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December 2013

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Hard to take…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidIt may seem somewhat hypocritical for someone who recently wrote a piece on envy to do what I am about to do – to wax lyrical about our sojourn in Tofino celebrating my sixtieth birthday – but I fear that on this occasion I intend being entirely shameless with regard to this grevious lapse – claiming the prerogative of recently acquired age for so doing (even though my actual birthday is not for another week or so).

Our room at the wonderful Wickaninnish Inn is at one corner of the building and has four picture windows on two sides overlooking the ocean. One can lay in bed watching the dawn evolve slowly over the breaking waves, warmed by the gas coal fire which fills the space between the two windows in front of the bed.

The slate-lined bathroom has a soaker tub large enough for two bodies to lay side by side and also looks out over the ocean. Blissful hours can be spent simply gazing at the ever-changing sea. It is quite a wrench to leave the room at all, but not to do so is to miss out on the other delights that the ‘Wick’ – as the locals know it – has to offer.

There is a fitness room overlooking Chesterman beach. There is a gorgeous spa in which we indulged ourselves with a lovely Hawaian-style ‘Lomi Lomi’ treatment – one of the best massages I have had in a good long while.

There is also – naturally – a splendid restaurant at which we officially celebrated my entering a seventh decade. The excellent tasting menu included two world-class courses – one of Sablefish and the other a blood orange dessert – whilst our passionately knowledgable server introduced us to a wonderful and previously unknown (to us) BC Pinot Noir from the Foxtrot vineyard in Naramata. Yummy!

The restaurant bar also holds one of the best collections of single malts that I have seen outside the Auld Country and we felt obliged to finish the evening with a short tasting flight of some of its rarities.

All in all a wonderful few days’ rest and relaxation, and very difficult to leave.


You may be glad to hear – however – that karma has a way of keeping one’s feet firmly on the ground even when one is flying close to bounds of heaven. The Kickass Canada Girl and I have both contracted colds! This is hardly surprising – I suppose – given that – a) it is winter – b) we have just fully relaxed for the first time since September – and c) we have been staying in a house with our dear friends’ two young sons!

Further karmic justice was delivered by means of a rare blogging-related accident. I was laying on my back on the bed with the iThing propped on my chest checking my previous post when I lost control (physically!) of the device and it fell forward and struck me smartly – with the edge of the glass screen – full on the bridge of my nose… leaving me with a painful and embarrassingly visible wound…

Welcome back to the real world!

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Is this possibly the most beautiful place on the planet?

These photos were (mostly) taken from the windows of our room at the Wickaninnish Inn at Tofino whence we have come to celebrate my sixtieth birthday.

Further words are not necessary…

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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Photo by DrinksMachine on FlickrAs we continue to jet around the world (the western Canadian components anyway) the subject of communication – in all its myriad forms – floats unbidden into my mind. There are understandably pertinent reasons for this upon which I will pontificate shortly – but first I feel moved to offer an update on the persisting saga of the UK national carrier – British Telecom (BT) – and our domestic telephone connection, which discourse I commenced here.

Subsequent to my rant BT posted on their fault log a proposed fix time for the line of 17:00 hours on the day before we were due to leave the UK for Canada. As nothing at all had happened during the few days prior to that deadline I guessed that they were not going to achieve their target. Sure enough they contacted me during the final afternoon and told me that an engineer would need to pay a visit to our apartment, and that we should thus make an appointment for them so to do. I protested that the fault was clearly in the network rather than at our end but that cut no ice. BT further demanded that I carry out various tests on our domestic equipment before booking the visit, apparently so that they could charge me large sums of money should the fault prove not to be in their domain.

I pointed out that we were about to leave for Canada, not to return until January 7th. BT told me that they could not book further ahead than January 6th. Doh! We left it that I would book something online from BC.

The next morning – as we awaited our cab to take us to the airport – the doorbell rang. It was a BT engineer!

Needless to say I was obliged – cursing under my breath – to send him away…


Since our arrival in Canada I have struggled to stay in touch with the outside world and, indeed, to keep up my postings to this blog. We are carrying with us a laptop, two iPads (one belonging to the School), an iPhone and my Galaxy Note. All of these can easily be connected to the InterWebNet and once upon a time we would happily have freeloaded our way around the globe, pirating unsecured wireless networks at every stop. Sadly – for us – the rest of the connected world is no longer quite as cavalier when it comes to network security and we now struggle to find an open connection of which we can take advantage.

We are now staying with our wonderful friends in Saanichton at their smallholding. The good news for them is that they have expanded their business and built a new office further down their acreage. The bad news for us is that their broadband circuit is now in the new location and thus not accessible from the house. I can no longer scribble these posts lying in bed as once I could.

For the rest of the time it is a case of visiting coffee shops and other hostelries and utilising their free wireless services – assuming that one can connect – which is far from always being the case.

The message that I take from all of this is – you will not be surprised to hear – that we now live in a world in which many of us feel stripped naked if we do not have high speed access to the InterWebNet. I can’t quite work out if this is a bad thing or not and that will doubtless be the subject of much further musing in future posts.

In any case it is now time to wish all gentle readers the very happiest of Christmases and to sign off.

Peace! Stay safe. Enjoy!!

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Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.


In Victoria – whence we travel tomorrow – the temperature is a relatively balmy 3-5 degrees Celsius and any snow that has fallen will doubtless vanish within a day or so. Here in Kamloops, on the other hand – where we commenced our Canadian Odyssey – the temperature on day one was a brisk -7C – and considerably less than that once wind-chill was taken into account.

Preparations for Christmas are well in hand…

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 BrewBooks on FlickrOur domestic telephone circuit is provided by that unlovely agglomeration – British Telecom (BT) – with whom I have had many and various dealings over the years both in professional and personal capacities. As is the way in this neoteric age the medium nowadays serves a dual purpose, carrying – along with any telephone traffic – our broadband data connection. This latter is – counter-intuitively – actually provided by a different corporation altogether – our Internet Service Provider (or ‘ISP’ for TLA aficionados) of choice.

It is undoubtedly a sign of the times that whereas the telephone these days gets very little use the data traffic hums near constantly…

…until a couple of days ago – when it stopped!

Actually – that’s not strictly accurate. It didn’t so much stop – as go astray!

I was working on the InterWebNet late of the evening when I was somewhat taken aback to find the screen suddenly appropriated by an ISP warning message. What was particularly strange about this was that the message was not from our ISP! Now – I’ve worked in IT for a long time, but in this case it didn’t take a technical genius to work out that we had somehow been disconnected from our service provider and connected to someone else’s. Our ISP confirmed this the following morning when I called them from my office – informing me that as far as they could see no traffic had passed on our connection to them in the previous 12 hours.

There followed a morning of fruitless calls to both ISPs and to BT – each of which in turn metaphorically shrugged their shoulders and referred me to one of the other parties – something that I find happens all too often these days when dealing with customer ‘services’. Finally our ISP suggested that I call them from home – whilst at the computer – so that they could attempt a diagnosis in ‘real time’.

To that end once I had fought my way home from the office I seated myself in front of my PC and picked up the telephone. The line was dead! I hadn’t thought to check this the night before. Just to be on the safe side I thought I should check the line by calling the number from my mobile phone.

To my surprise the call was answered by someone else. Someone that I didn’t know!

Well, you will have worked out by now – as did I – that my entire connection had mysteriously been swapped with someone else’s – the classic crossed-line. I called BT… or rather – I tried to call BT. We played an inverted form of Russian Roulette through their automated call-centre system, with me being half a dozen times the recipient of the equivalent of the bullet to the brain (being bumped out after half a dozen steps because – apparently – I am ‘not a BT customer’… (I wish!)). Finally – by punching in a sequence of random digits in response to some arbitrary question or other I got through to a real live person. It didn’t take long for him to acknowledge that lines must indeed somehow have been crossed and to log the fault.

BT wasted no time. They cut us off from the provider to which we had inadvertently been transferred and left us with no connection at all! Five days on we still await some resolution. As we head to Canada first thing tomorrow morning I guess that there is a very real chance that the matter may not be resolved until the New Year.

The Kickass Canada Girl – who does not like to be parted from the InterWebNet – was not amused!

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Envy_Plucking_the_Wings_of_FameRegarding which topic Wikipedia offers this:

Envy (from Latin invidia) is a resentment which “occurs when someone lacks another’s quality, achievement or possession and wishes that the other lacked it.”

On the same subject Bertrand Russell – in ‘The Conquest of Happiness’ – wrote:

Envy undermines happiness – it generates pain from what others possess, instead of pleasure from one’s own possessions, and might even motivate measures to deprive others of perceived advantages.

The key here for me is the manner in which this resentment manifests not just in desiring something that others have, but also in wishing to deprive them of it, or in some other way to punish them for possessing it. Envy is thus clearly a trait truly to be deprecated.

The subject has been on my mind of late for two reasons – both associated with the Tory party here in the UK. The first runs thus:

It is – nowadays – impossible to make public any observation regarding the increasing gap between the richest and the poorest in our society without provoking accusations of a resort to the ‘politics of envy’. This – naturally – pejorative, with the (frequently not so…)sub-text that this destructive emotion be of itself damaging to our economic and social well-being. Such vituperative judgement is – of course – designed to stifle rational debate by appealing to base instincts. The indictment scarcely stands up to scrutiny in any case – but as this is not its true purpose this hardly matters.

I was minded to track down the origins of the phrase but they turn out to be as nebulous as its meaning. Google offers many repetitions of the recent Mitt Romney quote, but its use clearly goes back considerably further. Reagan used the phrase in a number of speeches…

“Since when do we in America endorse the politics of envy and division?”Ronald Reagan, February 26, 1982.

…and indeed it does have a strong whiff of the 80s about it. I could – however – find no definitive source for the phrase, and if there are earlier instances of its use they were not immediately apparent. Whatever its origins the idiom has been certainly been widely adopted and its usage has increased markedly since that turning point in the 1970s when the long-standing historic trend was reversed and the gap between highest and lowest earners started once again to widen. This is – clearly – no co-incidence.

The second trigger for my reverie was the reportage of this year’s Margaret Thatcher Memorial Lecture, which was delivered in typically bombastic style by the Tory Mayor of London – Boris Johnson. His customarily confrontational address included this startling quote:

“Some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy. Keeping up with the Joneses is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity.”

Hang on a minute! Is that the same ‘envy‘ that is the subject of critique when it is directed by the ‘have nots‘ at the ‘have yachts‘? Surely some mistake?

Apparently not! If one is an entrepreneur or a banker (or suchlike) or finds oneself by any other means towards the top of the food chain – then envy is good! Capitalism ‘red in tooth and claw’ encourages alpha-males (and females) to compete for ever greater rewards and this is – we are invited to believe – beneficial for the economy and thus for the country.

When – on the other hand – envy is directed by the 99% at the 1%… then it is to be derogated as mean-spirited, negative and destructive – and thus bad, bad, bad!

So – it’s one rule for the rich… etcetera, etcetera!

Well – who would have thought it?

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cup-and-ballAs we rush headlong towards the end of what must be quite the most frantically busy year that either of us can recall – scrabbling desperately to finish all that must be accomplished before we head to BC in a little over a week’s time – it seems an apposite moment to try to put the events of the last two years into some sort of perspective – hopefully in the process providing some degree of clarity to any recent arrivals who are doubtless completely confused by the whole dashed business.

As I write my sixtieth birthday is exactly one month away. Any notions that I might have had about slowing down in the run up to retirement are clearly pipe-dreams – and wouldn’t it be good to have the time to dream just now?! This diminutive planet is a tough place to be in these days, though – I must at once declare – we are actually fantastically fortunate… many have it considerably tougher than do we. It is – regardless – still sometimes difficult to see the path ahead through the murk.

When I started to write this blog – not quite two years ago – my infinitely better half – the Kickass Canada Girl – was shortly to leave for Victoria to take up the post that was to see her through to retirement. I was – sad to say – to remain in England for somewhere between 18 months and two and a half years until such time as I could also retire – at which point I would emigrate to Canada to join her there.

Regular readers will be well aware that a variety of things went amiss with this strategem. First, we picked a bad time to try to sell our apartment in the UK and – having already moved into rented accomodation ourselves – were forced to take a tenant. Secondly – and of considerably greater import – the Girl’s job in BC failed to live up to expectations and she was forced to return to the UK to take another job here. My retirement – which had looked at one point to be on the cards for the summer of this year – had, for the time being, to be postponed.

So – where are we now?

Well – we have another plan – by which we will both be moving to Canada either in the summer of 2015 or in the spring of 2016… always assuming that we have the energy to keep going that long. At the moment this seems frankly implausible!

The housing market in the UK is picking up. Our newly installed third tenant (the second was – thankfully – a considerable improvement on the first) will be given notice in the spring that we intend to put the apartment in Buckinghamshire back on the market and – once sold – we will look increasingly hard at purchasing in Victoria whilst the market there is still favourable (hopefully also whilst the pound is still weak against the Canadian dollar!). Fingers (and legs and eyes) firmly crossed!

We are off to Canada next week to celebrate what will be my first Christmas and New Year there. I can’t wait! We will also be celebrating – at the Wickaninnish Inn near Long Beach outside Tofino – my sixtieth birthday.

Now – that will be a milestone…


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Nelson Mandela

1918 – 2013


Nelson Mandela “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

Nelson Mandela


“…dusk is the time when men whisper of matters about which they remain silent in the full light of the sun.”

Simon Raven

Having been up to ‘town’ over the weekend for an entirely agreeable social occasion we found ourselves strolling back to Waterloo along the south bank of the Thames as dusk encroached. The quality of the light was such that I could not resist un-holstering the Fuji x10 and firing off a few shots…

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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