Thursday, January 29, 2015


First of all, I will be sure to convey to Lacy your comments about her letter. She does have fabulous handwriting, doesn't she? Jealous.

Jane sat down with me today and went over the gist of their program financials. Sobering. My estimates weren't that far off, but they were low.  We had a great discussion about the tension between starting a bare bones program and struggling versus trying to drum up enough funding to start properly and hit the ground with resources. They started out very bare bones and it was iffy for several years which nearly wore Jane and Emily out (and there's two of them). She's encouraging me to secure a fairly high minimum amount of funding before I launch, especially as I'm looking to operate in a more expensive city. It's advice I'm taking seriously.

Anyway, these are all details that are probably not that interesting to you, but it's where my head is at these days. It's a weird head space, actually. I live with Dad and Elizabeth who, despite all they have, are often fixated on what they don't have - the 'sacrifices' they make.  Elizabeth wanted to get a new, bigger table for the dining room to allow for bigger dinner parties, and she made a point of showing me the table she had fallen in love with ($12,000) and telling me she wasn't going to buy it, given our 'situation'.  On the one hand, it's progress that she is voluntarily realizing she shouldn't be bleeding money we don't have - yay, but on the other hand - does anyone ever need to spend $12,000 on a table?

It's going to be a real struggle to raise funding to start my program, I know this.  And this for a program that tries to address a basic aspect of education for youth in our city - a wealthy city in a wealthy country. And I live with people who think $12,000 for a table, and $5000 for a living room chair are reasonable ways to spend money.

I'm looking forward to getting my own, modest, place again (a long way off still). I live between two worlds right now and it's jarring.  I spend my afternoon with kids who generally come from poor families who get excited about the fun, book-filled space that Jane and Emily have created because they don't have any books at home.  Then I come home to this lavish townhouse with Dad and Elizabeth or I go to social events full of wealthy people who spend more on flowers to decorate their hallways than some people make in a year.  

I guess I'm struggling to find my place in this messed up world, like everyone else.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

From Lacy

At some point last month I told Lacy I was blogging. It felt weird to keep the existence of this rather significant part of my life a secret from her. I appreciate all the support you all give me - the comments and questions and distractions on twitter when I desperately need distracting. This blog and all of  you have become important to me.

Lacy was keen to read the blog but I told her it was anonymous and I couldn't bear knowing that someone I knew in real life was reading it – I don’t want to have to censor myself here. Lacy is respecting that, so anonymity is preserved.

She did make me promise to post something from her. So, here you go, a message from Lacy to you all -  unedited, except for blacking out her name:

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Lacy and I met for tea today at my favourite cafe and I found out that she had been at Ms. Dalrymple's dinner the other night, along with Will. She reported that she and Will talked about me a great deal.

Lacy: Will was sad to miss you at the dinner on Friday but was delighted by the fact that you snubbed Ms. Dalrymple to visit a sick friend. He admired your compassion and agreed with me that you are the finest of women-

Me: Lacy! You did not say that!

Lacy: Sure I did. And he said much more, agreeing that you were a rare example of someone with status, morals, manners, and wit.

Me: This is too much. Please tell me you’re joking.

Lacy: I’m afraid you must suffer under the knowledge that Will and I agree that you are an excellent person.

I blushed at this, as I always do whenever someone makes a fuss over me, but I have to admit hearing such high opinions of me created all the warm fuzzy feelings that I’m sure Lacy intended to create.

Lacy: I am no match-maker, as you know, but I will point out that if Will should ask you out at some point, it would seem to be a very good match - and I would wager a happy one.

Me, laughing at her seriousness: Will is very nice and in many ways I think highly of him, but we would not do well together.

Lacy, ignoring me: I admit to also liking the idea of seeing you with someone of means. You’re so like your mother and I know you could do good things, as she did, in a position that provided you with the opportunity.

Lacy clearly had Will and I married to each other in her imagination, and probably living in my family home while Dad stayed in Bath! For a moment, while she was speaking, I was attracted to the idea. (I should take care to note that Will and I are not related by blood even though we share a surname). Picturing myself back home and finding ways to use Will’s family wealth to do good in the world… and I wouldn't even have to argue about keeping my name.

But, the happy picture faded away quickly.

My heart is - well, forget my heart - Will doesn't quite pass my judgment. I've known the guy for a month and don’t feel like I really know him at all, not really. He is more sensible than many people here, and he’s charming and good to talk to, and seems to have a good sense of right… but I distrust this image of him. References he’s made to the past make it clear he wasn't always as responsible and upstanding as he is now. Perhaps he has changed for the better, or perhaps this is a phase. He is not an open person - I see only what he wants me to see - he is always very measured and controlled in all his reactions, where are the unplanned bursts of feeling? I find it hard to trust in the sincerity of people who never slip up and reveal their true feelings. While it probably sounds weird, I think he is suspiciously charming. Everyone finds him charming - my Dad and Elizabeth, and everyone else…. How is it possible that so many very different people can all be pleased by him? He is able to bend and shape himself to be pleasing to everyone, which makes me think I don’t see the real him anymore than anyone else does. He and I have spoken rather openly about Clara’s presence in the house and the potential badness of Dad’s connection with her - he sees as plainly as I do what she is up to and he views her with contempt, yet she finds him as pleasing as everyone else.

No. Will is fun to be around, but something about him doesn't sit right with me.  Maybe with time I'll change my mind though. Lacy is certainly advocating hard for him!

Saturday, January 24, 2015


I remember in my Q&A telling you all that I have to choose my battles with my family about social engagements. Well, last night was an example. I've been visiting my friend Alicia lately but haven’t mentioned anything about it to Dad or Elizabeth, since I know they wouldn't be interested. Today I had to mention it because Dad and Elizabeth had, without consulting me, rsvp’ed for me to a dinner invitation from Ms. Dalrymple for tonight. I was not sad to miss the Dalrymple party, but had to explain why I couldn't go. I told Dad I was expected at my old school friend’s place. They were annoyed and asked me who this friend was and upon finding out it was a recently divorced, ill, friend named Alicia Smith, Dad released a diatribe:

Dad, red in the face: Mrs. Smith? And who was she married to - one of the ten thousand Mr. Smiths of the world? You would rather spend your evening with a sickly Mrs. Smith than your own relations? Than with Ms. Dalrymple? Anne! Everything that others shun - low company, bad neighbourhoods, all these things seem to attract you.

They did their best to put off my visit to Alicia to save them the embarrassment of me reneging on an invitation. They tried employing Lacy’s assumed disapproval, but I was able to counter them there because Lacy knows all about my resumed friendship with Alicia and has even dropped me off at Alicia’s apartment building.

Dad: how shocked they must have been, in that neighbourhood, to see Lacy’s Mercedes pull up! Imagine that - a poor, Mrs. Smith, the commonest family name in the country, is preferred by Anne Elliot to her own family connections who have roots in the nobility of England! I’ll wager this Mrs. Smith is busy calculating how she can exploit her lucky connection with you to advance her position in society. Divorcees are always desperate and calculating.

At this point in Dad’s tirade, Clara, who had been in the room for everything so far, thought it best to leave. I was strongly tempted to make a cheeky remark, but managed to hold my tongue and leave it to Dad to realize that Mrs. Smith was not the only young divorcee/widow with a common name and poor finances who is graced with the friendship of our family.

I held firm and we all kept our respective appointments, quite disgusted with one another. Welcome to my world.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


There’s this little girl I’m volunteering with at the reading program. She’s seven. Painfully shy. Didn't speak above a whisper the first two times we met. But today - today I found the key to her, the thing she loves so much that she forgets she’s shy when you talk about it: her cat Spangle. I found a book about cats and we sat down to read it and she did so well! I checked out the book for her so she could take it home and when her mom picked her up, I suggested they read it aloud to the cat, if the cat would cooperate. We’ll see how that goes.

It was a small moment, hardly of global importance. Just a little girl speaking with confidence and enthusiasm, but it was wonderful. There’s so much in the world that works to tear us all down, it feels so good to be part of something that helps build a person up.

On the reading front, in a totally different way.... I've been thinking a lot about this Ron Lit video on George Eliot.  This ending thought in particular: "whether in seeing only the surface, you miss out on stuff, or whether in looking for a depth that you can never be certain is there you just represent your own thoughts and you don't get any closer to the truth of the matter."

Sunday, January 18, 2015


Last night I went to a party. Elizabeth made me. She actually walked into my bedroom carrying a dress for me and informed me that I had to go with her. It went like this:

Beth: Anne, don’t argue, please. You have to go with me. Will was supposed to be my date but he’s been delayed by business stuff and can’t make it until later. You can wear my Versace dress - no one in Bath has seen it yet. It will look great on you! Can you be ready in two hours?

Me: Uh. What party is this?

Beth - rolling eyes: The Lee party, I've been talking about it all week. Very exclusive invite list. At the [fancy location redacted]. Catered by the best chef in Canada? Ringing any bells?

Me: Yes, right. And Will bailed?

Beth: He didn't ‘bail’, he’s running late.

Me: He told you two hours in advance that he’ll be late?

Beth: Yes, he’s very considerate. You’ll come, right? Kay is coming to do my hair now, I can send her in to try and do something quick with yours when she’s finished mine.

Me: Uh, sure.

Beth - handing me the hanger with the dress on it: If you damage this dress, I will disown you.

(This is not me but it is the dress.)
The dress was pretty amazing - slinky and form fitting while still being classy. I decided to go for it, own the look, have a night out where I play the part of confident socialite. See what life is like as Elizabeth. I can work the social scene when I have to, I have skills. I let Elizabeth’s stylist do something pretty with my hair and makeup. When I walked downstairs, Elizabeth smiled with approval.

Early on in the night I think Elizabeth was regretting loaning me the dress instead of wearing it herself. It was an amazing dress and I got a lot of attention. It was mostly superficial attention - the kind Elizabeth thrives on and I grow weary of after about an hour. I flirted with a few guys, had one serious, interesting conversation, ate amazing food, and only hid in the lobby pretending to read important text messages once.

In the cab on the way back, a tipsy Elizabeth got sincere with me for a minute and thanked me for going. Will had shown up to the party quite late and had been kept busy by others; Beth and I didn't see much of him during the evening. Beth doesn't really need a date for a party, she’s more than fine on her own, but if she rsvps with a +1, she would be mortified to show up alone. It’s a strange way to help your sister, but, I’m glad I could be there for her.

Friday, January 16, 2015


Desperate for news and hearing nothing from Mary lately, I texted Charles today.

Apparently Louisa is still in Lyme, but she is recovering and everyone is very relieved.

He said Harvey, Sara, and Ben have been very helpful, spending time with her when no family members are there. It’s good to know Louisa is surrounded by good people. Hopefully she’ll be home soon, her usually, cheery self.

Charles also texted me this photo of Bandit. He says she spends her days in the guest room where I stayed, pining for me.  Sweet Bandit.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Not much to blog about. I’m basically spending every day at the reading program, helping out however I can, getting to know the kids and hearing from parents about what a difference the program has made. It’s all very motivating!

It’s not just reading, you know, kids in programs like these show improvement across the board usually. Imagine being a kid who isn't confident reading aloud - imagine the misery every day at school must hold, waiting in fear that you will be called on to read aloud?

 I’m still a bit nervous around the kids, worried I’ll say or do the wrong thing and cause a setback. I've gone through the training they give to all their mentors and tutors and it inspired me to pick up some new books on early childhood development so I can better understand what’s going on with the kids and how best to help.

It would be so amazing if I could get this project going and spend my days doing this - making this kind of positive impact on kids. I feel a bit greedy for wanting to be able to do something so awesome.

I came back from my volunteer session yesterday and tried to share my enthusiasm over dinner. Dad, Elizabeth, and Clara were too distracted by an invitation they'd just received for an afternoon brunch at Ms. Dalrymple's.  Apparently there is some concern over who else has been invited to the event and whether or not it would be advantageous to go. It was discussed at some length.

It's okay, I'll be visiting Alicia soon and I know she'll share my excitement, and in the meantime, I've got some reading to do so I just excuse myself when the conversation turns to social strategizing.

Monday, January 12, 2015


I had my first volunteer session with the kids today and it was a whirlwind.

I’m not used to being around so many kids and their energy!  (Spending so much time with my nephew recently certainly helped prepare me.)  Though once they settled down into their reading sessions, it was wonderful; kids settled on bean bag chairs, at tables, in arm chairs - they each pick the spot they like best and hunker down for a session. These kids - they want so badly to be better readers and this program gives them a comfortable space to learn, it was wonderful to see their enthusiasm and comfort.

It was a good day. I also had coffee with Jane and Emily, the two masterminds of this program, and started to pick their brains about everything. There’s something so wonderful about meeting solidly good people. Aside from the fact that I can learn a ton from Jane and Emily - it's fabulous being around them and hearing them talk so enthusiastically about the amazing work they do. It’s inspiring and empowering. Their encouragement of my plans is powerful fuel.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Seeking the Positive

I am even more amazed at my friend Alicia than I was when we met last week.

She married a man she loved and went through the agony of the breakup and divorce. She is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis which confines her to a wheelchair currently. She was well off with her husband but he irresponsibly invested much of their savings and since the divorce she has been reduced to living in a basement studio apartment.

She has changed from the confident, tall, elegant girl I knew as a teenager into a small, frail thing - but her spirit is not reduced, she is as warm and uplifting as I remember her being. Just being with her lifts me out of my funk; I don’t know how she does it. She has lived in the world and is now forced to live a very restricted life and it has not closed her off or made her bitter. She has a disposition to turn towards the good, always; I wish I had that, I wish we all did. What a world that would be.

When her arthritis lets her, she knits and crochets beautiful items and sells them through a local shop here. It's amazing what she can make with yarn and some sticks, I'm very impressed. We've got a date in a few days where she is going to try to teach me how to knit. I've warned her that it has been tried before and hasn't stuck but she's keen to try and I'd love to be able to do it, so.... we'll see!

It's really good to feel like I have a friend here. I was worried I would be quite lonely in Bath, but it's turning out to be much more pleasant here than expected!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Not a Criminal

My police record check is complete and I am clear to start volunteering with the kids this week! I’m so looking forward to getting more hands-on experience!

Thursday, January 8, 2015


Will was at the house this morning, meeting with Dad, and happened to catch me as I was leaving for a walk, so he joined me. We were having a good chat about books as I try to convince him to read more classics - last time he attempted it was in high school and I told him that's a terrible introduction to a great selection of writing. We ended up down by the water until the cold wind drove us into a cafe to thaw out. He was very funny, recounting conversations he overheard at the Dalrymple New Year’s party.

Will: I was looking for you and noticed you disappeared just before midnight. Did your dress turn back into a pumpkin?

Me: Hardly. I was assisting a young lady who was…. feeling unwell.

Will: You spent midnight on New Year’s Eve with a drunk socialite?

Me: Didn’t you?

Will, laughing: Yes, yes, you have a point.

Interesting to know that Will was looking for me just before midnight - I understand from Clara that Elizabeth got his midnight kiss, though she had to seek him out to make it happen.

Before you get any ideas: I view Will as a harmless flirt. I enjoy our conversations, I enjoy the ego boost he gives me by being so interested in my conversation, and I really enjoy his witty responses, but I’m not foolish enough to think he means anything by any of it. Poor Elizabeth, on the other hand, seems to be trying to read something into his every look.

I tried to ask Elizabeth once about why she dated so little and she told me about her List - the list of qualities that a man had to have before she would consider dating him. It was very comprehensive, covering everything from family background, social standing, wealth, job prospects, fashion sense, and facial symmetry. I tried to gently suggest that it was possible there were no men that met all those criteria, but she laughed and said there certainly were, they just didn't live where we did so they were harder to connect with.

If I were to play psychoanalyst for a moment, I would say that Elizabeth had created in her head the ideal man and was using him as an excuse to never risk her heart with anyone. I wonder why though. I mean, I know what it’s like to love and have your heart broken and while I haven’t had a lot of success finding love again, I have tried. I didn't lock myself away. As far as I know Elizabeth has never been in love before. Sure, she was keen on Will all those years ago, but I think that was more her in love with how perfectly suitable he was, more than being in love with him. But maybe I’m wrong. After all, she doesn't really know about the love of my life, my heartbreak; stands to reason I wouldn't know about hers either.

I wonder how many secrets there are among all us Elliots.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


While everyone else was all agog to ingratiate themselves with our illustrious distant relative, Ms. Dalrymple, I was renewing an acquaintance of my own - an old school friend that lives in Bath. 

Alicia and I were close friends when I was fourteen, when I lost my mother. She was kind to me when I most needed it. She helped me get through many school days where I didn't think I'd be able to hold it together. I honestly don't know what I would have done that year if she hadn't stepped up and supported me. Sadly, her family moved away a few years later, and we lost touch until I found her online recently.

She is newly divorced and having financial troubles because of the settlement. She used the divorce as an opportunity to move and came here to see a specialist for her severe arthritis.

I went to her place to see her yesterday and after some initial awkwardness we connected again - found that while both of us had changed, we still enjoyed each other’s company. We had a great afternoon, laughing over old times, laughing at our teenage selves and how innocent we were. It was wonderful. She has the same sense of humour I remember loving her for all those years ago, and this ability to make you forget all your woes. Despite her serious health problems, she was very cheerful. I found her very inspiring. I feel like she is once again helping save me from my own sadness, just like she did 13 years ago. Life is funny.

Good friends are good. And rare, it seems.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Fire Lit

I had the best day!

 I met with the organizers of the local literacy program for kids - and they are aaaaaamazing. They were very generous with their time and advice when I told them what I was hoping to do in [city name redacted]. They offered to take me on as a volunteer. I’ll be working with kids in one of the after-school programs and I’ll be helping in the office with admin stuff so I can see that side of things. It’s an incredible opportunity - this program has won awards and the results they get with the kids are very impressive. They’re a perfect model for what I want to do. 

It was so wonderful to get positive encouragement about my project!! I've been in my own little bubble about this project, it’s such a relief to connect with others who are passionate and supportive - I did't realize how much I needed that.

Elizabeth and Dad are uninterested in this new development, of course, but Will is coming over for dinner shortly and I know he'll appreciate how great it is that I made this connection.

So excited!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Q&A #4

Most of the time I try not to think about how many people are reading this blog. I mean, I knew people would, I guess that was the point - otherwise I would do a paper journal like normal people. But when my inbox fills with questions and comments from you all - it’s a startling reminder of how many of you there are.

The least I can do to thank you for the interest you've shown in my anonomized life is to answer some of your questions, the ones it suits me to answer, anyway. So here goes, Q&A time!

Q: How it is we see Will so much?

A: To be honest, I hadn' thought much about how weird it might be that he spends so much time with us. He tends to stop by the house frequently to discuss business matters with Dad - they are both major shareholders in a company that is in crisis and he likes to strategize with Dad. Sometimes he’ll come over for dinner. He lives in Bath and has lots of friends here; I've bumped into him a pub when he’s out with others. It’s a small city, so even if he starts out the evening without us, we may end up at the same place.

Q: Given all the differences between me and my siblings and dad, was I adopted?

A: I've had the thought, believe me! No, I think I am just like my mother while Mary and Elizabeth take after Dad. I seem like the odd man out just because Mom isn't here anymore.

Q: Any word on Louisa?

A: Just from Mary to say that the Musgroves have put Lousia in a private physio facility in Lyme to ensure she recovers as completely as possible before returning to the Lodge. Her trip to Europe has been postponed, and her semester abroad is uncertain as well, which must be disappointing for her. Mary is sparse on details, mostly she speculates on why Wentworth stays away so long, and pesters me to email Ben. I hope to hear more about how Louisa actually does next time I talk to Mary by phone - she and I tend to talk past each other via email.

Q: How do I feel about all the partying and social events I seem to go to? (I’m paraphrasing this one to be more polite, the original question was… rather critical of me for moving back home and spending my time going to parties.)

A: One thing I learned with my family long ago was that fighting their will on certain matters can be more pain than it is worth. They are very set on having their way, so if I want to do something different, I have to really want to fight for it - even if it is just to stay home. So, yes, often I go to the parties because it is expected of me. This is part of the whole social standing thing that I hate - there are expectations of me as ‘an Elliot’ and it is somehow detrimental to Dad and Beth if I don’t do my part; I don’t fully get that. Sometimes I go because I want to - I love going to concerts and musical events, that’s one thing Beth and I have in common. Sometimes the events are at our house and I am not allowed to hide from the guests, however much I am tempted (I’ve tried). And sometimes I manage to avoid the things and stay home alone with a good book or a bit of work, and those times are joy.

The other part is that - this is my family and as much as I complain about them and make fun of them and am baffled by them, I do love them. If my attending a party or event can make them happy, then even if I don’t want to go, I sometimes go. That’s what you do for family, right? Put aside your own preferences to be there for them when they want you?

Q: What are my plans for the future?

A: I have stared at a blinking cursor under this question for a while. I guess I don’t talk about it here very much. I think people are more interested in the social and life drama - my career plans would be boring stuff in comparison. But maybe I’m giving you the impression that I’m happily sitting in the lap of luxury with no intentions of getting on with my own life - am I? To some degree, I suppose it’s true. I’m recovering from a setback - getting laid off sucks - and I have been struggling to find my drive. It’s been a rough few months. However much I shrug it off on the blog, in real life I have a lot of time to be at home and have my thoughts prey on me. I try to work on my non-profit project and right now I feel very hopeful about it! I don’t know what my future holds though - that’s a daunting question for everyone, isn't it?

Friday, January 2, 2015


I’ve decided to take Will’s advice and make the most of my family connections.

I’m going to get Ms. Dalrymple to contribute to my non-profit. And, I’m going to get her to use her network to make this a huge success. This year, my resolution is to take a new approach - forget trying to get money from those who are passionate about causes (which seems to correlate with not being flush with funds), I am going to tackle the people who want to contribute to causes to make themselves look good. With the right positioning, I think my project will stroke the egos of several people in Dad’s social circle. Elizabeth and Dad work so hard at social networking, time to put that to use!

Have to run - Will is coming by for lunch.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year

Happy New Year!!

Thank god all the stress over connecting with Ms. Dalrymple is over. Dad somehow arranged a lunch meeting on Dec 31 and we were accepted as social equals which apparently raises our standing in town considerably. Great.

So much fuss over such nonsense. If we were actually close relations, or if Ms. Dalrymple was an interesting person worth such agitation, maybe I could understand it - but how can you know that before you’ve met a person? All the fuss is all simply because she is ‘important’ socially. I find it embarrassing to see my family fall over themselves to get in with someone just because society says they are desirable to know. I expressed something along these lines to Will the other day when he was over:

Me: [insert various complaints about my family making a fuss over someone who isn’t worth a fuss]

Will: I will admit she is not particularly interesting or clever, but as a family connection and good company, she has value.

Me: Good company? I thought good company was clever, intelligent, caring people with good conversation skills and wit.

Will: Anne, that’s not good company, that’s the best. Good company only requires social standing and education, and actually, education is often negotiable. You’re shaking your head, you’re not satisfied.

Will, smiling and sitting down next to me: Is being this fastidious likely to make you happy? Wouldn’t it be wiser to accept the society of the Ms. Dalrymples of the world and enjoy the advantages of the connection? Through them you gain access to high society. And having your family - our families - known to be connected with them raises our status.

Me: Yes, we will be known to be related to them! I guess I have more pride than any of you - to be embarrassed that we have fallen over ourselves to be noticed by them when I’m sure they are totally indifferent about us. I’m too proud to enjoy the welcome of a society that depends entirely on place and connections.

Will: I love your indignation!

The end result of our efforts to get connected - we were invited to the Dalrymple NYE bash, which is apparently the shiniest event in town. Both Dad and Elizabeth were elated about this turn of events. Admittedly, it was a very elaborate party in a beautiful heritage home by the water, so I was a little bit excited myself (give me a chance to poke around a beautifully maintained heritage house and all my moral qualms disappear). 

As a reality check: at midnight I was holding back the hair of a young girl as she vomited up expensive champagne in the very fancy bathroom. It had wonderful marble and chrome detailing though, so thank goodness we fussed and got ourselves an in there!

Hope you all had an interesting start to your year!