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It’s Like Riding A Bike

Remember all of the fuss people made when bike lanes started showing up all over the city, taking over car lanes, or at least impeding upon them? I have to admit, I wasn’t all the pleased to see them myself. And my husband was especially unhappy.

Suddenly you had to pay attention to things like new cycle-only lights and rules about right turns. Not only that, but lots of regular parking spots disappeared. For those of us who’ve been behind the wheel for a long time, it was like driving in a foreign country.

Judging by the comments in local media and online, we were not alone. A lot of people were miffed. And, according to most angry types, including my husband, it was all Mayor Lisa Helps’ fault.

Imagine my surprise then, when my newly retired, anti-bike lane partner pulled out his dusty, rusty old bicycle one day and started pumping up the tires. And, even more surprising, he got right on it and started hobbling down the street. I thought he was nuts.

But he insisted that he wanted to see if he could still do it and I had to admit that I admired his tenacity. He decided he might even like to try an e-bike one day and wondered if I might like to try one too.

Me? On a bike? I wasn’t so sure.

And then something interesting happened. My good friends and I were planning a wine tasting tour in Oliver, and one of the tours was supposed to be on e-bikes. I’d never heard of that before.

So now I felt obligated to pull out my own steed of rusted steel to see if I could manage it.

Holy expletive.

I was pretty shaky at first. It felt familiar, but not familiar enough. Not only that but my once 18-speed bicycle now had only one working gear. Thank goodness the brakes still worked.

For my first ride, I went about 5 blocks and then came right back. The legs were definitely feeling it, and I knew I was going to have to get more comfortable with cycling again before our trip. And after a few short practice rides and only one near spill, I was feeling a little better. A little.

The e-bike was a whole different experience. For those of you who haven’t tried one, I won’t go into all of the technical details. The bikes we rode were German-made CUBEs, and had the usual mechanical gears and then 4 e-gears, going from “eco” to “turbo”.

You can also ride the bike without the e-support, but I’m pretty sure I had it on “eco” for most of our 27 kilometer tour. When the e-gear kicked in, it just felt lighter and smoother. On long stretches uphill, I’d use the “turbo” setting and that helped considerably.

And the wine helped too.

When we got back from our trip, my husband was excited to hear all about it. I have to admit that by then, I was also convinced to get an e-bike of my own.

As it turns out, we found two used ones of the same make, CUBE, on Facebook Marketplace. I guess it was meant to be.

Now it was my husband’s turn to get used to the e-bike, but it didn’t take long. Little by little we ventured further, warming up to the idea of cycling in the city instead of driving.

One day, we went from our house in the Oaklands area all the way to Willows Beach. And on another, we pointed ourselves south and made it through Beacon Hill Park to Dallas Road.

Suddenly we were very grateful for those cycle lanes and signal crosswalks, and the CRD cycle maps. It has become another very different way of experiencing and exploring beautiful Victoria.

We are e-sold. And we’re old enough that we should have learned the old “don’t knock it before you’ve tried it” adage by now.

Apologies, Lisa.

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The Day I Met The Queen. Kind of.

Like many others, I was not surprised, but still a little shocked when Queen Elizabeth II recently passed away. We knew she had been suffering from various maladies for some time. And, of course, she was 96 years old.

But watching her welcoming the new UK Prime Minister, Liz Truss at Balmoral, I thought the Queen still looked pretty well. I did remember wondering if this would be the last Prime Minister of her reign.

Then, only two days later, Queen Elizabeth II was gone.

Oddly enough, I had been watching a documentary series on her life in the days leading up to that. I admired her dedication and commitment, and certainly her endurance. Actually, I find the history of the British monarchy rather fascinating.

My father, however, had no use for them.

I remember when Charles and Diana arrived in Victoria after the opening ceremonies of Expo ’86. My Dad was visiting us at the time.

I packed my baby daughter in the car and and convinced Dad to come with us down to an area where I knew the Royal entourage would pass by on their way from the airport. I parked the car and carried my daughter down to the street corner to watch, but my father refused to get out of the car.

He would have nothing to do with them.

His Royal resentment stemmed from his younger days, back in time when Remittance men were sent from Britain to somewhere else in the Empire, usually Canada, Australia or New Zealand.

A Remittance man was, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia, “a term once widely used, especially in the West before WWI, for an immigrant living in Canada on funds remitted by his family in England, usually to ensure that he would not return home and become a source of embarrassment.”

These guys were the black sheep, trouble makers, the male failures whose rich families wanted to get them out of sight and out of mind. Sometimes the poor little rich boys redeemed themselves in the countries they were sent to. Sometimes not.

My father had mentioned the history of the Remittance men to me several times as I was growing up. He hated the fact that Canada was a dumping ground for the British elite’s undesirables, and he blamed the British monarchy.

And let’s face it, the British Royals have a long and very complicated history.

But I was oblivious to all of this in 2002 when I decided to watch the parade of cars carrying the Queen and Prince Phillip as they visited Victoria during her Golden Jubilee.

I drove to Blanshard Street near Hillside and parked. I saw a group of people standing along the sidewalk, so I joined them and waited. There were maybe 20 or 30 of us.

Police motorcycles rolled up to stop traffic along the intersection, so we knew the motorcade was coming.

And then we saw it. The Queen’s car apparently spotted our little group, so they drove up and stopped right in front of us. The Queen was in the back seat, her window rolled down, but I couldn’t quite see her face.

There was only stillness.

The silence made me feel awkward. Everyone just stood there quietly, and the Queen simply sat. I wanted to be welcoming and share my enthusiasm for her visit.

So it was with the best of intentions that I, in my most Monty Python-esque voice, called out “Helllooooo!”

I had no idea about protocol. You’re not supposed to speak to the Queen until she speaks first.

Doh.

The car pulled away and that was that.

I’m sure Queen Elizabeth had to endure many similarly awkward moments over the years, and the one I created would be soon forgotten by her.

But not by me. I’ll never forget the day I met the Queen. Kind of.

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Michael Woloshen – That’s A Wrap!

You might not know his name, but if you’ve watched CHEK Television at any time over the last 42 years, you’ve seen his work many times over.

January 2nd, 1980 was Michael Woloshen’s first day on the job at CHEK as a commercial writer/producer. He came to Vancouver Island from Richmond where he had lived with his family since 1969. Before that they lived in Boucherville Quebec, a suburb of Montreal where Michael was born.

His Dad, Andy Walsh, was a well known radio broadcaster both in Montreal and Vancouver.

Michael’s passion for television began back in the early 1960’s around the age of 7, when he got the chance to be in the audience for a local Montreal children’s television show called “The Johnny Jellybean Show”. It ran in the afternoon and was a big hit for CFCF-TV at a time when local television was mostly live.

Michael remembers being dazzled by the lights and the cameras in the huge studio. He also got to play a part in another children’s show later on, and, like a lot of kids from the 60’s, he recalls sitting at home with his many siblings surrounding their new black and white television.

From that time on, he was a TV guy. He was also a bit of a ham.

Michael (left) as Tweedle Dum in “Through The Looking Glass”

In school, he participated in music and in drama, getting parts in high school plays like Through The Looking Glass and Tom Jones. Even after graduating from high school, he joined a local community theatre for the production of Bye Bye Birdie.

When he had completed high school, he went to BCIT and signed up for their television broadcast communications program. On weekends, he spun a little dough at Shakey’s Pizza.

After graduating from BCIT, he landed a job at Delta Cable. And then Michael’s whole world changed when he saw an ad for a job at CHEK 6 in Victoria. It meant moving to another city all by himself, and starting a new life.

When he first started working in CHEK’s Commercial Production department, the station was located on Epson Drive, right beside the Cedar Hill Golf Course.

Michael began by writing and producing commercials for a number of local businesses. Then he got involved in writing for the children’s television series, “Foufouli” with Dale Read.

He also co-wrote and produced “Highband”, a comedy/variety show featuring music videos and sketches, and “Everyday Things” with children’s entertainer Pat Carfra.

Then there was “A La Carte”, a cooking show which he also co-hosted, the home fixup show “Home Check With Shell Busey”, and “Reel Guy”, where Michael went on camera in his hockey shirt and housecoat, introducing the movie of the week. You had to be there.

There were also the parades. Michael wrote the scripts for and produced the CHEK broadcasts of the Victoria Day Parade and, after a time, Santa’s Light Parade.

Of the countless commercials he has written and produced, the Dodd’s Furniture spots would probably be what many would remember most. Gordy Dodd was always gracious and good humoured, allowing Michael to dress him up as so many memorable and crazy movie and television characters over the years.

Michael with the “cast” of Dodd’s

For all of his work, Michael collected his fair share of awards from B.C.A.B, the British Columbia Association of Broadcasters, and CanPro, the Canadian Television Program Festival. Life was good.

During this time, the station had gone through a move to its present location on Kings Road, and a couple of changes in ownership on top of that.

And then one day, it all came to a grinding halt.

Michael, along with the entire commercial production department, was laid off. It was a cost cutting measure as CHEK and a number of other stations across Canada were put on the market yet again. This was in early 2009, when the world experienced the domino effect of the 2008 stock market crash in the U.S.

For Michael and everyone in his department, it was devastating.

And yet, somehow over the next 9 months, he found a way to employ himself independently, working wherever he could to make ends meet. Even worse news came when CHEK itself was put on the chopping block and was going to shut down completely.

Then, just like in the movies, there came the happy ending. A group of investors stepped up, and along with CHEK’s employees, they put their money together and bought the station. Michael was the first person that was hired back.

On his first day of work, he had to scrounge around just to find a chair and a desk to use. But it was the beginning of completely rebuilding the commercial production department, literally from scratch.

As we sat around the kitchen table the other morning (it’s okay, we’re married), I asked Michael what he enjoyed most about his work.

“Putting all the pieces together,” he said. From coming up with the concept, to writing and shooting and editing all the bits, and finally seeing the end result, that’s what pleases him most. “I mean, there’s lots of aspects of it that are interesting.”

But when I asked him what he wanted to be remembered for, he said that it’s all about the people he has worked with over the years. As an example, he enjoys helping someone who had never been in front of a camera before, getting them to relax and bring out their best performance.

And it’s also about making clients happy. “You have a connection with clients and the goal is to help them with their business and create that message for them.”

But overall, building the production department back from nothing, employing people as a result, and creating so many local television series’, has given him the greatest satisfaction over the last few years.

I might be slightly biased, but I think he’s done a fabulous job.

On Friday, May 27th, Michael moves on to another chapter of his life; retiring after over 40 years of doing what he loves most. You can’t beat that.

So, as Michael has said so many times, “That’s a wrap!”

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A Tip Of The Cap to Ferry Workers

After a lovely girl’s weekend away recently, my friends and I drove back to Victoria from Nanoose Bay, half expecting the car to be blown off the highway. But the weather bomb/wind storm that had been predicted, didn’t quite live up to what we had anticipated.

One of my friends had been texting back and forth with her husband who was in Vancouver. It turned out that in some areas on the west coast, the winds were much worse. As a result, BC Ferries cancelled most of the following day’s sailings in anticipation of an even bigger storm.

So many people were trying to catch a ferry before the cancellations came into effect, that my friend’s husband was worried about being able to get back.

It is that time of year. “Blow-vember” is here. I have lots of family on the mainland so I’ve travelled by ferry many, many times, even through the fall and winter.

On one especially blustery trip, the ferry had made it safely across the strait and was attempting to dock in Tsawwassen. I was walking on the car deck trying to keep my balance as the ferry rocked from side to side. We perilously inched towards the dock as every car on that deck started swaying. I wasn’t sure we’d make it, but thanks to some fine skills at the helm, we eventually pulled in safely. Phew.

Most people don’t realize that it’s the “docking” part that plays the biggest role in whether or not a ferry is cancelled. The boats can handle rough seas, but if they can’t dock, we’re in trouble.

I’ve been on a ferry that hit the dock pretty hard, hard enough that I’m sure it must have caused some serious damage.

Of course we’re going to whine and complain to ourselves when we’re trying to get off the island and our sailing is cancelled. It may be inconvenient to us, but these ferry people know what they’re up against. If they say so, then we’re better off staying put.

During COVID, there have been a number of incidents involving the public harassing and verbally abusing ferry workers. But it happens in non-COVID times too. It’s completely uncalled for. Having a family member who works on the ferries, I hear everything they have to put up with.

What most of us don’t realize is that these people are trained entirely to protect us, to save our lives and potentially risk their own. We owe them at least a little respect for that. Serving us White Spot burgers and cleaning the washrooms is just a side gig for them. As is announcing over the intercom when our car alarms go off. Cue the eye roll.

BC Ferries has had a lot of bad luck lately, especially on the main routes, with ferries breaking down at the worst times. Never mind Blow-vember.

I’d just like to tip my cap to all of the ferry workers who do everything they can to keep our sailings smooth.

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Empty Nesters

We recently helped our eldest daughter and her boyfriend move out of our house and into an apartment of their own. This officially makes us “empty nesters”. The fledglings have flown. Yay!

It reminded me of seeing my first Robin’s nest in a birch tree outside our dining room window when I was a little girl. It was exciting to watch the adult birds build the nest and then fill it with those tiny, blue eggs. We had to be careful not to startle them so the eggs wouldn’t be abandoned. And then one day, lo and behold, one by one, the eggs cracked open.

My mother said that eventually the mother bird would kick the babies out of the nest and make them fly. I thought this was a horrid thing. What kind of mother kicks her kids out of the nest?

A number of years and a whole lot of experience later, I understand completely. It’s not that either of my daughters were difficult to live with. But there comes a time when they need to take flight and find a life for themselves.

The thing is, these days many of our children remain in the nest for a lot longer. I was 18 when I moved out, and I more or less expected the same from my offspring. But now kids often stay home until their late 20’s, or into their 30’s and beyond.

For some, it takes awhile for them to get on their feet. And many of them live at home while they are going to college or university if the schools are nearby. But the reality is that it’s not easy for any of them to afford a place to live right now, especially if they have lower paying jobs.

And never mind actually BUYING a home for the first time.

My husband and I were lucky to be able to purchase our first house on Cook Street in 1983 for $66,000. These days you might get an SUV for that money. A used one, anyway.

In 1988 we sold the first house and bought a bigger one for our expanding family. That one cost $112,000. You can’t even get a “no bedroom” condo for that right now.

Sure, we went through periods of poverty, like most first time home owners do. There were some months that we just barely got by, struggling with the upkeep and repairs. But it was our home sweet home, and as long as we could pay the mortgage, we could always eat KD.

It’s not a surprise that housing prices increase over time. That is pretty much expected. But there has been a growing disparity between the cost of living and today’s average wages, especially more recently.

High demand and low interest rates are among the many reasons real estate has become pretty much out of reach for many younger people. Not only that, but house flipping and the popular trend of listing properties on places like VRBO have changed housing dynamics considerably. The B.C. Speculation and Vacancy Tax shows how concerned government officials are about the lack of affordable housing.

It took awhile for my daughter and her boyfriend to find something, but in the end they got themselves a two bedroom apartment in Langford through the Capital Region’s Housing Corporation. Their place is a newer unit subsidized by the CRD, whose mission is “a commitment to the development, management and promotion of affordable housing that is essential for the well-being of the people and communities in the Capital Region.”

I think it’s a wonderful thing. No foreseeable renovictions, no fear of outrageous rent increases. Well maintained and operated.

There are certain rules and criteria that have to be met, such as a minimum and maximum income. But they can have pets and it’s also a family friendly building.

And one day they’ll have their own little fledglings.

Not that I’m trying to rush them or anything…