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Friday, February 24, 2017

Waiting for that Building to Fall Down


Once upon a time... this event actually did occur, but so long ago now that the story can legitimately begin with once upon a time... 

Anyway, I was a patient in the Royal Victoria Hospital in 1958. I'm no longer certain of the time of year but I seem to recall the season was spring, after all the snow melted but before leaves came out.

This was the image of the Royal Vic that I recalled seeing when I looked out windows - thinking those were stairs leading to the top of a mysterious castle - and of course wishing I could climb up there to explore.

At the time of my hospital stay I was just short of my fourth birthday and I required what was always referred to as a hernia operation. Of course most details about that visit have completely faded from memory but a few odd tidbits still hang around in the cobwebs.

I do not recall being afraid or upset about being alone and away from home; I was just there because I had no choice.

My hospital bed was in the middle of some type of large ward because I remember seeing all the other kids - mostly "big kids" to me. Some were not able to get out of bed and others had tubes and bottles hooked up to them. A few others had bandages and one older boy in particular had bandages on his neck and throat; he was unable able to speak. Another girl in a corner seemed to be very ill in bed but one day she seemed a little better and someone had tied her long dark hair into braids with ribbons.


An astonishing last-minute prior to posting internet find! This 1950's scene was actually recorded in Montreal's Royal Victoria Hospital and is very much the way I recall that children's ward.

Back in 1958 parents were not able to visit and stay in the hospitals with their children the way they are able to do so today. I recall that all of us there were alone by ourselves most of the time except of course for nurses and helpers. This said, I do remember my paternal grandmother and mother visiting but not for very long.

A few days later when I was able to get out of bed, I found a small tricycle and remember riding it around in the ward, then in the hallways to the elevators. That elevator had an operator and that elderly gentlemen kindly but firmly refused to let me ride the trike on to the elevator.

But after all these years, one particular mystery has stuck in my mind.

I encountered a man who was alone in one of the hallways; he was silently staring out of a window. I had no real idea why he was there or what was attracting his attention, so I asked him.

He told me he was waiting for that building across the street to fall down.

I remember being absolutely astonished by what he had said and of course fully believed it too. Yes, I then spent some time watching and waiting for that building to fall, which of course it never did. I clearly recall repeatedly asking him when the building was going to fall because nothing was happening. He just kept telling to wait and watch so I would not miss it.

Impatient I suppose, minutes later I was running around a-la Chicken Little and telling everyone I saw, nurses, patients, strangers, everyone what was going to happen. Of course no one believed me. 

Yeah... Chicken Little does exist.

Anyway I never saw that man again and I quickly forgot all about him and that incident until these many decades later. Again, I wonder why he was there.

As a parent I've decided that he was likely a father with a child who was ill in the hospital; probably shouldering that heavy, awful and unwanted burden of waiting. Perhaps he was in anguish and despair at being unable to do anything about whatever circumstances he may have been wishing were different.

Of course I have no knowledge whatsoever what may have happened to him and his waiting or whether or not all turned out okay for him. I shall never know.



When I started looking for pictures of the Royal Victoria Hospital for this post, I had no idea the hospital had closed.

My vignette was not prompted by and has nothing to do with the closing. Simply coincidence and a short story to tell... the type that are the ramblings of an old man getting older.


The Oddblock Station Agent


 








Monday, February 6, 2017

Lilac


Lilac was never a source of usable wood/lumber that I ever considered until three years ago when I had a conversation with Mike Chase, a professional wood turner displaying his skills at the Farmington Fair. He enthusiastically spoke to me about the merits of lilac as one of the best woods for turning and he suggested I give the wood a try.

Three years intervened before I was able to revisit Farmington, Maine, and have another conversation with Mr. Chase. In our subsequent discussion about woods and wood turning, I mentioned our previous conversation about lilac but had been unable to source a piece. 

Upon hearing that, Mr. Chase generously offered me one of the two lilac squares that he had with him. I accepted his kind gift and promised to get back to him with the results, which I have since done. This said, I decided to add this update to my previous post, simply because lilac is unusual.

Surprisingly, to me anyway and flowers aside, hundreds of images and postings appear on Google relating to the wood itself... meaning that I am not adding anything new or profound.



Lilac is indeed an excellent wood for turning. Yes, wood from that same bush/small tree that flowers every spring.


The lilac square that I accepted had a couple of cracks and soft spots so I allowed it to acclimatize for about a month before working with it.

The checking cracks did not extend deep into the wood and one soft spot (embedded decay) is the only remaining unusual characteristic. Most may simply label that soft spot a defect but I prefer to see it as an unusual characteristic unique to this piece of wood. True, some spots may cause problems or tear-out, but in this case it did not, as the above photo shows. 

I've since completed turning the piece round just to try the wood but haven't decided what to do with it. I suppose in the back of my mind I'll think about using it in a walking stick; I make those and this piece will be ideal for that.

Conclusion: lilac is indeed an excellent wood for turning, one of the best I've worked with. 


The Oddblock Station Agent