Category: General

Home-Improvement-Electrical-Repair

Simple Home Improvement & Electrical Repair Tips From Experienced People

Many home improvement projects can be completed if you have the proper knowledge. This article is packed with helpful tips and advice about how to make the most of the potential projects around your home. Carefully study the information in this article to turn your home improvement dreams into a reality.

Home Improvement

Tip 1: Use flour for emergency wall paper glue! That’s the way the old-timers always used to glue their wall paper in place. Just mix some flour with enough water to make a paste. Apply it just as you would any other wall paper glue. It will last for years!

Tip 2: The next time you’re working on a home improvement project, be sure to find a good spot to store the debris that your work is generating. Proper disposal of construction trash can be expensive, so making arrangements before you begin is essential to finishing your project on schedule.

Tip 3: A great home improvement tip is to run a criminal background check on any potential repairman you’re considering. You definitely don’t want a convicted criminal inside your home, with access to all of your private information. Running a criminal background check on potential contractors is easy and will save you a great deal of stress.

Tip 4: Minor home improvement work can be handled by the homeowner without the need to involve a contractor. By making minor repairs and improvements a homeowner can improve the value of his or her home by a surprising amount. Relying on the homeowners own skills will make home improvements cheaper, because there is no profit cut out for extraneous contractors and experts.

Tip 5: Throw your plastic shower curtain in the wash! Add a few clothes so they will swirl around with it and give it a good scrubbing. Even the most inexpensive shower curtains will survive one or two washings. You keep them out of the landfill and at the same time brighten up that tired bathroom!

Tip 6: For home improvement projects big enough to require a contractor, it is very important that you get a contractor you can trust. Review a prospective contractor’s history and talk to his previous employers. Any disputes, lawsuits or cost overruns you find in a contractor’s background are serious warning flags. Remember to ask the contractor to explain anything troubling you turn up, though.

Electrical Works

Tip 1: Make sure to have a contractor or electrician install a power outlet in the cabinet above where the microwave will go. If you don’t do this, you will be struggling to find a place to plug it in during or after the installation of the microwave and hood vent.

Tip 2: Consider hiring a professional to do the electrical work for your home improvement project. It may seem easy to change out an outlet from two prongs to three, but if you are unfamiliar with electrical work, the safest thing to do is to have an electrician take care of the rewiring for you.

Tip 3: The days of calling a plumber or electrician for minor household repairs are long gone, not to mention the outrageous costs. Today, hundreds of websites are dedicated to sharing how-to tips and tricks, in a way that is easily understood by even the most reluctant handyman. You will find step-by-step directions and many also, include video demonstrations.

Tip 4: Most people don’t think of their circuit breakers until they lose power unexpectedly. One of the best things you can do to improve the safety and efficiency of your home is to regularly test your breakers by switching them on and off at least once yearly. This clears the breaker contacts of any built-up corrosion and allows them to work more efficiently and safely. If your breakers frequently trip, this may indicate potential safety issues that require an electrician.

Tip 5: Get an electrician to install outlets inside cabinets located near your appliances. This will give you a convenient, hidden place to power your microwave. A simple thing like this is going to avoid an unnecessary cord dangling in your kitchen.

Tip 6: Use bartering to accomplish your more-ambitious home improvement goals. If you’re not an electrician, but would like some new outlets wired in, check the internet for bartering opportunities in your area and don’t be shy to make your offers. You’d be surprised at how many highly skilled tradespeople are willing to exchange their skills for some home-baked goods, a good car wash and wax job, or perhaps some computer lessons or website work.

Unless you are an experienced electrician, don’t try and do the electrical work yourself. You may be tempted to run a bunch of extension cords or change the number of prongs on an outlet, but you shouldn’t attempt it because it can be dangerous if you do it incorrectly. For safety, hire a professional Baltimore electrician to do all of the electrical work.

Now that you’re more informed about home improvement, you need the necessary tools for the project. If you have trouble at any point, come back to this article and see if it can help you.

Decluttering and Cleaning your house

Tips For Cleaning and Decluttering Your Home

Do any of your friends seem to be a packrat? Do you know any friends that have piles and piles of junk in their homes? If so then I know what you are going through. I know how hard it is to clean a house when you have a lot of stuff to deal with. I know how you feel, I’m the one who has to do it all the time. To help you get started on keeping your home clean and organized, I thought I would share a few tips on getting rid of clutter.

Have a Plan of Action

The first thing you need is a plan of action. You need to have a plan of action to make sure you don’t do anything that will cause a back job. Like if you want to organize your closet, you need to de-clutter your closet first. If you have unopened mailed in your home, now is the time to put them away even if you think you will open them in the near future. After you get rid of the clutter in your home, finding things that will help you maintain the cleanliness and organization of your home needs to be the next step that you take.

Sometimes it is hard to come up with good ways to organize a home. A plan of action will be most helpful when it comes to figuring out what you are going to do to take care of all the clutter in your home. Only implement things that will help you maintain the cleanliness and organization of your home. It’s not going to do you any good to de-clutter only to get rid of old magazines because you are in a serious financial mood, it should become a monthly habit.

Have you ever cleaned your home and realized that you had things that you going to use later? Or that you have things that should be thrown out and would be trunking up with the rest of the stuff in your home that you are keeping? These items need to go away. That is part one of de-cluttering your home. The second part is sorting through all of the items you are keeping. Start with those things that you are certain will be used or that you haven’t used in at least one year. These items need to be put on a separate shelf or in a box that you can make up later. You need to be ruthless with the things you are keeping, items such as clothes that are out of style, or items that you have not used for at least one year should be donated or given away.

My 2 Step Process To Decluttering

When you begin sorting through all of your possessions, make two piles. One pile is the stuff that you intend to keep and the other pile is the stuff that you are going to throw out. This helps you stay focused and keep your eye open for duplicates.

From the piles that you are sorting through, take those piles, and place them in boxes for storage, sale, or donation. If you need to keep some of your items, store them in a container that is appropriate. You should also include a label with some notes on them such as: meant for this, used for that.

By throwing away or donating the stuff that you are stretching to keep, you will be able to clear some space and get to more fun activities in your life. You may even feel some relief and be in a better mood as a result. Your home gets a clean look, and your life gets a cleaner feel to it and you get a bit of a friendlier attitude in your life. Now get out there and de-clutter your home. Get those five eyes focused on all the clutter and get it over with so you can enjoy your home again.

Now that you have gotten rid of the things that are not needed in your home you can begin to sort through your possessions. To do this you are going to need a home organizational product that will help you with this process. You probably have already looked around your home and found one of these items for your needs at a reasonable price.

Time to Clean!

Once you are done with decluttering, cleaning your home should be the next step to take. It’s going to take a little time, but you will be able to keep yourself from making excuses when you are cleaning your home on a regular basis. 

If you are someone who is super busy with work or business, you can hire a house cleaning company to do the cleaning for you. Whether you do it yourself or you hire a house cleaning company what is important is you start it as soon as you can and do not take it for granted. You will thank me for the relief, benefits, and that good feeling it will give you for having a clean and organized home!

Home Repair in Salem Oregon

Should You Hire A Handyman To Do Some Repairs Or DIY?

Having your own house is a big responsibility in keeping it in good condition. Over the years you will experience broken things in your house and I am guilty of putting things aside due to my busy schedule. I have a lot of overdue home repairs that need to be done soon. Here are just some of the repairs that I needed to be done:

  • Window Repair
  • Window Screen Repair
  • Furniture Repair
  • Gutter Repair
  • Deck Repair
  • Plaster Repair
  • And a lot more in my to do list

I know this list is long but it has been years since I had a handyman do some repairs in my house.

The Dilemma

Gutter Repair in Salem Oregon

Now due to the pandemic I have a lot of time in my hands. The question is should I hire a professional Handyman to do all the repairs or should I just do it myself? I am really over the fence with this. Half of me is saying that I should just do it given the situation now I need to save money and just spend the time while half of me is saying that I should just leave it to the professionals so I can be sure that it will be done well and save myself from possible injuries or maybe money as well from mistakes that I might make since my home repair skills are below average.

The Decision

After doing some research and several days of thinking I have decided to hire handyman services in Salem Oregon instead to do all the repair works on my list. Here are some of the reasons why you should hire a handyman instead of just doing it myself. This will also help if you are just wondering if hiring a handyman is essential:

Saves Your Time and Effort

Hiring handyman services can save you the effort it takes to track down the repair materials, correct instructions and tools as well as the time you have to set aside to address the problem. Furthermore, a handyman can bring experience to these tasks, ensuring the repair is done efficiently and quickly. A final thing to consider is that most handyman stands behind their work and are proud to provide a guarantee of customer satisfaction.

Reduced risk of potential injury

Home repairs come with the potential of exposing you to injury. There are some home repairs that are simply more difficult, or dangerous, for you to handle on your own. Don’t get yourself frustrated trying to balance on a ladder and clean out your gutters, replace missing shingles or touch up paint. This occurs because we often lack the experience to fix those domestic repairs. For this reason, you need someone with the experience to do this without exposing you to related risks. This is where handymen step in to assist.

A handyman has a variety of skills to complete different tasks

Just because you have several home repairs it doesn’t mean they’re all related skill-wise. Most people don’t have a full set of tools ready to go to tackle every job that arises, let alone the skill to handle them.

The advantage of hiring a handyman is they are skilled in multiple tasks and can handle a variety of home repairs easily. They have all their own tools too. If you’ve got a list of repairs that cover a wide range, like touching up paint, caulking, or replacing shingles, handymen are ideal.

Boost Your Properties Resale Value

When you intend on reselling your home or some of your property, handymen help in sprucing it up for those property photos and viewers. By fixing what you want to sell, they help in boosting the overall appearance as such fetching more income.

Save Yourself From Stress

Are you having a family gathering or a party in a couple of days and you’ve just had a burst pipe? No worries, hiring a handyman can help to get your pipes back to normal before your big day. Saving you the stress of having to cancel on all those family members.

Whether it is a simple window repair or a kitchen remodel project save yourself from the hassle and stress by hiring a professional handyman to do the job for you. Also do not be like me who likes to procrastinate and set things aside. I learned the hard lesson because some of those simple repairs that I have neglected for years which would have only costed a small fortune are now unrepairable and needs replacement which is very costly.

handyman macon ga

My Experience with a Handyman in Macon GA

I usually write reviews here of books and other things that I am interested but this time I would like to share my experience of visiting my hometown after several years.

I recently visited my mom who is living in Macon Georgia. It has been years since I last visited my hometown and a lot have changed in the place where I grew up. It brings back nostalgic memories of my childhood. I visited some of the places where I used to hang out with friends and some have already been demolished and converted into commercial establishments. This place will always have a special place in my heart.

While I am with my mom I noticed that her house already needs some fixing. It is old already and the signs are showing, we have not had a major renovation since I was still living with her. I said to myself that I will make myself productive while I am there so I decided to have all those broken things in the house get fixed. I wrote a list of all the things that needed repair like some electrical sockets not working, doors that are creaking and some windows that are stuck and really hard to open and flooring that needs to be repaired. I searched on google for a local handyman in Macon & Warner Robins Ga and called the first website that I saw. I stayed away from thumbtack and porch since I wanted to talk directly with a local handyman. I told him all the things that I wanted to be done and he quoted me an hourly price and an estimate of how long will it be done which was reasonable to me so I agreed and we scheduled it that afternoon.

The repair took 3 days since I have a long list and the floor repair took longer. I was talking to the handyman whose name was Chris and I later found out that he is a cousin of one of my classmates in Highschool. Small world, I know! We talk about his cousin who was a close friend of mine and had some small talk. He was very professional and I have no complaint about his work. He told me he had been running his handyman business for the last 6 years now and that he always makes sure that all his customers are satisfied. Indeed he did well and my mom was very happy with the result. I told him that I am a writer and that I run a blog and that I would mention him in my blog.

After a week I went back to my home in Vancouver. It was refreshing and I feel energized just to be back in my hometown even just for a few days. Thanks to Chris of Handyman Macon GA for fixing my Mom’s house and for doing a great job!

Entanglement: The Greatest Mystery in Physics Review

Book By Amir Aczel

Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.

Most people with a smattering of scientific knowledge know this critical speed limit. They may even know that it is a necessary rule in Einstein’s reworking of Newton’s universe.

Nothing can break this speed limit because as something gets close to the speed of light its mass begins to increase. As its mass increases the amount of energy required to increase its speed rockets upwards towards infinity and, at the edge of the speed of light there is simply not enough energy in the universe to accelerate the infinitely massive object over the light speed limit.

Up until 1935, this notion of locality, of a speed limit, fit observed phenomena and all of the thought experiments the world’s best physicists could come up with. By 1935, the action and Nobel Prizes in theoretical physics had shifted away from Einstein’s relativity to the weird world of quantum theory.

Quantum theorist Niels Bohr, famously remarked “Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.” Albert Einstein for one was shocked to discover that quantum theory implied what Erwin Schrödinger, of popular dead/not dead cat fame, referred to as “entanglement”. Einstein wrote a hugely influential and very controversial paper suggesting any theory which implied entanglement had to be incomplete. He saw entanglement as implying action at a distance and simply too weird to exist in Nature. (“Einstein has once again expressed himself publicly on quantum mechanics…As is well known, everytime that happens it is a catastrophe.” wrote Wolfgang Pauli.)

Einstein was wrong. Nature really is that weird.

Amir Aczel is a mathematics professor with a talent for taking really complicated bits of mathematics and physics and trying to make them intelligible to interested lay people. His very successful Fermat’s Last Theorem proved even esoteric issues in mathematics can make compelling reading. With Entanglement Aczel takes a huge risk: simply explaining what physicists mean by “entanglement” is enough to make your head hurt. But here goes, I quote Aczel,

“For example, two photons emitted from the same atom as its electron descends down two energy levels are entangled. (Energy levels are associated with the orbit of an electron of an atom.) While neither flies off in a definite direction, the pair will always be found on opposite sides of the atom. And such photons, produced in a way which links them together, remain intertwined forever. Once one is changed, its twin – wherever it may be in the universe—will change instantaneously.”

To Einstein instantaneous change across the universe was absurd. It had to be wrong because it violated the one essential principle his theory of special relativity required: nothing could travel faster than light.

The direct implication of quantum theory was that something instantaneously changes the state of one entangled photon to exact state of the other even if the other was a billion miles away. This “spooky action at a distance” which troubled Einstein.

As Aczel details, Einstein’s error gave rise to a series of mathematical speculations and then physical experiments to determine if the light speed limit or entanglement were right. The critical theoretical work was done by John Bell, a Belfast born particle physicist whose interest in quantum theory was more or less a hobby. Bell recognized the predictions of quantum mechanics and Einstein’s speed limit could not both be true and suggested an elegant mathematical construct which could, in principle, be tested experimentally to find out which was right. Aczel describes “Bell’s inequalities” but the real action lay in the experiments.

To test the reality of entanglement meant, in outline, creating entangled entities, splitting them and then changing the state of one part of the entity and seeing if it effected the state of the other part.  But the experiments also had to ensure that there could be no local, sub light “chatter” as between the various pieces of the experimental apparatus. In the early 1970’s researchers began to build apparatus which definitely confirmed that quantum mechanics are “non-local”, that information is somehow passed faster than light could travel. But these experiments, while suggestive, were not utterly conclusive. And if you want to prove Einstein’s speed limit is wrong you need knock down evidence.

As a graduate student Alain Aspect, performed three experiments using lasers to “pump” calcium atoms so that they gave off a steady source of pairs of entangled photons. Aspect’s apparatus changed the polarity of one photon and detected the instantaneous change in the other. And, using a switch which could alter the state of a polarizer in less than 43 nanoseconds, Aspect was able to change the apparatus while the photons were in their 13 meter flight. Each of Aspect’s experiments provided rigorous confirmation that entanglement was real and that there was no purely “local”, that is sub-light speed, phenomena, hidden variable or signal which could account for the instantaneous transformation.

In the early 1990’s a Swiss scientist, Nicholas Gisin, arranged what stands as the final confirmation of the reality of entanglement and thus action at a distance. He set up an experiment using a sixteen kilometer fiber-optical cable. On this apparatus a signal from one photon to another informing it of its state would have to travel 10 million times the speed of light. Which means it is now certain entangled photons are not communicating with each other. Instead, paradoxically, they are simply in touch.

This is where my brain began to sweat hard. Because the implication of the entanglement experiments is not only that the Einsteinian light-speed limit is void but that the entire notion of physical separation is a fiction. Or at least I think that is what the experiments imply.

To a degree Aczel is defeated by the sheer oddness of the material he is dealing with. Defeated by the fact the concept of entanglement does reckless damage to our day to day sense of how things work. Like Einstein we tend to believe that what we see and what we can measure is real. But at the quantum mechanical level measurement is voided by the uncertainty principle: merely by looking we change the outcome.

Reading Entanglement I kept thinking I actually understood the concepts only to realize, a page or two later, that I had entirely missed the point. This is not Aczel’s fault. He has written without diluting the truly bizarre and unintuitive implications of quantum theory generally and the weird facts of entanglement in particular. It is a book which I’ll keep rereading and referring to for a long time; but I doubt I will ever actually accept this strange probalistic world.

I console myself knowing Einstein didn’t accept entanglement either – and he could do the math.

You can buy the book HERE which is available in Hardcover and Audiobook version.

Four Best Books About Food

You do not have to be a foodie to admire the sheer exuberance and delight chef Jeremiah Tower brings to writing his own extraordinary life. Yes, it does help to know who James Beard is and it also helps to know that the epicenter of the American Culinary Revolution was a small restaurant in Berkeley California called Chez Panisse.

California Dish

California Dish (Free Press hc 320 pp $39.50) will tell you all this and a great deal more about wonderful food and extraordinary wine; but its real story is about a man who fell in love with food as a child and somehow made a life which let him deeply indulge his childish passion. Tower is a man who can write about the famous expert on French food, Richard Olney, “After we got the sex part of our affair out of the way, we got down to business. The long winter nights were filled with single-malt whiskey, old French music-hall records, and talks about food.”

This is a book of menus and people and the very freshest ingredients, lightly cooked and served in original ways. “The squab’s breast meat was served in its juices, the leg and thigh meat chopped into a puree with sage leaves and served on grilled garlic toasts.” Grills, salsas, the re-invention of the pizza: Tower was in on all of it.

Tower grew up a largely neglected child of a rich, sometimes abusive American father and an artistic, alcoholic beauty who lived in Jean Patou suits and grubby gardening clothes. Tower’s childhood consisted of eating his way through some of the best restaurants in the world and being kicked out of school. His parents stayed in grand hotels and room service became Tower’s hobby. In his early teens he often took over the kitchen from his over martinied mother and finished dinners for dozens of guests. At Harvard he and a friend had six course dinner parties finishing with 1884 Maderia and fresh off the plant marijuana.

Tower’s break as a chef came in the early years at Chez Panisse where he ran the kitchen for which, as he points out, Alice Waters, took the credit. But he left Panisse and rebuilt the Sante Fe Bar and Grill for investors before opening his own Stars in San Francisco. And then on to Hong Kong and Singapore.

What sets California Dish miles above most chef’s memoirs is Tower’s tremendously humane and beautifully educated sense of style, taste and simplicity. He can embrace Eastern cooking styles, high French cuisine and the very best America can offer. His writing is elegant and perfectly evocative of the tastes and places which have formed his palette and his life.

Slow Food, The Case for Taste

Where Tower mixes fresh ingredients, rare wines, the discovery of America as a culinary region and celebrity dining, Carlo Petrini celebrates the pleasures of the kitchen table and the little café. Slow Food, The Case for Taste, (Columbia University Press, hc 155 pp $__.__)is as much a polemic as a discussion of food.

With its snail logo, Slow Food is as much a social movement as a particular cuisine. It began in 1986 when Petrini, aghast at McDonald’s plans to build near the Spanish Steps in Rome, armed himself and some friends with bowls of penne and protested the bland, the quick and the homogenous.

In a world driven by price and standardization, fast food – the lump of meat on a bun with tasteless lettuce, a squirt of special sauce served in a styrofoam box – quickly becomes the default cuisine. A cuisine which drives local producers, market gardeners, cheese makers and the little “ma and pa” restaurants out of business. Taste is overwhelmed.

Slow Food begins with the idea that taste matters: tiny tastes, specific tastes and tastes of the territory. For example, Slow Food wanted people to know and appreciate that while there are 1,300,000 rounds of Asiago cheese produced in Italy annually, there is an “especially good kind that is produced in small quantities: Asiago Stravecchio.” There are only 10,000 or so rounds of this long aged cheese made a year; but Slow Food’s logic is that if people know about the cheese they will buy it, which will create demand and ensure more is produced.

Slow Food bogs down in more organizational detail than is really needed to drive home its simple message: by paying a little more for food which actually tastes good we are ensuring tasty food will continue to be produced. Slow Food, the book and the movement, are a weird marriage of ecology, aging socialists, gastronomy and pleasure invented to counter the flattening of flavour and the eclipse of enjoyment created by purely commercial cuisine.

Mr. Chilehead

Mr. Chilehead (ECW Press, sc, 222pp, $19.95) is one demented puppy operating on the fringes of gastronomic Hell. There is nothing tiny about his tastes. Alter ego to writer James D. Campbell, Mr. C takes his pleasure in the sweet pain of really hot chillies, sauces and dishes. He goes to Mardi Gras and Sante Fe in search of the burn. Mr. C wants the sting, the heat, the third degree burns inflicted by the hot sauces of what he calls Painland.

Like most forms of masochism, eating scorching hot condiments has evolved its own strange rituals, fetish items and language. Mr. C explores them all and, along the way, provides a comprehensive guide to the painfully hot for the novice. There are a lot of novices. In 1992 salsa replaced ketchup as America’s number one condiment.

Salsa, even killer hot salsa, is really for wussies. Mr. C explains that hot sauce fetishists have their own scale for ranking heat: Scoville units. Those jalapenos on your nachos, 4500 Scovilles, Tabasco sauce 30-50,000 units; but for real pain you start at habanero chile at 350 – 500,000 units. Sort of like eating pepper spray (made from the sissy cayenne weighing in at a mere 40,000 Scovilles.)

Mr. Chilehead is well written in places but there is a distinct tang of filler. 20 pages of “You know you’re a chilehead if….” are 19 too many for anyone who isn’t. Many of the chapters work as magazine pieces but the book as a whole is a text for the converted.

A Slice of Life

A Slice of Life (The Overlook Press, hc, 400 pp, $40.00) is just what its subtitle says it is: Contemporary Writers on Food. From Umberto Eco’s reflections on the sheer physical impossibility of eating on airplanes to historian Rachel Laudan pouring cold water on “Slow Food” and the rest of the Culinary Luddites who long for a past which never was, A Slice of Life is a glorious sampler of food writing broadly imagined.

Its editor, Bonnie Marranca, wants to capture glimpses of what she calls “geographies of taste”. Readers have the appetizing choice of reading M. F. K. Fisher writing about a wanton woman’s menu or Isabel Allende’s perfectly discursive contemplation of a naked chef, “There are few virtues a man can possess more erotic than culinary skill.”

While a few of the pieces are over egged with sentimental memories of mother’s chipped blue bowl, most are crisply written reminders of taste and place. Russell Baker leavens the loaf with a perfect pastiche of pretentious food writing while describing his cuisine du depression.

I am not sure what Jeremiah Tower would make of Russell Baker’s “beans in bacon grease”. I am sure that anyone who loves food will enjoy grazing in the company of writers who can put that love into work.

Better Than Life Book Review

A book by Margaret Gunning

At ninety Min Connar is more mischievous than elderly. Cared for by her less than ambitious, ex-alcoholic, son Aubrey, Min regularly pretends to die and is planning the biggest birthday celebration cum reunion the little Ontario town of Harmon has ever seen. She’s survived the Depression, her kids and now the late 1960’s and she owes herself a party.

Where many first novels are about growing up and getting out of small towns as fast as possible, Margaret Gunning’s Better than Life is about the sort of people who stay. They led everyday lives, are convinced that the Kentucky Fried Chicken opened in the Centennial Year is simply the best thing in the world and they gossip.

Min’s children give the town lots to gossip about.

Statuesque Eileen Connar, knocked up by the town’s only writer and married off to one of its two nancy boys to hide the scandal, now on her fifth marriage with her eleventh child up the spout herself has steeled herself to the buzz of disapproval which greets her in every store and café. Min’s twins, Dwight and Barlow, live as refugees in Hogansville just down the road, married to sisters. They had, or so the story goes, “been driven out of Harmon by that awful sot of a brother, that Aubrey who wasn’t even married.”

Gunning gets the warm glaze of gossip as it winds around Harmon from Guillaume’ Belgian bakery, “social nucleus of the entire community which wasn’t really Belgian at all.” It’s the same gossip Min has been hearing all her life.

The mainspring of Better than Life is the arrival in Harmon of a rather fine young man named Bob who, while a good deal cleaner than the hippy kids who have taken over the town park, and a hard worker to boot, is very much a child of the sixties. Spouting Kilhal Gibran, Bob is charming, into macrobiotics and just charismatic enough. The Reverend Ninian Sanderson over at St. Andrew’s United cautions his congregation to beware false prophets. Just as he is telling them to “Rigorously question the motives of anyone claiming to have holy powers…” in walks Bob. The congregation is moved to tears by a perfectly ordinary hymn. As Gunning puts it, “They had so wanted to believe in Bob. A distant, too-exalted Christ was so hard to hold on to.”

While Bob is a remarkable carpenter and shakes some of the town people out of their ruts with a combination of common sense and the sense of possibility, he is not the Son of God. He has enough troubles of his own.

Gunning, perhaps as a result of having reviewed literally hundreds of Canadian novels, has a resolutely light touch. She gets on with telling her story without a great deal of authorial meditation or flowery description. Which is exactly right for the rich roster of characters who have to chose between the delights of Min’s ninetieth birthday reunion and the revived Horgie Days down in Hogansville, replete with Bobby Gimby (“One little, two little, three Canadians” was beaten into my innocent elementary school head as surely as it was into Gunning’s”).

Better than Life is a delightful celebration of acceptance. Min’s 90th is full of surprises, not all of them pleasant, but all drawn from the first things of a life well lived: children, marriage, love and redemption. Min sits on her throne, “as heavily made up as Barbara Cartland”, presiding over the Connar clan, watching ancient feuds being replaced with new ones and knowing the dance of life will continue long after she’s gone.

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