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2017

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Image from PixabayMost of our lives aren’t that exciting, but the drama is still going on in the small details.

David Byrne

Looking back over my postings to this journal I observe that I have made no mention of my efforts in the field of drama – and in particular, youth drama – since September of last year. That is remiss of me – but such longueurs may swiftly be remedied.

I have – as anticipated in the aforementioned post – been running weekly drama sessions at the Saanich Commonwealth Centre since last September. The summer ‘term’ currently in progress closes at the end of June – bringing to a culmination a year’s worth of workshops. This is – therefore – a good time to cast an eye back and to gauge progress to date.

Sadly, this first attempt at setting something up for teenage thespists has not gone to plan. I have worked throughout this first year with a very small but quite variable group of youngsters, but it became apparent quite quickly that the venture would not develop in the manner for which I had hoped. The reasons for this are many and various:

  • the after-school time slot that we were offered was far from ideal – attracting in the main a casual ‘drop-in’ clientele rather than those with a specific interest in drama and performance.
  • due to a staff illness at the critical point initial publicity for the venture was practically non-existent.
  • a further mix-up resulted in the program being omitted from the spring and summer publicity materials.
  • Saanich Parks and Recreation – under whose auspices we have been operating – impose limitations for child-protection reasons on our administrative activities. We are not allowed to hold contact details ourselves for the young people and can only communicate with them though the Teen Centre workers. We are not allowed to use social media and the Saanich youth programming online presence is poor – not being updated during our first six months of operation. Running a youth theatre with such constraints on communication is extremely difficult.
  • Neither were we allowed to run our own publicity outwith the Saanich marketing department. This made ongoing recruitment extremely difficult.
  • The young lady who had helped me to set the program up decided at Christmas that she needed to focus her attentions on her studies instead and withdrew from the project.

This is all deeply disappointing and it has become clear that if I am to be able to create the sort of group that I have in mind I will need to do so elsewhere. I am, therefore, exploring the possibilities of so doing and have identified one venue that might be amenable. We have not as yet reached an agreement – such things inevitably take time – but I am yet hopeful.

I am happy to continue to teach classes at the Saanich Commonwealth Centre if there is an appropriate level of demand, but it seems very unlikely that these sessions would develop into the sort of performance based project for which I had hoped.

I do have other more positive news on the drama front – but that must needs wait for a subsequent post.

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidOne of the episodes of my youth that turns out to have been somewhat less misspent than I feared at the time was the year that I wasted on devoted to a business studies degree course. Apart from the startling (to me!) realisation that business management was not going to be my forte, I thought at the time that I had not gleaned much of use from the experience. In retrospect – of course – this turns out not to have been the case.

One of the topics on the course that I did find to be of use later was a brief study of Critical Path Analysis (CPA). This fairly basic tool (developed in the 1950s for use on large US defence projects) provides a simple method of keeping projects on track by means of an analysis of the dependencies of the various component parts and the subsequent plotting of the eponymous ‘critical path’ through a multitude of processes to derive the optimum timeframe for delivery.

Though our deck project can hardly be compared in terms of complexity (or indeed of anything else) CPA techniques do provide some useful insights. Allow me to elucidate…

Our new deck has been framed, but nothing further has been done this week. Our contractor is rightly reluctant to lay the plywood deck on the frame until the vinyl installers are ready to apply the waterproof layer on top of it. A large flat surface of exposed plywood would rapidly absorb the sort of rain-showers we have been experiencing of late here in Victoria.

The vinyl installers can’t lay the vinyl until the old sliders (patio doors) have been removed. This is because the vinyl must be run under the new sliders in order that they effect a waterproof seal. The old sliders cannot be removed – somewhat obviously – until the new ones have been delivered (unless our whole main floor is to be exposed to the elements!).

The new sliders and windows are now on order, but that could only happen once the demolition had been finished such that the manufacturers could accurately measure the apertures.

Finally, the cabling for lighting and sockets, the deck railings and glass panels, and all of the other bits and pieces of finishing can only be applied once the deck itself has been completed.

Ergo – a hiatus…

Nothing to see here folks (quite literally with regard to the current view from our drawing room – see image above!).

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There are many across the globe – it would seem – who have over the last half decade or so (and certainly since the financial crisis of 2008) come to feel that the society of which they are a part has been of late seriously in ‘democratic deficit’. They may be right.

Certainly there have been in recent times a plethora of elections and referenda throughout the western world and in the melee that passes for electoral normality these days the body politic has done its best to destroy any possible vestige of complacency in those who govern us – by means of the delivery of a number of short (and not so short), sharp shocks to the system. Once upon a time we might have called this ‘sticking it to the man‘ – but we were all a great deal younger then!

In the UK the repercussions from the 2016 Brexit referendum will rumble on for years yet and may even lead at some point to a rerun of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Prime Minister Theresa May – in an effort to demonstrate irrefrangibly the strength and stability of her government – has decided that the UK has not suffered enough at the polls in recent years and has called another (apparently one-sided) election for June. She has presumably been seduced by the prospect of doing to the UK Labour party what the Progressive Conservative Party did to the Social Credit Party in the 1984 Canadian federal election (and in turn had done to them by the Liberals in the 1993 election!).

Trump’s administration in the US is the gift that keeps on giving… should you happen be a satirist (or indeed just a smug cynic who likes to be proved right!). The orange one has only held the reigns of power for a few (though seemingly endless) months, but has already provided enough material for a trilogy of (extremely weird) mordant film-scripts. You quite literally could not make this stuff up!

The outcome of the recent French election was met with divergent reactions throughout the western world. The heavy sighs of relief from well-meaning social democrats everywhere as the French (following the example recently set by the Dutch) chose to reject the far-right populism of Le Pen for the centrist Emmanuel Macron were, of course, to be expected – not to mention welcomed with open arms. The howls of rage of those on the right in countries having little connection with France took me momentarily aback. A little contemplation, however, shed further light on the matter.

In a manner somewhat akin to that of the Bolsheviks in the early years of the last century (who believed that their communist revolution must not be limited to Mother Russia and her colonies but must sweep across the civilised world) those on the far right require that all nations should bow to their brand of populism… that the European Union must be seen to fail, that all forms of collaboration must be suppressed and that the globe should revert to comprising a set of adversarial nation states.

As ever there are some areas in which the right and the left are practically bedfellows. Both strains reserve their greatest hatred, not for each other, but for those who occupy the centre ground. The recognition in the latter part of the last century that elections are primarily won and lost in the centre inspired such dogmatists to paroxysms of rage. What they required of the centre was a large pool of clear blue water, such that their class war might be kept alive indefinitely.

One thus finds oneself assaulted by those on both flanks (though particularly by those on the left in this case) braying about the failure of centrist, liberal politics, along with the demand that such be consigned to the dustbin of history – all the while conveniently ignoring the fact that their own brand of dogma has itself demonstrably failed repeatedly.

Such ironies…

In British Columbia – meanwhile – the recent provincial election resulted in the first minority government for many a long year, with the crucial balancing riding being won by a mere nine votes!

Now that’s how you send a message!

 

 

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If regular perusers of these periodic postings have been able to detect any particular theme prevalent therein, it would most likely relate to the improbability of any of the schemes or plans dreamed up by the Kickass Canada Girl or myself actually panning out the way that it was originally intended.

This week’s ‘retreat from Moscow’ concerns our as yet untried hot tub. The gentle reader may recall that the proposal on the part of our designer to relocate said spa to the end of our new deck had resulted in the requirement that we hire a structural engineer to ensure that the new deck could successfully carry the load. This in turn led to the requirement that the foundations be suitably enlarged.

It now transpires (the which became apparent once the old structure had been removed) that the wall of the house to which the new deck is attached at the point where the tub would be would also require reinforcement. This would have involved tearing out and rebuilding the outer wall of my studio and would – naturally – have added to the cost of the whole project.

‘Enough is enough’ – we cried. The tub goes down below!

Actually – now that we see how things are going to pan out – this is clearly a better option, giving more privacy and protection from inclement weather.

Decision made, our contractors powered ahead with the framing of the new deck. These pictures afford a pretty good idea as to how the whole will eventually appear.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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After the pyrotechnics of the first week of our deck renovation project – during which the sun-rooms and all of the rotten structure at the back of the house was peeled away – the second week was considerably less dramatic. Our contractors are, however, now into the first phase of the build – which is most exciting.

The first thing to be done was to replace the guttering and downpipes, as the originals had been on the outside of the sun-rooms. This task was carried out in about ninety minutes by a single Vietnamese installer, who thought nothing of swinging from a ladder twenty feet above the ground whilst manipulating twenty foot lengths of aluminium gutter.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidAlthough some of the existing footings could be built upon for the new deck, for the end at which the hot tub will sit it was decreed by our structural engineer that a deeper foundation should be provided.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidFoundations have been poured and left to set.

Next week the structure should start to rise above ground level.

The house looks 100% better already!

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“Sweet April showers do spring May flowers”

Thomas Tusser

Well – this winter has turned out to have been endowed with a drearily long tail here in British Columbia. Once the snows and ice had cleared and the winds had receded we all scampered each morning to our windows to gaze expectantly out at the big wide world without, hoping to welcome a glorious springtime. Instead the temperatures remained stubbornly low and the rain fronts continued to sweep in relentlessly from the Pacific.

There are at last – however – signs that the weather is about to pick up now that May is here. In any case the garden (yard!) has decided that it can wait no longer and is starting to burst out in all of its verdant glory. These vernal blooms – and many others – are greeted joyously…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto 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 Pixabay“I’m not in control of my muse. My muse does all the work.”

Ray Bradbury

I have in anterior posts (of which this is but the most recent instance) attempted to shed some light on that most mysterious and wonderful process by which creative acts such as writing and composing are effected.

I say ‘attempted’ – of course – because beyond simply reporting anecdotally my own experiences I am no more able to explain the phenomenon than is anyone else. Should you doubt that any such examination is more than likely to fall short you might care to Google the phrase “How does the creative process work?“. You will discover – as did I – that the first page of results alone contains the following ‘definitive’ responses:

  • The four stages of creativity” – preparation, incubation, illumination, verification – (apparently!)
  • The five stages of the creative process” – preparation, incubation, insight, evaluation, elaboration – (some crossover at least)
  • The creative process – six working phasesinspiration, clarification, distillation, perspiration, evaluation, and incubation – (hmmm!)
  • The ten stages of the creative process” – the hunch, talk about it, the sponge, build, confusion, just step away, the love sandwich(!), the premature breakthrough, revisit your notes, know when you’re done – (blimey! That’s…er… different!)

I stopped at this point for what are probably pretty obvious reasons.

And yet… and yet… None of these earnest theses comes close to elucidating an experience that I seem to encounter with increasing frequency – one in which I start out with a firm idea in my mind only to find that the act of creation takes on a life of its own and I end up with something almost entirely antithetical to that which I had originally intended. At the risk of boring the gentle reader I should like to share the latest such instance.

I am currently working on a couple of songs that are intended to complete a brief collection whose inspiration – or motivation, should you prefer – has been my recent exodus from the country of my birth. I had been making good progress on one such of these with the notion in the back of my head that it might turn out to be a gently whimsical look at the love of the island life – the which is of course shared both by many Brits and by those who live on Vancouver Island or in the Gulf Islands.

When it came time to concentrate on the lyric I turned – as is my habit – to the InterWebNet to pursue some lines of research of relevance to the subject. A busy day of chasing leads suggested that the following (amongst others) might be significant:

  • Shakespeare – ‘Richard II’,’The Tempest’
  • Tennyson – ‘Ulysses’
  • Rabbie Burns – ‘To a Louse’
  • Churchill – ‘The Island Race’

An article by Open University senior lecturer, Nigel Clark, entitled ‘An Island Race?‘ – chimed with my initial intention of focusing on the creative tension implicit in living on an island surrounded by the seas – the which afford both a powerful means of defence from attack but simultaneously the path by which such a nation might venture forth to explore (and mayhap  to ‘conquer’) the rest of the world.

It was another article, however – “Is England too Good for the English?“, by Oxford University’s Austen Saunders – that changed the tenor of my song. Saunders exploration of the illustrious ‘John of Gaunt’ speech from ‘Richard II’ majors on John’s view that the English – as a result of Richard’s politicking and fiscal mismanagement – are no longer worthy of the “other Eden” that is ‘England’ itself. It is impossible not to recognise an immense resonance between this somewhat melancholy conclusion and the state in which the United Kingdom finds itself today. The song that eventually emerged from my subconscious thus turned out to be a lament for this sorry state of affairs rather than the amiable whimsy that I had intended.

Should the gentle reader be one of those who does not view the current situation in which Great Britain – and in particular, England – finds itself to be as dire as I have described – then I wish you well.

I hope that you still feel the same way in five year’s time…

 

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On Monday last the good ship Dignity left us for a sabbatical with our friends in Saanichton…

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid
…so that her accustomed spot could be taken instead by a humongous ‘bin’!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhase one of our deck replacement project – remove the old sun-rooms and demolish the deck and spaces thereunder.

Click on the images for the big picture!

Going…

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid
Photo by Andy Dawson Reid
Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

Going…

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid
Photo by Andy Dawson Reid
Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

Gone!

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid
Photo by Andy Dawson Reid
Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

Now to start building…

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Pender Island provides splendid opportunities for walking and trails may be found to suit those of all abilities – many such offering spectacular views.

The trail to Oaks Bluff, on the west coast of North Pender, is a mere 0.4 kilometers in length (about a quarter of a mile) but in that short distance it climbs some 66 metres (more than 200 feet). The effort is well worth-while, as these images surely attest.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid Photo by Andy Dawson Reid Photo by Andy Dawson Reid Photo by Andy Dawson Reid Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

 

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…as promised.

In need of a brief break from the hurley-burley we retreated to a rented cottage on North Pender for three nights over the Easter weekend. Though perhaps slightly less ‘artsy’ than neighbouring Saltspring, Pender still has a very particular ‘island life’ feel about it, the which we liked very much.

Pender – incidentally – was once a single island, with the two current entities connected by a narrow isthmus. To save locals and visitors from having to sail all the way round to reach the settlements on the other side a canal was dredged in 1903, with a narrow road bridge above to maintain land-based access.

Though we set out from Swartz Bay under lowering skies the weather subsequently smiled upon us – improving day by day.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid
On our first full day on the island we followed the inescapably circuitous route to Poet’s Cove on the south island – the which lies scarcely a few hundred yards (though on the other side of Bedwell Harbour) from the point at which we started. Poet’s Cove – though diminutive – is a major(ish) entry port for yachting folk arriving from the US – the reason for which would become clearer should one consult a map of the southern Gulf Islands. To this end it hosts a small customs dock, which does the great majority of its business in the summer months.

Poet’s Cove also hosts a rather wonderful resort and spa, in which the Girl and I duly submitted ourselves to ninety minute relaxation massages, spells in the ocean-vista’d hot tub and a visit to the steam cave!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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