web analytics

Flotsam and Jetsam

You are currently browsing the archive for the Flotsam and Jetsam category.

Image from WikimediaI was thirteen when the Beatles released Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

As were so many others I was already captivated having heard such extraordinary songs as Eleanor Rigby, Tomorrow Never Knows and Strawberry Fields. Now – on experiencing their first post-touring long-player – I was completely blown away and a lifelong love of the works of Messrs. Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr was cemented.

My most immediate and startling memory, however, of the post-Pepper-release period was not directly to do with the Beatles or with the record at all. My school at that time held an annual public speaking competition, involvement in which (somewhat strangely in the light of subsequent events) I contrived to avoid throughout my entire career there. This widely disregarded event took place over two days. On the first each of the competitors mounted – one at a time – the stage in School Hall to recite a poem. On the second day they gave a five minute address on some subject either close to their hearts or the choice of which they coldly calculated would most appeal to the judges and/or the forcibly assembled audience.

On day one of the 1967 competition one of the seniors (a popular prefect – words rarely heard together in those days) stood proudly upon the platform and recited – instead of the usual Tennyson, Wordsworth or Coleridge (or if particularly daring, Byron or Keats) – the lyrics to Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, a song at that point banned by the straight-laced BBC for being quite obviously about the experience of taking LSD. We plebeians in the stalls gasped and looked shiftily at each other and to the masters present, trying to gauge how they would react to their solemn ritual being thus traduced.

The world – naturally – did not end. The staff simply looked bored and did nothing. The popular prefect did not win the contest. We mere mortals, however, realised that something, somewhere had changed irrevocably – and we were right.

What was most remarkable about Pepper of course (apart from the dazzling imagination and unprecedented soundscape on display) was the sheer variety. From LSD to traffic wardens, from Victorian fairground barkers to Indian gurus… all human life appeared to be represented not merely on Peter Blake’s pop-art cover but also within.

For this reason Paul McCartney’s whimsical musing on just what it might be like to achieve three score years and four seemed hardly out of place at all and those of us who could not begin to imagine ever reaching such a decrepit age simply took it as one more example of a fertile imagination.

This week – you will by now have deduced – I turned sixty four!

 

 

Tags: , , , ,

Herewith a final batch of images from our recent sojourn in the sun during the run-up to Christmas.

Puerto Vallarta has a sizable and most attractive marina which includes a basin large enough for the ubiquitous cruise ships to dock:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidOn Thursday evenings the marina plays host to a rather splendid market at which it is possible to purchase the wares of local artists and craftsmen, as well as sampling local foodstuffs and – of course – tequila!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidIn the centre of town there is a lovely church dedicated to ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe’, an image of which also featured in a mural adjacent to our resort in the Hotel Zone.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidI promised a photo of a bus! This was by no means the oldest or the most rickety!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidI liked the slogan on the ‘Cashola’ ATM. “Say hello to your money” it says – with the clear subtext “Prepare to say goodbye to it again shortly thereafter!“.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

Tags: , ,

Hmmm!

My humble apologies to those who receive these updates via the email feed… yesterday’s posting was done under the influence of the Boxing Day blur and I sadly omitted various steps from the habitual routine by which means I normally ensure that all of the images render correctly. Should you have suffered the resultant shambles (and can give a rat’s arse either way) please do follow this link to view it all over again.

Puerto Vallarta’s seafront is quite naturally a major attraction. The Malecon is a mile-long esplanade that takes one along the front as far as the bridge over the Rio Cuale. This recently renovated pedestrian promenade features a fascinating display of public statuary:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidCrossing the river (which at this point incorporates the wooded Isla Cuale in an area surrounded by cafes and cramped boutiques offering the outpourings of local artists and craftsmen) one comes again to the Zona Romantica, the which district borders the sea at the charmingly entitled Playa de Los Muertos:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidThe rocks that separate the various beaches are home to a multitude of massively shy crabs that can apparently tell when they are being looked at. If one stands with one’s back to their habitat they all shuffle out – sideways – to sit on the rocks, but should one turn one’s head to look at them they scurry away into the shadows at pace…

…except for this one – which isn’t going anywhere ever again!

This chap is not going to be playing the piano again either…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidA pretty awesome place to have a massage:

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

Tags: , ,

Our recent trip to Puerto Vallarta – my first visit to Mexico – furnished such a vivid range of impressions that I found it impossible not to be continually firing off shots with whatever photographic device I had to hand. Feeling the urge to share I am going to upload several batches of the resulting images for the gentle reader’s (and viewer’s) delectation.

We paid a number of visits to the old part of town – the Zona Romantica. Here are some images:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidWe had brunch at a PV institution – Memo’s Pancake House. They make a mean Eggs Benedict!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThis is where the PV fat cats buy their cigars!…

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid…and this store in the flea market made me think of The Eagles!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidWhat do you think – fella? Hmmm! – time for siesta…

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

Tags: , ,

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThough I have mentioned The Girl’s connection with Mexico on a number of occasions within these pages I now feel the need to expand a little in that regard. As I have indicated before, Mexico is a favourite haunt for Canadians wishing to escape the rigours of the north American winters. Many of them do so through a similar mechanism as did she – the purchase of a timeshare slot in a resort.

Such a purchase sadly has in common with that of a new automobile the immediate and irretrievable drop in value the instant that it is (metaphorically) driven off the lot. The Girl and her co-purchaser thus found themselves each in possession of half a timeshare, neither part of which has a significant monetary value. It made sense therefore that they should continue to make use thereof in alternate years.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidNow, the way that these things work is that – should one wish to visit a resort other than that in which one has purchased – it is possible to trade ‘points’ for slots elsewhere, as did we in Europe whilst we were still living in the UK. It is also possible to accumulate these points.

All of this by way of explanation of the fact that the first week of our stay here was in the delightful resort in the Marina at Puerto Vallarta in which the original timeshare had been purchased, whilst for the second week we have moved a little nearer to the centre of town to another resort for which The Girl has traded points (being for logistical reasons unable to get two weeks in the same location). All one need know is that both are delightful and that the Mexicans are a wonderfully friendly and positive people.

The Pacific coast of Mexico has much to recommend it, not least of course that – in the week before Christmas – the temperature is in the mid-twenties and the sun is shining. This naturally makes the customary Christmas decoration – with its emphasis on snow and sleighs and suchlike – seem somewhat out of place and it has to be said that this is quite unlike any run-up to Christmas that I have previously experienced.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThe staff at the first resort held their Christmas party by the beach on one bosky evening whilst we were there. We peeped, fascinated, from our balcony at the merry-making. They had wisely chosen not to go with a Christmassy theme but settled instead on… pirates!

Aaaarrrrr!

Much fun was clearly had…

 

Another considerable selling point here is the exceptionally good value. Both of the apartments we have inhabited are fully equipped with kitchens (and twin bathrooms!) so we have been able to cater for ourselves, but given that eating out is so reasonable it can be a tough choice to make. Taxis are also very reasonably priced and the fares are fixed and notified before each trip, so there are no unexpected extras and getting around is easy.

Even cheaper are the buses, for which each trip is covered by a fixed rate equivalent to around a (Canadian) dollar for the two of us. The buses themselves are something to be experienced. Not since a visit to India in the 80s has bus travel been such an adventure. The vehicles have an ageless look about them (in much the way that the 50s Beaver floatplanes do in BC, though the latter appear considerably better maintained) and as far as can be told have no suspension at all. As a result the outside lane of each road (being mostly cobbled or paved with small blocks) has a profile not unlike the Rockies!

It seems miraculous that some of these ancient vehicles have not shaken thsmselves apart (or maybe they have and on the edge of town somewhere there is a big broken bus graveyard!). Suffice to say that those with loose fillings should probably stick to the taxis and, though since there appears to be no limit on the number of passengers that can be carried at any time there is little likelihood of ones actually being thrown around the bus, should one take the plunge one should cling on tightly at all times.

I feel inclined to write more about my first visit to this surprising country – and certainly to post more pictures – but my hosting provider has abruptly decided that I may not load further images from here in Mexico. There should – for example – have been a photo of a bus attached to the latter part of this missive…

This will doubtless be a trivial issue to resolve but further postings must needs now follow our return to the chilly coast of BC this weekend.

Tags: ,

The title says it all…

Double click on the images for the full effect.

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

I can’t stop snapping those sunsets!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

Tags: , ,

Well – not exactly… but it does feel a bit like playing hooky to have left our contractor and tradesfolk of all descriptions beavering away on our renovation whilst we have flown south for some winter sun in Mexico.

This is my first visit to this part of the world though The Girl is, of course, a regular. So many Canadians use the Mexican resorts as their winter home from home that it almost doesn’t feel like ‘abroad’.

So – what do I make of Puerto Vallarta? On what I have seen thus far – I love it. That means photos, of course. These from the balcony of our rather swanky suite:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidI am fascinated by the amazing Frigate birds that constantly circle above our roof, riding the thermals with their seven foot wingspan. The hawks are eager to get in on the act too:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

Tags: , ,

“…a little becomes a lot”

Anonymous

A quick pictorial update on our renovations. This is where things stand after our wonderfully perfectionist dry-waller (and his partner) have spent a week and a half working on our walls and ceilings. What you can’t discern from the pictures is just how wonderfully smooth and silky the ceilings now are. The spaces immediately look larger and far, far cleaner than they did before.

Next up – floors throughout and tiling for the bathrooms:

Tags: , ,

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidIt has long been my habit to maintain a couple of decanters of spirits for everyday purposes. One of these is charged with whatever reasonably cheap brandy I can source locally (since it is intended for mixing with ginger ale or suchlike) and the other – the teardrop decanter in the accompanying image – with whisky. I tend to prefer J & B for this one – Justerini & Brooks being a familiar Edinburgh concern and this being their signature blend.

These decanters normally reside in some splendour upon the sideboard in our dining room. During the renovations they are perched on top of a bookcase in the hall/kitchen that forms the spine of our basement abode.

Yesterday found me once again vacuuming our cosy crypt in what is an ongoing effort to mitigate the ingress of the all pervading plaster (mud) dust. I had worked my way through the hallway and into the family room that is currently doubling as our living space and a warehouse for our goods and chattels. As I dragged the machine in behind me I thought I heard a noise from back in the hall. I stopped what I was doing and went to have a look. I could see nothing amiss so determined to think no more about it and to complete my chores.

This morning The Girl was herself sorting through some of the many items that are now vying for living space in our hallway. She picked up a redundant cardboard box in which some life-essential had but recently been delivered.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidWhy is there a decanter in this box?”, she queried. It took but seconds to determine what had happened. As I had moved the vacuum cleaner the power cord had caught around the decanter (the power socket being on the wall at dado height beside the bookcase) and whisked it off the shelves and into the open box below.

Here, of course, is where the luck came in. The box was still a third filled with packing material. The floor below is of concrete covered with a thin layer of vinyl flooring. Had the decanter hit the floor rather than the packing material in the box it would undoubtedly have shattered.

But that is not all. The decanter had come to rest on its side and the glass stopper had come loose and was lying in the box beside the decanter. I lifted them carefully out of the box and inspected them. As you can see the decanter was only about a quarter filled and – because of the vessel’s shape and the angle at which it had come to rest – not a single drop had been spilled…!

…and I feel sure that you know just how much a Scot hates to waste good whisky!

I think that calls for a wee dram…

 

Tags: , ,

Image by Tony Hisgett on Wikimedia Commons“The music is in the air. Take as much as you want.”

Edward Elgar

It is highly likely that a fair proportion of the English expat community of Victoria were unknowingly gathered together in one place on Monday evening last.

The Kickass Canada Girl and I were amongst those attending the Royal Theatre for a concert by the Victoria Symphony Orchestra (the first such that I have experienced) featuring a programme which included works by Ralph Vaughan-Williams and Edward Elgar.

In musical terms one cannot get much more ‘English’ than this and the Brits appeared to have turned out in force!

Though I have long been a fan of Vaughan-Williams I was not previously familiar with the F Minor Tuba Concerto – the which work was featured on Monday. In common with most other commentators I do not find the bass tuba particularly suited to being featured as a solo instrument, but the orchestral passages in the piece are marked by the composer’s familiar elegant phrasing and it proved to be most enjoyable as a whole.

Now – I grew up listening to Elgar. As would seem to be the case for many others I came first to the Enigma Variations, falling in love with the Nimrod and sensing that it somehow encapsulates much that is good at the heart of the English pastoral. I discovered the E Minor Cello Concerto somewhat later but the work has grown to have a profound effect on me. The piece – Elgar’s last major work – was composed shortly after the end of the Great War (during which he had written very little) and has been described as a lament for a lost world. To me – and clearly to many others – its elegiac and melancholy mood captures to perfection the sense of tragic loss both of a generation and of the innocence of the ‘golden summer’ that preceded that catastrophic conflict.

The last time I head the Cello Concerto played live was at a concert at one of the schools at which I worked. The cello soloist (still a schoolboy at the time) was Tim Lowe – now a highly respected international performer. His rendition of the work moved me to tears, as did that of English cellist Raphael Wallfisch on Monday last. Wallfisch’s reading is maybe a little more clear-eyed and less sentimental, but the power of the work over those of us who are susceptible (Englishmen mayhap?) is undeniable.

Mind you – the Nimrod also has me blubbing uncontrollably as well. I’m not entirely sure what to make of this, except that Elgar clearly tapped into something that speaks eloquently to at least some of us who hail from from that blessed plot.

The first time that one hears a ‘new’ orchestra is always a somewhat nervy experience. I am delighted to report that the Victoria Symphony – under its new director, Christian Kluxen – gave an entirely admirable performance. I very much look forward to hearing them again.

Tags: , ,

« Older entries