Monthly Archives: March 2018

Letters from Armorica- Hardening Cookware (6 Avril 34AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Spring—le printemps, I mean to say—is here, and what I have feared has come to pass. The snow has melted, at least in most places; the hot springs are once again readily accessible; the plants are starting to grow; the village green will soon be green instead of muddy brown; and Amelie's friends are bringing me their cooking pots.

I suppose it was inevitable, once word got out that I am a member of the Former's Guild. Marc passed that bit of news to Onc' Herbert last fall, and we discussed during that significant interview in that little chamber at the hot springs; and Onc' Herbert may have had need to refer to it while the men of the village discussed me and my presence among them that afternoon. But he may well have held his tongue, for I got no hint of it from anyone all winter long.

But then I made the mistake of mending one of Amelie's pots.

Mistake? No, that's too harsh a word. I simply didn't think about it. The sauce pan needed mending, and I used my skills to attend to it. And having done that, it was only natural to harden the others; and in not very long, my beloved had a complete set of well-formed cookware.

It was normal while I was growing up: if ever the cook had need of a new stew pot or sauce pan or what have you, she would purchase an ordinary one; and then Father would send one of his apprentices to harden it. Often enough that was me. No tinkers ever called at our house, for our pots never needed mending!

It wasn't until I was older that I discovered the prices that well-formed cookware could command. It was never available in the shops, even in Yorke, but only bespoke; and then usually only as a personal favor, for formers are few and their time is in great demand. It was seldom available on the open market. But if ever a great house were broken up and its contents sold, the resulting auctions were a thing to see.

So when one of Amelie's pots began to leak I mended it and hardened it without thinking; and then, of course, I did the others; and then, of course, she bragged about it to her friends. Which I hadn't forbidden her to do, mind you; I hadn't even thought about it. And why shouldn't she be proud of her husband?

But now I have the ladies of the village coming to the shop with their pots, and I don't know where that will end. Not the flow of pots, I mean, for the supply of pots in Bois-de-Bas is necessarily limited. But what else will they come up with for me to do?

And yet I cannot turn them away. Bois-de-Bas is my home now, the place that took me in when I was in need, and these are Amelie's friends, the young women she has grown up with, and their mothers. I cannot deny them.

I tried to do the work for free, for it is easy enough, but they will have none of that. They know what a mended pot is worth—to them, at least—and that an ever-lasting pot is worth even more, and so they insist on paying. And I, I am a shopkeeper now. What am I to do, turn away their coins and goods? That is no way to stay in business!

But it feels wrong, counter to everything my father tried to drum into me about the "professional standards of the Guild." I've rejected much of his teaching, but I still feel it.

I have often thought that an enterprising young former could make quite a good living from cookware, if it didn't mean forgoing even more lucrative work—and if the Guild didn't censure the young fellow for "lowering standards," as they certainly would have had I pulled this in Yorke. But here I am, doing exactly that. The Good Lord alone knows what will happen if the Guild in Mont-Havre comes to learn of it. Or, rather, when. It is a small chapter, in a young colony; perhaps the masters there have had to make their own compromises with professional standards. But that is a problem for another day.

And yet I am happy, too. I am helping my neighbors; I am pleasing Amelie, always a joy; and I am getting paid for it, if not the extravagant fees I would command in Yorke. (My neighbors have no notion of what I could charge in Yorke or Toulouse, or even in Mont-Havre.) I am doing well by doing good, as they say. And if it means that I can afford to build that work-room sooner rather than later, well. It might not be such an extravagance as I thought.

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photo credit: wuestenigel Guatemalan typical food via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- Prototype (18 Mars 34AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I've done it! I've built a sky-boat big enough to carry a single person with full control. It is an odd design, mind you, and I may call it a sky-boat only by courtesy; it looks more like a cross between a sedan chair and a four-poster bed. It is not a thing of beauty, being knocked together out of rough scraps of wood, but it works!

At the bottom is a crate, not to put to fine a point on it, longer than it is wide, with the control levers built into one end and a seat at the other. Stout uprights rise from the four corners to above the rider's head, and support an arrangement of crossbars that correspond to the gunwales on my earlier models.

It is these crossbars that provide the lift; and since all of the weight hangs below them the craft is perfectly stable without any need for a vertical stabilizer. Or nearly; I suppose it may rock a bit in the wind, depending on how it is laden. We shall see. But it is easy to get into, at least when it is resting on the floor, and it seems stable enough.

I built it in Amelie's old bedroom (for we have moved into her father's room, it having the larger bed), having moved her bedstead and other furnishings into the store room. I could not build the sky-boat in the store room, it is too crowded already, and also far too cold this time of year to work in for any length of time; and my dearest Amelie forbid me to build any full-scale models in the parlor, for which I can hardly fault her.

The conveyance nearly fills the room; but if I climb into it and work the controls I am able to rise into the air, to make it turn in place through an entire circle, and to move into each corner. As such I regard it as a perfect success!

No doubt I will find other details that require attention when the weather warms up and I am able to build another in another locale; for in my haste and eagerness I neglected to consider that I should have to take it to pieces in order to remove it from the room in which it sits.

Had I been more foresighted, I might have been able to form it in such a way that it could be made to come apart. I say might, for it is the usual goal in things of this nature to form the desired object as a coherent whole. But with a bit of mechanical ingenuity (a skill most disdained by my esteemed father) it might be possible to form the lifting and control elements as a single body, and simply suspend a carrier from them.

I can see that I shall have to procure help from my neighbors if I wish to scale this up to something that will carry multiple people in safety; and at the very least I shall need to extend the house with a workroom—a workroom with large doors to the outside! And it shall have to be properly heated, by a fireplace or possible a wood stove, for Winter is by far the best time to devote to matters of this kind.

I feel quite extravagant pondering any such addition, but Amelie has agreed to it; and I shall not have use of the old bedroom for much longer, even if it were a convenient space, for my beloved has just informed me that we shall quite soon need it as a nursery!

I am so pleased I can hardly sit still. And shortly after spring has come and I can work outside, I shall rebuild my conveyance and pay a visit to the floating island to the north!

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photo credit: Timothy Neesam (GumshoePhotos) PEI coastline via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- Working Model (27 Fevrier 34AF)

First Letter

Dear journal,

After many, many trials, I now have a functioning working model of a sky-boat. It has taken longer than I hoped; the details in my grimoire are far sketchier than I had realized. All of the needed techniques are described adequately, but fitting them all together in one device is tricky.

But I have done it!

My model is far from lovely, with none of the attractive lines of the sky-yachts I saw at home in Yorke. It is a plain wooden box in appearance, about a foot long, with four-inch dowels stick up from the four corners. The tiller and other controls are inside, which is the reason for the dowels—I have too many models stuck to the ceiling already. With this one, I have a gap between the ceiling and the model's gunwale so that I can get my fingers inside to make adjustments.

Of course, the moment I enabled the model's lift it rose to the ceiling and got hung up on one of the rafters, the dowels rising up on either side of the rafter. The width of the rafter blocked my hands, and quite prevented me from reaching the lifting bar. Still, all was not lost! I had just room to get a grip on the gunwales on either side, and then I could use my weight to pull the model down far enough to adjust the lift to something more reasonable. I gather from Amelie's titters that I looked quite comical dangling from the model and drifting from around the room as I tried to get it under control. I must say, I am impressed at how much lift even a small model can generate!

After that, though, I found that I was able to adjust the model to hold position anywhere in the room, and I was able to set its speed and direction and watch it glide slowly from one end of the room to the other. I had great fun loading it up with nails and bars of soap to show that it could carry a load.

The hardest part of the whole thing has been the forming of the stabilizer. The boat lifts from its gunwales, and being of shallow draft has a tendency to flip over onto its belly if it is loaded too high. This is not much of a concern for the larger sky-ships, but is a considerable issue for a small boat intended to carry individuals. The stabilizer solves the problem, but has two defects, for my purposes. First, it is the single most difficult thing to form. I don't know why that should be, but it is. Second, it takes up too much room! It goes right in the center of the boat, and extends vertically from about the level of the gunwales to about a full hull-height below the hull.

This will be less of a problem in a full-sized sky-boat, but still vastly inconvenient, especially when it comes time to ground it. I should much rather have a nice flat bottom for it to rest on! I suppose I could add grounding legs…but I shall have to ponder.

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photo credit: Me in ME Rowboat via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- Lunch with the Frontenacs (5 Fevrier 34AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Today was a surprise. Now that I live with Amelie in the village, Onc' Herbert has of course needed to send others to the village in the cart to get supplies—in the sleigh, rather, at this time of year. And today he sent Marc and Elise.

It was a fine winter morning. We have had no new snow for a week, nor any clouds, so the air was bright and cold. We can't see that from within the shop, of course, being buried up to the eaves, so Amelie and I stepped out for a few minutes to walk to the church and then up into the open air to enjoy the sunshine.

When the weather is clear for days on end, the young lads of the village make benches and settees and chairs out of snow on the green before the church—just where the trestles are set out on a Sunday afternoon in the warmer part of the year, but on a level with the eaves of the church. And then their elders go out with blankets on fine days and sit on the them, and that is what we did, with a thick rug of grand-blaireau fur beneath us, and another wrapped around us, only our eyes peeking out.

It is a grand prospect, sitting there. The village is on rising ground, built around the green with our shop at the lower end and the church at the upper end. We could see the roof and chimneys of our shop poking through the snow, and just the cross stroke of the "T" in Tuppenny on the sign—for further snows had obscured it after I put it up afresh. We could see the steam from the hot springs curling up from the grottos off to our right. And there, not quite so far to the right, lies the road out to Onc' Herbert's farm. One can't see the whole road, for it is obscured by trees here and there, but it had been travelled enough since the last snow that the one could easily make out the line of it.

Amelie saw the sleigh first. "It is your friends," she said. "For is that not the sleigh of Herbert de Néant?"

"How can you tell?"

She shrugged under the blanket. "You will see. O! And it is Marc and Elise Frontenac, for I see her red cap. They will stop at our shop, so we must be ready."

She was wrong—but only because Marc saw us gathering up our furs and drove the sleigh straight up the green—something one would never do in summer.

"All is quiet on the farm," he said, "and so Onc' Herbert has given us leave to come to dinner!"

"But do not fear," said Elise, clambering out the sleigh and embracing Amelie. "For we come bringing gifts!" And so they had, cheese, and fine sausage of goat meat, and so I had my revenge on the goats at last.

I shall always remember that dinner, which began with much laughter in the kitchen as Elise and Amelie prepared the meal and ended many hours later when, the sun approaching the horizon, we bundled the Frontenacs back into their sleigh for the mule to take home. I hope it is but the first of many like it.

It wasn't until later, as we were preparing for bed, that it occurred to me that Amelie and Elise had greeted each other as old friends. And then it occurred to me that they are of an age, and that the women of the village have their afternoons in the hot springs just as the men do, and it was with an even stronger sense of having been managed—and no little satisfaction—that I put the hot stones into the foot of the bed and climbed in beside my beloved wife. I am lucky to have such friends.

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photo credit: davebloggs007 Lake Louise along the trails via photopin (license)