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Friends

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Given that the friends who visited recently from the UK (see previous post) had a mere four full days to spend in the provincial capital it was essential that we mapped out their agenda with particular care. Wishing to meet (and hopefully to exceed) their expectations we offered them a rich palette of options and put the choice in their hands.

For the Saturday they chose a day trip to Saltspring Island – and in particular to the Saturday market in Ganges. It would have been lovely to have cruised to Saltspring under our own power in ‘Dignity’, but a blazingly hot Saturday on the September long weekend is a bad time to fight with the queues both at the Sidney boat launch and at the public docks in Ganges, so we chickened out and took the ferry to Fulford instead.

A stall holder at the market – with whom, as is our nature, we engaged in conversation – swore that the crowd was scarcely half what it had been but a few weeks previously. Goodness knows what all of the other souls could possible have been doing – the place looked to be completely packed to us… and did I mention that it was blazingly hot?

It mattered not, of course, as we all had a splendid time, a very passable lunch and then returned home tired but contented.

The taking of photographs in the melee of the market, however, would definitely have been inadvisable, so I contented myself instead with assembling the odd assortment of images that you see represented below…

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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What is there more kindly than the feeling between host and guest?

Aeschylus

As revealed in my last post to these pages my efforts at the Victoria Fringe Festival on behalf of Intrepid Theatre had to be brought to a premature conclusion with five days of the festival still to run. The reason for this unfortunate abrogation of my responsibilities was a previous engagement welcoming to British Columbia our second set of visitors from the UK this year.

Our most welcome guests were themselves only to be with us for five days; scarce time to see all that they desired on their first visit to Canada (let alone to Victoria) and only just enough time to catch up fully with dear friends that we have not seen for over two years. Nonetheless – we had a good stab at covering as much ground as possible and I kept the trusty Fuji x10 to hand to document our various excursions.

Our guests are great gardeners and horticulturalists and an extended visit to the Butchart Gardens was thus near the top of the list of things not to be missed. The recommended agenda of a daytime visit followed by a bit of a break and then a return to catch the gardens under illumination during the evening was adopted; the Kickass Canada Girl and I accompanying our guests for the latter…

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 ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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For the past twelve days the Georgia Strait and surrounding areas have been enveloped in a miasma of smoke from the wildfires (to which I made reference in this earlier post) which are still ablaze in the BC interior. The image at the head of this missive (and at the top of my last post) give an idea of the impact that this effluvium has had.

There have been mornings on which my customary first gaze out of the windows has given the rapid impression of a seriously hazy day, only for the realisation to dawn that the layer of vapour was not the result of any early morning micro-climatic condition, but rather a dense layer of smog lying immovably atop the sea.

The more northerly view from our deck normally reveals Moresby Island, with the higher Pender Island pair behind. On a clear day we can see further – all the way to the mountains behind the Sunshine Coast north of Vancouver. The more southerly view stretches out across Sidney Island to the American San Juan islands beyond – and then all the way to distant Mount Baker.

For the last several weeks it has been just about possible to make out Sidney Island, but even Moresby has occasionally disappeared into the murk, leaving only the Little Group visible in the immediate foreground.

It really has all been quite depressing.

The reason that this cloud of noxious fumes has hung low over the sea (and of course over Greater Vancouver and beyond) for so long is that a ridge of high pressure became wedged over the BC coast – depriving the region of the usual cleansing zephyrs that should have dissipated the pollutant.

Finally, yesterday (Saturday), the weather system began once again slowly to move, the winds changed direction and – as if by magic – the banks of smoke dissolved, leaving ‘not a rack behind’. The sun renewed its efforts and Mount Baker became once again illuminated by the late afternoon glow.

Then, as an evening of croquet and good cheer in the garden with our dear friends from Saanichton entered its twilight phase, the first rains for nearly two months began gently to fall.

Today the world (this part of it at least) is a different place!

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…and ladies!

A few final random (photographic) representations from our recent ramblings ’round the southern end of Vancouver Island.

I always enjoy showing guests this view from Beacon Hill Park across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic peninsula – particularly as it is revealed abruptly after an unsuspecting stroll through the park.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThere is always something to see in the inner harbour…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidFirst stop on the road up island is this viewpoint on the Malahat. The vista is of the Saanich inlet and the peninsula – and then across the hazy Gulf and San Juan islands to Mount Baker beyond. Spectacular!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThe remaining shots are of the aptly named ‘Cathedral Grove‘ near Port Alberni. Some of the trees in this carefully stewarded residuum of the ancient rainforest date back over eight hundred years.

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

 

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On our recent trip up to Port Alberni and Tofino we visited the beaches of the Pacific Rim National Park – Wickaninnish, Long and Chesterman. Naturally I could not resist taking photographs – any more than I can now resist posting some of them here.

One of my favourite places on the planet…

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 ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

 

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The beautiful summer weather has finally arrived here in BC just in time for us to entertain long standing friends from the UK. I have seized the opportunity to take a short break to bring them up island for a visit to Tofino.

First – however – from Port Alberni a trip on the much loved ‘Frances Barkley’ down to Bamfield and back. The ‘Frances Barkley’ is a working ship and makes stops all down the Alberni inlet to deliver the post and all manner of other essentials to communities that have little or no road access.

Here be photographs…


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

This is one cool way to collect a delivery…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

No fisherman’s tales here. This guy looks pretty proud of his catch…

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

…and here is the ‘Frances Barkley at Bamfield.

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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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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