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 "Janus"- watercolour (and photograph) by Tony GristHerewith the promised 2017 update!

It feels as though a great many things happened over the last twelve months. The turn of the year feels like a pretty good time not only to take a retrospective glance at where we have got to but also – in an immediately succeeding post – to where we might be headed in 2018.

The Kickass Canada Girl’s job has occupied her greatly throughout the year and though much has been good about it it has not all been plain sailing. As is often the case with one’s employment, situations can change and not always for the better. The Girl is still tip-toeing around this particular evolution endeavouring to to determine exactly how it will effect her. It is very much her nature to start looking for alternatives when things are less than optimal, so keep an eye out for developments in 2018.

One of the great delights of the year was entertaining guests in our lovely home – both those traveling from the UK (two sets) and from elsewhere in BC. Being a new boy on the island I take great pleasure in showing off its delights to other newcomers and with the summer being really rather decent we had a splendid time both in our garden (yard) and out and about around Greater Victoria and the on island. I got to revisit Long Beach and Tofino, which is always a good thing, and we were able to dine out an impressive amount.

Further travel developments found me in December paying my first visit to Mexico. If you have not yet taken the opportunity to have a look at the photos that I posted herewith you would be most welcome so to do. I love the colours and the light, and the whole trip was a delight.

This has also been my first year on the board of Intrepid Theatre. Not only have I met a great many fascinating and inspiring new people but we have also experienced some really good theatre. It has definitely been a positive year on the arts front (as spectators at least) with theatre and music providing many splendid moments of enjoyment, emotion and thoughtfulness.

A major issue hinted at in previous year’s retrospectives has been our long-running legal battle with the vendor and realtor (estate agent) who sold us our house. I am much relieved to report that the matter has finally been settled (in the immediate aftermath of Christmas) though considerably less content to reveal that the settlement was for a significantly smaller sum than we believe it should have been. Having been obliged to sign a confidentiality clause I cannot reveal the terms, but I feel strongly moved to cavil at a legal process that makes it extremely difficult to get a fair settlement without investing a considerable sum of money (with no guarantee at all of any return) to push the matter through the courts. As it is the defendants have paid us a not inconsequential sum whilst still protesting that this does not admit any wrongdoing on their part. I leave the gentle reader to try to reconcile these two apparently antithetical positions.

The monies have, of course, been most welcome in support of what has been perhaps the major happening of the year – the extensive renovation of this house into a potentially exceptional home. Regular readers will have observed the pictures that I posted at the start of the summer, as we had the back of the house torn off and a wonderful new deck built. At the end of October the second phase commenced and The Girl and I became basement dwellers for duration as this extensive project has steadily inched nearer to its conclusion. More on that in the next post.

Well – that is goodbye to 2017. It always felt as though it were a transitional year somehow, and it still does.

2018 though… That’s a different matter!

 

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It has become a habit for me to post – usually upon New Year’s Eve – a bit of a retrospective on the year just passed. In such missives I am wont to muse in a suitably contemplative manner on the happenings – joyous or otherwise – of the previous twelve months, with a view to wrapping up that which is past and wishing it a tremulous farewell before gazing nervously ahead into the murk of the nascent year before us.

This year I have done none of this.

The reason is simple – there are things going on right now that are taking a fair bit of my attention and for which the outcomes will not be known for a few days yet. I will provide such a conspectus of 2017 – in a short while when things have settled!

In the meantime The Girl and I naturally wish you all a very Happy New Year – and hope fervently that 2018 eclipses 2017 in all the right ways.

Slàinte maith, h-uile latha, na chi ‘snach fhaic!
(Good health, every day, whether I see you or not!)

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Herewith a final batch of images from our recent sojourn in the sun during the run-up to Christmas.

Puerto Vallarta has a sizable and most attractive marina which includes a basin large enough for the ubiquitous cruise ships to dock:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidOn Thursday evenings the marina plays host to a rather splendid market at which it is possible to purchase the wares of local artists and craftsmen, as well as sampling local foodstuffs and – of course – tequila!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidIn the centre of town there is a lovely church dedicated to ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe’, an image of which also featured in a mural adjacent to our resort in the Hotel Zone.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidI promised a photo of a bus! This was by no means the oldest or the most rickety!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidI liked the slogan on the ‘Cashola’ ATM. “Say hello to your money” it says – with the clear subtext “Prepare to say goodbye to it again shortly thereafter!“.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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Hmmm!

My humble apologies to those who receive these updates via the email feed… yesterday’s posting was done under the influence of the Boxing Day blur and I sadly omitted various steps from the habitual routine by which means I normally ensure that all of the images render correctly. Should you have suffered the resultant shambles (and can give a rat’s arse either way) please do follow this link to view it all over again.

Puerto Vallarta’s seafront is quite naturally a major attraction. The Malecon is a mile-long esplanade that takes one along the front as far as the bridge over the Rio Cuale. This recently renovated pedestrian promenade features a fascinating display of public statuary:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidCrossing the river (which at this point incorporates the wooded Isla Cuale in an area surrounded by cafes and cramped boutiques offering the outpourings of local artists and craftsmen) one comes again to the Zona Romantica, the which district borders the sea at the charmingly entitled Playa de Los Muertos:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidThe rocks that separate the various beaches are home to a multitude of massively shy crabs that can apparently tell when they are being looked at. If one stands with one’s back to their habitat they all shuffle out – sideways – to sit on the rocks, but should one turn one’s head to look at them they scurry away into the shadows at pace…

…except for this one – which isn’t going anywhere ever again!

This chap is not going to be playing the piano again either…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidA pretty awesome place to have a massage:

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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Our recent trip to Puerto Vallarta – my first visit to Mexico – furnished such a vivid range of impressions that I found it impossible not to be continually firing off shots with whatever photographic device I had to hand. Feeling the urge to share I am going to upload several batches of the resulting images for the gentle reader’s (and viewer’s) delectation.

We paid a number of visits to the old part of town – the Zona Romantica. Here are some images:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidWe had brunch at a PV institution – Memo’s Pancake House. They make a mean Eggs Benedict!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThis is where the PV fat cats buy their cigars!…

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid…and this store in the flea market made me think of The Eagles!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidWhat do you think – fella? Hmmm! – time for siesta…

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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…to friends, acquaintances and gentle readers…

from the Kickass Canada Girl and the Imperceptible Immigrant.

Have a wonderful Christmas and a splendid Hogmany!

 


It has been my habit over the last five years or so to post to this blog a collation of festive photos of Christmassy paraphernalia such as Christmas trees, lights and decorations, sumptuously wrapped gifts and suchlike.

Christmas this year is different.

The decorations have remained in the Christmas cupboard. There is no tree or twinkling lights. There are no decorations. Our renovations (and the concomitant basement dwelling) and the last minute return from our holiday in the sun has mitigated against our usual display of festive cheer.

There is – nonetheless – an abundance of Christmas spirit. There is also the possibility here in Victoria of something that I do not recall ever having experienced before… a white Christmas!

So, whatever form the festival takes for you this year – and wherever you may be – we wish a very Happy Christmas to to you all!

 

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThough I have mentioned The Girl’s connection with Mexico on a number of occasions within these pages I now feel the need to expand a little in that regard. As I have indicated before, Mexico is a favourite haunt for Canadians wishing to escape the rigours of the north American winters. Many of them do so through a similar mechanism as did she – the purchase of a timeshare slot in a resort.

Such a purchase sadly has in common with that of a new automobile the immediate and irretrievable drop in value the instant that it is (metaphorically) driven off the lot. The Girl and her co-purchaser thus found themselves each in possession of half a timeshare, neither part of which has a significant monetary value. It made sense therefore that they should continue to make use thereof in alternate years.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidNow, the way that these things work is that – should one wish to visit a resort other than that in which one has purchased – it is possible to trade ‘points’ for slots elsewhere, as did we in Europe whilst we were still living in the UK. It is also possible to accumulate these points.

All of this by way of explanation of the fact that the first week of our stay here was in the delightful resort in the Marina at Puerto Vallarta in which the original timeshare had been purchased, whilst for the second week we have moved a little nearer to the centre of town to another resort for which The Girl has traded points (being for logistical reasons unable to get two weeks in the same location). All one need know is that both are delightful and that the Mexicans are a wonderfully friendly and positive people.

The Pacific coast of Mexico has much to recommend it, not least of course that – in the week before Christmas – the temperature is in the mid-twenties and the sun is shining. This naturally makes the customary Christmas decoration – with its emphasis on snow and sleighs and suchlike – seem somewhat out of place and it has to be said that this is quite unlike any run-up to Christmas that I have previously experienced.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThe staff at the first resort held their Christmas party by the beach on one bosky evening whilst we were there. We peeped, fascinated, from our balcony at the merry-making. They had wisely chosen not to go with a Christmassy theme but settled instead on… pirates!

Aaaarrrrr!

Much fun was clearly had…

 

Another considerable selling point here is the exceptionally good value. Both of the apartments we have inhabited are fully equipped with kitchens (and twin bathrooms!) so we have been able to cater for ourselves, but given that eating out is so reasonable it can be a tough choice to make. Taxis are also very reasonably priced and the fares are fixed and notified before each trip, so there are no unexpected extras and getting around is easy.

Even cheaper are the buses, for which each trip is covered by a fixed rate equivalent to around a (Canadian) dollar for the two of us. The buses themselves are something to be experienced. Not since a visit to India in the 80s has bus travel been such an adventure. The vehicles have an ageless look about them (in much the way that the 50s Beaver floatplanes do in BC, though the latter appear considerably better maintained) and as far as can be told have no suspension at all. As a result the outside lane of each road (being mostly cobbled or paved with small blocks) has a profile not unlike the Rockies!

It seems miraculous that some of these ancient vehicles have not shaken thsmselves apart (or maybe they have and on the edge of town somewhere there is a big broken bus graveyard!). Suffice to say that those with loose fillings should probably stick to the taxis and, though since there appears to be no limit on the number of passengers that can be carried at any time there is little likelihood of ones actually being thrown around the bus, should one take the plunge one should cling on tightly at all times.

I feel inclined to write more about my first visit to this surprising country – and certainly to post more pictures – but my hosting provider has abruptly decided that I may not load further images from here in Mexico. There should – for example – have been a photo of a bus attached to the latter part of this missive…

This will doubtless be a trivial issue to resolve but further postings must needs now follow our return to the chilly coast of BC this weekend.

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The title says it all…

Double click on the images for the full effect.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

I can’t stop snapping those sunsets!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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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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