Wednesday, April 26, 2017

dear earthworm

Dear Earthworm,

I hope you've noticed that I've grown more civilized in the years (now beginning the fourth!) that I've been gardening. I no longer shriek when I accidentally touch you. That was uncouth, I know, but it's a deeply entrenched behavioural response. Note that I don't say it's instinctive. I've seen young children play with worms -- even try to eat them.

If I ever loved you as a child, at some point I decided you were reprehensible. Because you're not like me with bones, hair, and thicker skin packaging? I don't know. (I'm not even going to mention Freud.)

I can't blame my parents because they were a-okay with worms. The more earthworms, the better, since they aerate the soil. Dead earthworms and earthworm poop make great fertilizer. I grew up in an earthworm-positive home.

Yesterday was the first time this spring that I was able to start work in the garden, seeding radishes and beets. Did you see, I planted garlic last fall? The pink string is to remind myself where I've planted seeds because I need visual aids so I don't step all over the place.

When I had my hands in the soil and and suddenly there you were, I flinched -- okay -- but I didn't shriek. I wasn't expecting you, that was all. Though I do know that's where you live, and I want you stay there because I like you aerating the soil and hope you contribute lots of poop.

I looked at you respectfully. You sort of flinched too. You'd been disturbed. You were cold, and I understood that a boneless, thin-skinned, hairless creature would feel the cold more than I would. I didn't want a bird to get you, so I nudged you back into some loose soil again.

Gloves on, yeah, because I still have that deeply entrenched behavioural response. But I'm working on it. There is room in my garden for both us.

We'll have a good summer gardening, right?
Rapunzel (aka Alice)

Monday, April 24, 2017

bathroom reno / old houses

Might not look like much to you, but this lovely: clean, flat drywall (emphasis on flat because the walls in this house feature nicks and bumps), a professionally plastered corner (no, R, that's not a dig at your attempts, merely a fact), a plug and a light switch where there wasn't one a month ago.

Sure, the wall needs to be painted and I'll get to that once it's warm enough to keep the windows open all day. For now I revel in the new, just up and functioning bathroom.

What used to be in this corner was a grotty sheet of plastic around a curry-yellow tub hardly large enough to turn around while taking a shower. We never used it as a bath. We knew when we moved into the house in 2001 that we would have to redo the bathroom, but change takes time and $$$ and there were more important changes to be made first.

So it was only now that the tub was carted to the dump. Upended, it was an even poorer tub than I'd thought. It was made of tin. Enamelled tin. The man doing the work could pick it up with one hand.

Demolition revealed yet more.

In 1902, houses in Pointe St. Charles weren't built with indoor bathrooms. People had outhouses in the backyard and went to the famous Hogan Baths (now private property -- condos from the looks) for weekly hygiene.

It hadn't occurred to me to wonder what the room that's now the bathroom used to be. Behind the grotty plastic the wood was rotting. Behind the rotting wood was a pink plaster wall with a darker pink carved wooden archway. The bathroom used to be part of a double living room. (No pic, sorry. I took a few but lost them in the upheaval of renovation.)

In addition to changing the layout of the room so the toilet and shower were no longer cheek by jowl, we had the pipes which were above the floor put under the floor. That required lifting the pine floorboards which we wanted replaced again.

Throughout the house we've kept the floors from 1902 which means that our floors are even bumpier than our walls and wouldn't be to everyone's taste, but we like the warmth of the old wood. R will have a couple of days of sanding ahead of him.

For now, the shower works hot and cold (which it didn't at first), there's ample room to turn around, the cabinet accommodates the P-trap (another story), and the toilet is off against its own wall.

What luxury. I am aware of it and I am happy.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Five Roses goes to Quebec City

Who would not want to talk about their book in such a lovely library, in front of an attentive audience? Thank you to CBC's Julia Caron who interviewed me, the Morrin Centre and ImagiNation 2017 who invited me, the people who came and listened with such interest.

Note that if you're at all interested in Canadian history or the history of old buildings in general, the Morrin Centre in Quebec City is well worth a visit. The stone building was the meeting place for Canada's first learned society; it was Quebec City's first jail; it was the once-upon-a-time Quebec City campus for McGill University... among other things, and not in that order. There are tours to take you from the chemistry lab to the ballroom to the jail cells.

Although there are more academic ways to discuss the age of a building, I like to look at how wood, stone, and metal are worn. Here's a doorstep on the fourth floor. That's a lot of foot traffic.

I had my interview in the library, overseen by a statue of James Wolfe--Wolfe of Wolfe and Montcalm fame, Battle of the Plains of Abraham, 1759.

Afterward, I went up the stairs to have a closer look at the statue, which has a long history that includes vandalism, a sea voyage around the world, a stint holding up a sign outside a tavern in London, England. I'm assuming the statue is not life-sized.

R and I spent some time at the festival and enjoyed ourselves, but we were also looking forward to walking around Quebec City where he was born and lived until his mid-20s. That's a few years ago now. He was telling me the stories of how it used to be.

This building was once a Kresge's where, as a high school student, he sat at the lunch counter and ate fries.

The yellow brick building across the street was a brothel. The staff ate at Kresge's too.

This large boulevard figures in a story his mother used to tell about living at the bottom of the hill. One day a delivery cart was going too fast and the horse crashed through the kitchen window and ended up with his hooves in the sink.

Quebec City is known for its steep roads.

And, of course, the Plains of Abraham where the fate of Canada--English or French--was decided.

Yes, that's snow. Early April but it will be a while yet before anyone sits on this bench.

In memory of Kresge's, we had some fries.

Though I had mine with a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

montreal april 2, 2017

This, too, is Montreal.
A 30-min walk from where I live, four subway stops from downtown.