Sunday, 29 November 2009

We're off

overcast, cool, temps 2

We had our first snow yesterday. In fact, there was a winter storm warning out for overnight, but very little snow ended up arriving. Normally I love storm warnings, and storms - except when we need to travel...and especially when there are connections involved. Like this week.

Had a quiet day yesterday - Lise came over and the three of us discussed business stuff, including the mugs. She's put in an order for more - but with the holiday rush who knows when they'll arrive. They told her two weeks - so it should be in about ten days.

The Vive Gamache mugs we already have are gone, as far as I know. Danny and Lucy sold them all in a matter of hours. And we've decided to limit the next order to 250 with a limit of 4 per person.

It's all is the best way to ship them out. Quite fascinating really - thank God for Lise and Danny and Lucy - each doing reseach into packaging and mailing. I suspect we'll make some mistakes at first, but then learn and adjust.

Still, I think this is a fun idea - offering the Vive Gamache cafe au lait mugs to readers. And I think limiting the supply is reasonable. We don't want to be overwhelmed.

Had a fun breakfast this morning with Cheryl. And we're all packed now. wilder, our friend, is driving us to Burlington. He'll pick us up at the Burlington, Vermont airport Friday. Seems such a long time much happening in the meantime.

6am flight out of Burlington tomorrow. Connecting at JFK to a flight to Phoenix. Have dinner tomorrow night at Barbara Peter's home...she runs poisoned Pen press and bookstore. Peter Robinson and his wife will be there, as will Dana Stabenow. It will be a long day for us. Not totally certain it is a good idea to be going to a dinner party after getting up at 4am and traveling all day - but if we're too tired we'll just have to leave early. Eat and run. Have warned Barbara and she's very understanding.

Will try to blog Tuesday. Have a library event at noon, dinner with friends, then a 7pm event at Poisoned Pen with Barbara and Peter. Then flying to Rochester on Wednesday. More about that later. Feels like a very long week...but one day at a time everything happens. Sometimes I find I need to concentrate on an hour at a time. Or, better still, just one task or event at a time. Not project ahead. Just be present and do the very best job I can while there. And remember always to be grateful that this is my life. Where people are, for the most part, kind and generous toward me. would be tragic not to know how lucky I am, and show it.

Speak soon. Hope you packed your bathing suit...

Friday, 27 November 2009

Peace and quiet

rain, mild, temps 10

Nice day to sit by the fireplace. Quiet a lot of my manuscript. At this stage I like to print it out, have it bound, and read it as though it's a book. Love this stage!

Gary came by...he's finished putting the new siding up on the guest cottage. Always fun to see him. And my replacement birth certificate came...the detailed one. Quite moving to see my parents full names - I'd forgotten that my father had Arthur as a middle name - and our first address, on Valecrest in Toronto. I remember it, but barely.

Put music on the stereo and listened through the morning and into the afternoon. Did an interview with Athena at Zoom Magazine this morning. She's clearly read all the books and it showed.

How lovely it is to have these quiet that it rained today too. Feels very cozy inside...then taking Trudy for a walk - and coming back inside to sit by the fire. Peaceful.

Danny and Lucy are organizing the Vive Gamache mugs. It is frustrating because to mail them from Canada into the States is quite expensive...almost 20 dollars for 2 mugs. Sadly, not much we can do about that...but if you're thinking of ordering some, be warned! Though, I must say, they are quite wonderful. Michael and I have our cafe au laits in them everyday. I just wish the postage was less steep.

Be well - talk to you tomorrow!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

brilliant sunshine, mild, temps 10

Another lovely day....but mostly I'm just writing to say Happy Thanksgiving to all of you celebrating today!

As you know, the Canadian Thanksgiving is earlier - in October. But quite similar. Turkey, stuffing, sweet parades, though. And no big shopping. Too early for that. But lots of walks and touch football in the autumn leaves.

Enjoy yourselves. As we'll enjoy ourselves today.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Vive Gamache mugs

cloudy, mild, temps 10

Amazingly mild again today - but a grey day. Nice to sit, once again, in front of the fireplace.

Wrote the December newsletter and set up a mailing. I think our local bookstore, Brome Lake Books will be selling the Vive Gamache mugs. Indeed, I plan to take our last box over to them tomorrow. If you'd like to order some for Christmas or just because, feel free to email or call them. Their email is: and their phone number is: 450-242-2242. Not sure we've settled on a price yet...taxes and mailing etc...but hoping each will be under 15 dollars. Canadian. Am letting you know first, but I'll also be putting it on the website and newsletter in a few days. Once we figure out a price. It's really the mailing that is so difficult to predict. Interesting issues I've never considered before, but happily Lise has. Things like packaging, boxes. Oh well, I'm sure we'll (she'll) work it out.

In the meantime I'm polishing my book and reading someone else's manuscript. And doing a mailing.

tomorrow having breakfast with Joan then meeting Tim Belford for lunch in Knowlton. He's a friend, and host of the CBC Quebec City morning show. He's doing an interview with me - but we've extended it to include a social lunch. Then hope to go off to Cowansville to get the flu shot.

Friday should be another quiet day. Longing for really quiet days - without manuscripts to read and mailings to do and all that other stuff. But I suspect my life will never be totally quiet. Sometimes I think I should shut down the blackberry and computer for a few days. And perhaps I should. But I'm afraid of the hundreds of emails I'll return to.

Still - good problems to have.

Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow to the Americans!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Chez Louise

Partly cloudy, very mild, temps 13

Freakishly mild...quite disconcerting. Though I'm hoping real winter holds off until after our travels next week. heading to Arizona for a day - flying out Monday...then on to Rochester, and flying back Friday. Going out of Burlington, hoping for good weather. But, we get what we get.

Went for breakfast to Cowansville, then to the bank...some banking business, including having to get a new bank card, since mine was stolen in London. From there we went to the office that arranges for driver's licences and the Quebec Health Card. We were a little afraid they'd say we have to go to Montreal for something as unusual as having the cards stolen, but they didn't. Couldn't have been easier! So now almost all the cards, and definitely the important ones, are looked after.

Read 140 pages of a manuscript someone front of the fireplace. Returned emails. Had a bath.

Oh, the dinner last night was terrific. All edible. No one vomited. As you see, the standards at Chez Louise are not exactly Micheline starred...but they suit us.

We're debating cars. Our friend drives a subaru, and a couple people wrote in to also suggest it...but they don't have a hybrid yet, as far as I know. AWD, yes, and good fuel economy...but would still prefer a hybrid. So we'll see. fortunately we needn't make a decision quickly.

BMW - the car we're about to turn in after 3 years - is not to our taste. It was a kind of dream of ours - see what a real luxury car felt like. And I have to say, the drive was wonderful. But the on-board computer took 2 people to operate - was very reviews and many people complain about it. Needlessly complex. But mostly, it was the service that disappointed. As you might have gathered, we're big ones for good service. Willing to (and have)overlooked many flaws if people are considerate and kind. But at our BMW the service was horrendous. Apparently they're quite famous for bad service too. Acura, our former car maker, was fabulous, so perhaps our expectations were high.

So the plan now is to get rid of both cars, and simplify. Go for one nice vehicle that is kind and courteous to the environment.

Quiet day tomorrow!!! No one and nothing, except reading. Hoping to finish the manuscript tomorrow...and start in on the final polish of my own before sending it off - I hope before heading to Phoenix. Also need to write the December newsletter. And the article for the Globe.

Still, best to just do the one thing in front of me, and not worry about all the others.

Hope you're well - I imagine many of you are preparing for Thanksgiving! How fun that always sounds...great food, family, football games (Michael and I actually adore football - he'll often watch a game Sunday afternoon/evening).

Monday, 23 November 2009

chicken in the oven, and frost on the grass

sunny, heavy frost, temps rising to 8

Gorgeous day...all day. But this morning was particularly brilliant. Heavy covered in it. But as the sun rises and moves across the property the frost melts so that at any stage there is partial green of the grass and sparlking white of the frost. Wonderful to walk across the grass in the morning, before it melts.

Went into the village to do some mailing and pick up some groceries. George Easter, the editor of Deadly Pleasures Magazine, mailed me the HUGE poster from Barnes and Noble in his town of Bountiful, Utah. It promotes The Brutal Telling as their B&N Recommends. Unbelievably kind of him. So now I have it, still rolled up, and trying to decide where to put it. It will almost cover an entire wall...and while part of me wants to stick it right by the front visitors can have NO doubt...I'm afraid what they will have no doubt about is the size of the ego that lives in the house. So, since I am nothing if not retiring and bashful, I will put it where Michael and I get to see it every day.

The chicken is in the claypot. pat has made us a wonderful apple and pear crisp. Table set, fire laid and lit.

The friend who is staying next door is more like a brother than anything...I've known him for almost 30 years. So it will be very relaxing. We're in the process of getting rid of our two cars and buying one. We realize we really only need one. And we want something ultra fuel efficient or hybrid. But we also need an all-wheel drive for the winters, and something solid and stable for the long drives. And preferably not an SUV. So while were were in the UK we asked our friend if he could do some research. He's very good at that. So we'll see what he says tonight.

Must go. Am in my sweats...and while he might be like a brother I don't think I'd subject anyone other than Michael (it's too late for him, he can't escape) to the sight of me in sweats.

Be to you tomorrow. Oh, the claypot chicken does smell good.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Home home

mainly sunny, mild, temps 4

We're home, in Sutton...and wow this really feels great. Like stripping away layers and finally finding ourselves here. Spent much of the day in front of the fireplace, writing 'thank you' letters, opening mail, reading manuscripts. Trying to get through the mountain of stuff that collects. But here it sure does not feel like work.

Spent an hour in the bath. I adore baths, as you know...and that was one of the few things I really miss while traveling...a huge, comfortable bathtub. Most are way too small for me to use.

What bliss. A bath. And before that the fireplace, with Michael, and Trudy, surrounded by books...pond au laits in our Vive Gamache mugs. And everything smells of home.


I'm such a homebody. I actually quite like traveling...but I sure love coming home.

Quiet day tomorrow...more catching up. Want to write the newsletter. Read more books people have sent me. I've been asked to write a Christmas article for the Globe and Mail. Always fun to do that, but a bit of work. Need to start thinking about it.

Oh - we had a fun event at the pointe Claire library yesterday afternoon. Saw Mari there...she follows the blog and is a wonderful supporter of the Gamache books. And others. Michael Blair and Mary Jane Maffini - two wonderful Canadian crime writers - were also on the panel. It was organized by Pat Flewwelling for the Crime Writers of Canada.

Oh, and M ichael had his H1N1 shot yesterday. In Canada they've got enough vaccine now to cover at risk groups and people over 65...they just added that last group as more shots arrive. Didn't take long...there's a clinic set up in a nearby mall in Montreal. Took about an hour start to finish. A relief to have him covered.

We have a friend staying in the guest cottage and he's coming over for dinner tomorrow night. I warned him I'm not the best cook, and also that Trudy has, in the past, thrown up on guests. He might want to eat before he comes, and wear something rubber.

He explained his mother used to serve them peanut butter and liver sandwiches, so he figures he can handle whatever I, or Trudy, might throw at him.

We'll see...

Speak to you tomorrow.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Survival tactics at the Hotel Alt

gorgeous sunrise, temps freezing

Am lying in bed at 7am in one of my favorite hotels...the hotel alt in Quebec City. Actually, it's in a suburb of Quebec called Ste Foy. If it was actually in downtown Quebec City I'd stay in it and recommend it to everyone...but it's in the commercial strip. A not very attractive area of a stunningly attractive city. It seems the only people who would stay at the Hotel Alt are like briefly on business that takes us into this suburb. Still, it's a shame since the Alt is great. Like a better designed W. Not quite so 'aware' of itself but simple, large rooms, with spectacular bathrooms...with a glass wall between the mosaic glass tile shower and the bedroom. My room is huge and from the bed i can see a glorious sunrise- which makes me think I'm looking to the East. At least, I hope I am. If not, there's something very wrong with the sky.

Had huge fun yesterday. Train between Montreal and Quebec City is fast and easy...a little over 3 hours. I always come by first class...publisher pays. But even when they're not I still plop for first class on trains. Not that much more, and so much more comfortable. And a quite nice hot meal. It's so peaceful to plug in to my music and watch the scenery.

Arrived just after 4pm. Dark already. Grabbed a cab straight for the CBC Radio studio's on rue Saint-Jean and did a fun 15 minute interview with Jacquie, who hosts the afternoon snow, Breakaway. Wonderful host. I like Jacquie a lot...and she was very helpful when we were here in the winter researching Bury Your Dead (book 6).

Then a cab to ste foy. checked into the hotel and scurried across to the mall where the bookstore is. La Maison Anglaise it's called. The English House.

Oh - breakfast just arrived. A little baffling, actually. I'd asked for bagel and cream cheese and coffee for two. But the cups are tiny and the pot looks more like a small pitcher of milk...with coffee in it. And - most perplexing- they sent up a toaster, which while my French might not be perfect I'm pretty certain I didn't order. Seems they want me to toast my own bagel.

I can see the reasoning...might even be considered the sort of kooky, brilliant innovation these hotels sometimes find...this way the bagel is definitely hot. However, I can't find a plug. Have resorted to plugging it in by the bed. Am squatting down, toaster on the floor. Bagel in. surely this isn't what the designers of this cutting edge boutique hotel had in mind? I feel like a caveman. Bending over fire. Toasting a bagel.

The event last night was great fun. I love La Maison Anglaise. Terrific independent bookstore...but mostly it's the owner, Guy Dubois and the people he has working for him. All very smart and keen and lovers of books. And it was wonderful seeing so many friends again. Heather...Larry, who sometimes comments on the blog, and his gorgeous 14 year old daughter Jodie. Marianna...on and on. Love events that feel more like a gathering of friends.

And Guy - lovely man - gave me a 'garland' of candy! Actually more of a cornucopia...this massive funnel of gummi candies. I think Guy - who has a wicked sense of humour - might have done it on that I'd have to walk back to the hotel through this elegant city, carrying a massive club of candy. for sure no one bothered me. And it really is a delightful gift.

By the way - Edward Rutherford, who writes fabulous historic fiction - is doing an event at La Maison Anglaise next week I believe. He's in Quebec on holiday and offered to come because his latest book, New York, is out. I'm a great fan of his and would definitely go to the event, if I lived in Quebec and wasn't planning on being in the mental ward from eating so much candy.

Catching the train back to Montreal this afternoon. I'll be doing an event tomorrow (Saturday) organized by the Crime Writers of Canada, at the Pointe Claire Library in Montreal at 3pm, with two great crime writers...Michael Blair and Mary Jane Maffini. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


sunny, cool, temps 4

Montreal - Yay! As wonderful as Britian was...and I could have happily stayed longer in London - it sure feels great to be home. Wonderful travel day too... not always a given. Heathrow was easy...helps to check-in on line. The Air Canada flight was almost empty so we got the emergency exit seats. We'd asked for them from the travel agent who assured us we had them, but they weren't the exit rows...indeed, she'd book us into the middle not only were they not exit row, they were in the worst possible location. But we got really lucky and were able to switch once the plane was taxiing.

What a difference it makes!

And the flight attendents we had were just great! Again, not always the case. Often they're so harried and stressed - and some seem quite embittered - that it just makes an already dismal travel experience as a passenger all the worse. But this trip was great. Louise (one of our attendents) was delightful and kind...her husband is also named Michael...go figure. And Daniel was amazing...when not flying he volunteers for his local SPCA in Quebec and goes on Puppy Mill raids...and helped set up this huge raid in the papers today where 100 huskies were rescued.

Fascinating man. And it was quiet enough we got to talk a little to these two lovely people.

The only distressing part was one of the passengers was clearly quite ill. Throwing up all the time. She - poor one - was two aisles away and fortunately fell asleep for most of the flight. Her husband seemed to abandon her - choosing to move to a whole other cabin section.

But she was well looked after by the attendents. though - selfishly - I did wonder if she had H1N1 or the plague...or by the end of the flight I had us all succumbing to terrible illnesses - and/or put in quarantine. But no one seemed to concerned and she left the plane with the rest of us.

My noon event at the curling club has been cancelled - at least, it goes on but they cancelled me, thinking for some reason that I wasn't coming...crossed signals. Still, it gives me the day off and I'm almost giddy with excitement. Can't remember the last time I had a day writing, editing, social events, speaking I've rented a few movies, bought lots of candy and will get into my sweats, get into my bed and put the Star Trek new release in the machine...ahhhh.

Oh, another bit of good news, The Strand Magazine named THE BRUTAL TELLING one of the years best books! ahhhh.

How lucky am I. Back home. An afternoon off. And great book news. Michael is feeling good too. Sad at times, but mostly trying to concentrate on the good.

Am off to Quebnec City tomorrow for a 7pm event at La Maison Anglaise. Hope to see you there. Except those of you in Australia and New Zealand. And India. And South Africa. But the rest of you I expect to see.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Last day in the Big Smoke

Partly cloudy, cool, temps 13

Quite a nice day...and while I say cool it is, I believe, still considerably above normal. Michael spent an hour or more in the garden, doing a watercolour while I finished this edit on book 6 - Bury Your Dead.

I like it. In fact, I really like it. Can hardly wait to see what you think of it.

We headed off for breakfast to the Wolseley - Michael had an omelet and and I had stewed prunes in orange and ginger. Divine! And pots and pots of coffee. Then to Fortnum and Mason for gifts. We decided we really must buy a small flat in London if only to be able to furnish it with some of these great dishes and cutlery etc. Perhaps not the wisest use of our finances. Indeed, as I mentioned earlier, it will almost certainly never happen, but it is fun to dream. Besides, we have a fabulous life waiting for us in Canada - that includes Trudy. We miss her on our travels.

We're heading to an early dinner with Teresa Chris, my agent and her husband Charles...who also happens to be Lord Brudenell-Bruce, the son of a Marquess. And an actor. In fact, he's shooting the latest Harry Potter. Such interesting people we meet in London. Going around the corner to a place called Papillion. Hope it's good.

Robin and Jamie Agnew, who run Aunt Agatha's bookstore in Ann Arbor and are very influential in the mystery and crime writing community have chosen The Brutal Telling one of the years 10 best mystery novels. Wonderful!!! And Marian Misters, at Toronto's Sleuth of Baker street has given it a fabulous review in their latest newsletter.

So, good things keep happening.

Though I was sad to read of the death of Edward Woodward...I used to watch The Equalizer, and had a small crush on him. He was also in one of my favorite films, Breaker Morant. Fabulous.

Fly back to Montreal tomorrow...have an event noon Wednesday, speaking at the Royal Montreal Curling club luncheon. then Thursday I take a train to Quebec City for a talk and signing at a terrific bookstore there...La Maison Anglaise at 7pm. Home Friday and an event Saturday from 3-5 at the pointe Claire Library in Montreal. It's with Michael Blair, another Montreal crime writer and Mary Jane Maffini- who is coming down from Ottawa. It will be a panel discussion and the books will be for sale. signed books make a GREAT christmas gift.

Hope to see you there.

Then, home...home! Saturday night.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Death, thou shalt die.

Sunny, beautiful day, temps 13

Went to a tiny village called Tibenham yesterday for John Buxton's funeral. It was a beautiful event. Emotional, but didn't feel catastrophic. He was 75 and had seen his death coming, as had we all. And he talked about it easily, though admitted to Michael in private moments, that there were times he was afraid, and times he was in a rage about dying. And we felt that same way about losing him.

but finally, like with most death, it was a celebration of his life. And all the people he loved. And who loved him, including his wife Moira and children Jocelyn and Nigel and Dee and Patrick. And his grandchildren. And his friends and family. And Michael.

We sat at the back of the very old church. It's tiny and was crowded. The rafters and ceiling looked like the hull of a viking ship. It is a very simple, very clear church. Very lovely. And in the background were the bells John and Moira had had re-made a few years ago. The church was founded centuries ago by one of John's ancestors...another John Buxton. Many of his ancestors are buried beneath of the huge stones of the church floor. That wasn't possible for our John, but he did ask that he be allowed to lie there for one night, in his coffin, before being buried as close to the church as they could.

And so he did.

the service was simple as well, with his brother in law George doing a very lovely eulogy. And John's two sons reciting a Sonnet by John Donne - chosen by John. The one that begins, Death be not proud...

It was very moving to see his two boys, grown men now, so dignified.

Then the graveside service.

It was blowing a gale...the worst storms of the year for England. Rail service was disrupted, trees and electric lines down. Lashes of rain at the grave intermingled with huge leaves torn from trees.

It was very, very Gothic. I think we all appreciated how macabre and dramatic it was. Especially standing amid moss covered old tombstones beside the tiny church.

In fact, as we entered I noticed the marker commemorating the men of the parish who had died in the world wars. And I remembered that that was where I got the inspiration for the memorial window in the chapel in Three Pines. Beneath the list of names was written, simply, They Were Our Children.

After the service we went back to the Swan pub. Very old, half-timbered...small, comfortable rooms, each with an open fire. and out the leaded glass windows the storm continued. Then Peter, a friend of the family, who has helped us a great deal in the past two weeks on our visits to John and Moira, drove us to the train station. Thankfully our train wasn't disrupted. We made it back to Liverpool Street station, then home on the underground. By the time we emerged the storm was over. And today we awoke to a brilliant, sunny, new day.

Spent the morning on the last 20 pages...almost finished. Need to be so careful, so clear, at the end. We're off now for a Japanese lunch, then more editing this afternoon. I'm determined to be finished this draft by bedtime tonight.

Be well. Thank you for holding our hands through this, and coming to the funeral. We so appreciate it.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Afternoon Tea....again!?

cloudy, lots of rain, very mild temps 16

Teeming rain today. Poor Michael went out to get the papers while I edited and came back drenched.

Quiet day...decided to go back 200 pages and smooth out and read the delicate thread in Bury Your Dead. Very worthwhile. It also made it clear where to add the new scene. then moved forward.

Have 20 pages to go - hope to finish Sunday.

Went out for afternoon tea to a wonderful little hotel on Basil Street, behind Harrods. It's called the Capital Hotel...not, I think, a very promising name...but a beautiful hotel. The tea was a suggestion of Erika. The room where tea is served only has about five tables. It feels like a study, with bookcases...and silk lined walls. Very fresh feeling and intimate and comfortable.

Yummy tea. I had Rose Petal Gong Yu.

Actually skipped the sandwiches and pastry stage. Wasn't hungry. But am now so we have reservations at an oyster bar on Sloane Street in half an hour. Not a bad way, all in all, to spend a Friday.

Tomorrow we're off early to catch the train from Liverpool Street to take us to Norwich and John's funeral.

All in all not a great way to spend a day - but we're sure glad to be here for it.

Must head off...probably won't blog tomorrow...won't be home until late. But will speak to you on Sunday. Hope you have a good weekend.

Thursday, 12 November 2009


mainly sunny, mild, temps 15

Really, this is stunningly beautiful weather...quite a surprise for London. Have only used the hot water bottles twice and Michael's used his long underwear once...and I haven't yet.

thank you so much Lee Ann for your very beautiful post yesterday. It was only last night when we were in bed that Michael turned to me and said, 'You know, you never did identify Lee Ann as the woman blogging today.' I thought about it and realized he was right. I am sorry if it has caused any confusion!

We had a lovely day yesterday. Breakfast around the corner at Jak's, on Walton street. Then home to edit some more. Another 50 pages. Paused at 11 for a minute's silence and quiet reflection...and, in the words of Bert Finney, to do my sums.

Not totally happy with what I'd done yesterday. It was right...but there seemed something missing. A layer. Last night Michael and I joined our friends Mike and Dom for dinner at a restaurant called Moro. A Spanish/Moroccan fusion. It had just been named the Observor's Restaurant of the Month. Packed...quite a scene. Wonderful to see the two of them again. Dom works in marketing...mostly perfumes and cosmetics. Very high end luxury goods and is brilliant. Creative and thoughtful. Mike is a senior editor at The Guardian. He used to be the host of the CBC Radio Montreal morning show. So it was a gas to get all caught up.

But getting to the dinner meant taking a bus (we could have taken the tube but we prefer busses) across London. Took an hour, as we expected. The number 10 from Knightsbridge, along Hyde Park and ending up at King's Cross. Took an hour. We sat upstairs on the double decker and stared out the windows at this dazzling city. At - great good fortune!! - at the Christmas lights that had just been put up. Harrods all outlined in season green lights. But the most spectacular was Oxford Street toward Oxford Circus. We really hadn't been expecting it and so were stunned at it's beauty. Apparently hovering over the brilliant street were all these Christmas gifts...huge and lit....and candy canes...and trees....for blocks. The department stores were dripping in cheerful lights. We felt like children...wide-eyed and giggly, pointing out one beautiful sight after another.

It also gave me time to gaze out the window and think, gently, about the edit...and find the solution. A few scenes I want to slip in. Short, but I believe crucial. Always amazes me when such inspiration visits. it never 'strikes' me. More like a kindly friend who I suddenly notice is sitting beside me.

This morning I slept in to about 9 then we hopped onto the number 22 bus on Sloane Street and it took us to Piccadilly, where we went, once more, to our new favorite breakfast spot in all the world. The Wolseley. this time we got a table in the huge main room...all white and decco. Huge arched windows. Fabulous coffee in a silver pot. Warm, frothy milk also in a silver 'creamer'. I had french toast and bacon...Michael had Cumberland sausage.

We're going back Monday for breakfast. As I said in an earlier post, I realize that is just who I am. I find what I like and pretty much stick to it. Not very adventurous...but wow, does it ever give me pleasure.

Michael then took me to the Anish Kapoor show across Piccadilly at the Royal Academy. I loved it! Very, very modern. Scultpures. Seems at times serious, at times playful. Very dynamic. Indeed, for reasons that I can't possibly explain, there were times I was almost in tears. of delight. Joy. It just felt so alive. So compassionate and inclusive. Divine...way more divine than the scalding at of 1600's Spain we saw earlier.

Then over to Fortnum and Mason's - which also almost brought me to tears....candy, tea, chocolates, jams, cookies everywhere.

then home on the number 14...and now we're back. Quieter day tomorrow...editing. Hoping to finish this edit. Will start the next on Sunday. By then I think it will be more polishing than anything else.

Speak to you tomorrow...hope you're well. And Lee Ann, we thought of you yesterday. And today. Thank you again.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

In Remembrance

Louise, bless her heart, has invited me to blog again on Remembrance Day, the anniversary of my son Thomas’s death. I’d like to talk a little about Thomas himself this time.

My own blog is titled “We Remember” which is a phrase that pops up everywhere once you start looking for it. Most of what I have remembered has to do with the way we have handled the time since Thomas’s death on November 11, 2004. It is hard for me to believe in some ways that it has already been five years since the day he died. It either feels like this has always been our reality, or like he was just here yesterday. He himself had a very sophisticated view of time, being the kind of kid who shut himself up in his room to secretly read St. Augustine’s Confessions. He understood Augustine’s concept of eternity as being all of time at once: hard for us mere humans to encompass. But it is a comfort to me in a way to think that in some sense at least he exists just as I remember him, as a chunky baby, as a thoughtful kindergartner, as a boy growing toward manhood.

People who did not know Thomas are always astounded to hear that he told us in July before he left for Iraq exactly what he wanted done if “anything happened.” (We could not bring ourselves to even say “If you don’t come back.”) He stood in the hallway while I clutched a basket of laundry and told me that he did not want to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, that he wanted to be buried in civilian clothes, and that he had decided to pay for the higher level of life insurance available to soldiers, figuring that it was only a few dollars per month. I argued about the clothes but ultimately told him I’d do what he wanted, just don’t make me do it please. It was a gift in a way: when they came to tell us that he was gone, we knew precisely what we had to do.

And his view about time was also a gift: a few months later, his high school English teacher, Tom Tobin, was interviewed by the Washington Post as part of a series about the aftermath of soldiers’ deaths. Tom recounted a conversation in which Thomas revealed just what a remarkable kid he really was, how he had explained Augustine and eternity to his fellow students and teacher. Tom was amazed and impressed and it was the beginning of a friendship that lasted to the end of Thomas’s life.
It may be hard to believe that a kid who could contemplate his own death with equanimity and discuss St. Augustine with ease could also be described as a good soldier. But there they were: his Purple Heart, his Bronze Star, and his Good Conduct Medal all witnessing to his life as a professional soldier.

He had volunteered for his final mission, no surprise, in the end, to anyone who knew him.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

A whole lot 'a nuttin' goin' on

overcast, cool, temps 11

though I haven't been out today at all! spent the day in my sweats, and you know what that means! Writing. Editing, actually. got almost 100 pages done - but difficult. Not much new, but tweaking and needing to make sure the edits are actually improvements. And of course when I change one thing, it affects other things later on...everything's connected. It's like tossing a pebble into a pond. Not a big splash - and quickly disappears unnoticed (I hope) but with consequences. A lot of editing is thinking, and staring, and imagining. Where the change might make a single scene better - by the end of the book the effect might be catastrophic.

So - as a result - I'm really tired and will not do a long post. Besides, nothing happened.

there - that was simple.

Dear Diary,

Tuesday, November 10th. London, England.

Nothing Happened.


Monday, 9 November 2009

Common ground

mainly sunny, cooler, temps 6

Chilly day, but very nice for walking. had breakfast at home - fruit and a piece of toast...and coffee of course. Then answered some emails. Very odd being here...feels like we've been flung five hours ahead of the 'rest' of the world. So used to being on Eastern Time - not UK time. Most of the people - friends, family, work - are in Canada or US. So they don't start stirring until after lunch here in London. But we get emails well into the night. So i wake up to quite a few.

After breakfast and emails we wandered down to sister Carol's place just off Sloane Square. Her husband is David Lloyd-Jones, an opera conductor. he helped establish Opera North and does a lot of recordings now. And writing. I remember the first time I met him, 15 years ago now. I'd heard so much about him, and of course I'm a complete opera dolt. Been to a few when i lived in Winnipeg and a lovely friend there - janet ringer - decided it was time this heathen was educated. So she took me to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Symphony and the Opera. And it was thrilling. There were times I sat in my seat next to janet and felt my heart leave my chest and soar around the concert hall. sometimes it was on unexpectedly hearing music I knew...sometimes, like with Saint Saens organ concerto or Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, it was hearing stunning music for the very first time and falling in love. Janet has a great deal of tolerance. She hated smoking and I was a smoker at the time...and not just a smoker, but I smoked between courses. We'd go out for dinners before the concerts and she's have to suffer through me puffing away. I cringe now when I think how selfish that was. And how kind she was to tolerate it...and to introduce me to such amazing music. And performances. Some of the ballet left me speechless. Some - it must be said - left me snoozing. Indeed, I never did 'get' opera...though another wonderful friend in Winnipeg - Pat - adores it.

So when it came time to meet the famous David Lloyd-Jones I was quaking. I'd also heard he was quite formidable. And sure enough, we got off the train and he was there to meet us. Over six foot tall, athletic build, and a full head of dramatic white hair.

He was far too gracious to ever treat me like a moron...and I am not a moron, but it seemed everything he is passionate and knowledgeable about I know nothing about. Most of the names he said meant absolutely nothing to me. and so for ten years I smiled and nodded and buried my face in the canape tray. He must have thought, on top of being slightly idiotic, that I had an eating disorder. or at least a fascination with things on crackers.

And then, one visit, we were staying with them in their country home and loe and behold - David loves roses. And I love roses. And grow them at home. And suddenly he and I are burning bracken and comparing notes on old garden roses, on hardiness, on blights. And now we hardly ever speak about roses, but I suddenly see him as human and he sees me as human too.

Common ground. What a blessing to find.

So off we went to visit them and see how Carol is doing after her operation. She looks and moved a lot better than when I saw her last week. that's a relief...though she still has a bit of a way to go. The good news is, she can feel the improvements everyday.

Then home in time to meet Erika for lunch. She took us down Walton street to a new restaurant...small, crowded, vibrant. Very alive. And terrific food. Then she took us on a whirlwind spin around the neighborhood, showing us the best, hidden, restaurants. and some not hidden at all. Part of the problem in London - like paris or New York or any great city, is an embarrassment of riches. How to choose? And how do we know which ones are really good and which are just not worth the considerable amount of money for a meal? Happily, Erika has very definite opinions and we're happy to believe her. So now we have scouted out two Oyster bars and a sushi place. Yum.

tomorrow I'm hoping for a quiet day to write and edit. Dinner Wednesday night with Mike and Dom. Mike works at the Guardian and they are announcing quite large layoffs Wednesday...tense time. If you're among those cut you feel sick and frightened...if you survive you're relieved, but feel guilty. Still - better to survive. Mike is a fabulous journalist and a natural leader - I'd hope that would be enough to keep him on...but who knows how these things are decided?

So there you have it...another day in London-town. Cor.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The pipes

clearing skies, temps 10

As I write the pipes are playing. I can hear them recede into the distance as an Armistice Day parade leaves from the church on the corner. It is so unspeakably moving to be here now. To see the crowds, to feel the sorrow. To read the Times and the announcements placed in memory...of men who died in Dieppe and Vimy and the Somme and in ships that went down and planes that never returned. And in Helmund and Basra. The new wars and the new names.

And to hear the eerie, beautiful pipes in this old city.

Very moving. Very humbling. I knew a few of you have a sorrow, a loss, I can't begin to imagine. I'm so sorry. I wonder if it is any consolation, any comfort, that so many people honour your loss? I wonder. I hope so.

The pipes have faded, the parade moved on.

I spent most of today editing Bury Your Dead...come to a sensitive part...needs thought...but also needs action. I find eventually I just need to dive in and see what happens. Make the changes...and trust I'll know when it is right and makes it better, or when it is wrong. Let's hope!

up to page 300 now. I think if I can do 50 pages a day now - this is the difficult, complex, patch - I'll be fine.

Michael went out this morning and picked up the Telegraph and the Sunday Times. We've settled in to a cup of tea and the sunday papers, in front of the fire. Michael was commenting that, this being Sunday, maybe we should go out for a Sunday Roast pub lunch. but I was working, and so he missed his roast. But when I'd gone as far as I could today I threw on my coat and went to the shops and picked up a roast and pudding. So tonight I will make him his Sunday Roast. Or burn down the flat trying. A small prayer might be in order.

I promised to tell you about the flat. It's on the British first floor, what we in Canada and the US would call the second floor. Basically one flight up. In this older and very classic architecture, the windows grow smaller as the floors go up - but the first floor windows in the Victorian/Edwardian buildings are enormous. Our flat has 18 foot ceilings. A beautiful bedroom at the back with ensuite bathroom. A tiny kitchen - barely more than a closet, but perfect for the likes of me. A quite lovely dining room painted ox-blood red...almost laquered. But the room that makes us gasp everyday is the drawing room. A living room to North americans. it's at the front of the flat...overlooking the garden square, and has huge floor to ceiling windows and a set of french doors opening onto a tiny balcony. there are massive bookcases and ancestral paintings and gorgeous urns and a cheery fireplace. How did we get so lucky???

We, of course, pretend to own it...and are constantly discussing how we would (will) redesign things when it is ours. We would not touch the front is splendid.

We've re-arranged a date with Mike and for dinner Wednesday to a Spanish/Moroccan restaurant near King's Cross. Tomorrow we'll see sister Carol and have lunch with Erkia, who owns the flat.

I'm trying to find a balance between writing/editing and enjoying London. So far so good. Off back to the Times...though since Mike works for the Guardian we tell him we read that all the time. Actually, the Guardian is a fabulous paper - and they have a great website.

Speak to you tomorrow!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

The changing of the addresses in London

beautiful, bright, mild day - temps 13

Stunningly beautiful day. We'd planned to meet up with Mike and Dom and have brunch together but plans changed so we walked down to the Duke of York Barracks and had coffee at the Patisserie Valerie there...were planning to do breakfast but the waitress kept yelling at the other workers - I believe in Russian - but it was altogether too Dr Strangelove-ly - so after what was a really terrific cappuccino we moved next door for breakfast...fruit salad and toast for me...scrambled eggs for Michael.

Then we decided it was so gorgeous we'd hop on the Number 11 bus and go to St. James Park and just walk.

We got on the bus - sat up at the top of the double-decker...and got off at Trafalgar Square. Very moving. We went past Westminister and there were huge wreaths out and crowds gathering...then down a wide avenue - we think it was called Whitehall - with huge war was clearly about to be blocked off...perhaps for the Armistice Parade. Television platforms were being erected. There was Nelson's Column....and behind it the National Gallery. We hopped off the bus and decided we'd go into the national Gallery. It's a glorious building...pillars and wide sweeping steps. At the top we looked out over Trafalgar Square...the monuments, so familiar from postcards and photos and past visits...but still and always so impressive. The fountains. And then we noticed the fourth plinth. It had sat empty...for centuries. And just this past week it was filled. One last monument, one last person.

I can't remember his name, but the statue shows a man in late middle-age. Slender. Smiling. Wearing aviators outfit and putting on a glove. He was the air marshall who led the Battle of Britain. And now he's taken his place with the other heroes.

This is a terrifically and terribly moving time here in Britain, and certainly in London, as preparations are made for the November 11th Remembrance Day. Since so many British soldiers have been killed and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just last week 5 more were killed in Helmand Province. Dreadful. Like most places, the Brits struggle with being so proud of the young men and women fighting the war...and so upset it is happening at all.

We went inside and saw an exhibit called The Sacred Made Real...a look at Spanish devotional art from the early 1600's...very graphic...violent really. Not my idea of the divine...I actually found it appalling, but others would almost certainly be deeply moved by it. Still, it was extremely interesting to see...and if I know one thing about art - it should move me...either to delight and safely and comfort - or to contemplation - to wonder and awe - or anger...or just revulsion. Good art is rarely neutral.

Then we hopped back on the number 11 bus and scooted for the was moving day and we had to be out by noon. We were a little late but the next people hadn't arrived. We'd already packed up so we just hailed a cab and came to the place we'd wanted to stay all along. The flat on Lennox Gardens, in Knightsbridge. It was still being cleaned, so we went off for lunch, then Michael picked up flowers and I did some grocery shopping and now we're back at the flat. It is enchanting...will describe more another time...except to say it is a black or so from Sloane Street...close to harrods...close to the Old Brompton Road. And is basically two semi-circular gracious attached buildings surrounding a huge fenced garden, with massive trees and stretches of lawn and flowers. It is a tiny private park in the very centre of this magnificent city. We over-look it.

How magical is that? We've rented this flat often and consider it almost a second, or third, home. One day we might be able to buy it. That would be such fun. I suspect our finances would never run to that...and as people keep pointing out, why buy when you can rent. And that is certainly the sensible thing...but this is a dream, a fantasy, and a rational-free zone. My own garden square, where sensible thoughts are locked out. and the sacred is made real.

Speak to you tomorrow, from London.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

A Penny for the old Guy

cloudy, windy, but not cold, temps 14

What a hectic few days, but now Michael and I are in the London flat running from window to window, watching the fireworks all over London! It's magical. This is Guy Fawkes day and, as I mentioned in an earlier post (and mis-spelled Fawkes), the Brits celebrate by setting off firecrackers. it started about 6:30 this evening. Frankly, being Canadian, we were vaguely aware of this day but didn't think it was a big deal. So when the explosions started we wondered...and looked out the kitchen window.

We're on the 8th (and top) floor of an apartment building in Chelsea. Now, the thing about London is that there are almost no sky scrapers...most buildings went up a hundred or more years ago and don't go over 3 floors. there was bomb damage - alot - in the second world war and in rebuilding some of new-build got up to 8 or 10 stories. But it means there is a charm and human scale to the city. it is historic and gets light...and it means that from the 8th floor we have a panoramic view of the city.

Tonight for 4 hours, fireworks have shot into the sky from all over the city. It's spectacular. Some are just bright specks on the horizon...some are almost next door. Absolutely stunning and unexpected. Very moving, the way bagpipe music moves me. Not in the head, but in the gut.

Spent this morning editing Bury Your Dead while Michael visited Carol. Then we went out for The Peer pub on Sydney Street. After my last pub experience I clutched my purse (handbag as they say here) like a crazy woman. Michael had fish and chips, I had steak frites. Then we walked down the King's road to a wonderful art supply of those tiny shops filled with dark wood and curiosities you know have been there for a hundred years. Michael picked up a watercolour kit - he'd left his at home...then we walked along to one of my favorite gardens in the whole world...the London Physic Garden, down near the river. It's 400 years old and specializes in rare and medicinal plants, picked up by explorers from all over the world. it's magnificent, with all these ancient flowers and plants. It's walled and sits right in the centre of London...a sort of hidden garden. But - it had closed for the season four days ago! We stood outside like waifs. Hands clutched around the wrought-iron gates. As though staring and will could open them. It couldn't. So we left.

I went to Marks and Spencer to pick up something for dinner, and Michael went home to put the kettle on. We were a little chilled.

I went back to editing, he read the Times, and then the fireworks started. Delightful.

yesterday was quite a day too. Started with hoping on the 22 bus and leaping off at Green Park, on Piccadilly - for breakfast at the Wolseley. A real scene. Very elegant. Fabulous coffee. Michael had the....can you guess...yes! The Full English...which is pretty much everything fried, including the waiter. I had a bowl of fruit. And we soaked up the atmosphere. Then Michael walked me along to The Ritz where I was meeting my agent, Teresa.

Except...get this...they stopped Michael at the door. Only men with shirts and ties allowed in. Michael had a beautiful jacket, a cashmere sweater and a turtleneck, and they turned him away. We both thought it was pretty funny, especially given they were certainly letting in arms dealers and crooked politicians and trust fund kids who did little with their lives...but refused entry to such a lovely, kind, gifted man.

So, Michael went off to the Royal Academy - which was always his plan anyway - and I met up with Teresa then we went to Shepherd's Markets, nearby, for a bistro lunch. I'd planned to have breakfast with Deborah Crombie (one of my favorite writers and people of all time!!) who's in London researching her next book, but had to cancel when this agent meeting suddenly came up. Actually, meeting up with Deb was possibly because one of you - Marjorie - mentioned that Deborah Crombie was also going to be in London, and provided her email. I had it already, but it was at home. So - a big thank you to Marjorie.

While Teresa and I met and talked and discussed the future of the Gamache books Michael saw the Anish Kapoor exhibition at the RA...then had lunch at Fortum and Mason's (picking up two boxes of Turkish for sister Carol and one for me). Teresa and I walked back through Green park...spitting rain but lovely. Then I hopped back on the 22 bus...Michael got on the 22 as well, but about 20 minutes later.

When we met up back at the flat he was raving about the Kapoor show. Extraordinary. So I'll go see it next week with him. Can hardly wait!!!

Have decided to take tomorrow away from editing...I can do that anywhere, anytime...but can't always do London! Off to Tom's kitchen for breakfast, then not sure what...but there's an antiquarian book show and sale at the Chelsea Town Hall, just around the corner from us starting at 2. Carol and David gave us their generous. Can hardly wait to see the books!!! Hope Michael hides his credit card since mine was stolen. don't think Michael... nah.

Spent an hour last night applying for a new birth certificate on the Canadian Government website. Very convenient. Surprisingly easy. Makes me wonder what I will actually get.

Off to bed soon...will leave the curtains open so we can watch the last of the fireworks as we drift off to sleep. How lucky we are.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your kind wishes about John. All your thoughts, your words, your experiences. How kind you are to care for us. The funeral is November 14th in the Buxton Church...named for his family. Indeed, John oversaw the re-forging of the bells for the church. We saw the foundry, in Whitechapel.

We want you to know your presence has made a very real difference to us. surprising since I have met so few of you, and even those I don't know intimately. And yet there was real comfort I felt from you. As did Michael. I think it was the blessing of knowing we were not alone. How powerful community is. Belonging.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


bright sunny morning, giving way to driving rain in mid-afternoon, but clearing again

We got the call at 8:30 last night that John had died an hour earlier. Very, very peaceful. Asleep. Moira holding his hand. We called and spoke to Moira and John's daughter Joce (Michael's Goddaughter). Everyone exhausted. And sad. But also relieved he is free.

We feel we'd already said goodbye, and so this parting felt almost a formality. Not the crashing grief of a sudden death. And having seen him it was clear he was ready. As many of you have said too - knowing we did everything we could, that there are no regrets, is terribly important. I think it's regrets that get up out of the ground and start following us. We're haunted by them.

I also want to say, again,what a comfort your messages are and have been. thank you.

Michael is doing well. Difficult last night, but increasingly better as today has worn on.

A relief, really. I feel a little badly admitting it, but it's the truth. Thanks for being there, not just for the happy celebrations, but the 'thin' times too.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Ghost cookies and Afternoon Tea

driving rain in am, then clear skies, lovely evening - full moon, temps 14

Still very mild - except in the flat which managed to be quite cold! Last night I boiled up a couple of hot water bottles (we'd brought them from Canada - the first things we pack when coming to the UK, even in summer, are the hot water bottles and long underwear.) How yummy to lie in bed, reading The Times with a hot water bottle at the feet. And London outside our window. Actually, there were fireworks last night for a reason that escapes me. We looked to make sure they were fireworks and not something else...sure enough, burst of colour. At 11pm. Now, November 5th is Guy Faulkes day - commemorating a man who tried, and failed, to blow up the British Houses of Parliament centuries ago. The Brits do fireworks then - but that's a few days away. So we're baffled.

Had breakfast at home this morning...fruit...but couldn't figure out how to run the coffee machine. Very frustrating. So I brewed some tea and after breakfast while I settled down to edit Bury Your Dead Michael went off and got us some coffees and the biggest pannetone I've ever seen. he says it followed him home from a bakery on the King's Road, but I don't think I believe him. But we took it in and it has found a good, though temporary, home with us.

Bury Your Dead in manuscript form on my laptop is 500 pages (it will be a lot less in book-form). So I've set a goal of 100 pages a day. We'll see how it goes. I've learned that I am very goal oriented and do much better if I set one. The downside to that is that I am also very competitive - with myself. So if I set a goal of 100 pages you know I will do 150. Actually, today I did about 105. Might possibly have done more but we wanted to visit Michael's sister Carol.

She and her husband David live just off Sloane Square which is about a 7 minute walk from us. Very fun to be this close. Carol, you might remember, had a serious operation on her spine three weeks ago...then they discovered she needed a pacemaker, then they discovered - in quite dramatic fashion - that she was allergic to morphine. they found this out when she started raving about Kevin Spacey being on the other side of the moon. What seemed most unlikely about that was David's conviction that she'd never heard of Kevin Spacey. She became - in David's words after the fact - a nutter for three days, then slowly regained herself. We can laugh about it now because she's home and on the mend and looking great...but it was scary at the time. Horrible.

So off we went to visit Carol and David...taking along a copy of The Brutal Telling, two bags of jelly beans (Carol's favorites) some chocolate for David and some gourmet meals. After visiting for a while we headed out. Miochael, dear one, had already bought me what they call here an 'oyster card''s actually just an ordinary credit card type thing, but for the transport put money on it and swipe it when you get on a bus or the underground. When my wallet was stolen that was one of the things in old oyster card. But we dropped by Peter Jones in Sloane Square to get a new wallet...then up the street to Harvey Nichols, since it was now 5pm and we hadn't yet had lunch. And Harvey Nichs has a wonderful, fun, Japanese suchi bar thing with a conveyor belt. Our idea of heaven. We sit there and like a Disney ride, small dishes of suchi and other Japanese food conveys by. Great fun.

Got there, though, and it was closed for we plopped ourselves down and gave ourselves over to temptation in the 5th floor restaurant. Yet another Afternoon Tea...with cucumber sandwiches, crayfish sandwiches, ham and egg, scones with clotted cream, and tons of delicate pastries. It was bliss!

Then the long walk home. We could have hopped on a bus but after that we figured we needed to walk. With the time difference it gets dark really early...about it was pitch black 0 except for this wonderful, stunning, full moon.

How lovely it was to walk hand in hand with Michael through Knightsbridge and Chelsea - tummies full of Afternoon Tea - to our flat. And now we're home...a glass of ginger beer poured and The Times waiting.

Had a call from Rona - John's daughter-in-law. they'd hoped to get him into a hospice today, but he took a turn and now they dare not move him. Frankly, he has far exceeded expectations. the will to live is strong, as is his heart. Everytime they tell the family to say goodbye, John rallies. I remember when my father died the same thing happened. It became a bit of a joke in the family...a hobby...saying goodbye to Dad. That and the fact that since he died around Halloween (this time of year, of course) my brother Doug who was 10 was asked to go out and get cookies so we had something to offer people coming back to the house after the funeral. Doug - a nice lad but perhaps not very bright - bought cookies shaped like ghosts. This is also where the family rumour (started by Rob and me that night) that Doug is adopted comes from.

Tomorrow we plan to go to the Royal Academy - one of our favorite galleries in London - then I'm meeting my agent, Teresa at the Ritz. How fun is that?

Be well - and thank you for all your good person described it as placing us in the Light. And John, of course. And now I return the favour - placing you in the light. With thanks.

Monday, 2 November 2009

You've got to pick a pocket or two

sunny, mild, temps 17

Gorgeous day here in London. And a fun day. We're just off for tea at Harrods. bought two big bunches of tulips at a stall along the King's Road and they're now on the tablein front of me. wonderful flat we've rented in Chelsea. We're here until Saturday. Fabulous view...we're on the top night we see one of the bridges all lit up. And the sun just streams in.

Day didn't start out so great. I discovered my wallet had been stolen last night in the pub. Quite upsetting. But after scouring the flat and realizing it really was gone I called Visa and cancelled the credit and bank cards. Need to alert other places. But I was actually very lucky that there was absolutely no money in it. I hadn't yet put in British pounds...and I consider Michael my bank machine anyway, so as long as the pickpocket doesn't steal Michael, I'm fine.

Went along to the pub to make sure I hadn't just left it there by mistake, then off to the police station. They were polite, but clearly were not going to put a cordon around London. Stop the flights. Then we went and had a big hot chocolate at Starbucks. We go to a very specific one - again on the King's Road. We went to it, and sat upstairs looking out the windows, before Still Life was published...before I had an agent...just a dog-eared manuscript, filled with all my thoughts, my characters, my dreams. I remember sitting in that very Starbucks editing it. And so every time we're in London we return. Today I sat there with the editors notes for Book 6, reviewing them, thinking about them. Making my own notes.

Michael's sister Carol gets home from the hospital today...we're so looking forward to seeing here and hope to tomorrow. She had a serious spine operation and had a bad reaction to the medication. Went quite nutty, apparently...but is fine now. Thank God. We were very worried for a while. She's a really wonderful person. Very smart and very kind.

Off now, as I say, to tea at Harrods...our regular treat when first we arrive in London. I realize how much I like routine, and how rich a place becomes once I've established one. We went, for instance, to Tom's Kitchen off Chelsea Green, for breakfast this morning...another favorite place. I'm not very adventuruous. I find people and places I love and pretty much stick to them.

My needs are simple. Great friends, luxury surroundings, a husband-cum-bank machine. Yes...very humble life.

No word about John today. But will let you know. What lovely comments you have sent. Bless you.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

To love that well

gale blowing in am, clearing in PM

So much has happened since the last post. We're in London now. Just had dinner in a pub on the King's Road. Michael had a Sunday roast and I had fish and chips. We both had a ginger beer. And talked about the weekend.

We fell into bed Friday night - exhausted but feeling very calm. Slept extemely well and had a wonderful full English breakfast Saturday morning. Then off to John and Moira's. The place is called the Guildhall and is a Grade 1 listed timber frame home right beside the church. From there we went the 30 minutes to Norwich Hospital to see John. He'd been so well the day before the family, who had been planning to stay, had decided that maybe it was safe to leave on Sunday and come back mid-week if need be.

Saturday, though, found John exhausted. Still aware, but drifting in and out of sleep. Michael and Dick spent time with him. I went in briefly to say hello and kiss him. Then left the guys alone. We spent all morning in the waiting room as the family took turns sitting with John. Then we went to the cafeteria for lunch. After lunch it was time for Dick to say goodbye. He needed to head off. So he went up alone to be with John, say to goodbye in private. It was heartbreaking to see him, so dignified, back so straight, walking to the elevator to see his friend for the last time.

He came back down 15 minutes later and we all hugged and wished him a good trip. He's a lovely man, and a wonderful friend to both John and Michael. And too much of an Englishman to show his pain, though it was evident in the red eyes when he returned.

Then Dick left for the train station and we spent the rest of the afternoon at the hospital as the family and Michael rotated in and out of John's room. In late afternoon we were driven back to the bed and breakfast.

Saturday felt different than Friday. As though the air had been released. Deflated. the energy almost gone. It also felt as though the family was reaching the end of their rope...just hanging on. And while Michael and I felt loved and welcome, we also felt they didn't need to cook for us, and make pleasant conversation, drive us home. Besides, honestly, we were tired too.

So we picked up a couple of sandwiches and some softdrinks and cocooned back at the fabulous B&B - Camomile Cottage. I realized I mis-spelt it in the previous post. And perhaps just now too! And I haven't had the chance to read the comments from the previous post, but I will...and I am certain they are loving and kind and wise and caring. And I am sure I will be deeply comforted, as will Michael. Thank you.

Neither of us slept well last night. I could hear Michael crying and held him a few times, then realized when I did he stopped, only to start again. And I wondered if I was holding him, and comforting him, more for my sake than his. That his crying hurt me and I wanted it to stop. But perhaps, I thought, he should just cry. So I let him. But it was hard. sometimes I could hear him speaking to himself, mumbling, but I couldn't make out what he was saying. Prayers? Talking to God? To John?

Next morning I found out he was practicing what to say to John today, when it came his turn to say goodbye.

Eventually that time came, and of course, everything he'd planned and practiced went out the window and it was just the two of them sitting quietly, Michael holding John's hand.

they'd had a call from the hospital last night to say John was now in renal failure and he would soon slip into a coma, and die. He might have a day. Perhaps two.

When we arrived, he was awake. Agitated, but not in pain, and not frightened. Michael held his hand, then kissed him. And told him he loved him. Then he left.

And now we're in London. Tired and sad. But also grateful we came. And feeling we, mostly Michael, really has said goodbye. And it was time to go.

We've received many beautiful messages in the past few days. Many very personal, with people telling me about their own experiences, losing someone they loved. the agony of the anticipated grief. Those final moments. How hope shifts from long life, to painless, peaceful death. it never leaves, it just changes.

And Harry sent us these lines from Shakespeare's Sonnet 73

This thou perceivest, which makes they love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.