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featuring today: Bill, Jian and Ellen

Spent yesterday morning madly cooking while listening to Jian Ghomeshi, yet managed to be out buying groceries when he read out my letter. The day before, he’d interviewed the Books Editor of the “Guardian,” about his article bemoaning the increasing number of fact-based films and books. I found and read the article and, as ever, couldn’t resist adding my cents worth. For those of you who might be interested:


Jian, what a provocative interview, and what a silly man. As a writer and teacher of non-fiction, I was riveted.

Skidelski said artists should be using their imaginations to explore the human condition, which he posits happens only in fiction. As if memoir, creative non-fiction and fact-based films like “The King’s Speech” or “the Social Network” are NOT imaginative explorations of the human condition.
“The King’s Speech” may feature an obscure member of the royal family, but it shows us a wounded man, maltreated as a child, finding in adulthood a teacher and friend who restores his faith in himself. “Social Network” reveals the misfit outsider, selling his soul and yet not finding what he most wants. These are universal stories.
To call them, as Skidelski does, “lightweight pedagogical aids” that devalue creativity is simply idiocy. As for the death of the imagination and of fiction – I guess that’s why those novels about a teenage wizard have done so poorly.
When I came in with my groceries, there were 3 messages waiting from people who’d heard it. Margaret was outraged he didn’t deem it the letter of the day. “Overturn his recycling bins,” she commanded, since she knows Jian lives nearby. But I would never do that. He is a most charming young man. I, like half of the female population of Canada, have a little crush.

I was cooking for a small dinner party, using the cookbook I got recently from the library and will actually buy when I’m rich: “Plenty,” by Yotam Ottolenghi. It is the most superb, delicious book, full of pictures so delectable that you want to eat the paper. It’s vegetarian not, he explains, because he’s a vegetarian, which he’s not, but because he loves vegetables so much. I made “Roasted parsnips and sweet potatoes with caper vinaigrette” to go with a roast of pork (from a small Stratford farm) cooked in a wine and shallot sauce. Oh my.

My guests were my dear friend Anne-Marie, who used to work for the Catholic social justice organization Development and Peace and now continues that work with the Jesuit Forum, with her esteemed boss, the Jesuit priest Bill Ryan, along with Wayson and my very tall son. Bill was mesmerizing, as in his very long life, he has lived and travelled all over the world, which he is trying, in a gentle yet single-minded way, to change for the better. What a pleasure, on a cold January night, to have good company and hot food. Bill said he’d never eaten such good vegetables. Thank you, Yotam Ottolenghi.

And thank you, Ellen Roseman. My other triumph of yesterday came thanks to Ellen, the financial columnist and expert. She teaches us in her talks and columns to enhance our finances not just by trying to bring in more, but by trying to dispense less. When I read my financial statements on-line yesterday, I suddenly was aware that there’s a monthly bank charge on every account, even a dormant and nearly empty savings account – $2 a month – and an almost empty U.S. account I use when I need to send American money somewhere, also $2 a month. My chequing account charge: $8. That’s $12 a month, or $240 a year, I was paying to the Royal Bank for the privilege of keeping my money in their fine premises.

So I called Dave, my bank manager, and in 10 minutes on the phone, we had switched all the accounts to ones without fees.

Today – with my newly-saved $240, I’m going shopping for shoes!

Just kidding, Ellen.

P.S. Ruth’s piece on abortion has provoked 355 email responses on the “Globe” website so far. There are a few hate-filled rants, but most of the responses are appreciative, thoughtful and moving.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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