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Drum Roll, Please! John’s House Pt. 6

Ladies and gentlemen!

— Drum roll, please —

The Library is now complete!

The ceiling is done….

Blog Photo - John's Library Ceiling

And the walls are painted.

Blog Photo - John's Library Walls Painted1

Even the floor has been swept.

Blog Photo - John's Library floors

And with that, all of the repairing, re-plastering and repainting of the rooms has been done.  Year One of John Garside’s incredible 3-year mission to restore his large old house, coach house and grounds in Prince Edward County, Ontario, is almost over. And this means that he and his wife Ann can finally move in.

(Gee whiz – I feel like stopping everything right now and having a celebratory drink myself – and it’s not even my house!)
Blog Photo - John's House - Front

But before we get too excited, I have to tell you there’s still a bit more to do.

Like putting in the baseboards (skirting) around the newly installed floors on the third floor.

And removing all the scaffolding and tools from inside the house.

Blog Photo - John's House Scaffolding

And paint cans from the kitchen.

Blog Photo - John's Kitchen

And then the big clean-up.

All that before Move-In Day on May 7.

But even during the push to finish it all, John’s feeling delighted with what he’s accomplished – by himself.

“For example, the quote I got to repair the plaster ceilings and crown moldings was $5,000 a room.  Instead of going down that path I invested in $50.00 worth of materials (per room) and did it myself.  The results are truly amazing!  Even the local contractors are impressed!”

Blog Photo - John Red Room Finished

He still arrives at the house a little after 7 each morning and works steadily till 4 p.m., stopping only for a light lunch.

“All is on schedule and all deadlines will be met!  Ann will be arriving on Sunday (May 4) to help with the final cleanup of the house just before the movers arrive on Wednesday.  Great happiness!”

When I told you that John was doing all this work by himself, I wasn’t joking.  His wife Ann, a partner in an accounting firm, has been in Toronto, more than two hours away. This is the busiest time of her work-year – tax season – and Ann’s been working flat-out at her job.   She hasn’t been to the house since mid- February, when she made “a flash-visit”.

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase 2

So how does this work for them? How does Ann know she’ll like what John has done?

“Lots of pictures are sent each day to provide Ann with the state of affairs at 27 Centre Street,” John explains.

“Does she trust you THAT much?” I ask John cheekily.

And he replies: “That is why I send the pictures each and every day . . . Feedback is always good!”

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase

On reflection,  I’m really liking the sound of this arrangement:  Husband does all the hard and dirty work, while wife stays away from all the chaos and white dust, returning when the work is done.

Hmm… Ann, you’re a girl after my own heart.

Way to go, Ann!

Ooops! I really meant:  “Way to go, John!”.

 **

 Photos by John Garside

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A Fine Canadian Whine

That funny sound across the land

Is not the geese in flying band

That sound across this country mine

Is just a fine Canadian whine

*

Photo by Hamlin Grange
Photos by Hamlin Grange ©

We whine and whine about our weather

Spring and Summer, Fall and Winter,

We whine at snow, heat, fog and rain

We whine, we carp and we complain

*

“Winter is hell”, we cried and said

(Forgetting hell is hot and red)

“Come Spring, come soon, or we shall rot”

So Spring herself is what we got

*

Blog Photo - Arbor and pink clematis

Blog Photo - Pink Clematis

We’d dreamed of Spring’s so-pretty flowers

Forgetting Spring’s cold wind and showers

Spring came with those accompaniments

Arousing such crude sentiments

*

“Can you believe this awful cold?”

“Come on now Spring, break Winter’s hold!”

“Can you believe this awful wet?”

“Good God, this Spring is the worse yet!”

*

Blog Photo - Bloodroot

And on and on Canadians go

As if our lives were full of woe

Day in, day out we moan and groan

As if bad weather were ours alone

*

But grateful gardeners aren’t such grumps

We take the good and take the bumps

We welcome all the days of Spring

And give our thanks for what they bring

*

Blog Photo -  Blooming rhubarb

And so we wait the Winter out

And though at times we feel some doubt

We know that flowers need the rain

Without it, we would toil in vain

*

Without it, what would be the point

Without it, we’d be rolling joints

Oh, wait – out by our West-Coast way

Some people do that night and day

*

Blog Photo - Crocus in Spring

Okay, alright that was a slur

‘Gainst folks whose Springs are oft a blur

Of rain.  Offense, they do deserve it not

(Their “B.C. Bud”  is known as hot)

*

My West Coast friends, I will refrain

From mention of your weed and rain

I will not write about your pot

At least I will not write a lot

*

Blog Photo - Blue clematis2

Back to my garden I will go

Back to a subject that I know

And walk between the growing plants

And tend to what the garden wants

*

At evening, sounds rise o’er the land

(It’s not the geese in flying band)

That pleasant sigh is me and mine

Sipping a fine Canadian wine.

****

All Photos by Hamlin Grange ©

I’m dedicating this poem to my friends on Canada’s west coast, hoping their sense of humour is working well today.

And  especially to Louise, in Niagara-On-The-Lake, who has a lovely garden, and her husband Neil, who loved his work at a winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  Despite the uncertain weather of some growing seasons,  the story of Canadian wineries (in both the east and the west) is remarkable, with many award-winning wines. Way to go, Canadian wines!  

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At Home With Valerie Rowley – Pt. 2

Interior designer Valerie Rowley and her husband Chris took a big risk in 1993 when they bought their future home.  For one thing, the countryside house north of Toronto was quite run-down.

“We immediately saw the potential but we hadn’t sold our existing house and it was during the recession.  So did we play it safe and wait?   Nah!  We bought it and just fervently hoped our other one sold (we were up against another bidder so really had no choice).”

The other house sold, in the nick of time.

Blog Photo - Val house steps with flowers Looking at the house today, you wouldn’t know all the work Val and Chris took on. Blog Photo - Val Patio “We virtually rebuilt the interior of this home.  And made the garden almost from scratch – unless you count the few scrubby six-foot cedars that we inherited. It took many years which is why we feel we have so much of ourselves invested in it.” Blog Photo - Vals Kitchen Val’s favourite interior spaces are the kitchen and sunroom.  Blog Photo - Val Sunroom“The sunroom is full of light all year round. It’s also where I raise my vegetable and flower seedlings, grow watercress, herbs and salads through the winter, take cuttings of summer geraniums. To have this area full of pink, salmon and red blooms through the snow season makes the monochrome of winter bearable.” Blog Photo - Val Homegrown SeedlingsFavourite outdoor spaces?
Blog Photo - Val flower Bed The garden is an important part of “home” for Val and Chris. Blog Photo - Val Peonies on hillside “Luckily, Chris enjoys physical work a lot more than I do, so it’s a good partnership.   I grow things and prune and he digs holes and chops down branches.  And we have a young weeding lady who is also a budding opera singer!” Blog Photo - Muskoka chairsIn late summer and early fall, there’s the harvest. Blog Photo - Garden Produce
It takes work. But as you can see from Chris’ smile, it’s work they love doing. They plan to keep doing it for as long as possible.

Blog Photo - Chris Apple Picking

Many people today are drawn to houses that look like they belong in a glossy interior design magazine. Valerie, an interior designer, and her husband Chris, a TV producer, didn’t do that.  They bought a run-down place and worked hard at it for 20 years.  Today, for this couple, this place is  — quite simply  — home.

“I guess because everywhere  I look, what I see is immensely satisfying to me,” says Valerie.   “The flowers (growing, not cut) that I always have everywhere, the artifacts that Chris and  I have accumulated from numerous foreign countries over the years, the carefully chosen furnishings and the general knowledge that we have constructed a home  that is very personal and comforting to the two of us.  It all works.”

Blog Photo - Val Home2

“We have no intention of leaving,” says Val, “ until we physically can’t handle the work it entails – and it does entail work!”

“It’s about staying as healthy as one can as one ages,” says Val.   “I think it’s important for everyone to realize life doesn’t have to stop when the wrinkles and aches and pains start. “

Bravo, Val and Chris. You’re an inspiration.

A Good Home, Adopted HOme, Canada, Canadiana, France, Life in canada

My Home and Adopted Land

If you’re not Canadian – and even if you are – you might wonder why some people are fretting about the potential break-up of our  country – yet again.

You may be surprised to learn that some of the Canadians most concerned about this are immigrants.  People like me.

I came here in the 1970’s.   Went to university, launched an award-winning career, married a great guy, bought our first house and raised our children together — here, in Canada.    I’ve worked in every province — and the Northwest Territories – of Canada.  I have relatives and friends here.

Canada is home.

Most of the places and people I write about in my book, A Good Home, are right here in Canada.

agoodhome_cynthiareyes

Even now, when the winter has finally driven me crazy and I’ve been making up silly poems beginning with lines such as: “No ifs, ands or buts, This winter has driven me nuts…”  Even now,  I love this country.  It’s not where I was born, but it’s where I will be buried.

My love affair with Canada was ignited, not in Ontario, where I landed, but in the history of French Canada – particularly Quebec.  I experienced it only in the books I studied at university. I’d never even been to Quebec.

~~

“New France”,  the French called their new outpost.  Settled in the 1600’s by French soldiers,  priests, woodcutters — and the destitute orphans, peasants and street women who came to the new colony to marry them (except for the priests!) and populate the colony.

via wikipedia.org
French women arriving in New France. Image via wikipedia.org
via canadahistoryproject.ca
via canadahistoryproject.ca

In 1759-60,  British forces defeated the French, formally taking over New France in 1763.  But even in the 1980’s – when I worked as a journalist and producer for Canada’s public broadcaster – Quebec’s early history, and that historic loss, seemed present.

“Je me souviens”, Quebec license plates read, starting in 1978. “I remember.”

via wikipedia.org
via wikipedia.org

~~

Fast-forward several years, and I’m now an executive producer/ head of journalism training for the CBC.  On the international front, I’m also Secretary General of INPUT, a public television organization based in Italy and Canada.

Back home in Canada,  the province of  Quebec was threatening to separate from Canada.  But it was in Italy –  while having supper in a Florence restaurant with an international  group of TV luminaries — that I was confronted with the real likelihood of it.

My favorite person at the table was Helene, a passionate and outspoken producer from Quebec.

An Irish colleague asked Helene: “Would Quebec really separate from Canada?”

Helene didn’t miss a beat. “We have to go,” she said.

Helene was my closest friend in INPUT.   But realizing her dream of a  new country meant tearing my country apart. I, who had felt the pain of the conquered Quebecois, was now solidly on the other side of this fight.

“My Canada includes Quebec,” I said, reduced by shock to talking in slogans. “I don’t want you to go.”

“I know, Cynthia,” she said, pronouncing my name Cyn-te-ah. “I’m really sorry.  But we have to go.”  The words flew from her mouth like bullets to my heart.

My Canada included Quebec.   It also included the Aboriginal peoples, the original inhabitants of Quebec.   They, too, had suffered historical losses.  My Canada included English Canada and French Canada and the Aboriginal peoples of Canada.

~~

On October 30, 1995,  I was in downtown Montreal, where many of the shopkeepers are immigrants.  Rue Ste Catherine;  St. Dennis: I wandered these streets and others whose names I was too upset to notice. It was Referendum Day.  Quebeckers were voting. By day’s end, Canadians would know if we were still a country.

The streets were almost deserted that day, the shopkeepers downcast. It was as if the mourning for Canada had already begun.

Surprisingly, the separatists were defeated.  Narrowly.  Some blamed Quebec’s immigrants for the loss.  They’d voted overwhelmingly against separation.

I imagined  Helene’s grief,  her dream denied.  But for the first time since I’d met her,  I didn’t know how to console her.  Because Canada, my adopted home, would stay together.  At least for now.

~~

There is separatist talk in Quebec.  Again.  And it scares me.  Again.