web analytics

January 2017

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2017.

Well, well – who knew! Though this particular anniversary has crept up on me entirely unawares, it turns out that I have been posting to this blog now for five years.

Golly! That calls for a small celebration…

Since the first entry on January 26th 2012 I have submitted five hundred and twenty eight posts (including this one) and uploaded one thousand, four hundred and thirty six images – the great majority of them my own.

A great deal has happened throughout this apparently fleeting five year period, and not just in our lives alone. Much has changed in the world and I feel particularly blessed that life has been generous and kind to me and to those that I love. I can only wish that all else in this sadly troubled world could be likewise blessed. Any little that I can do to help I will, and I feel sure that for so many others the same applies.

It is a slightly odd fact that I probably wouldn’t have noticed that this humble journal had passed such a significant milestone had I not been looking at a completely different statistic. Every now and then I cast an eye over the logs for the site to see who is looking at what, from where and how often. I know! It is a bad habit – not unlike ‘Googling’ oneself (don’t do it!)… but it is none the less fascinating. Apart from those brave souls who are regular readers the logs reveal that the greatest number of hits on the blog by far are the result of a Google search for the string:

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

This is – of course – the title of the seventh chapter of Kenneth Graham’s “The Wind in the Willows“, concerning the strange history of which I composed this post in May 2012.

It is also – also ‘of course’ – the title of Pink Floyd’s debut album, which was itself named after the aforementioned chapter from “The Wind in the Willows“.

Now – if one were to take the time to ‘Google’ “The Piper… etc” one would observe that the massive majority of references returned are to the Floyd album, leading one to the conclusion that that must be the true object of any such search. Further investigation (of the sort that only the zealot would pursue) reveals that to uncover any reference to this blog one must plough through seven pages of search results before so doing. This would suggest that the considerable number of souls who make this search are indeed themselves fairly zealous in their endeavours (or they would not bother!) but also clearly that when they finally land on the reference concerned – which is quite clearly not about the Pink Floyd album – they are still prepared to give it at least a cursory look.

I have no idea what to make of this, but I am of course most grateful for even the most casual of visitors.

Good fortune and blessings to all!

Tags: , , ,

“You don’t need planning permission to build castles in the sky…”


…though unfortunately you do in British Columbia to carry out a wide range of renovations to your own particular castle!

Viz – from the North Saanich Municipality website:

Building Permit

Many home renovations require a Building Permit. Failure to acquire a permit BEFORE starting will result in a double fee. Building Permits are required BEFORE you:

– Renovate, repair or add on to an existing building

– Construct a new home

– Construct a new accessory building or structure greater than 10 m2 (107 ft2) (no services 1 story)

– Remove, relocate, alter or construct interior walls

– Complete a previously unfinished area in an existing building

– Construct, reconstruct, cover or enclose a porch or sun deck

– Demolish, relocate or move a building

– Construct a swimming pool, hot tub or spa pool deeper than 1 metre 3.28 ft.)

– Construct retaining walls over 1.5 metres (4.9 ft.) or more in height (professional engineering required)

– Construct a fence over 2 metres (6.56 ft.) or higher in height

– Make plumbing additions or alterations

– Any inspections listed in Section 12.1 of Bylaw No. 1150 requires a permit

– All seawalls, even if they are less than the 1.5m height

I duly visited the North Saanich Municipal Offices the other day to deliver the necessary paperwork to apply for a building permit for our upcoming sunroom removal and deck renovation project. Should the gentle reader be wondering just how much effort is required for such an undertaking, the list is but a short one:

  • Completed ‘Building Permit Application‘ form (available from the municipality’s website) – this gives the legal details of the property and of the specifics of the contractor and of the project itself
  • Completed ‘District of North Saanich Building and Plumbing Bylaw 1150, Schedule C‘ – essentially a waver to protect the municipality from any unforeseen consequences of the project
  • A copy of the owners’ ‘State of Title Certificate‘ (obtainable from the Land Title Office in Victoria)
  • Two copies of the architect/designer’s drawings
  • The requisite fee – the amount of which is based on the value of the project

What should also have been included (a requirement for properties built prior to 1990) was a copy of a ‘Hazardous Materials Assessment & Abatement Report‘. We have arranged an inspection for this coming Friday and are keeping our fingers crossed that nothing too hideous is revealed in the resultant findings.

Tags: , ,

Way back when The Girl and I were still living in the UK and taking appropriate advantage of the cultural offerings that the capital had to offer, our thoughts would – every once in a while –  turn away from the high arts – the galleries, concert halls and the National Theatre and so forth – in the direction of a little light relief.

At such times we would go looking for some comedy!

On one such occasion we decided to eschew our favourite Irishman (what is it that makes pretty much every Irish comedian funny, even before they have truly gotten going? All it takes is an – “Ah, c’mon now…” – or a – “Jaysus, yer a feckin’ eejyut” – in the brogue and I am well on the way to cracking up) and went instead to see a certain Scottish funny man who was at the time highly visible on television.

It was an interesting evening. The Scot was disappointing. It wasn’t that he was unfunny, it was more that what had appeared on TV to be a rapier wit – firing off one-liners and acid put-downs on all sides – turned out to be wholly scripted, down to the last barbed repostes.

What did not disappoint – and not only because we had no expectations – was the warmup act – a Canadian comedian called Craig Campbell. His sharp-eyed observations on both Canadian and UK life and culture had us in stitches, practically slipping off our seats and into the isles.

I turns out that Mr Campbell is sufficient of an Anglophile that he has taken up permanent residence in the West Country and now tours regularly in the UK. I was surprised to discover that my brother had also become an enthusiast for the hairy Canadian’s humour and we subsequently all went together to see him on several further occasions before we left the UK.

A couple of weekends ago – on the eve of my birthday and after The Girl had retired for the night – I was searching our cable channel for a little late night viewing when I happened upon a recording from Nanaimo of a touring comedy show – compared by one Craig Campbell! Not having heard of the ‘Snowed In Comedy Tour’ at all I immediately went online to the InterWebNet. I discovered that, though the recording I had found was from last year’s tour, the 2017 version was not only already underway but was also coming very shortly to Victoria.

I had half a mind to quiz The Girl the next morning as to whether she was aware of the engagement (she being primarily in charge of our social calendar) but before I could so do she presented me with a birthday card containing… tickets for the show!

Isn’t she a darling?!

I can happily report that Craig and his fellow Canadian comedians were in fine fettle and a riotous evening of merriment was enjoyed all round.

If you get a chance – in Canada or in the UK – I do urge you to catch him!

Tags: , ,

I want to see sunrises in the mountains. You never get to see such things enough in a lifetime. I want to see more.

Katarina Witt

Sunrises – sunsets – the afternoon sun reflected from snow-capped peaks. I can’t get enough… and that means more pictures!

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

Tags: ,

Image from Pixabay“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

Mark Twain

Following on from the reminiscences of my last post… and in an effort to demonstrate that these meanderings are not as purely random as they sometimes appear to be…

Back in the day I was (and still am in a somewhat desultory sense) a bass player. In common with many novice musicians I proudly acquired my first bass with no thoughts as to what to use for amplification. Later – once I had grown out of the usual home-made setup cobbled together from various bits of domestic electronica – I set about finding a bass rig that would give me the biggest bang for my bucks.

As detailed in my earlier disquisition concerning PA systems, received wisdom at the time was that an extravagantly sized loudspeaker cabinet was required to produce the desired bottom end, with the speakers themselves also being as large as possible. I ended up with an impressively chunky setup loaded with 18″ speakers.

The band in which I was playing at the time had found itself a semi-permanent rehearsal location in a ramshackle outbuilding that formed part of a nursery located in the middle of nowhere. Tucked away in the midst of a swathe of decaying greenhouses we could safely leave our equipment set up and ready to go, so that we could crack on with rehearsals with the minimum of fuss. Further – one of our number was the proud possessor of a van!

Once that band had succumbed to the habitual form of musical entropy I was obliged to downsize my bass rig. I was driving a Mini at the time (my first proper car) and the equipment had to be sized accordingly. Over the years since I have tinkered with various different setups, but when we packed all of our goods and chattels into a container to head for BC in the summer 2015 the box that I loaded was still a weighty lump.

Having payed for its conveyance to Canada I was not best pleased to discover that there was no way of easily converting it to operate on 110V! The manufacturer had gone out of business and no parts or circuit diagrams were available.

I am – as always – the luckiest of chaps, however, and she who is possessed of all wisdom agreed to help me purchase a new amplifier as my birthday present.

Well – you will be unsurprised to hear that technology has undergone its usual magical transformation in the thirty years since I last went shopping for such and it is now possible to purchase a tiny, tiny wee box that can miraculously produce more bottom end grunt than any rig I have ever owned. This thing is minute, it weighs next to nothing but is built like a tank and there can be no doubt that this little mutt could easily take on the big dogs… and probably win!

For those who demand technical details this is a Traynor (solid Canadian brand not found much outside these shores) small block SB110. The amp provides 100W and the cabinet is rear ported and loaded with a single 10″ speaker and a tweeter.

This thing is seriously loud for such a small unit and has no shortage of room-rattling bottom end.

How is that even possible?


Tags: , ,

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

Mark Twain

Way back in the mid-1970s when I was in my early twenties and playing in the sort of wildly optimistic band that so many of us did back in the day – only one thing was certain… none of us had any money! One of the effects on the musician, of course, was that we had to make do with whatever cheap and cheerful equipment we could cobble together.

It is a sad truism concerning the arc of the musician’s career that, at the point that he (or she) is young and just learning to play, he (or she) must do so on some hideous old nail of an instrument that makes everything a hundred times more difficult than it need be. Of course, should he (or she) eventually become established as a musical legend, able rip out licks and riffs even whilst comatose – then the manufacturers of the most precious, the most beautiful, the most infinitely playable of musical contrivances dispense them like candy – utterly free of charge – to those who no longer have any need of such largesse… in the pursuit of ‘celebrity’ endorsement!

‘Tain’t fair!

But where was I? Oh, yes…

So – when it came to trying to cobble together a PA (Public Address) system such that – if nothing else – our delicate (some might say fey – this was the 70s!) vocals might be heard, we were obliged to beg, borrow or steal what we might. The bottom end was a different matter. Bass bins were expensive, hard to come by and people didn’t just give them away. We had to build our own!

Image from Wikimedia CommonsI carried out extensive research at my local library (for the InterWebNet had not at that point been invented) into the acoustic design required to reproduce low frequency signals at a reasonable volume. It turned out that we would need to build bass ‘horns’ of which – because of the length required to deliver frequencies low enough – the horn parts themselves would need to be ‘folded’ if the enclosures were to be confined to manageable proportions. My calculations (and it must be said that maths was never my strong suit) suggested that the unfolded length of the horn would need to be some where between fifteen and twenty feet! The resultant boxes were enormous and weighed a (metaphorical) ton each.

Image by Rudolph Schuba from Wikimedia CommonsNow – if you have been to a large concert anytime recently you will have observed that the PA system simply comprises a number of curved columns of small(ish) units suspended from the ceiling. This interestingly fragile looking contraption is called a Line Array. Not only are these modern systems really rather elegant, but the sound produced is any number of light years advanced from the distorted offerings of yesteryear. There is simply no comparison with the systems in use at the first gigs that I attended back in the early 70s, for which either side of the stage would be girt with huge stacks of bass and other cabinets (I went to one gig at which the support act had their own massive PA stacked in front of the main act’s system. There was a very long intermission!).

The point is – when it comes to gear (and technology) – everything has changed.

But why am I telling you all this? Just a tease, of course, for the next post!

Tags: ,

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid“A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”

T.S. Elliott – ‘The Journey of the Magi’

‘Tis Epiphany… The feast that celebrates the day on which the Magi supposedly reached Bethlehem and by some accounts – through their offerings of gold, frankincense and myrrh – kicked off the whole business of gift giving at Christmas. Who now would wait until twelfth night for that particular pleasure?

Wikipedia offers this snippet regarding the last night of Christmas:

“A belief has arisen in modern times, in some English-speaking countries, that it is unlucky to leave Christmas decorations hanging after Twelfth Night, a tradition originally attached to the festival of Candlemas (2 February), which celebrates the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.”

Given that most folk these days like to get Christmas kicked off good and early – and who can blame them given the general dreariness of December in many parts of the northern hemisphere – it would be a wonder if the trimmings and decorations could ever last long enough to get through the whole of January – though should they so do it would certainly brighten up that month as well.

We here are strictly ‘trad’. It is January 6th – down come the ‘deccies’ – out goes the tree – hoovered up are the many needles that have dropped and been ground into the carpet! Everything is packed away into the Christmas Cupboard (see attached illustration!) ready for next year.

Now all that remains is to find somewhere to dispose of an extremely fragile Christmas tree. There are a number of local organisations that offer tree chipping services over the next few days for a charitable donation, or I could simply impose myself (once again!) on our dear friends in Saanichton, whose landscape design and garden maintenance business naturally possesses its own chipper.

In either case the trick is to get the tree to its destination without it shedding its entire remaining compliment of needles all over the Lexus!

Tags: ,

Photo by Andy Dawson Reidwild and woolly


a. rough, untamed, barbarous
b. (of theories, plans, etc) not thought out


At the top of the New Year it feels as though the weather here in Victoria is determined to blow away utterly any echo of the year that has recently stumbled to a close. The winds over the past few days have truly been ‘rough, untamed and barbarous‘ (not to mention that they add a significant chill factor of anything from -6°C to something considerably worse) and show no signs of abating anytime soon; indeed the half a gale that is blowing as I write is supposed to go the whole hog later tonight.

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

The sea has taken on a mean look. Protected by the Gulf Islands the Haro Strait never sees more than mild whitecaps but this belies the ferocity with which the winds can whip across its surface.

Though the land temperature merely hovers around zero the wind chill rapidly dissuades one from spending much time outside.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidIt is at such times that we are grateful to live in a well insulated house equipped with a heat pump, the which does an excellent job of maintaining the internal temperature at a most pleasant 70°C. With our new gas log fire we can face down the external conditions and remain toasty warm inside whilst watching the elements raging outwith our picture windows.

For those unfamiliar with such things the trick – incidentally – with heat pumps (which work in a manner similar to air-conditioning) is to maintain as close as is possible the same temperature at all times. It is considerably more efficient (and cost effective) to run the system constantly than to allow the temperature to drop and for the hear pump then to have to struggle to raise it again. Though this may seem counter-intuitive to those who are familiar with the sort of central heating systems more commonly found in the UK, one rapidly gets used to the idea.

Tags: , ,