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Almost There – John’s House Pt. 5

Ever get the impression that this blog is my way of living vicariously through others?  That I write stories about people who do things I wish I could do — or used to be able to do?

If so, you’d be partly right.

But what John Garside is doing – almost entirely by himself – blows my mind.   And now, as he nears his self-imposed deadline for moving Ann and himself into their house in Prince Edward County, I find myself holding my breath every time a new email comes from John.

Blog Photo - John Yellow Room and Scaffold

Will this be the email where John finally confesses that he needs a break from all this work, and that – promise or no promise –  the idea of moving in this spring is ridiculously un-do-able?

But it never is.  Not when he has to repair major cracks in the coach house foundation (below).  Not when he undertakes the delicate restoration of original ceiling medallions.  Not even when he is clearing out the basement.

Blog Photo - Johns Coach House

Blog Photo - Johns House Medallion

A lot of the work has been onerous.  As for the basement, John says it “was very crowded — 100 years of clutter — and cut up with old wooden partitions etc.  This was totally removed by me. 6,300 lbs. of stuff!!”

Right now, John’s working on finishing up the library.

Blog Photo - Johns House Library in Progress

The more John restores the house, the closer he feels to it, and the more he learns about its past.   He’s made a few intriguing discoveries.  Like the original signatures of the first owner and his young son, written in concrete.

“William W. Bedell,” explains John, “was the father.  Willet V. Bedell was his only son.  The boy would have been only 7 or 8 years old when he did it.”

Blog Photo - Johns House  Signature in concrete

Sadly, Willet died as a young man.  It was during the First World War, “on a Troop Ship in 1917 en route to France”.

The second family to own the house were the Wards, though John doesn’t yet know who exactly “Envers” was.   There’s still a lot to learn about the home’s history.

Blog Photo - Johns House Name on wood

John’s original move-in date was April 30.  But life follows its own course.

Just a few weeks ago, John’s mother’s health declined suddenly.  She died within days.

This spring is a time of change for John, Ann, and family.

It’s also a time of renewal.

After a rough winter, a flock of tiny blue scilla flowers is blooming in the garden.  It’s one of the first flowers of spring.

Blog Photo - Johns House Blue Scilla

And inside the house, John keeps repairing and restoring.

Another room done, one left to go. Then, after all the cleaning up, comes the big move.

The movers are now booked for May 7.

We’re cheering you on, John!

Photos by John Garside.

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Down to the Wire – John’s House Pt. 4

I have not had the nerve to ask John THE question: 

“Will the work be finished by April 30?”

Now that the electrical wiring is all done, John’s been working hard to meet his  self-imposed deadline.  But I know he’s had a couple of major life events to deal with recently.  So I waited a bit before checking in.

I find John working throughout this Easter weekend. For him, this is not a time to kick back and rest for the holidays.

As usual, he’s well prepared for this phase of work  — the plastering and painting.  He’s stocked up on supplies……

Blog Photo - John Paint Cans

For patching holes in walls and baseboard ….

Blog Photo - REd Room with Holes in Plaster

Repairing the plaster around the new light switches ….
Blog Photo - John Plastering Around Light Switch

Priming walls and painting the woodwork….

Blog Photo - John Yellow Room Primed

And the most delicate work of all:

Blog Photo - Green Room with Yellow room in BG

The walls and ceiling of this room.

Blog Photo - Hohn Rebuilt Green Room Medallion and CM

See that thing in the ceiling?  No, not the black thing – the white thing, to the left.  It’s a finely crafted medallion  – a gem rarely seen in houses today.  This medallion – along with the plaster ceiling and crown molding, was badly damaged by a water leak from the floor above some years ago.  John, intrepid soul, decided to repair them both.  But first, he had to stop the problem from recurring:

“A new eaves trough and downspouts solved this, which is what I did just after taking possession of the house.  Since then there has been no more water leaking into (the house).”

Blog Photo - John's Work on Ceiling and CM and Leaded windows

The features in this room are remarkable. The high ceilings. The medallion. The deep crown molding. The leaded windows.

Is there progress?  Heck, yes.

Blog Photo - Green Room and Leaded Windwos Complete

Have a look at this:

Blog Photo - John Yellow Room and Scaffold

And this:

Blog Photo - John Red Room FinishedAnd this:

Blog Photo - Finished Green Room

And this too.

Blog Photo - John Yellow Room Painted

Plus, John also finished up the wood flooring on the third floor.

Blog Photo - John finished floors

Seems to me like John just might get to keep his promise to Ann – that they’ll move in by month-end.  After all, he’s been working like the dickens.   But I don’t have the heart to ask him this, on top of everything he’s gone through lately.

So we’ll just have to find out together.

Stay tuned.

Photos by John Garside.

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The Dreaded Knob and Tube (John’s House, Pt. 3)

Ever heard of knob and tube?

Old knob and tube along with new wiring
Old knob and tube along with new wiring

It’s the kind of wiring used in old houses.  Like John Garside’s.

The gracious old house in lakeside  Prince Edward County, Ontario, has beautiful features.

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase 2

But behind those lovely features is knob and tube  — on the second and third floors of the beautiful home.  And that old knob and tube wiring can be dangerous.

Blog Photo - Picton House Exterior 2

“I knew the wiring was not quite fine,” John says.  “The chief electrician, Dan, and I spoke about the house and the work.  My comment: ‘ I want it to be beyond code’.  He replied: ‘very good’. ”

Blog Photo - Old wiring

It made sense to go above the basic requirements, or “beyond code”.  John didn’t intend to replace the new wiring for a long time.

He knew the  job would take a lot of time and involve “lots of new switches, plugs and all new wiring everywhere!”

Blog Photo - electrician and red walls

Which meant punching holes in beautiful plaster walls.

“Yes.  The holes are 4 inches in diameter and these allow them to fish the wires through the ceiling and around the joists.  Very complicated and very time consuming.  But it saves the plaster and the crown moldings!!”

Blog Photo - electrician working on ceiling

Blog Photo - Yellow room,s econd floor

The plaster and crown moldings in most of the rooms are remarkably beautiful.  (I’ll show them to you in next week’s story.) They’d cost a ton of money – and time –  to replace today.

But boring 4 inch holes isn’t enough access to remove and replace all of the wiring.  John had to rip up the floors on the third floor.

Blog Photo - Old floors more ripped up

“To get rid of all the knob & tube wiring on the second floor it was a better to remove the 3rd floor flooring so we would have access to the ceilings and walls of the 2nd floor”, John explains. ” That way the new wires could be sent up from the basement to the third floor, then dropped down into the appropriate room on the second floor.  This saved a great deal of grief!”

I think I understand that…..

Electricians Bob and Brian did the wiring work.  That left John to do the rest… the re-plastering on the second floor,  the replacement of the  flooring on the third.

“I am working on it right now!” John says.

Blog Photo - Old floors and work stand

Blog Photo - New Floors in progress wide shot

He’s working hard.  Time flies when you have a promise to keep.

Blog Photo - John's third floor - new floors in progress

John  promised his wife Ann that they’d move in by the end of April.  That’s three weeks away.

And there’s still a lot to do.

So, fingers crossed…..

And good luck to John.

Photos  by John Garside.

 

 

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Author MT McGuire At Home

Author MT McGuire is one of my favorite bloggers. That’s partly because I never know what MT will write about next.  Or how.

Like the time she went metal detecting and found “a strange um…. thing.”  Well, with an opening like that, don’t we just need to press on, to figure out what the um… thing is?

The Thing
The Thing

One day she’s unearthing an 800 year old object and the next she’s breaking your heart with her worry about her parents’ health.

My Mum was 80 a few months ago. She told me, gently, that her father didn’t survive to see 81 and I had a horrible feeling that she was telling me she thinks she mightn’t be around for long.  And I think this is the root of it all.  That my parents are knocking on, and soon they won’t be here.  And I want their last years to be happy, and for life to be kind to them, and while I think they are happy, I know they are struggling.

So I suppose I’m just scared.”

That ability to confront both the weird and the deeply moving may help explain the appeal of MT’s  K’Barthan Trilogy.

Blog Photo - MT Few Are Chosen
 She describes the young adult fantasy series as:  “Above all else, a romp. If it makes people laugh, then — to be honest — anything else is gravy. There are bad jokes, silly names, an unspeakable baddie, flying cars, flying car chases, exciting fights and a smattering of romance.  But I’m hoping there might be the odd universal truth buried in there somewhere, even if it’s only by mistake.”

MT McGuire’s self-description?   “A 45 year old who still checks inside unfamiliar wardrobes for a gateway to Narnia.”

Any luck with that?  “None yet.”

One day, I checked MT’s blog and discovered a wonderful old building where she and her family lived while her father was housemaster of Gibbs House, at Lancing College in Sussex, England.

Gibbs House, Lancing College
Gibbs House, Lancing College

Here’s how she describes it:

“Miles and miles of corridor and a couple of enormous rooms (you know, bed in one post code, wardrobe in another) and a couple of tiny ones just big enough to fit a chest of drawers and a bed, on each floor. You have the spare room; the dormer up top (horrible room, we thought it was haunted – so we kindly put our guests there – phnark).”

Lancing was definitely not a “normal” environment for a young girl, since it was mostly a boys’ school.

“If your life is not like other people’s you end up with an alternative perception of what normal is.”

You also learn to see things that others may miss.

“There were always the lads who were having a hard time at home. They were the ones my parents were extra kind to and for whom they went the extra mile. I never knew what was going on in these boys’ lives but there was something unmistakable in all of them.  So, I guess I developed an eye for people who were hauling baggage which has helped a lot with the characterisation in my books – not to mention day to day life.”

Lancing College Chapel
Lancing College Chapel

So – back to the pictures of Lancing College. They reminded me of another fantasy series — the Harry Potter books.  And sure enough,  Lancing was the producers’ first location choice.

“The school was offered a lot of money to be the ‘film-Hogwarts’ but declined. The headmaster at the time said that it was a place of education and not for Hollywood. He is a charming and mild mannered man.  I wonder what on earth they must have said to him to get such an uncharacteristically pompous rebuttal.”

Back Garden

Today, MT, her husband (“McOther”) and young son (“McMini”) live in another old building (above, built in 1800).

Blog Photo - MT Stairs to Landing

She loves it, despite the fact that the plumbing and heating systems and the plastering need repairs.  MT says it’s like owning a 1960’s Rolls Royce.

Blog Photo - MT Office via landing

Blog Photo - MT LRoom comfy corner

“Sure it needs a bit of care and tinkering but it’s like living in history and it’s so beautifully made. The banister rail is beautiful and the doors and the floors are lovely.  The look and feel goes with our furniture, which is mostly family stuff, generations of hand-me-down antiques and some nice modern things McOther and I have bought.

Blog Photo MT LRoom red sofa

Comfort matters.  “I like a well cared house, but not too neat. It has to look lived in or it makes the guests nervous and then they are far more likely to spill stuff and break things. Well, OK — I am, if I’m your guest. It may be different for normal people.”

Blog Photo - MT Stairs

For MT, home is a place, but, above all, it’s the people who love and understand you.

“Someone as well as somewhere to come home to. When I was a kid it was my parents and brother. Now, it’s McOther and McMini. Unless they are in it with me it’s not a proper home. I guess they are my home in many ways.”

MT McGUIRE’S BOOKS

There are 4 books — not three — in The K’Barthan Trilogy.

(MT cheerfully admits:  “Unfortunately, I’ve never been very good at maths”.)

The books are sold on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the other online booksellers. To learn more about MT and her books, please visit:

Blog: www.mtmcguire.co.uk
Website: www.hamgee.co.uk/books