I first met Isobel Maher in the Spring of 2009. She and I were both regulars at the Beagle Pub, where each of us habitually sat alone: I soon discovered, however, that she was rarely alone for very long. A host of patrons, upon seeing Isobel holding court at her regular post– the corner table next to the pub’s south facing window, eagerly took a seat in front of her where they were promptly regaled by the many stories she loved to tell.
I was intimidated by Isobel at first. Even at the age of eighty, she effortlessly exhibited an elegance that put the Beagle’s waitresses to shame. Her scarlet red hair, pulled back by an ancient barrette, illuminated the pub on the dreariest of days; her outfits betrayed an unsurpassed attention to detail– undeniably eccentric, yet somehow tasteful at the same time. I observed Isobel for months before working up the courage to talk to her.
On a rainy day in March of 2009, I sat at the table next to Isobel, trembling slightly as I booted up my notebook. She smiled at me, and took a sip of her white wine, leaving lipstick traces upon the rim of her glass. I’d pocketed the earbuds I customarily wore while writing at the pub in hopes of eavesdropping on her conversation.
“Whatcha working on there boy? You put a lot of hours into that little computer of yours.”
And with that question, Isobel and I embarked upon an unlikely friendship which has lasted up to this very day. We’ve tipped many a drink together since then, and I’ve been treated to a story–Isobel’s story– which is more fascinating than I ever could have imagined.
Her story begins in a war torn Scotland, where Isobel immigrated from at the tender age of eighteen, eventually ending up in Toronto, the city where she met the love of her life. Isobel now lives in Victoria, where she sells antiques at various markets: anyone who has spent any time in Cook Street Village will undoubtedly know who I am talking about.
For the next several months, Isobel and I will be getting together at the Tin Roof (we are now both off the booze) to talk more extensively about her story. My hope is to co-write a memoir with her, to pay tribute to a life lived to its fullest, a compendium of memory and dream. I have created an entirely new blog for this project, which you can find here. Hope you like it.