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October 2015

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Full house

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThree months and eleven days have elapsed since I landed in British Columbia clutching my Confirmation of Permanent Residency (COPR) documentation.

In this post – dating from a few days before we left the UK in July – I mused upon the unsettlingly stateless limbo in which we found ourselves at that point, having divested ourselves of all of those accoutrements by which one’s existence is normally defined.

As documented a few days subsequent to our arrival in Victoria I had rapidly commenced the task of constructing a new Canadian identity. It has taken a while but I am delighted to report that the process is now pretty much complete.

Over the past few weeks a variety of critical markers – in the form of credit card sized identity cards – have dropped into our Community Mailbox…

A digression for non-Canadians… Until recently the majority of inhabitants of this brave young country were blessed – as we yet are in the UK – with a postal service that provided door to door deliveries. Now – for all of the usual painful reasons – that service is being curtailed. Even since we took up residence in our North Saanich home the familiar sight of the year-round shorts-appareled post person has been replaced by a roadside stack of ‘Community Mailboxes’ for which we have all been issued keys. In our case this now means a quarter of a mile trek up the road – in all weathers naturally – to see if we have mail. That’s ‘progress’… and indeed ‘service’!

Enough! Back to identity cards. I have recently taken delivery of the following:

  • my Permanent Resident card. Hooray! I now officially exist.
  • a permanent Driver’s License – to replace the temporary document that I have been toting around with me.
  • my British Columbia Services Card. This precious piece of plastic signifies that I have now not only met the residency requirements for eligibility but am a fully paid up member of the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP).

I think it is now safe to say that I am no longer a non-person.

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidOne of the incidental side effects of adhering to Voltaire’s immortal dictum – as given voice by the eponymous Candide in his final utterance – is that the Kickass Canada Girl and I do indeed now have a garden to cultivate.

I make no bones about it – unlike my father and my grandmother I really am no gardener. I have in the more distant past taken a share of the responsibility for what was quite a large garden, but for much the last two decades the stately properties in parts of which the Girl and I have lived have had the advantage of splendid communal gardens – maintained by splendid communal gardeners.

We now find ourselves the fortunate owners of a very lovely and quite mature ‘yard’ – as Canadians have it (and I invite you to consider that “We must cultivate our yards!” really doesn’t quite have the same ring to it).

One good thing about taking on such a responsibility at this particular time of the year is that there is perhaps slightly less to be done than there would be in other seasons. This is handy as it gives us the opportunity to watch and see what happens rather having to pile in – all guns blazing.

Grass – on the other hand – waits for no man and thus it was that I found myself last week – having borrowed a mower from our dear friends (who, you may recall, have a landscape design business) – for the first time tending to our acres (actually just under half an acre).

Mowing a lawn is a splendidly manly occupation (man in control of powerful machine, working in harmony to bend nature to his will!) and I found myself enjoying the chore considerably. It quite took me back –  though not to my previous gardening days for it had then been quickly established that the steeply sloping lawns of that garden were beyond my meagre capabilities and a pro was engaged to carry out the task instead!

Rather I was put in mind of my cricket club days. I was for a period the honourable secretary at the sort of village club where there was no professional groundsman and everyone was invited to muck in to help out with the ground maintenance. As ever volunteers were few and far between and those of us who did throw our hats into the ring consequently spent considerable amounts of time tending to the greensward. I didn’t mind that much as I found following a mower up and down a cricket square to have quite a therapeutic value.

Some who follow this blog will – during the summer months – doubtless continue to be similarly engaged. I will now instead rather be spending my time cultivating what might one day merely make a decent enough croquet lawn.

What is it about the English and their lawns?

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image“Never ruin an apology with an excuse”

Benjamin Franklin

I have been corrected regarding a lexical matter by a much valued Canadian reader who is also a very dear friend of ours and – in particular – of the Kickass Canada Girl.

Our correspondent correctly points out my repeated – nay, habitual – misuse in these posts of the word ‘peninsular‘ for ‘peninsula‘.

She is – of course – absolutely right!

The Oxford English Dictionary gives us this:

“The spelling of the noun as peninsular instead of peninsula is a common mistake. The spelling peninsula should be used when a noun is intended ( the end of the Cape Peninsula), whereas peninsular is the spelling of the adjective ( the peninsular part of Malaysia).”

Since my usage of the term is normally as an abbreviation for the Saanich Peninsula‘ the spelling should clearly be that for a noun. The fact that the OED offers in mitigation that this be a ‘common‘ mistake is absolutely no comfort whatsoever. In a blog which prides itself on its enthusiasm for language (if not for its learning) there can be no excuse for such sloppiness.

I am only mildly surprised that my error had not already been pointed out to me by someone from my educational background, given what sticklers they are for accuracy. When I started at my penultimate school I had – as an early task – to write a five year IT plan for the governors (known there as the Fellows) in justification for the really quite considerable sums of money that we were proposing to spend on infrastructure. After a couple of weeks hard work I presented for comments to my boss – the Director of Studies – what had by then grown into quite a volume. He ignored the content entirely but corrected a couple of instances of contentious punctuation. ‘The Fellows‘ – he observed – ‘would notice such things‘.

With regard to my Canadian orthographist I did wonder whether I should argue the toss on the matter, noting such oddities as the legend that I spotted on the back of a local youth’s sports’ apparel which read “Peninsula Soccer” (is that not strictly an adjective, mayhap?) before deciding that such a course of action would simply be somewhat graceless and instead offering my humble apologies, congratulating my tutor on her perspicacity and promising not to do it again.

 

My brother – incidentally – who is currently designing us a new kitchen (a task only marginally complicated by his being resident in the UK) has replicated in his scheme a feature of the current kitchen… a peninsula!

He won’t thank me for pointing this out, but guess how he spells it…

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photo by Gary Henderson on FlickrBy 4 o’clock (UK time) in the afternoon on Sunday last three of the four quarter-finals of the 2015 Rugby World Cup were already done and dusted…

…as was northern hemisphere involvement in the tournament!

Almost!

The English were not present, having a pressing engagement elsewhere for the start of the Aviva Premiership season.

The Welsh had fought valiantly against the English, against the Australians and against the human frailties that had robbed them of an in-feasible number of their stars. In the quarters the South Africans were just too strong – too wily – and found the means to shut them out at the last.

The fancied Irish also ran out of steam and out of their characteristic good luck, but in a rather more dramatic and emphatic fashion, being well beaten by an Argentine side that suddenly looks as though it does after all belong in the top-tier.

The French came up against the All Blacks. The latter – who had throughout the pool stages looked far from being themselves – mindful maybe of their embarrassing and uncharacteristic defeats at Gallic hands in the 1999 and 2007 competitions, now suddenly switched into overdrive, burying the French in a manner (63 – 13!) from which recovery will take some considerable time.

The remaining quarter-final pitched the form team of the World Cup to date – the Australians – against the lowly Scots. For those of the Scottish diaspora the omens – let alone the odds – looked anything but propitious. Before the game the bookies were offering 9 to 1 against a Scottish win, with the Australians as favourites to score the first try – the last try – to be leading at 20 minutes – at half time – at 60 minutes and at full-time. The minimum anticipated margin of victory was 11 to 15 points, with some suggesting that the Aussies might even better the total achieved by the All Blacks the previous day.

Had one of such a mind switched to the coverage of the match with a little over five minutes remaining he or she would have been quite taken aback to observe the Scots running in an interception try – and making the subsequent conversion – to take the lead – 34 – 32! For four magical minutes it looked as though the Scots might actually maintain this slender advantage, until an outrageous refereeing decision (and we rugger fans really don’t like to complain about match officiation) by South African Craig Joubert handed the men in yellow an undeserved penalty which gifted them a one point victory with less than a minute to go. Joubert further incensed the Scottish fans and commentators alike by sprinting from the arena immediately after blowing the final whistle, eschewing the customary hand-shake with the captains. This does all rather smack of an altogether different sport and is to be firmly deprecated.

No matter. What’s done is done. The Scots actually exceeded their own expectations of the campaign, and there is no small irony to the 6 Nations’ Wooden Spoon holders being the side to get closest to a semi-final berth. It is no secret that many Scots are well and truly sick to death of having to wear the ‘plucky loser’ tag. On this occasion – however – I think that it may be borne with considerable pride.

Bravo the Scots!

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Photo by KTSquareOn Monday Canada goes to the polls for the 2015 Federal Election – the which in the UK would be a General Election.

As a newcomer to this fair country I quite rightly (in my view) have no vote, though interestingly the reverse is not the case – the Kickass Canada Girl having regularly voted in UK elections as a Permanent Resident even before she attained her citizenship.

The Girl has done her best over the past decade to give bring me up to speed regarding both federal and provincial politics in Canada, yet I still feel scarely qualified to make a properly reasoned decision. Maybe by the the time the next election trundles around I will be fully qualified – in all senses.

The one big drawback to having taken this giant step across the ocean in the summer of this particular year is that we have had to endure the nightmare of not one but two election campaigns. The May election in the UK this year was grim in many respects – for the drear campaign that was waged on all sides but especially for the outcome, in which the Tories were unexpectedly (and to many unwantedly) returned with a slender but decisive majority.

Having now been obliged to suffer a second campaign within a year that has been every bit as unedifying as the first, my plea to all good and rational folk is to think long and hard before inflicting on us another similar result here in Canada

…if for no other reason than that the Girl will be impossible to live with for a while should that turn out to be the outcome!

Pretty please…!

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imageStreaming coverage of the Rugby World Cup matches from ITV in the UK to the enormous TV that the previous owners of our new house very kindly donated to the cause has proved a big success.

Rather too much of a success, perhaps, since some of that which has been on display has not made for comfortable viewing. The less said the better concerning England’s ingnominious departure from their own tournament before the end of the pool stages – though in my humble view some frankly bizarre selectorial decisions contributed in no small measure to their untimely demise. There is no small irony in the fact that only in the last dead-rubber game against minnows Uruguay were my preferred half back combination of Ford, Joseph and Slade seen in action together.

That Canada fared no better is – of course – mitigated by the fact that they were not expected so to do. It would have been good had they managed at least one win, but sadly their best opportunity – against Romania – saw them squander a 15 – 0 lead well into the second half – eventually losing 17 – 15.

Wales and Ireland both did well to get into the quarter finals – Ireland in particular gaining a convincing victory over the French and thus avoiding an unpleasant encounter, at this early stage of the knockouts, with the All Blacks. Unfortunately both teams have suffered injuries to key personnel which may count heavily against them as the tournament proceeds.

The Scots achieved their prime objective of a quarter final berth losing only to the Boks – though they had to work pretty hard against a Samoan side with nothing to lose to come out ahead of the brightest lights of the tournament thus far – Japan. The Japanese – who host the next World Cup in four years’ time – not only beat the feared South Africans but also became the first side in the competition to win three out of four pool games and still not make the quarters.

The Scots’ reward is an outing next weekend against the form side of the tournament thus far – the Australians – who have turned around several years of lacklustre performances to peak at the right moment.

Do the Scots believe that they can overcome the rampant Aussies? Of course they do? Is that likely to happen? Er – no!

Though I would not be caught putting money on that particular outcome I might we’ll be tempted to a flutter – if I were a betting man – on the final featuring the Australians and the All Blacks.

Hmmmmm!

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As promised in my previous post – herewith some images from our weekend on Salt Spring Island:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidThis was taken at Ganges:

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid…and this at Fulford Harbour:

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid…and finally these from the top of Mount Maxwell – the highest point on the island.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidI promised a few posts back that I would write something about Saltspring (or Salt Spring as the locals apparently prefer it) Island, whence we scurried for a soothing lost weekend before our busy moving-in week.

The expanse of water that lies between Vancouver Island and the mainland – the Georgia Straight – is studded with an archipelago of islands of a diverse assortment of sizes. The more southerly group of these – the Juan de Fucas – lies across the border in the U.S. Those to the north comprise the Gulf Islands which are part of British Columbia. This range of islands is one of the big attractions of the area as far as I am concerned and I intend to spend a fair amount of my time therein upon my as yet unrealised boat – once is has been… er… realised!

The Gulf Islands have a somewhat other-worldly feel to them which is only exacerbated by their being smaller islands off the coast of a larger island – which in turn lies just off the coast of the Canadian mainland. The good inhabitants of Vancouver Island already see themselves as somehow different to British Columbians from the interior and the Gulf Islanders go a whole giant stride further. The closest parallels I can think of – for those who have absolutely no idea what I am blethering on about – are such mildly alternative settlements as St Ives or Glastonbury in the UK – or Tofino in BC. Hopefully you get the idea.

Salt Spring is the largest of the Gulf Islands and the closest to Vancouver Island. The ferry thence from Swartz Bay (but 10 minutes drive from our new abode) takes only 35 minutes and some of that is taken up by the usual jostling for position that is de rigueur in any ferry port before loading or unloading can begin.

Salt Spring has a higher than average population of creatives (including some really quite well known figures) in addition to what might best be described as a healthy cabal of new-ageists… You know – granola munchers, tofu tokers and suchlike! As a result the island positively vibrates with yoga retreaters, livers off the land and no end of artists and crafters. There is a massively popular Saturday market each week in the largest village – the delightful Ganges – at which all manner of home crafted delights may be purchased. The standard of goods on display is astonishing and it is little surprise to learn that Salt Spring has an international reputation across a fair range of fields.

Ganges – incidentally – was once called Admiralty Bay but was renamed in 1859, taking its name from HMS Ganges which was at the Pacific Station from 1857 – 1860 under the command of Captain John Fulford… after whom the small port on the south end of the island is named. Thus are the origins of many of the names of settlements and geological features on the west coast of Canada; a rich palette with surprisingly prosaic roots.

Should you feel that my tone regarding the Gulf Islands – and Salt Spring in particular – is a little too flip or cynical, I plead that I merely jest from affection. I quickly fell in love with Salt Spring but – as is also the case with St Ives and Glastonbury – I wouldn’t want to live there. (The same is not actually true of Tofino, but we all have our weaknesses!).

By way of recompense I will post some glorious images of Salt Spring in my next post.

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imageThus commence all good fairy stories.

This one is no exception…

I feel sure that the habitual reader – should such there be – will be unsurprised that there has been something of an hiatus since my last posting to this journal. Given that this week has proved to have been – as predicted afore-hand – pretty ‘full on’ (as the parlance has doubtless not had it for years!) it will probably be taken as read that there has been little time or energy left over to practice the communicative arts.

No matter! We are in!

By which I mean – of course – that as of last night we are officially in residence in our splendid new (to us!) domicile.

As for our physical and mental state you would have more sympathy – I have no doubt – were our weariness solely attributable to our endeavours on the home-making front. Alas, I cannot pretend that this is so. For the last few nights at least we have been living the high life.

Should I needs plead an excuse I find myself in possession of one such of the copper-bottomed variety. This past week has seen the occasion of the Kickass Canada Girl’s birthday.

Happy birthday to the Girl! Hooray!!

Celebrations have included participation in several events of a charitable nature, which means that not only have we indulged in revelry but that we have done so in good cause!

We commenced on Thursday night at a fundraising dinner in support of the Tour de Roc – the ‘Cops for Cancer’ charity cycle which takes two weeks to ride the length of Vancouver Island. This splendid campaign has been an annual event since 1998 and the officers who volunteer not only ride over a 1000 kilometres but also have to scrub up and put in appearances at fundraisers throughout the fortnight.

Last Thursday was the penultimate day of the ride and the dinner in the evening – at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney – not only offered quite the best mass-catered buffet I have encountered, but also a full bill of comedy headlined by our new Canadian favourite – Mike Delamont, who once again had us crying with laughter.

Friday found us back at the Mary Winspear Centre for another charity event for which the Girl’s best friend was helping to organize the silent auction. The most worthy cause on this occasion was the raising of funds to support the excellent work done by ‘THRIVE Malawi‘.

The centrepiece of the event was a concert by local ensemble – The HiFi. All you need to know about this assemblage of musos – who describe their schtick as “New Orleans, West Coast brouhaha” – is that not only are all concerned amazingly talented musicians, but one of them is actually an internationally reknowned boogie pianist appearing under a pseudonym for contractual reasons. Anyway, they all appeared to be having a lot of fun – as were we!

 

With regard to our new home… all of our goods and chattels were duly cleared through Canada Customs on Wednesday morning, and the movers spent the rest of the day unloading and unpacking everything. They were contractually obliged to unpack everything to a ‘flat surface’ and we to let them so do – for were there to be any breakages of items not so processed we would not be able to claim for them.

As a result the day was extremely long and tiring and at the end of it every available surface was covered with gewgaws. It took a couple of days subsequently to create sufficient order that we could actually take up residence. This not helped of course by the fact that once one’s possessions have been bundled up and bumped halfway around the world in a container absolutely everything needs to be washed before it can again be used.

No matter. ‘Tis done and we are in!

Guess I am now officially a resident…

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