Let’s pretend, shall we? Pretend that I’ve come out my back door with the laundry basket on my hip. It’s a gorgeous early November morning. I’ve stood on the step to hang the wet clothes on the line. And when I’ve finished, I spy you over the backyard fence.

You’re standing with a cup of tea. Or maybe it’s coffee. And you’re surveying your domain. Mounds of leaves to be raked and bagged. Or not, depending on your “leaf-raking” philosophy. A couple of flower beds that still need tending to, plants to be cut back maybe, or spring bulbs needing to be planted. Whatever. You don’t look as if any of the chores that need doing appeal to you. So you stand there cradling your mug of tea, the unseasonably warm breeze ruffling your hair. And you gaze out over the river.

Well, my friends, I know an unspoken invitation when I see it. So I nip back inside to pour a fresh cup of tea. And I join you. And we have a good old natter. A moan and a laugh, and when we’ve finished we both feel immensely better.

You ask about my bathroom renovations. So I tell you. The tub and toilet have both been installed now. The tile work on the floor and around the tub is beautiful. The cabinets are finished and are lovely. The only thing left undone is the countertop and sink. That will take two more weeks. We’re really pleased with the work that has been done.

Except. There has to be an “except” doesn’t there? When we tried to fill the bath the first night, the water flowed through both the shower head and the faucet. Nothing would make it flow exclusively one way or the other. Sigh. That wasn’t right.

So the contractor came back. A faulty faucet, he surmised. And he scheduled a plumber to install a new faucet at 7:30 the next morning. My first morning of peace. I’d planned to sleep in, eat a solitary breakfast with my book, and then meet my friend for our walk. With perhaps coffee and scones after.

The contractor said the plumber could install the faucet in a half hour. Easy.

But of course it wasn’t that simple. The poor plumber, just a kid really, discovered it wasn’t the faucet that was the problem. He’d installed the pipes backwards. He felt a fool. And we felt bad for him. Everyone makes mistakes. And now he had to access the shower pipes somehow. Not through the newly finished ceramic tile on the bathroom wall. No way. But through the wall of my clothes closet. Thus Hubby and I, me still in my pyjamas, hauled everything out of my closet, and dumped it all on the spare room bed. Then Hubby had to leave for his golf game. One of us had to be here. And after all I had had two beautiful days in Montreal. So, I cancelled my walk.

The plumber laboured on. I sat with my tea and my book in the living room, still in my pyjamas, and tried not to listen. Clanking, sounds of running water, whine of a saw as he cut a hole in my closet, then the smell of the blow torch. Please, please don’t set my clothes on fire, I thought, with images of that new Max Mara coat in my head.

Anyway. He finished. We tested the shower and the faucet. All was well. He left, still apologizing. No harm done, really. And before I tackled the mound of clothes on the bed and the shoes and boots lying in a heap, I had that solitary breakfast. Then I put my closet to rights.

And I decided to keep going. The sunroom was a disaster area. It had been used as a builder’s yard for a month. A storage area for the cabinets, and fixtures, the plywood, and two-by-fours, and drywall, paint, tiles, etc. As each item was delivered it was squeezed into our sunroom. Who knew that one small bathroom needed so much stuff. All the sunroom furniture, plus the pillows and pictures and pottery, had been pushed against the walls, or piled in corners to make room. And now that the contractors had installed everything that needed installing, and removed what was leftover, the room looked as if a very dusty bomb had gone off. It took me more than two hours to clean, dust, vacuum, scrub. Than goodness for my Kate Ellis audiobook. You know how I hate cleaning.

And that’s one room done. And several more to go. But they can wait for next week. I plan to pace myself.

Today, I wanted to be blogging and doing laundry.

Ha. Best laid plans and all that. Today was the day that our washing machine decided to give up the ghost. After one small load of towels, it quit. It’s only been doing small loads for a while now, so this did not come as a complete surprise. I tried a few things and then called for help. The repairman comes on Monday. So no more laundry for me today.

And meanwhile, the idea I had for my blog post had gone right out of my head. What the heck was it? I’d been happily ruminating on the idea as I cleaned yesterday. But now it was gone.

The one thing I remembered was noticing that I was ruminating in a voice that sounded suspiciously like Camilla Parker-Bowles. Seriously.

Not out loud, thank goodness.

Although, let’s be honest, if Hubby came home from golf and found me talking to myself in a plummy British accent he wouldn’t be all that shocked. I do tend to be an unconscious mimic. One day I’ll tell you about the three-day outback safari we went on in Australia in 2003, with twenty other travellers, most of them from the north of England. And how as we were hiking one day, I tripped, and Hubby said, “Do you realize that you just said shit with an English accent?” Ha. That memory makes me smile. That was a lovely trip.

So, yeah. Aside from Camilla, I have no memory of what I’d planned to write about. Cleaning? Renovations? No. Maybe the good hearts of the many service people I’ve encountered lately. From cosmeticians, to Max Mara saleswomen, to renovators, and even plumbers. All of them lovely. And all so interested in doing a good job for us.

That poor plumber. How painful it must have been for him to come clean that the problem had been his mistake. And far from chastising him for an error that anyone could make, we were happy that he had come clean. And sympathetic. Besides, as I said, no harm done. My closet needed a good dusting and vacuum anyway.

So, back to this morning. And our pretending. You and me with our mugs of tea, two friends yakking over the backyard fence.

We did have a good natter, didn’t we? Something we all need now and then. A good old moan. And a laugh. With a friend, someone who makes us feel safe. And not judged. Someone who will not criticise us for moaning when, afterall, we have nothing much to moan about.

We aren’t ill, or in pain. Not anymore. We’re not lonely or particularly sad. We’ve neither of us much to complain about. We know that we’re privileged. Of course we do. But that knowledge doesn’t stop us from moaning when the washer breaks down, or the new shower doesn’t work, or someone who we might be related to is driving us crazy. Ha.

Now, it’s your turn my friends. What’s up with you these days? I’ve poured a fresh cup of tea. Go ahead, moan away if you want. We won’t judge. We’ll listen, then we’ll have a laugh, and we’ll all feel better.

P.S. I’ve always loved the image of two friends chatting over the backyard fence. Like Lucy and Ethel. It’s how my sister Connie once described my friend Debbie and me. Connie said that when Debbie and I grew up we’d probably live next door to each other and spend most of our time yakking over the backyard fence. I wrote a post about backyard fence friends a few years ago. You can read it here if you’re interested. I apologize for the formatting in the old post. Blame technology. Ha.


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From the archives


The Week That Was

It sure was a week, my friends. A historic week in which we lost Queen Elizabeth. And many mourn her passing.

Spring Jackets and Muddy Boots

Spring is in the air this week. The river is partially open. And I am digging my spring jackets and coats out of the closet.

Wobbly Weekend

I had a wobbly weekend, my friends. Felt a bit of isolation anxiety. But like those toys from the seventies, I wobbled, but I didn't fall down.

60 thoughts on “Over the Backyard Fence”

  1. Plumbing is the bane of my life. Our shower is still leaking and it has nothing to do with my sealing/grouting abilities. No, it is probably something underneath all that and I cannot get a plumber to come and look at it. I would happily lean over a fence with you about that. I hope you are now able to enjoy hot baths and showers. Tomorrow is another day.

  2. Long time no chat Sue …. All my fault, I’m sorry. I’m still an avid reader ( I never miss a post) , just rarely commenting at the moment 😞
    So this chat over the fence, while smiling at the river view is perfect …
    This post was so lovely to wake up to … I did read it with my morning coffee and I feel as though I’ve actually been talking to you again, in person.
    When our heating system was first switched on during our renovations the water poured through the light fitting in our family room, that had only been fitted an hour or so earlier! Someone had punctured a pipe when fitting the flooring in the bedroom above … in our case he didn’t come clean but we knew who it was 😂
    They couldn’t access the pipes from the obvious place due to our newly fitted oak flooring … so down came the family room ceiling!! ( which had only just been finished and painted …. aagghhh
    This was a few years ago but recently( in the last two weeks) … we’ve had boiler problems, the water softener has stopped working , as has the extractor fan over the hob … oh and we also have a leaky shower … and don’t let’s chat about how hard it is to find an available plumber!
    Anyway … now we’ve chatted and laughed! Yes, we laughed as these things can be funny and honestly in no way really important… a slight inconvenience maybe…
    I’m ready for a second cup … how about you?
    Take care Sue! It would be lovely to meet up again one day.
    Rosie xxx

    1. Gad, that sounds horrible, Rosie. And just after the room was finished! The problems just keep coming, don’t they? One day I hope we meet again as well. You should come to Canada again. 🙂

  3. No complaints from me today, except that I’m unusually tired for a Sunday night. But there’s a good reason. We spent the weekend in the Blue Mountains attending a wedding, something we’ve not done for 15 years. Over hot drinks I could tell you about how lovely it was to witness the happiness of the newly married couple, the bride’s colourful, embroidered dress, the great band and the dancing.
    I’m pleased your bathroom plumbing has been sorted. I assume the plumber repaired the hole he made in your closet. It’s great that he owned up to his mistake, a brave and honest thing to do. Good luck with the washing machine repairs. Houses and their constant maintenance needs can be draining, emotionally as well as financially.

    1. That wedding trip sounds wonderful, Maria. The Blue Mountains are so beautiful. We stayed in Katoomba for a few days in 2008. It was lovely. The plumber did repair the hole with a removable panel that can be opened again if need be. Which was great.

  4. Oh gosh, just the title of this brings back so many memories of the cut-de-sac where I grew up. Mom and her neighbor lady friends would be doing this, or sitting out on the front stoop drinking coffee while we all played outside. I have lived out in the country with no close neighbors for years, and I do miss that camaraderie. Even though we are 3 1/2 hours from the coast, in the piedmont of NC, we caught the peripheral gales of the last hurricane. Wind drove the rain sideways into roof vents, windows, wherever it could find a crack. Luckily my husband is in construction, so when it all dried out, he build up scaffolding and caulked outside the windows, but there is a nasty stain on the den ceiling. He has been too busy at work to repair it, but I know the day is coming when the den will be coated in sheet plastic and dust everywhere when he deals with that. Luckily he is rather precise about his work, so cleanup will be a bother but not awful. Now Sue, you know we are all dying to see that new green MM coat, when oh when will it make its debut on here?

    1. I’ve always wanted a friend who lived within walking distance. Or a next-door neighbour who is a kindred spirit. Like on TV. Ha. Green coat post coming up.

  5. Oh my…..So glad that it is (almost) finished and repaired!
    Don’t get me even started on the topic……so,I’ll be happy to listen and drink a cup of tea (you know our coffee,not enough for such a long conversation,so let it be tea),over the backyard fence! I’ll just say that I still have a huge hole in my dining room wall (in a closet ,so ,only I know),after my kitchen renovation long time ago,and it is just a start…..

    1. A hole in my closet is not the end of the world, that’s for sure. Especially since the plumber installed a plastic cover that we can remove to get at the pipes if we have to do so. Hopefully we won’t 🙂

  6. It would be lovely to chat with you over the fence . I’m sure we’d find plenty to say ( & moan about too ) We are still in Scotland where the sun is shining & it feels more like September than November. Some local friends , who we have got to know over the years , are visiting soon for coffee & cakes . There will be lots of local gossip to catch up on . We always enjoy learning what’s new round here & , being the local postman , he knows everything going on 😉
    You are very understanding about your latest bathroom problem . Not sure I would have been !

  7. I enjoyed reading your thoughts today. Ah, the joys of home ownership. After a few years of neglect – doing only what is absolutely necessary – there is so much to be done in my house. I just want to leave and go someplace else, an apartment or condo, where there are maybe less worries.
    Lately though I have been taking some pleasure in raking leaves. The weather has been unseasonably warm and it is a joy to be outdoors. Raking is a job that I can work at for a short time, see results, yet it is never done perfectly. In my town we put our leaves at the curb and the municipality’s truck comes along once a week and sweeps them up and grinds them for mulch on the golf course and in the parks. Alas, the big maple tree in my backyard is almost bare, so I may have to concentrate on some of the house cleaning this week.

  8. Home construction projects are such a pain, but at least you’ll have a lovely bathroom when it’s finished. It’s the getting there that is painful. We had some plumbing problems when we built our house a couple years back, and dealing with the plumber wasn’t as easy and pleasant as yours sounds. And the other day, I saw a bit of drip in the unfinished part of our basement just under my soaking tub. Hubby is convinced it’s the overflow drain and I overfilled it, but I’m not so sure. And even if I did, isn’t that the purpose of an overflow? It definitely shouldn’t run into the basement. LOL. I hate plumbing issues and am happy for you that it resolved already.

    As much as cleaning isn’t fun, now you have a lovely, clean sunroom to curl up in. What a relief after having it full of construction junk for weeks. Enjoy your Sunday!

  9. I’m full of sad news as my husband of almost 30 years wants a divorce and is moving out Friday. I’m devastated and scared. My coffee is with an anti anxiety med. We had our bathroom redone in early 2020 and there is a crack in the tile, ruining the wall, so need to deal with that too. Love your blog.

    1. Oh Christa, I’m sorry your life has sadness in it. Try to remember that you are still loved and supported by many you know, and many you don’t. (Yet!) 😊

      1. OMG Christa. You must be in terrible pain. I will pray for you and keep you in my thoughts. Things like this set us adrift. Please know you are being thought. Best

    2. I am sorry you are going through such a difficult time. My relative is going through a similar situation. She is finding her strength day by day. Be gentle with yourself – eat, breathe, and take care of your health and well-being. Self-care is easy to forget during a time like this, but so important. It will help see you through. All the best.

    3. I went through a divorce at age 67. I thought my life would never be happy again but I began to have a new life experience I’d never considered before, once I was able to breathe again. I took classes, joined Meetup, and made myself available to new acquaintances, I found new community, new opportunities and most surprisingly, new freedom. I discovered who I was as an individual. Some things I’ve learned about myself are that I’m more intelligent and independent than I had ever allowed myself to believe.
      There’s lots of good life after divorce.

      1. This is a lovely comment. I’ve never been married (an easy way to never have been divorced!), but I do have a long-time life partner who lives in another place. I will say that as much as I adore my partner, I’ve always loved being an independent woman, steering my own ship and “owning” my own life fully. There are negatives, of course, but the positives have been huge for me. I hope that Christa finds that for herself.

    4. Christa,
      I am so sorry that you are going through this. Of course you are devastated and sad. I hope that you have family or friends who can support you through such a difficult time. I am thinking positive thoughts for you and hoping that you will lean on others right now.

    5. That was a devastating announcement, Christa. Whether you are taken by surprise or ready for it to happen, 30 years us a long time. I hope you will find someone close by to help you and hug you, when you need it.

    6. Oh my goodness… I am so sorry to hear that, Christa. Of course you are devastated… and scared. It will be difficult to be alone after so many years. I hope you have good support from family and friends. Please let us know how you are doing from time to time.

  10. This too shall pass, that’s your mantra till the bathroom is done. Sounds like you’re almost there! We gutted and renovated our 1937 bathroom 5 years ago and still love it. We have a half bath, which spared us from a port spotty, and a laundry room shower also helped. By the time the new shower was ready we were starting to shiver, our first day using the upstairs bath was Christmas Eve. Hope your enjoying the new room already!

  11. You are adorable, love your blog, you write so truthfully. I have been thinking about renovating our bathroom, never liked the jets in the large tub. I really need to start doing some research. I hope you will share pictures of the finished project.

  12. This was such a lovely post. You write in such a way that I do feel one could have a chat over the fence with you. I especially liked the part about all of the nice service people you have encountered lately. This is something that is always very important to me – chatting with people who are providing services to me, appreciating their work, treating their work as valuable and not lording over people. Your exchange with the young plumber is a lovely thing to read! I’m guessing he won’t make that same mistake a second time. 🙂

    I don’t really have anything annoying to complain about, apart from ongoing life trials with no immediate solution pending, but I realized I reached a state of complete overwhelm this week with way too much work at all hours. There’s not an easy solution, as my job is demanding and I am responsible for many things with definite deadlines. I woke up this morning early in a state of tension ready to log onto my computer…and then I realized, “Oh goodness, it’s Sunday. I don’t need to do that.” I know this week is going to be very busy and so holding myself back from doing work today to get on top of it is going to be the challenge. My brain needs some free ranging. Let’s see if I succeed in doing nothing.

    1. Oh gad… I hear you. For a few years I could NOT not work… but Hubby eventually got very angry with me and I tried to cut back. I hadn’t realized how the time I spent working when I was home had gradually increased and increased over the years.

  13. I have my mug of coffee and chatting over the fence would be nice. I’d need my raincoat and boots and probably a big brolly with the weather being what it is…we were fixing a leak under the kitchen sink yesterday…my husband fixed it thankfully so no plumber required. I went out and bought new garbage and compost bins. Wish it could have been a Max Mara coat…I love the quality and softness of their sumptuous wool.
    Life throws us curve balls just to make sure that we are awake and appreciate when things are going well…but they totally exasperate me !
    I appreciate your posts, I read them all, I comment only on occasion but hey if we were neighbours I would talk over the fence.

  14. I live in a rural area, far from neighbors. But I do remember my mom & our next door neighbor in the ‘burbs would frequently chat over the hedge between the houses. My father was pretty handy so he did a lot of renovations supporting my mom’s decorating ideas. My favorite was the time my mother realized that the upstairs linen closet was deeper than needed and that if she broke through the wall on the other side my father could build a closet for himself. So she spent the day breaking through the horsehair plaster & lathe, carefully placing the chunks of wall in the three shiny new trash barrels she had bought. Proudly she showed my dad her successful demolition. Wisely, my dad was impressed with the quality of work but he did have to point out that he would be unable to carry the loads of lathe and plaster down the stairs-far too heavy. So that Saturday, my dad threw the chunks of wall out the second floor window only to watch the chunks break into small pieces and dust all over his side lawn. If I remember correctly, that was the last time my mom surprised by dad with “best idea.” Carol in VT

    1. My mum was never one to “neighbour” as she called it. But I have always wanted to be have a chatty next door neighbour. I do remember Mum’s attempts at renovation, though. Many of them to stir my stepfather to do something. Like the time she nailed the kitchen cupboard door shut with a big spike… he’d been putting off fixing it!

  15. I have a plumbing problem for you! 2 days before we were to leave on a 9 day trip to New England, the master bedroom shower decided to leak into the master bedroom. Poor husband had to move the bed, remove mattress, etc. Then he had to cut a large piece out of the sheetrock to see what was happening. Shower head had rusted and was leaking. Quick run to Home Depot to get a new one and replace it. After the trip my husband tested the shower (didn’t want to do this before we left to avert another crisis) Shower repaired, and then closed up the wall. Still waiting for room to be painted a new color. Best part is my husband was able to fix without a plumber!

  16. I’d love to be your backyard fence friend, but today I might want us to chat indoors because winter arrived here all of a sudden on Wednesday. We’re looking out at several inches of snow and it’s -12ºC this morning. In our imaginary chat, I’d probably complain about that, but I’d also share my plans for doing some closet and storage room cleaning and purging while the weather’s too miserable for outdoor pursuits. I might tell you about the book I’m reading about life in Congo and about the fun movie date hubby and I went on earlier in the week. Oh, yes, we could certainly natter on!

  17. I’ll meet you at the fence in 20 minutes. I need a good natter! I will probably have a jumbo size coffee mug! Glad your bathroom situation is almost sorted. Things tend to come in threes so the washing machine issue is to be almost expected. I guess we should be glad that we don’t have to wash clothes in the river in November like our ancestors. My son and his wife are struggling to keep a rocky union intact. Often sharing TMI for me. I am struggling with staying neutral and being supportive of both. My husband had some disturbing medical tests and we are looking at further diagnostics so who knows what is next. I see a specialist on Friday for possible surgery myself. I have been in pain for sometime. So Sue my dear backyard buddy, we will start with tea and coffee but a good glass or three of wine may be how our conversation unfolds.

    1. Or like in parts of Peru… where we saw people washing in the river in 2017. And for that chat… I am all for starting with tea and moving onto wine after a bit. Ha.

  18. You have such a wonderful audience, and I’ve enjoyed reading all their comments today. I empathize with a lot of them, as my own life has a little (or a lot!) of plumbing misadventures, and my husband is a chemist, not a plumber, which complicates things. Our life does also include seasons of illness and thankfully, healing, even though that may take longer. I have been divorced, although that was long ago and I have been blessed by this current wonderful husband, but we also have married children whose lives are difficult together. As each of your other readers said, it would take a LOT of coffee to get through the story of all that, but I am so glad to have this place, this Sunday blog to come to and breathe deeply that life in general is not always good but, thankfully, often IS good and satisfying. Thanks for meeting at the fence for all of us!

  19. Thanks for tea over the fence🤣
    Best laid plans spoiled but grateful for so many bless
    Take care friend

  20. I am two weeks into a kitchen renovation which will be lovely when finished but the lack of a kitchen is starting to wear out its welcome. 1.5 more weeks to go so at least we are past the halfway-mark. I’m not sure I would have had your patience with the plumbing mishap after anticipating finally having your space back. I loved last week’s post about Montreal. . . we walked many of those same streets back in late August for our first trip there since 2019. How nice to take a train directly from Ottawa into the heart of the city. Thanks for encouraging the across-the-fence chat!

    1. The chat this week has been most reviving, hasn’t it? I am grateful for the wonderful women who leave lovely helpful and supportive comments here.

  21. My mug of lemon and ginger tea is ready for our chat. I might even bring some of my freshly baked biscuits (cookies to you) if the visiting grandchildren have left any!
    I could definitely commiserate over plumbing problems. Our last house had water fountaining out of the back wall of the basement garage which was only discovered when my son went down to get something. We had to move two bedrooms of furniture and lift carpet to dry things out. This was repeated four times before a clever plumber and drainlayer found the problem. The entire base of the house had to be excavated as the sealing on the exterior had been damaged due to earth movement. It wasn’t a cracked pipe after all.
    In our present house I was sitting in the lounge when I heard an almighty ‘Woomf ‘ sound and discovered the entire ceiling in the ensuite had collapsed as the hot water cylinder had split. I did get a nice new bathroom out of that event.
    I would be keen to tell you that we are having a catch up dinner with six of our oldest friends this Friday which will be the first time we have been together in months. I am really looking forward to a good face to face get together.
    I’m sure we would be able to put the world to rights during our chat. Women are good at that. A good discussion of books read and movies watched would prove interesting. You might even give me a sneak peek at your beautiful new green coat.

    Ah – dreams are free.

    1. Oh. My. God. That plumbing/water issue sounds terrible. So glad you were able to iron out the problem, Kenzie. That “woomf” sound must have made your blood run cold.

  22. Tonight my neighbour and I were out in our backyards encouraging our elderly canines to do their business. It was dark and she confessed she was in her pj’s. I fessed up that I too was in my pj’s because after entertaining three under five …granny needs to get casual. It was 7:30…

  23. Your kindness and understanding with the young plumber brought a smile to face and warmth to my heart. Who among us hasn’t ‘screwed up’ royally? If there were more kind gestures such as yours the world would be a much lovelier place. Thank you.

  24. Ah Sue, I don’t know how you do it, but your posts are always so spot on. My life now…plumbing issues, again and the plumber, my cousin and I can’t seem to coordinate our times. But it’s not an emergency, something that can be lived with, and in the meantime I need to shop for a new dishwasher. So, let’s pour another cup of tea.

  25. We have some seriously warm temperatures here in Boston. While it is wonderful to be wearing shorts and tee shirts, I fear that climate change has something to do with it.
    Given that I had bonus warm days, I looked at the yard work that needed doing and made some great progress. Several shrubs were trimmed back, the compost was worked on, several plants pulled from the vegetable garden (and into the compost they went). A trip to Home Depot resulted in the discovery that bulbs were half price, so I bought several bags and made more work for myself. I was outside in the dark planting some this evening (darn daylight savings).
    Whew! I feel that I’m ready for a cup of tea and a chat with you now.
    Good luck with the bathroom. I admire your ability to look at the positive side of the pipe problem and I am sure that the plumber is grateful for it. As you say, we all make mistakes. I’m glad that your closet is very clean now.

  26. A beautiful post, Sue. What a lovely community you have built. Sending love to all who need it right now. Xx

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