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There is something completely magical about the way that fungi live patiently in one’s lawn – in the shape of millions of spores just waiting for the perfect conditions in which to thrive – before suddenly bursting forth for the purposes of reproduction. They have a relatively narrow window in which to do so once the air turns cooler and the moisture levels rise, before the first frosts persuade them once again to keep their heads well down for the duration.

Persistent little buggers, aren’t they!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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Giving thanks

Growing up in the UK and paying little attention to matters beyond the confines of those verdant isles, my only vague understanding of the North American tradition of Thanksgiving came from the sort of cultural osmosis that arose from the post-war mid-Atlantic homogenisation of the entertainment industry. Even then I had no idea what it really signified and indeed thought little enough at all about it, except to wonder why on earth the Americans had instigated another turkey-based festival so close to Christmas.

I most likely assumed that the celebration had something to do with the secession of the US from its former colonial state, or was perhaps somehow related to the civil war. Either way I figured that it had little to do with us Brits and that given our long and (in)glorious history we probably didn’t feel the need to hold any special festival because we were permanently thankful for who we were.

The gentle reader will be unsurprised to hear that I received a rapid education in such matters when the Kickass Canada Girl and I moved in together. I learned that the Canadian and US Thanksgivings were different things and that they take place almost a month apart. As in so many areas the Canadian variant comes first! Whilst yet in the UK we celebrated the festival on a number of occasions with a gathering of Canadian expats and most enjoyable it was too.

What I still had not gleaned (a fact I can only blame on the sad decline of brain activity that comes with age) was that there is after all a correspondence between Thanksgiving and a UK feast day. I refer, of course, to that excellent pagan celebration – Harvest Festival. Doh! In my defence I would point out that Harvest Festival is not a public holiday in the UK, being traditionally celebrated on the nearest Sunday to the Harvest Moon. I was also misled by the lateness in the year of the American version – way after the harvest has been safely gathered in. Nonetheless, now that I have been enlightened it all makes perfect sense.

The long and the short of this inconsequential musing is that we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving last weekend with our dear friends from Saanichton and were treated to a truly magnificent feast. A good time was had by all and the harvest was well and truly lauded.

Hoorah!

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Photo by Andy Dawson Reid…before the other thing!

If it is October then there must be renovation in the air…

Good contractors are much in demand. Excellent contractors are really difficult to find and,  should one be lucky enough so to do, one must needs accept that their schedule will take precedence over one’s own.

Long before our contractor finished our shiny new deck back at the start of June we had started carefully lining him up to commence work on the interior of the house. October was the earliest that he could manage and even that has since slipped a little to ‘the end of October’.

Well – we have enjoyed a blazing summer on our lovely deck but the Fall is now upon us and the end of said month is rapidly approaching. Ergo it must be time to surrender ourselves once again to the joys of living on a construction site.

We have a number of immediate projects in the pipeline. Our kitchen urgently needs replacement. We have two bathrooms that require dragging out of the 1970s. We have flooring to update in a variety of areas and – worst of all – the entire main floor of the house is ‘blessed’ with what are know as popcorn ceilings – having been sprayed with that lumpy stuff that was once used willy-nilly to cover any sort of sub-standard plaster-work (dry-walling).

Being the cautious, somewhat methodical chap that I am I would very much have liked to have been able to run these projects sequentially, with adequate time for each to be fully completed before the next one were embarked upon. Unfortunately the hideous mess that inevitably ensues from the scraping of popcorn ceilings requires that that be done entire before any construction be commenced and certainly before any of the new flooring goes down. As the flooring will also run throughout that must be done at the same time that the kitchen is stripped out and replaced.

I was reluctantly forced to accept – with considerable squirming on my part – that the best way to proceed was to hand the whole floor over to the contractor for as long as it takes. We are fortunate in that we have a full walk-out basement into which we can move in the meantime. Unfortunately this will require packing everything up and moving it downstairs before the works can commence.

It will – of course – all be perfectly lovely once it is done. I will let you know how it goes…

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“At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas of which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is “not done” to say it… Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the high-brow periodicals.”

George Orwell

I found myself quite taken aback the other night whilst watching the season opener for the new series of ‘Saturday Night Live’ on the TV. The item concerned was actually pretty funny; a skit featuring actor Ryan Gosling delivering a rant about the designer of the credits on James Cameron’s film ‘Avatar‘ having chosen the font ‘Papyrus’ for the main titles.

I was surprised because I had not heard that this was ‘a thing’ – (or what would now probably be referred to a ‘meme’). The InterWebNet rapidly set me right – informing me that Papyrus is one of the most hated fonts ever and offering me a panoply of websites dedicated to pejorative references to its usage. The level of loathing was well up to usual InterWebNet standards, comparing the antipathy toward the typeface to that of ‘Comic Sans’ (though I did find it amusing that some wag had apparently merged the two to create what was briefly called ‘Comic Papyrus’ before being renamed for legal reasons to ‘Comic Parchment’. Blimey!).

Now – let’s sort out issues of self-interest right away. I use Papyrus in the banner for this site and have also used it in other places for titles. I like the font and I think that – in the right place – it works pretty well. So there!

Clearly at least some of the antipathy is simply down to popularity. Microsoft inadvertently created a monster by including the relatively obscure font with their Office suite, thus giving access to those who had no right to such things. Popularity seems to bring out the worst in some people and when Microsoft is involved it is clearly open season.

Certainly a case could be made concerning over (or inappropriate) use, but I suspect that something else is going on here. On one design website an article going by the title ‘10 Iconic Fonts and Why You Should Never Use Them’ includes the following:

“Unlike other reviled typefaces, though, Papyrus isn’t bad because it is overused: it’s bad because it just doesn’t look good. Kitschy, cheap and vile, Papyrus has no place in your designs.”

Ok – so those judgements are subjective in the extreme and the designer who wrote the article is an eighteen year-old entrepreneur, but do I detect a slight whiff of professional snobbery here?

Now – I spent forty years as an IT professional and it was certainly annoying when someone who had bought a computer from a store and read a couple of magazines believed that they knew better than I how to run an IT service – but the world has changed and the gap between the professional and the ‘amateur’ is no longer as wide as it used to be. Yes – I studied Computer Science and built a career in IT; I also spent more than four decades learning without formal training how to be a musician, a composer, a writer, a theatre practitioner… and in each of these I was aided by the rapid development of tools that placed in the hands of those who cared to put in the time and effort the means to reach a pretty decent standard.

The point surely is that – counter to some recent views to the contrary – ‘experts’ are a good thing… but that their expertise should be based on wisdom and such wisdom is usually acquired through (extensive) experience. Once achieved such doyens will doubtless be wise enough to recognise when some spotty youth armed with an iThing has actually produced something that they themselves could only dream of.

Flame off!

 

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A couple of weeks back The Girl and I went to a movie.

Long term followers of these scribblings will know that I am not entirely enamoured of the cinema (confusingly called the ‘theater’ in Canada) experience. In our new Victorian life, however, things have been improved no end by the fact that – being retired (or semi-retired) – we can attend early showings in virtually empty cinemas. The provision of huge reclining loungers which enable one (with a little effort) to imagine that one is in the comfort of one’s own home also helps to ease the pain!

But I digress!

Now – I have actually forgotten the title and indeed much of the detail of the movie that we went to see, but this matters not a jot as the subject of this post is another matter entirely.

Waiting for the film to start we sat through the usual face-punching trailers for other movies – the which seemed as ever to comprise all of the ‘good’ bits smashed into one brief package. As I cowered on my recliner I became aware that the music track for one such was unexpectedly familiar. It took a moment in the unaccustomed setting but I eventually recognised it as the end of the ‘Your Move‘ section of ‘I’ve Seen All Good People‘ by the 70s progressive rock band – Yes.

I say 70s, but Yes are actually still going (those who have survived) in two competing incarnations. Though I was a massive fan of Yes back in the day I have to say that I don’t care much for the complex saga of their recent doings.

For me the very apex of the band’s achievement – capturing the boldness and excitement of their stage performances – was the 1973 triple live album – ‘Yessongs‘. My brother had a copy (he had a record deck, which I did not!) and I would badger him to play it at every opportunity. What I liked particularly about Yes live was the sense that they were always straining for something that was just out of reach. Sometimes they would hit the mark and the hairs would stand up on the back of my neck. Sometimes they would fall just short – like a surfer wiping out or a downhill skier crashing in a cloud of snow and ice – but the result was usually spectacular none the less. They certainly had a huge influence on me as a musician and writer.

Naturally, on our return from the cinema I engaged the InterWebNet to revisit the ‘The Yes Album’ version of ‘I’ve Seen All Good People‘. I must have listened to this track dozens of times over the decades, but this time I noticed something of which I had not previously been aware. Toward the end of ‘Your Move‘ the backing vocalists (Chris Squire and Steve Howe) are faintly but unmistakably to be heard singing:

All we are saying – is give peace a chance

A tribute to John and Yoko mayhap?

So – although this little homage has always been on the track I only just now heard it!

How weird is that?

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Image from Pixabay…to those who receive the latest utterances from this source by email.

I was as surprised as you may have been that yesterday’s episode came bundled with the last nine postings also in tow. Sorry about that.

I don’t know for sure why that happened. There was a change to the blog during the week – in that I followed Google’s exhortation (never a good idea!) to make the site more secure by forcing the use of https instead of http. Now – that’s all techie stuff which I will reluctantly explain – if you really want me to…

Thought not!

Anyway – that change may have encouraged the mail plugin that I use to re-send the last batch of messages (thinking that the postings had changed). I guess we will find out when we see what happens to this one.

Apologies in advance should you get another unwanted batch of ten!

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Image by Jeff Dahl on Wikimedia.orgI wouldn’t mind betting that the anecdote that forms the basis of this post will ring a bell with many who read it – with similar circumstances being quickly brought to mind… because – after all – that’s just the way life is!

Way back in the early 1980s the BBC produced a six-part adaption of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘school’ novel – ‘Stalky & Co’. The piece translated well into six thirty-minute episodes because it had in fact originated as a set of individually published stories that Kipling had subsequently fleshed out into book form.

I enjoyed the stories enormously, being set in a boys’ boarding school (based on the United Services College in Devon which Kipling had himself attended) and featuring as they do a gang of juvenile protagonists who display a know-it-all, cynical attitude to patriotism and authority which was – naturally – right up my street. I subsequently bought the book and it is one of those that I still revisit on a regular basis.

At some point it occurred to me that it would be good to own a copy of the BBC series on DVD as well. Unfortunately, the usual investigations on the InterWebNet revealed  that the BBC had not thought fit to release the series, though I did find an online petition (the which I quickly signed) urging the corporation so to do.

I thought no more about it; the years passed and ‘life’ happened!

Then, at the end of July this year – whilst pursuing an online link on a related topic – I discovered that the petition must have had an effect, because the series had finally been released (in a very stripped down form – ie, just the media with no add-ons) and could be purchased from Amazon in the UK. I did so immediately and then sat back to await further news.

After a while I received an email telling me that the DVDs had been dispatched and should be delivered to me in Canada by 17th August. That date came and went with no sign of the goods. Being familiar by this point with the vagaries of Canada Post I thought I should leave things for a while, but finally – after another month had passed – I decided to contact Amazon. Those who have had reason to do such a thing will know that it takes considerable effort as the company goes out of its way to make it as difficult a possible, but I persevered and a few days ago awoke to find an email from Amazon UK acknowledging my query, apologising for my delivery clearly having gone astray and promising to send out a fresh copy.

As I probably hardly need add… when I visited our post box at the end of the street later that very same day – sure enough – there were the missing DVDs!

Hmmmmm!

 

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A final batch of photographic images from the recent sequence…

Having survived the rigours of our efforts at the Victoria Fringe Festival and enjoyed the company of our friends from the UK, the Girl and I took a well-deserved couple of days off and scooted westwards around the coast to a quiet resort on the other side of Sooke. The wild-fire smoke that had been so pervasive a little earlier in the summer made a brief return (much of it this time from Oregon) and as a result we felt disinclined to do much that was strenuous. Fortunately our suite featured a splendid rooftop hot tub in which we could be-sport ourselves and – apart from indulging ourselves with the tasting menu in the Copper Room at Sooke Harbour House – that was pretty much all we got up to.

I did take the Fuji x10 for a stroll along the beach…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

 

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Detail from a portrait by Jenny C HallI find myself moved to an unexpected degree by the recent death of that giant of the British theatre – Sir Peter Hall – at the age of 86.

It is a fact of life I suppose that, once one enters one’s autumnal years, the deaths of those with whom one is familiar – whether actually close or not – will have a cumulative and increasing impact. There have been losses over the past few years amongst that small group whom I personally hold to be ‘heroes’ which have been hard to take. Inevitably that number is only going to increase.

Peter Hall was not – for me – directly among that coterie. I am slightly ashamed to admit that I saw few of his many productions and – with rare exceptions – they do not feature in my personal canon of influential experiences. This is not in any way to denigrate the value of his vision, talent or achievement; in such matters opportunity and circumstance set us all on our own particular paths.

It is impossible, however, not to be overwhelmed by his impact and influence on British and international theatre during the post-war years. Consider:

  • he introduced London audiences to the work of Samuel Beckett in 1955 with the UK premiere of ‘Waiting for Godot’ when he was only 24.
  • in 1960, at the age of 29, he founded the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford, which he ran triumphantly until 1968.
  • he became the director of the National Theatre in 1973 and oversaw its protracted, painful but ultimately successful transfer from the Old Vic into its permanent complex on the South Bank in London.
  • he built an international reputation in theatre, opera, on TV and in film.
  • he was the founding director of the Rose Theatre in Kingston in 2003.
  • he was – throughout his career – a vociferous champion of public funding for the arts.

The news of Sir Peter’s death stirs a couple of thoughts and memories.

The National Theatre’s new home was opened in 1976 with a production of Howard Brenton’s ‘Weapons of Happiness‘ in the only one of the three theatre spaces then operational. I see from the InterWebNet that it ran for 41 performances – at one of which I was present. I marveled at the still unfinished building and at the wonderful standard of the production. The National was to become a most important venue for me – I have seen many productions there over the years; done the backstage tour more than once; participated in youth theatre workshops in its rehearsal rooms… and met the Girl for our first proper date in the bar outside the Lyttelton Theatre.

I am also a fan of the Rose in Kingston. Having been at school in Kingston and subsequently involved with youth theatre in the surrounding area, I was only to keenly aware of the lack of a theatre of any sort in what is an important centre to the south of London. I am delighted that the Rose now so splendidly fills that gap.

One sadness regarding Sir Peter’s last years was his diagnosis with dementia in 2011. Having observed my mother’s decline over her final years it must have been particularly poignant to witness such an intellect brought so low for so long.

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Given that the friends who visited recently from the UK (see previous post) had a mere four full days to spend in the provincial capital it was essential that we mapped out their agenda with particular care. Wishing to meet (and hopefully to exceed) their expectations we offered them a rich palette of options and put the choice in their hands.

For the Saturday they chose a day trip to Saltspring Island – and in particular to the Saturday market in Ganges. It would have been lovely to have cruised to Saltspring under our own power in ‘Dignity’, but a blazingly hot Saturday on the September long weekend is a bad time to fight with the queues both at the Sidney boat launch and at the public docks in Ganges, so we chickened out and took the ferry to Fulford instead.

A stall holder at the market – with whom, as is our nature, we engaged in conversation – swore that the crowd was scarcely half what it had been but a few weeks previously. Goodness knows what all of the other souls could possible have been doing – the place looked to be completely packed to us… and did I mention that it was blazingly hot?

It mattered not, of course, as we all had a splendid time, a very passable lunch and then returned home tired but contented.

The taking of photographs in the melee of the market, however, would definitely have been inadvisable, so I contented myself instead with assembling the odd assortment of images that you see represented below…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

 

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