December 18th, 2017


I am still struggling with the year-end post, and I may yet manage it, but in the meantime, I was thinking of one of my favourite moments from 2017. A few of my friends teach at a college campus in Oakville, and as you likely you know, college instructors were out on strike this fall for some very good reasons. I wanted to stand in solidarity with my friends, and with the hard-pressed college instructors in general, but me in Oakville on a weekday was not going to happen, since I work in Scarborough. I actually work around the corner from another college campus, though I know no one there. I went over one morning anyway with a batch of cookies, to offer encouragement and support.

Most of the strikers seemed to be elsewhere, but I found a few huddled around an oil-can fire–it was a cold day. I offered them the cookies and they thanked me warmly and promised to eat them all before their colleagues got back from wherever they were. “Are you a student?” one man asked politely.

I tried to explain about my friends and Oakville and wanting to be supportive but unable to miss work. I got a bit muddled and embarrassed.

“Oh, you’re just a nice lady, I see!” he exclaimed.

Sure. Or, well, I’d like to be. Maybe I’ll spend 2018 trying to live up to that comment. That seems like a good plan.

March 30th, 2016

Pages Unbound, hanging with students, literal and figurative frosting

In the endless drudgery that is novel-completion, I am very fond of anything that is not novel-completion. Especially things that make me feel writerly without requiring me to, you know, actually write anything. That sort of thing is really the icing on the cake of this whole career choice I’m making…

So getting to talk with a classroom of college students last week about reading and writing (along with my husband Mark Sampson and the wonderful professor (and friend) Nathan Dueck was a joy and delight. So was tagging along with Mark to launch his new poetry book, Weathervane alongside Dorothy Moahoney at the fabled Biblioasis store (it’s a lovely as I’d hoped!)

And so is the prospect of getting to take part in “Burst: New Voices in Canadian Literature” on May 6 as part of the Pages Unbound festival. The wonderful and talented Suzanne Alyssa Andrew and I will be sharing the stage with a bunch of other emerging types, and I’m so excited to meet and hear them. And to read a little myself, too!

Sharing what one has written is the frosting of writing, of course–it has to be, for if you are counting on publishing and ensuring accolades to sustain you emotionally or (heaven help you) financially, you might well starve to death. Writing as well as I possibly can needs to be enough for me because it would be easier to do almost anything else and no one wants to listen to me complain about something I could easily elect not to do. But I like this line: “If someone can talk you out of being a writer, you’re not a writer.” (it’s from this essay by Josh Olson–warnings: snark, swears)

So I write because I’m a writer and if it’s hard it’s my problem because I wanted to tell these stories. Them being written, and available for me to read myself is the sustenence here. But I do really enjoy the icing on the cake, giving the work to others and seeing what they think–so grateful the opportunities to do so that come my way.

Possibly, frosting is on my mind of late, because I was in the States last week (after Windsor it seemed natural to go on to Michigan and see some of the rockstars we know there) and a friend asked me to see if I could find any rainbow-chip frosting. Apparently it used to be available all over North American, then only in the States, and most recently no one could find it anywhere. I googled and found that the frosting had in fact been discontinued and is now coming back. I also found this insane video of a guy who who got 7000 people to sign a petition to bring back the frosting (!!!!) and then, when invited to a party celebrating his success, seemed absolutely terrified.

Anyway, I bought the frosting and my friend was delighted. I bought a tub for myself too and am really looking forward to trying it–can 7000 people be wrong? I can’t find a way to tie this back into the post or the central metaphor, but basically: you take your fun where you can get it.

January 5th, 2016

The best condiments

10. Maple syrup

9. Chili sauce (the sort of the thing rural people make from their garden tomatoes and peppers and bottle; not actual chili)

8. Chutney

7. Balsamic vinegar

6. Pickled ginger

5. Applesauce

4. Raspberry jam

3. Marmalade

2. Salsa

  1. BBQ sauce

August 30th, 2014

Wasted food tally, Week of August 23-30

It is with a great deal of shame that I post this, the tally of the worst wasted-food week in Rose-coloured Ranch history. I hereby pledge to do better.

–1 pint raspberries (liquefied in fridge for some reason)
–half of a litre jar of applesauce (grew blue mould)
–most of a 1-pound package of organic spinach (also liquefied in fridge; starting to have doubts about the fridge)
–3/4 full jar of Classico pasta sauce (fell out of the fridge and smashed; also many wasted paper towels, possibly destroyed slippers)
–1 raw chicken breast (fell behind some other stuff in the fridge while defrosting and was not found until paste the “questionable” date)

Things can only get better from here, right?

February 5th, 2013

Dumb Things People Say to Single Women

I’ve been married nearly 6 months now, and apparently starting to lose my single-girl cred. When I try to empathize with or add to stories of single life, I’ve been getting some as-if-you-know eye-rolls. This sucks, because I lived alone for 10 years, so I know a little about that lifestyle. Plus, when I actually was single, I tried to avoid too much complaining about weird comments people made to me. I didn’t want it to come off as  sour grapes. It wasn’t–by and large I enjoyed my life then, but not some of the commentary folks offered thereof. Now I wish I’d spouted off more when it was appropriate. Our society seems to give some sort of craziness license when it comes to talking to single women–you can say whatever you want to them, apparently, without worrying about coming across as mean, stupid, or a lunatic. Here is a small sampling of things said to me *in a friendly manner* when I was uncoupled:

Why don’t you have a boyfriend?
What do you eat?
How are you going to get home?
Don’t you want to get married?
You miss out on so much when you don’t have a partner–movies, parties, dinners…
It’s so hard to fall asleep alone, isn’t it?
You must hate weddings.

Oh, my gosh–I’m annoyed just typing. But I do understand that no one (almost) meant to me feel like a loser/zoo animal with these questions, so in case you are someone who wondered these things, I’ll try to answer below. And in case you are someone who gets these sorts of queries/comments, I’ll offer the best answers I came up with in my many single years–though honestly, I’m still at a loss for some of these.

Why don’t you have a boyfriend?
If I knew, don’t you think I would’ve worked on that issue? Hahaha! I know mainly folks meant the question rhetorically, as in, “You are so great, so what’s going on here?” But they did leave an awkward awkward non-rhetorical pause after the question mark, leaving me to suspect that beneath their so-called praise they suspected I was secretly spitting on my dates or poking them sticks or swearing celibacy or something else deliberate to drive them away. There is NO good answer to this question most of the time, and even when there is, it’s usually too personal to answer at a dinner party (eg., you’re not supposed to date in the first months of sobriety). But…
Best answer for someone you like: “Well, some people win the lottery a little earlier than others.”
Best answer for someone you don’t like: “I guess there’s something really wrong with me.” or “I prefer sleeping around, actually.”

What do you eat?
This question and its variants is surprisingly popular, which lead me, in harsh moments, to believe that many people equate being uncoupled in adulthood with being brain-damaged. Seriously, I know lots of people live in the ideal recipe-size of 4-person households, but surely people don’t ask this questions of childless couples, families of 3 or 5, etc? Do they really think lack of romance makes one unable to do fractions? Or order in? Or make a salad? Or eat leftovers?
Best answer for someone you like: “Whatever I want!”
Best answer for someone you don’t like: “I usually just have a fistful of cereal and cry myself to sleep in the bathtub.”

How are you going to get home?
Most of the questions here are just silly and don’t bug me, but this one, I’m still holding a grudge about in a couple cases. As a single female dependent on public transit, I considered myself responsible for myself, and I never made plans I knew I couldn’t get home from safely. I knew TTC routes, and whether I could afford a cab. If I understood the situation to be unavoidably dangerous (very very rare in Toronto) I simply didn’t attend. People casually asking if I knew how I was getting home–fine, that’s just thoughtful. Asking more than once, looking doubtful, implying that I don’t know how to transport myself safely around town–problematic.

I get more het up about this question when the asker implies I’m unsafe AND s/he is not going to do anything about it. For some, single women deserve to be unsafe, apparently. My brother always walks me to my streetcar stop and waits with me if it’s late, behaviour I find unnecessary but very sweet. It’s less sweet to make a fuss about me walking alone and then shut the door behind me! “Too bad you’re going to get mugged” seems to be the message there. Sob story: once I was walking home with a guy I thought was a friend and as we approached Carre St-Louis, he told me how unsafe he thought it was and how he always arranged his schedule to walk his girlfriend home through it if she was working late. I thought this was a long preamble to offering to walk to the far side of the park with me, but he simply bade me good night on the near side and walked off. After all these years, I’ve forgiven him, but barely.
Best answer for someone you like: “I know my way around; I’m pretty smart, you know.”
Best answer for someone you don’t like: “I have no idea. Could you walk/drive me?”

Don’t you hate weddings/talking about weddings/happy couples?
Seriously, the single woman=psycho shrew construction could not be more offensive. Even if said in a sympathetic tone of voice, this question still implies that to be single is to be so unhappy as to despise the happiness of others: nice. Yes, it’s classy to not talk *constantly* about one’s wedding planning to those who aren’t super-interested (how’d I do on that front, friends? I really tried!) But still, not being able to muster up a little proxy joy for dear friends’ celebrations seems awfully cold.
Best answer for someone you like: “Of course not. If I care about you, I want to hear about what makes you happy.”
Best answer for someone you don’t like: “Absolutely. Let’s just sit in silence for a while.”

Wow, this post is over 1000 words–guess I have some pent-up rage there… I didn’t even get through all my questions. I should try to put this stuff behind me, but not entirely–I think forgetting how it feels is where a lot of these dunderheaded comments come from. Empathy, people–it’s the only way!

Anyone got any single-girl (or guy) crazy comments you’d care to share?

September 17th, 2012

What Is Pirate Cake and How Do You Make It?

So here’s a post that has nothing to do with anything that’s been going on on this blog. On Saturday I made a Pirate Cake for my husband’s birthday and, when it went horribly wrong, I asked for help on Facebook forgetting that Pirate Cake is not an actual thing and people would be confused. They were, along with very supportive (and the cake survived, though it was darn ugly) and curious. So here is what Pirate Cake is and how you can have one too if you like, for anyone from Facebook or anywhere else that cares.

I grew up in a house without “bought cookies,” so though I learned about–and pined for–Oreos in the schoolyard, I am not familiar with some of the more esoteric brands. My husband, on the other hand, is obsessed with Pirate Cookies and when we got together they were often in his cupboards. They are flat dry oatmeal cookies sandwiches around peanut-butter frosting–same general idea as Oreos, but different flavours. They’re really good.

I like to bake, and once he suggested I *make* Pirate Cookies. This made no sense to me because they are so good in their manufactured form, but I did it anyway, and they’re also really good. The big advantage to making them yourself is that you can have as much frosting as you like.

Then we made Pirate Cookie Blizzards (and will be drafting a letter to DQ shortly) and, for a birthday a while back, I invented Pirate Cake. I bet you can guess what it is–an oatmeal layer cake with peanut butter frosting.

It’s delicious, and pretty easy, and if you’re not a moron like I am you’ll make sure the bottom layer is level so that the top layer doesn’t slide off at an angle and endanger the whole operation. This is not a healthy recipe, but I guess it does have more fibre (oatmeal) and protein (peanut butter) than your average cake.

WORD OF WARNING: Remember that I am a person who did *not* take the above precautions about the level cake base, and therefore should not be trusted to give advice. And yet, people did ask, so here you go–caveat emptor.

Oatmeal Cake
(This is a low-fat version I found that is identical to the one in Joy of Cooking except for slightly less fat. I’ve made both and they taste the same, so you might as well use the lighter one and have more frosting instead.)

1 cup quick-cooking oats
1.25 cups boiling water
6 tablespoons margarine (I use butter)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs (I use egg substitute because it’s both lighter and pasturized–you can eat the dough without fear of salmonella)
1.33 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
0.5 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
0.25 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch cloves
(I always omit the cloves, and next time I think I’ll omit all the spices–doesn’t completely jibe with the peanut butter)

1. Mix oats, boiling water and margarine/butter in a large bowl, stirring until margarin/butter is melted; let stand 15 to 20 minutes. Mix in sugars and eggs. Mix in combined remaining ingredients.
2. Pour batter into greased 13×9 pan (or in this case, two round layer pans) Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean, about 35 minutes (way less for the layer pans–start checking at about 20 minutes). Cool on wire rack 10-15 minutes.

When the cake is completely cool, you can ice it (if you don’t know what a mess you can make icing a warm cake, consider yourself lucky).

Unfortunately, my recipe for peanut-butter icing isn’t a real recipe with measurements or anything, since I invented it. You just kinda eyeball and taste until you feel confident. You’ll always end up with too little or too much, too, unfortunately–try to err on the side of too much.

Take a tablespoon of butter and 0.25 cup of peanut-butter, and leave them at room temperature until they are soft. I use the all-natural peanut butter, but you can use whatever–if you get the processed stuff, you might not need the salt mentioned later. Obviously, smooth pb would work better here, but if you make a mistake at the grocery store (I have) it can still work out ok.

When they are soft, squash them together with the back of a spoon. Add a bunch of icing sugar–half a cup–to the mixture, and squash that in. Then when you can’t add any more sugar, add a splash of milk (I use skim, but whatever will work) until it gets really runny. Then add more sugar until it gets really powdery. When you get close to what you perceive as the right amount of icing, taste, then throw in a dash of salt and taste again to see if you are happy with that. Then try to balance out the milk/sugar ratio until it looks like the consistency of icing.

Ice the cake. Decorate with whatever. Keep in mind that the icing will be beige, and not attractive, so you’ll want to decorate as much as possible. It’s occurred to me that I could use cocoa to dye some of the icing a richer brown, which I could then pipe onto the cake to decorate it, but I have never actually bothered to do that.

As you can see from the photo above, I tried to write “Mark” in chocolate chips, and it took me two lines for 4 letters, and also part of the R slid over the side when the top layer started drifting. This is basically as ugly as a cake can be and still have people willing to eat it, but Mark loves me and I love peanut-butter icing, so we tried it.



June 24th, 2012

Two nice things happened

I’ve spent the bulk of the past few days having mild food poisoning, so it wasn’t the best weekend of my life. But a few nice things did happen. Let me share, in case you too have food poisoning or other things you need to be cheered up about.

1) I was on the top floor of the Bay, headed for the down escalator, which was blocked by a woman trying to carry a heavy, awkward foldup stroller and lead her toddler daughter by the hand onto the escalator. Toddler was having none of it, and the standoff blocked my path. At first, they were just going to move aside, but then the woman asked if I could help her. I said sure, and waited for her to hand me the stroller. Instead, she hefted it onto the top step and said, “please take my daughter down the escalator. She is scared.”

Well, me too–for one thing, I know I am not a psycho but it’s not printed on the outside of me and what if this woman does this on a regular basis until she finds someone who is. But secondly and more pressingly, the little girl has started to cry. I took her hand, which soothed her somewhat, and when I stepped on she looked *really* worried but then followed me one stair later. But the second escalator (we were on the fourth floor to start) she balked. The mother was already half a flight down and the girl began to sob (I would put her at barely 2, I think). I gestured frantically at the mom. “Should I pick her up?” The mom, growing ever smaller in the distance, shrugged.

I scooped up the tiny thing, pressed her cheek to mine, and said what I say to the cat when he freaks out, “You’re fine, nothing to worry about here, totally fine.”

AND SHE STOPPED CRYING. This is what superheroes feel like. We went peacefully down the escalator after that. Her mother did not seem aware of the amazing feat that had been accomplished, but still thanked me profusely when I handed back the little one.

2) My beloved and I have been going to the same falafal/schwarma place once a week for about a year, always being served by the same very nice fellow who remembers our orders and tries hard to make small talk despite the fact that he clearly has a hard time with English words that are not falafal/schwarma toppings.

On Saturday, I went to pick up dinner alone (finally over the poisoning and excited to eat solid foods again). He asked after Mark and for whatever reason I told him we’re getting married, which he was pleased for and said is a good idea. I said, “Are you married?” and he said, “Of course!” I guess they don’t let you wear rings when you work with food?

Anyway, from this he went on to ask me where I’m from. I get this a lot, and hate it, but I do like this guy and I knew why he asked. We look a lot alike, him and me, as Semitic peoples often do, but we’re not all the same and occasionally that can be an issue. But after rebuffing my attempt at “from Hamilton,” he seemed relatively calm about the “Jewish” answer.

He turned out to be from Morocco, which I hadn’t been expecting. I asked him if he spoke French and he said yes. So very tentatively, I said, “Moi aussi. Un peu. Seulement lentement.”

Honestly, if you’ve ever heard me speak it, you know my French is basically crap–weirdly accented (I learned a lot of it from a woman whose first language was Chinese) and ungrammatical (I took a class on Quebecois slang, which imprinted itself rather deeper than it should’ve). I have a mid-size vocabulary and can generally make myself understood, but it’s a sad struggle. And of course, now I’ve lived in Ontario for a decade, much worse.

I have *never* had anyone praise my French more, or react with more genuine delight at my mangled conjugations. In the course of our brief chat en francais, it emerged that English is his *third* language, French his second (after Arabic) and he is much more comfortable in it. Indeed, he spoken very beautifully, without even a scary accent to throw me off (I have a hard time with accents even in English, actually).

I think he was just dying to have a somewhat normal, comfortable conversation in a language he can relax in, in the midst of what must be a long trying day in a language he can’t relax in. It was really nice to feel a bit of a connection there, across the counter.


Little things, but both really made my days. How was your weekend?

June 13th, 2012

The words “interview” and “review” both have the word “view” in them


Anyway, one review to post for you, with Ange Friessen at *The Toronto Review of Books* and one review of *The Big Dream
at The Quarterly Conversation. Both are viewpoints on me and my work, I guess. I’m still working through this linguistic discovery.

In less mind-bending but no less interesting news, Michael was in need of an easy rhubarb recipe and I sent him my mom’s, which he tried and blogged about. So few people appreciate rhubarb, so this is exciting. Also, judging by the photos, delicious.

April 7th, 2012

Rose-coloured and Mark review some Oatcakes

Remember when Mark and I used to do occasional audio reviews of sweets, which I would then transcribe for your benefit? Well, that was a really long hiatus but I got some new batteries for the digicorder and some oatcakes from TWO provinces, so we are back at it–enjoy!

RR: The samples have been consumed, and now…the verdict: New Brunswick oatcake vs Nova Scotia oatcake…Mark Sampson?

MS: Well, as far as I’m concerned, this was a brutal first-round knockout for the Nova Scotia oatcake. I mean, no offense to the good people of New Brunswick, but you don’t put a smear of date inside what looks to be almost an oatmeal…cake*. It’s not an oatcake, it doesn’t have that crispyness, that baked sensation, that taste that just kinda melts in your mouth. No, the Nova Scotia oatcake owned the day.

RR: They [NS oatcakes] were quite delicious. And–and–we have three more! What is an appropriate accompniment for a Nova Scotia oatcake.

MS: I think the only thing that’s acceptable is to have half of it dipped in chocolate. To give you that option of having it without or with something on the side sort of. I would say that if you’re going to do something different with an oatcake, dip it in chocolate, leave the dates at home. But for purists, the straightup Nova Scotia oatcake is the way to go. These are delicious, I think, these are some of the finest oatcakes I’ve had.

RR: They are from the Just Us bakery in Wolfville….I’m sorry I ate the chocolate one before I got here.

MS: That’s quite all right–I’m very happy with what you did bring home.

RR: And the New Brunswick oatcake is from The Bridge Street Cafe in Sackville.

MS: Well, I’m sure they do good work. I’m sure that they are a wonderful bakery with all kinds of delicious things to eat. This oatcake is not bad, but when you’re comparing it to a Nova Scotia oatcake, which could’ve just come right across the border. I mean they are just so close, Sackville is right there next to Nova Scotia…but no, no comparison at all.

RR: But will we eat these plain, will we eat them with tea, will we put jam on them? What will we do?

MS: I’d like to have one of these with a coffee. I think these would go over very well in the morning with a cup of coffee.

RR: Breakfast oatcake.

MS: Yes, indeed.

RR: Would you like to melt the bag of chocolate chips and pour it over one of the oatcakes?

MS: Why, I think that’s a brilliant idea.

RR: Tune in next time for “Altering Your Oatcake”**.

*Perhaps the tactical error was purchasing the date oatcake at all–they had plain ones, but I was tempted by novelty. My bad.

**We completely failed to do this and just ate the rest of them unaltered.

July 15th, 2011

England Days 2-5: Dagenham, Romford, Windsor, Camden, and Oxford

One thing that has always marked me out as a Canadian with American roots is that I don’t care much about tea. I mean, I’m happy enough to drink tea, if you’re putting the kettle on anyway, but I don’t find delight or solace in it the way so many of my fellow Canadians and, I’m told, Britons do. I don’t even care what you put it in–I’ll drink tea with or without milk, sugar, or lemon. If I don’t feel like getting up, I’ll drink it black.

But it was kind of delightful to drink a “proper” pot of tea on our first morning at Charlie’s. Given the extremely basic level of the room, I was shocked by the quality and generosity of the morning feast. Eggs, bacon (very strange looking bacon), all the toast and jam you could handle, tomatoes, cheese, croissants, and lovely tea–it seemed *richer*, without being stronger, than the Canadian bag-in-cup kind. Thus fortified, we set for the heart of London.

Everyone I talked to who’d been to London said the best part was just walking around looking at stuff, so instead of going straight to Russell Square, we got off the tube at Covent Gardens and just wandered around. It was a bit early to see much action there, but the day was lovely and fresh, and the buildings and old markets really are gorgeous. We wandered somehow to Piccadilly Gardens, which was terrifying–the most traffic ever in the world. We went to the Waterstone’s, a nice giant bookstore, and I finally got an A-Z map–then we immediately got lost. Or perhaps we’d already been lost, but hadn’t known it until we looked at the map.

Finally we gained Russell Square–Bloomsbury!! I tried to imagine Vanessa and Virginia Stephens, Duncan Grant and Maynard Keynes and all the rest walking briskly among the old townhouses (less old, then), having brilliant conversations about the next great thing in art, literature, furniture, economics. I didn’t entirely succeed, but enjoyed myself. We found a bookstore devoted entirely to the works Swedenborg, sat on the grass in Russell Square and watched the pigeons, and finally went and got something to eat from a grocery.

We carried our food to the front yard (garden?) of the British Museum, which was an absolutely perfect place to picnic. See?

The inside of the museum was pretty great too. Mark had wanted to go, and since it was free (well, a 3 pound donation is recommended, which is still pretty reasonable) I had thought we could just drop in for a little bit. But both the space and the exhibits were pretty enthralling. What I couldn’t get over was the Enlightenment Exhibit–the British Museum actually *existed* during the Enlightenment, and took on some of their collection on an as-it-happens basis. I have never seen anything like that.

After another grocery-store meal (they have really nice prepared foods in English groceries–who knew?), we went to see *Rosencranz and Guildenstern Are Dead* at The Royal Haymarket Theatre. We had gotten the tickets from of the 8 bazillion discount ticket outlets in central London, after seeing a single tiny poster for the show on the subway. Apparently, most people want to see *Shrek the Musical* or *Legally Blond, the Musical*, but I loved this play when I read it/saw the film, and wanted to finally see it live.

Totally great! The film, with Gary Oldman and Tim Roth’s portrayls of the title characters, is pretty firmly entrenched in my mind and I think many others’ minds, and it was so delightful to another brilliant interpretation that was so *different*–bawdier, goofier, just as weird but differently so. If you’re in London this summer, I recommend.

The next morning, we had another generous breakfast, this time including Red Leicester cheese, which I wanted to try because I hadn’t had it before. Turns out, pretty much like cheddar.

Then we hit the tube and parted ways, as Mark was off to Oxford and I was headed east of London to Dagenham. Dagenham is technically in another county (Essex) but such is the size of London that it qualities as a suburb and the tube goes there. There’s also a movie made about Dagenham, but I haven’t seen it and so can’t comment. Mainly Dagenham is where my friend K. teaches grade one (“year one”, I believe they call it), bakes cupcakes and remains awesome.

I was pretty proud of myself of getting myself all the way out there solo (over an hour, and without incident). It was also great to be reunited with K., who had left Canada a year and a half before. We hung out, ate chicken at Nando’s, bought underwear at Marks and Spencer, and went to the bingo hall in Romford. All the typical daily life of the residents there, which I was delighted to try out. Here’s me goofing around in the bingo hall.

Then to bed, because early the next morning, Windsor Castle!! I don’t mind doing touristy things when they are awe-inspiring, as Windsor truly is. After taking a train reminiscent of the GO (but with only one level), surrounded by the gorgeous and the posh on their way to a horse race (I think) also in Windsor, we got to this magnificent…fortress. Seriously, if you declared war on Windsor, you’d have a hell of a time getting in there. We saw all the stuff you’d imagine–Queen Mary’s dollhouse (I am a dollhouse enthusiast), lots of art and lofty rooms, and the best part, the changing of the guard with a random little show from the marching band. Here they are:

They we wandered Windsor proper for a while, before getting back on the train and heading into the heart of London, to the very beautiful Regent’s Park. Not only did the open-air theatre in the park have the most wonderous public bathrooms I’ve ever seen:

They have an amazingly huge and commodious theatre–not that the High Park Amphitheatre isn’t wonderful, but this one had actual chairs!! We saw The Beggar’s Opera. The set was so amazing it was copyrighted, as a very polite usher informed me when he made me delete the picture I’d just taken of it. The show was well performed, but at times hard to follow and…unimaginably filthy. What were people *like* in 1728? Oversexed and amoral, apparently. I was particularly stunned by the mega-meta ending, but it was a wild performance and exciting to be there.

The next morning we got a late start, ate a tasty Canadian breakfast (maple syrup!), and tried to go into town to drop my luggage off at Paddington Station, then go explore Camden Market for a couple hours before I had to get back for my train. This was the plan but…it was Sunday. I had been feeling very bad about how much better London’s subway system is than Toronto’s, but the nice thing about ours is that it mainly works every day of the week, while London’s becomes half-inoperative and entirely slow and baffling on Sundays. What should (I think) have been an hour’s journey turned into 3, with many crowded transfers. So by the time I finally left my bags and got to Camden, I had spent 17 pounds to be free of my things for less than an hour. Camden is very nice, I think, but all I saw of it was the Doc Martens’ store (wowsers!!) and a Pret a Manger, before i had to head back. And then of course the subway station we’d come out of had closed, and we had to walk to another one. My advice is not to use the Paddington left luggage if you’ll only be gone a short time, as it is the same cost for anything under 24 hours, and it’s very expensive.

After all that hassle, it was great to get on a train and just not transfer for an hour. It was still very warm on the train, though, and I hate sitting backwards, so it was even better to get *off* the train and find Mark waiting for me at the station in Oxford. After our merry reunion, we lugged my luggage (which I had grown to loathe) into the centre of town and had a little tour, before a delightful dinner at a centuries old pub. I had the mussels, which were younger than that.

Then we got on the Oxford city bus and went out of town about half an hour, to a place called the which is basically a rest area off the highway, although more advanced than the north American version–this one had restaurants, a mini-park. a grocery store, and hotels. We stayed at the Days Inn, which was very plain and cheap, but clean and comfortable and, thrillingly, had a door on the bathroom. There was a tea/coffee centre in the room complete with biscuits, and Mark had thoughtfully placed a Dairy Milk on my pillow. Hello, Oxford!

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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