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Flotsam and Jetsam

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Photo by Andy Dawson Reid…before the other thing!

If it is October then there must be renovation in the air…

Good contractors are much in demand. Excellent contractors are really difficult to find and,  should one be lucky enough so to do, one must needs accept that their schedule will take precedence over one’s own.

Long before our contractor finished our shiny new deck back at the start of June we had started carefully lining him up to commence work on the interior of the house. October was the earliest that he could manage and even that has since slipped a little to ‘the end of October’.

Well – we have enjoyed a blazing summer on our lovely deck but the Fall is now upon us and the end of said month is rapidly approaching. Ergo it must be time to surrender ourselves once again to the joys of living on a construction site.

We have a number of immediate projects in the pipeline. Our kitchen urgently needs replacement. We have two bathrooms that require dragging out of the 1970s. We have flooring to update in a variety of areas and – worst of all – the entire main floor of the house is ‘blessed’ with what are know as popcorn ceilings – having been sprayed with that lumpy stuff that was once used willy-nilly to cover any sort of sub-standard plaster-work (dry-walling).

Being the cautious, somewhat methodical chap that I am I would very much have liked to have been able to run these projects sequentially, with adequate time for each to be fully completed before the next one were embarked upon. Unfortunately the hideous mess that inevitably ensues from the scraping of popcorn ceilings requires that that be done entire before any construction be commenced and certainly before any of the new flooring goes down. As the flooring will also run throughout that must be done at the same time that the kitchen is stripped out and replaced.

I was reluctantly forced to accept – with considerable squirming on my part – that the best way to proceed was to hand the whole floor over to the contractor for as long as it takes. We are fortunate in that we have a full walk-out basement into which we can move in the meantime. Unfortunately this will require packing everything up and moving it downstairs before the works can commence.

It will – of course – all be perfectly lovely once it is done. I will let you know how it goes…

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A couple of weeks back The Girl and I went to a movie.

Long term followers of these scribblings will know that I am not entirely enamoured of the cinema (confusingly called the ‘theater’ in Canada) experience. In our new Victorian life, however, things have been improved no end by the fact that – being retired (or semi-retired) – we can attend early showings in virtually empty cinemas. The provision of huge reclining loungers which enable one (with a little effort) to imagine that one is in the comfort of one’s own home also helps to ease the pain!

But I digress!

Now – I have actually forgotten the title and indeed much of the detail of the movie that we went to see, but this matters not a jot as the subject of this post is another matter entirely.

Waiting for the film to start we sat through the usual face-punching trailers for other movies – the which seemed as ever to comprise all of the ‘good’ bits smashed into one brief package. As I cowered on my recliner I became aware that the music track for one such was unexpectedly familiar. It took a moment in the unaccustomed setting but I eventually recognised it as the end of the ‘Your Move‘ section of ‘I’ve Seen All Good People‘ by the 70s progressive rock band – Yes.

I say 70s, but Yes are actually still going (those who have survived) in two competing incarnations. Though I was a massive fan of Yes back in the day I have to say that I don’t care much for the complex saga of their recent doings.

For me the very apex of the band’s achievement – capturing the boldness and excitement of their stage performances – was the 1973 triple live album – ‘Yessongs‘. My brother had a copy (he had a record deck, which I did not!) and I would badger him to play it at every opportunity. What I liked particularly about Yes live was the sense that they were always straining for something that was just out of reach. Sometimes they would hit the mark and the hairs would stand up on the back of my neck. Sometimes they would fall just short – like a surfer wiping out or a downhill skier crashing in a cloud of snow and ice – but the result was usually spectacular none the less. They certainly had a huge influence on me as a musician and writer.

Naturally, on our return from the cinema I engaged the InterWebNet to revisit the ‘The Yes Album’ version of ‘I’ve Seen All Good People‘. I must have listened to this track dozens of times over the decades, but this time I noticed something of which I had not previously been aware. Toward the end of ‘Your Move‘ the backing vocalists (Chris Squire and Steve Howe) are faintly but unmistakably to be heard singing:

All we are saying – is give peace a chance

A tribute to John and Yoko mayhap?

So – although this little homage has always been on the track I only just now heard it!

How weird is that?

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Image by Jeff Dahl on Wikimedia.orgI wouldn’t mind betting that the anecdote that forms the basis of this post will ring a bell with many who read it – with similar circumstances being quickly brought to mind… because – after all – that’s just the way life is!

Way back in the early 1980s the BBC produced a six-part adaption of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘school’ novel – ‘Stalky & Co’. The piece translated well into six thirty-minute episodes because it had in fact originated as a set of individually published stories that Kipling had subsequently fleshed out into book form.

I enjoyed the stories enormously, being set in a boys’ boarding school (based on the United Services College in Devon which Kipling had himself attended) and featuring as they do a gang of juvenile protagonists who display a know-it-all, cynical attitude to patriotism and authority which was – naturally – right up my street. I subsequently bought the book and it is one of those that I still revisit on a regular basis.

At some point it occurred to me that it would be good to own a copy of the BBC series on DVD as well. Unfortunately, the usual investigations on the InterWebNet revealed  that the BBC had not thought fit to release the series, though I did find an online petition (the which I quickly signed) urging the corporation so to do.

I thought no more about it; the years passed and ‘life’ happened!

Then, at the end of July this year – whilst pursuing an online link on a related topic – I discovered that the petition must have had an effect, because the series had finally been released (in a very stripped down form – ie, just the media with no add-ons) and could be purchased from Amazon in the UK. I did so immediately and then sat back to await further news.

After a while I received an email telling me that the DVDs had been dispatched and should be delivered to me in Canada by 17th August. That date came and went with no sign of the goods. Being familiar by this point with the vagaries of Canada Post I thought I should leave things for a while, but finally – after another month had passed – I decided to contact Amazon. Those who have had reason to do such a thing will know that it takes considerable effort as the company goes out of its way to make it as difficult a possible, but I persevered and a few days ago awoke to find an email from Amazon UK acknowledging my query, apologising for my delivery clearly having gone astray and promising to send out a fresh copy.

As I probably hardly need add… when I visited our post box at the end of the street later that very same day – sure enough – there were the missing DVDs!

Hmmmmm!

 

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A final batch of photographic images from the recent sequence…

Having survived the rigours of our efforts at the Victoria Fringe Festival and enjoyed the company of our friends from the UK, the Girl and I took a well-deserved couple of days off and scooted westwards around the coast to a quiet resort on the other side of Sooke. The wild-fire smoke that had been so pervasive a little earlier in the summer made a brief return (much of it this time from Oregon) and as a result we felt disinclined to do much that was strenuous. Fortunately our suite featured a splendid rooftop hot tub in which we could be-sport ourselves and – apart from indulging ourselves with the tasting menu in the Copper Room at Sooke Harbour House – that was pretty much all we got up to.

I did take the Fuji x10 for a stroll along the beach…

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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Given that the friends who visited recently from the UK (see previous post) had a mere four full days to spend in the provincial capital it was essential that we mapped out their agenda with particular care. Wishing to meet (and hopefully to exceed) their expectations we offered them a rich palette of options and put the choice in their hands.

For the Saturday they chose a day trip to Saltspring Island – and in particular to the Saturday market in Ganges. It would have been lovely to have cruised to Saltspring under our own power in ‘Dignity’, but a blazingly hot Saturday on the September long weekend is a bad time to fight with the queues both at the Sidney boat launch and at the public docks in Ganges, so we chickened out and took the ferry to Fulford instead.

A stall holder at the market – with whom, as is our nature, we engaged in conversation – swore that the crowd was scarcely half what it had been but a few weeks previously. Goodness knows what all of the other souls could possible have been doing – the place looked to be completely packed to us… and did I mention that it was blazingly hot?

It mattered not, of course, as we all had a splendid time, a very passable lunch and then returned home tired but contented.

The taking of photographs in the melee of the market, however, would definitely have been inadvisable, so I contented myself instead with assembling the odd assortment of images that you see represented below…

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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What is there more kindly than the feeling between host and guest?

Aeschylus

As revealed in my last post to these pages my efforts at the Victoria Fringe Festival on behalf of Intrepid Theatre had to be brought to a premature conclusion with five days of the festival still to run. The reason for this unfortunate abrogation of my responsibilities was a previous engagement welcoming to British Columbia our second set of visitors from the UK this year.

Our most welcome guests were themselves only to be with us for five days; scarce time to see all that they desired on their first visit to Canada (let alone to Victoria) and only just enough time to catch up fully with dear friends that we have not seen for over two years. Nonetheless – we had a good stab at covering as much ground as possible and I kept the trusty Fuji x10 to hand to document our various excursions.

Our guests are great gardeners and horticulturalists and an extended visit to the Butchart Gardens was thus near the top of the list of things not to be missed. The recommended agenda of a daytime visit followed by a bit of a break and then a return to catch the gardens under illumination during the evening was adopted; the Kickass Canada Girl and I accompanying our guests for the latter…

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 ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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Get busy living, or get busy dying.

Stephen King

My apologies that posts have been somewhat erratic of late. Things have been busy!

I posted some images from the Victoria Classic Boat Festival two years ago. I make no apology for posting more this year because I think that the boats are gorgeous and the inner harbour extremely photogenic.

Next time round I will provide an explanation for all of this ‘busy-ness’ and a proper catch-up…

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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Image by Acuration on Wikimedia CommonsIn my last post I enthused about Peter Parker’s 1986 book – “The Old Lie” – the subject of which is the generation of young men who left England’s public schools to fight – and in many cases to die – in what became known in its immediate aftermath as ‘The Great War‘.

Parker’s thesis is that in great part the nation’s apparent excess of enthusiasm to go to war in Europe in the early part of the twentieth century arose from illusions whose roots lay the attitudes emanating from England’s great public schools. To understand why this should be the case he chooses (as might we also) to look back into the nineteenth century to determine how it was that these schools came to embody the ethos and ideals whence such notions arose.

Of the drivers for the widespread reform of the public schools that was effected during the nineteenth century two in particular are pertinent:

The first such was the influence on these schools of Thomas Arnold – head master of Rugby School from 1824 to 1841. Arnold’s avowed aim – of producing a “school of Christian gentlemen” – was to be achieved by the inculcation of his values of piety, discipline and high-mindedness into an elite coterie of upper school boys (Arnold has frequently been credited with the invention of the prefectorial system) who would then act as his instrument in shaping the younger boys, for whom Arnold personally had little time. So successful was this approach that as the ex-members of his Rugby elites spread out into the world (along with acolytes amongst the Rugby masters who subsequently applied for posts elsewhere) other schools rapidly adopted Arnold’s aims and methods.

The second driver was the Victorian policy of expansionism. As the Empire grew so did the need for the ‘right sort of chap‘ to enter the nation’s service in the administration of its far-flung territories. This (along with a slowly increasing militarism in the public schools which eventually found an echo in the extension of the Officers’ Training Corp (OTC) thereto) led to the espousal of values that promoted both a local and national patriotism – for house, school and country (in that order!).

It is perhaps in the nature of such establishments that these new values (new at least to the public schools!) were quickly subsumed in the mystique and self-mythologising which has long been their stock in trade – much of it based on Classical virtues and ideals (remembering of course that for the longest time such schools taught little other than the classics!). For the young adults in the sixth forms of these schools the notions of ‘good form’,’ playing the game’, ‘keeping a stiff upper lip’ and so forth became the mark of the man. By the time the continent slid inexorably into the cataclysm that was the First World War a generation of such young Christian gentlemen were eager to put their new-found values – and themselves – to the test… in the service of their (house, school and) country (still in that order!).

To understand how it was that influence of these developments within elite institutions spilled over into the outside world – touching those for whom an education at such an establishment was never an option – it must be remembered that the social structure of nineteenth century Britain was utterly hierarchical. Those in positions of influence and power still came largely from the upper classes that the public schools had been created to serve. Young boys of middle and working classes were encouraged to follow the example of their ‘betters; with the public school ideal being promoted as the quintessence. ‘The ‘school novel’ became a successful and popular genre and glowing articles in periodicals aimed at young men espoused the values and virtues of public school heroes much as did later ‘comics’ with sportsmen, explorers and astronauts.

The social hierarchy naturally extended into the armed forces. Officers came from privileged backgrounds – enlisted men did not. Though there might be a germ of truth in the widely held critique of the British infantry as being “Lions led by donkeys” (sent to their deaths by incompetent and indifferent leaders) and it is certainly true that some of those in positions of command did remain safely many miles behind the front lines, this was certainly not the case for the junior officers who led men on the ground.

Parker makes the chilling point that whereas the mortality rate for all Britons involved in the conflict was a little under 12%, for public school educated officers it was more than 17%. The eager young subalterns (armed only with a service revolver and wearing a distinctive uniform) leading their troops over the top presented all to easy a target for the German snipers, who were well aware that without the leadership of their officers the British infantry was literally headless.

At this remove we can but study the histories; or perhaps more appropriately to read the poetry, written by the young men themselves once disillusionment set in as the conflict progressed and the extent of the lie became apparent.

Many of these young men, however, went to their tragic deaths with no opportunity to gain such enlightenment.

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Image by Roger McLassus from Wikimedia CommonsI have recently finished reading Peter Parker’s 1987 book, ‘The Old Lie‘ – which is helpfully subtitled ‘The Great War and the Public School Ethos‘. I came to it – as happens with many of the tomes to which I am drawn – through a reference in another book, though I can no longer recall the details of that volume nor the context in which it referred to Peter Parker’s book.

For those perhaps unfamiliar – should such there yet be – the title refers to Wilfred Owen’s first world war poem, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est‘ – which ends:

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori
.”

The Latin quote which Owen brands ‘The old lie‘ is by the Roman poet, Horace, and translates thus:

It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country

It is necessary also to understand that the public schools of the subtitle are those of England and Wales, which are pretty much the antithesis of public schools anywhere else in the world. As Wikipedia informs us:

A public school in England and Wales is an older, student selective, fee-paying independent secondary school which caters primarily for children aged between 11 or 13 and 18. The term “public” should not be misunderstood to mean that these are public sector schools: they are in fact private sector. Traditionally, public schools were all-male boarding schools, although most now allow day pupils, and many have become either partially or fully co-educational.

Public schools emerged from charity schools established to educate poor scholars, the term “public” being used to indicate that access to them was not restricted on the basis of religion, occupation, or home location, and that they were subject to public management or control,in contrast to private schools which were run for the personal profit of the proprietors.

The Clarendon Commission of 1861 – a Royal Commission set up to investigate the state of the nine leading public schools in England – concerned itself with seven boarding schools (Eton, Charterhouse, Harrow, Rugby, Shrewsbury, Westminster and Winchester) and two day schools (St Paul’s and Merchant Taylors’). The ‘Public Schools Yearbook’ was published for the first time in 1889 – listing 30 schools – and by 1902 the publication further included all schools that were members of the Head Masters’ Conference (HMC).

Given that to obtain a commission in the armed forces at the turn of the twentieth century it was necessary to be wealthy, to be well educated and to come from the ‘right’ background it is little surprise that the great majority of the junior officers in the service at the start of the war had been educated in these schools. As the war progressed many more of them joined up directly from school and, even when the numbers required for the ever swelling force argued a widening of the constituency, this was achieved by offering ‘temporary’ commissions (for the duration of the war only) to those from the middle classes with grammar and independent school backgrounds.

The eagerness with which many Britons rushed to war in 1914 is widely recognised, and perhaps none were keener than those who had recently left – or were about to leave – England’s public schools. Even as the war progressed and the full horror of modern mechanical warfare became apparent there was no shortage of young men who believed that this moment in history was just that for which they had been born, raised and educated.

Just why these young men should have been so intoxicated by this zeal to serve and even, perchance, to die for their country is the subject of Peter Parker’s book. I will delve further there-into in a subsequent post.

My particular interest in this subject? I spent greater part of the last two decades working for two of the schools listed above and have many colleagues and friends who gave their service to the others.

 

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The ship called ‘Dignity’ is enjoying her sabbatical at Westport Marina in Tsehum Harbour to the north of Sidney. Renting a slip there means that more time can actually be spent ‘messing about in (one particular) boat(s)‘ than would be possible were she to have to be launched afresh each time she goes out – and the prices are really very reasonable this year.

I have also taken the opportunity to do some tinkering – tweaking idle speed and fuel/air mixture for example – so that she now runs as she should at slow speeds. This makes navigating through the maze of channels and marinas that comprise Tsehum Harbour a whole lot easier than it was before.

Taking the boat out on my own sadly means that I don’t get the opportunity to take as many photographs as I would like whilst out on the water – which explains why most of these were taken in the marina itself.

This is Sidney by the Sea:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidReflections…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidShipshape!…

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid…though we all have our own ways of doing things. Now – which do you suppose would be my preference?

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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