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There is something completely magical about the way that fungi live patiently in one’s lawn – in the shape of millions of spores just waiting for the perfect conditions in which to thrive – before suddenly bursting forth for the purposes of reproduction. They have a relatively narrow window in which to do so once the air turns cooler and the moisture levels rise, before the first frosts persuade them once again to keep their heads well down for the duration.

Persistent little buggers, aren’t they!

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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“And I rose in a rainy autumn
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days”

Dylan Thomas

Following a gloriously dry, hot summer it was probably inevitable that – when the weather finally broke – Autumn would offer a complete contrast. It has accordingly thus far been emphatically wild, wet and windy. When it has not been raining the skies have – in the main – resembled more closely those with which I am familiar from the old country.

Every now and then, however, something shifts and we awake to find a sunrise such as this:

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid…or end the day with a sunset like this:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidLast weekend we ventured north to Nanaimo to pay a visit to the Kickass Canada Girl’s mother. As is our wont we took the shorter but slower (and considerably more relaxed) route via the Brentwood Bay/Mill Bay ferry. That particular day was not sunny!

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

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Three storms

Image by NASAHot on the heels of the first storm of the season – mentioned just a couple of posts back under the banner ‘Pillaging just for fun‘ – the end of last week found the coastal region of BC under threat of attack from three more storms. These vigorous systems were the tail end of Super Typhoon Songda that had tracked across the Pacific, making landfall on the northwest coast in waves on Thursday, Friday and Saturday last.

Environment Canada were taking no chances with their forecasting – predicting that each storm would be stronger than the last, climaxing on the Saturday night with winds approaching 100km/h (62mph) – one of the severest weather events over southern Vancouver Island for a decade or more.

Now – we Brits have form when it comes to the forecasting – or mis-forecasting – of serious weather conditions. Weatherman Michael Fish made something of a career out of having infamously told a lady caller that the rumours that she had called to report of a hurricane approaching the south of England one evening in mid-October 1987 were false – the night that trees over swathes of the south east were laid waste by winds gusting to 130km/h (81mph). Ever since that night the Met Office have – to all appearances – tended to exaggerate the potential for damage rather than run the risk of getting caught out again. As a result Brits tend to take these things with a hefty pinch of salt.

I was not altogether surprised when some of the dinner guests we were expecting for Saturday evening cried off during the morning – sensibly not wanting to get caught out in the storm. Given the regularity with which BC’s pole-carried power lines are taken out by tumbling timber (and of course the fact that pretty much everything in our home operates courtesy of BC Hydro) it also seemed sensible to purchase a few precautionary items from Canadian Tyre… a propane cooking stove and some battery-powered lamps for example. I was a bit taken aback upon reaching the store, however, to find that the shelves were largely empty of such items. It would appear that everyone else hereabouts was also taken by surprise by what is, after all, a pretty common occurrence. I took the last propane stove and improvised with some garage (shop) working lights.

Back at home and well into late afternoon the nearest of the Gulf Islands abruptly disappeared from view and the pines and firs surrounding our small estate started to pitch and toss vigorously. The weather channel played continually on the TV as we waited for the power to cut out at any second. We fired up our new gas log fire and hunkered down to sit it out.

Within half an hour all was suspiciously quiet again. The nervous looking weathermen continued to predict the apocalypse to come – but outside our windows the weather stubbornly refused to play ball. The weather system had apparently had a change of heart and buggered off further up the coast.

Anyone need a propane stove and some battery-powered lamps?

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“The autumn wind is a pirate. Blustering in from sea with a rollicking song he sweeps along swaggering boisterously. His face is weather beaten, he wears a hooded sash with a silver hat about his head… The autumn wind is a Raider, pillaging just for fun.”

Steve Sabol

It is a matter of enviable fact that during 2016 the southern end of Vancouver Island enjoyed a seriously spanking summer. Dry and hot much of the time for a second year in a row El Niño conditions saw western Canada basking joyously, though British Columbians’ feet were kept firmly on the ground by the inevitably wild, wet and windy winter that separated the two summer seasons.

There is even talk that the La Niña event that usually follows El Niño may not after all happen this year, which means that the winter may be less extreme than it might otherwise have been. There is – nonetheless – no denying that over this Thanksgiving weekend the autumn (fall!) has put in an early appearance. The first storm of the season stuck on Thursday evening and the first power outages followed shortly thereafter. We lost our supply for about an hour and a half in the middle of the evening and we were very grateful that we now have lovely gas log fire in our drawing room to keep us toasty warm (our furnace being electric!). On the Saturday we had rain… solid rain… all day…

Today, however, we got out and about and I took the chance to grab some autumnal photos.

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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“The perfect weather of Indian Summer lengthened and lingered, warm sunny days were followed by brisk nights with Halloween a presentiment in the air.”

Wallace Stegner, Remembering Laughter

The unseasonably warm weather continues – with the BBC declaring that:

“This year’s Halloween is the warmest on record in the UK, with temperatures reaching as high as 23.5C, breaking the previous record of 20C.”

Nature – however – continues with its plans for the impending winter. Photos – as ever – courtesy of the Fuji x10.

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

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Image by Andy Dawson Reid

…things will be different!


Einstein had it right with this incontrovertible aphorism:

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

It is widely acknowledged throughout the circle of my acquaintance that I habitually suffer a not inconsiderable degree of discomfort at this calendrical juncture. This has – of course – much to do with the onset of the new academic year (and with all that that implies) – not to mention the increasing impingement of that which is – by me at any rate – the least favoured of the seasons.

Proof of this sad state of affairs can be educed from my postings from around this time over the past several years, such as this, this  and even this – although I feel sure that you have far better things to do with your time than to subject yourself to my historical moans and grumbles.

Recent levels of stress emanating from my place of employ suggest that this year will be little different. There are reasons – however – to hope for an alternative outcome – that this time things will indeed be different.

Two years ago – in a somewhat precipitate post – I rashly announced that I was about to embark upon my last year at work before retirement. The gods – naturally – wasted little time in punishing me for this hubris and – as you are doubtless aware – I am still here…

Well – I now grit my teeth – gird my loins – summon up my courage – and make the same pronouncement again… this time with nobs on! I am contemplating several possible scenarios. The worst case has me retiring at the end of the summer term next year. The most optimistic has me packing my bags and waving good-bye in January. The intermediate options might involve working a reduced week in the new year to see me through. Negotiations with my employers commence almost immediately.

The Kickass Canada Girl is – at the same time – examining her possible courses of action. She would also love to slow down. One thing of which we are certain is that – once we have sold our UK property – there is very little to hold us here. Our retirement projections – though of course flexible – are all predicated on a start date of January 1st 2015.

Now – this is clearly a much more positive and realistic declaration than that which I made two years ago. This – of course – simply reflects just how much water has flowed under the bridge since then.

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Nature – splendidly – works to its own rhythm, rhyme and reason. Here – in the last week of November – we are finally seeing the sort of autumnal display that I more normally associate with the end of October. The leaves have really only just begun to fall properly now and at this rate the trees will not be bare before we head across the water to Canada.

Some photos from the jolly old Fuji x10:

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

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This is the second week of the fortnight’s respite that pupils at the School are granted during which to recover from the rigours of the first half of the autumn term, preparatory to the increasingly intense run up to Christmas. In true public school tradition this break is not known as ‘half term’, but rather – oddly, though quite appositely – as ‘Remedy’.

Having much to do I was in the office during the first week of the break, but I have taken all bar one day this week as my very own ‘remedy’ – to try to catch up on some sleep and on other pursuits for which there has been little time of late.

I had intended to get out and about with the Fuji x10 to take some snaps of the autumn colours – much as I did on this very day last year. This time around – however – autumn is late! The mild weather has persisted and the leaves have stubbornly refused to turn. Pehaps like us – having finally enjoyed a summer worthy of the name – they are reluctant to let go of it. Even Sunday night’s much heralded storm (named for St Jude’s Day – the patron saint for the hopeless and the despaired!) failed to strip the trees of their frondescence.

Here instead are some autumnal textures:

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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Assorted images of the harvest season in Merrie England – as captured by the Fuji X10. The interminable drizzle and ashen skies give little in the way of encouragement to the casual photographer…

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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There are days when I feel particularly like the grumpy old man that I fear I am rapidly evolving into. Dour grey November mornings don’t help much with this, even at the weekend when what lies ahead are a pleasant few days of relaxing with the Kickass Canada Girl, eating and drinking well, going for brisk – if damp – walks, and watching the TV coverage of the home nations being beaten to a pulp on the rugger field by the strapping demi-gods of the southern hemisphere.

At my previous school – with just such grim days in mind – they practiced a rather splendid custom. A former member of the teaching staff had left a bequest to the common room with particular instructions for its use. On one grey miserable Monday morning each November – to be chosen on the hoof by the common room secretary – the bequest would pay for Madiera and Bath Oliver biscuits to be served at the daily mid-morning staff meeting held in the school hall. The date was never revealed in advance so each year on one dank Monday morning at least there would be a pleasant surprise.

However, I digress…

My mood this morning was not ameliorated by my running up against one of those irritations that the InterWebNet provides as a counterbalance to the many benefits it extends. Let me be uncharacteristically direct:

I wished to make a risotto. This is something that I do frequently and at which I have acquired a certain skill. However, the last few times that I have done so I have been disappointed with the chicken stock that I have used.

Now – let’s get this straight. I have at the moment neither the time nor the inclination to make stock from scratch. I know that to do so would yield better results, but on this occasion I intended to use a store-bought product. It quickly occured to me that the InterWebNet might be able to assist me in tracking down a superior comestible, so I fired up the Girl’s iThing and Googled (which is clearly now a verb!) “best store-bought chicken stock”.

You can probably imagine the results. Eleventy-gazillion items all advising me that there is no conceivable alternative to doing the job the hard way – that I am somehow lacking as a man if I do not already have to hand a considerable quantity of chicken detritus and that if I think I stand even the remotest chance of making a decent stock with less than two days hard sweat and toil – then I had jolly well better think again!

It is at such times – when the doubtless worthy denizens of the InterWebNet take it upon themselves to decide that I actually needed an answer to a completely different question to the one that I had asked – that I begin to doubt the efficacy of the entire enterprise, and the unconnected world seems like an increasingly good idea after all.

See what I mean? Grumpy old man!


It was a very good risotto – even though I did not make the stock…

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