People, after tonight and until Christmas, my posts will be all about Christmas at the Manse – the first Christmas my family will have spent there since I was 14 years old, way back in the 1970s. I am very excited about the whole thing, and I think it will be lovely – and I hope my Christmas posts will help put you in the spirit too. Tonight, though, after a hard slog of Christmas-card writing – which I love doing, but my lord it can be exhausting – I’m kind of, well, exhausted. But it makes me think of how the Manse can make one feel better when one’s in that frame of mind.
Driving to Queensborough from our home in Montreal on a Friday night, after a long day’s and week’s work, can be trying. Unless we’re incredibly lucky with traffic exiting the city, and don’t need to stop for gas or to use the facilities, the trip takes four and a half hours, and that is long – especially at this time of year, when it gets dark at 4 p.m. When you drive four and a half hours in the dark, you feel like you’re ready for bed, even if you’ve been lucky enough to get away early and it’s only 8:30 or 9 p.m. when you get to lovely little Queensborough.
Ah, but when we get there, something magical happens. First, our tensed-up shoulders come down from around our ears as we take in the night sky and the bright stars and the absolute quiet around us, save for the sound of the water of the Black River tumbling over the dam at the Thompson Mill at the centre of town. And we unpack the car, and in the Manse turn up the heat and turn on the water (and use the facilities). And Raymond generally smokes a little cigar out on the front porch while I put some things away. And the house warms up, and we light the (electric) fireplace and some candles, which helps warm the house up even more. And we put on some music. And I haul in from the mailbox some seriously good reading material: all the copies of the local weekly papers, the EMC and the Community Press, that have accumulated since the last time we visited.
And we turn on the stove and warm up dinner – last Friday it was an all-organic chicken pot pie bought on the way from the excellent store called Foodsmiths in Perth, Ont., recommended to us by Queensborough-area resident and amazing photographer Pauline Weber (and thanks for that, Pauline!). And uncork (or twist off the cap of, if it’s conveniently screw-topped) a bottle of wine.
And suddenly, all the strains and stresses of the work week and everything else are forgotten. We are at the Manse in Queensborough, a beautiful and historic house in a beautiful and historic village. A house and a village filled with stories of interesting residents long gone, and interesting residents of the present day. It is quiet, we are together, we have arrived safely, and there is warmth and good food and a nice glass of wine. And the prospect of a weekend of quiet adventure and discovery as we make our way in this lovely and largely undiscovered part of the world.
What could be better?