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I could not resist taking some further snaps of some of details of our recent renovations. I hope that my posting some of these to this forum will not try the patience of the gentle reader too far. This will – I promise – be an end of it!

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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Image from Pixabay
In 2014 John Mann – actor and singer with the Vancouver based Celtic-rock ensemble, Spirit of the West – was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. He was just 50 years old.

Many of us will have had some experience of a loved one contracting Alzheimer’s or dementia and of the subsequent evanescence of personality and the dissipation of a presence that once played a large part in our own lives. Tragic and deeply sad enough in someone who is approaching the natural end of their days, we can only imagine what this might be like for one still in the prime of life, not to mention for those around and close to them who must endure the slow premature declension of a loved one.

Mr Mann’s wife – Jill Daum – is a playwright and her instinctive reaction to finding herself in this grievous position (with her husband’s full support, I should add) was to give in to her subconscious urge to allow the play that she was currently engaged in writing to morph into an examination of what it is like to find oneself in such a situation. The world premier of this brave piece – ‘Forget About Tomorrow’ – took place recently at the Belfry Theatre in Victoria and The Girl and I were present at last Sunday’s performance.

One might fear that such sombre subject matter would result in a worthy but grim night in the stalls, but Ms Daum is – thankfully – a far better playwright than that. She successfully locates (and subsequently mines auspiciously) the emotional motherlode that most writers spend their lives seeking – producing in the process a piece that can move an audience to tears one moment only to have them rolling in the aisles laughing but a few seconds later. The payload of the play is delivered all the more effectively for this skillful balancing act and the audience reaction at the close left no doubts that the target had been well and truly straddled.

Plaudits of course to Ms Daum and to Mr Mann (who contributed two songs – which may well be his last – to the enterprise) as well as to Michael Shamata, who directed with the most assured of touches, and to Jennifer Lines and Craig Erickson who play skillfully and truthfully Daum and Mann’s alter-egos – Jane and Tom. Excellence all round…

For me, however, the highlight was quite possibly the creation of Lori – Jane’s larger than life (how Canadian!) boss – played with considerable panache and dry, dry humour by the splendid Colleen Wheeler. Not only is Lori the source of much of the humour in the piece but she also manages to act as a very necessary counterweight to the emotional drama elsewhere – standing up for the everyman (everyperson?) who represents us in the face of others’ tragedies.

Following a couple of shaky seasons (in our humble opinion) the Belfry has landed three from three thus far this year.

Fight for a ticket!

 

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Some before and after views of our just-about-finished renovation – before we moved back upstairs. Double click on the images for the full effect.

This is our living room:

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid
Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid
Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

Here is our sparkly new kitchen:

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid
Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid
Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid
Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

This is my bathroom… yes, it is the same room:

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid
Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

…and this is The Girl’s:

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid
Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

Master bedroom and entrance hall:

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid
Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid
Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

Now to clean thoroughly and to move everything back upstairs again.

Phew!

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There are many reasons to look forward to escaping from our semi-subterranean hidey-hole and taking up residence again on our newly renovated main floor. This recent experience is just one more such to add to the list.

Our basement does have a kitchen – of sorts! It is quite small and the equipment is – er – ‘old’ to put it mildly. Like some other old things in the house it does not always function as efficiently as once it did – many, many years ago when it was still full of life and charged with the vigour of youth…

Ahem! – sorry about that!

Anyway… a couple of days ago I was roasting some vegetables in the antique oven downstairs. The temperature therein always seems on the low side so I had pushed it up a notch. Unfortunately when the cooking time was up and I opened the oven door a billow of smoke was released into the room – and into the ceiling-mounted smoke detector.

Now – when we purchased the house back in 2015 we inherited with it an alarm system. An eye-watering cancellation fee persuaded us that we should stick with it. The service – which is I believe monitored from somewhere in northern America – not only provides break-in sensors on doors and windows and motion sensors throughout, but also fire and smoke alarms on each floor. When an alarm is triggered a disembodied voice hails one through the console outside the master bedroom, endeavouring to establish whether or not this be a genuine incident.

On this occasion the alarm sounded and I had to rush upstairs to converse with the distant operative. I cancelled the alarm on the console and informed the enquirer that it was a false alarm. I was obliged to give details such as my first and last names and to quote the secret password – to prove that I was not in fact an arsonist who had broken into the house. All this time the smoke was wafting around downstairs.

As the conversation finished the alarm was again triggered. I cancelled it once more and assumed that the distant overseer would recognise that this was in fact the same incident. I went back downstairs. As I was dealing with the oven I heard a call coming in on my cell phone in an adjacent room. I did not get to it before the caller rang off but was informed that a voicemail had been left. It was from the alarm company enquiring about the second alarm. I called them back at once and patiently talked the lady at the far end through the sequence of events. After a couple of minutes of conversation she asked me if I wanted them to cancel the call to the fire brigade. “Yes!” – I exclaimed urgently, somewhat perplexed that it had taken her this long to ask.

At that moment the doorbell rang. It was a fireman! Outside in the road I could see an appliance and a couple of other fire service vehicles – lights a-flashing. I patiently and apologetically explained that there had been a false alarm and that I had cancelled it and spoken to the alarm service. Apparently they had tried to reach me over the console again after the alarm went off for the second time but I was clearly already flapping about downstairs by that point.

I suppose that I should be grateful that we are this well covered – particularly given that this is a wooden framed building – but I can’t help feeling that a little common sense on this occasion would have saved a fair bit of panic on all sides.

Hey ho!

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Image from Pixabay…like an arrow – but fruit flies like a banana!

Terry Wogan

As I write this post I am awaiting the arrival of a shock (or whatever may be the appropriate collective noun) of electricians who should be the last of the contractors to add their expertise to our long-running renovation. Hopefully by the end of the day all that will remain to be done will be further painting and cleaning.

Glancing back over the scribblings that I posted last January (a mistake I know, but it is fascinating to see how the years vary… or even repeat themselves!) I find to my great surprise that it was exactly a year ago this very day that I visited the North Saanich Municipal Offices to deliver the paperwork for the application for a building permit for our new deck – which was eventually constructed last April and May. That project was just the start of the long process of renovation which has been going on pretty much continually since then.

That set me to wondering as to when it was that we had actually engaged the designer who drew up the plans that formed the basis of said application. Hunting further back on this blog gave me the answer to that as well – it was in September 2016.

The long and the short of it – and the point of this post is of course that the long occasionally feels both short and long (if you know what I mean) – is that by the time we are done this whole renovation project will have occupied us for around a year and a half – which feels both like the blink of an eye and also an eternity!

Needless to say we are eager to crawl – blinking in the bright light of day – out of our current subterranean dwelling place to resume our former lives above ground level.

I am also – naturally –  keen to take and to post to these pages a further portfolio of photographs displaying the results of our labours – that we might dazzle the gentle reader with the sumptuous fruits of our endeavours.

Hmmm – that’s quite enough of that, I think…

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Graphic from the BBCLast night a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck the coast of Alaska near Kodiak. The epicentre was some 150 miles off the coast and 12 miles deep but the quake raised fears of a tsunami along the Alaskan and British Columbian coastlines and warning sirens were sounded in particularly vulnerable areas.

With regard to Victoria Cormac O’Brien reported in The Martlet:

“At 1:40 a.m. this morning, the Government of Canada issued a tsunami warning to residents in low-lying areas of Greater Victoria and residents on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

The warning was made via Twitter, online CBC broadcasts, and on television. Official emergency Twitter accounts for the region recommended moving away from beaches, bays, and inlets, and instead move to higher ground away from the coast. There, they should await instructions from local officials.”

When it rapidly became apparent that there was to be no significant tsunami – waves being no more than a few feet in height – the warning was cancelled and the all-clear given by 4:30am.

Now – although there are reports of early morning gatherings on Mounts Tolmie and Doug, I suspect that many people in the Greater Victoria area discovered that they had missed the warning in much the same way as did we: The Girl finding the tweets on her phone when she awoke.

Should we be worried by this?

Well – probably not. Living on the east coast of Vancouver Island and surrounded by the Gulf Islands we are probably reasonably well protected against waves arriving from the open Pacific to the west. Further, the tsunami warnings advise moving to ground at least 30 metres above sea level. Though our home is only about 500 metres from the shoreline we are a surprising 60 metres above the high tide line.

No room for complacency of course and yet another reminder of the indifferent powers of Mother Nature.

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“It is not your paintings I like, it is your painting.”

Albert Camus

Ho, ho! Little painting related joke there… which is most apposite because much of our time at present is spent with paintbrush and roller in hand – or failing that with filler and sanding block.

The main floor of our lovely home comprises a living room, a dining room area, a kitchen, master and guest bedrooms, two bathrooms, a laundry, several hallways and four sizeable built-in closets… All of which must be painted before our renovation is complete.

As painters we are most fortunate that our dry-waller – who gave us splendid new non-popcorn ceilings – also painted them as he went. Further, our excellent contractor budgeted for his painter to handle the woodwork – baseboards (skirting) and trim. Indeed, he would have done the lot were it not that I felt guilty about our playing no role at all in the proceedings (other than in the financial sense).

So here we are – with several thousand square feet of wall to be prepped (filled, sanded and cleaned), primed as required and given two coats of decent quality eggshell (or pearl for the bathrooms).

In this enterprise we are even luckier to have a dear friend who not only operates a sideline in interior decorating but is quite the most ferociously perfectionist craftswoman I have encountered. When it comes to the laborious, time consuming and delicate operation of cutting in it is my view that she has no equal. Furthermore she seems actually to relish the challenge, leaving to the ‘oily rags’ like me the prosaic duty of wielding the roller – a low-order task if ever there be one!

Even luckier (for us!) she is gifting us her time and expertise – and extensively so – on a quid pro quo basis. There can be no doubt at all as to who is getting the better part of this particular deal.

We are truly blessed!

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Image from WikimediaI was thirteen when the Beatles released Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

As were so many others I was already captivated having heard such extraordinary songs as Eleanor Rigby, Tomorrow Never Knows and Strawberry Fields. Now – on experiencing their first post-touring long-player – I was completely blown away and a lifelong love of the works of Messrs. Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr was cemented.

My most immediate and startling memory, however, of the post-Pepper-release period was not directly to do with the Beatles or with the record at all. My school at that time held an annual public speaking competition, involvement in which (somewhat strangely in the light of subsequent events) I contrived to avoid throughout my entire career there. This widely disregarded event took place over two days. On the first each of the competitors mounted – one at a time – the stage in School Hall to recite a poem. On the second day they gave a five minute address on some subject either close to their hearts or the choice of which they coldly calculated would most appeal to the judges and/or the forcibly assembled audience.

On day one of the 1967 competition one of the seniors (a popular prefect – words rarely heard together in those days) stood proudly upon the platform and recited – instead of the usual Tennyson, Wordsworth or Coleridge (or if particularly daring, Byron or Keats) – the lyrics to Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, a song at that point banned by the straight-laced BBC for being quite obviously about the experience of taking LSD. We plebeians in the stalls gasped and looked shiftily at each other and to the masters present, trying to gauge how they would react to their solemn ritual being thus traduced.

The world – naturally – did not end. The staff simply looked bored and did nothing. The popular prefect did not win the contest. We mere mortals, however, realised that something, somewhere had changed irrevocably – and we were right.

What was most remarkable about Pepper of course (apart from the dazzling imagination and unprecedented soundscape on display) was the sheer variety. From LSD to traffic wardens, from Victorian fairground barkers to Indian gurus… all human life appeared to be represented not merely on Peter Blake’s pop-art cover but also within.

For this reason Paul McCartney’s whimsical musing on just what it might be like to achieve three score years and four seemed hardly out of place at all and those of us who could not begin to imagine ever reaching such a decrepit age simply took it as one more example of a fertile imagination.

This week – you will by now have deduced – I turned sixty four!

 

 

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 "Janus"- watercolour (and photograph) by Tony Grist
As I indicated in my last post there is good reason at this point not only to look back at the year just passed but also towards things already on the cards for 2018. All of a sudden a great deal is going on.

I have not posted any photos of our renovation since those I uploaded before we went to Mexico at the start of December. Much has happened. The floors have been laid, the kitchen cabinets installed, the bathroom floors and walls tiled, the trims and the baseboards installed and painted and various electrics second-fitted. The huge task of painting the walls throughout has also been started.

This week the countertops go in along with much of the bathroom equipment. We are approaching the end game. I have not posted photos because, once the floors were finished, everything was carefully covered to protect it from damage and things thus look less ‘done’ than they actually are.

Not long to wait though…

Now – when I retired and came to Canada I had no intention of working again. What I had not calculated for was the UK referendum on membership of the EU. Should the gentle reader wonder as to the connection the answer is simple: post-Brexit the Sterling/CAD exchange rate tanked and the two-year transfer deal that I had set up expired at Christmas. Since my State Pension does not kick in for another year there is a slightly uncomfortable gap.

I have – therefore – been looking for a part-time job to ensure that things remain comfortable. Furthermore, I have already found same. I will – as of this very week – be teaching Computer Literacy at a post-secondary college in Victoria. The contract is for a single term (though more teaching may be available later in the year) and essentially for two days a week. As far as I can ascertain at this stage this is pretty much the perfect setup. Let’s hope I have not forgotten how to do it!

In addition, it looks as though my ongoing attempts to get something started on the youth drama front might also be about to bear fruit. Fingers very much crossed that this is indeed the case – but I am most hopeful. It does mean that this will be a busy period, though.

That is no bad thing of course…

Whatever your own personal situation I hope that your 2018 has gotten off to a good start.

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Image from PixabayGentle readers in the UK will doubtless already have seen this announcement. Today – January 4th – is ‘Fat Cat Day‘!

It is upon this day – at around lunch time – that the UK’s top ‘fat cats’ across the land can lounge back, replete with the knowledge that they have already been paid more than the median of their full-time employees… and that is on the assumption that they took January 1st off!

Less than three days!

Now – does that seem right to you?

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