By James Fife
I think I have made it clear through the course of these musings about our move to Victoria that Marilyn and I are among the many who have become ensnared by the charms of this city, warts and all. We’re old enough and been around the block sufficient times to realise that no place is perfect, but we always look to the relative balance of plusses and minuses. James Bay has always struck us as having a decidedly positive balance, even as I have catalogued the ways in which the transition to life here has produced some bumps and unexpected hiccoughs in the process. But nothing we have experienced so far altered the fundamental ledger-sheet in Victoria’s favour: we remain taken with the many things about the place that charmed us into considering shifting our life bag and baggage to Home North.
But that is just the part of the ointment that has the fly in it now. I have written before about some changes to Victoria that have arisen even in the relatively short time since we bought our home. I think I managed to reconcile myself to those for the most part, on an individual basis. But even as Marilyn and I draw closer to that Golden Time when the final transition will be made, I can’t help feeling just a bit more anxious about changes to Victoria just as we prepare to make The Change. It’s that nervous little anxiety I (a still-active ‘working stiff,’ unlike Marilyn) feel when it’s about 15 minutes before my scheduled time to leave work. Thoughts of that phone ringing or someone appearing in my doorway with issues needing to be dealt with NOW shake my visions of beating a retreat home on time. That anxiety can persist even up to the point the elevator doors open and I can safely scurry inside before anyone can pop up with the dreaded, “Oh, hey, before you go…”
That’s how I am starting to feel about Victoria and our imminent move. What if something really significant happened to attenuate one of the Charms that originally lured us into our decision to buy Home North? So far, though there have been changes, nothing so striking has occurred (to our knowledge) that would cause us to re-think our choice. As far as we can tell from sporadic visits restricted by annual leave allotments, the city has moved on, but not “changed” in a really basic way. Still, some of the small changes have a cumulative effect that I think are the source of my anxiety—as the countdown nears its end. It started with the changes made to the Empress, which I know agitated more than a few folks at the time. Now, the umbrage has probably faded and the Empress is just the Empress again. Yet, one of the charms that attracted Marilyn initially was the view of the old, ivy-covered façade of the hotel she could see from our balcony, part of the glorious, city-scape panorama she loves so much. The hotel is still there, of course, but the ivy’s gone. The sands of time and change have washed it downstream.
To be honest, the hotel alteration that most shook me to the core was the loss of the Bengal Lounge. I know a number of people bemoaned the loss of ‘heritage’ and the destruction wrought by profit-grabbing motives to change, but for me, it was rather personal: I lost an excellent Indian-food venue within walking distance (usually better described as ‘waddling distance’ after all my trips to the buffet). That was a sore blow, but I took it in stride, as just the flow of life. It still stings; but I bear it.
Other small changes have ensued during our drawn-out transition. The Blue Bridge has become a white bridge that turns blue at night. Capital Park has sprung up (ok, maybe not so much sprung as slowly oozed up from a deep crater). The abandoned motel on Belleville where Marilyn and I once saw a racoon hanging out has been replaced with a high-rise. Across the street, the magnificent totems of Thunderbird Park have gone back whence they came (though for now the Mungo Martin longhouse remains). Our favourite local artist has packed up and gone off to the Wild Blue Yonder.
And now Ogden Point will no longer be Ogden Point. That’s just a minor switch in names, a pretty superficial alteration. But I realise I have become so sensitive to transformations of our beloved Victoria during this final run-up to the move that even wholly mundane things strike a small chord of regret. The other day I read how the long driveway in front of the Legislative Assembly was being torn up and replaced. It is over 100 years old and has naturally suffered some deterioration in that time. But my mind immediately leaped to read “replace” as “put in something new and outlandish that will ruin my dream of what the old drive looked like.” It’s just a driveway, but I have become so sensitive to Victoria remaining pickled and preserved that it set me off to an unexpected degree.
As I wrote before, change, of course, is inevitable and that does not inevitably mean ‘ruin,’ but can also be ‘improvement’ or ‘new opportunity,’ if looked at properly and with an open mind. I’m trying to hold that thought. It’s hard, and I think it intensifies as Marilyn and I come down the last stretch before departing our life in America for our new one in Canada. It combines with all the natural regrets and reluctances that go with leaving an environment we have known all our lives for something New and Different. But there’s the adventure. And “Change” is the motto for this project of ours.
So, I’ll try to not let the shifting sands bury me or cause sudden anxiety every time I read how this tree in Victoria was toppled, or that intersection has been re-configured, or that other favoured restaurant packed it in before we had a chance to go one last time. If Marilyn and I had not opened our arms to shifting sands, we would not even be in this ‘fix’ of anxiously looking to the day of our final settlement in James Bay. So, I’ll keep a firm grip and try not to let those unavoidable evolutions bother me. At least, until I start thinking about that curry buffet again…