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September 2015

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Image from Pixabay“A transition period is a period between two transition periods.”

George Stigler

The period following the declaration in September 1939 that a state of war existed between the United Kingdom and Germany – the which endured until April of the following year – came to be know as the ‘Phoney War’. This because, following the Nazis’ blitzkrieg attack on Poland and Chamberlain’s dramatic declaration, as far as the general public could tell – absolutely nothing happened!

That this was – of course – far from being the case became all too apparent as the following year unfolded, but the phrase – and the notion – has stuck. It now provides a useful analog for an unexpected hiatus.

Far be it from me to suggest that the events of the past two months in our humble lives could in any way compare with such great moments from history – but I am, naturally, about to do just that.

Since the offer on our new home on the Saanich peninsular was accepted and the contracts signed back at the start of August we have existed in a dreamlike state of limbo. Schemes have been schemed – researches pursued relentlessly – plans prepared patiently… inspiration quivering tremulously just beyond reach like some slippery Will O’ the Wisp…

Not a great deal of any true import has been achieved. We have instead floated through a delightful holiday-like existence at our lovely friends’ smallholding in Saanichton, indulging in all the delights that Victoria has to offer of a summer season.

All this is about to change…

Next week we take over and move into our new home and all of our worldly possessions finally finish their long voyage from the UK.

I have already made reference to some of the many differences between buying and selling property in Canada and so doing in England. A further disparity – particularly if one is in the fortunate position of not requiring mortgage finance – is that the legal profession’s part in the process over here amounts to little more than a cameo.

As soon as we had received an offer on our apartment in Buckinghamshire I had immediately to engage a solicitor, by whom the process was effectively run from that point on – all the way to completion. Here in Canada we were advised that a lawyer would not be required until the very last moment. Sure enough we finally met our lawyer earlier this week, signed the necessary papers and handed over a bank draft made out for a very large sum of money. Apparently we will not need to see him again.

The funds will be transferred to the vendor on Monday next, we take possession at midday on the Tuesday and our goods and chattels should be with us on Wednesday.

There is some uncertainty as to the exact timing of this final phase because our various bits and pieces – having been extracted from their container upon arrival in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago and subsequently stored in a bonded warehouse there – still need to be cleared by Canada Customs. We will meet the truck bringing them from Vancouver at Victoria International Airport (where Canada Customs have an office) and the business will be transacted there. We don’t envisage there being any problems, but don’t yet know if this will take place on Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning.

Once everything has been unloaded and unpacked – that’s when the fun really starts…

Until then – and as a way of preparing ourselves for the busy and arduous week ahead – we have run away for a couple of nights to Saltspring Island, concerning which more anon…

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“Let’s sit and pass the time away
And wonder at our fellow man
Down at the Seahorses Cafe
By Abernethy and Gaudin”


Brentwood Bay – September 2015


Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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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RugbyYou will doubtless be all too aware of a couple of major events coming up at the end of this week, but just in case you are not…

Friday sees the opening salvos of the 2015 Rugby World Cup as hosts England take on the Fijians at Twickenham. The tournament will doubtless take a firm grip of our imaginations (and lives) for the next six weeks, leading up to the grand final – at the Cabbage Patch – on October 31st.

England should be too strong for the South Sea Islanders but they are in the toughest group – alongside Australia and Wales – and nothing can be taken for granted at this stage.

The Girl and I now find ourselves with multiple interests. England are looking promising and the plethora of Bath men in the squad gives us much to cheer. The men in white will have a definite home advantage which may just tip the balance.

The Scots have – as ever – been through tough times of late and their objective is simply to get out of the group stages and into the quarter finals. I am quietly confident that the recent omens are propitious and that they will make it through.

Canada have had a particularly difficult warmup run this time round and do not look as good as they did four years ago. Fingers – and much else – will be crossed that they play out of their skins and do themselves justice.

The All Blacks are – of course – not only the holders but also once again the favourites. Given their talents and adventurous style of play it is impossible not to root for them. Excellence, pure and simple.

As we do not move into our new home until the end of September – and given that our lovely hosts do not actually subscribe to a TV package – the Girl and I are going to have to find somewhere to watch the opening exchanges. We may find ourselves downtown at the famous Sticky Wicket at the Strathcona hotel, where sports of all varieties are treated with appropriate degrees of respect.

Regardless of whom you support the Girl and I wish you the best of fortune and a good tournament. Enjoy!


Image by Scott Clark

The other major event of the week?

Why – Saturday is ‘International Talk Like a Pirate Day‘ of course!

For the last few years I have been alerted to the imminence of this splendid day of celebration only after the event. This year I am prepared.

As now are you…

All together now – ‘Aaaaarrrrh‘!

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image from Pixabay

Way back in the very earliest days of this blog I posted this missive. The main thrust of the piece (aside from providing me with an opportunity to effect an introduction to ‘Pearl‘, my gorgeous and much missed Mercedes 300SL) was to ruminate upon the Englishman’s love of – almost fetish for – his (or her) open-topped automobile. This I duly did at my usual length.

Much later – of course – the Kickass Canada Girl finally succumbed to the Anglo-Saxon obsession herself and purchased her very own ragtop roadster. She enjoyed the top-down experience so much that she determined – on our arrival upon these shores – to seek in short order another similar vehicle.

Hunting through advertisements from various online sources before we left the UK left us with the very distinct impression that our search in Victoria for a Miata (as most British Columbians still refer to them) might not be a brief one. This did not altogether surprise me, for had I not written in my original post on the subject:

Which leads me to this observation… My perception, rightly or wrongly, is that – for a state that has a mild climate and considerably more days of sunshine than we do in the UK – British Columbians do not seem particularly keen on open top motoring. Yes, there are enthusiasts, but nowhere near the numbers that we see in England. Pickups are all well and good, but – for me – just do not hold the same appeal.

Recent readers will be aware that – counter to our expectation – the Girl effected the location and purchase of a good low-mileage MX-5 within a week of our arrival in BC. I put this down in the first instance to our newly rediscovered good fortune, but I have since been driven to revise this opinion. In this glorious Victorian summer (with apologies to those of you in the UK) it has become apparent that convertible usage at this end of Vancouver Island is as high as it is in the south of England. Indeed, the Mazda MX-5 is to be found here in greater numbers than just about anywhere else I know.

How to explain this shift in perception – this somewhat embarrassing revision to a publicly stated former view? I can think of only two possibilities:

  • there has been a dramatic increase in soft-top ownership in Victoria since my earlier posting in 2012…


  • Victorians – unlike the Brits – only dust down and bring out their convertibles when the sun is well and truly shining. There is none of the mad-March scramble at the first hint of a break in the cloud-cover that is so prevalent in the Home Counties.

Well – I am sure that I do not know the correct interpretation. All I do know is that this is yet another sure sign that the Girl and I have relocated to the right part of the world!


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“Boats are like rabbits; you can have one boat or many, but you can’t stop at two.”

Aristotle Onassis

Given Victoria’s position on the southern tip of Vancouver Island – and surrounded as it is on three sides by the sea – it is little surprise that the city should be included in what is quite an extensive circuit of classic boating extravaganzas. The Victoria Classic Boat Festival was one of a number of events that took place in and around the provincial capital over the long weekend just passed.

I spent a few happy hours in the Inner Harbour with one of the dear friends with whom we are currently living. At some stage in his widely varied past he owned and lived aboard a 46ft Chris Craft dating from the 1960s, and it was fascinating to ‘sit in’ on his conversations with other wooden boat owners. Most of what was said went over my head, but listening to experts – in any field – is one of my favourite pursuits. At one stage our friend found himself taking to one of his boat-building heroes – Bent Jespersen – which was definitely the highlight of our visit.

I had with me the Fuji x10. I recorded some images:

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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Victoria FringeI have in the past within the pages of this almanac expressed my views – in what can only really be considered a somewhat intemperate fashion – of the less than optimal behaviour of some of those who attend the showings at public cinema multiplexes. This based – of course – primarily on my experiences in the south east of England.

We were lucky enough – when residing in Buckinghamshire – to live within a couple of miles of Pinewood Studios. Further good fortune was evinced in that one of our neighbours ran – in the plush screening studio therein – a members’ cinema club. By this agency we we’re able to go to the movies in a civilized fashion… comfy seats, a bar, no adverts or trailers… and no children!

We are – of course – no longer in the UK, and the Pinewood film club has in any case sadly been wound up.

You might imagine my delight, therefore, to discover in Sidney, BC, a wonderful if diminutive movie house going by the name of the Star Cinema. Perhaps all you need to know of this operation is that a couple of years back – whilst the auditorium was undergoing an upgrade and on hearing that delivery of the new seats would be delayed – the patrons were invited to bring in their own couches and armchairs to keep things going… the which – of course – they duly did.

We saw there recently the estimable Sir Ian McKellen exercising his acting chops in ‘Mr Holmes‘. ‘Serena‘ was – as you might expect – excellent. The film was adequate. It seemed to me that the writer had either not quite the courage to fully exploit the premise of the film, or was perhaps subjected to the now obligatory interference by ‘those who know better‘ – whose number includes, of course, the men with the money!

On to drama of the live variety…

I have mentioned before Victoria’s Belfry Theatre. A couple of weeks back we paid our first visit there since we moved back to the province. The play concerned was ‘Boom‘ – Rick Miller’s solo multi-media tour de force that took us through two and a half decades of the cultural history of the baby boomers. Miller is massively talented and the show was certainly a hit with the Victoria audience who – it must be said – pretty much exactly fitted the demographic featured in the work.

The past week and a half has also seen the annual Victoria Fringe Festival. As a long running attendee – as both audience member and participant – of the Edinburgh Fringe I was particularly looking forward to this event. There can be no comparison in terms of scale, of course, but I was looking for a similar atmosphere of experimentation and inclusivity. I was not disappointed.

We attended six shows in a little over a week and I can honestly say that not one of them was a complete dud – which is a better hit rate that I have sometimes experienced in the land of my fathers.

Here is my pick of the fringe:

Mike Delamont – brilliant local Victorian comedian – gave us the second part of his trilogy – ‘God is a Scottish Drag Queen‘. I feel that I hardly need tell you more about this wickedly funny show… you can use your imagination. Needless to say the Girl and I were reduced to tears at several points, we were laughing so hard. Some of the best comic timing you will ever encounter.

Englishman Rob Gee offered his exquisite one man play Icarus DancingInformed by his previous existence as a psychiatric nurse the piece is beautifully written and performed with the lightest of touches – both funny and affecting. If you get a chance to see it you will not be disappointed.

Corin Raymond’s ‘The Great Canadian Tire Money Caper‘ is quite simply perhaps the show with the biggest heart that you will ever encounter. Corin is a Toronto based musician and storyteller who financed the making of a live double album with Canadian Tire Money. Non-Canadians will want to know that this incentive scheme by the auto-store company turned multi-department giant has been running since the fifties. Older UK readers might best compare Canadian Tire Money to Green Shield Stamps, though in the form of a Monopoly-like currency. Pretty much every Canadian has some – but no-one ever has enough to do anything worthwhile with. Corin tells the story in such a big-hearted manner that you just want to love him. (The Girl goes all gooey at the thought, which might not be an entirely good thing!) If you live in or around Vancouver the good news is that you can catch Corin at the Vancouver Fringe. The bad news – if you are in England – is that he was at the London Fringe in June.

Right! That’s about all the arts news for now. More to follow…

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Image by Upyernoz on Creative Commons Free ImagesLest I should leave the gentle reader with the impression that all of our time here on the west coast of Canada is currently taken up with explorations into hardwood flooring (well – some of it is!) or trying to find the perfect bathtub…

…actually, I must needs digress at this point. What springs to mind when one thinks of the normal Canadian chap (settle down at the back there!)? Yes – that’s right – a tall, swarthy outdoor type who climbs mountains for fun, drives around in a huge pickup, hunts wild animals and skates and rows and skis, etc, etc.

So – what sort of bathtub might you expect such a specimen to require? Yes – so did I, but the standard Canadian bathtub is a mere five foot long and no more than about twelve inches deep! Scarcely enough to dampen one’s… well – you get the idea. Should you require the sort of soaker that we Brits demand – at least five foot five (if not six foot) long and a good twenty two inches deep – then one is looking at a special order. Weird – huh?

Where was I?

Ah yes – culture!

I thought I would regale you with some of the cultural and artistic events that we have attending since landing in BC. Victoria is a really buzzing place and there is a pretty constant schedule of interesting stuff with which to get involved. Should the island not provide enough stimulation on its own it is but a hop and a step to either Vancouver or Seattle.

Anyway – this is what we have been up to:

On the first day of our trip to the interior we stopped in Vancouver, partly to conduct some business but also to visit the Bill Reid Gallery. For those who know nothing about this seminal figure of west coast First Nations art I commend to you the ‘About Bill Reid’ section of the above site. Should you further wish to see an example of Bill Reid’s exquisite sculpture then you need look no further than the facsimile of ‘The Raven and the First Men’ that you will find the top of this post.

The current exhibition at the Bill Reid Gallery – ‘The Box of Treasures’ – features amongst other wonders the extraordinary masks of Beau Dick – whom I have eulogised before in this post entitled ‘A sense of place’.

I most strongly recommend both artists to you – as I do the gallery, should you find yourself in Vancouver.

Much of our cultural month – however – has been given over to the arts dramatic. More – much more – of that in part two of this post.

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Image from pixabayIn exactly four weeks from today we will take possession of our new home on the Saanich peninsular north of Victoria.

If we are fortunate – and our experiences of late seem to suggest that frequently we are so – then our goods and chattels – which have been bobbing their merry way across two oceans – should put in an appearance at roughly the same time.

We have, in fact, heard from our tranter – Bournes International Moves – that the vessel that is playing host to our container is due to make landfall in Vancouver on or around September 4th or 5th. Whereas that should leave plenty of time for our precious cargo to reach us before we complete the house purchase it must first clear Canadian customs – a process in which we need apparently have some personal involvement, the details of which we will learn more about in due course.

Should this cause only a minor delay then our goods must needs briefly be held in storage in Vancouver before making the final leg of the journey to Victoria. This has already been factored in and the necessary arrangements made to cover all eventualities.

I have previously made reference to the fact that our new home – though really in very good condition – is in need of some updating, mostly to bring it into the current century in terms of style and convenience.

Our current wish list of improvements includes the following – in no particular order:

  • A new kitchen
  • Complete renovation of the family bathroom (mine!)
  • Extension and renovation of the ensuite bathroom (the Girl’s)
  • Connection to the natural gas main (we want a gas range and gas water heating)
  • A modern gas fireplace for the living room
  • Hardwood flooring in the living room and bedroom (the Girl does not tolerate carpets well)
  • Installation of a new staircase to give better access from the living rooms to the garden. (This will also involve opening up one of the current external walls at the foot of the new staircase and the installation of new patio doors to the ground floor in its place)
  • In conjunction with the above – the re-siting and re-commissioning of the hot tub (come on – this is Canada!)
  • The creation from the downstairs family room, kitchen and bedroom of a new studio apartment for our guests to use (and for possible future Air-B & B-ing)

I feel sure that there will also be many other things to do, but that’s about all I can think of at the moment. Besides – that’s quite enough to be getting on with.

Though we are blessed with wonderful friends in Saanichton who put up without complaint with our squatting in their suite and imposing on their hospitality, we are reaching the limit of our patience with living out of suitcases. The next four weeks of limbo-living will probably fly by, but we are now increasingly impatient for them so to do.

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