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Old Bachelor at the Cottage.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

You have been breathless with anticipation, waiting and hoping that I would soon be publishing this update!  Right?  Well, here it is at last!

So what, if anything, has been happening?

In mid-July I set out alone1 from Winnipeg to go to our cottage in Québec.  Having decided that I would use a tent rather than motels on my three day journey east, I spent the nights outdoors giving pleasure and sustenance to several thousand biting insects.  There was one night in particular when I had had to relieve myself at about 4:30 AM, and was followed back into the tent by a particularly large and hungry hoard of the critters.  You might have enjoyed seeing my tent rocking slightly, and hearing my half-asleep voice saying, “Ow!” and “Where are you, you danged2 thing!” and “Gotcha!” – and doing so repeatedly until the carcasses of many mosquitoes lined the wall and floor of the tiny tent.

Biting insects were the order of the day even here at the cottage, and until they died off (which eventually happened) I was more or less confined to the cabin.

Oh yes, and the phone didn’t work when I got here, necessitating another encounter with the wonders and mysteries of Bell Canada.3  It is quite a treat trying to explain to someone at a call centre in India that a technician, when he comes, must be carried across a lake in a boat, and must be prepared to either drag an enormous ladder up a steep hill through underbrush, or else be qualified to use “pole-spurs.”

“Oh yes, Mister Hardewoodajones, I am being writing down your very excellent words about the poless-purress.”  Oh great.

Still, a technician did come – on a Saturday afternoon, no less!  But... he had not been informed either about the boat or about the pole-spurs, and we ended up hauling his ladder up the hillside together.  The technician was a very nice and capable young man, and at the end of his visit my telephone service was restored.

Old friends and what they talk about
Heather's face displayed on a laptop screen, using Skype
Heather, visiting via Skype
I was away from the lake overnight once, for a visit with some lifelong friends.  I’ve known John since we were both in our teens, and he and his wife Karen rather romantically began their journey towards marriage at our cottage.  These days, mobility issues prevent them from visiting us here, so whenever possible we go to see them.  Heather, stuck in Winnipeg attending to her law practice (and to her mother), actually joined us via Skype on their back porch (see inset) and we all had a delightful visit.

John is a retired Anglican priest, and thus the two of us have a lot in common, including this: now that our days of giving spiritual food to others are pretty much done, can either of us find a congregation that might feed us?  What we yearn for is surprisingly similar: a reverent, dignified and ordered liturgy where neither clergy nor music leaders make themselves the centre of attention; where sermons are well-crafted and thought-provoking; and where the music is glorious and ethereal, rather like the music at the recent Royal Wedding.

Incidentally, both John and I were pleased with the wedding of William and Kate, not because we love British royalty, but because that service was so quintessentially, well... Anglican!  Think of the things I listed in the foregoing paragraph: “reverent, dignified and ordered liturgy?” – the wedding had that in spades!  Well-crafted sermons? – the Bishop of London gave one of the best sermons for a wedding that I have ever heard.  And of course the music was from start to finish both glorious and ethereal.

Can we two old retired clergy find such a thing in some church other than Westminster Abbey on a royal wedding day?  Well, such churches do exist, but they are few and far between.  John and Karen have found one, although it’s about an hour’s drive from their home.  My dear St. Luke’s in Winnipeg is one – although custom prohibits me from attending there at the moment, being their most recently-departed presiding priest.  And, in some ways, St. Margaret’s Anglican church in Winnipeg also fits the description.  Heather and I have been attending there more and more of late.

Suffice to say that John and Karen and I (and Heather, via Skype) had much to talk about, and my overnight visit went by very quickly.

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Rachael comes to the lake
Following my overnight at John and Karen’s, I drove to Dorval airport in Montreal and picked up Rachael.  She was coming to stay at the cottage for a couple of days, and we proceded to have the most delightful time together; true father-daughter bonding.

A highlight – for both of us – was a long walk.  A very long walk, through the forest and up and down hilly gravel roads for (and I’m still amazed to think of it) twelve kilometres!

By the time it was done, I was so exhausted and so sore that I could scarcely move.  Indeed, for the next twelve hours, when I did try to move, I shuffled unsteadily, holding on to things, as if I were ninety, not seventy!

But the walk, and the conversation, and the exquisite countryside were simply wonderful.

the old Avoca church, almost overgrown
The old Avoca church, still standing
but the stained glass was stolen
And, I had a memory-lane experience on that walk, too.  Way back in 1948, I was seven years old and my father, a newly-minted Anglican priest, was Rector of a number of small country churches around here (that’s how he found the property that eventually became our cottage).  I can remember going to a service at the Avoca church – the one nearest to our eventual cottage – where an impossibly elderly woman (as my seven-year-old eyes saw her) played a wheezing pump organ to accompany the hymns.  Another time, my dad took me and my younger brother to that church on a summer weekday, and instructed us to amuse ourselves outside while he attended to parish business.  Unfortunately, my brother Pat stepped on a hornets’ nest, so my dad’s business was quickly curtailed, as he attended to an extremely distressed little boy.

Later, as an adult, I would drive by that church – the home of the wheezing pump organ and the hornets’ nest – but I never again went in.  In fact, by that time the site where it stood was overgrown, and the building could no longer be seen from the road.  I supposed that it had been torn down.

But now that Rachael and I were walking along that road, I thought I’d take a look in the copse of trees that had grown up... and there it was!  There are tall bushes on all sides, but the building still stands and someone even mows the surrounding grass (see inset).  Indeed, moments after taking that picture, we met a lady on the road (she was going to get her mail) and she told us that the building stands on her property, and was even used as a movie set some years ago.  Sadly, right after the movie was filmed, persons unknown broke into the church and made off with the stained glass windows.

Aches and Pains
The only downside to this year’s cottage experience so far can be attributed to the creaks and groans of advancing old age.

There is, for example, the case of our annual road maintence project.  Chemin des prûches – our only access to the lake – has a street sign, and civic addresses on it, but it is a private road, so there is no one to maintain it but the cottagers who use it.  Once a year we meet and discuss culverts and grading and wintertime plowing.  We chip in funds to cover anticipated expenses, and then, armed with shovels, rakes, scythes and pruning tools we go out and clear roadside brush, fill potholes with gravel, and spruce things up as best we can.

We had our meeting and work party for this year on July 30, and I attended with some pruning tools: a small saw and clippers.  I happily worked away on a great length of the road, cutting small bushes and tossing them into the forest.  Clip... clip... toss... clip... reach up high... clip... grunt-and-groan as the thicker branches resist being cut, clip....

Eventually my right shoulder – which often bothers me these days – set up an enormous protest.  It began hurting like mad, to the point where after about 45 minutes work I was compelled to stop.  I gave my regrets to the other workers, and went back across to my cabin, nursing a very very sore shoulder.

The pain didn’t go away for days.  It was never so bad as to make me go to an emergency ward, but it gave new meaning to the word, “chronic” pain, because it just hung around, sapping my energy, hampering movement, and making it hard for me to sleep.  Eventually the pain did subside, probably as a result of rest, the application of “Tiger Balm,” and constant and desperate prayer.

But for a long period I didn’t get many routine cottage chores done.

Only a few days ago, I became somewhat more like my old energetic self, and made some improvements to railings and other supports that Heather needs because of the difficulty she has in walking.  And I got them done just in time for her to arrive.  She comes tomorrow – having successfully moved her mother into the best of nursing homes.  So, I had better stop working on this blog and get the place tidied up.  It looks rather too much like a bachelor’s cabin – indeed like the cabin of a temporarily disabled bachelor – so I need to remedy that toute de suite.

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1  As I mentioned in my last update, Heather stayed in Winnipeg attending to her law practice and seeing to her hospitalized mother..
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2  I suppose you think that “danged” is just a euphemism for some much more dreadful form of cursing, but the fact is that this mild little word is almost as foul as my mouth ever gets.  No, that’s not correct.  Sometimes I also say something that sounds very much like “Oh, spit!”.
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3  My most memorable encounter with Bell is described in a narrative that begins here.  It was a hair-raising adventure to say the least..
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