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Flotsam and Jetsam

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Image from Wikimedia Commons by http://www.flickr.com/people/theeerin/It did not occur to me for a single second that – when during the composition of my last post, (touching as it did upon the subject of my new bicycle) I described the Sturmey Archer three-speed rear hub with which the cycle that I was given in 1965 as ‘prehistoric’ – said engineering marvel might actually still be in production!

Discovering from the InterWebNet that this is indeed the case I was rendered what can only be described as ‘gob-smacked’!

Sturmey Archer was apparently established in Nottingham in the UK in 1902 as a division of Raleigh Cycles and production of their most ubiquitous model – the AW three-speed hub gear – commenced in 1936. For an extended period virtually every three-speed bicycle sold in the UK was fitted with a Sturmey Archer hub gear.

The company got into financial trouble towards the end of the last century and by 2000 was on the verge of bankruptcy. Following a period during which it appeared that the company would disappear without trace the entire assets were eventually sold to a Taiwanese company called SunRace, who moved the whole operation lock, stock and barrel to Taiwan.

Despite discovering that much of the machine tooling was obsolete SunRace persevered with production of the hub gears – and as of 2016 the famous three-speed AW model (amongst many others) was still in production.

Now – whereas I cannot for the life of me imagine what I am going to do with at least two thirds of the twenty four gears that I have on my new machine, I am mighty glad that I don’t still have to cope with the old three-speed hub gear.

But then – I am an old codger these days!

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidOne of the means by which the Kickass Canada Girl routinely earns her sobriquet is her habit of achieving virtually all of that to which she puts her mind. This is a wholly admirable trait and one for which I am eternally grateful. There are as a consequence, naturally, occasions on which she has set her mind on something and it is best simply to step back and to bow to the inevitable (taking great care that if one attempts to step back and to bow simultaneously one does not fall upon one’s arse!).

A case in point concerns the humble (or not so humble in some cases) bicycle…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidWhen The Girl transplanted her life to the UK – all those many years ago – she brought with her a bicycle. On occasion she would tax me on the subject of acquiring a similar means of conveyance myself – that we might go out riding together. My resistance to the suggestion – on the grounds that the rural roads in the proximity of our residence were both too narrow and over populated with testosterone charged motorists – was expressed with considerable vigour and she decided to let the thing rest… for the time being.

When we crossed the ocean in the opposite direction in 2015 the bicycle did not make the journey with us. It was ‘accidentally’ left behind! I doubt we could have fitted it into the container in any case.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidWe had not long arrived on these shores, however, when – hankering to feel the wind in her hair (whilst also getting some welcome exercise) – The Girl decided that it was time to resurrected her former campaign. Given the wide open spaces, the broad roads and the abundance of clear air into which the testosterone can dissipate she was this time considerably more certain of getting her way. A small unexpected windfall furnished her the opportunity to declare that a trip to the bike shop was in order – with the inevitable result that we are now both the proud possessors of shiny new machines.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidGiven that the last bicycle that I owned (in fact, the only bicycle that I ever owned) was a gift for passing the Eleven Plus exam (at the tender age of – well – eleven!) the reader will not be surprised to hear that things in the bike world have changed in the interim. Changed, indeed, beyond all measure! There is nothing particularly fancy about these machines. They really are pretty middle of the road (though the bike lane would be more appropriate… ho, ho!) but the twenty four gears on this bog standard bike (sixteen of which I have yet to investigate) make my old Sturmey Archer three-speed look positively prehistoric… which, of course, it was…

I do hope that the photographs that accompany this piece do not appear overly fetishistic! Boys and technology and all that…

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Now that our deck project is all but complete – bar a little making-good and top-coat paintery – I thought it might be interesting to have a final look at the ‘before’ and ‘after’ images.

We are not only delighted to have removed the dangerously rotting structure that was an add-on on to the back of the original house – to our mind the whole look of the property has been significantly improved. We have added an excellent al fresco space (just in time for the weather to turn really nice) and have re-connected the house to the garden (yard) by the addition of the external staircase.

Interested to know what you think…

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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As suggested in my post on Victoria Day, week six of our grand deck project was busy, busy, busy – with major progress being made on all fronts.

On the Monday the plywood deck was laid:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidOn the Tuesday and Wednesday the vinyl installers applied the waterproof covering and our contractors installed the new sliders (patio windows):

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThe Wednesday also brought a bevy of electricians who installed cables for lighting, re-instated our irrigation controller and put in a new feed for the hot tub:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidFinally – on a blazing hot Friday and working alone – a Vietnamese gentlemen installed all of the new soffits:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThe deck rails and glass panels should be done in week seven – with final detailing and painting still to be done – but one can already get a good idea as to how the whole will look:

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

 

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“That’s why the words “Let’s go!” are intrinsically courageous. It’s the decision to go that is, in itself, entirely intrepid.”

Tim Cahill

I made reference a couple of posts back to further personal news regarding the theatre/drama scene here in Victoria and promised an update in a post to follow shortly. Aiming to prove myself a man of my word… here it is!

Whilst in self-referential mode I would further draw the gentle reader’s attention to previous postings to this blog on the subject of the Victoria Fringe Festival (be patient – there is a  connection) to which The Girl and I are enthusiastic attendees. The fringe is one of three festivals hosted by the splendid Intrepid Theatre, who have been promoting theatrical events on Vancouver Island for some thirty years. Intrepid are clearly one of the major cultural players in Greater Victoria.

A couple of months back The Girl drew to my attention an item on the Intrepid website to the effect that the company was seeking interested parties to serve on their board of directors. Such board posts are – quite naturally – voluntary and though the ideal candidate would undoubtedly have experience in the area of fundraising (which I do not!) the main requirements would seem to be an enthusiasm for the theatre, some experience of involvement in similar non-profit endeavours and (as is the certainly the case for me) sufficient time on ones hands to be able to render useful service. At any rate, my progress through the interview and AGM voting stages went smoothly (as it did for two other neophytes) and Intrepid has gained a fresh batch of eager faced supporters for its board.

Formalities over, the first order of business was the twentieth incarnation of Intrepid’s ‘Uno Fest‘ – a feast of solo performances over a week and a half in the company’s two venues, the Intrepid Theatre Club and the Metro Studio. The board director’s main role in such events is to attend performances and to help to drum up support, as well as to volunteer to pick up and drop off performers at the airport or ferry port as they arrive and depart from Victoria. I attended five performances and ferried four of the performers. This latter ‘task’ is quite simply a delight. One gets the chance to chat to actors, directors and writers whom one might recently have seen in action (or be about to see).

The keynote opening performance – by Canadian theatrical luminary Daniel MacIvor – was entitled ‘WTF’ (What’s Theatre For) and was a thought provoking disquisition on why those of us who do make theatre – and why many of those who don’t attend it. I was lucky enough to be able to run Daniel back to the airport a couple of days later. He is a very interesting man!

It is immediately clear that involvement with such an excellent organisation will bring me into contact with many more of those involved in the theatre here in Victoria.

All good stuff indeed!

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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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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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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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