We’ve been here two months next week. Here’s what I love about the new house.
- Its location. I’ve written about this before, so I’ll keep this short. I can walk or bike to the university’s arboretum, which alone gives me a 6 km walk if I do the perimeter paths alone, and a lot more if I wander the interior trails…and it’s an easy connect to the city’s multi-use trail system, which takes me downtown, or up to the big north-end park, or further out to the lake. Or along the river system, east, west, or north. I can also walk or bike easily to grocery stores, two butchers, a seasonal local-produce stand, and all the shops and services I could want.
- The recreation centre that’s about 250 metres away. Which includes a 25 metre pool, where I’m learning to swim again; a fitness centre, an excellent library, billiard rooms, bocci and tennis courts, concert and theatre venues, and lots of other activities to participate in, should I choose to.
- Air conditioning! It’s a hot and humid summer. The previous house didn’t have air conditioning; it kept cool with huge old shade trees and windows open at night, but it would have struggled this summer. We use it judiciously, but we appreciate having it here.
- The natural gas barbecue. No propane tanks to buy and change and take back. We’ve barbecued more here in the last month than I think we did in the last house in the past five years. (This is related to reason 6, too.)
- New construction. Our previous house was built in 1911. This one was built in 1998. Its windows fit, its doors fit. Floors are flat. It has good insulation. I dusted today for the first time in two months, whereas the old house – well, you dusted, and a few hours later you wondered why you’d bothered.
- No mosquitoes! OK, it’s a very dry summer. But it hasn’t stopped the mozzies at the other house, which is rural and in an area with a lot of maple swamps. Here, there’s the occasional one, but I can go outside to pick herbs and tomatoes without insect repellent, which wasn’t the case before.
- The city it’s in. I’m hugely biased: I lived here for sixteen years, between 1978 and 1994, before we moved a bit further south to make our commutes do-able. I always wanted to come back – but there was good reason for that. I’ve talked about the trail system, but to that I can add beautiful parks along the rivers, a good arts centre, one of the best bookstores in the world with welcoming writers’ community, some wonderful old architecture, the university’s library, music performances and theatre, the year-round farmer’s market, the best-behaved off-leash dogs I’ve met outside of Paris, and a strong local-food movement. All the things that make a city livable, for me.
- The community-within-the-city. Friendly, welcoming neighbours who balance that friendliness with respect for personal space and choices about lifestyle and involvement in community activities.
The biggest thing we’ve had to get used to (again) is paying for water. We’ve been on our own well for the last twenty-two years, and while we were always careful during other drought summers, the water was, essentially, free, although of course there was pump maintenance and replacement, as well as water-tank replacement in those years, and the electricity to run the pump. (Sometime I’ll do the arithmetic on that and see which one was, in the long run, more expensive!) Here, not only do we pay for water use, but we are bound by water restrictions – the city uses groundwater, and in a dry summer like this one we are limited to which days and which hours we can water flowerbeds; lawns are out of the question. I have no problem with that at all – essentially it’s no different than what we did with our own well. I’m not complaining about either paying for water (we should) or the restrictions (necessary and responsible): it’s just the one thing that wasn’t on our radar for the last twenty-two years.
So, when people ask me do I miss the old house, the honest answer is no. It was time to move. I’m glad we did.