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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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The gentle reader may wonder briefly why I am posting somewhat anonymous photographs of our sun-rooms. It shouldn’t take much brain-work to figure out the answer; very soon they will not be there any more!

We are heading off tomorrow for a brief break over Easter on Pender Island (more photos doubtless to follow) but on the Tuesday after Easter our contractor arrives to start work. It has taken a long time to get this far and you will be unsurprised to hear that we are impatient to get going.

The Girl and I wish you all a very Happy Easter…

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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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidIt was with great sadness that we heard the news over the weekend of the passing of that wonderful British actor – Tim Pigott-Smith.

Still performing on the stage in his seventieth year, Tim Pigott-Smith was amongst the very best of his generation of thespians and was duly awarded an OBE in this year’s New Year Honours for his services to drama. His career encompassed film, TV and stage – with wide screen appearances in films such as ‘The Remains of the Day’, ‘V for Vendetta‘, ‘Clash of the Titans‘ and ‘Quantum of Solace‘, and starring stage roles in (amongst many others) ‘King Lear‘, ‘King Charles III‘, ‘Enron‘ and ‘A Delicate Balance‘.

It was a TV role, however, that was to make him a household name; the part of police superintendent Ronald Merrick in ITV’s 1984 adaption – under the title ‘The Jewel in the Crown‘ – of Paul Scott’s epic quartet of Raj novels. Pigott-Smith deservedly won a BAFTA award for his portrayal of this complex and flawed character, standing out even amongst the glittering array of talent that had been attracted to this vast and ambitious project.

I was certainly far from alone in declaring in 1984 that this be the finest television drama that had yet been made; beautiful filmed and acted, thoughtful adapted and deeply thought provoking to view, complex, stirring and heart-breakingly moving. This was television drama as the highest possible art form. In the three decades since the series’ first showing I have still seen nothing to compare with it.

We were fortunate enough to have met Tim Pigott-Smith on a number of occasions through friends of ours. For once the old adage that one should never meet one’s heroes seemed simply not to apply in his case. He was a complete gentleman, generous with his time and attentions and an excellent conversationalist. There is no question that he will be greatly missed.

I think that it is perhaps time to re-watch “The Jewel in the Crown“…

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidContrary to popular wisdom – or at least to the wisdom of popular song – the first cut is not always the deepest (ho, ho! – see what I did there?).

As you may gather from the accompanying image my subject here is cutting the grass (or mowing the lawn, should you so prefer). More specifically it concerns that all important ‘first cut of the year’.

The Royal Horticultural Society has this to say on the matter:

“For the first mowing in spring, set the cutting height to the highest setting. Thereafter, gradually reduce the height of cut until the desired height is reached. For fine lawns, this will be 6-13mm (¼-½in). For ordinary ornamental lawns this will be 13-25mm (½-1in) in summer and up to 40mm (1.5in) in spring and autumn.”

Now – in no way does our lawn aspire to the ‘fine‘ designation nor perhaps even – should one be perfectly honest – to that of an ‘ordinary ornamental lawn’ (the ‘ornamental’ being the debatable point here) but there is surely no harm in harbouring such ambitions on behalf of our (half) acre(s)!

Country Living magazine adds this:

“When cutting your lawn for the first time, you should always follow the one third rule: never cut more than a third of the blade of grass in one go. This is because cutting more than this can stress the grass. You should gradually reduce the grass length over a number of weeks to reach the desired length. Cutting the grass too short, too fast, is known as ‘scalping’ which can lead to disease and weed infestation.”

Here, here – say I! And so the lawn was duly mowed – with great care and consideration so as not to stress the grass!

Actually – the subject of this post is not the cutting of the grass itself so much as that with which it was effected – and of the great kindness and generosity of dear friends. When first we arrived upon these shores and moved into our splendid ocean-view residence we abruptly found ourselves in charge of an estate of just shy of half an acre – much of which is laid to grass. Grass which was growing vigorously!

As ever in moments of need I turned to our dear landscape-gardening friends in Saanichton. The head honcho duly promised to look out for a second-hand machine for me and in the meantime lent me a mower from their fleet to tide me over. I have had that mower now for a year and a half!

Well – no more. Our friend finally found me a splendid Toro (The Bull!) mower – in excellent nick and a considerable bargain to boot. I have gratefully returned his machine and now find my self (somewhat to my surprise for the first time in my life) the proud owner of a proper lawn mower.

We are, as ever, overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and to them extend again our grateful thanks.

Now all I need is a gas trimmer…

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Image by MykReeve on Wikimedia CommonsThe weekend just passed saw the occasion of the one hundred and sixty third University Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge on the Tideway in London. Long having been a follower of the event (at which for entirely spurious reasons I always cheer for Oxford) this year’s late start – determined naturally by the tides – meant that I was able to watch the BBC coverage of the race live from the other side of the world. It was a good tight race which Oxford deservedly won, but they were pushed all the way by the heavier Cambridge crew.

I must confess to a twinge of nostalgia whilst viewing the race. The school by which I was employed immediately prior to retirement lies on the banks of the Thames on the Surrey side of the boat race course. Reference thereto is made habitually during the BBC race commentary, particularly in years in which some alumnus of the establishment is himself taking part in the contest.

The TV coverage this time around afforded a fleeting glance of the ongoing building works at the School, showing it already to have been transformed from the place that I knew to somewhere considerably more remote. Such things are – of course – ever thus…

The best way to watch the Boat Race – by the by – is probably by staying at home and following the TV coverage. An event that takes place at reasonably high speed over a four mile course gives little opportunity for involvement on the part of the spectators who are actually present – and unless they have had the foresight to have provided themselves with some means of following the commentary (by radio or on the InterWebNet) they stand little chance of knowing what transpires whilst the competitors are out of their sight.

Those of good fortune might find themselves invited to a gathering in one of the buildings that flank the river. Should the hosts have provided large screen TVs, a copious supply of ‘Harry Champers‘ and what Canadians call ‘Appies‘, one can amuse oneself by getting gently plastered whilst following the build up to the main event – rush out onto the balcony to watch the eights fly past – then back in again to see how it all turns out in the end.

My best viewing experience – however – came about back in the late 80s through having a dear friend whose sister was that year the cox of the Oxford boat. My friend – being a lady of ferociously single mind – determined that we would watch the race from beyond the finish line – in the boathouse at which the Oxford crew would disembark after the event. She swept past the security proclaiming that she was the cox’s sister and we camp-followers stumbled along behind crying “We’re with her…!”. We watched on the big screen as our friend’s equally ferocious sister bullied the Cambridge cox out of the race before rushing down to the foreshore to cheer crew and cox as they landed in triumph.

Happy days!

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Image from Wikimedia CommonsMy apologies to email digest readers for the circulation of yesterday’s post regarding the sad passing of Beau Dick – Kwakwaka’wakw master carver and hereditary chief.

I correctly calculated that the embedded videos that I had included would not appear in the automated email, endeavouring to counteract that omission by providing a link to the original posting. Sadly the link itself did not make the cut either!

An example of force majeure, mayhap!

Here it is again

 

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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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Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul

William Ernest Henley

On all too many occasions over the past five years I have found myself eschewing the gentle whimsy with which these meanderings are customarily imbued and instead penning some heartfelt lament for the state of a world in which acts of violence and horror have become almost commonplace. Watching from afar such scenes being played out on streets and in locations that are beyond merely familiar takes on a particular poignancy. My deepest condolences and sympathies to all those who have been affected by this latest atrocity, played out at the gates of the mother of parliaments in London.

I find it impossible to imagine what could possibly go through the mind of someone who could commit such a heinous crime. What I do know is that – should such a creature have any means of rational thought whatsoever – their reasoning could not possibly be that the act that they are about to perpetrate could make the slightest difference to – or to advance in any way at all – whatever cause or belief it is that they espouse.

Put simply, terrorism – the purpose of which is presumably to sew fear in the minds of a population – does not work! Further – I can think of few places (other perhaps than Glasgow!) that it might work less than in London. I had drawn to my attention this morning these two headlines following yesterday’s incident:

You’re not even in our top five worries, Londoners tell extremists

Londoners show defiance by remaining unfriendly and quite impatient

This stoic response should come as little surprise. The gentle reader will recall that during the second world war Blitz some 32,000 lives were lost, 87,000 persons were seriously injured and more than a million properties destroyed or damaged in London alone. What might be less well known is that over the decades since the IRA’s mainland campaign started in the early 1970s London has been subjected to in excess of two hundred different terror assaults.

There is little more to say. Didn’t work then… Won’t work now!

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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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