On Thursday the week before last, Rob and I flew to Victoria, on Vancouver Island – for those of you who are less familiar with Canada, a large and elongated entity floating off the coast of British Columbia, home to the province’s capital and the living presence of the West Coast First Nations. Victoria is also a pleasantly laid-back sort of place, kind of artsy and funky, set amongst hills ands ocean and not at all like Toronto – think Cape Town, versus Johannesburg. Below is a version of the standard tourist shot of Victoria’s Inner Harbour, with the provincial legislature – quite a grand structure, I must say – in the background.
And here, below, is Nora, sitting with Rob at her 90th birthday party. It was to celebrate her 90th – and to surprise Nora, by pitching up unannounced – that Rob and I went to Victoria that weekend, which was why we had to keep the whole thing so hush hush, with nary a mention of the upcoming visit in blog or email.
Surprise Nora we did, and the news embargo can now be lifted.
Apart from the party (on Saturday) and dinner with Nora that evening, Rob and I had plenty of time to explore Victoria on our own, and were also well spoiled by our friends Al and Mary-Lynn (that’s Mary-Lynn with Rob and me, with the Olympic Mountains in the US clouded by cloud and haze in the background) who took us on a drive up the coast and joined us in wining and dining (the BC wines, let me tell you, are miles better than most of the wines from Ontario – quite a revelation in fact, requiring further, dedicated investigation.
If Nora’s 90th was, of course, the highlight, and a very meaningful occasion, the visit to the Royal BC Museum was meaningful and special in other ways: a glimpse of cultures that are simultaneously both living and vanished, a sense both of loss and persistence, that I found profoundly moving. Looking at the totem poles, in the darkened hall, one had a particularly powerful sense of the native presence, of cultures deeply interwoven with the ocean and the land.
It was culture of a very different sort, mind you, that had greeted us in the foyer of the museum when we entered: John Lennon’s Rolls Royce – roll up to the real deal, folks, the one and only, the wheels of the real Magical Mystery Tour.
And then, of course, after all that, it was time to head home – this time, not from Victoria, but crossing by ferry to Vancouver, threading our way on the big ship through the Gulf Islands, and catching our plane there. On Monday we move on again, this time via Amsterdam to Cape Town and Jonathan and Hayley’s wedding.
So, you might ask: what does life look like, from the vantage of 60?
Pretty good, I’d have to say.
Right now, anyway.
Which is all that matters, really.