Friday, April 27, 2012

Our Retirement Home: Part One (The Plans)

It has been a long tome coming but it seems Marie and I have finally turned the corner and the years of planning and  dreaming are soon to be realized. For those who have followed this blog and remember, it has been ages it seems since we  had our road built, the well dug and the septic field marked off on our small property in the Quebec side of the Appalachian mountains. The road was completed in 2009, involving the removal of hundreds of trees that I had cut down over a week. Later we had half a dozen huge boulders that had laid there in the open since the last ice age moved aside. Following that truckloads of rock and gravel were laid down, ditches dug and  the road smoothed out. A year later we had the well dug at the top of the road, close to where the house will be built. This was in itself quite an adventure in logistics and patience - and extra cost to repair the road afterwards! Last year we had the septic tank temporarily installed but it and the septic field have to be moved to another location - this will be done in May.

trees cut to make road

trees removed and gravel and rock down

well truck being hauled up road

septic tank almost in place

 During all this prep work the past few years we have spent countless hours researching and discovering the intricacies and capabilities of solar power, the benefits of triple glaze energy efficient windows, the beauty of fiber cement siding, the luxury of radiant flooring as well as the necessity of a well made, efficient and properly insulated foundation - basically learning how to design our house from the ground up! After eliminating various modular homes builders and log cabin designs we settled on a local company in Ange-Gardien just east of Montreal that we both felt very comfortable in dealing with that will build the walls, floors and roof of our house in their plant - using sophisticated software and highly specialized equipment - and then truck the forms out to our site and and assemble them. Marie and I agonized over the plan for months, making changes to the roof line, the location, size and number of windows and the type and colour of the exterior finish and the exact orientation and footprint of the house itself on it's little piece of land. Below you can see two views of the final plan. Our design incorporates 25 windows, 4 patio doors, one main door and 3 skylights that will be on the western slope of the roof over the master bedroom and bathroom. The deck in front will be 28x10, built of recyclable materiel, with steps at either end. Marie has been using special software to help her design the interior, including wall colours and flooring, placement of furniture, wiring etc. Contracts are being signed and slowly but surely loose ends are being gathered together. It is now the end of April and, having approved the final design and had the final plans drawn up, we are now ready to begin...49 Chemin Maxime! The foundation  is scheduled to be laid near the end of May and the erection of the walls, roof and insertion of the doors and windows the middle of June. Marie and I will be on site the whole time, living out of our cabin and supervising all stages of the construction. I will be updating this blog regularly with photos and comments during each and every stage. I shall endeavour to record the trials as well as the triumphs we will encounter along the way and will appreciate any suggestions or congrats! Hope you come back often to see it all happen! gws

Saturday, April 21, 2012

My '62 Chevy

cool cat, cool car!
Summer 69,  Ioco, British Columbia 

I purchased my very first car in 1969 while living in Surrey, British Columbia - a red 1962 Chevrolet Impala convertible! I paid the princely sum of $800 for it and, although it was already seven years old and showing signs of wear, I thought I had got a good deal at the time. Damn but don't I wish I had it now! I can't imagine what it would be worth today if it was still running, 50 model years years later. I saw one like it - although in immaculate showroom condition, go for $125,000 recently on Barrett-Jackson's auction! From what I have read 1962 was a very good one for Chevrolet, selling over 2 million vehicles and my model was one of the most sought after Chevys of the time. The styling changes from the 61's were plain, yet classic. If you look at the rear you can see my Impala had the three tail lamps, as opposed to two for lesser models, full wheel trims, and other subtle styling cues that set it apart. I didn't have fender skirts that you can see in the photos of the cars below. Unfortunately I could only find two photos of me and my car that have survived so I had to scrounge from the internet for some pictures that come pretty close to what it looked like. Firstly though the photo above was taken in late summer 1969, on a back road near Ioco, BC, just outside Vancouver. My girlfriend at the time, Delcie, had either come up from Victoria to see me or else I had taken the ferry over to pick her up. Anyway we were enjoying top down weather on what is usually a rainy time of year in that part of the country. Check out the Pierre Trudeau campaign button on the rear license plate! The photo below was taken in Langley, BC with another girl I was going out with after breaking up with Delcie. Her and I graduated together from Moody Senior Secondary school that summer and were caught in her driveway celebrating with some wine beforehand! The car ran well for me except for an occasional slipping transmission and I regularly drove it up along the Sea to Sky highway (highway 99 to me at the time) to Squamish, north of Vancouver, where I had a job working in construction. I smashed the old girl up the following year in circumstances I would rather not mention here and sold her for a song before heading out east to Nova Scotia. Nice memories for me that I still think back on fondly whenever I spot a red 62 Impala in someone's driveway or at a car rally you always seem to come across in the summer in a Canadian Tire parking lot...gws

Me and Carol, Graduation night, 1969

highway 99, near Squamish

Friday, April 20, 2012


Marie and I took Phil and Fer out last night to see the premier of Cirque de Soleil's latest show Amaluna, playing in the big top down at the old port. It was a beautiful spring evening and a pleasant
walk along the waterfront, a part of the city we don't seem to get down to see often enough. It was our second Cirque de Soleil show we have attended - we saw Totem twice last year! - and were eager to see this latest offering from Guy Lalibert√©. Marie was lucky enough to procure front row seats for us months ago when they first went on sale and we were literally part of the spectacle - I think I dodged a few drops of sweat! Unless you have been to a Cirque show it is hard to describe the combination of music, sets and costumes, acrobatic skills and mood that sweeps you into the story for almost three hours. Each of us had our favourite performances from last night but they were all very spectacular and flawless. I personally was thrilled by the jugular-cum-lizard man who stole the show for me. For Marie it was a beautiful blond girl picking a dozen or more up bone-like sticks with her feet and balancing each one on top of the other, then upon her head and finally onto a very slim pole - the audience was spellbound and held their breath through the whole sequence. Another show not to be missed - they are here in Montreal for the summer before moving on to Quebec City, Toronto and Vancouver. Now if I can just make it out to Vegas to see the Beatles Love, Ka, Mystere, Zumanity,  Viva Elvis and Ovo.....sigh...  gws

We were this  close!

Marie in front of Bota Spa and in the background, Moshe Safdie's
 famous Habitat 67

Phil & Fer, Montreal waterfront, the bulk carrier Gordon C. Leitch in the background

passenger terminal, Montreal

Marie and the big top in the distance

me checking out the paintings, Old Port

Outside the Big Top, ready to see Amaluna

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Renovations : Part 456

Amy, almost 3 months!
I thought I would put that little sweetie at the top of this post to get you in the right frame of mind! But to the point of this post : Renovations! Do they ever stop? Not bloody likely, but owning a building constructed when Calvin Coolidge was the president of the US, Zeppelins (remember them?) were flying between here and Germany, and 'Show Me the Way to Go Home' by Teddy Lewis and his Jazz Band was the most popular song on the old Victrola suggests that repairs and maintenance won't be ending anytime soon! So, (and here is where I get into trouble) to make Marie happy, I agreed to let her update the bathroom, making her promise that it would be the last major renovation that we would take on in this old duplex before beginning construction of our new home this summer...We started out by removing the crummy looking medicine cabinet that I'm sure was was designed when the only remedies available were snake oil serum, Dr Whatley's Memory Elixir and Lydia Pinkham's pink pills, and replaced it with a much taller cabinet from IKEA called Raatshoertlaanggen (or something like that) which can hold more medicine than I will use in a lifetime, moved the lights up above the new mirror ( Kraackenskaar ?), put in another cabinet and rectangular sink and tap (Rinnensloorpenn maybe), painted the walls a nice robin egg blue and voila: instant bathroom redo!

Now where the &%#@ does that wire go?
when in Phil!

Please God make it fit this time!

Hi! Its me again!

Ta da! Thanks IKEA!
Now to concentrate on finishing Phil's basement! I would like to see it completed by the end of May because as the Beach Boys said in Surfing USA- "we'll all be gone for the summer!" I put in the rest of the insulation today in the ceiling so the driwall can now go up and, once the painting is finished, I can lay down the tile on the floor. It has been a slow process as Phil works most days and often on weekends but it will for sure add all sorts of value to this place. The duplex two doors down on our street this week just sold for $490,000 so that is encouraging! Tomorrow the four of us are off to the old port to see Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna under the big top. The story revolves around a mysterious island governed by Goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon. Their queen, Prospera, directs her daughters coming of age ceremony in a rite that honours femininity, renewal, rebirth, etc etc which marks the passing of those values from one generation to the other. But wait! There's more! In the wake of a storm caused by Prospera, a group of horny young sailors land on the island and one of them falls in love with the daughter resulting in trials and setbacks that I'm sure we will marvel at as only Cirque de Soleil can make us do! Christina will be coming down to babysit Amy and I will report on the show tomorrow. Till then...gws

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pablo - Rocket Man

Last weekend Marie and I took the Metro to a part of town we haven't been to for a few years when we first came to Montreal. Just a few blocks from the Jarry station where we stayed for six months in the spring of 2010 Rafa and Pilar have their small home, and it was there we were going to see for the first time their little son Pablo. What a sweet little baby and he will certainly be loved by his happy parents! I wanted to take him home with us but contented myself with holding him in my arms for a while as he slept peacefully. Our congratulations again to Rafa and Pilar for their beautiful son! May he have many wonderful journeys ahead...ground control to Major Pablo!.... gws