Thursday, 7 February 2008

In the mean time

overcast, light snow, highs minus 4

The reason I know the forecast is because I listen to my friend Mike Finnerty on CBC Radio One in Montreal. Mike and I worked together in Quebec City centuries ago, when he was just starting and I was a senior journalist. I moved to Montreal and when he came too a year or so later we re-established our friendship and became quite close. Even, dare I admit it, collaborated on a script for Star Trek: The Next Generation. The agent who sold many scripts to the programme read it and took us on, but sadly the show was cancelled shortly afterward.

Mike and I began working together on the same radio show, and as can happen when two strong willed people come together at work, we had a falling out. It was an excrutiatingly slow process. We'd pretend all was well, but quietly hurt each other. we'd have periods when we didn't speak (on a team, that really isn't good). It was unbelievably painful to lose a friend like that, and in so public and obvious a way. And to have to still work together so closely every day.


Eventually Mike quite and I followed shortly afterward. Mike went on to a fantastic, stellar career at the BBC in London. I, of course, was consumed with jealousy. Not only was my sworn enemy doing brilliantly, but he was doing a job I'd have loved to have had in a city I adore.

But with the passage of time something happened. We both grew up. I can't remember whether he contacted me or I contacted him, but when I was in London a couple of years ago promoting STILL LIFE we got together for lunch. I was very afraid. Afraid perhaps I'd buried my putrid emotions rather than letting them go. So easy to mistake the two. Afraid of being alone, over a long, long meal with someone I no longer had anything to say to.

But there was something I wanted to tell him.

He met me at Broadcasting House in London. I was curious to see whether my envy had followed me there, shadowed me. But I felt nothing, except unease at seeing him. And wondering if I'd turned fat, drab, dull in the meantime. He showed up, and was all bright and smiling and wonderful. The Mike I'd loved as a friend so many years ago.

He gave me a fascinating tour of the BBC and his offices and the programmes he oversaw, and with each step my dread lessened.

Then over lunch I said the one thing I'd wanted to say to him for a long time. I told him I was sorry. I'd been a horses ass, and behaved very badly. And I wanted to apologize.

It was a lovely, quiet, peaceful moment in a frantic London lunch hour restaurant.

He smiled and said he was sorry to.

And we left it at that. No need for a catalogue. But it was clear we both felt differently. The old resentments had been let go.

I remember reading somewhere, and probably writing, that time doesn't heal old wounds. Time, on its own, does nothing. With some people (and all my books are based on this) time makes old wounds fester. I write about it because I've seen it in people. People who let go of nothing. They might think they have, they certainly claim to have. But it's still there. One resentment piled on others, because if you hold on to one slight you hold on to many. Until finally resentment turned to bitterness and bile.

No, time does nothing. It's what we do with time that matters. If you want to let things go, heal, move on, forgive and be forgiven - then time is your friend.

I know that about myself. I feel things deeply, perhaps too deeply. I get my feelings hurt. And sometimes I hurt others, by mistake or on purpose. But I never hold on to anger. Sometimes it takes minutes to pass, sometimes decades. But with each moment I'm working to let it go. If only because I don't want to be shackled to that person for the rest of my life.

It was a moment of great grace, in that London restaurant, when Mike and I started on the long road back to friendship and trust.

And now he's back in Montreal. He stayed in our apartment while getting himself sorted here and preparing to take over as host of the flagship CBC radio show. And he comes down to the country and stays with us, getting to know Michael and Michael him.

We feel a bit like a family, with Mike as a brother. In fact, he's almost exactly the same age as my beloved younger brother Doug.

And I'm genunitely proud of him and thrilled for him and his happiness is mine.

And it's a relief.

Michael and I are off to Quebec City today - 2 1/2 hour train trip - wonderful! Staying at a hotel in the Old City. Going out for dinner tonight with our great friend Susan McKenzie, then doing the national CBC Radio show, Sounds Like Canada with Shelagh Rogers tomorrow morning. If you live in the Quebec City area, come on by - it would be such fun to see you there. It's between 9 and 10:30 - in the Chateau Frontenac, overlooking the astonishing St. Lawrence river.

I probably won't write for a few days but will tell you all about it later.

Be well.


Hilary said...

I've done this once already, but apparently unsuccessfully, so here we go again. This may seem to come out of nowhere, blogwise, but it does relate to mentions at Christmas of giving goats to the Third World.
Have found a site called
It's a multiple choice vocabulary quiz, that adapts itself to various skill levels. For each word you guess correctly, you donate 20 grains of rice to the hungry through the United Nations. It's easy, a fun brain toner, and a bit addictive. I've donated 5000 grains in two sessions yesterday and today.
Thought people who love words and share Louise's sensibilities would enjoy it.
Spread the word -- and the rice!

Anonymous said...

Heard you this morning, Feb 8th, on CBC radio. Great fun--- Fictional husband:>)
Near Ottawa

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Hilary,

Fantastic! I'll be going there myself any moment. If the next book isn't writen I can now blamer you. Ha, finally someone to blame.

Great idea, and very grateful to myou for passing it on. Thank you, Hilary!


And to Diane,

How fun to know people were listening. Must say, Shelagh Rogers is wonderful - as warm and thoughtful and smart off air as on the radio. Thanks for letting me know!