Tag Archive | family

The Big Mistake

Sure, maybe someday it'll look like this.

Sure, maybe someday it’ll look like this.

Since I don’t do holidays anymore,  to my parents’ horror, I readily accepted Der’s timely invite which arrived FedEx and contained a RT ticket to Vancouver and a card that read “Fancy a dirty weekend?” Now I know what you’re thinking, and I was thinking that too, which is why I packed accordingly.

One Weds I checked in my suitcase full of frilly things. I was filled with joy because Canadians had their Thanksgiving in October. It would be a totally turkey-free guilt-free weekend. Then, just as I was about to board the plane, he sent a text “I think I have made a big mistake. I must talk to you.”

Not really the text I was hoping for, especially as they were calling my row called. I could have replied, but I turned off my phone instead.  All through the flight I wondered, was the big mistake inviting me?  Maybe it was choosing Vancouver. Maybe it was the business. Maybe the location of new offices. His recently hired a personal assistant. The car he’d just leased. The house he’d purchased. His immigration status. . . . .

When I arrived, he seemed very happy to see me. He didn’t say anything about the text. Maybe it had been sent to me by  mistake?

The moustache wasn’t a mistake, it was for Movember. He’d leased a new sedan, or so I’d thought till I saw the lime green Ford pick up. Maybe he’d had an accident? No, the truck was temporary rental for work.

We went to his office building in a place called Gastown. I don’t know much about Vancouver, but he assured me it was a great place. So we went up to his office, which had been completed on time and under budget and looked great.

I  dropped my bags, and he had to take some calls, so I met Morgan before we went to lunch. The new PA definitely wasn’t a big mistake. We went to lunch and afterwards he  took me over to a spa. I had a lovely relaxing afternoon, while he worked. Then I went back to his office and we went home to his place.

It’s what they call a Heritage House, which means it’s old. In this case 1912-ish, so a Craftsmen-type house. Housing in Vancouver is expensive, which he knew going in, but I never asked the final price he’d paid. He always said he’d paid rock bottom for it. But Morgan confided he’d purchased in Vancouver’s “most exclusive neighborhood.” So I assumed, something in the lower 7 figures.

He’d told me he was very pleased with the house. But when we reached the door, he set down the bags and looked at me. Silence. “It’s not quite finished. I had some unexepected expenses after I began renovations.” “Oh? Such as?” “Once they opened up the kitchen,  . . . .”

Long story, shortened, what started out as a simple kitchen remodel turned into replacing plumbing, electrical, hvac, windows, a support beam, insulation, and weeping tiles, with mold and abestos removal, and chimney repair.

Then he opened the door and walked in  and turned on the hall lamps. “Nice wood floors.” I said, And they were. “Mmm, they are. But they need refinishing.” There was not much else to comment upon as the house was backed to the studs, except where there was spray insulation. “Very toasty.” “It is now.”

The kitchen was a fridge, a gerry-rigged farm sink, and a table with 2 chairs. “Great fridge.” “Yes, it was on mark down.” There was no other furniture downstairs. Upstairs, there was a futon bed, a floor lamp, and a very nice amoir his parents had sent as a house warming present.

I won’t tell you about the “master bath,” in this supposedly 6 bed, 5 bath house. Suffice it to say, I could see all the bathrooms from the hall, through all the bedroom. I didn’t see anything functional. He looked at me sheepishly and confessed to having been showering at his gym and using a toilet in the basement that hadn’t been gutted, yet.

“So, what’s the big mistake?” I asked, sitting down on the futon. But I had a good idea I knew it was was. He’d bought a house that needed a once in a century renovation.

“There’s note enough to finish the house,” he admitted. “And my family is coming for Christmas. They’ve already bought tickets.”

“What buget have you left?” I asked. And he told me. He was right.

My dad used to flip houses in his youth, before flipping was a word. We all used to help. I can tile, install plumbing, hang drywall. I’m no expert, but I know that to reno large historic house with a great deal of “must be preserved” character takes months.

There’s a lot you can do on a shoe string, but I was out of my depth and told him so. We ordered take away and spent the evening going through his pre-disaster reno plans, redoing his budget (numerous times, leaving out unnecessary parts of the house), and finally discussing the inevitability of a mortgage (he’d bought the house outright, so that was an option). We ended by go to the gym.

We rose early in the morning and spent Thanksgiving  at hardware stores,  lumber yards, and building supply shops. In the afternoon, I taught him how to hang drywall. Dirty weekend indeed. But still not my worst  Thanksgiving ever and we were together, doing something interesting, so it was fun.

About 3 pm, Morgan called. He had to go into work, so I just kept at hanging. About 5 pm, there’s a knock on the door. It’s my parents. Der had called my father, from the gym, the previous evening. He’d asked him to come up to “see the damage.” Da was pretty impressed. He’d not seen a home so ruined since his last trip to Wales. I believe mum used the word “desperate” repeatedly.

When Der returned, we went out to dinner. We went over the budget and the plans again. My father agreed it would be “spectacular” when complete and it’d probably take less than 10% of the purchase price. My mother shook her head and went out to peruse the terrace view. On Black Friday Der applied for a home improvement loan and we went over the border to buy more (cheaper) building supplies.

In the end, by Sunday, with some help from a few of his friends, we had a lot of the drywall up (though now where near finished), and one could see an end in sight. The kitchen, several baths, and all the items finishing a house required were on order. If things stay on track, per my mother’s excel sheet, the house could be finished Christmas Eve.

Realistically, a Christmas finish would be a miracle, even with my folks promise to help. Knowing my da though, that promise means Der’s uncle will be getting a call. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Der’s family suddenly decided on landing in Vancouver only to travel to Banff for skiing without ever seeing the big mistake. At least until Easter.

Mes yeux on the maillot jaune


This is a visual approximation of my latest — same look in the eyes, same weird combination of refinement and horsiness. He’s sort of a friend of the family. By “sort of” I mean I might be dating my father’s ex-lover’s son.

My father was in the Service, before he met my mother. While stationed overseas, he made fast friends with a local guy. He dated this friend’s sister. But things didn’t work. She married someone else almost immediately after they broke. And, 9 months later . . . “Der Rosenkavalier” was born.

Der’s family lives in Holland. But he’s of French-Belgian parents. He’s a businessman. He works for his father’s firm. It’s all very . . . boring, except boring is definitely not a word you’d used to describe Der himself.

Der’s mother asked her brother to ask my father to send me to meet him at the airport and make sure he got settled okay.  It’s weird being in a strange city. I get that. It’s good to have someone you can call, someone to show you around and tell you the skinny.

I really did not expect to be much more than Der’s “in case of emergency” contact. But, we bonded immediately — mutual love of Le Tour.

He landed in the wee hours. After a few formalities, we went to his hotel, where he asked the desk clerk, “How can I find the Tour?”

I knew what he meant. What station did he want to tune into? But the hotel didn’t carry that station. That’s right, free porn but no Tour de France!

I explained to him that he could get the Tour on his laptop, for a small fee, while in the US. He wasn’t best pleased. So we dropped his bags and I took him to a cyclist’s cafe I know. During July, it opens when the TDF Live show starts.

We had breakfast, with various cyclists, and watched on a giant flat screen as the Australian team, Orica-GreenEDGE, redeemed themselves from the Day 1 stuck bus fiasco. After that I left him at his hotel.

He arrived unexpectedly at our 4th of July block party, with champange. “After all, the French did help the Americans win their independence.”

And then there were fireworks!

Dear Emily Post, You Stink!


It’s mime, so I’m keeping it!

Dear Miss Post,

My etiquette question relates to the proper response to a visiting family member informing one that’s one house smells of excrement. “Thank you” seemed incorrect, as did so many other phrases that leapt to mind.

Said family member’s concern was touching, even if said member arrived at 9-ish (when I was not yet risen), used an emergency key to enter, decided that my house was malodorous and (on the hottest day on record for March, 95 degrees) kindly opened all the doors and windows (so that my sensitive wooden musical instruments might crack and explode).

I did not make an issue of these events, as I understand that being concerned only for one’s own comfort is not ideal in a hostess. But I must confess, by the time said visitor departed to an air-cooled home in the mountains, and my own home was wretchedly hot and only to grow more so, all thought of hunting for any offending odor had left.

Instead, I sprawled upon my fainting couch, my mind a sea of bitter hatred. This bitterness only intensified after I confided my plight to another visiting family member, who politely suggested “etiquette dictates a guest is always right — even when wrong.  But in this case, some Airwick wouldn’t hurt.”

I have always lived by the “open door” policy. But these events have strained the limits of my hospitality as well as my Lenten Christian forgiveness. Guest or relation, one may not be both. I do grant the existence of a minor aroma, but were they not rude as self-designated “guests” to have commented? And more rude still as “family,” who did not bother to lift a hand after lifting a nostril?


So, dear Miss Post, I appeal to you.

I wish to remain a model of manganimous hospitality, but I fear changing the locks at this juncture might be taken as rebuff and cause a familial rift. Perhaps closing the house altogether and going abroad for a few months to Italy on pretext of visiting the new Pope would be best?

Your advice in this matter would be most welcome.

With highest regards,

Indra Anderson

PS I grant that my upset would have been less had I not, for the previous two days, been trying to track down the source of a toxic, burning, electrical smell. The source of the aroma, I thankfully discovered later that evening, in the study. A large surge protector battery backup was melting down — a gift from the first visiting relation, whose sensitive nose was apparently not able to distinguish excrement (which was not there) from a toxic electrical meltdown (which was).