Everything’s coming up turquoise.

Me (looking goofy – or maybe just hopeful?) with the freshly revealed turquoise kitchen wall.

Faithful readers will recall that when my brother John pulled a piece of the 1970s wood panelling off the Manse’s kitchen wall, he revealed the colour that the original plaster was painted in 1964, when my family moved in. It was a greenish-turquoise; the name of a close-match paint chip that I found at the Rashotte Home Building Centre in Tweed is “Sea Inspired.” And speaking of inspired, I think I have become inspired by the colour turquoise.

Apparently I’m not alone, because now that I’m thinking about turquoise I’m suddenly seeing it everywhere. I believe turquoise is coming back into its own.

Turquoise and white kitchen, courtesy of a blog I like (for obvious reasons), House of Turquoise (houseofturquoise.com).

The appeal to me of using it in the Manse kitchen is twofold: one, it will give it the retro look of the Mad Men days when we first lived there; and two, turquoise and white are a beautiful, bright, fresh combination. Seasideish and breezy. It seems to work best in rooms that have a lot of sunlight; in darker rooms, I think turquoise would be gloomy. But one thing everyone who walks into the Manse says is, “This house is so bright!” And it is. I think that with glossy white wainscotting and a bright white tin ceiling, those turquoise plaster walls in the kitchen are going to be stunning.

But back to turquoise being everywhere I look. Our great friend Susan Stevenson told us the other day about a downtown Montreal store that sells Aga stoves (it’s Grange at Union and President Kennedy, for those in or near Montreal; Almar on Décarie also sells them). A couple of days later I was passing by it on my way to a meeting. No time to go in, but I could see the Aga section through the display windows. Guess what colour the first one I spotted was.

The Aga cooker, in “pistachio.” I would like to have that cooker.

Grange sells furniture and many other home-decor items, and another thing that caught my eye was a modern chandelier, black metal hardware and maybe 20 or 25 individual lamps, each with its own shade – in, of course, turquoise. Now that would look cool over the kitchen table!

You couldn’t make this stuff up.

What I found glued to the floor of the master bedroom at the Manse. An amazing coincidence; read on to find out why…

This is a post about how what goes around comes around. Or about things coming full circle. Or about everything happening for a reason. Something along those lines; maybe all of the above.

As I’ve detailed in an earlier post, on Day 1 of our first-time-being-in-the-Manse-as-owners experience last week we ripped out elderly and tired carpeting from the rooms upstairs. (I felt a little badly about that, having been on the scene as a kid of 13 or so when that carpeting was first installed, to much oohing and aahing about what an improvement it was.) Anyway, my nephews Daniel and Emmet and I yanked it out, leaving splotches of still-stuck-on carpet underlay and black dust from deteriorated underlay in its wake. Once the carpeting was removed, I vaguely noticed a small piece of old newspaper stuck to the wooden floor in a corner of the master bedroom (my mum and dad’s). Didn’t think anything of it, because I know that in old houses one tends to find pieces of old newspaper all over the place, notably behind wall panels and even inside walls, as insulation.

The next morning, Day 2 of our first-time-being-in-the-Manse-as-owners experience, Raymond and I were back, alone, mainly cleaning up the mess from the previous day’s efforts at demolition of unwanted floor and wall and ceiling coverings. He was off in a far section of the upstairs and I was sweeping up the mess in Mum and Dad‘s room. I thought I’d take a closer look at the scrap of newspaper.

When I saw what it was, I let out a delighted shriek, scaring the poo out of Raymond.

It was from the Globe and Mail, which made sense since that was the newspaper the Sedgwick family had subscribed to forever (my mother’s people, however, were Telegram folks) – and whose arrival  – in the mailbox, as I recall – at the Manse every day was a highlight for me. I read it all. (Except the Report on Business.) (Remember when they did Report on Sport?)

It was the first few paragraphs of a story placelined Quebec City, apparently (a little hard to read, because the right side of the column had been torn off) about bad behaviour by biker gangs. But it wasn’t the topic that gave me a start; it was the byline.

“By HUBERT BAU…” it said.

That would be Mr. Hubert Bauch, once (from 1973 to 1977) of the Globe and Mail, but for many more years of the Montreal Gazette, serving as one of the finest political reporters in the country and then, much more recently, as The Gazette’s chief editorial writer. Since I’m in charge of editorials (among other things) at The Gazette, this means Hubie (as he is known to all) and I work closely every single weekday. We start our days discussing with the other members of the editorial board what should be opined on for the next day’s newspaper, and then a great deal of the time it’s Hubie who goes off and writes an elegantly chosen 600 words or so, always informed by his vast experience in and knowledge of Canadian and Quebec politics and history, and his love of fine writing. And then, as his editor, I edit it, and marvel at his skill and erudition and ability to craft zingers.

Hubie is the man.

And there was his byline from all those years ago, at the Manse! If anyone had told me at the time the brand-new carpet was being laid that one day, many years hence, I’d be working with the legend in Canadian journalism that the person whose bylined article was stuck to the floor would become, I would have thought that was crazy talk. (I think I was planning a career as United Nations secretary-general at the time. Not journalism.)

Anyway: coincidence? I think not.

It kind of reminds me of that great line from Casablanca, my favourite movie, when the heartbroken Rick has unexpectedly crossed paths with Ilsa, the love of his life. It’s a melancholy scene in the movie (the exact opposite of my unexpected run-in with Hubie at the Manse), but because it’s wonderful, perhaps I should share it with you, just because I can:

Madame Hailstone, our exotic French teacher

Madame Sonia Hailstone at the time of an exhibition of her paintings in early 2011. Her painting "Paris," featuring the Opéra Garnier, is above her head. At right is one called "Brugge," of the beautiful Belgian city we usually call by its French name, Bruges. (Photo courtesy of Sara Hailstone)

A week or so ago, I was delighted to find a comment on this blog from fellow blogger and fellow Queensborough girl Sara Hailstone. She also put a nice post about my Manse ruminations on her own blog, Hamartia and I; it’s here. Sara is a writer and teacher who now, I believe, lives in the village of Madoc (one of the two commercial centres near non-commercial Queensborough, the other being Tweed). But she grew up in the building at the heart of Queensborough where Bobbie Ramsey’s general store used to be. (Sara, I hope I’ve got all that right!)

This evening I finally had a bit of time to look through Sara’s blog, and I came upon a lovely post about her grandmother, Sonia Hailstone. Madame Hailstone to me. She was the first French teacher we ever had at Madoc Township Public School, and I’m pretty sure she also taught at Madoc Public School (the school in town; the Township School was out in the country, not far from Hazzards Corners). She seemed very exotic to us Madoc Township kids, because we knew she came from faraway Europe. She had an accent! (I am not sure if her first language was French or Dutch/Flemish; as I learned from Sara’s blog post, she came from Brussels, so it could have been either.) She was married to Ted Hailstone, who had a plumbing business in Madoc, and I always assumed she was a war bride. Turns out that was right, as Sara’s post explains. I love the part about how when Ted first brought Sonia back to his home in Madoc, she made the mistake of assuming that Belleville (the small city that is the seat of Hastings County, pretty much due south of Madoc, on Lake Ontario‘s Bay of Quinte), which they passed through first, was actually Madoc. As they carried on north and things got more and more rural, the towns smaller and smaller, her eyes must have got larger and larger. I wonder if she thought (as Raymond and I sometimes do, vis-à-vis the Manse): “What on earth have I got myself into?”

"Water scene, Queensborough" by Sonia Hailstone. (Photo courtesy of Sara Hailstone)

Anyway, Sara’s post is also about the paintings that her grandmother does; she has had at least one exhibition of them. I love the one of a Paris street scene featuring the Opéra (the Garnier one, of course), but also the one of Queensborough.

It’s so nice to be reminded of Madame Hailstone, who was very patient with her young students as we struggled with “Je m’appelle…”

Beautiful old linoleum

The linoleum floor that lay under the rust-coloured carpeting in the master bedroom.

Our uncovering-of-surfaces adventures this past week included yanking up most of the carpeting in the house; the only bit left to do is the orangey stuff on the main staircase and in the upstairs and downstairs hallways. It seems to have been glued down and its underlay has kind of dissolved into black dust, so that’s going to be a dirty job. But the carpeting in the three bedrooms and the study came up easily, though there are pieces of underlay still stuck to the floors that’ll have to be scraped off.

But this is less about getting rid of old broadloom and more about old floors.

The floor in "the boys' room," where my brothers slept…

All of the rooms have a pine subfloor that looks to be in pretty decent shape and so can  be sanded down and/or painted to look very nice. But on top of that subfloor in each of the rooms was a piece of linoleum, the very floors that were there when we moved in to the house in 1964.

Interestingly, none of them was the full size of the room; they were laid like a rug would be, with a bare section of floor around the edges.

… the one in the "girls' room," which was for my sister, Melanie, and me. The black splotches are pieces of carpet underlay.

Was that the style back in the day? Or maybe it’s like that because it was cheaper to buy a piece of floor in a set size than to have it cut and installed to measure?

I have no idea what decade these floors may have come from – your thoughts welcome. Certainly they were not new in 1964. And they show lots of signs of all the wear and tear they’ve taken over the years.

Still, I think the patterns and colours are quite beautiful. We’ll have to find some way to preserve at least a bit of these glimpses into the past.

Layers and layers of floor

What we found under the kitchen floor: the floor before that, and then the floor before that. And finally, hardwood.

In a very early post, I mentioned the new kitchen floor that my mother, Lorna, so wanted back in the ’60s, and how happy she was when the church’s Manse Committee finally decided that said floor was warranted. The turquoise and white linoleum that was there when we moved in was therefore covered with a vinyl floor that was supposed to look like red brick. My mum loved it because she thought it “wouldn’t show the dirt.” (A key consideration when there were four kids running around.)

A scrap of our c. 1969 "new" kitchen floor, newly excavated.

Sometime after 1975, when we moved away, that faux-brick floor was covered up by yet another one, an unexciting cream-coloured number. But this week we excavated our “new” floor – and not only it, but also the turquoise and while linoleum below it. We discovered that each floor had been installed on top of the previous one, with a layer of plywood nailed down first. So the original hardwood was beneath three layers of linoleum/vinyl floor and three layers of plywood. We dug deep.

For the moment the plan is to sand down the hardwood, and doubtless it will look beautiful. Still, I’d like to look into whether turquoise-and-white foot-square linoleum-type floor tiles might be available somewhere. It think they’d look both retro and beautiful together with the newly uncovered turquoise-painted plaster wall. (Here are some stunning photos of how nice turquoise-and-white rooms look, courtesy of the very cool House of Turquoise blog.) And besides, the folks at the Armstrong flooring powerhouse say that linoleum is environmentally friendly:

Linoleum flooring is made from natural materials like linseed oil, recycled wood flour, cork dust and limestone. Linoleum is naturally anti-bacterial and biodegradable. If you are looking for a “green” floor for your home, linoleum is one of the best choices!

And also, is hardwood a good surface for a kitchen floor? Thoughts, anyone?

The colour of the kitchen walls, c. 1964: It is inviting.

Our prime mission at the Manse this week was to find out what was behind and under various surface coverings: the old wood panelling, linoleum and ceiling tiles. Fortunately much of the interior hasn’t been covered by anything more than paint or wallpaper or easily-pulled-up broadloom; the original plaster walls, for instance, are there and in pretty good shape in many places. Same with the plaster ceilings in some rooms.

But the surfaces in the kitchen, the largest and (to Raymond and me) the most important room, had been covered extensively. And for that, the Sedgwicks have no one to blame but ourselves: it all started while we lived there. The turquoise-and-white floor linoleum was covered with a new vinyl floor; the plaster ceiling was covered with acoustic tiles; and the walls, including the plaster above and the wooden wainscotting below – and don’t get me started on how brilliant and beautiful I now consider wainscotting to be – were covered with hideous (to a 2012 eye) “wood” panelling. Panelling that had, sometime between our family moving away in 1975 and now, been painted an off-white colour, I assume because at some point both the resident minister and the Manse Committee realized that wood panelling was not exactly fashionable (or even tolerable) any more.

So we had to get behind it to see what remained. My brother John, forewarning us with something along the lines of “Renovation has to begin with a bit of destruction” went after the first panel in the wall – right behind where the woodbox for our old wood stove had been – with a hammer, a miniature crowbar (doubtless that tool has a technical name, but I don’t know what it is), and a vengeance.

It took a while, but as you can see from the video, he got it. And as you can hear from the video, I was thrilled when the plaster wall that was there when we moved in in 1964, when I was four years old, was suddenly revealed – for the first time in more than 40 years. Full of nail holes from the panelling installation, but salvageable. And what a funky colour! And the wainscotting was there too, though the chair rail that was at the top of it had been yanked off so that the panelling could be installed. Happily, John tells me it won’t be a big deal to replace it.

The following morning, Raymond and I were in the Rashotte Home Building Centre in Tweed – highly recommended; excellent stuff and excellent staff – and I gravitated over to the paint chips, looking for something close to the colour of Queensborough Manse Kitchen Wall Circa 1964. I picked out three, and when we got back to the Manse we tried them out. One was remarkably close. It’s called “Sea Inspired” and its adjective on the paint chip is “inviting.” Nice! And if Home Hardware (are you listening, Home Hardware?) didn’t insist that its paint-colours download be in Microsoft Windows (which my sleek and lovely Mac does not like), I could show it to you. Suffice to say it’s kind of a sea-foam colour. Or, as they said back in the day, turquoise.

Here’s my mother, Lorna, circa 1969, wishing aloud for fashionable wood panelling in the Manse kitchen:

“I hate turquoise.”

There’ll be days like this

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.”