Tuesday, 27 November 2012

See? It's Already Tuesday....

In fact, Tuesday is nearly over now as I write these lines, still remembering what an interesting weekend I spent in Marseille. For anyone coming to LE MAS BLANC WRITER'S RETREAT in future, I will be promoting a visit to this city, and will probably recommend travelling as I did, by train, into the central St. Charles station, rather than trying to drive -- as negotiating the crowded and often narrow streets is a nightmare scenario for anyone not already accustomed to it.

These shots that follow don't show Marseille-the-port-city so much as they indicate what caught my eye and made the trip special in a visual way.... That is, they aren't identifiable as "Marseille"  -- except that the colour and energy and movement in this urban street art could hardly happen elsewhere. It surely doesn't exist out here in the vineyards... Here's one garage door that caught my eye as I passed...

Yet again, a photo has come in sideways, but you get the idea,
this is really a wonderful painting however you look at it
 And here's a shop front with the painting sprayed on the metal shutters that pull down at night. Such marvellous inventiveness -- and such a great 1970s look! (Saw a lot of 1060s and 1970s art, which to my mind seems quite recent but is clearly VERY retro to the young who are having fun with it...)

This one caught my fancy, something cheerfully bubbly about it.

And just one more before I say goodnight. This little scrawled heart on a blue wooden shutter seems to me so perfect in itself  -- it's heart-breaking, really... Who drew it? and why? Ah, there's a song coming to mind now, I can hear the first notes...
Plaisir d'amour ne dure qu'un moment... Chagrin d'amour dure toute la vie.....

Ah, c'est vrai, c'est vrai...

Monday, 26 November 2012


Well friends, here we are on a grey old Monday, like so many other grey old Mondays it has a kind of comforting sameness about it... We know that this too shall pass, we can relax a little. Tuesday WILL come, this won't last forever...

Here are Pierre and his sister Danielle in the restaurant
Le Nautica des Gourdes, outside Marseille
 Not that I have any reason to complain about this Monday, having spent the past weekend in Marseille with dear old friends -- what a great combination. An exciting port city that is pure pleasure to discover by foot (we walked for hours), and the delight inherent in good conversation that has its foundation in times past. Indeed, more than four decades have passed since I was teaching Theatre Arts in Timmins, and met Pierre (then a student who had a part in a play I was producing) and his sister Danielle (then a teacher in another high school). And now we find ourselves walking the streets of Marseille (where Pierre lives), a far cry from Timmins -- or even Toronto, for that matter, a city we all still love.

Even though we don't often see each other, we  continue to share many interests in common, among them an enjoyment of fine food &wine, and a love of reading. Although we did have a marvellous lunch in a seaside restaurant in Les Gourdes outside the city, I have to say that the next day's lunch prepared by Pierre was equally delicious. Talking and eating and laughing, accompanied by a good red wine -- what could be better? Let me urge you, dear reader.... invite someone for lunch as soon as you can!

Sunday lunch at home with Ian, Pierre and Danielle,
absolutely divine (tiny stuffed pumpkins, for a start!)
Marseille offers marvellous opportunities for photography, and I couldn't resist hauling out my camera several times a day... The narrow streets, the port full of sailboats at rest, the splendid architecture of public buildings such as the Prefecture (political power & pride exemplified in stone), the happy jumble of people in street markets where vendors are selling everything from watches to clementines to fresh fish...All of it was asking to be captured by a click of my shutter, and of course most of it now resides somewhere behind my eyes in memory...The trick is, of course, to find the words to keep it all fresh.

This view of Notre-Dame de la Garde seemed a dramatic close
to the end of a perfect day exploring Marseille

Thursday, 22 November 2012

And FURTHER....(re: School Days)

Well, now that I'm in school-teacher mode, I have a few things to say, so listen up....

No, just kidding, as is my wont... But it IS true that I did develop certain strict & stern habits of character over my years in the classroom... and also  before that, as a copy editor and proof reader, in my first job,  back in the Golden Age when publishing companies actually DID hire young university graduates to make sure that there were no errors of any kind -- typographical, factual or grammatical
 -- on the page of any book they published. We learned to care, deeply -- our jobs and our lives depended on it -- about perfection. And we abhored mediocrity, which  was associated with careless and shabby English usage as well as a host of other sins.

I was reminded of this recently when someone drew my attention to a blog -- www.jenniferneri.com -- in which Jennifer, bless her heart, remarks on how she's seen  me on television, delivering a half-hour talk (videotaped at Humber College many many years ago) about how important I think it is to "get things right" ... And she quotes me as saying that I believe the world has enough mediocrity,  that there is already an abundance of of mediocre books, we don't need more. What we DO need are writers with huge hearts and open minds who care deeply and passionately not only about their subject matter but also about the craft of writing itself... language, punctuation, grammar... the tools and the material out of which we make our literature.

I so appreciated being quoted by Jennifer, and I felt perhaps I'd encountered a kindred soul, until I read a little further in her blog and found that HUGGAN (the name I took when I married, as I preferred it to my father's name) had been altered along the way to HUGGINS.... Now, that's carelessness, which leads to mediocrity... And it's a good reminder to me, too, as in writing a blog one can  so easily slip into "chatty mode" and not pay attention to particulars...I like Jennifer's blog a lot, but this did shake me...and reminded me to look to my own flaws and faults.

For example, I neglected to give a photo credit to my dear friend SANDY (who took the shot of me with Michelle, who runs L'Atelier), in the blog post a couple of days ago. Sandy was Sandra when I met her back in 1978 at Carleton University where she was a journalism professor and my husband Bob was taking his Masters in Journalism on his sabbatical from Loyalist College in Belleville.  She and I were of an age and we struck up a good friendship then, which has carried on even though she's now living in Canberra and has become an Australian citizen, and I find myself  continuing as a Canadian but living in France. We keep in touch regularly, see each other frequently, and have one of those marvellous connections that is  really life-sustaining.

Where would any of us be without our friends, eh? Well, that's another blog for another day.
Maybe tomorrow...


Long ago, in another time and place -- seems now like another universe as well as another century -- I was an Ontario high school teacher, in places as diverse as Oakville, Scarborough and Timmins. I taught English and Theatre Arts and what was then called Mass Media -- remember those days?

In the decades since then, I've been much happier using whatever skills I acquired in the classroom to lead creative writing workshops instead -- smaller groups of motivated students make an enormous difference to a teacher's ability to transmit information, to encourage and direct and support. Everybody ends up happier and healthier when class size is limited... And so I watch  with much interest and concern and sympathy the struggle going on right now for Ontario secondary school teachers in their negotiations with the provincial government.

This week, I visited a local high school, the Lycee Jacques Prevert,  in St. Christol-les-Ales, a small town a few kilometres from Tornac. Through my friend Aline at TEAPOTES in Anduze, I recently met Edith,  a young Frenchwoman who teaches English, who asked me to come to her class to speak about Canada. In the designated program of study this term there's a chapter on "Britain and the Commonwealth", and it was in this regard that she asked me to talk with the students. For one thing, so that they could hear a Canadian English accent, as opposed to the English-English they might hear on this side of the pond... and for another, so that I could talk about how Canada was "a colony" a long time ago, but nowadays enjoys a very different relationship with the "mother country"... and perhaps explain how the Commonwealth was exactly what the word implies... an economic sharing of financial bounty among 54 countries in a fashion much more equal and mutually beneficial  than in the days of the empire.

Edith chose only 15 students (from a class of 35)  who had prepared by reading a short story of mine called "End of the Empire" (included in my second collection YOU NEVER KNOW), which concerns the way that Canadian affilation and affection began to switch from England to the United States during the 1950s.  But this period seemed so distant to the students, who had none of the cultural references (King George VI or Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys), that I had to do much explaining of "how times were different then".

The students -- all of them 16 -- were terribly shy and embarrassed to speak English even though I amused them by speaking their language in my awful "Anglo" accent, assuring them that they couldn't do worse in mine.  As we spent our hour in the library, the agony of being a high school teacher came back to me full force, and this was an EASY, pleasant little visit... Trying to capture and keep the attention of teenagers is a hellishly difficult task!

But we did have a pleasant hour in the end, although I must say their interest in the Commonwealth -- or in Canada's role -- was minimal. Their questions for me about my country were steeped in stereotypical imagery (snow, mountains, Niagara Falls, hockey, maple syrup) and when I asked if they knew any Canadian artists, writers or musicians, you know what they said. Yes, Celine Dion.
Still, I am glad to have been invited... I'd nearly  forgotten how utterly charming adolescents can be... Here's a view of Edith and some of her students, the photo was taken by Molly, a young woman from Colorado who is working at the Lycee this term.

Sunday, 18 November 2012


There are times, I admit, that I reckon my life would be easier if I had one of those super modern gas fires that look like fluttering flames around a few logs in the fireplace, and the illusion -- as well as the heat -- could be acquired with the flick of a switch. But for me to achieve the same effect, I must hie myself down to the wood pile beneath the terrace and fill up two big blue plastic IKEA bags with logs and kindling, and haul them up the stone steps into the house and unload them in the woodbox... And then, cleaning the glass doors on the fireplace insert... And then, the matter of setting the fire with crumpled newspapers and twigs gathered on my walks in the hills... And then, feeling as if I am accomplishing my Girl Guide Badge in firelighting, one match and.... no, it'll take a second, it almost always does. But soon, the fire is blazing, and I have burned a few calories myself in getting it started. So that's the payoff... that, and the physical effort that puts me in touch with the world.

(And yes, I know that since we've read the recent story in the international press about IKEA using slave-prisoner labout in East Germany in the 1980s that I should boycott it, but hey, the bags are so useful, and I already have them here, okay?)

It is getting colder as each week passes, and that's why I close down LE MAS BLANC WRITER'S RETREAT until the springtime. Staying in the barn during the winter would require an electric  heater to be on most of the time, and with the cost of electricity as it is in France, it wouldn't be a sensible plan, or even a comfortable one, at all... So this is just to say that the retreat opens again in  mid-March, and the last two weeks of March are already booked by Lindy,  a writer from Kingston, Ontario... You might want to visit HER blog, especially if you've  already been enjoying my friend Kim Moritsugu's food blog THE HUNGRY NOVELIST.... www.hungrynovelist.wordpress.com/

 Lindy's blog is mainly dedicated to recipes from a small restaurant in the Kingston area,
and you can access the blog by going to www.lindymechefske.com (A Taste of Wintergreen).

So the barn -- and its cozy bedsitting room -- are ready for occupancy from April through to June, and I am hoping for a range of writers and artists who will find the space inspiring -- and perhaps inspire me as well. The landscape here presents a wonderful challenge to photographers and painters, and the absolute quiet of this place -- le Mas Blanc -- provides an excellent spot for writers or composers or musicians who need silence. ( I do admit, I am hoping for a cellist to come some day....)

In the last few weeks, having a series of visitors from Canada and Australia, I took  several of these women visitors up to the village of St. Hippolyte to a small shop called simply L'Atelier... This is where I have been buying my clothes for the last five years, and I have been happy to be able to share this magic place ...And now, in Amsterdam, Melbourne, Canberra, Victoria, Toronto, Marysville and San Jose, Costa Rica, there are women wearing beautiful clothes designed and sewn by my friend Michelle and her various assistants.  What is magic about this shop is that these women visitors come in an array of sizes and ages with varied tastes and requirements for their wardrobe... And each one of them seems able to find just the right dress, or jacket, or perfect little skimmy "top" or pullover or tunic or pair of pants.. and every one of them walks away feeling that she has now found her best look ever.

How Michelle accomplishes this is a mystery, and I am soon going to be interviewing her to discover her secrets. Strangely, I've never cared much about clothes until I came across L'Atelier, and this has quite changed my life... and influenced the way I think not only about myself, but about how we present ourselves  -- in our physical lives, and in our literary lives, as well... Presentation is all about style, isn't it?  And a writer who has an authentic voice is one who feels comfortable in  herself or himself and who uses language that is appropriate to that "self"...When we say that we admire a fine writer's "Style", I think we mean the voice is true, not false... just as the best clothing is that in which we feel absolutely comfortable, as if we belong in whatever we're wearing.

Here I am with Michelle, wearing one of her tunics,
with a delicate scarf knitted by my friend Annie

Thursday, 15 November 2012


I must count as a pretty boring person -- yes, I DO know that this blog is not exactly a ball of fire either -- as I admit my two favorite leisure activities are getting up & going for long walks and sitting down for long, even longer reads. Books & Boots -- that'd be my ideal B&B .... in the hills here in the Cevennes, or in the dales in Yorkshire where I  go walking with my sister, or perhaps in some hamlet in the Adirondacks where my husband and daughter and I used to spend hiking holidays. In another life, in a parallel universe, I am the proprietor of such an inn or auberge, urging my clientele to balance reading with walking and walking with reading.

Today has been the kind of November day that puts to shame everything I've said so far about this month, calling it damp and cold and not-nice (except for being a month of birthdays) ...Today has been sublime... sunny, warm, and absolutely perfect for a really good walk involving some steep paths -- a bit of sweat, good for the heart -- and some lovely meandering flat bits through pine forests after the climb is over. Thanks to my friend Peter  ( who, with  my friend Dorothy, took care of Mas Blanc during the summer while I was in Canada), I have a new stack of marked maps showing routes up in the hills within a stone's throw from where I live, and I am setting out now to time these walks so I have an idea how long they take and whether they are "snack" walks or "real lunch" walks.. Yes, food is always on your mind if you live in France, and a walk without some kind of little picnic is hardly a walk at all.

I took some photos today I'll attach at the end of this... But now, back to books...Yesterday, I went up to the nearby city of Ales to run some errands and to have coffee with the Scottish poet Sharon Black, who has become one of my very good friends here. I brought up the November Birthday issue with her -- why are there so many? -- and she solved it nicely. "Valentine's Day Evening", she said, and then also, in this part of the world, "those long cold February nights when there's nothing to do but...." So that answers that!

Sharon published a book of poems last year (TO KNOW BEDROCK, pindroppress, London, UK) that so impressed me I have sent it to several friends, in Canada and Australia, who have responded with much admiration and delight. I recommend you visit her website, which is easily found simply by googling her name, SHARON BLACK. She's a beautiful woman and a wonderful friend, and even in my times of distress -- of which there have been many in the last two years -- Sharon always cheers me. My husband liked her enormously too, and for that reason I asked her to read Billy Collins' poem THE DEAD at the memorial afternoon we had for Bob last year, as that poem was one of his favorites. But her poems are well worth a read themselves, believe me.

Sharon and I share books back and forth and she's just given me a collection by Elizabeth Barrett  (NOT the one who married Robert Browning), and at the same time has returned one of mine she says she really loves and so I'm going to order it for her from Pedlar Press in Toronto. The collection is called  SLOW CURVE OUT, and the poet is Maureen Scott Harris, whose earlier collection DROWNING LESSONS won the Trillium Prize for poetry in 2005. Sharon and I agree completely ...these are marvellous poems. Maureen's subject matter is the natural world and she manages to bring it so close you feel you are truly part of her world. Which you are... That's the magic of it.... Easy to acquire....

More books tomorrow. And more websites to check too... For now, a few of the day's photos, to give you an idea of just how beautiful this mid-November day has been. (My friend Bob Ferguson celebrated his birthday yesterday by going to the Bob Dylan concert in Toronto...now that's a terrific way to acknowledge that the passage of years doesn't mean a thing....there must be an entirely appropriate line from Dylan's lyrics that could pull this to a close, what might it be? )

There would be more photos to share except that they're suddenly deciding for themselves to slot in sideways. WHY does this happen? WHO can help?

It's the way these vineleaves LOOK like wine itself that knocks me out...
You pass this vineyard on the way to the path up into the hills

These are the berries on the "arbousier" tree, known as the strawberry tree for obvious reasons... Ripe for picking, all along the path...

Tuesday, 13 November 2012


You know, I don't know anyone who would choose this one as their "favorite month", and yet I seem to have an extraordinarily large number of friends who were born in November, and they must, in some fashion, identify with this time of year, wouldn't you think? Not only my old university chum Sally on the 4th but also, that same day, my friend Jelena turned EIGHT... and later this month, on the 27th, her sister Sadie will turn SIX! As anyone growing old can attest, it is important to have younger friends...I love sharing in their excitement at the notion of "growing up"...They LOVE November, and when I see it through their eyes, so do I....it is part of the great flow of change, and pehaps its most endearing aspect it that it never seems to last as long as March, its sister-month  in "aaarrrgh, dontcha hate the weather just now?"

Also in November I have sent cards to Audrey and Peggy, emails to several Cousins as well as to friends such as Bill Exley, one of the foremost musicians in the NIHILIST SPASM BAND (the musical group begun in the mid 1960s by London Ontario artist Greg Curnoe, who died  in a bicylce accident on November 14, 1992, a few days before what would have been his birthday). Greg was a good friend of mine and I feel his influence still -- I think of him every November, but that's another story.

 I can't quite work out why November seems to be the month of birthdays, but it is... and at its tail end comes the birthday my old chum Sheila, with whom I long-ago hitch-hiked around Europe in 1967 and who just recently came down from Amsterdam to visit Mas Blanc. Time passes, and the only correct gesture in response to that is -- CELEBRATION!

Ah, but growing old does have its down-side, and the fearful possibility of bones breaking hovers over us as we (those of us born during the Second World War) enter the stage of the broken wrist... the fractured hip... the shattered elbow... the torn ankle ligaments... We count ourselves lucky every year we escape injury and I am happy to report that friendly gossip concerning my own "serious fall" this summer has been slightly exaggerated... Indeed, I did have a tumble, and if you've heard that I fell off a cliff you can now reduce that dramatic story to "slipping down a steep slope"... It was not as bad as people made out -- well, I admit, I did make a bit of a fuss at the time and the drop left me a bit shaken --  but apart from some bruising I recovered quickly, thanks of course to ARNICA.

If you don't know about the magical anti-bruising qualities of the herbal remedy ARNICA, you should... Here in France it is prescribed both before and after surgery in the hospitals, as its properties are well established and respected.  It comes from a daisy-like flowering plant that grows in the high dry mountains of this region, and somehow I feel that's part of why is works so well here, but I have tried it in Toronto too and it is just as effective!

And yes, this is a kind of "self-advertising", I suppose, since one of the final short stories in the fiction-section of BELONGING: HOME AWAY FROM HOME, is titled "Arnica", and has at its centre a scene in which the application of arnica has a positive effect. I am so pleased when I hear that readers are discovering BELONGING, just as I am when I hear that THE ELIZABETH STORIES is having a resurgence, thanks to Kerry Clare -- and Shashi Bhatt, who has mentioned the book  recently in an interview as well. Wonderful to feel that a character I created so long ago is still alive and well in the imagination of readers. She stays young -- and thus, so do I, in some strange way.

Now, one of the REAL things that keeps me young (maybe it even helps my bones, who knows?)  is my ongoing connection with writers in the Humber correspondence program, and although they are not always young themselves, their enthusiasm for various writing projects always gathers me up in a whirlwind of energy and excitement. Sometimes there is publishing pay-off, and sometimes not... but what everyone seems to agree, is that writing itself is a way to stay firmly in the world, and as long as that's the case, you never grow old.

I am proud to be associated with so many of the writers I've worked with, none more than GRETCHEN ROEDDE, whose memoir  A DOCTOR'S QUEST (published by Dundurn Press a few weeks ago) is a wonderful book, outlining her experiences travelling overseas as a doctor in developing countries working to help improve maternal and child health, very often in dangerous or difficult situations. The memoir is a rivetting blend of Gretchen's own perceptions and reflections on her various adventures and medical interventions as well as the people she has worked with and  met through her work. I can't recommend this book highly enough, and if it makes you feel a little uncomfortable -- realizing how easy we have it in Canada (access to health care, clean water, social equality, etc.) -- then at least one of her aims will have been realized.

Another of my Humber writers is Laura Rock, who writes to share the good news that an essay she's written will be included in the anthology HOW TO EXPECT WHAT YOU'RE NOT EXPECTING, coming out from Touchwood Press in Victoria BC next spring... I'll have more on this later

Okay, it's not the Gatineau in full glory, but it's not bad, eh?
This is just down the river from Mas Blanc, this past week...
I'll leave you now with this shot of the vineyards down the valley from where I live, blazing colour... and I'll be back tomorrow with some further chat about writers and the writing life... November does seem to provide us with a gentle entry into the season of contemplation.... So much to think about, and so little time.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


Piper at Vimy Ridge Remembrance Day Ceremonies, 2011
 It has been said of me that I am such a sentimentalist that every day is "remembrance day" for me... and in fact I don't take this teasing badly, as I believe that our memories are essential ballast that keep us sailing forward in some sort of balanced fashion. Remembering the First World War -- and the end of it, on November 11, 1918 -- is out of the question for any of us living now, but we can remember other wars, and other battles, and other times of conflict, personal or political or international, and meditate upon those aspects of  human nature that we deplore, and those we admire and seek to emulate. Even for those of us of pacifist persuasion, this is a good day to contemplate clear-thinking courage.  Last year at this time, with my friends Conny & Sheila & Brian,  I took a tour of several WWI cemeteries in France and Belgium, and we were fortunate to be  present at Vimy Ridge on the very day of the remembrance ceremonies. It was an enormously poignant occasion -- speeches, music, veterans carrying flags and of course a piper, whose playing brought tears to our eyes. I've always had a special place in my heart for the bagpipes, as did my mother, and I have always been very proud that my late husband's cousin John was a pipe-major of some reknown. Here's the piper from Vimy last year, and I regret he will remain nameless.

One of the reasons I wanted to go to Vimy Ridge was to see the monument about which I'd read a few years ago in Jane Urquhart's THE STONE CARVERS, a novel that just about everyone has read but, if you are one of those few who have not, I recommend that you hie yourself off to a bookstore or the library to remedy this lack. I went back to the novel after my visit to Vimy, and found it even richer the second time.

The wonderful waterfall in the Ourne, November 11, 2012 
 Not much time for reading these days, as the days dwindle down to a precious few -- those final autumn days suitable for planting the last of the tulip bulbs among other outdoor chores. There has been a lot of rain in the last while, which makes the heavy clay soil here much easier to dig, so I'm doing as much work as I can before the inevitable cold weather comes. The rain has made a glorious change in the little stream that runs by Mas Blanc, and now there's a wonderfully loud waterfall again, loud enough that it can even be heard indoors... white noise, indeed.

And as you can see, the rain has had a marvellous effect on the cistern below my terrace, an enormous repository for spring-water that flows beneath the property, especially after heavy rainfall. The cisten was built in the 1700s, and until the flood of 2002 had a red-brick roof with a metal door that could open into the deep cavern so that the water was accessible. Now there's a flagstone roof and a small hole for the hose that can be inserted if we need to pump out water. When it is full to overflowing, as it is here, there's something magic in this  precious abundance. Makes me want to write a poem about happiness.

Sometimes joy, like water,  cannot be contained......

Sunday, 4 November 2012


November 4, my friend Sally's birthday... Tomorrow, Guy Fawkes Day -- celebrated here in France by little clutches of English expatriate residents in various ways -- and, weather permitting, there'll be a bonfire or two and maybe some smallish fireworks displays in back gardens. There are a surprising number of English residents around Tornac and Anduze -- hence the popularity of the tea shop I've already mentioned earlier, TEAPOTES. Of course, success depends on adaptability, and TEAPOTES has made itself a fixture in Anduze by also providing excellent coffee as well as buttery teacakes and scones.  It has also become a favorite meeting spot for French locals, and afternoon classes in French & English are well attended. I've made an arrangement with a retired French teacher (Marie-Ange) to meet once a week over afternoon tea or coffee at TEAPOTES, where we spend an hour chatting... She speaks English and I correct her, and I speak French and she corrects me... It's a pretty good system so far, although I think she finds herself busier correcting me than I do her.

Still, I have to declare with some pride a kind of linguistic breakthrough experienced this past week when I went to the cinema with my English pal Joanna, she who is married to a Frenchman and thus is really completely bilingual. We went to see AMOUR, the Michel Haneke film about the elderly couple facing illness and death together, that won the Palme D'Or at Cannes this past May -- and well might it have won, for it is a film I can't recommend highly enough. Tough to watch, but worth every minute. Brilliant, intelligent, important.  And what was really important for ME, watching the film --in French without subtitles -- is that I understood at least 80%, perhaps even more... Now, it does not escape me that the dialogue was extremely simple, infrequent, and delivered in a slow fashion as befits the elderly.... Nevertheless, I have gained some courage and confidence and may continue now to hie off to French films without subtitles...

Living in two languages is, they tell us, good for the brain. I hope so... But even if it's not good for me in some avoiding-Alzheimer's-kind-of-way, it does provide more scope, more enjoyment, more delight in the sound of words themselves...

I mentioned Kerry Clare's site www.picklemethis.com a few days ago, and must draw your attention to it again as she has added to her initial comments about THE ELIZABETH STORIES now that she has read the whole book. It's wonderful to feel so warmed by her appreciation for the stories, especially on this chilly, dark, rainy November evening...Indeed, I have to nick back downstairs to add some logs to the fire.