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“More than 80 theatre artists from across Canada descend on Fernwood this March for the Belfry’s annual SPARK Festival – an opportunity to see some of the best theatre in the country.

With love, from scratch, and with some of the country’s best theatre artists, we build, rehearse and create our plays in our own home, a renovated 19th century church in Fernwood – Victoria’s most interesting neighbourhood.”

From The Belfry‘s website

Victoria is blessed to have such an energetic arts scene!

To The Belfry last night to catch one of the shows in the theatre’s annual ‘Spark‘ festival. This excellent festival runs for nearly two and a half weeks in March and offers a number of full length productions in rep in The Belfry main house and studio theatres, in the Metro studio and in other locations across the city.

As I have mentioned before in these marginalia the Kickass Canada Girl and I have season tickets to The Belfry’s regular season and this year we took advantage of the accompanying reduced price offer to pay our first visit to the festival as well. It proved a most interesting evening.

The show that we had selected – Toronto’s Outspoke Productions’ “SPIN” – started at 8:00 of the evening in the main house, but for those who chose to arrive early a number of ten minute ‘mini plays’ could be sampled in odd nooks and crannies around the building. The Girl and I saw three – ranging from an interesting audio production for which an audience of three donned headphones in a tiny ‘broom cupboard’ to listen to a monologue whilst rifling through a treasure box of memorabilia – all the way to a Mohawk woman of a certain age shocking the genteel burghers of Victoria with knowingly racist humour.

SPIN” was itself an intriguing disquisition by singer/songwriter/actress/poetess Evalyn Perry on the early history of cycling – the invention of which turns out to have been a major feminist event. The show featured – and this was a first for me at least – a bicycle percussionist! By this I mean (should you require clarification) a man who uses a bicycle and its component parts as a sort of drum kit rather than someone who plays percussion whilst riding upon a cycle!

We enjoyed the show greatly and found the story of Annie Londonderry (not her real name!) – the first woman to ride a bicycle around the globe – both fascinating and moving. We felt, however, that as a whole the piece needed a little structural work; that perhaps the balance of the material was not quite right for the length of the show.

Very grateful as ever that we have such splendid endeavours on hand to inspire us.

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Photo by Andy Dawson Reid“If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it. It’s much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.”

Grace Hopper

Tempting as it often is to just go right ahead and do a thing (particularly if it is a stonkingly good idea) in this particular case no apology will after all be needed…

…because we have permission!

I refer – of course – to the outcome of our application for a building permit for our imminent sun room/deck project. Scarce had our structural engineer yesterday thrust into my eager hands three copies of the annotated drawings (along with a healthy bill for his services!) than I hot-foot round to the municipal offices to deliver same to the Senior Building Inspector.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThe inspector’s feet clearly hardly touched the ground either, for today I had a call inviting me to return to the office to collect the permit (on payment, naturally, of a further eye-watering disbursement!).

The intention is to start the work in early April when (if!) the weather picks up a bit. This is pretty essential as for some of the time at least there will be one or more big holes in our external walls, following the removal of the old sun rooms and before the new sliders are installed.

We are, naturally, most excited finally to be getting things underway!

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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Photo by Andy Dawson Reid“Now I will believe that there are unicorns
That in Arabia there is one tree, the phoenix’ throne
One phoenix at this hour reigning there.”

William Shakespeare – The Tempest

To those who live in any degree of proximity at all to mother nature – be it through custody of some humble (or grand) garden (or yard!) or by virtue of residing on the brink of the barely-charted wilderness – the persistence of the myth of the phoenix will make perfect sense.

To the centrality of the bird (with its magical ability to fly all-seeing above our prosaic earth-bound existence) to mythologies from around the globe is added the life-giving power of the renaissance/resurrection connate in the cycle of the seasons. The added bonus in many versions of the myth of the cleansing/regenerative power of fire only adds to its potency and illuminates the Christian church’s desire to appropriate this pagan apologue (along with many others of course) into its oeuvre – however temporarily it may so have done.

Further idle musing upon the subject of the bird summons for me images of autumn – of the fallen dead leaves fueling November bonfires – of the blade-razed stubble burning in crimson swathes across the moribund fields as the chilled charred soil surrenders to the winter… and then of spring – the first tender shoots pushing their tremulous way through the dank, inclement loam, searching for the first warming kiss of the sun god’s life-giving rays…

But I fear that I digress – and this time I have not yet even begun…

This post – although appearing at an appropriate juncture in the new year – is not actually about nature at all, but rather concerns a quite different rebirth – though one just as keenly welcomed as is (or would be!) the spring itself – or indeed the fiery metempsychosis of the indomitable bird. Allow me to elucidate…

Way back in the early days of these dribblings I posted to this blog a miscellany of images which included one such of my favourite Greater Victorian supplier of meats – Orr’s of Brentwood Bay. I proselytized all too briefly regarding the extensive merits of this Scottish family institution at the time, but in a further post not two years later I found myself reporting the sad news that Orr’s was no more – having in the meantime gone out of business.

It is with great delight – therefore – that I can now report that Fraser Orr has again set up shop in the neighbourhood, this time even closer to us in Saanichton. We will once again be able to source Ayrshire ham, black pudding, Scotch pies, Forfar Bridies, Clootie dumplings, proper haggis and all manner of wonderful meats and other provender from the auld country.

Joy of joys! For this we are truly grateful…

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Photo by Andy Dawson Reid“One man’s magic is another man’s engineering.”

Robert A Heinlein

A couple of posts back I updated the gentle reader on the progress regarding our application for a building permit, with particular reference to the hazardous materials survey that we had been obliged to commission. Should you have missed that gripping missive it can be found here.

Within that screed I mentioned that we have now further been obliged to engage a structural engineer to provide detail of the construction of our new deck. I feel compelled to explain this sudden need for us now to spend more of our hard-earned monies on bureaucratic notions.

We have – as can be seen from the attached illustration – a rather dinky little two-person hot tub which came with the house. It currently resides in an enclosed unventilated space beneath one of the decaying sun-rooms. It has been little used and is in pretty spiffing condition, but we cannot run it up as the previous owners removed its power supply when they installed the heat pump. One aim of our deck redevelopment has always been to get the tub back into action.

When our designer drew up plans for our splendid new deck he decided – on a complete whim of the sort to which designers are prone – that the perfect position for the tub would be up on the deck level outside the master bedroom and overlooking the sea. Of course, as soon as we saw the plans we knew that he was right and signed up enthusiastically. Our contractor agreed that such a thing was entirely feasible, though the new deck would need to be strengthened at the appropriate point. So far so very good…

The problem arose when the plans were submitted to the municipality as part of our building permit application. The Senior Building Inspector informed me that had we just been building a simple deck we could have done so without further ado. However, as the plans show a hot-tub on the deck it is necessary to get a structural engineer to draw up plans for something that our contractor already knows how to build, and subsequently to inspect the results and report that all has been done correctly.

I am, naturally, fully aware as to why this has to be done, but it is extremely annoying to have to spend even more money on the procedural aspect of things when all those concerned are more than capable of doing the job without interference.

And as yet – of course – not a thing has been built!

 

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Photo by Andy Dawson Reid“It’s kind of like doing surgery with a chainsaw instead of a scalpel. We had pieces and parts flying everywhere. It turned out in our favor. We’ve just got to clean it up the next time around.”

Mike Leach – football coach

I have made reference before in these reflections to the fact that in this part of the world our mains power arrives courtesy of cables strung between tall wooden poles. It is, in fact, not just the power that does so – phone lines, cable television and broadband data circuits are all delivered by the same means, using the same poles. As may be observed in the attached illustration this frequently results in an extensive cat’s-cradle of cables which runs the length of every rural thoroughfare.

The adoption of this delivery mechanism does, of course, make perfect sense. The distances concerned and the lumpy terrain mitigate against the burial of such services, on grounds of cost and practicality, and the ready availability on all sides of tall straight poles makes the chosen solution what is, I believe, oft referred to as a ‘no-brainer’.

The downside – as I have certainly mentioned before – is that the winter winds have a habit of bringing down the branches of neighbouring trees onto said power lines, resulting in outages at just the point that electricity and other cable-borne services would come in particularly handy – for heating, cooking, watching TV and surfing in the InterWebNet and suchlike.

By way of amelioration of this regular occurrence the provincial power company – BC Hydro – engages each spring a clutch of trouble-shooting tree specialists who are briefed to roam the byways looking for potential problems that might be averted by means of a little chainsaw butchery. Any tree branch that so much as glances in the direction of a power line is immediately whacked off and ground up into sawdust.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThus is was that – one day last week – a sizeable swarm of trucks, pickups, cherry pickers and suchlike descended locust-like onto the verge outside our residence. The sound of chainsaws and chippers being fired up rent what might otherwise have been a sleepy afternoon. Half an hour later they departed like a swarm of angry wasps looking for another target, having committed an act of savagery on our lovely Arbutus and left an integument of detritus beneath it.

On being appraised of this visit The Girl wondered (somewhat provocatively) whether our neighbours might have ‘shopped’ us to the power company. The Arbutus is a beautiful tree but has the unusual distinction of shedding its foliage in the summer months whilst remaining resolutely verdant throughout the winter. One afternoon last summer – as our dear friend from Saanichton was helping us to widen our driveway in anticipation of the arrival of the good ship ‘Dignity’ – the little old lady from next door sidled up to me and enquired hopefully as to whether we were having the tree chopped down.

When I told her that we were not she looked most disappointed!

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

 

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Image from Pixabay…say nowt!

Way back in the mists of time – around the midpoint of the 1990s – I was invited by a supplier to attend a grand gala charity dinner somewhere in the centre of England. The guest of honour at this sizable gathering was a very senior male member of the royal family who has something of a reputation for speaking his mind! Jolly good value he was too.

As it happened the event coincided exactly with the semi-final of a major football tournament; though not being a follower of the sport I don’t recall which. The major surprise on this occasion was that England was one of the combatants. I will hazard that the other was Germany. To the consternation of many of the male guests at the gala event the match started at around the same time as did the dinner.

For a period the Master of Ceremonies – who was keeping everybody informed as to the evening’s proceedings – also regularly briefed those assembled with progress reports on the match, leading to a huge cheer when England scored a goal. A while later – however – after announcing that the opposition had equalized all such reporting ceased abruptly, to the consternation of many of those present who started to fidget nervously. Word went around that the royal personage had let it be known that he did not want to hear reports of England losing to the Germans!

The event proceeded much as would be expected until some time later when I looked around the grand ballroom in which it was being held and realised – to my surprise – that I was one of the very few males still in the room, the which seemed now to be populated solely by members of the fairer sex. A short while later there was a loud groan from some distance outside and a crowd of dejected dinner-jacketed alpha-males trudged back into the hall. It turned out that a large screen TV had been installed in the kitchens so that the chefs might watch the game and all those who just couldn’t survive without knowing the score had slipped out to join them.

It also transpired, of course, that England had – as usual – contrived to lose on penalties!

Now – you may be wondering why I have chosen this particular moment to share this ancient anecdote. Well – I promised a few weeks back that I would not be giving a running commentary on Scotland’s progress in this year’s Six Nations championship. In homage to the Duke it is safe to say that if Scotland are losing you will almost certainly hear nothing about it from me.

If – on the other hand – they are winning, as they did yesterday at Murrayfield for the first time in a decade against the Welsh… then mighty congratulations are in order, a wee glass of good cheer may be raised and radio silence might be broken so that I can pass on my congratulations to my countrymen and all concerned.

Of course, things may then go quiet again for a while…

 

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HazMat

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidA few weeks ago I uploaded to this blog a brief epistle on the subject of our recently submitted application for building permits for our sunroom removal and deck replacement project. Reference was made therein to the additional need to send to the planning department of our local municipality a copy of a ‘Hazardous Materials Assessment & Abatement Report‘. To this end we engaged the services of a local company of environmental hazard testing specialists and were duly visited for an inspection. The report has now been delivered and a copy will shortly be forwarded.

The prime concern in residential buildings of this age is the potential presence of asbestos in parts of the structure that are likely to be disturbed during renovations. Our house dates back to 1979 (no sniggering from those of you in the UK. Remember – I have owned or part-owned several Georgian residences!). For more modern properties than ours owners may be confident that they are free of this most unpleasant of substances but in a house of this age asbestos may be found in a number of places – in the stucco with which the external walls are rendered, in the ‘mud’ with which the drywall (UK readers – plasterboard!) is lined, in the blown insulation in lofts and cavities, in the textured ceiling coatings that were particularly popular at the time and in the backings of certain older floor coverings.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidFor our deck project the only area of concern is the external stucco rendering, but since we intend carrying out further renovations inside the property once we have replaced the sunrooms we decided to arrange for further testing be done throughout the house whilst the inspectors were on site. They duly took nineteen samples from different locations (which are now covered with attractive green sticky tape, presumably on the same principle as culinary Band-Aids!) which were sent away to the laboratory.

To our very great relief the report came back largely negative. We do have a couple of traces of asbestos – in the backing of some old vinyl flooring which was left underneath a couple of areas that were re-floored. This will have to be removed but should not – frankly – be a major issue. Everything else was mercifully clear.

I would by now have sent the report off to the powers that be were it not for the fact that the Senior Building Inspector for the municipality contacted me before I could so do, informing me that I would also need to obtain further detailed plans and reports from a structural engineer before they could consider our application.

I will explain this unwelcome development in the next gripping installment of what is perhaps inevitably starting to develop into something of a saga…

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Woo hoo!

Today was the first day of the year on which the climactic conditions were conducive to getting down to a little ‘yard work’ – or ‘garden maintenance’ should you prefer. The temperature reached a balmy 9 degrees Celsius, the sun did its best to warm one’s weary shoulders, the breeze was persistently no more than playful and any precipitation that might have been lurked in the vicinity had a change of heart and took the afternoon off. As the forecast suggested that this would be the best day of the week I girded my loins (ooh-err!), pulled on my wellies and ventured forth.

The garden (for garden it shall be, ‘yard’ fans!) is in sore need of TLC, being as it is covered with a veritable layer of winter detritus. I am certainly not going to post any pictures of it at this stage, but will do so (weather permitting) in a couple of weeks when I have knocked things into shape.

Actually, I am posting one photo… that which appears at the top of this missive.

Living as we do in the wild northwest we are naturally accustomed to the indigenous wildlife apparently being of the opinion that it is we who are the interlopers. I regularly look out of the window to see two or three deer using the back garden as a thoroughfare, stopping for a chat and a snack en route. Canadians don’t really do boundaries (fences, hedges, walls and suchlike) in the way that the Brits do. This is probably a good thing because should a deer (or a bear or a cougar) decide that some barrier is blocking its preferred path it is most likely simply to demolish it.

Today, as I ventured outside, I came upon a big fat raccoon ambling across what passes (with a great deal of work) for my croquet lawn. I don’t know how the raccoons get to be so fat at this time of year, but ‘Googling’ “fat raccoon” shows that this particular one was not that exceptional.

As I worked away in the garden I heard an unusual bird call above my head. Looking up I saw that an eagle had alighted on a branch of one of the pines. A steady rain of downy fur-balls revealed that the bird had caught something and was in the process of preparing it for its lunch. I tiptoed inside get my camera and fired off the shot above, the which you will probably need to enlarge (by double-click thereon) if you are to make out any detail.

The eagle felt about being photographed whilst taking its repast much the same as would I and departed for a more secluded spot (with its lunch dangling from one talon) before I could get a better picture. I don’t blame it!

What you can’t see in the image above is the big black crow sitting just out of reach on a slightly higher branch. When the eagle flapped away the crow followed it. ‘Trickle down’ clearly does work in the animal kingdom!

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Image by Alana Elliott on Wikimedia CommonsBefore I came to Canada in 2015 I was entirely unaware of Stuart McLean, or indeed of the much loved weekly CBC Radio show – The Vinyl Café – that he hosted for more than twenty years.

I am absolutely certain that the Kickass Canada Girl – who has long been numbered amongst the humourist and storyteller’s many fans – had for my benefit at some point extolled his virtues long before we crossed the pond for keeps, but I am a bear of advancing years (as well as very little brain) and there has been such a lot to learn (this is called “getting your excuses in early”!).

Once in Canada, of course, and having had the opportunity to experience the show ‘in the flesh’ (so to speak) I rapidly became a convert too. It was therefore deeply saddening to hear the news this week that Stuart had succumbed to the melanoma that he had been battling for more than a year.

I am way too much of a Vinyl Café neophyte to be able to indite anything remotely apposite at this point. I urge the gentle reader instead simply to ‘Google’ “Stuart McLean” and to peruse some of the many tributes to the man. This page of twitter reactions gives a good idea as to just how deeply loved he was.

For myself all I would say is that there was something about his writing and on-air manner that reminded me of how radio used to be when I was growing up in the UK, where my earliest exposure to the outside world came exclusively from the BBC’s ‘Home Service’ (later Radio 4). That’s pretty much as good as it gets in my book.

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No-one could suggest that Vancouver Island – which so often seems to be uniquely blessed when it comes to climate – has not experienced a proper winter this year. The past few days have found us buffeted by a serious storm which many of us are hoping is the very last gasp of this particular winter before it surrenders to the impending spring.

Fingers firmly crossed!

In the meantime, some pictures of snow and ice…

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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