During the shortest days of the year I thought I should put fingers to keyboard and recount some of the more domestic adventures of the last couple of months. To day is Martins Birthday – turning – like the rest of the world another year older, but happier.
We returned to Victoria on October 2nd after an up and down flight with Westjet – who took good care of us (especially Kerry who must have wondered what on earth was going on). Martin’s daughter Melanie met us at the airport and took us back home – I entered my house for the first time in 16 months and I was excited!
My cleaning lady – Ching had been working in the house all the time we were away and I was pleased to see she had not lost her touch. Our tenants left the house very clean but with a couple of problems we sorted out together. I was most concerned about my garden, because, for a variety of reasons my garden was a bit neglected and needs lots of attention. I am ready – having not done any gardening for a long time. October was a lovely sunny month so I was able to get out and do some work although gardening is a never-ending activity. While we were away, a lady we met at our garage sale, sent us a picture of our house being built in 1912. She had lived and grown up in our house between 1973 and 1980. It is always interesting to know the history of a home and this chance meeting gave some substance to ours.
We settled back in slowly, reconnecting with our home, family and friends. The main problem for me while we were always on the move on the waterways of Europe, was that we were unable to forge many lasting relationships. So our community was limited and rather transient. In Victoria we are well established (after living here for 30 years) and have such wonderful long term friendships that reconnecting with people was like a family reunion – in this case it was our family of choice.
Being away gave us a lot of motivation and energy to do some work on the house – so we began emptying the 70 boxes in the basement. Then I worked on re-establishing my kitchen – which was empty of staples and starting to use my oven. We have no baking oven on the boat, so my kitchen oven has been used extensively since we got back (this also makes Martin very happy). I also used my new dishwasher a lot –after bringing dishes etc from the basement that had not seen the light of day for 18 months. So everything got washed. It was like starting over again.
After that we moved on to painting the living room; walls, beams and the miles of white woodwork. We changed from yellow to dove grey (browny grey) and the refreshing of the paintwork means that now it looks very spiffy for a house that is over a century old. Trouble is that all the rest of the paintwork on the main floor now looks a bit tired so we need to continue our cycle of sprucing up our old house. But this is not enough for Martin, who put his shoulder and everything else to the grindstone to renovate our westside bedroom. For an architect, renovations are more demanding, so Martin and our friend Randy ripped out walls and ceilings replaced the old lathe and plaster with insulation and drywall, created a vaulted ceiling, skylight and new windows (especially added storm windows) turning this west facing room from the coldest room in the house to the warmest.
We also bought a new-to-us car upon our return – having seen all those wonderful vehicles in Germany I was sold on a German car. I am usually a Volkswagen kind of girl but found this super silver Mercedes Benz B200 and snapped it up. Lovely car; it drives like a warm knife cuts through butter – so smooth.
We have also had some fun with friends since coming back sharing copious cups of coffees, lunches, dinners, parties and bottles of wine. We celebrated Halloween with the most beautiful bunch of witches I could ever imagine,
Then we headed over to Vancouver for a brilliant rockin’ 60’s party for my friend Kim who turned 60. There was a great band and I danced until my feet hurt.
We visit friends who live in the woods on Saltspring Island – it was wonderful to be back in the forest with the eagles, the trees and the deer overlooking the water (we call it Channel One).
Channel One, Musgrave Landing
Martin checked on our sailboat ‘Chuan’ – soon to be put on the selling block (with its moorage at the Oak Bay Marina) as we cannot spend the summer in two places at the same time. Our plan is to return to Europe for summer 2014, and to sell Chuan before we go.
Chuan – Summer 2011
Many people have asked us how it feels to be back. Of course it feels good to be at home in our beautiful house with our wonderful friends and family. I don’t feel so enthusiastic about being back in Victoria, BC or Canada. Having lived in the pragmatic environs of the EU, I find myself quite irritated by the ideological lens that seems to be put on everything. In Europe they don’t just have a good idea, they act on it because it is a good idea not because it fits with their politics. The European political system of Proportional Representation (PR) seems to be more effective in actually getting things done at all levels than our ‘First-past –the-post system’, which seems to lead to irreconcilable paralysis. This is totally the opposite of what coalition government are actually capable of doing. In addition, having a government created from a diverse collection of parties and policies leads to much more representational system.
I recommend everyone watch the Danish political TV series ‘Borgen,’ which is a sort of a Danish ‘West Wing’ that demonstrates this other political system (which is not perfect either). Borgen shows how PR works (warts and all) and highlights the challenges of being a head of state, a woman, mother, wife and career politician. The idea of compromise and coalition seem to have left North America (and to some extent the UK) as political polarization becomes acceptable and no-one seems to rage against it (LOL). So maybe it is time to rethink our systems and values. What is more important – political ideology or getting things done and moving on. It is so bad here that the Victoria City counsel took several hours trying to determine whether or not they could order lunch, who was going to pay and who was going to bring it to them. All of the arguments were ideologically based. This rather pathetic use of decision-makers time shows the level of paralysis inherent in the regimes. This kind of behaviour is leaving Canada so far behind the Europeans that we will never catch up economically, environmentally, technologically, socially and culturally. Canadians cannot just rely on our geographic size, natural beauty and incredible natural resources to feed us and lead us. My report card on Canada right now is “Could do better!” We are bigger than the gifts we have in our land. Luckily I am not alone in this position, there are people and politicians who agree with me – but they are not in power yet. (Rant over)
You will be happy to hear that my Mum (86) and Young Joan (83) are with us again. They arrived in late November and necessitated a trip to Vancouver for me (so I could also visit friends and Ikea) with the new car. I picked them up – poor darlings were absolutely exhausted, so they spent their first night in Canada in a hotel near the airport. They have settled in for Christmas and part of the winter. Joan is here until mid January and my Mum is staying until March 10 to get her over the worst of the winter darkness.
Since they have arrived they have been visiting and enjoying the Christmas festivities in Victoria. The famous Butchard Gardens have a wonderful Christmas display which is on our agenda for a post Christmas treat. There have been lots of parties for Hanukah and Solstice. We also had our annual Christmas party here and saw more friends we have not seen for a couple of years. We are thoroughly enjoying our Christmas season here and at the same time we remember our amazing Christmas in Germany last year. For me one of the most important functions of the Christmas season is the creation of memories and marking of our lives with year-end events.
So to all our readers over the world, please accept our best wishes for a wonderful Yule season and all the best for the New Year 2014. This is our wish and blessing to all of you for 2014:
May nothing ever harm you
May love be yours to give and take
May nothing ever alarm you
May wealth be yours to make
May your health be good and your mind be strong
May your friendships be the best
May your heart be pure and your life be long
Dear friend may you be blessed
As many of you know we originally had planned only two summers on Skookum but we decided to keep her for at least another year and we will be back on her in May to set out from Friesland to Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and points south.