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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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183311Well – the good ship Dignity finally hit the waters again the other evening as our dear friend from Saanichton helped me to take her for a brief early evening sea trial to ensure that all of the bits and pieces were in full working order.

She had been sitting on her trailer for a good long time and was somewhat reluctant to part company with it. Those who know about such things will attest that the procedure for putting a boat into the water at the boat launch (once in position and having carried out all the ‘pre-flight’ checks, including freeing the vessel from its carrier) is to back the trailer sharply into the water and then to brake hard. At that point the momentum of the boat is meant to carry it gracefully off the trailer rollers and into the water.

In this instance Dignity – not having dismounted for a considerable period – took three attempts. I have no doubt that as she and I become more accustomed to the procedure the operation will prove easier to effect.

She was also a little rusty from not having been run properly for quite a while, and needed to be thoroughly warmed up before going into drive without futtering out (technical term!). Once fully awake – however – she demonstrated that the Penta V8 has more than enough power to get her moving in a serious fashion. She goes onto the plane easily and handles the water well. I am not yet sure what this will do for fuel economy, but I feel inclined in any case to handle her cautiously (as one should a lady!) – at least until I have had a chance to log some statistics.

As a next step I am contemplating finding her a berth in a marina for a month, so that I may spend some serious time gaining as much practical on-board experience as possible.

So much to learn…

 

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To Edmonton for a long weekend – on an excursion with two objectives. The first of these – and the subject of this post – was a visit to long-time friends who previously lived in Victoria. It was lovely to see them and they spoiled us rotten – plying us with all manner of sweetmeats and tinctures and laying on the most excellent and generous entertainment (even if the price thereof was having my a*se kicked at street-hockey by our friends’ ridiculously talented six-year-old progeny).

With my Canadian experience limited thus far to British Columbia (it is a very big country!) all that I really knew about Alberta beforehand was that it was flat – relentlessly flat – and that this is not the best time to be in oil! This first visit confirmed that it is indeed flat (with impressively big skies) but also that there are numerous other places of interest in and around Edmonton – a fact to which these photographs will attest.

At Elk Island National Park we had the truly magical experience of being able to get up close and personal with the splendid herd of plains’ bison. It was possible – if only for a fleeting moment – to gain some sense of what this country must have once been like.

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

It is also possible to get a sense of the past at Fort Edmonton Park, where the history of the city is brought to life in a series of recreations of the townscapes of different eras.

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 ReidLast Friday was not the first Canada Day that I have enjoyed in the country (I arrived for a visit on July 1st back in 2012) but it was the first such that I have experienced here as a resident. We duly made a weekend of it.

Sidney spreads its celebration over two days and features a firework display on the night before Canada Day itself. At the last minute we decided not to attend – both being somewhat weary from our busy weeks – and reasoning that we could probably see the display from our windows anyway – which we could. We thus also saw the results of the ‘computer glitch’ that fired half the display within the first ten seconds – followed by a lengthy pause before the rest of it carried on as it should have. Glad we didn’t venture forth for that!

Our dear friends in Saanichton hosted a barbecue for the day itself which was lovely for all sorts of reasons – not least of which was meeting his father (a most redoubtable gentlemen) for the first time. At the end of the evening they announced that they had some spare passes for the following night (the Saturday) for Butchart Gardens. Summer Saturdays at Butchart mean live music and – yes – more fireworks… so we did get to see some after all.

The traffic queues to get into and out of the gardens on a summer Saturday night are all too reminiscent of some of those in the UK. If, however, one has a boat conveniently moored in a nearby marina – as do our dear friends – one can sail the short hop across Brentwood Bay and up to the Butchart back entrance off Tod Inlet. To my great delight this was indeed the plan and we duly puttered our way over in style.

Boats – music – picnics on the lawns – a stroll round the fabulous illuminated gardens – fireworks! It doesn’t get much better…

Here be a handful of random images:

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

 

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Image from Wikipedia.enSpeaking as I was only recently (in the sense of posting to this picaresque periodical) of living legends… cf. Mr Richard Starkey… not more than a couple of weeks have elapsed since that joyous outing until I found myself again heeding my own dictum – ensuring that no such opportunity be missed to catch these legends whilst there is still time.

Billy Connelly – like Ringo – is in his seventies, though he is by comparison a mere youthful seventy two. Unlike Ringo however (who has the air of a man intent on going on for ever) Connelly not only came through a recent prostate cancer operation and the subsequent treatment, but has also been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

This hardly seems fair – though fairness naturally plays little part in such things.

When Connelly shuffled onstage at the Royal Theatre in downtown Victoria (whence we had gathered with dear and good friends on Wednesday last) for the second of two shows in a city of which he is clearly very fond, his painful lack of mobility and apparently fragile voice caused one’s heart momentarily to skip a beat – for a second wondering how on earth he was going to get through the show.

Two and a quarter interval-less hours later we had our answer and the capacity audience responded by giving the comedian a generous standing ovation. No encore was expected or offered – which seemed in the circumstances to be entirely appropriate. One should never forget that Connelly is a Glaswegian, that he started out as a welder in the shipyards and that whatever has happened to him since he is undoubtedly hewn from that tough stuff for which the inhabitants of that tough city are reknowned.

Not everybody gets The Big Yin. Not everyone appreciates the genius of his comedic talent. For me he is simply one of the funniest men on the planet, and that is before taking into account his award winning acting career and his heart-warming TV travelogues.

Respect – I say. Respect – dammit! I wish the man nothing but the best and I am delighted to have had the chance to catch him here in Victoria whilst he is still touring.

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Photo by D Sharon Pruitt on FlickrA few weeks back (there having been so much to write about over this last period that I have been struggling to keep up with it all) I went with one of our dear friends from Saanichton to a concert – or perhaps more accurately a gig – at the Memorial Centre here in Victoria.

Peter Gabriel visits aside I don’t venture forth to big gigs that much these days. I find that large impersonal arenas, the gridlocked post-gig car parks and the obligatorily aggressive comestible marketing all too often result in a somewhat wearing night out. Granted that modern technology usually now produces a auditory experience that would have been unimaginable when I first started attending live concerts (a good thing too as my ageing ears would not otherwise stand the strain) but that does not altogether compensate.

So – it takes something pretty special to get me out of the house of a night. In this case the something special was provided by Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band.

Now, I am a long time – a very long time – Beatles fan, but to this point I have never seen a Beatle perform live. There have been numerous opportunities over the years to catch McCartney in London and Ringo has been making these All Starr forays since 1989. I have not before, though, felt the slightest need to catch either of them – so why now?

Part of it is clearly the ‘London’ effect (other options available). Like London buses, if you miss one there will be another (or possibly two or three!) along in a moment. Cultural events are just so thick on the ground that if you miss a big show you can almost certainly catch it next time round – or just choose something else from the extensive selection on offer. For Victoria it is different. If the big names do land here the opportunity should be grasped with both hands.

Another reason is that there has been little incentive to see either Beatle right now. Yes – seeing either of them might be on the bucket list – but where’s the hurry?

Well – Ringo is 75! That’s right…

Fair enough – if I look a fraction as good at that age as does he then there would be serious suspicions that my loft housed a pretty decent collection of art. The point is that neither of these guys will go on touring for ever. In the same way that – a few years back – I decided not to miss a single Peter Gabriel show in case it turned out to be the last – I didn’t want to let this opportunity slip.

As for the show itself… It was excellent! The format is thus: When not bounding around the stage like a teenager flashing peace signs Ringo sings pretty much all the songs one would expect. The All Starrs – Todd Rundgren, Steve Lukather (Toto), Gregg Rolie (Santana) and Richard Page (Mr Mister) – each get to lead the band for three of their own best loved numbers. One thus gets to hear seriously good versions of songs such as ‘Africa‘, ‘Rosanna‘, ‘Black Magic Woman‘, ‘Oye Como Va‘, ‘Love is the Answer‘, ‘Broken Wings‘ and ‘Kyrie‘.

Best moments? Ringo announcing a song that he used to do with: “That other band I used to be in… Rory Storm and the Hurricanes!” – and Gregg Rolie commenting of one of his numbers that: “We played this at Woodstock!”

Blimey! It’s enough to make one feel old!

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“Boats are like rabbits; you can have one boat or many, but you can’t stop at two.”

Aristotle Onassis

Given Victoria’s position on the southern tip of Vancouver Island – and surrounded as it is on three sides by the sea – it is little surprise that the city should be included in what is quite an extensive circuit of classic boating extravaganzas. The Victoria Classic Boat Festival was one of a number of events that took place in and around the provincial capital over the long weekend just passed.

I spent a few happy hours in the Inner Harbour with one of the dear friends with whom we are currently living. At some stage in his widely varied past he owned and lived aboard a 46ft Chris Craft dating from the 1960s, and it was fascinating to ‘sit in’ on his conversations with other wooden boat owners. Most of what was said went over my head, but listening to experts – in any field – is one of my favourite pursuits. At one stage our friend found himself taking to one of his boat-building heroes – Bent Jespersen – which was definitely the highlight of our visit.

I had with me the Fuji x10. I recorded some images:

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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vennOn Saturday last the Kickass Canada Girl and I enjoyed a really rather splendid day in town. ‘In town‘ refers – of course –  to ‘The Smoke‘… to London! I don’t normally feel much inclined to drive all the way in to town again at the weekend – having done most of the journey each and every day during the working week – but on occasion exception must be made – and made it was on Saturday.

We lunched with good friends in what was probably the first of a number of such ‘farewell’ events at one of our favourite eateries in St James – The Wolseley. We then indulged in a little retail therapy in one of London’s iconic department stores – Selfridges – before heading for the West End to see a show. This latter – David Mamet’s ‘American Buffalo‘ starring John Goodman and Damian Lewis and currently playing at Wyndham’s – was a late addition to the day’s festivities in that we only decided to try for seats on the morning itself.

Why – you might wonder – am I regaling you with this directory of Dionysian delights?

The answer is that it occurs to us – as it must do to others in a similar position – that we might, subsequent to our departure from these shores, rapidly come to realise that we miss terribly all the cultural and epicurean delights of the big city. We might even compare – unfavourably – our new home with that which we have left behind and become – as a consequence – ‘homesick’.

I decided to get my comparison in first!

The Wolseley is indeed lovely and serves one of the three best ‘Eggs Benedicts‘ in the world (from my admittedly somewhat limited experience). The second such of these may be obtained just a few hundred yards further along Piccadilly at The Fountain restaurant at Fortnum and Mason. The third – at John’s Place in Victoria!

You might cavil that this latter is clearly an entirely different proposition when compared with the pomp of London’s finest, and you would be right… the ambiance is very different. One need only – however – look at the testimonials on their website to realise that John’s is a very special Place, and that their food really is of the highest order. That one has to fight to get a table for Sunday brunch tells you all you need to know.

Victoria can also offer plenty of other good dining experiences and you will doubtless find me waxing lyrical as to their qualities in future posts.

Could The Bay in Victoria really be compared to Selfridges? There is no denying that the London store is really rather flash and that if one is searching for what the younger folk might at some juncture have referred as ‘bling‘ – then it is probably the place to be. Of a weekend – however – it is also jam packed, overheated and extremely noisy. Frankly I prefer my retail experiences to be a little more civilised.

It will come as no surprise that Victoria cannot hope to compete with London when it comes to the theatre… but then – nowhere else in the world can either (not even the Big Apple!). We did see – however – only a few years ago Eric McCormack in Mamet’s ‘GlenGarry, Glen Ross‘ at the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver. Certainly we could not reasonably wake up of a morning and expect to be able to book tickets for a hot show starring internationally respected talent that same evening! Both Vancouver and Seattle are within range, but serious planning would be required to mount an expedition to either. We will just have to spend more time on preparation. Fortunately, time will not be in short supply…

On the other side of the equation – driving into London from Berkshire can take up to two hours of traffic-crammed grind – and one must then repeat the odyssey on the way home later. The public transport alternative is no better – hot, exhausting and very, very long. From Saanichton into central Victoria takes around 20 minutes by car, and one gets to look across the Strait of Juan de Fuca at the Olympic mountains for much of the way.

Hmm! Not much in it by my reckoning…

 

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidIt takes a long time to grow an old friend.

John Leonard

Back in the day – when this blog were a mere stripling and I had only just taken delivery of the Fuji x10 – I posted hereon some of the fruits of my first tentative photographic explorations. Of the image reproduced here I wrote:

“This is a most treasured possession of mine – the 1966 Omega Seamaster that the Kickass Canada Girl gave me as a wedding gift. It could do with a new crystal, but it is a thing of beauty and a timeless classic…”

Towards the end of last year the Seamaster abruptly ceased its measured recording of the passage of time and demanded some rare TLC. For one reason or another (time… money…) it was subsequently tucked away in its box and, if not forgotten, at least roundly ignored for a while.

By the time Easter hove into view I had built up a sufficient debt of guilt that I felt obliged to seek out some suitably dependable enterprise with whom I might entrust my precious timepiece. This naturally took some research – mostly of the InterWebNet variety – but did in the end produce precisely the result that I had sought.

The proprietor of Abacus Associates of Richmond in Surrey (the UK variants of both) has 40 years experience in the servicing of chronometers by such esteemed watchmakers as Rolex and Omega. Subsequent to the fall from fashion of mechanical movements in favour of quartz during the 70s and 80s and the concomitant reduction in demand for the old skills he became Lecturer in Horology at the British Horological Institute in Manchester.

That Abacus Associates’ services are now once again in demand is a result of the resurgence of interest in – and the desirability of – the mechanical watch. This is in part because the substitution of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets for the conventional timepiece has rendered the cheap digital watch practically superfluous. The futurist author William Gibson writes:

“Mechanical watches are so brilliantly unnecessary. Any Swatch or Casio keeps better time, and high-end contemporary Swiss watches are priced like small cars. But mechanical watches partake of what my friend John Clute calls the Tamagotchi Gesture. They’re pointless in a peculiarly needful way; they’re comforting precisely because they require tending.”

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidHe’s not wrong – and my beloved Seamaster certainly did need tending. The end result – the watch having now been given a thorough cleanse and service, and the seals, crystal and strap having all been replaced – is that it now looks even shinier and more beautiful than before.

I may – as a side effect – be lacking an arm and a leg, but it has been well worth it!

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With riotous laughter we quietly suffer
The season in town, which is reason enough for
A weekend in the country
How amusing
How delightfully droll
A weekend in the country

Stephen Sondheim – ‘A Little Night Music’

Just such…

…a weekend in the country with oldest friends. The Fuji x10 came too!

One of many the reasons that this is the perfect time of year in the UK… English asparagus!

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

A walk is most definitely called for…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid‘Et in Arcadia…’

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

 

 

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