Oops! And a holiday Christmas fireplace.

It’s Saturday morning and there is no reason for me to get out of this blessed hot water. I’m enjoying a soak. Trapesius, Deltoid and Latissimus dorsi ,  my back muscles, are enjoying the heat, infusing a bit of lavender and thyme oil. Ah, luxury!

Eventually the water cools and the slow, warm, Saturday awakening is at an end. It’s time to move; to dry off; to dress; to greet the day.

There I am, rubbing my hair dry, watching it spike a little now that I’ve had it cut recently, rubbing my neck and face dry when I notice that I’m wearing two necklaces.  One is the Mabe pearl that I purchased in Japan. It’s so classic, I rarely take it off. It goes with everything.

The other is a gold chain with a lattice moon pendant. I haven’t seen it for a while. It’s been packed up in boxes from the move. Here it is two and half years later and yesterday, I began to sort through the jewelry box – a 12 bottle liquor board cardboard box – to determine what will be kept and what will not. There’s a lot of drek in amongst the pearls. So I put it on. I would put it away when I went to bed, somewhere in a safe spot. Or maybe  would take off the pearl one. Sometimes there are hard decisions to be made.

But the decision had not been made and here I am staring at myself in the mirror and the only thing I am wearing are two tangled gold chains, a pearl and a gold lattice moon. There’s no way I can separate one from the other without taking one off. And so I do.

Carefully, I find the catch, one of those little circular spring rings that open up and release the other little ring that hooks onto it.  The chain comes apart. It falls straight, all in one rapid motion, like in a dream, and the pearl follows down the straight path and into the drain, as if Tiger Woods was sinking an ace shot.

I can’t put into print what I said at that point.  But there was nothing to be done. I couldn’t undo the trap underneath the sink. I don’t have the  strength in my hands and I don’t have the tools. Plumbers come at $75 per hour plus travel time and that wasn’t going to happen. I’d have to call for voluntary help.

I put a piece of dry clothing in the sink so that I would remember not to use it and I called for the kindly curmudgeon next door Mr. Stepford. I sheepishly stated my case and my request.

“Sure,” says he. “But I can’t come until tomorrow evening. We’re entertaining tonight and I’m going off to work in half an hour. It’ll have to be Sunday.

I sigh.

It’s wonderful that he will come, but I’m anxious about my precious pearl. It seems like such a long wait, and too much time for me to forget, screw up, turn on the water without thinking and flush it down the drain.


Downstairs, now, I’m fixing breakfast.  As Christmas approaches and I have need for a fairly empty fridge, I’m making my food choices on the basis of making the most room, “getting rid” of food that needs to be eaten up without wasting it. I reflect that this is an extraordinary state that many of us live in. I’ve had my days of poverty and hunger, wondering where my next meal would come from, wondering if it would ever end, but now I feel so blessed to have a roof of my own over my head and food enough that I never go hungry.

I select the few pieces of pre-cooked bacon, left over from the day Whistler came through on his way back to the ski town in the Kootenays where he is night manager at a hotel. We had a lovely, protein rich eggs and bacon meal to tide him along his eight hour drive. These last few pieces will make tasty sandwich with the last squished cheese bun, from the package that was taking up too much room in the freezer. I bought them too fresh and they collapsed, but they still taste very good, especially toasted.

There’s a vegetable soup ready in the fridge, made last night with the last fresh vegetables I had on hand – a huge carrot, an onion, half a bunch of parsley and a cup or two of chopped up celery stalks. There are eight or so frozen tomatoes from the freezer, rock hard red ice-balls, that I added in; and then spices – salt and pepper, of course, pulverized  rosemary, basil, thyme.  There are trailing bits in the fridge  and freezer – little containers of meat juices, a modicum of fennel that has been blended into a fine mush. Any stray bit of savory food gets chucked in the pot. It diminishes the freezer pack by at least four big re-used yogurt containers.

As I’m preparing my morning coffee and my bacon sandwich, I’m reflecting that this has been a week for things to go wrong. House things. Here’s the pearl, this morning.  Two days ago it was the house alarm.

At seven in the morning, I’m awoken by the alarm wailing loudly. I have no idea how long it has been on. I was sleeping  soundly.

It’s still dark in the house. There is a flashlight in the headboard shelving and I turn it on. If there is an intruder, there is no need to alert them that I’m awake and on the prowl. I creep silently down the stairs.

Outside, daylight is beginning to rise, to take away the shadows. At the half way mark, I stop to listen, but the alarm is too loud. If someone were stealing things, I certainly would not hear them; but there is another ringing going on. It’s the telephone. Abandoning caution, I race  for it, but, as usual, the phone is never in the room where it’s supposed to be. I dash back into the room I use for an office just as the phone stops ringing.

I go to the alarm panel to reset the alarm. I note that the zones that were triggered were the living room and the back door, but there is no sign of forced entry on the back door and the sun porch door has not been opened either.  I’m concurrently trying to assess any potential danger and trying to get the alarm to quit its nerve racking sound. The phone rings, but it’s not my land line. It’s my cell.

It too is not where it’s supposed to be. I’ve left it upstairs and I race for that only for it to swing over to the message centre just as I pick it up.  Sigh. I’m a Luddite. Getting messages from the cell phone is a challenge. I can never remember the number to telephone and I don’t know my password. I have that stored in a secret place in the house , but the alarm monitoring company will be waiting to hear from me or will be sending out the cops. I’m still in pyjamas and that would never do.

I phone using the only number I have – the one listed on the window stickers. It’s good. I identify myself. I give them my address and my password.  I explain my case but I’m talking to the wrong department.

“You had better call the false alarm section. Otherwise, you will have to pay a fine,” says the voice on the other end.

“I don’t know if it’s a false alarm,” I say with some worry. “I didn’t sent the alarm off and I don’t know what or who did. There may be someone in the house. ”

“Oh, everything is all right, ” he answers. “Someone reset the alarm now and the two zones are no longer being activated. I don’t think there is anything.”

“You can tell from where you are?” I say in disbelief, my voice rising in a querulous panic. “It was me who reset the alarm, but I don’t know if someone is here.”

I tell him about the back door not being open; about the hook on the sun room that couldn’t be reset by someone leaving the house.

“And why would the alarm go off by itself? I don’t have pets, – no cats, no dogs – so what would make it trigger? It’s the second time it’s happened. Maybe the system needs to be checked.”

And so he arranges for a technician to come. He will call me and set up a time. His name is Garrett.

At five in the afternoon, I still don’t have an appointment for him to verify the system. For all my puttering in the day, I haven’t checked my messages on the cell, so I get the telephone and check the messages. All the text ones are about how much money I have left on my account. The voice mail, though, is a different matter. I find my aide-memoire with the telephone number to call and the password.  I dial and follow through on  the instructions. Garrett had called at eleven. I’d never even heard the phone ring!

It was too late to call back. His day was over.  The rest of that story isn’t worth writing. Telephone tag on Thursday. Eventual connection.

“Monday? I am without a functioning alarm until Monday?

“Well, today is Friday.” he says, leaning on the word ‘is’.  So Monday it will be. What can one do?

Troubles come in threes, goes the saying.  I fervently hope that there isn’t one more thing to go wrong; and then I think, I was playing this telephone tag with another service man only last Monday! I’ve already had my three.

My friend Rose was here last Sunday for a cup of tea.

“Good grief, your house is cold!” she exclaims.

“Well, come sit here by the fire, ” I offer, and I get down on my creaky knees to light the gas fireplace.  There’s a starter that lights the little blue flame. You flick it a few times and it sparks. You hold the gas knob in until the flame gets a bit bigger and warms up the thermo-coupler. You let go. The flame has heated this safety  mechanism and then you put the gas flow to the place you want it.

Only this time, the flame gets bigger and I let go. The blue flame dies. Extinguishes. Time after time.  It won’t stay lit.

I know only too well that I need a new thermo-coupler – they go every few years. They wear out.  But do you think I can find someone to fix it? It’s too close to Christmas. They are busy. I can have an appointment on the sixth of January.

Well, I can manage this! To heck with the gas fireplace. On Christmas Day with all my dinner guests, I’ll be watching the cable TV fire place on Channel 2.

And BTW, for any of you stressing over my lost pearl, Mr. Stepford came, undid the trap under the sink and fished out my pearl. I won’t spoil this by telling you how mucky a job that was. The pearl is safe and intact.

Bless his soul!


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