Monday, 31 January 2011

Pen out of ink

sunny and minus a bazillion (approx)

So cold there was ice fog on the way in to Cowansville this morning. It was actually minus 25. Not quite as cold as last monday when it got down below minus 30.

We're having one of those days where nothing is easy. No big problem, but things that should be easy just aren't. And it becomes cumulative. A headlight is out in the beetle. Small thing. So off we went to Cowansville to have it fixed and the mechanic (who was doing us a huge favour fitting us in) could get one headlight out, but not the one that actually needed replacing.

So we have to head an hour away to the dealership in Sherbrooke Thursday at 7:15am to get it fixed before we leave.

Really, the things are so miniscule they're hardly worth mentioning, but they become simply tiny irritants. Like being out of milk. Or using the last piece of paper towel. Picking up a pen and its out of ink. The blackberry suddenly won't receive messages. One of the speakers in the stereo keeps blanking out. The woodbox needs refilling.

Funny, I was just talking to Teresa, my agent in London and she's having exactly the same day. Things that could take one step suddenly take three. Everything's empty at once. Everything breaks at once.

We agreed when that happens the important thing is to take a step back, take a deep breath and get a grip. I find in my life I can generally handle the big things well - but give me a mountain of tiny irritants and I'm liable to go over the deep end. And take as many people with me as I can!

Oddly, writing it down helps. Gives me perspective.

Now you know my dirty little secret. The blog is my therapy. My personal diary. My comfort on cold days.

Thanks for listening - please don't bill me. Besides, the pen's out of ink and I can't find the cheque book. And don't even get me started on stamps.

Hope your day's going smoothly!

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Bathing suit - emergency

light but constant snow, mild, temps minus 4

Lovely dat - large, fluffy flakes. We met Cheryl for breakfast in Sutton this morning. Michael comes in with me, but is banished to the coffee shop area for breakfast with his book or newspaper while Cheryl and I get to sit in the dining room. And get all caught up. How wonderful to have a bosom pal, who seems to always be going through the same angsts, the same challenges and questions and wonderments as I am. We try to figure out why, and what to do about it. We also laugh so hard, and tell each other all the great things happening in our lives. You know, the stuff that sounds like bragging and we're taught not to mention. Well, Cheryl and I tell each other all the unmentionables. Good and bad. And eat eggs and bacon and sip coffee while doing it. And I always come away refreshed and energized.

Michael and I just realized that our loaner car is not insured for trips into the States. this would not normally be a problem, except that we're going to St. Lucia a week tomorrow and will be flying from Burlington, VT. We need to get there. With our luggage.

We can't take the large loaner car - and our other car, as you might know, is a VW Beetle.

So when we got back from breakfast we brought the summer clothes and the suitcases up from the basement. And then tried to stuff the big suitcases into the small beetle, as a test run. Shoving, and pushing and cursing.

Much like what is about to happen when I finish this and go upstair to try to shove my Buick body into a VW beetle bathing suit.

Damn those sneaky pastries. And the bacon. And the eccles cakes. And the medicinal pizzas. etc.

The only way I'm going to get the bathing suit onto my body will be to eat it. Thank God we've rented a private villa so I needn't worry about scaring small children on the beach. Or having someone alert Greenpeace.

We finally did get the luggage in - and then began the struggle to get it back out. We might have to airmail the entire beetle.

Oh well - I have to say, I enjoyed each and every bite - and if this is the consequence, then so be it. I'm fortunate to be married to a man who doesn't seem to care. As long as we're healthy. I think he long since gave up the hope I'd be a trophy wife. Though I suppose it depends what the competition was for.

OK - off upstairs to see how bad it is. God bless spandex.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

East Coast snow!

light snow, mild, temps minus 3

A beautiful, gentle day contrast to what those of you along the east coast have last night and today. My God - 18 inches in places. Some places more. New York city getting a foot and a half. It must have been absolute chaos.

Our day was very quiet. I went off to be Pina-ed. She's our neighbour and runs an exercise class in Sutton which Michael and I have started taking again. After a 5 year hiatus. Have you noticed that some days, when exercising, it's not terribly difficult and other days you can barely lift your legs? I had the latter today. Torture. Pinatized. I might need therapy. Again.

But wow, does it feel good when you stop.

Popped into the grocery store (resisted the chips and gummis) then home just in time to meet Kirk. He and Jane are helping us design the renovation. We have a solarium at the end of our kitchen which was never the best quality and has not improved with age. So now it's like having an open window in our kitchen. And when it's minus 34 as it was Monday, that is not a good thing.

So we've decided to re-do it, and the kitchen. So Kirk came by to discuss it, and then our contractor came and we all walked around discussing options.

Now, I'm not extravagant. Mostly because I hate being in debt. If we can't pay it off quickly, it doesn't happen. So the poor contractor kept having to re-adjust the ideas to try to fit our budget. But my theory is that anyone can do a great house if you have a million dollars. The creativity comes in trying to achieve something beautiful and useful on a modest budget.

that's what we're trying to achieve. We'll see how I feel when the cardboard kitchen cabinets arrive, and the sod floor.

then in the afternoon we got caught up on bits and pieces - wrote the February newsletter for instance - and replied to emails.

Hope those of you along the east coast are safe and have managed to dig out. We're thinking of you.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


gorgeous day - mild, light snow - perfect winter day. temps minus 2

What a change from Monday! It's like we suddenly walked into a different (heated) room. the cold snap ended and now it's unseasonably mild. But wonderful. Just cold enough to keep the snow.

Did a big french interview yesterday morning. On Radio Canada...their flagship radio show - goes nationally. With Christiane Charette. When my Quebec publisher told me about the interview I almost wept. And not tears of joy. I knew I couldn't turn it down - way too big, and way too important - and I had to support the released of the second book in french, Sous la glace. But I find it hard enough to find the words to describe what I'm doing in english....trying in a second language is torture. and I sure didn't want to either become so frightened my brain froze, or manage to speak, but sound like a slow three year old. And do a disservice to the books.


So I agreed to the interview, and it felt like falling slowly off a cliff, as the day approached. I read over and over an interview I'd given in la Presse with Nathalie Petrowski. she and I met last week for coffee and we talked. In english. Then she translated what I said into french.

I went over and over that interview - making note of key words. Then I called in the Big Gun. My friend Susan, who helped prep me for french interviews last year when the first book came out. susan agreed to meet me at Radio Canada for breakfast yesterday, and go over some french answers to possible questions....and just get my mind in gear. How wonderful, and patient, Susan was.

finally it was time. It feels like every nightmare I ever have. Showing up for an exam and realizing i haven't been to class all year, and certainly haven't studied. Or finding myself on stage in front of hundreds of people in a play - but I haven't learned my lines.

And then - I'm suddenly naked.

At the very least, as I walked toward the studio, I knew I might make a balls-up of it, but I probably wouldn't suddenly find myself naked.

Happily, another friend, Anne Lagace Dowson, was also a guest - invited by the brilliant producers when they realized I might not be up to a 20 minute live national radio interview. So the red light went on and Christiane introduced us...and then the three of us talked. In french. The whole time. Well - I resorted to english for a few words or phrases, but Anne translated and we went on. And not once did I feel my clothes slipping off.

I'll tell you, there's no relief like feeling that ten ton stone being released! Phew. What joy when it was over - and realizing I hadn't made a mess of it. Wow. I'm SO grateful to Susan and Anne - to Christiane for her patience. What a relief.

Then drove back home - it was snowing and I had the little car, so I took the back roads.

Arrived home exhausted, and make a tea and went to bed. At 5pm.

Today we had a breakfast meeting in Knowlton with Lise. What fun, to discuss the books and contracts and permissions and mailing with Lise over a warm muffin and cafe au lait.

then off to Granby for lunch with our friend Louise. Then she had us back to her home for tea and homemade banana bread. Absolutely yummy!!! We did a little sort of ritual - sitting in a circle with a candle....and sent away any pain and darkness from Jacques' days of illness in the home. And invited in the light. And healing. Contentment and peace.

It was very beautiful. And we could all feel Jacques' presence. The cat did something he's never done before too, as we sat in the circle. He curled up in Louise's lap.

The photo above we took in Granby when we arrived for lunch. It looked so singular - and we loved their snow hair and snow necklaces.

How unexpected life is.

A friend wrote today and ended her letter by saying she hoped we were in 'dangerous good health'. I thought that was such a fun way of putting it. I hope the same for you!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Three Dog Night

Oh my God - it's noon and minus 21 degrees. At 8 this morning it was minus 29. Apparently at about 6am it was -32.

A three dog on the bed night. We only have one, so Trudy was working overtime to keep us warm. The kitchen, with the leaking solarium, is like a fridge. Happily the living room is toasty warm. But I'll tell you, when it gets this cold everything is fragile. Everything creaks.

Trudy went out this morning - as briefly as possible - and came back limping from the cold. It's so cold it burns her pads. And our lungs. Easy to start coughing on a morning like this. And there's ice frost - so cold the air starts to freeze. Very beautiful, actually.

I remember when I lived in Winnipeg it would get so cold the car tires froze square to the ground and the car seats felt like concrete. Michael and I were pretty sure the little bug wouldn't start this morning. Tony was standing by the boost it from his truck if necessary - but it started.

There were wind chill warnings out - and black ice warnings along the highway. The irony of a northern winter - it is achingly beautiful - and deadly.

We went off to Cowansville for breakfast then the garage to get the replacement car until Michael's 'real' car is fixed.

Thank you for all your well-wishes, and your own stories. They really do help. We're feeling actually just fine. - a few bruises, but surprisingly neither of us is afraid to drive. But we are afraid to be very far from each other. I think that's the only side-effect to the accident. I had to drive back in to Montreal today to do a live Radio Canada interview in french tomorrow morning - Michael is staying at home with Trudy. But we needed to connect with each other as soon as we both arrived at our destinations. And a few times since. Don't like being more than 10 feet apart. Practically texting him when he's in the next room.

Not sure how long this will last - probably until the divorce.

Nice to be safe and sound and warm inside. Hope you are too.

Had fabulous news today - BURY YOUR DEAD has been nominated for the Dilys Award in the US! This is chosen by the Independent Mystery Bookseller's association, and represents the books they most enjoyed selling in 2010. The other nominees are: Steve Hamilton (The Lock Artist), Dennis Lehane (Moonlight Mile), Colin Cotterill (Love Songs From a Shallow Grave), Keith Thomson (Once a Spy), and Don Winslow (Savages).

Congratulations to everyone.

The award will be given out at the crime readers/writers convention called Left Coast Crime in February.

Friday, 21 January 2011


light snow, temps minus 9

I know the east coast is getting walloped again! But the brunt is missing us. How strange that New York would be having a tougher winter than Quebec. We're practically the banana belt this year. Hope those of you in the storm area are safe and sound.

We had an event driving in to Montreal yesterday. A car accident. The first I can remember being in since I was a child. And it was totally my fault. We were driving just outside Cowansville and needed gas, so I went to turn left into the gas station and was concentrating on which pump to go to - and not watching the oncoming cars! Seems that's a mistake.

I think I heard a horn screaming and looked up in time to see the bright red (bright red!!! not even gray or white or anything I could pretend was invisible) car bearing down on us. A split second later it hit, right in the passenger's door - where Michael was sitting - and we were shoved over the road. I immediately turned to Michael to make sure he was OK. he said he was. Then I leapt out of the car to make sure the people in the other car were OK. The entire front end of their car was smashed in. But they seemed OK. The young woman was out of the car and was crying. I immediately told them it was completely my fault. This didn't seem news to them. I went to comfort her, but she, quite understandably, waved me off. He was calling the police. The dog in their car was fine.

I went back to Michael and he complained of pain in his side, so we got him out of the car, got his coat on, and took him in to the gas station. Everyone was wonderful. The young couple had calmed down, once they realized everyone was fine - and we commiserated. He'd been in an accident a few years earlier and understood that accidents happen. How kind is that? To comfort me. I was, of course, very upset. Not hysterical - but I wanted to make sure they understood that I took full responsibility - and wanted to make sure they really were OK.

Once out of the car and seated comfortably in the gas station, Michael could take stock and said he was actually OK. Perhaps a little bruised.

The Surete du Quebec arrived along with two tow trucks and everything moved very quickly. The Surete agent was amazing. Very kind, understanding, efficient. She heard our reports of the accident - took notes - reassured me that while it was my fault it clearly was an accident and worse things had happened. And no one was hurt.

When the cars had gone and Pat was about to show up to take us home, I went to thank the Surete agent and she laughed and said that it was her pleasure and that her daughter had won the scholarship in creative writing Michael and I created at the local high school when I signed my first publishing contract. And that she was now studying writing at college. She thanked me for that.

How strange life is.

We went home, thanks to Pat, called the insurance etc. Freshened up, then climbed in car number 2 to continue our trip to Montreal. But decided to stop at the hospital to have Michael checked out. Better be safe. After about 3 hours, and a few scans, they said he was in top shape. Just bruised.

Poor man. I think he's tired of hearing me apologize. And what a brave man, getting back in the car with me driving - and our beetle at that! And with only a few whispered prayers. he said if I'd wanted to kill him I'd done a pretty poor job of it, though he admitted it might have been just a warning. A shot across the bow.

When we got to montreal I ordered two medicinal pizzas and got him a big bar of chocolate. It seems to have worked. He's feeling much better today. I called the two young people from the other car to see if they were OK too - or if some bumps and bruises came up. No answer, but left messages. But spoke to their insurance people today and she said they were just fine.

What a relief!! I don't know if you've ever been in a car accident, but the thought I'd caused it and that anyone might be hurt was horrible. Especially, frankly, hurting Michael.

Though now, of course, he has a big, fat IOU from me. And I can see him scheming how to use it.

I'll tell you too - within the scope of this being a not good event - we were exceptionally lucky. Had I turned into the path of that bus you can see in the photo, or an oncoming truck this would have been a much, much shorter post. And had we not had a fabulous, solid car, well I tremble to think what might have happened in a less robust vehicle.

Normally after something like that we would have stayed in Sutton but I had to get in to Montreal for the launch of Sous la glace at Indigo books today. There's a photo of the poster in the window of Indigo in Montreal. It went very well. And I had a chance to meet Rob Howard - who flew in from Toronto so we could sit down for a couple of hours and talk about the next book. He's the VP of Fenn, which will publish my next few books in Canada. Terrific man - very interesting discussions.

Michael - lucky one - got a bye and stayed home eating chocolate and playing sudoku. And now I must leave you to pamper him some more. He never once, from the moment that car hit to this chastised me. No recriminations, no anger, not even any annoyance. he's just said over and over that accidents happen and not to worry about it. Even as the tow truck took his beautiful car away.

What a lovely and precious man.

tomorrow is his son Vic's birthday - which is a great reason to celebrate. Among many.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Edgar nominations

light snow, mild, gentle winter day temps, minus 3

The Mystery Writers of America announced their Edgar nominations today. I have to admit, I dared harbor a hope that BURY YOUR DEAD would be on the list. But it wasn't.

This doesn't in any way mean I'm upset about the books and authors who are nominated. Just the opposite. I'm very happy for them because I know how they must be feeling. How thrilled they must be.

Congratulations to the Best Novel nominees-

Harlan Coben - Caught
Tom Franklin - Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Tana French - Faithful Place
Timothy Hallinan - The Queen of Patpong
Steve Hamilton - The Lock Artist
Laura Lippman - I'd Know You Anywhere

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

odds and ends

funny weather day - at times there's a snow storm, snow blowing, wind howling, then it's quiet, then there seems to be rain. Very changeable. Temps minus 5

yesterday it was reeeally cold. Minus 20. Clear skies. You should have seen the moon last night....almost as bright as the sun, and making all the fresh snow glow. Beautiful.

Back in Sutton. yay. Nice interview yesterday with Nathalie Petrowski.

Went to breakfast in cowansville this morning and ran errands. Then home to get caught up on paperwork. Emails etc. Nice to be inside, out of the very odd weather. But must feed Trudy soon and go for a walk. Head bowed into the blowing snow. We Canadians get very well acquainted with our footwear in winter.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Wild Kingdom

Mainly sunny, some snow this morning, temps minus 11

Drove in to Montreal this morning. Woke up to lots of beautiful, fluffy snow falling. Less beautiful when you're on the road. Got caught behind a huge snow plow for about 20 kilometers. The downside is that it goes at about 25 kilometers an hour. Creeping along as it plows the snow off the road. The upside is that it is plowing the snow off the road. Ridiculous to speed to get to the destination 5 minutes earlier. But, God help me, I've done it. Drove like a maniac when I was in my twenties. Not necessarily really reckless - but I don't think I used the best judgement.

Michael and Trudy stayed at home. I have an interview tomorrow with the marvelous Nathalie Petrowski, of La Presse. We're meeting for breakfast at Chez Nick's. Then I'll head back home.

No more squirrels - though there is one snooping around the house. I do wonder if it's one of the fellas we re-located. Returned home. Our home, and apparently their's too. I stare at it, as it plays on the honeysuckle and sits in the bird feeder, but frankly they all look the same to me.

Great news about the mother and puppies - the black labs who'd been abused near our home. All the puppies have been adopted, and the Mom has gone to a fabulous home in Quebec City. I have to say, we'd have loved to have be able to adopt one of them. But very, very happy they're all in loving homes.

Watching the football games, and exchanging emails with Michael - we always seem to root for different teams.

Hope you're well and enjoying your weekend.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Two squirrels and Hovey

some sun, some very light snow, mild - temps minus 5

Glorious day - as you can see! We're at Manoir Hovey - arrived yesterday, leaving tomorrow. Reading old magazines, and newspapers, napping and eating and....skating! They've created a rink in what is the perennial garden in the summer. Here we are - thought we'd better document it or no one would believe it. I'll tell you, after not skating for ten years, it's harder than it looks! Michael is doing the very difficult 'bench skate' manoeuvre. Actually, we really did skate, around and up and down. We skated frontward and we skated backward and almost, but not quite, nose downward. The Manoir has skates to lend, and heavy socks. Took us 20 minutes to put the skates on and walk out to the rink. We were exhausted.

And afterward? Well, hot chocolate in the library. Real hot chocolate...with melted chocolate and hot milk.

And, as if life couldn't get any better - Pat and Tony caught another squirrel. We feel like we've won a strange lottery, where the prize is a million squirrels. And a hot chocolate. Good enough.

No word yet on the mother dog - but will let you know when we know anything.

Must race back to doing nothing.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011


Overcast - huge winds. temps minus 6

One of those days that takes your breath away, and not in a good way. As I walked to the dentist (for a cleaning) this morning I could see snow eddying ahead, like a very small tornado. And sure enough, as I walked through it it pushed and shoved and caught my breath. perhaps I should have crossed the street. D'oh.

Have been watching the terrible flooding in Australia! It must be horrible to have a disaster telegraphed, and have no way to stop it. to see it coming from so far off. And to just have to wait for it. The flood waters have been rising, towns devastated, and then it turned on Brisbane. Frightening. somehow we never (at least I don't) expect this sort of thing in one of the big cities. But, of course, they're not immune.

Michael and I have a special place in our hearts for Brisbane. We were there at the International Literary Festival a few years ago - when The Cruellest Month came out. We adored Brisbane and really enjoyed taking the water busses up and down the river. The same river that is now flooding. It was a very beautiful city. And will be again. But today it's devastated and waiting for worse.

I'm always so impressed by the spirit of the Australians. Of calm, of acceptance, of getting on with the job at hand - of saving their towns and cities - or cleaning up. In all the coverage I've heard shock, and sadness - but also a spirit of 'We'll make this right'. I admire that lack of complaint - and the approach of not waiting for help, but doing what they can for themselves. And hoping for help!

Prayers being sent your way - Queensland.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

American Library Association - Best Mystery!

overcast, mild, temps minus 6

A little windy, and, miraculously, it is always in our faces no matter which direction we're walking in.

You might have heard - I'm sure it led the World News (or perhaps that's the delusion talking, again) - that BURY YOUR DEAD has just been named the Best Mystery of 2010 by the American Library Association! The others nominated are magnificent - Tana French, Inge Ash Wolfe, John Verdon and William Kent Krueger (who I have a little crush on, as Michael knows).

I feel like the luckiest, happiest person on earth. Imagine, writing a book in a tiny Quebec village, and having it even noticed by the ALA, never mind chosen. Wow.

And, to add to my giddy state, the squirrel has been caught! Pat and Tony, who are staying at the house while we're in Montreal, checked the humane trap this morning and there it was. Glaring. Pat drove it way far away, released it, and now we hope it won't find its way back. Unfortunately we obviously haven't found the hole in the house. So, they've re-set the trap. This could become yet another addiction. De-squirreling.

Not quite as exciting as the ALA announcement - but sure got us cheering!

Michael and I are in Montreal, as I mentioned. We'd heard that a puppy and the mother of the abused litter were still available to adopt - apparently when the news first got out about the atrocious act all sorts of people called the spca in Granby (called the SPA Granby) to adopt...but when the time came, most of those offers evaporated. That's how Rhianna and her wonderful mother Joanne came to adopt their puppy. We decided to go by the SPA Granby on our way in to Montreal and see about adopting one or both of the remaining dogs. But when I called, when we were on the road, they said the dogs were all adopted. But - yesterday afternoon - Lise wrote to say apparently the mother is still there. She's a 2 year old lab - and one of the ones shot with a nail gun in the head.

We're stuck in Montreal, but Lise is going to Granby anyway, and said she'd check it out for us. But, she warned, she suspects the mother is probably quite emotionally damaged and might need a family that knows a lot about dogs, but doesn't now have any. She might need to be an 'only child'.

Lise is very wise, and I suspect she's right. But best to check it out. I don't know the SPA GRanby - and just want to make sure its a no-kill shelter. And if need be, make arrangements for the mother's re-habilitation and training. So she can one day be placed in a loving family.

Fingers crossed.

When we did get in to Montreal we drove to Outremont (a quartier of Montreal) and had lunch yesterday with my Quebec publisher, Louise Loiselle of Flammarion Quebec, and we celebrated the arrival of Sous la glace - the french version of Dead Cold/A Fatal Grace.

I'm going to be doing only one public signing of Sous la glace in Montreal, and that's on Friday, January 21st, at 1pm at Indigo Books at the Montreal Trust building. I'll also be signing copies of Bury Your Dead. If you'd like to drop by I'd love to see you!

Today Michael and I had breakfast at Nick's then walked a bit - then went and caught the 1pm showing of The King's Speech.

Oh, my Gaaaawd. A magnificent film. Can't remember when I've enjoyed a film more. Both Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush were fabulous. In fact, everyone was. Loved it. We ate popcorn, drank diet coke, and sniffled our way through it. Four thumbs up.

And that's our news. Tomorrow we both have dentists, then lunch with the son of Michael's great friend John Buxton. Patrick lives in London but will be in Montreal for the day, and so we're meeting for lunch. Le Local - a great french restaurant in a not so great area of Montreal. At least, not a chichi area. A place Patrick would never, ever think to go to on his own.

I also have an interview with the popular Quebec magazine 7 Jours tomorrow morning.

Be well - and talk to you soon.

Sunday, 9 January 2011


snow, blowing snow - a small blizzard. temps minus 10

Just heard from our friend Rhianna. She's adopted one of the black lab puppies that was abandoned not far from our home on Dec. 22nd. I hadn't heard anything about it until there was a dreadful report about the case. The mother and some of the pups had been shot in the head with a nail gun! Dear God, who does that? What makes a person into someone who would do that? thank heaven they were found. Some of the pups died, but most, along with Mom, survived. they've been treated and have now all been adopted. I wish we'd known! We'd have taken one. But now what we plan to do is add to the reward for catching whoever did this. As someone said, this person is dangerous. They'll clearly do it again - or do it to a person next.

I wonder if the person who shot those people in Arizona yesterday, including a 9 year old girl!!! - started by putting nails in dogs heads?

the dogs were found two dirt roads over from us - which I find horrifying. Funny of proximity somehow makes it worse. Thank heaven there're decent people including the 17 year old girl who discovered them by the side of the road.

In other animal news, Squirrel still with us. Heard him in the wall behind the bookcase a few minutes ago. One of the facebook readers suggested barking, as though a dog was about to get at it. Might scare it away. I must admit, we're so desperate, I tried. scared the hell out of Trudy, who was asleep. Probably scared Michael too, who has decided to ignore the barking wife for fear of encouraging it. and just when he thought things couldn't get odder. Little does he know.

busy day yesterday. Michael and I had an early breakfast with Cheryl and Gary - then went over to see their wonderful home that Gary is building in the woods. It's magical, and we're beyond thrilled for them. It really is a perfect home.

then while Cheryl drove Michael home I zipped back to the village to have coffee with Joan, and talk about Thomas Merton. Then home - and later a very early dinner with our friend Louise. In between, Tony came to see if he could see, and seal up, holes in the house. Now, we live in an 1869 united Empire loyalist home - a bit rambling. There are holes everywhere. Good ol' tony, though, went around and sealed whatever he could find.

We had high hopes, until the mad scrambling in the walls a few minutes ago. And the odd barking noise from the living room. I suspect Michael just blamed Trudy. We blame most things (missing carrot cake, smells) on her, why not this?

Off to offer help in finding out who did this dreadful thing to those dogs.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Squirrels in the attic

Partly cloudy, cool, temps minus 4

...and squirrels in the walls. And the basement. Actually, it isn't quite the invasion it seems. We think it's the same squirrel, running around. Inside. This is not the best thing that can happen. But when we called (who else) Tony he came by, looked at the evidence and said -

'I think it's a beaver.'


Then he laughed. Damn. We fall for it every time. But it does seem to be a squirrel, so now we have a live trap in the basement (don't tell the squirrel). We check it all the time, and when/if the squirrel wanders in we'll call (who else) Tony and tell him we caught a bear cub.

He'll come by and drive it far enough from the house that it won't find its way back. But the key is to try to figure out how it got in, and plug the hole.

Went to exercise class today. Then errands around town. And heard from the Quebec publisher that Le Telejournal - which is the biggest TV show in Quebec, is interested in doing an interview with me next week. Dear Lord. Now I really do have to become bilingual, by next Wednesday. It's like cramming for an exam - trying to guess what questions they might ask, then boning up on possible answers in beautiful french. Now, unless they want to know the menu of the local bistro, I have a lot of work ahead.

I was just beginning to really relax too. Takes a while to realize there 's nothing to worry about - I've been so used to worry. And stress. When it comes off it takes some time to creak back to place. But now with Le Telejournal the worry is back. Like a squirrel in my head.

You don't think...

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Eccles cakes

light snow, blustery, temps minus 5

Michael and I are pretending to be snowed in.

We're sitting by the fire, drinking cafe au lait from the Vive Gamache mugs and eating the best treats ever. Our great friend Susan came out years ago to stay and Michael happened to mention that one treat he misses from his days at Cambridge are Eccles cakes. It's hard to find them in the UK, and nigh-on impossible in Canada.

Next time Susan came she brought....Eccles cakes. Michael almost wept. It tasted of giddy youth. of days when a young man from Montreal found himself punting on the Cam. In the company of boys as bright or brighter than himself. Of his first real girlfriend. of climbing the wall and sneaking back into his rooms at Christ's College. Of meeting young men he'd grow old with, and bury. John and Fred. And Dick, who thrives still in his new home near Oxford.

Eccles cakes. And the kindness of our friend Susan. We never forgot opening that tin and looking at them. Not a cake at all. So much more. Made by her from a recipe she'd searched for.

And now, on special occasions, Susan brings Eccles cakes. She gave us an entire tin for Christmas and we've been parsing them out...we 'forgot' to mention them to family over the holidays.

So now we pretend the snow is mighty and brutal - and sit by the fire eating Michael's youth. And thinking of friendship. And kindness.

Monday, 3 January 2011


mainly sunny, cold, temps minus 10

Well, the cold has snapped back into place and everything that had turned to water has now become ice. The snow, what's left, has a firm crust on top...we can even walk on top without sinking in.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your beautiful messages after yesterday's post. I read each and every one - and feel the embrace. Thank you too for telling me your personal stories. It can be heartbreaking. Especially since, if it's a family member or loved one, there's often little we can do - except disconnect with love. And not have them take everyone down with them. Easier said than done, though.

Well, we're off to Pina to re-start our exercises. We actually love it. Afterward. During is a whole other matter. One hour of 'stretch and strength' twice a week. But it's shocking (shocking I say) how much better we both feel for doing it. Physically, certainly - but there's a huge emotional boost. Taking back control.

Out got the rest of the chocolates, the cakes, the cookies. And in comes fresh fruit. Our big treat are cafe au laits, using the Nespresso machine, with skim milk.

So - we head into the sunshine of a new year. Hope you're thriving.

Thank you again, my friends. How kind you are.

Sunday, 2 January 2011


partly sunny, extremely mild, temps 6

This is a very special day for me. The biggest day on my calendar. This is the day I got sober. Seventeen years ago today I stopped drinking and joined a 12 step programme.

I don't talk about it often. I never mention it on the blog, except this one day. And I'll only answer questions about it if there's a direct question. But if there is that direct question, then I'm content to speak about my alcoholism and my sobriety. It came as a shock to see that someone had put it on the Wikipedia page about me. I was stunned and my immediate reaction was to try to have it taken off.

But then I realized it was quite true. Very humbling that.

And whoever had put it there had found it in an interview I'd given, so it's not like this was a violation. The information was out there.

And, beyond all that, I thought that maybe there's a reason it's there. So I left it.

I have to say, I'm a very private, but very grateful alcoholic. Without having gone through that, without standing by that precipice trying to decide if I should live or die. Afraid to die and afraid to live. Without knowing that hell I would not know the heaven I was then given.

I look back on my life 17 years ago, and the despair. The loneliness. The certainty the best had been and nothing will ever be good again. I think of the self loathing. And the ache that no amount of alcohol could numb. Thinking it couldn't get worse. And then it did.

The pain stopped. And I was left with nothing. No feelings at all. Just a wasteland of a life. A great expanse of nothing. Empty.

I was 35. And life was over.

But I decided, since I was ready to die, maybe I could try one last thing. AA.

I walked into my first meeting 17 years ago and haven't had a drink since. I didn't go to AA because I was brave. It took no courage. It took raw desperation. And a moment of grace.

Every Saturday night now I go to an AA meeting in a local village. We take turns making coffee, and cleaning up, and chairing, and greeting the newcomer. And the only thing we ask of each other is complete honesty. How you're really doing. How you're really feeling.

In AA I've learned how to live. And I've learned that the void inside will not be filled with drink or drugs, with shopping. Not even, though I've tried, with gummi bears. It would never be filled with compliments, with successes, with money or awards.

Not with anything anyone could give me, or I could take. The only thing that has filled that void is faith in a higher power. And in giving. Not, finally, in taking at all. Like a drowning man, I grasped everything to me, believing it would hold me up, prevent me sinking. I had no idea the only way to save myself was to give it away.

I look at my life now. Everyday I stand by the pond, say my prayers, and wonder at how lucky I am. And I thank God for this life that came when I thought it was over. That rose up from the void. Filled with love and friends and creativity. I live with a man I love, in a place I adore, and I do something that gives me endless pleasure.

I'm sober today, but far from perfect (as Michael and my friends will agree!) And in moments when I disappoint myself, it's helpful to remember (as a woman named Jane reminded me yesterday) how far I've come. And not worry about the distance yet to go.

My name's Louise, and I'm a grateful alcoholic.

Saturday, 1 January 2011


overcast, very mild, snow melting, temps plus 6

Happy New Year!

I know it was a difficult year for many people. But I know too there were so many wonderful events. Some huge, but often the best were tiny little moments.

My friend Cheryl and I were talking about that at breakfast a couple days ago. About a moment sitting on a tractor, going through an orchard - and suddenly feeling completely at peace.

There were so many huge moments in our 2010. All unforgettable. And so many tiny moments of peace and joy. Often in the oddest places. Unbidden, undemanded, unplanned. Just given.

I wish you many of those moments in 2011.

Michael joins me in thanking you for your company, your good wishes propping us up when we faltered, your humour and courage. Your presence in our lives. Your celebrations when things went well this past year. And your sympathy when it didn't. How kind you are.

And now the great adventure begins again! Another year.

Blessings to you. And Happy New Year!