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The Past, R. H. Thomson, the Pope and strawberries

Last night, Suzette and I had the pleasure of an event at Luminato, the huge Toronto arts festival – The Past is a Grotesque Animal, a play from Argentina, in Spanish. Four actors telling the story of four young people over ten years in Buenos Aires, told on an amazing revolving set that almost never stopped moving. Just imagining the rehearsal process for these superb actors, who were constantly walking and talking, negotiating the revolve, moving into the next set and scene, playing multiple characters, was exhausting. A unique and fascinating theatre experience, like nothing I’ve ever seen. Highly recommended.

And now – let the grunting begin. Just back from the market, spent ten minutes standing over the sink scarfing down fresh strawberries with groans of pleasure. MMMMM. Not even my favourite fruit, but fresh – yes. I also have asparagus and tomatoes, and fresh lettuce from my own garden for salad. Thank you, powers that be, for the wealth of produce in our lives.

Sitting on a tranquil weekend morning, reading the Globe, I see that the actor R.H. Thomson was recently honoured at the Gov. Gen’s Performing Arts Awards. R.H. and I were the two Canadians in our year, 1971-72, at LAMDA, one of the 3 big London theatre schools. Look where we ended up – he nationally celebrated with a prestigious award, I sitting in my kitchen telling you about my love for strawberries. And I think I’m the lucky one.

Bravo, Robert. I’ll never forget when we did Chekhov’s “The Three Sisters” at school and they cast you in the tiny role of the elderly servant Ferapont instead of one of the big delicious parts. They were testing you, challenging your shining talent. And of course, your Ferapont, with his clumsy Russian boots, was utterly believable and good.

I’m adding another name to my list of male notables – the right honourable Pope. How amazing that the man leading a massive medieval institution actually lives where we do, in the 21st century. Not yet on birth control, unfortunately, so all his talk of saving the earth doesn’t mean as much as it could when his followers are still forbidden to limit their children. A woman in my current class is writing about her childhood as one of ten children – of Catholic parents, of course. Her mother has 22 grandchildren, so far. And that’s one big reason there are far too many people on the face of this poor planet. But still – this miraculous Pope has come out with hard-hitting truths about climate change, immediately rejected by the neanderthal Republicans. When will our dear PM turn up his nose? Go on, Steve. We’re waiting.

Here’s today’s inspiring and true bon mot about writing, also taken from today’s Globe, an interview in the Arts section with writer Jonathan Galassi, a poet and novelist. The question was, “What scares you as a writer, and why?”

Writing is inherently scary. As Jonathan Franzen said recently, it gets harder – or ought to, as you go along, because once you’ve written about the surface stuff, you need to dig deeper, to talk about what you really don’t want to, or don’t think you can. Giving oneself permission to write to begin with is the first, enormous challenge. But you discover that this permission involves a requirement: To write about things that are difficult, because they are in fact your subject. These things are going to get written about whether you want to or not, whether you know it or not, because they are the reason you are writing – even if you think or maintain otherwise. You could even say that they are in charge, they are what is doing the writing.


You are not in control. And this is scary – until you realize how freeing and empowering it is. Another writer friend once said that people’s deepest secrets are on their face for everyone to see. Your secrets in fact are what bind you to others. They are what make your work worthwhile, interesting, readable. They are who you are. 

I wonder what secrets are written on my face – I don’t have many, because I tell most of them to you. A few, though, are tucked away in my forehead and cheeks. I’ll start work soon and frighten myself with my new memoir. But first – more strawberries.

American conservatives have shifted so far to the right that they actually consider The Pope to be a liberal extremist. 
Thanks to Point Counter Point.

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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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