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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Deep Thoughts

I'm avoiding deep thoughts.

I'm in the land of specialist care which can be very alarming as more pills are added to my daily stash of ingestion.

It's best not to think about it all, yeah?

This latest fellah, lawd so thorough, serious of demeanour, so strict, so no-nonsense. Laid out my life for me just so. Pleasantries were cast out like he was on a diet and was offering me crumbs. Ireland. Israel. Accountancy. Lifestyle, was, is and future as prescribed by Himself. Strict, abstemious, measurements taken 4 times a day. Exercise de rigeur. And see him, again, with my daily journal on June 1st.

One of those times when Daughter said to me a few days before this meet-up: I think I should go with you, Mum. No, sez I, it will be just a consult. I don't need anyone with me for a consult.

Egg on the face time. More than a consult, there were liquids taken from every part of me. Measurements, files read on the computer, tapes dictated in front of me. "Patient presented......". No place to run, no place to hide.

Apart from a good cry in my car, alone, I processed it all over a few days, and I came to the conclusion: Yes, I have to restrict my diet, add the meds I fought for so long, knuckle down. Grow up. Fly right. And pay attention to Bob Newhart. I can do this.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

My Vanishing History

Who validates one's personal history? As long as there are some co-conspirators in the world there is an affirmation of some kind. But suddenly whoof and they vanish. Even though you mightn't have seen them in years and years, there is a fresh hole in life's tapestry.

I worked for a man yonks (35+ years) ago. He was self-made and proud of it. Started out as a shipper and bought the company and then expanded it into a diversified multi-billion dollar enterprise, still ongoing and successful.

I learned a lot from him. We were roughly the same age, in our thirties at the time. Did a lot of drinking together. He was a fierce womanizer. But not with me. I could put on an "off limits" thing quite well and he wasn't the type to harass to get his jollies. More the opposite. Women would throw themselves at him as he was quite attractive. Movie stars even. He was involved in the entertainment business among many others. Many was the time after work we would have dinner together. I got to know him like a brother. He always wore a shirt with two pockets. In one was a list of his assets, in the other was a list of his liabilities and over dinner we'd talk about the financial statements and he'd make minute adjustments to these index cards. And I'd talk for him at meetings with our financiers as I didn't think it a good idea for him to extract these cards from his pockets and have the important bankers sneer at him. Later on of course he didn't give a damn what anyone thought.

He was the most intelligent person I've ever worked for even though he never, to my knowledge, cut a book open. A grade 10 education. His hobby was his business. He told me it came before anything else, family, love, relationships of any kind. And it did. He was driven. His friends (male) were all driven. At the time, being treated like a "friend" by him made me realize I was probably the only close female in his life he wasn't sleeping with. He would freely talk to me about his women and the problems he encountered when they found out about each other. Which was frequently.

He was generous to a fault and rarely got mad except when his business associates betrayed him.

I could write loads more, it would make you shake your head in disbelief as his life was truly stranger than fiction.

He died yesterday. Liver cancer. A multi-billionaire living in the safety of Nassau.

I dreamed of him last night which was odd, I hadn't thought about him in forever. We were having dinner in the lobby of some hotel and he was wearing Armani. And I was in jeans and a sweatshirt and we were talking intensely as we always did. About yachts. He owned quite a few.

An extraordinary man. An extraordinary life.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Sea, oh the Sea


I can't tell you how breathtaking it is here at the moment. Crystal skies, matched by the ice crust on the edge of the ocean which has its own private language for me alone as Ansa and I walk along beside it. It whispers and nudges and squeaks and squeals and shoves. Quietly. Ansa's back end keeps needing a rest. And that's fine by me. Ambling and pausing is delightful. And sea gifts. I picked up a pine shelf on the shore. I thought it would fit a window culvert in my house but no.

I've worked my library stint. Socialized with a few. Drank another coffee and then embraced the day outside.

I can forgive winter a lot at the moment. This magnificence can't be captured by any camera, it is so very perfect. All our snow has been gone for a while. And spring beckons. I sense it. I can weather another winter storm with this promise in the air.

Renewal. Redemption. Reinvention.

And yeah, I'm reminded of this songs, nailed by the Dubliners.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Power of Nuance

I was at a birthday party today and I'd been thinking about nuance and how it's all in the observation of others that we pick up on the small things, the little examples of bravery or surprise. And how memories are triggered. It was a surprise party and the "surprisee", my BFF here in Newfoundland, was genuinely surprised, shocked really, when the whole community came out and offered up food and presents and cards and love. It was a very big deal to organize it, all done on FB with her name not included in the closed list.

There was an old mate there who was back on the bottle. He passed behind me five times and each time said: "I love your hair, I have to touch your hair!" I am badly in need of a haircut (damn winter!) so it's gone a bit flowy down the back. I thought, knowing drunks as well as I do, just keep thanking him, get irritated and he'll go all shirty and debate your hair and/or your attitude with you, so that's what I did. World War 3 avoided, all dignity preserved.

There's this priest I'm quite fond of. He's out of Donegal and pushing 80. And he sang this song about a 60 year old lap dancer: "Who had to do it for a living, husband dead you see, and with money shoved down her pants, a happy gal was she." And many more verses in that vein. Off key, if there ever was one to begin with. I've given you the most printable verse. I watched my fellow partiers as he sang it. 50-50 between the thigh slappers and the utterly appalled.

Joan couldn't sing today, she's normally on keyboard and has a great voice and huge repertoire. Her husband who plays guitar and accordion with her sang with two others, one a blind from birth woman. Joan's had terrible surgery and I sat with her for a while and she lifted up her top and showed me her bags which were tied to her body. She explained how they were applied with glue and tapes and caused terrible allergies, a rash all around them. I surprised myself by not feeling nauseous. All I felt was enormous compassion and I was so very glad she felt she could show me. It must be an overwhelming urge for some to share the degradation and horror of one's cancer. I hugged her and told her about D**** my close friend who died this past August of the same thing. Joan said she wanted to hang on till March when her first grandchild is expected. I do hope she makes it.

There was some dancing, some more singing. I harmonized for a while with "Sloop John B" which brought me back in time when I taught my mother the words and melody to it as we sat in the ferry going to Cape Clear for the day and we sang it in counterpoint, laughing for the perfect sunshiny day that was in it, the slap of the ocean on the sides of the ferry, the water sparkling around us. No, not the Beach Boys' version but The Weavers. Mum and I loved The Weavers.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Fusion Cookin'

I amuse myself greatly at times. I was whiny tonight, didn't want to cook my dinner. But I pretended I was on teevee, and I've always loved it when I catch one of those chef shows. You know the ones with sparkling marble counters and spotless glass bowls. And all the ingredients laid out just so.

So I got out the glass bowls and chopped up the veggies all separately and put them into the bowls. Onions, sliced like a fingernail carrots and celery, perogies out of the freezer, sun-dried tomatoes, gluten free tiny pasta and a good stock (I always save my veggie and fish water).

And I played some music and talked to the imaginary camera as I cooked. A nifty soup and crisp on the outside cheesy on the inside perogies bathed in a sour-cream and Irish chili sauce mix. Nothing like anyone else would make. Ever.

I forgot to take a picture as I fell on it when it was ready as it was so late. Oh my. To die.

I'm ready for my close-up Mr. DeMille. I think the name of our show should be:

"Things you never thought you'd eat together."

I'm an expert.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Bed Socks & Bottles


It was bitter last night. That's how my father would describe a cold day in Cork when it hovered around 1 degree Celsius. Last night here? It was -5C but that "RealFeels" sticker, because of the high winds, had it at -17C.

Electricity costs a fortune here so alternative energy supplementation ranges from propane to wood. I have wood in conjunction with electricity in the upper reaches of the house. To use electricity exclusively would see me in the poorhouse or not eating. Ever. The plight of many senior women living on their own doing an eke. My ongoing gig as writing instructor sees the fees I collect weekly from that paying for another load of wood next week. Local economy at its finest. Black economy too. It has to be. The guy who is presently lumbering my wood and is cutting and cleaving it, was laid off from his iron ore job in Labrador and is eking too. He had to return here, at the age of 50, to live with his mother and subsist on a union pittance when his EI ran out.

When one gets cash out here on the Edge, it is socked away and never sees a bank. We all do it. Chatting with a banker in town, I discovered that he does it too - on the QT. Collect cash for banking advice on the side, disburse cash to handyman for new bathroom. We all live under the table to a huge degree. And none of us live extravagantly. I hated myself when I had to go to online Walmart for free shopping deliveries but I had no choice. Funny how we can preach for years but when the wallet is thinned right out we have to bow at the altar of the corporate enemy. But I do shop local too. I love my wee local grocery store.

But to these elder arms, nothing beats coffee and dog-food and flour and sugar and paper products in bulk delivered free right to my door.

Which brings me back to the title of the post.

My mother would send me off to bed on cold nights or with a tough period, warm, with a hot water bottle, especially knitted bed socks and a crocheted bed jacket when I was a teenager.

So last night? Under the duvet, I reverted to these comforting items.

Toasty, warm and safe from the howling blizzard outside.

When many aren't.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Creative Non-Fiction

Annie Moore (January 1, 1877 - 1923) was the first immigrant to the United States to pass through the Ellis Island facility in New York Harbor. She departed from Cobh, County Cork, accompanied by her brothers Phillip and Anthony, aboard the steamship Nevada on January 1, 1892, her fifteenth birthday.

I decided to enter another competition. One of the promises to myself this year was to keep 'er at it. I find competitions sharpen the writing, making the reading and editing eyes more focussed and the ears more attentive (I always read my own work out loud).

This is a new genre for me. Creative non-fiction. I'm at the age where mulling is a skill I've resurrected to an art form. Now that I've lived long enough to have the time to think and savour and relive some memories. So this piece of my life's memoir is about my emigration from Ireland, the reality of all of that, the multiple layers to the story as I boarded one of the last emigrant liners out of Ireland way back in the late sixties, a time of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and folk music. I travelled with my guitar and entertained on board, informally. My hit piece was "The Butcher Boy" I'd have everyone join with me in the last chorus:


Oh, make my grave large, wide and deep
Put a marble stone at my head and feet
And in the middle, a turtle dove
That the world may know, that I died of love.

A jolly young folksinger was I.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Life in my Village - a snapshot.

I never need a tracking device because people find me. All.The.Time.

Case in point was today where I was conducting a writers' workshop. In the middle of it, Roger, our old postmaster (he had a rather stupid tussle with a Big Gun at the main post office in town and lost the service) called me out of it with one of those secret agent beckoning fingers along with a shhh on the lips. As he is also the honorary fire chief, I thought it to be an emergency of some kind.

"Drove all the way up here, couldn't find your car anywhere near your house (story of my life out here) and then I had to hunt you down," sez he, "I had a courier delivery for you, huge box - come down and get it, I can't lift it."

Ah yes, when a snowstorm hits, I order groceries by mail, free delivery over $50. Great service.

Assuring him, yes, I'd be down later not now, I resume the class.

On wrapping up the class an hour later, and locking up the building, I notice a jeep with one of our elders in it, obviously waiting for me.

"Ah yes," sez Mr. Francis through his lowered window, "Finally! I've been waiting for over half an hour. I had to track you down!"

"What?" sez I, "Another delivery?"

He looks at me baffled. "Ah no, no, girl,(it's always lovely to be called a girl when you're an elder yourself and he or she is 16 years older) I've been worried about the ice dams on your house, I took the liberty of checking the outside and I'd sleep easier if you could have an engineer look at it, to make sure there's no structural damage after the melt, know what I mean?"

It has taken me quite a while to get used to these invasions at all times, no matter where I am. Coming from cities (Cork, Toronto)it's all part of my adjustment to rural living. Everyone knows where you are and what boxes lie in wait for you and what's happened to your house, your family or your dog.

I wouldn't go back for anything.