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June 2016

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There are so many parks, trails and other good places to walk scarcely a stone-throw from our neighbourhood that it will be a considerable  time before we have visited them all even once. Bear Hill is pretty close to the centre of the peninsula – about half way between Sidney and central Victoria. The Girl and I ‘yomped’ up it last weekend – Fuji x10 in hand. Here be snaps!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidIf you expand the panorama by clicking on it you will get a good idea of the vista from the top of the hill.

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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Image from Pixabay“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

Bob Dylan

The British people have spoken…

…well – just over half of them have and it was more of an incoherent cry of rage than anything cogent – but democracy demands…

I have pontificated a number of times in these pages concerning the increasing inequality between those in the ‘one percent’ and the rest of the world’s population. In this post from February 2013 – entitled ‘The disenfranchised‘ – I wrote:

History would suggest that were this trend to continue unchecked, at a certain point a revolutionary ire would finally be aroused, the formerly silent majority would declare that enough was enough and an insurrection – in some form or other – would almost inevitably follow. The difference this time is that the 1% – by becoming a global phenomenon and by disassociating themselves from any particular nation state – have thus essentially rendered themselves untouchable.

And if not the state then against whom should we rebel – and how?

I believe that we may just have had the answer.

Consider these details from the polling:

  • London, the major cities, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted by decent margins to remain in the EU.
  • Younger voters in the main wanted to stay in.
  • Those who benefited from higher education tended to vote in favour of remaining.
  • Bankers, economists, scientists, academics and other ‘experts’ mostly supported the status quo.

It seems clear that the UK has divided along a fault line that separates those who have done reasonably well over the past four decades and those for whom what can now clearly be seen as the end-game of the Thatcher experiment has seen year upon year of slow decline and ever decreasing influence on the direction that the union has been taking.

There are those – of course – from middle and higher class backgrounds who did campaign for Brexit – both politicians and entrepreneurs. It is quite likely that one of these will shortly hold the reigns of power now that Cameron has done that which he declared Britons would not do – and quit. That his successor will have been elected by the mere 150,000 members of the tory party and foisted upon the rest of the electorate is one of the ‘delightful’ ironies of the situation. Dare we hope for an early election – or is that just too grim a prospect? Actually, now that the Labour party seems hell bent on self-destruction that seems increasingly to be the most likely outcome.

In any event, the motivation of such people should – as suggested in my last post – be carefully scrutinised. We have already been subjected to the most unedifying spectacle of a number of the leave campaigners furiously backtracking on what many voters consider to have been firm campaign pledges – particularly with regard to funding and immigration. Hardly has the dust settled on this grim chapter than those who cynically rode a wave of disaffection to bring about their desired outcome have set about demonstrating just why those on the receiving end were right to be disaffected.

Clearly, if these political (and commercial) chancers have any belief at all it is in taking any possible opportunity for their own advancement, promotion and enrichment. By the time the ‘disenfranchised’ realise that when it comes to ‘taking back control’ they have been sold down the river – simply swapping one unaccountable elite for another – it will be far too late. The victims may at that point attempt a more forceful rebellion against the state, but the culprits will simply take the money and run, merging imperceptibly into the untouchable global elite that sees every world event – however cataclysmic – as an opportunity for personal enrichment.

It is most telling that amongst the leaders (or would-be leaders) of the rest of the world’s nations – who are even now contemplating with disquiet the happenings in the UK – there are only two who – for their own reasons – express unalloyed delight at the decision that the British electorate has taken… Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump!

I trust that no further comment is needed…

One final thought. Some on the far right have been voicing hopes that – following the UK result – other European peoples will demand similar referenda with a view to leaving the Union. The ultimate desire of these right-wingers would seem to be to see the whole European project collapse. Quite apart from the dazzling hypocrisy of those who complained bitterly about the UK having rules and regulations foisted upon it from without now wanting to dictate to other nations what they should or should not do – this hankering in some quarters for a return to a Europe of independent nation states all jockeying for position would seem to betray a longing for the continent to return to its conformation of the years before the Great War.

Perhaps some of those of the far right are hoping for a re-match!

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image from Wikimedia“Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”

H.G. Wells

I have done my utmost thus far to avoid adding to the hideous cacophony that surrounds this coming week’s grisly event in the UK – the referendum that is in danger of permanently tearing apart a nation that I love. After the appalling happenings of the last few days, however, I find myself compelled to say something – anything – regardless of the utter pointlessness of so doing.

Politicians on all sides are currently performing an intricate dance to avoid drawing any connections between the wicked slaying of MP Jo Cox and the rebarbative and vicious campaigns that have been waged on either side of the ‘debate’. Good form suggests that this is out of respect for the life – and tragic death – of a politician whose example clearly puts to shame the venal efforts of certain others. It would not be entirely cynical – however – to surmise that some of the shameless hucksters concerned are also desperate to avoid their own words and actions becoming associated with – or even blamed for – these awful events. When the full truth finally emerges they may find themselves considerably less lucky than they are hoping for.

Those leading and supporting the campaign to remain in Europe have much to be ashamed of. The manner in which they have tried to frighten voters into backing their position – rather than having faith that a reasoned and full debate would carry the day – betrays the lack of trust that both they and the electorate have in each other.

Those campaigning for the UK to leave are – however – far, far worse – for they are perpetrating a great deception on the British people. That they will eventually be found out and punished for it is of little comfort. By then it will be too late.

These devious villains – whilst peddling a romanticised notion of a ‘golden age’ that never existed but to which an exit from Europe might somehow return us – are banking on the great mass of their acolytes having no grasp of history at all. They are relying on the population not knowing or caring just how and why this great European project came about. They want us to believe that this has all been a plot by those devious foreigners rather than grand scheme for the protection of the entire continent, of which we in the UK were the joint architects.

The Brexiteers dismiss any notion of a united Europe being essential as a means of avoiding a repeat of the calamitous wars of the last century. They posit that times have changed – that there are no more fascist dictators and that with the end of the cold war Russia is no longer a threat(!). They do so – mind – whilst at the same time invoking the spectre of Hitler and Napoleon in reference to our European partners. In any case – they demur – our defence now lies in the hands of the Americans.

What these ‘educated’ men (public school and Oxbridge all) wish their followers to forget is that the causes of the second war are to be found with few exceptions in the outcome of the first. The Great War itself became tragically inevitable as the individual nation states of Europe – competing against each other for power, influence and wealth – bound themselves into a Gordian knot of treaties, arrangements and deals that ultimately tipped the continent into a cataclysmic and unlooked-for war over a relatively trivial issue – because by then none of the ‘educated’ elite could find a way to extricate us from it. It was these events that led directly to the European project – that which some are now determined to dismantle in an effort to return us to a situation not dissimilar to that which led to the conflict in the first place.

The other great lie that these shysters will sell to anyone who can be persuaded to fall for it is the notion that – once we can govern ‘ourselves’ again – all the ills that bedevil the modern UK will be resolved. Let us be clear. These unscrupulous millionaires do indeed want ‘control’ returned to the UK, but they have no intention of sharing it – or any of the corresponding wealth – with any of the ‘great unwashed’ who might be persuaded to follow their cause.

These men (and they are in the main men) would love to see a return to nineteenth century employment practices – to see swept away all of those inconvenient protections that were hard-won throughout a century of endeavour – both in the UK and across the continent. They would also like to see the UK withdraw from that beacon of post-war achievement – the European Convention on Human Rights. Should you believe that those who peddle this line have at heart the interests of the whole of the British people then I fear that you are in for a rude awakening.

Nothing is quite so sickening as observing the carrot of higher NHS spending – posited as a potential outcome of leaving the EU – being dangled by those who do not actually believe in a state-funded health service at all. They would much rather see it privatised and added to the pool of money-making opportunities for them and their egregious buddies to paddle in.

Nothing is quite so sickening as watching those who would happily exploit any source of cheap labour playing the race card to pander to the oldest fear of all – that of immigration swamping all that we hold dear. When those responsible for these falsehoods betray those who have placed their trust in them – as they inevitably will – the guilty men will aim to have made their millions and to be long gone.

Surely in such desperate and dangerous times we should be doing all in our power to find ways to work together across continents – to co-operate with each other? Is that not the true lesson of the twentieth century? The belief that we can isolate ourselves and set ourselves apart from our neighbours sets us on a precarious path that I for one would fear to tread.

It scares me to hear Brexiteers argue that we should stop listening to the advice of ‘experts’. In Wells’s ‘race between education and catastrophe‘ there can be only one acceptable winner.

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidWomen and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.

Robert A. Heinlein

Day two of our sojourn in Vancouver found us proceeding hot foot to the Arts Club Theatre for a matinee performance of the musical, ‘Billy Elliot‘.

The Girl had wanted to see the show before we left London but – what with one thing and another – the chance so to do had passed us by. Discovering that it was on in Vancouver at a time that coincided with the Canada/Japan rugby international seemed an opportunity too good to miss and we duly turned the occasion into a spiffing long weekend.

We enjoyed the show greatly… in my case considerably more than I expected to. The acting, singing and dancing were to a high standard and if some of the cast struggled a little with the County Durham accents then we were mindful of the fact that many Brits also find it a tough one to crack.

After the show there was just time to scamper back to the hotel to change for dinner. We had made reservations at one of Vancouver’s premier seafood restaurants – the Blue Water Cafe. A quick search on the InterWebNet will reveal just how highly thought of is this Yaletown eatery and it will be of little surprise that the Girl and I now think of it equally highly. The food is utterly splendid and the service exemplary – carried out by a team that clearly loves its work. Should you find your good-selves in Vancouver you really should not hesitate to make a reservation.

The wine cellar alone – curated by young Texan, William Mulholland – has won a basket of awards and features quite the best selection of fine French wines that I have encountered in Canada. We reluctantly eschewed the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Richebourg Grand Cru for somewhere north of $4,000 and settled for Mr Mulholland’s recommended Pouilly-Fumé instead. At a fraction of the price this splendid Loire white – not that easy to come across in Canada – suited the scallops and halibut well, and a postprandial malt from the equally impressive range on offer left us feeling dangerously mellow.

Not so mellow, however, that we were unable to effect a visit to IKEA on the way back to the ferry the following morning! IKEA has much in common with the modern airport terminal in that it matters not where you are in the world – if you are in IKEA you could be anywhere! I am almost minded to suggest that a visit might be in order for the ex-pat suffering a mild case of homesickness… The Richmond branch is, for example, totally interchangeable with that at Brent Cross in North London!

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidYour hair may be brushed, but your mind’s untidy.
You’ve had about seven hours of sleep since Friday.
No wonder you feel that lost sensation.
You’re sunk from a riot of relaxation.

Ogden Nash

To Vancouver for a weekend’s worth of hedonism!

The primary reason for the trip was the first of this year’s summer rugby internationals – between Canada and Japan. This match had the added interest of being the first ever game of XVs rugby at BC Place – a stadium more familiar with Canadian football and soccer.

We stayed in an old haunt – the YWCA Hotel – which is within a stone’s throw of the arena. As you can see from the accompanying photos (which were taken from our room on the ninth floor) it seemed almost possible to lean out and touch the ‘place’.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThere is nothing fancy about the ‘Y’ but it is a most effective place to rest one’s head at a very reasonable rate if the object of the exercise is to live lavishly out and about in Vancouver rather than to treat the accommodation itself as the destination.

As for the rugby, the game was most enjoyable – for the Kickass Canada Girl and I as well as for the other 10,250 odd who turned out to see the spectacle. Rugby is still only just starting to grow as a sport in Canada and as much of the attention is focused on the VIIs game – particularly with the Rio Olympics (now featuring, as it does, 7-a-side rugby) on the near horizon – this was a pretty good crowd.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidHere are Canada warming up before the masses arrive for the match.

Japan are considerably higher than Canada in the world rankings and – having registered a famous victory over South Africa in last year’s World Cup – they might have been expected to record a straightforward win. As things turned out Canada would have had them beaten had they within their ranks possessed a decent kicker. They succeeded, however, in only one out of six attempts at the posts and that is no-where near good enough at this level.

The final five minutes of the match provided a fitting climax and – regardless of what had gone before – almost led to a Canadian victory. Needing two scores to win they camped out on the Japanese line and finally drove over with about a minute left on the clock. They wasted no time with the attempted conversion but set about winning the ball from the restart. They then kept the final move alive deep into injury time, driving further and further into Japanese territory until the whitewash was within reach.

The crowd – cheering itself hoarse by this point – believed for a moment that a famous comeback had been effected and the match taken, but the referee judged that the ball had been held up over the line and Japan won by two points.Photo by Andy Dawson Reid


After the efforts of our vigorous supporting – and having had a post-match drink with a Kiwi rugby friend in an extremely noisy hostelry thereafter – our tender vocal chords needed soothing treatment from a nearby ‘nitro’ ice cream bar after the game.

At this fascinating establishment ice creams are made on demand on the spot, using copious quantities of liquid nitrogen. Sauces to top the resultant concoctions are presented in plastic syringes embedded into the ice cream.


Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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Image by Nheise at en.wikibooksI found myself the other day musing on the subject of false memory. I will explain momentarily why I should have been so doing, but I should first clarify that I am referring to false memories themselves and not to ‘false memory syndrome’ – which is rather different. On the latter Wikipedia offers:

False memory syndrome is a condition in which a person’s identity and interpersonal relationships center on a memory of a traumatic experience that is objectively false but that the person strongly believes. Note that the syndrome is not characterized by false memories as such. We all have inaccurate memories. Rather, the syndrome is diagnosed when the memory is so deeply ingrained that it orients the individual’s entire personality and lifestyle—disrupting other adaptive behavior.

Nothing disruptive in my case – just ‘inaccurate memories’. In a 2013 article for ‘Time‘ Tara Thean wrote:

The phenomenon of false memories is common to everybody — the party you’re certain you attended in high school, say, when you were actually home with the flu, but so many people have told you about it over the years that it’s made its way into your own memory cache. False memories can sometimes be a mere curiosity, but other times they have real implications. Innocent people have gone to jail when well-intentioned eyewitnesses testify to events that actually unfolded an entirely different way.

I have long been aware that certain memories from my very early childhood are demonstrably false. Having spent the first six years of my life in what is now very definitely a suburb of the London metropolis I am convinced that I can recall the infamous ‘pea-soupers’ – those sometime lethal London smogs. That the ‘Great Smog‘ of 1952 – as a result of which some four thousand people are thought to have died – led in the ‘Clean Air Act of 1956‘ to the banning of the burning of all but smokeless fuels within the capital, suggests that any memories that I have of such events are probably incorrect, particularly as I – born as I was in 1954 – have no other clear memories before the ages of four or five.

Much the same must apply to my ‘memory’ of having seen horse-drawn milk floats ‘when I were a nipper’! As far as I can work out they pretty much all disappeared shortly after the war to be replaced by electric floats. It may have been that there were still horse-drawn rag and bone carts when I was young, but I’m not sure why I would transmute one into the other.

The reason for my recent reverie concerns a slightly later – and in many ways more puzzling – false memory. I was watching – a few days ago – a BBC documentary on the 1966 Football World Cup. (Now – who won that? Gosh – it is so hard to recall!) The reason for the broadcast was – of course – the upcoming fiftieth anniversary of that momentous occasion.

Now – I didn’t watch the 1966 final. It would be yet a good half decade before my parents agreed that we could have a TV, though I could – of course – have watched it elsewhere. I was instead, however, otherwise engaged on the day.

My memory is that I was attending a combined boy scout/girl guide camp at a local campsite that particular weekend. The memory – in which others present were listening to the match on transistor radios – has been quite clear in my mind across the intervening years. I can even vaguely recall the celebrations when the game was won.

Except that – none of that was true! Whilst watching the documentary it quite suddenly – after all this time – occurred to me that I would have been only twelve years old that summer. Those joint scout/guide camps were – understandably in view of the the mores of the time – only for boys and girls at least three or four years older than I then was. I was obviously at some scouting event, but it clearly wasn’t that one…

Odd to think that, whereas as one grows older one expects childhood memories to become less clear, in cases such as this it is the past memory that proves to have been faulty.

Maybe there is hope for us old farts yet…

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Photo by Andy Dawson Reid“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good lawn must be in want of a croquet set

Oh dear! Not only should I apologise for carelessly bastardising the sainted Jane, but very definitely also for choosing such a tired and inappropriate gambit with which to open this post in the first place. In my defence (should such be possible) it is a blazingly sunny early June day and I am simmering gently the summer’s cauldron (thereby also misappropriating XTC!) that is our glorious garden (yard – whatever!) and frankly it is just too damned hot to come up with anything better!

Where was I?

Oh, yes! Croquet!

For reasons that are simply too tiresome to go into now we arrived from England last year in possession of a box of composite croquet balls. No mallets! No hoops! No stake… In fact none of the other essentials of the noble game whatever.

Having – however – a lawn of appropriate dimensions (albeit one that has a distinct slope to one side and whose surface comprises rather more moss than it does grass) meant that the urge to be able to play a round or two grew slowly but steadily to the point at which it could no longer be denied.

Warned off by the (occasionally) helpful pundits on the InterWebNet I chose not to purchase a cheapie croquet set from Canadian Tyre, but instead did my research and located a source of ‘decent’ (if expensive) mallets and other accessories. Forthwith did we then invite friends from near and far to spend the day with us, with a view to engaging in a little light barbecuing and the christening of our croquet lawn.

The gentle reader will hardly need me to report that when came the day in question we were subjected to the one twenty four hour period of foul weather that has been experienced in these parts for the last several months. Rains deluged upon the lawns – winds whisked detritus from the trees and deposited same all over my lovingly prepared greensward.

“Ah!” – you cry (particularly should you hail from merrie England) – “But surely you didn’t let a little thing like the weather put you off?”

Of course not – don’t be silly! Croquet was played and – at the risk of immodestly blowing one’s own brass instrument – the honour of the home team was well and truly upheld.

The following day the sun returned to its rightful place in the cloudless skies and all was again well.

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Image by WillMcC from Wikimedia CommonsAbout a month ago I posted to this journal two missives – to be found here and here – in which I summarised the results of our researches into the opportunities for drama and theatre study and practice for young people in and around the Greater Victoria area. In the second such I promised that I would comment further as to what I perceived to be the gaps in that offering and had I not – as is ever the way – been overtaken by events (‘dear boy!’) I would already have fulfilled that pledge.

As was explained in the first of those posts, the provision throughout the secondary schools of Victoria and the Saanich peninsula would appear to be uneven. It is fair to say that private schools probably do rather better than do public (in the Canadian sense) schools – as is the case in the UK – and though there are definitely some institutions which are exceptional in dramatic terms, for others it is very much more of a lottery.

Outwith the school sector itself there are a number of professional organisations offering acting and stagecraft classes and other theatrical activities. These are – however – almost without exception commercial enterprises that charge termly or annual fees. These costs can quickly add up to a significant amount and, whereas for younger children such are normally borne by parents, when it comes to teenagers they may well be expected to make a contribution themselves.

It must be clear from the above that a significant proportion of the teenage population of Greater Victoria might well find themselves disenfranchised from such a valuable resource – either through not attending the right school or by not being able to afford these extra-curricula classes.

As far as I can determine there was no real echo in Canada of the Youth Theatre movement that spread rapidly across the United Kingdom (and some other parts of the world) during the 1960s and 1970s. There are, naturally, blazing exceptions, but by their very presence they merely illuminate the lack elsewhere.

Though the movement in Britain comprised groups established under a plethora of different contexts – some appended to mainstream theatres – some commercially run – some funded by the local authorities (municipalities) and so forth – it very rapidly became clear that these energetic bodies – often run by enthusiastic volunteers – offered so many benefits to young people in terms of personal growth, social development and the promotion of creativity that support for them quickly became widespread. Every self-respecting district, county and metropolis offered some sort of financial support to one or more of these groups – if only by making available some empty space in which their arts could be practiced.

That I am an enthusiast for the work done by these splendid bodies need hardly be mentioned. I spent upward of two decades as a facilitator at one such, wearing such a wide range of hats that I might have attempted the establishment of a millinery! As is so often the case with such voluntary work I am very sure that I got as much – if not more – from the whole adventure as did the cavalcade of youth that passed through our doors.

Which might – of course – go a long way to explaining why I am now trying to start something similar here in Victoria.

More on that anon…


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