Honey, I’m Home…

This is the beginning, so it would seem, and yet I’ve been here for quite a while already. It’s been a very long time, far too long, and I’ll confess to be feeling a bit unsteady on my feet. But I’ve heard it said that the secret to writing is simply to write, so I’ll beg your indulgence as I take my first few stilted steps and cut through my cobwebs.

The underlying cause of my truancy is one that I can’t properly explain. It’s certainly not for lack of material; these past months have contained some of the most significant developments of – well, of my life, which sounds ludicrously hyperbolic, but such is the case.

Not that I’ve nothing to show for it, mind. While the website was left to wither, other creative distractions blossomed and bore fruit; a turn as a dedicated amateur photographer yielded no small amount of enjoyment (and even a small spark of recognition) from my efforts, and the latest theatrical endeavor is proving to be as challenging, unique and wonderful an experience as one could hope.

Be that as it may, board-treading and photography do not a blog post write. It has always been my intent to keep this little site up and running as much for my personal enjoyment as for the illumination and entertainment of any who may uncover it online, and so it’s time to unsheathe the mighty <ul> tag and whip together a wee bulleted list to catch everyone up on the events since last we met.

  • Home Ownership – I KNOW, RIGHT?!! Having held steadfast to the belief that home ownership was an option reserved exclusively for the highly organised, responsible, terribly grown-up or at least moderately well-to-do, I am now having to re-evaluate my theories based on the fact that I’m sitting in a cozy upstairs office in a semi-detached house in Edinburgh, looking out into a snowy backyard, revelling in the knowledge that we own every inch of it. 

    As a small aside for anyone who may recall the previous year’s tale of woe re: trees, you’ll be pleased to learn that Ally and I kept a promise to each other and, this year, did Christmas in style. It was special and wonderful for an entirely different set of reasons.

  • Guybrush the Cat – Guybrush, full name Guybrush Threepwood, Mighty Pirate Kitteh (named after a fictitious swashbuckler close to my heart), slinked into our lives mere moments after the ink on our mortgage papers had dried.She was a rescue cat who we understand had been mistreated by her previous owners. Some would take this information as a clear indicator to steer clear, but we were suckers for those big eyes. We’ve not regretted the decision for an instant, and each day see more of her personality emerge as she slowly settles into her new home and grows to accept this strange pair that seems so concerned with her happiness.
  • Project 365 – On November 21st, I uploaded the last photo of my Project 365 experiment to the web. The project (described here for those who may be interested) proved to be a wonderful creative outlet, and has left me with an eclectic photographic record of the past year.The project even led to a bit of localised recognition in the form of the Stockbridge 2011 Calendar, put out by Henderson’s Art Shop. This shot of a snowy day along the Water of Leith was selected for the calendar’s December entry. So yeah, thrilled, obviously.
  • West Side Story – The best, the most demanding, the most rewarding, I have saved for last.
    • July 19th – After a series of auditions, I’m offered the role of Tony in a production of West Side Story going up next January. Make no mistake – this is ridiculous. My bookish and introverted nature begins hemorrhaging immediately at the prospect of playing a leading man, and my diaphragm has a thing or two to say about the musical challenges I have inadvertently agreed to take on. 
    • September 15th – The first rehearsal. Pure, raw, terror of the type that can only be delivered by finding oneself standing meekly on one side of a room bursting with talent, energy and focus, and shyly admitting that yup, playing Tony. Yup.
    • September 19th – The photo shoot, wherein photographer, musician and all-round incredibly talented person Charlie Batchelor somehow enchants her equipment sufficiently to capture some stunning production photographs for the show. A general preference to remain right of the centre of attention is not helped by the fact that I would soon grace the front of a website, and later be made available in convenient pamphlet form. Again – this is ridiculous. Awesome, don’t get me wrong, but ridiculous all the same.
    • October – December – I love these people. Am continually intimidated, amazed and spellbound at their talent. Am perpetually thankful for the fact that I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of this show. Whether they know it or not, they’ve both pushed me and given me the confidence to try things I would never have believed I could attain. (Top A’s, for starters. Who knew??)

It has, on balance, been one hell of an amazing year. And with the next one set to start with a bang (January 18 – 22, book your tickets now, roll up roll up), 2011 is already looking good.

Until next time, then.

Merry Christmas,
Happy New Year,
Be Excellent to Each Other.

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Exciting Health Securities & Defense Opportunity!

We returned from our Easter weekend in Holland late last night, worn out and very glad to be home after what turned out to be a rather more involved return trip than we had originally imagined.

Tales of our weekend in the Netherlands will follow in coming posts, but first I feel I need to take care of a bit of business:

Though enjoyable, our short vacation was hampered by the fact that, once again, I was fighting a bug of some sort that kept me from getting more than a few hours sleep in any given night. As returning readers will already know, the “Colin gets sick” plot line is starting to stretch a bit thin – I’ve been battling illness a lot lately – and it would appear that the ol’ immune system just isn’t up to the task anymore.

So, much as it pains me to do it, I’ve decided to outsource the health-related managerial duties of my autoimmune system in an effort to find someone who is better suited to handle the day-to-day responsibilities of protecting me against disease, plague and pestilence.


Overview:
Due to a recent reclassification of certain employee responsibilities, an exciting new opportunity has become available at Colin Richardson – a music, web-content and food waste provider in the central Cambridge area – for an eager and experienced health and defense managerial specialist.

Main Responsibilities:
You will develop and take ownership of the processes necessary to provide day-to-day defense against a wide variety of pathogens that can lead to bacterial and viral infections, while destroying cancer cells and potentially harmful foreign substances. You will also be responsible for the monitoring and reporting of the overall health of the company to streamline the efficiency of internal processes.

Qualifications:
Ideally, you hold a graduate-level degree in Biomedical Sciences or Military Defense Strategy, or have four years equivalent work experience in a related field. As you will be responsible for both the innate and adaptive immunity of the company, a familiarity with the process of efficient antibody and t-cell manufacturing is essential. The ideal candidate will be a motivated self-starter, highly adaptive and a quick learner who is able to work to meet tight deadlines in a high-pressure environment. A familiarity with Sun Tzu’s The Art of War would be an asset, but is not required.

Remuneration:
The successful candidate will enjoy a competitive salary, generous benefits package and full access to the company’s vast library of Monty Python sketches, random Star Wars trivia, and one-liners from those rubbish television programmes you’ve never bothered to watch. Note that, due to the nature of the role, monetary considerations will be paid in lieu of extended vacation periods.

To apply, please send a CV and brief cover letter to colin@canadian-abroad.net.

Colin Richardson is an equal opportunity employer.

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Wimpole Estate

In an effort to make use of our recently acquired National Trust membership cards, Ally and I visited Wimpole Estate over the weekend.

First built in 1643, the estate went through many renovations at the hands of its different owners, and is today the largest country home in the county of Cambridgeshire. The last owner of the house was Elsie Bambridge (Rudyard Kipling’s daughter), who made it her life’s work to track down the house’s original furnishings. It is in large part due to her efforts that the hall is as grand a place as it is today.

While the hall itself is magnificent, we spent most of our time walking a small portion of the 2500 acres of rolling green hills that surround the estate. (The view from above can give you an idea of the size of the place.)

While walking the grounds, I was again struck with amazement at the level of freedom visitors are granted to explore these wonderful historical sites. We were free to walk anywhere on the grounds, including through the packs of grazing cattle and sheep that roam freely around the lawns, and asked simply to respect our natural surroundings.

Cattle and sheep can be found throughout the grounds, doing what they do best. (Eat….stare….eat…)

A non-traditional scratching post? Ouch.

Coming down the hill from the Hall, we were greeted with a magnificent view of an old ruin atop the back hills of the estate. Or at least, we thought it was a ruin. As it turns out, we were actually looking at Wimpole Folly – a structure built around 1772 to resemble Gothic ruins. Apparently, these types of things were all the rage for the extravagantly wealthy who were looking to do a bit of “creative landscaping”. And sorry kids, it’s not an affectation we can try to pass off on the English. Our own former Prime Minister Mackenzie King got in on the act as well, importing a number of ruins to scatter around the grounds of his estate in Ottawa.

Cool. Fake, but cool.

The view from the Folly back towards the Hall.

When we finally arrived back home that night, our shoes had covered more kilometers than they’d care to remember (and dodged a fair share of cow bombs as well). We were absolutely beat and very glad to be home, but were both still buzzing from a day spent out in the beauty of nature and history.

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Level 26: +2 Modifier to Senility

I am happy to report that the 26th Annual Festival of Colossal Gratitude – that being my birthday – passed without any cataclysmic side-effects this past Sunday. Truly, a wonderful time was had in spite of the fact that I am still being pestered by a persistent sinus cold. Still, I appear to be through the worst of this annoyance and will hopefully be free of it shortly.

My dear darling wife surprised me on Saturday with an impromptu trip down to London for dinner and a show in the West End. We went to see The Mousetrap, Agatha Christie’s timeless whodunit – and also the longest running stage play in history, having first opened in November of 1952 and still going strong.

I got to spend Sunday exactly as I hoped – a bit of reading, a few cups of tea, and a stroll around town in the afternoon to more fully convince myself that Spring is truly arriving. We even took in a favourite Sunday tradition shared by many in town – a walk to The Orchard in Grantchester.

The Orchard is a tea garden in Grantchester a half hour’s stroll from Cambridge along the river Cam, and is absolutely steeped in history. It’s one of those magical places that has been left untouched by time since first opening over a hundred years ago, allowing visitors to lose themselves completely in the past for a short while as they sit outside under the shade of the fruit trees and enjoy a cup of tea and bite to eat.

Arriving back home, we partook in another pleasure and transported ourselves back to Middle Earth, having both decided that it was time to re-watch The Lord of the Rings – all 682 glorious minutes of it – in bite-sized chunks over the coming week.

All in all, it was a very happy, very quiet birthday.

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Disease & Reality TV

Uggh.

Rather unexpectedly, I have been yanked to the sidelines by an incredibly sore throat and headache, and am hoping against hope that my condition doesn’t flower into something more substantial. The trip to the drugstore has been made, and provisions purchased. Tea is being consumed in voluminous quantity, and preventative medications of questionable efficacy are being administered. And still my affliction remains, despite my efforts.

Said illness seems to have timed its arrival perfectly with the first hints of Spring in Cambridge. All around us, trees have begun to bloom, wildflowers are sprouting on the college lawns, the skies are blue and the temperature noticeably warmer. In other words, it’s exactly the sort of weather that would normally lure me outside with ease, were I not under it.


I have, however, made a fairly interesting discovery that is helping me while away the hours of my convalescence – namely, a reality TV program that I can really get into.

For reasons I cannot fully comprehend, someone felt inspired to climb up a tree on Hornby Island in British Columbia, Canada and install a webcam that looked directly on a Bald Eagle nest. The results can be seen by following this link and opening one of the video streams.

I’ve gotta’ say, at first I was a bit amused by the feed, but now I’m fully captivated! Most of the time the video consists of Mama Eagle sitting on her eggs, but every now and again, Papa Eagle comes back with food and/or nest accessories, and there’s a whole flurry of activity.

Be warned that the feed comes complete with sound. We didn’t realize this at first, and Ally was becoming fairly concerned about the bizarre twittering noises emanating from her laptop until we clued in.

I watched this video feed for a good 45 minutes straight in order to see the aforementioned flurry of activity, a level of viewing obsessiveness that can only be matched by a quest embarked upon by my brother and I last Christmas, when we sat transfixed in front of the Canadian version of the Yule Log television program for the better part of an hour to determine if stories of a hand entering into the frame to throw on new logs and/or stoke the fire were fallacious or true.

And no, I’m not telling.


But, ’tis time to fill up the mug and partake in a bit of self-medication. I’m certain I’ll be more verbose after a few good hits of Cold-B-Gone or some other such miracle product.

Ta for now, kids.

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Passing Considerations of Employment

My two-days-a-week stint at BBC Radio Cambridgeshire (“BBC Cambs” to us locals) continues, much to my delight, and though I would not wish my current situation to be in any way greatly altered, it occurred to me recently that, sooner or later, one must pay the bills.

And so it was, with great reluctance, that I recently began to consider the possibility of entertaining the notion of seeking some form of “work”.

To be precise, I should say that I only recently began to actively seek employment, for I had already taken the time to lay down a few ground rules with respect to my working life in Cambridge:

  • #1 – No IT …at least not right away. I’d been working in software since getting out of University and the path I had been travelling down – namely, the path of least resistance – was not one I much cared to follow any further. If I’m to return to sitting in front of a computer all day and having only minimal contact with those around me, it’s going to take a particularly interesting project to put me there.
  • #2 – Sociable Something that I found for the first time in a long while at the BBC, and something that I rarely had a chance to experience since my days of drugstore retail, was the simple pleasure of unexpected and unpredictable conversations with strangers. The lack of this simple social interaction was something I missed more than I realized, and something I would like to get back.
  • #3 – Hobby-worthy I am a fairly schizophrenic hobbyist, to put it mildly. My interests veer off in every direction on the map, and every few months I seem to find myself utterly infatuated with some new pastime. Therefore, I decided that, whatever I plan to work at, it must be something that I would still be interested in doing even if I were not being paid for it. We’ve all heard that advice countless times, but it was only after realizing that most of my past jobs would hold little interest for me if there was not the promise of a paycheque that I took that concept more to heart.

It is an interesting commentary on my personality and interests that the first two applications I dropped off, after having established the above ground rules, were at a musical instruments vendor and a wine merchant.

I had also considered applying at an outdoor / MEC-style store, but somehow I felt the concept of working indoors all day in a store specializing in outdoor adventure gear could lead to some frustration. (Granted, I suppose the same could be said for working in a wine store while retaining at least a respectable level of sobriety, but let’s not over-analyze the topic.)


In other non-work related news…

Ally and I have booked our next weekend-vacation. In mid-April, we’re spending four days in Holland to visit some of Alison’s relatives and see the Keukenhof – the world’s largest flower garden, and the premiere locale to see those famous Dutch Tulips.

Oh, and in case you don’t yet have a note written in your calendars, don’t forget to take part in this year’s 26th Annual Festival of Colossal Gratitude, a yearly celebration of thanks and generosity in which citizens around the world join in song, merriment and extravagant gift-giving to rejoice the anniversary of the arrival of a certain special someone into our lives.

That’s slated for April 2 this year.

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Stuff, Broken and Otherwise

Our precious cargo, a collection of possessions from Vancouver, arrived on our doorstep a short while ago, and we’ve been working on fitting it all into our flat ever since.

While back in Vancouver we had decided that, although we were moving to a furnished flat in Cambridge, there would be certain items that would be nice to have with us after the move – things such as our good road bikes, our sound system, the good cookware, my collection of French Tintin books – the important things. We enlisted the services of an international moving company who swept in, wrapped and boxed everything, and took it all away with them – all in a matter of a few hours.

Trying to do things a bit on the cheap, we opted to have our cargo shipped by sea, a decision which would cause a delay of a couple of months. This was fine with us, however, as it gave us time to settle into our new digs without being immediately overwhelmed with trying to organize everything into our new space.

When our shipment arrived, we enjoyed an early Christmas as we cracked open each box in turn, tore aside the wrapping paper, and discovered… things we already owned. Certain items, such as our fancy wine glasses and nice pots and pans, were put into use almost immediately. Others were left sitting on counters as we puzzled to recall exactly why we felt, only a few months ago, that we could simply not get by without these particular items. My collection of moldy old untouched CDs. A hole-punch. A single dish towel.

Though the title may suggest otherwise, everything arrived in perfect condition, and our moving experience turned out to be, on the whole, a great experience. The Broken Stuff I refer to above was an unfortunate trend that began in the week following the arrival of our shipment.

I believe the first item to go was my beloved bread maker, which gave up the ghost after producing only a single, perfect, delicious loaf of bread. The mixing blade had, for whatever reason, ceased to move (though we could hear the little motor chugging away), and our second attempt at bread making resulted in an object that looked just about exactly like a heap of ingredients heated at high temperature for several hours. It was a sad day.

Mere days later, our central heater – being the device responsible for both controlling our room heaters and providing warm water – keeled over and died. The problem was discovered in the morning, shortly before I was due over at the BBC.. a fact which might help explain why I was willing / forced to take a shower in fantastically cold water. On the upside, I required no coffee to wake me up, nor did I have to busy myself with the incessant task of blinking ’till well past noon, my eyes having been welded to their “open” positions.

The third loss hit me the hardest though, for it was my beloved iPod nano, given to me by Ally last Christmas, and even personalized with my name on the back. I had plugged it into my tower for an update and was greeted not by the friendly blip of the “device connected” chime, but rather by a rapid mechanical clicking sound coming from the device itself, along with a faint scent I knew only too well from early digital design courses: melting circuitry. And so it was that I watched the screen slowly fade to black (“Daisy…Daisy…Give me your answer, do…”), never to light again.


On the upside, if there can be said to be an upside in all of this, each of our problems have rectified themselves quickly and easily.

The bread maker was returned for a full refund, and we invested in a fancier model that has already proven its quality. Sad as I was to see the original go, the replacement – which I have dubbed “the LoafMaster” – seems to be made of sturdier stuff.

The central heater was fixed later in the day after we discovered the problem. Ally took the day off to give the repairman entry to the flat, and he had the problem fixed in a matter of hours. Apparently, one of the circuit boards had fried.

The iPod will shortly be sent off for repairs. It’ll cost me a bit to fix as, though the iPod is still covered under warranty, I need to cover the shipping costs myself. A nice discovery I made is that my replacement will also sport the personalized engraving, a nice touch.


But enough of my domestic woes! I’m off to celebrate the Ides of March in style, just as soon as my soothsayer robes get out of the dryer. Perhaps I’ll order a Caesar at lunch (stabbed with a celery stalk of course), and see if I can work “Et tu” into casual conversation…

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