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April 2014

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Set_differenceThose who have chanced upon these humble marginalia may well have done so in search of information pertaining to (or – mayhap – to elicit shared experience concerning…) applications for Permanent Residency for Canada. Should that be the case then you might also have happened upon this earlier post which documented the problematic process by which I obtained the requisite medical certificate the first time I started an application some two years ago – shortly before the whole exercise had to be aborted for reasons that have been well documented elsewhere in this journal.

Now – as posted only recently – the whole shebang has been kickstarted again and thus far (fingers firmly crossed!) things are going a sight better than they did previously.

What a difference!

On Saturday I went to get a new set of photos of the requisite size and format – as specified by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). I must have been at the photographers for all of five minutes. The technology is now so sophisticated that the subject’s participation in having his or her picture taken is momentary and almost incidental. Before I knew it I was out of the door, clutching in my hot little hand an envelope containing an acceptably (to my mind – which is a tough ask!) accurate facsimile of my visage!

First thing on Monday morning I posted off the application forms for yet another police certificate. Nothing much had changed regarding this part of the process but then – this was one of the bits that worked properly last time round.

Then – on my way home from the School – I visited once again the CIC designated clinic to submit myself to the required medical examination. The contrast with my previous appointment there could not have been more palpable. Having arrived a little early – nervous of getting trapped in the exodus from the capital – it was immediately clear that this time round my request for an ‘upfront’ medical would present no predicament. The whole process had – in the intervening period – been updated, streamlined and given a fresh veneer of modern technology. I was whisked through the necessary procedures (X-rays – urine samples – blood tests – weights and measures) so quickly that there wasn’t even time for a coffee in the commodious lounge.

The ensuing interview with the doctor was brief and to the point. Having looked me over cursorily he dismissed me in short order:

“You’re fine. Get out!”

Well – I exaggerate slightly – but you get my drift. Not only was I processed in a fraction of the time that it had taken previously, but the clinic further forewent – on this occasion – charging me an extra whack for additional tests. Achieving my sixth decade has clearly not yet had a significantly detrimental effect on my well-being.

Naturally I take all of this as a particularly good omen.

As you would expect of me…

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deja-vue-all-over-again-yogi-berraTwo years ago to this very day – on April 22nd 2012 – I posted this entry to my then still fledgeling journal. The jist of the epistle was that we had just placed our Buckinghamshire apartment on the market (for the second time) and that – though the market was as flat as a flat thing – we were nonetheless optimistic that we would eventually find a buyer. As it turned out – of course – those optimistic inclinations proved to be somewhat – er – optimistic!

As can be discerned from this only slightly later post I was at that time also contemplating the start of the process by which I would achieve Permanent Residency status for Canada, prior to my intended retirement to BC last summer. Regular readers will know that that process was aborted at the last moment when the Kickass Canada Girl’s job in Victoria evaporated in a puff of smoke and we had to reconcile ourselves to a slightly longer domicile in the UK than had originally been planned.

Well – here we are – two years down the line and we find ourselves right back where we started!

Last week our apartment in Buckinghamshire went back onto the market. Third time lucky and all that – but it has to be said that the omens do appear somewhat more propitious this time round, with the UK property market – particularly in the south east – doing its level best to inflate itself into an even bigger bubble than before. Anyway – let’s not startle the horses… so ’nuff said!

I am also kick-starting my PR application again. Modifying the paperwork to reflect the fact that two years have passed is not difficult. Much has changed (the Girl now lives and works in the UK – we have been married for twice as long as we had in 2012 – I am now a pensioner!) – and the forms need to be re-written to reflect that.

What will take time and effort – however – are the elements that must be re-done from scratch. I will have to apply for a fresh Police Certificate and I will need to take another medical. I will also need to acquire another set of visa application photographs. Some of the previous set vanished into the process – never to be seen again – and I am in any case now sporting a facial embellishment that was not previously extant.

Revisiting the application has been interesting. I can see now that I misinterpreted several of the questions the first time round and it is good to get those sorted out. I also notice that some elements of the process itself have been improved. You may recall the trouble that I had persuading my chosen clinic to carry out the medical without prior submission of my PR application? Well – the documentation on all sides now makes it clear that the medical can be carried out ‘upfront’ in family sponsorship cases – and indeed that so to do can help to accelerate the process.

I will – of course – let you know how it all goes…

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Sufficiently photogenic is the Catalan capital that I find myself – almost a week on since our return to the UK – still identifying images that I feel inclined to post to this forum. I promise that this will be the last batch!

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 Andy Dawson ReidTo mark our transit from Sitges to Barcelona on Wednesday last the Kickass Canada Girl organised something of a culinary coup – in the form of a gastronomic walking tour of the older parts of the city. This was arranged through the good offices of a concern called Spanish Trails – which the Girl had discovered through her latest ‘fave’ InterWebNet service – Chowhound.

The Spanish Trails wine and food tours include one by the appellation ‘Tasting Barcelona’ – which is described on their website thus:

“The focus of Tasting Barcelona is always great food and wine but with the important added opportunity for our guests to explore and experience the best of Barcelona’s sites of interest as well as get a taste of the side street local flavor. Tasting Barcelona is a food and wine tour by nature, but is in turn an exciting and interactive way to experience Barcelona. We can comfortably host small group tours and private tours in a fun, personalized manner away from the crowds and with an amazing and plentiful diversity of wine and Catalan and Spanish tapas and gourmet dishes.”

We were met by our entirely splendid host – Danny (a native New Yorker, ex chef and seven year resident of Barcelona) – in the Placa de Catalunya at 6:30 of the evening and availed ourselves of his enthusiastic tutelage for the next five hours. You will be unsurprised to hear that we learned a great deal – had a lot of fun – discovered previously unexplored quarters of the city – met some fascinating people – and genuinely wondered whence five hours had vanished…

Danny was excellent – knowledgeable, enthusiastic, personable… youthful! – and he did (and had!) a great job! He also took the trouble to follow up the day after our tour by emailing the Girl and I further recommendations and suggestions – which really was above and beyond. To Danny – many thanks!

Now, I’m not going to give details of the bars and cafes that we visited – you’ll just have to sign up for one of the tours yourselves – but I am going to pass on Danny’s descriptions of what we ate and drank. Just remember – envy is a sin! (Yes, I know – so is gluttony!)

  • First port of call:

Wine: Sumarroca, from Penedes (blend of Muscat, Gewürztraminer and Xarelo)
Food: Montadito de cuarto quesos & Montadito de Solomillo

  • Second base:

Wine: Nekeas, from Navarra (100% Grenache)
Food: Patatas Bravas, Spicy Olives, Fried Artichoke chips, tortilla de patata, Croquettas de Pollo

  • Third stop:

Wine: Vermut de la casa (all the rage in Spain at the moment!)

  • Fourth:

Wine: Porron of red table wine

  • Fifth:

Wine: Petit Bernat (blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc. and Picapoll Negre from DO Pla de Bages)
Food: Pan con Tomate, Iberico meat plate, cheese plate

  • Final call:

Wine: Llopart Cava from D.O. Cava (blend of Macebeo, Xarl.lo & Parellada)


Photo by Andy Dawson ReidNaturally (for those that know us!) – this was not the end of our epicurean adventure – though for the remainder of our visit this veered from the sublime to the… even more sublime!

At Danny’s recommendation we broke our fast sitting at the counter of the Kiosko Universal in the Boqueria – that amazing market off Las Ramblas which reminds me just ever so slightly of the Granville Island Market in Vancouver.

A freshly conjured plate of huevos y patatas or huevos y setas – the latter from a mound of fresh wild mushrooms on the counter – and a small glass of cold beer… what better way to start the day – especially after the night before?!

And what better way to continue it than a visit to one of the world’s top cocktail bars – Javier de las Muelas’ – “Dry Martini Bar” – in L’Eixample district. Their specialty is – you may already have guessed – the Dry Martini! I was impressed that they not only stocked my favourite artisan gin – Sipsmith – but that the MD of Sipsmith’s had himself been a guest at the bar the week before.

Less good news – from the financial perspective – was that since my last visit a decade and more ago Javier de las Muelas has opened a restaurant – Speakeasy – adjacent to the bar. It would have been discourteous not to have had lunch there, and we are nothing if not polite! Very, very good it was too…

There is – of course – always a price to pay, and we must now haste our way back to the gym!


Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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Those readers who are ‘au fait’ with the glorious city of Barcelona will doubtless – at some point or another – have visited Gaudi’s yet to be completed masterpiece – the Sagrada Familia. Regardless of one’s spiritual persuasion (or indeed one’s lack of such) it is surely impossible not to discern in this extraordinary endeavour substantiation that man can indeed on occasion rise above his baser nature to create something which touches upon the numinous.

With its foundation stone laid in 1882 and the project handed to Gaudi a year later, this expiatory church was little more than 15% complete at the point of the architect’s death in 1926. Funded entirely by donations and hampered by the Spanish Civil War – during which the workshops containing many of Gaudi’s plans and models for the cathedral were destroyed by fire – it is estimated that the halfway point in construction was only acheived as recently as 2010. Modern building techniques and an influx of funding following the Barcelona Olympics have – however – enbled the setting of a hopeful target completion date of 2028.

It is simply not possible to walk around this singular monument without wanting to take photographs of it. It is equally impossible (for me at least!) to do the edifice justice. The exterior is probably well know by all. These shots are of the interior:

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…and just a couple of the exterior:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid


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The building that houses the Institute of the Arts, Barcelona (which is actually a short journey down the coast in Sitges) was in a former life an Audi design centre.

It shows…

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 Ian Britton at www.freefoto.comThe rule of thumb regarding survival of the first three bitter months of the year is to ensure that the Christmas/New Year spirit lasts as long as possible, before hunkering down and digging in for the long haul through to spring – pausing only to offer a grateful prayer of thanks that – as winter months go – irksome February is at least numerically challenged!

And then – all of a sudden – everything changes!

These are amongst the happenings that occur over a relatively short interval:

  • March finally limps to a close and we find ourselves on the threshold of the spring.
  • In the UK the clocks go forward to British Summer Time, thus ensuring that – for the first time in the year – my journeys both to and from work are accomplished in daylight.
  • The spring term at the School comes to an end and we are suddenly two thirds of the way through the academic year.
  • The sun puts in a proper appearance and nature starts to awake. Those bright munchy greens presage my favourite time of the year.

Following last year’s ridiculously early Easter, this year’s is nearly as late as it can be. Before that feast is upon us The Girl and I are heading to Barcelona (leaving – in fact – on the morrow) accompanying the A level Theatre Studies boys on their field trip to the Institute of the Arts in Sitges.

The Fuji x10 and the School’s iTablet will – naturally – be accompanying us.

Expect pictures!

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Image from en.wikipedia.orgI watched last night on the BBC a deeply affecting documentary film by Helen Langridge entitled ‘Moving Half the Mountain’. At the centre of the film was the story of the building of what became commonly known as the ‘Death Railway’ in Burma during the Second World War.

Those of us who grew up with Alec Guinness in David Lean’s epic “Bridge on the River Kwai” (based on the eponymous French novel by Pierre Boulle) will be broadly familiar with the subject, should this be only because – having been absorbed by the film – we engaged in further research to establish the real truth behind this regrettable chapter in the history of mans’ inhumanity.

It is not – however – the narrative itself that imbues this impressive new documentary with its power to move. That comes – as it so often does – from the testament of those directly involved –  from the thoughts and memories of the British and Japanese soldiers that survive still – and who agreed to be interviewed for the film.

The British had been caught up in the cataclysmic events that lead to the disastrous fall of Singapore in February 1942 and were subsequently marched up the Malaysian peninsula and into Burma, where they were ill-used by the Japanese as slave labour to build a railway linking Burma and Thailand. Forced to work in appalling conditions it is believed that a total of some 100,000 men – including more than 6,000 British servicemen – perished in pursuance of this objective.

Of those that survived the ordeal many have never spoken in depth about their experiences – even to their loved ones. That these men have chosen to do so now is a result of most of them being in their 90s, some having even achieved their centenaries. It would be a further tragedy were their testaments to be lost without being heard.

Affecting though they may be – however – their stories are not the most telling element of the film. What really moves is the demeanour of the survivors themselves. Almost to a man they demonstrate a degree of forgiveness, of acknowledgement, of coming to terms with their experience – that is humbling in the extreme. These men had come face to face with the very worst of which mankind is capable, and their survival – and subsequently fulfilled lives – leave us a lesson the we would do well to heed.

In the light of some of the more unpleasantly revisionist thinking that seems to be prevalent in this centenary year of the outbreak of the Great War, I would strongly recommend the viewing of this excellent film to any tempted to make glib judgements as to the expediency of warfare.


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