Monday, June 30, 2003

I painted yesterday until I ran out of paint. Half a wall. I'm always surprised at what difference a coat of white paint makes. I think that our new salon, the only room in the house that remains coolish when the sun is high, is going to be lovely.

Today Gill and I will go to Albi to buy paint, a bed for guest room, and miscellaneous items for Gill's Italian vacation. I will also take my computer and do some upgrades and find out why connection and disconnection is difficult.

This evening we've been invited to Christine and Stan's, an English couple, for dinner. When we dropped in on Angela, another English woman, yesterday afternoon, to arrange a meal for the writing workshop, she noted that the French don't invite people into their home for a meal. I can remember only once, Rob and I were asked into a fancy home in Puycelsi for a feast. The evening was elegant. We began with champagne in the salon and then moved into the diningroom. White asparagus, eaten with the fingers, was served first. The only other thing that I remember about the evening is that I was sitting beside an Englishman (married to a French woman) who lived beside Paul and Linda McCartney in England. He said I reminded him of Linda. He and his wife were thinking of buying a vineyard in the region. A rare evening to say the least.

I have not had much luck with my reading lately. I need to be swept away but "Casualities of Peace" by Edna O'Brien was so depressing, I put it down after several chapters. O'Brien is supposely one of Ireland's best living writers but I find her a bit boring in the same way I find Alice Munroe tedious. Too much ordinary detail? Too mundane? I'm not sure why.
I then tried "The Blood Oranges" by John Hawkes, a book from Sylvia and Rick's library. On the back cover, it notes: "no synopsis or comparison can convey the novel's lyric comedy or, indeed, sinister power - sinister because of the strength of will, Cyril exerts over his wife, his mistress, his wife's reluctant lover; lyric because he is also a 'sex-singer' in the land where music is the food of love." The few pages I read were creepy, made me want to throw up at the arrogance of the main character who fancies himself above all else.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Yesterday Gill and I took the train to Toulouse, the forth largest city in France, and although we don't find it particularly beautiful, it is wonderful for shopping. (Gill had to purchase a few items for her trip to Italy this coming Friday.) The streets are full of memories for me. Rob and I took our three smallish children there over twelve years ago and what gave them more pleasure than anything else was the McDonalds in the heart of the city. Times have changed. I doubt any of them would eat at this American fast-food chain by choice. Gill and I separated and met for lunch at a quiche restaurant near Habitat, visited a travel agent, and separated again. By the time we arrived back at the train station, we were exhausted. The day was overly hot. (I will not complain about the heat after the rain of N.I. but it does fry the brain.)

As soon as we arrived back in our village, Rob called. He tells me that he is living vicariously through me, visiting my blog early morning before he heads out to a smoke-filled studio. He has worked several sixteen hours days and although the money is good, he longs to be with us in the south of France. If he wins a lottery, he will be on the next plane.

Gill and I were too exhausted to even throw a salad together so we went to the simpler (and cheaper) of the two restaurants in town and shared a salad and steak au poivre. It did not take much effort to find our way to sleep.

Today will be lazy. I will clean a little and start the massive job of painting the stucco on the main floor for the workshop. If I do a little each day, it shouldn't be too daunting.

Gill is going to take a walk down to lake, sunbathe (with lots of protection), perhaps have a swim, and then return to help me.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Woke early and sat drinking coffee at the window that looks over a neighbour's garden. Pigeons fly and sing for me. I wonder what to begin writing. I would like to have something prepared for summer workshop. I remember one professor telling me that I have an overabundance of writing material. Several women in the seminar said that they envied my life. I know it is good, more than good, but when my pen fails to perform, I feel like someone who has been given so many advantages and is too lazy to use them. Could this be a discipline problem? At other times, I think that I expect too much of myself. It's takes a lot of energy and time to settle in a new setting and take care of the necessities. It takes more energy to prepare for a writing workshop.
I don't know whether to congratulate myself or lambast myself most of the time.

Today, Gill and I will catch a train to Toulouse to explore, shop for a few items, and check out a travel agent for our trips home (the Toulouse/Paris segment.)

I finished Isabel Allende's "City of the Beasts" described as a "vivid fable" that tells of the adventure of a sixteen year old boy and a thirteen year old girl in the Amazon. I imagine the book was written for teenagers, a kind of Harry Potter extraordinary tale but still I found it a pleasure to read in the late afternoon sun.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Gill is happy about the hot sun. It's so good having her with me. Last night we had David over for a cold dinner of salad, couscous, ham, and a few drops of wine but my day of driving had done me in and I fell asleep at 9:30. Unfortunately, I woke at 2:30 a.m. and had a restless night. So many thoughts of preparing for the workshop are roaming my brain but all is falling into place. (Marlene had a meeting on Tuesday with Vancouver participants and I'm receiving many emails re travel plans and full of excitement.)

Today is market day in Gaillac and Gill and I are going with Bedding to purchase lots of fresh salad, fruit and vegetables. In the afternoon, we may take a trip to Albi.

I'm not feeling too creative these days but I am ahead of schedule and if I can get workshop room painted and near ready, I will relax and perhaps draft a few pieces to work on during the event. I still haven't done Wenda's assignment but, for that, I need to be in a fun state of mind. Hopefully, soon.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

I tried to blog this morning but blogger was revising and wouldn't let me. Sometimes I wonder why these computer people have to revise and revise and update and update when I was perfectly happy with
their less recent versions. Ah well, is this a sign of age?
Left early this morning with Susan for Carcassonne. It felt like the old days when we were off on one of our adventures - this time through a scenic valley to Lautrec, then Castres, then through the Black Mountains to Mazamet, and finally Carcassonne. We ate lunch salads at a sidewalk cafe and then Susan took the train to some friends further south while I went to the airport and picked up Gill. She looked so old. (I know it has only been nine days but I always fly with her, always hold the tickets and passports and this time she held her own valuables and found her own way to the right gates on time.)

I'm exhausted after over six hours of driving and shall pour myself a glass of wine and read a little.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Restless night. Up at 1:30 a.m. and sorted books for a hour or so. Up at 6:30 and worked and worked and worked. Finished ceiling in upstairs bedroom. Christine, an English woman, came at 9:30 and cleaned centuries of dust and cobwebs from workshop/living space. Stephane Medina, electrician is coming tonight to see what lighting room needs. Sue, Leon, Carol, Susan, and David are coming at 7:00 for champagne and olives (not dinner.) Pant, pant, life is so hectic but I am happy, feel I have work under control.

Will run now over to Cahuzac for some pate and ham. I feel so organized.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

I must be quick today as I need to continue painting. This morning, I tried to install an audio/video form of ichat with Brendan, went to the market in town, and then visited with Danielle, a woman who is renting rooms for the workshop. They are exquisite - large, airy, and very French. The people in the village are very supportive of the workshop: they have reason to be because the painting school is closing its doors and next summer there will be many empty gites. My timing is perfect. I am hoping after the work and fumbling this year, I will be able to host this event more calmly and besides, the painting will be done.

This afternoon, after painting, I will go to Gaillac and try to find a filing cabinet and paper supplies. My printer arrived yesterday from N.I. and I'd like to make sure it's working. I also need to organize all my papers re workshop and my writing.

That's all for now. After a horribly restless night and little sleep, I began Isobel Allende's new book at 3:30 a.m. I'm hoping to simply make it through the day and accomplish these few chores.

Monday, June 23, 2003

As I had a hard time dragging myself away to write, you'd think I was having a good time painting. In a way I am, meditating as I go and feeling a certain satisfaction that I've actually begun and the room immediately looks brighter and more finished. On the other hand, painting a ceiling cramps the neck and I have to pace myself or I'll suffer later.

Last night, I went over to Susan and David's for dinner, taking baby artichokes and a salad so I wasn't too much of a beggar. I ask for an invitation as I enjoy their company and they'll be away a lot of the summer. I love Susan's intelligence, wit, and no-nonsense attitude to words and living; and David, an English professor, Milton specialist, lover of limericks and naughty humour is also a treat.

I left early and finished Trollope's book. Light reading but not without interest. Her theme is family and relationship. She pushes the idea of candor in relationship - if you can't say exactly what you think, what do you have? If you don't do what you want to do for yourself, not living up to another's expectations but your own, what do you have? You lose vitality and originality. Still, she points out that family is the solid ground, you spring from. Travel also has it's value. (After this year, I could write a book on any of these topics.)

Must return to paint. It's still hot but not as crazy as yesterday so I plan to work as long as possible.

This morning also I picked up Basil's 85 Citroen and it drives like a 95 model. I'm so happy that I don't have to depend on others for rides.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Gill will be glad to hear that it is so hot, I can't work in the afternoon so when I awoke at 5:30 this morning, I got out of bed immediately and began cleaning in the cooler early hours. I started in attic room and then moved to guest bedroom to prepare ceiling for painting. I wanted to scrap all paint off the beams but it is impossible: it's now 2 p.m. and I've accomplished too little. I will paint over them when I do the ceiling. I want this room finished by the time Gill arrives.

Last night I finished "Three Junes" and although not without interest, I didn't like the three divisions - the first tells the father's tale, the second, the son's, and the third tells the story of a young woman who casually met both these men. I was not inspired.
I've begun Joanna Trollope's new book "Girl from the South", another easy read but I have too much to do, to read something serious and I have to read or I'm lost.

Yesterday, I did escape for a few hours at Susan's luncheon. The company was good. The food excellent - lots of salads and rabbit but I just couldn't bring myself to try the meat. I kept thinking of the Easter bunny and "Here comes Peter Cottontail" kept running through my brain. (I'd forgotten how the heat can kill any capacity for deep thought.)

Saturday, June 21, 2003

I sit in La Place early morning, sipping a cafÈ crËme, thinking about how one friend notes that my blog is different now that I am in France. Am I different? Am I another person? Not in essence, I think but I feel a difference. Is it the sun? (Strange that the male is represented by the sun, the female the moon.)

I am once again thrust into making practical arrangements for the writing workship in August. Since I've been offered a beautiful house, I am moving people around, like pieces on a chess board, trying to match women - many whom I don't know - to their dream, what they requested in their emails. I know this is impossible but still I try.

I bought a mesh curtain for our front door so I can keep it open and let in the sun. That's my biggest accomplishment so far.

An old friend, Sylvia, dropped in last night with over three dozen books for me. (And I was worried about summer reading!) Sylvia's husband died four years ago and slowly she has changed her life, moving from Montreal to Victoria, writing instead of painting, and now finding herself in another passionate relationship. She is a bit embarrassed as she is turning seventy this year. She is also perplexed. Although she enjoys the man's company, she doesn't think she wants him by her side night and day. She has begun to like her own company in the mornings, rising late, dawdling, ruminating. (She has signed up for a post-graduate coarse at the Victoria School of Art and wants to find her way back to paint.) Her words remind me of the difficulty of finding a balance in terms of relationship. I need both solitude and love. This year has unbalanced me.

Today Susan is giving a huge lunch - many many people and I must run and shower (it's hot hot hot again..)

Friday, June 20, 2003

Today is market day in Gaillac and I am happy: the sky is blue and promises another luscious warm day. "Oh ye, in Irlande du Nord, I have no pity, have I not?" I continue to be surprised at how much my mood depends on the weather. I shouldn't be. It has to be the most talked about subject in any land.

Yesterday I had a healthy and spicey lunch - Gill would be jealous - with Sue Light, her spouse Leon and friend Carol. When I mentioned Susan's decree about food and sex, Sue informed me that it was Confucius not Susan who first had this idea. Leon said that of the two, food is most important: "Love making is of little interest, if one is hungry. We spoke of language acquisition and growing old - they are in their seventies - and although with some people, this would bore me to tears, it didn't with these lively intelligent folk. (Don't worry Rob, I know you feel deprived but, if the gods be willing, we will grow young here together.)

I have already sent some emails, written this blog, but must leave for market before I post it.

I feel more and more the urge to write.

Last night, after talking to Rob via cell phone on set, I went for a walk with the lovely Helene, who is still suffering from abandonment, with her daughter's dog, around the edge of the village. The town has decided to ban dogs from its inner sanction because of the unsavoury little piles of dung that are unsetting tourists. Mon dieu, it is beautiful here. I wish I were a poet so I could immortalize this ancient ville's magic. (Perhaps Shirley can do so when she arrives.) Suzi, Karen, Ian, Vaughan and Wenda, listen hard: you have to come here some day. I insist.

I have just returned from market and, as I'm alone, have bought only succulent cherries and melon, a bunch of tiny purple artichokes, olives escabeau and grecque, Perail cheese, and a huge bunch of wild flowers. This is my reward for starting to work. I suppose I should get serious.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Gill would be in heaven. The sun is shining and it promises to be a hot day. Hallelujah.
On my third day, I see the light that mesmerized painters like Van Gogh, Cezanne, Manet and even a Canadian, Jack Shadbolt. Although the rolling hills do not compare with the green of Ireland, there is something seductive about fields of grape vines and sunflowers. How did the French, I wonder, get such a lusty reputation? They know how to savour the olive, grape, and white asparagus? The cheeses - so many - with a loaf of crusty bread make a picnic? If Susan, my friend, an anthropologist is correct when she says that the two best things in the world are food and sex, I will, at least, enjoy one to the fullest.

But bright sky or not, I am anxious to get this house in order and start painting.

I still haven't been able to locate Basil's car so Bedding is taking me to the grocery store.
Last night, I had salad with tuna, a little cheese and bread, a little wine but today, I'm starving and need something substantial.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

I feel strange living alone.

"I wander lonely as a cloud/ That floats on high o'er vales and hills..." Wordsworth comes to mind as I wander from room to room, doing a bit here, a bit there. The kitchen and living room are spotless, floors gleam. The bath and sink are clean. Slowly all will come together. I stop often. Read a chapter. Play with a jigsaw that someone started in the attic. I check my emails. Eat a yogurt.

The town is quiet. The summer crowds have not descended yet on this beautiful village. The sun has not returned but it's comfortable. Good working weather. Hopefully I will pick up my paintbrush soon but I will allow myself a few days to settle in and find Basil's car. As usual, I struggle with the language. It always takes a few days to remember words and understand voices.

Last night, Susan and David shared their dinner with me again. I have yet to get a load of groceries and organize new eating habits. I find that food is the hardest thing to get used to when traveling. I have not, for instance, had a potato in two days.

I bought three books at London Stansted, knowing that English books are difficult to find and expensive here. Chose "Three Junes" by Julia Glass because Michael Cunningham recommended it. Also, it's Glass' first novel and won the National Book Award. (Must be nice.) The story is about a man, a journalist, who recently lost his wife and is on a Greek vacation. The two chapters I've read, begin in present time and then move back and forth from past to present, past to present. I am not enthralled but there is enough of interest to keep me reading.

I am pleased with my book collection here. I am starting to amass a decent library - my security blanket. And Sylvia, a friend who lives in the next village called and says she has more for me. I must behave as I have much to do.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Here I am again drinking cafÈ crËme at Le Bar in Castelnau de Montmiral and again I struggle with a language that is music to my ears. A clichÈ, I know, but I can't think of another way at the moment. I am groggy from a day of travel. Although the plane took 55 minutes to London and another 1 hour, 40 minutes to Carcassonne, the train a hour to Toulouse and another 40 minutes to Gaillac where Bedding picked me up, there was a lot of waiting time between each place. I arrived around 6:30 in the evening and then ate with Susan and David, a feast of salads, caviar, and wine, lots of wine, a necessity to celebrate my arrival. I slept well.

I am sitting at an outside table across from a vegetable stand as it is market day in town and I will buy a bunch of fresh garlic, some lettuce and tomatoes, some cheese and bread. C'est assez. It is enough. I miss my traveling companion, my girl, my chef, my poet. She will join me in eight days after her exams. (Tatu just came to my table, kissing on both cheeks, and inquiring about Gill.)

Meanwhile I must clean as the house is filthy, arrange for electricity in the entrance room to become salon, writing workshop. I may even try my hand at writing as Wenda has given me a juicy topic. When I was telling Susan and David about my time in Northern Ireland, I realized that I had accomplished more than I thought. My daughter and I became a team. I won a writing contest, near perfected several other pieces of writing, wrote this public journal, attended a writing forum at Queens and many literary events, came to know many first and second cousins, aunts and uncles, and did a fair amount of genealogical study. On a lighter level, I learned a few line and ballroom dances. I also experienced the exquisite beauty (when the sun shone) of my birth land.

When I arrived in France, the temperature was 35 degrees, hot, hot, hot. In the evening, a storm electrified and drenched the village. All are happy because the heat wave had continued for two weeks. I hope, by the time Gill arrives, the sun is shining. This will please her immensely.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

I am sitting in my cousin Ken's office looking out over green fields.

Partied last night with all my aunts and uncles and cousins. Good craic. I am so glad I got to know them for many reasons that I may or may not discuss at a later date.

Have been packing and repacking and tossing aside all morning. I leave tomorrow at 5 in the morning for France.

I doubt that I will be blogging till Tuesday.

Wish me planes and trains that leave and arrive on schedule and a safe journey.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

I just scrubbed the last floor I'll ever scrub at 32a Bachelors Walk and am at Cafedotcom drinking a farewell capuccino from Karin and Ian. I have butteflies dancing in my stomach and a head full of to-dos. "Leaving on a jet plane/ Don't know when I'll be back again" is running through my brain. The time in Northern Ireland has been rich especially for making new friends and getting acquainted with family.
We slept over at Ken and Dolores last night (out and utter luxury - Dolores even streaked my hair) and before bed - around 10 - Gill and I went for a walk in the country to Cherryfield, my grandparent's homestead. On the way back, David and Margaret drove by and took us to their place for wine. This year has shown me how isolated my nuclear family was in Canada. And yet I also see the freedom it must have provided for my mum and dad. But when Margaret gave me a big hug last night, I regretted not having memories of growing up with my cousins. Ah well... there's always a give and take.
Tonight, all the aunts and uncles will gather for a farewell feast. I've decided to remain sober (until after 10 at least) and talk to my mum's sisters and brothers. After they leave, I have an inkling that all the cousins will loosen up and enjoy a bit of craic.
Gotta run for last minute odds and ends.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Rob and I were married thirty-three years ago.
I remember the day clearly. I slept over at his sister's place and we woke early (after spending half the night dying her hair and setting mine in rollers) and went to St. Lawrence Market for fresh flowers that Rob's Dad arranged later. I didn't hold to the ban about the bride and groom not seeing each other until the church and slipped into our apartment for a quick hug. (We decided we would sleep apart for a week before THE DAY so THE NIGHT would be hotter.) I left to go up to my parents to hem my going-away pants. By the time, I was ready to bathe, there was no hot water and I had to sit in a cold tub. After, I took my rollers out and had lots of luscious tight curls that made me look like a little doll in my Victorian bonnet. A neighbour drove me to the church and, on the way, said that it still wasn't too late to change my mind. He would take me anywhere I wanted to go.
But I was in love with a fellow who borrowed a suit and wore a tangerine-coloured shirt to his wedding...
After thirty-three years, I am surprised I was so wise so young.

On to practical matters. Moving day. What to do with all the "stuff" we have accumulated over the last nine months? I have just packaged our printer for France and am pissed off that there is no surface mail to the continent while there is to Canada. This means that what I thought I was purchasing for our French house will have to be left behind. Inexpensive items, like a double duvet, but still it's such a waste.

I feel a tinge of excitement. My nomad heart is humming. I will be dancing on the esplanade soon.

And still there are regrets about all the things I could have done here and didn't. But, as my mother would say, "I did the best I could with what I had."

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Blogging. Does this derive from logging? Does it have anything to do with blot, blab, blurb or blurt?

I am becoming incoherent.

Shirley read my story at the Award Night and Vaughan and Wenda accompanied her (silently.) Does this sentence make sense? I just realized that the first letter of our first names all appear at the end of the alphabet. S, V, W, Y. This must be significant.

What did I do yesterday? Cleaned and messed. Went visiting. Met, for the first time, my cousin, Alan and his four offsprings - Alisa, Colum, Conor, and Thomas. Nice children. And then Alan's sister, Avril dropped by and drove me to Karen and Ian's where I drank red wine, ate pasta, salad, and crËme brulee; and as if that wasn't enough, Gill and I were presented with gifts - a silver pendant for me and a silver ring for Gill, designed by a famous Scot. I am overwhelmed by their generosity.

I finished "Life of Pi" by Yann Martel whose main character, Piscine claims that any reader will believe in God by the end of his tale. Pi is a Hindu, Christian and Muslim, all at the same time, sees no discrepancy, and takes his reader on a grisly ride across the Atlantic with a Bengal tiger. I would not rank this as one of my favourite books but I enjoyed the eccentric plot and good writing. At the end of the tall tale however I remain an agnostic.

This evening, I am going to Belfast for a last supper with my cousin Jill and her Church of Ireland man, Brian.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

I started cleaning out cupboards and everything is lying on the kitchen counter. I started sorting paper and everything is lying on the livingroom floor. I am fast approaching my incapacitated state.

I'll talk about yesterday. For the first time, I spent some time with my Uncle Tom, the so-called "black sheep" of the Kennedy clan. He says he looked after Steph and I when Mom went into the hospital to have Donna. He will be seventy in a few weeks and yet I see the dashing youth in my mother's photo album - a tall, slight, handsome man with the most amazing pale blue eyes. (Uncle Joseph has them too. I imagine they come from my Grandfather.) He is beautifully dressed in grey pants, maroon shirt, tie, and blazer. I am sloppy in pullover and cords. I apologize. He doesn't mind. We drive to Bangor and on the way he talks of buildings, pointing out Stormont, hotels he's eaten and slept in. We stop at the seaside town and wander, drive on and stop for lunch, drive on and cross the water at Portaferry on a small ferry boat. We sit in a pub drinking coffee. Tom says that he has never drunk alcohol, never had the desire. He tells me dirty jokes and I tell him a few. I was nervous about going out with him but I am soon comfortable.
We drove on to the Mourne Mountains, through the hills of Dromara and the panorama view was breath taking. To add to the mood, Tom played tapes of old Irish songs and sang along. I forget in all the grey and rain how beautiful this land is. Tom is in love with his island, north and south. He considers himself Irish, not British and I like this. (I don't know why anyone born in the North, with his or her lilting voice and unique culture would want to be part of another land.)

In the evening I met Margaret and David at The Four Trees for a quiz night in the pub. Margaret, the daughter of my Uncle Joseph, shares with me a dislike of mouth guards and more. She is quite lovely with beautiful skin and easy manner and compliments David with his wry smile and few words. (He is the only family member to share my love of books.)
Ken and Dolores join us and I, at least, enjoy the beastly questions and conferring over the answers. We didn't win but we didn't come last (nearly but not quite) and it was fun.

Today, I will clean up, sort through, toss out, and find my way to Megaberry and Hillsborough for more goodbyes.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Last night, I said goodbye to my line dancing class, promising to continue when I return home, promising pictures of me in cowgirl gear. While I danced, Gill wrote poetry:

"It's market day in Lisburn/ And I want to change the world/ Scream poetry from rooftops/ Bring life to tired streets." At the end of the poem, she writes: "It's market day in Lisburn/ And I'm only sixteen." (Hard to express the power of her poetry in just a few lines.) Another clip: "I return to my mother/ Who still hasn't eaten her scone/ From the bakery that's shut down./ She's praising a poet/ Reminding me to dream big... "

Today is my last market in Lisburn, my last coffee in Green's with Uncle Joseph.

I spoke to Bedding in France yesterday. She said it was 32 degrees in our village. "Oh dear sweet sun, please stay for me. Gill, too." We both need the warmth.

Tonight is the Award Night in Vancouver. My three writing friends will celebrate for me. I wish I could be there. Next time.

Strange, now that Lisburn has become a home, I feel my heart being dragged in three directions, not two.

Monday, June 09, 2003

Another night of not sleeping well.

I began and finished "The Devil and Miss Prym" by Paulo Coelho. Interesting tale of the good and evil that exists, according to Coelho, in all of us. He also suggests that there are rare moments in everyone's life that allow one to take conscious action for good or evil that change one's destiny. I was not entralled but I did read this thin book cover to cover.

Today, the sun is up and the street is dry. I hope it stays. There is no cold water in our flat so it is impossible to shower. Perhaps I will be able to clean up my act later on for my last line dancing class.

I'll probably pack some more and catch a train to PRONI. Still trying to gather some family links.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

I have tried all day to post my blog. finally at 8:45 p.m. I am able. Never knew that I was such a creature of habit.

Here's what I wrote early this morning:

I'm going to have a hard time writing this week. I'm moving into my befuddled snail space that always hits as I approach a departure. Today I lose my washer/dryer. Tomorrow I will mail one box to Canada, another to France. The next day, Gill and I will walk the microwave to my cousin's work. On Friday, we are out of here.

Yesterday, I went to the Lurgan Agricultural Show with Ken and ran into Uncle Joseph, wearing a judge's badge. (He also entered three sheep in a competition and won a first and third place.) He is a retired dairy farmer and showed me the difference between a dairy and beef cow, a Jersey and a Fresion (?). I have never stood so close to livestock. The big bulls with rings through their snouts and ropes attached to the rings, were big, sloppy, and rather frightening. After Ken helped Uncle Joseph load his sheep into a small trailer, we wandered over to the horse show - much more elegant than the cattle section - where women in fancy clothes and Easter bonnets judged teenagers sitting proudly in fancy riding outfits upon fine horses with braided manes.

Later, I walked over to Cherryfield, my mother's old homestead, and sat on the steps, dreaming of her as a young girl, my grandpa riding on the tractor, still standing but rusted in front of the house, and my grandma sprucing up the now derelict house with broken windows.

In the evening, Gill and I watched "The Hours" once again and then I began "Good Harbor" by Anita Diamant.

(I finished the book later this afternoon. Diamant's "Red Tent" was brilliant and so I expected a lot from this one but was disappointed. The plot was too simple, no rich layering.
This must be every writer's nightmare after writing a best seller.)

Saturday, June 07, 2003

The sun is shining and today, being the offspring of a farming family, I will attend the agricultural fair in Lurgan and view Uncle Joseph's sheep.

Yesterday, I snuck into the library, took out four novels, started one early evening, and finished at 2:45 a.m. There is something decadent about reading into the wee hours and not worrying about fatigue the next day.

When I called Easyjet, I found that only Gill's early morning flight to Stansted is affected so she will have to stay overnight in a hotel at London Stansted by herself. I am not keen on this but there is no other way. I'll worry that she will sleep through her alarm and miss the flight to France. Once a mother...

We also made signs, listing all the household goods we can't carry with us and stuck one on our front window and left copies with Karen and Ian at Cafedotcom. Hopefully someone will bite. If we can only sell the bed, we can recoup some of our expenses.

We also walked to Edna and Joe's to say goodbye. We are torn. This has become a second home and as happy as we are to move on to France, we are sad about leaving the folk here.

Friday, June 06, 2003

Last night, Gill went out to a movie and I drank half a bottle of wine and wallowed. Too many things roaming around my brain, plus the refrain: "This loneliness won't leave me alone. It's such a drag to be on your own." Travel and foreign places are stimulating but facing the day-to-day crap exists no matter where one finds oneself.

I thought I was organized and everything is falling apart. Easyjet just sent an email that their early morning flight to London Stansted is cancelled and now I have to find another way to get there in time for the flight to France. No matter what I do, it'll cost.
Auntie Isobel can't take my bed and I have to find a buyer quick.
The girl who was going to take our flat mid-month has been thrown her own problems and can't move so half a month's rent is no longer coming.

I'm feeling frustrated and helpless.

On the positive side, Rob called yesterday and he starts work today. He is pleased, at last, to be making money and displeased about losing his freedom.

Finished "Imagining Don Giovanni". I identified with Mozart's angst about creating and envied his genius.

I can't concentrate. Worry. Worry. Sometimes I feel as if I'm climbing Mount Everest yet know that my vision is blurred. All that stands before me is an ant hill. In a few days, I'll laugh about this. I hope.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Technology outwitted me this morning. I was unable to insert my blog. I saved it on MS word and will try now. (This is what I wrote this morning before running for a train. I will miss the ease of train travel.)

I am not keen on car travel and yesterday, we must have spent over eight hours in Ken's vehicle but the scenery was new and we played silly games as we drove down to Carlow and beyond, stopping awhile in this southern town while Ken had a business meeting. The town itself is not memorable except for the soft southern accent that Gill kept mimicking "won, too, twee."
After we drove through the Wicklow mountains to the coast, stopping in Bray for a meal, and on into the swanky part of Dublin. The traffic signs in the south are confusing. The distance is in kilometers. The speed limit is in miles. When one must slow down the sign reads "Calming Traffic." At a sharp turn, "Acute" is used. I am thinking of writing a short humorous piece using these words and others such as "dander" and "craic" and "What about you?"

We arrived back in Lisburn well after ten and I fell into bed with Mozart and Casanova but was too tired to read.

Today, I return to the Registry Office in Belfast. All is relative these last days in N.I.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Set my alarm this morning as Ken has a meeting in Carlow, south of Dublin, and is taking Gill and I with him. Gill loves travel as much as I do. Whenever we have the time and money (sometimes even when we don't) we're off to new regions.

Yesterday, while I explored the 1901 Census and 1800 Church of Ireland records, Gill studied - here the students are let out a month early for independent revision and study - and then wrote a poem. I wonder if Sinead Morrisey's poems inspired her. Sinead won the prestigious Patrick Kavanagh prize when she was eighteen years old, the youngest writer to date to win such an award.

I have begun Anthony Rudel's "Imagining Don Giovanni", a fictionalized account of Mozart writing his opera in Prague with the help of Casanova. Letters written by the Marquis de Sade from prison, also play a part. The story is described as "bursting with operatic gusto... a panoramic story of... artistic passion and philosophical awakening set against the background of the society balls, grand opera houses and inns of eighteenth-century Prague. The author has seduced me: living vicariously can be such fun at times.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Everyday I wake, make a coffee, check my emails, and wonder, "What will I say in my blog today? How much will I give away?"

I just picked up Sinead Morrisey's poetry book, "There was Fire in Vancouver," that was brought in from another library for me. Sinead is writer-in-resident at Queens University and led the writing forum I attended. The poetry - what I've read so far - is potent, wonderful. For instance, from "Gull Song": "I have nothing to fear in weather or distance-/ It is my heart pumping out/ It's own crumpled urges-/ The music of my loneliness/ That I cannot fly free from.

Gill and I went to market this morning after meeting Uncle Joseph for coffee. While sitting in Greens, Uncle Tom appeared. Tom has been called the "black sheep" of the family. Gill notes that we like black sheep. We have heard that he has a woman friend somewhere but he has always had a woman since his marriage dissolved many many years ago. He has invited Gill and I for an outing early next week.

I finished "James Miranda Berry" last night. In the Afterword, Duncker tells that the character actually lived from 1813 to 1859, serving as an army doctor. Mid-book, his mother tells her lover: "My life has been made safe by your money, and your fame. My child has protected herself, fought for herself, made her own life, earned her own name. And that was my doing. I set her free." I will not give the end away but the reader is forced to consider the price James Miranda Berry paid for her freedom.

Bren and I had a chat on the computer last night about aesthetics and creativity. He sent me a quote:
"There should be no separation between spontaneous work with an emotional tone and work directed by the intellect. Both are supplementary to each other and must be regarded as intimately connected. Discipline and freedom are thus to be seen as elements of equal weight, each partaking of the other."
-Armin Hofmann

I will leave soon for PRONI to check census forms - I would really like to sort out my ancestors before I leave.

Monday, June 02, 2003

Sunday was non-eventful. I washed clothes and sorted closets. I have accumulated much paper - bills, receipts, brochures, rewrites, miscellaneous - and have begun the shredding process. Two weeks today, I will be on my way to France.

The sun is shining so today I will return my second-hand books to used book store (hopefully make a few pounds) and go for a walk although I am moving slowly. Last night, I couldn't sleep and after several attempts, returned to "James Miranda Berry" and read till 2:30 a.m. Gill also had a restless night and woke at 5:00 a.m. We have exchanged sleeping patterns.

This evening, I dance.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Yesterday, I was in such good spirits. Ken picked Gill and I up at noon and we drove the Antrim Coast that looks across the Irish Sea to Scotland. This is the Ireland of storybooks - green green plots of land on hills both big and small, divided by hedges or stone, touched by whims, and spotted with sheep and lambs. We walked through the ruins of Ballycastle and drove further through the resort towns of Portrush and Portstewart with their multi-coloured rooming houses, games arcades, and miles of sandy beach. Granny and Grandpa used to bring their children here on holiday.

After, Gill prepared a quick dinner of scrambled eggs infused with peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, and herbs, and I walked to the Masonic Hall to meet Barbara and Eddy for a night of dance. What a riot. Barbara was my dancing partner and we did several slushes before the live band switched to country. Most of the women plus one man hit the dance floor and we impressed the drinkers with our line-dancing skills. If my friends could see me now - on the dance floor with a group of 60s and ups, kicking up my heels, pointing my toes, turning and twirling to the twang of a steel guitar. Where in Vancouver, I wonder, do people of a certain age, go to dance as these do once or twice a week? As I watch the couples move in unison, I think that this togetherness must spill over into other areas of their relationship.
Oops, I forgot to mention that at intermission, we played several rounds of Bingo. As they played for money, I enthusiastically joined in, glad that none of my acquaintances from Queens knew of my nocturnal life. I am, of course, doing research for my next writing project.

As Auntie Barbara and Eddie leave for Tenerife on Monday, I won't see them again this sabbatical and Barbara cried when she said goodbye - the mark of a true Kennedy.

Today, nothing is planned.

It will probably not surprise anyone to hear that I've started another book "James Miranda Berry" by Patricia Duncker, one of my favourite authors. The story is set in the nineteenth century and tells of a young girl who started training as a surgeon at age ten in disguise as a male - a disguise, according to the synoptic, that she maintained for fifty years. Although this seems impossible, Audrey Thomas, Isobel Allende, and another well-known writer - was it Atwood? - have written novels in the last few years based on true stories of women pretending to be men to allow themselves freedom of movement. We have come a long way.