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Hello Victoria! I’m Home – For Good

oakbayLife is terribly odd. It’s truly a game of craps – you roll the dice and either win big or lose horribly. It’s fair to say that I’ve had my share of winning and losing rolls. Two months ago, my 13 year odyssey in Vancouver ended. I was faced with the stark reality of being unable to afford living there anymore. I couldn’t find any additional jobs to supplement the one good part-time teaching position I had. Once more, good ol’ Fate decided to present me with a very, very difficult choice:

Should I stay, or should I go?

There’s nothing like facing the imminent loss of your apartment because you can’t pay the rent to galvanize you into making a major life decision.  I didn’t want to stay in Vancouver. I never really liked living there; it was time to end our stale, unsatisfying long-term relationship.  I needed to leave. I wanted to go home to Vancouver Island and the one place I’ve always loved – my hometown of Victoria. Immediately, the banshees of doubt awoke and started screaming into my consciousness:

Return to Victoria? The home of the newly wed and the nearly dead? Are you mad? You know how tough it is to find a job in Victoria! Where are you going to live? How are you going to survive? You’re a middle aged guy, for crissakes!

Of all the places on the planet to call home, I lucked out. Southern Vancouver Island is so fantastically beautiful, situated on Juan De Fuca Strait, across from the majestic Olympic Mountain range in Washington State. Victoria is an odd duck of a town. If I had to describe the city’s personality, it’s like having a favourite aunt you love for her slightly eccentric, quirky character.  Victoria is part of Canada, the capital of British Columbia, but it’s unique – a strange blend of British colonial history, 19th century gold rush frenzy, and elegant Canadian Pacific steamships that plied between the city and Japan. It’s a green, pedestrian place that values its heritage.  Compared to the winner-take-all, commuter road rage, real estate house demolition, condo-micro loft frenzy that is Vancouver, Victoria is positively sedate. The big thing you notice right away is the sense of community. People are more approachable and willing to strike up a conversation. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but there is a distinct sense of neighbourliness here than what you’ll find in the manic Lower Mainland.

I escaped from Vancouver. I gave away everything I owned in my apartment – furniture included – to the Ryerson United Church annual spring thrift sale. And I mean everything;  all my geeky gadgets and gewgaws, my games, my art, my computer and videogame equipment, my movie posters. All gone. I felt like a gypsy when I boarded the ferry to Swartz Bay, carrying nothing but two bags of clothes, a hiking stick, and my best hat. My eminently wise younger brother very kindly delivered my bicycle to Victoria, so I’m completely mobile, too. There’s a tremendous sense of freedom that comes from not being burdened by appliances, furniture, and boxes of stuff. For now, I’m completely unattached from the day-to-day material goods.

Did I make the right decision? Will I find love, happiness, and full employment on Vancouver Island? Well, so far I don’t regret the choice in coming back. It just feels right. My best friends of many years all agree I made the right choice. It’s great to have lunch with my parents regularly and catch up with old acquaintances I haven’t seen in a long, long time. Riding along the Dallas Road waterfront, sitting in a quiet cove on Ten Mile Point, enjoying real fish and chips again at a genuine neighbourhood fish and chip shop, not to mention taking in the famous Victoria Day parade in front of City Hall – I think I made the right choice.

And hey – the Oak Bay Tea Party starts on June 5!

The Grumpy Ferret (Happiness is freshly caught seafood!)

 

 

 

I’m Infamous Today (Well, I Sort of Feel Infamous)

Today was Election Day in British Columbia, the finale of the four week provincial three ring election circus. As I’m writing this post, the British Columbia Liberal Party (aka Stephen Harper Fan Club – BC Bluenose Chapter), pulled off a stunning upset and will form the next government for a fourth consecutive mandate, with Christy Clark possibly leading them, that is, if she wins her seat of Vancouver Point Grey, which is up in the air at this moment.

I live in the riding of Vancouver – Quilchena, a place of very well educated, wealthy, starchy conservatives who historically have always elected similar well educated, wealthy, starchy conservatives to the provincial legislature. I’m very well educated, not at all wealthy, and I can’t stand conservative people. So I fit in like a triangular peg in an round hole. The starchy people elected their starchy candidate. I voted for the New Democratic candidate in my riding because I am more concerned about the environment than economic development (GASP! HERETIC!). He’s naturally organic, which is anathema to the wealthy, starchy people. Of course they wouldn’t elect him.

As a member of the Globe & Mail BC undecided voter panel, we were asked if we had made up our minds about who we would vote for today. They selected 15 answers that were printed on Election Day in their entirety. My post was published! I feel like it’s a dream come true, because one of my goals as a writer was to be published one day in a major national newspaper like the Globe and Mail.

Here’s my post that appeared today:

Who am I going to vote for? It all comes down to who do I think will best represent the riding of Vancouver-Quilchena. As I’ve said before, this riding has been solidly B.C. Liberal for a long time. It has always been a ‘safe’ seat for them. For me, the choice of who to vote for is pretty straightforward.

Do I want to vote for Andrew Wilkinson – former B.C. Liberal president, deputy minister, ‘establishment candidate’? No.

Do I want to vote for the Conservative candidate? No. Do I want to vote for the Green Party candidate? Wait – has ANYONE seen the Green party candidate? No.

That leaves me with the NDP candidate Nicholas Scapillatti. I’m going to vote for him. To put this in perspective, the last time I voted for the NDP was in 1991 in North Vancouver-Lonsdale. Why am I voting for Nicholas? He’s actively involved in salmonid enhancement programs. He’s involved in sustainability development. He’s a small businessman, as opposed to a corporate type. He co-authored an environmental dissertation with Dr. David Suzuki. He shares my concern for long-term environmental issues, which I personally feel outweigh economic development.

I’ll also say this. I haven’t forgotten how many children have died in foster care under the Ministry of Children and Families during the 12 years of B.C. Liberal government policy. Nobody wants to talk about dead children and the cutbacks to social policies that contributed to the Ministry letting this happen.

And everyone has forgotten the stellar work done by Children’s Commissioner Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond and how the B.C. Liberals tried to silence her report on their failures. But she screamed bloody murder and publicly shamed Gordon Campbell and minister Mary Polak.

And you want the same B.C. Liberals back running the show after 12 years?

It seems they do. And I’m extremely unhappy about the result.

Winston Churchill once made this sly observation about elections:

“If you want to know why democracy is a bad idea,

just talk to the average voter for five minutes”

On the bright side, at least the Green Party landed a seat in the BC Legislature. I’ll take any small silver lining from this dismal electoral cloud.

The Grumpy Ferret