Tuesday, 30 September 2008


sunny, mild, temps 18

It started out cloudy and misty. The mountain beyond our field had disappeared. But as we drove to Cowansville the mist burned off. It was so gorgeous we had to stop the car, get out, and stare. The mountains covered in red, yellow, amber trees, coming out of the mists. Honestly, it made my heart ache.

Then we got in the car, drove to Cowansville and had endless cups of coffee and a stack of french toast (called pain dore here) covered in bananas and strawberries, with bacon - and maple syrup.

Almost as wonderful as the view. An edible view. Yum.

The mountain behind our home, when not shrouded in mist, is stunning. Not a home on it, not a building, ski run, antenna, road. No lights shine from it at night. It's perfect. In spring we watch as the light, young, green creeps up its slopes and doesn't reach the top until mid-June. Then in September it goes in the other direction. We watch as the very tip of the mountain turns red, orange, yellow. Then it crawls down the slope until now the entire thing looks like it's burst into flame. I wish I could capture all this in a photo for you. Michael tried, but our camera isn't good enough.

You'll have to imagine it.

Picked up a couple of magazines in Cowansville while Michael had his eye exam. MORE Magazine - the Canadian edition. It has Celine Dion on the cover (cover hog) and me inside. Not, it must be admitted, the entire contents. Some was given over to lesser lights. do you remember my telling you about the photo-shoot mid-summer? When they came with the 4,000 dollar Armani jacket? Well, if you get the latest copy of More you get a chance to see a worried looking author, and an Armani jacket. The next page has a photo of me looking doughy and vacuous. fortunately, the article is interesting.

The other magazine was Chateleine. The November issue. With Michael Buble on the cover. (cover Hog) and me inside. Granted, yet again I was forced to share it. But that was a fun article by a woman named Flannery Dean. It's a series she writes on people's perfect weekends.

The woman at the checkout must have thought I had a 'thing' for Celine and Mr. Buble. she pointed out that I had more than one copy of each. I agreed. But didn't tell her why. Better she think I had a thing for them, than the truth. I have a thing for myself.

Spent most of the afternoon editing. Then decided to do some fact checking on what I'd just edited...made some calls and discovered I had to go back and re-write some of it. But not much. I love research, though my books don't call for much. Such fun finding out about other parts of the world, or how people do things, and why.

Need to go. Found some great recipes in the Chateleine! And plan to run a bath and read both magazine...skipping that Penny woman, who insinuates herself everywhere.

We've also spent quite a bit of time watching BBC, CBS and even CNN...but I think you don't need to hear my take on things.

Be well - talk to you tomorrow.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Maggie's fine (not the Ruth FINE, happily)

dirzzle, mild, temps 18

Nice day - really more a Scotch mist than rain...it clings to the pine trees making them look a little fuzzy.

We drove to the vets this morning and the autumn leaves were so beautiful it almost hurt. This is a stunning year.

The great news is that Maggie was walking better this morning and the vet says she didn't do any more damage in yesterday's accident. He also gave us some new medication (more painkillers - yay). Apparently, though, they're for the dog.

Just finished the days editing pages. I really enjoy this stage in the process. No pressure - just relaxing mix of mechanical and creative.

Up to page 210 in a 265 page manuscript (single spaced). Hoping to finish by Thursday morning. We're off for our Cowansville breakfast tomorrow then an eye appointment for Michael...a spot suddenly opened up and they told us we could have it instead of waiting weeks. So we took it. Was supposed to have coffee tomorrow morning with people but had to re-schedule to 2pm in the afternoon. Hope they get the message. I've sat in cafe's and restaurants waiting for people who never show - as has everyone. Not a good feeling. Of course, I always think it's my fault. Wrong time, wrong location. Gets unnerving. Happily now I always have a notebook, so I don't actually care.

Am off - take puppies around the pond and make lunch for the two of us. Such a relief about Maggie. Dear one.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Brightest near the end

drizzle, mild, temps 20

Cannot begin to describe how stunning the autumn leave are this year. It's by far the best season I can remember. Every third tree is amber, brilliant red, soft rose, yellow...with a background of green. The local ski hills have their tows operating these days, so that people can ride up and see the fall foliage for miles around.

It is breath-taking. Always is. But this year seems special. Even the old time townshippers say that. The colours are exquisite.

Today we moody - misty, clouds hanging low. But as Michael pointed out, that's even better. We don't need sunglasses, and so can see the colours in all their brilliance.

Had a meeting in Sutton last night, then we went out for a pasta dinner. When we got home I wrote the October newsletter. That felt good. This morning we needed to be in Knowlton for a few hours and I swear to God between the time we drove there and the time we drove back the leaves had changed even more!

Spent a few hours editing this afternoon. Poor Maggie - who broke a bone in her leg last winter and it won't heal, has hurt it again. She can't even put weight on it now. We're heading off to the vet first thing in the morning. Aren't dogs amazing? She limps around as though she only ever had three legs. Her tail wags, her eyes are bright and happy. And yet she must be in some pain. We gave her half a pain-killer pill (so glad Michael and I didn't eat them after all).

Just finished reading Linda Ellerbee's "Take Big Bites" - a series of essays, or short stories, based on her life and travels. Some are hysterically funny, some deeply moving without ever being maudlin. I highly recommend it.

Linda was a senior and highly respected journalist in American television. Was the first woman to co-anchor a network newscast (in the 80's). And was the inspiration for Murphy Brown. She's also a passionate, tireless campaigner for Breast Cancer (for some reason the capitals seem necessary) research being a survivor herself. Her best known book is "And So It Goes.' About her life as a journalist.

As a former journalist myself I have huge respect for her, so it was a great pleasure to get an email from her a few months ago saying she'd read all my books.

On another note, I was sad to hear about Paul Newman. Immediately thought about Joanne Woodward, and wondering how she's doing. But what a full life he lead. In my limited experience with people dying it always seemed Robbie Burns was right - If ye is no afraid 'a livin', ye is no afraid 'a dyin'.

Am off. Still trying to make amends for the Finnish Disaster (more capitals necessary) - tonight it's roast pork with cinnamon, and fresh beans from the organic garden. Unpoached.

Stay well.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Maybe a bit of castor oil would help

cloudy, mild, temps 17

Rained for most of last night. Refreshing and I think the garden liked it. I did my editing pages yesterday then went to bed. Feeling a bit under-the-weather. Had a bath too. It was actually wonderful. Very relaxing. Can't remember the last time I spent much of the day in bed.

But, as a result, I didn't blog. However, I did make a curried lamb stew with the leftovers from an earlier dinner. I thought I owed Michael that. The night before I tried a new recipe. In our organic vegetable basket this week we got a head of cabbage. So I looked up recipes and found what was billed as an old Finnish recipe.

Why I thought this would taste good is a mystery. I'd like to blame my fever, except I didn't have one.

It was, basically, cabbage and ground meat poached in milk.

It tasted as yummy as it sounds. it was pretty disgusting. Poor Michael ate his meal, but without comment. Or gagging. The rest is sitting in the fridge. Not sure what to do with it. I hope, for the sake of all Finnish people, this wasn't a national dish.

Today I did more pages - up to about 150 in a 265 page manuscript. Hope to be finished by the middle of next week. Tomorrow I need to write the october newsletter too. This is a big one since we launch THE MURDER STONE next month. Very exciting!

Feeling much better today...recovering from the cold and the Finnish celebrations.

Hope you're well.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Deep six in Amazon

clouding over, lovely day, temps 16

Just clouding over now but for the morning it was stunning. What a gorgeous September we've had!

Went off to Knowlton with Michael for breakfast. Such fun having bowls of cafe au lait, scrambled eggs with melted brie and fresh herbs, and catching up with friends who kept dropping in for their own breakfast or coffee.

Had wonderful news today from the agent and publisher. The paperback version of THE CRUELLEST MONTH has gone into a second printing just a week or so after it's release. And it's a very big printing. So everyone's thrilled.

We're counting the days until the launch of THE MURDER STONE! I think it must be similar to the opening night of a play for the actors. You feel both excited and nauseous.

Just finished doing today's editing on book 5. Want to be finished in a week. Then print it out, give it to Michael and my brother to read, then - with luck - send it off to my agent in London.

Had a disconcerting email from a reader in the States who has ordered A RULE AGAINST MURDER - which is the US version of THE MURDER STONE. It's coming out in January. But Amazon.com has messed things up a little and is telling people A RULE AGAINST MURDER is no longer available. The publishers in NYC investigated and found out it was a glitch on Amazon's part. The good news is that Barnes and Noble website has it correct. And you can, of course, order it through your independent bookstore.

Need to write October's newsletter...an exciting one. And not forget the october giveway which has to do with Christ's College Cambridge.

Talk to you tomorrow.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Intelligent woman with a cold

sunny, warm - almost hot, temps 22

Stunning day. Funny, but this never gets boring. Michael and I sat on the screen porch for breakfast and wondered, yet again, at our good luck.

Edited more of the book. I'll be at it for a while. But yesterday I finally had the courage to change the beginning. I had an opening I loved - but I knew deep down it just didn't fit. I really struggled with it...but finally capitulated. So yesterday I wrote a new opening and guess what? I like it even more. And it actually works.

Have a cold. Have had it for a few days, actually. A deep, rumbling cough. Smoker's cough - though thankfully I gave those up years ago. Cough sounds worse than I feel.

But I was reminded of Mary Jane Maffini's great response when asked who she thinks reads her books....'Intelligent women with colds.'

I might take to a bath a read a great mystery - perhaps one of Mary Jane's terrific books.

Speak to you tomorrow! Hope you're well.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

A hard frost and an easy life

sunny, perfect fall day, temps 17

We had a hard frost this morning. Walked the dogs around the pond in rubber boots - the mist rising from the warm pond into the chill air. The sun just up and the sky blue. Leaves are beginning to turn so it's still that wonderful mix of green and red and orange.

Gary's done an amazing job on the home. We'd been trying to get the painter to do it for 2 years but he kept putting us off. Finally we fired him and asked Gary - who hates to paint. He quoted comedian Steven Wright who said, 'It's a small world, but I'd hate to paint it.'

It must have felt to Gary and John as though they were painting the world at times. So much woodwork and trim. And because it hadn't been done in a while some of the wood was rotten.

Funny how things work out. Had the painter done it this spring he wouldn't have been able to do the carpentry - might have just painted over the rotten bits. But Gary could replace the spoiled stuff.

Had a lovely evening last night, eating fresh corn bought at a roadside stand (the last of the season the grower said) and watching National Treasure 2 - Book of Secrets. Loved it. Such fun.

Spent today doing laundry, opening and answering mail (Michael, dear soul, did the bills), and starting to put the edits from the hardcopy of book 5 onto the computer version.

We thought we'd have a quiet day but by 10am Deanna was vacuuming, Dwayne was working on ventilation ducts in the basement and Wayne was cutting the grass.

We're home.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Happy Autumn

brilliant sunshine, glorious day, temp 16

A magnificent first day of Autumn. Crispy day - leaves turning, some already on the ground. It's national 'No Car Day' so I walked to the grocery store this morning and kicked leaves and smelt the musky fall air. It really makes the heart soar.

We drove back to Montreal yesterday after breakfasting with Doug and his 12 year old daughter Roslyn. Indeed, Gamache's daughter-in-law, Roslyn is named after her. She's my God-daughter too.

The drive back was easy - about 7 hours - with a stop for lunch. Arrived back to see the US take the Ryder Cup then off to dinner with Jim and Sharon (who we invited out to join us this Christmas in the country) and two other friends, Maureen and Dave. We had spinach pie (which I frankly didn't like much, found it bland and greasy) but Michael loved. But the company was fun.

We're staying in Montreal until this afternoon since Michael has a check-up at the Royal Victoria Hospital this afternoon. This must rate as one of the most frightening hospitals in North America. It looks like a haunted Victorian mansion...built high on a hill overlooking Montreal it's all turrets and grey stone - formidable and daunting. And inside? A warren of dingy corridors.

I spent a number of years volunteering at the Palliative Care unit there. Would sit at the bedside of people dying and hold their hand, so they wouldn't be alone. But the thing I really dreaded was being asked to take paper-work to Admissions. Honestly? I could never find it. I swear to God it kept moving, like the staircases in the Harry Potter books. The guts of the Royal Vic roil and move. And scare me.

Even Michael, who interned there, is perplexed by it.

But we're off there again. Must see if I can find some Holy Water.

Then we drive back home to Sutton. Oh, how we can hardly wait. Gary has finished painting and repairing the outside of the home, and the bits and pieces inside - so it'll gleam. On top of that, Autumn in the Eastern Townships is Heaven. Especially after the Hell of the Royal Vic.

Speak to you tomorrow.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

What's that nice broach on your shoulder, Audi?

sunny, hot, beautiful

stunning summer day - in mid-September. An unexpected gift for this family reunion. Right now I'm (obviously) sitting at the computer, writing to you. I'm in the hotel room and the family's sitting around, some reading, some snacking on Nachos, most watching the Ryder Cup on television. We got a suite - as a personal indulgence (not for the first time, as Michael will readily tell you!). But it's turned out to be a fantastic choice. It's become the Grand Central Station for the family reunion - which we love.

It's wonderful to be with people we're so totally comfortable with. I just stepped out of a shower, and got in to my flannel pajamas, and didn't care what anyone thought. (Happily they were too riveted on the golf to care).

We're having a great time. Breakfast this morning downstairs at the hotel buffet. I remember loving buffets as a kid! it was such a treat. And it was fun to see Brian and Charlie feeling the same way. So excited by ordering fresh waffles, and watching the man make them - or an omelette. It was interesting to see what they chose.

Each had a huge waffle. Brian added a warm, sticky, cinnamon bun and bacon. Surprisingly, both also had big bowls of fruit.

We all split up after that. Uncle Rob and Sarah took Brian and Charlie to a Blue Jays baseball game, while Michael, Doug and I drove to the kids home to walk the dog and get Charlie's hockey gear.

We've just had a wonderful time together. Great, relaxed meals. Lots of kidding, a bird pooped on Audi, which we'll make sure she never forgets.

We've just ordered a pizza (or three). We were going to go out for dinner again, but realized we'd have a much more relaxed time just ordering in and enjoying ourselves. Never mind save about 200 dollars! We're cheap. But you don't want to say 'Cheap' around Audi or she'll think it's another bird.

Har dee har har.

Driving back to Montreal tomorrow. having dinner with friends. Will try to blog, but probably won't get a chance. Hope you've enjoyed the family reunion. So far, no tears. We'll see what happens when the anchovie, black olive and pepper pizza arrives.

Friday, 19 September 2008

reunion - with Mom and Dad, Papa and Mama

sunny, cool in the shade, but warm in the sun

Quite a nice day, but have the wrong clothes! Got tired of lugging the suitcase everywhere so just before we left Montreal on Tuesday morning I took a bunch of clothes out of my suitcase, dumped them into a canvas bag and decided that was good enough. Seems bringing to bear that sort of judgement doesn't exactly work. Not enough socks, no skirt, one sweater. Completely forgot my jewelery case. Oh well.

I've learned the four most important things that must NOT be forgotten when traveling are:

1) Michael
2) passport
3) plane tickets
4) tweezers

Everything else is just icing.

My older brother Rob, his wife Audi and their youngest child (now 23) Sarah - all from Edmonton -came over to our hotel for drinks, hors d'oeuvers, and dinner last night - but we ate so many nibblies no one was hungry. Had a great time and chance to get caught up.

This morning youngest brother Doug, met us all in the lobby of the hotel and we went out for breakfast - then we headed out to visit (at Sarah's suggestion - kind young woman) our mother's grave. Spent an embarrassing half hour driving around and around the cemetary, not sure where the grave was. I was pleased we were at least in the right cemetary. As you might gather we don't visit often. No reflection on how much we loved our mother - more a reflection of our beliefs that her body's gone and what matters is with us always. Still, it was nice to visit - and felt very good to actually find her.

In fact, before she was interred (and after she'd been cremated) Michael and I took some of the ashes and spread them into the elder bush on the island in our pond. The elder bush is supposed to be ancient and a symbol of wisdom. I'm sorry to say dumping ashes on it didn't do it any good and it all but died itself, only coming back in the last year or so. Now it's flourishing. And I think of my mother when we see its strong limbs and green leaves.

Then Audi, Sarah and I went shopping while the guys went about their own business - mostly to rest.

It's a fun family reunion - and how wonderful to genuinely love my family. And see the joy Michael gets from them. And how much affection and love they have for him.

Doug found an old photo album we didn't realize our mother had put together. Rob and his kids will get it, but for now it's in our hotel room and everyone's coming over in about half an hour for a drink and to go over it. I've already snuck a peek. Very touching to see our mother and father so young. And see the care they showered on us. The parties, the vacations. To see our grandparents again.

Must be off - have to get some hors d'oeuvers otherwise the love might evaporate. Speak to you all tomorrow. Doug's kids Brian, Roslyn and Charlie arrive tonight.

Thursday, 18 September 2008


Sunny, brisk wind, chilly

Well, we're in Toronto. Such a great city. We stay at one of the hotels right downtown, on Front Street. It's like a second, (or third or fourth) home to us now. Wonderful.

Had a really fun time with Marjorie and Margo. Went for lunch yesterday to La Cachette, at a vineyard in Niagara-on-th-lake. These two would (and did) drive for hours for a good meal! We have yet to admit we stop for double-doubles and Timbits on the highway.

It was 2 1/2 hours in either direction - Michael drove. But it was loads of fun. Stopped at fruit and vegetables stands along the way for fresh apples and peaches. In Marjorie's garden at home I helped harvst her tomatoes and squashes. With an old woven wood basket.

But what I really wanted to pass on to you was an email I received yesterday from a reader. I'm reprinting it here, with her permission.

I read The Cruelest Month several weeks ago and found it absorbing and thought provoking as a story and mystery. But for me one scene stood out, and it did not really have a lot to do with the story, just with the the village of Three Pines.

This is when Armand Gamache enters the church, St. Thomas, and looks at the stained glass window of the three soldiers, representative of those killed in the Great War. I quoted this passage in my blog, www.souvenons.blogspot.com on August 29th because it said everything I needed to say about remembering our war dead.

My son Thomas was killed in Iraq on November 11, 2004, Remembrance Day, protecting his friends during combat. If you prefer me to take it down, I will of course (though I hope you will read the blog entry first). Our community, a suburb of Washington DC, is reluctant to memorialize our fallen and I do have a sort of fantasy of reading this aloud to our County Council to make the point that we need to remember those who have given their lives for us.

Lee Ann Doerflinger
Mother of Army SPC Thomas K. Doerflinger, KIA 11/11/2004, Mosul, Iraq

I wrote back, of course, to say how deeply moved I was by her message. And what an honour it is to have the passage on her blog and to please keep it on. I also mentioned that both Thomas and his mother seem to have lovely spirits. Here's her reply:

Thomas did have a lovely spirit--after his death, many people came to us with stories of his kindness and insight. I'm not sure how much I had to do with how well he turned out but I know that he loved us and that is enough.

He was named for all of the Saints Thomas that we could think of (Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Beckett, Thomas More, and of course Doubting Thomas). When he took a Confirmation name though it was Maximilian Kolbe he chose--a man who asked to be allowed to die so someone else's life would be spared.

God bless Thomas, and all the other Thomas's.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Unhanged Arthur

This just in: The Crime Writers of Canada have put up the rules for Best Unpublished Crime Novel for this year on their website. I thought to copy it to this blog, but it's 7 pages long. What I can copy is: 1. Entries must be received by the CWC by the closing date of November 1, 2008. So get cracking and get your entries in. All the info is up on their website. Just Google or Yahoo them and read all about it. And good luck!

Oh, yes, I'm sure it'll be fine - says the guy in Wales.

riany then cleared and now sunny. Temps 20

We're back in Montreal! What a long day yesterday was. Travel days always are. We got up around 7:30 in Cambridge, had breakfast in the flat then packed and rolled the suitcases through the cobbled streets (what a racket! thud, thud, thud - and shaking our arms off) to the bus-stop. Thankfully it's only a couple of blocks away - couldn't be more convenient. And after a week of rain it was finally sunny. We were supposed to catch the 11am bus to the airport but when we arrived at about 10:30 a bus to Heathrow was waiting, so we hopped on.

Not sure we saved ourselves any time. This seemed to be the milk-run. Still, we got to relax and watch the rolling green hills go by.

I think the most stressful part of the whole day was getting from the central bus station at Heathrow to Terminal 4. It involved waiting with about 100 other people, all like us with tons of luggage, for 4 elevators. When one door opened we all tried to crowd in. It was a total crap shoot - a Darwinian experiment. I wondered if there were CCTV cameras recording it for some reality show on torture and human dynamics.

I don't react well in those situations. I generally try to be courteous, allowing others, especially elderly people in. But after being screwed a few times I become worse than anyone - giving sneering, glaring looks - 'Just try it' my face snarls. And I'm yelling at Michael - 'Over there, over there - quick!' He meanwhile, has a far-away look on his face and a slight smile. He's gone.

Once down the elevator (we have to catch 2!!) we had to find the train link from that terminal to Terminal 4. Then wait with the growing crowds, then race to the door with 100 other people and shove our way in. Honestly. I hate it. Get very stressed. I want to be decent, and kind and accommodating. But I'd like others to be that way for me too. And I learned quickly, if I want to be like that (which is fine) I'd better be prepared to live out my life in the train station. Never actually going anywhere.

Once at Terminal 4 life became easier. We get to use the First Class check in - much faster. There I can be courteous because there's no one else there. Very helpful.

Then through security and off to the first class lounge where they serve hot and cold food, have beverages and newspapers. I'm tempted to say for free, but you pay for it a thousand times over in the ticket.

The flight itself was easy, except it was delayed an hour. Seems, the pilot explained once we were onboard and couldn't escape, someone backed a truck into a cargo door of the plane. So they had to inspect it, measure it, photograph it - have enginners look, then send the whole report to some guy whgo lives in Wales. He had to interrupt his dinner to look at the info. Then he gave his OK.

I think two things about flying. 1) Children should be placed, along with their parents and a lot of toys, into a cargo bay. 2) Any engineer who says a plane is safe after being damaged should be forced to fly on it.

We had great seats - loads of legroom - and spent the flight plugged into our ipods. I finished editing book 5 at 38,000 feet, somewhere over the Atlantic. Amazing feeling.

It was 26 degrees in Montreal at 9pm when we landed. We raced for security - but arrived behind 600 other people. Still, the line went quickly and we got our luggage, grabbed a cab and were home within an hour of the plane landing. Heaven.

It's so great to be back in the Montreal apartment. We have a fabvulous breakfast out at Chez Cora's - then Michael got to work on his book while I walked to the shops and got us some salads and diet ginger ale for lunch. Spent the morning replying to emails and writing articles people wanted. Need to remember a couple of interview requests as well.

Tomorrow we drive to Elora, Ontario. About a 7 hour drive. To Cousin Marjorie (one of the templates for Ruth). She adores food, and so we're taking her and her/our very good friend Margo Morgan (who had a recipe column in Canada for many years under the name Margo Oliver and put out a number of cookbooks) to a restaurant they love in Niagara on the lake. It's about a 2 hours drive each way and they're beyond doing it themselves. This must be one fantastic restaurant. I'm dying to see it - and have a meal. Will report back, mes amis.

Won't be able to blog again until we reach the hotel in Toronto on Thursday. The family's descending for a Penny family reunion. Rob, Audi and Sarah from Edmonton, Michael and me from Quebec and Doug, Mary, Brian, Roslyn and Charlie from Toronto. We bought giant Toblerone bars for the kids...if Michael doesn't eat them first. We'll see how long we last before the first tears.

Talk to you then - hope you're well. It is great to be home!

Saturday, 13 September 2008

A little dream, with a rose bush and slate roof

sunny, mild, beautiful

Finally - a perfect day. Our last here in Cambridge. We were walking back after a pub lunch yesterday (the pub's just down the street from us - Michael had bangers and mash and I had fish and chips) when we found our next home! It's on this tiny road called Orchard Street, and it's enchanting. We both stopped in our tracks and stared.

Now, as you realize, Cambridge has no shortage of staggeringly beautiful and charming streets. But this was a postcard. It's about 5 minutes walk from the colleges, just off a park called Christ's Piece. The road curves very slightly and the cottages are all in a row, connected. Row houses. Made of stone, with slate roofs. They're all alike. And tiny. Each had a front door with a small metal peaked cover. Each has a mullioned window to the left of the door. Each has a small garden out front...most with tall, fragrant, magnicent rose bushes. And each, at the back, has a modest walled garden.

I'd be surprised if, inside, it had even two bedrooms.

Most had names like Rose Cottage, Orchard Cottage etc.

Three, in the very middle of the arc, looked abandonned. Derelict.

Michael and I immediately started dreaming of buying one, and doing it up, and living here three months of the year...in our tiny 'Wind in the Willows' cottage.

None was for sale, but we'll keep checking and hoping. And if it's meant to be one day we'll sleep in our home on Orchard Street.

It's nice to dream. In the meantime, reality is pretty damn good. We visited the Milton exhibit at Christ's college again yesterday - Michael hadn't seen it. It's normally closed to the public, except for a couple of hours on Thursday afternoon...but I emailed the head librarian and she let us in.

Wonderful show. Next year Christ's is putting on an exhibition on another famous alumnus - Darwin.

It was raining and cold so we went to the pub for lunch, then came home. Did more editing on the manuscript. It's 267 pages long (single spaces) and I'm at 215 now. Hope to finish by the time the plane lands in Montreal tomorrow night.

Today we headed to the Garden House Hotel for breakfast - without a doubt the worst meal of our stay. It is now a Double Tree hotel. No one brought us coffee - finally had to ask. The linen was filthy. The buffet had rubber eggs and no plates. Customers piled up and waited and waited for plates. Finally some came, without apology. The container with the sign Fresh Orange Juice was empty. When this was pointed out the waiter went and got some more...pouring orange juice from a grocery store tin.

The coffee was watery.

At one stage a man had to ask a waitress to please serve the two elderly women at the table next to him. They'd been waiting forever and trying to catch someone's eye.

I think the waiters were doing their best, they were just woefully understaffed.

When the bill came it was for 27 pounds. 60 dollars.

The one thing this hotel has going for it is a staggering location. Right on the Cam, in the middle of Cambridge. Michael and I went into the back garden and sat at a table (wet and dirty) right beside the river. People punted by. Kayakers paddled. Across the river people bicycled. In the background were the ancient buildings. Behind us was the hotel - blessedly we don't have eyes in the back of our heads, and so didn't need to look at it. The hotel is what Prince Charles might call a carbunckle on the face of this venerable city. Breath-takingly ugly.

But a great location.

Michael did a really wonderful watercolour of the scene and I did more editing. Such fun to sit there with the man I love - him creating a glorious piece of art and me editing my book.

Then we got chilled so packed up and had a hot chocolate across the way at the University Centre. Then, feeling hungry by then, we walked to the Loch Fyne Oyster restaurant for lunch.

Then home. Through the now sunny and warm streets. We took a small detour and stared once again at our beautiful little cottage.

We catch an 11am bus back to Heathrow, then a flight home to Montreal, arriving about 9pm. Almost certainly won't blog tomorrow, but will try to do one on Monday. Wash day.

Thanks for joining me on this adventure!

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Stewed prunes and stupid questions

drizzle, cool, temp 18

We had a marvelous time at Heffers last night. The authors write under the name Michael Gregorio. Husband and wife team. He's British, she's Italian and they live in Spoleto, Italy. they were extremely interesting and very funny. she was describing the rigors of writing together and said when they were editing their latest book she was certain her husband was afraid she was lurking behind the kitchen door with a knife.

I know for sure Michael and I could never write a book together. Too opinionated. (him, of course - I'm a saint)

Went to the Fellows Garden again today but it started raining, so we moved up our coffee with richard Reynolds at Heffers and showed up around 11am - for 'elevenses'. He was wonderful and left work so we could have a quiet time catching up. Lovely man. I was describing my humiliation at asking the former Master at Christ's College, 'so, what do you do?', and Richard told us a Noel coward story, of being at a dinner and seated next to a woman who looked extremely familar. All dinner Coward wracked his brains, trying to think there he knew her from. Finally, near the end of dinner, he decided the best thing was to simply say, 'And so what is your husband doing these days?' in hopes that would give him a clue.

Her answer?

'Still King.'

I felt much better.

Though, oddly, I didn't. I seem to have caught some little bug that gave me an upset stomach. to make matters worse, Michael and I had gone out for breakfast and I'd had stewed prunes. Love stewed prunes. But you can imagine the result.

We hurried home and I spent the afternoon in bed, dozing. Then woke up, Michael made us tea, and while he read his book I did another 50 pages or so of editing on book 5.

Feeling much better now and will put dinner on for both of us. wonderful to have a whole week here and not need to rush around all the time.

I'll speak to you tomorrow.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Blood, Sweat, toil and strawberry jam

mainly sunny, blustery, temps 20

wonderful day. No rain. Don't know if you've heard, but there's been horrendous flooding in the UK - not here in Cambridge, but in many other regions. Eight people killed and a number of villages cut off. So a day without rain isn't simply convenient. It's a Godsend.

Our lovely time continues. Made straight for the Fellow's Garden at Christ's College this morning. This is a beautiful and peaceful oasis in the centre of the bustling old city. It's walled, with tall trees, open lawn, perennial borders. Apple trees, ponds, roses and a weary old tree they call Milton's Tree. I sat down close to it and edited about 25 pages of book 5. Honestly, it's a writer's dream.

Then Michael and I headed for a large cappuccino at one of the cafes. Then the real mission of the day. Michael's been longing to see Churchill College - one of the most recent additions to Cambridge, and built after his time here. It's slightly outside of the centre of town and today, with the sun, seemed the best day to go. Mostly Michael wanted to see it because it was designed by LeCorbusier.

On our way, just opposite the spectactular Trinity College, we stopped at Heffers Bookstore. It's one of the great independent bookstores anywhere - though it was recently bought by one of the chairs...can't remember which - though you'd never know it...it remains unchanged. There Ibought a copy of Josephine Tey's Brat Farrar. I've never read it and it's the book we'll all be discussing at Magna Cum Murder in Muncie this year. And we also wanted to say 'hi' to our great friend Richard Reynolds, who runs the Crime section of the bookstore. He was in and we chatted for a few minutes - made arrangements to meet tomorrow for coffee. Then he mentioned they're having a reading at Heffers tonight. 6:30. Two authors who write under one name. Mysteries set in Prussia.

So Michael and I are going. What fun!

Then we set off for Churchill college. Quite a long walk-but well worth it. A really quite unusual design. for those of you familiar with Habitat in Montreal - designed for Expo 67 - it looks similar. Like cubes piled one on top of the other. We walked all around - including the amazing cricket pitch. Then decided to head back.

Walking back was fun. We decided to try all the little footpaths winding through Cambridge, and that aren't on a map, so it's unclear where they're going. Only had to turn back once. But what discoveries. We walked through hidden forests and over small stone bridges over rivers, past garden and small cottages - then suddenly we were right at Trinity and king's College again.

This called for a celebration, and since it was 3:30 and we hadn't yet had lunch we stopped at the University Arms for Afternoon Tea. Finger sandwiches with the crusts cut off, scones and clotted cream with strawberry preserve. And pastries. Yum.

I did more editing on the fifth book. So when you buy your copy, in about a year, and it has strawberry jam on it, you'll know what happened.

Must be off. Just out of a quick shower. Michael having a nap. Must wake him and head to Heffers for the authors reading. So nice to be in the audience and support another author. I know how intimidating these can be.

speak tomorrow. hope you're enjoying your time in Cambridge. I sure am.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

A relaxing day in Cambridge

mix of sun and rain, temps 19

like most of the other days here in Cambridge, this has seen both sun and rain.

Had a good time wandering through the magnificent Fitzwilliam Museum, then walked through town to the Galeria Restaurant, which overlooks the Cam and one of the bridges over the river.

Had a brief, interesting, conversation with Teresa, my agent. And now am going back to the manuscript for book 5, over a cup of tea and a scone in our apartment. Very relaxing.

Be well - and will talk tomorrow.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Nobel Laureates, Eccles Cakes and Drag Queens

partly cloudy, some sun, temps 20

We're having just the most fun in Cambridge! Sorry not to have blogged in the last few days, but we've just been so busy.

Saturday was Michael's big day - the founding meeting of the Christ's Medical Alumni Association. I wanted to look good for the formal dinner in the evening in the magnificent Christ's College Hall. But, as the day progressed, I looked more and more as though I'd been struck by lightening. A hair-cut was in order. perhaps unwisely I asked the young woman with the orange hair serving us tea where she got her hair done. She told me, I went along, and they had an opening.

In retrospect I really should have made it clear a) I wasn't a boy. b) I didn't want to look like one. I thought of this way too late as the hair fell to the floor. It's not that I generally mind Michael and me looking like a gay couple, I just don't one to be the butch one.

Too late.

Fortunately I think the evening gown I was wearing to the dinner that night made me look a) more feminine b)like a drag queen. Even more fortunately the Brits are way too polite to mention it. or ask.

There was an afternoon tea as part of these Christ's College celebrations. We went to that and met some very nice people. then Michael and the alumni headed off for the secret meeting and the rest of us were invited to...get this...visit the old library and the spectacular collection on John Milton - wh0 went to Christ's College in the early 1600s! I almost fainted I was so excited. The combination of getting into the normally forbidden old library - and seeing the first editions of Paradise Lost was thrilling.

The library, of course, is tiny. Back 500 years ago when it was built a collection of 20 books would be considered substantial. Now it's filled with spectacular first editions. For a bibliophile it was like a heroin hit. And to look at (not touch) the Milton firsts (this is the 400 anniversary of his being there) was amazing. I've always loved Paradise Lost. Was one of those strange kids in english class in school who actually loved reading it, and would memorize sections. In fact, I use parts of it in THE MURDER STONE/A RULE AGAINST MURDER. So it was even more moving for me.

Then Michael and I raced back to the apartment to change for dinner - then ran back through the narrow, cobbled streets to the college. I'd never been into the Hall. We were late, and everyone else was seated. Two long rows of men in dinner jackets and women in evening dress. Candles on the tables. Ancient stained glass windows glowing. It was like something I'd dreamed since being a child. To be surrounded by history, learning, thoughts, ideas. Food.

Michael had studied the seating chart and knew we were at the head of our table, and who we were seated beside. My dinner partner was - Michael prepped me - none other than the former Master of Christ's College. Which is a little like having dinner with you-know-who himself.

We sat down and Michael got to talking with the charming man beside him, and I turned to my companion and after apologies for being late and comments on the lovely surroundings and smoked salmon I asked - 'So, what do you do?'

'Oh, not much of anything, I'm afraid. I sort of muddle along.'

Alarms started going off in my head. I've come to be able to decypher the Brits. When they say they 'muddle along' it means they're either the next in line to the throne, a billionaire, or a Nobel prize winner.

Or, the former Master of Christ's College - a senior British scientist. I finally, slightly too late, remembered.

But he was lovely. Very fun and funny. Alan Munro is his name and we spent part of the evening talking about perfect poison's to kill people. He came up with a great one, I wrote it down and plan to use it in a book very soon.

It was, as you might imagine, a magical evening.

The next morning we went to Christ's College for breakfast with the 'gang' - and the man across from me, beside Michael, really had won the Nobel Prize - last year. Happily I'd stopped asking people, 'And, what do you do?'

My favorite moments from 2 days filled with wonderful memories are - running through the night streets of Cambridge with Michael, looking so handsome in his dinner jacket and backtie.

Listening to him talk about his book with the Nobel laureate, who was riveted.

And then having mid-morning coffee in the Master's garden - a secret walled garden few are allowed into. It's closed to the public and a stunning space.

We're spending the whole week here - bliss. Today we went to the dazzling Whipple Museum - a small scientific museum down a tiny back road...but what wonders it holds. Then had lunch at the Loch Fyne Oyster and Seafood restuarant across from the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Now we`re home, carrying eccles cakes and diet coke - the Times and the Independent newspapers.

I`m sure to wake up soon and find it was all a dream. and that`s OK. At least I dreamed it.

Friday, 5 September 2008


cloudy, rainy, cool - temps 18

Phew, we're here. Plane easy, though the woman in front of me put her seat all the way back the whole time so I couldn't even open a book. Listened to music instead, and dozed. Honestly, the airlines shouldn't make seats that go that far into someone else's precious and miniscule territory. Not the passenger's fault - if you're allowed to do it, why not? Though I never do since I know how it makes me feel...couldn't very well do that to someone else. If nothing else I'd lose the moral high-ground, which is even more precious that airplane space.

But flight was easy and uneventful. BA lounge wonderful. Through passport control quickly and baggage arrived lickity-split. Michael bought his giant Toblerone bar at Duty Free. Since we don't smoke or drink that's his equivilant of a stogie and cognac. And, he admitted, the only real reason to fly anymore.

We found the bus terminal at Heathrow, hopped on the bus to Cambridge...2 hours later they let us off on the side of the road - and the heaven's opened. Within a minute we were all soaked. But the lovely bus driver, seeing our confusion, got out, got soaked himself, and pointed us in the right direction.

We went in the wrong direction.

We were looking for Adam & Eve Lane. Can you believe it? What a great name! Two weeks ago, at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island we were invited to a cocktail party and among the guests was a wonderful Anglican (Episcopalian) Bishop. We got to talking and quoted poetry to and at each other. Auden, at 10 paces. He won when he quoted four marvelous lines from In the Time Being - a wonderful, but for me impenetrable poem. Anyway - I was telling him about our upcoming travels to Cambridge, where Michael was an alumnus at Christ's College - and he said he'd also graduated from Cambridge...Jesus College. He laughed and said one of his prize possessions was the photograph of a street sign. Jesus College is on Jesus Lane, in Cambridge - which is one way. So the sign shows the name - Jesus Lane, and an arrow pointing in one direction.


We finally found the flat - lovely, small, modern, nicely designed apartment. Unpacked, dried off, then Michael made reservations (as promised) for Afternoon Tea. But decided on the University Arms Hotel - an easy walk from the flat. off we went and subsided, exhausted, into huge leather chairs in front of stained glass windows showing the ancient colleges coats of arms. We wolfed down sandwiches, scones and clotted cream and cream cakes. And Darjeeling tea.


Then the sun came out and we made our way through the cobbled streets to Marks and Spencers (the only reason I travel - to visit M&S) and get some food for the apartment.

And now we're back! tired, damp, and so enjoying ourselves. Need to make a hair appointment for tomorrow. I saw my reflection in a shop window and I scared even myself. I look like the scarecrow in Oz.

If I only had a brain. Actually, what I really long for is a bed.

Nighty night. Speak to you tomorrow. Michael's big day at Christ's College and the founding meeting for their medical society. I'm sure I'll be called upon to advise, which is why I need a haircut.

Thursday, 4 September 2008


Mainly sunny, warm, temps 25

Not quite as hot as yesterday but still beautiful, and above average temp, which is about 21 celcius. Tomorrow is supposed to go up to 32 degrees! Which would be a record. But - we'll be in England. Ha. Where, according to the forecast, it's cool and rainy.

It's coming up for 6pm. Have the limo arriving at 6. We're in the Montreal apartment. Michael had a blood test this am (routine), then we came home here for a nap...and now heading to the airport. Thank God for the British Airways platinum card! We LOVE the BA first class lounge. Of course we don't actually fly first class. My dream is to get so successful the publishers fly us first class...so - buy those books! It's such a good cause.

We fly economy or economy plus. This time it's economy but the travel agent managed to get us bulkhead, which has two advantages...way more legroom, and no one in front to lie down on top of you. But just noticed we've been moved - to regular seats. Oh, well. Dems da breaks. We'll always have the lounge.

Once in London we need to find the Heathrow Central Bus terminal and catch a bus to Cambridge (about 2 hour drive) - then find the flat we've rented right in the old city centre. Hoping to go for High Tea tomorrow afternoon at a teahouse Michael knows on the River Cam.

Here at home, I've signed up for Facebook. I have no idea why I did that, except I've been hearing so much about it and I think it might be a good tool. But, oddly, I'm the one who feels like a tool. After signing up, and getting a bunch of people requesting to be my friend, I have no idea what to do now.

I need help.

Was wondering if Cheryl and Gary's son, Evan, knows anything about Facebook and can come over when we get back and teach me. We have a friend who believes every computer should come with a four year old, to get it up and running. Happily, Evan is 17 and fun to be around - and he seems patient. But I guess we'll find out.

Toodle-oo. We have a very francophone neighbor who's adorable and she always says that to us. Thought I'd try it out.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

It's Wayning men - hallelujah

Sunny, hot, temps 30

Wow, is it ever great out. Beautiful day!

The only shade in the whole property is cast by the multitude of men who seem to have swarmed us. Gary brought John again, as well as Barry now to paint the house. Then Wayne showed up to cut the lawn. And an hour ago Christian and Steve arrived to work on the pool pump.

So much for naked swimming - at least ours. Though I live in hope one of them will be overcome by the heat and strip off. Will let you know.

Michael is much better - we're about to head into town for the dreaded hair cut. This afternoon I want to sit outside and take notes for editing book 5...things that have occured to me for helping set the atmosphere. Like the buzz of the cicadas. Always a sign summer is ending.

Must be off - laundry on the line, more to fold, packing to do. Pat and Tony will look after the dogs and house while we're in UK.

Now they're barking...more men, perhaps?

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Michael mending

sunny, hot, temps 28

Another glorious day. A total surprise. September in Quebec is always always beautiful, but rarely is it this hot.

Michael's fever came back last night. 102. He had a cool shower then went to sleep. This morning we decided to go to the walk-in clinic in Knowlton, and arrived about ten minutes before 8 - it opens at 8. There were only 3 people ahead of us. I thought it'd be packed since the clinic wasn't open yesterday, labour Day. But very slow, really.

After about 40 minutes we got in. Quite embarassing. The doctor seemed less than sympathetic and impressed when she asked how long Michael had been sick and we said a day and a half.

'Then why are you here?'
'Really, what are you here? It's only been a couple of days.'
We looked at each other. This didn't seem the time to tell her Michael's a doctor. In fact, we now regretted giving her our real name. Whenever we think a situation will be humilitating we try to tell people our names are Gary and Lise. But it we too late.

We told her, quite truthfully, that we were going away on Thursday and it seemed wise to see if he needed antibiotics to get them here.

'Where're you going?'

Another long pause.

'I hear they have doctors there.'

At about this time I did one of the things I do best. I tried to telepathically let her know this was all Michael's idea and I've been kidnapped and brought there against my will.

She listened to his chest then said, 'I have some good news and some bad news.'

I wonder if doctors realize that people's hearts stop when they say that.

'The good news is, it's a cold. The bad news is, there's nothing I can do about it.'

We left. About as impressed with her, I suspect, as she was with us.

Then we went to Cowansville for breakfast...a trip to the bank...a stop at the feed store for dog food. Then home. I dropped Michael off and headed down into the village to do errands including making a hair appointment for him with the new barber.

When we first moved here there was a barbershop on the mainstreet, with a pole and all. Michael decided to try it out, after years of having his hair done at the Ritz in the Golden Mile of Montreal. I went grocery shopping, then 20 minutes later wandered by the barbershop to see Michael in the front window, and the barber. With a Hoover. Hoovering Michael's face. Michael looked like a child at his first haircut, about to burst into tears. I think I took him for ice cream later and told him how brave he was. That was the last time he went there. But now there's a new barber, so he's going tomorrow at 1pm whether he likes it or not.

Zipped across the border to do some mailing in Richford, Vermont and pick up gas. Then came back to Sutton to pack up a few more boxes from the office. And stopped at the grocery store for cold drinks.

Gary and John Murphy - whom we all call Jesus Murphy now - were scraping and painting the outside of the house. And frying. I could barely watch them it was so hot. Took them drinks and noticed that Gary had white paint all over his lips. Afraid to ask how it got there.

Michael's feeling better. Fingers crossed he's on the mend. Thanks for all your good wishes.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Are you feeling better?

sunny, hot, temps 29

Glorious day.

Poor Michael's sick in bed. We're going to have one week of brilliant summer and he may very well miss it. I should pull the curtains and tell him it's rainy and cold. Hmm, might just do that.

He's running a temperature, but it broke in the night and is now down to normal. I give him pills, soup, juices and slather him in Vicks Vapo-rub. You know, that's almost a comfort smell for me. I remember reading a study about comfort smells and the conclusion was that there were certain smells that most westerners reacted to. Roses. Fresh cut grass.

But - the intersting finding was that comfort smells are evolving and generational. For people over 70 they're likely to be fresh baked bread, line dried clothing, vanilla. For baby-boomers they're more likely to be Vapo-rub, gasoline, talcum powder, Kraft dinner. In other words, a more chemical smell.

I remembered that as I spread the Vapo rub on Michael's chest. While it clearly signals illness, even more than that it signals caring.

The amazing Linda Lyall - the woman who designs and maintains my website - sent out the September Newsletter today. That's always fun.

Had a great breakfast at the Saint Patrick restaurant in Sutton with Cheryl. We talked about all sorts of things including maybe one day taking a couple of weeks in the spring or summer and sign up for one of the short courses Trinity in Dublin or Cambridge University give. Take something like anthropology, comparative religions, the history of recluses - something almost totally useless but fascinating. Wouldn't that be fun?

Cheryl's one of the most gifted people I know. A writer and artist, she has a series of children's books. One's already published and is called Dragon Dreams, and the others are in various stages of completion and about to be sent to her publisher. We're lucky enough to own one of her original illustrations. A real treasure.

Must be off - check on Michael. We're watching Gustav on the televison and very relieved it isn't worse...though I suspect it's bad enough.

My goal is to see how many times Michael can be asked, 'Are you feeling better?' before he explodes. Wish me luck.