Friday, 29 May 2009

The warm weather brings more than hallelujahs to The Small Street. It also brings all manner of tradesmen, scaffolding, and the constant whirring of power tools as our neighbours too work on their dream houses. The winds of gentrification are sweeping over the Small Street with a gale force, but it is the original residents that give it its character.

There is an old stone Pentacostal church on the corner that still boasts a very active congregation, and if you are lucky enough to walk by it on a Sunday morning you will hear the very souleful sounds of the church's gospel choir as they too bring Hallelujahs to The Small Street. The congregation often holds fundraising car washes during the summer, where a mere five dollars will buy you not only a (mostly) clean car but a good half hour of lovely island-accented banter as the neither young, nor particularly athletic members of the flock gamely hobble about, hoses in hand, good naturedly reminding each other that they "ain't what they used to be". Interestingly enough, most of these church goers seem to have left The Neighbourhood, preferring to seek a better life in newer parts of the city, proof positive that one man's ruin is another man's castle. These lovely souls are in the hands of a very personable reverend. A man who is no slouch in the style department, the Rev can often be seen on the Small Street, impeccably dressed, even during the dog days of summer, in a black suit, black shirt and black tie, entering and exiting his very large, VERY gold Cadillac. The Rev's wife shares his sense style and often jauntily sports a large plumed hat for Sunday mass. We can see her holding court on the sidewalk after the service from our living room window, judiciously left ajar in the hopes of enticing even more Hallelujahs into The Tall House.

A few doors down from the church lives Mister W. or the Mayor as we like to call him, an eighty year old-ish irish catholic who pretends to be a crotchety old bugger but really has a heart of gold. Proud as a peacock and stubborn as a mule Mister W must have been quite a terror in his day but now his declining health keeps him close to home. A fixture on the Small Street if ever there was one, Mister W spends his days standing guard outside his house ready to strike up a conversation with any one who has the time to stop. The only problem being that Mister W is deaf as a post, which makes the conversations rather one sided albeit well worth it for anybody interested in the lore of the Small Street, not to mention choice gossip about all the current residents. On the really hot days Mister W will often fall asleep on his front stoop, legs akimbo on the stairs, seemingly dead to the world which invariably causes panic amongst the neighbours. Thankfully, Mister W is a very capable snorer and rarely naps too long in silence, much to our collective relief.

Mister W's arch nemesis is his neighbour Monsieur L, a very dapper gentleman in his 70s, Monsieur L is the Ying to Mister W's Yang. Despite living side by side for years (or perhaps because of this) Mister W and Monsieur L refuse to speak to each other. Nobody remembers why this is, least of all Mister W and Monsieur L, but they seem to enjoy it, as they both while away the summer days standing guard outside their respective doors scowling at each other. We know very little about Monsieur L as he mostly keeps to himself. Except for during the christmas holidays when he proudly dons his prized fox fur coat and fox head hat. Now Mister L is rather a large man rendered even larger by the thickness of the fur coat, but the pride he takes in this otherwise comical outfit is touching beyond belief. That old fox must have been a magical beast for it completely transforms our dear Mister L. He preens like a veritable peacock during those holiday weeks as he cheerily wishes all the neighbours the very best. And we gratefully and happily return those wishes both to him and his fox.

The Small Street even has its own poet: a toothless, scrawny, but strangely elegant 87 year old man whose day job was as a baggage carrier for Air Canada. The Poet too can be found holding court outside HIS house, a tiny little victorian capped by a beautiful, if rather incongruously ornate turret. We are unsure whether his title is self-proffered or not, humility being a trait that is quite foreign him, but he is known amongst the residents of The Small Street as The Poet Laureate. Often dressed in full African garb replete with Juju stick, the Poet looks more like a witch doctor than a man of letters. A man with many ex-wives and even more children, our Poet actually has two daughters with the same firstname, a fact that he has proudly mentioned on more than one occasion. Although born long before the birth of rap, The Poet will spontaneously rhyme on any given subject, oblivious to the time constraints of the non-poets that he accosts. Because as he says so well himself "that's what we poets do".

So if ever you happen to be in The Neighbourhood, particularly on a Sunday, take a swing by The Small Street. You will be greeted by island accented banter, rhymes, hallelujahs and of course the high pitched whirr of power tools. And you will see too, that it is a most wonderful place to live.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Like the Christmases of our childhood, June 1st looms large on our calendar as the most magical of days. Our plan for that first evening is to have a picnic supper in what will eventually be our new kitchen. We are counting on the fact that the kids will doubtfully be able to stay still for very long. And with any luck within a very short time their squeals of delight as they chase each other around the empty rooms will fill the air, giving notice to those old walls that The Tall House is finally ours. All ours.

Friday, 15 May 2009

The Tall House is full of surprises. Beside the ruin that we rather euphemistically refer to as our front staircase is an incredibly hideous weekend-handyman-special of a flower container. This box is so ugly that we have had to restrain ourselves more than once from impetuously hacking away at it. But for about 10 days out of the year this eyesore is the most beautiful part of the house. For during the first few weeks of May the planter is filled with the most delicious smelling lily-of-the-valley in full bloom. The headiness of their aroma somehow makes us forget the decrepit old exterior facade and we tend to linger a little longer outside as we lovingly admire the beautiful features of the Tall House and marvel just a little bit more at its incredible potential.

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