happy October first

I've missed two days because I've been too busy and I'm going to be busy today, too (last excursion to Stratford for this season),  so I'll swim a little later this morning and clear my conscience.  Two clays ago I encountered a perfect blog subject while shopping in the afternoon but I had an unexpected guest for dinner, the one who chooses his menu; he chose flank steak over chicken breast so I had to thaw/marinate the meat and clear some papers off the surfaces. 

I've been preparing a profile for submission to Ryerson University because I have been accepted as a lecturer for the Seniors Education Program (I think that's what it's called).  I'm going to be teaching Playwriting, an 8-hour/8-week course plus a foray into Character (we can all use some of that). This is one of the reasons I have been too busy to blog:  I was messing around with the computer, filling out a form online and I kept bogging down. Not going into detail, just explaining my neglect.

Now: here's what I was thinking about when I was shopping.  I needed new Band-Aids. (There's a brand name that has become the generic, at least for someone my age.)  Does anyone remember the little orange thread that you had to pull - -always ineptly - to zip open the wrapping?  It's long gone and a good thing, I guess, because it always ended on the floor below the bathroom basin, along with shreds of the (ineptly) opened bandage.  You could always tell if someone in the house had broken skin (i.e. cut) because of the evidence on the floor.  Why were you always the only one who knew how to aim accurately at the waste basket?   

This is not what I want to say.

No.  It's the proliferation of products that makes shopping, i.e. choosing, so difficult. I mean, have you looked at Band-Aids - sorry - bandages, recently? Not only are there different company brands but there are also different sizes, degrees of protection and of adhesiveness. (Is that a word?  Spel-chek seems to think so.)  You can choose antiseptic, waterproof, wrap-around, plastic, some sort of gauze, and coloured, funny ones for children or anyone who likes frivolous first-aid.  I chose Tough, bur ti took a while, I mean, several minutes. 

Nothing is simple any more. When I was living in Muskoka I really enjoyed my tiny, local grocery store because when I wanted butter, I bought butter.  I didn't have to go through the range of choices: salted or unsalted, whipped, half and half with something lower fat/calorie (?), or Danish, or Canadian.  

It's the same with toothpaste. It's hard to find plain ordinary toothpaste. You have to choose among a variety of services that the toothpaste presents: whitening, de-sensitizing, enamel- building, oh, and do they still fool with fluoride? Did you know that the word for toothbrush several centuries ago was "scurry-funge"? I'd love to see that on a label.  Remember Gwyneth Paltrow in her Oscar-winning performance in Shakespeare in Love, thoughtfully cleaning her teeth with some sort of picky thing - a scurry-funge?

Now I'm late for swimming.

I'm going to see The Alchemist today. Anon, anon. 


Remember the story of Diogenes and his begging bowl?  The bowl was the philosopher's only possession that he used to hold the food he begged. One day he tripped and fell and broke the bowl and said, "At last! I'm free!"

Well, that's how I feel when I toss something I've hung onto for too long, and I wonder why it took me so long.  Last week I finally threw out all the negatives of all the pictures I ever took from the very first days when I had a little Kodak box camera, my best camera. Just aiming and clicking, I took the best (black & white) photograph of Lake Louise that my brother, an amateur  photographer, ever saw.  I stuck it in a frame and hung it over my bed table and Jack used to come into my room and look at the picture and shake his head and say, "You couldn't do it again."  He was right, of course. I didn't. I won't go into a history of my cameras now.  You can fill in the blanks with your own stories, beginning with the little Brownie, if you're old enough, and ending with the Polaroid, may they all rest in landfill.

I tossed all my cameras long ago with the first of my big down-sizing moves after my husband died, and I culled the accumulation of mementoes and photographs. I had very few pictures, actually, and very few albums. I've always collected notes and letters rather than pictures; words meant more to me than images, that is, sentimental or significant words. When the University of Manitoba committed to take my files for the archives, they didn't realize what they were getting into.  If I'm ever really famous, they'll have a goldmine - like the Hemingway treasure trove. In the meantime, the archives give me a place to send my detritus.  Except those negatives. They had to go.  And I don't have any bullfight tickets.

I did have, however, a bulging file of my dog Tag's life, his medical records and licenses and so on.   He survived a bite from a Massassauga rattle snake and I have the bills to prove it.  So here's a switch for me: I just tossed his files and kept his pictures. 



packrat is as packrat does

I planned to write about this yesterday but Toronto's new (to me) streetcars and elevators interfered.  If you read yesterday's blog, though you will have noticed something I wrote in dismay about the stamped transit ticket. "What do I do with it?"  Another bit of detritus for the hoard. My subject for today.

Ernest Hemingway was a packrat. A new museum with all his artefacts (when does junk become artefact?) has recently opened and an article in the New York Times reviews it and comments on what he saved: everything, even to used bullfight tickets.  Forty-seven different endings to A Farewell to Arms; a letter of protest to Harold Ross (former editor of The New Yorker) about a review H. objected to, but then he never mailed the letter, written in pencil, by the way. 

Hemingway preferred to write in pencil, first draft, anyway. He said that a pencil draft received one-third more rewrite. Yes. I know someone who writes his first drafts in a fine fountain pen, liking the noise of pen on paper, and who thinks he gets another rewrite out of that. And I remember reading somewhere that H. liked to sharpen pencils before he started work.  Everyone has some kind of ritual, I suppose . I wonder how many pencil sharpeners he owned.  I have four extant, all duck-heads (I said dUck). I used to have an electric pencil sharpener; I think it remained on the wall of whatever office I was in then - probably up north. I digress, deliciously. (I'm enjoying this.) 

I also remember reading that Florence Nightingale never threw away a piece of paper. Her grocery lists have emerged. I love grocery lists!   Speaking of grocery lists, the science fiction writer, Walter Miller (1923-1996), in his wonderful novel, A Canticle for Leibowitz (copyright 1959, published 1960) describes the grocery list of Saint Leibowitz, canonized after a nuclear holocaust has left an abbey in the southwest American desert as a long-term survivor (well, the occupants, of course, but the abbey is the ongoing, "permanent" character in the book).  The list, discovered later outside what must have been a fall-out shelter, becomes the focus of illuminated manuscripts painstakingly created by later generations of monks and comprises a grocery list: dill pickles, pastrami and other snack food.  

I'm being warned that the battery is low.  I think I'll go on tomorrow about packratism and its side effects, good or ill There's another baseball game this afternoon and I have to recharge me for that. Anon, anon.


learn something every day...

There's no denying it:  the Blue Jays are taking too much of my time.  But how often does it happen? Well, I hope it's going to happen.  Don't want to jinx it by saying it out loud, that is, by printing it in black and white. I just have to fit my days around those games.  I'm trying to do some work, too, now, one eye on a book or notes and both eyes on the pitcher. 

So I'm short of time, have to fit in a blog before another day is over. l was going to write something longer but I have something else on my mind. Yesterday I had to go downtown, into the heart of the business district to meet a publisher. (Don't ask.)  I took a new-to-me streetcar. I asked someone about it/them: pretty new to t he city, too, only a couple of months since they arrived. So I wasn't the only one who was confused.  I transferred easily at a subway station so I didn't have to worry about paying a fare then.  Of course I noticed that it was a big, new, modern car, very long, with accordion additions, and with step-up, facing seats, handsome but not very comfortable.  Suddenly there was a horrible screeching, hooting noise and the car stopped.  The driver stepped out of his box and walked down the aisle until he found a little, scared-looking kid, maybe 13-14  years old, small for his age (Asian-Canadian).  The driver led him over to a small yellow bar on the wall and ordered him to read the (very small) sign; the kid was too scared to do anything. The driver told him that he had broken the law, that he was forbidden to touch the emergency stop sign, for that was what it was, and that the police would deal with him or/and he would have to pay a fine of $500. This confrontation went on as the threat was repeated several times before the driver went back to his space to move us on.  The kid got off at the next stop. 

Now, that's tricky, too.  There's a button in the middle of the door that I think opens it, not sure. An old woman pushed something else and the car stopped again and the driver came out again and gave her a lecture.  I didn't understand it, either, but he let her off. 

Well, when I was going home, another of the new cars picked me up. I didn't know what to do with my (senior) ticket. There was a kind of a slot machine for people to buy tokens? tickets? didn't see them, but I had one.  A woman showed me a little box beside the slot machine where I slid my ticket in to be stamped, proving I had paid.  We had to have POP (Proof of Purchase) in case someone checked.  No one checked and I came home with a stamped ticket. What do I do with it?

That's not all. The elevators in the building where I was meeting the editor had an advance box with a little screen with numbers displayed . I had to push the number of the floor I wanted to go to and on a smaller, separate screen it directed me to go to Elevator R (other people were sent to other letters).  I entered Elevator R and it knew which floor to let me off at. (Lots of prepositions ending sentences here, can't help it.) 

Hey, I'm an urban person but  I guess I haven't been downtown lately, just malls and movies and theatres and such. So even though I live in the biggest city in Canada, I had encountered a couple of new wrinkles  that made me feel like a rube.  Simple definition: a country bumpkin. Yup.

Learn something every day.


Apparently, 100 - that's one hundred - remaining of the 140 world travellers who signed up for the truncated cruise on the Insignia, 100 kept on going and going and going.  I've been fortunate enough to be on the mailing list of one of the ongoing couples and wow, what a trip! I said I'd go again in a heartbeat but this continuing around-the-world effort has been inexorable and at times gruelling.  I write the wife about every third report (with excellent photographs and she does it all) to comment or commiserate.  Yesterday I asked how she was doing with the food.  They're vegetarian, so they are more limited in their choices. She said they went occasionally to one of the specialty restaurants (Italian) as a change from the Grand Dining Room but they had never gone to the grill for obvious reasons.  The restaurant manager finally asked them why they din't come in and they were going to go. I wonder what they'll have; I'll ask her. I told her one of my favourite combinations I worked out though I am not vegetarian. I would order a side order of pasta with basil pesto rather than tomato sauce, and an order of steamed broccoli that I stirred into the pasta.  Num.  I eat that at home, too.

That solves only one night once in a while.  I must pursue this.  I'm watching and paying close attention to this ongoing trip.  I'll keep you posted.

a blog about Berra

Yes, well, it's not because I'm not writing. I am writing a lot, and by the end of the day, there was a Blue Jays game waiting for me, and poor old Blog had to wait.  They Jays lost last night, I guess you know that.  I actually did some multi-tasking while I "watched" but it wasn't a blog. I was researching an idea I've had for a long time and suddenly it seemed imperative that I find out more . That's the life, if you can call it that, of the Mind. It doesn't take "later" for an answer.

Is it the Mind or is it the lizard brain?  I just looked it up:  it's the reptilian brain but I don't think it has anything to do with me Googling last night.  The reptilian brain is supposed to be responsible for  "species-typical instinctual behaviours involved in aggressiondominanceterritoriality, and ritual displays." My reptilian brain wasn't doing anything like that last night. 

And we get the news this morning that Yogi Berra died, at the age of 90.  Not only a great pitcher (and hitter, too) but the second-best-known baseball player - of all time?  The best-known was Babe Ruth who had a chocolate bar named after him. Yogi had a cartoon character based on him: Yogi Bear, remember?  The nickname Yogi comes from his friends at school - he got as far as the eighth grade - who called him Yogi when they saw an Indian in the lotus position who sat like their friend, Lawrence Berra.  Some of his sayings are famous, not really malaprops because they made sense in a funny way. Someone called them "unwittingly witty epigrams".  Whatever.

"You can observe a lot just by watching."

"If you can't imitate him," (another baseball player), "don't copy him."

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it." (The directions to his house were accurate, because either choice would get you there.)

"Nobody goes there any more. It's too crowded." 

And my favourite: "If people are going to stay away, you can't stop them."

Bless him.



Love's Labour's Lost

I figured it out and I looked it up and a new blog-reader (welcome!) thought so too. It means: "The labour of love (genitive) is lost (abbreviation)."  Some people believe that LLL is Part One of a pair of plays.T he ending of the "first?" one sounds as if more is to follow, i.e. a sequel to depict the events that occur twelve months later after "a year and a day" when the principals will meet again to see how they did with their promises of reform and study and abstinence.  Loves' Labour's Won?

Others argue for  Much Ado or Shrew as a possible sequel. I don't agree with either suggestion. Berowne comments that "Jack hath not Jill" at the end of LLLOne, not the usual ending of Shakespeare's plays where he tied up everyone and paired them off, like it or not. The worst pairing was in Measure for Measure when he pushed poor Isabella, a nun if there ever was one, onto the Duke, a manipulative, irresponsible man, if there ever was one.

PAUSE while I exited and looked  up M for M to see if I got Isabella's name right.  I did. Memory still serves.

This blog didn't get written yesterday because there was another Blue Jays game last night.  I'm pretty  good at multi-tasking but focus suffers when i's a full count, bases loaded, and two strikes already.  David Price struck out 14 Yankees in a row last night.  



my persona...personae?

So I missed yesterday, but I was very tired and I went to bed at 8:30 last night. This morning I swam, of course, and made a picnic and went to Stratford with a friend (who is a good driver) to see Love's Labour's Lost. (Why is there an apostrophe on Labour's?), of which more anon, like tomorrow.

 Well, yesterday morning I spoke to a breakfast meeting of WEN (Writers and Editors Network) and I described my professional beginnings. Looking back over my early history, I wonder how I did what I did: I made a living for me and my 4 children by free-lance writing, no day job.  No one told me it couldn't be done. Even if they had, I couldn't have afforded to believe it. 

I think I was play-acting.  I was pretending to be a brave, hardworking widow who refused to take no for an answer.  I think we all do that, to a certain extent: game-play.  We present a persona to the public and as others accept us as we are - or seem to be - we begin to believe it ourselves.  The Canadian-born sociologist, Erving Goffman (1922-1982), wrote some fascinating books dealing with this, among other things. This idea was what caught my attention and I bought and studied two of his books. The titles indicate what they are about: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1956) and Behaviour in Public Places (1963). I later discovered that these were useful reading for students learning to be directors at the National Theatre School, or so a director told me. But what makes sense to me, looking back on it, was that I was able to put on an act and sell myself, and my writing. 

We go on we go on.  We all act differently in different settings, with different people. Sometimes we do what people expect us to do; we're trapped in expectations.  Other times, we have to change in order to survive.

And me?  I'm different now. 


full count

This has been a full day and it still is. I had a lot to do with and for Matt this morning. We had to get a new cordless (not a cell) phone, and there's still programming to do after it's charged. We forged out to IKEA by public transit and that took a loong time. And this evening I had more baseball to watch: Blue Jays at home versus the Boston Red Sox.  I've been watching the Jays - close to the World Series (Shh!  Don't say it out loud). And I have to prepare a talk tonight- for presentation at a breakfast meeting in the morning. Plus Blog.  

So you get short-changed.  

a perfect mess

I found this book with that title and a sub-title, "The Hidden Benefits of Disorder" by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman. Why am I not surprised that two men wrote it?  What do they know? Well, they line up some interesting statistics: e.g. Americans spend more than $2 billion a year on closet renovations.  Out of my league.  I  found a couple of cardboard cartons in the garage to pile stuff I threw out and I bought a couple of  new IKEA garment bags. I must admit It was time for them.  I received my old garment bags at a bridal shower when I was getting married 64 years ago.

Then the mess experts proceed to make light of mess. Bedroom? "Making a bed when you get up in the morning is like tying a shoe after you've taken it off."  No problem with mess because who sees it?  No one lives in a living room, they say, and who needs to organize a CD collection when you have an iPod? (Have they heard that vinyl is making a comeback?) As for dining rooms, people rarely eat in their dining rooms and here is where the mess merges, big-time: the table gets everything put on it, except food.  I must admit my mail goes on it every day, but I clear it off and transfer it to what I call my Paper Desk (as opposed to my Computer Desk in my office).  And there I get stuck. It is always piled up.  I have recently begun to clear it off, mailing clippings and notes and cartoons that I have been saving for years, literally. This week I had an email from a friend thanking me for the stuff I had sent him, absolutely delighted with a 2000 newspaper article about him that I had obviously kept a long time.  And I had another letter today thanking me for some good lines I had noted from a friend's book.  He'd forgotten  his own quotes.  So this is a good thing.  Out of my historic mess I am cementing old friendships. 

I don't think that's exactly what Abrahamson and Freedman have in mind. They conclude their chapter on Messy Homes with an argument against tidying our identities. "The truth is, they say, "we are all at least a bit of a mess - and all the more interesting for it."  They say there is a high cost to neatness and they talk about the benefits of mess. They use words like improv, random, invention, diversity and variety (not quite the same thing) and conclude with praise for "creative disorder".  Comforting thought.

This team, one a professor of management (Abrahamson), the other a technology consultant (Freedman), dispense with pathological mess (you'll know that by the hoarding), and wax creatively about the aesthetics of mess and the art of mess. Well....I guess you have to keep an open mind.

Do you have any messy thoughts?


I had to write an article today, about cruising as a retirement plan, and I knew it would take me a while, so I pushed these notes into place and left them with a promise to myself to finish the thought.  To those who checked into my blog earlier and found only notations, I apologize.  

I've talked about clutter before, hoarding and mess. Storage spaces all over the country are rented, filled and never emptied, just added to.  A popular television show - several, in fact -  focuses on differ aspects of clutter, from dangerous to psychopathic.  After living successfully for  several months with so few of my own possessions, admittedly with a ship's provisions to draw on and my own Google resources, I realized that I could dispense with a load of stuff at home.  So part of my rehabilitation has been the fulfillment of my promise to myself.  First, of course, I had to find boxes, and recipients - slowly. (Everything is slow.) I filled two boxes with clothes that went to Oasis, akin to Good Will or the Salvation Army as a repository for used, clean apparel, all sizes, genders and styles.  Pause then while I looked for more cartons; I'm ready to load some more.  I have gained hangers and two empty drawers and closet space, and I'm actually wearing a few things I'd forgotten about.  Bonus.

Erin Rooney Doland is an expert in organization, master-mind of the web site, Unclutterer, and author of the book, Unclutter Your Life in One Week (2010)  Her blurb claims that she will help you:

 • Part with sentimental clutter

 . Organize your closet based on how you process information

 • Build an effective and personalized filing system

 . Avoid the procrastination that often hinders the process

 . Maintain your harmonious home and work environments with minimal daily effort

Wow!  Who needs a shrink? 

On the other hand, I came across another book that I bought for the title alone because it made me think of Laurel and Hardy. Is anyone old enough to remember those comedians? Laurel used to berate poor Ollie for his shortcomings and whenever disaster resulted, he'd say

"What a fine mess!"  or was it "What a perfect mess!"?

So I bought this book titled "A Perfect Mess" and guess what?  It's in favour of messes.  The sub-title is "the Hidden Benefits of Disorder" and it goes on with further description:

"How crammed closets, cluttered offices, and on-the-fly plannng make the world a better place." 

More anon.



yesterday's blog

I missed it.  By five hours.  

Yesterday was yet another Stratford Day: the drive there, lunch, the play (The Taming of the Shrew), the drive back, dinner for my dear driver, and collapse.  And I missed the Blue Jays game.  You can't have everything. I try, though.

But I was thinking. About friendship. I looked it up just now:

Friend:  a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.• a person who acts as a supporter of a cause, organization, or country by giving financial or other help: join the Friends of Guilford Free Library.• a person who is not an enemy or who is on the same side: she was unsure whether he was friend or foe.• a familiar or helpful thing: he settled for that old friend the compensation grant.• (often as a polite form of address or in ironic reference) an acquaintance or a stranger one comes across: my friends, let me introduce myself.• a contact associated with a social networking website: all of a sudden you've got 50 friends online who need to stay connected.  (online Dictionary)

I'll add a couple of useful references:

"A friend in need is a friend indeed."

"A stranger is a friend I haven't met yet."

"You find out who your friends are."

Because I was still thinking about my erstwhile friend who died, lost to me long before she left.  And that led me to thinking of other friends who are still on this planet but distant but who are also lost, though not with bitterness, but whom I have lost nonetheless.  Separation and distance do that.  Age, too.  Energy and health dwindle as the years go by, money, too, and suddenly, or not, ten years slip away since you last beheld that friendly face and spoke meaningful words. 

One of the reasons the custom of exchanging Christmas cards continues is that people want to reassure each other not only of continuing friendship but of continuity, period.  A card says, "I'm still here!" and hopes you are, too. It doesn't help to fill in the gaps. So then people, even people who don't write and who certainly don't write letters, add what I call a generic letter (one size fits all, one prescription for everyone), summarizing the year that was  - just the good news, please, unless a significant someone has died  in the past twelve months, out of earshot or an obit. I started writing generic letters several years ago.

Then I began to write more regular generics - catch-ups, I called them - to fill in the blanks in the intervening twelve months between the Christmas announcements. And that, in time, led to blogs. Now I am hard pressed to write a catchup, because I try to catch up every day.  Almost every day. I'm still talking about friendship, I think. Because there are people who used to be close friends but whom I have not seen for - oh, my! - over ten years, and who I think are still alive, and whom I still miss. 

Hello there!  This blog is for you. 


sic transit gloria mundi

I just received word that my oldest friend, that is, of longest standing, has died, and I am honouring her memory. Erstwhile, she was an erstwhile friend and it's right to use an archaic word for an archaic friendship.  I lost her long ago and I felt the pain of parting then when we were close and wrenched apart by a misunderstanding.  I mourned the loss then.  Now I mourn our happy times and I regret the years that were lost to us.  We didn't live in the same city, hadn't for 50-some years.  Does that make it easier or harder?  Not sure.  Inured, perhaps.  We lose so many people to distance and time; we are physically separated from them before the final parting and so maybe the ultimate departure is a little easier because we've had a hint of what it would be like without them.  

I think this happened to my friends and family while I was away on my long cruise.  I left my little pond without a ripple and slipped in again without a splash and no one noticed.  Some have not even bothered to welcome me back. That's a good thing, I guess.  I said long ago I wouldn't wish the pain of parting such as I suffered when Bill died, wouldn't wish that on anyone.  It's clear that no one will experience it over my final passage.  Very mature, very healthy.

Or is it indifference?

there goes yesterday

Another move through time and space and although I never forget anything or leave anything behind, I keep losing me. I went to London by train on Wednesday. The bad part was finding the VIA departure space (NOT a lounge!). Union Station is still and always under construction and it's difficult to follow the arrows. I went down the same concrete, windowless corridor twice.  I didn't take a wheelie, thank goodness, just a marvellous blue (!) backpack given to me for my long cruise by a dear, young friend. The train ride was relaxing, though, and I read Lee Child's new book, Make Me, going and returning. (Quick review: it's a page turner, as usual, and I like jack Reacher, but this one is too violent and horrible. I may not return.)  Note: I was reading a book, not an electronic reader, so it's accurate to say "page turner" because I had pages to turn. 

My visit was delightful. My hostess goes a long way back, about 44 years, before my husband died. She was my challenged son's speech therapist, but more than that.  On our weekly visit from Stratford he learned more in an hour or two on Friday afternoon than he did in the entire previous week.  I have stayed in touch; I reminded her that I stick like Velcro.  She is a world-renowned speech pathologist now, much in demand, and gives workshops all over the world. I am privileged to know her. The purpose of our reunion was a trip to Stratford to see Dürrenmatt"s "The Physicists" (1962). It's a heavy message piece, relevant to today's messy world situation,  made palatable and enjoyable by Michael Healey's witty adaptation. 

i returned yesterday after conversation over a leisurely breakfast, and read some more  on the train. I finished the book on my balcony, and I checked my email and commitments. That's the hard part.  I found it difficult to return. I was still in limbo, trying to bring my mind and body into sync in order to focus on present needs and commitments.  Pick  up the pieces. They are too disparate to call them reins.  Focus, that's what I have to do, focus - on too many things. 

It's the opposite of letting go.  It's hanging on, not hanging in or out.  Well, here I am again, halfway between then and now, and it's time to swim. In the dark.   

the only one

I spent the long weekend trying to catch up with an enormous backlog of paper: clippings, notes, replies, queries, oh yes, and cheques, even in this age of online payments. I missed writing my blog-for-the-day yesterday because I was writing so much other stuff.  Now it's 3 a.m. the next day and I have a stiff neck and I'm wide awake and grumpy. I'll tell you why I'm grumpy.

I've complained about this for a long time but I haven't written it down.  I can't get the right note of grievance, bitterness and righteous indignation into a written report. But I'll try. I can't suppress it any longer, not after spending the entire weekend "keeping in touch". And I know I'm not good. I can tell because of the dates on some of the clippings I am only now sending to people; they go back 3 and 4, sometimes 7 years.  (I still need to get a round Tuit.) But...

Am I the only one who even tries to keep in touch?  Am I the only one who feels guilty because I fail so miserably?  Why doesn't someone try to reach me?  Why doesn't anyone else feel guilty?That goes for having people over, too.  I think I must have someone for tea or wine or dinner and sometimes I do.  Does anyone ever think about me in that context?   Not that I've noticed.

Well, you can tell I'm tired and stiff and midnight-weary.  I'll feel better in the morning. Maybe my neck will feel better. 

Anyway, I forgive you.

one thing after another

Or maybe all at once.  Edith Sitwell commented that life isn't one thing after another, it's the same damn thing over and over again. It feels like it, anyway.  I was so busy at the computer yesterday with a load of disparate tasks that I never got to my Blog - too stiff to sit there any longer.  But then I sat and watched The Bletchley Circle on WNED, a new three-part murder mystery series, all three.  

I had lots of busy things to set up: a return flight to London England for a theatre tour in January, plus the insurance; a breakfast speech to WEN (Writers & Editors Network) to give in a couple of weeks; a pitch to Ryerson University for some playwriting workshops and a reading (very time-consuming!); contact with a new-to-me travel agent for my Easter Island cruise in April; the dispatch of a photograph of my cracked toilet seat to my son, asking for advice and a few acknowledgements and replies to my e-mail messages.

Every day I keep saying I'm going to catch up with my paper correspondence with people I must honour with snail mail. And every day other things get in the way. Ah well, it's  long weekend, so I'll have more time to work. 

I'll think about it while I swim. Maybe I can think of something worthwhile to write in my blog.

a stitch in time...

Most people - oh, dear, how can I say most people when we see thousands and thousands every day simply trying to survive?  Our awareness of the hardships of so many makes it difficult to generalize or play with words, as I intend to do today.  Forgive me.

 I was going to say most people , perhaps women especially, are concerned with fashion, with being up-to-date with their clothes.  I had an aunt who used to complain about the changing fashions, designed, she said, to make you look like a Martian if you didn't conform.  Actually, I'm pretty past conforming now; I stick to the hem length I feel most comfortable with.  (Cheaper that way, too.) Yes, well, that's not the point I want to make.  

I think we are often more concerned with being modern or hip (do they still say that?), anyway, not old-hat with the clothes we put on our bodies while we neglect the ideas and expressions with which we clothe our minds.  Of course, I'm going to give you some examples, and I hope you will think of some of your own, depending on your age.  

I used to say, when recognizing someone I hadn't seen for years, as I made the connection between the face I remembered and the older one I was looking at,  "you haven't changed a bit" And then I'd think of an old commercial: "Two, Two, Two Certs in One". I think it was showing that the item was both a breath mint and a candy  at the same time.  That's what I did as I reconciled the face I was looking at with the one I remembered: Two, two, two in one.  See, it doesn't mean anything if you don't know the original commercial. So I don't say it any more.

And when we all first became aware of chlorophyll and its effectiveness in reducing bad breath or body odor (does anyone remember that?), I used to say "Just think what a goat would smell like if it didn't eat chlorophyl". That doesn't mean a thing now.  So when I talk about my (constant) efforts to lose weight, or at least not to gain, I say, "Just think what I'd look like if I didn't try", and forget both the chlorophyll and the goat.  

I just asked whether anyone still says "hip".  What about "super"?  I guess the hip (?) or in (?) expressions now are uppercase initial shortcuts: LOL, IMHO, BFF and so on.  Those are all I can think of; you can fill in my gaps, or your children can.  Do you know where your children are at? (!)

On the other hand, or maybe not, are any of you young folks aware of the source of older sayings or aphorisms?  Does anyone read Aesop's Fables any more?  I mean, for example, does anyone say "sour grapes"?  Oh, what about "eating a peck of dirt before you die"?  I never did know how much a peck was.  Frank Loesser's song in his musical "Guys and Dolls": dealt with these difficult concepts:  "I Love You, a Bushel and a Peck."  Bushel I used to know, but not a peck.  As for the dirt you may consume before you die, it's more lethal now, laden with insecticide and all.  

Nothing is simple.  

A peck is an imperial and United States customary unit of dry volume, equivalent to 2 gallons or 8 dry quarts or 16 dry pints (9.09 (UK) or 8.81 (US) litres).

bushel: a measure of capacity equal to 64 US pints (equivalent to 35.2 litres), used for dry goods.






happy September third

I know, I missed September the first.  I thought it, all day, and all day yesterday, too, but I never reached my blog with it.  I've always said that September and especially September the first is more like the New Year to me than the New Year is.  This is when everything begins again. No matter the weather - and it's hot here now, not like January (in the Northern hemisphere) - people are through with summer.  Life as we know it is beginning again. Classes and courses and new programs are beginning again.  Plans and routines and itineraries are beginning again. Out with the old, in with the new. Yes, yes, all of that.  So I spent the weekend throwing out clothes, well, not throwing out, but putting them into donation boxes for use by other people. I now have a pile of empty hangers and one whole (new!) empty garment bag.  That feels pretty good. I was motivated by the fact that I hadn't worn most of the clothes in over two years but also by the recognition of how little I needed while I was on my cruise: 109 days of looking like Li'l Orphan Annie changed my attitude toward what I wore.  (Is anyone reading this old enough to remember that the comic strip character wore one red dress for years and years and years?)

That doesn't explain or excuse why I didn't report here on the first of September. I think I had a Writer's Block.  (Writer's Blog?)  It happens.  Too much to say, but too vague to say it. The end of so many things, summer things and  memories paralyzed me.  I was still basking in the luxuries of the cruise and not coming to terms with the realities of my life.  I am normally quite a frugal person and it was hard letting go of profligate, wasteful indulgences.  I must be disciplined again and careful.  I am a glass-half-full kind of person but I must get used to the half-empty glass in terms of my budget.  I need to count my blessings more carefully.  

Does that explain my reluctance to acknowledge my "new year"?  Do I understand?  I am alone, I know that. But sometimes I forget to blow the  whistle. No one else is going to.  And sometimes I forget to listen. I'll try to now.

So happy September the third.


a god in ruins

I'm still reading in my spare time - lots of time on the bus the other day. I Just finished Kate Atkinson's newest novel, "A God in Ruins".  Mixed reactions.  I  still haven't made up my mind about her, although her jacket blurb says, "Few will dispute that [this book] proves once again that Kate Atkinson is one of the finest novelists of our age." I wouldn't go that far.

 I read a couple of her early novels that were in my building library while I waited for "Left Early, Took my Dog"  which I ordered because I liked the title.  I didn't really enjoy any of them and stopped.  But then I saw a TV mini-series, a BBC production based on three or four of her novels featuring Jackson Brodie. I remembered him and liked the actor who lead Brodie - Jason Priest {I think). Even so, I passed on "Life After Life".  I'd had enough.  But then (again) I found it in the ship library and read it and enjoyed it a lot, so much so that when I came home I ordered "A God in Ruins".   And now I'm confused again.

Why can't writers tell a story in chronological order any more?  Atkinson leaps around in time, telling her story in chapters that identify the time her characters are living through, backwards and forwards.  She drops terrible nuggets of information that she will elucidate sooner or later, major events like a death or a discovery that the reader will have to wait for and  piece together.  I could never cotton onto one of her major characters, she was so disgusting at the beginning. Later, I'm supposed to understand what this woman went through that made her what she was.  Not believable, also unforgivable. 

The various chapters, set in different times, succeed in varying degrees.  The best are like mini novellas or short stories and quite gripping. Others I could barely wade through.  Are you familiar with the expression that assesses quality when it is spotty?  Well, this book to me is" like that curate's egg": good in parts. (Curates were known to be poor so they couldn't afford good eggs.)

Neverteless, Or notwithstanding.  Go ahead and read it for  yourself.

pleasant dreams

See, if I can't sleep, I have things to do, no problem.  Sleep experts tell you that you shouldn't just lie there, that after 20 minutes or so, if you can't sleep, get up and play Aces Up or something. My father the doctor used to say that you should go ahead and lie there, that you're getting more sleep than you think you are and that at least your body is getting bed rest. I believe both of them.  I usually do fall asleep again unless I have too much on my mind. So then I get up and...empty the dishwasher, make tea, get back into bed with my beloved wheel-up bed table (normally at the foot of the bed, but it glides up over my knees to be a Queen-wide desk, one of the best designs IKEA ever came  up with).  Right now that's what I'm doing.  

As you know by now, I visit people. A single woman is usually a welcome guest, not much trouble and she helps out where she can. I do. I also listen, and learn a lot: other people's eating habits, reading preferences (if any), sleeping problems.  Sleep is not mentioned unless there's a problem, and it's fascinating.  I guess we all know about apnea now, don't we?  It's a bad signal if you stop breathing while you sleep, as lots of people do if they're fat, lie on their back, snore or have breathing problems, and so on - supposed to be a warning of a heart attack in the future.  Yes, well, my late husband had apnea before I knew its name.  If the noise of his snoring stopped, I would wake to the silence and hit him to make him start breathing again.  

Experts are more scientific now. I have known a number of people who go out at night to be wired up for sleep so their breathing patterns can be tracked. How can they sleep when they're wired? I never ask. Insomniacs take pills of varying strengths and promises.  Tonight/this morning I have camomile tea with a little honey; sometimes I have warm milk with a little rum.  I don't take pills. 

Recently I talked/listened to a friend who got tired of taking pills and found an expert who prescribed a change in his sleeping times, starting from a couple of hours after he normally (?) went to sleep, about 1 in the morning, to 3 or 4 a.m., requiring him to stay in bed until 7 hours later. (He's retired, of course.)  Gradually he has worked it back to a bedtime of 11 p.m. and a rise-and-glimmer (not shine) time of 4 or 5 a.m.  Yeah, that's about right.  My personal best is 5 hours without a pee.  Then, maybe back to sleep if I have nothing pressing to think about. I take daytime naps, which are delicious.  I'm not retired but I'm a writer, so it doesn't matter. I am not an insomniac. I just have a lot to think about. I have always said my mind to me a playground is; some times the playground is more active than other times, that's all. 

I think that this obsession with 8 hours of sleep began with the Industrial Revolution and the 9-to-5 work schedule.  Before that people went by their circadian rhythm, like other animals. Not to worry.  Gore Vidal once said that people get as much sex as they need.  I disagree with that because sex to me requires a partner. I never liked DIY sex much.  But sleep?  I do believe that you get as much sleep as you need, one way or another. Without pills.  

I've finished my tea. I've been awake for about 2 hours. I'm going back to sleep now, not much time left before I swim.

Anon, anon.