Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Stack of Books - What Else?

I'm not sure what most newlywed couples do the first few days as husband and wife (besides the obvious), but we spent an inordinate amount of time acquiring books. Lovely lovely books - including a 60-volume leather-bound set of The Great Books of the Western World.

We started our marriage reading that marvelous "first modern novel", The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha to each other before bedtime, and dreamed of owning a bookstore.

The book has been a recurring theme throughout our marriage, buying them, reading and rereading them, and even writing a few. We've literally read the covers off a few favorites, and had to find replacement copies.

So when I did my daily cruise through the Kijiji furniture ads last night I was entranced by a large and well-loved coffee table which was built to resemble a stack of three enormous leather-bound books. At 38" x 27" this is not a dainty piece of furniture. It weighs over 100 pounds.

No matter. It was furniture love at first sight. I called as early as I dared to check that no one had pounced on it as soon as it was offered. My heart was in my mouth. It was still available! Ian was off in the mountains climbing, but the owner said he'd hold it for me until the end of the day. I sent Ian several e-mails begging him to pick it up on his way home, and about 5:30 he called to say it was in his truck and he was on his way.

It needs a bit of love, the leather is dry, cracking and peeled back in some spots. A couple of the corners are damaged, it needs a bit of paint on the legs. But glory it is gorgeous! It fits perfectly in front of the sofa, and is great for throwing your feet up on, for a plate of snacks, to play a game on or assemble a puzzle.

As a bonus each of the three books is also a large shallow drawer which will hold the laptops, cords, back-ups drives, disks etc, paperwork, CDs, stationary, the kinds of things which quickly find their way to the bottom of a deeper drawer.

My camera is missing or I would take a photo of it in our living room, but in lieu of that I will post the pictures from the ad. I have to admit Tony was not at all sure he liked it, until he sat on the sofa and put his feet up and it suddenly dawned on him that this is not just a beat-up old stack of books we're talking about here. We're talking comfort and a significant amount of storage as well as a great conversation piece.

We also bought some shelving today so once we get it assembled we can begin to unpack the boxes of books, CDs, videos and other "shelf" stuff. We need a second shelving set just like the one we bought today, but will get it the next time we go to the store. Try as I might I could not find shelves the right size on Kijiji, so finally broke down and bought new.

We are a long way from being unpacked, but little by little the story writes itself.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


I remember vividly trooping up the wide staircase of Robert E Lee Elementary (Duncan Oklahoma) at some point in the third grade to watch a film.

You have to remember this was in the early 50s, when few homes had TV, and a film in school was an event. In fact we'd looked forward to it for a week, and had fidgeted and waited impatiently for our turn as other classes marched past our first floor classroom door on their way to see "the movie".

When we were finally settled into the desks in the large third floor room and the lights were dimmed we were shown how to use the technological marvel of the age through the story of a boy whose puppy had gone missing. Alas! The boy was an unschooled ninny who did not understand how to use the rotary dial telephone to call the appropriate puppy-seeking authorities. (High Drama! We were as entranced as today's 10-y-o at a "Harry Potter" movie.)

To that point you simply picked up the phone and yelled "Operator! Give me 21!" - or 723 - as the case might be, or "Stumpie Busby's". (Everyone knew Stumpie's number, he was the local bootlegger.) So film star and Puppy-Loser stood and fruitlessly shouted "Operator! Operator!" at the mysterious and previously unheard signal coming from the receiver, the dial tone.

Thankfully Puppy-Loser's kindly Mr. Rogers-like friend came along and showed him, with great care, how one uses a rotary dial. Place your finger in the hole over the number desired and rotate the dial around until it stops. Release, choose your next number, rotate the dial ALLLLLL the way around until it stops, release, repeat, etc. (Four digits in those days!)

"PL" was told he might get a beeping "busy" signal, otherwise wait for the ringing to begin. Your "party" (we called people we phoned the party in those quaint days) will answer the phone. No operator will announce that they are now on the line. You must say, "Hello!" when you pick up a ringing phone, and that is what you wait to hear before speaking.

This was breathtaking stuff which prepared the elementary aged school child to go home and show the parents how to use the baffling rotary phones which were being installed the following weeks. I proudly showed my puzzled parents this new age marvel myself, while my father shook his head in astonishment.

Now, we move 55 years forward. The Shaw guy hands me a "Universal remote" which will supposedly allow me to watch the flat screen high-def TV on my living room wall and then he makes a hasty retreat. Do I get an informative movie, or even a demo on how to use this device, with its hundred buttons, each of which has four dozen functions? No, I get a 75 page instruction book which tells me (supposedly) how to turn on the &^*% TV - but doesn't.

I hold it up and shout Operator! Operator! at it. Nothing. The TV is dark. It's 2011. The operators have all gone home.

I want to go back to third grade.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

In Reverse

AKA "unpacking". We have unpacked all the necessary-for-life stuff and are mostly down to boxes of books, pictures, CDs, DVDs and odds and ends. This is not to say that things are organized. That will take some time. Ask again in a month. Nonetheless we are pleased with the progress we have made so far.

We have to wait to unpack the books etc. we brought with us until we buy the hutch and some bookcases. Once we do that the stored books, china and pictures can come "home" from where they have been parked the past four and a half years.

One of the moving helpers carrying in the 10th or so box of books, looked at me and said, "I went through my books and weeded out the extras before I moved." I'm not sure she believed me when I said I had.

We've begun to buy furniture. Since we spent Wednesday pining for comfortable chairs the first items on the to-buy list were two comfortable chairs and a sofa, which we bought Thursday. Now we need a hutch and dining room table, bookcases and perhaps an end table.

As far as furniture is concerned I decided that whatever that's comfortable and I love will work. When I eventually find the camera I'll take pictures but I bought a French Provincial sofa, a lovely thing - silk with big flowers. (eye roll)

I have not a single flowered garment in my wardrobe, nor a ruffle, nor anything particularly girly. My decorating tastes are still a mystery to me. If I didn't love this sofa so much I'd say I was nuts. All the cat has to do is walk across it with extended claws and we'll have instant "shabby chic". I also bought a matched pair of very comfy swivel rockers with traditional rolled arms, in a burgundy velvet corduroy, which picks up the burgundy bits in the sofa pattern.

I may have to thumbtack a "Guns and Roses" poster to the wall to off-set the granny vibe. Except I couldn't stand to look at a Guns and Roses poster. I'm hoping some contemporary bookcases will help. I don't know why I'm worried. Visitors always just look at the cat anyway, so I could probably have thrown an old mattress on the floor and no one would have noticed. When a 21.8 pound red cat stands in the middle of the floor and demands attention everything else fades into insignificance. Weird thing. The sofa matches the cat. The background of the fabric is the same colour as the walls, sort of a rich latte, but there's some colour in there that makes the cat the perfect accessory. He thinks we bought it for him. I hope he's willing to share.

I guess I best admit I'm enjoying this entire process, though it's darned hard work.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Newest Chapter

In our continuing adventure.

Our trip was long (12 hours on the road) but uneventful aside from Salvador being car sick a couple of times. (Kids and cats!)

We arrived in Calgary well after dark, checked into the hotel and had the fitful night's sleep that comes with too much of a change in diet, schedule, activity level, and everything else.

But now 'tis Wednesday and we have taken possession of our new cozy little home. We've just about exactly doubled the space we had in the trailer, at 588 sq ft. We have a kitchen/dining room, a living room/den, and a bedroom, plus of course a bathroom, and a cleverly designed laundry and linen room adjacent to the bathroom.

Sixteen running feet of eight foot tall closet, including these twin four foot closets in the bedroom and an eight foot one in the hall. Plus a linen closet. After a grand total of three running feet of a 40" tall closet this amount of closet seems enormous! We've decided one closet will be used primarily for storage.

We've learned already that we can turn off the heat entirely - the ambient temperature of the building keeps us at a steady (too warm) 23 C (73 F) degrees. You can tell a difference in the temperature when you turn on the lights, which means all need to be replaced with CFLs by summer, but also indicates that this nice new building is energy efficient. Even though it's snowing outside it's not cold or drafty standing next to the large patio doors in the kitchen/dining room.

The kitchen is cute but was clearly designed by someone seven feet tall who never cooked. This will take some working out, but I will need a hutch to store dishes and small appliances.

We're slowly opening boxes and putting things away. May not be the final spot for everything but at least things will be off the floor and out of the way. Ian will bring the few things we have from storage, and bit by bit we will acquire the rest of the furniture we need, buying high quality pre-owned pieces off Kijiji, Craig's List, local shops etc. Better for the environment than buying newly manufactured and perhaps not so durable goods.

We are very very tired. It may be some time before we are fully recovered, but we could never have done it alone! We had wonderful help from sons Zak and Ian and from Ian's friends Flo, Joanne and Ronda. And our excellent realtor Monika Furtado who put an extraordinary amount of time and effort into finding us a comfortable home.

Thanks also to all our friends in Summerland who came by to say goodbye and wish us well. We look forward to seeing you when you come to Calgary, and to keeping in touch via the Interwebs!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy Birthday to Albert!

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

-Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Goodbye Summerland

Tomorrow morning we hit the road, a day earlier than anticipated. This is a good thing, as the weather forecast is better for tomorrow than the following day, and we'll have a day to recover between travel and lawyer.

As usual the last minute packing is terrifying. The last few days I seem to lose all my organizational skills and can't decide what to pack, when to pack it or whether to pack it at all, or just throw it away. I dither.

So I was delighted when Ian and his friend Flo arrived at noon and immediately began to organize, pack and load things into the truck. Within a few hours most of the work was done, and it was apparent we could leave tomorrow morning, rather than Sunday.

An hour's work tomorrow morning, packing up the last few items we needed to keep out, doing a quick sweep, dump the tank, blow the deck free of debris, and we should be on the road by 8:00 am.

We'll tank up on coffee in town and get breakfast in Kelowna, hoping to make the pass before the afternoon warming starts to loosen the snow pack enough to force road closures due to avalanche hazard.

It's been a week of goodbyes, which are always hard. Friends have been so kind, we've had a parade of people dropping by for one last quick visit. From shop clerks and waitresses at our favorite restaurants, to the woman who delivers our prescriptions, over and over we've been told that we will be missed. And we will miss them too.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

There will be memories of swans

Today the garden went. I put the word out on freecycle that my garden needed to come out, and today at 2:00 some very nice people came with shovels, pails, bins and pots to dig out and cart away about 90% of my garden. (snif) It was lovely while it lasted, but now a new gardener has lavender, hyacinths and hostas, and a family from Princeton has dozens of plants for their new garden.

We did finally buy a new home in Calgary, though not in a 55+ building, as it is impossible to get mortgage insurance on a condo in an age-restricted building. But it's a nice place, in a nearly new (2004) building, it's accessible and well-located for shopping. We're looking forward to seeing old friends in Calgary again, and getting reestablished in our community there.

We also have sold our little Beach House, which is going to be moved to a new site. Hence the need for the garden to be removed. The park's new owners are pouring great heaps of gravel on sites as they are vacated, and the garden would simply be smothered under tons of rock, which I couldn't bear. So not only we three but the plants are migrating.

We've spent the last weeks running errands and packing. We're now down to the items you use frequently enough to make it a nuisance to be without them. Zak came for a week and did a huge amount of work while he was here.

But mostly we have packed slowly and used the opportunity to rid ourselves of things we no longer need or want. We have freecycled a truckload of stuff, from boxes of fabric to photo albums, appliances and garden furniture. There's something really quite satisfying in being able to share an item with someone who might otherwise have bought it or gone without.

And we've enjoyed the trumpeter swans who have come to stay on our beach, the robins who are returning, the heron perched in a tree by the side of the road, the many quail who come to eat the seed I throw out, and the large flock of Bohemian wax-wings who landed briefly in a tree just outside (presumably to decide where to go next as they left five minutes later and have not returned). The first of the warblers have arrived back. They sang Salvador and I along on our walk this morning, like little musical lemon-drops.

We went out to dinner with our neighbours Art and Ruth and the former park managers Linda and Judy on Friday night. After dinner we all went to Art and Ruth's and visited for a couple of hours. Ruth is another genealogist. As we were leaving I remarked that I'd received the first "pen and paper" request for genealogical information I'd gotten in years that day. Ruth laughed and said, "We used to do it all that way," and she picked up a worn folder with the name Christopher Hussey on it. "Like this," she said, opening the folder. "These ancestors of Art's, I don't even have them entered in the tree yet, after how many years." The pages were so worn they were falling out of the binding. But I looked at the name and blinked.

Christopher Hussey was my 6th great-grandfather. Art is also a grandchild of Christopher Hussey. Which makes us cousins of some distant degree. So now not only am I leaving friends we have come to love, we are leaving family behind as well!

And to top it off, once I looked at Christopher Hussey's pedigree I realized he was a descendant of the Bowes (Bowes-Lyon) family, who were the Queen Mum's family. So, our former neighbour (who was an English Lord and cousin to the Queen Mum) was also a very distant cousin. I wish I'd known that then. His wife would have been so tickled.

Anyway, Ian arrives Friday and we will be taking possession of our new home Tuesday week. Since I am only rambling and need to pack at least one more box to obtain any sense of satisfaction from the day I'd best go do that.