Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sidney by the sea

This Sidney doesn't look at all like the big city Sydney we visited down under some 15 years ago, but it was warm, the sun was shining, the skies were blue and the natives were friendly when we drove up to the neatly groomed little park where their the information centre was located. First impressions are always important, and on this occasion I'm pleased to say they continued throughout the visit as we drove and walked through their clean, well manicured neighbourhoods during our brief stay in this little town perched at the north end of the Saanich peninsula on Vancouver Island.

 Even Sidney's garbage containers are attractive.

Our visit to Sidney had come about because we had decided to visit a few of the Southern Gulf Islands which are accessible by small ferries from Swartz Bay, just an additional 5 minutes further along the Pat Bay highway at the extreme end of the Saanich peninsula. Not so long ago, the British Columbia Ferry Corporation, was a rather poorly maintained and inefficiently operated government run company. Now it is privately owned and managed, and boasts a fleet which includes several almost luxury liner-like vessels servicing the major BC Mainland to Vancouver Island routes. The ferry activity in Swartz Bay did in a way remind us of that big city Sydney in Australia, where there are also a great many ferries scurrying in and out of the harbour as part of a commuter service which by comparison puts to shame  its counterpart in Vancouver and their adjoining municipalities.

While I'm thinking in terms of comparisons, closer to home, Qualicum Beach (by the Oceanside) might also benefit from a few of the lessons learned by, and exhibited in Sidney by the sea. They might send their inward looking City Council and planning staff down for a visit to find out how to attractively blend in the commercial operations (which QB seems to so abhor) and whose absence forces their residents (and their tourists alike, I might add) to leave town almost every time they needed a product or service other than groceries.

I can't think of a single benefit that their present small town thinking policy generates, although QB's gray haired population appears to be quite satisfied with a monotonous lifestyle that does not ever require adapting to change... even if that change might be beneficial.

Birds can be funny. People too.

Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me at breakfast in the coffee shop of the rather posh, 4 1/2 star, Sidney Pier Hotel the other morning when it opened at 6:30 am. I was enjoying my first sip of their quite delicious blend of coffee, when out of the corner of my eye I spied a furtive movement on the floor beneath an adjacent table. Surely not a mouse in such an up-scale establishment, I thought, but then suddenly, there it was again, another brief movement. But my mouse had feathers.

When I drew the attention of the rather pretty waitress to the little trespassing sparrow, she simply replied without looking up, that it was in here most mornings. No smile or expression of annoyance or happiness or amusement. A couple of other early morning customers came in, ordered and sat down peacefully, until they too noticed the sparrow, and since the wooden faced, pretty waitress still appeared completely uninterested, I let the others know that it was apparently a rather normal every day event.

A different sparrow, another time and a prettier setting.

Eventually the expressionless waitress came out from behind her counter, and the sparrow popped up onto the back of a chair. I remember noticing that it was rather expressionless too. Anyway the waitress walked over to the front door, opened it and locked it in that position before stepping outside and looking back at the bird through the window. It cocked its head to one side then the other, then looked down at the floor for a moment before deciding that it must be time to go, and left obligingly to resume its hunt for crumbs under the tables on the sidewalk.

And you guessed it. Not even the flicker of a smile or word of acknowledgement for her triumphant exhibition of bird training ability from the pretty young wooden faced waitress. But I smiled and made some comment about it being all in the days work... and the other customers, at least those who had noticed the performance, murmured or nodded in agreement, while the waitress closed the door and walked stoically back to her post behind the counter.