BC and Yukon Book Prizes Shortlist

“Darrel J. McLeod (left) is among the authors shortlisted for a BC & Yukon Book Prize this year. Read the details here.FULL STORY


#34 Home Reno Daze

May 18th, 2015

Hi, ya, darlin,’

My neighbour is painting my living room. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. It’s been more than a dozen years since the last time this madness inflicted itself on me. I guess I had forgotten. I plead the onset of senior’s senile dementia.

My neighbour isn’t very much younger than I am. Some of my furniture is large. And heavy. Mostly because it’s very old and made of real wood. So off I went to see if I could hire Stephen to help shift stuff.

Nobody home at Stephen’s place so I went over to his sister’s place to see if he was there.  Nope. He’s gone to Campbell River today, drove someone out so they could do a big shopping. I was trying to figure out who else might… and here came two young people. Not to worry, Grandma, and they started shifting stuff. Where do you want this, where should I put this…

I felt very much like the Regimental Sergeant Major… then my neighbour said we needed to wash the walls. Me? I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. However, young people once again came to the rescue and the walls were scrubbed, scoured, rinsed and haven’t been that clean since the last time paint madness struck me.

Then I made the young people grin by asking what’s the difference between a spider web and a cob web? And who has ever seen a cob? We decided cob webs are what happens when spider webs collect dust, dirt, and cigarette smoke…

I’ve been a chimney since I was ten years old. If I quit, my lungs will leave home, just run off down the road with an umbrella under their arm.

Some woman has been hired at the paint factory. And she has invented a paint which goes on pink and then dries white. What a great idea, you can see where you’ve been. Now if she can just invent a paint which doesn’t stink!

Well, my dear, a whole orning of shifting furniture and putting books in boxes, then trying to move the boxes, etc., has put my ruin of a spine into even worse shape than usual so I’m going to go take a pill, hell, take two, they’re small, and I’ll write again when and if I find my brain.


The painting project progresses. We’ve made it to the point of muttering to ourselves.  My neighbour seems to have forgotten his English and reverted to his mother tongue. Santa Maria he says. I wipe spatters and wonder how in the name of hebbin so much dirt managed to gather under the faux-fireplace.

That blister has been moved out onto the storm porch and, by me, it can stay there. I only bought it because Little Bea was moving, leaving Tahsis so she could live closer to her daughter who was having hell’s own time trying to care for and control a son who had been diagnosed Adolescent Onset Schizophrenia.

Rather than pay to have the blister trucked out over that gawd-awful goat track, I bought it and put it in the living room. The idea at the time was I could use it to heat the living room and thus save on electricity because I wouldn’t be sending heat to unoccupied rooms. Well, that didn’t happen and the blister became a surface on which an amazing amount of stuff was put.

I’ve got a piece of coral which was brought up either in or on a prawn trap which had been down several hundred feet off Haida Gwaii. Lovely piece of coral. Dark dark brown, almost black. It sat next to a piece of coral from “the cut” in our inlet, it was once pink but faded to a sort of dingy off-white. Oh, and candles, several, for when the lights go out, which they often do.

I feel just about ready for traction but the hospital is hours away and anyway they’re always full.  The last time I was in hospital I was in “the Harry Potter Suite.” Under the stairs. I think they do that so you won’t want to stay and you work overtime to get better and get sent home.

My neighbour has gone home, he’ll be back tomorrow to do the walls. Then we move on, to the kitchen.

Don’t bother shopping for a coffin, a cardboard box will do, I’m going to be cremated, not buried.  For years ‘n’ years my plan was to donate my body to medical science, I thought they might have fun trying to figure out what in hell was going on in my brain, but that all seems… hours away. I’ll just opt for cremation.  If they’re interested they can sift the ashes.


My friend, Gareth, the musician/performer/singer, has sent me an e-mail in which he confesses that writing is starting to take over his life. He says he is neglecting all manner of things because of the words wanting to be set down, maybe even set to music.

So now I am working on a poem for him.

it’s addictive
worse (or better) than crack or ice or
that old bugaboo opium
you have to know
it won’t get better
although it will never, not ever
be worse
You’ll be sitting in the bathtub and
never notice the water, or the soap
or even your own feet
all you will know
is the addiction
the words
the sound of the words
the touch of them
the satin/silk/velvet smoothness
the way they fit together
or don’t
the way they cluster
or flee

There is still time for you to quit
to go cold turkey
to ooze the sweat of withdrawal

only now

if you hesitate, if you falter, or, worse
if you find you enjoy and do not want to quit
you’re sunk
you’ll spend the rest of your life
in the end
in the very end
in the finis
what you’re unearthing
are not words
but truth

and we’ll never really know that
will we?

Anne Cameron grows pussywillows on the western edge of Vancouver Island. She received the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career in British Columbia in 2010. Her 23 books include Daughters of Copper Woman, the bestselling work of fiction ever written about B.C. and published from within B.C. She has banished herself to Tahsis, a small town not far from Friendly Cove where the shenanigans called British Columbia all began.

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