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California Dreaming 😎🌴

When I was in my 20s, my mom and I set out on a road trip to attend the annual Santa Barbara Writers Conference, held in Montecito, California, a small and wealthy community now home to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, not to mention the Queen (Oprah Winfrey). We’d seen an advertisement in Writer’s Digest magazine and were drawn by its list of speakers, as well as the ‘regulars’ who hung out at the conference such as Ray […]

Walk with me.

Willesden in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. Pepys Road in John Lanchester’s Capital. St James Park in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. Fitzrovia in Ian McEwan’s Saturday. Brick Lane by Monica Ali. Smithfield’s Market in Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations. The National Theatre in Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other. Notting Hill – okay, not a book, but it’s a hard heart who doesn’t love that movie. Cities are fertile terrain for books and movies. They’re inherently dramatic, people tumbled on top of each other, chasing survival or wealth, love or escape, buzz or tranquility, safety or disruption.  In big cities, […]

Lesvos: one-eyed cats, black-clad grandmas and the clip clop of donkeys delivering the fish.

“You should come to the village,” my friend David Layton said. “It’s where the severed head of Orpheus came ashore, still singing. It’s also where Golding wrote Lord of the Flies. So, it has good pedigree; it’s a place to compose.” I booked an Aeroplan seat four days later. I’d read David’s remarkable memoir, Motion Sickness, years after it was published but shortly before meeting him. Our mutual friend Priscila Uppal loved to throw parties that involved karaoke […]

An Irish State of Mind.

I’ve been missing Ireland a lot, especially after my friend Aisling sent me pictures from the green fields of Cork in response to the last newsletter while I slipped along Toronto’s icy sidewalks trying to get my hour of pandemic lockdown exercise in. Normally, I’m in Ireland two or three times a year. My father is buried in Mallow, County Cork, in a grave with his parents and brother William (an Irish thing). And I have […]

First Footing

(and, yes, an explanation of why you’re receiving this…) When I was growing up, my Scottish mother always insisted that we have a ‘first foot’ through the front door just after the stroke of midnight on New Year’s to bring good luck for the coming year. Not just any pair of feet would do, mind you. They required a tall, dark-haired man to be walking himself across the threshold, preferably a lump of coal in […]

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