Looking out over the front lawn of the Manse and the village of Queensborough from the room that once was my bedroom. It’s hard for me to put into words what this feels like. Except: home.
Well! It has been a very busy few days at the Manse, our first inside the place as the owners. So let’s leave aside the extremely dodgy relationship I’ve had with the internet of late (which has kept me from filing regular updates, for which I apologize – but I have discovered that the internet and Tweed, Ont., are apparently not on great terms) and instead talk about Van Morrison for a second. I want to quote the great man: “What my mama told me – there’ll be days like like this.”
Yes. Yes, there will.
Upon watching Van perform it on YouTube just now, I realized that what I had always remembered as a song along the lines of “crap happens, and my mama warned me about that” was actually a very positive and uplifting song: his mama, he says, told him there’d be days when things just went right. “When it’s not always raining – there’ll be days like this.” “When you don’t need to worry – there’ll be days like this.” “When no one’s in a hurry – there’ll be days like this.” “When everything falls into place, like the flick of a switch – there’ll be days like this.”
I think that what Raymond and I went through for the past few days was an interesting mix of “crap happens, and there’ll be days like this” and “when everything falls into place, there’ll be days like this.” My own personal low point was staring at the ceiling, wide awake in the middle of the night after a day spent working at the Manse, and thinking, “Oh lord, what have I got poor Raymond into?”
Because, as faithful readers will recall, this is not the house Raymond grew up in. Raymond knew nothing about Queensborough, or Hastings County, until he met me. What he knew and loved were (among other places) New England, where he comes from; Montreal; the Eastern Townships of Quebec, which he adores; San Francisco and the wine country of northern California; and Paris, where he pines to live. Queensborough: not so much on the radar.
Raymond is a very good sport. He is now a property-owner in Hastings County, as he just this second proudly reminded me.
Anyway, my sleepless worried night was the low point. (There’ll be days like this.) There were also an enormous number of high points in our visit. Let’s try to do a little list here; most if not all will be backed up with details in future posts:
1. Finally meeting in person Ed Couperus, the Queensborough tradesman who is doing an excellent job of keeping an eye on the house for us (and has alerted us to an eavestrough situation that definitely needs rectifying soon). Ed is fantastic, no two ways about it. Knowledgeable, personable, kind. What more could we ask for?
2. Meeting Fred Middleton, the inspector from our insurance company, who told us about growing up on the grounds of the historic Corbyville distillery just north of Belleville (his father was chief engineer there) and who has worked as an electrician and inspector all over Hastings County and beyond. He is a mine of interesting stories, and a great guy.
3. My brother John’s excitement at being able to get hands-on with the Manse. The absolute highlight was him finally (after a lot of work) peeling off the overpainted ghastly c.1970 wood panelling – installed on my family’s watch – in the kitchen and revealing the original plaster wall, Mad Men-era colour and all. (Video and paint chip to follow.)
John in the early stages of the fight with the recalcitrant baby-blue toilet seat. The heavy artillery had yet to be brought out.
4. Almost as good as that, John’s victory over the rusted bolt holding into place the “vintage” (read: old, horrid and stained) baby-blue toilet seat. Before John and his pal Suzanne arrived on Tuesday morning, Raymond had already had a good go at the thing, and hadn’t been able to budge it because of the rust. (Raymond’s mum, Cécile Brassard, had always maintained – totally correctly, in my books – that the first thing you have to do in a place you’re moving to is put in a new toilet seat. Words to live by.) John tried too; same result. Raymond and Suzanne and I were off in another part of the house when the sound of a loud power tool busted out, briefly; by the time we got into the bathroom, we found John wearing a satisfied grin and announcing, “Showed it who’s boss.” He’d taken his chop saw to the bolt holding the seat in place. Desperate times require desperate measures.
5. The simultaneous arrival of our Queensborough friend Elaine Kapusta and two of our 10 nephews, twins Emmet and Daniel Wisnicki, who were on reading week from (respectively) the University of Toronto and Carleton University. Dan and Emmet proceeded to help us rip out “vintage” broadloom, while I gave Elaine a tour of the place. Suddenly the Manse was full of people and life, bustling, happy. Just the way we want it to be.
And you know, I think I’ll leave it on that note for tonight. There are more items to add to the list of What Happened in Our First Few Days as Manse Owners, and I will, anon. Suffice it to say that this evening as I write, Raymond and I are feeling good about being property-owners in Queensborough.
Because, as Van says:
“When all the parts of the puzzle
start to look like they fit
Then I must remember
there’ll be days like this.”