Wednesday, April 30, 2003

As my mood depends on the weather, I am happy to report that the sun is shining. Last night, Gill and I went out with Jill and Brian to the Italian restaurant down the street. The food was excellent as was the conversation. Brian does not have the demeanor of a minister. Now what do I mean by that? He is not pompous, nor pious, nor does he insist that we bow our heads before a meal. He and Jill have little married banters in which they correct each other but they aren't annoying. I learned, through questioning, that Brian thinks I'm missing something not believing in "God's Love" whereas I don't think he is: he simply has chosen a different way of coping with life.
Auntie Isobel is leaving her car across the street at 8:15 and we'll go out for breakfast and discuss France. (I must get dressed soon.) I would like to pin down dates as I'm going to Belfast in the afternoon to visit the student travel agent to find the easiest, cheapest route to Toulouse. There may be one from Dublin. At 4, I will attend the writing forum at Queens and have decided to be brave and submit a story to be edited next week. I will also take a handful of brochures outlining the French workshop.
As for reading, I went to the library yesterday and picked up six new books. Reviews (much to your delight or dismay) will follow. I'm beginning to believe that this voracious reading is not an escape but research. Already, I see what I like and dislike about a novel or non-fiction. The most cleverly written books, in my mind, are simply written with literary reference. This I should be able to achieve with my eyes closed considering the quality and quantity of books I read. Why then is the ink not flowing? Tune in tomorrow for more information on this dilemma. (Now that sentence is definitely influenced by "Clara Callan". I have just read a scene where Clara receives a radio from her sister, who is a star of a soap opera, in New York.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Looking out my front window, I sigh with relief. The pavement is dry and I can see blue through the clouds. Last night I went to my line dancing class and I must admit that I'm getting the hang of it, thumbs tucked in pockets, feet toeing and heeling it to the twang of country music. I never knew that these dances are universal - most are choreographed in the U.S. or Canada - which means that once I'm back in Canada, I'll have to find me a country and western bar.
I finished "Evening" last night also and, in the end, I think the author did a good job even without quotation marks. The thoughts and memories of the woman dying from cancer reminded me of Les and I wonder if she slipped into a similar world her last few weeks.

Today, I shall find my way to Green's and have coffee with Uncle Joseph and then shop at the market stalls for fresh fruit and vegetables. Auntie Isobel may join me for lunch at the Internet Cafe, and then my cousin, Jill and her husband are meeting us at Pizarelli's for dinner. So today will be a family day and in between visits, I am going to do some research on the internet: Gill has Monday off school and we're thinking about climbing on a train and heading north to Londonderry (or Derry), exploring this northern town, staying at a hostel and then crossing the border into Donegal, a wee part of Ireland, attached to Northern. I've heard it's very beautiful but hard to access unless you have a vehicle or are willing to walk. We're willing to walk. My big hope is that the weather is dry.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Today is wet, grey, hazy and my mood is bleak. I have been restless for a few days and this reminds me of a quote by Christa Wolf that Vaughan sent me: "And how can one give people the courage to be restless?" I have no idea. Restless people drive me crazy and since I am harder on myself, I am driving myself mad. In this mood, I am reminded of Natalie Goldberg's advice to simply take one small step at a time. So this morning, I moved slowly and ironed Gill's skirt, cleaned lint from her jacket (this is her first day back at school after spring break), ironed a few more shirts for good measure, threw on clothes, and went out to a cafe. I sat, drank two coffees, read Vaughan's letter, wrote in my journal. Nothing calmed me. Nothing seems possible. I'm sick of writing, sick of rejections, sick of effort. I don't feel inspired. Why do I persist with this pipe dream? In her letter, Vaughan also quoted Julie Cameron who said that if a writer takes care of the quantity, god will take care of the quality. Not for me. (I wonder if declaring myself an agnostic has anything to do with this lack of support.)
I have two books on the go at the moment. I am still re-reading "Clara Callan", am still enjoying it, and am still impressed that Wright is able to write from the p.o.v. of a female believably. I started to read a book last week written by a female whose main character is male and it didn't work so I stopped reading after a dozen pages or so.
Now, I am reading a book by Susan Minot, "Evening", the story of a dying woman whose past and present is interwoven in dreamlike images. The author has chosen not to use quotation marks around spoken words, both past and present, and I am finding it annoying. To break with convention is difficult and it can work but it doesn't for me here although I admire the author for having the guts to try it.
I have read a number of books lately that do not follow chronological order and sometimes it works for flashback and suspense but again, I think only seasoned authors or new authors with a good editor should attempt it.
What shall I do with the rest of my day? I will make a few obligatory phone calls, scribble a list of to-dos for my last weeks in N.I., pay my hydro bill, play with writing, clean, whatever. Kate sent me an email the other day, reminding me that we are priviledged - two Canadians, living in Europe, supporting another's dream. I know. I know. (And even on these low days, I am grateful.)
On a brighter note, rain or shine, I will line dance tonight.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Yesterday disappeared. I do not function well if I don't start my day in my journal. Last night, Karin came over and we watched "One Hour Photo" with Robin Williams. I liked the film but felt something was missing. The suspense could have been built in such a way that Sy appeared more sinister. He simply came across as a sad character. We also watched "The Banger Sisters". A good laugh.
Woke early this morning and continued reading "Bluethroat Morning", a mystery about a woman writer, working on her second novel, who evenually, like Virginia Woolf, walks into a river and drowns. Another character in the novel, a biographer, suggests that one author's suicide is mimicked by the ones who identify with the former's angst and desire for perfection and, in the end, feeling as despondent as the first, borrows her method of relief.

Gill has just returned from her evening out and tells me she ate pizza last night and a fry this morning--very Northern Ireland but very unlike her usual healthy diet. I am moving slowly this morning. I did go out for a walk before writing this blog but now I will just sink into the couch and finish my novel, go for another walk, and make a schedule for next week. I feel time slipping away.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

No time to write this morning. I slept in. Ken arrived at door and we're off to Bangor. Will tell more later.
Not a lot to tell. We did go to the seaside--and as a rare treat, Gill accompanied us--and we ate a good lunch at Pym's (chef is Canadian, trained in Vancouver), strolled along the water front, and watched a vintage car parade. Ken says he remembers these cars on the road: we must be getting old. On the way home, we drove past Stormont, the non-functioning Northern Irish home of parliament. Very impressive. Ken says it resembles the White House without the dome. (Brendan sent word that the White House doesn't have a dome. He is correct. Ken must have been thinking of the Capitol building, also white, with a huge neoclassical dome, where the US Congress and National Assembly meet.)
Returned to our flat and Gill has taken off with another Gill to a barbeque, dance, and then will spend the night with her friend.
Although I was going to go to a play, things have not worked out so Karin will drop over and we'll drink red wine, eat popcorn, and watch a movie. I feel a little lost having had no time to write today.

Friday, April 25, 2003

It's horrible today. Furious rain, cold damp apartment. Instead of doing my blog first thing, I escaped to a cafe and sat reading a mystery, "Bluethroat Morning." I have read three books in the last few days and only one, a book of short stories by Patricia Duncker is worth mentioning. This author is always pushing boundaries. I have ordered another from the library. Last night I went out dancing with my aunt whose company I quite enjoy: she is always laughing. She said that I must tell my mother I know the steps to "Pride of Erin". I also learned the "Sally Ann Tango", and did the "Sweetheart Waltz" with the dance instructor (a tall elegant man in his seventies.) Today I will continue my search for a place for my mother story and transcribe a few more pages of my novel. Writing is such hard work and although I gain some pleasure from it, I don't know if I have it in me to write a book. When I am optimistic, I think I haven't found the write approach. A slip of pen. When I slipped into Green's for groceries on my way back to the apartment, I ran into Auntie Barbara who invited Gill and I to dinner this evening. I accepted, happily. The evenings are long here.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Yesterday, Rob sent pictures of our garden in bloom. (Gill loved the picture of Java, stretched out on the railing looking quite superior.) I miss home. This morning, I am restless. I have already sent a query to the Vancouver Sun about my Irish story and downloaded a list of literary contests so I can send out my mother/daughter story once again. My editor friends say it is good and deserves to be published but if it's so good, why hasn't it already found its way into print? I will persevere with this writing business for a while but being a penniless writer is not romantic. I sent my Apres Anais Nin story out yesterday and am still waiting to hear about my contribution to the Northern Ireland literary contest. Soon, I will have four stories out in the world. I am neither discouraged or encouraged. After all these years of writing, getting published appears to have the same odds as winning a lottery. Optimist that I am, I will continue to transcribe my novel today.
Two tins of blueberry pie filling from Canada are still sitting on my kitchen counter. I will call my Auntie Marina today and see when I can deliver them. This evening I intend to go to my ballroom dancing class with Barbara and Eddie. I have missed so many I lack grace but it's always a pleasure being with Barbara. I am realizing that my time here is limited and I still haven't met all my relatives.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Yesterday, most businesses were closed so people, I assume, could have an extended Easter vacation. Today, I will return to the Post Office and mail my manuscript. I did start my novel (how many times have I started it?) and began by transcribing my writing from last summer. I have no idea if it will work or not but I will persevere for a while. I also started re-reading Clara Callan as I like Wright's format - a combination of letter and diary entries. Kate is trying to entice us to Frankfurt and I spent hours last night trying to find cheap flights. The problem is not London to Frankfurt but Belfast to London. Too much money. I am exploring other options like taking a ferry to Scotland. When I grew tired of the internet, I played "Real Women Have Curves", a story about a young Mexican woman living in Los Angeles. Not bad.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

The sun is shining today. The weather appears to dictate my moods. Yesterday I felt old and grey like the sky. Last night I watched Chicago and although I like musicals, the story was too over-the-top silly for me. Perhaps this is the kind of show that works better on the stage. The dance numbers were incredible. First thing I plan to do today is order Van Morrison tickets. Concert is to be held in May at Killyleigh Castle, out of doors, and the idea of being here and missing Van Morrison sing in such an exotic place is too ridiculous. Gill is awake now and we may walk up to the market and buy some vegetables. I will also mail my story for literary contest and begin my novel. It's about time.

Monday, April 21, 2003

I have just been working on a piece that Kate calls "vintage Yvonne" for a contest. I will try to attach it here. No, it doesn't work. I'm not sure of the ramifications of putting a story in my blog that I want published. Does blogging consist of publishing? If so, I do not want to make public a story until someone pays for it.
Back from Dublin. All is tranquill. I slept in my big bed in a room all by myself last night. This felt luxurious. My bedroom in Vancouver would feel like a gold mine. Funny how one's boundaries shift depending on one's daily circumstances. Yesterday, we walked (our feet were still sore from the last two days) from the hostel to Trinity College, explored the grounds but decided against joining the large lineup waiting to see the famous Book of Kells. Gill wanted to do some last minute shopping but there was little open except the large chain stores and, much to my delight, an enormous bookstore. We went to Wagamama, a Japanese noodle restaurant for lunch and both of us agreed that the spartan decor and healthy food would appeal to Brendan. We wandered some more, picked up a meal for the train at Nude, another healthy eatery, returned to the hostel, checked out, and found our way to the train station. There was an special train of football fans, drunk as skunks (the first time I have seen why the Northern Irish earned a reputation for drink) who were thankfully not on the same train headed north until Portadown. There, one man told me how he had spent the night in a hospital after falling down drunk. He was going to swear off alcohol or he'd be dead. I agreed with him and even wagged my finger and said, "Don't drink." (Do I attract confessionals?) Today I shall do nothing but lie around and read and write. Gill will probably sleep to all hours. She cried last night, after reading her emails, because her friend, Jenn, was in a car accident in Vancouver and is still in the hospital. She telephoned a mutual friend and was relieved to hear that Jenn will recover. This was a very different Easter Sunday than any I have spent since I had children: for one thing, I bought no chocolate. Gill gave me a small egg and said that now our roles are reversed.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Yesterday, we walked miles into residential Dublin to the weekly Flea Market but, maybe because of Easter, it was closed. We continued to the Museum of Modern Art, housed in an old manor in the shape of a square with a large inner courtyard. Both Gill and I were most intriqued by the paintings of "John the Painter", large works in vivid acrylic colours painted on cotton. John is a patient in a pyschiatric hospital and began doing art therapy nine years ago. His love of colour and brush grew until he now paints five days a week. The museum say that they are trying to bridge the gap between the academic and the public. There were several other works than inspired us, one by an African-American woman, photographs and videos and a series of still lives in their new acquisitions but the names of the painters are lost to me. After sharing a salad in the museum's posh cafe, we walked through a rather seedy area, past crowds of people and street vendors whose accents were thick and made us smile. Gill loves to shop and so I waited outside of stores for her and read my book until she finished. We passed through The Temple Bar area again where a street comedian strummed his guitar and made ad lib jokes about passerbys. We must have watched him for half an hour until the "garda" sent him away. We walked further to a grocery store, picked up some food to make in the communal kitchen at the hostel. Most of the people eat spaghetti or rice. We had a stir-fry and then walked a few blocks to the Abbey Theatre to see a play, translated from Italian, called "The House of Bernarda Alba, a story of a hard-hearted woman with five daughters whose only concern was what the neigbours thought. In the end, her youngest daughter hangs herself and her mother screeches, "Tell them my daughter died a virgin." Okay. But the set was magnificent. Today, I rose, tiptoed out of a room of sleeping women, showered, and came down to coffee and my free muffin and orange juice. We don't leave until 6:30 pm and a young man said that he doubts anything is open here, given it's Easter Sunday. Ah well, we might try the James Joyce museum and a walk through Trinity.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

We are in Dublin. Gill has decided that she would like to live here, after high school, for six months and the same in Paris. Our hostel has proved a good choice. We are in a room with five quiet women, three of whom went to bed early like us and read and wrote. I did not hear the other two come in. I've decided I prefer communal hostels to cheap hotels. This one is old and quaint and comfortable, tucked close to the main rail station and has a large common room that admittedly is a little smokey but I like the atmosphere: young people (and most are in their twenties although there are a few oldies like me.) There is also a small cafe (where I bought a good cup of coffee to accompany the muffin and orange room that comes with the room,) a restaurant where Gill and I shared a sald and spaghetti last night, and three computers which behave sometimes (I am at an internet cafe.) We wandered yesterday into the ritzy shopping area and then to the Temple Bar area with its young dye-dyed, artsy/craftsy stores which Gill preferred. She bought two t-shirts and I bought, much to my feet's delight, a good pair of Clark sandals that are not too old-ladyish. I woke up at six this morning and decided to get up when the toilets and showers were sure to be free and have been sitting writing in my journal and reading and waiting for Gill to appear. (She arrived at 8:30.) We are now in the Temple Bar area again at the internet cafe waiting for the flea market to open.

Friday, April 18, 2003

This morning we leave for Dublin and are running around getting ready. Finished the two books I was reading last night so went to the library and took out four more (I will only take two to Dublin.) Sent a few more emails re housing writers for summer workshop in France and so nearly have everyone in place there. Sigh. This has been difficult as village fete happens same week. Must run and shower and make sandwiches for voyage. Both Gill and I are excited. I love the energy in Dublin.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Only Deirdre came to lunch yesterday and we ate at Queen's University Cafe which turned out to be an elegant banquet room with a long buffet table filled with good healthy fare. The walls were filled with paintings of academics, all men save one. It was wonderful to talk to someone about art, writing, and books. (She loves to read as much as I do.) Today, Gill and I will go to Belfast and have our international student cards validated (I finally found someone who could direct me where to go) and then we will walk home (if we can make it), clean our flat, do laundry, and prepare to leave for Dublin tomorrow. We managed to reserve two beds in a 8-bed female dorm in the Temple Bar district for two nights. I only hope it will be quiet enough to sleep.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Woke up late today after Suzi's party at the Four Trees, a lovely restaurant in Moira. Today I am going to Belfast to have lunch with Deirdre and Dave who have just flown in from Vancouver. (Dave is from Belfast. In a few days they are off to the south of France.) I am also going to check out the travel agent at the train station and see where Gill and I can afford to go for two or three days. Dublin and Glasgow are possibilities. Gill has two weeks off and we want to take advantage of this time. Yesterday was so warm that even a sweater felt like too much. I hope the sun continues to shine on us. After a cold, damp winter, we need some warmth.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Tuesday is market day in Lisburn but I will go later in morning with Gill. Soon I will shower and go to Green's to meet Uncle Joseph for coffee. Then I will return to say goodbye to Tatu who is returning to Paris. After the market, I will email several of the writing workshop participants and make birthday cards for Suzanne and Avril. Gill and I are meeting them and the rest of the Haslems at the Four Trees for a birthday bash this evening.

Monday, April 14, 2003

A quiet afternoon. Gill and Tatu went to Bangor and I finished "The Deadly Space Between", played on the internet trying to find a cheap flight to Frankfurt or Amsterdam to visit my friend, Kate, and made a huge pot of lentil soup. The only thing left to do is to give the floors a quick vacuum and walk to my line dancing class.
Instead of having the Haslems join us here for dinner last night, we went to their house and Tatu and Gill cooked up a feast in their luxurious kitchen. I am moving like a snail this morning, writing emails, reading, doing dishes. (This could be due to the good red wine Dolores served with dinner.) Today is a mystery. I'm not sure what I'll do. As it is approaching ten, I will start by dressing and going for a walk. May check in later.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

The sky is grey this morning. We did not go to Bangor yesterday. I went out for a walk in the morning and suddenly felt so tired I came home and crashed on the sofa. I suppose this is jetlag. In the afternoon, Gill, Tatu, and I walked over to Tesco for groceries. In the evening, Gill and Tatu went to the Arts Centre to hear some Cuban music. I read a bit of Rosemary Sullivan's "Labyrinth of Desire" and started Patricia Duncker's new book. (I like to have one fiction and one non-fiction going at the same time.) Tonight the Haslem's are coming for Tea and Tatu has promised to make sausages and couscous. Other than going out for a walk to pick up a Sunday's London Times, this will be low key day.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Saturday morning in Northern Ireland. I am up early. Gill and I watched the Banger Sisters last night on my computer and I must admit, I enjoyed this light comedy after tromping around the streets of Belfast, eating at Paddy's bar, and then catching a Harp at another bar while sharing a table with three inebriated Irish folk. One woman spoke at length with Tatu even though we told her that he does not speak English. The other woman said that her friend is always trying to seduce younger men. Tatu was oblivious. His few English words are said with an Irish lilt. Their gentleman friend, a former jockey turned brass polisher simply smiled. Today, we will most likely head to Bangor and Gill will take her camera. I must also call Bedding in France and see if her room is available. Finding housing for the writing workshop is proving more difficult than I thought.

Friday, April 11, 2003

I slept well. Woke realizing that it is still yesterday in Vancouver. I have a sort of organizational day. Go to bank, pay bills, that sort of thing. Call about the gites in France. Answer emails. Gill finishes early today and is off for two weeks. We are planning to go to Belfast to wander and catch a meal and some music in Paddy's bar. Tomorrow we may go to Bangor to show Tatu a seaside resort. So my Northern Irish life resumes. (I wonder if Rob is winning buckets of money in the nickel slots in Vegas.)

Thursday, April 10, 2003

All is quiet now. Gill and Tatu left with Peter and Scott for a club in Belfast. I finished "The Lovely Bones," a terrible story in some ways of a murdered child. It feels strange to be here so far from my family of men, my sisters, and friends. Rob will be in Las Vegas. I keep thinking it is the same day that I left but it is really the next day. The sun was shining when I arrived. I hope it continues. Enough. I must try to sleep.
Today I made the long journey from Vancouver to London to Belfast. My cousin, Ken, picked me up at Belfast City Airport and drove me to Lisburn. Tatu was here to greet us and we went to the Internet Cafe to say hello to Karin and Ian and drink cappucinos. I am exhausted. I took a quick nap and then Brian and Jill dropped in to pick up Brian's new toy. My Gill arrived home and I gave her her gifts and then we marched up to Green's and picked up groceries. Tatu is making dinner - a Columbian dish - and then the two young ones will go out dancing and I'll crash. I felt so sad leaving those I love behind and happy to be reunited with those I love here. Again I feel like an elastic band. But I am safe if not sound and grateful for my life.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Early morning. Amie has just dropped off a box of treasures for Gill. Rob made me a latte. I'm trying not to think about leaving. (I forgot about the blueberry pie filling for my Auntie Marina. Will run to the store.) I feel like Shirley's elastic band wanting to be on both sides of the Atlantic at the same time. I'm trying to keep this unemotional so I will not mention love and loving. Rob calls tears "having an Irish moment" after my Auntie Isobel who cries when you arrive and when you leave. I will shower and prepare for almost twenty-four hours of airport and air time. (Although I have to be at the airport at 10 a.m., my plane leaves at 1 p.m.) My next entry will reflect my new time zone. I will be eight hours ahead of Vancouver.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Oh dear, just realized I'm being too explicit here. Now Gill, Karin, and Ian will not be surprised. This is my last day in Vancouver for a while and the hardest part is leaving everyone.... but then again, I will see my lovely daughter, my cousin/brother and family (who have huge hearts) and my dueling friends who live at the internet cafe. Today is grey. I have two long appointments at the dentist (who is, thank goodness, a friend) and one appointment with Rob at our accountant. I must also go to bank for pounds. And pack. Boring stuff.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Woke later than usual again but the hour time change does make a difference. I went out at 7, bought a coffee, and sat by the water feeling weepy about leaving. It's so beautiful here. Today, I will go up to the high school and discuss Gill's program for September with Kathy Grant, meet Maggie at Horseshoe Bay for a coffee at 3, and then home to Rob. I must start organizing my stuff for leaving and remember to send data to our accountant. Oh, and I must also remember to buy Canada pins and twizzlers for Gill and chocolates for Karin and Ian. Mike is returning this evening. Helen suggested I drop in for a glass of wine at her place tonight to say goodbye. Oh dear, I'm feeling sad again about leaving. I gave Brendan a farewell hug last night. Rob suggested that we not think about the next four month separation.

Sunday, April 06, 2003

The clock jumps ahead and so I am late starting this morning. Wrote briefly in my journal, threw in a wash, and then ran down to Capers for breakfast with Lynn who wonders if we knew then what we know now, would we still have had our children. I say YES. This afternoon will be easy. Rob and I will play on our computers and await the arrival of our two sons. I need a quiet day.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Early Saturday morning. Write in my journal and find pictures for writing group. Then off to Wenda's for writing session. Return to make potato dish for potluck dinner. Meet Marlene at 3:30, then Ramona at 5:15, then Shirley at 6. Another full day. Would love to catch Sarah Cheevers at the Nam tonight but she only sings until 10 p.m. Time is flying.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Rob tells me that I lied yesterday so I will correct myself. The last event we drank wine instead of coffee. And then I came home to a lamb dinner and champagne. The nice thing about going away is that everyone is nice to me when I return. I can hear my friends protesting. They are always nice to me. Okay, they are - most of the time. This morning I am going to make creme caramel for dinner at Sally and Kiff's. Must do this early as I'm taking off for lunch with Claire. This whirlwind visit is leaving me breathless.
My day continues. I had coffee with Barb Bibeau and we walked down to the water and talked about relationships. Afternoon, I went to LeslieJane and had coffee with Lucy. Late afternoon, I go out for coffee once more with Sonia, Sarah, Heidi, and Anita. So much coffee in the company of woman. I've missed them all.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

The next morning after opening a blog site. I have no idea what I'm doing. My son started this for me and I would like to keep this as a record of a traveler. So my beginning days as
a blogger will be experimental. At the moment, I am in Canada. Next week I return to Northern Ireland.
Hi, I'm at Brendan's apartment learning how to blog.