600 posts, and not a start to the renovation in sight. Soon!

Manse back yard, Boxing Day 2013

I think one of the reasons for our lack of alacrity in getting the Manse renovations going – aside from the more immediate fires that have needed to be put out in day-to-day life – is how easy it is to get waylaid by something as simple as looking out the back window at a view like this. (It was this past Boxing Day.) People, it just makes you contemplative, and that’s all I can say. Who wants to be hammering nails and steaming off old wallpaper when you can just be enjoying the view?

When I started this blog on the day in January 2012 when Raymond and I became the owners of the Manse, my childhood home, we had grand plans for the renovation to come. Which in fact is why I started the blog: knowing how much interest there is these days in home renovations and before-and-after makeovers and whatnot, I figured people would like to follow our progress in turning a well-preserved but very bare-bones rural Victorian brick house into a comfortable, well-equipped, funky residence for two escaped Montrealers, while preserving and (as needed) restoring its essential heritage elements. And Raymond and I had every intention of getting going right quick on that renovation/restoration. We were full of plans and dreams.

Ah, but the best-laid plans, as the poet said, gang aft agley. (Which leads to the obvious question: what the heck does “gang aft agley” mean? Ah, I know you know: go off-course, or some such.)

And now, 600 (as of this one) Meanwhile, at the Manse posts later – well, let’s just say there is not a lot of renovation to show you yet. Which means I really have to thank you, dear readers, for being so incredibly patient as I’ve wandered off in directions other than home renonvation: into stories about daily life in Queensborough, in recounting our explorations of Hastings County, in talking about the history and geography of the area, in regaling you with church news and boring you to death with stories about my growing-up years here at the Manse.

I see now what idealists about the renovation Raymond and I were in those early days. Plus, we hadn’t actually spent any time living at the Manse. I expect that any of you who’ve done renovations on a newly acquired home would agree that there’s a lot to be said for spending time in the place, getting a feel for it, before you start ripping and tearing and adding and subtracting. It has been a bit of a revelation to us how living here, seeing how the house acts and how we feel while in its different parts, has altered our thoughts on what we might do to it: where bathrooms should go, and what to do about the frame section on the back – the old summer kitchen – and whether to screen in the front porch, and how to heat it, and what kind of windows to install, and so on and so on and so on.

Overall I would say our time spent living in the Manse has resulted in a simplifying of the renovation plan (if you could actually call it a plan at this point, which realistically I don’t think you could). When we do actually start the work, I suspect it will be a less-is-more project, and that many things we had initially envisioned changing will, in the end, be left alone.

But who knows? At this point it is all still theoretical. First we must think about selling our former residence in Montreal (to help pay for the work here); and then come up with a floor plan for how we want the house to be; and then address key (expensive) issues like the roof and the insulation and the plaster walls; and then – oh bother. I am getting tired just thinking about it.

Nevertheless, I promise, dear readers, that we will make some progress in the coming year. It is time to saddle up and get started.

But in the meantime, thank you for reading!

10 thoughts on “600 posts, and not a start to the renovation in sight. Soon!

  1. I subscribed to your blog because I wanted to see how you would renovate the manse. But I am equally charmed by your off-the-path observations, so please continue to entertain us in your own inimitable style, however you wish.

    • How kind of you to say, Elinor! And listen, this is a good juncture for me to steer readers of the comments section to your excellent new blog, Wartime Wednesdays. Your Christmas post, about the best Christmas your dad ever had, stationed in England at the end of WWII, is absolutely lovely. Readers, it’s here. Enjoy!

  2. Well, to be fair, you were commuting between Montreal & Queensborough for the first 21 months. And, then while visiting the Manse, you did take opportunities to explore the local features in a manner most of us haven’t done. Finally, as you indicated, one should “wear” the ideas & concepts for renovations a while to determine whether they will be feasible or desirable. Undoubtedly, feedback from your readers have had an impact.

    As for starting renovations this Autumn, you did start a new job which would constrain your initiative from an energy perspective. Furthermore, it is difficult for many to start [and finish] projects while living in the house. Home is typically a place for one to let his/her hair down [figuratively, in my case] after work. So, who really wants to devote several hours in the evening to a renovation project after a hard day’s work when one can kick back, partake of a cigar, consume some wine, watch a little TV, check e-mail and write a blog?

    Another often overlooked consideration is whether one has settled upon a coherent theme for the house relative to the opportunities and constraints presented by the house’s architecture [and frequently, the health of the bank account].

    • Graham, this kind and supportive comment meant a very great deal to me – thank you! You really did put your finger on a number of reasons why the Manse renovation has been slow in coming, and in doing so made Raymond and me both feel a little better about the pace of the process. Everything in its time, right? But thank you again!

  3. This may come as a shock but some of us took the “renovation” theme as a convenient framework to chat about Queensborough of yore and the delights of Hastings County. I found these enthralling and I treated the “renovations” much like it was in the TV series, Murphy Brown, always lurking in the background but not the main story line. I might add too the extensively detailed lamenting over generators has been salutary – my wife and I will be installing one for next winter’s weather adventures.
    Kidding aside, Meanwhile at the Manse, has been wonderful to read, a delightful reconnection to our shared youth! Well done.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Bill! (And congratulations on taking the big step on the generator front. I am sure you are not the only Toronto residents who have decided that enough cold and dark is enough, and are taking steps to ensure a more comfortable experience should the heavens produce another ice storm.) I am always delighted beyond words when people who have lived in, or at least know, Queensborough – or when people who grew up in other such small places – find that things I’ve mentioned here strike a chord with them. I think we were so, so fortunate – blessed, actually – to grow up in that time and place, so perhaps it is not surprising that the blog has veered toward a bit of an exploration, and celebration, of that. But the renos will come!

    • Oh my goodness – you had to mention the Banana Splits, didn’t you? After I’d spent decades trying to forget that awful TV show! Now you’ve done it. You will be rewarded with a Banana Splits-themed post one of these times. Whether you like it or not.

  4. Since I came to live in Queensborough 17 years ago I never dreamed I would inherit a very historical place what is now my home. And in that time since my husband now who bought it in 1995 found it in such sad repair. Like you thinking of what the home might need in order to spice it up needs much thought, time and like Graham says economic bank account. If you will accept my input on renovations please let me remind you it takes a very long time. Each room can become a lifetime dream. So you do not put a time on something you love. You work within your means and create something you can live among for a very long time maybe even after you are gone. That is what you will decide when you start to change history. What is in your home now that was then the life of people past cannot stay the same. But you can try to keep the memory in the changes you make the same but with the ease and modernization that life can give you now. We don’t want to work so hard as our mother did before us but we do want to keep the house with a reminder of what was then. It is my struggle. I may wish to take away a history piece to the building but I can’t so therefore I work around it so I am warm and live reasonably with comfort. I have to decide how to keep authentic doors or windows without changing the past to the outside world that remember what it use to be. I also have to think of what would fit the building. So my advice to you is take your time and do what is best for you. Whether it is in taste or value that you put such importance into. Remember you are the one that has to live in your home. We just follow along as you post. I find it exciting and exhilarating how you focus yourself on how you think the Manse should be. Do not think you will finish your dream maybe in your lifetime. But you will make it home while your doing it. And those that follow after you just might see the love that was before them! And through you the Manse will live on. That is what I think is most important of all! Happy New Year and may all your blessing be fulfilled. 🙂

    • What a lovely, lovely message, mk! It means a very great deal to me – to both of us, actually. (I read it aloud to Raymond.) Your advice about the renovations is very wise, and the example you have set in how you have gone about the work in your own very historic Queensborough building is truly inspirational. I intend to follow your example and your words of wisdom, especially when it comes to taking our time – both to ensure we make the right decisions and to preserve our bank account! Thank you so much for your guidance and your voice of experience.

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