A Good Home

Goodbye Downton. Hello, Elton!


Creator Julian Fellowes says the upcoming season of Downton Abbey will be the last.

Pass me a handkerchief; I need to have a little cry. 

Blog Photo - Downton Abbey Family and Staff

The grand, fabulous Highclere Castle serves as the fictional Downton Abbey, home of the Crawley family. It’s a mansion, yes, but for many wealthy English aristocrats of the time, such places were home.

Blog Photo - Downton-Abbey

My life is far removed from the world of Downton.  I don’t think they’d have allowed me to even be a servant at Downton back then.

Blog Photo - Downton Abbey ladies at tea

And definitely not a cook …. though with good reason.

Maybe an exotic  musician, the only black character so far on the show … though I can’t sing, so maybe not.

Blog Photo - Downton Abbey Maggie Smith

But I digress.

Blog Photo - Downton abbey at christmas

I love the series for the socially conscious storylines about how people deal with difference.

The moments of shock when people step out of line, and the frank prejudice that assumes everyone around has those prejudices too. And,  countering all that, the great decency at the heart of the show. It acknowledges that class and prejudice were the era’s built-ins, but that humans can sometimes rise above them and be simply decent and sensible.

I love the series for showing people trying to ‘better” themselves, whether through better decisions, or better jobs. 

Blog Photo - Downton Abbey Family and Servants in Green room

And let’s not forget the home itself: the grand rooms, the big kitchen, the fabulous clothes. And the characters. Maggie Smith has almost as many acerbic one-liners as Dorothy Parker.

Blog Photo - Downton abbey interior



But where Downton captures a slice of the past, Elton McDonald captures the future.

Blog Photo - Elton McD - MacLeans Magazine

Elton McDonald is the young Toronto man whose private retreat set international news agencies abuzz. Police and media feared it was meant to be a terror tunnel, built to do damage to the PanAm Games in Toronto this year.

But no! It was created by an ambitious young builder from a very poor Toronto neighborhood. Many of us dream of a retreat,  a home away from home, but Elton needed it more than most.

Blog Photo - Elton McD Home from MacLeans Mag

A dreamer who has a genius for building, this young man devotedly built his tunnel as an escape from the tougher realities of life. This tunnel below was Elton’s home away from home, decorated only with a Remembrance Day poppy and a rosary.

Blog Photo - Elton Tunnel from Toronto Police

When you read his story, you will see why this guy is destined for great things. And perhaps you’ll see why, of the two stories mentioned in this post, this is the one that stole my heart.

Elton, we hope that one day you’ll be able to build a castle of your own – even if it’s underground.

Blog Photo - Elton McD with shovel - Photo  from MacLean's Magazine

More about Elton’s story and his plans:



Will be sad to see you go, Downton.

But hooray for Elton! I’m wishing you a great and happy life.

Credit: Thanks to Della Rollins and Maclean’s Magazine for the photos of Elton McDonald, and to ITV and PBS for Downton photos.  And thanks to Lauren Reyes-Grange for sending me the links to these stories.

A Good Home, Home Decor, Homes, Life in canada, Lifestyle

The Porch – by Guest Writer Heather Beveridge

Dark green paint was the colour of almost every two-story house in Toronto’s east end.

Blog Photo - old semi with green front porch

If you were very bold, the house was painted deep red with an ecru trim.  My mother didn’t want to stand out in a crowd or cause a row in the neighborhood, so she insisted that our house exterior be painted the standard dark green trim with a white porch. The porch floor was painted grey.

Painting the outside of the house was always a big job. First, the extension ladder was borrowed from my grandfather’s garage. Extension ladders in those days were not light aluminum ones; nevertheless, my father would walk to my grandparents’ home at the top of the street and come home carrying the wooden ladder while I sat on the porch and waited.

Blog Phot - Father and children on porch steps

No one ever painted over the old paint. Perhaps there were too many layers. A blow torch was used to soften up the old paint. The torch had a brass barrel, never as shiny as the ones that I see at auctions.

Next came the lighting of the gas.   This wouldn’t have stuck in my memory if my mother hadn’t been such a worrier. My mother expected an explosion whenever there was fire, gas, or even matches.  My father would quietly ignore my mother’s admonitions, light the torch and begin peeling the paint. It gave off a beautiful smell like burning leaves on a fall day.

Peeling the paint was right up there with helping my grandfather shave wood. Over and over, my Dad and I would clean off the old paint from the porch. Twisting off those silky strips of glistening paint and pulling ever so gently and slowly to try to get the biggest curl of paint yet.

Our porch served many duties. The huge baby pram with its great big belly like a whale was always on the porch. My baby brother always slept outside during the daytime – even on the coldest winter days – buried beneath piles of blankets with an old coat thrown over the top of the pram. It was Nana’s idea of child-rearing:  she insisted that children must sleep outside even in winter, and my mother had no choice but to follow her determined mother’s ideas.

Blog Photo - Baby in pram and Heather

The porch was also where I was put on house-cleaning day:  “Here – take your toys and play on the porch. No, you can’t come in until the floors are dry.”

There was no furniture on our porch. At the time, I never questioned why – but I remember the Duncans’ house down the street had a glider on their porch with striped cushions.

Ours was a ‘playing porch’ – an open porch with steel-grey painted wood floor and bars of white cut-out shapes with a smooth enamel green railing on top. The railing was just the right height for me at five years old to imagine that I was standing on board my pirate ship and waving goodbye to all those scalliwag friends of mine.

Out I would go into my land of adventure, sticking my head in every so often for more toys. Especially on rainy spring days, my friends and I would gather on the porch.

Blankets dragged from the house and kitchen chairs became Indian tepees or, more often, a pirate ship. The enemy was hiding just around the corner in the alleyway and the tepee or ship had to be put in just the right place so the baby carriage wasn’t bumped, setting off wails. Occasionally, we ventured off onto the lawn to retrieve weapons tossed overboard in the excitement of the moment.

That porch served us well as children. I couldn’t imagine a house without one.

It wasn’t until our own home was built that a glider was installed on the porch. It wasn’t quite the same with railings that were laminate and no paint to peel. And a cement floor would never be as fine as the shiny warm planks that served double duty as a pirate ship.Blog Photo - Porch Exterior Wide shot