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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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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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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidIdioms

“Everything in the garden is rosy”

(British English, saying)everything is fine”

Oxford Learners’ Dictionary

A couple of weeks back I posted some snaps of the pleasant surprises that our recently acquired garden (yard!) has been bestowing upon us.

Sadly, not quite everything in our little corner of paradise was as gorgeous as those images may have suggested. There was one rather sorry strip just below our patio – about thirty feet wide by ten feet deep – that could only be described as ‘scrubland’.

This patch – which incorporates a fire-pit – may at one point have been graveled. Much of that covering had long since disappeared and whatever it was that remained clearly provided the perfect habitat for every possible variety of weed and couch grass known to man (and a few others for good measure).

As the spring progressed the presence of this eyesore became increasingly irritating until even this minimalist gardener could stand it no longer and decreed that action must be taken.

I spent a considerable portion of two days earlier this week removing the top surface of this blasted heath and winkling out as much weed root as I could bear to do. I discovered that not only was a fair chunk of our garden irrigation system just under the surface of this patch, but that it had several leaks, a couple of redundant spurs and was not laid in the optimal locations. All this was speedily remedied before I levelled the area and laid and pegged down a porous membrane across the whole patch – in the hope of at least keeping some of the weeds and grasses at bay.

Then it was hotfoot to my local supplier of aggregates – Peninsula Landscape Supplies – to order three yards of half inch clear crushed aggregate. I did this at around one o’clock on Thursday last and was delighted when it was delivered to our door shortly before three o’clock that same afternoon. Splendid service!

The dump pickup dropped the load as close to the patio as possible, but that was a good twenty five yards away. It was then down to me – armed only with a plastic wheelbarrow, a shovel and a rake – to transmute the resultant mountain into the rather splendid gravel strip that can be seen in the attached photo – and all before the Kickass Canada Girl arrived home from work!

If I tell you that three yards of aggregate weighs in the region of four and a half tons, you might understand why my body feels today rather as though it has been hit by particularly large truck.

I suspect it would have been considerably worse had I not been attending weights classes twice a week since September last. I knew that there was a reason for so doing…

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 “The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes'”

Marcel Proust.*

For each ‘new’ garden (Canadian: yard!) that one inherits there is a marvelous, scary, joyous voyage of discovery – lasting a year – during which time is revealed all that lies concealed within. This earlier post told part of the story of our garden; the images below testify to the fact that there is never (thus far at any rate) a dull moment therein.

* What Proust actually wrote was:

“The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is; and this we can contrive with an Elstir, with a Vinteuil; with men like these we do really fly from star to star.”

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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Image from Pixabay“There was a time in my life when I did a fair bit of work for the tempestuous Lucretia Stewart, then editor of the American Express travel magazine, ‘Departures’. Together, we evolved a harmless satire of the slightly driveling style employed by the journalists of tourism. ‘Land of Contrasts’ was our shorthand for it. (‘Jerusalem: an enthralling blend of old and new.’ ‘South Africa: a harmony in black and white.’ ‘Belfast, where ancient meets modern.’) It was as you can see, no difficult task.

Christopher Hitchens

Driveling or not (and Hitchens is indeed mostly correct on that one) I think I can safely state that – with regard to the weather if nothing else – Canada truly is a land of contrasts!

This past week has seen Victoria – along with the rest of western Canada – basking in some exceptionally early summer-like weather, with sunny cloudless skies and temperatures well up into the mid-twenties. Across the southern end of Vancouver Island (as well as in the interior) temperature records for April have been smashed. These figures for Victoria are from a couple of days ago:

Victoria area
New record of 24.3
Old record of 19.4 set in 1934

Victoria Harbour area
New record of 20.0
Old record of 17.8 set in 1897

The same day on the far side of the continent the situation could not have been more different. Parts of Newfoundland experienced ten hours of blizzard conditions with more than forty centimetres of snow falling. Temperatures struggled to get above zero and winds gusted close to 90 kilometres per hour in places.

It is perhaps little surprise that when those not local to the northern American continent discover that one lives in Canada they immediately think of snow, freezing temperatures and long winters, and are moved to inquire as to how one can stand it. I am happy to go on disabusing such folks of this notion – at least when it comes to the west coast – just as I am happy to be living in the best part of the country.

Picked up a bit of a tan mowing my lawn yesterday!

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In my last post I mused upon the notion that Victoria might just be the best possible place in the world to be an expat Brit. At the weekend just passed we enjoyed a delightful dinner engagement with friends who live downtown. The occasion provided (as so often seems to be the case) yet more evidence in support of whichever conjecture happens to be my current fascination.

Earlier posts in this journal attest to my love of springtime… those hazy blue carpets of bluebells… the lush and fragrant azaleas (particular favourites that I would go out of my way to see)… the keening of the peacocks… Peacocks?! Well, yes – for various reasons I associate them with the sort of country estates to which I used to go in search of bluebell woods and azalea glades.

Anyway – before dinner on Saturday we accompanied our friends on a most pleasant stroll through Beacon Hill Park. I took some snaps:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidNow – I am very aware that back in the UK it is not yet quite azalea time. Indeed, should you care to follow any of the links above you will find that all of the posts concerned date from various months of May. Yes – here in Victoria spring comes earlier:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidAnd what can this be?

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidOf course, Victoria has a few things that are more difficult to find back home:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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“To dwell is to garden.”

Martin Heidegger

The weather has at last become more clement and it has been possible to get out into the garden and to start doing all that must be done to wake it from its winter slumbers. I am a gardener only in the sense that I have a garden. I do think – however – that it would have made my father happy to see me tending my (half) acre(s). Yes – you do detect a theme… my father’s birthday would have been at the start of April!

When I got outside these ‘guys’ were already there!

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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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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As we approach my favourite compass of the year here in the UK it is time to blow the cobwebs from the trusty Fuji X10 and to see if I can dredge from the recesses of my memory just how to go about capturing images with it. The dreary UK winter – with its dull and barren light – offers little in the way of an incentive to get out and about looking for those conjunctions of form and colour that just cry out to be recorded for posterity. Some practice is clearly called for.

Herewith some trial shots of nature awakening from its winter slumbers:

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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