Whatever became of those regular Blog Post – The McTavish Academy of the Arts of course.
Over the past month Lynn and I have been immersed with dozens of families and friends as we continue to refurbish 18,000 square feet of pristine space where, over the years, thousands children of North Saanich spent a good part of their early life attending the McTavish Elementary School.
As a reminder, the school, which was built in 1958 and now vacant for past eight years, sits in a rural area of North Saanich two blocks west of the Roost Farm Centre on McTavish Road – all you need do is follow the McTavish Road exit signs as they appear to north and south bound traffic on the Pat Bay Highway (Hwy. #17) when approaching the Victoria Airport from either direction. The signs will soon be reposted as “The McTavish Academy – Next Exit”. Just weave your way through that amazing triple round a bout with a twist and, viola you will arrive at the Academy when you reach 1720 (on the right).
Following a one-month magical transformation, the Academy will officially opens its doors on June 4th and 5th. Buildings and grounds that for fifty years buzzed with the chatter and laughter of children is now filled with family, friends, neighbours and visitors as preparations for the first of many hundreds of students of the arts, and aficionados who wish to display their works in the dozens of hallways and rooms sprinkled throughout this amazing facility.
Everyone who crosses the threshold will immediately understand this is not just another ordinary business adventure, but a labour of love that was nurtured in the hearts and minds of a handful of young people who understand the importance of art (in its many forms) as a gateway to a more fulfilling life.
The transformation taking place is not unlike an old-fashioned barn rising as volunteers are carrying out the lion’s share of the work throughout the building and across the four and a half acres of surrounding farmland. For a magical experience take a moment to sit on the kitchen balcony and gaze across the farmland towards Brentwood Bay as you watch the ebb and flow of aircraft arriving and departing at the busy Victoria International Airport. The silhouette in the centre background is Mount Tuam on Salt Spring Island. You can’t help but feel at one with the nature of the amazing community in which we live.
Photo by Chris Preston
In the emerging kitchen at your back is a coffee press that is always available (by donation) and for everyday work crews and friends, the most extraordinary meals suddenly appear on a voluntary basis. Our favourites include those delicious meals prepared by Chris and Arin who will soon be opening a new Burger Bar not far from Slegg Lumber in Sidney Industrial and, of course, a number of breakfasts and lunches prepared by others including Andrew, Sean, Lynn and Harold.
Because the school was vacant for so long, passersby and former students often stop by to say hello and view the magic taking place inside. Many regulars in the area also continue to use the once vacant fields to walk their dogs a practice that we continue to remain, but it seems few will need some training on picking up droppings of their pets as regular Academy activities continue to expand across the property.
The attached photo album which was drawn from various sources within the Academy provides a reminder of how much can be accomplished when a dream project is given room to transform into reality.
Everyone is invited to drop by to have a peek and, if so inclined, to roll up their sleeves and dive in as help is always for a few hours or a few days.
ps. Stay tuned as regular programming will return as time permits.
These iconic symbols are central to the core of two cities that are close to being twins in terms of size and focus, yet it is their differences which set them worlds apart in terms of liveability.
What is life without hope for the future?
While Victoria struggles to alleviate challenges posed by homelessness – at this moment a tent city that sprung up near the courthouse – it is still a city where the majority of our people live comfortable lives and look towards the future with optimism. There is another city on this continent that is in many ways a mirror image of Victoria, yet that city is on a downward spiral that leaves little hope for a better future for more than half the population. It is a port city like Victoria and at 360,000 is only slightly larger than our own.
As one of the most popular tourist destinations in North America, in 2014 that city attracted ten million visitors who left behind seven billion dollars, an economic windfall many times larger than that of Victoria. With that huge economic advantage it is hard to understand how the city has become one of the most poverty and crime ridden metropolitan areas in the United States.
National Post, February 10, 2016
(A quote modified from another source: “Montreal cabbies be a monopoly, but at least they’re our monopoly.”)
An interesting contrast of ideologies was presented on the front page of NP on Wednesday as one headline decried the actions of Montreal Cabbies as they sought to protect their jobs from the unregulated, undercutting Uber system and the other whined about cheap Saudi oil forcing depressed prices in the world markets which, the article suggested, hurt Canadian production and cost oil patch jobs. First to the cabbies. (Note: Comments added in footer)
Happy Birthday Kari
The beautiful Tsusiat Falls where father and daughter took a well deserved rest.
All that is left of the father is his boots and socks. “Yaa! But you’ve made it over halfway Dad. That’s good isn’t it?” Guess who helped him?
It’s hard to believe twenty years has slipped by since we completed that magical eight day trek on the West Coast Trail with David and Jenn. What inspired me to prepare the following slide show and write this post was finding that old slide tray tucked away in one of the storage boxes. It brought back so many fond memories for me and I bet it will do the same for the three of you. As I was writing this post I spoke several times to David, as well as to your Uncle Barry and Auntie Agate.
Before getting into the details of the trek, take a few moments and enjoy the slides as they slip by. I tried to find music that expresses the love a Dad has for his children and, as well, displays the sense of pride that comes from having one of your children lovingly act as a mentor and guide in taking on a difficult challenge. The three songs were selected after pouring through dozens of father/daughter/son lists posted on the web.
Precious Memories, J.J. Cale
When You Need Me, Bruce Springsteen
Wildflowers, Tom Petty
The photos in this slideshow have also been uploaded link to the
McNeill Life Stories Facebook Page
Opportunities arise but once.
Life provides many opportunities for adventure, but when one declines an opportunity for any reason, it is most often gone forever. Having achieved a Golden Age in retirement and understanding this, when our oldest daughter Kari phoned and ask if I might like to join her and a cousin from Montreal, David McGregor and his friend, Jenn D’Aoust, in challenging the West Coast Trail, the answer came without a second thought, “yes”. Sure I had concerns about my ability to tackle that particular trail, but if my daughter thought I could do it, who was I to argue?
Also, it gave me comfort knowing she was an experienced backpacker, held an Industrial First Aid Certificate (just in case pops packed it in), had tackled that trail twice before and, being an extraordinary backcountry trekker had at one time considered taking up a career in the emerging field of Eco Tourism.
When this opportunity arose I was nearly two years into retirement, in fair shape and while I hadn’t recently attempted any long distance wilderness hiking, I remember Kari’s comforting words: “Don’t worry Dad, you can do this and, besides, I’ve got your back.” Hmmm! Of course, it was a done deal as when someone, particularly one of your children, offers to share a moment like this, It must be taken as the memories will last for the rest of your life.
Randolph Hearst established exactly the same path now being taken by Donald Trump.
The similarities between the two men is quite amazing as they seek to bring out the worst
in people as a means to advance their own interests.
The Rise and Fall of Randolf Hearst as a Presidential Candidate
While many fret over possible outcomes as Donald Trump continues his seemingly unstoppable ascent to the leadership of the Republican Party, an excellent article appeared in several papers this morning, written by Kelly McParland, in which he traced a similar situation occurring within the Democratic Party in 1924.
At that time it was William Randolph Hearst, an equally rich American who was determined to use his mighty empire, including control of most of the nations newspapers, to add the Presidency to his empire. The path he followed was very similar to that now being followed by Donald Trump, the outcome of which is likely to be very similar to that experienced by Hearst.
You can link the storyhttp://www.pressreader.com on Press Reader (you may need to Google the title). If that does secure the article, the eight columns below can be opened to full size by clicking (make sure to go back rather than close the page).
Get a Job – The Blue Tones
(The slideshow is in HD, so you may need to pause for 15 seconds while it uploads.)
A full series of still photos from this video can be accessed at:
McNeill Life Stories Facebook Page
Lead Singer and Saxophone Player: Art Charlton
Backup Singers: Alana Charlton, Linda and Bjorn Simonsen; Lynn and Harold McNeill;
Clair Langford and Tom
Practice Backup Singers: Benji and Kevin Charlton; Erika and Kia Simonsen,
Daphne and Danny Langford; Jay, Kari and Christine McNeill
Years of Struggle: The Back Story
After years of struggle, a British Columbia band from Victoria, the Blue Tones, knew it was do or die as they concentrated on putting the finishing touches to their song “Get a Job”.
The lyrics came straight from the heart as the four men knew that the women who had backed them for so long wanted more stability in their lives and if that meant the men had to give up their guitars, saxophones and rakish style for more menial work and a regular pay cheque, so be it.
Then came their big chance, back in early 1980’s, when a spot opened in Canada’s “So You Think You’ve Got Talent.” TV show. Another little known band “Lips Inc.” best know for their 1980 hit Funkytown failed to show for the taping of the show when another of those freakish July blizzards hit their hometown in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The Blue Tones were on standby and asked to step in. The rest is history.
Two months later Get a Job topped the charts in both Canada and the US. The attached video is a composite of the band’s work during the time they wrote and practised the song, then presented on the talent show. As you can see in the video, every one of their family members participated in getting it just right. Now you know the rest of the story.
We hope you enjoy this video of our first Golden Hit.
Photo (Web Source, with a few Photoshop adjustments). In the minds eye Graham makes his first
attempt at running the Skookumchuck Narrows. Gery preferred to stay on dry land.
Dear Graham and Gery,
While this post was written a month earlier, with the slideshow now complete it is time to go live. Rather than putting the slideshow at the end, it will be used as an introduction in an attempt to capture the spirit of the trip.
It was an amazing time that I shall always cherish, as it seems demands of life have conspired against finding that one-on-one time that only a trip like this can provide. Graham, you are an exceptional man, an easy conversationalist and your depth of knowledge on so many subjects is inspiring. Also, as you will no doubt agree, we have not only been gifted with the most amazing life partners, we also have a string of children, grand-children and many friends who bring endless joy to our lives as we have moved along each successive stage. We could not have scripted our lives for a better result.
As for the following travel story, while I did not take any notes I hope that most of the family facts about your earlier life are correct and as for the make-believe stuff, that is simply a couple of old guys who remain daydream believers.
In preparing the final slideshow, the two of you will notice that I have plucked a dozen photographs from your respective Facebook pages in order to add flavour. Later, I will post all the photos on the open access McNeill Life Stories Facebook Page so individual copies can be accessed at leisure.
In closing, many thanks to Herb Craig and Ann Skeltcher for their overnight hospitality on that lonely stretch of highway that leads to the hinterlands of the Sechelt Peninsula. There is nothing like good friends, a hot meal, glass of wine and a warm bed to take away the sting out of a hard day on the trail.
(January 16, 2016)
Individual photos of the Christmas Adventure now posted.
Another event involving Gery and Graham may be linked here: Gery Lemon Achieves New Milestone
Blog Post of Another Recent Event Harold and Graham attended: Wow! Another Slideshow
Forever Young – Music by Joan Baez
1. A Narrow Escape
Good Morning Honey and Happy 40th Birthday!
Well, another shared birthday which, for each of us, is a milestone – you reaching forty as I commence my seventy-fifth. The moment you arrived on my birthday forty years ago, a special bond was created and forever treasured.
It seems like yesterday when your mother gave birth and, while life has presented challenges along the way, meeting those challenges in a positive manner and accepting them as part of the process of growing older has made each of us stronger and our love that much deeper.
When sitting down to start a slideshow capturing those many years, it was difficult to choose a theme and music that expressed it all. I browsed through hundreds of photos and dozens of songs along the way to the final cut while suggestions from family members helped to clear the path.
Our journey began with one slideshow but quickly grew as we reminisced over 40 years of memories and the life we’ve shared – soon evolving into 4 segments which, along with the attached poem, express the depth of our love for you, your sister, brothers, and families.
We hope you enjoy each moment as much as we have enjoyed creating this tribute to you and the rest of the family.
Love Dad and Lynn
(Grandpa and Nana)
THE WOMAN YOU’VE BECOME
With those big eyes and sweet little smile
Your contentment so grand, the hours you’d while
Alone or with others, it mattered not
The love from within shone forth with each thought
Through the years it continued, this skill to enjoy
A moment, a dream, a specially made toy
Always sharing with others to help them to grow
More than imagined, and more than you know
We’ve sat on the sidelines and watched o’er the years
Through happiness, struggles, and of course, lots of tears
With each challenge you’ve managed to rise and excel
Each pitfall and obstacle all handled so well
It’s with pride and much love that we watch you soar
Now a wife, a mother, and so very much more
And on this day, one with Dad you share
We send these memories with loving care
And with each tune, — so familiar to some-
We rejoice in the Woman that you’ve become.
All our love on your 40th Birthday and Always
Lynn and Dad
Happy Birthday, Christine
January 13, 2016
Note: The slideshow was uploaded as HD so, in some instances, may be a little slow in loading.
1. The Adventure Begins: A Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong
2. The Adventure Continues: Precious Memories, J.J. Cale and
Dream a Little Dream of Me, Mama Cass
3. Girls Just Want to Have Fun: Cyndi Lauper
4. A New Family: I Have a Dream, ABBA