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 "Janus"- watercolour (and photograph) by Tony Grist
As I indicated in my last post there is good reason at this point not only to look back at the year just passed but also towards things already on the cards for 2018. All of a sudden a great deal is going on.

I have not posted any photos of our renovation since those I uploaded before we went to Mexico at the start of December. Much has happened. The floors have been laid, the kitchen cabinets installed, the bathroom floors and walls tiled, the trims and the baseboards installed and painted and various electrics second-fitted. The huge task of painting the walls throughout has also been started.

This week the countertops go in along with much of the bathroom equipment. We are approaching the end game. I have not posted photos because, once the floors were finished, everything was carefully covered to protect it from damage and things thus look less ‘done’ than they actually are.

Not long to wait though…

Now – when I retired and came to Canada I had no intention of working again. What I had not calculated for was the UK referendum on membership of the EU. Should the gentle reader wonder as to the connection the answer is simple: post-Brexit the Sterling/CAD exchange rate tanked and the two-year transfer deal that I had set up expired at Christmas. Since my State Pension does not kick in for another year there is a slightly uncomfortable gap.

I have – therefore – been looking for a part-time job to ensure that things remain comfortable. Furthermore, I have already found same. I will – as of this very week – be teaching Computer Literacy at a post-secondary college in Victoria. The contract is for a single term (though more teaching may be available later in the year) and essentially for two days a week. As far as I can ascertain at this stage this is pretty much the perfect setup. Let’s hope I have not forgotten how to do it!

In addition, it looks as though my ongoing attempts to get something started on the youth drama front might also be about to bear fruit. Fingers very much crossed that this is indeed the case – but I am most hopeful. It does mean that this will be a busy period, though.

That is no bad thing of course…

Whatever your own personal situation I hope that your 2018 has gotten off to a good start.

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Image from PixabayThe trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.

Abe Lemons

On July 4th last year I posted this joyous missive announcing that I had – finally – retired from the world of work. The astute amongst you (all of you, naturally!) will observe that this means that I have now been retired for a year – the first of a number of such anniversaries over the next few weeks of events from a year ago.

Last July’s celebratory post included the following observation:

The obvious question – to which I am immediately subjected – is naturally:

How does it feel to be retired?

The answer, of course, is that I have no idea. I left work on a Friday. It is the weekend. It could – in fact – be any weekend, except that I don’ t have to go to work next Monday.

Well – it is high time that I took another crack the question – so here goes…

The short answer is:

It feels great!”

… followed rapidly by:

Every day feels like Saturday!

(This is not entirely true, of course, but it is too good a line to waste.)

The longer answer, unfortunately, has a strong whiff of cliché about it and kicks off with:

You know – looking back now I have no idea how I ever managed to fit a job in as well

…which has become a cliché because (virtually) every retiree says it (actually – I guess that makes it a truism, but I’m sure you get the point). There is clearly something about the change of pace of life upon retirement that gives one the impression that one is busy, busy, busy – even if one is in reality patently no-where near as occupied as one was before.

Take my case for example. Until this time last year my working week comprised, on average, ten hour days. In addition I would sit in the car on the way to (or from) work for up to four hours a day. The Girl and I contrived still to enjoy a social life (though somewhat wearily at times) – I managed a modicum of creativity and we found time to eat and to sleep (though actually there was not very much sleep, truth be told!).

So how have things changed? Well – I do get to sleep more (hooray!). I also have become a reluctant gardener. We shop considerably more frequently than our erstwhile weekly dash round Waitrose. We do our own cleaning (at least for the moment).

Lest this sound all rather prosaic… I am delighted that I can finally devote serious time to creation – easily spending much of a day in the studio working on something or other. I also have the time to exert considerable amounts of energy on the planning and preparation for our new theatrical adventure. I can read more books and study more, and I am doing more exercise than I have done in many a long year. We get to spend more time with friends and, above all, I can give time to exploring this amazing place and learning how everything ticks.

I think that what I am stumbling towards saying is that the dial of work/life balance has been swung back firmly into equilibrium…

…and it feels good!

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Image from Pexels…that’s fit to print!

New York Times masthead

Time for a quick catchup on some news from Victoria.

For the Kickass Canada Girl and I (wrong – but so right!) life sometimes seems to comprise such a constant stream of happenings and doings that our nascent existence here in BC evolves more rapidly than can reasonably routinely be communicated to those who are not fortunate enough to live at this end of the island.

To remedy this unfortunate situation herewith a brief parade of news items in no particular order.

Though I am myself a confirmed retiree – and delighted so to be – it was always a matter of some conjecture as to whether or not the Girl was entirely done with the world of work. After six months in which she greatly enjoyed a sort of trial run at retirement she perhaps unsurprisingly decided that she had more to give.

Following a couple of half-hearted applications for not entirely suitable positions the ideal opportunity finally offered itself. The Girl made a serious application – turned on the afterburners at the resultant interview and – to the complete lack of surprise on the part of all who know her – watched the interviewing board’s eyes light up not just with regard to the position on offer but also with a view to future elevation.

She is now working four days a week appraising the needs of clients of an extensive volunteer service that provides support for the elderly (and others) to enable them to live independently.

Hoorah for the Girl! Well done…

In my end of year post of December last I made reference to the legal matter that has resulted in our having to put in abeyance any immediate plans to renovate our house in North Saanich. Our initial hope was that the mere presence on our team of the big guns – in the shape of our hot-shot lawyer – would send the vendors scurrying to the negotiating table. Sadly they have thus far eschewed doing the decent thing and it has been necessary to serve the papers for a civil claim.

Hmmm! Matters grind on at glacial pace – in all regards save that of the ever mounting fees payable…

As also referenced in a jolly post but a couple of weeks back, my ‘Boating Essentials’ course reached its conclusion with yet another multiple-choice exam. To my intense chagrin I was yet again defeated by a single question in this test, though I did score well above the required pass mark. We then rounded matters off with a two day course on ‘Marine VHF Radio’, for the use of which it is obligatory to hold a certificate. I finally conquered my multiple-choice demons and registered a perfect score.

I can, however, take no credit for this happy state of affairs – that going instead to the Brentwood Bay Power Squadron. The preparation of students for examination by their training team is second to none and they have the awards to prove it. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole kit and caboodle and was most impressed by all concerned.

All that remains is for me to find a suitable boat…

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The_End_BookWell – that’s it! After forty years of continual employment I am no longer a working man. For the first time in my life since I commenced my education at the age of five (with perhaps the exception of school summer holidays) my existence has no clearly defined structure. This might take a little getting used to.

The obvious question – to which I am immediately subjected – is naturally:

How does it feel to be retired?

The answer, of course, is that I have no idea. I left work on a Friday. It is the weekend. It could – in fact – be any weekend, except that I don’ t have to go to work next Monday.

Still – I could be on holiday, and indeed I have no doubt that this is going to feel like being on holiday for quite some time, particularly as we head for British Columbia in just over two weeks time.

Have no fear. I am going to post on the subject of retirement. Probably extensively! But not now – not just yet…

This all needs to sink in for a while.

Bear with…” – as the slightly dated cultural reference would have it…

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Troop_ship_farewell_(000304-01)Towards the end of the morning on Friday last the academic year finally futtered to a close, the boys executed an Alice Cooper-esque exit from the premises and the teaching staff – dazzled by the prospect of several months of much needed downtime and recuperation – wasted no time in scurrying en-masse out of the School gates and – in some cases – directly to the airport.

I have known – by acquaintance at least – some of these individuals for getting on for a decade and I doubt if I will see many of them again. With a very small number of exceptions no goodbyes were exchanged. They were in a hurry to get away – I was busy trying to sort out an unexpected and unwanted communications problem.

I have no complaints…

A little more than a month ago – in conversation with my line manager (the Chief Operations Officer) – I expressed a fervent wish that I be able to avoid as much as possible of the usual round of farewells – dinners, speeches in the Common Room, mentions in despatches – and all other such discomforts.

Good luck with that!“, was his assessment of my chances.

By my own criteria I have been remarkably successful at avoiding the worst of it, though a fair amount of ducking and diving has been required so to effect.

I can sense that some might be horrified by my attitude in this regard – indeed, a few have expressed such to me directly. I entirely understand that denying others an opportunity to express appreciation can actually be quite selfish, and it is not something of which I am particularly proud. Perhaps I should have ‘cowboy-ed up’ (as the Girl is wont so say) and got on with it.

I have no doubt that my experience as a child of any appreciation of achievement being expressed in only the most restrained of fashions was a generational one and I certainly hold nothing against my parents in this regard – but I can’t help thinking that this has probably played its part in my subsequent discomfort on finding myself the object of approbation. I know that Mother and Father were proud of some of the things that I did, because I have since heard through third parties that this was so.

I believe that my judgement is reasonably sound when it comes to determining which of the things that I have done have been of value, whether that be in my chosen profession or in my artistic endeavors. I find it very difficult to accept praise for things that I do not think have been done well.

In one extreme but illustrative example of the sort of difficulties I encounter I was once a small part of a production which received for its final performance an extended and – in my view – well deserved standing ovation – for completely the wrong reasons. The audience applauded the manner in which we dealt with an incident on stage rather than the quality of the performance. This upset me to a disproportionate degree.

The intensity of my feelings of embarrassment upon being the object of eulogy is apparently not confined to that which is said – but also can arise from that which is not… whether that be by the omission of reference to achievements of which I am quite proud, or through knowledge that some present do not actually agree with the sentiments that are being expressed… in which situation I have found myself in the past.

As will be clear from this diatribe I really am quite conflicted over this business, which should go some little way to explaining my preference for shying away from the whole kit and caboodle.

But then – maybe I am just over-thinking things…

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Image from Pixabay


…day more this week…


…week more this academic year…


…fortnight more until retirement…



Come on! You can do this…

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Photo by Andy Dawson Reid…until I retire!

Actually it is a little less than a month, being a mere four weeks… or twenty working days…

A rapid (and doubtless wildly inaccurate) calculation suggests that over the last forty years I have worked somewhere around nine thousand and two hundred days. And now I have only twenty to go!

Further – there are only six weeks left until we leave these shores and head west.

So – how is it all going?

In many ways things are going well, though there is no point in pretending that for either the Kickass Canada Girl or for I will the run in to our final days at work involve anything much beyond hard work and barely suppressed panic. Any notion of a gentle wind-down complete with much appreciative backslapping and ‘take it easy old chap – no point in busting a gut now‘ bonhomie was swiftly disabused by our respective managements on realising that some three quarters of a century of accumulated knowledge and wisdom was about to walk out of the door and that – for a variety of reasons – the ensuing skills-transfer and handover was probably not going to provide the well-oiled succession that might have been hoped for.

No matter. This too shall pass!

Other issues at the UK end are more promising. As previously reported my Canadian PR has been confirmed – our movers have been booked – our finances are as organised as it is possible for them to be.

You may have observed that I have – quite intentionally – remained remarkably reticent regarding the sale of our Buckinghamshire apartment, for fear of hexing the enterprise. I am not about to uncross my fingers – or indeed anything else – at this stage, but we do continue to be cautiously optimistic that all will be well in this regard.

At the Canadian end promising progress is being made. Our dear friends in Saanichton have already booked season tickets for us at The Belfry Theatre in Victoria and – on a completely different note – have also passed on to us details of a couple of possible contacts with as yet unlisted houses for sale. I for one continue to believe that all of this stuff will shake out just right at just the right time.

It is now up to the universe – in the words of Captain Jean Luc Picard – to “make it so!”.*


* Incidentally – I found on the InterWebNet a discussion on the origin of this distinctive phrase. It turns out to be considerably older than one might expect and is most likely naval in origin. Here it is in Herman Melville’s ‘White Jacket’ of 1850:

“The captain’s word is law; he never speaks but in the imperative mood. When he stands on his Quarter-deck at sea, he absolutely commands as far as eye can reach. Only the moon and stars are beyond his jurisdiction. He is lord and master of the sun.

It is not twelve o’clock till he says so. For when the sailing-master, whose duty it is to take the regular observation at noon, touches his hat, and reports twelve o’clock to the officer of the deck; that functionary orders a midshipman to repair to the captain’s cabin, and humbly inform him of the respectful suggestion of the sailing-master.

“Twelve o’clock reported, sir,” says the middy.

“Make it so,” replies the captain.

And the bell is struck eight by the messenger-boy, and twelve o’clock it is.”

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Image from PixabayIn around two months from now our tranter of choice – Bourne’s International Moves – will pitch up on the doorstep eager to crate up all of our precious goods and chattels for the bracing sea voyage around Cape Horn and on up the west coast of the Americas to Vancouver.

I am – of course – kidding! All our worldly possessions will in fact rather traverse the Panama Canal…

At least – I hope that is the plan!

The point is – big, scary things are about to transpire and pretty much everything that happens between now and the date of our departure is ineluctably bound up with the process. It is doubtless for such reasons that neither the Kickass Canada Girl nor I have much time nor patience for the minutiae and trivia of everyday life.

One such item of trivia – trivial at least as far as I was concerned – was the decision to schedule in the midst of the working week some apparently essential water mains restoration works across one of the roundabouts on the main arterial route into London that forms part of my daily pilgrimage to the School. This ‘work’ entailed the blocking of all bar one lane around this particular roundabout for three days – as far as one could tell without any concomitant commitment to actually turn up to carry out any form of labour – there being no sign of such on any of the occasions on which I struggled past the site.

This apparently careless arrangement added at least half an hour to my journey in each direction – resulting in my total in-car time rising to around four and a half hours each day!

Given that my working life has but seven weeks to run before I retire you might imagine just how dim a view I take of having to spend such an extensive proportion of it sitting in traffic.

I realise – of course – that those of you not approaching retirement may curl your lips disdainfully at the petty grumbles of one about so to do – and I do naturally sympathise… really I do!… but I find it increasingly difficult to maintain an appropriate sense of perspective as to the true import of the activities with which we fill our days.

Oh well! Thirty five working days – and counting!

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidWikipedia has this to say concerning red letter days:

“A red letter day is any day of special significance.

Its roots are in classical antiquity; for instance, important days indicated in red in a calendar dating from the Roman Republic (509 BC-27 BC). In medieval manuscripts, initial capitals and highlighted words (known as rubrics) were written in red ink. The practice was continued after the invention of the printing press, including in Catholic liturgical books. Many calendars still indicate special dates and holidays in red instead of black. The practice did not originate, as it often assumed, from Medieval church calendars or a requirement that important holy days be marked in red from First Council of Nicaea in 325CE, as has widely been claimed.”

Today is just such a day. The Kickass Canada Girl and I have formally given notice to our respective employers of our intention to retire at the start of July this year.


I left college in the summer of 1975 and got my first job as a very junior programmer in a University of London medical school. The computing resource there at the time comprised a machine that took up a whole room (an NCR Elliott 4100) which had no hard disks (just four enormous tape drives) was programmed using punched paper tape and had less computing power than my mobile phone… by a very long way!

I stuck that job out for a mere nine months before moving to another of the University of London’s many colleges, though this time in a most pleasant situation in the verdant countryside well outside town. I was to remain there for the next two decades and more, first as a systems programmer and then as network manager. I would probably have stayed even longer had I not been head-hunted (there’s posh!) by the first of the two public schools (in the English sense!) at which I have been gratefully employed throughout the last seventeen years.

Forty years is not a massively long working life these days and will certainly seem even less so to the coming generations. It is – however – not bad going in a fledgling industry such as IT, which is – and will doubtless remain – a young man’s (or woman’s) game. Remember – when I started there were no personal computers, no mobile phones, no InterWebNet – no iAnything! There were also no digital cameras, no flat screen TVs, no touchscreens, no digital recording or sampling, no digital musical instruments – and certainly no ubiquity of microprocessors in absolutely everything – as it seems that there is now.

The Girl and I want to be able to spend as much of the coming years as is humanly possible doing things together and being together. We have already lost far too many precious hours to sitting in planes, trains and automobiles.

My father finished his career at the age of 59 and subsequently enjoyed two decades of retirement. I would like to do at least the same.

It’s time to go!!

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Image by Andy Dawson Reid

…things will be different!


Einstein had it right with this incontrovertible aphorism:

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

It is widely acknowledged throughout the circle of my acquaintance that I habitually suffer a not inconsiderable degree of discomfort at this calendrical juncture. This has – of course – much to do with the onset of the new academic year (and with all that that implies) – not to mention the increasing impingement of that which is – by me at any rate – the least favoured of the seasons.

Proof of this sad state of affairs can be educed from my postings from around this time over the past several years, such as this, this  and even this – although I feel sure that you have far better things to do with your time than to subject yourself to my historical moans and grumbles.

Recent levels of stress emanating from my place of employ suggest that this year will be little different. There are reasons – however – to hope for an alternative outcome – that this time things will indeed be different.

Two years ago – in a somewhat precipitate post – I rashly announced that I was about to embark upon my last year at work before retirement. The gods – naturally – wasted little time in punishing me for this hubris and – as you are doubtless aware – I am still here…

Well – I now grit my teeth – gird my loins – summon up my courage – and make the same pronouncement again… this time with nobs on! I am contemplating several possible scenarios. The worst case has me retiring at the end of the summer term next year. The most optimistic has me packing my bags and waving good-bye in January. The intermediate options might involve working a reduced week in the new year to see me through. Negotiations with my employers commence almost immediately.

The Kickass Canada Girl is – at the same time – examining her possible courses of action. She would also love to slow down. One thing of which we are certain is that – once we have sold our UK property – there is very little to hold us here. Our retirement projections – though of course flexible – are all predicated on a start date of January 1st 2015.

Now – this is clearly a much more positive and realistic declaration than that which I made two years ago. This – of course – simply reflects just how much water has flowed under the bridge since then.

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