Sunday, July 31, 2011


This anonymity thing again. How can I post pictures? See?

But they are on FB for those of you who are also my FB buddies.

Behind the scenes can sometimes be a nightmare, invisible to the audience, and we did have a really good taste of that last night. Delays, curtains gapping, misplacement of the props and bits, slippery floor from the humidity, but all challenges were tackled and vanquished. And of course all is usually serene from the front of the house.

Feedback, for this, our second performnce but in a far bigger venue, was wonderful. It could be that this is the start of something terrific in a fresh theatrical genre. Time will tell. I certainly have loads of ideas and a marvellous troupe who couldn't be more talented.

Thanks for all your support out there in Blogland!

All dreams are possible.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


I took this shot last night of the empty theatre: most of the tables had been set up for the meal tonight. After dinner is over then the chairs will be arranged as a regular theatrical environment.

It was a dress rehearsal of pitfalls and laughter and challenges. New curtains-stage lighting person, spotlight technician had to work from the left rather than the right, sound technician couldn't be there. Ironing board set-up in front for last minute touchups to gowns, etc. One cast member disappeared completely and missed her cue while she changed far too late for her appearance in a distant washroom. We thought she had fallen down somewhere and were organizing a search party. And the instrument/keyboard in a different setup, etc., for our music director had its own glitches .

But we had a beautiful freshly built dressing room ready to be checked out

Our most dependable cast member forgot both his solo and his lines and steadily got worse much to his increasing embarrassment and our helpless laughter.

But you know what they say, an awful dress rehearsal=good performance.

Oh my, let it be. We are all mad with excitement and trepidation!
And PS Strawbella still in the hospital. Fog impacts the plane carrying her auto part.

And I truly want to believe that latest story from Mr. Ed.

But meanwhile, I am a coddled Miss Daisy being grandly driven around in automobiles far finer than my own.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

So I'm not laughing...

Day 4 without my car and stuck in an outport. Good times. Walking with the mail to the post office. And back. Friend took me shopping yesterday so stocked up on fresh fruit and veg. Another friend picked bakeapples for me.

I am out and about exchanging greetings with others who have never had a car and take this in stride. Not that it's far. But this sorry arse says business mail is heavy, etc., and then the dog. Well the dog is so well trained now she has a nap as she waits for me outside. A car is such a privilege. Let me remember that.

My new best friend Ed, the mechanic, was quite snarly when I phoned him yesterday to ask for an update. He said he'd be the one to call me when the car was ready. I downgraded him to one step above enemy.

Took on Bell Mobility and the slow decline of highspeed on my turbo stick. Told them it was prevalent all through the area as they love to blame:

(1) your computer - I have 2 and internet service is terrible on both
(2) Upgrade the stick - which I did and service got worse
(3) You need a new SIM - which I did and ditto.

They told me if I can get enough people to call and complain then they would actually check the tower.

Fawlty Towers. Yeah. My sense of humour smacks of of desperation.

So I went activist and posted on FB for local users to call the number and maybe, just maybe, we will get served what we are paying so dearly for. Monopolies, I hate them. And Bell is terrible to deal with here. Arrogant, over-charging and complacent gougers.

And oh yeah, the play is sold out again for Saturday night.

It's a huge hall so it's a case of "oh me nerves".

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What, Me Worry?

Another in the ongoing series of sunsets from the porch, taken a few evenings ago

A small irritating thing can go wrong and it will drive me crazy, stressed out, yelly, snarly, not nice.

But a whole accumulation of stuff can happen, I lurch from one catastrophe to the next and I just laugh and say: OK, Universe, what else can you throw at me, see if I care. I will NOT surrender.

I was out and about yesterday taking some lovely shots as The Bay was at her best when I get back to the car and she starts up as she normally does but the gears don't engage, they slide slackly in their appointed track but nothing happens. Ends up I walk for miles in the blazing heat to the post office and call CAA who tell me they will have to send a flat-bed from the sounds of it. Which they do, several hours later, my being at the back of beyond 'n all. I wave bye-bye to Strawbella, who has never let me down quite this badly in all our years together. Today my new best friend Ed calls me to tell me not a part can be found in all of Newfoundland for my baby (a gear cable) so he arranged for it to be flown in tonight at a cost of $15, did I mind. The cable itself is, gulp, $470 + labour + taxes + air freight.

Soldier on, sez I.

One of our cast members did not show up at a crucial sound rehearsal on Sunday night (we now have a professional sound man but his time is limited as he is also involved in another ongoing production) and as our next venue is huge and just about sold out it was crucial she be there. Efforts to get hold of her have all come to naught and WE HAVE NO UNDERSTUDY. Performance is a few short days away with a final dress rehearsal the night before.

I heard Gordon-the-Gift was in town but has gone away again to his contract in Labrador and never came by to fix what he so badly effed up in The Tigeen.

Our theatrical troupe has also been asked to perform the play (with a deadline for answer of early this week) during the month of September for a festival and can't access the venue to assess it for space, sound, set placement, movement, etc. and THEY WANT AN ANSWER NOW.

A client downloaded one of her files to me and crashed my system here. Oh, six times. Eating my time and shovelling away at my temper.

Other clients drop in today and the lawn is overgrown, great imagery. Leo had been badly stung by a series of wasps and his reaction is to crawl under the covers and cry and forget the mowing. A reaction I totally respect, and well if the truth be known, envy, as what one of us out there wouldn't like to do the same thing if life ain't going our way but being grown-up we grin and bear it and carry on. More fools us.

And I haven't cracked. Here I am writing my blog and looking in the larder at all the hidden things we keep for emergencies when we can't access a grocery store.

Did I mention there isn't a car for rent anywhere on the island? Bloody selfish tourists.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Chili Con Carne Recipe

Picture taken today up the road from here.

A few of you asked me for my world famous chili recipe. This one serves 4 (and rather well!). I often double the recipe and freeze in single servings as it freezes beautifully and the flavour gets even more intense.


2 cups lean minced beef
1 cup dried kidney beans
or 2 cups if canned.
1 onion, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped.
2 large carrots, sliced very thin
1 large can crushed tomatoes.
2 tbls chili powder - cut back on this if you don't want it too kicky.
1 tsp of smoked paprika - this makes all the difference.
1 dash of Maggi Seasoning

Soak beans overnight if dried and rinse well before using.

Brown meat along with onion in large pot. Throw in everything else. Stir well. Cover and simmer for as long as you can. 5 hours is good.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream on top or some shredded sharp cheddar, with nachoes or brown soda bread or mashed potatoes.

Bon appetit!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Only Upside to Housework

What kind of music do you listen to when you're alone? I mean really alone and you can turn the music up as high as you want (sans headphones, natch) dance, wiggle the hips, shake the booty all through the house, join in, descant, sing chorus, take a bow to the (imagined) thunderous applause of an ecstatic audience and shout bravo or brava to your heart's content?

You don't?

Oh my, you don't know what you're missing.

You do? Please share the music with us.

OK I'll go first: I have a playlist called “Housework”.

I only play it when there is a long list of tasks inside the house to be accomplished. Some simple, some involving lots of chopping of veggies or baked stuff to prepare or cleaning up of messy kitchen and catastrophic bathroom, making up guest bedroom or other procrastinations. Company coming is the best reactive kick in the arse I need, along with this treasured playlist which never fails to motivate me.

I do not share this playlist with anyone else. And I do not play it in my car or at any other time. It is a reward I give myself for doing stuff I don't particularly want to do at that particular point in time (because I am still three years old when it comes to housework, OK?).

OK then. Onto my HOUSEWORK playlist which I did play today because I was a responsible grownup doing the stuff I normally put on the long finger. In no particular order as to incitement to frenetic activity, here they are:

I Love Rock 'N Roll – AC/DC
Get Back – The Beatles
Ma'Tit Fille – Buckwheat Zydeco
It Doesn't Matter Anymore – Buddy Holly
Turn, Turn Turn – The Byrds
You're So Vain – Carly Simon
Smackwater Jack – Carole King
Proud Mary – Creedence Clearwater
Down on the Corner – Creedence Clearwater
Teach Your Children – Crosby, Stills
Don't Go Breaking My Heart – Elton John and Kiki Dee
Marie's the Name – Elvis Presley
Burning Love – Elvis Presley
Roll Over Beethoven – John Fogerty
Locomotion – Little Eva
Satisfaction – Rolling Stones
Shambala – Three Dog Night
Dirty World – Travelling Wilburys
End of the Line – Travelling Wilburys
Cocaine – J.J. Cale
When – Kalen Twins
Closing Time – Leonard Cohen
Mama Can't Buy You Love – Elton John
The Lady is a Tramp – Ella Fitzgerald
Love Me or Leave Me – Nina Simone
Did She Mention My Name – Gordon Lightfoot
From Me to You – The Beatles
Bleecker Street – Simon & Garfunkle
Let it Roll – Little Feat
Fat Man – Little Feat
The Atholl Highlanders – Steeleye Span
Jigs – Steeleye Span
Vida – Del Castillo

Goodbye Elwy Yost!

Elwy Yost was an icon for movie lovers. In Ontario, for decades, he hosted "Saturday Night at the Movies" available on the Ontario public TV network.

It was always a double bill and in between the films he would interview the directors and stars of those films - mostly films from the forties (my favourite era) but often moving into the fifties, sixties and seventies. They provided so much insight into how the films were made, written, shot and cast. His enthusiasm for the films he presented was infectious. This was always part of the charm.

Many of the directors, producers, stars and cinematographers have passed on now but I would imagine the archives of these incredible interviews have been preserved and to my knowledge he was the only film aficionado accumulating such an incredible body of cinematic behind-the-scenes work.

I salute you Elwy, us film buffs will sorely miss you.

You were truly one of a kind and always part of Saturday nights in our house. I am so glad I taped so, so much of all you presented including those priceless interviews!

RIP, my friend.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Simple Pleasures

View from the front door at night through RFD*

Well we haven't had a summer, not by any stretch of the imagination and mine can be very fanciful. My mother would tell me “get out of your own head”, my father would bang on the bathroom door with its toasty infrared heater hanging high on the wall: “are you reading the entire Cork library in there?”
as if these were bad things.

How confusing our childhoods can be. How hard to make the adjustments to reformulate ourselves into whatever we think is right for ourselves. And how simple the pleasures we discover just for ourselves.

We had about fourteen seasons of weather yesterday. Thunderstorms, 30 seconds of blazing sunshine, followed by RFD (rain, fog, drizzle in the local vernacular) and then a greyish pall followed by chill which has clung to everyone and everything since. Snow wouldn't surprise any of us. While the rest of Canada scorches in unbearable heat and humidity.

I lit the wood-stove, put on a pot of my famous chili on top of it and let it cook itself in the cast iron. My chili is a complete meal, served with Irish soda bread, potatoes or nachos, whatever is on hand. I pretended it was a November day.

I met a friend in the leg of the day for chat and catch-up which meandered far into the dark reaches of the night - 2.30 a.m. to be precise which is catching up with me today.

But I stay in The Now, a very good place to be. Because there is nothing I can do about all the minor annoyances and disappointments (and I could count far too many) that could shred my mind if I let them.

Or as one of my good friends says: Stay where your hands are.

*RFD=rain, fog, drizzle.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Smell of Fire - (Final Installment) Part Six

See Part One HERE
See Part Two HERE
See Part Three HERE
See Part Four HERE
See Part Five HERE

There was something so, well, unconscious, about her son, she confides. As if the spirit inside him had never truly woken up. It worried her greatly. He was drinking too much, did I know that? He was so much an outsider in that family. She said that, much the way she'd said Italian in describing her granddaughter yesterday. He was a lonely man, her boy.

She knew of the jibes of his schoolmates and his teachers too, she said. So hard on a little boy. And her eyes filled with tears. No wonder he couldn't wait to get out of school, a man who had the capacity to be an academic. Or a priest. And here she sighed and gripped my hand in both of hers a little more firmly.

I'm not asking you to wrench him away from the signorina, dear, she said, never. You are too spirited to handle him and he too dispirited to handle you. And that's the way of it.

But perhaps you can bring him a little ease? A little comfort to his days? Am I so far out of line here you think me meddling and appalling?

She didn't know it, or maybe she did. But she could have asked me anything and I would have done my best to provide it. Climb hills, ford streams: Martha, just ask.

I shook my head, no, she was no meddler, then I nodded slowly, demolishing the word “pimp” as it surfaced, unbidden, to my judgemental self .

I'll try, I said, I can try.

She didn't have to say it but I could never tell him of our meetings, for they were to gather and grow, little rewards perhaps for my attentions to her son, a cynic might say. But in many ways she was a mother/mentor - expanding upon my own personal vistas with encouragement, attention and connections.

Ian had a lot of free time, opened up substantially by his wife's regular jaunts to Las Vegas.

He would come to me after a bad fire and talk of it, talk of death or rescue, of children and animals and drunks with cigarettes burning or poor wiring and backdrafts and fire alarms and smoke detectors and axes and hoses and mighty red trucks and high to the sky ladders.

He would lay it all out before me, lying there beside me, for even after he showered, the smell of the battle would stick to his pores, drift through his hair, cling to the bed for days afterwards. He would take hours in the recounting of it all until he fell, exhausted, into a mumbling sleep.

And I'd lie there, propped up on one elbow, looking down at him as he slept, marvelling that the only passion he ever felt was in the quenching of the fires of others. And the only passion I ever felt for him was in the smell of it long after it was over.

But it has never really been over, except in the physical sense. Several years into this arrangement I met someone else and I got out of the habit of Ian while still meeting with Martha for dinner or drinks or her latest show.

And I still see her. In an artists' retirement lodge now. Near ninety she is. Alert, engaged, passionate. Teaching the fine points of her profession to any who'll have her. And many do. Wearing her signature yellow. She would not move in with her son and the signorina. It would have been signing her own death warrant and too soon, she says.

I run into him the odd time there. His seventy years looks ill at ease on him. As if he's too old for it, for he looks older than her now. He asks me about my books, my columns, my plays. He tells me as he accompanies me out to my car in the parking lot that he has never loved anyone like he loved me and I believe him.

Some would be flattered by this. But I am sad. For indeed wasn't it a poor excuse for a love affair we had?

And then I remember the smell of fire on him.

And I wonder what I missed.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Smell of Fire - Part Five

See Part One HERE
See Part Two HERE
See Part Three HERE
See Part Four HERE

My room was all the way up in the attics. One small little dormer room, a single bed, a dresser, a cracked mirror, my trunk, that was it. Four stories up it was.

A terrible part of it was the blindfolding. Even though it all happened in darkness. I never knew who it was, you see. I'd get little clues, smells, grunts, the feel of different hands, some soft, some rough, odd scented soap, hair-oils, unshaven chins, brandied breath, garlic from the pasta. I was gagged too at the beginning, but when I begged them not to do that as losing my breath on top of everything else was paralyzing me so much I thought I would die, they stopped, making me promise not to talk or scream or cry out, I just became numb, you know?

I had nowhere to run, nowhere to go, neither flesh nor fowl nor fish that belonged to me in this strange huge city, such a leap from Ballycloyne, Brigid. You would have no idea.

I knew nothing of such acts. Nothing. I thought it all part of the service to the clergy. Doing my duty in the palace. All in a maid's daily work.

I went to his Excellency when the inevitable occurred. He called me some terrible names, if you can imagine. There was nothing worse that could happen to me, I knew that, so I stood up to him. So I did. I had nothing to lose at all. I had no intention of giving up my child so I asked him for ten thousand dollars and I would be no more trouble to him or his friends. That was a huge amount in those days, dear. I suppose it would be over a hundred thousand today. If he didn't give it to me I would go to the police, I said. He made a lot of threats, of course, saying I'd gone down the docks with all the sailors and he knew all sorts of characters, shady ones, that would knife me as soon as look at me, but he gave in. He must have seen something in my eyes. I would not go down lightly.

Cash, I'll never forget the sight of all that cash in his safe in the library. And jewellery too, diamonds and gold and the flash of rubies. My ten thousand was just a drop in the ocean. He piled it all up in front of me and then, a very odd thing, put an envelope beside it with St. Michael's College printed on it. Told me to use it for the boy's education. If it was a girl, he said, spend it on her wedding.

And that was that. Of course Ian is the head off him, unfortunate I suppose, I could never think of him as my son, understandable, I would think? He is so much of his. But Ian is kinder, he's always been such a gentle boy. But oh, so timid. I had dreams for him, but he plays life carefully, narrowly, have you met Signorina Rosa?

Here, her reflective mood shifts and she laughs as I nod.

Can you imagine how she hates being called Signorina?

Her delight ignited my own and we tittered companionably as she held my hand in both of hers, suddenly sombre.

I have a favour to ask you, Brigid.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Smell of Fire - Part Four

See Part One HERE
See Part Two HERE
See Part Three HERE

I phoned her. Of course I did. I said I had to see her again, talk to her, listen to her. Without Ian - that was implied in my pathetic slightly desperate phone-call. I'd never done anything like this in my life.

What in God's green earth, I questioned myself. This is bizarre. This is lunacy. I told no one.

I did run it around my mouth for a while, the story I would tell a friend about Martha Carbery and her son Ian. I practised, complete with careless little giggles. “Oh, when I was over at Martha's there, Martha Carbery? Having tea, looking at her latest works......” I confirmed to myself it all sounded far too weird, far too off the edge. I, normally so talky I would attract attention if I muted up, avoided my friends.

A week later, I was back in her studio, dressed in jeans and a new silk shirt, denim blue to bring out my eyes which I had been told were quite a lovely shade if offered some encouragement. Silver earrings in old Celtic symbols (Newgrange circle) dug out from the bottom of the wooden cigar box I kept such stuff in and my hair bound up in a silver barrette to one side of my face. One of my aunts, the fanciful dreamy one, told me once I put her in mind of Veronica Lake of the forties films, and when I was feeling especially in need of getting attention I would do this sideways thing with my hair as Veronica had done. It is hard sometimes to call out the line between the ridiculous and the attractive. But I took my chances.

I got a brisk nod from Martha when she evaluated me and quickly went off in search of her cameras. When she returned, only an ephemeral trace of the woman that I had seen the previous week remained. As if she had tossed aside the script of the deferential persona that hovered around her son. Here was a woman of certainty and electricity.

She put me sitting on her kitchen table. Leaning back on my hands which gripped the edges vice-like. I was terrified of slipping backwards, splaying clumsily across its insetted colourful Spanish tiles. You see, I wasn't blessed with the grace of a gazelle and often laughed at myself, singing “Poetry in Motion” when I tumbled to the floor whilst attempting a new dance manoeuvre.

She took a series of shots, me pensive, sitting looking out from the well of one of the high windows, me, leaning against a whitewashed brick wall, hands in pockets of jeans smiling at her, so easy to do, she was so lovely on the eye.

Afterwards, when she talked to me, I felt as open as I ever felt with anyone in my life before.

I like you very much so I'll tell you, she said, though I've never told Ian and never will and you mustn't. Do I have your word?

I nodded.

I was a little under-maid, the upstairs maid, in the palace, she said. Do you know the palace in Forest Dale?

Who doesn't, I said, it's where the princes of the churches live, right?

Yes, she said, I was fresh over on the boat from Ireland, my mother had died leaving eight of us. Daddy put most of them into care but I was old enough at seventeen to be put off his hands so he talked to the parish priest who arranged for the trip to Toronto and good training in the palace with the fare being paid off out of my wages.

My job was to lay out the archbishop's clothes every morning and every evening, wash them, iron them, keep them repaired, starch his shirts and his hankies, run his bath, make his bed, change, wash, iron and repair the bed linens and those of his clerical friends who would come and visit and stay for a while. Going from dawn to dusk I was, with never a stop and only the half-day of Wednesday to myself and very little money until the fare was paid off.

It started not too long after I arrived.

Here she paused and gathered herself, straightening her shoulders, clearing her throat.

I've only talked of it very few times, Brigid. Some things are better off lying dead and buried.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Smell of Fire - Part Three

See Part One HERE
See Part Two HERE

How on earth could a vibrancy such as Martha give birth to the carefulness and hesitancy that was Ian?

She must have seen my glance go back and forth between them while we were standing in her vast studio off King Street. You'd never think to look in an area like that for artists. I'd often rushed through it as I drove by. Decrepit, run down, full of rats and criminals and druggies, I'd always surmised.

The soft Irish mist of her voice assured me when I had shared this that of course: this was the whole idea. A secret enclave of studios and galleries hidden away, safe from intrusive eyes in a seedy section of the city.

Her speciality was black and white photography capturing the entrails of the city. Often featuring the beautiful and prominent. The mayor himself cast upon the detritus of his metropolis: sitting, ill at ease, on a blanket on an overloaded skip outside of a demolished building.

It's easy to convince them, she said in answer to my unspoken quizzical look, I tell them it's the only shot of them I'll consider and they all want a Martha.

Her unusual silver grey eyes evaluated me. Her heavy, black (assisted?) hair tumbled around her face. The woman must be near seventy, I thought. I, at 48, felt my own life, as yet completely unlived, heavy on my bones, with my drab grey flannel skirt and tweedy jacket underlying my own sartorial timidity.

Sixty-eight, she said, as if reading my thoughts. It was a month before my 18th birthday when I gave birth to Ian.

She was dressed in a bright yellow pantsuit, with the jacket cut in Nehru style, covering any sins on her neck. Her sleeves were rolled up displaying the hands I had seen on her son. Ian was deferential. I had never seen a son so attentive and admiring of his own mother. She on the other hand, bestowed a careless affection upon him, evidenced by an occasional detached glance in his direction or a soothing “Do you think so, dear?” when he assessed one of the enormous black and white prints hanging from the high ceiling of the studio. It was like walking through a maze to see them all, hung as they were on hooks on the rafters twenty feet above our heads, descending to a few inches above us on black silk ropes, and scattered (as I thought) haphazardly throughout the vast space.

Oh no, dear, she said to me when I mentioned this. There is a plan and a plot to it all.

We went from photos of the tent city on the shores of Lake Ontario to the obscene enclaves of the wealthy in Rosedale as we wended our way from left to right along the pathways of the huge photographs. A journey, for me, through a city I had never seen so intimately.

She gave us green tea in tiny Chinese bowls and kept up a conversation that landed on whatever took her fancy. My career, Ian's upcoming holiday to Ireland to trace his roots (“Whatever for, dear?”), Courtney, her Italian granddaughter (“Is she free of that poisonous man, yet dear?”) all said in that hypnotizing voice of low hills, shallow valleys: tiny inflections, as if all ordinary curiosity had abandoned her years ago, leaving her with only this passion for her art.

I fell in love.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Smell of Fire - Part Two

See Part One here

Yeah, he was lonely. Yeah, there was no sex in his marriage. His only child, Courtney, was in an impossible childless marriage to a cocaine dealer. All of this rang with the familiarity of the old angelus bells at noon. His oddly hesitant honesty blurting out nuggets in the midst of his life's biography. He'd had a superb private education courtesy of his anonymous father. He'd been a fearful child, sensitive to the jibes and jeers of his schoolmates who learned of his unusual status in an era when “unmarried mother” was pronounced “whore”.

He wanted to get into the work force and quickly to avoid further stigmatization, so he dropped out of university and became a fire fighter at 19. He didn't like it, not one bit. He should have been an academic, he said, but the money was good and he met Rose, the cousin of one of his workmates, at the annual ball, she was a bit older and very serious. Just what he needed as he was a bit of a dreamer. Her dad had been a contractor when the vast swathes of the suburbs of Toronto were being built and died at sixty leaving his four daughters to share in a million dollars. Enough to pay off all their houses.

Trouble was, and here he was hesitant and his cheeks coloured in that strangely attractive way, his wife and her sisters went four times a year to Las Vegas and spent. And spent. So it wasn't like he was living the life of Riley in a mortgage-free house. They still did not have quite enough, even with the nephew's repayment (thanks to you, he said huskily) for him to retire. Even though he could buy himself out now and have a pension as he had just turned 50.

Way back, his daughter had been in high school then, he'd fallen for one of her teachers. Much like me. He'd gone for coffee with her and said to her what he was about to say to me. And that was his only attempt at having a special friendship until he met me.

He wasn't in it for sex, he had to make that clear, but he always had difficulty with friendships due to his childhood status. He never got in the practice of it then. And it became an even bigger challenge at the fire station. Friendships, that took poker and baseball and golf, didn't it? Whereas he just always wanted to be friends with women and talk books and ideas and theatre. And that was impossible, working where he was. And then Rose, how could she understand him hanging around with other women without her. She consumed Harlequin romances like candy. One a day. Though he wasn't critical of people's reading. Don't take him wrong. Reading was good no matter the content. But his field of private interest was medieval history, he loved the middle ages. And its music too. This made him an object of some amusement to his wife and her sisters and friends. And even to his own daughter. A strange bird, they called him. See? He never quite fit in anywhere.

That was easy to see considering his parentage. Old fashioned now, of course. Nowadays, one wouldn't bat an eye at a single mother or speculate on an absent father. But then, it was another story. His mother would never tell him or anyone who this ghostly Other was. Up to this day. And then he blurted out:

“You'll have to meet her!”

Now that got my attention. I snorfled into my cappucino and looked at him, licking the foam off my lips. Had I heard him right?

His face lit up. He became alive. I saw the boy he must have been, excited, proud, his hands coming into play (those lovely hands) as he described his mother's photography business. Her awards, her attention to detail, to unusual locations. Martha Carbery. Who hadn't heard of Martha Carbery? I had seen her exhibits, seen fabulous lake shots in local newspapers, seen her series on the old Toronto docklands.

“I'll ask her to shoot you,” he said excitedly, “Oh, she will love you!”

Ahem, said I, once his hands and voice went still and he sipped his coffee, his delighted eyes never leaving my face, what about Rose?

He looked surprised. Startled almost.

“Oh”, and there was an odd sort of relief in him, rippling slowly through his long, rangy body, “Oh Rose and Martha can't stand each other!”

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tell Me A Story {The Smell of Fire} - Part One

He would always come to me afterwards, the smell of the fire still on him.

I was between marriages then. I can't pin down the exact time it started because I knew himself and the wife for a while first. They had consulted me about a loan they had given to her nephew on which he had refused to make any payments. A delicate matter to be sure. But that was my speciality. Delicate matters that caused much grief to my clients and which needed to be fixed and fast.

I do remember the little jolt I got when I first saw him. A big rangy type with sensitive hands and unfortunate hair. Not sad enough to be called a comb-over but edging in that direction. The first time I cut it for him took twenty years off his face.

She was desperately trying to hide her Italian origins and anglicize herself as a second generation Canadian. I saw on some papers she was “Rosa” but she went by Rose. He had been the bastard child of an Irish house-cleaner. Rose informed me of this within the first hour of our meeting. He looked mortified and reddened visibly. She, proudly, was the fourth daughter of the Scarlat family of East York. She spelled it for me. Scarlatti, I surmised privately, tidied up by dropping the extra syllable.

She did most of the talking. She said her Ian would be able to retire early with the repayment of the loan by her oldest sister's son. But there could be no offence given. At all. The Scarlats were a very close family, very good to each other. And here Ian reddened again. I was curious about the careless woman who had given birth to him. But that was all to come later.

The matter with the nephew I resolved to both their satisfactions, so much so that Rose added a small bonus to my cheque. The CFO of the marriage, obviously.

I don't know when he first called. Hesitant. Wondered whether we should have coffee. I declined but found myself speculating for a day or so on the phone call. The why of it. I'd learned about philanderers. I'd been married to one which gave me an advantage and had been propositioned by so many husbands I'd lost track.

He called again, it might have been a week, a month. I could tell you I thought it was more business he was bringing me but I'd be lying to myself and to you. Dooney's on Bloor Street. Far enough away from his home in Don Mills to ensure I caught the subterfuge of it all and with their own roasted beans to let me know he knew his coffee.

He stood when I got there, old-fashioned (in manners only, I should add) men make me weak at the knees, and held my hand in his for longer than necessary. His hands were trembling, slightly. I was flattered.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Blog Jam

Strange this. July 14th and I've lit a fire. I had a client session at 1.00p.m. and thought: the house is freezing. I checked the calendar for the 6th time. Yup. July. Not December. I lit a FIRE.

Having come from Toronto where the humidex+temperature would have my brain fried, this startles me. As to what I hear out of Oklahoma and Kansas, mein Gott, I think, I would be in an asylum.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not unhappy with this weather. Not at all. My body can't abide heat. Put me in the tropics and I stay indoors with the A/C blasting and a good book. All that blistering sun wasted on me.

But seriously, a fire in July? What other surprises does Mother Nature have?

I hear the bakeapples will be ready in about 10 days. My friends watch the blossoms like hawks. We will descend and pick as soon as they ripen. Of the approximately 9 berry seasons here, this one is my favourite. The competition to gather them is intense and secret berry patches are guarded with the ferocity of guerilla warfare.

Meanwhile the green here hurts the eyes along with the wild daisies and irises. Water is grey under matching skies. Summer has completely skipped us out here on the edge of the Atlantic.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Some would call us weird

Daughter does this, you see. We do it to each other, but she really, really gets into it.

We buy books for each other that no one else would. Have a look at the photo, if you can make out all the books she brought to me in her slender luggage a few weeks ago - and you'd have to see the performance as she hauls them out one at a time to my incredulous delight. Out of prints, slender pamphlets, authors I have seen on stage or secretly enjoy.

We start with:

Murder for Fun - about the rape and slaughter of the Beothuk First Nations people of Newfoundland - one of the darker sides of Newfoundland history.

Top of the Stove Cook and Bake Book - yes seriously, baking the Oul Irish soda bread on top of my woodstove, along with other great recipes.

Are you Somebody? - Nuala O'Faolain - I was most upset when this book was not returned to me after about 15 loanouts. It is a re-read.

A Trilogy of Performancea - Sandra Shamus - I adore this woman.

There are Little Kingdoms - Kevin Barry - I have never read him so this is a treat.

Eighteenth Century Newfoundland - C. Grant Head. This will be for a story/play I am researching.

And the best, the very best:

Starting Right with Poultry - 172 pages from the "Have-More" Plan reference library. So I know what to do with the wee chickies when they arrive.

She scoured flea markets and old used book stores for these.

It is what we do.

Monday, July 11, 2011

July Month

{And I post the above graph just to show how USians have been consistently lied to about universal health care costs.}

I remember that expression from my childhood. My grandparents would say "July month", rather than "month of July". And this is the Newfoundland useage also.

There's something poetic about it. To my ear anyway.

I had many medical appointments today, from 8.30 a.m. to 2.30 with a narrow break for lunch. I was sitting in Starbucks with my netbook (I've been having awful problems with the turbo stick and its so-called "upgrades" here at home - don't get me started) so I availed of the chance to post responses to my blog comments, check my email for client payments and my daily email from my childhood friend, etc. when it hit me. As it does now and again. Everything was free, down to the emergency glucose pills for my purse to exercise equipment to books, to consultations - some lasting more than an hour. As in FREE. And not a death panel in sight.

How lucky I am to live in this country, this True North strong and free, I thought. Even though our prime minister Harper (aka Bush-lite) would have it very different given his druthers. And we are all carefully watching those druthers.

When I see in the wee country south of us druthers are being yanked left right and centre as the debt deadlines come marching home with the trillions in treasure blown into the cavernous pockets of the giant industrial military machine.

And with Harper in charge can we be far behind I ask myself as he ramps up the prisons and the fighter planes and gives away our water and mining rights.

So, I'll enjoy this universal health care while I can. And never, ever take it for granted.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Life Lessons

...*yawn* last night's sunset...

I've learned a wee bit over the years. Not much, but enough to sustain me when I feel isolated and alone.

One of the more important has been:

"Those who mind, don't matter. Those who matter, don't mind."

Think about that one. Through the long days of rehearsals through to the debut of my play (and megatons of self-doubt, of course) those who mattered to me supported me in thought, words and action. It meant the world. I think putting one's creative endeavour out there for public consumption is a giant step and not an easy one. Ridicule and dismissiveness and complete disregard can hurt.

I kept focussed on 'those that matter', the kind messages, the cards, the tokens of encouragement, and didn't think about the huge silences from people I thought cared about me. They are there neither in sorrow or in joy. They do not matter in the long run.

Another lesson there, you see:

"How we do one thing is how we do all things."

And I would be totally surprised if past performance did not equal present behaviour so I did not feel let down.

Another lesson I've learned is:

"Never compare my insides to your outsides."

Outsides lie. And lie. My insides can hurt and just because you're all happy-dippy-'swunnerful doesn't mean you're not hiding pain and disappointment too.

A Saturday afternoon and a time for philosophising, obviously. But if these thoughts can help anyone else, it is worth the writing down of it, n'est pas?

Friday, July 08, 2011


My camera: one of Daughter's lovely shots with it(she took 100s)

Well, yeah. Thanks for all the input on Dilemma - I will keep on keeping on, with Facebook as my public persona and my interminable rantings, ravings and blogjams let loose upon willing eyes right here.

Overheard behind me, yesterday: two women (blond, delicately bronzed, mid-late fifties) as I netbooked at Coffee Matters, fast becoming my destination of choice for meaty musings:

"Well, you know, we all bought that place in Provence, remember?, in the seventies, that was."

"How many of you?"

"Well, we all went to MUN here, the six of us. A six bedroom farm house which we all renovated over the years."

"Extraordinary - none of you fell out?"

"Well, we did shuffle around a bit," laughs, "Arthur left Ruth for Erika, and Ruth hooked up with Bill who was engaged to Erika, but it didn't seem to effect the group. Weird at first, but we all got used to it as the cast remained the same with Roger and I the anchors."

"And you're all in the same profession?"

"Yes," laughs, "We're all armchair architects."

Stranger than fiction, this life, isn't it?

Thursday, July 07, 2011


Revitalized School of Art in Cork, Ireland where I took classes in the Sixties

I knew the day would arrive and I anticipated that the road ahead would be clear. But it is as murky as ever.

Anonymity on the blog.

There are a load of you out there in full colour, names and identities in full disclosure. Some who have become friends over my blogyears know my name, of course. Others not. Because I am anonymous I've written about some highly personal stuff. Friendships, relationships, my village, my hometown, my exes, my children, et al. If I were to go public I would have to cull the whole blog. Approximately 800 entries at this point in time. Probably a whittling to half, an onerous task. Or I could start afresh.

This has all come to a head with the play, you see, and then when I was in a shop away from here yesterday and there, on display, was the official calendar of the huge peninsula - voted #1 Coastal destination in the world by National Geographic and in which I reside. The calendar features one of my photos - month of August 2012,thanks for asking. And there is other creative stuff down the pike where the blog publicity would greatly assist (I would think) apart from keeping my blog buddies updated.

I know many of you don't feel the need (or have the compulsion) to blog personally but I find that even though I have other blogs, this is the only one I seem to be able to manage and update on a fairly regular basis. One is my limit. Even though I have the occasional illusion that I can manage 3. Ha.

Have any of you out there resolved this to your satisfaction, i.e. breaking anonymity to write of creative endeavours and how did you manage this? Or even advice as to the best method, etc.?

I appreciate you all so much and this blog and its wonderful readers in no small way has enabled my current success.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Moments in the Aftermath

The two middle-aged women approached me at an outdoor flea-market today.

"You're OSS!" said one in an excited voice.

"Yes," I smiled.

"OMG!" said the other, "We saw your play last night! We both cried, didn't we, Sylvia!"

"Yes," said the other, "And we're both nurses, hardened nurses!"

"You must show this play everywhere in Canada!"

The dressing room. Intermission. One of the cast plays the accordion, another cast member holds out his arms to me. We dance. And dance like wild things to the sound of the music and the applause of the rest.
The mayor of my small town comes up to me at the meet and greet after the show and hugs me, tightly, silently, with his eyes glistening. A remote man, I'd previously thought.
The film director is excited as she talks to me post-show.
"Can you work on a condensation," she says, "I'd like to film it for a short film."
The yellow roses from a dear friend in Toronto. The yellow flowers in a planter from Daughter. The huge gorgeous arrangement of planted blossoms from the cast.
The overwhelming applause. The curtain calls.
I still can't believe it. Seriously. I feel like it all happened to someone else.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Ducks in a row

The whales are in!

The final rehearsal of the play was on Wednesday night and went really well. Daughter was there and she was in tears at the end. Which is a very good thing as it is a sad ending. Our debut on Sunday is sold out. Very auspicious.

The cast is amazing, to see and hear and feel all this talent under one roof gives me goosebumps. And extraordinarily, there are no divas. None. Just this wonderful atmosphere of team spirit and all pulling together in common purpose. And the voices and the harmonies are awesome. Cast members thoughtfully bring bits and pieces to enhance the production. Tapings of birds and sea sound effects. Tiny lights for the piano. A handbag (purse) for one of the actors.

The investment of time and emotion has been huge and everyone strives to bring forth their very best. No matter what, this has been one of the best experiences of my life. Writing and directing this play that has captured us all and given us a common vision and the overwhelming desire to bring my theatrical idea, which started around a long table in a workshop, to fruition.

The ducks appear to be in a row. I've been distracted by the whales coming in. By the invitations to Canada Day celebrations tomorrow. By spending time with Daughter.

I will let all jittery thoughts and opening night nerves fly somewhere else and know that another life dream has blossomed.

And I am astonished. And gratified. And blissed right out.