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June 2015

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Troop_ship_farewell_(000304-01)Towards the end of the morning on Friday last the academic year finally futtered to a close, the boys executed an Alice Cooper-esque exit from the premises and the teaching staff – dazzled by the prospect of several months of much needed downtime and recuperation – wasted no time in scurrying en-masse out of the School gates and – in some cases – directly to the airport.

I have known – by acquaintance at least – some of these individuals for getting on for a decade and I doubt if I will see many of them again. With a very small number of exceptions no goodbyes were exchanged. They were in a hurry to get away – I was busy trying to sort out an unexpected and unwanted communications problem.

I have no complaints…

A little more than a month ago – in conversation with my line manager (the Chief Operations Officer) – I expressed a fervent wish that I be able to avoid as much as possible of the usual round of farewells – dinners, speeches in the Common Room, mentions in despatches – and all other such discomforts.

Good luck with that!“, was his assessment of my chances.

By my own criteria I have been remarkably successful at avoiding the worst of it, though a fair amount of ducking and diving has been required so to effect.

I can sense that some might be horrified by my attitude in this regard – indeed, a few have expressed such to me directly. I entirely understand that denying others an opportunity to express appreciation can actually be quite selfish, and it is not something of which I am particularly proud. Perhaps I should have ‘cowboy-ed up’ (as the Girl is wont so say) and got on with it.

I have no doubt that my experience as a child of any appreciation of achievement being expressed in only the most restrained of fashions was a generational one and I certainly hold nothing against my parents in this regard – but I can’t help thinking that this has probably played its part in my subsequent discomfort on finding myself the object of approbation. I know that Mother and Father were proud of some of the things that I did, because I have since heard through third parties that this was so.

I believe that my judgement is reasonably sound when it comes to determining which of the things that I have done have been of value, whether that be in my chosen profession or in my artistic endeavors. I find it very difficult to accept praise for things that I do not think have been done well.

In one extreme but illustrative example of the sort of difficulties I encounter I was once a small part of a production which received for its final performance an extended and – in my view – well deserved standing ovation – for completely the wrong reasons. The audience applauded the manner in which we dealt with an incident on stage rather than the quality of the performance. This upset me to a disproportionate degree.

The intensity of my feelings of embarrassment upon being the object of eulogy is apparently not confined to that which is said – but also can arise from that which is not… whether that be by the omission of reference to achievements of which I am quite proud, or through knowledge that some present do not actually agree with the sentiments that are being expressed… in which situation I have found myself in the past.

As will be clear from this diatribe I really am quite conflicted over this business, which should go some little way to explaining my preference for shying away from the whole kit and caboodle.

But then – maybe I am just over-thinking things…

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skull-308551_640I’ve been in this town so long
So long to the city
I’m fit with the stuff
To ride in the rough
And sunny down snuff I’m alright
By the heroes and…

Van Dyke Parks, Brian Wilson

They say that you shouldn’t meet your heroes. Now – as it happens I have some small experience in this regard, having several decades ago been introduced to one of mine…

…and it turns out that ‘they’ are right.

Finding myself face to face with one of the most brilliant, erudite and talented playwrights working today (subsequently to be knighted for his services to the Theatre) I could think of nothing of any intelligence with which to engage him concerning the play that I had just experienced, instead merely burbling inanely some incoherence about his genius which probably embarrassed him as much as it did me.


Well – as part of what is quite clearly an ongoing education I now discover that one should not ‘meet‘ one’s villains either!

My antipathy towards the current Chancellor of the Exchequer will not come as news to those who have been subjected to the occasional political rants within these postings (examples – should you need them – here and here). Perhaps the most galling aspect – to my mind anyway – is that he is a Old Boy of the School. Given that he has, I am reliably informed, spoken in less than complimentary terms concerning his own schooldays it is perhaps mildly surprising that he has placed his son at the School.

Last week saw the final drama production of the school year. Long standing readers may recall that, two years ago, my own production of Parzifal featured in this slot. This year it was the turn of an excellently realised production of Beowulf featuring a cast of more than thirty – amongst which number was the aforementioned progeny.

Having volunteered my services Front of House on the Friday I almost inevitably found myself checking the ticket of the man himself. He had clearly brought his entire clan along to witness the adolescent’s senior school drama debut. To make matters worse he did not rush off afterwards, but joined the throng outside the Drama Centre in partaking of some liquid refreshment.

It is profoundly uncomfortable to find oneself sequestered for any period within a few yards of someone whose every public pronouncement incites one to near incandescent rage only to observe that, in close proximity, he is after all but a man – and one who is clearly extremely proud of his son. Yes – if one looked there were flashes of the arrogance, of the sense of entitlement, that have been so widely publicised (and criticised – not only by me!), but on another level this was simply a parent in an off-duty moment supporting his child…

…which is not at all how I want to think of him!


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Image from Pixabay


…day more this week…


…week more this academic year…


…fortnight more until retirement…



Come on! You can do this…

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Image from PixabayThe antithesis of my love of language is a complete loathing for jargon in all its forms. This antipathy can manifest in different ways, from sitting in the back row at a product launch playing ‘Jargon Bingo‘* with colleagues, to getting into trouble at a high level meeting for snorting derisively and rather too publicly when one of the great and the good insisted that we must ‘get all of our ducks in a row‘. I won’t go so far as to claim that that faux pas cost me the job but I was gone from that worthy establishment within the year.

As you might imagine, ‘box ticking‘ registers fairly highly on the list of management-speak activities that sets my teeth on edge. Box ticking – however – is what the Kickass Canada Girl and I have been engaged in as we attempt to effect our egress from the country without forgetting anything important.

These things have we done in the past few days – in no particular order:

  • Cancelled the landline at our Berkshire apartment for our day of departure
  • Cancelled the broadband circuit at our Berkshire apartment for our day of departure
  • Ensured that we would not be liable to pay Council Tax on our Buckinghamshire apartment
  • Ensured that we would not be charged over the odds for gas and electricity at our Buckinghamshire apartment
  • Booked hotels for the nights between moving out of the Berkshire apartment and leaving for Victoria
  • Arranged an appointment with the bank to discuss our legacy financial arrangements in the UK
  • Spoken with Her Majesties Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to clarify how to get my tax coding changed after retirement
  • Responded to further queries from our purchasers solicitors regarding the sale of our Buckinghamshire apartment
  • Booked carpet cleaners for the Berkshire apartment subsequent to our moving out

This I have not done – though not for want of trying:

  • Cancelled my mobile (cell) phone contract. The contract actually runs until November 17th and would cost more to bail out of than to continue paying until then. However – it can only be cancelled by giving 30 days’ notice by phone, which means remembering to call Vodafone on or around 17th October – by which time we will of course be in Canada. Bah!

Still much to do!


* ‘Jargon Bingo’ appears usually to be called ‘Buzzword Bingo’ on the American continent. Same game!


Oh – I forgot ‘Brand Essence’…



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Image from PixabayBy the time we leave our Berkshire residence – in a little more than a month’s time – we will have been in occupation for just under four years.

We have greatly enjoyed living in such a lovely, quiet, rural location, but we are very much looking forward not only to actually owning the house in which we live in but also to having a whole property to ourselves. Renting an apartment is all very well but it ain’t the same, and it has been more than a decade and a half now since I lived in an actual house.

One thing which I have absolutely no recollection at all of noticing when we first explored the grounds that surround the elegant property of which our apartment is but a portion… is the rabbits!

Which is odd…

Because there are now hundreds of them!

OK – yes – I do know that that is what rabbits do… but from there being no population at all to the current multitude would seem to me to be pretty good going even so.

I throw back the curtains of a morning to greet the day and there – sitting on the lawn in the hazy sunlight – is an arc of rabbits, all sitting perfectly motionless looking up at the house. They are frozen into postures as though having been caught in the act – but of doing what?

“Blimey!” – I exclaim to the Kickass Canada Girl, who is still in bed – “It’s like Watership Down out there”. She scathes me with a bleary look and grunts (delicately!)…

It does make one wonder, though. What do all those rabbits do out there (apart from the obvious)? What can they be thinking? Are they just waiting for us to move out – so that they can move in? Will the next occupants trip lightly across the threshold and throw the light switch to be greeted by a veritable sea of bunny eyes all looking up at them – in a guiltily petrified tableau – from the drawing room carpet?

Who knows?



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vennOn Saturday last the Kickass Canada Girl and I enjoyed a really rather splendid day in town. ‘In town‘ refers – of course –  to ‘The Smoke‘… to London! I don’t normally feel much inclined to drive all the way in to town again at the weekend – having done most of the journey each and every day during the working week – but on occasion exception must be made – and made it was on Saturday.

We lunched with good friends in what was probably the first of a number of such ‘farewell’ events at one of our favourite eateries in St James – The Wolseley. We then indulged in a little retail therapy in one of London’s iconic department stores – Selfridges – before heading for the West End to see a show. This latter – David Mamet’s ‘American Buffalo‘ starring John Goodman and Damian Lewis and currently playing at Wyndham’s – was a late addition to the day’s festivities in that we only decided to try for seats on the morning itself.

Why – you might wonder – am I regaling you with this directory of Dionysian delights?

The answer is that it occurs to us – as it must do to others in a similar position – that we might, subsequent to our departure from these shores, rapidly come to realise that we miss terribly all the cultural and epicurean delights of the big city. We might even compare – unfavourably – our new home with that which we have left behind and become – as a consequence – ‘homesick’.

I decided to get my comparison in first!

The Wolseley is indeed lovely and serves one of the three best ‘Eggs Benedicts‘ in the world (from my admittedly somewhat limited experience). The second such of these may be obtained just a few hundred yards further along Piccadilly at The Fountain restaurant at Fortnum and Mason. The third – at John’s Place in Victoria!

You might cavil that this latter is clearly an entirely different proposition when compared with the pomp of London’s finest, and you would be right… the ambiance is very different. One need only – however – look at the testimonials on their website to realise that John’s is a very special Place, and that their food really is of the highest order. That one has to fight to get a table for Sunday brunch tells you all you need to know.

Victoria can also offer plenty of other good dining experiences and you will doubtless find me waxing lyrical as to their qualities in future posts.

Could The Bay in Victoria really be compared to Selfridges? There is no denying that the London store is really rather flash and that if one is searching for what the younger folk might at some juncture have referred as ‘bling‘ – then it is probably the place to be. Of a weekend – however – it is also jam packed, overheated and extremely noisy. Frankly I prefer my retail experiences to be a little more civilised.

It will come as no surprise that Victoria cannot hope to compete with London when it comes to the theatre… but then – nowhere else in the world can either (not even the Big Apple!). We did see – however – only a few years ago Eric McCormack in Mamet’s ‘GlenGarry, Glen Ross‘ at the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver. Certainly we could not reasonably wake up of a morning and expect to be able to book tickets for a hot show starring internationally respected talent that same evening! Both Vancouver and Seattle are within range, but serious planning would be required to mount an expedition to either. We will just have to spend more time on preparation. Fortunately, time will not be in short supply…

On the other side of the equation – driving into London from Berkshire can take up to two hours of traffic-crammed grind – and one must then repeat the odyssey on the way home later. The public transport alternative is no better – hot, exhausting and very, very long. From Saanichton into central Victoria takes around 20 minutes by car, and one gets to look across the Strait of Juan de Fuca at the Olympic mountains for much of the way.

Hmm! Not much in it by my reckoning…


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Photo by Andy Dawson Reid…until I retire!

Actually it is a little less than a month, being a mere four weeks… or twenty working days…

A rapid (and doubtless wildly inaccurate) calculation suggests that over the last forty years I have worked somewhere around nine thousand and two hundred days. And now I have only twenty to go!

Further – there are only six weeks left until we leave these shores and head west.

So – how is it all going?

In many ways things are going well, though there is no point in pretending that for either the Kickass Canada Girl or for I will the run in to our final days at work involve anything much beyond hard work and barely suppressed panic. Any notion of a gentle wind-down complete with much appreciative backslapping and ‘take it easy old chap – no point in busting a gut now‘ bonhomie was swiftly disabused by our respective managements on realising that some three quarters of a century of accumulated knowledge and wisdom was about to walk out of the door and that – for a variety of reasons – the ensuing skills-transfer and handover was probably not going to provide the well-oiled succession that might have been hoped for.

No matter. This too shall pass!

Other issues at the UK end are more promising. As previously reported my Canadian PR has been confirmed – our movers have been booked – our finances are as organised as it is possible for them to be.

You may have observed that I have – quite intentionally – remained remarkably reticent regarding the sale of our Buckinghamshire apartment, for fear of hexing the enterprise. I am not about to uncross my fingers – or indeed anything else – at this stage, but we do continue to be cautiously optimistic that all will be well in this regard.

At the Canadian end promising progress is being made. Our dear friends in Saanichton have already booked season tickets for us at The Belfry Theatre in Victoria and – on a completely different note – have also passed on to us details of a couple of possible contacts with as yet unlisted houses for sale. I for one continue to believe that all of this stuff will shake out just right at just the right time.

It is now up to the universe – in the words of Captain Jean Luc Picard – to “make it so!”.*


* Incidentally – I found on the InterWebNet a discussion on the origin of this distinctive phrase. It turns out to be considerably older than one might expect and is most likely naval in origin. Here it is in Herman Melville’s ‘White Jacket’ of 1850:

“The captain’s word is law; he never speaks but in the imperative mood. When he stands on his Quarter-deck at sea, he absolutely commands as far as eye can reach. Only the moon and stars are beyond his jurisdiction. He is lord and master of the sun.

It is not twelve o’clock till he says so. For when the sailing-master, whose duty it is to take the regular observation at noon, touches his hat, and reports twelve o’clock to the officer of the deck; that functionary orders a midshipman to repair to the captain’s cabin, and humbly inform him of the respectful suggestion of the sailing-master.

“Twelve o’clock reported, sir,” says the middy.

“Make it so,” replies the captain.

And the bell is struck eight by the messenger-boy, and twelve o’clock it is.”

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"The Saracen Army outside Paris, 730-32 AD" by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld…though that should in this case more properly be ‘Crusaders and Saracens’!

Those old enough to have been – in their youths – enchanted by W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman’s wonderful parody history – ‘1066 and All That‘ (does this joyous tome register at all with anyone under the age of fifty?) – will recall that one of the memorable events of English history was the struggle between the Cavaliers and the Roundheads during the English Civil War. The Cavaliers were characterised as “Wrong but Wromantic” – the Roundheads as “Right but Repulsive“.

As reported in this recent post the latest skirmish in this particular conflict was enacted last Saturday in south west London. Sadly – for all of us ‘wromantics’ – the wrong side won, though the outcome might have been somewhat different had the Roundheads been just a little less… er – ‘repulsive’!

No sour grapes however! Well done the Saracens.

Until next year…

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