And They Say You Can’t Go Home Again

They say you can’t go home again. But that is exactly what I did. It was only for a couple of days but I found my old child-self and it was glorious. Not a care in the world, clambering over rocks along seaside paths, avoiding the precious swathes of blue camas, dodging the heavenly scented prickly gorse and inhaling the sea air that is my Oak Bay. My two sons and I explored the steps to Middle Beach at Shoal Bay and I showed them where there had once been a salt water pool, a favourite swimming spot in my youth. And we joked around taking photos of each other on the brightly painted chairs at Harling Point.

Enjoying the sun

I was back in my home town of Oak Bay at the request of the Oak Bay Heritage Foundation to talk about my book Growing Up Weird: A Memoir of an Oak Bay Childhood. Friends and family came, important dignitaries came and my sister brought me flowers. One hundred and twenty people came to hear me read!

The audience was warm and welcoming and laughed in all the right places. I felt I was holding them in my hands. When the applause broke out, Robert Taylor, the lovely MC said I was a rock star.

Truly my fifteen minutes of fame.

Lecture Series

The Heritage Foundation’s Ben Clinton-Baker did an amazing job with his slide presentation of archival photos that accompanied my stories. And the charming ninety-two-year-old Oak Bay author Fay Pettapiece, brought me a copy of her just published memoir “The Years Between” (available at Ivy’s Book Shop on Oak Bay Avenue). She and I share our love for writing and reading memoir. Writing memoir is a gift to one’s family and to historians, as well as allowing ourselves space to make sense of who we were and who we’ve become. And mostly it gives us the opportunity to go home again. It was a memorable time.

Liz Maxwell Forbes.

Island Crone Blog

Crone: a derogatory term for an old woman, a hag? Or the word for a woman of an older age who is revered for her wisdom, compassion and healing laughter? And a woman who embraces the ancient crone archetype with her age accumulated knowledge, her insights and intuitions, a woman who has found her power. An Island Crone.

My Island Crone Blog will keep you up to date with the progress of my latest book, “And the Dog Came Too”. If you enjoyed this and are curious about more content from an Island Crone, please subscribe here. I promise to post at least once a month and sometimes more. But not often enough to bore.

River Tales library poster

How I Survived my First Solo Book Reading and Discovered the Magic of Why I Write

How I survived my first solo book reading and discovered the magic of why I write.

When the librarian from my local library asked me to do a reading from my memoir, River Tales: Stories from My Cowichan Years for their book club, I imagined a cozy conversation with a small group of eager fans.

It wasn’t until the librarian showed me the poster that she had made for the event, that I realized it was also open to the public!

I panicked.
I wasn’t practiced.
I had a ‘small’ voice.
I asked for advice.

My writers’ group said, “Project your voice, breathe from your diaphragm.
My younger son said, “Read excerpts that follow a theme.”
My daughter said, “Read the story about the raccoon and the chicken.”
My elder son said, “Practice, practice, practice.”

I did it all, and more. Ninety minutes, speaking to twenty-seven people. They listened, they laughed. I told anecdotes, and they asked questions. No one noticed my deep breaths, the moments my mind went blank, the times I fumbled with a memory.

Then a strange thing happened as I was telling my stories. I saw myself in the audience. The young woman in the front row clutching a copy of my book, her shining eyes never leaving my face, absorbing every word with her whole being; that was me years ago.

I remembered how I felt the first time I heard a writer speaking to me, her words moving within me and how I knew then I was going to be a writer. That was Sylvia Fraser reading from her memoir, My Father’s House 1987.
She wrote in my copy of her book: “To Liz, thanks for your glowing face, Sylvia Fraser.”

And another time, listening to the elegant British born Elizabeth Latham, reading from her locally based historical fiction Silences of the Heart 1995 and feeling inspired and at the same time despairing of ever being able to write as well.

Latham inscribed my book: “To Liz Forbes, and thank you for being such a warm and positive person while I read, Elizabeth Latham.”

I also recognized an older version of me in the woman who sat directly in front of the lectern and asked questions with what I knew was a burning desire to know.
This woman asked about writing, about publishing, asked how I organized my stories, and if it was a problem using real names. I wondered if she were also a writer, she evaded my question but I noticed her furiously making notes on scraps of paper jammed into my book. A closet writer. I wished I had asked her name.

Another woman wanted to know if I wrote with pen and paper or directly to the computer. I asked Jane Rule that question years ago; only her options were paper or typewriter. I confess that I don’t recall her answer, only that she said her arthritic hands were so sore she could barely manage to write.

I once thought if I knew an author’s secrets of writing (how often she wrote and where; in her own study or at the kitchen table), that I would know how to become a writer too.

If anyone had asked on this day of the library reading, I would have told them there is no secret; it is about a need to write, a desire to figure out life, to record the world around you. Most of us have messy lives, doubts about our abilities, know we will never be as great as: ‘pop-in-a-name-here’, but we keep on writing because in the end, that is all there is.

And, reading passages from your book and entertaining an appreciative audience and perhaps inspiring someone to write their own story, is where you’ll find the real magic that makes the work of writing all worthwhile.

Musings of an Island Crone



Ormsby Review

Great Ormsby Review of River Tales – Networking or Just Good Luck?

Here Forbes provides with a near-diary intimacy (seasoned with good humour and minus the angst present in much of anyone’s personal jottings in the moment) a perceptive and well-paced account of an important two-decade period of her life. A reader needn’t have lived in this region of Vancouver Island, let alone hobby-farmed or even homesteaded, to be able to relate overall to her “Cowichan years.” For most of us, this is what life is: a ride through personal growth, relationships, social change, successes, losses, and joys. And that ride takes us down a common channel, one with a combination of meanders, back eddies, tumultuous runs and, if we’re lucky, many long stretches of sweet calm. ~ Georgina Montgomery, Ormsby Review

River Tales coverI’ve always had a knack for gathering people, instantly looking for that connection, that three degrees of separation that delights us when we find it. Some might call it networking; I call it joy in meeting someone who looks interesting, or a little different—someone who could belong to my tribe.

Years ago, when I worked at the post office in Duncan, I frequently came across people who were new in town and I would often blurt out an invitation to a gathering at the river, such as the annual corn roast or a neighbourhood party.

I well remember one such event. There was a young social worker who had recently moved to Duncan, and I sort of befriended him. One day he mentioned that he and his wife were finding it hard to meet people.

“I’m having a pot luck this Saturday. Bring your swim gear and come on out,” I offered. “You’ll meet some people.”

I was standing near this young man as he was loading up his plate with tabbouleh and other semi-vegetarian options, when he stopped, slowly looked over to his wife and exclaimed, “My God Joan, we’ve found the alternative people.”

My ability to instinctively make instant connections has stood me well. When I wrote my first book, Growing Up Weird, I decided to self publish, and happened to meet Patrick O’Connor of First Choice Books at a workshop. There were other printing and self publishing outfits there, all with good reputations, but I was drawn to First Choice Books. I liked Patrick and his information booklet on self-publishing. At First Choice, I was fortunate to be able to work with Felicity Perryman, who, I found out later, was the person who had designed the booklet that influenced my decision to go with First Choice. Beside producing Growing up Weird, Felicity went on to design and do the layout and formatting of my partner’s book, View from the Tower, as well as my second book, River Tales. She also designed and manages my website Osborne Bay Books.

There was another meaningful connection that came along in this writing adventure. In one of the most serendipitous moments in my life, I gained a new friend and the best editor I could ever hope to find. In 2017, Grant and I were on an up-island book tour for View from the Tower, about his days as an air traffic controller in Port Hardy and beyond. I had an appointment to see the book purchasing person at the museum in Sointula on Malcolm Island, and I met Heather Graham, retired, a volunteer at the museum.

Two hours passed in which Heather and I covered almost every aspect of our lives; we were born the same year, both in Victoria, both at the same hospital; our lives took different paths but we connected with a capital C and promised to stay in touch. She only bought one of Grant’s books for the museum, but I acquired a wonderful friend.

A year later Heather asked to see my River Tales manuscript and offered to edit it at no charge.  I couldn’t have been luckier. She kept me focused. She was exactly the person I needed.

My book would never have been as well designed or as well written as it is without the expertise of these two women, Felicity Perryman and Heather Graham.

It was Heather who suggested that I contact Richard Mackie of the highly respected Ormsby Review and offer River Tales for a review.

And again, that was just another connection but look where it led: this brilliant review of River Tales by Georgina Montgomery, another writer and editor.

You may wish to call it networking, but I prefer to call it serendipity.Facebooktwittermail

Four beautiful crones

Crossing the Threshold into Cronehood

Have you ever been to a Croning?
I have. But not by choice.

A Croning is a ceremony, often wicca like, where women are celebrated for reaching the status of crone, wise woman, or elder.

My younger friend Sharon invited me. It was twenty years ago and I was not ready to be a crone. I was old enough, over fifty (sixty actually), grey hair, gone through menopause and had become a grandmother, but I was not nearly wise enough.

Nor was I ready to embrace old age, I was in a new relationship and the association of crone with the word hag or witch just didn’t fit my self-image. Pictures in my childhood fairy tale books by Grimm and Anderson came to mind, hunched back old crones stalking innocent children in the forest, hags cackling over cauldrons of stewed toads. This was not my reality.
I went, but only because Sharon, who was celebrating her fiftieth birthday, and ready to welcome her cronehood, was treating me to the experience.

You know how it is when you walk into a room and everyone seems to know each other and no one hands you the play list? That was how it was for me on this day. I watched as people embraced each other, I participated in the required circle where we introduce ourselves by our matrilineal line, dutifully naming our mothers, grandmothers as far back as we could go. I had done this many times before, with passion, but I couldn’t dredge up any of it on this day.

Women’s gatherings can be welcoming, warm and infused with joy. Seeing women being free to express themselves and move unconsciously to their own rhythm is delightful. This gathering was like this, and I had a hard time getting in sync.

Most of the women at this workshop were too young to be crones in my opinion. Yes, there were a few elders, lovely white-haired women who dressed in the appropriate flowing organic cotton dresses and long strands of beads. These were women I would love to have known but I couldn’t make myself participate.

It was towards the end of the day that we held our Croning ceremony. I watched as the oldest woman in the room walked up to receive her crown of cedar and her crone blessing. Others followed. I shook my head when someone beckoned me to go up and I held myself apart from them as they chanted and twirled with scarves swirling from their outstretched hands.

There was something not quite right about the day for me, and I have never been comfortable in groups where feelings felt contrived but at the same time there was a part of me that longed to join in and to revel in the freedom they so joyously embraced.

I certainly was not ready to welcome Cronehood.

All this changed last year when I turned eighty. I had arrived at this magical age, still healthy and active with a long list of things I wanted to do. Definitely a milestone to celebrate. I could now properly claim Cronehood status. I did some research. The Unitarians had this to say about Crone ceremonies and the word Crone: link

We could perhaps define the crone as a woman that is gracefully adapting to the process of aging. She inspires others. She is comfortable in her own skin and with her spirituality. Her intuitive and creative powers are pronounced. But what really sets the crone apart is that she embodies a passion to explore meaning in her life; and she exemplifies an unselfish willingness to share her honesty, knowledge, wisdom, love, and compassion.

Honoring our wise women for the contributions of knowledge and wisdom is a tradition that has been lost over time. This ceremony acknowledges that our elders are our wisdom-keepers.

Crossing the threshold into Cronehood can be a major event in a woman’s life. It’s a celebration of all that you’ve learned, and all that you will come to know in the future. For many women, it’s a time to make new commitments and vows. This third cycle of your life is the one in which you become an Elder. The word Crone should now be a word of power for you, so celebrate it. You’ve earned it.

I took this advice to heart and celebrated my eightieth birthday with my family and a few crones. The accompanying photo shows my daughter Maureen, my friend Sharon, me and my sister Kate, all beautiful crones who are aging gracefully.

I have entered what I consider to be the fourth cycle of my life. I embrace my Cronehood as I join the legions of elders who continue writing and publishing well into their nineties.

Stay tuned,
Musings of an Island CroneFacebooktwittermail

Writers group at Christmas 2019

What are your writing goals for year 2021??

Chemainus Writers

A big shout out to my writers’ group. Who knew when we first met at the iconic Billy’s Delight Ice Cream parlour in downtown Chemainus that we would still be meeting nineteen years later? Although Billy’s Delight is long gone, of the four strangers who met that day, three of us, Bernice Ramsdin Firth, Tom Masters and I, are still going strong.

Chemainus Writers quickly grew and we have held the group at six or seven people so we have enough time to read our work and have it critiqued at each meeting. We meet every two weeks in each other’s homes. Between us we have published at least 26 books, and contributed to a number of anthologies, magazines and newspapers.

Feel free to follow us, you never know, we might become famous! The group can be emailed at

Members: Tom Masters; Sylvia Holt; Mary E Nelson; Lois Peterson, Bernice Ramsdin Firth; Mary Anne Hajer; Liz Forbes

We eat too—that got out of hand for a few years—whomever was hosting was preparing almost a full lunch which we all devoured. Writing and critiquing builds up an appetite. It got to be too much and now we are back to serving just coffee and cookies at mid afternoon; much easier on the host but we often mourn the former culinary delights. Which is why, our Christmas meeting is always a party. This year we met at Ma Maison in Saltair, on the outskirts of Chemainus, ate a delicious lunch; I had butternut squash quiche, followed by pumpkin cheesecake…so good.

Even though it was a Christmas Celebration it felt as though we should do something writerly, and we all read a short humorous piece on our writing goals for 2020, but with a twist. We had to write them in the past tense as though it was the end of the year 2020. This is harder to do than you would think.

Mary E Nelson, poet and author of Catla, a YA historical novel (Orca Books), wrote the following:

Looking back over this recent past year
has it standing alone – one without peer

Though winning the Pulitzer felt like a coup
Canada’s GG made my dreams come true

So I blushed and protested that my little words
just fell together – a flocking of birds

while waiting to see if the two Y.A. books
would make it through all the alleys and nooks

And by Jove, that they did! Wouldn’t you know
and now someone, Disney? – the very best blow
wants the rights for a movie – I told them go slow

For I’m tired of the limelight, it’s time for a nap
Yes, the year 2020 sure put me on the map!

Mary E Nelson

Did I mention that Mary has a wicked sense of humour?

Have a happy and healthy New Year-2020 and write those goals!

Liz Forbes
Musings of an island crone.

A small selection of books written by members of the Chemainus Writers.
Grant Evans in his study, with View from the Tower

Travelling books/used bookstores/Alert Bay BC

Do you ever wonder what happens to books after you’ve taken them to a used bookstore?

One of the books I was selling at our local Christmas craft fair, was my partner Grant’s revised 2019 edition of his memoir of his air traffic controller days on north Vancouver Island in the 1960’s. (The revised book has new anecdotes and a different coloured cover.)  A young couple browsing my table, recognized it as similar to the book they had purchased from a small used bookstore/museum up island. My daughter was speaking to the couple, I wasn’t there, but they told her that they read it while camping and loved it.

I was curious, a used bookstore and museum, all in one, it sounded familiar but where was it? And how did one of Grant’s books end up there? Then I remembered visiting a bookstore in Alert Bay on Cormorant Island off northern Vancouver Island. Grant and I were in Port Hardy in 2016 for the launch of the first edition of View from the Tower held at the Port Hardy Museum. We stayed in the area for a few days and on one of those days we took the ferry to Alert Bay.

Alert Bay Public Library and Museum, Visitor Centre
Alert Bay Public Library and Museum

I had recalled a bookstore and museum from an even earlier trip and I planned to take in a few copies of Grant’s View from the Tower. We drove along the beach road from the ferry looking for the building; weaving our way past the fleet of buses parked on the side of the road; gawking at the brightly coloured cottages that lined the narrow road; finally recognizing the rambling wooden museum and bookstore perched over the water.

Alert Bay painted houses
Alert Bay painted houses
Alert Bay buses

Books in hand I opened the old wooden door, the bell above the door jamb jingled merrily. Suddenly I had a clear memory of my previous visit. The same smiling, gracious woman, Joyce Wilby, was behind the desk to my right; and ahead of me, I swear the same man was sitting at the same desk hunched over his papers under an ancient lamp. He had showed me around the rabbit warren of cubby holes and displays that made up the archives of the museum when I was there before and I surprised him by greeting him like an old friend. I felt like I had known Joyce for an age too, we could be friends I thought, kindred spirits even. She readily bought a copy of View from the Tower for the lending library and two more books for her gift store, which was separate from her used bookstore.

Joyce had started the Lending Library as a Centennial project in 1957, took a librarian course and as well as owning the bookstore, has been the managing librarian and archivist of the Alert Bay Museum and Lending Library ever since. This energetic, knowledgeable woman had just turned ninety years old in 2016 and at this writing is still at her beloved bookstore/museum and enjoying every day.

I, of course found a book or two to buy from her used section, then I just had to prop a copy of Grant’s book on the window ledge outside Joyce’s museum store and take a photo which required that I stand in the middle of the road between the dribs and drabs of slow moving vehicles.

Alert Bay museum with Grant Evan's book in the window
Alert Bay museum with Grant Evan’s book in the window

I would love to know if that young couple who had come to my book sale at the Christmas craft fair, had bought View from the Tower from Joyce Wilby’s used bookstore and what they did with it after they read it. Is it still travelling around the second hand bookstore circuit?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if books could talk?

Grant Evans in Alert Bay
Grant Evans in Alert Bay
Tri-colour American Cocker Spaniel, Blaze

How to Sell Books at a Seniors Christmas Craft Fair

Our local Seniors Centre was holding its annual Christmas craft and baking sale and I decided to join them. This was a first for me, but we had just received Grant’s revised edition of View from the Tower from the publisher; my River Tales was still shiny new, and I had a few copies left of Growing up Weird and it seemed like a good way to spend a rainy Saturday and drum up some Christmas spirit.

I had already set up a practice run at home of how I would display the books, and snapped a few shots that were photo bombed by my dog, which was a good thing because on the day, my tablet refused to take photos and I have no visual record of the craft sale.

In case you wonder how it looked, I used a cranberry-coloured tablecloth and set a couple of stylized metal Christmas trees between the book stands. It was cheery and bright, and drew people over even though my spot was tucked in the corner by the Emergency exit next to a table laden with knitted fingerless gloves and crocheted hats. The Watkins lady was next to them with a display of vanilla, body lotions and foot repair salve, followed by the sought-after baking tables in the far corner.

Almost everyone who came in went straight for the shortbread and apple pies, not even glancing at the vanilla and fingerless gloves on their first go around, let alone my books.

On the other side of my corner, the shuffleboard table had been carefully covered with plywood to support a display of vividly dyed hand-woven scarves and wraps from Ecuador which were being sold by a couple of young women who attracted attention with their personalities and beautiful wares. It meant that groups of shoppers were near my corner but mostly with their backs to me.

At one point I furtively eased my table out farther into the room, perhaps blocking the exit, but sometimes ‘needs-must.’

The crowds came; the woman on the far side with the embroidered toilet paper rolls did a brisk business — cheeky sayings and puppies — apparently, they are popular gifts; the retired drug store owner’s sales of knitted facecloths, three for ten dollars were good too.

I had wondered how book sales would be among the stalls of knitted tea cozies and adult bibs, but they went surprisingly well.

My daughter and one of my sons dropped in for support and to let me grab lunch and look around. Interestingly, I noticed that when one of them was with me the sales were better. Maybe it was because two of us looking relaxed, and chatting together was more welcoming than one woman (me) staring hopefully.

Whatever the cause, when we bantered with the customer, and talked about the stories behind the books, not even trying to make a sale, there was inevitably a shift, as the person picked up a copy of River Tales or View from the Tower and said, “I’ll take this one.”

Although I was happy to make some money, the pleasure of talking to fellow readers and meeting new people was the best thing about the craft fair. So, look for me next year tucked in by the emergency exit, crushed between fingerless gloves and scarves from Ecuador.

Musings of an island crone,


The Dutch House

From Peanuts to Ann Patchett and Nashville

Sylvia, from my writers’ group, gave me an autographed copy of Ann Patchett’s latest book, The Dutch House. The cover, a portrait of a young girl wearing a red coat, is stunning but it doesn’t seem to go with the title. It wasn’t until I read the last page and put the book down on my night table and turned off my bedside light, did the significance of the cover hit me. And no, I am not giving it away; that was my ‘aha’ moment; it may not be yours.

I turned the light back on and studied the picture on the cover and I knew I would have to read the book again; something I seldom do. Ann Patchett’s books have that affect on me. The Dutch House, about families and the bond between siblings, is now my favourite Patchett book, knocking an earlier novel State of Wonder, down to second place.

Sylvia bought The Dutch House for me in Ann Patchett’s bookstore, Parnassus, in Nashville, Tennessee.

We have to go back a bit so you will know how this came to be. Last month I was reading one of those timely articles in our local paper on books to buy for Christmas. The book that caught my eye was a Peanuts book, and anything Peanuts being the perfect gift for my son, a fan since childhood, I immediately ordered it from my local bookstore, Volume One Books in Duncan BC.

The book came with a long title: The Peanuts Papers, Writers and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy & the Gang and the Meaning of Life. It was a collection of essays by well known authors and artists, fan letters if you will, on how the Peanuts cartoons changed their lives.

The Peanuts Papers, Writers and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy & the Gang and the Meaning of Life
The Peanuts Papers, Writers and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy & the Gang and the Meaning of Life

The newspaper article mentioned that the writer Ann Patchett, had an essay titled To the Doghouse in the book, but most importantly it also talked about her bookstore in Nashville that she co owned with her business partner and how her dogs spent their days at the store. I loved the concept of animals in a bookstore and if I were in Nashville, I would definitely go to Parnassus with the hope of meeting her.

In a lovely coincidence, I knew that my friend Sylvia Holt was visiting her musician daughter in Nashville at the time and I emailed her to say, if you have time, drop in to Parnassus and give me a report. Say hello to Ann if she’s there.

Sylvia entering Parnassus bookstore in Nashville
Sylvia entering Parnassus bookstore in Nashville

Sylvia did more than that, she sent me photos of the bookstore, pictures of herself reading on a big comfy couch in the middle of the store and she bought a ton of books, including the signed copy of The Dutch House for me. I think Sylvia petted one of the dogs, but I am not sure, as she isn’t a dog person.

Sylvia relaxing in comfort at Parnassus bookstore.
Sylvia relaxing in comfort at Parnassus bookstore.

Ann wasn’t there that day, she was on a book tour selling copies of The Dutch House, but here’s the thing about liking a person’s writing; you want to know more about them and find ways to build a connection and having my friend visit Ann’s bookstore and bringing back her signed book, in a bag with their imprint, plus a book mark with the Parnassus logo, was nearly as good as being there myself.

Musings of an island crone


Cover of View from the Tower, revised edition 2019

View from the Tower – New Revised Edition

It’s here!  View from the Tower, Tin Pushers and Pilots on BC’s West Coast

In response to the demand, Grant has re-written and revised his best-selling book about his experiences as an air traffic controller. It comes with a new title that reflects its broader range:  View from the Tower, Tin Pushers and Pilots on BC’s West Coast. This revised edition has more stories of laughter and disaster and more photographs, in short it is a better book.

Grant Evans with the new edition of View from the Tower

Grant Evans with the new edition of View from the Tower

Maybe ‘best-selling’ is a slight exaggeration, in Canada I believe you have to sell 5000 books to be a best seller, but Grant had sold the original print run, the book stores were calling for more and it was either re-print or revise-and-print and as Grant had more stories he wanted to tell, it became revise.

And what a revise, from top to bottom, cut and paste and re-imagine. As well as more stories surfacing, he had things that needed fixing. Part of the catalyst for change were the letters he received from fans. One person berated him for misspelling Port McNeill, an unforgivable oversight, another for misspelling (the author) Nevil Shute. In the first offence he was lacking an ‘l’ and in the latter he had one too many ‘ls’ plus an ‘e’. Sloppy editing at this end, and quickly corrected.

However, all fan letters are gratefully received; they are a wow-someone-read-my-book moment and the best, was the letter from Sharon McGillawee Smith of Port Hardy. It went like this: “Hi Grant, my Name is Sharon, and I am Jim McGillawee’s daughter.  I purchased your book for him for his 97th birthday, and he has asked me to get in touch with you.”

And get in touch with her we did. We met Sharon and Jim (who was the former airport carpenter at Port Hardy when Grant was there), and the rest of the family over laughter-filled lunches. We heard that Sharon hadn’t told her dad that he was mentioned in View from the Tower when she gave him the first book, and he had a great chuckle when he came across stories of his own adventures and was eager to reminisce with Grant about the ‘good old days.’

Sharon sent Grant old airport photos, including one of her brother Sheldon standing on the wing of a downed C-46 that had gone off the runway the day before Grant arrived in Port Hardy in 1960.

Can you imagine Grant, aged twenty-one, and his equally young wife and baby daughter arriving at this remote area having lived in Vancouver with its cosmopolitan way of life, and their first view of their new home is a downed airplane? This didn’t deter Grant one bit, in fact what makes Grant’s stories so appealing is that they are told by this young pup, a speed junkie with a yen for adventure, who is eager to take on anything that comes his way, always with bravado and a wicked sense of humour. We also see his introspective side which may have been fueled by long hours alone in the tower. And as an air traffic controller we never doubt that we are in good hands: Grant shows an equally competent control over his writing.

That these were different days is blatantly obvious as you read his stories. On his time off he could be asked to look after the inmates of the drunk tank, or pitch in to drive the school bus, or pack whale meat; there weren’t the rules and regulations as there are now and Grant was eager to work. In fact, he worked as hard as he played. Fishing was so good that his dog ate as much seafood as the family. When he worked in Abbotsford tower, he and his buddies frequently drove into the U.S. to the nearest beer parlour for their after-work drinks. The border control just waved them through.

Grant’s lifelong fascination with flight is evident in his writing, from his initial flying years, to his eventual choice of air traffic control as a career. (Early on he realized that flying could be hour and hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror and he chose ATC because he would always be in the centre of the action.)  It shows with his love of airplanes and his carefully crafted sketches that illustrate this book and through his admiration of, and friendship with, the many pilots he’s encountered.

View from the Tower is a rollicking good read right up to the finish when Grant takes early retirement from being an ATC instructor in 1984. It leaves you wanting more.Facebooktwittermail