Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Porches are simply perfect

A screened veranda is a wonderful place to enjoy summer

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I might be kind of a nerd (OK, I know I'm kind of a nerd), but I really love Thursdays because that's the day my neighbourhood's community newspaper, the Herald, is delivered.

There are usually all sorts of neat little tidbits inside: notices for upcoming events, stories about area residents and the interesting things they do with their lives, Kathryne Grisim's restaurant reviews and even the odd advertisement catches my eye.

One of the paper's regular columns is called Community Correspondent, where residents share short essays on whatever topic is on their mind. Sometimes (but not always) it seems to be written by an older person, bemoaning the current state of the city or the world. Most of the time, I kind of agree with them. I guess I'm an old soul. Or a curmudgeon. Or both.

A column late last month was headlined What happened to the screened veranda? In it, Transcona resident Ron Buffie mentions some of the city's newer houses "have that old-timey look with verandas across the front," but wonders why none of them is screened. Buffie's article is charming and funny and makes some very good points.

Well, Ron, we have a screened veranda (we call it the porch), and we adore it. I agree with you in wondering "why more houses are not being built with verandas, screened verandas. It seems like such a sensible and inexpensive method of helping to enjoy our summers."

Enjoyment is the key word here. Call me crazy, but I have never been a particularly big fan of mosquitoes (and unfortunately, they have an absurdly strong affinity for me). I used to love the intense Winnipeg summer sunshine, but something in me shifted when I had my first baby, and now I am a shade-seeker. Our shady, screened front porch is our haven from the sun and the bugs, and since the weather has finally warmed up, we've been enjoying it at all hours of the day.

Our son begs to eat breakfast outside almost every morning, and it's a pleasure to breathe in the fresh morning air, watching folks stream up and down the street on their way to work or school. During the scorching afternoons, we'll drag the Exersaucer onto the porch, plunk our daughter in it and enjoy popping in and out of the porch as we blow bubbles in the front yard, putter in the garden or chat with neighbours.

The best time to enjoy the porch is at night when the mosquitoes would make it exceedingly unpleasant to be outside. We get a bit of a breeze floating through, and the stillness of the street is calming and relaxing. Add a glass of sangria or beer, and it's really good. When the bells from the Orthodox church across the river begin to chime, their rich tones meandering through our street's lush elm-canopy street, it's perfection.

Last summer, after our daughter was born, my sister came to visit for a few weeks. She lives in the relentlessly hot and humid climes of the Niagara region, and to be honest, I was worried about how she would fare in Winnipeg. But we lucked out with a couple weeks of marginally cooler-than-usual weather, and it turned out to be a blissful reprieve for her. The porch was her favourite place to be, preferably while snuggled up with a newborn. I will always remember the twinkle in her eye and excitement in her voice as she proposed, nightly, "Let's go sit on the porch!" Even though I was exhausted and should have been going to bed, the simple act of staying up to enjoy a beautiful July evening made just being at home feel like a treat. With some candles lit and a summery cocktail in hand, it almost felt like being on vacation in some dreamy, distant land.

So, my house is almost 100 years old (century party next year). There are a lot of things about it that look shabby, without a hint of chic, and it drives me crazy when we have to spend money on boring, invisible things such as updating electrical or plumbing.

But if our screened porch (or veranda, as I may have to start calling it) is a relic of the olden days, of a time when people spent more time outside with each other and less time by themselves in front of screens, then I for one am glad to have a home that reflects that era.

Our screened porch is one of my favourite things about my house and also about summertime in Winnipeg.

Three cheers for screened verandas!

 

Emma Durand-Wood blogs at www.winnipegomyheart.com and www.pregnancywinnipeg.com.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 8, 2014 A10

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