1784. House renovation

Molly had always wanted a sort of “do-it-yourself” house where she could “do things” like painting rooms. No big hammering stuff. Just arranging this and that, and sanding this and that. In fact, the first thing she did once she had moved in and settled was to sand off the old paint on the staircase bannister and stain it. What a transformation! Now to transform the whole house!

As time went by, she became a little more daring. A little window frame change around here and there. She even bought a skill saw! Hammering nails in and pulling nails out was ho-hum. In fact she almost became convinced that in another life she must have been a carpenter.

It was no use wallpapering the passageway, for example, until the physical renovations were complete. In fact, Molly was practically rearranging the whole house. Once all the physical changes had been made she would begin the decorations. The original staircase bannister had already been removed, which goes to show that one can be over enthusiastic when it came to “doing things” too soon.

Because all the changes were not outside the house, no one had the slightest clue that there was such activity going on inside. No permits or the like had been obtained from whatever branch of government demanded such things. Who would know? And indeed, Molly was right.

There was just one more thing that Molly wanted to do before beginning the decorating stage of her project; she wanted to make a wide opening between the dining room and the sitting room. That way it would become an expansive area, an area of vision and visage! But it was going to be Molly’s biggest task. Thank goodness she did not intend to have doors, even sliding doors, in the newly created space. She was a little too impatient for such precision!

Molly cut a large opening in the separating wall. It took only an afternoon. Thank goodness no one was hurt when the roof of the house caved in.

1783. Soup and toast

Heidi asked her big brother, Edmund, why they hung the sticky fly paper from the kitchen ceiling. It was covered with flies. The summer had been a bad year for flies.

Edmund explained that when the sticky flypaper was taken down, it could be immersed in boiling water, and made into a delicious soup. All it took was the fly paper covered in flies, some hot water, and some pepper and salt. Then once it had been thoroughly boiled for about ten minutes the fly paper was removed and discarded. If there were too many large blowflies in the soup then the mixture could be briefly pureed. But generally speaking with the small flies it didn’t greatly matter.

That evening, Heidi said she would cook, and she had soup on the menu; soup and toast.

“I didn’t make the fly soup like Edmund suggested,” said Heidi, “because I knew it wasn’t true. Instead I made some soup out of zucchinis that I cooked and pureed. But for Edmund I made a separate dish.”

She placed the special plate of soup in front of Edmund. There was nothing wrong with it of course. It was the same as everyone else’s. But Edmund wouldn’t eat it. He just ate a bit of toast.

1782. Developing varieties of sweet pea

Dermot’s neighbour had a pet goat. The goat kept jumping over the fence.

Dermot was an enthusiastic gardener. In fact, Dermot was famous throughout the land for the developing of new varieties of sweet peas. Each variety, both in colour and shape, would take several years. There were four of Dermot’s sweet pea varieties available in the shops. The most popular one was called Night Knight. It was a beautiful navy blue.

One time the neighbour’s goat got over the fence and nibbled on one of Dermot’s sweet peas. It put back the development of that variety of sweet pea by several months. Luckily Dermot caught the goat in time, but he gave a warning to the neighbour.

“I earn my living growing sweet peas, so please ensure your goat stays on your side of the fence.”

Anyway, I forgot to mention; Dermot’s wife is an excellent cook. Tonight they’re having grilled goat chops with garlic, oregano and lemon.

1781. Cut off from the world

It was almost impossible to imagine. Stella was in shock. She never dreamt it could or would happen to her, but it had. She didn’t believe it. Would she ever get used to it?

For fourteen years Stella had got around in a wheelchair. Fourteen years ago they had amputated her left leg below the knee. She had asked again and again for an artificial leg. Too expensive. No insurance. And so the wheelchair became her sole means of travel. Once in a while, with the aid of a crutch she would stand on one leg. But taking a walk was out of the question as Stella found it too tiring. Her upper body was too weak.

And then the impossible happened. Who could ever have guessed? This is happening to me, muttered Stella. Happening to me?

Yes, it was true. This was no rich benefactor making a generous appearance. This was no sudden successful raffle drawn for a prosthetic leg. It was less spectacular than that, but shocking nonetheless. The doctor told Stella they were going to amputate the other leg.

1780. Grandma Mother-in-law

“It’s beautiful, Grandma!” said Lynette. Lynette called her mother-in-law “Grandma”. Gwen had said “Call me Gwen”, but it somehow seemed too familiar. There was a tension, a strain, between the two. Now with the arrival of Lynette’s first child, and Gwen’s first granddaughter, the title “Grandma” seemed to answer a need.

“It’s beautiful, Grandma!” said Lynette. Lynette’s mother-in-law had brought along a dress for baby Olivia.

“It’ll be too big for her,” said Grandma, “but she’ll grow into it.”

“It’s beautiful, Grandma!” said Lynette. Quite frankly, Lynette thought the dress was the most disgusting thing she’d seen in years.

“I got it at a second-hand shop in town. Preloved the shop said.”

“It’s beautiful, Grandma!” said Lynette. It had prints of burning buildings on the fabric. It was the last thing a little girl would want to wear. More suited to a boy. And what boy would wear a dress? And why burning buildings?

“I thought,” said Grandma, “that having burning buildings on Olivia’s frock would signify that we’re not caught up in this old-fashioned pigeon-holing of the sexes. There’s nothing to stop a girl from wearing a fabric with burning buildings printed on it. There’s nothing to stop a girl from growing up and joining the fire brigade.”

“It’s beautiful, Grandma!” said Lynette.

“Look, Lynette,” said Grandma. “I think this dress is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I got it because I wanted you to know that you don’t have to agree with me. You’re the mother! You bring the children up the way you think best. And I can help in any way you think best. I know you think this dress is as disgusting as I do!”

And Lynette giggled. “Well the dress is kind of disgustingly cute in its own way I suppose,” she said.

Grandma laughed. Lynette laughed. Their relationship has not been the slightest strained since. In fact, they get on like a house on fire. Lynette has even started calling Grandma “Gwen”.

1779. The days were drawing out

The days were drawing out. Summer was approaching. Spring had not fully run its course, but the sun was definitely rising earlier and earlier. Soon it would be the summer solstice.

Young Grant was about to turn twelve. His birthday was on the last day of spring. “The start of a new beginning”, his mother would say. “Grant’s birth was the start of a lovely summer.”

Grant asked his parents if he could watch the sunrise at the solstice. “Of course you can,” said his mother. “What a silly question! There’s no school tomorrow.”

The next morning, the day after his birthday, Grant watched the sunrise. The day had dawned cloudless. It was a perfect start to summer.

Grant wasn’t the only one watching it. His parents were there, as was his older brother and younger sister. It was a family affair!

After the sun rose, Grant went to bed. He was dog tired having stayed up all night. The rest of the family were fine. They had gone to bed, had a good night’s sleep, and simply got up early.

1778. A wallow in luxury

Charles was sent by his boss on an important mission. He would get paid extra, but the negotiations were going to be tough. Imagine getting paid to pamper oneself in a luxurious hotel in Dubai! Spas! Food! Wine! Swimming pool! What a shame it was, thought Charles even before he left for Dubai, that the negotiations would never succeed!

Of course he would stay in the hotel and take advantage of every luxury. The negotiations could go to hell. He was in it for the enjoyment, provided he played his cards right. He had clawed his way up, not without effort, to be number two in the company. Life was a breeze. The boss was weak and ineffective. Charles would take over the company management soon enough.

And play his cards right in Dubai he did! Twice the boss had phoned and twice Charles assured him that things were “tough”. The third time the boss phoned, Charles was wallowing in a luxury soapy bath. The phone slipped through his hand into the soapy suds.

“We seemed to have been cut off,” said Charles later.

“No we didn’t,” said the boss, who had been suspicious of Charles for a time. “I was in the room next door.”