Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Living Tips and Lessons Learned

 Sailing  Lurching into extreme old age, I am reflecting on the navigation of it. I assume "extreme" would be over 80. I haven't hit 80 yet but it winks at me.


I abandoned worry a long time ago. It is useless and pointless and a total energy vampire. I had the realization that none of my worries had materialized and my classic last visitation to worry was about 35 years ago when (a) buying my dream home in Toronto (b) losing the position that was paying for the mortgage (c) going into an almost catatonic state with the definite and certain possibility I was going to lose my home and be jobless, destitute and unemployable. I did not hang a curtain on a window or a picture on a wall as I knew the dream would shatter when my severance pay expired in a few months. I huddled there in desperation and solitude calculating how much money the piano and assorted bits and pieces would sell for. After two weeks of this inertia and terror I had an unexpected phone call from a stranger who had heard about my abilities and offered me a year's contract to help him shut down his large hundred year old family business with everyone happy. At an astonishing fee. I jumped at it. And for six months I had two incomes rolling in my door. And after that enormous life lesson, I've had many challenges but I never revisited the worry pit again.


Life is full of changing circumstances all the time. I was up for a full medical pending this big birthday and having my driver's license renewed. I thought with the blindness in my right eye, there is a risk I will lose it after close to sixty five years of accident free driving. And always loving driving, across Canada so many times, seeing this beautiful country. Having the security and adventure of four wheels sitting outside waiting to take me away to wherever, whenever. But, I thought, there are cabs, there are electric thingies, there is a senior bus that trots around this area. And I didn't worry. My life would adapt. When I passed the medical it was a gift, a bonus, a joy. But I knew I could have adapted peacefully to losing it.

Always have something to look forward to.

This was one of my dad's philosophies on aging. And he was right. I have a black board and write looking forward stuff on it. It's not about achieving the stuff but the journey is made lighter.

Don't give up the joyful things

Music (Schubert - Claudio Arrau at the moment)

Reading (Migrations - extraordinary.)

Knitting (Just completed one side of a cushion)

Delighting in a beautiful handmade card received yesterday from a dear friend in Ontario.

I think I have tons more. But that's enough for today.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Death and Fair Maidens

I'm second from the right. My oldest friend still with us, took the photo.

I have very few remaining friends in my life from way back when. Those I have are precious with a layer of melancholy spread over us all like a protective shield. My layer, I have no idea how they're feeling.

As many of my readers know, I have no belief in a life everlasting somewhere up in the sky or parts unknown so the finality of death breaks my heart more deeply than those who believe in the pubs and singing and birthday parties continuing in the great beyond. (As an aside though, none of those believers embrace death as the escape route from earthly challenges and pain, am I right?)

Suffice to say I have emails from all three of my surviving circle when I hit the Oul Sod in the late autumn.

One has been a dear friend since we were eleven years old. So yeah, close to seventy years of friendship there. We never lost touch. She has beaten cancer twice.

On a trip to Niagara Falls with Daughter and my "Emigration Liner" friend.

Another is a dear friend now living in New York. I met her when she was twenty and I was twenty three. Where? On the emigration liner pulling out of Cork Harbour in 1967 our heads turning to our new life ahead and then turning back to the tender leaving the ship holding everyone we held dear behind forever. She is flying into Dublin so we can sit and yabber to our heart's content.

Another still is a long time friend I made here, from Dublin originally, who turned tail when her mother died and her father needed her and her husband deserted her and her only choice of safety and comfort was returning "home" as she felt there was no home in Canada anymore.

I believe nurturing friendships of such long standing takes effort. I know so very many who can't create the time and let these trickle through their hands. But how can the connections survive if not given the life breath of a card or an email or a phone call? Often just a stamp and five minutes of one's time is all that is needed. Surely they are worth that? And like I've said before a piece of paper or a card in one's hand is more sustaining than a quick email or message or whatsapp.

It's a joy to meet those who knew me back then, who knew my secrets and our youthful exuberance. Our fearless looking ahead, our love affairs, our hopes and dreams, our music, our humour.

My connections with those of such long duration are drowned in laughter and delight and, yes, poignancy. And gratitude for the unexpected pleasure of being alive.


Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Joy and Inspiration.

What does it for you, what brings you either or both of these gifts? It's the small stuff for me. Never the large.

I watch my African violets carefully for signs of buds. I get an unbelievable amount of joy from these tiny pleasures.

I don't think of the vast gardens of my past, I concentrate on the now of my life. What is one thing I can do today that will bring me joy?

Often I look through old knitting designs I created and work out something new, something to give away, something someone would like.

Othertimes, my energy is depleted. I never take a good energy day for granted as it fluctuates, as does the pain. Poor energy and I roll with it.

I take joy from a good coffee bean like this one, which is locally roasted and just how I like it.

I read, I learn. I write. I ponder the news, which isn't that great lately is it? I honestly feel that the planet, or Gaia, is on its last legs, howling in pain as us humans destroy it.

I stare at the dichotomy of all those unfortunate emigrants, leaving desperation, at the mercy of traffickers, drowning off an overloaded wreck of a boat, 750 crammed on board, women and children abandoned to the harsh sea and dying and those millionaires in their submersible getting all the news coverage. Was it ever thus?

I look to what inspires me. The diligent crows outside my window feeding their young. Sensing when I arrive with little tidbits for them. Just about tame as they land not too far from my feet. They know me.

I look at the bravery of some in my building, who are challenged in many ways but still get out of bed and get their exercise every day in the gyms we are blessed with or walk the halls like I do. I appreciate this building I live in for many reasons, not least of it in that I can see the ocean and the nearby lake and so many trees outside. And it's so quiet it's easy to climb into my thoughts and jot them down as I roll through my day.

Staying where my hands are, knowing how safe we are here on this island off the edge of Canada surrounded by breathtaking seascapes which inspire me every single day.

Saturday, June 17, 2023


I have a friend who is continually let down by the world's reality. She lives in a  disneyfied version of our world. I made up that word myself but surely it has been thought of up prior to this? (I checked, it has).

She is over sixty, never married and lived with her parents for the last thirty years of her life. On her own now since her dad died last year nudging towards 100 years old. Her dad took care of everything, meals,  bills, repairs and she had to ask him every time she needed the car.

She is continually disappointed in a world where parents divorce, children become estranged from parents or hit drugs or drop out.

I blame the movies for this. All those happy endings. Life is not a happy ending proposition. She is addicted to feel good series and fairytale types of films.

Since her father died, she has filled the house with six cats (it's not a large house) and visiting her is a bit of challenge, I am not good with cats crawling over me. If you have one or two cats, that's fine. But a roomful I find hard to take. 

She is extraordinarily judgey on her five siblings. They do not fit the picture of Happy Families by a long shot. She is the youngest, the baby of the family, and I have pointed out to her that their lived experience with their parents is far, far different to hers. She was an "oops" as her parents were in their forties when she was born with the rest of their family just about raised. She bemoans that they are not close and refuse to visit her with the six cats as they are (a) not allowed to bring their dogs into the house and (b) think she is gone over the edge with so many cats.

She loves hearing stories of my five siblings and I and our weekly zoom calls even though I assure her we are unusual in this. For 'tis a rare thing indeed to be on line every Sunday afternoon for nearly four years and never running out of interesting conversations. We all make the time for this. And no, we did not come out of a happy families environment. We have created this haven through hard work and much therapy for some of us.

I know she is not alone as I know so many going around disappointed in what life throws at them. Jealous, "it's fine for you" type of resentment oozing from every pore. As if rose gardens are given to the rest of us. And I do blame Hollywood and the Father Knows Best type of crap that was served up on television.

Me? I love the dark side of life, the depressions, the deaths, the loss of one's footing for a while, overcoming disaster and loss and disappointment, adapting to shitty circumstances. Inspiring stuff. Brave stuff.

 Knowing in my heart that any kind of contentment (screw happiness) is entirely of our own making and never, ever comes from outside of ourselves.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Pinned in The 'Peg (Part 4 - final)

See Part 1 here

See Part 2 here

See Part 3 here 

I'm taking them to dinner in their favourite place but we find it closed. She should have called, he says, why didn’t she, everyone calls. They have one of their interminable conversations in the front seat. Her alternative suggestions are squelched quickly. I'm not consulted even though I'll be footing the bill.

Schezuan, he decides, finally. I touch lightly on a few carefully thought out topics over dinner. I say I like the excellent tempura pickerel. Who said it was tempura? He turns on me, he didn't know what it was but it wasn't tempura. I ask the server, wondering why on earth I'm bothering. She's surprised I ask, “tempura pickerel,” she responds. Ah, he says darkly, they don't know tempura! The last part of the meal is rushed, there's another sports event waiting for him at home.

I sit in the kitchen with her and knit while watching an episode of "Foyle’s War" on one of the six televisions scattered throughout the house. From the den, he regularly calls out orders for tea, water, let Dingo out or in, all of which she obeys without question. When he comes out to the kitchen for yogurt (he announces she'd bring him the wrong one) he turns off the TV as he walks by. She turns it back on without comment or surprise once he leaves the kitchen. She stacks up more albums of knitting patterns for later enjoyment. I bail abruptly. He emerges from the den and tells her she's not coming to the airport in the morning as he's going directly to the gym afterwards. She's crestfallen, close to tears; I make my escape to my room, complete with dog butt.

Drifts of eternal one-sided arguments reach my ears from downstairs as I pull the covers over my head. No, no, no, that was 1951 not 1949, how could she be so mixed up?

I wonder if I'm permanently brain-damaged.

In the morning, I sit beside him as he drives to the airport.

You don’t say very much, he remarks, are you always this quiet? It’s not a good way of getting on in the world.

I look at him, take a deep breath. Measure my words.

You’d never be interested in what I have to say, I say slowly, thinking how insulting my words are.

Without missing a beat, he responds, delighted: Correct! He nods his head as we pull into the sidewalk below the departures sign at the airport, you women have nothing interesting to say!

I get out of the car, haul my suitcase from the back seat and slam the car door without another word.

I cry with relief as I board the plane.

Unbelievably, I hear from them a few more times via email telling me they are visiting Toronto and would love to see me.

I never respond and block him on his request to befriend me on Facebook.

They walk among us.

With no warning signs.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Pinned in the 'Peg (Part 3)

See Part 1 here

See Part 2 here

See my comments on Part 2 for further background on the main players and more details if you wish.

Red River, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Canada.

Dinner is served under the harsh unforgiving glare of the chandelier. They're busy discussing 1992 and who showed up for dinner at his sister’s place in Calcutta. Her brother-in-law looked like the Dalai Lama. No, he didn't, it was the doctor who looked like the Dalai Lama. Eileen never, ever responds to these clever conversational gambits. She merely shifts gears. His sister had that lovely yellow sari on. No, of course she didn't - she was still in mourning!

After dinner, Eileen takes me to the den and we squash together tightly on a love seat due to the absence of other seating. The many albums of knitting patterns she's been collecting for fifty years are produced - each page has a story: when she made it, what yarn she used, whether the beneficiary liked it, if she had to rip it and re-do it. That lunch in Toronto has shown me in floodlit clarity that she's not joking. This is her life. I can't interrupt. She's simply not interested. At eleven I yawn and yawn and at one I finally bail, ignoring the hurt expression on her face as she lovingly touches the patterns in album 45. The meal itself was unmemorable, a mishmash of unidentifiable stew with mushy vegetables. Though, of course, I murmured delicious when I got a word in edgewise.

I'm up at nine, plotting like an engineer as to how I can shower, dry my hair and climb into some crumpled clothes without swimming in a pool of water all day. My teeshirt-nightie does the trick and I hang it on the curtain rod to dry out.

Eileen prides herself on her ability to make cappuccinos, but does not believe in using espresso coffee beans for this, she finds a light blend works really well. If I don't look at this cupful of pale mud, I will ingest it without convulsions. Real coffee is now but a dim memory. Twenty-four more hours to go.

I'm again crouched in the back seat of the car as I'm taken on another tour - the North Side of Winnipeg. There are no distinguishing features between the north, south, east and west for the ignorant tourist, but many for the host and hostess. Each building is disagreed about. Watkins Pharmacy used to be there. No, wrong! He responds gleefully, Brown’s Furniture! The Red River flood took out a few houses here. No, no, no, that was over at Norbert. They renovated the hospital last year. No, not a renovation, that was strictly cosmetics. Silence. A lot of sky here, I murmur. Well, not a lot, he rejoins irritably, I've seen more elsewhere. I subside, swallowing the whimpers that rise unbidden to my throat.

Over brunch, which is in a lovely spot out of town, he starts in on my decision to move to Newfoundland. He's never known anyone to stick it for long, he snorts his disapproval. A half a million do, I say mildly. They’re stuck with it, no choice, he says triumphantly.

Surprisingly, he's addicted to sports on television so all excursions are calibrated to the broadcasts of sports events from around the world. We race back from brunch and he encases himself in the den and Eileen and I sit and knit in the living room, the dog protruding out of my hind quarters. They were right, they said I'd get used to it.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Pinned in The 'Peg (Part 2)

 See Part 1 here

Park Cafe, Winnipeg.

Thoughts of coffee and a nice rest quickly vanish when faced with a tour of South Winnipeg. We don’t do this for everyone, she says, laughing. Oh, yes we do, he interrupts. And at this point, if I'd had the tiniest glimmer of how many of these interchanges lay ahead of me on this June weekend, I'd have broken the window and flung myself under the nearest tractor trailer.

My attention's now captured by the flattest vista I've ever encountered. The flatness is alleviated somewhat by an oozing eczema of big box stores and multi-national restaurants. I mention Portage and Main, the famous intersection of downtown Winnipeg. Edgar, forgetting he's driving, turns around and informs me I know nothing about Winnipeg if I think it's all about Portage and Main. The Forks are interesting, Eileen offers. No, they’re not, he says. Five minutes of silence. He giggles. You pronounced Portage like a hick he says to me. “Portidge.” I dutifully repeat it after him.

I'm taken to a restaurant in the middle of a park. I stare out the window at lilacs, spring is late in Winnipeg, I remark. I'm quickly told Toronto has spoiled me for early springs. Eileen reaches across the table suddenly and takes both my hands in hers and tells me how she's thrilled I'm here. I'm dumbfounded, look away. I count internally, three hours since landing, another forty-five to get through.

I arrive at the house only to be met by one of those dogs, bum height, whose specialty is rectal probes. Everywhere I go from here on in, I'll wear most of this dog, Dingo. He wants to be your friend, they say.

They're well traveled and the walls are covered with photos of their world trips. It takes two hours for a hundred and fifty frames to be travelogued extensively. I finally whimper I'm tired and need to lie down, just for a half an hour.

The look they exchange would blister paint off a door but at this point I couldn't give a rat’s ass. I escape and unpack the suitcase on the bed (oh god, she wraps on the door tells me she knitted the bed spread in 1983 and it took seventy two balls of Sirdar and she put it on the bed just for me). I've tears in my eyes. My friends wouldn't be safe now, their secrets would spew from my mouth just to get this woman out of my room.

I unpack the case and then realize there is absolutely nowhere to put my clothes. The closet and every single drawer are jammed and every surface has pictures of Dingo. I repack and try not to obsess on the fact there is only a fingertip towel and a small hand towel on the bed. I might, but only if I am miserly in my usage, have one complete limb dry after a shower

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Pinned in The 'Peg (Part 1)

This is a true account of a time I spent in Winnipeg about 25 years ago. The Peg is a nickname for Winnipeg. I hadn't read it in years and never dared publish it until now. But it's time. All names are changed to protect the guilty but every word of it is true and I relived the horror of the whole experience as I read it a day or so ago. Alternative title at the time: The Hosts from Hell.


Portage and Main, downtown Winnipeg (CBC photo)

It all started with Caroline, who worked for me. Her parents lived in Winnipeg. I met her mother, Eileen, over dinner with Caroline. Caroline thought we'd loads in common because we both knitted. Knitting has never been my life, I should make clear, usually indulged in during summers by the sea or in the winter over a movie.

Caroline moved to England. Next time Eileen came to Toronto she called me and I took her for lunch. Caroline had emailed me that it was also Eileen’s birthday that day, so feeling pressured and not totally out of generosity, I presented her with “A History of Canadian Knitting” a book that I'd recently bought for my own use in an obscure little shop. I took her to The Distillery, filled with artisans' studios where we could wander afterward.

Very early on I realized that I had been misguided in taking the afternoon off. I'd been with bores before but this was the auntie of them all. For a while I thought Eileen was going to burst into laughter and scream “gotcha!”

After lunch, as we toured the studios I was treated to a day by day accounting of life in England in 1965 and the details of every item of clothing she'd ever knitted for her children.

Demented, I whipped out my mobile around three o’clock and said I'd forgotten a very important appointment, could I drop her off.

Just about weeping with relief, I pulled away from her hotel. I will never, ever have to endure Eileen again.

Eileen raves to Caroline about the wonderful time we'd had and lickity-split, Caroline immediately buys an airline ticket for a full weekend in Winnipeg with Eileen and Edgar, her dad.

Horrified, but loathe to offend Caroline, I tell myself it won't be that bad. After all Edgar is a professor which required some degree of intelligence.

I arrive at Winnipeg airport on a Saturday morning. I'd been up since 6.00 a.m. and am exhausted, cranky and shy about a quart of coffee.

They're both waiting for me in arrivals, grinning, each with a coffee. As I struggle with my bag they tell me I didn't want a coffee. Really? I follow them and stop, horrified, as they open the two front doors of a two door 1991 Toyota Tercel and climb in. I am a tall, large woman and survey the back seat of the car which is piled high with jackets, tools, rags and cleaning supplies. It takes me five minutes to move all the material to the trunk and ensconce myself in the back seat accompanied by the happy sounds of slurping coffee from the front seat.

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

That was the week that was.

Often, I feel I have nothing to write about. Ever feel that way? So this week I got notice that my driver's licence was renewed. This after an intense medical as I turn 80 in August. My doc submitted all the forms with a few reservations (my congestive heart failure, my barely there kidney performance). My right eye after one procedure is just about blind but when she did the eye-test I was able to look sideways with it and read the chart.

I admit I cried when I saw the approval. I was prepared for the worst, I always do, adapting and adjusting mentally to losing the old licence after 62 years of driving - accident free I should add, which has now jinxed that because I wrote it here. I've always loved driving and for many years drove across country when I lived part time in Newfoundland and worked in Ontario.

Grandgirl sent me this when I shared the news of my driver's licence renewal

I'm struggling along on a 1000 calorie a day diet (try it, it's hard) as I would like to lose poundage to ease the load on my heart and kidneys. 1000 calories a day forces me to eat healthy and avoid any kind of snacks. At my age, the metabolism slows and it's hard to lose and so much easier to gain with a sliver here or there of something delectable.

I managed to get out for a bit of a hike with a very supportive friend. I hike along in fits and starts with George, my trusty cane. Glad to be out there when so many seem to be confined lately.

This is the lake in the city not far from where I live and I never knew it was there as it's hidden away. It's beautifully laid out with many benches along the way for a quick little rest up.

It's home to rare birds that get blown off course here by the winds, one of which is the mandarin duck. Isn't he just gorgeous?


My friend Lana is deteriorating more with Alzheimer's. A call during the week broke my heart as she was in a panic as she didn't recognize where she lived or what she was doing there and wanted to get out. I calmed her down after a while.

All of the above makes me so very grateful for what I have and what I'm doing. And, well, just being. A mighty "just". Being.