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Image from Wikimedia Commons“We have wasted History like a bunch of drunks shooting dice back in the men’s crapper of the local bar.”

Charles Bukowski

I watched again the other night Cambridge University Professor David Reynolds’ fascinating documentary for the BBC on Winston Churchill’s long struggle during 1942 and 1943 to promote his preferred campaign in North Africa – and thence up through Italy and the Mediterranean islands to attack what he called ‘Hitler’s soft under-belly’ – in the face of constant and increasing pressure from the Americans and the Russians to open a second front on the European mainland by effecting a landing in France.

Professor Reynolds provides an excellent summary of the reasons for Churchill’s resistance, long beyond the point at which it must have been clear to him that the Overlord landings were not only inevitable but – in the face of the Soviet advances in Eastern Europe – increasingly vital should the British hope for any say in the shaping of post-war Europe.

Under political pressure in the UK as a result of the military disasters of 1941 and 1942 – the which had led to two votes of confidence in parliament – Churchill (and the country) was greatly in need of a victory. With his understandable fear of another catastrophic stalemate in the fields of France and the low countries (or of an attempted landing ending in disaster) having its roots in his experiences of the first war, Churchill took the view that any such success was more likely to be found in Africa than on the European mainland.

Churchill’s thinking was further informed by considerations that were of little consequence to the Americans or the Russians – those of empire. He saw maintaining control of the Mediterranean and of Egypt as vital to the continuance of British interests in India and in the colonies to the east. Professor Reynold’s documentary (along with Max Hastings 2010 book on Churchill’s war, the which I also read of late) brought home to me anew Churchill’s growing realisation – during the closing years of the war – that Britain’s position in the world order had been diminished irrevocably by the need to rely on intervention by the American and Soviet superpowers to save Europe. Even so, his sentimental attachment to the notion of a ‘special relationship’ with the US prevented him from recognising that the price to be paid for this salvation would be the ultimate surrender of the British empire.

The Second World War and the half century (and more) of world-wide chaos that followed have been so widely documented and discussed that it is difficult to reconcile what we now know and understand of the period – and of the vast change in Britain’s place in the world – with some of the shrill voices that are to be heard from Britannia in these troubled times. It is difficult enough to observe the resurgence of nationalism across a continent that has good cause to fear exactly that, without also having to listen to those voices that seem almost to be calling for a return to the mythical days of yore.

As Churchill knew all too well in his twilight years – those days are long, long gone!

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Image from Wikimedia Commons by http://www.flickr.com/people/theeerin/It did not occur to me for a single second that – when during the composition of my last post, (touching as it did upon the subject of my new bicycle) I described the Sturmey Archer three-speed rear hub with which the cycle that I was given in 1965 as ‘prehistoric’ – said engineering marvel might actually still be in production!

Discovering from the InterWebNet that this is indeed the case I was rendered what can only be described as ‘gob-smacked’!

Sturmey Archer was apparently established in Nottingham in the UK in 1902 as a division of Raleigh Cycles and production of their most ubiquitous model – the AW three-speed hub gear – commenced in 1936. For an extended period virtually every three-speed bicycle sold in the UK was fitted with a Sturmey Archer hub gear.

The company got into financial trouble towards the end of the last century and by 2000 was on the verge of bankruptcy. Following a period during which it appeared that the company would disappear without trace the entire assets were eventually sold to a Taiwanese company called SunRace, who moved the whole operation lock, stock and barrel to Taiwan.

Despite discovering that much of the machine tooling was obsolete SunRace persevered with production of the hub gears – and as of 2016 the famous three-speed AW model (amongst many others) was still in production.

Now – whereas I cannot for the life of me imagine what I am going to do with at least two thirds of the twenty four gears that I have on my new machine, I am mighty glad that I don’t still have to cope with the old three-speed hub gear.

But then – I am an old codger these days!

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidOne of the means by which the Kickass Canada Girl routinely earns her sobriquet is her habit of achieving virtually all of that to which she puts her mind. This is a wholly admirable trait and one for which I am eternally grateful. There are as a consequence, naturally, occasions on which she has set her mind on something and it is best simply to step back and to bow to the inevitable (taking great care that if one attempts to step back and to bow simultaneously one does not fall upon one’s arse!).

A case in point concerns the humble (or not so humble in some cases) bicycle…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidWhen The Girl transplanted her life to the UK – all those many years ago – she brought with her a bicycle. On occasion she would tax me on the subject of acquiring a similar means of conveyance myself – that we might go out riding together. My resistance to the suggestion – on the grounds that the rural roads in the proximity of our residence were both too narrow and over populated with testosterone charged motorists – was expressed with considerable vigour and she decided to let the thing rest… for the time being.

When we crossed the ocean in the opposite direction in 2015 the bicycle did not make the journey with us. It was ‘accidentally’ left behind! I doubt we could have fitted it into the container in any case.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidWe had not long arrived on these shores, however, when – hankering to feel the wind in her hair (whilst also getting some welcome exercise) – The Girl decided that it was time to resurrected her former campaign. Given the wide open spaces, the broad roads and the abundance of clear air into which the testosterone can dissipate she was this time considerably more certain of getting her way. A small unexpected windfall furnished her the opportunity to declare that a trip to the bike shop was in order – with the inevitable result that we are now both the proud possessors of shiny new machines.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidGiven that the last bicycle that I owned (in fact, the only bicycle that I ever owned) was a gift for passing the Eleven Plus exam (at the tender age of – well – eleven!) the reader will not be surprised to hear that things in the bike world have changed in the interim. Changed, indeed, beyond all measure! There is nothing particularly fancy about these machines. They really are pretty middle of the road (though the bike lane would be more appropriate… ho, ho!) but the twenty four gears on this bog standard bike (sixteen of which I have yet to investigate) make my old Sturmey Archer three-speed look positively prehistoric… which, of course, it was…

I do hope that the photographs that accompany this piece do not appear overly fetishistic! Boys and technology and all that…

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…and ladies!

A few final random (photographic) representations from our recent ramblings ’round the southern end of Vancouver Island.

I always enjoy showing guests this view from Beacon Hill Park across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic peninsula – particularly as it is revealed abruptly after an unsuspecting stroll through the park.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThere is always something to see in the inner harbour…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidFirst stop on the road up island is this viewpoint on the Malahat. The vista is of the Saanich inlet and the peninsula – and then across the hazy Gulf and San Juan islands to Mount Baker beyond. Spectacular!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThe remaining shots are of the aptly named ‘Cathedral Grove‘ near Port Alberni. Some of the trees in this carefully stewarded residuum of the ancient rainforest date back over eight hundred years.

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

 

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On our recent trip up to Port Alberni and Tofino we visited the beaches of the Pacific Rim National Park – Wickaninnish, Long and Chesterman. Naturally I could not resist taking photographs – any more than I can now resist posting some of them here.

One of my favourite places on the planet…

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 ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

 

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidWishing a very happy one hundred and fiftieth birthday to (colonial) Canada – whilst recognising that the indigenous peoples of what is now the Canadian nation have a cultural history here of well in excess of three thousand years.

In any case – in the midst of the madness that seems to exemplify much of the modern world it is indisputable that the majority of Canadians offer a most welcome breath of sanity and that – whilst not perfect (nobody is!) – Canada is clearly doing something pretty right.

Hard to argue with Bono (later echoed by Barack Obama) that:

The world needs more Canada

Happy Birthday!

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…read all about it!

Having returned from our trip up island we discover that our hummingbirds have grown dramatically – to the extant that they can scarce any longer fit in the nest (however expandable it might be). As they are not yet quite ready to ‘fly the coop’ they spend their time patiently sitting (apparently) one atop the other on the rim of the nest, remaining as still as possible to avoid attracting predators.

It can now be but a few days until they depart. Herewith a couple more (grainy as ever) photographs…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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The beautiful summer weather has finally arrived here in BC just in time for us to entertain long standing friends from the UK. I have seized the opportunity to take a short break to bring them up island for a visit to Tofino.

First – however – from Port Alberni a trip on the much loved ‘Frances Barkley’ down to Bamfield and back. The ‘Frances Barkley’ is a working ship and makes stops all down the Alberni inlet to deliver the post and all manner of other essentials to communities that have little or no road access.

Here be photographs…


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

This is one cool way to collect a delivery…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

No fisherman’s tales here. This guy looks pretty proud of his catch…

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

…and here is the ‘Frances Barkley at Bamfield.

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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Now that our deck project is all but complete – bar a little making-good and top-coat paintery – I thought it might be interesting to have a final look at the ‘before’ and ‘after’ images.

We are not only delighted to have removed the dangerously rotting structure that was an add-on on to the back of the original house – to our mind the whole look of the property has been significantly improved. We have added an excellent al fresco space (just in time for the weather to turn really nice) and have re-connected the house to the garden (yard) by the addition of the external staircase.

Interested to know what you think…

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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It occurs to me that regular readers (should any such be in attendance) might care for a progress report on the hummingbird that chose to nest on the string of festive lights that were left hanging immediately outside our front door. Any such adherents will doubtless be delighted to hear that the mother is finished her long stint of nest sitting and is now furiously feeding two rapidly growing chicks. The nest itself is starting to expand to keep pace with their increase.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidIn the above image you can just make out one chick’s fast growing beak poking out of the nest. Whilst in the egg the bill is tiny – no more than a bump – but it grows quickly once hatched. I must apologise, incidentally, for the grainy nature of these images, to which a certain amount of enlarging, cropping and processing was required for them to become at all clear. I really don’t want to impose myself any more than I have already done on these gorgeous but minute creatures.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidIn this image above (double-click to get it as large as your screen will allow) you might just be able to make out the mother delivering a regurgitated mixture of insect protein and nectar to one of the chicks. Yum!

Here below – one hopefully happy hummingbird family (sans father, naturally!)…

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

 

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