In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

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Tongue and Groove

I don’t think I mentioned that my last year at the Willowbank School of the Restoration Arts is just six weeks of classes, and a placement. The placement I pursued and am delighted to have secured is with the Brown Homestead in St. Catherines, Ontario. It’s a home that was built c. 1802, making it the oldest house in the city. I’m not going to go on at length about it because although it is an amazing place, you can read about it firsthand by following the link.

This last week, my co-worker Holly and I were investigating the ceiling of a room that is currently undergoing renovation. The easiest way was from above so we removed the wood floor in the room above. While we had the floorboards so accessible, we made some repairs to the most damaged boards.

We’re not sure how old the floor is, because it’s in a loft that housed migrant workers in days past. Given the use of the room, the materials were not the highest quality and the room was likely not maintained to the same standards as the parts of the house in which the owners lived.

The floorboard wood was in good condition, but the tongue-and-groove boards themselves were only loosely fit together, and quite dirty.

Have a look for yourself:

What you see here is the edge of a floorboard with the tongue visible. The left side has been cleaned, but the right is the condition in which we found it. The gap between the floorboards was packed with a century or two of dried and hardened detritus. We have no idea what it is but we certainly took the precaution of wearing masks while cleaning it. I think it’s mostly dirt tracked in on the inhabitant’s shoes, but we also found signs of pests, probably squirrels, so there could easily be faeces and who knows what else in there. We didn’t want to inhale any of that!

To our great surprise, after very lightly sanding the areas we repaired, we saw the wood underneath the dirty grey surface was an almost cheery yellow/orange colour. It looked so unlike the colour of wood that we initially thought we’d revealed a layer of paint. Closer examination revealed that it was indeed bare wood.

We’re going to try to wash a board with linseed oil soap to see if we can bring that colour out in a less destructive way.

It struck me as I was cleaning the board that I held history in my hands. While it wasn’t as grand as a Fabergé egg, it was more real. The deposits between the boards were created by regular people going about their business. I suspect that the boards were installed at least a century ago. So a century of crud was packed between the boards, dried out and hardened. The people who brought that dirt into the room were just like us, but in a different time, long past.

A strange four months

I’ve been so quiet. It’s partly because my mother has been having some health challenges lately. It’s mostly because the last four months have been just so off-the-wall. First the most serious pandemic in a century and then in the middle of that, all off the black lives matter demonstrations triggered (this time) by the police murder of George Floyd. It’s been amazing and wonderful to see the demonstrations in the US spread all around the world.

My problem is that I have so little to add to this movement beyond my absolute support. Indeed, I’ve done a lot of learning and I will continue to learn.

I can do more in regards to the pandemic. I’ve stayed home and gone out only minimally. As things have opened up I’ve got to Julie’s more but that’s pretty much about it. Restaurants opened Friday but I have no interest in going out to eat at this point. Why risk it? I’ll continue to call ahead and pick up my order, thank you! It just seems too early for things to be getting that much back to normal.

Look at the situation in the southern US. They’re well on their way to having everything open again and are getting slammed with the highest infection numbers since the pandemic started. Florida alone has 8 530 new cases today, while all of Canada claims 178 new cases. I understand wanting to get out, but if we open up too early, these months of self-quarantine will have been for nothing.

It’s not the widespread death of the 1918 influenza pandemic, but people are dying in numbers far higher than necessary through neglect or thinking they’re somehow immune, and that’s tragic.

As of today, the worldwide death toll is 504 078.

Don’t cheat the Empress!

I’m almost finished reading Robert B. Abrams’ The Colosseum: A History, which is a pretty good book, especially since I managed to purchase the Kindle edition for $1.99. In it I came upon this gem of a story that I had never heard before:

The third-century emperor Gallienus, upon learning that a jeweler had sold the empress counterfeit jewels, punished the man by ordering him thrown to the lions. The terrified charlatan was led into the arena, where a cage was wheeled up next to him. But when the cage door was opened, a capon strutted out. The crowd roared with laughter. The emperor’s herald proclaimed that the trickster had been tricked. Then the benevolent Gallienus let him go.

That jeweler got off easy. Cheating people is bad enough, but who cheats the emperor’s wife? Not smart.

More top hat!

To further my earlier post about the top hat, I discovered this 1899 Huddersfield Chronicle reprint of a 1797 report of the incident:

Image © The British Library Board. Courtesy of The British Newspaper Blog.

Victoria’s Cover

PBS’s Masterpiece is airing Victoria in the US. I haven’t started watching it yet but Julie has recorded the first of the eight parts and we are going to watch it together.

I was on Amazon today and I couldn’t help but notice what is certainly one of the most beautiful cover photos I’ve seen in a very long time.

See what I mean?

I was delighted to read that season two is already in pre-production.

The cover image is likely ©ITV.

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