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January 2013

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wickaninnish-inn-tofino-bc_0Herewith a splendid example of the ever-changing nature of our mortal existence which betrays as indolent even such a fluid and instantaneous medium as the InterWebNet.

Barely had I hit the ‘publish’ button on my previous post – thus rendering fixed some thoughts that had hitherto been merely nebulous –  than the Kickass Canada Girl and I – in an unexpectedly abrupt resolution to a previously extended deliberation – finally reached mutual agreement as to the nature and locale of my sixtieth birthday celebration. Yes – I know that it is the best part of a year ahead – but our online researches had revealed that if we did want to pass the occasion at the Wickaninnish Inn on Chesterman Beach then we had better get a booking in sharpish, before all of the decent rooms were taken.

And we decided that we did…

Much more on this later of course, but those whose interest is piqued can find details of the inn here – and if you want to know more about the immediate area itself I would direct you to Adrienne Mason’s splendid blog (and book!) here.



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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidA few weeks ago I celebrated my birthday. Actually – ‘celebrated’ is probably somewhat too strong a word as I am of the persuasion that regards birthdays as mere nodding acquaintances rather than as seldom-seen long-lost friends. Actually – that isn’t entirely true either, because once a decade – on the occasion of what is melodramatically known as ‘the big one’ – I do let my hair down (what  remains thereof) and go – metaphorically at least – to town!

Needless to say – this was not ‘the big one’! That is still a year away.

When that festival does come around I had intended celebrating the event on the west coast of Vancouver Island. That may still turn out to possible, but the notion was predicated on the assumption that the Kickass Canada Girl and I would – by then – actually be living on the island. As that is no longer the case we may now need to re-consider. But then again…

The passing of this particular milestone has in any case not been without interest. I have now entered my sixtieth year on the planet and this is of itself food for thought. There is something about the ultimate season before a ‘major’ event that feels quite different. It is as though the hard yards have been gained, the finishing post is in sight and one can relax a little in the knowledge that the job has been well done. The feeling is somewhat akin to the endurance of the long distance flight. At the onset all is about settling in, getting comfortable and trying to moderate the chronometer of anticipation. The preponderance of the subsequent peregrination is spent asleep or in being fed, watered(!) and/or entertained. Finally – as one stirs, bleary eyed, from one’s semi-slumber to find that touchdown is less than an hour hence – an unreasonable sense of achievement pervades, as though to have survived the passage thus far were somehow note-worthy… a hangover perhaps from the days when travel really was an arduous undertaking.

At one point last summer I found myself experiencing a very similar feeling about having entered my final year at work before retirement. I had already commenced composition of a post on the subject for this blog at the point at which that hope was snatched away by the fickle hand of fate. Unfortunately, in my enthusiasm for this newly acquired state of pending retirement I had clearly mentioned my intentions to one or two too many others at the School. Such rumours have a habit of spreading like wildfire – as is the way in all such contained environments – and I now find myself somewhat embarrassed at having to disabuse eager well-wishers of the notion that I am shortly to disappear.

Now of course, when I do finally announce my impending retirement – at whatever point that happens – no-one will believe me!


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There are signs – here at the top of the year – that the tough times of the concluding quantum of 2012 are perhaps now behind us and that things are starting to move forward again. Thank goodness for that, we say!

Though forced to kick her heels at home for the best part of a month waiting for the normally reasonably alacritous Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) to produce the required ‘all-clear’ documentation, the Kickass Canada Girl should now be starting her new job in about a week’s time. She experienced a brief moment of apoplexy when she was informed – on the day that the CRB paperwork arrived – that she would also need to obtain the Canadian equivalent – a process considerably more complex than that operated in the UK, requiring one’s fingerprints to be taken and sent to Canada for processing! Fortunately the Girl’s enquiry as to whether she could start work contemporaneously with the check being carried out (subtext – “could you not have asked me for this a month ago?!”) was answered in the affirmative.

There are also indications that we might have located someone with an interest in letting our apartment in Buckinghamshire, which is clearly also good news. We must keep our fingers firmly crossed on this one for the moment, but the omens seem propitious.

The Girl thinks that she may have a purchaser for her Canadian car – the bargain of the century – and is now looking for a replacement in the UK. Having seen her in action purchasing a vehicle in the past I feel slightly sorry for the fervid factotums (sadly not ‘factota’!) of the motor trade. The Girl spent a period in sales herself – and she knows how it is done!

At the School our new science building has finally been handed over. Though the building work has taken a mere 18 months the project as a whole has been in the planning for more than a decade.That this phase is now at last complete feels a little – strange.

Finally – and a cause in my mind for a mild celebration (above and beyond the fact that it is Burn’s Night!) – this blog is now a year old. Unbelievable! In that year I have published 130 posts and around 400 images. I am strangely proud of the fact that I have maintained a reasonably consistent rate of posting, and I just hope that I have on occasion been able to contribute odd item of interest.

I raise a glass, therefore, to all good and gentle readers – and sign off with this apposite toast:

May the best you’ve ever seen
Be the worst you’ll ever see;
May a moose ne’er leave yer girnal
Wi’ a teardrop in his e’e.
May ye aye keep hale and hearty
Till ye’re auld enough tae dee,
May ye aye be just as happy
As I wish ye aye tae be.


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Here in the south east of England we don’t get very much snow – and when we do it doesn’t usually stay very long. Canadian readers and those in the north of the UK will probably snort derisively at this point, but the Kickass Canada Girl and I currently live in the land of the ‘soft southern jessies’ and that is just the way it is. Anyway – as a result we get pretty excited when the snow lasts a long time, as it seems to be doing at the moment. I trust that you will forgive me, therefore, if I post a few more snow snaps!


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

I rather liked this instance of Pepper’s Ghost… candles in the snow!

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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“The color of springtime is in the flowers; the color of winter is in the imagination.”

Terri Guillemets

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 ReidReaders may recall – and those who do not may refresh their memories here should they so wish – that the Kickass Canada Girl and my very first scheme for moving to British Columbia – even before she was offered the job there – involved us moving out of our home in Buckinghamshire into rented accommodation, selling our apartment, purchasing a property in Victoria, letting it and then using the income to cover our rent in the UK until such time as we could move to Canada. The chief purpose of this little scheme was to enable us to leave the UK quickly when the time came and to have a property ready and waiting in BC on our arrival there.

As will be clear by now neither this nor any of our subsequent schemes worked out at all as planned. When it became apparent that we were not to be able to sell our apartment in short order we had to re-think. Rather than move back to Buckinghamshire we decided to seek a tenant to occupy the property and thus to cover our rental costs until such time as we were able to find a buyer. This was, after all, exactly what we were planning to do in Victoria – so where was the difference?

Well! All I can say is that the experience of our first year as landlords (or more properly as landlord and landlady) may well have put us off the whole notion for life! Nor does it does take much research on the InterWebNet or elsewhere to establish that anyone who lets property for any length of time ineluctably accrues their own horror stories. We just have to hope that our inchoate experience was anomalous and that our next time round will prove more propitious.

We seem to have suffered a particularly infelicitous run of bad luck when it comes to expenses. The Girl and I had spent a considerable amount renovating the apartment over the previous few years, which enterprise had included the installation of a complete new kitchen designed to a high standard by my brother – who makes his living thus. He is not cheap but he is very good!

Imagine my consternation, therefore, when – over the course of the year – I was obliged to:

  • replace the fridge/freezer
  • spend a considerable amount on oven repairs
  • call an engineer on several occasions to fix the washer/dryer
  • purchase a new control module for a gas fire
  • arrange for the ailing heating system to be looked at on more than one occasion.

This latter culminated in the eventual failure of the boiler (‘furnace’ – for Canadian readers!) requiring a complete – and expensive – replacement.

As though all of this were not enough our initiatory tenant proved to be a total nightmare. Quite apart from demanding a rent rebate whenever the slightest thing went amiss, this lessee eventually seemed to absent himself entirely from the property, only to be replaced (according to reports from our erstwhile neighbours) by a friend of his to whom he was ‘lending’ the apartment (the lease prohibiting him from sub-letting it). Our former home was thus now being lived in by someone of whom we had no knowledge or information at all, and who proceeded to upset the neighbours with noisy late night comings and goings and – ignoring our blandishments to the contrary – by smoking out of the windows. Matters eventually reached the point at which we were obliged to give the appropriate notice and the tenant – and his friend – finally moved out just before Christmas.

That was not – sad to say – the end of the matter. The tenant – whom we believed to be a very ‘house-proud’ fellow – had on taking up the lease enquired as to whether he could redecorate some of the rooms in neutral tones. We had no objection to this and at the end of the year were expecting to get the apartment back in good order. We were, therefore, upon receiving the check-out report from our management company, stunned to discover that the tenant had – without any consultation! – replaced a perfectly good neutral toned carpet in one of the bedrooms… with a black one!

Astonishing!! What sort of behaviour is that?!

As I write there are decorators and carpet-layers in the apartment restoring everything to a sensible state with a view to attracting fresh tenants. The cost of all this will hopefully – following the usual haggling, horse-trading and possibly arbitration – be recovered from the tenant’s deposit. I have no doubt that he will fight every inch of the way – because that is just the sort of unreasonable man that he is.

It takes – clearly – all sorts!

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThe recent paucity of posts on this forum is the unfortunate but inevitable consequence of this having been the busiest commencement to a year that I can recall for a long time. The first week of term is always a busy time, particularly if – as on this occasion – I have some small involvement in the pre-term INSET. This week – however – such fripperies have been small-fry by comparison to the main event.

I mentioned in my last post that my office – along, of course, with those of my staff – was being moved into our own little corner of the School’s splendid new science building. This edifice – which has been under construction for the last year and a half – is actually not quite complete and won’t be handed over officially until the end of the month. We made a special case for moving early because relocating the IT Department during term time was just too scary a prospect to contemplate. During what is rather curiously called ‘production’ much of our effort is spent ‘firefighting’ – which doesn’t leave much time for anything else.

As a result we currently live next door to the builder’s temporary site office, and thus rub shoulders on a daily basis with a lot of burly men wearing what is acronymically(!) denominated ‘PPE’ – or Personal Protective Equipment. That’s hard hats, big steel-capped boots, flourescent jackets, goggles and protective gloves to the rest of us!

Moving office was – however – not even the half of it…

The day before our relocation we also moved one of our two server rooms into the new building. This involved completely re-engineering the network infrastructure, taking the majority of our services offline (including all of the School’s telephones) and then restoring everything to operational status in the new location before being able to go home. We had hoped to have all of this done within a half day. It took 12 hours straight – and even then was not entirely done! A great deal of planning had been done to ensure that all ran smoothly, but as ever none of our scheming had equipped us to handle the unforeseen. This latter included equipment that had run without skipping a beat for the last few years and yet refused to start up again in the new location – not to mention the discovery that the equipment racks with which our new server room is generously furnished could not be adjusted to sufficient depth to mount our servers – falling short by a mere 2mm. We had to dismantle the racks, drill new mounting holes and re-assemble them before we could actually install the equipment.

We had two days to complete both office and equipment moves before the School’s staff – and subsequently the boys – returned for the spring term. We made it but it was a close run thing and – as a result – pretty exhausting…

…not to mention that the first and longest day was also my birthday! Of that – as they say – more anon…



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Photo by Andy Dawson Reid“Pessimists are usually right and optimists are usually wrong but all the great changes have been accomplished by optimists.”

Thomas L Friedman


That change is the natural order of things is clearly a truism.

I recall reading – some decades ago – Bertrand Russell’s ‘A History of Western Philosophy’. Although this tome has been much criticized since its inception during the Second World War it has also been – and understandably so – a massive popular and commercial success and has remained consistently in print throughout the entire period. I found it to be a clear and concise guide to western philosophy for the uninitiated and would not hesitate to recommend it – though one should also read the critiques thereof for true balance.

Of the many schools of thought that Russell covers – from the Pre-Socratics onward – the ideas with which I feel the strongest resonance are those of Heraclitus. As quoted by Plato in ‘Cratylus’, Heraclitus’ best known doctrine – that all things are flux – is expressed thus:

“Everything flows and nothing abides.”

“Nothing endures but change.”

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.”

I would be greatly surprised if a credible case to the contrary could be made; the concept of Time’s Arrow – in entropy and all of its related forms – surely being irrefutable.

It is strange therefore – given this indigenous nature – that change is also something that many people fear or find difficult to deal with. We supposedly become more resistant to change as we grow older, and it is certainly often the case that if one is not radical in one’s youth one is unlikely ever so to be. The idea, however, of becoming a conservative in my old age scares me half to death, though friends will probably fall about laughing at this juncture – happily pointing the finger!

That change is on my mind will come as no surprise to anyone who has been following this blog for any period but, in addition to all of the other variables current in my life, this Friday morning finds me sitting in my office surrounded by boxes and packing cases. Next week we move into our new offices in the School’s shiny new multimillion pound science building. The fact that my new office is approximately 25 feet from where I am sitting now (yes, they have been building just outside our windows for the last 18 months) makes not a jot of difference. Moving is a major upheaval.

We have – naturally – taken advantage of this enforced relocation to instigate a major clear-out. My nature is to hoard – to hold on to things in case they might come in handy at some unspecified point in the future. Being impelled to throw things away goes against the grain though I am also very aware that it is a healthy – and necessary – thing to do.

As ever with change there is much to look forward to – in this case our splendid new facility – but much of which to be nervous.

Deep breath! Take the plunge…


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