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May 2013

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2013.

Well – almost…

This is my very favourite time of year and though the weather has been particularly unreliable this spring we seem to have been blessed with the odd good day at just the right time. This last weekend was the second bank holiday weekend of May (you have to love the Brits – a dearth of public holidays and the two in quick succession!) and – somewhat contrary to expectations – we had three pretty decent days.

What do I like to do at this time of year? I like to look at azaleas! We paid a visit to Ramster Hall (love the name!) near Chiddingfold in Surrey so that I could get my annual fix…

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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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThere is a defined gulf
Between credit and character
If you doubt this, ask any banker;
He will advise that character is nice
But it is not collateral.

Evan Rhys, Poems from the Ledge

I am mindful of the fact that I promised a brief note on the… challenge – shall we say… of recovering monies from Canada to the UK once thence transferred. I am aware that in the normal run of things this would not pose any particular difficulty. Our case – as you might expect – does not entirely fall within that disposition.

Last year – whilst the Kickass Canada Girl was living in Victoria – we evolved a stratagem in service of which we would transfer to Canada such of our savings as could be spared, preparatory to the purchase at the appropriate point of a property there. To this end we opened a joint bank account and transferred funds to it using an online currency exchange – both of which operations were accomplished with encouraging ease.

When the situation deteriorated and the Girl was forced – immediately before Christmas – to return to the UK we agreed that – since our long term plans remained essentially unchanged – we would leave our funds in BC. Shortly thereafter – however – it became apparent that we would need to recover a small percentage of the monies to the UK to cover immediate expenses. At this point things became messy.

A little research indicated that we would need to initiate the funds transfer from our bank in Canada. A call to their telephone banking line was not particularly helpful. I learned that – whereas small transfers could easily be made – anything above a few hundred dollars would rapidly fall foul of the limits imposed on daily, weekly and monthly total transfers. The telephone banking operative suggested that I should speak directly to the branch in Saanichton.

The call to the branch was not much more help. I was told that I could certainly transfer the funds required – by making an ‘arrangement’ so to do. Unfortunately this could only be done by visiting the branch in person. We had not made any such arrangement before leaving – of course – because we didn’t know at the time that we were going to need so to do.

Given that a personal visit was clearly not possible I was advised instead to consult my bank in the UK, the implication being that they might be able to effect something by themselves calling Canada in my presence. I duly paid a visit, queued for an advisor and was told in no uncertain terms that they could do nothing to assist and that the onus was on the Canadian end to instigate the transfer.

I called the branch in Saanichton again – this time speaking to the lady in charge of our account. She was sympathetic – but ultimately unhelpful.

At this point – rapidly losing patience with a system seemingly designed to render impossible that which should have been a relatively simple operation – I called Canada again, this time to the bank’s customer service line. I finally encountered someone helpful – an eager and charming young lady. Why – she said brightly – did I not simply write myself a cheque?!

I pointed out that I didn’t actually have a chequebook for this account.

No problem. I could order one online…

It is – apparently – quite impossible to arrange for funds to be transferred from Canada to the UK – either online or by telephone – unless one is actually in Canada at the time or has had the prescience to make the necessary arrangement. It is – however – a trivial matter to order a chequebook online – have it delivered to a Canadian address (our dear friends in Saanichton, who forwarded it on to the UK) – and then to write myself a cheque for any amount that I please.

My attempt to pay in this cheque-to-myself at my bank in the UK caused only momentary confusion for the front of house assistant, the resolution of which involved my being whisked peremptorily to the front of a long and somewhat irritable queue of other customers to obtain the necessary advice. I beat a hasty retreat before the murmuring behind me turned nasty – content that I had finally been able to get my hands on my own money!

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OK – so there are two possible explanations for the preceding and somewhat grouchy post on the subject of the current state of the British weather… The first is that my natural optimism had temporarily deserted me – prompted in no small part by the dogged insistence of our forecasters that the immediate future – in meteorological terms if no other – looked grim. The second is that I was actually practicing a subtle form of climatic voodoo – the intention being to goad the weather gods into an antithetical response. If this latter were indeed the case… well, it worked like a charm!

Contrary to all of the forecasts – including those on the day itself – the clouds cleared from the sky, the wind dropped to a balmy breeze and the temperature soared by a good five degrees. The ground – previously unknown to me – was pretty as a picture. Our opponents were good-natured and sportsmanlike – and we contrived not to lose. To be entirely fair we managed only what might be considered a losing draw – a concept almost certainly completely alien to anyone not conversant with the arcane nature of the game. I will happily explain should anyone so desire…

Today – naturally – it is once again grey and cold!

Anyway – here are a few snaps…

Photo 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 ReidThe offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil water-way leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky – seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness. 

Joseph Conrad

Just under a year ago this weekend I posted thus on the occasion of – amongst other delicious happenings – my first game of cricket of the season. I am – in theory – due to turn out for this year’s corresponding fixture this coming Sunday. As things stand I would say that the odds on the game taking place must be on the longish side – and that’s putting it mildly!

Now – I wouldn’t want to intercede in the argument between the global warmists and the climate change deniers – sorry, sceptics! – but from my entirely partial standpoint I think there can be no doubt that there is “summat oop wi’ t’weather”. (No idea why I came over all cod-northern there… Must be a hot flush or something – or a cold one, mayhap!)

At this juncture last year we had just experienced one of the dryest winters on record and dire warnings of droughts and hosepipe bans were still ringing in our ears. Had we but know it we stood on the cusp of one of the wettest summers in living memory, which intemperate season saw the cancellation of many of the great game’s fixtures at everything from national to village levels. As we now emerge, blinking, from one of the darkest winters of modern times – featuring as it did the coldest March for fifty years – we find ourselves waiting with some trepidation to see what the summer – should it ever arrive – will bring.

Thus far the omens are not propitious. With the exception of the odd – and unexpected – springlike day the temperature has struggled to creep into double figures. On the infrequent occasions that there has been some variation from the ominous grey that habitually covers the UK at this time of year the alternate fare on offer has tended to comprise bitter winds and stinging horizontal rain.

Who knows? Maybe the rain will hold off for long enough for twenty two ragged-arsed cricketers – clad between them in getting on for fifty sweaters – to brave the elements and attempt to remember why they play the game at all.

I’ll let you know…

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Photo by Andy Dawson Reid“Life isn’t a matter of milestones but of moments”

Rose F Kennedy

Here is one such moment – though one that does, as it happens, feel like something of a milestone…

Regular readers of these random jottings will be aware that – over the past 16 months or so – a number of targets, deadlines or turning points – what the navigators amongst you might call waypoints – have materialised only subsequently to evanesce. Amongst these were the movable feast that was to be my retirement, the uncertain date of my emigration to Canada and the point at which we might finally sell our apartment in Buckinghamshire.

All of these uncertainties give the whole process something of an air of unreality. It is all well and good laying plans and scheming schemes – deciding that such and such will be so – but until something concrete actually happens there is always a slight nagging feeling that one might just be pissing in the wind!

Well – an event has now occurred regarding which there can be no doubts.

At my previous school my pension age was sixty. Had I remained there I would now have been contemplating retirement in just over seven months time – regardless of any other plans that might have been made, or even of my own whims and fancies. Even so, the side-effect is that my pension from that school’s rather splendid scheme kicks in regardless shortly after the turn of the year – on the occasion of my sixtieth birthday.

I thus duly received – earlier this week – the forms necessary to set the process in motion. I have completed, signed and returned them. Though not in itself a particularly dramatic or life-changing event, it is the first real indicator that I am indeed approaching retirement – which occurrence itself truly will be momentous.

Now – that is a moment to celebrate!

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Photo by Vvillamon on FlickrI had intended – by this point – to be regaling the gentle reader with thoughtful discourse on the challenges of adapting the medieval lyrical epic to the somewhat prosaic environs of the late sixties school buildings in which we are – in the main – ensconced. I refer – of course – to my as yet embryonic production of Parzival – which is to be offered later this term as the School’s Junior Play.

Sadly the expected and eagerly anticipated directorial regimen of dramatic problem-solving is still not the main focus. I am rather yet beset by matters markedly more mundane – specifically those arising from the nature of the mind of the thirteen and fourteen year old boy, and in particular from their apparently antithetical ability to be simultaneously irritatingly clever and incomprehensibly incapable of the simplest feat of self-organisation.

There are twenty four boys in the cast. They play between them some forty named characters – in addition to the usual stage dressing of lunatics and spear-carriers. It is understood that – in the early stages of rehearsal – the boys will have many competing demands on their time, and great care was thus taken to canvas their availability before drawing up the first draft of the first call-sheet.

During the normal school week there are ten possible rehearsal slots – at lunchtime and after school each day. The average respondent seemed able to manage around six of those slots. The keenest – playing one of the smallest roles, naturally – was available for all ten, whereas the most reluctant could only offer three! One wondered quite why he had put himself forward for audition at all, given the clearly congested nature of his calendar.

Almost inevitably the task of matching the availability of any particular combination of boys to the groupings required by the script has proved to be a Herculean one. Each time a new call-sheet is required I must needs spend several hours surrounded by grids and charts attempting to unpick this particular Gordian knot. Inevitably also, no sooner have I posted the freshly-minted edition than some boy will appear at my door pleading special circumstances…

This is annoying!

It is not – however – the most annoying aspect of the process.

I have only slightly reluctantly taken on this massive organisational task and my feelings are – naturally – tempered by the fact that the previously enumerated complexities of my own script do not make life any easier. The boys – however – have only three immediate tasks:

  • to know when and where they are required for rehearsal – and to be there on time
  • to bring with them their script (let’s not even think about them actually learning it at this point!)
  • to bring a pencil or other writing implement – to enable them to take notes

You would be astonished (or maybe you wouldn’t!) by just how much these simple tasks seem to be beyond some of the brightest boys in the country. Every time that one of them – and it is usually those playing the smaller roles – ‘forgets’ to attend rehearsal, the call-sheet must be amended afresh and further time carved out of an already stoppered schedule.

They are – of course – public school boys, and they will – therefore – naturally pull it all together at the last possible minute and triumph effortlessly yet again.

Thus was the empire forged…

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Long stormy spring-time, wet contentious April, winter chilling the lap of very May; but at length the season of summer does come.

Thomas Carlyle

Spring has finally arrived with an unexpected suddenness that took many of us unawares. Over the May bank holiday weekend the UK has found itself basking – however temporarily – in warm sunshine. Without remotely approaching the amazing 29C degrees that Victoria has been enjoying we have nonetheless experienced a 10 degree hike in temperature over the space of a few days and – after the winter that we have recently endured – we are jolly grateful for it.

At the School the Surmaster – giddy at the unaccustomed appearance of the solar orb – has hastily declared that it is time for summer dress, presumably fearful that the expected onset of the next cold front tomorrow could well steal his thunder (or possibly provide some of its own!) and prorogue our summer revels for the foreseeable future.

I took some drowsy pictures in our Berkshire garden over the bucolic holiday weekend:


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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green-tickAccording to the Urban Dictionary ‘bragging rights’ are:

…the rights granted to a person that allow said person to boast on themselves to a certain extent without being looked down on for it.

Bragging rights may be granted to a person for (but not limited to) the following reasons:

  • An Amazing Achievement
  • Attaining something greatly desired by many people

For those readers who – like me – prefer their loose ends to be neatly knotted and all of the dots to be joined up, I thought I should round off the recent narrative concerning the School’s inspection by the ISI (the Independent Schools’ Inspectorate) which took place at the end of last term and regarding which I posted here and here. The report was finally published yesterday and circulated to all staff. The High Master’s covering note contained the following:

Please find attached a copy of the ISI Inspection Report which is based upon evidence collected in March 2013. The report is outstanding in every respect. In particular, the Inspectors judged the quality of the pupils’ achievements and learning as ‘exceptional’, a category awarded to very few schools. The findings are a source of great pride and satisfaction.  They reflect positively and justly upon the School’s high expectations; the quality of boys, staff and governors; high levels of industry and commitment; and the support of parents.

Thank you for all your best efforts on behalf of the School: and congratulations!

We are content!


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Image by Rama on WikimediaIt is half a year now since the Kickass Canada Girl’s (purportedly) splendid job in Victoria went – to appropriate the vernacular – ‘tits-up’. She was – as a result – obliged to leave our dear friends in Saanichton and to return – jobless – to the UK, just in time for Christmas and for us to wave an un-fond farewell to the tenant in our Buckinghamshire apartment (and, of course, to his rent cheque!).

All in all, not the best of times!

In line with the seasons, however, that winter has finally turned to spring and all indicators are that summer will – as it ever does – eventually arrive.

The Girl’s new job in London was always really considered a positioning exercise with a view to a more appropriate opening rapidly becoming available in the organisation’s head office in Reading – a stone’s throw from our Berkshire home. Sure enough, she has duly been awarded a suitably interesting management post which she takes up today. Congratulations KACG! We celebrated appropriately last Sunday with a really rather splendid lunch at a beautiful hostelry in Oxfordshire.

I made reference at the top of the year to the Girl’s quest to source a ‘new’ car, to replace the sexy Civic that she so generously sold to my nephew before leaving for BC last year. This search has taken longer than anticipated for a number of reasons – not least of which are those related to the difficulty that we encountered (and which I will document in a future post) transferring monies back to the UK from Canada. No matter! She finally found what she wanted and parted with her principal.

The Girl’s choice of motor fully meets my approval. She has – on past occasions when in the market for ‘wheels’ – flirted with the idea of acquiring something ‘interesting’ – but has ultimately ignored my blandishments and settled for the ‘sensible’ option instead. This has always struck me as being slightly surprising since – in many ways – she’s not that kind of girl! Not so this time, anyway. She has finally bitten the bullet and invested her hard-earned moolah in… (drum roll!)… a convertible!!! Not – in her case – a Merc (we can barely afford to run one of those!) but instead the best ‘British’ sports car never made – the Mazda MX-5 Roadster.


What with new tenants in our Bucks apartment and spring finally bursting out all over we are both feeling positively perky…

…and who knows where that might lead!

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