STAIRS AND STEPS- Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Stairs

When we bought this house — 19 years ago — I figured there were only 12 stairs from the front door: six up and six down. We were moving from a three-story triplex in Boston, so a mere 12 steps didn’t seem like much. I could not imagine a time when I wouldn’t be able to climb six steps — or in a pinch, twelve with a landing int he middle.

Wooden steps from the deck to the backyard

Who knew? I have a stairlift for the top six, from the middle landing to where we live, bu the other six? “Haul away, men. She’s on her way.”

Garry now has to haul himself up by the handrail.

Scotties on the upper six stairs

Stairway to the river by the Mumford Dam

The problem is, I guess, that this is a hilly region, There are no flat areas and what few there are, are occupied by farms. That’s where our local fresh corn comes from. And the local grapes, cucumbers, and other produce.  Mostly these days, we seem to be breeding horses — saddle horses and huge Clydesdales and Percherons. Do we have any particular use for these gigantic (and beautiful) horses? No, not really, but they are glorious animals.

Four Clydesdales hooked to a dressy rig is a great entrance for a couple getting married., The saddle horses are owned by academies. If these places have flat areas, these are used as a ring for training riders and horses. Most places bring in bulldozers to flatten sections.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

We had to bring in a bulldozer to flatten our backyard. You can ask a lot more for houses if by some quirk it happens to be on flat ground at the top of a hill so water runs down and away from it.

We are in the middle of the hill. A long slide down the driveway from the road is our personal Bunny Slope. Thus our backyard is flat, but still needs a canal of its own so the water that collects at the base of the driveway can roll down to the woods.

From the read of the back lawn, there is a precipitous drop through some impressive boulders to a flat area at the bottom, after which the land rises again. Since the entire area is networked by bodies of water — rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and canals initially used by factories and spinning mills to move goods to the main canal or ultimately, the railroad.

The long drop from the Worcester hill into the hill-and-dale of the watershed means almost no houses can be build on flat land. Newer houses — like ours — are either split levels or Georgian-style brick buildings built into the hills. Like a split level before there were split levels.

Pretty much every house has stairs. The parks have long stairways because that’s what you can do on these rolling hills. This house is a raised ranch. The lower level has one area that is a real basement. The rest of the level includes a den with a fireplace, a big bedroom. a tiny bedroom now used as a closet, another unheated room for storage,  plus a bathroom with a shower, toilet, sink, and the washer, and dryer. What remains of the original garage is a work area.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

We find ourselves going up and down often. We store extra food on the shelves downstairs. A lot of items that come and go in the house — little table, pictures, wrapping paper, winter coats in the summer, summer clothing in the winter. The attic was never finished. It doesn’t have a complete floor and is full of loose fiberglass for insulation. We don’t go there since its pull-down wooden stairs feel dangerously creaky.

Take a walk along the banks of the Blackstone

Yet, when we moved in, I hopped up and down the stairs like they were nothing. I didn’t even mind the three-story townhouse in Boston, though I could tell a time would come when I wouldn’t be able to deal with it. By then we also had two dogs and a cat and I wanted a yard for the dogs. With a fence.

Just 12 steps, but sometimes, they feel like so many more.

NOT WORTH THE PAPER IT’S WRITTEN ON – Marilyn Armstrong

It was Samuel Goldwyn who supposedly said that “a verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.” He had a point. Almost everything is done online these days from legal papers to mortgages.

Job offers, book deals, major purchases (like cars) are all done online, without people meeting face-to-face. I’m still not willing to make major commitments without a personal meeting, but I’m old-school. Maybe you should be, too.

Computers, or not, get it in writing. Without the handwritten signature of a live human with a name, address, and phone numbers, you ain’t got nothing.

When I was working my first jobs out of college, I would take anything with some connection — no matter how vague — to professional writing or editing.
It was the 1960s. Those days, before home computers and the Internet, getting a job was pretty simple, at least at entry levels.

You saw a listing in the paper for something you figured you could do. You phoned them (if they gave a number to call) or wrote a letter. On paper. Put it in an envelope with a stamp and dropped in a mailbox. You included a résumé or brought one with you for the interview.

You went to the meeting in person. A day or two later, that person (or his/her secretary) called back to say “Yes, you’re hired,” or “No, thank you.” An entry-level job didn’t require 30 hours of interviews or meeting everyone from the company president to the IT crew and the overnight backup guy.

And there really was a job, unlike now where they interview people for jobs that don’t exist just to find out if there’s a workforce to fill it — should it ever come up. You were qualified to do the job or not. The person who interviewed you actually had the authority to hire you. Which was why he or she was conducting interviews.

Unlike today where you can be certain the first person you talk to is someone from HR trying to ascertain whether or not you are a serial killer or corporate espionage agent.

Contracts? Those were for really important jobs. Getting in the door was relatively easy. Getting an office with a window might never happen. If you were a woman, knowing how to type was your entry card.

So the company made me an offer. I took it. I was optimistic back then. Any job might lead to the coveted and elusive “something better.” I was already working, so I gave my current employer two-weeks notice. On the appointed day, I showed up for work.

The guy who had offered me the job was gone. Quit? Fired? No one seemed to know or care. Worse, no one had heard of me, or my so-called job. I had nothing in writing. Without proof, I had a hard time even getting unemployment. I had learned the most important professional lesson of my life:


GET IT IN WRITING.


Whatever it is, if it’s not on a piece of paper, dated, and signed, it’s a verbal contract. Sometimes, that’s fine, but it’s not something you can show to a judge or for that matter, the unemployment department yo-yos. Which, in the immortal words of Samuel Goldwyn, means it is not worth the paper it’s written on.

MORE SNOWY MORNING BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

Staring me down

It didn’t snow last night, or at least I don’t think it did. I slept late this morning. The bed was warm and I was so comfortable. By the time I got up, it was really lunchtime. If any new snow had fallen, I couldn’t see it.

Pretty sure it’s a Carolina Wren, but it might be a chipping sparrow. I get the two of them confused. They probably get me confused with all OTHER humans.

My Lady Cardinal

Watching our Cardinal get fat makes me happy. They used to get so thin in the winter.

In the tree, watching me watching him

Pretty sure this one is a Hairy Woodpecker because he is much bigger than the Downy

I thought about taking more pictures, but I’ve got so many that still need processing, I thought I’d give myself a break.

Another Downy Woodpecker

We are growing some really huge Tufted Titmice!

A well-rounded Cardinal

Gray Junco

What’s over there?