Early bedtime: for a small child, the injustice of the universe

For some obscure reason, this not-particularly-good photo taken several months ago is pretty much the only one I’ve got (so far) of the bedroom that was my brothers’ for most of the time we lived at the Manse but in the very early days (maybe 1964 to 1966) was mine and, I guess, my sister’s (though I don’t recall her there). It was out the two windows that you see in it that I would peer, desperately wishing to escape, when I was put to bed at what I considered some unreasonably early hour. The worst was when it was high summer and still light outside. (Note, by the way, the vintage linoleum mat. It was there in 1964 too. That mat and I lived the too-early-to-bed rage together.)

It never fails to amuse me how things that cross my path or that I catch out of the corner of my eye in everyday life here in Montreal strike a chord of memory about something that happened in my long-ago childhood at the Manse.

As Raymond and I sat out on our back deck a short while ago, enjoying a warm, easy Friday evening after a demanding week at work, the children from at least three and maybe more neighbouring households were out in the alley, playing together and having a very fine time. But at 8:30 p.m. it was time for some of the smaller ones to be brought inside to be put to bed. Such weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth!

It took me right back to my very earliest memories of the Manse, when I was accorded the bedroom that later became my brothers’, on the northeast corner of the second floor of the house. I can picture like it was – well, like it was this evening – the views out of the two windows in that room, one looking out over the front lawn and the two tall evergreen trees there, and the other overlooking the large lawn (field, actually) at the front of Wallace Kincaid’s adjacent property. In my mind’s eye I’m looking out those windows in a rather desperate way because I am trapped. Jailed. I have been put to bed and it is not even yet dark outside! I can see a whole world (okay, a small corner of Queensborough) out there, a world where people are going places and doing things, and I, poor mistreated urchin, have been cut off from it all by an unfair and unbending diktat that because I am little I must be in bed by a certain time.

I remember my rage at the injustice of it all, the injustice of the universe in general. To be put to bed at such an hour! In the summertime! Before night had even fallen!

So I feel for those tots in the households of our Montreal neighbours. As I write this, though, it’s 9:30 p.m., an hour past their bedtime. And outraged though they may have been as they were being hauled in not long ago, I’m pretty sure that at this moment they are sleeping a very sound and peaceful sleep.

Outrage can only take you so far. Then it really is bedtime.

Queensborough makes the news

The latest issue of the EMC (Northeast edition), hot off the press with a story on what’s going on with Queensborough community development.

As I reported in a post this past Sunday, there was a meeting in Queensborough Sunday afternoon to talk about the kinds of things we want for our community: beautification, recognition of its heritage, development of tourism and commercial possibilities, etc. We talked about the work to be done, and people volunteered (or in some cases were volunteered!) for specific tasks. It felt like we accomplished a lot.

And things continue apace. On Tuesday, the municipal council of Tweed held its regular meeting at the Queensborough Community Centre; I gather that holding meetings in the outlying hamlets as opposed to the council chambers in the village of Tweed is something the council does from time to time, which strikes me as an excellent community-building and outreach exercise. At that meeting, representatives of our group spoke about our hopes and plans for Queensborough, and while Raymond and I were not able to be there (we were back in Montreal by then), I have received reliable reports that the meeting went well and the presentation was favourably received by the council. There was apparently even an excursion down to the Black River at the centre of town to examine land that could be used for a small public park! Excursions are excellent, especially in the middle of council meetings. (I say that as a former small-town reporter who sat through endless council meetings at town and township halls. Believe me, we [the reporters and the councillors alike] could have used a few excursions.)

Members of the vibrant local press (there are three weekly newspapers) attended that meeting, and at least one reporter has followed up with a story about what’s doing in Queensborough. This is all good stuff, and I post it here for your reading enjoyment. You have to keep up with the news!

Music at the Manse

A brilliant birthday gift from Raymond: it means we now have background music to renovate by!

My birthday present from Raymond came early this year. My birthday is not until July, but he wanted me to have it in time for our visit to the Manse last weekend. (Perhaps not too much of a surprise that this year’s birthday gift should be Manse-related, this being the year we bought the place and all.) So one day last week I was presented with a completely excellent gift: a Bose SoundDock for my iPhone!

This means that I can whomp the phone into the dock and play a bazillion songs (once I get a bazillion songs loaded into the phone; at the moment it’s more like a couple of hundred, me being a little slow on the iTunes uptake), and the sound is absolutely superb. (And the phone gets charged at the same time. Bonus!)

We set it up in the Manse’s dining room on Monday, putting it on top of our new (vintage) bookcase purchased at an auction that morning. It looks very handsome, and the sound is superb.

Ah yes: a stereo of the type we all thought was the bee’s knees back in the Manse days. It was pretty much all about the cabinet. Sound quality? Who cared about that? (Photo from the blog A Pretty Book, aprettybook.com.)

The dining room was where the Manse’s 1960s/’70s sound system was located too. Cast your mind back to those days (if you remember them) and you’ll recall those large pieces of wooden(ish) furniture that were all about style (?) and not much about sound. A cheap record player and poor speakers encased in an elaborate cabinet. It was kind of like – in fact, it was exactly like – the Avocado Green appliance phenomenon. A household would get one of these oh-so-cutting-edge stereos/pieces of furniture, and friends and neighbours would oooh and aaah over how beautiful it was.

The quality of the sound? Not so much.

My new Bose has the old RCA stereo – purchased long, long ago from Pigden Electronics of Madoc, Ont. – completely whipped for sound quality. And, come to think of it, for design too.

But we weren’t music snobs back in those days, and I’m not a music snob even today. I just like to hear the music I like, and it’s lovely to now be able to do so at the Manse. I set the phone on shuffle when I put it in the dock on Monday, so every song was a surprise. It made me smile when the dulcet (and I mean that) tones of Karen Carpenter‘s voice suddenly spilled out: “Why do birds suddenly appear/Every time you are near … ” At a yard sale or flea market a year or two ago I picked up the CD Carpenters: The Singles 1969-1973, a nod to nostalgia since that was one of the records we used to play over and over and over on the old RCA stereo at the Manse. Now here was the opening song, playing again in the same room, after all those years.

And sounding quite a bit better.

Here’s Karen and Richard. Man, did she have a gorgeous voice …

Tree identification: not my strong point

We just acquired these Audubon field guides (thanks to an amazon.ca Christmas gift card from my mum) to help us identify the birds and trees at and around the Manse. I think I’d better start studying the one on the right sooner rather than later.

Okay, before we go any further, I must (with some chagrin) correct myself. Faithful readers might recall that a few days ago I did a post about a big old maple tree in the back yard of the Manse that had gone from looking like “The Tree of Death” (as Raymond christened it in the very early spring) to a gloriously verdant very-much-alive (though still very old) thing. I said in the post that I think the tree looks like an old lady all dressed up and dancing, having the time of her life.

I still think that. But I stand corrected on one thing: that tree is not, repeat not, a maple.

I wrote the post in Montreal, relying on this photo and my memory (and assumptions, evidently). When we were back in Queensborough this past weekend, one of the first things Raymond did on a very sunny and beautiful Saturday morning was lead me round to the back yard and point out close up the error of my ways vis-à-vis what kind of tree the Old Dancing Lady is.

Not that either of us has figured out what it actually is, you understand – just that it’s not a maple.

I will have to start studying our new Audubon Field Guide to Trees. Either that or go the easy route and just ask someone who knows. Ed, are you listening?

At the auction

Auctioneer Boyd Sullivan (wearing light-brown hat, and wielding a chicken – he sells it all!) in action today. Note the teacups on the table that he’s about to get to. Boyd has some fairly strong (and amusing) feelings about teacups, it seems.

As many readers will know, one of the great things about rural areas is getting to go to auctions. The local papers in central Hastings County always have a bunch of auction notices, and Raymond – an auction fan from way back – studies them carefully. Sometimes the auctions are to clear out a household; sometimes they’re to sell off everything from a farm; sometimes it’s both.

Today there was an auction of household goods held south of Stoco (one of the five hamlets that, along with the village of Tweed, make up the Municipality of Tweed – the other four hamlets being Actinolite, Marlbank, Thomasburg, and our own Queensborough). Raymond had seen the notice and reported that there was antique furniture and other items of interest, so of course we had to check it out.

Happily the auctioneer was Boyd Sullivan of Sullivan Auctions. Boyd is a very in-demand auctioneer in the area, and we’d seen him in action once before, when the contents of the home of storekeeper and unofficial Queensborough Mayor-for-Life Bobbie Sager were sold several years ago, after Bobbie’s death. Not only is Boyd a first-rate auctioneer, but he’s got a terrific sense of humour. It’s worth a visit to one of his auctions even if you aren’t remotely interested in buying anything, just to watch him in action. You’re guaranteed a laugh or two – and you’ll almost certainly buy some stuff anyway.

Boyd came out with a classic line today when confronted with a bunch of china teacups and saucers that he had to sell. Those of you who (like me) frequent antique malls will know that there are always tons of china cups and saucers for sale, the reason being that no one wants them – because no one needs them. Who uses china teacups and saucers anymore? Anyway, I wish I’d written down what Boyd said because I don’t have it exactly right, but it was something along the lines of: “Cups and saucers. God’s curse upon humanity.” But you know what? He sold ’em off. And he got a good price for them! He is an amazing auctioneer.

Our new (to us) vintage bookcase from today’s auction, looking very much at home in the Manse’s dining room.

Raymond and I bid on several things, recusing ourselves on some after the prices got higher than we were comfortable with (which always leaves you kicking yourself later for not having gone just a bit higher), but coming away with an antique (probably very early 20th-century) chest of drawers, two mid-’60s (my favourite era!) framed prints of scenes of London, England (done in muted mid-’60s colours and featuring funky mid-’60s cars), and a very nice wooden bookcase with a glass-fronted door. That last was the piece we both really wanted, and I’m so happy we got it. It looks terrific in the Manse’s dining room along with our new (vintage) table and chairs from the store Camp Ho-Ba-Chee in Warkworth, Ont., and an art-deco sideboard we bought a few years ago at the antique market in Aberfoyle, Ont.

And let me tell you, it is very handy to have a little red truck in which to transport your finds back home to the Manse after the auction!

Queensborough, past, present, and future



Lots went on in Queensborough today. First there was the 140th anniversary service at St. Andrew’s United Church. When you think about it, that’s really something: the congregation (which started out as separate Methodist and Presbyterian churches and merged, interestingly [as I found out today thanks to an invaluable local history that will be the subject of another post] in 1921, four years before the 1925 “church union” that brought together the Methodist, Presbyterian [except for some holdouts, whom my father the United Church minister never forgave] and Congregational churches into the United Church of Canada) has been gathering for worship and doing good community work for almost a century and a half – and still going! That’s a lot of history to celebrate, and it was great to see a good turnout there to do so. An excellent lunch was served afterward (the St. Andrew’s people produce amazing church meals) and there was much socializing and catching up on news. A great time.

That was followed by a community meeting (my photo) at the Queensborough Community Centre (the old one-room schoolhouse) to continue work on planning for the future of our little hamlet. People have been working hard on this project for years, but this was the first time that Raymond and I were able to attend a meeting and try to contribute in person.

It was a long meeting and I certainly won’t go into all the details (I’d be up all night typing them on my phone, which is how I’m posting this), but suffice it to say that there are people who care deeply about Queensborough and who have some great ideas for it.

The plan: focus on key areas like heritage, beautification, development of business and tourism opportunities, and the most fun part: enjoyment of the natural beauty and history and just general goodness of this place.

It is such a good and interesting and lively place. As today proved, in more ways than one. Queensborough is tiny, but it is historic and beautiful and full of people who really care about it. I think the future is bright.

A completely excellent surprise



I woke up early this morning to a beautiful sunny day at the Manse. (Actually, the first time I woke up it was before it was a sunny day; it was the break of dawn, and there was a rooster crowing. Repeatedly. Just like in the movies. Or the cartoons.
Or something. Anyway, I digress. Fortunately I fell back to sleep and didn’t wake again and get up until 8ish. Yes, people who know me, I know: the idea of Katherine getting up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday is inconceivable. But you’d better start conceiving it, because at the Manse, it happens.)

So anyway, at 8ish on this beautiful morning, my husband, the early riser, hands me a mug of coffee and says, “Come outside. I’ve got a surprise for you.”

Who doesn’t love surprises? But this was close to being the best ever: Raymond led me around the south side of the house and there was: a clothesline! Fully functioning! With a brand-new pole installed (in concrete, for stability).

This wonderful addition to the Manse comes thanks to our great friend, neighbour and Manse overseer, Ed Couperus. We had briefly discussed with Ed the problem of the old clothesline not functioning (because of the pole it was attached to being old and rotten, and a big branch from a neighbour’s tree overhanging it and preventing it from rolling). Ed had said he could install a new pole and fix everything up, but the supremely talented Ed is very much in demand for home renovation and restoration projects, and we didn’t expect he’d be able to do it anytime soon.

But sometime since my brief passing-through visit to the Manse only last Sunday, Ed has somehow found time to erect a fantastic and sturdy clothesline. Which you can see Raymond posing with in the photo I took this morning.

I might even try to do a wash and hang it out thus weekend, if the weather holds. (Note to self: buy clothespins.)

We went round to Ed’s place this evening to thank him and demand that he hand over a bill, but he and his wife were out. So Ed, if you’re reading this later: thank you! You have made me so happy!

A clothesline means sheets and towels and clothes that smell like the lovely fresh air of Queensborough. Best thing ever.

Thanks, Ed! You are the best.