Nineteen Eleventy-Ten

First off: Happy New Year to my 3.6 Loyal Readers, and anyone else who may drop in!

I have been terribly silent these last few months, and I believe I ought to make some account of the reasons. My Beloved Bride and I had a complicated finish to 2019 (or Nineteen Eleventy-Nine).

Earlier in the year, after long and tedious tests and much soul-searching, my GP and I agreed that my spinal injury (which is degenerative and will not improve) and my depression (which is treatable, but always with me), taken together, made me unfit for any regular employment. We put in an application for me to receive a disability benefit. This application, I am told, is usually denied on the first attempt, and often on the second; it’s a bit like getting neutrons through an osmotic diffusion barrier – a small fraction of the eligible particles succeed on each pass, and most of the others eventually give up and fly off elsewhither. To my vast surprise, I was accepted on the first try, and duly proclaimed a Complete and Permanent Waste of Space. This hurt my self-conceit, but we needed the money more; and as a married man now, I could not honestly contemplate the alternative of just curling up and dying with the cold comfort of an old-fashioned freeman’s honour. The philosophy of Trufflehunter the Badger was out of my reach:

He said he was a beast, he was, and if his claws and teeth could not keep his skin whole, it wasn’t worth keeping.

My claws and teeth could not save my skin, but I have someone who thinks it is worth keeping nevertheless, and must defer.

That was in the spring. A few months later, the long-delayed affairs of my father’s estate were finally wrapped up; his bit of land in northern British Columbia cleared the immensely complicated probate process of that province, and the persons responsible for the estate (I among them) agreed to put the land up for sale. Even before we could hire an agent to handle the sale, the next farmer to the south, a man by the name of Juell, made an unreasonably large offer. We dickered a bit to observe the decencies and got out from under.

This gave me an odd problem. I now had a lump sum of money coming to me, large enough to disqualify me from my disability payments, but not large enough to keep me indefinitely. There is, however, a well-intended loophole in the regulations. It seems that one can own exempt assets over the limit and still receive the benefit; and one exempt asset is a house. My Beloved Bride and I accordingly started house-hunting. This was more difficult for us than it would be for most people, because most banks (in Canada at least) won’t consider disability benefits when counting your income to determine your eligibility for a mortgage. Our real-estate agent, the cheerful and competent Justine Poirier, put the matter in the hands of an equally cheerful and competent mortgage broker, Jodi McDonald; I recommend both, if you ever happen to be looking for real estate in Calgary. After due process, during which several officers of the bank crawled up all my bodily orifices with a microscope and Geiger counter, we were approved for just about the smallest mortgage that the banks will deal in. (Anything under $75,000 is considered fiddling small change, and they leave it under the sofa cushions where they found it – or something.)

We then, after a careful search in the course of which several likely properties were sold before we could make an offer, bought a quaint old townhouse on the less fashionable side of town, with a basement that made us dub the place ‘That 70s House’. I am sitting there now, surrounded by imitation wood panelling, stuccoed arches in the Spanish Colonial style, and mural wallpaper with a scene of autumn foliage in high mountains (which partly makes up for the lack of windows). When we bought the place, there was also a superannuated shag carpet in the colour known to decorators as ‘Harvest Gold’ and to the rest of us as ‘Mustard Vomit’, but this was just one layer of kitsch too many. We expelled it from the premises and replaced it with a modern carpet in a deep, tranquil blue.

We took possession of That 70s House on the 16th of December, moved in on the 20th, and celebrated a quiet Christmas under our own roof. In the course of  the move, our roommate (who came with us) caught flu, or typhoid, bubonic plague, hydrophobia, or all of the above – something of about that degree of virulence – and passed it along to both of us as a Christmas present; and I, in a bungled attempt to cut down an old candle to liberate the wick which had burnt down into the wax, stabbed myself an inch deep in the webbing between my left thumb and forefinger, so that we had to pay the movers extra to do all the things I could not manage with one hand. We survived all this kerfuffle, and had our first dinner guests over last night for New Year’s Eve. (It would have been Hogmanay, for both the Beloved Bride and I are largely Scottish by adoption, but we were mercifully spared, because the dinner was conducted without haggis. We count this among our blessings.)

And now I am sitting in my new basement among kitschy décor and half-unpacked boxes, and my B.B. is upstairs playing the latest Mario game on her Nintendo Switch, and it is Nineteen Eleventy-Ten today, and I finally feel fit enough to get on with some work. I hope there will be no more extended silences on this site for a long time to come.

Comments

  1. Overgrown Hobbit says:

    Nineteen Eleventy-ten is simply lovely. Thank you for it. I hope the New Year will permit a category of faithful but absent-minded readers who show up too haphazardly to do the blogstats any good.

    Since I am unaccountably timely today, allow me to be the first to wish you and your household the kind of Hobbit-ish year to which we both aspire. And if I may also be a bit greedy, enough peace and plenty to allow you to write a few essais for your readers. Godspeed.

  2. Happy New Year in the new house! And welcome back!

  3. Mary Catelli says:

    Hope the good elements of this are the harbinger of more good things!

  4. Thersites says:

    “[T]he dinner was conducted without haggis…”

    Well, best order ahead very soon so you’re not caught lacking again come Burns Night.

  5. Excellent way to save your assets. May you live long and proper in your new home.

    As for not writing, I am somewhat in the same boat: the trivia of the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 MUST be attended to, for some unknown reason, first. And I can’t focus on anything creative with so much trivia, anyway.

    I will resume as soon as humanly possible.

  6. Tony Zbaraschuk says:

    May your house continue to shelter love and warmth and joy.

  7. E. Crook says:

    Ah yes, ‘Harvest Gold’ – also known as ‘Burnt Umber’. My family’s house is also unfortunately endowed with carpet from an earlier era, in precisely that shade you describe as ‘Mustard Vomit’. I think we may have finally convinced my penny-pinching father that it really does need to go; it’s been through (more than) five floods and is in all likelihood rotting from the bottom up . . . especially since the padding underneath consists of horsehair. All this to say, you have my sympathies. Congratulations on getting rid of it before you moved in!
    I do hope you will have the time and health to write soon; I very much enjoy your work.

    • Jamie Wilson says:

      My grandmother referred to that color as “baby s**t yellow”. She was never one to mince words.

  8. Garth Rose says:

    Congratulations on being a homeowner!

    In full-blown base 12, this year is 1204.

  9. Andrew Brew says:

    My belated contratulations on the various resolutions coming together, and my best wishes for your prosperity in nineteen eleventy ten.

  10. Jamie Wilson says:

    Please, more. I am reading my way through your canon, as it exists presently, and I am delighted to find a sensible literary critic not afraid to call out the degeneration of our literature caused primarily by Marxism, political correctness, and simple greed. You should count me as your 4.6th loyal reader.

  11. Hope you’re able to publish more books. I’ve been reading through the archives, and I find your commentary insightful and delightful.

    It’s more fun to read this blog than most others as it doesn’t focus as much on the issues of the moment as the timeless ones. Though the commentary on things like the Star Wars prequels and other such pop culture is amazing.

    • Thank you! You’re amazingly kind.

      I thought I was going to get back on track early this year, until the world was hit by the Kung-Flu Pandemic and the accompanying Public Policy Plague, and I was forced to spend a truly depressing amount of time in isolation. Meanwhile, a chunk of our income was cut off, and the Beloved Bride went through a crisis of her own fuelled by worries about money. Millions of people are suffering worse, and I don’t want this to be construed as a complaint, but even the self-employed can’t always keep working through a crisis like this.

      Lately I have been getting myself back into the discipline of daily writing, though I am deliberately working on a story that will never see the light of day. ‘Always mount a scratch monkey,’ the old story reminds us, and if I write crud at first, nobody will be there to notice. I intend to resume real work as soon as I am ready.

      • I understand how that would happen. The Flu Manchu has been a big mess, even if in many cases it’s the reaction to it that’s caused the problem.

        Glad to hear you’re getting back to writing. I just read the Eye of the Maker and hope to see a sequel eventually. 🙂

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