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May 2016

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black and white“Colour television! Bah, I won’t believe it until I see it in black and white.”

Samuel Goldwyn

Not in this case a nostalgic look back at the cinema of a bygone age – nor indeed a reference to the school colours of my erstwhile employers…

…but in this case a brace of ‘his and her’ automotive conveyances!

I made reference but a few posts back to the fact that the Girl was in the process of having to change her mode of transport in the light of her renewed need to commute – with a view to keeping herself safe and sound in the face of the somewhat erratic driving habits of some other users of the ‘Pat Bay’ highway here on the Saanich peninsula… this being – of course – a move that I endorse whole-heartedly.

Those who know the Girl will also know that she is not one to hang around when the mood is upon her. Sure enough on Friday last we drove up-island with a view to investigating a low-mileage pre-owned (so much better than ‘second-hand’ or ‘used’ whilst not being quite as wince-inducing as ‘pre-loved’!) automobile. As is the way of such things, after a long day of negotiation and paperwork she drove back to Victoria in a brand spanking new one instead! Rest assured that she came away with a particularly good deal…

For those interested in such things the vehicle is a shiny new Mazda CX-5 with all of the bells and whistles. This thing is practically frothing with technology, all of which is in the service of keeping the occupants as safe as possible out in the jungle that is the modern metropolis. If you are of the persuasion that will not rest until you know all of the details then you should consult the Girl for the full run-down – or avail yourself of the wonder that is the InterWebNet to carry out your own researches. All I know is that this thing certainly has more computing power on board than did the entire fleet of lunar modules (apologies for the extremely dated – though still germane – reference).

This leaves the Girl with a couple of vehicles to sell. She has of late been driving the little Miata in the summer months and reverting to the ancient Honda Accord when the weather turns inclement.

The CX-5 will now cover all the bases.

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidI experienced an interesting echo of Britain’s colonial past this recent long holiday weekend. The occasion was my first visit to the excellent and hugely popular Victoria Highland Games.

That this was the one hundred and fifty third such informs us not only as to their date of origin but also as to the continuing popularity of the event. As was our colonial forebears’ wont around the globe the original intent of the festival would have been to recreate a much loved element of UK cultural life to ease the longing for home of the expats upon whom the empire depended.

Here – a century and a half later – I found myself standing on a grassy slope in Topaz Park, looking across a greensward teeming with pipers, drum majors, highland dancers, heavy lifters and hammer throwers (caber tossing was on a different day!) toward the smoky Sooke hills in the background and experiencing suddenly the strongest recollection of sitting on the grass bank at the Pitlochry recreation ground in Perthshire back ‘when I were a lad’, watching the proceedings of a ‘Highland Night’.

It worked a hundred and fifty years ago… it works now!

Some pictures…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidIn the clan society section I found that my own – Clan Donnachaidh – has made a reappearance after some years missing from the west coast. I signed up – naturally!

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidIdioms

“Everything in the garden is rosy”

(British English, saying)everything is fine”

Oxford Learners’ Dictionary

A couple of weeks back I posted some snaps of the pleasant surprises that our recently acquired garden (yard!) has been bestowing upon us.

Sadly, not quite everything in our little corner of paradise was as gorgeous as those images may have suggested. There was one rather sorry strip just below our patio – about thirty feet wide by ten feet deep – that could only be described as ‘scrubland’.

This patch – which incorporates a fire-pit – may at one point have been graveled. Much of that covering had long since disappeared and whatever it was that remained clearly provided the perfect habitat for every possible variety of weed and couch grass known to man (and a few others for good measure).

As the spring progressed the presence of this eyesore became increasingly irritating until even this minimalist gardener could stand it no longer and decreed that action must be taken.

I spent a considerable portion of two days earlier this week removing the top surface of this blasted heath and winkling out as much weed root as I could bear to do. I discovered that not only was a fair chunk of our garden irrigation system just under the surface of this patch, but that it had several leaks, a couple of redundant spurs and was not laid in the optimal locations. All this was speedily remedied before I levelled the area and laid and pegged down a porous membrane across the whole patch – in the hope of at least keeping some of the weeds and grasses at bay.

Then it was hotfoot to my local supplier of aggregates – Peninsula Landscape Supplies – to order three yards of half inch clear crushed aggregate. I did this at around one o’clock on Thursday last and was delighted when it was delivered to our door shortly before three o’clock that same afternoon. Splendid service!

The dump pickup dropped the load as close to the patio as possible, but that was a good twenty five yards away. It was then down to me – armed only with a plastic wheelbarrow, a shovel and a rake – to transmute the resultant mountain into the rather splendid gravel strip that can be seen in the attached photo – and all before the Kickass Canada Girl arrived home from work!

If I tell you that three yards of aggregate weighs in the region of four and a half tons, you might understand why my body feels today rather as though it has been hit by particularly large truck.

I suspect it would have been considerably worse had I not been attending weights classes twice a week since September last. I knew that there was a reason for so doing…

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Image by Andy Dawson ReidSince the Kickass Canada Girl went back to work recently she has had – yet again – to take on something of a commute. Nothing much by way of comparison to that which either of us endured back in the UK, but tiresome nonetheless. Much of it is along the main arterial route down the Peninsula into the centre of Victoria – Highway 17 (or the ‘Pat Bay’ as it is ‘affectionately’ known). This journey should take only around 20 – 25 minutes. That it has – of late – been taking considerably longer is in the main down to some Victorians being apparently unable to drive safely along the highway just as soon as the sun shines.

The Pat Bay is not the perfect road by any means. Much of it comprises two lanes in either direction and, whilst the southern stretch is adequately equipped with the sort of interchange with which we are familiar in the UK, north of Royal Oak, unfortunately, the intersections revert to being flat crossroads with traffic signals.

The problem is that some of those acclimatised to keeping their feet down on the southern section seem unable to reconcile this with having to stop at the lights further north. Even worse – if a green light can be seen at an intersection up ahead that seems like a good excuse to keep the power on. There is – of course – the possibility that the signal has only just changed to green, with the vehicles ahead still accelerating away when some monster pickup barrels into the back of them doing something quite illegal.

The Girl has of late come home grumbling of extended delays a couple of times a week. I had myself to pull over and let three police cars, two ambulances and a fire truck get past to deal with a shunt only this afternoon – and today is Sunday!

This has all – rather sadly – forced the Girl to rethink her means of transport. In England the cute little MX-5 can more than hold its own in traffic. Over here – fun as it is on the curvy stuff when the roads are clear – it doesn’t take much for the diminutive roadster to vanish into the blind spots of ‘semis’ (‘artics’ to UK readers) and pickups alike… particularly given their jockeys’ penchants for tailgating.

A larger – and safer – vehicle may well be required… at least while she is yet in employ.

As for me – there are definitely unwanted echoes of the traffic conditions I used to encounter on the M3 on the way into London every day.

Not what one looks to find in paradise!

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Image by Superbfc at the English language WikipediaYou might have thought that my recent post regarding the outcome of the second inquest into the causes of the deaths of the ninety six victims of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster would be my last word on the subject. I suspect, however, that there will be yet more to come as the saga continues to unfold over the years.

This truth was brought home yet again last night in harrowing fashion as I watched Daniel Gordon’s two hour documentary – ‘Hillsborough‘ – made for the BBC and ESPN. The first version of this brilliantly judged work was completed nearly two years ago and shown in the US and – subsequently – in New Zealand. It could not at that time be shown in the UK for legal reasons; for fear that it might prejudice the outcome of the second inquest which had then just begun.

The film has now been extended in the light of the outcome of that inquiry and can now finally be seen in the UK and elsewhere. Should you yet feel uncertain as to the import of these recent events – or should you even perchance still harbour some misconceptions as to the truth of what really happened on that dreadful day and throughout the intervening twenty seven years – I urge you to take the time to watch this chilling memorial to the suffering of the families whose loved ones did not return home from that intended day of celebration.

Though I have been reading about the tragedy since the day that it happened, even so I learned things from this film that I had not previously known. This merely demonstrates anew just how much the authorities tried to keep hidden over the past two decades and more.

For example, I did not know that there had been another not dissimilar crowd control problem at an FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough – some eight years earlier. On that occasion the crowd at the Leppings Lane end had been allowed to spill out of the stands onto the border of the pitch itself to avoid the crush. When – during the post mortem to that event – it was suggested that there had been a lucky escape and that modifications might be required to prevent future injuries or deaths, the ground’s owners and engineers dismissed the suggestion and did nothing.

Indeed – in the intervening years matters were made very much worse as a result of the FA’s misguided attempt to combat the hooliganism which seemed endemic to the game during the 1980s. The standing room terraces at the Leppings Lane end of the ground were turned into pens by the construction around them of fences of spiked iron railings. When lightening did indeed strike a second time the supporters were unable either to escape onto the pitch or sideways along the terracing as had previously been possible.

In another unfortunate circumstance the vastly experienced police superintendent, Brian Mole, who should have been in charge of the crowd control operation on the day of the disaster, was moved to another district a couple of weeks prior to the event. This followed a ‘hazing’ incident some months before in which a young police constable was one night subjected to a mock abduction by masked gunmen posing as armed robbers but who were in fact colleagues from the constabulary. Those concerned were disciplined firmly and Mole – though having no involvement himself – was moved.

His place was taken – at two weeks’ notice – by a man who not only had little experience of supervising such major events but also clearly had little understanding of football or of the habits and motivations of its followers. David Duckenfield was responsible for the two key actions that shaped the tragedy that followed and the appalling campaign that succeeded it.

First, he took the decision – when the crush of Liverpool supporters trying to get through the totally inadequate number of turnstiles at the Leppings Lane end looked to be getting out of hand – to open one of the exit gates to allow a large body of fans through to relieve the pressure outside. This was done without first having either sealed off the immediate entrance to the two already packed pens which was directly in front of the exit gate, or of ensuring that there were an adequate number of stewards or police inside the ground to direct fans to the still mostly empty pens to either side.

Then – as the inevitable tragedy was still being played out immediately beneath the windows of the control box in which he was located – Duckenfield lied to Graham Kelly (the FA representative at the ground) telling him that drunken ticket-less Liverpool supporters had broken down the very exit gate that he had himself ordered to be opened. Kelly naturally believed what he was told by the senior police official present and wasted no time passing the information on TV commentators and journalists. Thus was born the false myth that the supporters were to blame for the deaths of the ninety six, which was then seized upon by those in charge of all of the authorities concerned as a means of covering up the truth as to the multiple liabilities for the fatalities.

Daniel Gordon’s documentary is not an easy watch but it is an essential one if we are to fully comprehend this recent period in our history, for it has implications far wider simply than those for game of football or for this one appalling, tragic, but completely avoidable incident.


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 “The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes'”

Marcel Proust.*

For each ‘new’ garden (Canadian: yard!) that one inherits there is a marvelous, scary, joyous voyage of discovery – lasting a year – during which time is revealed all that lies concealed within. This earlier post told part of the story of our garden; the images below testify to the fact that there is never (thus far at any rate) a dull moment therein.

* What Proust actually wrote was:

“The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is; and this we can contrive with an Elstir, with a Vinteuil; with men like these we do really fly from star to star.”

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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imageIn the first part of this post (which like so many such started out as a single succinct study until the habitual ramblings of my so-called style brought me to the realisation that I had probably already outstayed my welcome… (See what I mean?)) I painted a brief sketch of the provision within Victoria’s secondary schools for those youngsters who wished to study drama or to practice theatre.

Outside the school system – for those whose schools do not make adequate provision or for others who wish to take things further – there are a number of options. A variety of organisations offer a range of drama, acting and performance classes, some of them so doing through a range of outlets such as leisure or recreation centres as well as from their own premises.

The best known and regarded of these are probably Kaleidoscope Theatre and the Kate Rubin Studio. Though each has its own particular USP they aim broadly at the same constituency, offering theatrical activities across a wide range of age groups but also focusing on those with ambitions to take up one the thespian professions. Both are themselves professional operations and are well resourced.

Kate Rubin herself was – for a considerable time – also involved with another admirable offering for the young of Greater Victoria… the Belfry 101 programme. I have waxed lyrical about the Belfry Theatre on more than one occasion. Apart from providing the best theatre-going experience in Victoria the Belfry also hosts this imaginative program for school-aged youngsters on an annual  basis. This is based around the Belfry’s main house programme, and gives the young members access to the casts and creatives involved in each show, in addition to offering them the opportunity to create their own showcase work at the end of the season.

The Belfry 101 programme was created in the late 1990s by University of Victoria Associate Professor Monica Prendergast, and has operated to great acclaim ever since. Both Monica Prendergast and Kate Rubin were kind enough to agree to meet us so that we could pick their respective brains concerning youth drama provision in Victoria. We are most grateful both to them and to Colin Plant, who heads the Fine Arts programme at Claremont Secondary School.

Now that I have provided the broadest of sketches of the youth drama provision at this end of Vancouver Island and in the process, hopefully, given the gentle reader an idea as to what is available – it is now time to offer an opinion as to what is not…!

And, yes! – that means another post…

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Image from Pixabay“But a city is more than a place in space, it is a drama in time.”

Patrick Geddes

It was some time ago now – back in February in fact – that I posted a missive to this journal entitled Youth Theatre Dreaming in which I declared my intention of starting something along the lines of a youth theatre here in Victoria. You may have been wondering what has become of that purpose, particularly given that I wrote at the time that “things have been set in motion”.

Though I feel it probable that the gentle reader has grown somewhat weary over the years of being informed just how long it takes for this, that and the other to come to pass in our lives (which dilatory state of affairs seems to have been our lot for some considerable time now) in this case things actually have been happening… albeit – slowly!

In keeping with the ponderous nature of the progress this will not be the post that gives you all the details of the project. That will be the next one (or maybe the one after that!). This one will give some essential background and reflects the fact that one of the things that we were briefed to do by those with whom we intend to work was to carry out some research into the current dramatic provision for young people in and around Greater Victoria.

This is what we found.

Across the high schools of Greater Victoria the provision of drama teaching is – to put it mildly – mixed! Some schools have extensive offerings – such as the excellent Claremont Secondary in Cordova Bay which has a fully fledged Fine Arts programme running across the whole school. In other secondary schools drama is taught by whoever can be prevailed upon to pick it up – often someone from the English department. The content is then based upon whatever knowledge happens to be available. There is no common curriculum and drama would seem to be one of those subjects the timetabling of which has, of late, been squeezed.

One thing is, however, common to practically all schools – music theatre! I have never encountered such a plethora of music theatre courses and musical shows. It would seem that, even if no other offering for drama study is available, there is always the music theatre option.

Now – having written a number of musicals myself back in my youth theatre days I am not opposed to the form per se, but I was startled to discover that these shows are a very different proposition. These are based on hit shows from Broadway and the like, but stripped down for school use and with the entire production offered as a package – pre-recorded music, choreography, costume and set design and so forth.


Outside school there are – as one would expect – other possibilities. Full details on these must, however, needs wait for the second part of this missive.

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