Saturday, September 25, 2021

Windows

 As in sights out of windows. Memorable sights.

One of my first clearest memories was my father lifting me to a window in the second floor flat where we lived in Midleton Co. Cork. I'd say it was 1946 - I did a dive into the web but no further information on this.

Outside the window down below was this:


I want you to remember this, said my Dad, this is the last night where the gas lighter will come around and light the street lamps! Tomorrow it will be all automatic. I asked him what automatic meant and he explained that there was a switch in a building, just like our wall switches and when it was pushed, all the lights would come on together and not just one at a time. I was amazed.

Coming up to Christmas in 1955 when I was twelve, my father woke me up one night and told me to look out his bedroom window, where the sky was a deep terrifying red shading to orange. A frightening sight. He said it looked like Cork City was burning up (we lived in the spanking new suburbs of it).  Somebody banged on our door, late, and told him it was the Cork Opera house, where I had performed as a "Tiny Tot" tap dancing, when I was about 6.


A few days later we went down to see the ruins.


It was heartbreaking. It was built mainly of wood so it went up like a tinder box. I loved that place and enjoyed the pantos and plays that had delighted me.

Sputnik was a big thing in late 1957. There was a fussy great-aunt taking care of us in our home. I was 14 and my mother was in hospital.

She panicked one evening after sunset as the sky was 'cracking'. And again, I looked out my parents' bedroom window and saw a light travelling across the sky. It subsequently turned out to be the Russian satellite, Sputnik 2, with its cargo of the dog Laika.


I was terribly upset thinking of the fate of this wee innocent dog, though much was made of the fact that it was a stray mongrel found on the streets of Moscow. As if it didn't deserve to live. it still upsets me to this day.

Can you remember anything memorable from the windows of your life?


Sunday, September 19, 2021

I am not my body

This was my morning meditation today. I needed it. I just open the book randomly and there they are, these nuggets of wisdom that I need to embrace to empower my day.

I needed the reminder as my failing body sometimes seems to dominate my personality.

My inner self is far, far different to my body.

She is creative, compassionate, caring, considerate.

And those are just the "c" words.

So in light of this lesson reinforced, I bring you these as a kind of Sunday Selections. Go visit Elephant's Child every Sunday for her take on this meme.  All pictures below are mine.


From the deck of my former home.


From the beach in front of my old home.

Every night was a different story.




Fishing boats coming in after sunset with their catch of the day.

Friday, September 17, 2021

This Old Carcass

It has served me well, I have to keep thinking of the positives rather than the negatives, which is an easy pit to fall into.

I have three more tests coming up. And I want these to be the end of it.

Next up is a colonography next week which involves starvation and massive amounts of ingestion of disgusting materials. A couple of bottles supplied by the hospital itself and a few more from the pharmacy. Fortunately, unlike the others, there will be no invasion of the outlying crevices of my body. 

A few days later, there's a new specialist investigating further why I went just about blind in my right eye the day after the colonoscopy. My eye doctor is baffled as the dye tests produced a normal.

And towards the end of the month there is a breath test scheduled which will validate/invalidate my own doctor's speculation that I have a hidden bleeding ulcer causing this constant, chronic and serious anaemia. 

My gratitude circles around the assurance that none of the specialists think this is cancer. And I can't praise enough the specialist care this old woman has received in their attempts to discover what  the hell is going on inside me. 

And the big one? The universal health care we have here in Canada.  Yes, it could be better, what system is perfect? But the fact that anyone from pauper to millionaire can access it for whatever medical crisis looms without going bankrupt or stressing about payment is one of the enormous benefits of living here.

Special hat tip to my own doctor, who calls regularly, monitors my blood, checks to make sure I attend my various hospital procedures and cheers me up with his humour and good nature.

And for those interested two charts.

First one is expenditures by country on health care - note universal health care spends less per capita.


The second chart is life expectancy in all these countries.

(Data published by Spartan News - Michigan State University)

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Larry





Well Larry, you did your best. You were rageful and noisy and tossed trees and poles into a tantrum and turmoil and disconnected our power lines, knocked out my daughter's road completely, and then you slithered off over the Atlantic never to be seen again until one of your brothers or sisters takes over the next hurricane.  Category 2 at Daughter's place as she is right on the open ocean. Interestingly, early yesterday she observed gannets from nearby Cape St. Mary's taking off in formation. I am constantly fascinated with those creatures who seem to know more about upcoming weather than we do.



The barometric pressure drop was powerful, I felt it in my head, as I always do, followed by a slight headache.

My power re-asserted itself for a couple of hours around 2.00 am and I got up and read my gripping library book - a rec from either DKZ or Jackie. And because I was raised in a large noisy family I could tune the storm out. At 4.30 a.m. it whimpered away, just as the power went out again and then I went to bed. No power for the entire morning but now it's back again, hats off to those workers that restore our lines and our sanity. 

In the aftermath of such powerful acts of nature, I am reminded of gratitude and what's important and what isn't. Family reaching out on the group chats, neighbours texting to comfort and commiserate. 

And how fortunate I am to be living here and not in Haiti or some other impoverished country surveying detritus and homes destroyed and how truly far more vulnerable and fragile their lives are.

Not much else to add. But there is a lot of damage which seems to be all under control in the cleanup. One woman on our local meteorological expert's live feed saw a large tree being launched from across her road and sail briskly off over the ocean. I'm sure there will be many stories to come. I do know at least one small town was evacuated due to the tides being so high and dangerous.

Noticing things: I love how, just now, how the GoBus driver for handicapped passengers went right into our building to wheel out a resident in her wheelchair and negotiate her carefully up the ramp and onto the bus. 

Thursday, September 09, 2021

The Nightmare Below Me


 

There's this tenant in the apartment beneath mine. She's as odd as two left feet according to other residents. A hoarder, a hermit, no one sees the inside of her apartment. 

The residents here manage the gardens, lovely little plots everywhere full of flowers, some vegetables, bird baths, extremely creative.

In the garden below my apartment was her particularly area and ever since I moved in there was just a vast hole with rocks and 4 bags of soil that were never opened. Finally, a few of the tenants did something about this eyesore and took over her plot and now it is gorgeous, full of flowers. She demanded they dig up bulbs she purchased years before (which had never bloomed due to aforementioned rocks and hole).

This gives you some idea of her personality.

I have never exchanged two words with this woman as every time I encountered her, despite my "hello" she turned her head away.

But now? She has launched a personal vendetta against me. She insists I have music playing and people partying in my apartment at all hours of the night.

A month ago, someone rang my doorbell and woke me at 1.00am. I didn't answer but my neighbour did. And in the tomb-like silence of the building, R complained to M, my neighbour that she couldn't sleep with the racket coming from my apartment. 

M told her there was never noise from my apartment as I was a quiet person.

I complained to the Board of Directors about this. In writing.

Fast forward to last week and I was woken again, but this time terrified as there was what seemed to be a sledgehammer banging on my bedroom floor. I thought the building would collapse or at least holes would appear on my floor.

R again obviously. I phoned a friend downstairs and she told me she had also been terrorized as she thought it was an earthquake  and got out of bed and spoke to another neighbour, two doors away from R who had also been woken up.

Again, I wrote to the Board outlining what had happened. They said there would be a prompt investigation. I know they did investigate by chatting to neighbours of R who confirmed the incident. But as to assuring me of a cease and desist order to her? Not a word. 

I am extremely unsettled and frightened by all of this as she is so unpredictable and, well, violent. I view her as unwell. No one in the building speaks to her as through various actions she has alienated them all.

I'm locking my door for the first time. I tiptoe around my apartment in my moccasins. I turn my book pages quietly. I knit on wooden needles. 

I know she lurks below me, all day, every day. In her head, there are parties and music only she can hear. 

And I am the target of her enormous rage.


Friday, September 03, 2021

Those Things That Are Not True (for me)

Not in any particular order - only as they occur to me.

 (1) You have to meet her/him, they're an absolute hoot!

(2) Religion is good.

(3) One needs religion to live a moral and ethical life.

(4) Diets

(5) You'll constantly miss your country if you're an emigrant from it.

(6) Miracles

(7) Intelligent Design

(8) Bootstraps (as in poverty is one's own fault).

(9) Interfering/invading in countries not your own working out well for all concerned.

(10) Gender (an artificial social construct)

(11) Minimum wage (should be a living wage, n'est pas?)

(12) Government interference in women's bodily autonomy.

(13) Corporate health care but only for those who can afford it.


I'll think of more I'm sure but that's it for now.





Monday, August 30, 2021

Music and Memories

 Funny how a playlist can pierce my heart. A theme pops up in a mix and it grabs me by the throat. As it did just the other day.

I remember playing this as I left a beautiful beach with Ansa, my beloved rescue dog-companion. We had been playing ball and chasing some shore birds. And the glory of a sunset was just beginning.

And this piece of music popped up in my Ipod in the car afterwards. 

The movie theme from "On Golden Pond". Henry Fonda's last film for you movie buffs. Henry and Katharine Hepburn, his co-star, both one Oscars for their roles.



It had been a couple of years since I moved to Newfoundland.

And there was a rush of feelings, an ecstasy if you will, as I realized this was one of the happiest moments of my life. Being here, in this place, by the ocean, breathing in the glorious sea air with this happy dog. There was no better place but the right here and the right now.

I am so grateful for those musical moments, of which there are many in my life. And I like the forgotten feelings they generate.

And here is the glorious Ansa 1999-2016. 


Did you have any such moments? I'm not talking weddings or child births or meeting your one true love. But where you're all by yourself and just feeling the glory and wonder of this universe?


Friday, August 20, 2021

Oh Woe Is Me


 

I had a couple of other posts prepared (in raw unedited stages) but I've thrown them on the blog scrap heap.

My overall health has been of a really depressing nature lately and my doctor confirmed today my haemo is on a serious downslide and has dropped from 115 to 85 in a very short time frame. So that explains the complete lack of energy and the sadness of having to miss my birthday celebration a few days ago.

So he's sending all the latest lab work data to one of my specialists (who coincidentally called me two weeks ago to insist on the scary test I was avoiding because of my fall) instructing him to put utmost priority on said test.

If I sink lower than 85 I am to take myself to hospital and get immediate transfusions.

So that's the reason for blog silence.

I managed an excellent whingy-whine at the doctor's. He was completely sympathetic to the madness of this ongoing, unresolved, half-life I'm living for far too long. 

Sometimes, all we need is a few drops of sympathy to prop us up and prevent us from curling into a fetal position on the floor. 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Another fine mess you've got us into, Stanley........


The new suburb then.

The smallest of reflections on how we got here (see previous post).

As a child, I lived in one of the first suburban areas of Cork City, the site of a small village where surrounding farms were being sold off and the suburban phenomenon of tract housing was levelling and concreting the landscape. 

We were new to the development and arrived from a small town in East Cork where we were surrounded by relatives and community activities.

Here the landscape was strange though for a little while, we were still surrounded by lowing cattle and harvesting of crops but knew nobody.

We had no car and no phone. Our house had a fireplace in every room and a tiny gas stove in the kitchen along with a small coal stove which heated the water. Out back there was a coal/turf shed. All those fires had to be lit sparingly in winter to keep us warm. But it was the lap of luxury for my mother as we had left a third floor cold water flat in the small town.

There was no washing machine or dryer. My mother had to wash everything by hand. There was no fridge. There was a "cold safe" out back behind the coal shed which kept meat and vegetables "cool" with a mesh door. My father, a government employee, grew our winter stock of vegetables in the large fertile (a former farm section) back garden.  My granny would get on a bus from her small village holding and often bring us chickens and the blessing of a turkey at Christmas, which would be hung in the cold safe. We would have to pluck them and save the feathers for cushion fillings.

Mum made most of our clothes and "cut down" my father's old trousers for my four brothers and made my dresses. She knitted our hats and sweaters and gloves. Hand me downs were part of our existence. There was no shower and the bar of soap was used for hair and skin in our weekly baths. Toothpaste was in a tin which seemed to last forever. It seemed to me, looking back, that we shared one toothbrush which was only replaced when there were hardly any bristles left. Combs and brushes were communal. Shoes were repaired. Clothes were darned.

The village had everything we needed, a butcher shop, a small grocery shop, a post office and a pub. And milk was delivered first thing in the morning and the fresh bread was delivered in the late afternoon. The post was delivered morning and evening. There was no garbage. None. No plastic bags. Paper was used to wrap school books, or fire starting. Baskets and cloth bags for daily grocery shopping down the road. We had a compost heap for kitchen waste.

Excursions to town were on the bus and were rare. Usually to get us new shoes or in later years school uniforms. Our best clothes were for church and our wardrobe holdings were slim. My mother wore a shop coat over her clothes to protect them  as she did her chores in the kitchen.

My father cycled to work, about two miles into the city. The money saved on transit was put towards our annual holidays on an island off the coast of West Cork which was completely primitive and had us shoeless for the summer running all over the place with no supervision and swimming all day. It was life changing in so many ways and fostered in all of us children a deep, compelling love of the ocean and for self-entertainment.

All this to say, life was way simpler then. A movie was a treat. Radio was entertainment at night. There was no television. Library visits were Saturdays. I remember hauling out 10 books for the week. 

Consumerism and retail therapy were unheard of. 

Television and its commercials changed much of that. Our first one was installed like a god in the dining room in the early sixties. Our minds were filled with the American lifestyles shown on this magic box. The endless closets filled with clothes, the fabulous kitchens, the huge living rooms! The cars! Shampoo!

We all looked around and saw how shabby we were, how impoverished, how lacking in the luxuries. 

We wanted more. 

And by gum, we were going to get our share of it. Or more. And we did.

Ant thus we lived happily ever after, amen.


The suburb now.

 

Monday, August 09, 2021

Thoughts on Reality



Conversations on the weekend circled around the inevitability of our extinction. As we have passed the point of no return in our extinction plan.

The latest UN report confirms this.

 "Earth’s climate system is changing across the entire planet and human activities are worsening its effects which are “widespread, rapid and intensifying”, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

"The report by leading climate scientists published on Monday provides evidence that “unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5 degrees or even 2 degrees will be beyond reach”.

"Such as a scenario will come with inevitable catastrophic impacts over coming decades for human populations, especially in the form of extreme weather events and rising sea levels, the report’s authors have warned."

Read more here

I'm not in fear of all of this and I don't share the opinions of many, e.g.

(1) There's an afterlife and God/Goddess etc. will save us all. 

(2) It's another exaggeration to curb our Free-Dumbs.

(3) Science will save us.

(4)Glass domes over cities with AC will ease the worst of it. (I'd like to see that!)

And on.

No one thinks of the climate refugees escaping from waterless environments and the devastating effects of forest fires. California has never experienced anything like them, along with BC here. And massive food shortages.

I spent time in a roasting hot Labrador this summer - no one had ever experienced that kind of heat up there.

And the humidity and heat on the island of Newfoundland this summer is extreme and unique. And grain is being grown for the first time. And our iceberg season was pitiful.

The flooding is alarming everywhere. 

We've all been warned, of course, of this end of days, but nothing of any major reversal has been done to halt the rapid progress of warming oceans.

Capitalism roars on. Gas is supreme still. The plundering of the Amazon (the lungs of the earth) continues

I compare our slumber to the Three Wise Monkeys of old.


Not that us individuals can do anything at all. But I do wonder who else is giving any thoughts to what is going to happen and if you are, like me, resigned to the inevitable and hoping that whatever cataclysmic event wipes our little section of the planet into extinction, it doesn't hurt too much. But then I'm old and may pass before everything gets worse.

Or maybe, just maybe, the new virus variants will take us all out first. 

Another excellent read from Science Daily.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Etcetera



 I was in my happy place (see above photo) in a welter of gratitude having been told an hour earlier that I didn't have cancer. Mind you this was after endless and often painful and exhausting tests. 

There was a long string of boats bobbing in the water which reminded me I should be carrying my "real" camera in the car and not this inadequate Android camera phone. It doesn't do the scene justice.

I still haven't found the "normal" run of myself but maybe that's now lost in the mists of time past. I do dream about "normal" at night. Much of it involving massive effortless hikes in the brilliant scenery and seascapes around these parts. I hate waking up with the threads of such dreams still befogging me like gentle spider webs.



I picked up this little shelf sculpture in Red Bay, (see above) where the graveyards of all the whales massacred in the time of the whale-oil industry for lamps and bones for corsets is a moving scene on the shore.

This place is so isolated and under-visited that the birds have a great time on the "killing fields" above, feeding on the sea urchins and shedding feathers. I thought these were perfect examples of the beauty of sea urchins and treasure the memories they hold. I was grateful for my racing red wheelchair that Grandgirl pushed so expertly through the paths and sometimes helpful boardwalks.


And isn't that what life is all about, finding the slivers of gratitude, often minuscule, but there amongst the ordinariness of it all if we look for them.

 

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Battle Harbour of Labrador

  


Battle Harbour

An enchanted place. 

We stayed here for 3 nights. It's accessible only by a ferry of 1-1/2 hours (9 miles out) duration and there are no vehicles on the island at all. It's like going back in time two centuries ago. On route we saw whales and the crew entertained us with the incredible history of the entire area.

A welcoming fire was in the stove in our nearly 200 year old house when the four of us arrived. It was lovely that all our luggage was taken on board the boat and it awaited us when we got to our house.

An overview. (Credit Barrett Mackay.)


To be continued.


Friday, July 16, 2021

Writing What I Want to Write

 The trip recedes but resides in my journal. I can't seem to get cohesion on that to transfer it to the blog page. I am letting it go for now as procrastination has got me not writing at all.

My lovely all in one computer with its lovely fat screen has been fixed by my genius tech guy. At a ridiculously low price as always. He loves the challenge he tells me (he's retired). It needed a few parts that he sourced and it's humming like a charm. And at the speed of sound it seems. A brand new solid state drive in her innards.

I met a friend I hadn't seen in nearly 1-1/2 years during the week. In our local café. And as soon as we saw each other we burst into tears and then sat and nattered for 3 hours.

Yesterday I went to an afternoon tea party at a friend's house but actually it turned into dinner with a bunch of friends and it felt like, you know, so normal. I had an absolutely lovely time climbing out of my own head and listening to the updates on all these much younger friends' lives. Kids ran in and out of the rooms, music played, the sun shone, half of the guests sat on the patio outside, and I held court at the dining room table in the cool air within, George (my cane) by my side. I mainly listened though.

Today my helper is in the apartment bringing order to the chaos of over a month without her. She is a treasure.

A photo of the Gros Morne ferry house and pier in the distance with the fjord of Gros Morne behind. The long boat ride through the fjord was spellbinding. An extraordinary place. So many incredible memories gathered on our trip.


 



 

 





Thursday, July 08, 2021

Time Out

Grief takes many forms. I need to lay it out there and I find myself immobilized, staring at walls for gawd knows how long with nothing going on inside my head. Just blank, like white canvas.

I'll write about the trip later. I took copious notes.

But on a ferry going to Blanc Sablon I got the news that a best friend had died.

He had cancer, it was expected, but that doesn't assuage or lessen grief in any way.. He was one of my stalwarts, he was the brother I never had. We could spend loads of time together without getting bored. I valued his advice and his compassion and care.

Of course we had serious disagreements and massive differences in philosophy - he was a practicing Christian, I am an atheist.

But we listened to each other and didn't judge. He was a perfectionist, liked all his ducks in a row and hated surprises. I am completely the opposite.

Our long, long friendship, enriched my life in countless ways. I was at his online funeral yesterday and bawled my eyes out.

The last card he sent me was about a month before he died:

The real price of aging is the dear ones departing leaving us bereft in so many ways. I wrote this on the passing of another dear friend in 2009 which was read at her funeral and it applies to all inconceivable losses.

Death is only for the living:

The bereft left standing there

Embracing the sharp edges

And chilling silence

Of your vanished vitality.

I took this photo of R on a beach around 10 years ago where we had a picnic and I presented him with a bucket and spade to build a sandcastle. 


Farewell dear R - one of a kind. Forever missed. 






 

Friday, June 18, 2021

Gone Touring

 I'll be gone to all parts North for two weeks on a family trip of a life time. Visiting the following and lingering which is the benefit of taking time to savour the sights.

On the list is

Gros Morne

Red Bay (long on the bucket list)

Battle Harbour

St. Anthony on the Great Northern Peninsula (again, we visited last September).

Wally the racing red wheelchair was purchased by Daughter to facilitate me on the hiking trails.

Doctor gave me the All-Clear on those brutal tests I underwent and the multiple biopsies.

So this is in way of celebration of precious lives and the trip of a lifetime in the company of those I love the most in the world. 

Here is a picture I took yesterday on my way to see my podiatrist.


I'll post when/if I can.








Sunday, June 13, 2021

Sunday Selections

I was a member of the East Coast Trail Association here in Newfoundland for many, many years. It has some of the most beautiful trail systems in Canada, if not in the world. The sights are breathtaking and often feature whales, moose and masses of edible wild berries on the routes.

When I had my B&B, tourists would arrive from France, UK, US, Australia and all parts of Europe and Asia just to hike this magnificent trail.

Grandgirl and her partner are now hiking different chunks of the trail every weekend, setting off early and then I go pick them up at their predestined spot. Yesterday was one such day. It was a 15km hike (10 miles) and I picked them up at Cape Spear at suppertime.

She agreed I could post some of her photos on my blog.







 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

A Tribute Part 4 (Final)

 One of the truly wonderful things Paulina did was draw terminally ill cancer patients together in groups of 4 to 8. All of this work she did without compensation, it was her way of paying back, she said, for all she had been given. And being a survivor of cancer herself, she had a greater understanding of what it was to face death.

She created a series of weekly gatherings in her home, arranging taxi service if needed. She had the participants write down on separate slips of paper the things they most valued in life. These were placed in envelopes, marked with the participant's name.

Each week, they would take one slip of paper out of their envelopes and talk about this valuable thing they had written down. At length. 

In the centre of her table was a large bowl and when they were finished they would set a match to this piece of paper and bid it goodbye. It was profoundly moving but it prepared them in sharing with others who were dying also, like nothing else ever could.

"How on earth do you find them Paulina," I asked her one time.

"You forget," she responded, "That I am very well connected." Word of mouth indeed.

Another wonderful thing was we shared the same clothes and shoe size and Paulina's wardrobe was incredible. I mean it was beyond the pale. Beyond reach of my much smaller purse. I favoured Sally Anne and Goodwill (still do). She had a whole room dedicated to her clothes.

She asked me if I would be insulted if she offered me her clothes and shoes. I didn't need asking twice.

So I became the beneficiary of this fabulous wardrobe of DKNY dresses and skirts, designer woolen coats, the most incredible coats and blouses and designer shoes, sandals and trainers, matching leisure pieces and tops, all in fabulous natural fabrics. 

Her generosity extended to when I semi-retired and moved to Newfoundland. In the mail I would receive all sorts of goodies and when I told her I was performing, she went a little crazy and sent me these fabulous "performance" clothes, drapey skirts and silky tops and demand photos of me doing my "schtick". She never stopped believing in me and praising me for my talents. 

She'd always sense when I was upset and call me out of the blue and said she had a vibe and we'd talk something through, or share old age challenges, some of hers were quite funny. We very rarely strolled memory lane which I appreciated, we were always in the moment, always in the now.

Daughter said to me when I told her the sad news of Paulina's passing: "What a friend, Mum! She stuffed your heart, your stomach, your wallet and your closet!"

A fitting tribute, Paulina dear. The world needs more like you.

I will never forget you.

See Part 1 here

See Part 2 here

See Part 3 here



Friday, June 11, 2021

A Tribute Part 3

 Other opportunities presented themselves for Paulina and I to stay together: weekends, workshops, but I managed to present believable reasons as to why I could not share residential spaces or hotel rooms with her. I do believe she appreciated my setting boundaries.

Another issue with her was, being 5 years older than me, musical tastes. She had missed the musical revolution. When sharing a dinner out, she couldn't abide any "loud" music. Our definitions of loud were 100 miles apart. The gentlest of Beatles songs would set her teeth on edge and many a time she'd summon our server and politely request the music be turned way down. Some would protest about the lack of ambience and managers instructing them otherwise. Some talked mood. But she was adamant. A few times I asked her if she would be more comfortable leaving. But she'd stick it out. Oddly enough it didn't irritate me. I felt enormous compassion, for in my heart I knew she felt noise and scents more keenly than I ever would. And I had far more ease navigating the world than she did.

We grew closer, she never stopped learning and became an expert on conflict resolution and very respected in that profession and it kept her very busy. I don't think in all the time I knew her, did she ever lose her temper. Or get angry. She worked very hard in different disciplines like Reiki and Therapeutic Touch and would go out of her way to help those in pain and distress. 

She didn't watch TV or indulge in newspapers or novels but read self-improvement books continually. These were  passed on to me with a note to read them too, and subsequently pitched aside by me when I got home as I defined them as "Self-Help Hell". I told her my escapism was into fiction and tossed some books her way but I knew she felt as I did about hers and these books never had her eyes fall on them. 

Our bonding was based on trust. She trusted me implicitly and gave me more and more of her business to take care of including a large downtown store with a board of directors sometimes at odds with each other. We confided in each other at a deep level. Including our issues with our adult children and our infatuation with our adored grandgirls.  

One major issue I had was with my adult daughter that became completely out of hand for a while. I challenged Paulina to solve it, to find some resolution to our ongoing battling.

Oh, I wish all conflicts were as easy as that! She responded, laughing.

As I see it, she said, your daughter rents an apartment from you, your daughter is also an employee, you're also, basically, co-parenting your grandchild, and you're also mother to your daughter. So now you have 4 hats. Landlord, employer, child carer and mother. So every time you deal with your daughter you tell her what hat you're wearing.

And Reader, it worked. There was no longer this muddling, every-angry-issue-ever-raised with Daughter and me. Peace reigned.

We shared intimate personal stuff we shared with very few in the world. We understood each other and had huge respect for one another.  And could do that wonderful thing: laugh at ourselves and each other's foibles and quirks without fear of offence.

For instance she couldn't abide coffee. But, oh boy, herbal tea and lemon water to start her day were de rigeur. Richard, her partner, loved his morning coffee, dark beans, fresh ground, strong. If he was home, he would make it for me, if he was going to be out, she would instruct him to put it into a thermos for me. She just about gagged at the smell, but wore a lovely, bemused tolerance on her face and a slight eye roll :" "You Two!"

She met Richard in New York at a conference. She put her eye on him at a workshop and as the group of thirty were crossing the street to go to the theatre that night on Broadway she linked her arm to his and said "I believe you and I are together from now on." He was ten years younger, tall, handsome, very British. And they were together for over 40 years when she died. And incredibly content in each other's company: supportive of each other and the most important quality to me: respectful. Always respectful. I truly envied the way they looked at each other.

To be continued

See Part 1 here

See Part 2 here



Thursday, June 10, 2021

A Tribute Part 2

Paulina, though a generous and gracious woman was not an easy woman. She expected a very high quality of work. One of her demands from me was that I encapsulate the status of my work for her verbally. This is how she understood the complexity of her financial status. I positively hate oral presentations of this nature. Pausing to clarify her questions and formulating answers wasn't easy for me. I am much better at written reports. 

She was very sensitive to this, she was sensitive to everything. I would come to her house at least once a month and perform the work and give her my verbal updates, she would question, I would stumble and falter and refer to my notes and try to grasp what she was attempting to understand which to me was so obvious. I was fed lunch, I was told no perfumes in her house, I was told not to use scented detergent or soaps, I was told she and her partner only used organic products. For everything. I viewed her as quite persnickety until she shared that she had beaten cancer which had brought her to her knees.

She began to really like me and this was reflected in much laughter over child raising, first marriages, career women balancing everything, in our now more frequent meetings. She then told me there were other businesses she was involved in, would I be interested in working for them and for friends of hers who owned businesses?

So thus we began on this long journey of business and friendship. She hauled me along to lectures and clubs, I met her friends, I was invited to her dinner parties. I was invited for a week long stay to her cabin (while her partner was in England) in the Laurentians in Quebec which turned out to be a disaster.


It started when I arrived and parked my car. She came out to greet me and then apologized and said I hadn't parked my car properly and I needed to do so. I was confused. It seemed, in this vast area in front of her house that I needed it to be "straight."  It turned out to be in alignment with the side of the house not at an angle. "Aesthetics," she explained. This did not bode well. And it got worse.

I wasn't aware that black fly season in the Laurentians had just begun. And sitting out later on the deck, I was eaten alive and I had a severe allergic reaction in that my body blew up. She gave me some organic salve which didn't work and I spent a miserable night, made even worse in that were was no bedside lamp to read by and distract me from my sore and bloated body.

The following morning I told her I was going to find a drugstore and get some medication for my condition and she was appalled I would think of using chemicals. I wouldn't be bitten again if I wore this type of beekeeper suit she had in her shed for guests who might develop this reaction in black fly season.

Conflict. Big.

I stood my ground, marched off to my perfectly aligned car and headed into the local town, reviewing mentally my poor French in order to confront a chemist and request some efficacious treatment for my grotesque appearance. 

My French worked, my appearance alone horrifying the chemist, and I found a bathroom to slather myself with her recommended product. The immediate relief had me just about crying.

I returned to the cabin, defiant, parked "properly" and found her in the kitchen surrounded by the aroma of her marvelous cooking.

"Are you feeling better?" she asked me gently, her kindness as always showing in her eyes, in the way she reached out to touch my arm.

And it struck me then, as it strikes me frequently, the best of friendships aren't formulated on our similarities but on our differences and how we tolerate them in others.

She never complained about the chemicals on my body, I sucked up the fact there was no bedside lamp and I just stayed up a little later in the living room reading until it was time for bed.



See Part 1 here

To be continued.....




Wednesday, June 09, 2021

A Tribute Part 1

 In that way of life yesterday, I was looking through an old photo album (remember those?) And came across this, an afghan I had designed and knit while ensconced on the island of Sherkin for the month of August, maybe 20 odd years ago. I only knit these for those I love and value greatly.


So my immediate thought was Paulina* hadn't responded to my last email which was completely unlike her. So I went to the web and threw on her name and found to my utter disbelief that she had died. The only notice of such death posted by one of the many business groups she had belonged to. No obit. No articles or memorials about this remarkable woman.

When I first met Paulina, some 30 odd years ago it was at her home office in a gorgeous house on the Beaches (a very expensive residential area) in Toronto. 


She had some messy accounting work for me to clean up which necessitated absolute confidentiality. She was a referral from another client (as nearly all of my business was) so the preludes were dispensed with as she trusted him implicitly.

 She told me the situation briefly, handed me ledgers and agreements and told me I was free to set it up anyway I wished as long as she could make sense of it when the job was completed. In those days her hair was an expensive vibrant red and she had this aura of confidence I envied. Her clothes were linens, rich cottons, cashmeres and comfortable and co-ordinated in soft pastels, and whispered money. I drooled internally at her clothes.

I noticed there were many women working around the place. One outside in the back garden, landscaping, one doing measurements of walls and windows around where I worked on her huge dining room table and one upstairs who popped down now and again to consult quietly with Pauline, reading quietly in the living room, showing her designs. Another was obviously the cleaner who moved around quietly. Nobody was intrusive in anyway.

Paulina asked me how things were going, I asked her some brief questions from my notebook and then she left.

There were kitchen sounds and aromas, and at just before noon Paulina asked me to move my work from the table to the sideboard as she was about to serve lunch for everyone. All the women working for her gathered around the table which was loaded with platters of roasted vegetables, breads, salads, fruits and a tureen of Incredible homemade soup. Paulina was a vegetarian.

She introduced us all to each other as she served us, telling what each one did.

When she reached her cleaning lady, Anna, she said:

"Sorry, but Anna is the most valued one of all of you, for she cleans my toilets."

And those gathered over this marvelous meal, shared life stories and business ideas and backgrounds with Pauline encouraging us every minute of the way, quietly observant, making sure no one dominated the conversation. I've never seen, before or since, anyone who could draw others out like Paulina could.

And this was my first introduction to Paulina, Swiss born entrepreneur, one of the first female vice-presidents of IBM among many such notes of distinction, who became such an important part of my life in so many ways.

I lit a candle for her yesterday as I grieved and remembered, startled at the depth of our long association.



To be continued...... 

*not her real name

See Part 2 here


Sunday, June 06, 2021

Well, blow me down!


Darby and Joan from an old English painting, artist unknown.

At my stage in life it's really, really hard to surprise me with how people behave and act.

We are veering into normalcy here with regard to Covid. Most are lined up for our second jab if we don't already have it and visits and drop-ins by friends are re-starting. 

A friend dropped in yesterday for coffee. She followed me into the building about a year after I moved in.

She's more social than I am, much to her grief now, as she has been taken advantage of and is really angry with herself. I had said to her to be careful when she moved in. A dear friend of mine who had lived in the building for yonks and who had introduced me to the possibility of my getting  on the waiting list here had put a word in my ear about getting close to anyone here when I eventually moved in. 

I don't need much warning of such things as I am a gregarious loner by nature and have different criteria for selecting friends which usually don't involve the coincidence of geographical proximity. I am useless at small talk and it abounds in this building. So I have kept my polite distance.

So I mentioned to Terry (not her real name) that I had noticed a remarkable thinning of the ranks when I traversed the community rooms and the halls with some apartments absent their usual festoons of art and décor around their entrances.

"Oh, there's quite a few have moved out," she said, "I suppose you don't know."

"Know what?" I responded, concerned as to possible infestations of rats or plumbing outbursts.

"Silver Seniors."

"Holy Mother of God, what?"

"Covid has sent so many here on the online hunt for a partner - and many have been successful, they're leaving in hordes with the new fellahs!"

I'm still flabbergasted, still laughing. Still amazed at all these white haired older women suddenly partnering up and leaving their independence. 

Carpe diem indeed.



Friday, June 04, 2021

Small Things

 I seek them out, both the moments and the noticing of small accomplishments. I've had to adjust mightily to the restrictions of my life now. And none too happily.

So here goes with the small things.

I finished the afghan/sofa blanket for one of my nieces and here it is: Stone and Sand and Sea and Sky.


I also finished one of those picky dishcloths (every row a different pattern) and started another to teach me to slow down and just enjoy the process, reciting the pattern aloud to myself as I move along the row. Like a dirge, or a mantra, or a song of praise. Very therapeutic.


I make notes for this memoir I'm writing, it flowed well for a while and now I'm running into mental obstacles. But I persist as ideas strike me. Reshaping, remembering.


I found this quote on reading. I'm so grateful my parents were avid readers, my dad got me my first library card when I was four. Daughter, Niece and Grandgirl are all voracious readers. I must have read thousands of books in my life.




Saturday, May 29, 2021

And a PS to the Etc

 Dear Joared and DKZ

Your blogs kick me out after I comment which is very frustrating. Can't figure out why this is so. Can you figure it out? Other blogs do not do this, much to my relief as I could become quite paranoid.

I've been tossing books lately with a DNF* note in my book journal. I resent the time I spend on them before this act as I could have been reading a good book. Know what I mean?

I'm into fiction in a big way. I like the escapism provided by a good author. Good in my estimation, maybe not in yours.

I persist sometimes when the books are both gifts and best sellers as these last two were.



But finally I just threw in the towel on both and picked up my emergency Michael Connolly who never lets me down when Bosch is involved. And PS I can't abide the actor portraying him in the Bosch series on Prime.


I will update my 2021 Books Read Page soonest as I have enjoyed some smashing reads this year.

And I will mention now, albeit with connection to reading, that my right eye, one day after the hospital procedures has gone semi-blind. A grey fog has descended. What next, I think, sitting on my pity pot. I have an appointment with my eye guy first thing Tuesday and we'll take it from there. 

But at least the left eye is behaving itself. And there have been no alarming calls after two biopsies on last Tuesday.

And, I always think, and I pass this on, who would trade places with me right now? So many worse off, so many in desperation and pain. So many, and I know one dear one, who are facing their own mortality.

*Did Not Finish.