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I wonder if some kind soul out there might be able to assist me with the identification of some plants (whose images appear below) that seem to be all too prevalent in our garden (yard). I have endeavoured to ascertain their particulars but thus far without success.

Should the gentle reader be tempted to advise me simply that they are ‘weeds‘ – then my gratitude might seem somewhat muted. That much I already know!

Thanking you in anticipation…

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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“Hard times require furious dancing”

Poems by Alice Walker

Sometimes it is difficult to know quite what to write…

There was a relatively brief period – of which my recollections are still very clear – back towards the end of the last century during which it seemed that a corner had been turned and that the world was after all going to become a better place.

The Berlin Wall had fallen and the Iron Curtain had been rent asunder. Apartheid had been consigned to the trashcan of history and there was hope of a long-awaited resolution to the Irish question. Reaganism and Thatcherism had been kicked – if not actually into then certainly in the general direction of – the extremely long grass.

Things could only get better…

Then came the millennium… and we all know what happened next!

The further that recent history descends determinedly into farce the harder it becomes to conceive any rational view of it.

In the UK the tory party – clearly considering its brilliant strategy of holding (and losing) an entirely unnecessary referendum on leaving Europe to be an unqualified success – repeated the exercise by calling (and losing its majority at) an entirely unnecessary election. Seems that the tories – believing that they currently face no viable opposition from other parties – have determined to do the deed themselves and have emptied the barrels of the shotgun into both feet simultaneously.

One might take some pleasure from the unexpectedly reasonable performance (certainly with regard to its recent history) of the UK labour party, were it not for the fact that they seem to be enthusiastically celebrating losing the election by some fifty seats! Strange days indeed!

Then – of course – there is Trump! Trump!! How on earth did the world get from Obama to Trump?!

Of recent terrorist atrocities throughout the world it is also hard to know what more can be said – though it is clearly important to say something if only to reinforce that which we all know already – that this too shall pass. However painful for those directly involved, in retrospect it will become clear that in the grand sweep of world progress these small tragedies will be shown up for what they truly are – utterly meaningless and mindless.

One of the truest things I have read recently concerning these hideous events was penned by Guardian journalist Hugh Muir under the banner “This is a war on joy“:

“There is no obvious or significant ambition to destroy the pillars of the state: the men who use cars and vans as weapons and strike at random with foot-long knives aren’t obviously seeking to obliterate army barracks or police stations or the Bank of England. Theirs is a war not on the foundations of a free society or on our vital infrastructure, but on people enjoying the benefits of a free society. It is, in many ways, a war on joy, motivated by a warped sense of piety.

We go out and dance and drink and eat. To zealots, these things are decadent and trivial. Yet they are in themselves small acts of political symbolism: we go where we like, do what we like, wear what we want, we love whom we choose, because we have a social framework and a political system that largely allows us to do that. If the extremists cannot dismantle the system, or the foundations that underpin it – and they know they cannot – then they seek to strike and terrorise ordinary citizens who benefit from the gaiety it offers and the freedom it brings…

But there is a bigger danger, and it is that we now start to think twice about the things that bring joy – the night in a pub or a music-filled bar or club, the evening of shared experience in a public place, the mass sporting events, the standing-room-only concert halls, the shopping malls, the cinemas, the theatres – the many experiences that give life texture and richness. The risk in those places isn’t likely to disappear any time soon, for they seem to encapsulate everything the murderers hate. But the risk will always be minimal; we are going to have to price it in. How we work, how we play: they are two sides of the same coin. Even at a time as painful as this, the biggest risk is that we let the zealots rob us of what makes us who we are.”

You heard the man… Go out and spread joy!

 

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Greater abundance?… Further abundance?…

Hey ho!

Pictures of flowers in the garden…

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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Of all of the many joys that the natural world has to offer the expat from Europe one of the most enthralling is the prevalence of hummingbirds throughout the Americas. These amazing, beautiful but minscule birds are simply not found in the wild to the east of ‘the pond’.

For the price of a cheap plastic hummingbird feeder and a bag of sugar one may readily contrive countless hours of wonder and entertainment throughout the year as the diminutive creatures besport themselves before our mesmerised gaze (although not, of course, actually for our benefit!).

The nesting habits of hummingbirds are – however – considerably less public and significantly more mysterious. This – from ‘Birds & Blooms‘:

“Like a crown jewel, the nest of a hummingbird is one of the great wonders in all of nature. They are so tiny, yet so perfect. Few of us have ever seen a hummingbird nest. This is because they are nearly impossible to find. From the ground, they look like another bump on a branch. From above, an umbrella of leaves conceals them. And from the side, they look like a tiny knot, quilted with lichens, plant down and fibers.”

…and this from ‘The Spruce‘:

“Hummingbirds choose safe, sheltered locations for their nests, ensuring that their hatchlings are protected from sun, wind, rain or predators. The most common nest locations are in the forked branch of a tree, along thin plant branches or sheltered in bushes. Thicket-like areas or thorny bushes are especially preferred for the extra protection they provide.”

Why should it be – therefore – that one particular hummingbird has chosen to construct her nest (the males play no part at all subsequent to conception) in the string of festive lights that I had left up for far too long after Christmas – immediately outside our front door? Hardly a ‘safe, sheltered location’, given that most traffic into and out of the house passes immediately below the spot. Did the bird simply not notice?

Given that ‘The Spruce’ advises:

“Like all nesting birds female hummingbirds can be shy and skittish, and may abandon nests if they do not feel secure. It is always best to keep your distance from a nest and enjoy it from afar rather than risk harming the nest or chicks by being too eager to see them.”

…we have been forced to adopt a new route into and out of the house – through the garage…

We know our place!

(I do encourage the gentle reader to enlarge the attached image by double-clicking it. I didn’t want to get any closer to the nest and my little Fuji camera has only a limited zoom).

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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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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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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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There are many across the globe – it would seem – who have over the last half decade or so (and certainly since the financial crisis of 2008) come to feel that the society of which they are a part has been of late seriously in ‘democratic deficit’. They may be right.

Certainly there have been in recent times a plethora of elections and referenda throughout the western world and in the melee that passes for electoral normality these days the body politic has done its best to destroy any possible vestige of complacency in those who govern us – by means of the delivery of a number of short (and not so short), sharp shocks to the system. Once upon a time we might have called this ‘sticking it to the man‘ – but we were all a great deal younger then!

In the UK the repercussions from the 2016 Brexit referendum will rumble on for years yet and may even lead at some point to a rerun of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Prime Minister Theresa May – in an effort to demonstrate irrefrangibly the strength and stability of her government – has decided that the UK has not suffered enough at the polls in recent years and has called another (apparently one-sided) election for June. She has presumably been seduced by the prospect of doing to the UK Labour party what the Progressive Conservative Party did to the Social Credit Party in the 1984 Canadian federal election (and in turn had done to them by the Liberals in the 1993 election!).

Trump’s administration in the US is the gift that keeps on giving… should you happen be a satirist (or indeed just a smug cynic who likes to be proved right!). The orange one has only held the reigns of power for a few (though seemingly endless) months, but has already provided enough material for a trilogy of (extremely weird) mordant film-scripts. You quite literally could not make this stuff up!

The outcome of the recent French election was met with divergent reactions throughout the western world. The heavy sighs of relief from well-meaning social democrats everywhere as the French (following the example recently set by the Dutch) chose to reject the far-right populism of Le Pen for the centrist Emmanuel Macron were, of course, to be expected – not to mention welcomed with open arms. The howls of rage of those on the right in countries having little connection with France took me momentarily aback. A little contemplation, however, shed further light on the matter.

In a manner somewhat akin to that of the Bolsheviks in the early years of the last century (who believed that their communist revolution must not be limited to Mother Russia and her colonies but must sweep across the civilised world) those on the far right require that all nations should bow to their brand of populism… that the European Union must be seen to fail, that all forms of collaboration must be suppressed and that the globe should revert to comprising a set of adversarial nation states.

As ever there are some areas in which the right and the left are practically bedfellows. Both strains reserve their greatest hatred, not for each other, but for those who occupy the centre ground. The recognition in the latter part of the last century that elections are primarily won and lost in the centre inspired such dogmatists to paroxysms of rage. What they required of the centre was a large pool of clear blue water, such that their class war might be kept alive indefinitely.

One thus finds oneself assaulted by those on both flanks (though particularly by those on the left in this case) braying about the failure of centrist, liberal politics, along with the demand that such be consigned to the dustbin of history – all the while conveniently ignoring the fact that their own brand of dogma has itself demonstrably failed repeatedly.

Such ironies…

In British Columbia – meanwhile – the recent provincial election resulted in the first minority government for many a long year, with the crucial balancing riding being won by a mere nine votes!

Now that’s how you send a message!

 

 

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