Sunset over Queensborough

Dave deLang calls this photograph Angel Sunset. Stunning, n’est-ce pas? (Photo by Dave deLang)

Thanks to this blog and the wonders of email, Raymond and I have a friend in Queensborough whom we haven’t even met yet – though I think we will this coming weekend. He is Dave deLang, and he and his wife, Irina, live on Declair Road, part of the GQA (Greater Queensborough Area) and a couple of miles east of the village itself.

Dave is a fantastic photographer. It’s been a lifelong passion for him, he tells me: “I have had cameras since I was around 12 years of age. I remember my first ventures were to a local graveyard to photograph old gravestones. I had a morbid fascination with history then. I used photography to pay my way through my post-secondary education (weddings and in-home family pics). The routine was school all day, evenings and weekends photography and presentation. Eventually I burned out from photography and swore off being a professional, although I kept my finger on the shutter button, only as a hobby.  Now that I am retired I can devote some additional time to my favourite pastime.”

Dave kindly gave me permission to post his photo Angel Sunset, which he sent to us a little while back. It was, he says, “made from the second-floor balcony of my house … I saw the sunset and immediately changed lenses on my camera for a more appropriate one, exposed for the sky to silhouette the trees and subsequently cropped in Photoshop.”

I’d wanted to post it because I have every intention of making those of you who don’t live in Queensborough green with envy at how lovely our little corner of the world is.

And speaking of getting the word out, Dave has agreed to work with Elaine Kapusta and me (though credit where credit is due here: Elaine has done 100% of the work to date) on a website for Queensborough. One of the key things we plan to put on it is a kind of virtual walking tour of the village, with historical information about the various buildings. Well, obviously you can’t do that kind of thing properly without some nice photos, so I think you can see how Dave’s talents and interests are going to be enormously helpful.

It’s all coming together in Queensborough, a place of beautiful – even angelic – sunsets!


This photo of Dad was taken just a short time before he died in December 2004. It was taken by Lance Crossley, then a reporter with the Minden (Ont.) Times, who did a really nice feature story on Dad’s project of building stone fences at the family farm. We thought Lance’s photo did a wonderful job of showing the real Wendell, and we placed it on Dad’s casket at the funeral visitation. I also used it to accompany the piece I wrote about him for the Globe and Mail’s Lives Lived column.

I’ve mentioned my father, Wendell Sedgwick, many times in the months since I started this blog, starting with explaining that the whole reason I grew up in the Manse in Queensborough was that Dad was the minister at the United Church of Canada‘s Queensborough Pastoral Charge between 1964 and 1975. But I feel that despite all the references, I haven’t really said very much about him. It’s oddly difficult; Dad meant so much to all of us in his family, and when we talk about him amongst ourselves we don’t have to recount what he was like. It is deep shared knowledge, something that unites us without having to be voiced. So how to voice it?

Today, the day that would have been Dad’s 81st birthday, I wanted to try.

I thought I could at least start by sharing this piece I wrote for the Lives Lived column in The Globe and Mail. It was published on June 28, 2005, a little over six months after Dad’s death. I found it difficult to write, but I felt I owed him that small tribute. And I knew he would have been pleased, because he was a devoted lifelong reader of (and frequent letter-writer to) The Globe. Here it is.


Wendell Sedgwick

Farmer, forester, minister. Born Aug. 29, 1931, on the family farm near Gelert, Ont. Died Dec. 11, 2004, on the family farm, in an accident, aged 73.

‘So much to do and so little time in which to do it.” Anyone who knew Wendell Sedgwick well had heard him say that hundreds of times. He always said it in a sad way — mournfully, really. Work was the defining theme of Wendell’s life. He knew he could never finish all that he felt he had to do. But he never stopped trying.

In his mid-20s, he left the farm to attend the University of Toronto and become a United Church of Canada minister. He seemed to feel an urgency to do as much with his life as he could. He had probably thought a lot about the parable in which Jesus tells his listeners it is their Creator’s will that they make the most of the talents they have been given.

Wendell had talents in abundance. He read voraciously, and had a startling memory for what he had read. He could recite poetry by heart from an apparently bottomless repertoire. (He also made up poems, generally funny ones, on the spot, never having to pause to think about what the next line would be.) He had shone in all subjects at school. And he was athletic, tall and strong.

For most of his 33-year ministry in rural central Ontario, Wendell conducted three services each Sunday. He was a commanding presence in the pulpit, uncompromising in his faith and his sense of right and wrong. But he was never self-righteous. He once told a newspaper reporter: “I know my own failings and preach to that, and the people usually have some of the same feelings.” And just as he preached a God of love and forgiveness, he was slow to judge others, always looking for (and generally finding) the best in people.

It must have helped in his ministry that, because of his farming background, he understood the life his parishioners led. His visits to people’s homes in his capacity as clergyman were more than likely to end in a discussion of what to do about a sick calf or troublesome piece of equipment. He was someone people naturally turned to in time of need, and not just spiritual need.

Ever since he had left home for university, there had been the question of who would maintain the Sedgwick farm. The answer turned out to be: Wendell. Throughout his ministry, every July (officially his “vacation”) plus two days a week whenever possible the rest of the year, he was there, working from dawn until long after dark, trying to do in a few hours and weeks what it would take anyone else the full year to accomplish.

When he “retired” in 1997 he could devote himself full-time to the farm. He built up his herd of beef cattle. He spent a lot of time in the bush, clearing out dead and dying trees (to make way for new, healthier growth) and turning them into lumber on his sawmill. He made maple syrup. He plowed and planted and harvested. He built a fence of the stones from his rocky fields.

Wendell’s sudden death was a wrenching blow to his family and a wide circle of friends, neighbours and former parishioners. He was a person to whom many looked for wisdom, guidance and help, and it was – and is – hard to imagine life without him. But none who knew him, especially his children, will forget the lessons he taught through example, about being honest and generous, and always doing your best, and working hard.

And there is an odd but real comfort in the fact that when he died, he was doing what he always wanted to be doing: working on the farm.

Katherine is the eldest of Wendell’s four children.

Neighbours pop in (it’s the Queensborough way), bringing all kinds of surprises

The Canoe, 1912, by Tom Thomson. It was in a canoe that Thomson, easily one of the greatest Canadian painters ever, met his mysterious death. Believe it or not, this has something to do with me and the Manse. (Photo from

I utterly love the fact that the smallness of Queensborough means that everyone knows everyone else, and a close eye is kept by everybody on everything. In the case of Raymond and me and the Manse, that’s great news, because neighbours are keeping an eye on the house and would see if anything were amiss.

We saw another example of this close attention the last time we were at the Manse, a couple of weeks ago. It had been at least a month since our previous visit, so there’d been no activity at the house (save for a visit by my brother John one weekend) for quite a while. But on that Saturday morning, people living nearby, or who happened to be passing on foot or in their vehicles, spotted our car in the driveway (we’d arrived very late the night before), and my goodness, there was a steady stream of neighbours stopping by to say hello! And when Mike Tregunna of Tregunna Tree Farm pulled in to plant our new elm tree, there was even more reason for folks to come and see what was doing. I am so tickled that people take an interest in what’s going on at the Manse and stop in to offer encouragement and advice. It is just so, so different from city life.

But what, you might ask, does all this have to do with legendary Canadian artist Tom Thomson?

Well, I’ll tell you.

After the initial early rush of visitors had slowed down on the Saturday morning of that last visit, our neighbour Ruth Steele – she and her husband, Chuck, live in a pretty and well-kept-up historic house that was once the Anglican rectory and, when I was a kid at the Manse, was the home of Carl and Lois Gordon and their family – popped over to say hello, and she handed me a large envelope. “Have a look at it later,” she said. Intriguing!

Inside were a very nice welcome-to-the-neighbourhood card from Ruth and Chuck, and a package of stuff about, of all things, the mysterious death of Tom Thomson, whose legendary work was an inspiration for his friends in the Group of Seven and whose paintings are easily among the most iconic ever produced in Canada.

Said I to myself, “What on earth?”

Many of you may know something of the mystery of Tom Thomson’s death. For those who don’t, here’s a summary, courtesy of

Tom Thomson, 1877-1917, one of the greatest and most influential Canadian artists ever.

“Tom Thomson, a prolific Canadian artist whose work inspired the Group of Seven, was reported missing two days after he set out on a canoe trip on Canoe Lake in Ontario’s Algonquin Park in July 1917. His body was found six days later, with a badly bruised temple and fishing line around his ankle. A coroner’s report concluded Thomson had died by accidental drowning, but no autopsy was performed. Some believe he lost his balance in the canoe and struck his head on the gunwale. But others believe he was murdered in a dispute with a local lodge owner over some money.

“His family arranged to have his body buried in the family plot near Owen Sound, Ont., but according to persistent rumours, his friends buried him near Canoe Lake and put sand in the family plot. His family has never allowed the grave to be exhumed.”

Tom Thomson’s The West Wind, one of his most famous paintings. (Photo from

(What that synopsis fails to mention is that there has also been quite a bit of speculation that Thomson’s death was suicide, or that there was a romantic-situation-gone-wrong angle, or that it was something else altogether. And it also doesn’t say that he was only 39 years old at the time of his death, and a very experienced canoeist. All in all, the makings of a legend indeed.)

What the package Ruth gave me turned out to be was this: her brother-in-law in Ottawa, an experienced canoeist himself who, thanks to time spent in his youth at camps in the Algonquin Park area, was well aware of the Tom Thomson mystery and the legends, had a theory as to what had caused his death – and I thought it seemed like a pretty good one. It’s rather complicated (especially if you’re neither a canoeist nor a fisher, like me), but it has to do with a practice called paddle-jigging. You tie your fishing line to your paddle, and while you do the paddling, the line is automatically, through the motion you create, jigged up and down in the water so that the fish will believe that the fly or bait at the end of the line is real. Apparently it is a very old technique used and taught by aboriginals, but here’s the thing: it is extremely dangerous. Why? Because the way you have to set it up (it really is complicated; trust me) means that if a fish does bite, and pull with any force, the handle of your paddle can zoom up backwards and smack you straight in the head, possibly in the very fragile temple region.

That’s the theory that Ruth’s brother-in-law has about what happened to Tom Thomson: that he was knocked out by the paddle, fell into the lake, and drowned.

But that’s not all, people! He chose to tell his theory, his story, in, of all things, poetry. A long poem, all rhyming, with some additions made later after he’d done more research. Now there’s one thing I have to say about all that: it is not something you see every day.

It was all extremely interesting. And what Ruth had no way of knowing was that Tom Thomson and the mystery of his death had interested me ever since I was a kid growing up at the Manse. It was in fact the topic of a speech I wrote one year for the annual public-speaking contest we had at school. Those contests always terrified me, because I was brutally shy about speaking in public, but to my consternation my speeches generally seemed to get good scores and I’d get moved on up in the competition, which meant having to say them again. I’ve blocked out most memories of the speech thing, probably because of the youthful terror, but I am pretty sure that the Tom Thomson speech was the most successful one I ever did.

I think it’s quite cool that the package of stuff Ruth thought we’d be interested in was so bang-on, in that we were really interested in it – and in my case, had been since I lived at the Manse the first time around, many decades ago. What goes around comes around, doesn’t it?

And all the more intriguing when it involves iconic, and mysteriously dead, Canadian artists.

Historic pieces from Raymond’s heritage, given new life

The bench used by Raymond’s great-grandfather, Théophile Brassard, to make harness for (among other customers), the Lowell, Massachusetts, public-works department around the turn of the 20th century. The bench was in rather tough shape not too long ago, but thanks to a very fine craftsman in Hastings County, has been beautifully restored and sits in our very-far-from-finished living room at the Manse.

Readers may find this hard to believe, but when it comes to the Manse, it’s not always about me. Yes, it was my childhood home, and yes, I have memories of that house that go to the core of my soul; but Raymond seems to be taking a shine to the place too. On our last visit, I had to return home to work in Montreal on Sunday evening, while Raymond stayed over that night and on Monday delivered his truck to Belleville for some pre-safety-check work, then took the train back home. It was the first time he’d stayed at the Manse on his own, and I was a bit worried that he’d knock around the big old empty place and wonder what on earth he’d got himself into. Instead, he told me when he got home that he’d had a quiet and pleasant evening, risen early in the morning, and enjoyed coffee on the sunny front porch amid the sounds of birdsong and little else. “I was sad to leave,” he told me.

My heart leapt! (Which, I know, is a weird reaction when someone tells you they’ve been sad, but I think you know what I mean. Pretty little Queensborough and our handsome Manse are getting to Raymond.)

The beautiful oak bookcase, now fully restored, that came down to Raymond from his maternal grandparents, then his mum, and then his sister, Lorraine.

Anyway, as I was saying, it’s not all about me. While we haven’t yet put much in the way of furniture into the Manse, aside from a vintage midcentury table and chairs and a new Ikea bed, the house does now boast two very interesting pieces that came there with us from Montreal and that have a long history in Raymond’s family. And what’s a particularly nice touch about it all is that they have been beautifully restored, thanks to the work of a very fine cabinetmaker who lives and works just outside nearby Marmora, Ed Comerford.

One piece is an oak bookcase with glass doors that contain decorative leaded stained glass. It belonged to Raymond’s maternal grandparents, Ernest and Lillian L’Heureux, who lived, like most of both sides of his family, in Lowell, Massachusetts. The bookcase was passed down to Raymond’s mother, Cécile, and she in turn passed it on to her daughter, Raymond’s younger sister Lorraine, when she set up house in Lowell. The brave and beautiful Lorraine died three summers ago after a long illness, and the bookcase came to Raymond (the man of ten thousand books).

Raymond’s great-grandfather’s harness-making bench before restoration.

The other piece is even older, and funkier. It is a bench that a harness-maker sits at when working the leather for the harness. It belonged to Raymond’s paternal great-grandfather, Théophile Brassard, who was a harness-maker in a shop down by the mighty Merrimack River in Lowell. His work included making harness for the horses used by the Lowell Public Works Department. Théophile, his wife, Mathilde, and several of their children were among the many French Quebecers who migrated down (from Drummondville, in their case) to New England in the late 19th century, lured by the prospects of a better life in a place bustling with mills and industrial activity. (And nowhere in New England was more bustling with mills than Lowell; today the city still boasts a stunning collection of beautiful old mill buildings along the Merrimack, many converted to residential or commercial use. This industrial heritage was what resulted in Lowell being named the first urban national park in the  brilliant U.S. National Park system; you can read about it here, and better yet, go and visit!) As a skilled tradesman, Théophile did just fine for himself in Lowell.

Théophile Brassard, Raymond’s great-grandfather, the harness-maker …

The bench and Théophile’s leather-working tools were passed down through the generations, and Raymond’s father, also Raymond, gave them to him when he and Raymond’s mum, Cécile, moved into a smaller place in the 1970s. Raymond had by then moved back up to Quebec from Lowell, so the tools and bench came back to the province in which they had originated. Full circle.

But both the bookcase and the harness-making bench were in rough shape. So not long after Raymond bought his prime Manse accoutrement, his red truck – which offered us a way to transport them to a place where they could be restored – he started doing some research into who could restore them. And he found just the operation in Ed Comerford’s Classic Touch Furniture, only half an hour or so from the Manse.

… and Mathilde, his wife. (Photos courtesy of Nicole Shanks)

Ed has done an absolutely splendid job. Both pieces look beautiful. We haven’t found a permanent spot for them yet, but they look ever so nice just parked in the middle of our rather jumbly living room at the Manse. Sooner or later, they will have pride of place.

It’s been a long journey for these treasured pieces of furniture. And it is ever so nice to have them at the Manse to remind Raymond of his rich family history, with roots in both Quebec and New England.

And if anyone needs some harness made … well, we have just the setup.

The Old Hay Bay Church, and a poem to lighten the mood

The historic Old Hay Bay Church, a national historic site and the oldest Methodist church in Canada. It was built in 1792.

A week ago today, Raymond and I attended the annual summer service at historic Hazzard’s Corners Church (and I wrote about it here). This afternoon there was another annual service at a historic church in the area, though unfortunately we were not able to attend. (Next year!) The church in question is the Old Hay Bay Church, in Adophustown, Lennox and Addington County (the county east of Hastings), the oldest Methodist building in Canada (erected 1792), the second-oldest church in Ontario, and a national historic site. The fantastic blog Ancestral Roofs ( has a terrific post about the church’s history and architecture (and possible personal connection to the author) here.

The interior of the Hay Bay Church, nicely preserved and restored. (Photo by Shellseeker via

I remember attending one of those annual Hay Bay Church services many years ago when I was a kid growing up at the Manse. I was young enough – maybe six or seven? – that I wasn’t particularly interested in history or architecture, though I do recall thinking that the simply styled building looked more like a barn than what I thought a church should look like. The only other thing I remember is thinking that there were better things to do with a Sunday afternoon than go to church. (Especially since we would doubtless have attended our regular service that same morning.)

But what I think of first when I think of Hay Bay Church is, for better or worse, not historic architecture or the old days of Methodist circuit riders. I think of a light-hearted bit of poetry composed on the fly by my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, many years ago while he was attending a gathering of, I believe, the Bay of Quinte Conference of the United Church of Canada.

An image of the old-time Methodist circuit rider (like Willam Losee), a minister who would travel his “circuit” – often very long distances – on horseback to preach the good word. The model for the practice is that of the founder of Methodism himself, John Wesley.

I think I’ve got the story straight, though I’m doing it entirely from memory, and it was long, long ago. My understanding is that one of the topics of discussion at this conference meeting was what to do about the gravestone of The Rev. William Losee, one of those early Methodist circuit riders who travelled from church to church (or, barring actual church buildings, meeting to meeting) on horseback. Losee had been a Methodist missionary from New York State to the wilds of the townships on the north shore of Lake Ontario in the Bay of Quinte area, according to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. (You can read the very complete William Losee entry here). It was he who got the building of the Hay Bay Church off the ground, so he’s a huge star in Hay Bay lore. The aforementioned Dictionary of Canadian Biography tells us this: “Although he served in Upper Canada only about three years, Losee effectively laid the groundwork for what eventually became the largest Protestant denomination in Canada … (A)s a preacher ‘he was impassioned, voluble, fearless, and denunciatory, cutting deep and closely, and praying to God to ‘smite sinners!’ ”

Losee died in 1832 back in his native New York State, and was buried there. Almost a century and a half later, things got interesting: “In 1969 the grave was excavated for road-widening purposes,” the online biography dictionary tells us. “His gravestone and that of his wife were removed to Ontario – to the cemetery beside his Hay Bay meeting-house.” What it doesn’t say is that (if my recollection of Dad’s recounting of the discussion at the Bay of Quinte Conference meeting, which quite probably was in 1969, is accurate) the initial plan was to transport not just Losee’s tombstone, but in fact his remains, to Hay Bay. The fly in the ointment, so to speak, is that when the grave was excavated, Bill had, shall we say, followed the “dust to dust” precept to the letter; there was nothing left.

This struck my father as funny, possibly because he’d been sitting through too many hours of meetings that day already. (Any of you who have to attend meetings regularly will know what I mean.) So as the discussion about moving the gravestone and the issue of the no-longer-extant remains went on, Dad put his trusty and ever-present fountain pen to paper and composed a little bit of rhyme about the whole deal. I think he may have read it out to the gathering at some point, to general amusement. If anyone reading this was there, please let me know.

I imagine Dad would have kept the original manuscript of his Losee poem somewhere in his Conference files, though filing and keeping track of documents was not his strong point. Someday I may come upon it when I go through those files, something I have long intended to do but that is a major undertaking and a large commitment of time. Fortunately I remember most of the poem; Dad was wont to recite it on occasion, and it kind of stuck. I think I’ve lost at least one verse, and I can’t remember the title, but here’s what my memory bank can come up with:

This here stone once stood alone
Way off in a far country.
A preacher from Hay Bay there was laid away;
His name was Bill Losee.

They built a road where the gravestone growed,
Where Bill had lain so long;
Disturbed his rest, for they thought it best.
(Some folks might think it wrong.)

And then I think there’s a verse about deciding to dig up and repatriate the remains of Bill, but I am afraid it is lost to my memory and thus, I fear, to posterity. Anyway, the poem continues:

But what they found down under the ground
Where Bill had wasted away
Was only dust and bits of rust
And silent, waiting clay.

Oh what a loss! – that Bill was dross,
That nothing remained to keep.
But his stone will stand in this far-off land
While Bill goes on with his sleep.

Just writing it down doesn’t really do it justice; you had to hear the (not-terribly-sincere) emotion in Wendell’s voice when he recited it. The way his voice would lower and slow down for “silent, waiting clay.” And the shock/horror when it came to the “Oh what a loss!” part.

Anyway, Bill Losee is safely remembered in the cemetery at the Old Hay Bay Church, which owes its existence to him. Even if he himself is no more than dross, his name and his tombstone are there. Come next August, I hope to visit for the annual service and go ’round and see it. And maybe I’ll recite Dad’s poem in his honour.

Queensborough has possibly the most beautiful downtown in the world.

Look at this photo. Just look at it. And ask yourself: does my town or city have a view this pretty right at the heart of it? And if the answer is no, and if that makes you rueful, then there’s only one thing to do: move to Queensborough. We are blessed.

I must emphasize, though, that this view would not be nearly as nice as it is were it not for all the community volunteers who helped out with creating a small park on the banks of the Black River this past late spring/early summer. I took this photo last weekend when Raymond and I were at the Manse; we are both blown away by the results of that community project, and all the hard work of the volunteers.

Here’s one more photo, from a different angle, looking toward the historic Thompson mill. Remember, this is downtown Queensborough. If a hundred years ago you had been standing where I was when I took this picture, you would have been surrounded by activity at the three general stores, the hotels, the lumber operations…

But Queensborough is much quieter now than it was a hundred years ago. And thanks to that peace and quiet, probably more beautiful.

Those of us who live there (even if only part time) are the luckiest people of all.

A water situation. Any ideas?

What the rich mineral base in the bedrock and the soil of Hastings County – a great thing in theory – is doing to our nice clean bathtub at the Manse in practice. Help!

The excellent and authoritative Heritage Atlas of Hastings County (I am the proud owner of a copy, a gift from Raymond; you can order your own copy here) says this:

“Hastings County abounds in minerals, especially in the northern parts above Highway 7. Bancroft is known as the mineral capital of Canada for the numbers of different minerals found in the area as a result of the collision and shifting of tectonic plates over billions of years.” (Longtime readers might recall my post about how Queensborough is right on the edge of the Canadian Shield that protrudes down from the north into Hastings County.)

The atlas goes on to list some of the minerals that have been mined in various parts of the county over the years: corundum, feldspar, fluorite, gold (“The first discovery of gold in Ontario was made in 1866 on the Richardson farm near Madoc. The find sparked a gold rush to the Madoc area and miners looking for gold combed much of the surrounding area. Gold was also found at Eldorado and Deloro”), granite, graphite, iron, marble, sand and gravel, sodalite, talc and uranium. There are also minerals that, while they exist elsewhere on the planet, were first discovered in Hastings County, among them Hastingsite (it “was discovered in Dungannon Township…, resembles glass and varies in colour from black to dark green. Although it was first named in Hastings County, it also occurs in Yukon Territory, New Jersey, New York, Colorado, Utah, Washington, Montana, India, Japan, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Ireland, France, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia and Ghana”) and Madocite (“shows up as minute metallic grains visible only in polished sections and was named after Madoc. It is also found in France, Kirgizia and Sweden.”)

Which leads to one pressing question: where the heck is Kirgizia?

Anyway, all of this is pretty interesting stuff, and the atlas tells you a lot more – including where the various mines for these minerals were, and in some cases still are.

However, since really it’s all about me, I have to tell you that the minerals under the ground north of Highway 7 in Hastings County are wreaking havoc with the appearance of my bathtub.

I suppose, given the orangey-red colour, it’s all about iron in the water. The colour shows up with startling intensity on the white porcelain of the otherwise pristine tub, the result solely of small and inevitable drips from the tap. The first time we returned to the Manse after a stay in which I’d scrubbed the bathroom down to within an inch of its (and my) life, I was horrified to find the stain. Then I remembered how my mum used to complain about the “hard” water from the Manse’s well, and how that water would cause trouble (mineral buildup and so on) with steam irons. That said, what I do not remember are stains on the sinks and tub. That seems to be something new.

The dug well that served the Manse back when I was growing up there is no longer in use, replaced by a deeper drilled well that provides potable water. (The water from the old well was not safe to drink, as I’ve recounted here, and we had to carry our drinking water from a pump that was up the road at the old schoolhouse. As I type those words, I realize that they make me sound like I must be 150 years old at least to have lived in such a primitive situation. While tonight, after a long and hard week at work, I feel rather close to 150, I assure you I’m not quite there yet.)

Is it possible that the water in the old well was, while “hard” with minerals, not quite as iron-filled as the water from the newer, deeper well? So that it at least didn’t stain things?

We are assured by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, or whoever it is that does the testing, that the water from our well, whatever colour it may be, is safe to drink.

But do those of you who may live in rural areas (and perhaps particularly in mineral-rich Hastings County) have any suggestions for dealing with this staining situation? Are filters or water softeners a good idea? Is there a way for me to keep my bathtub white?

Your suggestions are very welcome indeed.

“Open Channel D, please.”

Superspies Ilya Kuryakin (left) and Napoleon Solo (right) consult with their chief, Alexander Waverly (played by Leo G. Carroll) in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It was the unflappable Brit Mr. Waverly who would answer the phone (or whatever device that thing was) when “Channel D” was opened.

Clearly you readers are not as enamoured of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as I am, or at least as I once was. No takers to my challenge in yesterday’s post to, without resorting to Google, come up with what U.N.C.L.E. in the name of that classic mid-’60s spy-themed TV show stood for. Well then, I’ll tell you; but first I will confess that I had to resort to Google myself. The good-guys agency that American Napoleon Solo (the actor Robert Vaughn) and his Russian partner, Ilya Kuryakin (David McCallum), worked for was the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. So there.

The ever-useful Wikipedia tells me that The Man From U.N.C.L.E. ran on NBC from 1964 to 1968. When I was a kid at the Manse in Queensborough in those years we did not even get exotic NBC, so we probably watched the show a little later in reruns on, what? CTV? Who knows? I just know that I loved it, and (as I have mentioned) thought Ilya was very cute.

Mr. Waverly again, with another set of agents: the dreamy Mark Slate and April Dancer in the spinoff The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.

But even cuter was Noel Harrison playing Mark Slate, the British partner of Stefanie Powers‘s April Dancer, in the one-season-wonder-spinoff show The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. I realize that I may well be the only fan of that short-lived series on the planet, but a fan I am. Mainly because of Mark/Noel. Those were the days of Swinging London, and to a girl in far-from-Swinging-London Queensborough, he seemed to epitomize it, what with that accent and slightly shaggy hair and all. (Funnily, I believe Noel Harrison ended up in Nova Scotia after his years as an actor and singer. He was the one who memorably sang The Windmills of Your Mind, the theme for the 1968 movie The Thomas Crown Affair, which starred Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. Is this enough ’60s trivia yet? Perhaps.)

Uh-oh. It looks like Raymond and I are going to have to drink the Grape Crush ourselves. I lost my taste for it somewhere around the age of 12, but it could be okay in an old-fashioned ice-cream float. (Photo by Graham Gough)

Anyway, the prizes for coming up with what U.N.C.L.E. stood for, and also the name of the evil organization that it was combatting (that would be T.H.R.U.S.H., by the way, an acronym that apparently was never explained in the series but in Man From U.N.C.L.E. novels [Who would buy such a thing? Oh, wait; I think I picked one up at a yard sale a year or two back], it was explained as the Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity) were the two cans of Grape Crush that were recently left on the Manse porch by our friend Graham Gough, who was proving that that crazy soft-drink flavour still exists, contrary to what I had thought. Good lord: does this mean that Raymond and I are going to have to drink the stuff ourselves, in the form of retro ice-cream floats? That grapey/ice-creamy combo on my taste buds would certainly take me back to the 1960s. And the only thing I can say to that time-travelling notion is the same thing that Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin and April Dancer and Mark Slate were always saying, speaking into some crazy little communication device that in this day and age would be an iPhone:

“Open Channel D, please.”

Continuing on the midcentury theme…



I’ve mentioned several times that I am fond of mid-20th-century style, particularly when it comes to the Manse. That is because midcentury is when I lived there in the sunny days of childhood, and who doesn’t want to hark back to the sunny days of childhood? Besides, midcentury style is cool.

We’ve already acquired some midcentury furniture and accoutrements, and I don’t suppose the search for those kinds of finds at flea markets and yard sales and antique outlets will end anytime soon.

I thought readers might be amused by these two finds that are now parked in the living room at the Manse. The complete series of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. on DVD is actually new; I got a deal on it at a couple of years ago and couldn’t resist. (Note the funky early-’60s-style case that the DVDs are in.) I loved watching that show on our old black-and-white TV in the mid-1960s in the very same room where the DVDs now reside. (I had a crush on Ilya Kuryakin.)

Can you remember what U.N.C.L.E. stood for? Or what the initials were of the global criminal organization that Napoleon Solo and Ilya were valiantly battling in between (in Solo’s case) multiple conquests of shapely women? No Googling! Answers in tomorrow’s post. A Grape Crush each (we have two in the fridge, thanks to our pal Graham Gough’s proving me wrong when I stated in a comment a while back that that vile concoction of my childhood no longer existed) for the first right answers!

And then of course there’s the thing that only Raymond would find and actually buy: a multi-record set (yes, we are talking vinyl here) of the John F. Kennedy-Richard Nixon U.S. presidential debates of 1960. Amazing the things my husband can find in antiques-and-collectibles places. My only question is this: how does it end?

Surprise phlox!

You just never know what you’re going to find growing in the perennial garden at the Manse…

The other morning I was doing something that I like to do when the weather is nice at the Manse, which is to take a slow walk around the exterior of the house, coffee cup in hand, and survey everything that’s going on with building and grounds. As I rounded the northeast corner of the front of the house, I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of something entirely unexpected.


Regular readers might recall a post from a couple of weeks back wherein I recounted my lifelong love of phlox, kindled by the bounteous and beautiful phlox bushes that once upon a time lined the fence of the house across the road from the Manse. As I wrote then, the smell of phlox takes me right back to those happy childhood days. And the pink and red and white and mauve colours are so beautiful! In the post I announced my determination to plant some phlox at the Manse.

When I came across the pretty pink phlox the other morning, my first reaction was that I must have been blind not to have noticed it before. Or maybe the plant had been there all along but had just recently bloomed? (We hadn’t been to the Manse for almost a month prior to last weekend’s visit.)

But I think I know what really happened. I think some thoughtful soul in Queensborough who had read my post took it upon himself or herself to transplant some phlox as a gift and a surprise. Raymond says no way, that the ground doesn’t look like it has been disturbed; and he’s right, it doesn’t. But I still think I have someone to thank, and I hope my anonymous phlox benefactor will step forward so that I can do so. You have made me very happy!