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the house next door

Today, the house next door was demolished. It was a lovely, dark little house, built sometime around 1920, surrounded by tall fir trees. Now the trees, the boards, the walls, the floors are lying in a huge pile of rubble which I can see from my bedroom window.

I knew the story of the house well. One owner, a lawyer, started a basement renovation but ran out of steam. The next owners, who loved the house, produced too many children and had to find bigger digs. The next inhabitant loved the house, with its stained glass window, arts and crafts fireplace and hardwood floors. But then there was a break-in, and she no longer felt safe in the beautiful, beleaguered house. Darned drug addicts. I lost a wonderful neighbour.

It was sold, and sat empty and sad for months. Finally, some tenants moved in. Bad luck for the house (and for us) as it became a grow-op. The lovely house now had boarded windows, closed blinds, a pack of guard dogs, and a strong skunk odor. I liked the dogs. They had personality. But the poor house looked as if it had been in a bar fight. The interior was probably irreparably damaged by the moisture, but, then, the house was headed for demolition, anyway.

The grow-op group moved out, and the house sat sad and empty again, except for scavengers and squatters. Somebody took away the fireplaces, the beautiful windows, the glass doorknobs. One could say that it is better these things found a use, whether being flogged at a flea market or in a home renovation, than end up in a dump.

Today, as the cracking and roaring and thumping went on, under the jaws of the yellow monster used for such massive chores, I was sure I heard whimpering. I turned off the stereo and listened. Under the noise next door, I definitely heard sad moans.

Was it the house? Was it whimpering at its sad end? Or perhaps, I decided, it was whimpering with relief that its suffering, after a life of beauty and elegance, was over.

Comments (3)

goodbye downton abbey

Adieu, Downton Abbey. Your characters will inhabit my dreams just as they inhabited the upstairs/downstairs world of Downton Abbey.
I loved the final episode, so Shakespearean in nature, with everything tied up so neatly, and all characters looking at a glowing future (okay, maybe not the vile Larry, son of Dickie, but who am I to hold a grudge on behalf of a bewildered aristocrat). I half expected the major characters to break into dance with a lute player in the background, it so closely resembled the end of a a lovely Shakespeare romp.

Unlike other viewers (I sometimes check out comments on various recaps) I didn’t see this as all about love (although there was certainly enough of it to sugar your coffee and tea for the next decade or so) as about redemption. Almost every character worked their way through a difficulty or a guilt and found a way to get to the other side, most notably dear old Barrow, who has always been one of my favourites. I have always loved that his sly and cunning and malicious nature would suddenly take the background, as he shows genuine kindness or hurt. And Rob Collier-Smith (do I have the name right?) certainly knows how to turn on the waterworks, so that I have sobbed along with Thomas in his various disappointments. How fitting that he (with a suddenly sunny and serene nature) offers Baxter evolved advice about getting on with her life, and putting jail and humiliation and all that jazz behind her. Okay, way sugary, but I loved it.

Then, dear Edith redeems herself, after years of hiding the semi-comatose Marigold (that child has the energy of a wombat) in the nursery as a boarder, and suddenly comes clean. Then, even the crisp virago, Bertie’s mother, redeems herself at dinner. Hey, all these people are having major revelations.

Of course, the nasty Mary offers the most surprises. Now that she has snagged a man she can actually stand, she paves the way for Edith’s happiness by arranging a dinner with the estranged Bertie, and offers even more surprises. Gasp! When Anna goes into labour in her bedroom, Lady Mary (double gasp!) gets down on her knees to take off Anna’s shoes and help her into her noble bed! Yow. I actually believed her when she told Carson, “You are so dear to me.” What has come over this icy, brittle woman? Oh yes, right: Series Finale. We have to end up loving everybody.

Violet the Dowager, Isobel the loyal caregiver, Daisy the ditherer, Mrs. Patimore the dispenser of witty words (gotta love the Becky Sharp line!) all had their moments. I especially loved Maggie Smith cracking up over Spratt’s advice. I think Spratt should have a spin-off series. Just my opinion. Maybe Barrow should have his own series, too, in his new life as the butler at Downton Abbey. But then, of course, all the actors would have to come back, and they probably already have contracts for new roles as gunrunners, addicts, strippers, MI6 agents and undercover cops. I wish them all well, and am grateful for their wonderful work as they let me live in the glow of Downton Abbey.
Now, back to life in inner city Calgary, as I work on my next book.

All in all, very satisfying, if unrealistic at times. Thank you, Downton Abbey and Julian Fellowes for a great time.

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