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December 2017

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Well – not exactly… but it does feel a bit like playing hooky to have left our contractor and tradesfolk of all descriptions beavering away on our renovation whilst we have flown south for some winter sun in Mexico.

This is my first visit to this part of the world though The Girl is, of course, a regular. So many Canadians use the Mexican resorts as their winter home from home that it almost doesn’t feel like ‘abroad’.

So – what do I make of Puerto Vallarta? On what I have seen thus far – I love it. That means photos, of course. These from the balcony of our rather swanky suite:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidI am fascinated by the amazing Frigate birds that constantly circle above our roof, riding the thermals with their seven foot wingspan. The hawks are eager to get in on the act too:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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“Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.”

John Stuart Mill

I have manfully resisted (with but a few exceptions) making any commentary on the grim farce that is being played out in the old country in the matter of the leaving (or otherwise) of the European Union. The reasons for my reticence will – I feel sure – be obvious to many. Quite aside from any other consideration it is hard in the extreme to know what one could possibly write about this farrago (which quandary does not, sadly, seem to stop many of the more rabid online commentators).

If it weren’t all so damnably serious it would be quite good fun watching the Tory party twisting in the breeze as they try to hold together the fractious coalition of extremists of all hues that is their core constituency. Unfortunately the matter is serious – and thus no fun at all.

Yesterday’s ‘deal’ – which will apparently enable negotiations to move on to the next phase (trade talks) in the long, long process – was such an extraordinary piece of work, however, that my breath was quite taken away. I cannot decide whether it is a work of utter genius or just more stupid than can possibly be imagined. Without going too far into the nuts and bolts of the whole ghastly business, much of the recent debate has concerned the impossibility of maintaining a soft (ie – no controls) boarder post-Brexit between Northern Ireland (part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland (very much a member of the EU). The rebarbative Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland  (who are currently keeping the Tories in power as a result of a desperately poor post-election decision by the PM) scuppered the first attempt at an agreement on the very reasonable grounds that they didn’t want a ‘boarder’ between themselves and the UK either.

The essential paradox at the heart of the ‘interesting‘ compromise that was eventually agreed was summed up by online commentator, Andrew80, thus:

“That agreement in plain text:

  1. We’re leaving the EU single market and the customs union.
  2. There will be no hard border between NI and Ireland.
  3. To avoid that, we’ll come up with something clever.
  4. Failing that, we will stay in the single market and the customs union.”

The devil is – as ever – in the detail and the detail here will be decided at a later stage in the process… or not! This classic fudge – essentially kicking the can as far down the road as is possible – seems to have achieved the impossible and united all shades in… in what no-one quite seems to know! According to a range of commentators of all complexions the agreement is a vindication of their position. Others – again of all hues – are apoplectic with rage at this ‘betrayal’.

I guess that for Theresa May this counts as a ‘result‘!

You literally could not make this stuff up…

 

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“…a little becomes a lot”

Anonymous

A quick pictorial update on our renovations. This is where things stand after our wonderfully perfectionist dry-waller (and his partner) have spent a week and a half working on our walls and ceilings. What you can’t discern from the pictures is just how wonderfully smooth and silky the ceilings now are. The spaces immediately look larger and far, far cleaner than they did before.

Next up – floors throughout and tiling for the bathrooms:

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidIt has long been my habit to maintain a couple of decanters of spirits for everyday purposes. One of these is charged with whatever reasonably cheap brandy I can source locally (since it is intended for mixing with ginger ale or suchlike) and the other – the teardrop decanter in the accompanying image – with whisky. I tend to prefer J & B for this one – Justerini & Brooks being a familiar Edinburgh concern and this being their signature blend.

These decanters normally reside in some splendour upon the sideboard in our dining room. During the renovations they are perched on top of a bookcase in the hall/kitchen that forms the spine of our basement abode.

Yesterday found me once again vacuuming our cosy crypt in what is an ongoing effort to mitigate the ingress of the all pervading plaster (mud) dust. I had worked my way through the hallway and into the family room that is currently doubling as our living space and a warehouse for our goods and chattels. As I dragged the machine in behind me I thought I heard a noise from back in the hall. I stopped what I was doing and went to have a look. I could see nothing amiss so determined to think no more about it and to complete my chores.

This morning The Girl was herself sorting through some of the many items that are now vying for living space in our hallway. She picked up a redundant cardboard box in which some life-essential had but recently been delivered.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidWhy is there a decanter in this box?”, she queried. It took but seconds to determine what had happened. As I had moved the vacuum cleaner the power cord had caught around the decanter (the power socket being on the wall at dado height beside the bookcase) and whisked it off the shelves and into the open box below.

Here, of course, is where the luck came in. The box was still a third filled with packing material. The floor below is of concrete covered with a thin layer of vinyl flooring. Had the decanter hit the floor rather than the packing material in the box it would undoubtedly have shattered.

But that is not all. The decanter had come to rest on its side and the glass stopper had come loose and was lying in the box beside the decanter. I lifted them carefully out of the box and inspected them. As you can see the decanter was only about a quarter filled and – because of the vessel’s shape and the angle at which it had come to rest – not a single drop had been spilled…!

…and I feel sure that you know just how much a Scot hates to waste good whisky!

I think that calls for a wee dram…

 

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Image by Tony Hisgett on Wikimedia Commons“The music is in the air. Take as much as you want.”

Edward Elgar

It is highly likely that a fair proportion of the English expat community of Victoria were unknowingly gathered together in one place on Monday evening last.

The Kickass Canada Girl and I were amongst those attending the Royal Theatre for a concert by the Victoria Symphony Orchestra (the first such that I have experienced) featuring a programme which included works by Ralph Vaughan-Williams and Edward Elgar.

In musical terms one cannot get much more ‘English’ than this and the Brits appeared to have turned out in force!

Though I have long been a fan of Vaughan-Williams I was not previously familiar with the F Minor Tuba Concerto – the which work was featured on Monday. In common with most other commentators I do not find the bass tuba particularly suited to being featured as a solo instrument, but the orchestral passages in the piece are marked by the composer’s familiar elegant phrasing and it proved to be most enjoyable as a whole.

Now – I grew up listening to Elgar. As would seem to be the case for many others I came first to the Enigma Variations, falling in love with the Nimrod and sensing that it somehow encapsulates much that is good at the heart of the English pastoral. I discovered the E Minor Cello Concerto somewhat later but the work has grown to have a profound effect on me. The piece – Elgar’s last major work – was composed shortly after the end of the Great War (during which he had written very little) and has been described as a lament for a lost world. To me – and clearly to many others – its elegiac and melancholy mood captures to perfection the sense of tragic loss both of a generation and of the innocence of the ‘golden summer’ that preceded that catastrophic conflict.

The last time I head the Cello Concerto played live was at a concert at one of the schools at which I worked. The cello soloist (still a schoolboy at the time) was Tim Lowe – now a highly respected international performer. His rendition of the work moved me to tears, as did that of English cellist Raphael Wallfisch on Monday last. Wallfisch’s reading is maybe a little more clear-eyed and less sentimental, but the power of the work over those of us who are susceptible (Englishmen mayhap?) is undeniable.

Mind you – the Nimrod also has me blubbing uncontrollably as well. I’m not entirely sure what to make of this, except that Elgar clearly tapped into something that speaks eloquently to at least some of us who hail from from that blessed plot.

The first time that one hears a ‘new’ orchestra is always a somewhat nervy experience. I am delighted to report that the Victoria Symphony – under its new director, Christian Kluxen – gave an entirely admirable performance. I very much look forward to hearing them again.

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