Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Check In


OK. So there's a first reader delay of this novel to the end of the month. October 31st it will be ready. Today went well. Some days haven't. Noise. Diggers to be specific. Land that has lain fallow beside my property is being clear cut and shovelled away. Huge tunnels are being burrowed all the way to China. Ready for a monster home and monster shed. I grieved the trees. Hundreds of them massacred. There's no land use legislation out here on the edge of the Atlantic. You can do what you want. Changes need to be made. Obviously. And I will make them. Or, you know, die trying.

And the noise level? My dears. Some days were worse than others up there in the Tigeen. But today, I keep focussing on today, it was a very good day. I flayed the prior challenges, got ruthless with excess, trimmed the dialogue, expanded other sections. Cried. I cry at the sad parts. Always. And croon along with Ella to the happies.

Now I'm reviewing all the notes, all the workshop scribbles, all the annotations I made on the public readings I did of the chapters. This is the dog work. And the little envelopes and index cards with quick jottings made on planes and trains and boats and in cafes? Use. Discard. It is chaotic, this final stage.

And I do hope the noise will abate next door. It is not conducive to scholarly and intense perusal. Ha!

Thanks for hanging in there with me. Especially to my first readers.

I think to myself: If I didn't write I'd go mental.

Seriously.

My alternate universe keeps me sane.

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Sunday, October 05, 2014

On hiatus

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Saturday, October 04, 2014

Taking Down the Scaffolding Part 2


See Part 1 here.

By scaffolding I mean memories. Pieces of the memory banks no longer shared with the participants. And my friend Allen held a chunk of joint memories.

I met him and his family through his sister, Judy, a dear friend. But I'll back up even further on the lives of the Butons (last name changed to protect their anonymity).

They were staunch Quebecers. And in that gifted way of most Quebecers spoke both English and French fluently.

The first tragedy in their family befell them when Judy was 13, Allen was 15 and their baby brother, Michel, was 3. Their father went off to hunt in the woods one Saturday morning and killed himself in their cabin with his own shotgun. No note. No reason. Just a legacy of puzzlement and grief and anger and despair.

Their mother, Cecile, had to go outside the home and find work just about immediately as Papa had left them virtually bankrupt.

Allen worked part-time to help the family and also attended college for a business degree and then started up his own small company.

He then married his high school sweetheart who had sustained him during the crisis of his father's death.

There was an economic meltdown in Quebec in the eighties (most Quebec based English businesses and head offices moved to Ontario during that period due to the enforcement of the French language by the language police).

It broke the Butons' hearts to leave their birth province but they did. The impact of so many corporations abandoning Quebec for Ontario put Allen's own small business (an import/export) in jeopardy so they "jumped ship". Successfully as it turned out.

To be continued.



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Thursday, October 02, 2014

Taking Down the Scaffolding.


I don't know whether anyone else feels this way. Like any time a friend dies there's another piece of their scaffolding taken down?

Maybe I'm weird that way? But I imagine that if I started out as a building, mine would be a higgledy-piggledy one, bright colours, odd windows with a bit of a tower (for reading) and a grand piano in the foyer with a solitary lamp. I saw a hall like that once when I'd run Forest Hill at night in Toronto near where I lived. I loved that house with its stark meaningful space in an otherwise busy home.

I have lots of doors, French doors, a half-door like an Irish cottage, a garden door with a shelf. a storm door like the real one I have out front, especially built for me by a craftsman recently. For battening down the hatches.

My building is always under construction but never finished. Held together by beautiful scaffolding. Mixed colours, blue, red, purple, bright silly green, laughing yellow.

And when there's a death of a loved one, a chunk of scaffolding detaches and there's a slight upheaval in the building, maybe a tilt to the right or the left or a subsidence. A couple of bricks falling down or a window popping out.

My scaffolding just had a major chunk taken out of it. No, not my Irish friend. This one took me from left field and I'm still processing.

I will write about him when my breath comes back and I can do him justice. He would never have thought he was a hero. But he was to me.

My building's at a weird angle.

I need to take time to shore up the foundations.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

The General Dumbing Down of the Human Race


Grumpy Geezer Gripes.

I give you this:

Pods. Kuerig machines et al. Coffee Pods.

It seems like everyone's into da pods.

Did you know that pods, environmental harm be damned, increase the price of your pound of the most expensive java by THREE TIMES. Yeah, 3 times. Plus disposing of those little cups into the landfill/ocean/air. Take your pick. Because: Nothing is recyclable. Think about it.

And on to washing machines and dishwashers.

Pods. More than twice the price of your regular cardboard box of detergent when you work out the poundage and load usage(always overestimated in the pods -h'm I wonder why?).

And they all need spiffy containers of their very, very own.

And oopsy! they poison children because they look like candy! And yes, elders beware. Because grandchildren!)

And premeasured lotioned arsewipes in a pop-up plastic box for those disdaining toilet paper. Septic system or stinky garbage can or sewer-ocean disposal? - take your pick again.

Like some of us can't be arsed to measure our coffee or detergent or toilet paper.

Or have lost the ability.

Or we're so far into idiocy that we're more to be pitied than blamed.

More grinding nasty labour for the Third World.

Less thinking for the so-called First.

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Irony


It's odd this. But I have 3 places to stay in France. Free. And other distant places too, truth be known. And I can't afford the travel costs. Not just the airfare, though that would be a bit of a slice of money. But travelling around once I reach the destination. And food. And wee giftees. It all adds up. Until I have the bestseller. Ha.

Then another friend has decided to spend her fortune when she retires renting exotic places around the world for a month or two and then inviting her close friends to visit her and stay as long as they wanted. All they'd have to pay are their airfares and then head for Patagonia or Hong Kong or the Outer Hebrides where she'd be. Food and shelter provided. Again, I have to laugh. Airfares being a huge chunk of change for this pensioner.

A beloved niece sent me a lovely note about her upcoming wedding. Advance warning. A year in fact. To please be there. I'm going to try. I'd like to be there as I'm extremely fond of her. As I am of all my nieces.

The more I read of elders' writing (mainly solitary women, but some men) the more I realize how many of us are impoverished. Dreading expensive dental work or intensive house repairs or increases in rent or a new car. On the edge of financial catastrophe so to speak. Travel is in the class of bon-bon, a frippery.

I'm not complaining, in case you think I am. Not at all. I have my health, my writing and the odd wee fee for workshops, etc. And my knitting. And my photo-cards. And my books. And my darling Tigeen with a bonus of some rentals thrown my way.

And I buy the very best coffee beans. Always. One thing in my life is simply not negotiable.

Luxurious living is all in the mind.

And excellent coffee helps.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Blog Friends


Over the years I've made a few good friends through this blog. It's extraordinary this world of the internetz and webz isn't it?

I've exchanged personal emails, offered and been given support and meeting some in the flesh too has only affirmed the on-line friendships. In every single case. Remarkable that, yeah?

Yesterday, in the mail, I received a gift of handmade soaps from a good blog friend in the USA. No further identity will I provide to maintain her privacy.

Beautiful soaps. Something I wouldn't normally buy as they would be a bit out of the old league, price wise.

I'm thinkin' I must knit her some Newfoundland dishcloths.

Thank you lovely lady!

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Story to Dine Out On.


My brother tells this true story. Every time I think of it I burst out laughing. Now, you might have to be Irish to get the humour in it but I'll take my chances as the story truly deserves the light of a bigger audience.

Bro is an engineer and would travel a lot up and down Ireland. You might think being an engineer would be an awful bore of an old job. But no. It had its moments.

He was up in the backside of Mayo one day and was running out of petrol and he found this old shop off the beaten track with a petrol pump outside and pulled in. An oul fellah came out, a dirty, greasy oul fellah and filled up the car.

"Where would I get a bite to eat?" sez Bro, noting it was well past his lunch time and he was starving.

"Ah, sure, I can take care of yez," sez Yer Man.

So Bro follows Yer Man into the shop which reflected the condition of Yer Man himself. It hadn't seen a duster or a wipe down since God was an altar boy.

"I'll be fixing yez up so, a good thick sammich," sez Yer Man, hauling out a big round of brown soda bread and slapping it on the filthy counter. Next, he retrieves a huge slab of ham from somewhere and Bro notes it is crawling with bluebottles (big flies). Yer Man then goes into a drawer and selects a rusty, dusty carving knife and with a flourish pulls out a filthy rag from his back pocket and proceeds to wipe down the knife.

It's at this point in the proceedings that he catches the appalled look on Bro's face. Completely misinterpreting the look as approval for how well he's conducting his lunch preparation, he says proudly:

"Arragh I'm a hoor for the hygiene."

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Jazz Writin'


Charlie Parker.

Diana Krall.

Ella Fitzgerald

Peggy Lee

Thelonius Monk.

Oscar Peterson.

Today I was up in the Tigeen writing some complicated dialogue that needed to read well and effortlessly.

Normally I just listen to the sound of the ocean, its distant soughing on the stones of the beach, trees sighing and rustling around me, birds flitting mindful of my privacy.

But today I tried a jazz soundtrack in the background. I created a playlist for the book I'm winding up. My protagonist is a jazz singer in the style of Peggy/Ella evolving towards Diana. And I wanted the rhythm of jazz in the talk. If that makes sense.

And I was surprised.

It worked.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

September Month


First blasty winds of winter scoop down today, shovelling leaves from trees, flattening the blades of grass to a green ocean, scattering the cornflowers.

Shoulds crowd my head. I should make rosehip jam. I should paint the spare bedroom.

Oh yeah, and deadline for first readership lineup of book looms ever closer. I should be editing, should be fixing that last chapter.

But I worry. Next door they are burn-clearing a hill. Smoke hangs like a pall over everything and then gets scooped up by the wind and filters through windows and doors and lurks, gasping, over the bay until the wind snarls it up again and throws it against distant houses.

What if?

I run to the post office to send back some library books. So I don't have to look at the flames licking the vast hill about 500 metres from my house. But I smell it even 5 km away.

Yeah, they ran hoses across my property as a precaution. I gave them permission for this. But the fire starters/carers are about 12 years old. How would they know anything about flame-killing if the trees catch? Or maybe it will leap across the grass over the fence and on to my house?

Anxieties.

Now unfounded.

Day is done.

The winds are intense and noisy but warm.

I will take the dog for a walk along the shore. As is our wont at this time of day. I love watching the waves pound up the cliff on the other side of the bay and then fall back exhausted.

Much like me.

Worrying about nothing knocks me right out.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Intensity


When I was growing up emotional extremes were a defect of character. As if I could change my intrinsic nature. Even though at times I wanted, badly, to toughen up.

Yes, I feel life too intensely. And my feelings are often worn on my sleeve. Or shut away so tightly (you might see the real me, you know) that it hurts.

Like those quilts in the wake-room. All hand created by my friend Patricia. Thrown over every surface, every chair. Every piece of scattered fabric in her life tied together so beautifully, so creatively. Colours of the land and the ocean and the boats and the wonderful drenching of colour that residents flood their buildings with. All you had to say was "I wish I had one of your quilts" and next thing, she was on your doorstep with one.

Picasso is honoured. Why aren't these handcrafters of such beauty so respected? Women's work of course. There should be many female only art galleries, flooded with the colours of the creations of artists like Patricia. With knitting and embroidery and weavings and crochet and lace. And many, many quilts.

It seemed like my floodgates opened today. I had been locking so many tears inside me, for what seemed like a month or two.

It was Jennifer Johnston who started it. I am reading "The Gingerbread Woman". And it struck chords. And more chords.

Life is about loss, isn't it? Mainly the loss of what went before. What formed us. What ignited us. What sustained us. What we leave behind. She writes of this like no other I've read.

And I had myself a really good cry.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Humble Heroes

I wrote about her here she's one of those dear ones locked in my heart who will forever inspire me.

Today she lies in her casket up in the wake-room of the church. I haven't visited yet. Though I will. The finality of death is never more enforced than in a wake-room with an open casket and yes, I'm deferring the moment.

She was a dignified, pretty woman who kept her light under a bushel. Always superbly dressed even in a tracksuit for her road training.

"Hush," she'd say to me when I'd congratulate her on yet another Tely 10. She hated being in the limelight.

She had 9 children, all university graduates. Her husband was twenty years older than her and died in his nineties. She would speak of how wonderful he was. It always brought back my granny's advice of being with a man twenty years older: "Better be an old man's darling than a young man's slave." And Granny lived it also, being married at 18 to a man of 38.

Patricia hated being alone and could never understand my desire and choice to live in such a manner.

"I was born lonely," she said to me more than once as we played cards, "From then on I always wanted company".

Rest in peace, Patricia.

You never did believe me when I told you that you are one of my stars.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mind Control


I'm up at the Tigeen. Replete with deadlines. Replete. What a great word. Let me think about that for a minute or two.

I say to Leo a few hours ago as he shoots up and down the back 40 7+acres - please bring up a few logs to the Tigeen, it's a fire lighting day and I'm nearly fresh out. Leo nods, agrees and then ignores me. He does this a lot. I have to accept it. On his own time. And here he is now.....

As I pondered the shortfall of wood for the wee stove I thought: I have a lot of old wool there, I should knit a carrier for wood. Wool and wood. With a long wood handle. Open ended. Something to design and make up here when my muse, Scriobhnarin, flees. As she has done.

Knitting pushes the writing around, fills my head with fresh thoughts and approaches. I need to read, edit, add notes, descriptions, fill in the voids of symphonic phraseology(!). Attempt lyricism. Knitting plays the counterpoint to this.

And Sister gave me a brand new knitting bag when I was back home.

As if I don't have enough already.


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Monday, September 15, 2014

Lemony Prune Mouth


I have to watch myself.

A dear friend maintains that as we get older our character defects become more emphasised and more entrenched.

Evidence corroborates.

If you're messy and cluttered the habits get worse as the energy dissipates with which to deal with them. The debris piles up in the face of decreased desire and perhaps a lifelong ennui. Whatever the cause.

I have to watch my inner judgemental self .

Particularly around drunks.

I was at a dinner party Saturday night. I should have left earlier than I did. Before it descended into loud arguments and hot debates and facets of friends that turn antagonistic/weepy/belligerent/ridiculous. Take your pick.

None of them will remember any of it in the morn. But I will. Alone in my rigid sobriety. Apart from one other. Who also engages in these mindless debates. He hosts and can't go to bed and leave his living room to an iffy scenario of mess and slop.

I sometimes have difficult with timing. Part of me doesn't want to desert the sinking ship of drunken debate and leave him alone on his island of sobriety.

And for a while, before the ocean of booze tips everyone into incoherence, the chat and food are enthralling and interesting.

And then.

Timing is everything. I can't seem to assess the best time to leave.

I think: I can't believe these people, all in their sixties, still behave like frat boys/girls when it comes to booze.

And I feel my mouth prune up and inner tut-tuts bang around in my head.

But I do manage to escape before the spliffs get passed around.

Not that anyone notices.




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Friday, September 12, 2014

Over the Edge and Into Laughter


Seriously. My house is a construction zone. Grit covers my floors, my windows have been semi-replaced (11 of them), wet paint hangs off doors and foundations, thingies are propped open or shut. Bins of debris surround the house, abandoned scaffolding lines the deck. The only living beings who enjoy this mess are the blue jays who patrol the railings and dive bomb the bird feeders. And that's just the front of the house.

At the back of the house Leo is sawing wood for the winter. He treks up the hill into the woodlot with his noisy ATV and trailer and drags down logs and chain-saws them into stove-shapes.

And then: friends I haven't seen in 10+ years show up from Ontario, I'm very easily found on this island. Ask in most shops on the Avalon Peninsula and you'll get excellent directions. Normally I don't mind and this has happened a few times in the past.

But today? It was a chaos of hammering, stamping, banging, sawing, dragging, accompanied by indoor window fixings, dust flying everywhere and debris crunching underfoot.

On top of all this, Ansa watchdogged like a mad thing trying to keep track of all the invaders and barking while protecting me by sitting on my feet and glaring and sniffing and yapping at Those Who Dared Enter the Holy of Holies.

Timing? Sweet Jeebus. Couldn't be better.

And speaking of Jeebus.

My friends had found Him a few years ago.

And wanted to share the Good News.

It was then I broke all the way down and laughed and laughed like a lunatic.

A tonic, I tell ya, a tonic.


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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Whatever happened to wearing the world like a loose garment anyway?


I can't seem to settle into my own skin.

It's been hectic since I got back, workers still crawling around the house, municipal matters piled up while I was gone now scream for attention and the plans for finishing off Book 3 and sending it around recede into the background. I don't think my brain could cope.

Yeah, I'm living in chaos.

On top of that my android phone appears to have been stolen while I was gone. The wee shelf where it lives and sucks power is bare. Daughter hunted high and low while she was staying here. As did I when I returned. That leaves me feeling queasy.

Dozers and other machinery tear up and down next door building monster summer homes for the sons of the local merchant.

Discombobulated is what I am. Restless and irritable. And anxious. About what I couldn't tell you. Pileup it feels like.

This could be seasonal, or it might be the noise and banging around me not to mention the crunch of scrapings, dust and debris underfoot. Summer people are now leaving for warmer climes and that makes me sad.

Oh yes, good news in that a play I submitted to a St. John's theatre is being "considered" for production.

And no news on the artist's grant I applied for.

I can really see now how elders/artists living alone make a monthly choice between food and heat.

Seriously.

Nudge: To the Universe - grant, please, now. I need this grant!

Then it will be loose garment time.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Conversation


My friend is home.

First telephone conversation with me after all she's been through:

"I'm only on the phone with you because you're so worried. I'm not supposed to be on the phone at all. You're the first phone-call. Now. Relax. I am perfect."

"But the surgery? The recovery? The prognosis?"

"Listen to me, I am perfect. My doctors say that I am in such great physical shape I can have the chemotherapy at home and have six weeks of radiation in the hospital in conjunction."

"I can't believe how you're sounding."

Laughter.

"I'm eating like a pig again, all lovely foods, I'm being spoiled I tell you. They all run out of the house and get exactly what I want. Like a 5 star hotel."

"You had me in bits - and now listen to you."

"Listen: I went all through this before with the breast cancer and I had so many other stresses in my life, remember the trouble I had with Daughter at the same time?"

"Yes, you got through that and no flies on you."

"And right, this time is perfect. I am older and no worries and this is an absolute doddle compared with then."

"Well, not a doddle....."

"It's a perfect doddle. So stop all the fuss. I am perfect."

Yes, ma'am.



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Sunday, September 07, 2014

Update

I am still processing a trip back to my home country.

A trip which started with an enormous shadow cast over it.

A shadow which crept into every aspect of it, which had me telling extended family members or close friends as I sat down to table or met them in cheerful places:

"I'm really, really sorry if I appear sad and distracted. It's not you."

And then I would creep off stage to take or make a phone-call on my Irish mobile.

My very best friend, my friend of over 60 years (how rare that is, a friend from kindergarten, from everything and everyone important in one's life who knows all your secrets and you hers)was sick when I arrived. Doctors had thrown anti-depressants at her, she wasn't eating, her brain wasn't functioning, her balance was precarious. This I saw when I arrived.

I was shocked, appalled, frightened. She is a livewire, had completed a marathon in June, was on the Irish bridge team, formed her own successful book club and was a host, along with her husband, of salon type gatherings of interesting, wonderful people, one of which she'd planned for me the following night.

The wheels were set in motion from that point. Immediate medical attention from other consultants if necessary.

Within days, she was under a surgical team of 4. The brain tumour was huge, 5 centimetres. And they didn't get all of its evil tendrils as it would have impacted her mobility and intelligence.

And I haven't written about it until now, even my personal hand written journaling of the whole scattered time of it brings me to tears.

I am frozen in the processing, something inside went numb and scared and can't get up.

I don't know what her comprehension is of what is going down. Only her husband's. He is being so brave and positive for their adult children but lets more of his bewilderment and loss and fear out with me.

To say we are stunned is to put it mildly. To say we are lost for words when words are lost to us seems trite.

The magnitude is incomprehensible.

I can't imagine my life without her, without her cheerleading, without her daily emails, without her chat. Without her, my glorious, wonderful friend.

I had thought to stay on in Ireland to dither around the edges of the pain and loss and helplessness.

I thought long and hard and alone on this but decided against it. Our usefulness can often be more helpful in the simple carrying on of our own lives.

Pretending everything is okay.

When the heart is shattered.



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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Nasty Job

My house in the throes of massive repairs and painting.

There is always one nasty ugly job in my life that I keep putting off and putting off.

Almost like sticking my head into a bush with my bum sticking out thinking no one could see me. Don't laugh. I had a dog that did that. I'd be calling her: "Tara, Tara!" and she'd head for a bush and hide and I'd have to laugh, watching how she'd let her bum hang out and tuck her tail around it and lie perfectly still. She was always amazed when I'd stick my head in the other side of the bush and go "na-na-na I'm smarter than you!"

But I digress. Today I was in my office up the road all morning. I want to put a park in our town. With a BBQ pit and nice benches and maybe a stretch of boardwalk on the shore.

But that put-off nasty job in my house? it kept jumping into my brain.

It's like this: I get infested in my utility room with ants every July and put down bait and spray and powder and eco-friendly solutions (baking powder and icing sugar mixed 50/50), etc. And all this takes place behind a freezer and all over a window where they get in and down from the ceiling where there are gaps (old wood ceilings and I do like them, the ceilings, not the ants). And the mess this year, people?

Do you know that ants cart off their dead for they have their very own graveyards near wherever the hell their nests are? Yeah, they do. But this year I killed so many I imagine I must have been lucky and killed the graveyard attendants plus the funeral corteges and the mourners too. So the massacre sites on windows, in poison buckets and behind freezer? Beyond imagining

This avoidance had to come to an end. I am leaving for Ireland this Friday and I thought the job is too awful for Emma, my twice/month cleaning treasure to deal with. There are limits to demands I can make on her or on anyone else for that matter.

So I had to bribe myself. I talk myself into doing deferred nasty jobs. I have been doing it since I was, like, 4.

"I will make you the best BLT in the world after you finish this. Homegrown Swiss chard, lashings of crisp bacon, home grown perfectly sliced tomatoes AND some smoked salmon, and yeah, okay, cream cheese on - wait-for-it - 12 grain artisan bread from the best bakery in the world. Toasted to gold."

And rubber gloves, bleach, buckets and vacuum to hand I did it. And I only came close to gagging once.

And I was so proud.

And the sandwich? Heaven on a plate.

Bribery sure works on this wuss.



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Monday, August 18, 2014

Confluence

I'm applying for an arts grant. A few pennies to throw food on the table as I write WW1 scenes for this novel and edit it and wind it up. Yeah it's work, it's a struggle, but when it goes right, I'm in my bliss. And no, there's no daddywarbucks in my life. Just me on a fixed paltry income.

I've already assembled my team of First Readers, except for maybe one more. If you'd like to be on it, drop me a line, see email addie on the left side of the blog. October 15th is my deadline to release to the team.

There I've said it. October 15th.

Anyways. I'm here today, with pictures and details of the Battle of the Somme, careful graphs of dates and ages. Ritz Hotel in Paris in 1970. Etc. It's intense. I saw the inside of the Ritz once. 1965. Close enough, right? unless they made changes without telling me.

And then, sweet Dog, the work starts on my house. Not simple work understand. Complicated banging, scraping and unfolding rotting foundations work. So much so that the dog crawls under my desk and whimpers, "Sorry I can't defend you against these ravening hordes. Sometimes it's just all too much for me. I'm old, see."

A simple scrape and slap on the paint job is just not happening. Rot. Old doors. Damp buildup. 11 window panes need replacing. Fresh new lumber trucked over from the lumberyard across the bay for part of the foundations. Banging, did I talk banging? And how do I afford this add-on horror to the original barely manageable financially job?

And I think as I write: this is nothing. Imagine those WW1 trenches.

And no, I can't go to my Tigeen. There's a 3 foot drop outside my back door. Into mud. I am moated with extreme sound effects while I summarize my 75% completed book begging for a measley arts grant.

And you think you've got problems.


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