The lucky penny from long ago

The lucky pennyThe Manse had some houseguests this past week, and that was a very nice thing. But this story is not about the houseguests, delightful as it was to spend some time again with Raymond’s sisters from the Boston area. This story is about what happened just before the guests got here.

I suspect I am not alone in having a tendency to leave serious housecleaning duties until I am forced into it by the imminent arrival of guests. (I should add that my husband, who leans toward the neat-freak category – though in the nicest possible way – does not have this failing.) So as usual in the day or two leading up to the visit, I transformed myself into a bit of a Bugs Bunny Tasmanian Devil, whipping around the house, upstairs and down, dusting, washing, Windexing and especially tidying (i.e. putting things where they should have been put when they first entered the Manse, as opposed to an in-between spot on one of the Manse’s two stairways as they awaited their final landing place). Raymond of course did his part (to put it mildly) with lots of cleaning and tidying and especially vacuuming, a task that I loathe.

Sieste the cat in my old bedroom

The view (featuring the late and much-loved Sieste the cat) of the childhood bedroom of my sister, Melanie, and me

Anyway. On the evening before the visit, I was up in one of the guest bedrooms, a spot particularly close to my heart because it was my bedroom (well, mine and my sister’s) through my childhood and early teens when I was growing up in this very house. I was in the process of putting nice crisp linens on the bed, which of course means doing a lot of back and forth, tucking in sheets and whatnot. And as I was doing this back and forth around the bed, something caught my eye.

Vintage linoleum mat 1

A detail from one of the Manse’s linoleum mats, this one in the master bedroom.

It was a small round raised spot in the vintage linoleum mat that covers much of the wooden floor of that bedroom, and in fact all the bedrooms in the Manse. Long ago – that post is here – I told you about how delighted I was when Raymond and I discovered these midcentury floor coverings not long after buying the Manse, as part of the necessary task of removing some 1970s carpeting that had seen better days many days before. At the time I wrote about somehow preserving some semblance of those linoleum “carpets” laid down on the original wooden floors; since then, we have grown extremely attached to them, and it is very likely they will remain just where they are even after the house is renovated. They are a lovely vernacular midcentury touch, and the colours are cool.

But back to that round raised spot. Here’s what it looked like (centre of the photo, tending toward the bottom – it’s hard to spot, and so you can probably understand why no one had seen it before this):

Penny-shaped outline in the vintage linoleum mat

“It looks like there might have been a coin stuck under there once,” I mused absent-mindedly to myself as I fluffed pillows and tucked in corners. And then I stopped and looked at it again, and said to myself, “Hey, self – maybe there is a coin stuck under there.” And reached under the linoleum mat. And pulled out – a penny from 1965.

Nineteen-sixty-five, people! Do you realize how long ago that is?

In 1965, Expo 67 was still in the planning stages. Nobody had heard of Pierre Trudeau. John Robarts was the premier of Ontario, and you couldn’t order a drink on a Sunday in his province. The Sound of Music was the movie of the year. The pop hits included a brand-new number from the Rolling Stones called Satisfaction …

… as well as Help!, Ticket to Ride and Eight Days a Week from the Beatles, What’s New, Pussycat? by Tom Jones, Unchained Melody from the Righteous Brothers, and one of my all-time favourites, Petula Clark’s Downtown. Oh, and Roger Miller’s classic King of the Road:

I was five years old.

My family had only moved into the Manse the year before as my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, took up duties as minister of the Queensborough Pastoral Charge of the United Church of Canada. I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets when I say that rural ministers in those days did not make princely salaries. Which means that no coins, even pennies – “coppers,” my dad used to call them, now that I think of it – went to waste at the Manse. Why, that penny could have bought my sister or me two blackballs or two wintergreens from the vast penny-candy selection at McMurray’s general store “down’t street” in Queensborough! We would never have let it go astray knowingly.

But go astray it somehow did – very possibly not right in 1965, when it was newly minted; but sometime before the linoleum mats were covered by that garish carpeting early in the 1970s. And there the penny lay from that day until this past Tuesday night, April 5, 2016. Forty-five years or so.

Call me sentimental, but as I examined the penny I’d just discovered, I couldn’t help but think about all the things that had happened in those 45 or so years – things that had happened in that very room; in this Manse; and in this big old world. As the penny lay hidden, I grew from a little kid into a teenager; my family moved away from this house, and a series of other ministers and their families came and went; prime ministers and presidents took the world stage and moved on; movie hits went from the sweetness of The Sound of Music to the grittiness of Midnight Cowboy and Chinatown, and then on to the megahits like Star Wars and all those comic-book-themed extravaganzas. Pop music went from the Beatles to the Eagles to Fleetwood Mac to the Sex Pistols to Nirvana to Kanye and Beyoncé. And still the penny lay hidden and unchanged, even as every single thing in the world around it changed practically beyond recognition.

You won’t be surprised to know that I have stored the penny in a special place, and that I think of it as my lucky penny. There are times – and the evening that I found it was one of them – when I think I am the luckiest person in the world, to be living once again in the house I grew up in, in the beautiful and largely undiscovered corner of the world that we locals call North of 7. And to have seen and lived through as much as I have, the wonders that this wonderful world has to offer, in all the years that my penny lay hidden and lost.

Is it silly to say that I wish the penny could tell me the stories of what transpired in my old bedroom through all those years it lay there?

Is it silly to say that I’d like to tell my penny some of the stories of the things that have happened to me in all those years?

It probably is. And maybe those stories don’t even need to be told. But I’m glad I have been prompted at least to think about them, and about all that can happen as a penny lies lost. My lucky penny was a lucky find.

A fashion trend for sheds, once upon a time. Featuring: pink.

Pink and grey barn

An ordinary-looking barn, right? But what I find not so ordinary about it is the colour scheme: grey with pink trim. It was kind of a thing in our rural area, back in the day – and now that I am living in that area once again, I can’t help but wonder: why pink?

Memory can be a fickle thing, they say. There are so many things that we think we remember that may in fact be quite wrong. (Here is a very interesting article from The New Yorker on the subject.) Have you ever got together with family members or old friends and, in reminiscing about the things that happened in the old days, discovered that various people in the group had quite different versions of some of those events? Or that they’ll all remember something vividly and you – who apparently were there as well – have no recollection of it at all?

I say all that by way of introduction because I’m about to tell you my very first memory of Queensborough, from when I had just turned four years old. But is it a real memory? I think so, but…

Maybe you’ll laugh when you hear what it is: a grey shed with pink trim, with a pink swing set in front of it.

The shed and swing set were at a house right near the Manse, and in my memory my family – Dad, Mum, me, my younger sister, Melanie, and my baby brother, John – drove by that house as we made our way to our new home (the Manse) in Dad’s 1956 Chev for the very first time, in July 1964. Dad, newly ordained a United Church of Canada minister, was about to take up duties as minister of the Queensborough Pastoral Charge.

I remember it so vividly because of the swing set; I was convinced that it meant that the house’s yard was a public playground, like the one where I had played on the swings so often near my maternal grandparents’ home in the Leaside neighbourhood of Toronto. That is where we had been living before moving to Queensborough, while my father finished his studies in divinity school at the University of Toronto‘s Emmanuel College.

The day we arrived in Queensborough we had probably driven all the way from Toronto, or possibly from the Sedgwick family farm up in Haliburton County; either way, it was a long car ride for a four-year-old, and you can imagine how appealing a swing set looked at the end of it. And a pink swing set at that! Perfect for a little girl!

It was all my parents could do to keep me from dashing the 50 yards or so over there and jumping onto the swings at the house of people we didn’t even know. (We very soon found out they were the Gordon family, and their daughter, Connie, became a good childhood friend of mine.) Presumably Mum and Dad put me to work instead, carrying some things from the car into the big brick house that was to be our home for the next 11 years. (And that is now home again, after my husband, Raymond, and I bought it three years ago.)

The Gordons’ house is now the home of our neighbours and friends Chuck and Ruth, and the pink swing set is long gone. The shed/garage is still there, but it is no longer covered in grey insulbrick with pink trim. But, people, that shed colour-scheme trend that dates from sometime around the middle of the last century still shows up in this area, and every time I see it, I am reminded of that first sunny July day in Queensborough, so very long ago.

Every weekday on my drive to and from work I pass not one but two such buildings. One is the small barn that you can see in the photo atop this post: the other is a garage between the hamlet of White Lake and the hamlet of Ivanhoe, along Highway 62:

Pink and grey garage

I finally stopped and got photos of them both yesterday. Because – well, who knows how long there’ll still be traces of that interesting midcentury colour scheme for barns, sheds and garages?

I mean, I get the grey insulbrick. Grey is a pretty traditional colour for garages and sheds, right? But what, people, what on earth is, or was, with the pink trim? I mean, I love it – but why would the men (inevitably men) who built and/or covered those barns and sheds in siding, and painted the trim, have chosen pink? It seems like such an odd thing to have happened over and over and over again. I’m thinking there must have been some sort of marketing campaign or something: “Pink is the perfect colour to set off your brand-new grey insulbrick siding!”

I have trouble imagining the farmers of central Hastings County going for such a marketing push. But how else to explain it? People, do you have any ideas?

This funny little colour thing is a happy circumstance for me – because it reminds me of a sunny day long ago, when all the world was young, and there was a shed with pink trim with a pink swing set in front of it. But I sure am curious to know how all those pink-trimmed sheds came about.

Memories of my father, on a late-winter drive on Rimington Road

Rimington Road and Cedar School Road

Rimington Road and Cedar School Road, a main intersection on the back-roads drive between Queensborough and Eldorado – and a place my father would have known well, having driven that route hundreds of times.


My dad, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick.

I was reminded of my late father, Wendell Sedgwick (or The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, if you prefer) in a nice way today. But before I tell you that story, I’ll explain for possible newcomers here at Meanwhile, at the Manse that the reason my husband, Raymond, and I are living here in this old manse in Queensborough, Ont., is because we decided to buy the house I grew up in; and I grew up in this house because Dad (The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick) was the minister of the United churches in this area when I was a kid. And the minister (and his family, which included me) would of course live in the manse connected with the churches on the local pastoral charge.

Okay, that’s the back story; now we return to me being reminded of Dad. I was driving home from work in Belleville, and after stopping to do errands in Madoc I decided to head homeward out of that town via Highway 62. It’s not my usual route, but I like to vary things a bit; sometimes I take 62 north and then cross eastward over to Cooper Road (and thence Hazzard’s Corners and home to Queensborough) via Riggs Road or Hazzards Road or Public School Road. (If you’re not from here and are having trouble following the geography, don’t worry. It doesn’t matter all that much in the overall scheme of my story).

Today my plan was to take Public School Road. But due to my daydreaming, enjoyment of the late-afternoon springlike sunshine, and singing along to Petula Clark singing I Know a Place (on Freddy Vette‘s excellent radio show of 1950s and ’60s songs on CJBQ, 800 on your AM dial), I completely missed the turn. No worries, I thought; I’ll head north to Eldorado and take Rimington Road.

Now, Rimington Road is an east-west route that my dad used to use when travelling between Queensborough, where home (the Manse) and St. Andrew’s United Church were located, and Eldorado, where there was Eldorado United Church (also part of his pastoral charge) and its parishioners who lived in the surrounding area.

Late-day late-winter sunshine, Rimington Road

Late sun on a late-winter afternoon, Rimington Road, Madoc Township.

And so it was natural that I was thinking of Dad as I travelled that old country road, which – it struck me as I drove – probably hasn’t changed all that much in all the years since Dad last travelled it in one of our family’s old and always-breaking-down Pontiacs or Chevs. The farms that are along that road are the farms that were there then. It was lined then, as now, by the split-rail fences built by pioneering farm families:

split-rail fence, Rimington Road

So I tried to look at the road, and my drive, through Dad’s eyes. And as I did so, I also remembered how he would have felt had he been driving home to the Manse at that very hour of the day (shortly before 6 p.m.) on a late-winter afternoon. He would have been feeling: full.

Here’s why. In those long-ago days when Dad was a young minister and I was a very young child, ministers used to go out “visiting” – stopping in at the homes of parishioners to say hello and offer spiritual or material help if needed, and just generally be sociable. It was an expected part of a minister’s job, and something he (or, very rarely back then, she) did several days a week. The families the minister would be visiting, here in our area, were by and large farm families, remember; so both husband and wife would probably be home, or at least on the property, when Dad stopped by of an afternoon.

(Just the other day a longtime parishioner of St. Andrew’s United was telling me fondly about how, when Dad showed up for a visit at their home, he’d head out to the barn or the fields where her husband was working and happily help out as they talked. I wrote here about how work was the primary theme of my dad’s life; he grew up working hard on a farm, and he continued to work hard on that family farm even when he became a minister. And as a minister to farm families, he was more than happy to help out on parishioners’ farms when that help was needed.)

Anyway, here’s the thing: at every house Dad would visit, the wife would insist on him having tea and food. Perhaps savouries like sandwiches and pickles and cheese; but absolutely and without question sweets like homemade cookies and squares and tarts. And “No thank you, I’ve already eaten at other homes” would not be an acceptable response when such goodies were offered. So Dad’s afternoon of visiting would entail consuming gallons of strong tea and endless cookies and squares and sandwiches and pieces of cheese.

He would arrive home at the Manse – having followed my route today along Rimington Road, if he’d been visiting in the Eldorado area – practically groaning with repleteness. And there on the kitchen table, right inside the front door, would be: dinner.

I have to give it to my father: as full of tea and cookies as he might have been, he always did justice to whatever my mum served up. Dad was not one to see food wasted, or anyone’s efforts in preparing a meal underappreciated. But oh, how he did moan sometimes at how very much he’d felt obliged to consume that afternoon.

Not in a bad or complaining way, though. Dad was always extremely appreciative of the kindness and hospitality he’d received on his visits, and the friendly exchanges he’d had – perhaps with a bit of forking manure or repairing of a tractor thrown in.

All of that came to mind this late afternoon as I drove home to the Manse, in the last of the late-afternoon winter sunshine, along Rimington Road. And even though I wasn’t full of tea and sweets, I too felt appreciative: of how past and present come together in this place for me; of the beauty of the landscape; and most especially of my memories of my dad.

In which I am convinced that turquoise and red can work

turquoise and red kitchen from

I love the floor, I love the kitchen, but most of all I love the look of those vintage red chairs in that turquoise-and-white kitchen. Don’t you? (Photo by Brian McHugh by way of Retro Renovation,, posts here and here.)

Happy Valentine’s Day, dear readers! And hey, what could be better for a Valentine’s Day post than one about decorating with the colour red? Well, I’ll tell you what could be better than that: a post about decorating with the colour red and the colour turquoise!

Longtime readers will know that turquoise looms large in our plans for the renovation of the kitchen of the Manse, mainly – actually, solely – because underneath the godawful “wood” panelling that was installed when my own family lived in the house back in the 1970s lie restorable plaster walls painted turquoise. Those turquoise walls were just a fond memory from my early childhood – I was four years old when my dad, mum, sister and brother and I moved to Queensborough and the Manse – until, as you can watch in a little video in this post, they were partially uncovered by my brother John. You can tell from the video how thrilled I was to see them again after all those years.

That discovery, or recovery, or whatever you want to call it, also led to my passion for turquoise, which I’ve since written about several times, including here and here and here. The Manse’s kitchen is flooded with light thanks to all the big windows in it, and once it has turquoise walls, bright-white restored wainscotting, and a white tin ceiling (all of which is currently still in the dream stage), it will look amazing. I promise you’ll see many photos!

But as I confessed quite some time ago in a post here, much as I adore turquoise and want it for my kitchen, my true favourite colour is…red. And I’ve wondered off and on about whether one can mix red and turquoise in the kitchen of one’s dreams. I ventured into that territory most notably in posts here and here, in which I showed you the refrigerator of my dreams, a retro-styled red beauty that I discovered in the window of Bush Furniture of Tweed. (If you live in the Queensborough-Madoc-Tweed area you will already know that Bush Furniture is a great, longtime-family-owned business, with outlets in both Tweed and Madoc, where you can find good furniture, quality appliances, and excellent, friendly service. If you don’t live in our area – well, Bush Furniture is worth a trip!)

My Madoc friend Brenda was the first to assure me that turquoise and red could mix beautifully in a kitchen, and even brought me a photo to prove it. It was a photo of the kitchen from her own childhood featuring just that colour mix, and I stupidly failed to dash upstairs to my printer and scan it when she showed it to me. However, thanks to a post I’ve just discovered at Retro Renovation, my new favourite website/blog (I’ve already mentioned it a couple of times, like here and here), I now have gorgeous proof for you.

You’ve seen the photo at the top of this post, so you know what I’m talking about. The photo was used most recently at Retro Renovation to illustrate a piece (which is here) on vintage-style flooring, linoleum and otherwise, with which you can achieve that wondrous midcentury look. As a fan and advocate of linoleum (which I’ve written about here and here), I was of course most interested in that post; but what really made me sit up and take notice was its picture of the turquoise-and-red mix in the Nashville kitchen of Brian and Keri, which you can read a full entry about here. (Which you should do, because they did a great midcentury kitchen renovation for only $7,000.)

Everything about Brian and Keri’s kitchen is, in my midcentury view, to die for; but the absolute best part of it is the mix of bright-turquoise walls and a classic dinette set featuring the most gorgeous red chairs ever. Here’s another view:


The dinette set in Brian and Keri’s kitchen. (Photo by Brian McHugh by way of a post at Retro Renovation,

Now, the Manse kitchen’s walls are not, and will not be, anywhere near that bright a shade of turquoise; while I love it in the photos of Brian and Keri’s kitchen, it’s a little too bright for me. But I am just thrilled at how that splash of red in their kitchen looks so great against the aqua blue of the walls and the white of everything else in the kitchen.

I think the prospects for that red refrigerator ending up at the Manse are getting brighter all the time.

From then, to now, to you: the Sedgwicks’ Christmas card

Luke's gospel, inscribed by Mum

Indeed, as the inscription in my mum’s neat handwriting says, Luke’s gospel does contain “The original Christmas story.” Which is why I’m sharing this story with you on this Christmas Eve.

A little while ago, a Queensborough-area friend gave me something very special that I have been waiting until this night, Christmas Eve, to share with you.

In the 1960s and ’70s, when I was a kid growing up here at the Manse, Christmas cards were a bigger deal than they are now. It seemed like everyone sent Christmas cards. And probably because my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, was the local United Church minister, our family was on practically everyone’s Christmas-card list; I remember the cards arriving in heaps. We kids used to love to look through all the colourful cards – displayed thanks to masking tape and thumbtacks around most of the Manse’s interior doorways – and to read the hand-written messages. It was a lovely, friendly tradition.

My family in turn sent out cards by the dozens, if not the hundreds, every year; somewhere kicking around the Manse here I have a copy of my parents’ list, circa 1968, of names of members of Dad’s churches‘ congregations and other local residents to whom cards were to be sent. The list just goes on and on and on, and brings back many memories of good people no longer with us. (And happily, some of the names on the list are still with us!)

Sometime in the early 1970s, however, Dad decided that our Christmas cards should be in a different form. And so for a few Christmases – probably four, since there are four gospels – we sent out small booklets produced by the Canadian Bible Society, each one containing one of the gospels in what was called “Today’s English Version.” (I don’t know a lot about different versions and translations of the Bible, save that the one I use most is the Revised Standard Version, and I find the cadences of the King James Bible as magnificent as the English language gets. “Today’s English Version,” later called the Good News Bible, was, I believe, an attempt to put it in “words that everyone could understand.” It was not the first or last such attempt, and while the goal is undoubtedly laudable, the poetry and beauty of the biblical language are generally tossed overboard in these editions. Anyway, it was the ’70s; what can I say?)

I have good childhood memories of helping my parents stuff and address the envelopes containing these little booklets. It was quite a project, let me tell you.

But it was all only a memory until that recent gift to which I referred at the top. The gift was two of those little Christmas booklets:

Good News gospels

My family’s Christmas cards in 1972 (Good News by a Man Named Luke) and 1974 (Good News by a Man Named Mark). What a gift to have these little booklets once again!

The “good news” by Luke had been sent by my family at Christmas 1972, and is, as you’ve seen from the photo at the top of this post, inscribed by my mum, Lorna Sedgwick, on behalf of the whole family. The copy of Mark’s gospel was sent at Christmas 1974, the final Christmas that my family lived here. And this one is inscribed in the hand of my late father:

Mark's gospel, inscribed by Dad

I expect you can now understand how much this gift – having once again those booklets sent out by my family all those Christmases ago – meant to me.

So this being Christmas Eve and all, and in the spirit of the original reason for those booklets being sent out to friends, neighbours and parishioners, I’d like to give you “the original Christmas Story,” as my mum put it, as it is written in Good News by a Man Named Luke. I’ve also included the rather cool modern (that is, 1970s modern) line drawings that are included in the little book, one showing people going to be enrolled (as the King James Version has it; here they are “registering themselves for the census”), and the other, quite delightful, showing the shepherds gazing up in wonder at the angels. If you too experience that sense of wonder and joy this Christmas, then the Christmas wish that my parents sent out from the Manse all those years ago will have been fulfilled.

The Original Christmas Story

At that time Emperor Augustus sent out an order for all the citizens of the Empire to register themselves for the census. When this first census took place, Quirinius was the governor of Syria. Everyone, then, went to register himself, each to his own town.

Going to Bethlehem to be enrolled, from Good News by a Man Named Luke

Joseph went from the town of Nazareth, in Galilee, to Judea, to the town named Bethlehem, where King David was born. Joseph went there because he himself was a descendant of David. He went to register himself with Mary, who was promised in marriage to him. She was pregnant, and while they were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to have her baby. She gave birth to her first son, wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger – there was no room for them to stay in the inn.

There were some shepherds in that part of the country who were spending the night in the fields, taking care of their flocks. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone over them. They were terribly afraid, but the angel said to them: “Don’t be afraid! For I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people. This very night in David’s town your Saviour was born – Christ the Lord! This is what will prove it to you: you will find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great army of heaven’s angels appeared with the angel, singing praises to God:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven!
And peace on earth to men with whom he is pleased!”

The shepherds and the angels, Good News by a Man Named Luke

When the angels went away from them back into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, that the Lord has told us.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and saw the baby lying in the manger. When the shepherds saw him they told them what the angel had said about this child. All who heard it were filled with wonder at what the shepherds told them. Mary remembered all these things, and thought deeply about them. The shepherds went back, singing praises to God for all they had heard and seen; it had been just as the angel had told them.

Will this be the year that the renovation gets started?

Is that not a handsome Manse? The house looking its best, May 2012.

Is that not a handsome Manse? The house looking its best, May 2012.

Welcome to Meanwhile, at the Manse’s first anniversary!

Growing up at the Manse: Dad (Wendell), Mum (Lorna) and left to right me, Melanie, John and Ken.

Growing up at the Manse: Dad (Wendell), Mum (Lorna) and, from left, me, Melanie, John and Ken, circa 1967.

I began this blog a year ago today, the day that my husband, Raymond, and I became the owners of the former United Church manse in tiny Queensborough, Ont., north of Highway 7 and on the edge of the Canadian Shield. It is the house in which I spent what I consider the formative years of my life – from age 4 to age 15 – because my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, was the minister of the United Church of Canada‘s Queensborough Pastoral Charge and the job came with, well, a manse to live and raise your young family in. You can read my very first post, explaining the whole thing, here.

And if you read the “About” post at the top of this page, you’ll see that Raymond and I had great visions of getting the interior renovation/restoration that the Manse needs under way. One year later, what have we accomplished? Not so much.

Will this be the year?

Raymond with our new clothesline, put in by our friend and neighbour Ed.

Raymond with our new clothesline, put in by our friend and neighbour Ed Couperus.

Mind you, it’s not like we haven’t done any property improvements since January 2012. We have done something that we are very proud of, planted two trees – an elm and a maple. (And in the process removed the huge sad stump that was all that remained of the great big maple that shaded our front yard when I was a kid at the Manse.) We have had the rotted old clothesline post replaced and now have a brand new clothesline.

Newly painted red oil tank and new (to us) red truck.

Newly painted red oil tank (in the background) and matching new (to us) red truck.

We have done a lot of grounds cleanup, with help from our friend and neighbour John Barry. We’ve had the eavestroughs repaired, and installed ice guards on the roof. We have done a little bit of gardening. We have cleaned out the garage. We have pulled up old (dating from my childhood) carpeting. We have painted the oil tank bright red. And we have done battle with the ladybugs (indoors) and the wasps (outdoors and, sometimes, indoors – and Raymond is very allergic).

But we’ve also done a lot of just enjoying our quiet place in Queensborough, sitting out on the front porch in the nice weather and taking in the view and the birdsong. We’ve identified birds. We’ve cooked meals, both for ourselves and for a few visitors. We’ve taken lots of drives along the quiet country roads throughout the area, exploring places both familiar (to me, at least) and new. We’ve met lots of great people, and learned a lot about the history of – and current events in – our little neck of the woods.

We’ve been soaking it all in.

The other day Raymond and I were discussing what might be at the root of our not having got started on the renovation. (Aside, that is, from not having a spare couple of hundred thousand dollars.) The thing seems to be that everything is connected to everything else. For instance: the house needs electrical work: outlets are few, three-prong outlets even fewer, and there are some wonky switches. But it doesn’t make any sense to have an electrician go into the walls until we’ve made a decision on the insulation and the plaster. The insulation is: sawdust. Vintage (very), and funky, and environmentally friendly, and not inefficient. But is it really sufficient? It will have settled since it was installed when the house was built in 1888. Do we top it up with something? Do we remove and replace it? And if we remove and replace it, can we do that without trashing the original plaster walls, which I do not want to do? But are the original plaster walls in good enough shape to keep? Some are; some (now covered with wallpaper or panelling) may not be. But even if they’re not in good shape, should we replaster them or replace them with drywall? And – what was that about the electrical work again?

You see what I mean? It feels like it has to be a whole-house project, one thing at a time, and – very importantly – everything done in the right order. You can’t be going back and replacing insulation after you’ve got final interior wall finishes in place. Or, well, you can, but it’s stupid and it’s costly.

You know what it is? Intimidating.

It’s so much easier to just sit in the sunshine on the front porch watching Queensborough go by…

“What’s crokinole?”

Lee Valley makes a very traditional crokinole board.

Lee Valley sells a very traditional, classic crokinole board. To see some beautiful handmade ones, look here. (Photo from

Last weekend when we were at the Manse in Queensborough, I was reading the upcoming-community-events listings in one of the local weekly newspapers and this caught my eye (because it was in Eldorado, the village where one of the churches in my dad‘s old pastoral charge was located):

“ELDORADO CROKINOLE Party Friday, January 18, 8 p.m., Madoc Township Recreation Centre, Hwy #62 at Eldorado. Everyone is welcome. Please bring lunch.”

Which I proceeded to read aloud to Raymond, because it sounded like such a lovely, homey, old-fashioned event. And we’d missed it by only a few hours. (It was late Friday night.)

To which he responded: “What’s crokinole?”

Ah, these poor benighted born-in-the-U.S.A. folks. They just don’t know anything about our rural Ontario traditions.

So I explained about the big round (or octagonal) board, and how you’d flick the little wooden disks toward the hole in the centre, meanwhile trying to knock your opponents’ wooden disks out of the running (kind of like shuffleboard, or curling, or bocce, I explained). And also the all-important part about how if one of the wooden disks you flicked pinged against one of the metal stick thingies close to the centre of the board, it would hurt your finger. Why on earth it would hurt your finger after you’d already flicked it is beyond my comprehension, but there you go. It’s part of the game. (As our friend Jim Withers said in a crokinole-themed comment he made on an earlier post that mentioned vintage board games, “it’s one of the great mysteries.”)

Anyway, Raymond kind of looked on blankly as I told him about all this. But I think if I got him into a rousing game of crokinole the natural competitor in him would emerge, and he’d have a whale of a time.

So the question is: When is the next Eldorado Crokinole Party?

A beautiful vintage crokinole board, purchased from Eaton's in 1920. Now I have crokinole-board envy! (Photo courtesy of Scott Anderson)

A beautiful vintage crokinole board, purchased from Eaton’s in 1920. (Photo courtesy of Scott Anderson)

Postscript: Thanks to readers who sent in stories of their own fondness for crokinole, and their happy memories of playing it; you have inspired Raymond and me to try to find a board – preferably a vintage one – for the Manse.

Scott Anderson (a Hastings County native, from the village of Blessington, down in the southeast corner of the county) sent the photo at right of a board that has been in his family since before he was born, and that holds pride of place in his family cottage.

It was purchased from Eaton’s in 1920 and he still has the handwritten receipt for $5 – how cool is that?

I now have crokinole-board envy.

King John’s Christmas

The worn and yellowed pages of my childhood copy of When We Are Six. Many was the time my dad read the poems in it to me, in particular King John's Christmas.

The worn and yellowed pages of my childhood copy of When We Are Six, and in particular my favourite poem, and my dad’s: King John’s Christmas.

Raymond and I were driving home to Montreal from Queensborough the other night, through the dark and the freezing rain, the car radio tuned to CBC 2 as usual. And mention was made of A.A. Milne‘s delightful poem King John’s Christmas, and what a flood of memories that suddenly brought back!

I think I’ve mentioned that my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, had an enormous capacity for remembering and reciting poetry (not to mention composing his own à l’improviste, in full rhyme and metre, as fast as the words could come out of his mouth).

My well-worn and much-loved copy of Now We Are Six. When I hold it in my hands, I think of Dad holding it isn his hands as he read to us.

My well-worn and much-loved copy of Now We Are Six. When I hold it in my hands, I think of Dad holding it in his hands as he read to us.

The poems for children of A.A. Milne – who is most famous for Winnie-the-Pooh – were published in the volumes When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six in the 1920s, and Dad was born in 1931. Whether he knew these poems, or was read them, when he was a child I do not know. But he most certainly had the books, and read and recited them to us, when we – my siblings Melanie, John and Kenneth – were children growing up in the Manse in Queensborough.

Dad’s favourite by far, I would say, was King John’s Christmas, from Now We Are Six. He would recite it at the drop of a hat, and he did it so well – all the pathos of poor (though bad, one mustn’t forget) King John never getting any Christmas cards or presents, and how much he wished he would at least get one thing one time, and how the thing he most longed for was a big red India rubber ball, and how – well, you’re going to have to read to the end of the poem to discover how things turn out.

The CBC announcer reminded us that another CBC announcer, Bob Oxley*, was famous for his annual reading of the poem on the air, but try as I might I have failed to find a link to that. Meanwhile, this particular CBC announcer thought he would try it himself, which he did. And it was fine, but it wasn’t like Dad. And in looking online I’ve found lots of other people who think they do King John’s Christmas splendidly, and doubtless they do.

But they don’t do it like Dad.

Many were the times Dad would recite it at Sunday School concerts and the like at the churches and church halls of the Queensborough Pastoral Charge of the United Church of Canada. In my mind’s eye I can still see him doing it in the hall/basement of Eldorado United Church (now, sadly, closed and sold), probably in about 1972 or ’73. I remember enjoying it mightily even though I’d heard him do it so many times before (often in the kitchen of the Manse), and I remember how it was greeted with wild applause from the Eldorado adults and children. Those were simple and happy times, and that is a memory to treasure.

Anyway, in honour of Christmas, and A.A. Milne, and the return to Queensborough of Raymond and me, and most especially of my dad, here is King John’s Christmas:

King John’s Christmas

King John was not a good man –
He had his little ways.
And sometimes no one spoke to him
For days and days and days.
And men who came across him,
When walking in the town
Gave him a supercilious stare,
Or passed with noses in the air –
And bad King John stood dumbly there,
Blushing beneath his crown.

King John was not a good man,
And no good friends had he.
He stayed in every afternoon …
But no one came to tea.
And, round about December,
The cards upon his shelf
Which wished him lots of Christmas cheer,
And happiness in the coming year,
Were never from his near and dear,
But only from himself.

King John was not a good man,
Yet had his hopes and fears
They’d given him no presents now
For years and years and years.
But every year at Christmas,
While minstrels stood about,
Collecting tribute from the young
For all the songs they might have sung,
He stole away upstairs and hung
A hopeful stocking out.

King John chimneyKing John was not a good man,
He lived his life aloof;
Alone he thought a message out
While climbing up the roof.
He wrote it down and propped it
Against the chimney stack;
And signed it not “Johannes R.”
But very humbly, “JACK.”

“I want some crackers,
And I want some candy;
I think a box of chocolates
Would come in handy;
I don’t mind oranges,
I do like nuts!
And I SHOULD like a pocket-knife
That really cuts.
And, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,
Bring me a big, red india-rubber ball!”

King John was not a good man –
He wrote this message out,
And gat him to his room again,
Descending by the spout.
And all that night he lay there,
A prey to hopes and fears.
“I think that’s him a-coming now,”
(Anxiety bedewed his brow.)
“He’ll bring one present, anyhow –
The first I’ve had for years.”

“Forget about the crackers,
And forget about the candy;
I’m sure a box of chocolates
Would never come in handy:
I don’t like oranges,
I don’t want nuts,
And I HAVE got a pocket-knife
That almost cuts.
But oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,
Bring me a big, red india-rubber ball!”

King John was not a good man –
Next morning when the sun
Rose up to tell a waiting world
That Christmas had begun,
And people seized their stockings,
And opened them with glee,
And crackers, toys and games appeared,
And lips with sticky sweets were smeared,
King John said grimly: “As I feared,
Nothing again for me!”

“I did want crackers,
And I did want candy;
I know a box of chocolates
Would come in handy;
I do love oranges,
I did want nuts.
I haven’t got a pocket-knife –
Not one that cuts.
And, oh! if Father Christmas had loved me at all,
He would have brought a big, red india-rubber ball!”

King John stood by the window,
And frowned to see below
The happy bands of boys and girls
All playing in the snow.
A while he stood there watching,
And envying them all …
When through the window big and red
There hurtled by his royal head,
And bounced and fell upon the bed,
An india-rubber ball!






*Correction: My original version of this post described longtime and much-respected CBC-Radio announcer and newsman Bob Oxley as “the late Bob Oxley.” Bob’s son-in-law was kind enough to post a comment on the About page here at Meanwhile, at the Manse on March 18, 2015, pointing out that his father-in-law is very much alive and well. Bob and family – I am so sorry for my error! Now, Bob’s son-in-law, Bill, also said he thought that the CBC personality who read King John’s Christmas each year must have been the late Alan Maitland, wearing his Fireside Al hat. That sounds very probable. I am as sure as I can reasonably be that the CBC person I heard making reference to the reading said it was a Bob Oxley tradition, but it is very possible that he was mistaken and I unhelpfully repeated the mistake. Fireside Al was known for his readings at Christmas, but I can find no online link or reference to him doing King John’s Christmas. It’s a bit of a Christmas muddle! But I hope you’ve enjoyed the poem nonetheless.

Garlic from Cooper, Ontario. Who would have thought?

We picked up several different varieties of garlic from Elly Blanchard of Railway Creek Farms, who had a stand at the Madoc Fair last month. Raymond labelled them all so we’d know which was which, and took this nice photo in our kitchen in Montreal before we started cooking with it. It’s excellent garlic, and at this point we have very little left. Time to visit Railway Creek Farms to replenish. (Photo by Raymond Brassard)

It’s the end of a long day here in Montreal, but the prospect of a weekend at the Manse perks a person up – despite the long nighttime drive that it’ll take to get there on Friday after work, and the fact that most of my weekend should by rights be spent raking leaves from the lawn. But anyway, let’s not think about that. Let’s talk (briefly) about garlic.

I gather the undisputed garlic queen of Hastings County is Elly Blanchard of Railway Creek Farms in Cooper, the tiny hamlet not far from Queensborough where one of the three United Churches on the Queensborough Pastoral Charge used to be back in the early 1960s when my family was first at the Manse. If I saw correctly the last time Raymond and I passed through Cooper, Railway Creek Farm is the place where Rex and Phyllis Rollins, a wonderful couple and stalwarts of the Cooper church (and later, after it closed, St. Andrew’s in Queensborough) used to live. I have happy memories of enjoying Sunday dinners at Rex and Phyllis’s handsome brick home.

Raymond and I met Elly at the Madoc Fair, where she had a stand selling more kinds of garlic than I knew existed. We bought a sampling, some milder and some stronger, and Raymond labelled them all so we’d know what was what. Elly really has the garlic thing figured out, and will tell you just what variety you should use for various dishes. It’s really impressive, and really cool.

I have included garlic in the list of things I would like to grow when we eventually have a garden at the Manse. But in the meantime (and that may be a longish meantime) it’s clear that our garlic is generally going to come from Railway Creek Farms.

It makes me smile to think about garlic coming from Cooper. Back when I was a kid in those parts, I think garlic was, if not unheard-of, pretty rare. My mum used to have rarely-used bottles of McCormick’s garlic salt and garlic powder in the cupboard along with the other “spices.” But real fresh garlic? Not so much. Not at the Manse, ever. And not, I think, anywhere else much in the general vicinity, including Cooper.

So I think it’s just dandy that garlic – real garlic – is now a big product in Cooper. It’s culinary poetic justice.

We six, at the Manse: my favourite photo

The Sedgwick family in front of the Manse, when all the world was young (probably 1968 or so): my dad, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, my mum, Lorna, and us four kids, all two years apart in age – from left, me, Melanie, John, and Kenneth.

“All the world was young,” I wrote at the close of my very first post on this blog, the day Raymond and I became the owners of the Manse. The reference was to the sunny day in July 1964 when my dad and mum and their three kids – me, age 4, Melanie, age 2, and John, 4 months; Ken was not born until 1966 – pulled into the driveway of the Manse for the first time as Dad took up his first post as a United Church of Canada minister, serving the Queensborough Pastoral Charge.

All the world was young in July 1964, was it not? Just think of all that still lay ahead. Most of the main events of all our lives.

Anyway, the photo above is, I suppose, visual evidence of that era of youth, at least in my own family. This may well be the only photo in existence of all six of us together at the Manse. I do not know who took it; it may have been my grandfather (my mum’s dad), J.A.S. Keay, who was an inveterate photographer, but for some reason I don’t think this was one of his.

It is my favourite photo of my family, because we are all there, and the sun is shining, and we are at the Manse. And maybe because Dad’s hand (he had huge workman’s hands) is on my shoulder. And maybe also because my very first bike, a blue-and-white (or is that turquoise?) CCM, is parked on the front porch in the background.

It is a reminder of the happiness and innocence of childhood. When all the world was young. At the Manse.

Our Manse.