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No-one could suggest that Vancouver Island – which so often seems to be uniquely blessed when it comes to climate – has not experienced a proper winter this year. The past few days have found us buffeted by a serious storm which many of us are hoping is the very last gasp of this particular winter before it surrenders to the impending spring.

Fingers firmly crossed!

In the meantime, some pictures of snow and ice…

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 Reidwild and woolly


a. rough, untamed, barbarous
b. (of theories, plans, etc) not thought out


At the top of the New Year it feels as though the weather here in Victoria is determined to blow away utterly any echo of the year that has recently stumbled to a close. The winds over the past few days have truly been ‘rough, untamed and barbarous‘ (not to mention that they add a significant chill factor of anything from -6°C to something considerably worse) and show no signs of abating anytime soon; indeed the half a gale that is blowing as I write is supposed to go the whole hog later tonight.

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

The sea has taken on a mean look. Protected by the Gulf Islands the Haro Strait never sees more than mild whitecaps but this belies the ferocity with which the winds can whip across its surface.

Though the land temperature merely hovers around zero the wind chill rapidly dissuades one from spending much time outside.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidIt is at such times that we are grateful to live in a well insulated house equipped with a heat pump, the which does an excellent job of maintaining the internal temperature at a most pleasant 70°C. With our new gas log fire we can face down the external conditions and remain toasty warm inside whilst watching the elements raging outwith our picture windows.

For those unfamiliar with such things the trick – incidentally – with heat pumps (which work in a manner similar to air-conditioning) is to maintain as close as is possible the same temperature at all times. It is considerably more efficient (and cost effective) to run the system constantly than to allow the temperature to drop and for the hear pump then to have to struggle to raise it again. Though this may seem counter-intuitive to those who are familiar with the sort of central heating systems more commonly found in the UK, one rapidly gets used to the idea.

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“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.”

Carl Reiner

Snow in Victoria is a lot like snow in the south east of England; it doesn’t happen that often and it is always a bit of a non-event when it does. Compare these images with the shots that I took in Kamloops last Christmas

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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Centennial Park in Saanichton is lovely at any time of year, but there is something about this season that makes it particularly photogenic. Whether or not one can capture that is of course either a matter of talent or else in the lap of the gods. I go with the latter option – closing my eyes, crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.

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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Snow drops

The snow itself is lonely or, if you prefer, self-sufficient. There is no other time when the whole world seems composed of one thing and one thing only.

Joseph Wood Krutch

Aha! I see from the indispensable BBC website that winter has finally arrived in the UK and that there has been snow in many parts. Well, well, well!

On learning that we were to be moving to Canada the most common reaction engendered in those to whom I had imparted the news was to wonder how we would survive the endless sub-zero winters – or to surmise that we must surely have a penchant for winter sports. To keep such innocents happy here are some images from our sojourn in Kamloops:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidNow – whereas those from the interior may scoff and cry “You ain’t seen nuttin’ yet” – given that to them 10 degrees below and 10 inches of snow merely represent a somewhat chilly day – here on the island we are partial to a more riviera-like climate. We are currently enjoying pleasantly balmy conditions – and we have these…!

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

So there!

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidI have to admit that – in spite of my advancing years and general all-round good fortune when it comes to opportunities for adventure and experience – I am still a neophyte in many regards. There are skills and proficiencies that I have yet to attempt, let alone to master, but at which others seem to have been practicing since they were able to walk.

Some such – hunting, fishing, flying, parachute jumping, skiing and so forth – I am not even sure that I much care about, although I am aware that they arouse in others a mighty passion. Other competences I have attempted in my later years, mindful that a chap probably really ought so to have done. Riding was one such. I didn’t stick at it for long – sad to say – discovering that (although like everyone else I must surely have already known) the pursuit is massively expensive and also that (and this was news to me) all horses are actually a fair bit madder than their owners.

The subject of this post is – however – none of the above. I was – until a couple of days ago – a tow virgin!

I know – I know!

Though I was for several decades the proud possessor of a 12 seat V8 Land Rover County Station Wagon (named Katy after the 4×4 army ambulance that John Mills cajoles across the desert in ‘Ice Cold in Alex’) which I even took off-road on occasion, I never did get around to towing anything with it.

My only real experience in this regard was assisting our dear friends here in Saanichton a few years back in taking their boat to the launch. I had to drive the empty trailer back to their farm on my own, the which I duly did with a certain degree of trepidation. I must admit that after a few abortive attempts at backing the trailer into its parking space I gave up, uncoupled it and pushed it in by hand. Not feasible when fully loaded of course.

Since I firmly intend to own a boat here on the island and will definitely need to trailer it, I already had on my agenda for the coming months some time spent in a quiet spot practicing. This gentle approach was blown out of the water in snowy Kamloops earlier this week when it became apparent that we would need to convey quite a large number of boxes back to Victoria. The only feasible method of so-doing was to hire a U-Haul trailer, to tow it over the icy mountains to the coast, to take the ferry across to the island and – having unloaded – deposit the beast at the Victoria U-Haul depot.

To say that the prospect aroused in me some apprehension would be to put it mildly. I had no real experience to call upon and – though the Lexus is supposedly well up to this sort of task – I had no way of knowing if it were fully equipped so to do.

In the event – and with some extremely cautious driving on my part, particularly when it started to snow – we made it back in one piece. We took the Fraser Canyon in preference to the Coqhuihalla – the former being nowhere near as high a pass, with Jackass Mountain being the only really tough stretch. The weather tends to be a little kinder as well on this route and the only downside is that it adds an hour to the journey. The Girl estimated that departure from Kamloops at 10:00am would see us reach the ferry at Tsawwassen at 4:00pm and she was bang on the money!

The hardest part of the whole proceeding was back in North Saanich. It was dark by the time we got home and raining heavily. I had to back the trailer off the road and into our steep and fairly narrow drive. It took two attempts and I nearly put the Lexus into a ditch in the process. Fortunately the natives are friendly in these parts and the few passing motorists forced to delay their journeys indulged my amateurish attempts with patience and the minimum of heckling.

Considerable amounts of practice will be required before I attempt that with a boat!

What I did learn is that the Lexus is a magnificent vehicle for this sort of thing. It scarcely turned a hair at having to lug a heavy trailer over the mountains in snow and ice and at no point gave us the slightest cause for concern. I am also extremely glad that we spent a packet fitting new winter tyres before we headed inland three weeks ago, a feeling amplified each time we saw some hapless soul in the ditch on the more treacherous stretches of the road.

The Lexus is clearly currently far better equipped than am I. Back to school for me!

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We broke our Boxing Day journey up to snowy Kamloops (where the temperatures continue to be a bracing minus ten celsius!) at Harrison Mills, the which is situated toward the top of the broader part of the Fraser Valley between Mission and Hope (fabulous – no?) before one hits the mountains and takes to the canyon or to the high passes.

We spent a lovely night at Rowena’s Inn on the River which I cannot recommend highly enough to travellers in these parts. This beautiful old lodge is still owned by the Pretty family who built it (their history being revealed in photos throughout the house) and who now run it as a boutique B & B with a really rather good restaurant alongside to boot. Apart from anything else the place is clearly a twitchers’ paradise (see below)!

As ever – here be some 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 ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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Photo by Andy Dawson Reidyear-end also year·end (yîr′ĕnd′)
The end of a year: the value of the account at year-end.
Occurring or done at the end of the year: a year-end audit.

It is at this time of the year that the Girl and I habitually sit down and look back over the events that have unfolded throughout the preceeding twelve months. It is always good to take stock of what has (or has not) been accomplished and to use this as spur to encourage us onward toward the nascent season ahead.

It need hardly be said that the year just ending has been – to put it mildly – epic! We have retired from the world of work. We have sold up and closed down our existence in the United Kingdom. I have become a Permanent Resident of Canada. We have moved across an ocean and a continent. We have purchased a house. We have instigated the lengthy and complex process of setting up a new life here on the west coast of British Columbia.

Given that all of this is the culmination of a five year project it would not be at all surprising were we to be somewhat overwhelmed by the massive changes that our little lives have undergone. In the event the happenings of the last couple of months have added a momentum of their own which has imbued the end of the year with yet another unexpected twist.

I have already alluded in cryptic manner to an issue that has arisen concerning our house purchase that has required the intervention of the legal profession. As the matter is ongoing I cannot at this stage tell all. Suffice to say that there is an issue with the property that was not disclosed at the time of the sale – though it was known about. Given that considerable expense will now be required to resolve the matter, we are seeking – and are most hopeful of achieving – a suitable settlement with the vendors.

Then – a week before Christmas – we suffered a bereavement. When the Girl’s mother died when she was in her early teens, her mother’s best friend – an honorary aunt – stepped in and effectively raised her from that point on. Such was the robust nature of this exceptional lady that – though well into her eighties – we believed that she might live forever. She was always exceedingly kind and generous to us and we will both miss her terribly. For the Girl this is, naturally, a particularly difficult time.

The Girl was grateful that – by catching the 5:30am flight out of Victoria the Sunday before Christmas – she was able to reach the hospital in Kamloops (her birthplace) in time to say goodbye. She returned to Victoria on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, we entertained on Christmas Day and – early the next morning – took the ferry to the mainland and drove back into the snowy interior of BC for the memorial service. The Girl is joint executor to the estate and we will have to stay in Kamloops for a while helping to sort everything out.

All in all, not how we expected this momentous year to end. Regardless we wish all gentle readers a very Happy New Year, and a prosperous – not to mention hopefully calm – 2016.





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Holy moley!

Having spent a laborious portion of the day yesterday clearing up the coniferous detritus left in the garden (yard) by the last high winds I was none too pleased this morning to find that it was once again blowing half a gale. I had occasion to venture into Sidney by the Sea this morning and took these snaps – from inside the Lexus – on the Galaxy S6.

The seas on this side of the peninsula are usually pretty flat calm, as you might have seen from previous photos. We are on the lee side of the island and well protected by the Gulf Islands.

Today was different. These pictures might not really capture the intensity of the winds but you should know that the logs that you can see littering the shore in a number of them were being tossed about like matchsticks. I was not for one moment impelled to leave the safety of our chunky 4×4…

…nor would I have liked to have been aboard that ferry!

When I returned home the power was out again.

Hey ho! West coast winter living!

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 Wikimedia CommonsLooking back at the postings made over the getting on for four years that I have now been scribbling on this blog it is not difficult to detect some broad trends therein. One such is that the missives penned during the run up to the Christmas season each year tend to exhibit a certain world-weariness – sometimes almost bordering on actual desperation.

The posts themselves document the reasons for this dark tone, chief amongst which being – from my time in education – the exhaustion that is so often the end result of the duration and intensity of the autumn term as practiced in the English Public School. Mention is also made of a secondary cause – the general sense of melancholy and ennui that, for me, seem always to be engendered by the ultimate months of the year.

Given that I am now retired and living in beautiful British Columbia I would have hoped that this year my experience of the period might be somewhat different. It is certainly the case that I am sleeping well again, that I have lost a little weight and that – as a now regular attendee of a twice weekly weights class at the local leisure facility (Fabulous Over-50s!) – I am probably fitter than I have been for some years. It is therefore quite sad to have to report that my mood over the past week or so has been really quite disappointing.

There is a reason for this bad humour. A reason that explains why these postings have made no reference at all over the past month to putative renovations around the house. A reason that cannot just yet be made public knowledge, but that which – sadly somewhat inevitably – involves the legal profession.

I will naturally clarify all just as soon as I am able so to do. In the meantime we find ourselves in an unexpected hiatus. This has left us ample time to brood instead of getting on with the planning of, and the preparation for, domestic renewal… and brooding is never a good thing.

In my case it led to a fortunately brief but really quite aggressive bout of homesickness. I had been expecting this at some point, but it still took me unawares. My natural response to such things is to fire up the InterWebNet and to do some research on the matter. That – of course – means that I intend writing a brief(ish) missive on the subject…

…but that must wait for a subsequent post.

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