Monday, May 10, 2010

Our house and the one next to it (west) were built a hundred years ago on what was once a fifty-foot lot, each house the reverse of the other. Between the two houses is an easement four feet wide. The difference between the two roofs is a quarter of that.

The ground between the houses is well-tamped, the drainage good. However, the south entrance has always been lumpy, so on Friday I decided to do something about it.

After much digging (half pebbles, half soil), I gathered up the eighteen bricks I had salvaged from the razing of nearby Charles Dickens School (since rebuilt), as well as a half-dozen 8”x8” pavers left over from a patio I made outside the guest suite, and set out to lay a path.

The pattern I devised began with the side-by-side placement of two pavers, followed by two bricks laid vertically on either side of two bricks laid horizontally, one before the other, followed by two bricks laid side-by-side horizontally, then repeated, up to two bricks laid side-by-side horizontally. That is how things stand so far. I may continue, I may not.

The path is one of many I have constructed in the fifteen years I have lived here. Every time I lay one, I feel I am composing poem. Sometimes the poem is eclectic, made up as I go, based on whatever materials I have lying around; other times premeditated, a recurring pattern. With this latest poem I was thinking of the old school, how neighbours fought to save it, many of whom saw it as emblematic of the neighbourhood.

I was never a fan of the old school, a towering red brick affair whose small rooms and dead ends had more in common with social control than accessibility, the freedom to move and think. Also, because many in the neighbourhood are of Asian descent, the old school spoke of colonial times, the British city and its historic racisms.

Although not perfect, the new school is, at the very least, a better representation of the times we are living in, a more plural -- and open -- neighbourhood than the one constructed a hundred years ago.

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