Friday, 30 October 2009


misty all day, mild, temps 15

We're in England - specifically I'm sitting in the living room of the nicest Bed and Breakfast I've ever been in. It's in the village of Eye, in Norfolk and it is called Chamomille Cottage Bed and Breakfast. Stunning. Dates from the 1500's. And entire separate wing of the home for the B&B people...with our own living room, fireplace, wide plank floors, beamed ceiling. Our own kitchen with espresso maker, stocked fridge, etc...a solarium/dining area. And upstairs the bedrooms. Ours has beamed ceilings, a queen sized bed and floors our ski team could practice for the Olympics on! Very sloped...but charming. Breakfast is a choice of full english breakfast of sausages, grilled tomato, eggs, mushrooms, toast. Or scambled eggs with smoked salmon. Or kippers. Or eggs benedict.

All in stunning english gardens and walking distance to John and Moira's home, called The Guildhall.

By the time we arrived John was back in hospital. But another good friend of theirs and ours, Dick Oliver - who ran the Financial Times in Madrid - was arriving. So it was decided Michael and Dick and two of John's daughters would go to the hospital first. Then I'd follow with Moira and their son Nigel and daughter-in-law Rona.

It's been a very long and difficult day. We'd been getting mixed news before we arrived and had reason to hope maybe it wasn't as dire as we'd first thought. But when we arrived it was clear it was even worse, and it appears we have arrived on time, but just.

All the way over on the plane - overnight from Montreal to London, leaving Montreal at 9pm and arriving london 3am our time - 7am UK time - Michael read from John's diary of a seminal trip he, Michael, Dick and three others took when they were in Cambridge together more than 50 years ago. it was hilarious. Michael was laughing so hard he wept. Remembering those hellion, halcyon days. When they were young and immortal.

And this afternoon Michael and Dick went to the hospital to sit beside John. Michael kept vowing to be strong, but he was crying as he said it so I suggested he move to Plan B and not try to be strong, just be himself. Poor guy's exhausted. Resting upstairs now before dinner.

So we went in and took turns visiting with John. Holding his hand, talking about this and that. He was awake - had clearly revived at seeing his friends.

Always so moving to me, to see how much men can, and do, love each other.

It's been a long few days, but actually quite wonderful.

Started in the stunningly beautiful Vermont town of Norwich Wednesday...a really terrific event at the Norwich bookstore, thanks to owner Liza and Penny and the other people who work there. This is one of the great Independent bookstores I've been in. Vibrant, light. Amazing selection. And the place was jam-packed for my talk.

Thank you to everyone who came out. It was a rainy evening, and I know how hard it is to lug yourself out once it gets dark. I had such fun!!

Then after some sage advice I decided not to take Highway 91 back to Quebec (isolated and lots of moose on the roads. Hitting a deer is pretty bad, but if you hit a moose it will crush you - the body will fall right into the windshield, killing the moose and whoever is inside the car) So I went back the way I came - via highway 89. left about 9pm and was home by midnight. Very nice drive. Relaxing. A little fog, and was watchful of moose and deer, but that is life in Canada too.

Then Thursday morning we finshed packing, hit the road by 8:30...Michael had a morning eye appointment in Montreal. Everything is fabulous with both eyes!!! I had a 3pm dentist and a 4:30 hair appointment - and needed to buy walking shoes. By the time I arrived back at the apartment the limo to the airport had arrived...just time to go to the bathroom and with Michael we took the luggage down.

Got to the airport, got through security (ugh) - and onto the plane. Flight was packed, but happily uneventful, except when one of the flight attendents said, loudly enough for me to hear, 'I think we're going down.'

That got my attention!

It quickly bcame apparent what she meant was that we were beginning our descent for landing, but for a horrible instant it sounded like something else. But it sure woke me up.

The rest you know. As I said, this is a sad time - but there is also beauty. And simplicity.

I haven't had time to read any comments yet from the last post, but I will. I hope you are well, and happy.


lil Gluckstern said...

Your post reminds what a wondrous thing it is to be human, and truly alive. It won't always be wonderful, but it has its beauty. And we are so much better for embracing the simplicity. As for your lodgings, From one extreme to another! Again, you bring us along to drive the roads, and see th beamed ceilings, and congratulations on Michael's eyes! My prayers and thought are with you.


Shelagh said...

Dear Louise, How thoughtful of you to keep your readers up-to-date with your (almost) daily blog. I don't know where you find the energy, particularly today's after your long day in Montreal followed by the long flight, then a busy day in England. Your story of Michael reading from John's diary is hilarious. What therapy for Michael! Glad his eyes are doing great.
Love, thoughts, and prayers are with you both and with John's family.
Hugs, Shelagh

Jeanine said...

Louise and Michael,

I never have been good at finding the correct words of comfort to say at a time like this. All I can tell you is that my thoughts and prayers are with you and your friends.

Thank you for including us all in your daily lives and sharing your feelings so eloquently.

Bobbie said...

Louise, how wonderful about Michael's eye checkup! Yay! and now you are in Eye. Ahh the turns of the world....and words.

Your post about John touches my heart so much. How wonderful Michael can see him..and can even laugh with others from 'the old days', in this sad time. And how wonderful that seeing old friends brought at least a bit of solace and energy to John.

"As I said, this is a sad time - but there is also beauty. And simplicity." Louise Penny

Those few words say it all,Louise. Thank you for sharing with us.

Bev Stephans said...

Dear Louise,

The other commenters are much more eloquent than I, so I'll just echo what they said.

May you and Michael find peace at this time.


Mary said...

Dear Louise & Micheal - I am glad you have arrived safe & sound in England & on time to spend some time with John. I can't believe how much you have packed in since you left us here in Keswick last week AND found time to write so descriptively about your travels! Again, thank you so much for the time you spent with us here in Ontario - you must have thousands who feel like your personal friends after a very brief time together! God bless you both as you keep company with John & remember old times. I hope you get a chance to rest up a bit & rejevenate.
Mary B

Hazel said...

Dear Louise,
This is from someone you don't even know, but I feel as if I know you ... from your wonderful blog and website. And your books. I want to add my sincerest good wishes to those already posted. Life does very strange things, mixing up the good with the bad, the curses with the blessings. And we are the richer for it, when later on we can detach ourselves from the emotions of that moment in time.

I hope that you and Michael will somehow be blessed through helping his friend through his last days.

In spite of the difficult time you are going through, I hope you are able to enjoy being in England for a while. That part of it, I envy.

Brenda B. said...

Dear Louise and Michael,

In times like these, it is so undisputable that love is the most powerful force in the world and friendship the greatest gift.

It is so good that you are there with those who are so dear to you.


Brenda in Maine

Louise Penny Author said...

Hello all,

I thought i'd run out of tears, but as I write this i'm crying again. From gratitude for your kindness, and how your words have put so clearly how we're feeling. So sad and so grateful.

Thank you.