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2015

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Photo by Andy Dawson Reidyear-end also year·end (yîr′ĕnd′)
n.
The end of a year: the value of the account at year-end.
adj.
Occurring or done at the end of the year: a year-end audit.

It is at this time of the year that the Girl and I habitually sit down and look back over the events that have unfolded throughout the preceeding twelve months. It is always good to take stock of what has (or has not) been accomplished and to use this as spur to encourage us onward toward the nascent season ahead.

It need hardly be said that the year just ending has been – to put it mildly – epic! We have retired from the world of work. We have sold up and closed down our existence in the United Kingdom. I have become a Permanent Resident of Canada. We have moved across an ocean and a continent. We have purchased a house. We have instigated the lengthy and complex process of setting up a new life here on the west coast of British Columbia.

Given that all of this is the culmination of a five year project it would not be at all surprising were we to be somewhat overwhelmed by the massive changes that our little lives have undergone. In the event the happenings of the last couple of months have added a momentum of their own which has imbued the end of the year with yet another unexpected twist.

I have already alluded in cryptic manner to an issue that has arisen concerning our house purchase that has required the intervention of the legal profession. As the matter is ongoing I cannot at this stage tell all. Suffice to say that there is an issue with the property that was not disclosed at the time of the sale – though it was known about. Given that considerable expense will now be required to resolve the matter, we are seeking – and are most hopeful of achieving – a suitable settlement with the vendors.

Then – a week before Christmas – we suffered a bereavement. When the Girl’s mother died when she was in her early teens, her mother’s best friend – an honorary aunt – stepped in and effectively raised her from that point on. Such was the robust nature of this exceptional lady that – though well into her eighties – we believed that she might live forever. She was always exceedingly kind and generous to us and we will both miss her terribly. For the Girl this is, naturally, a particularly difficult time.

The Girl was grateful that – by catching the 5:30am flight out of Victoria the Sunday before Christmas – she was able to reach the hospital in Kamloops (her birthplace) in time to say goodbye. She returned to Victoria on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, we entertained on Christmas Day and – early the next morning – took the ferry to the mainland and drove back into the snowy interior of BC for the memorial service. The Girl is joint executor to the estate and we will have to stay in Kamloops for a while helping to sort everything out.

All in all, not how we expected this momentous year to end. Regardless we wish all gentle readers a very Happy New Year, and a prosperous – not to mention hopefully calm – 2016.

 

 

 

 

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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!

 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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Cheers!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidHere follows an extract from an article on the website ‘thedrinksbusiness.com‘ dating from October 2014:

“Luc Heymans was so shocked by the price of wine in Ireland that he opened up Europe’s first craft wine-making shop in Kells, County Meath, reported the Irish Examiner.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Heymans explained his rationale: “When I lived in Europe, I used to enjoy a glass of wine with my dinner, but when I moved to Ireland I couldn’t believe the price of a bottle of wine. I started making my own wine and then I decided to open the shop. There are thousands of similar stores in Canada but this is the first in Europe,” Heymans said.

Unlike similar offerings in the UK, the wines are made with kits rather than on demand from a winery and customers can buy the kits and take them home to make the wine or leave them in the shop throughout the process.

Heymans said: “The wine takes between four and eight weeks to ferment, depending on the quality you choose and, when it’s ready, the customer comes back into the shop to bottle and cork it and add personalised labels.”

“They then take the wine home and leave it to rest for a few months and each kit makes between 28 and 30 bottles,” he said.”

Since being introduced a decade ago (by the Kickass Canada Girl, naturally) to the splendid wines from the Okanagan Valley and elsewhere in BC, I have become a massive fan of Canadian wines. I had no idea – however – that Canadians were also as enthusiastic about making their own wines, whether from kits (which bear absolutely no resemblance to the ‘Boots the Chemist’ home wine kits that I remember from my youth) or from their own produce.

Shortly after our arrival in the province we were introduced to a local winemaker – the wonderful ‘Flying Fish Winery‘ in Saanichton. I was immediately knocked out both by the cost of the wines per bottle (a little over £3 in English money!) and the amazing quality of the product. We instantly ordered four different half kits – a Sauvignon Blanc, a Gewurztraminer, an Amarone and a Carménère – and a couple of weeks ago were told that they were ready for bottling.

You might – incidentally – recognise the symbol on our labels. Yes – it is the Luckenbooth!

With regard to the bottling process I think these pictures tell their own story:

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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Image from PixabayThis is the final epistle in a trilogy of posts concerning homesickness – particularly as it affected this recently retired immigrant (albeit an imperceptible one!) from the UK to the Pacific Northwest. The first two parts – should you wish to consult them – are easy to locate, but for those who prefer to follow links rather than navigation can be found here and here.

Though the end result may be pretty much the same, feelings of homesickness can come in many different guises. The ever helpful InterWebNet offers much useful guidance to aid the identification of the causes and thus assist reasonably rapid recovery. I found these discovered items – presented in no particular order – to be useful:

This article on gritandglamour.com – entitled ‘Getting over Homesickness‘ – draws attention to the parallels between homesickness and the grieving process.

“The brain on homesickness is much like the brain on grief—the stages and emotions are remarkably similar, and that makes sense. You are, after all, mourning the death of your former existence to a large degree.”

The article also contains a useful set of links to other related resources.

The importance of allowing oneself to grieve those things that have been lost is also the theme of an article entitled ‘One thing no HR Manager will ever tell you when re-locating‘ on a website called medibroker.com. Of course, the need to grieve that which has been lost is not by any means exclusive to expats – it is an essential skill that we must all needs acquire – but emigration can bring a number of such losses into focus at the same time.

I also found this article – ‘Homesickness isn’t really about Home‘ by Derrick Ho on the CNN website – to be most helpful.

“It (homesickness) stems from our instinctive need for love, protection and security — feelings and qualities usually associated with home, said Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Alabama’s School of Public Health. When these qualities aren’t present in a new environment, we begin to long for them — and hence home. “You’re not literally just missing your house. You’re missing what’s normal, what is routine, the larger sense of social space, because those are the things that help us survive,” Klapow said.”

This was particularly apt in my case since I wasn’t just missing the sights snd sounds of home. Though I do – of course – miss friends and family, at this point in our lives our get-togethers and gatherings have in any case become rather few and far between. Also, although I do love my mother country fiercely the end of November does not present it at its best and such ‘delights’ as are to be found at that time are not the stuff on which I dream when I fantasise about its bosky beauties. My brief bout of homesickness clearly had other causes.

It did not take much soul-searching to identify what these causes might be. As the gentle reader is doubtless aware I am not just a recent immigrant – I am also a recently retired immigrant. To the other losses with which I have had to come to terms on moving to a new country must be added those associated with reaching the end of my working life. Such include the loss of the status that paid employ provides – the loss of a sense of structure to my life – the loss of a regular routine… in fact one might go so far as to suggest the loss of a sense of purpose.

I have spent much of the past few years telling anyone who would listen that I had no fears concerning retirement. I was eagerly anticipating being able to devote most of my time to artistic and creative endeavours once I no longer had to endure the daily trudge to and from London.

It is still very much my intention that this will be the case, but it seems that I underestimated the extent to which the opportunities that my previous working existence provided enabled me to exercise my creative muscle. Teaching drama at the School – directing plays there and at my previous school – availing myself of an outlet for my play-writing and composition… all of these will take some replacing and I duly mourn their passing.

The key element in this particular round of homesickness was thus mostly to do with the feeling of a loss of ‘significance‘. That is in itself a big topic which will require further examination – and which will in turn lead to further discourse on this forum.

That is – however – quite enough for now…

 

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Holy moley!

Having spent a laborious portion of the day yesterday clearing up the coniferous detritus left in the garden (yard) by the last high winds I was none too pleased this morning to find that it was once again blowing half a gale. I had occasion to venture into Sidney by the Sea this morning and took these snaps – from inside the Lexus – on the Galaxy S6.

The seas on this side of the peninsula are usually pretty flat calm, as you might have seen from previous photos. We are on the lee side of the island and well protected by the Gulf Islands.

Today was different. These pictures might not really capture the intensity of the winds but you should know that the logs that you can see littering the shore in a number of them were being tossed about like matchsticks. I was not for one moment impelled to leave the safety of our chunky 4×4…

…nor would I have liked to have been aboard that ferry!

When I returned home the power was out again.

Hey ho! West coast winter living!

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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Image frim PixabayIn my last post – with reference to my recent minor bout of homesickness – I mentioned that my first instinct was to fire up the InterWebNet to do some research. This turns out to have been a smart move and one that I would definitely recommend to others who find themselves in a similar state.

Here’s why:

The first thing that the sufferer will learn is that he or she is not alone. Not by a long chalk! Indeed, it is really quite startling – until one really thinks about it – quite how much web-based material there is on the subject. This boon provides assistance in a number of ways:

  • It is always comforting to discover that the unexpectedly painful emotions that you are suffering are in fact really very common. They won’t necessarily hurt less for being so but it can help considerably to feel less alone in your discomfort.
  • Where there are numbers there is social interaction. The InterWebNet abounds with fora to which you can add your voice and on which you can recount your experience. This will quite likely engender a sympathetic response from others who have ‘been there – suffered that’.
  • There is much useful information online both as to the nature of homesickness, and regarding helpful hints for mitigating the effects thereof. Not surprisingly, doing some research into the nature of homesickness does indeed itself prove to be one of the useful strategies for coping.
  • The number of blogs addressing the issue of homesickness is illustrative of yet another coping stategy – that of recording your emotional turmoil as a way of ‘taming the beast’ – as it were…

…which is – after all – exactly what I am doing here.

The InterWebNet provides further assistance. Its use as a communication tool – by means of emails, social media, Skype, messaging and so forth – as well as in providing resources such as Steetview or websites to enable one to virtually revisit the ‘motherland’, means that we now have at our fingertips unprecedented power to mitigate the agonies of much missed people and places. No – it’s not the same as actually being there, but goodness knows how previous generations managed without these amazing tools.

For me the most useful thing was discovering more about the nature of the beast itself. I am not going to give you a complete guided tour of the resources available online as you can easily make a list to your own specification using Google (or an alternative search engine of your choice). I am going to reference a couple of thoughts that I discovered that were particularly relevant in my case.

In the interests of keeping things in handily bite-sized chunks, however, I will once again flow over into yet another post…

 

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Image from Wikimedia CommonsLooking back at the postings made over the getting on for four years that I have now been scribbling on this blog it is not difficult to detect some broad trends therein. One such is that the missives penned during the run up to the Christmas season each year tend to exhibit a certain world-weariness – sometimes almost bordering on actual desperation.

The posts themselves document the reasons for this dark tone, chief amongst which being – from my time in education – the exhaustion that is so often the end result of the duration and intensity of the autumn term as practiced in the English Public School. Mention is also made of a secondary cause – the general sense of melancholy and ennui that, for me, seem always to be engendered by the ultimate months of the year.

Given that I am now retired and living in beautiful British Columbia I would have hoped that this year my experience of the period might be somewhat different. It is certainly the case that I am sleeping well again, that I have lost a little weight and that – as a now regular attendee of a twice weekly weights class at the local leisure facility (Fabulous Over-50s!) – I am probably fitter than I have been for some years. It is therefore quite sad to have to report that my mood over the past week or so has been really quite disappointing.

There is a reason for this bad humour. A reason that explains why these postings have made no reference at all over the past month to putative renovations around the house. A reason that cannot just yet be made public knowledge, but that which – sadly somewhat inevitably – involves the legal profession.

I will naturally clarify all just as soon as I am able so to do. In the meantime we find ourselves in an unexpected hiatus. This has left us ample time to brood instead of getting on with the planning of, and the preparation for, domestic renewal… and brooding is never a good thing.

In my case it led to a fortunately brief but really quite aggressive bout of homesickness. I had been expecting this at some point, but it still took me unawares. My natural response to such things is to fire up the InterWebNet and to do some research on the matter. That – of course – means that I intend writing a brief(ish) missive on the subject…

…but that must wait for a subsequent post.

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The weekend was cold but clear with the bright sun low in the sky during the day and the very recently full moon illuminating the heavens at night. A walk with our dear friends’ young sons around Swan Lake – a lovely nature reserve on the edge of town – provided a brisk but beautiful introduction to a part of Victoria that was new to me. On this occasion the Galaxy S6 had to stand in for the Fuji x10 – the presence of energetic youngsters having curtailed my pre-outing preparations.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid
A little further north – and later that same day – I was in Sidney by the Sea, which is preparing for the advent season by donning its Christmas apparel.

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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I have previously made mention in these meanderings of my antipathy toward this particular time of the year – which I have always found induces in me a degree of melancholy. Though that is still true on this side of the pond Victoria does have a massive advantage over London in that – even when the temperature in both locations hovers around the same mark – the air here seems to lack that raw damp chill that is a feature of November in the UK. On relatively windless days it feels almost balmy. Time to take a stroll down to the seashore.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid
On the way to the ocean I passed this strange but rather delightful “Pop-up Sculpture Garden”, which occupies a corner of the road pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidAnd here is Mount Baker again – looking suitably epic!

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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Image from Public Domain Images“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

Heraclitus

Long serving followers of these ramblings (and if such you be then you deserve some sort of special prize, though you may have to make do with my grateful thanks) will be aware that I have – on occasion – enthused over some artistic venture or other that has taken my fancy – be it on stage, screen or television. Close observers will also note that there have not exactly been a plethora of such instances, for I am what the Girl describes as a ‘picky customer’.

As the more astute reader will by now have gathered this is by way of a preamble for one of those infrequent occurrences.

We have this week just finished watching the sixth and final episode of the BBC drama – “River“. Should you throw up your hands in exasperation and enquire as to why I am writing about it now – when it is over and done – then you should be aware that the rights have been acquired by Netflix and you can thus catch up with this splendid production at your leisure – the which I wholeheartedly recommend.

River” was – I repeat – shown first on the BBC. Most of what the Girl and I watch here in Canada is from the BBC and if our viewing thereof be not strictly legitimate then that is simply a sad indictment of the fact that – even in this age of global communication – there isn’t a way of paying to be able to stream the service that we really want – even though we would be delighted so to do if we could.

At a first glance “River” might have given the impression that it was just another police procedural. At the start of the first episode curmudgeonly detective John River (the excellent Stellan Skarsgard) and his longtime sidekick ‘Stevie’ Stevenson (the equally excellent Nichola Walker) are in their car on night duty. She is teasing him playfully, trying to get him to engage in karaoke renditions of seventies disco hits – he pretending that he disapproves of her attentions.

River sees a car that is clearly under suspicion and they give chase. The pursuit culminates in River following the young male driver into a housing estate and thence to the second floor of a tower block from which the young man jumps to his death.

Cut to River – with Stevie in the background – being chewed out at the scene by his boss. “You can’t bring her back” – she tells him unexpectedly, and as River stalks away and Stevie turns to join him we see that there is a hole the size of a fist in the back of her head! Yes – River sees dead people – in this instance his recently murdered sidekick, whose killer he is now endeavouring to find.

The show proves to be not really a murder mystery at all but rather a deeply moving study of the effects of mental instability on a man under pressure.

The writing – by the annoyingly wonderful Abi Morgan (dammit!) – is really quite exquisite. Morgan has reached the level at which she apparently has no fear and can thus do things at which mere mortal writers will balk. The closing scenes of the finale – six episodes down the line – would certainly have appeared mawkish or clumsy in the hands of a lesser writer. Morgan’s judgement is assured – treading that fine line with élan, remembering that less is always more and leaving us all in floods of tears. As River finally dances with the manifestation of Stevie that only he can see – on the spot at which she was killed – he is interrupted by his new partner, the splendidly lugubrious Ira King (Adeel AKhtar). Ira watches River for a brief moment and then simply says: “Alright?”. Perfect!

The actors to a man (and woman) – knowing a good thing when they see it – rise to the occasion and are uniformly splendid. The entire piece is given air to breathe by director Richard Laxton and allowed to unfold at an appropriately thoughtful pace. All is good.

So – should you already have caught it – congratulations. If not – consider the series recommended.

 

As a footnote – and I don’t mean to be unduly pessimistic – it seems to me a good idea to grab as many quality offerings from the BBC as possible before politicians of all hues – believing that they know better than anyone else – finally get their long-cherished way and emasculate the corporation entirely…

…and what a piss-poor (pardon my French) ambition that is!

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