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My dog always knows what’s going on in the neighbourhood much sooner than I do. Earlier this week, he insisted on a late night walk in so-far-below-zero weather that it doesn’t even have a number. Emergency! his eyes shrieked at me. Get to the door now! When he’s in this mood, I seldom wait to find out if he means it, because generally he does. So out we went, all bundled up, only to find a diminutive figure dressed entirely in black, clutching a rake and smiling up at us from the front walk.

“Hi, I’m Luba,” she said, from the depths of her many mufflers and scarves.

“Yes,” I said, recognizing her, despite the layers. “You’re Luba Goy.”

Surely, I thought, one of the stars of The Royal Canadian Air Farce is not out raking leaves in this weather just to make a few bucks. Is the CBC that far gone? What should I offer as payment, an hourly rate or a flat fee?

We shook hands and I introduced myself. Bailey (also known as A Very Bad Dog Named Bailey) introduced himself by jumping up to give Luba a gobsmack that nearly sent her flying. (For a self-declared cat lover, she was very tolerant.)

The mystery was soon solved: Luba’s son and daughter-in-law are moving into the adjoining half of the duplex next to mine. So of course she was there doing what mothers do best: fussing. At midnight. The leaves had to go.

A Very Bad Dog Named Bailey and I went on our rounds. By the time we returned, I was thoroughly frozen. Bailey was invigorated, however, and quite ready to join in whatever games Luba was playing. (When you’re a dog, every day is Christmas.) While Bailey and I were out wandering, Luba had raked not only the leaves on her son’s half of the duplex, but on mine as well.

“It makes quite a poetic effect,” I said, looking down at the scrawls in the snow from the rake.

“Sort of like a Japanese sand garden,” Luba agreed. “Only colder.”

The next night, Luba was back again. It had snowed and the snow needed shovelling. (I didn’t tell her I’d already done so, but by midnight you might not have known anyway.) Once again, after shovelling her son’s walk, she shovelled mine. This time I invited her in for a cup of tea.

“No tea, thanks,” she said, eyeing the bottle of wine sitting unopened on my table.

“I think I have something better,” I said, reaching for the corkscrew. It was past midnight, but what the hell.

She politely sat through neighbourhood gossip (only the essentials her son and daughter-in-law needed to know, of course.) I sat through Air Farce gossip: two same-sex members of the Farce got married after twenty-five years together. (“But you didn’t hear it from me,” says Kevin, of the Farce’s Kevin’s Same-Sex Marriage Wedding Boutique.) Then talk got onto the CBC, where we have a few former-colleagues in common. As many know, The Royal Canadian Air Farce began as a successful CBC radio programme in 1973 then made its sensational television debut in 1980. The series officially ended in 2009, but this year, as usual, they are again gearing up for their celebrated New Year’s Eve special.

“I’m sorry I can’t offer you tickets,” Luba lamented. “They’re all gone and they won’t give me any extras!”

What she could offer was even more enticing: a quickie version of the show, replete with some of her best known voices and faces. (There was the Queen at my kitchen table!) I won’t spoil any surprises, but suffice to say it’s a knockout series of sketches, featuring many of the famous Canadian names and personalities you might expect (including certain political party leaders who get their comeuppance Air Farce-style) as well as a few you wouldn’t expect. You will laugh—I guarantee it!

I’m hoping Luba returns tonight. I’m going to ask her if she’s handy with a paintbrush.

The Air Farce New Year's Eve 2010/2011 Special airs Friday, December 31, at 8:00 PM (8:30 NT) on CBC Television and starts the new year with a repeat at the stroke of midnight:

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Jeffrey Round

Jeffrey Round is an award-winning writer and director. His most recent novel is The Honey Locust.

Go to Jeffrey Round’s Author Page