After retiring to Victoria, I felt like a stranger in a strange lotus land.
The great retirement began during the pandemic and continues. Incorporating new ideas and behaviours can wreak havoc on anyone’s existing living paradigm. But eventually, we all get accustomed to what we become accustomed.
My wife and I lived in Winnipeg for the past 45 years. I spent a few of my impressionable years in Victoria, so I dreamed of returning someday after retiring.
When the opportunity came, we managed to uproot ourselves and buy a place just outside Victoria.
When you only vacation here, you fail to notice the substantial legislative, bylaw and behavioural differences from your own hometown. We notice the differences now that we live here full time.
Yellow curbs designate no-parking areas. There might be the occasional no-parking sign, but you must remember to look down and not up. In Winnipeg, you need no-parking signs. The curbs remain constantly covered. Sometimes it’s snow, other times it’s floodwaters.
In Victoria, the wildlife saunters around adorably. The Bambi-sized deer seem half the size of a Winnipeg urban deer. Even the raccoons seem adorable. We see the occasional one on our morning and evening walks. Once a raccoon sees us, they generally show proper manners and slowly back into the bushes. If you see a Winnipeg raccoon, they attend to approach you more menacingly. I throw my wallet at it and back up into the bush to avoid any confrontation.
In Victoria, raccoon trapping requires a proper licence, and you can only relocate them within one kilometre. A Winnipeg raccoon would get home before I would.
Of course, the flowers in Victoria remain beyond comparison. We only arrived in late June, but the blossoms on the trees amazed us. We eagerly await the early spring when the initial flowers begin to bloom as early as February! This seems old hat and simply “the way things are” in Victoria. However, in Winnipeg, if I see flowers blooming outside in February, I remain in the house. I think of killer flowers like Day of the Triffids, or for the younger folks, Little Shop of Horrors. Both movies appear somewhat scary, but for completely different reasons.
Our Victoria house surprises us somewhat. The windows are only double paned. In Winnipeg the windows are triple paned. Only the patio screen doors are single paned in order to keep out the mosquitoes. Only the foolhardy use plastic screens. The non-risk takers use metal screens.
Our only complaint involves closet and storage space in our home. Our two puffy Canada Goose jackets, good to 40 below with the wind chill, take the space of up to eight normal Victoria winter jackets.
Needing only a small jacket, I make regular trips out to the market. The seafood counters engross me like rides at Disney World. I saw three people working behind this one fish counter of a store I frequent. You see the same number of people behind the red meat counter in Winnipeg.
I dreamt of coming back to Victoria to delve more deeply into the delectable range of seafood I saw here previously. The freshest sockeye salmon enticingly laid out on the ice. The tanks of Dungeness crabs complement the selection along with the rock fish. A bit of almond flour and sautéed in coconut oil became my favourite. I used to enjoy the ambiguous Basa fillets in Winnipeg. This tender type of whitefish always comes frozen. A bit of investigation revealed it to be a type of Vietnam catfish. I subsequently reverted to the pricier pickerel in Winnipeg.
The Dungeness crab established itself as a perennial favourite in Victoria. Apparently, a casual crabber told me that the best months to go crabbing would be the months with an ‘r’ in them. I told him that it must be great to be a pirate. You know, someone asks,
“Hey captain, going crabbing this summer?”
“You bet matey, ARRRgust is my favourite month.”
(This might be an old joke on the island, but since I spontaneously came up with it, I am claiming the trademark.)
Victoria recycles amazingly well. I know this by the size of the garbage bins only emptied every two weeks. I could fit a Victoria garbage and recycling bin into a single Winnipeg garbage bin which is still emptied once a week. As you can imagine, Winnipeg accesses a great deal of land outside the city limits, so space does not appear to be an issue.
Of course, the gardens remain our absolute favourite. People spend hours tending to the grass and flowers. This is understandable since you can see both during the entire year. In Winnipeg, both remain covered by snow for six months and the mosquitoes take up occupancy the other six months.
But in Victoria, bylaws provide that watering can only take place twice a week in order to ration water. In Winnipeg, we seem to spend most of our budget trying to get rid of water from the city and all of the farmers’ fields.
Retirement means not only embracing the major changes, but the little things as well. I can slowly feel the Victoria retirement ethos encompassing me. I am here to stay.