what's the magic word?

I never feel so incompetent as when I am trying to log in to a seldom used program - should I say app?  Passwords proliferate and get more elaborate and complex as we go along.  I can't stand it. I freeze, I can't remember, I lose it.  It seems so much easier to admit I forgot my password and then they give me a new one but then I have to remember it.  My bank made me change mine after years and years and then IT didn't remember - I'm not joking.  I went for several weeks changing constantly because it wouldn't co-operate.  I finally phoned and got fixed up but it won't copy in one place.  Never mind.  

The reason I've been so stressed is that I've been trying to fill out all the forms for Visas to only three of the countries I'll be going to next year. (The cruise people are looking after the other 75.)    Lots of passwords, plus my passport,  plus dates. Some of them want year, month and date; others want date, month and year.   And all the way along you get warned about terrible consequences if you make an error or lie.  I wouldn't dream of lying, of course, but by the end of this afternoon, at the end of this interminable, stressful week, actually, I was even spelling my name incorrectly.  Now I have to go to a copy shop and make lots of duplicates of everything I've done.  

I HATE paperwork.

I don't want to talk about it any more.  I'll think of something.

Oh, BTW, thank you to the commenter who liked my who-am-I? blog.  That was very nice of you. I'm always so surprised when someone reads my blogs. I feel as if I've popped a thought into a remote mailbox, never to be picked up or noticed or read.  I think I have about four readers now, not all at once, and not regular, but it's comforting to think of them - you.  I want to say, keep up the good work, but I'm the one who has to keep up the good work.  No problem because I know the password. 


I'm having a very bad time with several stressful things, so I'm not going to talk about  them. Instead, I'll talk about food . I had some leftover, lightly steamed broccoli and you know I hate to throw away food, so I made a broccoli-apple salad.  The nice thing about cooking with leftovers is that you never have to measure anything, you just taste it till it seems right.   So - take some cut up broccoli, and if it's too big and you  have a little Cuisinart chopper/grinder, you could give it a whirl. Chop up  a seeded, but not peeled, apple and add to the broccoli in a bowl large enough to accommodate  some other things as they occur or appeal to you, beginning with a little red onion ((I heated it a bit in the microwave so it wouldn't be too strong). So then I dumped in some raisins and walnuts (chopped a bit), and some apple cider vinegar.  It seemed a little too acid so I stirred in some liquid (melted) honey and then some low-fat mayo and then  tasted it again.  It was okay, but too much for me, so I took a  bowl of it to my  next-door neighbour and he invited me in for a glass of white wine and we had a talk and I told him about my stress.  So you see.  Good leftovers make good neighbours.

And reduce stress.

who am I ?

Yesterday morning I encountered a woman on her way to swim as I was leaving. I've known her for about ten or twelve years.  When I say known I know her name and a bit of her recent history. I also know her birthday. Names and faces I often don't remember but I usually remember birthdays. It was about two weeks ago.  I said, "I didn't send you a card this year but I thought of you.  She didn't say anything.  I said, "You know the line, 'A stranger is a friend I haven't met yet"? I always -no -used to think we could be friends but it never happened, and I'm sorry."

She said, "It's not you, it's me. I have this inner self."

"We all do," I said.  I didn't say but I thought that some people are more inner than others.

I'l think about what you said," she said.  

Later, in the afternoon, I gave a reading and a kind of bio of my life to a group at Ryerson University, the first talk in a new project about plays and playwriting, a bonus to be connected with the Over-50 Playwriting Program. I told bits and pieces of my life to establish myself in space and time and read from a couple of plays, one a complete monologue I've never performed before, about the last four minutes of an old woman's life. Well, I guess that's part of my inner life.  I thought of my...acquaintance.  The difference is, I sell mine, and then go deeper inner. 

When my husband died, that's when I began to develop another persona.  I was Gallant Widow, Intrepid Journalist, playing the role that had been thrust upon me. Now I'm Aging Widow (still writing), Local Seer, what else?  Somewhere in there, there's me. 

Who am I?  For that matter, who are you?

when you are old and grey and full of sleep...

...and nodding by the fire"  (from one of my favourite poems by Yeats.)  Yes, well, it's a good thing I don't have a fireplace any more because i don't have time to nod by it.  I can't believe how busy I am, and with deadlines and priorities. I won't go into details; everyone has details. I used to think how nice it would be when i got to be eighty, that I would have time not to nod by the fire but to catch up with lot and lots of reading.  Not.

The thing is, there's always more reading to do, not just the classics, some of which I missed (I never did read War and Peace), but always more new books to read, really good books that I must read - when I have the time? So I keep buying them and I need more bookcases but most of all I need more time.  I keep forgetting how old I am. So then when I remember, I sigh.Well, maybe next week, or next month, or next  year.

Well, maybe when I'm ninety.

do you smell something?

There was an item on TV last night, one of those fillers to leave people feeling less gloomy about the state of the world. This one was about the scents being used in stores and other commercial establishments, especially hotels, to make people feel welcome and cheerful and consumer-ish (?), i.e. in a mood to buy stuff.  apparently one hotel has paid a lot of money for a "signature smell". Customers or clients don't actually recognize the scent but they feel good.  The only store I can smell is some kind of kitschy gift shop with all the scented candles and smellies.  That's what my hyper-allergic daughter called those little sachets women put in their underwear and linen closets.  Liz called them "closet smellies", and threw them out when she received them as gifts. . 

I remember years ago reading about a company in New York called Flavours and Fragrances and they were in the business of creating new flavours, tastes and aromas.  Apparently when Jello wanted a grape flavour they went to F&F to create one.  There were more practical (?) demands for their services.  The company developed an Essence of Cave to lure bears into hibernation  - I guess in zoos since presumably they could find their own bear-cave in the wilds.  I wonder if women spray the man-cave room, so popular in houses now, with essence of male, to keep the guy at home.

I had a radio show at the time, a 90-second spot from your Big Sponsor in The Sky, that I wrote and recorded for the United Church of Canada. It was broadcast on independent radio stations across the country. Anyway, I wrote about F&/F - I always wanted to call it Favours and Flagrances - and I wondered if they had developed an Odour of Sanctity.  Never did find out.

So - nothing new under the sun, and if  there were it would spoil and smell. That would be a familiar odour.  One of the new rules of eating is, don't eat anything that won't rot. That rules out artificial, processed, preserved food although I'm told that honey is the only food that won't spoil. 

I do go on.

lateral thinking

Do you remember lateral thinking? Edward de Bono's ideas about it date from about 1967. I was aware of  him and I think I have a paperback book somewhere about LT.  I leaned on the idea  heavily in 1975 when I was in trouble trying to "write" a play for a non-literate acting company.  Theatre Passe Muraille, headed then by Paul Thomson, was a collective group, an ensemble of actors who went out and "researched" the components of a story and then came back and acted them out, putting the loose parts together to form a play.

We hooked up because  I wanted to write a play about Reverend Horsburgh, the United Chuarch minister who was arrested, tried and convicted on 4 or 5 out of 27 counts of contributing to juvenile delinquency in his church (in Sarnia).  He actually served about 27 days in a federal prison (Kingston) before being acquitted by the Supreme Court of Canada because he had been convicted on the uncorroborated testimony of minors. As I  began doing my research before being committed to Passe Muraille, I found that my subject changed like a chameleon according to who was describing him.  To some witnesses he was an angel; to others he was the devil incarnate. That's why I asked Passe Muraille to take him on. I needed a collection of minds to approach the character. And that's how I came to lateral thinking.

Once into rehearsal I wasn't allowed to write. The actors went out daily or nightly exploring various aspects they hoped to cover in their production and came back the next day to report physically and audibly on what they had discovered. Nothing in writing, though.  It was highly entertaining and I laughed a lot.  But we had no script. I started reading and working through lateral thinking, trying to find a handle. I tried de Bono's recommended methods: free association with words, wishful thinking, exaggeration, distortion, reversal and so on.  I sent up  (yes, sent not set) different circumstances and movements. I asked 'why?' a lot. I tried to fin multiple, parallel answers. Finally, I put paper in my typewriter (this was long before computers) and wrote a scene-by-scene breakdown of a play that didn't exist. 

Act One, Scene One, in which the Reverend Horsburgh meets his new congregation and startles some of his listeners.  

Like that.  

I handed the pages to Paul Thomson with a book of matches so he could burn them if he wished. he read them through two or three times and said, "This makes me feel a whole lot better."  He pinned the pages to a wall and the company began to rehearse, improvising dialogue to fit the demands of the scene and also remembering words from their play-time.

At the end of the day, Eric Peterson, one of the lead actors in the company, said, "We actually have a play to rehears and we have three whole days to get it ready for an audience. This has never happened before."  They were all ecstatic. I was relieved.

The play went on tour before it came into Toronto to run for a few weeks.  After it was over I  wrote it down and it was published along with my reporter's notes and the collective experience, titled "The Horsburgh Scandal."

I couldn't have done it without lateral thinking. I thought of it this morning as I swam because I need some of that thinking for the chapter I am working on about epiphanies.  Funnily, enough, lateral thinking is one of the suggested synonyms for LT.  I didn't know that. 

the artist's way

Have I mentioned Julia Cameron yet? She defines her book, The Artist's Way in a sub-title:  "A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity".  Because it's a project in twelve stages, people have mistaken it for the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. It's not.  And I think it is intended for civilians, that is, for people who are not necessarily writers or artists. But the people I know who have read it are not lay-people.  McLuhan predicted that some day  everyone would be an artist.  That's happening, has happened, and the problem as he also predicted is, who will there be left to read and admire the artist when everyone is an artist?  Case in point, the blog.  

Everyone writes blogs now. Who wants to read them?  Except I guess celebrity blogs - but they limit themselves to tweets, don't they?  Or maybe a blog with a narrow focus, like a cooking blog, several of those, none, I suspect, as wildly successful as Julie Powell's riding on Julia Child's apron strings.  The best-selling Book of Awesome began as a blog when Canadian writer Neil Pasricha was at a very low point in his life and set himself an assignment to think of something good that happened each day.  

I'm no sure about my blog yet.  It's a pump-primer, that I know. It's good discipline and useful preparation for my big trip.  And I think it's beginning to serve as footnotes to the book I'm working on, about age.  I mean, what else could my blog be?  I am old and I am writing about what happens to me and what I'm thinking in my twilight years. I've actually quoted from one of my blogs - once -  in my book, though I'm not sure whether it will stick. 

Back to Julia Cameron.  I read it and worked on it when I was still living up north (in Muskoka).  There are some exercises she assigns that I don't think I could do now, living in a city as I do, with too many calls on me and too many distractions.  But if it appeals to you, check out her assignment for Week 4.  "Reading Deprivation" is a doozy.  I actually did it twice, about a year apart. Giving  up reading is harder than giving up booze, I think.  I mean, books are an addiction.  Readers used to share what was called a Gutenberg Complex.  I'm not sure what you'd call it now since print is going the way of the dodo bird. 

Think about it.

some days are diamonds

Thanks to a comment from "Pat" I found and listened to a song by John Denver, "Some Days Are Diamonds, Some Days Are Stones".  She responded to my complaints about a day that had  turned out to be a frustrating obstacle course. I like John Denver but I didn't know that song.  Pat says she keeps a little bowl of pebbles with "diamonds" scattered among them, sparkly beads. Rhinestone buttons would be nice. That's a  lovely idea, thank  you.

I keep thinking of a line from that Rogers & Hammerstein song, from The King and I: "If you become a teacher/By your pupils you'll be taught."  Not that I'm teaching you anything with my blather, but Pat has taught me something. 

I think I stagger along from stepping stone to stepping stone (different kind of stone), clutching at signposts along the way to guide me or at least cheer me on.  I'll give you another line, this one from Marshall McLuhan.  He said "the price of eternal vigilance is indifference."  I think he was referring to the Red Telephone, the one that was supposed to ring when World War Three was imminent - or something. McLuhan thought that the people assigned to be on the alert for the phone would get tired of being so tense and would gradually slump into inertia or indifference. That's a small price to pay, actually, and I don't think it's true.  I think that the price of eternal vigilance is eternal vigilance. You can't ever let down.

"Don't give a inch."  I think that's from Ken Kesey but I could be wrong. I often am.  Still, it's another signpost to spur me on my way.

On my way to where? I  guess I'll know when I get there. In the meantime, I'm on the look out for pebbles and rhinestones. 


Years ago, one time on a trip to London, I went alone to a play - don't remember what play but it was a comedy. The whole audience burst into laughter at one character's line about using a Pifco.  I didn't know what that was. I asked my neighbouring seat-mate, a stranger to me, what a Pifco was.  She leaned over, very close, and whispered, very discreetly,  "It's a small electrical appliance,"  The brand name stood for the thing. That doesn't happen often, not to stick, and Brits do it more often.  

They say 'corn flakes' for all cereal.  They say 'Hoover" for vacuuming and also for devouring food ("I hoovered it up").  I guess the closest to that usage is in Newfoundland.  When a Newfoundlander says fish, he means cod.  All other fish are identified by their names.

Some brand names make it into a generic identity but it doesn't always last.  Xerox used to mean photo-copy, no matter what brand was used.  Not any more.  Thermos is still, I think, in wide general use but vacuum flask or bottle is competing with it.  Kleenex used to be king but there are lots of other brands, including generic ones, that are identified as facial tissues, including those cute little purse packs labelled SNIFF or with Xmas greetings on them. (Does anyone, except perhaps the Queen, remember handkerchiefs?)  Oh, and then there are Post-It Notes and Scotch tape, both from the same company, and they have stuck, if  you'll pardon the expression. I'm wondering if the indefatigable rabbit is beating out other batteries. Product recognition must cost a fortune.  

Is Coke synonymous with a soft drink, a thirst quencher, a happiness symbol? Okay, what about water?  Are we going to start identifying water with the safest, cleanest potable liquid we can find? buy?  Oh my.

more about words

Yesterday I was going to invite you to write me a fulsome reply and wait to see who knew that was the wrong word, bur that would be sneaky.  A lot of people are using it incorrectly now, thinking they are saying large, thorough, abundant.  Not. It's actually not very nice, kind of overdone, even tasteless. It's on the cusp. Some consider fulsome praise a compliment; others would be offended. I once wrote a manufacturer, of sponges as I recall, offering me fulsome information if I wrote them. So I wrote questioning their use of the word.  They just sent me a bunch of sponges. Copy writers are never wrong.  I fired a copy editor when she tried to correct me with incorrect words and I took my byline off an article for a well-known magazine because they put bad grammar into my copy. I make enough mistakes of my own without letting anyone else put words in my mouth - on my paper - online.

Oh, my, it's hard keeping up with the medium (meansmethodwayformagencyavenuechannelvehicleorganinstrument, mechanism)! Have you noticed how your vocabulary has grown in the last ten years? And not just the words. How about the acronyms and initials?  Ten years ago I knew that DOA meant dead On Arrival but I didn't know that GSR is Gun Shot Residue or BFT is Blunt Force Trauma.

Hey, I grew up with FHB  - Family Hold Back - if there wasn't enough food for an unexpected guest.  BO was Body Odour in the ad for Lifebuoy soap. SWAK was Sealed With  Kiss on letters to a soldier serving overseas. Much later, taking instructions for reviving a heart attack victim with CPR - CardioPulmonary Resuscitation -  one was supposed to KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid. ( It didn't work with my husband, though. Sorry.)

today was another day

So is tomorrow. Another day, that is.  And that's when I'll deal with it, or something.

That's all I could write last night after another day at Stratford. It's not Stratford that's tiring and time-consuming, it's the driving there and back.  Yesterday heavy traffic pushed us onto a side road en route and heavy rain made the drive back difficult and tiring for my darling driver who had to listen to me prattle too.  Besides being a computer genius and my guide and mentor, she is lovely looking and very patient.  Just when I think I have wound down, she asks a question I feel inspired to answer - fully. 

I could go on and give you a capsule review Of Alice Through the Looking Glass, James Reaney's adaptation, but I must read his script first.  I can't believe he wrote some of the things they did.  Too much. And the actors/director couldn't make up their minds whether they were playing to children or adults. They came up with a mid-Atlantic version of kidspeak, midway between continents, as it were. 

I love audience participation or/and involvement but it has to be integral to the plot. No, no, I won't go on, not until I have read Reaney's version. I want to know whom to blame.

Now I'm almost ready to write today's blog.  Soon.  Today is yet young

à la recherche du temps perdu

Essence des choses. And that's about all I know about Marcel Proust (1871-1922), and Swann's Way.  I It/he was on my Honours French course, I guess in 4th year.  I read the relevant parts, his famous layered memory stuff.  Does everyone know about the madeleines?  (A madeleine is a kind of tea cake, significant to Proust for the memories it recalled and beautifully described.)  You know it:  it's the incredible recall of the first time a thing came home to you, fully registered in your mind and memory, so that every time you encounter it again, the first time comes rushing back and layers over your present experience.  

We are told that the olfactory sense is the fastest, most effective aid to remembrance of things past. I used to keep a lipstick that reminded me of the spring I was 14.  Is that proof?  

I'm thinking about this now because of the book I'm writing about age. It's a combination of a memoir and a travel book.  The more I dig into my past and the more questions I ask about my future, the more I am remembering and piecing together hitherto buried memories, discovering links I hadn't been aware of.  I'm finding out reasons, maybe, for funny things I do.  I never put the cap on the end of a pen because three-quarters of a century ago, one stuck and I couldn't get it off. I think maybe the reason I don't drink Coca Cola or any other soft drink is that I didn't have access to them during my formative Coke-drinking years. During World War Two, Coke was not available. I was 13, spending the summer in Gimli on Lake Winnipeg in the home of my maternal grandparents, most of the time on the dock at the harbour (the first year I was allowed to swim in deep water).  I still remember the day a case of Coke came to town.  The news spread like (artificial) maple syrup on a hot pancake  and we all picked up our towels and headed in to town.  Like everything else at that time, the Coke was rationed. My uncle the pharmacist had a soda fountain so he got six bottles. The Chinaman's, the best restaurant in town, got six bottles. I don't know how the remaining 12 were allotted. We all went to the Chinaman's because there were booths and we could squeeze in. I think we were allowed two bottles among us - maybe six or eight of us.  As I say, I never developed a Coke habit and that's probably why.  

That was the least of our deprivations. We were a small, lost generation. There were fewer of us because we were Depression babies. Our parents had to have been very brave to have children in the early 30s, and they were lean years. And then the war deprived us of our teenage insouciance.  We weren't young enough not to care and we weren't old enough to do anything useful, so we just hung around waiting for it to be over and life to begin. 

Remembrance of things past. Not much to remember, actually.


This has been an odd, ragtag day.  Monday is usually good. I start with a plan and try to allocate my time, but as the morning went on I started to get jumpy.  Too many things to do, and I met obstacles. I have to get only 3 Visas for the big trip I'm going on; the cruise company will get the rest.  So I begin by not getting online. My desktop was  not on.  So I moved over to my laptop -online - and started work, finishing my chapter on Forgetting.  Finished and printed, and then I thought of a couple more things to say. By that time I had gone on to the next one on Comforting so my pagination is going to be wrong when I add stuff.  Later. 

Finally on line with the desk top and I pulled up the form to apply for the Visas, and it/they didn't have a province list for me to choose from.  So I couldn't move on. I tried the phone number I was given but the person who answered spoke French only, with a bad accent, or I would have tried. Try later.

I'm going to Stratford again on Wednesday, the last time this season, and I will have seen EVERY ONE of the season. (Very time-consuming.)  So I'm going to make crab wraps for a picnic - I checked the weather and it will be okay. I needed to buy crab meat (I buy pollock disguised as crab meat - cheaper, but good), and I was about to go to the store when a man came to restore the compressors (if that's what they're called) for my AC units that have been non-functioning all summer long as part of the balcony disaster project. So no store.  I ordered early from Gateway Grocery (I love them; they carry for me!) for delivery tomorrow morning so I can make the crab wraps in time for the picnic Wednesday.  The AC remote was breathing hard and I had new batteries but we (the AC man and I) couldn't figure out how to get the thing open to replace the batteries.  Later. 

My challenged son needs a will with a Henson Trust, that will allow him to have money (like from me, if there's any left, when I die), and I've been trying to arrange a meeting with the lawyer but we have been delayed and put off several times and it happened again this week.  Later.

I wrote my blog late last night and I knew it needed checking but I went to bed instead and corrected it this morning.  So then I didn't feel like writing a blog for today's date until later. Like now. Here I am. Nothing accomplished.

Maybe later.


Another day at Stratford, this time to see Christina, The Girl King, by Michael Marc Bouchard.  Fascinating.  I must read the play (translated from the French (Canadian) by Linda  Gaboriau.  I read the information about Queen Christina of Sweden but I'm having a little difficulty relating what I learned to the spin Bouchard has put on it.  Apart from the historical accuracy (or in-),  I'm also having trouble distinguishing between the writer's and the director's input, and also with the playwright's rule-bending. There are certain rules  - well, maybe guidelines - for playwrights that it pays to observe in order to make things clear to the audience.   Well, Bouchard has two different people addressing the audience, stretching the allowance for narrative speaker (a no-no, in any case, according to Robert McKee) and then the protagonist addresses an invisible person (not the audience, who is un-co-operative.   Not great.

But the play, as I said, is fascinating, because of the subject. Bouchard has packed a lot of different issues into a two and a half hour play, some of them more thorny than others.  I have to read the script and think.  But the production is fine and the costumes splendid.  Stratford continues to be a designer's theatre.  I do wish the actress (Jenny Young) playing Queen Christina were more robust and less petite and adorable-looking.  

Then I went to bed.

After all, tomorrow is another day.



mention my name...

I'm writing a chapter on Forgetting and I began to write about floaters, the gaffes that float up in the wee small hours of the morning that make getting back to sleep so difficult. I  referred to a Huxley novel where I had first learned the term so I looked up Huxley etc. and found me from a blog dated July 11, 2013.  And I was wrong.  I said floater was in Point Counterpoint and it wasn't; it was in Those Barren Leaves with another mention in Chrome Yellow.    Oh dear,  that's how errors are perpetuated. 

Anyway, I corrected my blog, didn't know how to correct it on the net.  It's amazing, though, how things turn up.  I'm not famous, not at all, but when I refer to someone who is, they find me.  Fame by reference.

Anyway, I was thinking about forgetting and it's such a huge terrifying topic that I had to procrastinate a lot while I thought about it.  Today, I will try to finish it -  no - round it off. There is no conclusion, is there?  We go on we go on, trailing wisps and bits of vague recollections. That makes me think of Wordsworth's line, "trailing clouds of immortality."  I wonder if they'll quote me quoting him?  Well, if they do, I had better get it right. So I looked it up. It's from the Ode,  "Intimations of Immortality" from Early Childhood, and it's quite apt. 

 Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:

I guess it pays to be (a bit) forgetful.

another day

I wasn't procrastinating.  I spent a day going to Stratford (Mother Courage) and yesterday I had a guest for lunch and then a different guest for dinner - lots of cooking (and wine) - so I went to bed before I wrote a blog.  Today I will get into some serious procrastination and writing. I hope it's productive. 

Do you know what a "hybrid essay" is? I scribbled the phrase after reading it somewhere.  I had a feeling it's related to blogs.

I'm sorry I asked. I just looked it up. There is a wealth of material, and it's very educational, boiling down to "how to write an essay" in 25 steps or less. Good reminders, I guess,  for people who want to write essays or blogs, who do not understand the form.  Is there a prescribed form for a blog?

 I've mentioned Addison and Steele before. Did I also mention Charles Lamb (1775-1834), aka Elia? He is best known for his Essays of Elia and for the Tales from Shakespeare that he wrote with his sister Mary. (He handled the tragedies and she the comedies.) I'm sure that the great essayists of the past would be bloggers today. Does anyone else remember reading them at school?  I read Lamb in elementary school, I think, anyway, a long time ago. I remember an essay about roast pig. It's hard for a child to understand humour, especially when it's expressed in an earlier form of the language. Formal sounds serious, even when it's not.  Addison and Steele were a paired subject for me to study in my second year at university. O, come on! I was sixteen and not very sophisticated.  I did, however, drink coffee.  If those men were alive today they'd hang out at Starbucks. I wonder what they would have thought of latté? 

Well, it's another day and I have more to procrastinate about. 




more time time time

My father, the doctor, used to marvel at his use of time as the years went by.  When he was a young, newly-fledged practitioner, he said he spent huge amounts of time and attention on each case. As his experience broadened - deepened - he didn't have to.  That is, he could distinguish between urgent and not-so.  He knew the difference and his skill developed so that he could deal with a dislocated shoulder in a matter of minutes and spend more time on something more complicated and serious. That's the principle of triage.

Remember that sort of a joke: a patient complains to a doctor about the cost of the treatment he has received, saying that the time it took couldn't possibly cost so much (like re-locating a shoulder?).   The doctor explained the breakdown of the account: Pushing a dislocated  shoulder back into place - $5.00. Knowing where to push - $100.00 (or whatever the going rate was).

I thought of that as I ponder my past. I had so much energy and I squandered it lavishly.  I am more careful now and try to expend it where it counts, before I run out. I guess I needed to learn where to push.



Yesterday I was saying how much I love paper and went off on a tangent on my uses of it.  I meant to mourn the decreasing use of social paper.  People use the "social network" to communicate and neglect the hand-written word.  So paper is being neglected and handsome paper is both expensive and rare, soon to be obsolete?  I guess the trees should be grateful.  But consider all the other things that are  becoming obsolete, like letter openers.  I have a collection of them with duck heads. (I used to collect ducks.)  They used to be a favourite speaker's gift when the organization one spoke to didn't pay an honorarium but gave a little prezzie instead. (The worst one I ever received was a velveteen telephone book cover.  I left it in the taxi going home. )  I have a few nice, metal  letter openers, with a company logo or symbol on the hilt, and I use them, albeit for fewer and fewer letters, mainly fund-raising pitches.  I stab them with my letter opener.

Other things are becoming or have become obsolete.  Consider candle snuffers. Candles are decorative rather than functional these days and not in daily - nightly - use, so I guess people don't mind blowing them out or using two wet fingers to pinch out the flame.  No more candle snuffers. 

Pipe reamers? I'm not even sure what they are but I think they've been confiscated by security personnel fearing a terrorist attack on a plane. No telling how much damage you can do with a pipe reamer.  People do still smoke pipes; do they still ream them?

What about thimbles? Do they still make them?  I knew someone who collected thimbles and they were adorable, so many different designs and creations, not all very useful, but charming.  Well, does anyone sew? Of course, people sew, except me.  If I lose a button I have to throw the garment away because I never get around to sewing it on. So I have no need of a thimble.  

Coal scuttles.  In the days of coal-burning fires, one needed a coal scuttle.  I remember hearing a story of an heiress at the turn of the 20th century who was so rich it was thought she would never be needy.  Her entire fortune was invested in a product that would always be in demand: stove blacking.  As long as there were wood-burning stoves, the need for stove blacking would endure.  Bread line for the heiress.

So you see.  As went the stove blacking and candle snuffers, so go writing paper and letter openers.  When did you last use a pencil? 

time time time

The internet is so alluring, so easy, so accessible, how can I resist it?  And how on earth (?) can people spare the time for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or whatever? The wonders and knowledge of the world are at one's fingertips, but oh, how time-consuming it all is.  Every day, but more on Sundays, I come across names, book titles, URLs, intriguing ideas I want to follow up on,  and I do. I have all these scraps of paper I scribble on  to lead me to clarification and enlightenment.  

Ai me.

I won't burden you with leads to knowledge you may not want. You have your own agenda and desires.  Go to it.  I do not mean to complain.  Like  you, all my life i have wondered about so many things, things peripheral to my life but that I wanted to know more about. And now it's possible. The trouble is that the things I want to know more about keep on increasing in number and complication.  I am happy but distracted. 

I'll let you know what I learn this week.

Oh, BTW...

Happy Labour Day.


I love paper.  I have always loved paper.  Among papers that I love are hasti-notes. That's a cute name that Hallmark or someone coined for cute little, quicky, short letters that brides (and others) used to say thank you.  They were cute, still are, even beautiful. I joined the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York not because I get to NY to see the exhibitions (they look lovely), but because I get catalogues online and a discount on purchases.  I have a friend who saves all my Met thank-you notes and pins them  on a bulletin board, not because I write great notes but because I write on great notepaper. I got carried away recently and bought more really pretty ones  and now I have a large collection that I must use soon.  I wish someone would have me for dinner, so I could thank her.

But I worry about the future of letters.  Wonderful collections of letters by famous people to other famous people are being published, dating from a time when people chose to write rather than twitter. Well, twitter didn't exist, of course. On the other hand, neither did blogs.  Maybe those who would have been letter-writers are communicating via blogs now. I can believe that. I'm having trouble keeping up with everything I have to write these days: my diary; my correspondence (with people my age who don't have commuters although they are catching up with iPads and beginning to write) ; notes for my mentee; regular generic letters (I wrote one in August, haven't mailed it yet, either e- or snail-); my blog and, of course, the book I am trying to finish.  

Anon, anon....