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Life in BC

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Week five of our exciting new deck project was indistinguishable from week four – but week six started with a bang. Regardless of the fact that Monday was a public holiday in Canada (a joyous celebration of Victoria Day) our contractors arrived bright and early to lay the plywood surface for the new deck. They had obliged themselves to work on what could otherwise have been an extremely sunny and welcome day off because they had booked the vinyl installers for the following day.

The Kickass Canada Girl and I did not stay around to spectate but ran away instead to spend a lovely day in the sun at French Beach – out to the west of Victoria beyond Sooke. French Beach looks across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic Peninsula – the closest part of the American mainland to Victoria.

A picture is worth a thousand words – of course – so here are a bunch of them (double click for the full effect)…

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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“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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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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I was greatly saddened to hear yesterday of the death (at the grievously early age of 61) of Beau Dick – master carver and hereditary chief from the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation.

Beau Dick was the subject of a posting on these pages back in January 2015 – composed before we had even moved to these shores. I make no apology for again referring the gentle reader to that item – which hopefully gives just the slightest hint as to the nature of the man and his craft. We were lucky also to have been able to see some of Beau’s work at the “Box of Treasures” exhibition at the Bill Reid gallery in Vancouver in the September of that year.

Of course, my words could be no substitute for viewing the works themselves, or – in Beau’s case – to hearing him speak of his art and culture. To that end I am including a couple of video clips that should enlighten and delight the novitiate.

(Note: Should you have received this post by email circulation you may not be able to see the embedded video clips. Should that be the case this link will take you to the original post, in which they should render correctly)

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…on Island View Beach.

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

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“More than 80 theatre artists from across Canada descend on Fernwood this March for the Belfry’s annual SPARK Festival – an opportunity to see some of the best theatre in the country.

With love, from scratch, and with some of the country’s best theatre artists, we build, rehearse and create our plays in our own home, a renovated 19th century church in Fernwood – Victoria’s most interesting neighbourhood.”

From The Belfry‘s website

Victoria is blessed to have such an energetic arts scene!

To The Belfry last night to catch one of the shows in the theatre’s annual ‘Spark‘ festival. This excellent festival runs for nearly two and a half weeks in March and offers a number of full length productions in rep in The Belfry main house and studio theatres, in the Metro studio and in other locations across the city.

As I have mentioned before in these marginalia the Kickass Canada Girl and I have season tickets to The Belfry’s regular season and this year we took advantage of the accompanying reduced price offer to pay our first visit to the festival as well. It proved a most interesting evening.

The show that we had selected – Toronto’s Outspoke Productions’ “SPIN” – started at 8:00 of the evening in the main house, but for those who chose to arrive early a number of ten minute ‘mini plays’ could be sampled in odd nooks and crannies around the building. The Girl and I saw three – ranging from an interesting audio production for which an audience of three donned headphones in a tiny ‘broom cupboard’ to listen to a monologue whilst rifling through a treasure box of memorabilia – all the way to a Mohawk woman of a certain age shocking the genteel burghers of Victoria with knowingly racist humour.

SPIN” was itself an intriguing disquisition by singer/songwriter/actress/poetess Evalyn Perry on the early history of cycling – the invention of which turns out to have been a major feminist event. The show featured – and this was a first for me at least – a bicycle percussionist! By this I mean (should you require clarification) a man who uses a bicycle and its component parts as a sort of drum kit rather than someone who plays percussion whilst riding upon a cycle!

We enjoyed the show greatly and found the story of Annie Londonderry (not her real name!) – the first woman to ride a bicycle around the globe – both fascinating and moving. We felt, however, that as a whole the piece needed a little structural work; that perhaps the balance of the material was not quite right for the length of the show.

Very grateful as ever that we have such splendid endeavours on hand to inspire us.

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Photo by Andy Dawson Reid“Now I will believe that there are unicorns
That in Arabia there is one tree, the phoenix’ throne
One phoenix at this hour reigning there.”

William Shakespeare – The Tempest

To those who live in any degree of proximity at all to mother nature – be it through custody of some humble (or grand) garden (or yard!) or by virtue of residing on the brink of the barely-charted wilderness – the persistence of the myth of the phoenix will make perfect sense.

To the centrality of the bird (with its magical ability to fly all-seeing above our prosaic earth-bound existence) to mythologies from around the globe is added the life-giving power of the renaissance/resurrection connate in the cycle of the seasons. The added bonus in many versions of the myth of the cleansing/regenerative power of fire only adds to its potency and illuminates the Christian church’s desire to appropriate this pagan apologue (along with many others of course) into its oeuvre – however temporarily it may so have done.

Further idle musing upon the subject of the bird summons for me images of autumn – of the fallen dead leaves fueling November bonfires – of the blade-razed stubble burning in crimson swathes across the moribund fields as the chilled charred soil surrenders to the winter… and then of spring – the first tender shoots pushing their tremulous way through the dank, inclement loam, searching for the first warming kiss of the sun god’s life-giving rays…

But I fear that I digress – and this time I have not yet even begun…

This post – although appearing at an appropriate juncture in the new year – is not actually about nature at all, but rather concerns a quite different rebirth – though one just as keenly welcomed as is (or would be!) the spring itself – or indeed the fiery metempsychosis of the indomitable bird. Allow me to elucidate…

Way back in the early days of these dribblings I posted to this blog a miscellany of images which included one such of my favourite Greater Victorian supplier of meats – Orr’s of Brentwood Bay. I proselytized all too briefly regarding the extensive merits of this Scottish family institution at the time, but in a further post not two years later I found myself reporting the sad news that Orr’s was no more – having in the meantime gone out of business.

It is with great delight – therefore – that I can now report that Fraser Orr has again set up shop in the neighbourhood, this time even closer to us in Saanichton. We will once again be able to source Ayrshire ham, black pudding, Scotch pies, Forfar Bridies, Clootie dumplings, proper haggis and all manner of wonderful meats and other provender from the auld country.

Joy of joys! For this we are truly grateful…

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Photo by Andy Dawson Reid“It’s kind of like doing surgery with a chainsaw instead of a scalpel. We had pieces and parts flying everywhere. It turned out in our favor. We’ve just got to clean it up the next time around.”

Mike Leach – football coach

I have made reference before in these reflections to the fact that in this part of the world our mains power arrives courtesy of cables strung between tall wooden poles. It is, in fact, not just the power that does so – phone lines, cable television and broadband data circuits are all delivered by the same means, using the same poles. As may be observed in the attached illustration this frequently results in an extensive cat’s-cradle of cables which runs the length of every rural thoroughfare.

The adoption of this delivery mechanism does, of course, make perfect sense. The distances concerned and the lumpy terrain mitigate against the burial of such services, on grounds of cost and practicality, and the ready availability on all sides of tall straight poles makes the chosen solution what is, I believe, oft referred to as a ‘no-brainer’.

The downside – as I have certainly mentioned before – is that the winter winds have a habit of bringing down the branches of neighbouring trees onto said power lines, resulting in outages at just the point that electricity and other cable-borne services would come in particularly handy – for heating, cooking, watching TV and surfing in the InterWebNet and suchlike.

By way of amelioration of this regular occurrence the provincial power company – BC Hydro – engages each spring a clutch of trouble-shooting tree specialists who are briefed to roam the byways looking for potential problems that might be averted by means of a little chainsaw butchery. Any tree branch that so much as glances in the direction of a power line is immediately whacked off and ground up into sawdust.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThus is was that – one day last week – a sizeable swarm of trucks, pickups, cherry pickers and suchlike descended locust-like onto the verge outside our residence. The sound of chainsaws and chippers being fired up rent what might otherwise have been a sleepy afternoon. Half an hour later they departed like a swarm of angry wasps looking for another target, having committed an act of savagery on our lovely Arbutus and left an integument of detritus beneath it.

On being appraised of this visit The Girl wondered (somewhat provocatively) whether our neighbours might have ‘shopped’ us to the power company. The Arbutus is a beautiful tree but has the unusual distinction of shedding its foliage in the summer months whilst remaining resolutely verdant throughout the winter. One afternoon last summer – as our dear friend from Saanichton was helping us to widen our driveway in anticipation of the arrival of the good ship ‘Dignity’ – the little old lady from next door sidled up to me and enquired hopefully as to whether we were having the tree chopped down.

When I told her that we were not she looked most disappointed!

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

 

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Woo hoo!

Today was the first day of the year on which the climactic conditions were conducive to getting down to a little ‘yard work’ – or ‘garden maintenance’ should you prefer. The temperature reached a balmy 9 degrees Celsius, the sun did its best to warm one’s weary shoulders, the breeze was persistently no more than playful and any precipitation that might have been lurked in the vicinity had a change of heart and took the afternoon off. As the forecast suggested that this would be the best day of the week I girded my loins (ooh-err!), pulled on my wellies and ventured forth.

The garden (for garden it shall be, ‘yard’ fans!) is in sore need of TLC, being as it is covered with a veritable layer of winter detritus. I am certainly not going to post any pictures of it at this stage, but will do so (weather permitting) in a couple of weeks when I have knocked things into shape.

Actually, I am posting one photo… that which appears at the top of this missive.

Living as we do in the wild northwest we are naturally accustomed to the indigenous wildlife apparently being of the opinion that it is we who are the interlopers. I regularly look out of the window to see two or three deer using the back garden as a thoroughfare, stopping for a chat and a snack en route. Canadians don’t really do boundaries (fences, hedges, walls and suchlike) in the way that the Brits do. This is probably a good thing because should a deer (or a bear or a cougar) decide that some barrier is blocking its preferred path it is most likely simply to demolish it.

Today, as I ventured outside, I came upon a big fat raccoon ambling across what passes (with a great deal of work) for my croquet lawn. I don’t know how the raccoons get to be so fat at this time of year, but ‘Googling’ “fat raccoon” shows that this particular one was not that exceptional.

As I worked away in the garden I heard an unusual bird call above my head. Looking up I saw that an eagle had alighted on a branch of one of the pines. A steady rain of downy fur-balls revealed that the bird had caught something and was in the process of preparing it for its lunch. I tiptoed inside get my camera and fired off the shot above, the which you will probably need to enlarge (by double-click thereon) if you are to make out any detail.

The eagle felt about being photographed whilst taking its repast much the same as would I and departed for a more secluded spot (with its lunch dangling from one talon) before I could get a better picture. I don’t blame it!

What you can’t see in the image above is the big black crow sitting just out of reach on a slightly higher branch. When the eagle flapped away the crow followed it. ‘Trickle down’ clearly does work in the animal kingdom!

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