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Life as we know it

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There are many reasons to look forward to escaping from our semi-subterranean hidey-hole and taking up residence again on our newly renovated main floor. This recent experience is just one more such to add to the list.

Our basement does have a kitchen – of sorts! It is quite small and the equipment is – er – ‘old’ to put it mildly. Like some other old things in the house it does not always function as efficiently as once it did – many, many years ago when it was still full of life and charged with the vigour of youth…

Ahem! – sorry about that!

Anyway… a couple of days ago I was roasting some vegetables in the antique oven downstairs. The temperature therein always seems on the low side so I had pushed it up a notch. Unfortunately when the cooking time was up and I opened the oven door a billow of smoke was released into the room – and into the ceiling-mounted smoke detector.

Now – when we purchased the house back in 2015 we inherited with it an alarm system. An eye-watering cancellation fee persuaded us that we should stick with it. The service – which is I believe monitored from somewhere in northern America – not only provides break-in sensors on doors and windows and motion sensors throughout, but also fire and smoke alarms on each floor. When an alarm is triggered a disembodied voice hails one through the console outside the master bedroom, endeavouring to establish whether or not this be a genuine incident.

On this occasion the alarm sounded and I had to rush upstairs to converse with the distant operative. I cancelled the alarm on the console and informed the enquirer that it was a false alarm. I was obliged to give details such as my first and last names and to quote the secret password – to prove that I was not in fact an arsonist who had broken into the house. All this time the smoke was wafting around downstairs.

As the conversation finished the alarm was again triggered. I cancelled it once more and assumed that the distant overseer would recognise that this was in fact the same incident. I went back downstairs. As I was dealing with the oven I heard a call coming in on my cell phone in an adjacent room. I did not get to it before the caller rang off but was informed that a voicemail had been left. It was from the alarm company enquiring about the second alarm. I called them back at once and patiently talked the lady at the far end through the sequence of events. After a couple of minutes of conversation she asked me if I wanted them to cancel the call to the fire brigade. “Yes!” – I exclaimed urgently, somewhat perplexed that it had taken her this long to ask.

At that moment the doorbell rang. It was a fireman! Outside in the road I could see an appliance and a couple of other fire service vehicles – lights a-flashing. I patiently and apologetically explained that there had been a false alarm and that I had cancelled it and spoken to the alarm service. Apparently they had tried to reach me over the console again after the alarm went off for the second time but I was clearly already flapping about downstairs by that point.

I suppose that I should be grateful that we are this well covered – particularly given that this is a wooden framed building – but I can’t help feeling that a little common sense on this occasion would have saved a fair bit of panic on all sides.

Hey ho!

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 "Janus"- watercolour (and photograph) by Tony Grist
As I indicated in my last post there is good reason at this point not only to look back at the year just passed but also towards things already on the cards for 2018. All of a sudden a great deal is going on.

I have not posted any photos of our renovation since those I uploaded before we went to Mexico at the start of December. Much has happened. The floors have been laid, the kitchen cabinets installed, the bathroom floors and walls tiled, the trims and the baseboards installed and painted and various electrics second-fitted. The huge task of painting the walls throughout has also been started.

This week the countertops go in along with much of the bathroom equipment. We are approaching the end game. I have not posted photos because, once the floors were finished, everything was carefully covered to protect it from damage and things thus look less ‘done’ than they actually are.

Not long to wait though…

Now – when I retired and came to Canada I had no intention of working again. What I had not calculated for was the UK referendum on membership of the EU. Should the gentle reader wonder as to the connection the answer is simple: post-Brexit the Sterling/CAD exchange rate tanked and the two-year transfer deal that I had set up expired at Christmas. Since my State Pension does not kick in for another year there is a slightly uncomfortable gap.

I have – therefore – been looking for a part-time job to ensure that things remain comfortable. Furthermore, I have already found same. I will – as of this very week – be teaching Computer Literacy at a post-secondary college in Victoria. The contract is for a single term (though more teaching may be available later in the year) and essentially for two days a week. As far as I can ascertain at this stage this is pretty much the perfect setup. Let’s hope I have not forgotten how to do it!

In addition, it looks as though my ongoing attempts to get something started on the youth drama front might also be about to bear fruit. Fingers very much crossed that this is indeed the case – but I am most hopeful. It does mean that this will be a busy period, though.

That is no bad thing of course…

Whatever your own personal situation I hope that your 2018 has gotten off to a good start.

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Image from PixabayGentle readers in the UK will doubtless already have seen this announcement. Today – January 4th – is ‘Fat Cat Day‘!

It is upon this day – at around lunch time – that the UK’s top ‘fat cats’ across the land can lounge back, replete with the knowledge that they have already been paid more than the median of their full-time employees… and that is on the assumption that they took January 1st off!

Less than three days!

Now – does that seem right to you?

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 "Janus"- watercolour (and photograph) by Tony GristHerewith the promised 2017 update!

It feels as though a great many things happened over the last twelve months. The turn of the year feels like a pretty good time not only to take a retrospective glance at where we have got to but also – in an immediately succeeding post – to where we might be headed in 2018.

The Kickass Canada Girl’s job has occupied her greatly throughout the year and though much has been good about it it has not all been plain sailing. As is often the case with one’s employment, situations can change and not always for the better. The Girl is still tip-toeing around this particular evolution endeavouring to to determine exactly how it will effect her. It is very much her nature to start looking for alternatives when things are less than optimal, so keep an eye out for developments in 2018.

One of the great delights of the year was entertaining guests in our lovely home – both those traveling from the UK (two sets) and from elsewhere in BC. Being a new boy on the island I take great pleasure in showing off its delights to other newcomers and with the summer being really rather decent we had a splendid time both in our garden (yard) and out and about around Greater Victoria and the on island. I got to revisit Long Beach and Tofino, which is always a good thing, and we were able to dine out an impressive amount.

Further travel developments found me in December paying my first visit to Mexico. If you have not yet taken the opportunity to have a look at the photos that I posted herewith you would be most welcome so to do. I love the colours and the light, and the whole trip was a delight.

This has also been my first year on the board of Intrepid Theatre. Not only have I met a great many fascinating and inspiring new people but we have also experienced some really good theatre. It has definitely been a positive year on the arts front (as spectators at least) with theatre and music providing many splendid moments of enjoyment, emotion and thoughtfulness.

A major issue hinted at in previous year’s retrospectives has been our long-running legal battle with the vendor and realtor (estate agent) who sold us our house. I am much relieved to report that the matter has finally been settled (in the immediate aftermath of Christmas) though considerably less content to reveal that the settlement was for a significantly smaller sum than we believe it should have been. Having been obliged to sign a confidentiality clause I cannot reveal the terms, but I feel strongly moved to cavil at a legal process that makes it extremely difficult to get a fair settlement without investing a considerable sum of money (with no guarantee at all of any return) to push the matter through the courts. As it is the defendants have paid us a not inconsequential sum whilst still protesting that this does not admit any wrongdoing on their part. I leave the gentle reader to try to reconcile these two apparently antithetical positions.

The monies have, of course, been most welcome in support of what has been perhaps the major happening of the year – the extensive renovation of this house into a potentially exceptional home. Regular readers will have observed the pictures that I posted at the start of the summer, as we had the back of the house torn off and a wonderful new deck built. At the end of October the second phase commenced and The Girl and I became basement dwellers for duration as this extensive project has steadily inched nearer to its conclusion. More on that in the next post.

Well – that is goodbye to 2017. It always felt as though it were a transitional year somehow, and it still does.

2018 though… That’s a different matter!

 

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It has become a habit for me to post – usually upon New Year’s Eve – a bit of a retrospective on the year just passed. In such missives I am wont to muse in a suitably contemplative manner on the happenings – joyous or otherwise – of the previous twelve months, with a view to wrapping up that which is past and wishing it a tremulous farewell before gazing nervously ahead into the murk of the nascent year before us.

This year I have done none of this.

The reason is simple – there are things going on right now that are taking a fair bit of my attention and for which the outcomes will not be known for a few days yet. I will provide such a conspectus of 2017 – in a short while when things have settled!

In the meantime The Girl and I naturally wish you all a very Happy New Year – and hope fervently that 2018 eclipses 2017 in all the right ways.

Slàinte maith, h-uile latha, na chi ‘snach fhaic!
(Good health, every day, whether I see you or not!)

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…to friends, acquaintances and gentle readers…

from the Kickass Canada Girl and the Imperceptible Immigrant.

Have a wonderful Christmas and a splendid Hogmany!

 


It has been my habit over the last five years or so to post to this blog a collation of festive photos of Christmassy paraphernalia such as Christmas trees, lights and decorations, sumptuously wrapped gifts and suchlike.

Christmas this year is different.

The decorations have remained in the Christmas cupboard. There is no tree or twinkling lights. There are no decorations. Our renovations (and the concomitant basement dwelling) and the last minute return from our holiday in the sun has mitigated against our usual display of festive cheer.

There is – nonetheless – an abundance of Christmas spirit. There is also the possibility here in Victoria of something that I do not recall ever having experienced before… a white Christmas!

So, whatever form the festival takes for you this year – and wherever you may be – we wish a very Happy Christmas to to you all!

 

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“Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.”

John Stuart Mill

I have manfully resisted (with but a few exceptions) making any commentary on the grim farce that is being played out in the old country in the matter of the leaving (or otherwise) of the European Union. The reasons for my reticence will – I feel sure – be obvious to many. Quite aside from any other consideration it is hard in the extreme to know what one could possibly write about this farrago (which quandary does not, sadly, seem to stop many of the more rabid online commentators).

If it weren’t all so damnably serious it would be quite good fun watching the Tory party twisting in the breeze as they try to hold together the fractious coalition of extremists of all hues that is their core constituency. Unfortunately the matter is serious – and thus no fun at all.

Yesterday’s ‘deal’ – which will apparently enable negotiations to move on to the next phase (trade talks) in the long, long process – was such an extraordinary piece of work, however, that my breath was quite taken away. I cannot decide whether it is a work of utter genius or just more stupid than can possibly be imagined. Without going too far into the nuts and bolts of the whole ghastly business, much of the recent debate has concerned the impossibility of maintaining a soft (ie – no controls) boarder post-Brexit between Northern Ireland (part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland (very much a member of the EU). The rebarbative Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland  (who are currently keeping the Tories in power as a result of a desperately poor post-election decision by the PM) scuppered the first attempt at an agreement on the very reasonable grounds that they didn’t want a ‘boarder’ between themselves and the UK either.

The essential paradox at the heart of the ‘interesting‘ compromise that was eventually agreed was summed up by online commentator, Andrew80, thus:

“That agreement in plain text:

  1. We’re leaving the EU single market and the customs union.
  2. There will be no hard border between NI and Ireland.
  3. To avoid that, we’ll come up with something clever.
  4. Failing that, we will stay in the single market and the customs union.”

The devil is – as ever – in the detail and the detail here will be decided at a later stage in the process… or not! This classic fudge – essentially kicking the can as far down the road as is possible – seems to have achieved the impossible and united all shades in… in what no-one quite seems to know! According to a range of commentators of all complexions the agreement is a vindication of their position. Others – again of all hues – are apoplectic with rage at this ‘betrayal’.

I guess that for Theresa May this counts as a ‘result‘!

You literally could not make this stuff up…

 

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Image by Andrew Thomas on WikimediaI could not resist sharing with the gentle reader this extract from a longer opinion piece concerning public offence – by Tim Dowling of The Guardian. In my view Tim absolutely nails it!

This snippet goes under the banner “In-flight entertainment“:

 

“Which brings me to the giant penis in the sky. If you know about it at all, you will have seen the image online at the weekend: a huge penile outline – with testicles – drawn using the condensation trail of a US military aircraft. About 2,500 people from Okanogan county in Washington state had a brief opportunity to be offended by it, although I can’t find any accounts of actual outrage – and one has to assume the locals are the source of all those gleefully retweeted pics.

I will admit that my first reaction to the image was: skill. I think all trainee pilots should be able to trace a passable penis in the sky before they graduate. The US navy thought different: it apologised for “this irresponsible and immature act”, and grounded the air crew of the E/A-18 Growler responsible. But I have to say that this is my kind of public offence: immature, irresponsible and absolutely massive. If there’s a better use of the $67m fighter jet, I can’t think of it.”

Too true…

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My post of yesterday concerning the poignant death of Gord Downie was necessarily brief – because:

– the occasion was just too sad and I could not find words to adequately express the sense of loss…

– because in many ways there is little more to be said…

– because there is much more to be said but there are many considerably more qualified (and way more eloquent) than I to say it…

Canadians doubtless need read no further but for others – particularly those across the ocean in Europe – I sense that it may be important to add something more for the benefit of those wondering what on earth all the fuss is about.

I posted this missive on the occasion of the Tragically Hip’s farewell concert last summer, which might give the puzzled reader some insight into why it is that the premature but expected death of a rock singer has so traumatised a nation. That it has indeed done so may be confirmed by watching Canada’s premier – Justin Trudeau – failing to hold back the tears as he pays tribute on national television. “It hurts”, he says. “We are less as a country without Gord Downie in it”.

Given the almost total lack of interest in the Tragically Hip outside Canada this may seem somewhat over the top. All I can suggest is that the gentle reader spends ten or fifteen minutes reading some of the many tributes to Downie, in order to gain just some insight into why he was so loved and respected. For example,

‘The place of honor that Mr. Downie occupies in Canada’s national imagination has no parallel in the United States. Imagine Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Michael Stipe combined into one sensitive, oblique poet-philosopher, and you’re getting close. The Tragically Hip’s music “helped us understand each other, while capturing the complexity and vastness of the place we call home,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement on Wednesday. “Our identity and culture are richer because of his music, which was always raw and honest — like Gord himself.”’

As Vozick-Levison suggests, Downie was much more than just a singer. He was a writer – a poet – an occasional actor – a philanthropist – an activist on behalf of indigenous peoples and much, much more…

Above all, perhaps, he was a Canadian.

 

 

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Gord Downie

 

1964 – 2017

 

 

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

 

“First thing we’d climb a tree and maybe then we’d talk,
Or sit silently and listen to our thoughts
With illusions of someday casting a golden light
No dress rehearsal, this is our life”

 

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