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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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 "Janus"- watercolour (and photograph) by Tony GristHerewith the promised 2017 update!

It feels as though a great many things happened over the last twelve months. The turn of the year feels like a pretty good time not only to take a retrospective glance at where we have got to but also – in an immediately succeeding post – to where we might be headed in 2018.

The Kickass Canada Girl’s job has occupied her greatly throughout the year and though much has been good about it it has not all been plain sailing. As is often the case with one’s employment, situations can change and not always for the better. The Girl is still tip-toeing around this particular evolution endeavouring to to determine exactly how it will effect her. It is very much her nature to start looking for alternatives when things are less than optimal, so keep an eye out for developments in 2018.

One of the great delights of the year was entertaining guests in our lovely home – both those traveling from the UK (two sets) and from elsewhere in BC. Being a new boy on the island I take great pleasure in showing off its delights to other newcomers and with the summer being really rather decent we had a splendid time both in our garden (yard) and out and about around Greater Victoria and the on island. I got to revisit Long Beach and Tofino, which is always a good thing, and we were able to dine out an impressive amount.

Further travel developments found me in December paying my first visit to Mexico. If you have not yet taken the opportunity to have a look at the photos that I posted herewith you would be most welcome so to do. I love the colours and the light, and the whole trip was a delight.

This has also been my first year on the board of Intrepid Theatre. Not only have I met a great many fascinating and inspiring new people but we have also experienced some really good theatre. It has definitely been a positive year on the arts front (as spectators at least) with theatre and music providing many splendid moments of enjoyment, emotion and thoughtfulness.

A major issue hinted at in previous year’s retrospectives has been our long-running legal battle with the vendor and realtor (estate agent) who sold us our house. I am much relieved to report that the matter has finally been settled (in the immediate aftermath of Christmas) though considerably less content to reveal that the settlement was for a significantly smaller sum than we believe it should have been. Having been obliged to sign a confidentiality clause I cannot reveal the terms, but I feel strongly moved to cavil at a legal process that makes it extremely difficult to get a fair settlement without investing a considerable sum of money (with no guarantee at all of any return) to push the matter through the courts. As it is the defendants have paid us a not inconsequential sum whilst still protesting that this does not admit any wrongdoing on their part. I leave the gentle reader to try to reconcile these two apparently antithetical positions.

The monies have, of course, been most welcome in support of what has been perhaps the major happening of the year – the extensive renovation of this house into a potentially exceptional home. Regular readers will have observed the pictures that I posted at the start of the summer, as we had the back of the house torn off and a wonderful new deck built. At the end of October the second phase commenced and The Girl and I became basement dwellers for duration as this extensive project has steadily inched nearer to its conclusion. More on that in the next post.

Well – that is goodbye to 2017. It always felt as though it were a transitional year somehow, and it still does.

2018 though… That’s a different matter!

 

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It has become a habit for me to post – usually upon New Year’s Eve – a bit of a retrospective on the year just passed. In such missives I am wont to muse in a suitably contemplative manner on the happenings – joyous or otherwise – of the previous twelve months, with a view to wrapping up that which is past and wishing it a tremulous farewell before gazing nervously ahead into the murk of the nascent year before us.

This year I have done none of this.

The reason is simple – there are things going on right now that are taking a fair bit of my attention and for which the outcomes will not be known for a few days yet. I will provide such a conspectus of 2017 – in a short while when things have settled!

In the meantime The Girl and I naturally wish you all a very Happy New Year – and hope fervently that 2018 eclipses 2017 in all the right ways.

Slàinte maith, h-uile latha, na chi ‘snach fhaic!
(Good health, every day, whether I see you or not!)

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Herewith a final batch of images from our recent sojourn in the sun during the run-up to Christmas.

Puerto Vallarta has a sizable and most attractive marina which includes a basin large enough for the ubiquitous cruise ships to dock:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidOn Thursday evenings the marina plays host to a rather splendid market at which it is possible to purchase the wares of local artists and craftsmen, as well as sampling local foodstuffs and – of course – tequila!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidIn the centre of town there is a lovely church dedicated to ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe’, an image of which also featured in a mural adjacent to our resort in the Hotel Zone.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidI promised a photo of a bus! This was by no means the oldest or the most rickety!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidI liked the slogan on the ‘Cashola’ ATM. “Say hello to your money” it says – with the clear subtext “Prepare to say goodbye to it again shortly thereafter!“.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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Hmmm!

My humble apologies to those who receive these updates via the email feed… yesterday’s posting was done under the influence of the Boxing Day blur and I sadly omitted various steps from the habitual routine by which means I normally ensure that all of the images render correctly. Should you have suffered the resultant shambles (and can give a rat’s arse either way) please do follow this link to view it all over again.

Puerto Vallarta’s seafront is quite naturally a major attraction. The Malecon is a mile-long esplanade that takes one along the front as far as the bridge over the Rio Cuale. This recently renovated pedestrian promenade features a fascinating display of public statuary:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidCrossing the river (which at this point incorporates the wooded Isla Cuale in an area surrounded by cafes and cramped boutiques offering the outpourings of local artists and craftsmen) one comes again to the Zona Romantica, the which district borders the sea at the charmingly entitled Playa de Los Muertos:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidThe rocks that separate the various beaches are home to a multitude of massively shy crabs that can apparently tell when they are being looked at. If one stands with one’s back to their habitat they all shuffle out – sideways – to sit on the rocks, but should one turn one’s head to look at them they scurry away into the shadows at pace…

…except for this one – which isn’t going anywhere ever again!

This chap is not going to be playing the piano again either…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidA pretty awesome place to have a massage:

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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Our recent trip to Puerto Vallarta – my first visit to Mexico – furnished such a vivid range of impressions that I found it impossible not to be continually firing off shots with whatever photographic device I had to hand. Feeling the urge to share I am going to upload several batches of the resulting images for the gentle reader’s (and viewer’s) delectation.

We paid a number of visits to the old part of town – the Zona Romantica. Here are some images:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidWe had brunch at a PV institution – Memo’s Pancake House. They make a mean Eggs Benedict!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThis is where the PV fat cats buy their cigars!…

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid…and this store in the flea market made me think of The Eagles!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidWhat do you think – fella? Hmmm! – time for siesta…

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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…to friends, acquaintances and gentle readers…

from the Kickass Canada Girl and the Imperceptible Immigrant.

Have a wonderful Christmas and a splendid Hogmany!

 


It has been my habit over the last five years or so to post to this blog a collation of festive photos of Christmassy paraphernalia such as Christmas trees, lights and decorations, sumptuously wrapped gifts and suchlike.

Christmas this year is different.

The decorations have remained in the Christmas cupboard. There is no tree or twinkling lights. There are no decorations. Our renovations (and the concomitant basement dwelling) and the last minute return from our holiday in the sun has mitigated against our usual display of festive cheer.

There is – nonetheless – an abundance of Christmas spirit. There is also the possibility here in Victoria of something that I do not recall ever having experienced before… a white Christmas!

So, whatever form the festival takes for you this year – and wherever you may be – we wish a very Happy Christmas to to you all!

 

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