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British Columbia

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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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“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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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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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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Way back when The Girl and I were still living in the UK and taking appropriate advantage of the cultural offerings that the capital had to offer, our thoughts would – every once in a while –  turn away from the high arts – the galleries, concert halls and the National Theatre and so forth – in the direction of a little light relief.

At such times we would go looking for some comedy!

On one such occasion we decided to eschew our favourite Irishman (what is it that makes pretty much every Irish comedian funny, even before they have truly gotten going? All it takes is an – “Ah, c’mon now…” – or a – “Jaysus, yer a feckin’ eejyut” – in the brogue and I am well on the way to cracking up) and went instead to see a certain Scottish funny man who was at the time highly visible on television.

It was an interesting evening. The Scot was disappointing. It wasn’t that he was unfunny, it was more that what had appeared on TV to be a rapier wit – firing off one-liners and acid put-downs on all sides – turned out to be wholly scripted, down to the last barbed repostes.

What did not disappoint – and not only because we had no expectations – was the warmup act – a Canadian comedian called Craig Campbell. His sharp-eyed observations on both Canadian and UK life and culture had us in stitches, practically slipping off our seats and into the isles.

I turns out that Mr Campbell is sufficient of an Anglophile that he has taken up permanent residence in the West Country and now tours regularly in the UK. I was surprised to discover that my brother had also become an enthusiast for the hairy Canadian’s humour and we subsequently all went together to see him on several further occasions before we left the UK.

A couple of weekends ago – on the eve of my birthday and after The Girl had retired for the night – I was searching our cable channel for a little late night viewing when I happened upon a recording from Nanaimo of a touring comedy show – compared by one Craig Campbell! Not having heard of the ‘Snowed In Comedy Tour’ at all I immediately went online to the InterWebNet. I discovered that, though the recording I had found was from last year’s tour, the 2017 version was not only already underway but was also coming very shortly to Victoria.

I had half a mind to quiz The Girl the next morning as to whether she was aware of the engagement (she being primarily in charge of our social calendar) but before I could so do she presented me with a birthday card containing… tickets for the show!

Isn’t she a darling?!

I can happily report that Craig and his fellow Canadian comedians were in fine fettle and a riotous evening of merriment was enjoyed all round.

If you get a chance – in Canada or in the UK – I do urge you to catch him!

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Er – pardon?

One of the issues concerning which I consulted my new doctor (details here) during my introductory interview with him at the start of November was the mild but persistent tinnitus with which I am now cursed – though in my left ear alone!

This ‘irritation’ takes the form of a constant high pitched whine or whistle at a level such that, though it is apparent when in quiet surroundings, I really don’t notice it at all for much of the time. Its presence did – however – focus my mind on the fact that I have never actually had my hearing checked.

This little message from the gods was reinforced by our recent spate of attendances at musical soirees of one sort or another. As far as I am concerned my hearing is in itself unimpaired, but I am increasingly aware that my ears get tired more quickly these days after an evening of listening to music – or should I spend too long in the studio.

My doctor – being, as he is, admirably proficient at his job – did as he should and suggested that I visit an audiologist for a hearing check. This – following some initial research on the InterWebNet – I duly did.

The good news is that my hearing is perfectly good, with the exception of a slight dip in performance for my left ear at high frequencies. Given that this corresponds pretty closely to the range in which I have tinnitus it is most likely that other signals are being slightly masked thereby.

In conversation with staff at the audiologists I raised the question of investing in some ear protectors, for those occasions on which which I attend concerts or other events at which the sound levels can be uncomfortable. For the musician it is essential that ear protection should attenuate the audio signal without compromising the frequency response thereof. In other words – such protection should make the music quieter without altering its tone or timbre.

These devices are certainly available but are, as you might expect, a sight more expensive than simpler equivalents and must be made to fit the individual ear. I decided that my hearing is too important to me not to be treated to the best and I was duly tested, measured and an order placed.

I took delivery of my new ear-pieces just the other day (see the above illustration) and jolly splendid they are. The silicon based moulding sits snugly in the ear and the attenuation capsules can be changed for those of other values should the need arise.

Now to see if they do the job…

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Image from WikipediaIt is really most remiss of me to have jotted nary a peep thus far regarding an issue here in British Columbia of which I was not aware before we arrived in the summer of 2015 (though I feel sure that I had been told!) but which would definitely be of interest to anyone moving here from another part of the world.  BC as a whole – and Victoria in particular – currently suffers from an extreme shortage of General Practitioners.

Now – to this point in my life I must admit to having had things pretty easy in this regard. Not only is the UK thankfully well pretty provided for when it comes to GPs, but I was also been fortunate enough over the last three decades or so to have simply signed up with one of the doctors at whichever educational establishment I happened to be employed.

It was thus a rude shock to discover, on arrival in the province last year, that finding a GP in Victoria would be a major operation and that it would undoubtedly take some considerable time to effect. In the end it took me fifteen months and I was lucky in that one of the practices in Sidney, which was recently refurbished, also took on a couple of new doctors. This sort of opening comes but rarely.

Once the practice had let it be known that it was taking on new patients and that applications should be submitted before before an advertised deadline there followed an almost unseemly rush to get on to the list. Applicants were not to be selected on a first-come-first-served basis, the new GPs rather assembling a clientele with an appropriate variety of needs. Fortunately mine are relatively straightforward (comprising as they do in the main a repeat prescription for the medication for the hypertension that I inherited from both parents) making me a pretty good risk and thus the ideal patient.

The only minor fly in the ointment was that the Kickass Canada Girl had suggested that I take out some life insurance here in Canada. It should come as no surprise that insurance companies are as risk-averse here as they are anywhere else in the world. I had no objection to being subjected to further medical examinations, but it did seem that they wanted to cavil at everything. I had to pay several visits to a drop-in clinic, to the Saanichton Hospital laboratory and to an ultrasound lab whilst those in white coats quibbled with the insurers over the sort of test readings at which one’s GP normally just shrugs his (or her) shoulders.

As I have currently been asked to get one reading repeated every three months or so the insurers have gleefully taken the opportunity to kick my application into the long grass.

The Girl is not best pleased!

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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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