kathleen Trotter again, for my detailed list of exercises. My right hip tilts forward and my right shoulder droops, leading to pain on my compensating left side. I now have pages of exercises to fix that. The question is, when will I do them? Add them to the very long To Do list. But I will.

Today I went to the memorial event for Pam McConnell at St. James Cathedral which, it turned out, was organized by my dear friend and neighbour Richard, now working at City Hall. And beautifully organized it was too. The church was filled to overflowing, so they had canopies with tables and chairs set up in the park next to the church, with the sound from inside piped out, and that area was full too. Pam was indefatigable, as the speakers were saying, a fierce fighter for social justice and equality. Now my neighbourhood is without her vital spirit, and also without our provincial rep Glenn Murray, who has quit to take another job. In Ottawa we are represented by Chrystia Freeland, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who's got a few other things on her mind beside Cabbagetown. We are orphaned.

My daughter took Ben to the Police Services Board meeting yesterday, to be part of the protest about the police treatment of black youth in the city after a boy was brutally assaulted by two off-duty cops and the case was shoved under the carpet. She amazes me. One of Thomas's sisters had a baby recently, and one day last week, Anna and Thomas's mother took six young children, the sister's four older kids and Anna's two, to the zoo for the day. Six energetic and often difficult children at the zoo - my idea of hell. But that's what she does.

Tomorrow, a special treat - the bus to Stratford, to see three shows, my favourite musical Guys and Dolls, the Bakkhai, and The Breathing Hole. I'll send a report. Unfortunately, I'll miss our dear Prime Minister who was there today, not to see a play, just to have a tour of the theatre and charm the pants off of everybody. Carol will be holding down the fort here at home.

Happy end of summer, bloggees. May there be many fresh organic cucumbers in your life too. And if there aren't - have I got a cucumber for you!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Fitness by Kathleen

The eclipse saved the day, lovely to see Americans gathering happily to do something other than celebrate their own poor sad endangered whiteness or to protest Nazis. I missed the eclipse here in Toronto - tried to look up mid-afternoon but without special glasses, saw no moon passing by. Apparently I could have looked at the sun through a colander. Next time. My American cousin Barbara, however, who has an undergraduate degree in astrophysics and spent her working life as a research scientist, was in Wyoming; her high school physics teacher had called a class reunion to watch the eclipse together there. Barbara was interviewed by CBS and appeared on national news for a whole 15 seconds! "Come with us next time," she wrote to me. I sure will - it'd be wonderful to watch the next eclipse with an astrophysicist who happens to be a very nice cousin.

Sam just sent me a text. "Everybody over the age of 5: Never look directly at an eclipse. Leader of the free world:..." And there's a picture of Trump, squinting up into the sun. While we're on the subject, how I wish the world would let the disgusting Steve Bannon crawl back under his rock. Now the press is quoting Breitbart at every turn. Giving these hideous guys a platform is how we got into this mess.

I had a treat yesterday morning. One of my dearest friends is Kate Trotter, lovely and talented actress and now psychologist-in-training. I've watched her daughter Kathleen from earliest childhood grow up to be an accomplished, lithe young woman, now the fitness columnist for the Globe, author of a book about fitness and personal trainer to the stars. I've been feeling achey and creaky, as if my poor body is losing ground, which it undoubtedly is, so I got in touch with Kathleen to ask for a fitness assessment. She went over my body, measuring my range of motion, watching for drooping shoulders and misaligned hips, pointing out that I favour one side, but mostly, she said I was pretty fit (for my age, she didn't say because she's much too nice.) She just sent me a detailed list of exercises I should do and will explain them on Thursday when I see her again. But this morning, I did the stretching exercises she'd assigned for me to do before getting out of bed - only five minutes or so, but I feel better already.

All this is especially necessary as I am doing nothing, I mean nothing, but sit and write and revise. I'm on a roll, want to finish this draft before the end of the month. Was supposed to go to a friend's glorious cottage this week and instead am sitting here fiddling with words - as Oscar Wilde said, I spend all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out again.


Eleven cucumbers growing, and here are the fading magnificent roses of late summer:

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Menashe, in Yiddish

Saw a deeply moving and highly unusual movie on Thursday with Ken - Menashe, filmed within a Hassidic community with amateur actors and in Yiddish. It's about a schlemiel, a kind but impractical man whose wife has died and who within the strict laws of his faith cannot raise his young son alone - it says in the Torah that children must be raised by two parents, so his son must live with humourless relatives. Our hero wants his child back. It reminded me of I, Daniel Blake, another film about one good man against the universe. But that one was didactic; we knew Daniel Blake would not get anywhere. This film is humane and haunting, goes deep, stays with you. It clarifies the power of religion to provide comfort and community, and at the same time, to restrict and terrorize.

I was at the High Park playground with Eli, Ben and Anna's best friend Holly on Friday, when a large group of Orthodox Jewish women arrived with their children, the women in wigs and demure clothing, the girls too in skirts and long sleeves, and the boys in yarmulkes with payes - sidecurls. I don't understand people's need to shut themselves away in any community, let alone a religious one with hundreds of rules, but at least, after seeing the film, I felt I knew more about who these people are.

We had fun.

Danger Baby, aka Ben, keeps saying the word "up", which means, I want to go as high as my big brother if not higher. Terrifying.

Today, with Wayson to keep me company, I cooked with stuff from the garden, including a mint-yogurt-cuke gazpacho, fresh green in colour and taste. As mentioned, I am drowning in cucumbers and tomatoes. Next week, of course, pesto. This has been a beautiful summer because of the rain - have hardly had to water the garden - and the mild temperatures. Had my AC on a couple of times in early July and not once since.

Mostly, I'm doing two things: scouring my manuscript, going over and over it, line by line, which is giving me joy because it is coming together. Yes it feels good now, like I'm polishing, or deepening, rather than rescuing.

And I'm reading the papers and FB and the NYT and Twitter as part of the "What the @#$# next?" brigade that we all are now. How much worse can things get? Plenty, I guess, as a few weeks ago we thought it couldn't get any worse, and voila, Nazis on the march, and an apologia for "nice people" Nazis, and more attacks in Europe, and tonight an item on the national news about women in South Sudan who are starving, who turn to prostitution to survive and contract AIDS.

To cheer myself up when it seems unbearable, I go out into the garden and watch the bees, covered with pollen, rolling drunkenly around on the pistils of my rose of Sharon. It's nearly pornographic, the way they rub, splaying themselves, sometimes writhing and sometimes motionless, as if exhausted or overwhelmed. It's love.
Saw a documentary about trees; it said that most medicines are plant based and trees exude chemicals that are good for us not just psychically but physically. Get thee into the greenery, the garden, the trees and plants. Sometimes it feels like that's the only sanity left.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

a chuckle in the rain

I could not help myself - "Eight Days a Week," the movie about the Beatles' touring years, was on the movie channel last night, and I had to watch for the third or perhaps fourth time. Each time, I find something new to celebrate. So so joyful at a time when the horror in the news is almost unbearable. A resurgence of fascism, how is this possible? No, let's focus instead on singing along with Carole King and the Beatles. I want to hold your hand.

It just started pouring - this has been the wettest summer on record, nearly, not complaining as it's been good for the cucumbers - and Anna is at the zoo with the usual passel of children. I'm sure they're all huddled in McDonalds.

So here are a few laughs for today, one courtesy of the blog of my dear friend Chris. Who, incidentally, continues to visit Bruce almost every day in the rehab hospital. Our dear Bruce, according to a recent long phone call, is recovering miraculously from his stroke. He went home overnight with his sister and on Thursday will go home for good with no follow up appointments! An absolutely amazing recovery.

 And, below, gluten free art...
Yesterday, the dentist; today a facial - teeth and pores sparkling, spiffing up this old bag of bones. But mostly, I'm in the obsessive stage of writing, not wanting to leave my beloved ms. for long. I'm getting there. Yes I am. So, goodbye, I'm busy.

Five minutes later - rain over, hot sun. What a summer.

Monday, August 14, 2017

a successful student

Can't help blowing my own horn a bit today, especially after the week I've had ... Sarah Meehan Sirk, who took my course some time ago and then took a number of other writing courses, was given a two book deal by a major publisher and has just come out with her first book of short stories, "The Dead Husband Project," given a rave review in the Star yesterday - half a page!

I wrote to ask her if she'd write a blurb for the Ryerson writing school website, and she sent this. Very nice to read. What she says about perseverance is very true. I can't tell in class which students are going to bloom, as she has, and which are not. Talent has little to do with it, because without perseverance, all the talent in the world is useless. So, brava, Sarah, for sticking with it.

In my early twenties, I knew I wanted to write, but I needed help. I needed feedback, I needed direction, I needed deadlines. I needed to know if I was any good. I enrolled in Beth Kaplan's True to Life class at Ryerson's Chang School of Continuing Studies - which became the first of many writing courses I took at the school - and found what I was after and more: the honest feedback, the direction, the deadlines, a writing group, and the help I needed to start becoming a much better writer. I still think of Beth's advice often. She assured me that writers blossom in their own time, at the right time for them. She encouraged me to abandon a flowery, polysyllabic writing style in favour of a clean, honest one. I doubt I showed much promise in those early days but there's something to be said for perseverance, and for great teachers.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


God, a day or two without blogging and already, too much to tell you. A stunning peaceful Sunday here. Time to pick some cucumbers. By September, I won't be able to look a cucumber in the eye.

On Saturday, there were two - two! - reviews in the Star of books by former students - "Dr. Bartolo's Umbrella and other tales from my surprising operatic life," by Chris Cameron, that I'm reading at the moment and thoroughly enjoying - the story of the trajectory of his operatic career, a very funny, beautifully written book - and "The Dead Husband Project" by Sarah Meehan Sirk, another former student who has gone on to fame, glory and good writing. Bravo to you both.

Went Saturday morning to St. Lawrence Market, heaven in summer, came home loaded down with way too much - blueberries, peaches, salad, corn, hot bagels, smoked salmon, cream cheese, other cheeses ... not just for me, but because an old friend was coming to visit. Harriet and I were at theatre school in London together in 1971, and now she's Dame Harriet Walter who had a recurring role in Downton Abbey and has most recently played several male Shakespeare roles, like Prospero. In fact, she told me that not long ago, for some weeks, she was required to do three different Shakespeare plays in one day - one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one at night. The force needed for that seems superhuman, but she did it. We sat and ate bagels and talked shop, the kind of theatre talk I don't get to hear often enough. "My friend Alan Rickman, God rest his soul," she said at one point. "And then there was the time I met Paul McCartney backstage after a show I did with Twiggy's husband, a good friend of his. He came to say hello with Linda, Stella and Mary. I noticed that he has small feet," she said.

Scream. What a treat.

And then work, till 11, and again this morning. It's coming.

This aft, another huge treat - "Beautiful" at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, which used to be the Pantages, the theatre renovated beautifully and with enormous effort by Garth Drabinsky and my ex-husband for "Phantom", which played there for ages. The whole place is filled with bittersweet memories for me. But today, nothing but pleasure - a fabulous musical that tells the story of Carole King's early life and career, from selling her first song at 16, writing hit songs for the Shirelles, and on to the breakup of her marriage to her lyricist and "Tapestry," the album of the decade. The star, Chilena Kennedy, is perfect, simply stunning, the music is glorious, the whole thing spectacular. If you're in Toronto or New York, don't miss it. You make me feel like a natural woman. You're beautiful. You've got a friend.

And now - rosé, corn, gazpacho, cucumber salad. The cicadas are buzzing. Time to water the garden, and Sam may come later to watch "Game of Thrones". It does not get better than this. Except that neo-Nazis and violent white supremacists are newly empowered - have there ever been such reprehensible losers? what exactly do they have to complain about? - and nuclear war is looming between two spoiled lunatics who might destroy the planet, it doesn't get better than this.
Except for this - Madison Square Gardens, 1939.

Friday, August 11, 2017

moving right along

Oh my friends, what a difference a day makes. Early this week, I was ready to give up, not just my current book, but perhaps as a writer. I was profoundly discouraged. A writer I respected highly had given me a pretty harsh critique of something I'd been working on for years, and with my tendency for self-defeat, I believed him. It seemed pointless to continue.

And then a friend's perspicacious note pointed out that the writer's style and mine are very different, perhaps he simply wanted to read something resembling what he himself would write. My writer friend agreed completely and apologized. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders.

That writer friend, Wayson, had already asked to read some other pages from the memoir, the ones I was in any case much more sure about. And after reading, he wrote a warm note full of praise for those pages, how much he liked them, how powerful was the voice, how completely he'd been captivated. Okay, I thought with a touch of skepticism, there's a happy medium between this radiant encomium and "flogging a dead horse," but still, it was lovely to read.

And then I got notes from my editor, Colin. I'd sent him the first 50 pages which I'd recently rewritten, the ones Wayson had so much trouble with. Colin had trouble too, had done a lot of editing with a lot of suggestions, but they were purely technical. It was a blinding revelation. He adheres to a method of storytelling, "The Three Act Template," with fancy technical names - Act One, the Call to Adventure, the Intervening Mentor; Act Two, the Ordeal, the Mid-Act Breakthrough etc. Too coldly technical for me, I'd thought, but this time, he showed me how moving stuff around to even minimally follow the pattern would make the story stronger and guide the reader through the journey. Plus, he insisted I cut unnecessary stuff, even one long scene that has been in the manuscript from the beginning. And I did.

It's now nearly 10 p.m. I have spent the entire day, except for a half hour class at the Y and a meal or two - and an emergency rosé run to the LCBO - sitting in this chair, chopping, hacking, moving chunks of text around. Yesterday, I was going to apply for a job at McDonalds. Today, there's the semblance of a book.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


One of those moments of sheer joy an hour ago: picking cucumbers - ridiculous, seven big ones -
then making gazpacho in the kitchen, chopping cukes and my own pungent garlic with peppers and tomatoes, Side Four of Macca's compilation, Pure McCartney, playing, his sublime genius with instruments, singing, composing, such a diversity of sound, I'm dancing and singing along; the sun is hot, new blooms on the rosebush once more, a white load of laundry hanging outside to dry - and one more thing to add to it all, I do not have glaucoma according to the surly ophthalmologist who tested my eyes yesterday. My father and grandmother had it so I need to be tested regularly. So far so good.

It's all good.

Importantly, Wayson and I had it out today. Other friends wrote with encouragement after reading the blog, but I was most helped by my dear Chris, to whom I'd sent the story of what happened Sunday night, Wayson reading some of my pages, as he often does, and giving me quite a severe critique, as he often does. I know he does it out of love, because he cares for me as a person and a writer, he wouldn't bother otherwise. But on Sunday night, I felt obliterated.

Chris sent the perfect note.
Is he accepting “your voice?”
It seems to me he uses very literary language. Your style feels less formal, more colloquial. Your style feels to me like it comes from a writer with both feet on the ground. You are like a reporter. He strikes me as a memoirist deeply invested in the emotional. His pages bleed. Your work feels like you: we (readers) are rushing through an incredible landscape of events and people. We are on a train rushing through a story whereas with Wayson we move SLOWLY VERY SLOWLY, observing and feeling everything.

Does he want to turn you into him? How is a man of his style expected to react to a writer of your style?

I read this to Wayson, who agreed 100% that he wants to see in my work what he likes to write, what he likes to read. He needs to step back, and I need to keep going in my own flawed way. 

And I realized - to get all psychoanalytical on your ass, as my son says - that my parents were extremely critical, and I grew up thinking that nothing I did was good enough. And I think Wayson and I reproduced that, in some ways. Not in our wondrous friendship - he is family to us all - but in our mentorship. It has to stop, because it doesn't help me any more. In fact, it hurt so much Sunday, I felt like giving up. What's the point of slaving over another book that's not very good and no one will read? 
Enough mewling. Onward. By the way, this doesn't mean that what he said isn't right, because it partly is. Something isn't working and I need to figure it out. So that's the job.
I made guacamole too, with my garlic, tomatoes, and of course cucumber, so now I'll have a glass of rosé with guacamole and then gazpacho with smoked salmon and thick slices of sourdough bread from the market and the rest of the cheese my daughter gave me for my birthday, and I will be thankful for every bite. 

Let us pray that two insane and loathsome creatures don't blow the planet into oblivion. I'm going to go out and smell those roses. 

Any good cucumber recipes? Please send.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

high summer

The other day, I was at the Regent Park playground with Eli when I looked around and thought, here it is, the best of Toronto. On one side was a transgender parent with his kids, a man, indubitably once female, with hairy legs and a beard and a woman’s demeanour and voice. On the periphery nearby was a woman – I assume a woman – completely covered, head to foot, including her eyes, with black cloth, like a black ghost. There were others walking past in niqab, covered but with eyes showing, or just in hijab, with heads covered; there were Somali mothers wearing long robes but with faces revealed, and Caribbean mothers wearing almost nothing. There were Oriental children, black children and brown children, indigenous children, and even a few white children, like my grandson. Who went right up to a multicoloured group of boys playing on a roundabout and joined them. And we were off.

Thus began the latest sleepover with Eli. We had Sunday dinner on the deck with Eli’s extended family - Wayson and Carol, my tenant and friend. In the morning, he woke me at 7.15, got into my bed and slept for another hour, giving me time for peace and coffee before the fun began again – Snakes and Ladders, books, watering everything in sight, playing hide and seek, always hiding and waiting, with screams of pleasure, to be found. And stories, tall tales of things he has seen and done (not). A trip to the farm, ice cream. When we finally left to go back across town by streetcar, he sat on his own in the single seats on one side, while I sat on a double seat across the aisle. He sat alone the whole way, looking out the window and studying the Pokemon cards a friend had given him. He’s growing up too fast!
Then off to another treat for me – to TIFF, to see “The Trip to Spain” with Sam. We’ve seen the first two in the franchise, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, British comedians and actors on the road, staying in heavenly hotels, eating fabulous food and doing ridiculous impersonations at each other – Michael Caine is their favourite, though this time, they both did a perfect Mick Jagger. It’s silly and gets tiresome and yet is compelling, scenery, cuisine, and skilful comedy combined, the perfect film for Sam.

We walked to Terroni, one of the best restaurants in Toronto where Max, a good friend of his, works, and sat at the elegant bar in this beautiful restaurant eating pizza and ravioli, drinking rosé and talking with each other and with Max. It was like being in the movie.
It has been the strangest summer – some days hot, some chilly, almost every day with a bit of rain, then perfection like right now, then rain again – even a tornado out of town and a sun shower sometimes. No complaints, as the garden is flourishing – my cucumbers are enormous and plentiful – but my friend Rosemary is frantic, trying to plan a wedding luncheon in her garden next weekend.

However. Into each life. After dinner on Sunday, Wayson read some pages of the memoir, the new stuff I thought finally might be working, and had some harsh words for me. Not going deep enough. Too flat, cool, distant. Reporting not recreating, summarizing not showing. Etc. etc. etc. It was brutal, and it hurt, especially when he said that with this memoir I might be flogging a dead horse. A dead horse – just what I wanted to hear about three years of work. I need to stand back, take some distance, work on something else for a bit. In any case, luckily, I had already arranged to send a few of the new pages to Colin Thomas, my editor in Vancouver. I hope he’ll be able to give me some perspective.

So, up and down, but mostly up, very up. I am proud to announce I’ve become a major killer with the saucers I put down in the garden, not of milk for kittens, but of beer to murder slugs. When I come outside and see the saucers full of little dead slugs, happy in their beery death, I feel triumphant – basil, tomatoes, saved from their munching jaws. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.

This does too: