Friday, October 31, 2014


I’m sad to be missing Halloween at home.

Our neighbourhood always gets huge crowds of kids (our area has a reputation for giving out loads of good candy) and I’m one of those people who likes to make the walk to the door scary and reward the brave kids that make it.

When we were little my mom went all out at Halloween – had us making gravestones out of Styrofoam to decorate the yard, sticking bloody fake limbs in bushes, it was fantastic. Elizabeth always made a fuss and complained when we got fake blood on her clothes, but even she would pitch in and string fake cobwebs up. Dad would procure all the candy to give out and supervise to make sure the horror was tastefully done. We each did a jack-o-lantern. It was one of my favourite holidays.

Out here trick or treating doesn't work – all the houses are too far apart. My nephew will be taken to a private party at his friend’s place and the rest of us will treat it like a normal night. But maybe I’ll get a pumpkin and my nephew and I can carve it and light it, just in case there are any spooks up here that need to be kept at bay.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Surprise Visit

Mr. and Mrs. Croft were just here!

They are touring the region around their new city and took Mary up on her invitation to stop by. They seem nice; I’m relieved! They’re a very sweet couple - clearly still in love, which isn’t something you see often. Mrs. Croft was very sensitive to the fact that they have taken over a family home and reassured me that they were not planning any changes and are committed to maintaining the gardens. She made a point of saying glowing things about Mom’s garden in the back, saying she finds it the most inspirational space for her painting. I appreciated her tact about it all - it could have been very awkward but wasn't.  It's a relief to feel like the house and Mom's gardens are in good hands.

Mrs. Croft – Sophy - mentioned her brother was recently married, which rendered me unable to speak, until I realized she probably meant the other brother, since it would make more sense for her to give us news of the brother that used to live in the area rather than the one that simply visited once. Mr. Croft later mentioned “Sophy’s brother is coming to visit soon” but he wasn’t clear on which brother, so I’m left to agitate until someone shows up. Am I in danger of seeing him again? I’m honest enough to admit that the thought does bother me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Jungle Adventures - by Proxy

Mary was miraculously better this morning. And what timing, since we've been invited to an evening gathering at the Lodge. The Musgroves have some friends visiting so it should be a nice night. I'm going a bit stir crazy up here, it will be nice to meet some new people!

I've been light on blog posts lately because I have been obsessing over my project brief that I'm writing to send to my old professor & her colleague. It's a summary of my non-profit literacy program idea - the general gist of the program, objectives, program elements, etc. They are expecting it in their inboxes on Friday. I am trying to get it down to three pages and it's killing me to cut so much - I want to cram in references to all the research I've done. It's the opposite problem compared to most university writing situations where you are making margins wider and increasing line spacing to make the document look long enough.  At one point yesterday I had convinced myself that a 10pt font document was acceptable.  (It's not, right?)

It will be wonderful to email this document out and get it off my mind. And to receive some professional feedback!


I failed to publish my earlier post, so you get this longer one.

I've just returned from the Lodge. It’s late but I’m not sleepy. It was a wonderful night. The Musgroves' friends turned out to be two women, a couple just returned from several months of research in the field. They both study zoology. It was fascinating to hear them talk about it; they had amazing stories about life in the jungle while on expedition - crazy things happen in the jungle! Also: malaria!

It was great to meet two people who are so enthusiastic about what they do and who are out living their dream. The evening flew by! Lousia entertained everyone with her new piano piece. We played cards. But mostly, we talked. It’s about the best you can ask for, really - good company and interesting conversation.

I am unable to sleep, maybe because of the stories about wild jungle animals chasing people through the wilderness, or maybe because I am busy puzzling over why it is so rare to have such a good night and so rare to meet people who have found their passion and are living it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A kind of sickness

I went down to breakfast this morning to find out Mary was ‘ill’. Charles told me this without any commentary except for a slight eye-roll.

I took Mary her toast and tea in bed and we talked. Apparently she and Charles had an argument during their drive yesterday. Mary tried to convince Charles to cancel the golf trip he is planning with his friend. I got to hear all her arguments against it, mostly about leaving her alone with their son (she didn't mention the nanny they have four days a week, Mrs. Musgrove, or me). Really it’s about the friend; Mary doesn't think he’s good enough and worries it hurts Charles’s prospects to be seen socializing with him. So Mary, in response to Charles refusing to yield to her wishes, is now ill. This is not unusual and will pass in a day or two when Mary tires of missing out on things.

I often wonder if it is possible for this belief in the importance of social standing to be a genetic trait. Did I miss out on that feature in the genetic lottery? Or is it taught? Did Dad hold classes on it with Mary and Elizabeth while I was outside playing? The three of them think this stuff is really significant. They will be friends with someone or not based on whether or not the person is rich enough or influential enough - to be honest, I’m not that clear on the niceties of what it takes to pass muster. I have my own snobberies about what I want in a friend, I’m not going to deny that, but I don’t care how much money someone has or how connected they are to a distant aristocracy that doesn’t matter anymore. I’m hard-pressed to think of qualities that would have less influence on whether someone is enjoyable company.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Mary went to visit the Crofts today. She felt it was “her duty as an Elliot”. (I think she felt left out of the process and wanted an excuse to meet them.) She and Charles made the trip to the city in the convertible, so there was no space for me. I happily stayed home and avoided the meeting. I hope the Crofts are pleased with the house and don’t think we misrepresented anything. I also hope they don’t think we’re being nosy, checking up on them just after they've moved in!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Photo Post

I'm babysitting my nephew today so no time for a real post. Instead, you get a photo of another wonderful street library I stumbled on before I left the city. I love these. Does your community have any?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Developing Friendship

My friendship with Bandit continues to grow. She now mostly responds to my commands. Unless a squirrel is involved, in which case all bets are off.

The daily walks with Mary have been put on hiatus, but Bandit and I have our regular morning walks in the woods together. It's nice to have company and still be able to enjoy the quiet of the woods. I particularly appreciate that she refrains from offering unsolicited advice on how to catch a husband.

Lately she tends to seek me out in the afternoons when I'm working at my computer. She lays down by my feet and makes contented sleeping noises. I think she appreciates the escape I provide from the 3-year old induced chaos of the rest of the house.  Whatever the reason, it's nice to have her around.  Charles is starting to protest that her loyalties have shifted to me.  :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Piano Practice

Piano has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Starting with lessons when I was six, at Mom's insistence. At some point or other all 3 of us took music lessons, but I was the one who stuck with it. Something about piano just clicked for me.  I love the challenge of a new song, how hopeless and frustrating it is at first, but how I can chip away at it bit by bit and eventually I forget that I once found it hard.

I've missed it the past few years - working crazy hours doesn't leave much time for practicing.

I brought my keyboard with me to Mary's so I can get back into shape. I filmed a practice session last week - it's nothing spectacular so don't get excited, it's just a practice session!  The yellow bird is what Mom would put on my piano to supervise my practices when she wasn't able to. She always told me the little bird would tell her whether or not I did my best. It's been a piano practice tradition ever since.

I'm always interested in suggestions for new music - so let me know if you have any favorites you think I should learn!

Click here if the video doesn't display below.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Q&A #2

Q: Why has Dad not re-married?

A: Well, I can’t say I've ever asked him this - we don’t really have that kind of relationship - perhaps you've picked up on that? He has made passing references to the ‘sacrifice’ he’s made for us girls, which make me think that he thinks he has stayed single for the sake of his daughters, which is… strange, given how little he was involved in our upbringing.

He has a lot of standards for the people he associates with. Any perspective partner would have to be from a good family, would have to be decently wealthy (or at least from a family thought to be wealthy), she would have to be flawlessly beautiful and perpetually young. Any sign of aging and I’m pretty sure he would toss her overboard. Perhaps that’s the answer - Dad prefers to date because when the women get too old for him he can go for a younger model. This sounds harsh, I know, but Dad himself would admit it - he hates seeing old, haggard faces (those would be his words). He is actually quite good looking, he looks much younger than his 55 years (which he loves to be told), so there are usually younger women willing to be his arm candy at gala events and whatnot.

Q: The Crofts are of retirement age, but you dated Mrs. Croft’s brother Wentworth, what?

A: Ah, yes that would be confusing. Mr. Croft has retired early; he is in his early 50s. Sophy is younger than him, just turned 40, in fact. She has two brothers and Wentworth is the younger one at 32. I know Wentworth was closer to his brother than his sister, though I think that’s mostly because Sophy was traveling, rather than the age gap.

Q: What is my worst fault?

A: This is a very introspective question to ask - way to be deep, Internet. I wonder what others would say my worst fault is. That’s probably a better way to find the answer.

I feel like others might say my worst fault is that I am overly serious - Dad and Beth would certainly say that. But I cling tightly to my level-headedness, even against all their disapproval. I think plain, sensible people are all too rare in the world. I wish I knew a magic trick for turning vain, silly people into serious, rational ones.

I would say my worst fault is being too soft. I hate to see broken things - injured birds, heritage buildings being demolished, beautiful objects broken. I wish I could dial down the caring more, be less sensitive. It doesn’t seem to serve any purpose, to be this sensitive, except to cause me pain and heartache.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


This local cafe won me over with their tea selection.

Definitely go for the Captain Hammer, am I right?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Morning Walks

Mary and I have been out for our morning walks two days in a row! Okay, it’s not a huge accomplishment yet, but let’s celebrate baby steps, let’s celebrate starting something! Besides, if you knew how much effort it takes to get Mary going, you’d make a big deal of two outings too.

Here’s how it went today:

Me, forcing myself to be chipper when I really just want to go back to my warm armchair and book: Come on Mary, it’s almost 9, let’s go. It’s beautiful out!

Mary, emerging from the bathroom, finally: Beautiful? It’s grey and dreary like it is every day.

Me: Well, it’s not raining, and it’s not freezing cold, so I call that beautiful. Where do you want to go today? Any photo ideas?

Mary, walking very slowly downstairs: I don’t know if outdoor photography is really my thing.

Me: But you were so enthusiastic about it last year - every walk we went on you were saying you wished you had a proper camera.

Mary: Did I? I don’t remember. Well, if Charles had gotten the right camera, maybe - no, I just don’t think it’s a good use of my skills to be wandering out in the woods, fussing with camera settings, worrying about lighting. You know, I took a great portrait of Charles a few months ago and sent it to his mother and she never said anything about it! And it was a very good portrait. I shouldn't be surprised, the Musgroves can’t appreciate good art, don’t have the education - you know.

Me, pulling Mary away from the living room towards the vestibule: Come out for a walk with me then, leave the camera if you prefer. I’m determined to have a daily morning walk, I would love your company.

Mary, frowning: Oh, Anne, you’re so demanding! You know, you shouldn’t always be thinking about what’s most convenient for you. I wonder if this is why you’re still single - men don’t like demanding women, you know.

Me, biting my tongue very hard, and handing Mary her coat: uh huh.

Mary: I wonder if Charles has any single friends we could set you up with while you’re here. It’s a bit embarrassing that you’re still single. And a mystery too, I mean just your surname alone should mean you have men lined up wanting to marry you.

Me, hastily putting on my coat and hat: I’m not sure I want to be in a relationship with someone who is only interested in the family legacy.

Mary: Yes, true, you have to find someone who is of equal stature - they should respect the family name rather than be in awe of it. Awe implies inferior standing. Still, if you wait too much longer then all you’ll have to pick from are divorced men - oh god, what if they have children? Stepchildren, can you imagine?

I managed to get Mary over this horrifying thought and out the door. Our walk was kind of short, Mary insisted on talking about men and dating and who she might set me up with and my patience ran out after half an hour. Not sure about tomorrow's walk, to be honest.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sick Days

I think I may be starting to understand Mary’s tendency to believe herself to be unwell all the time. Her life has been structured so that she is kind of unnecessary. They have staff to look after their son, staff to clean, the staff at the main lodge will prepare meals for them if wanted. The only reason for Mary to get up and do something is because she is motivated to do it. And it can be hard to be self-motivated all the time. Being sick excuses you, in a sense. You are allowed to stay in bed, or watch tv, or read a book all day long and no one judges you.

When I was working, every day the decision was made for me about what I would do; I would go to work. Weekends meant doing all the life-stuff that I neglected while working, plus whatever fun or relaxation I could fit in. It was exhausting, but on the other hand, kind of liberating - fewer decisions to make. Now that I have all this free time, I understand Mary better. She has never been a self-starter. I remember having to drag her with me when I went to do stuff as a kid - trips to the bookstore or playground; she would go, but only if someone made her. And if you didn't make her do something, she would complain about being bored. Now there is no one to make her. On some level, I think she feels bad for not doing anything, so she goes for the sick excuse. Maybe she’s been doing that so long she’s convinced herself of her ailments. I don't know. Writing it out I feel bad, maybe Mary has a chronic issue that just hasn't been diagnosed, maybe I shouldn't judge.

I’m trying to convince her to join me on my daily walk, to get into a routine. I suggested she take the fancy camera Charles got her for her birthday and we could do photo walks. Tomorrow will be day one; let’s see how it goes.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Alone in the Woods

One of the things I love about being out here is the access to nature - it is so immediate and I've been taking advantage of it to go for frequent walks. I went for a walk today along one of the many trails. It’s so easy to think that you are the only person left in the world when you are out in the woods - so much so that I had a scare when I turned a corner and nearly walked into someone! Just someone from a nearby chalet going for a walk like me, nothing actually scary. Goes to show how in the clouds my head is when I walk.

I came back from the walk energized - which is the kind of thing I hear about but doesn't usually happen to me - and made some great progress mapping out some specifics for my literacy program. I've got a possible core program laid out with future expansions, I've sketched out the funding needs - I feel like I’m getting somewhere. Still a lot of research to do, but, it’s been a good day!  My old professor connected me with her colleague in early childhood development and I've got a deadline to submit a program summary to her for comments - that's excellent motivation. 

My nephew is pulling on my arm now so productivity for the moment is at an end; it is apparently time to play!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


I have become the dog walker, apparently.

This is Charles' dog, Bandit. Which is a terrible name for this lovebug of a dog.

She was mostly indifferent to me (I don't feed her from the table) but now that I am associated with fun times in the woods, I'm moving up in the ranks.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Good People

The Musgroves are good people. Their house is always lively and warm and welcoming. I quite enjoy their company and appreciate that they do their best to make me feel like family. Or, to be more accurate, make me feel appreciated and valued in a way my own family does not.

Dad always complains, despite no one asking, that The Musgroves are not ‘refined’ enough for his tastes. But their wealth and standing in society were ‘sufficient’ to allow Mary to marry the eldest son. The Musgroves, in contrast, just want their kids to be happy and support whatever choices they make in life. I think that Mary married up. Mary takes a view closer to Dad's. She often has impolite things to say about some of the Musgroves' extended family or guests. It is hard to meet Mary's standards.

It was funny when I first got here. Everyone was happy to see me, and it was very nice. But not much was asked about the fact that we had just rented the house and were all relocating to Bath. No one had any curiosity about it, or any apparent appreciation for the fact that renting out one’s family home might be emotionally trying. It’s not any reflection of the Musgroves, I don’t think - it’s how people are. Something might be a big deal in your own immediate circle of family and friends, and it is of little or no concern to those outside it.

It is a good reminder - that whatever Dad might think of the importance of our “standing in society”, people really take very little notice of what goes on outside their own circle of people. For now, I will wrap myself up in Musgrove happenings, do my best to forget Elliot drama, and be happy.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Decision Postponed

Someone was kind enough to email and ask if I have made a decision about grad school vs launching my project. The answer is complicated. No, I haven't decided. The thing about grad school is that the timing is off. The application deadlines are in February and, if successful, I wouldn't start until September. I will continue to think about applying to grad school while I also continue to work on my project over the next few months. In a month or two I will have to make a real decision. If asked, I would say I am 60% decided on just going ahead with the project (or trying to, at least). But ask me tomorrow and I might say differently.

I’m hopeful that being here will help me focus and be productive. I'm certainly being well-fed which is important for fueling the brain, right? Please tell me it's helpful to be stuffing myself with huge dinners every night, because I don't think I can refuse without Mrs. Musgrove being offended. She already looks at me funny when I say no to a second slice of pie at dessert.

Speaking of dessert - check out the cupcakes I made with my nephew:

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Night Out

I went out last night with Rietta and Louisa - to small club in the nearby ski resort town. We saw a really great band play and it was wonderful to get out and catch up with the two girls. Mary was invited but a combination of not feeling well and the band not being well known enough to warrant going out kept her at home. I can't say I mind.

I learned that Rietta is enjoying her internship for the most part. She's happy to be done with school but isn't very excited about finding an interesting job in her field afterwards.

Louisa, who has never been very enthusiastic about school, has switched majors twice already and is embarking on a new scheme in January to study abroad. She wasn't specific about what she would be studying, I think the 'abroad' part was all that mattered. She is very excited about living in England and is convinced she will meet an attractive Italian man in her travels and apparently this is the epitome of everything. I'm not sure if I'm too old to understand or if this particular cause for excitement is unique to Louisa. She does have the ability to get feverishly excited about things that are just of mild interest to others. It is an amazing thing to behold. I sometimes wish I had that force of excitement in my life. But then, it must be exhausting.  According to Louisa, the band we saw was the 'best ever' and she wanted to stay after to catch the band leaving the club so she could bump into the lead singer who was 'fall over hot'.  We talked her out of this plan, thus dashing this opportunity for two soul mates to connect and start their life together.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Home No More

The Crofts are moving into Elliot Hall in today. Obviously this is no surprise, this is the date we all agreed on, but now that the day is here, I find myself quite agitated by it.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Dinner Conversation

The Musgroves made a big fuss about my arrival last night at dinner, making me feel very welcome. At the moment it is just family here. Here’s the rundown (all names changed, of course):

Mr. & Mrs. Musgrove: married 35 years, kind-hearted, they live to socialize at home and are happiest with a big party of easy-going people around them. They aren’t the most…. cerebral people ever, but they are very warm and generous and cheerful. Mr. Musgrove has a law firm that does well. Mrs. Musgrove raised the kids and now often takes on nephews and nieces and cousins for extended periods - anything to have kids around.

The Musgrove’s kids:

Lousia - their youngest daughter, she is 21 and enjoying a semester off, a consequence of changing programs, I think. She will be traveling to Europe to do a semester abroad in a few months.

Rietta - the eldest daughter, she is 23 and just graduated from university. She is doing an internship locally and living at the Lodge until she finishes.

Charles - their son, my brother-in-law; see previous post.

Dinner conversations with the Musgroves go something like this:

Mr. Musgrove: So, Anne, your father and sister are gone? What part of Bath* do you think they’ll settle in?

Louisa: I hope we go to Bath this winter! If we do, Dad, we have to stay someplace better than last time. We were so far away from everything!

Mary: Well, it looks like it’ll be very lonely for me here with you all gone to Bath.

Rietta: The new theatre in Bath is due to open next month; I've heard they’re putting on a special modern adaptation of the Nutcracker for Christmas.

Mrs. Musgrove, to me while the others talked about Bath: I’m very glad you’ll be here for a while, Anne. Your visits are usually so short!

Me: Thank you! You’re always so welcoming, I enjoy it here.

Mrs. Musgrove: Well, you’re part of the family - where would we be without family? Louisa - you have to play that piano piece for Anne later, I’m sure she’ll love it.

Louisa, interrupting her conversation with Rietta to reply: Ok, Mama, but I have to warn you Anne, I’m terrible! I keep practicing it but I don’t seem to get better. Maybe you can help!

Anne: I’d love to hear it; I like works-in-progress.

I don’t know if that conveys it - the dynamic nature of conversation around the Musgrove family table. It’s quite funny to be part of - half the things said aren’t responded to, but no one minds. It’s all in good spirits, except when Mary gets into a fuss over something.

It’s a nice change from my recent solitude, probably just what I need to get out of my funk.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

New But Familiar Surroundings

I'm someplace new! This morning I met Lacy for coffee and a good chat and then drove up to Mary’s.

I will see Lacy again at Christmas and we will head to Bath together after. I really enjoyed having more time to spend with her since I moved home. I always chat with her regularly and email tons, but there’s something about seeing someone in person that is just better. When we met for lunch the other day, she arrived late, I could see her scanning the cafe for me and her face lit up when she found me - seeing someone happy at the sight of you is the kind of thing that nourishes the soul. I didn't quite realize how much I’d been missing that.

So where am I now?

I’m in a somewhat secluded area that shall not be mentioned, in a very cute and comfortable cottage. (Can you call a 3 bedroom plus office house a ‘cottage’? For some reason we do.) Mary and her husband (Charles) and their three year old son are up here for the winter.

We are near a popular skiing area and it is lovely here in winter. It’s rather isolated - a 25 minute drive to the nearest pub or store, and two hours to the city, so when here one generally spends a lot of time going for walks alone and hanging out with all the family.

Mary’s husband is a lawyer - he works from home and spends a lot of time golfing. His family is quite well off and he will inherit a business and a legacy when his dad passes away, so there’s never been much pressure to develop a big career.Charles’ parents own all this land, including the cottage and the main lodge. They like to spend the fall and winter here when they can. It’s big enough that their various children and siblings and friends can come to stay. They like to have as full a house as possible. I've spent time here before and Charles’ family has been very welcoming. I feel quite at home here.

[I've added to the list of who’s who here to help you follow along. ]

When I arrived at the cottage, I found Mary laying on the sofa, ‘ill’. This is not unusual.

Mary, barely able to lift her head from the pillow: “Anne, thank god, I thought you’d never come! I’ve been so sick all day and everyone just left me here. No one has checked up on me since this morning! And I feel so terrible.”

Me: platitudes and cheerfulness

Mary: “You would think Louisa or Reitta would have called or texted or something to see how I was feeling, they know I’m unwell. And why didn’t you come earlier? I thought you were coming yesterday?” [Louisa and Reitta are Mary’s sisters-in-law.]

Me: “I said in my email that I would arrive today. And here I am to help make you better! Can you eat something?”

Mary: “Oh no, I haven’t been able to eat since yesterday, I’m too sick. You know Charles left me here to go golfing!”

Mary continued complaining for a while, absentmindedly following my lead and snacking on some cheese and crackers from the tray that Charles left for her.

With enough cajoling and distractions and forced cheerfulness on my part, Mary perked up considerably. I consider it a point of pride that I’m able to sometimes get Mary to stop being silly and get on with things. This time, I talked her into going for a short walk to get some fresh air and visiting at the lodge so I could say hi to everyone.

The Lodge is exactly what you want a ski lodge to be, a great wooden chalet building with a giant living room with a substantial fireplace. The Musgroves almost always have someone staying with them; it’s a rotating door of visitors. They welcomed me warmly, like they always do.

I’m glad to be here.