Saturday, March 25, 2017

a new woman

It's Saturday March 25 and your faithful correspondent has had ten hours of sleep and a huge breakfast in the hotel, with chunks of the most delicious bread in the world, a lot of coffee and the French television news - there's a vital election going on here. And hooray, Trump goes down to one more defeat. The sun is shining tentatively, and the world awaits. I'm off soon to meet Lynn, my best friend for fifty years - is that possible? - at the train station, and we'll go to the apartment she has rented for us in the Bastille. Is this real? Am I really here? One minute I'm in my kitchen looking at sparrows, the next, in this ancient city devouring fresh crusty bread and reading "L'Officiel des Spectacles," an 170 page booklet of everything that's on in Paris THIS WEEK.

On my list: seeing friends, the Fondation Vuitton museum, the Vermeer exhibition at the Louvre, several other museums, and a shop or two. A meal or two. A certain amount of pleasure.

This, however, taken Friday afternoon in the conservatory at Allen Gardens, is who I've left behind:

Friday, March 24, 2017

jet-lagged afternoon walk

 Montparnasse's La Closerie des Lilas - one of Paris's legendary places for writers. Click to enlarge.
 Luxembourg Garden and its palace with Eiffel Tower peeking through. The sun had vanished and it was cold and damp.
Statues, vistas, and flowers everywhere. This is in Luxembourg Garden; he's a Greek actor learning his lines. I cut off his head to get more flowers. And below - always have to go see her first day, so I'm sure that I'm actually here. Yes, I guess I am, because there she is. Be still, my beating heart.
 Someone, at some point, said, let's build a little ol' fountain to celebrate St. Michel on the Boulevard St. Michel, and this enormous thing resulted.
Ranunculus - my favourite flowers, all over the place.
If I lived nearby, I'd go here every day to get the patron's wine recommendations.
My dinner tonight - at 6.30, the only person in the restaurant, of course, as my eyes were drooping shut - a fantastic ramen place nearby. Perfect for the exhausted stranger on a cold night. With a beer! Wine starts tomorrow.

And now - it's 7.10. I've made it. A quick shower, a sleeping pill and I hope tomorrow I'll be my usual perky self.

the eagle has landed

Sitting in the window of my hotel, tiny hotel, tiny room, noisy street below, but it's one of my fave places in all Paris. They know me, I've stayed here briefly 4 times, and it's my 'hood, the 5th, the Latin Quarter. I'm so woozy I can't think straight, but my face is in the sun as I sit at the window and type, and that's what matters. After a hideous night of no sleep, I have to keep myself awake till about 7 Paris time; then I take a sleeping pill and will be on the road to recovery the next day.

God I love this city, the elegance, the vast array of riches on display - fruit, cheese, wine, chocolate, all my favourite things. Elegant people and shops. Also dog shit everywhere, still!, homeless people camping on the street, beggars. It's spring - cherry blossoms and daffodils, the trees in bud or green already.

The flight was, in a word, horrible - on time, efficient staff, but ye gods, it's unpleasant in Air Canada economy. I was hoping for an empty seat next to me, but there wasn't an empty seat anywhere on the plane, the seats are small and hardly recline, it's a kind of torture for seven long hours, no sleep, sitting squashed and upright. But that's the price we pay for Europe.

At the airport, a small victory for moi. The Parisians like to torment their newly-arrived guests; when people go to the station at the airport to get the metro into Paris, the best and quickest way to get to the city, there are machines to buy your train tickets, and thousands of confused tourists lined up in front of them, taking forever because they don't understand. Is there anyone around to help? Of course not. But the last time I was here, two years ago, I got a round trip ticket when I went to the airport to go home, so I walked by the giant lineup, fished out my ticket and got on the train. Oh boy did I feel savvy.

I got to the hotel and went out again for a bite to eat on the rue Mouffetard - sat outside with a coffee and a quiche, then went to my bakery for a pain au chocolat, the taste of my childhood time in Paris. Wandered, seeing which stores are still there and which are not. But I can't write more now, my brain is a fuzzball; I am literally dizzy with fatigue. I'm going out again, over to the Boulevard St. Michel and the Jardins du Luxembourg, just keep myself walking until I collapse.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

almost gone

9 a.m. Canadian scene #2642: sparrows on my deck pecking at the last little patch of snow, the garden a vista of green, grey and brown, but so much life waiting beneath. When I get back April 23, it'll be starting to burst.

I'm more or less packed; my suitcase weighs 32 pounds, but that's with some gifts, including children's books for the small people I'll be visiting and a heavy pot of peanut butter for Lynn. Son Sam came over to say goodbye and is asleep upstairs; later I'll meet Anna and the boys, have lunch with all my nearest and dearest. Yesterday, the English conversation circle - Nurun, Foyzun and other new friends. Then Carole's class at the Y, a gathering of old friends, some I've known nearly 30 years, sweating around the gym. Lunch with Ken, who at 81 is as lively as anyone I know, though with a big scab on his head from a melanoma cut out recently. I told him I'd been to the shrink and the doctor, so had taken care of my body and mind. "And now," he said, "you're going to France for your soul."

This morning, waking up in my room with its row of framed portraits facing the bed - Beethoven, Matisse, Colette, Paul McCartney, my great-grandmother Anna, and other notables. My British grandmother's sewing basket, my childhood books, my mother's teddy bear Donald Leonard Brown and her china doll Janet - the comfort of beloved artifacts, of familiarity. Tomorrow morning, I'll be groggy at the end of the long flight, about to emerge into adventure, glad to leave responsibilities behind for a few weeks - house, tenants, children and grandchildren, students, editing clients, garden, conversation circle, Y, piano lessons, and all the rest (though not writing). Just me in the wide world - with, of course, a computer and smartphone, my Canadian life a finger's touch away. Thank God.

More sparrows have discovered the snow. This I will not see in Paris. My flight doesn't leave till 9.45 tonight. It will be a long day.

So my friends, my dear bloggees, I bid you farewell. Hope you will come along for the journey - Paris with Lynn, Provence and Montpellier with Denis, Nice with Bruce, and a week in London alone though with a visit from Penny. Not a bad little jaunt for an old bag.

Onward. Or as they say in the country with the cheese, En avant!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Another stunning day - a girl could get used to this. People outside in shirtsleeves. I just ran into JM and Richard, who said, "How can you leave weather like this?" Oh, but I can. Or at Pierre Elliot Trudeau once said, "Just watch me!"

Had a tuneup and a check-up this morning, the first with my shrink, whom I see now once or twice a year to touch base, let her know how I am, get advice - she's the ideal mother, calm, accepting, and completely trustworthy, and she knows me better than anyone on earth. Today we were reminiscing about my visits to her during the early days of the divorce, when I was a terrified, depressed, unemployed single mother of two fairly difficult kids in a falling down house. Things, shall we say, have changed. Thank the good lord.

Then to get myself checked out with my GP, a wonderful tall woman with big feet, also rather like my mother, only also supportive and trustworthy. We talk about having big feet a lot, as she pokes and prods. All seems well so far. Fingers and toes crossed.

End of the Ryerson term last night - another very interesting group. Today a bunch of emails I will post here because they say nice things, so why not? Obviously, the people who didn't like the class did not send notes. The first is from a young woman who's getting married in April and announced that she's coming back to take the course again in September.
I LOVED the class. It's one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I didn't feel a burning need to tell a secret story, but just wanted to find a creative outlet and I have always loved to write. It's such a great forum. Going to take the summer off and enjoy it, but can't wait to start up again! 

You were so very genuine in your approach without babying us. You have a wonderful sense of humour. I will miss my Monday nights and look forward to reading your memoir when it is published. 

It has a been such a wonderful experience sharing and growing through your wonderful class. Thank you for creating a supportive environment where we could all feel free to share - it has truly been a liberating experience.

Good to read these as I sit in a patch of sunlight, with my laundry drying outside on the deck.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

la Boucanerie Chelsea

My Aunt Do is truly amazing. I don't think there can be many other nearly-97-year olds who live alone in their own apartments, taking care of everything themselves except for a caregiver who comes in once a week, to drive her to get groceries and clean. She doesn't want help with anything, because she thinks doing for herself is what has given her such staying power. And I guess she's right. 
It was such a stunningly beautiful Saturday that I said let's go for a drive, and once in downtown Ottawa, I realized where we should go - to my brother's shop, la Boucanerie Chelsea in the Gatineau, which he bought a few years ago and Do had never seen. It's a wonderful place where he brines and smokes salmon,  sturgeon, and other fish and sells all kinds of gourmet treats. We had a tour and left with a bag full of goodies which the security guys at the Ottawa airport had a good time with today - what's THIS on the x-ray machine? A big chunk of hot smoked salmon. Mmmm.

Do and my brother Mike.

I took her for dinner afterward as an advance birthday present and actually got her to drink a small glass of red wine, as we talked, of course, about family. She said, heartbreakingly, that she felt her mother didn't like her, starting at birth because she was a baby with a lot of black hair, and then later, not as pretty and smart as her sisters. That is, smart in a different way that wasn't recognized by her parents. She has struggled all her life with low self-esteem. But now - she wins! She's the last one standing. Go Do go!

This morning I did my usual walk in Britannia Park - another brilliant sunny day. So much crunchy clean white snow. Love this sign by the beach.
Now, a few days left to get myself together, to NOT get the cold that's trying to invade - both Anna and my tenant Carol have bad colds - and to somehow blow this pop stand. At this stage, it's always hard to believe it's going to happen. But I have the distinct feeling that it will.

Friday, March 17, 2017


Okay, getting close to crazy time - leaving in less than a week for a 3-week jaunt around Europe, including the metropoli of Paris and London - one incredibly chic, the other almost certainly cold and wet - and the south of France which is chic and warm, and to visit my friend Denis who is the furthest thing from chic and will want to go on hikes up hill and down dale. What to pack? No idea. Underpants and socks, that much I know, and an umbrella.

I know you do not want to hear me whine. So I won't.

The big news is that I let the latest draft of the new memoir out of my grasp, shoved it into the grasp of Colin Thomas, my editor in Vancouver, who has allotted me a couple of days in early April. I had to send it - I was fiddling, obsessed, many hours, as Oscar Wilde said, taking out a comma and putting it back in again. I know it's better than it was, but I suspect it's still not good enough. I read good writers and despair, and then I hear myself adjuring my students to buck up, and try to do the same for myself. What a crazy business. Have I said that before? Met for coffee today with dear friend Rosemary Shipton, master editor and founder of the hugely successful Ryerson publishing program. We both marvelled that the writing business is falling apart, almost nobody makes any money, and yet writers and publishers are more numerous than ever.

On Tuesday, Uncle Sam brought his nephew Eli over to hang out at Glamma's house. What a treat, two of my 3 favourite men on the planet, the third being somewhat smaller. Sam made a big spaghetti dinner for the 3 of us and Wayson, my fourth favourite. Eli looked around the table and said, "There are 2 young people and 2 old people." And I said, "If you want to be invited back, watch your tongue." LOL.

On Wednesday, the conversation circle in Regent Park - it's thrilling to meet women who normally would not cross my path and will change my mind about a lot of things.
Four of these women are from Eritrea and Bangladesh, two from Canada, and one an immigrant born in New York City; several who wear niqab had left already. One is holding a poster about the fight for the $15 minimum wage. Another had 8 children by the age of 28, and then her husband died. I am learning a great deal about other ways of looking at the world.

Tomorrow I fly to Ottawa to take Auntie Do out for dinner. She will be 97 in a few weeks and I'll be away. But I'll be able to bring her favourite Neal's Yard face cream back from London.

Here's a hilarious video about a new tranquillizer that we all need. Cheers.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Etgar Keret, my new crush

Huge moments of pleasure on a cold and snowy day: this morning, looking out at the all-white landscape, and there, an impossibly scarlet cardinal and his pretty brown and red wife, pecking at my feeder. Later, talking with my Vancouver friend Nettie Wild, staying here for the weekend, whose film Koneline for some incomprehensible and unjust reason did not win Best Documentary at the Canadian Film Awards on Sunday night, but who was there and had stories to tell before flying home. And cheesy though some of it may have been, as I watched the awards on TV, still, the Canadian diversity celebrated on that stage was impressive - black actors, Asian actors, First Nation actors, Quebecois filmmakers speaking French, Christopher Plummer who is as old as time and still magnificent and very funny ... Rick Mercer talked about the phenomenon of Canadian humour. "It's one of our greatest exports," he said, "between canola and asbestos."

Tonight, a great class at Ryerson, coming home ready to snack on the superb goat cheddar by Black River Cheese, from Maddoc, Ontario, I've recently discovered and had taken out of the fridge, ready for my palate. To discover that Carol, my tenant and friend, had made turkey-vegetable soup and left a note for me to help myself. A bowl of soup, a glass of wine, a large slice of sourdough bread and cheese, and a beautiful, hopeful op-ed by Timothy Egan in the NYT, seeing light in our dark time, while the snow glistens outside - all I can say is yes. Yes and yes and yes.

On Sunday, I went to the Toronto Reference Library, their fantastic program of writers being interviewed, free tickets, to hear the Israeli writer Etgar Keret.
I very rarely look at a man and say, Please come home with me. But I said that to Mr. Keret. Unfortunately, surrounded by his admirers, he didn't hear me, and in any case, he's happily married. Aren't they all. It was a fantastic interview, funny and wise. He told us he is the child of Holocaust survivors and spent his childhood making sure he never caused any pain to his mother, who'd had too much pain in her life already. So, he made clear, his devilish side, adventures, rebellions, all had to be carried out on paper. I've heard many reasons for becoming a writer, but that's one of the most interesting. He told us his wife asked him once why there are so many unfaithful men in his stories. He told her, would you prefer me not to write about it and actually BE unfaithful? He said that though he adores his wife, of course he meets women and fantasizes, and then immediately goes and writes a story, and that's that.

What a guy.

I've ordered his new memoir, Seven Good Years, from the library, and look forward to reading it when I get back from France. OMG, should not have brought that up. Panic. I have to get ready, and there is too much to do.

Friday, March 10, 2017

the bamboozle

It's cold again but sunny - winter for the weekend, then back to spring. Where am I living?! Crazy old Ontario with its crazy climate. These days I'm buried in lists, trying to get my life ready for export in two weeks. Just bought a new suitcase, that's a big step. It is so good, so very good, to feel my energy returning, my lungs healing, my own self returning.

Yesterday, a follow-up ultrasound of my left breast - they were concerned six months ago about some nodules. As she moved the wand around, I could see the screen, see those pesky nodules lurking in there. Scary. But it turns out they've not moved or grown, and I am officially not to worry any more. So that's that. Cost to me, you poor foolish Americans: $0.00.

Sad but true, this bon mot below explaining the people who voted for Mr. Disgusting the charlatan and continue, despite everything, to support him:
One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It's simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we've been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back. 
-Carl Sagan, astronomer and writer (1934-1996)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Kedi - Istanbul hearts cats

It is a wet, very mild day, and for some bizarre reason, Mr. Disgusting is still President of the United States. But otherwise, life goes on. I spent the morning at Sick Kid's with Anna and Ben; he was having his foot checked at the Club Foot Clinic. It's perfect, though he will wear his boots and bar at night for another 4 to 6 years. But his little foot, bent completely sideways at birth, is perfect now. Let me tell you, if you ever want to feel profoundly grateful for what you have in life, spend a little time at Sick Kid's. We met a little girl who must have spina bifida, encased in a plastic cast from shoulders to hips, proudly showing the orthotics maker her colouring. We saw wheelchairs, pale faces, bald heads, IV poles. Nothing, nothing in this wide world, nothing at all matters as much as healthy children.

Ben is a happy boy. He is very small, unlike his brother, and doesn't talk much, but he signs. He knows the signs for MORE - his favourite - and that's enough, and I love you. Be still my beating heart. We spent hours Saturday at the AGO with both boys, including a great exhibit on the 5th floor with films that Eli could watch and plastic doors Ben could push through, and then lots of time in the fabulous playroom. Something for everyone.
Sunday night, Richard and Wayson came for dinner and to watch the last episode of "Victoria" and then "Feud," about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford making Whatever happened to Baby Jane. It shows how hard it was to be a female star in that era - that those women more or less had to be monsters and/or drunks to survive. It was well done, but I won't watch it again. I just don't care enough.

On the other hand, I went to see a documentary today that made me care very much: Kedi, about - yes - street cats in Istanbul. It was wonderful to see that fantastic city again; about ten years ago, I spent more than a week visiting the city with my young Turkish then-boyfriend. My God, that seems a lifetime ago. An incredible place. I did not notice then how many street cats there are - thousands, apparently, fed and cared for by citizens. The film explores the bond between animals and humans, the very special qualities of cats. One man says, "Cats have a special awareness of God. Dogs think human beings are God. Cats know that human beings are merely intermediaries." It's a beautiful film, highly recommended.

Got another nice note from a student. You understand, in the absence of a spouse who'd appreciate hearing these nice notes, I share them with you. I hope you don't mind.
I always enjoy class but I was able to listen to your advice very closely on Thursday ... not just advice for me, but for everyone. It was so damned good! You are a fine teacher Beth and you continue to teach me so much. It's something I will never take for granted. I am a lucky broad! 

And so am I. 

And my friend Piers Hemmingsen, who was at BeatlesFest last weekend, brought a copy of my memoir along and gave it to another Beatles author. She wrote him on FB:
Sara Schmidt Piers Hemmingsen it is always nice to see you. I have been reading the book about the girl in Paris (Started reading it on the plane) and I love it! Thank you so so much!
UnlikeReply25 hrs
Piers Hemmingsen Sarah somehow I knew you would like that book ... in her book "All My Loving",  Beth Kaplan takes you right back to being a Paul fan circa late 1963 and early 1964. It is a great trans-Atlantic Beatles story and I hope that you can recommend it to your readers.
Thanks, Piers.

For your laugh of the day ... I love this!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Elke Town

I've just heard from her husband, the artist Robert Fones - Elke Town died this morning at 11.15. Elke was an extraordinarily accomplished woman who worked for decades, at Telefilm, TVO and at the company she founded, Storyworks, to nurture screenwriters and their film projects. She was acutely aware, hip, on the ball, punctilious, with a very sharp mind, great taste, and a dry sense of humour.

We were part of a circle which met regularly; I didn't know Elke well at first, but she was a friend of my old friends Suzette Couture and Jessica Bradley, also extremely accomplished, one a TV and film screenwriter and producer, the other a curator and dealer of modern art. Amazing women. We used to get together several times a year to eat and drink, gossip and jabber about esoteric subjects and about our aging minds and bodies - memorable gatherings, sometimes with another old friend, Isobel Harry. Through the years, Elke read various iterations of my books and manuscripts, always with something succinct and terrifyingly right to say.

One evening about five years ago, we were all at Robert and Elke's pristine house near Roncesvalles; she'd prepared a fantastic feast from the Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook, but, she told us, something funny was going on with her legs; they seemed to have a mind of their own, and she didn't feel as strong as usual. Before long, she was given the worst possible diagnosis - ALS. Devastating.

Within a couple of years, Robert and Elke were forced to sell their house and move into an apartment, where gradually, we visitors saw the transformation in our dear friend and in the place itself, the washroom renovated to make it possible for Elke's wheelchair to get inside. Supported by a team of caregivers provided by our government, Elke continued to work until the last months, writing her own screenplays and also reading other people's. When I visited, we never talked about her illness, her increasing lack of mobility; she wanted to hear about films, books, music, TV shows. We'd talk just as we did when she was a fiercely productive screenplay consultant, editor, and writer, and not a tiny, frail woman in a huge wheelchair, struggling at the end to keep her head upright.

Elke Town was in her late 60's. She leaves her husband Robert, her daughter Chloe, and many friends and admirers. You'll be much missed, Elke my love. Thank you for everything you gave us.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

my usual winter travels

Sitting in my office, angled so the hot hot sun pouring in is beaming on my chest and not my face. Get those healing lungs in the healing heat. Soon, off to the AGO to meet Anna and the boys. Whether they look forward to the art or to the delicious macaroni and cheese in the cafeteria I don't know, but it doesn't matter.

Got this welcome note yesterday:
I had the pleasure of taking your class last fall at Ryerson while I was pregnant with my son. Now that I'm a mom of two my time has been limited in terms of when I can write, but I did find time to work on and expand some of the stories I developed in your class. In fact, I just got word that one of my stories will be broadcast on CBC Radio's The Sunday Edition!

I wanted to thank you for helping me get my creative juices flowing in your class. The story I wrote was actually the last story I submitted for the class.

Always happy to hear a student success story, especially from a woman coping with two small children and still finding time to write and even harder, to submit. Brava!

Re our planet, I'm getting to the point I can't watch any more. On Bill Maher last night, the environmentalist Bill McGibbon talked about all the massive destruction Trump's team have already perpetrated, in only a month - toxic waste in rivers, cutting environmental regulations, selling guns to crazy people. And then they talked about how Trump will start a war to distract critics from the Russia scandal and the rest. I feel like a lemming, being forced by my fellow lemmings to jump off a cliff, when I really, really don't want to. Too much to live for. But these Republican lunatics are determined that we shall all die. 

So, to focus on something cheery: In 2 1/2 weeks, I leave for my annual winter get-away. Last year I went to Vancouver; this year, lots of travel. On March 23, I fly to Paris, where I'll spend one night recuperating from jet lag in my favourite tiny hotel and then on for a week to the airbnb apartment in the Marais my beloved friend Lynn has rented for the two of us. She has work there so will be busy during the day and we'll spend evenings dining and jabbering, as we have loved to do since we met in September 1967 - nearly 50 years ago. Then I'll go south to spend a bit of time with her husband Denis, recovering from cancer surgery, in their homes in Provence and in Montpellier. And thence to Nice for a few days with my dear Brucie. 

An Easyjet flight from Nice to London, where I'll spend a week on my own, except for a few days when Penny comes in; we've already bought our theatre tickets. Lynn's son Christopher, who lives in central London with his family, is going away for Easter and has kindly offered me their Marylebone flat. So I have a place to stay free for almost my entire week in London, which makes a huge difference, not just financially, but for feeling at home, cooking, being able to get away from the frenzy of that insane and marvellous city. I hasten to say that the trip includes work as well as pleasure - doing some research on places I mention in the memoir, including a visit to the L'Arche community I worked at in 1979. It's always valuable to look at work, at stories, a great distance from home.

I know, incredibly lucky! Then, for more excess, I fly home for a week - see my grandsons, take a piano lesson, unpack, do laundry, repack and set off again for two weeks in Vancouver. The annual Creative Non-fiction Collective conference is May 5-7 there, so I'm going early to stay in Brucie's apartment again - he'll still be in Europe - and see my Vancouver buds. I'll also go to Gabriola Island to see Patsy and then have a solo adventure on the west coast of Vancouver Island - have rented a place on Chesterman Beach by myself for two solitary days of beach-combing and thinking. What a jump, from Paris and London to Chesterman Beach. Heaven.

And then home, to start teaching immediately - 3 courses - and plunge back into real life. The garden will be ready to go, and the Conversation Circle, and So True which will need lots of work in only a month to get it ready for June 4, and everything else. I'm also being audited by CRA and having mammograms and have doctor's appointments and all that stuff. Life. 

Here's to life! Much better than the alternative. Here's to that sun penetrating my lungs right this minute. Onward. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

So True is so NOW.

At the So True readings on Sunday, my friend Ken chatted to the woman sitting next to him, who said she was from Saskatoon and had read about our show in NOW magazine. I thought there must be some mistake, but there it is, in NOW, under Theatre Listings:

SO TRUE (Socap): Eight diverse writers tell true stories w/ Beth Kaplan, Jason Allen and others. Feb. 26 from 3.30 to 7 pm. $10. 2nd flr. THE SOCIAL CAPITAL THEATRE.

Times are wrong but otherwise - wonderful. I guess the theatre must have sent it in, because I didn't place it. Anyway, heady fame must feel like this. Surely vast fortune is not far behind.


Good news on another front - my New York cousin Lori, a theatre hound who has seen everything, just saw "Come From Away." She loved it - "I cried all the way through." That bodes well for its future. Go, little Canadian show, go!

This morning at our conversation group, I learned that all the women from Bangladesh are in arranged marriages, and that's fine with them, there wasn't a single complaint. Of course, maybe we don't know each other well enough yet. They spoke about what they missed from home, besides their families - one said it was the smell of the tea plantation next to her home. Yes, Canada is the other side of the planet. The chatting is wonderful. I am making a whole new group of friends.

Tonight, a fundraising run-fit class at the Y. Just about the last thing I want to do, but will go briefly. Still am not back to myself. It will come. Helped by the fact that it was 17 degrees today - and 6 in Vancouver. We are them and they are us. Long may it last. Sorry, Chris.

P.S. Back from my run-fit event with aching legs - could hardly do anything, but at least I was there. Just wanted to say, for those of you keeping track - remember the 4 pounds I lost during the worst of my pneumonia? Well, I'm happy to say they're back, settled comfortably around my belly and hips. Welcome back, guys. What took you so long?

When I came home, my son had cooked and left me this - salmon brochettes with noodles, leeks and other veg in a complex sauce with things in it. Have not quite figured out what yet. My reward for years of hard labour as his mother.

Today was the warmest March 1 on record. Ever. We'll take it.