My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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Bill Nighy’s Living and Beth Kaplan’s drinking

I’m sorry, but the new rules about alcohol strike me as absurd overkill. No amount is good for you?! I mean, people in France often drink several glasses of wine with every big meal. Are les français keeling over from cancer at a rate far greater than in North America? Surely we’d have noticed. Despite their regular wine intake, the French are just as healthy and alive as we are, if not more so because generally slimmer and fitter. Or am I wrong?

As someone with a son in recovery, I understand the difficulties and excesses, even sometimes the horrors of alcohol, and I do think emphasizing moderation is a very good thing. I myself have been doing Dry January, started on Dec. 25 because of Covid but continued to give my liver a rest. It’s been a month without wine, so tonight I broke the fast and sipped a bit. I’ll start again slowly, but a glass of wine just makes the meal more of an occasion.

And I believe in occasions. Today’s: seeing the movie Living with Ken. The film is slow, a bit laborious, but that’s not a problem because we get lots and lots of Bill Nighy, a closeup in almost every frame. The director was I think in love with Bill’s face, and so are we. An actor like no other – incredibly British and restrained, especially in a role like this, when the whole point is British and restrained, but sensitive, open, thoughtful – a beautiful human face, a beautiful human soul. 

A haunting film with many great performances and one spectacular one.

Very good news: Yesterday I went to see my doctor probably for the last time, because, as you know, she dumped me and my daughter, but not my son, randomly from her case load before Xmas. She explained that she’d thought when she took over the practice a large group would jump ship, but almost no one did. She couldn’t cope, so she had to throw some of us out. “There’s a chronic doctor shortage in Ontario,” I said. “Did you really think a lot of patients would leave?” No answer. Nothing to be done. 

But here’s the lesson: the receptionist at this family health clinic is a calm, sensible woman with whom I always chat when I’m there; I’ve thanked her often for her skill at keeping the place functional. This time, I confided my grief at being kicked out after 35 years at the clinic, and when I was getting ready to leave, she told me she’d spoken to the longterm doctor there, who’d agreed to take me on. 

I have a doctor! Incredible relief. Anna still does not, but I think I can help her with that.

Always pay attention to the receptionists, the secretaries, the gatekeepers, who have far more power than we know.

After the doctor, across town to get the boys from school, give them a snack, and read the first three chapters of the marvellous Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, which grabbed them immediately – a boy surviving a plane crash who must survive alone in the bush. We got the bus to their swimming lessons in a nearby high-school — a hot, very noisy room with scores of kids of all ages, Eli in one group doing a good crawl up and down, and Ben in another, mostly cannonballing into the pool. He’s compelled to jump. Anna has a fat futon in the middle of the living room floor, so Ben can hurtle and somersault and crash onto it upside down. 

I’m glad that if my boys ever have to swim to safety from a plane crash, they’ll be good at it.

To complete my joy, I received a rave review for the essay book from Kathy, one of the beta readers, who noted all my favourite lines because she liked them too. And then my doorbell rang and it was dear Nick with a jar of homemade soup. 

So many mitzvahs. Thank you, Kathy. Thank you, Nick. Thank you, Dr. Davis, and all the very young swimming teachers. Thank you sublime Bill Nighy, and the people who invented wine. 

RIP David Crosby. “Sweet Judy Blue Eyes.” “Don’t let the past remind us of what we are not now.”



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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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