I live in an old home that was built in 1867 and various additions were added throughout the years. Everything was built with stone– and the walls are three feet thick. The thickness of the walls holds the heat away for a week in the hot summer and then it becomes an oven. The same applies to winter–keeps the cold out for a bit and then cold drafty temperatures prevail.
Sometimes as I type I wear fingerless gloves similar to the 19th century folks that once lived here only they had muffs. Apparently the Victorians paid attention to their hands first to keep warm and muffs were just the item to keep their fingers toasty. Of course the drawback which is the same with fingerless gloves is that once you have to do things with your hands other than sit there, smile and twiddle your fingers– it’s fruitless. You just can’t press that ‘delete winter’ button as fingers need to be free—cold or not.
One perfect thing about winter in an old home is snuggling under those warm blankets, not that I don’t have backup. Decades ago at an auction in Knowlton, Quebec my father bought me one of those long-handled bed warmers that they used to put charcoal or hot rocks in and rub the contraption over the sheets. But one must ask themselves how safe that would be today. I have never heard Martha Stewart say all is well with smouldering coals with her 300- thread- count sheets. As far as I know, and I could be wrong, she has also not come out with matching nightcaps and socks to accessorize her sheet line either.
Former owners of my home used to have a lift up hatch door in my living room floor for access to the cistern below. For all of you that have older homes you know a cistern is where they stored all the water caught in rainstorms. Using the roof as a rain collection surface, gutters and downspouts delivered water to the cistern. In the old days when the temperature dropped, water in homes began to turn into ice. I can’t imagine my first job in the morning lifting up that hatch to the cistern and break the ice up if we had not saved water from the previous day for cooking.
But then again we have a few spots in the house that have to have heaters running on them when it goes below freezing, or the pipes will freeze and burst. That in the old days was called being “frozen up”. It must have been pretty miserable in this home built by the first Scots in the area to be so cold. Come Spring, no one knew what pipe was going to break first when the thaw came and buckets and bowls were always ready to collect the drips.
Needless to say when we bought his home in 1981 we had no idea the cistern existed until 20 years later as they had constructed a stone wall over the entrance. Goes to show you how fed up they were with the cistern and they probably got sick of catching the fresh fish they stored in the cistern on cold days with an axe.
I read a lot of Victorians kept warm in an older home by living in one room during the colder days with a fire roaring. It did mean that people would have frozen if they had left the room, so I imagine they seldom left. One would likely assume that was when strong deodorant was invented or thought about.
Long drapes and fireplaces or wood burning stoves solved a huge problem in days of yore, but it’s not solving mine. I long to get rid of the daily uniforms of warm sweatshirts and sweatpants and sleeveless fun fur jackets. Today I took a photo of spring items I wanted to wear. A green and blue sweater and extra long vinyl baby blue elbow gloves. I laugh when I look at the gloves and realize 100 years ago I would have been cleaning the cistern with them. You have to admit they could clean a lot of floors with the length of them.
I look in the mirror at the white winter skin that gazes back at me in contrast to my black attire. Even though the outfit has been monotonous this winter it has kept me warm. Of course back then I probably would have been jokingly identified as a sickly Victorian woman who would not have made it through the winter. Stay warm my friends, Spring is coming.
It wasn’t the first time that this delivery man had crossed my door. But, each time he graced my garage door with a delivery he tried to make an impression. Even though I have a sign to leave any packages in the mailbox the driver just isn’t happy with my instructions. Once again I was scolded and told about the right way to do things because he cared how he delivered his packages.
“No problem”, he said. “Once Spring comes the gates will be opened and all would be good”.
A smile came across my face because none of what he said would happen, and I was probably doomed to listen to instructions the rest of my life. After all he said, I could have $8000 worth of goods in that package. I laughed knowing my budget is about 20 bucks and deep inside that box were three BTS K POP figures, two for my grandaughters, and yes one for me.
If you didn’t know BTS is one of the most popular boy bands on the planet right now and listening to the Supertramp music come out of the delivery guys’ truck I knew this gentleman would not have a clue either. Nor would he care how elated I was going to be soon opening the box to see my fave BTS ‘guy” “V”. I was 14 once again!
As I signed for the package he zipped his snowmobile one piece up to his neck and adjusted his hood and then told me to have a good day. As the chorus from Supertramp’s song Logical blared out of his truck he was gone. I thought it was nice that someone cared about my package. So remember, not all superheros wear capes, but some play Supertramp.
Scents of the Heart — Evening in Paris
Just about every home in the world had a bottle of “Evening in Paris” somewhere in the house. Even the perfume machines in women’s restrooms had them. If you put in a coin and pushed the buttons a big squirt of perfume would come out. My Grandmother would always get a bottle for a gift when I was a kid and she never said she didn’t like it. My Grandfather would always take one of us girls to Varins drug store on South Street on Christmas Eve to but a gift for her. We would come home reeking of many perfumes he had tried on me but he always bought Evening In Paris. You could get the set of powder and the beautiful cobalt blue bottle of cologne for a mere $3.98.
How wonderful I felt when Grammy dabbed it on my wrists and behind my ears before sending me off to school. I also remember her wearing her full length coat when the vial shattered and spilled on her coat —-you could smell her long before she approached you in the preceding months. Evening in Paris will always remind me of Grammy Knight and feeling safe, secure and being loved.
One of my favourite flowers Lily of the Valley grew everywhere around her headstone, and after my Mother died they sent home her belongings in a blue Samsonite suitcase. When I opened it a bottle of her favourite perfume Coty’s Lily of the Valley had broken inside. For years, each time I opened that suitcase, I relived the rare hours spent with my Mother, in the many hospitals she lived in during my childhood before she died.
Nothing is more memorable than a smell, sometimes it’s the key to our memories.
Today I looked at the lamp I bought from Bill Bagg when he lived in the Brown house on Mill Street and let out a loud sigh. It was very fitting that my late husband’s photo was under it as they shared the same health struggles for their last few years. They might have been as different as night and day but in the end their pain and frustration was the same.
I’m not going to write about his life and family as you can get all that in the newspaper-but, what I am going to write about is how Bill and I walked through the last days of my late husband’s life. You never argued with Bill ever, especially about three things, well maybe 4: local politics, history, his old dog Tick, and most importantly God.
I could understand his frustrations about his dog being picked up, put to sleep, and sent to the dog food company in Smiths Falls in the 80’s. Yes, everyone knows my frustrations with local politics, so I wasn’t going to question that– but it was the God thing that baffled me. How anyone, especially Bill Bagg, could have such a direct line to God made me scratch my head sometimes, but I never doubted it–ever.
My husband Angelo and Bill both discovered they had colon cancer at the same time and today I feel like I am reliving Angelo’s death over again. When Bill was going through something so was Angelo, and I knew how they felt because if one told me then I knew how the other one was.
There were two differences though: Bill had an operation to remove a tumour and Angelo did not because of a fear from a past experience. Angelo died February 8, 2014 and Bill died on Tuesday night– almost a 3 year span. I knew Bill would have better luck not only because of the operation– but because he seemed to have this one on one with God. Was it because of that large pendant he constantly wore– or was it something I just didn’t know? I remember the first time Bill and I discussed cancer like it was yesterday.
Photo of Bill Bagg–Amanda Todd-Peters and Peggy Powell
*”Pushing the large church doors open at St. James I felt rivers of emotions fill my inner soul. I shouldn’t be here I thought to myself, as I knew I was setting myself up. I sat in one of the pews, stared at the stained glass windows, and tried to hold back my tears. People were going to wonder why I was back in town so soon and I had yet to tell anyone what was really going on. For days I had spoken of family emergencies and real estate deals to those that asked, but I kept the truth inside my heart. I knew he didn’t want the whole world to know his deadly secret, and I respected that. I glanced through the hymn book and was thankful it wasn’t Sunday. Organ music would be attempting to pull more tears out of me than what I was presently trying to hide. Not wanting anyone to see the distress I was in I kept to myself and looked at no one. I knew the time was coming when I would have to release the inner sadness, but I just didn’t want it to be today. As people came in they stared at me and I had a feeling some knew my secret but were too kind to ask. Time seemed to move by at a snail’s pace and I kept lowering my head so no one would see my tear-stained face. Taking deep breaths didn’t help and I wanted to sob for a very long time. When I finally pulled myself together it was time to meet and greet. *Bill looked at me point blank and asked why I was back. The world began to spin and I could no longer hold it in and I looked at him and said quietly.
“Ange has stage 4 colon cancer.” He put his arms around me as I cried and said: “You’ve come to the right place I’ve got cancer too!”
For months he tried to get Angelo to talk to someone of a higher power but my husband was having none of it. Bill kept saying if he just talked to God his suffering would be lighter. In Ange’s mind he thought going to church wasn’t going to help him anymore than standing in a garage made you a car. Having been raised with a tough religious Italian Mother kind of muddled his thoughts about God, and anyways you didn’t argue with him, just like you didn’t argue with Bill.
But Bill never gave up on Angelo and he kept telling me God was ready to hear his voice. Angelo never did have that talk with God until the last two days he was alive. A former tenant sent a rosary to him and when he saw it he clasped it like it was a piece of gold. I had never in my whole life seen him do something like that. I knew he was scared and felt lost and by clutching that rosary he felt that God knew where he was. One hour before he died he asked for a priest to come to the house — but it never happened.
Was it a little too late? It wasn’t in Bill’s mind and he said, “In God’s eyes, you are never too far gone in any situation.”
I saw Bill at Walmart a few weeks ago and I knew he didn’t have much time left. I recognized the red jacket, the grey hair, and that voice, but nothing else reminded me of him. Hunched over pushing a shopping cart I felt the pain of his every step. A million memories flashed through my mind of how he used to be and no longer was.
It’s crazy that someone who used to be part of your life is no longer here– and he gave me so much to remember him by. The trouble is you think you have time and you don’t, as Angelo finally realized those last few days. If you look up to the sky today and hear a rumble just smile as you know God now has his hands full. Bill is probably directing heavenly traffic along with Angelo. It has now become one hell of a heaven and as Bill would say:
“God Bless Ya!”
“Bill had a deep love of God but his God was not the one in stained glass windows. He saw God as omnipresent, in everything and everywhere. We argued constantly about theology but when I listened closely I usually found we were saying the same thing. We just loved to argue with each other! He had a heart as big as the moon and I will miss him terribly. Requiem in peace Bill, until we meet again.”—The Rev’d. Canon David Andrew but as we know him our beloved Father D.
*From my book Cancer Calls Collect– Bill was referred to as a woman in the book as I did not want to name names in such a personal recount.
The first time I met Bill Bagg was in the Carleton Place Library at a Carleton Place Historical meeting. Was it 1981 or 1982? Anyways, he recognized me as he was a writer with the Ottawa Journal and was quite familiar with my eclectic Ottawa store.
He came over to me and said,
“You didn’t move here did you?
“You know they are going to run you out of town when they find out right?”
And with that he let out of one of his big “from the belly laughs” and looked at me and said,
“God Love Ya” and proceeded to tell anyone who would listen what “a den of sin” I ran in Ottawa. And so was my first encounter with Bill Bagg
A legend in his own mind, Bill Bagg of Carleton Place died on April 25th, 2017. Born in Barrie, ON on the Ides of March in 1945 while his father was fighting in WWII, Carden William Bagg grew up with his sister Gini in Cornwall. His parents, Alec and Judy fought often and with an intensity that fuelled Bill’s fiery love of family. After settling in Ottawa as a young man, Bill travelled to the Arctic, worked as a surveyor, sold insurance, and was a country manager for the Ottawa Journal. Early on, he developed a love of antiques and Canadiana and was a proud founder of the Bytown Bottle Club. He met Kathleen at a party while on a date with another girl. They married, had four children, built a cottage on Carson Lake and moved to Carleton Place where they began Mill House Antiques. In spite of a divorce and several long-term partners, Kathleen was “the love of his life,” something he never let her forget. Bill remained in Carleton Place and became part of the fabric of the town. He knew its history and would expound upon it at will. He proudly served on town council and was a fixture at St. James Anglican Church. His reputation as an antique dealer reached well beyond Lanark County, in part due to his unforgettably crammed shop Mississippi Gorge Antiques as well as the years he spent Sundays at his booth at the Stittsville Flea Market. More than that, he left an impression on every person he met. He was a story-teller at heart and somehow drew out personal histories from even the most reticent bystanders. Larger than life, charming, quick-witted, quirky, sentimental, loyal, outspoken, Bill was a showman who loved fully and freely and lived to make people smile. His greatest pride were his children Kelly (Martin), Shannon (Jim), Carden (Rachelle), and Victoria (Ryan) and his greatest joy were his grandchildren Alex, Andrew, Simon, Grace, Eve, James, Virginia, Marianne, Gail, Cecilia, Annie, Greta, Nate, and Sammy. He was a friend to many souls over the years and a father figure to Michael and Brian. Bill spent his final days surrounded by his family, exactly where he would want to be, across from the nurses’ station at the Carleton Place Hospital, just a few blocks away from his house. Thank you, in particular, to Dr. Maria, Lindsey, Pam, Sarah, Elizabeth, and Rebecca for the outstanding care of our father. He often talked about what we should do when he got on the spaceship. We’ll do just that. Tha-a-a-nks for the memories, Dad. Thank you very mu-u-u-ch.
Friends and family are welcome to celebrate Bill in the hall at St. James Anglican Church (225 Edmund Street, Carleton Place) on Monday, May 1st from 5-7pm. A funeral service will be held at 7:00pm.