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March 2016

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I liked this little sequence of images. The truck crane is used on the smaller islands for building projects and all concerned are so familiar with the procedure that the whole event took less than three minutes – following which tug, barge and truck disappeared in different directions.


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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Free image from PexelsThose familiar with my oeuvre may perhaps be accustomed to my occasion panegyrics in praise of one or other of the BBC’s splendid drama productions – ‘Parade’s End‘ back in 2012 for example – or the more recent ‘River‘ of last year. Should you be one such you may be wondering (if you have nothing considerably better to do with your time) why I have not likewise registered my approval of the wondrous adaptation of John Le Carré’s ‘The Night Manager‘ which approaches its culmination this Easter weekend on BBC1.

I has indeed been remiss of me not so to do.

It would be fair to say that the show is in need of no such puffery from me or – apparently – from anyone else. Viewing figures started high and went up from there. This is one of those occasions on which both the BBC and the viewing public get it splendidly right. This is one classy production – based on a typically strong Le Carré novel but given an update and polish that not only takes nothing away (something of a rarity in itself) but in fact adds quite considerably.

Money has clearly been spent on this Anglo/American co-production – and spent in a way that makes this viewer at any rate purr with pleasure. The writing is precise and spare, the direction and camerawork would not be out of place on the big screen and the acting is sublime.

There is no getting away from the fact that the English public school thespist ‘mafia’ – out here yet again in force in the shape of not one but two Old Etonians – currently appears to pretty much have the monopoly on the cream of the TV and film roles going. Many commentators see Tom Hiddleston’s expertly judged performance as the brooding hero Jonathan Pine as nothing less than a Bond audition. He is – however – given a serious run for his money by Hugh Laurie’s ‘worst man in the world’ – Richard Onslow Roper – from whom it is difficult to drag one’s gaze. Add the wonderful Tom Hollander and Olivia Coleman to the mix and one is blessed with a heady brew of a cast.

It can only be a sad indictment of the failure to invest adequately in the state secondary education sector in the UK – not to mention the ideological interference in the running thereof – that so many of the new breed of actors have as their backgrounds the rarefied atmosphere of the public (UK sense here) schools. Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Harry Lloyd, Rory Kinnear, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Benedict Cumberbatch, Damian Lewis, Dominic West, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rosamund Pike, Rebecca Hall, Emily Blunt… the list goes on. Of course these schools have wonderful facilities and can recruit teaching staff from the top drawer, but there is more to it than that. Whatever the reason, the top independent schools in the UK (as most likely in Canada and elsewhere also) ascribe an importance to the arts that is no longer the case in other parts of the ‘system’.

Flame off!

Anyway – though it may seem a little late to be recommending ‘The Night Manager‘ at this juncture do remember that it is an Anglo/American production that has to date been only seen in the UK. It will doubtless be appearing on a streaming service near you ere long.

Don’t miss it!

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The Canadian Power Squadron ‘Boating Essentials’ course that is occupying a fair percentage of my time at the moment is fast approaching its culmination. This Sunday last found those of us taking the course – along with our proctors and other members of the Brentwood Bay squadron and of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue service – participating in the student cruise… an opportunity to put into practice some of the theory that we have been studying these past several months in the classroom.

Courtesy of those generous owners/skippers upon whose vessels we were guests, we started early from Tsehum Harbour, north of Sidney.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidThe morning was spent working our way slowly north west from Sidney round the head of the peninsula and on towards Cowichan Bay. The object was to enable the students practice navigation the old-fashioned (pre-GPS) way.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidOur reward for washing up at the correct location? Hot dogs from the barbecue at Genoa Bay courtesy of the squadron, which – thanks to the excellent tuition we have received throughout – was reached in good time for lunch.

This most welcome repast was followed by an opportunity to learn how to recover an unconscious ‘man overboard’ from the icy waters of the Pacific (kudos to the brave dry-suit clad volunteer from Search and Rescue for allowing herself repeatedly to be pushed into the dock!) before heading for home.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPotential recruits – or just after a ‘dog’?

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidTools of the trade!

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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ADN-ZB Mittelstädt 19.8.82 Berlin: DDR-Doppelvierer im Training für die Weltmeisterschaft im Rudern- Als Titelverteidiger sitzen erneut im Boot Schlagmann Martin Winter (vorn), Uwe Heppner (dahinter) und Karl-Heinz Buss:Ert (hinten). Neu hinzugekommen ist Uwe Mund (3. v. vorn). Achtung! Bitte offizielle Nominierung am 20.8.82 beachten!Jolly boating weather,
And a hay harvest breeze,
Blade on the feather,
Shade off the trees,
Swing swing together,
With your bodies between your knees,
Swing swing together,
With your bodies between your knees.

The Eton Boating Song

I have of late been thinking about my mother. This is not unusual for the time of year – she died six years ago at the end of February and her birthday fell within the first couple of weeks of March – but so to do does tend to leave me a little wistful and reflective regarding life’s strange twists and turns.

The regular reader might well at this point already be scratching his (or her) pate and wondering what this could possible have to do with the Eton Boating Song. That is, indeed, a good question – the which I will endeavor straightway to answer.

Before the war my mother was in the Sea Rangers and – I am pretty certain – rather enjoyed rowing, though I don’t know to what level she practiced it. As with many things that one thinks one ‘knows’ from childhood this may turn out to be a ‘false’ memory, but of one thing I am certain – on a number of occasions she expressed regret that I had not taken up rowing whilst at school. She was clearly somewhat enamoured of the notion of having a son who ‘rowed’.

My Alma Mater was a grammar school in north Surrey which was also my father’s school. It was – and remains – a good school, though it is now co-educational which it was not in my day. Whilst certainly not one of the ‘great’ rowing schools it has always been there or thereabouts. The school has its playing fields – complete with boathouse – on the banks of the Thames and it takes the sport seriously. The alumni include at least one Olympic gold medal winner in the shape of James Cracknell, of whom the school is understandably proud.

Much to my mother’s dismay I declined to join the boat club. I was a fairly stringy kid at that age – fast enough as a sprinter but without much in the way of upper body bulk. I have always considered myself far too much of a lightweight for such a physical sport. Besides – the rowers had to turn out for training at six in the morning – in all seasons! Since I lived a good hour’s journey from the school that meant getting up at an ungodly hour regardless of the weather – or of the fact that it was still the middle of the night! The final straw was that the master in charge of rowing at the time was the sort of petty tyrant fairly prevalent in grammar schools of the era. I had already had several unpleasant run-ins with him and I didn’t fancy making myself a target in yet another area.

Previous posts on this journal do attest – however – to my enjoyment of rowing as a sport. I was fortunate enough to work at two institutions which can truly be considered ‘great’ rowing schools – one of which built its own rowing trench (later used as the venue for the London 2012 Olympics) and the other of which is the current holder of the Princess Elizabeth Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta.

In light of all of this I like to think that my mother would have been looking down from god’s elastic acre on Tuesday last with a smile on her face. Had she done so she would have observed the Kickass Canada Girl and I – in the company of a couple of elderly (but most impressive) expat Englishwomen from the Victoria City Rowing Club – taking our first outing on Elk Lake in a quad scull!

How this came about is of itself something of a saga – featuring a conversation that the Girl had about rowing at a Burn’s Supper with a gentlemen who knew one of these redoubtable octogenarian athletes and who put her in touch with them. The ladies were marvelous… unbelievably fit and most wonderfully patient with the couple of complete novices. I don’t for a moment suppose that sculling in a four looks easy and I can assure you that appearances do not deceive. Balance – co-ordination – the ability to perform a sequence of contradictory actions simultaneously but independently… I was expecting muscular pain and shortage of breath. What I got was mental agony – from trying to stop my conscious brain from impeding the required subconscious rhythm.

Will we try it again? We may well do. For those brief moments when the four of us magically became as one and the boat flew across the water the sensation was magical – so who knows!

I think mother would be pleased!

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Image from PixabayAt the risk of giving the impression that this journal has drifted off into that territory more commonly inhabited by rugby blogs I do just have to post something regarding the penultimate round of the 2016 Six Nations’ Championship.

Since I wrote somewhat despairingly a few weeks back concerning Scotland’s crablike progress since last year’s World Cup – with particular reference to the manner in which they surrendered the Calcutta Cup to the English – I have maintained a (reasonably) dignified silence. I have thought not to trouble the gentle reader either with the Scots’ further missed opportunity against the Welsh or indeed the occasion on which they eventually broke their recent Six Nations’ duck with an appropriately convincing win against Italy in Rome.

I cannot – however – let pass without comment today’s epic demolition of the French at Murrayfield, the first such victory for a decade. Brilliant! Quite apart from the historic nature of the victory – and the most satisfying manner in which it was achieved – it has been a considerable while since the Scots enjoyed back to back wins in the championship. This will do their confidence no end of good.

The result has had the slightly unexpected side effect of handing the championship to the English (who had an equally gratifying if much more tense win against Wales at the Cabbage Patch) with a fixture yet in hand. This has apparently not happened since the five became six back at the turn of the century.

The final round of matches next Saturday might thus at first glance appear to have little import, given that the tournament winners have already been decided. I do not, however, believe this to be the case.

Wales – up first – will doubtless want to put yesterday’s lacklustre performance behind them by savaging the hapless Italians, past whom the Irish put nine tries yesterday (some of them gift-wrapped and delivered by express courier).

The Scots would love to cap their recent renaissance with a win in Dublin which would give them their best finish in years, but the Irish – who have themselves suffered a dismal campaign – will doubtless be inspired by their antics against the Azzuri.

The English – having won the championship without actually being there to celebrate – will doubtless want to rout the French in Paris to win a Grand Slam – which would be the first such since their world cup winning year of 2003. Were they so to do a great deal of the hurt and misery subsequent to their dismal exit from the last world cup might be somewhat assuaged.

For now, though, congratulations to the English on the championship – and even bigger congratulations to the Scots for their magnificent win against the French.

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deer-307438_1280One would think – given the degree of commonality in the respective backgrounds of our two cultures (by which I am am referring of course to those of Canada and of the UK) – that there would be relatively few instances of incomprehensible difference. There are, however, perhaps more than one might expect.

I have mentioned before, I know, my astonishment regarding the bathing habits prevalent this side of the pond. For a nation that virtually fetishises the outdoor life – regardless of the best attempts of weather to curtail it – I simply cannot understand the lack of proper bathing facilities. The ‘foot baths’ with which most Canadian bathrooms seem to be equipped scarcely allow one to wet one’s backside and a good long wallow is out of the question. A side effect of this sorry situation is that it is also nearly impossible to find in the stores the sort of unctuous bathing lotions without which any self-respecting British bathroom would be considered ill-equipped. Little chance of a good long muscle-relaxing soak in some suitably aromatic bath foam here.

I have also previously referred in these postings the strange habit of the owners of what Canadians call ‘stick shift’ automobiles (‘manual’ to the rest of us) of leaving the vehicles in gear when parked, in preference to using the handbrake. Canadians themselves might be less aware of this quirk since the great majority seem to drive automatics anyway.

These random examples were brought to mind by the latest incomprehensibility to which I have been exposed. Now, this has been on my mind for a while but was brought into sharp focus last weekend by a visit to the splendid ‘Beagle‘ public house in Cook Street Village, to which we repaired on Saturday for a spot of lunch. The excellent menu included – and of which the Kickass Canada Girl availed herself – a venison burger! Not just any venison burger, but quite the best that we have encountered.

This splendid treat, however, starkly highlighted the strange fact that – in a land where the animals abound and in a city parts of which suffer a wild deer ‘problem’ – it is simply not possible to purchase venison in any form from any of the puveyors of comestibles. Even the specialist butchers refuse to stock it – though they do carry the somewhat inferior bison. The Girl and I have taken to eating a great deal of venison over the past couple of years. It is a splendid, low-fat and extremely healthy meat, to say nothing of being easy to cook and jolly tasty.

When taxed as to why a country scratching its head as to how to deal with the plethora of unwanted deer doesn’t bow to the obvious and eat the damned things, a bizarre range of explanations are offered – from suggesting that any self respecting Canadian who fancies a haunch simply goes out with his (or her) rifle and blows one away, all the way to a trembly-lipped evocation of Bambi. Get a grip, guys!

We did ask our most helpful server at ‘The Beagle’ as to where they sourced theirs but apparently they buy in bulk from a wholesaler, possibly from outside the country.

Had we a freezer big enough it might just be worth purchasing a truck-load!

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As promised in my last post – herewith some images of how my studio/study has turned out. Needless to say – I am pretty dashed pleased with it.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThe black things in the corners and on the side walls are bass traps, which I made from six inches of acoustic insulation covered with felt following one of many guides available on the InterWebNet. For those unfamiliar with such matters the idea is to try to produce a room that is as acoustically neutral as possible. No parts of the frequency spectrum should be exaggerated or diminished, reflections should be kept to a minimum and the layout of loudspeakers and listening position should be carefully calculated to avoid standing waves.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThe little desk was already built in. I added the shelves.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidHaving lived for nearly two decades in apartments – however splendid they may have been – and thus having been restricted both in the amount of space available and the level of sound that could be produced without complaint, this is pretty much heaven! I have never before been in possession of a space large enough that I could dedicate it specifically to this end, and my gratitude that I finally am so knows no bounds.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThe icing on the cake? This is what I see through the window from my desk!

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidIt was, you may recall, my intention that I would convert the capacious outbuilding behind the house (used most recently by my predecessor here as a woodworking/carving shop) into what the Girl delights in describing as a ‘Man Cave’.

Should you happen to be unfamiliar with this particular sobriquet the InterWebNet is – as ever – most helpful. The Urban Dictionary defines the ‘Man Cave’ thus:

A room, space, corner or area of a dwelling that is specifically reserved for a male person to be in a solitary condition, away from the rest of the household in order to work, play, involve himself in certain hobbies, activities without interruption. This area is usually decorated by the male that uses it without interference from any female influence.

Well – that sounds good – though I’m not too sure about the ‘female influence’ part!

Should one care to investigate further one can find on the InterWebNet what is described as ‘The Official Man Cave Site‘ – under the tagline “Taking back the world one Man Cave at a time” – whatever that might mean! Yes – well… that’s quite enough of that!

Now – I have always prided myself on being something of a ‘reconstructed man’. I certainly fervently believe that the sexes are equal (and should be treated as such in every respect) – except when the (not so) occasional bonehead behaviours of some of my gender cause me to sigh deeply and to wonder if the female of the species is not – after all – perhaps more equal than the male. I therefore have to distance myself somewhat from all of this testosterone and to declare fervently that both sexes have equal need of spaces in which to practice their own essential rituals and creative acts.

Mine – as it turns out – will not after all be in that rather delicious looking outbuilding.

Once winter set in it became all too apparent that a space that large and disconnected from the house would rapidly run up a fairly hefty heating bill were it to be kept warm throughout the season. Further, the building’s origins as a glorified shed were betrayed by its not being as free from damp as both I and my musical instruments were prepared to tolerate. Reluctantly I decided I had to look elsewhere.

This downstairs room image(of which this picture came from the Realtor’s details) was listed as a bedroom. The Girl called it ‘the Sauna’ for obvious reasons. With a tiled floor, pine clad walls and a rather odd layout which included an exterior door, it was difficult to know quite what use might be made of it. A little head-scratching and contemplative stroking of the jaw – all the while gazing at the space through half-closed eyes – lead to a ‘light-bulb’ moment.

This might after all make the perfect studio/writing room…

In my next post I will show you how that turned out.




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