Thursday, 29 March 2007

Turtles

There are so many moments when I am walking or driving around both in Richmond or Vancouver, when I am struck by the beauty, awed by the mountains. You can crest a hill and suddenly, there they are, or the clouds lift, or rain falls and on the mountains it can fall as snow, so you round a corner and they have been renewed.
Today, after a warm, sunny afternoon, the mountains had the look of a painted backdrop. It's weird how that happens, but I've noticed it before.

I went shopping after work, I wanted to buy something for Lori as it's her last day at work tomorrow. I bought something for myself too, a book that caught my eye, I couldn't leave it there on the shelf when it was clearly written for me personally. Bill Bryson's 'Troublesome Words'. Yes, a book that feeds my obsession for language. Ah, how I love the idea that there is an actual right and wrong way to use language. Lovely.

Today was the first day we saw turtles, and they were out in force, I think we spotted six in all, the one I saw was sunning itself on the bank opposite the pond platform.
We had two older classes in today, much more my cup of tea. I enjoyed teaching them and their teacher was very fullsome in her praise of me. Of course I basked in it, but the truth is, I'm a trained and experienced secondary school teacher, the grade 5's that she was having trouble with weren't even a blip on my radar.

Tomorrow we're crossing the border. Sounds more than it is, we're just dropping down over the border into Washington State, but I don't expect to be able to post until Sunday evening.
So I'll wish y'all a happy and restful weekend. And a Happy Birthday to Canadian Karen.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Equipment

This, to me, is indicative of how TV and the American film industry sees the two professions of teaching and medicine.
Last night on House, and I have realised on many episodes before, Greg and his little posse of trainee docs were brainstorming the symptoms of the impossible and unusual case of the week on a whiteboard. In contrast, every advert, TV prog and film that takes place in a classroom, features a blackboard, even though in my entire teaching career I have never had to use one. So doctors get up-to-date equipment to use, teachers get old-fashioned shite. There you go.

The UN paper tiger is once again advocating the genital mutilation of men in Africa. The most amusing thing about today's assault on the manhood of a continent is that the director of the AIDS department of the WHO is called Dr.de Cock. Second most amusing thing was the statistic that a quarter of the world's males are circumcised, 'mostly Muslims and Americans.' I know, you can't help wondering can you....?

It seems there is something new that is keeping the gene pool healthy. Sleepy sent me an article about a piece of research that shows a lower sperm count in men whose mothers ate beef more than seven times a week. Who does, or rather did that I wonder? Let me see...people who eat burgers all the time, or the inhabitants of beef rich States and Provinces like Texas and Alberta. So.....people who eat hamburgers every day and bigots. Oh dear.

Another rather shocking story that Sleepy sent me was about a new service in Germany where mothers could deposit their babies instead of killing them. It seems that there have been 23 infanticides so far this year. I find this beyond belief in some ways, in Heaven's name I can't see how anyone could kill their baby having carried her or him for nine months and then given excruciating birth to them, on the other hand, hormones affect the brain, there is no doubt about it and post-natal depression is an appalling thing.

Today at the Nature Park saw the return of the twitcher with the enormous equipment.
'I remember him from last year,' whispered Lori as the guy set up his camera that looked more like a telescope capable of seeing rainfall in Alpha Centauri.
'I remember his equipment,' I whispered back. His equipment and his enthusiasm with it was so overwhelming that Kris had to go out and ask him to back off since he was intimidating the poor little hummingbirds he was trying to photograph.
Big cars and cameras with gigantic lenses, just two ways that some men try to regain what once they lost.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Reality

Here's the thing. No-one wants to be me. Which is ok for this week, because I am me until Friday, but after that I become Lori and we need someone else to be me.

I read that Gabriel Garcia Marquez is 80. Hasn't everyone had a love affair with Marquez? Didn't you voraciously read everything he had written after the first page of 'One Hundred Years of Solitude'? I know I did. The other day I heard or read some writer's work being described as 'North America's version of magic realism'. I'm sure this was an allusion to GGM, and yet, he didn't actually invent magic realism for pity's sake. The mediaeval Arthurian Cycle was full of it. And I love magic realism because it's how I think life really is, just below the apparent layer.

Last night, someone was talking about Carlos Castaneda. Another writer, another love affair. A man who wrote about a hidden reality, a 'separate reality' that he reached by taking mind altering drugs. And then last night someone said that Castaneda had confessed that he had made it all up. I joked that I didn't want to know, and it does make a difference to know that even he didn't believe in what he said he believed in, but it doesn't alter what I learned from his books, and the alternative reality that reading them gave me at the time.

I'm taking the liberty of quoting from my friend Raymond's blog.

"I was just reading about the value of "life lies." It was referring to an Ibsen play I think I studied but didn't remember. Anyway, it was about the value of believing something that pulls you through life, regardless of what reality might be."

Raymond gives the example of religion and I can see that. He also goes on to say how reality in any case, is emergent. We have changed our views on the nature of reality. And by 'we' here, I'm not using the royal 'we' I mean in the sphere of thought, the strata of human ideas, like a sea, a soup, in which everything we think is exchanged with and touched by other thoughts.

Philosophers have always questioned the nature of reality. Theologists have questioned it too. Is God in fact reality, the afterlife, or is it this life? And what is this life? Is it our perception of it? Does our perception change reality, in the way we can alter quantum events, by our own choice?

Even today, in my job that no-one wants to do, I was thinking about reality. Children often ask if the stuffed deer it real. 'Yes,' I always say, 'yes it is, but it is not alive.' Today, the teacher was assuring them that it used to be real, but now it wasn't. So she equated reality with living. And yet the deer and my television set are quite, quite real, as real as I am, just that maybe I can create reality with my mind.
And that brings with it another question. Is my mind real? Because I can't touch it or see it, just use it.

So to me, the life lies are important. It doesn't matter whether they are 'true' or not, and there's yet another can of worms. Is truth reality, does 'truth' apply to something 'real' or is it something we all just agree on? Pragmatism in fact.

Monday, 26 March 2007

Medusa

You had to love Medusa, but you had to love her from afar, to look her in the eyes was to turn to stone.
There was a fantastic expression in last night's final episode of Rome. 'She'd give you a look like Medusa on the rag.' Even more expressive than just 'giving me the evils.' We're hoping that there will be more series of Rome, although we're not far short of where 'I Claudius' started and it has been fascinating stuff. Sometimes history has been interestingly interpreted, othertimes, just told.
Sadly, Kevin's researches seem to suggest that this was the last series. Poo.

There's nothing quite as mind, soul and body clearing as Spring Cleaning. I have been able to take a pile of junk to the Sally Army this morning. I'd like to do a load more, but with the increase in my working hours, there is a decrease in pootling ones. Pootling is so much fun, but so much more fun when time is limited. Today will be my last Monday off for a while, or maybe a week, I've a feeling I may get Easter Monday off, but I'm not yet sure.

So, the Guardian thinks that Anna Nicole Smith was killed by a drug overdose, sort of what we all thought. The National Enquirer on the other hand, think she was murdered by someone they have a picture of retreating down the corridor, and who made it look like an overdose. I say again, what fun it must be to write for them, and yet, I criticise based solely on the front covers that I see when standing in the supermarket queue, I've never actually opened one up.

The Graun also has a tantalising speculate on how Life on Mars might end. We too wonder this, although not on a daily basis. As with Rome, I was kind of hoping for another series, and yet, and yet, I also want to know the truth about Sam Tyler.

Back to Medusa. She's a chthonic character. Brilliant word that, in my opinion, relating to the underworld. Sort of, darker supernatural beings, which one would be, what with having venomous snakes for hair. I certainly have uncooperative hair sometimes but that's just nasty.

It's always a pity when icons of childhood are found wanting. It was bad enough when we discovered that Ribena had enough sugar to rot your teeth on contact, but no matter, Ribena came up with 'Tooth Kind' drinks. Now, two New Zealand schoolgirls, have discovered it contains no vitamin C. Whatever next. Surely to contain no vitamin C it must have been nowhere near a blackcurrant, those blackcurrants on the ads just burst with ascorbic acid.
Oh well. Those girls' science project may be costing the company $1.1 million.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Hair Bears

So late last night I was channel hopping and came across a proggie with some resurrected Brit bands of the 60's. I caught several of them, including Eric Burden and the Animals and Rod Argent and the Zombies. Petula Clark was hosting. I'm pretty sure that Eric Burden has actually changed the spelling of his surname, which seems to now be 'Burdon'.

Now there is an oft repeated opinion that men get more 'distinguished' as they age, whereas women go to seed. This show gave the lie to that little thought. Lulu was still fabulous. Pet Clark looked older but still attractive. The blokes in the bands though, here I suck my breath in through my teeth.......
I tried to work out what the problem was. I mean they hadn't lost their voices or the ability to play instruments, several of them had put on weight, but so what, they could still dress well, although there was also a tendency towards the Hawaiian shirt, which isn't a good look for anyone except Chin-Ho. Most of them had slightly grizzled faces, but then again, so what, they were still sparkly and looked like the kind of blokes that could come to your house and be entertaining, fun, share a few laughs.
No, it was the hair.

I'm not a fan of Phil Collins, I find his music boring, but he knows what to do about the thinning old guy hair. He can work that grade 2 shave. And that, in my opinion, is the direction some of these guys should have gone. The collar length straggle look to me screams,
'Scissors, Clear! Get Carson Kressley and the boys over here stat.'

This morning, on the National News, we had the disingenuous spectacle of Halle Berry playing the race card. Clearly at some point in her career, someone had said to her about a part that they 'didn't want to go black with it.' Shucks. She has had plenty of other parts where the character could have been played either by a black or a white woman. Here's the thing Halle, your job is all about how you look.
'Oh,' she trilled, 'I don't give a thought to being beautiful.' Well duh! How about if some director said to you,
'Oh, we don't want to go beautiful with this part.'? Hmmm?? Another thing that pissed me off is her having to use the expression, 'women of colour'. You are black Halle, black be fracking proud of it like everyone else.

Now compare and contrast with the non-whingeing of the likes of Queen Latifah. I wonder.....I just wonder....do you think she ever gets passed over for parts because she's a 'woman of substance' ? See, I'm thinking in anorexia-obsessed Hollywood, that maybe yes. She's a fine actor and a fine-looking woman, hell she advertises cosmetics, someone has some nous, and yet....

To one of the other newscasters this morning, 'Hey idiot, the term to talk about the exploits of British explorers is 'Derring-do' not daring-do.' Twonk.

The sun is out. But.....

This business of Iran holding British Naval personnel cannot end well. But then, someone should have done something about that little twat some time ago instead of pussy-footing around. Iraqi eye-witness accounts support the British position. I can feel the onset of a bit of derring-do.
Unless....could the UN actually DO something for a change?

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Shopping

This is Ben and Laurence. Ben and I have had a shopping day. This is a kind of dual-culture ritual. Before I came to live here, whenever I'd come over, I had to go to the town centre mall, eat Chinese fast-food at the 'Flaming Wok', buy something from 'Au Coton' - there isn't even one of these in Richmond Centre, go to various other shops we don't have in England.
Now, whenever I'm in Britain I have to head straight for Boots, M&S, Dotty P, WHSmith, again, the bog standard High Street stores.
When Ben or Alex comes over, they too have to do really standard stores, Zellers, the Bay, American Eagle, Old Navy.

Ben is usually fairly reliant on his sister for advice on clothes buying, which is odd, since his part-time job is in a clothes shop. In fairness though, I think he has a sense of his own style without realising it, he wouldn't know, but I think he has Alex's voice inside his head advising him even when she's not there.
But for me, it's nice to be out shopping with either of them. You get a feeling of being important again when you are shopping with a stylish teenager, both of them are striking looking young adults, well-mannered, I'm proud to say and I can be the mum rather than just a past-her-sell-by-date woman on her own.

For the past week I have felt monstrously pre-menstrual. For those of you of the gender who suffer from our PMS rather than your own, this doesn't mean I've felt like a rabbid psycho-killer, but rather a starving watermelon. Bloated and yet noshing anything and everything. It happens from time to time, I'm not sure whether it is connected to Lycanthropy, could be.

However, whilst on the subject of werewolves, and really, does one HAVE to choose between werewolves and vampires, I don't think so, where was I? Oh yes, Ganesh. Yes you do know who Ganesh is, that elephant god that Apu prays to. Now we were watching a National Geographic documentary last night about elephants in must or musth, a frenzied state of adolescent male elephants, where they almost drown in their own hormones and become quite mad, sometimes killing their Mahouts, dismembering them and trampling them. One Mahout survived, saying that he prayed to Ganesh, which made me think, hmmm.... I've always taken for granted the existence of such Indian gods, we used to have a whole set of brass ones that sat on our mantelpiece, remnants of my grandparents' time in India.
But here's the thing, is an elephant god going to put the best interests of humans first, will he or she think like a human, in fact, will they have the same breadth of ability to think as a human does. Now I know that many animals are smarter than we ever realised, even in extraordinary ways, but surely no-one's suggesting that any animal has awareness of its own consciousness as we do? So how does that work for an god that is an animal?
Would it have been an animal once and transcended? Was it already a god just with an animal's head, in which case, wouldn't it feel a bit 'god of lesser children-ish'? I'm having some theological problems with this and now that they're there, they won't go away.

As you know, I have a short list of ideal jobs, so far I have Yvette Fielding's job on my list. But it also occurred to me that writing for the National Enquirer must be pretty cool too. I mean they just make up anything they like about anyone they please and people buy their publication. What an awesome job that must be, I'd love it.

That's all.

Friday, 23 March 2007

Ducks

My friend Ree sometimes talks about having her ducks in a row. Well after the Thursday line-up of things all happening on the same day, I have my ducks in a row. The friend who was having surgery - that went well, the friend who was taking an exam, passed (with flying colours in my opinion, but she never thinks she's done well enough), Karen got back safely although I'm sure she'll soon be blogging about being ill on the plane, and I was offered the job I applied for. It's a full-time position at the Nature Park, the work, place and people I love, the pay is abysmal, although slightly less so than at present.

So, this afternoon, I did some stinky, smelly science. This week in our part of Canada - or could be the whole of North America for all I'd know - has been Spring Break and so whilst Lori and I haven't had any programmes to teach, a science teacher has been in doing a series of programmes, and that was the name of this afternoon's. She's rather a charismatic teacher, as well she needs to be because she also makes educational videos. The afternoon therefore was rather good fun for me.
Erica told the kids, to get them in the right mood, that before science, there was magic, and she wore a black cloak and magician's hat.

I enjoyed watching and helping and the kids all had a great time. Some of the experiments were ones I remember and some were using new things, such as the gel in nappies and how it reacts and mixing glue and borax to make silly putty.

And the weather - well, it continues to be duck weather. Everyone else is complaining about it, I'm starting to feel guilty about enjoying it, but I reserve the right to join in, since it is apparently set to get even worse tomorrow.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Swishy

Ben was awake at 4am. Yep, jetlag, poor guy. At the other end of the day, he was in bed by 20.00.
Today it has poured with rain all day long, but we were able to go for a long walk in the rain, wellies, hoods up. I love it, I'm like a happy little duck out there. We met some walkers in full Gortex rainwear and brollies up, presumably to protect the rainwear. Lightweights.

So, with the aggravating programming scheduling we have on TV here, Six Degrees is finally coming back to our screens after a gap of....three months? Not quite as abysmal as the August - April mid-series gap in one of the best shows on TV, Entourage.

Mr. Miaowington, what a fabulous name for a gay man's mother's cat. It should definitely spawn a spate of similar cat naming. I just won't say which TV Gay man's mother. Let's just say that 'swishy' is the new gay.

I have a box of Cadbury's creme eggs from the UK and they don't taste sickeningly sweet, this is brilliant, and odd, because virtually everything tastes sickeningly sweet to me at the moment.

I couldn't help a wry smile at the idea that British immigration officials are going to be text-messaging visitors to the country whose visas are about to run out. See, even within Britain - where, I would argue that compared with citizens of other countries, Brits like to follow rules, they have a sense of citizenship - there are criminals and law-breakers. Now graft onto that a bunch of people whose intentions are to stay illegally in Britain, and I would imagine they might, ooh, say, not give immigration their mobile phone numbers. And why would they? Do intending illegals arrive in Britain with world phones? Hmm, seems unlikely somehow, I'm thinking more along the lines of, somewhere down the line they acquire a pay-as-you-go phone and then fail to ring up the immigration department and say,
'Here we are old chap, just got a phone, thought I'd give you a bell to let you know the number, so that you can give me a tinkle just in case I forget when I need to go back.'
Who knows, it could happen.

Now God knows who the hell watches reality TV, but we now have some old tosh called 'Are you as smart as a fifth-grader?' (Year 6). Well, here's the heads up. If you are so stupendously stupid as to put your name forward to go on this show, then the answer is a resounding no. And here's another heads-up. Not that I've watched the show, but people keep telling me about it and some of them have managed to watch as much as ten minutes before having to turn off because brain rot has set in. Intelligence and General Knowledge are not the same thing. Intelligence and being able to remember what useless bit of maths you were doing in grade 5 are not the same thing. Intelligence and not doing something so monumentally stupid as to qualify for nomination for a Darwin award do have some connection.

Swishy it ain't.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Benjamin

My boy has arrived safe and sound, thank-you Saint Christopher, Ben has always been dogged by bad travelling luck, whether coming here or just shuttling between Woking and Pompey to see his brother, so we made a two-pronged appeal to the Saint.

Tomorrow is some kind of bizarrely starred day. One friend is travelling, one having surgery, one an exam, and I have a job interview. I'm sure there must be separate saints for all those things, but what I need is a general practitioner saint.

In my house, two grown men were just discussing the different Ninja Turtles. Bizarre, but there's a new movie about them out on Friday.

A reader's letter to the Guardian said that the writer had recently holidayed in Mexico and was surprised to learn that the election promise of one candidate in the forthcoming elections is that he intends to rescind the tax that had been imposed to fund the Olympics. The Olympics in Mexico were held in 1968. I think there's a lesson here for both Vancouver and London.

A letter to the Times from a gentleman in his senior years complains that everyone now refers to him as 'dear'. When he pointed this out to a shop assistant she said, 'Sorry sweetheart.' I am looking at myself. I don't want to be patronised when I'm old (oh alright, even older) so I hope I don't do the same to seniors myself. I think I'm in the clear.

I loved this story in The Week about Margaret Thatcher, it almost endears her to me. I said ALMOST!! Anyroad, La Dame de fer had been to see a production of Amadeus at the National Theatre, and was shocked by the coarse language. She went to see the director afterwards and said, 'Mozart couldn't possibly have been like that.' Apparently he was though, which Peter Hall attempted to explain to her. The response,
'I thought I had just explained that, He.Couldn't. Have. Been. Like. That.'

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Poetry

Yes, this could get schmaltzy, so if you have a low-schmaltz threshold, come back tomorrow.

I was having a Robert Browning moment this morning, 'Home Thoughts from Abroad', only I wasn't thinking about the
'Oh to be in England now that April's there,' idea, more the picture he paints of the signs of spring in England.
'Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge, leans to the field and scatters on the clover, blossoms and dewdrops at the bent spray's edge.
That's the wise thrush, he sings each song twice over lest you should think he never could recapture that first, fine, careless rapture,'

I can just picture it, I can hear that thrush, but I can't myself use language like a paintbrush in this way. I admire tremendously the way poets protect and enrich the language with their creativity. I love the English language and I love the French language. I despise misuse of both through carelessness. I really buy into the Romantic notion that the poet is an agent of elevation of the soul.

Austen told me that a big problem for him as Head of an English department, is in persuading his staff that they can teach poetry. And of course they can, they've all done it as part of their degrees. I can teach poetry but I can't write it. And the fact is that the pure emotion in much poetry is a perfect way of approaching certain abstract subjects. War, nature, love.

If I were to write poetry, it would be doggerel, 'O Tempora, O Mores, O life under the Tories, it is not fun, hun.....' and what have you.

The day, cold and crisp, pushed the poetry out and let the real world in. Finally the hummingbirds have arrived, they overwinter in Mexico like many Canadians and now they have come back to nest and breed. I was fortunate enough to see two rufous hummingbirds today, a male and a female and when I was nearly back home this evening, a bald eagle circling the field opposite.
I wonder if they noticed me.

PS. I wish I could, but I cannot claim the photo as one of mine, it is by Paul Suchanek, I borrowed it, I hope he won't mind.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Salt

Although I convey the impression that I sit here in Canada spooning Marmite into myself, the truth is otherwise. Which is why I was surprised to read on today's NetDoctor that average daily salt consumption has fallen from 9.5g in 2001 to 9g today. The surprise isn't that it has fallen, but that we take in 9 grams of the stuff every day. I mean, I can picture 9 grams, it seems such a lot somehow, but I suppose that as we are always told, it's hidden in many of our foods. I know that it's something I crave from time to time, which probably means I need it. I also know that lack of it can cause muscle cramps.

At school, when we had to translate Caesar's Gallic Wars, we learnt that one effective way to disrupt the smooth running of the Roman Army was to interrupt the salt supply. The corn supply was in there too, but the men were given a daily allowance of salt and if they didn't get it, things went exceedingly pear-shaped very quickly.

It's raining out again and this for me is a good thing because it means the temperature is slightly higher than if it were clear and sunny. I'm not a fan of hot weather but I have just put my tomato seedlings out in their little plastic tent so right now I'd rather it didn't get too cold. They made it through last night ok.

I understand from Austen that Canada were playing England at cricket yesterday. This surprises me in some ways, less so in others. In the park across the road, teenage boys can be seen playing cricket all through the year, so it certainly does go on here, but these boys are Indian or Pakistani boys. Now when I was in Portsmouth, the only kids I ever saw playing cricket in the summer in recent years were Indian and Pakistani boys, so you might think that the England team would be full of them, but Austen tells me not, so presumably these are the youngsters who end up playing for the Indian or Pakistani teams. The Canadian team however, seemed to have a fair number of Indian and Pakistani names. Another surprise seemed to be the Irish and Scots putting up teams, and in the case of Ireland, on St. Patrick's day, actually winning.
Ah well, I suppose it's all an unexpected result of global warming.

I was just horrified at the story about people being kept on board planes overnight at JFK airport in New York because of weather conditions. What in the name of all that is holy gives airlines the idea it's ok to keep people shut on a plane for nine and a half hours? Unbelievable. What not just allow them off the plane? I was stuck on the tarmac for three hours in Toronto once and it was bloody awful. And guess what? Does the aircraft have enough supplies to keep people fed and watered for an extra 9½ hours? Of course bloody not. In this case, I hope there are some flaming class action law suits go on.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Mutter

Ah, Mother's Day, which began for me at 6am when I had to get up and ferry Laurence to work since he had been called in for an extra shift, starting at 6.30. He was a bit grumbly at that time on a Sunday morning. Me, not so much, I knew that I'd be back in me bed in half an hour. And I was.

Ah, Mother's Day. Ben rang me to say Happy Mother's Day, annoyed that my cards and package hadn't yet arrived, but the real Mother's Day pressie for me is that my boy arrives on Wednesday.

Ah, Mother's Day. The dark side. I couldn't believe this, it's one of those things you read about, yay even then, feel outraged by but don't think it affects you. My daughter, and thus so close it hurts, was travelling on the tube from New Cross Gate to... wherever, was laughing and chatting with her friend. The tube was fairly packed. A lanky black man with pockmarked skin suddenly starts loudly addressing first Alex then her friend Fran.
He mentioned her colouring, my daughter has quite a Mediterranean colouring and has dark chestnut hair, her eyes are blue-green like mine. Then he starts in about her clothing, and she certainly can be drama-student dressed, but on this day, not, on this day she was wearing a cardi and skirt.
'Jew,' he shouts at her, 'I can tell you're a Jew, both of you, you're white trash Jews.' he continues in this vein for several minutes, completely ignored by everyone on the train. My daughter and her friend were stunned into silence, panicked, scared.
When they recount the incident everyone has a 'you should have....' but the fact is, they were just completely shocked by this.
The following day, Alex was again at New Cross Gate station and she saw the same man. She stared at him. He avoided her eyes. She sat in the same compartment as him, having undergone the verbal abuse, she no longer feared this and assumed that he wouldn't actually attack her. He again tried to avoid her gaze by half covering his face.

'Tell the police,' I said, 'they can't do anything, but you can give a good description and the fact that he shouted racial abuse at you meant that it could have escalated.' She said that now she had gotten over the raw shock of it, that she intended to, and yet felt lame telling them about this, as though she were just telling tales in school.
'Ok,' I said, 'and think how you would feel if you actually were Jewish, and then, what's the difference whether you are or not?' She said she would call.

It was a horrible incident, but one that other young women of her age have to endure more frequently. Horrible.

According to 'The Week', the result of a survey done in 27 countries shows Canada as people's favourite country. But it seemed to me to be a case of damning with faint praise, 54% of respondents said that Canada was 'mainly positive'. Oh cool. Or....maybe just tepid.

SNL is a legendary show, no doubt about it, but for me, it rarely lives up to its own legend. There are some great performers on it, Amy Poehler and Keenan Thompson to name just two, and many more great comedic actors have come from this stable, but the material rarely makes me guffaw. Last night however there was one sketch that did make me chuckle. The question on everyone's lips, 'Is the US more ready for either a woman President or a black man?' 'Why not?' was the response, 'they were ready for a retard.' But then a more serious point, made as a joke, but nonetheless..... 'white women are in the majority in the US, so you'd think they'd elect one, everyone loves white women, white men like white women, hell black men like them even more, no, the only people who hate white women are white women.' Hmmm...many a true word spoken in jest.
Still, SNL scored brownie points with me last night. They had Snow Patrol on. What an unprepossessing bunch, and I like that. I love that their music is so good, so extraordinarily good and yet they are just four Scots lads who might live next door to you. I love that they are not showmen. Long may it last.

Alex said she had recently seen the Brecht play 'Mutter Courage'. Or perhaps she said she'd seen 'Mother Courage'. A wonderful play either way, but some things just sound right in their original language. Like Sartre's 'Les Mains Sales' - sounds so much more expressive than 'Dirty Hands', so much so that in English the play is often called 'Crime of Passion'.

Saturday, 17 March 2007

McGinty

Well, if I'm not very much mistaken it is St. Patrick's day today. Difficult to ignore here really, they even have special green beer to celebrate. Bizarre, bizarre. St. Paddy would turn in his grave. After being taken to Ireland as a slave from England or Wales, then escaping, returning home and entering the priesthood he went back to Ireland to bring them Christianity and arguably the start of all their troubles, although that may be from reading Edward Rutherford the writer and historian who depicts Ireland as being fairly comfortable with their religious practices pre-conversion.
He was accused of driving the snakes from the Emerald Isle (St. Pat, not Ed Rutherford)- presumably he had some proxy to drive them out of New Zealand - then died, fortunately without any of the horrible martyring Saints freqently had to suffer, so he must be perplexed at the strange goings on in his name.

And why is St. Paddy the Saint of choice? I mean, possibly a Welshman, just like St. David, not to mention a Bishop just like St. David, but I was a lone daff wearer on March the first.

Ok, true there are a lot of Irish folk here, but then there are a lot of Scots and no-one even mentions St. Andrews day, although maybe that's because they think the Rabbi Burns is their patron saint.

I guess it's because the Irish are notorious carousers and drinkers, despite St. Pat's best efforts. That kind of appeals to most people.

However. On 'Life on Mars' this week, the theme was Irish, and realistic too, because I remember this time. The story was that a car bomb had gone off, but it had been blown up with dynamite and although the IRA were immediately and universally blamed, Sam knew his history and knew that the IRA weren't using either dynamite, nor Semtex at this point. The 1973 squad wanted everyone in the phonebook whose name began with O' questioned and eventually they brought in a man called Patrick O'Brien.
Now this kind of thing really happened in the seventies, everyone with an Irish name or accent was suspect.
Pat O'Brien gave up the name of someone he said was responsible, Paddy McGinty and got a good kicking for it. Of course it turned out to be, exactly as Sam Tyler had said, not an Irishman at all. And I had to explain Paddy McGinty to Kevin. I can only remember two verses, but they pretty much say it.

'Now Patrick McGinty, an Irishman of note,
Fell in for a fortune and bought himself a goat,
Says he, 'Sure of goat's milk I'm going to have me fill,'
But when he brought the nanny home he found it was a bill,
All the young ladies who live in Killaloo,
Are all wearing bustles like their mothers used to do,
They each wear a bolster beneath their petticoat
And they leave the rest to Providence and Paddy McGinty's goat.

Now Auld Paddy's goat had a wondrous appetite,
And one day for breakfast he had some dynamite,
A big box of matches he swallowed all serene,
And then he went and swallowed up a quart of parrafeen,
He sat by the fireside, he didn't give a hang,
He swallowed a spark and exploded with a bang,
So if you go to Heaven you can bet a dollar note
That the angel with the whiskers on is Paddy McGinty's goat.'

Friday, 16 March 2007

Shazam

In Galloway's today, by the checkout, they had packets of Twiglets and a sign that said, 'The Original Twiglets from Australia, baked, not fried'.
'That's cheeky,' I said, 'Twiglets are from Britain.'
'That's what I thought,' said the assistant.
'Well, they are from Britain,' I said turning the packet over, 'baked in Liverpool.'
'Ah but,' she said, 'it says Victoria Station on it at the bottom.'
'Victoria Station???? That's in London, Victoria Station??'
'Oh, no, Victoria,' she said, 'in Australia.' I looked again.
'?'
'At the bottom, under the barcode,'
'Oh, imported by Menora Foods, Victoria Australia,' I read, 'means they are imported to Australia from Britain and then imported here from Australia.'
'Oh. Oh,' she said, 'I guess I'd better change the sign.'
'Mmmhmmm.'

The honour of the Twiglets must be upheld.

You have not seen anything as spectacular as Vancouver in blossom. Well, unless you live here of course. One day, just regular old fabulously beautiful Vancouver, the next day, Shazam! The Deity has spoken.

I had an incredible afternoon working on my programme. I can't believe that I actually get to spend office time designing this, it's about the equivalent of two lesson plans. In fact, it a sodding sight less complex than a lesson plan because you don't have to work out what Programmes of Study, assessment opportunities, National Curriculum Levels, Foundation subjects KS 3 Framework and a whole slew of other shite it covers. No three-tiered Learning fecking Objectives completely separate from the Learning buggery Outcomes. No differentiation and extension. Well, maybe a couple of extension opportunities. No use of the SNA or the FLA. No homework. And I don't have to do it all in my own time.
Then once you've done it you can use it over and over again.
Unbelievable.
Sweet.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Heritage

Lori and I made a return visit to the Vancouver Aquarium for a meeting of the Lower Mainland Museum Educators. This group is very inaptly named, since it includes people like us who are environmental educators.

That sounds rather a dull point to make, but it has been part of my personal education since coming to Canada. I primarily saw museums as being about history and I always saw history as being about human actions, events, thoughts, but fundamentally about people. Ok, I can remember a couple of history lessons where they showed us how where people lived was about geography but I'm not sure how deeply that went in.

But in Canada, history includes natural history and that is true not only for the First Nations but also the history of colonisation from Europe. Human action is ordered here by the might of the land.

Well, Lori and I teach about the land. We teach about Canadian heritage. The bog-forest that we teach about has shaped human history and that is an often repeated truth in this country, it's not something that can be ignored.
And so in reality, the group should be called Lower Mainland Heritage Educators.

Today, two educators from a Museum in Malawi were sharing some insights and experience with us. Today I learned how a country's heritage can be overwhelmingly influenced not by human action, nor the landscape, but by two diseases.
The first disease that has become a foe to fight and live with, was malaria. The experience of everyone in the country is shaped by it. The second is HIV/AIDS.

Little money is given to the museums in Malawi and yet they have them and they are regarded as the 'Custodians of Tradition'. And yet, as the two men spoke, it became clear that the traditions of the people were annihilating them. Their traditions allowed for the easy transmission of HIV. So then the museums became educators, they used the knowledge they guarded to show the people how things must change. Adapt or die, simple as that.

And they talked about another kind of heritage, 'Intangible Heritage', the oral traditions, stories, music, customs, that are handed down within a culture, and how do we preserve that, and is it worth preserving? It is this type of heritage that can be used and is used, to change opinion and practice, to educate.

But the truth is, the truth is, there was a mismatch between their ways of sharing information and ours. The two men spoke slowly and had only a handful of pictures on a laptop to illustrate their points. We listened politely, and I did learn the points I have made above, but it was a challenge to not fall asleep in this amazing and warm room at the Aquarium with dolphins swimming around us, separated only by glass.
When questioned, for example about what feedback they had received when they had asked people what they wanted from a museum, they couldn't answer.
One of the speakers said how wonderful Canada is and how terrible the United States is, but this was an awful faux pas. The first and one of the most insightful and sympathetic questioners was a US American.
To make a gaffe like this in a city that lies virtually on the border with the US is to insult most of the people in the room to some extent or another. He had also praised Madonna for adopting a boy from Malawi, seeming to forget that she is a US citizen.

But of course, in spite of this, there was embarrassing gushing at the end, although granted, not too much.
And then we went off once again to see the sharks and starfish, the graceful sea turtles and stingrays, belugas and caymans. And to step back into our own heritage. Because what I forget sometimes, is that British Columbia is British heritage too, just another arm of it.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Surreal Sister.

Well now, something strange is occurring. One of my e-mail addresses receives other people's e-mails from time to time. If it is obvious that it's a real person, then I e-mail back and let them know that they've wrongly addressed the post, and generally, I'll get a short note saying thanks.

On Saturday or Sunday, I received an e-mail from my sister Rowena. Only I don't have a sister Rowena. So I e-mailed her and told her. Now she has replied, assuming that I'm joshing with her. We've entered the surreal zone, trouble is, I quite like the mildly surreal. I will have to see how long it takes before she realises she really isn't communicating with her sister. Ah, such sport.

So, what is this? Blue Peter having to apologise? Blue Peter is a children's magazine programme on the BBC that has been around since I was a kid. It prides itself on the quality of the content and presentation. The thing is, in my opinion, they are the victims of some pathetic uptight member of the public's righteous indignation.
They had a phone-in to raise money for some good cause - this is something Blue Peter is renowned for. But the telephone system had technical difficulties and so a child who was visiting the studio was told to phone and and she won the prize. How the hell a member of the public even found this out is beyond me, but to ring in and whine is unbelievable. Honestly, it seems like a decision that most of us would have made in the circumstances, and no-one gained any money from the whole thing except the charity, so what's the beef?

Apparently, blogging has peaked. Maclean's, a Canadian Magazine, reports that 200 million bloggers have given up and that the rate at which new bloggers are coming in is slowing. I'm not sure whether this is good, bad or indifferent.
The Guardian's own blog site 'Comment is Free' is one year old today. Again, I'm not sure whether it has been good, bad or indifferent. I have sometimes read articles on there by journos who can do a lot better, but who seem to turn out something fairly shoddy because it's a blog. And the comments are no better. Things turn nasty quite quickly, with commentators flaming each other or the article writer without much thought.
I like blogs, I like blogging, but I also like to follow the lives and thoughts of other people, those I know, those I know through blogging and those I don't know at all, they might just as well be characters in a soap, but whose styles or lives interest me.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Bunnies

I have no idea whether the bunnies and the sunshine are connected, but yesterday we had sunshine and such mild, springlike weather that I had to leave the doors open, today we have bunnies. Five, we counted five, all out there gamboling.
We don't think they have suddenly and mysteriously appeared from Outer Space. Oh, no, sorry, that is what we think. Consider the Nature Park as Inner Space, then someone from outside is helpfully dumping their pets on us. A bunny, apparently, IS just for Christmas. By Easter they get shoved out the door with not so much as a red and white spotted hankie on a stick.

I was mightily amused by the concept of the village in Thetford, Norfolk, not far from where my sister lives, that is used for training troops. Originally set up as a German village, it has now been transformed into a replica of Basra. Islamic calls to prayer and the sound of angry crowds is broadcast across the village.
Locals seem amused that the army can be so easily duped. A little German village with church spire and all can be made to feel like the Middle East by the sounds broadcast.
Still, that aside, it's brilliant that it is there for training purposes, it's just .... Thetford? This part of the English countryside is so....English countryside.

As though it were some new and amazing piece of news, the Guardian yesterday reported that all primary schools in Britain are to teach modern foreign languages by 2010. Duh. I had spent a year going to meetings and making the first preparations for this before I left in 2005, the idea being that primary schools didn't actually have linguists, whereas secondary schools did and could do outreach.
Still, glad the Graun has caught up.

In Canada, we are looking forward to a bumper maple syrup harvest this year. Still, that's in Ontario, it doesn't really have much of an impact on BC. Despite having half the population of Britain, Canada remains a country divided. We can't assume that when one part of the country does well, the whole country will feel the glow. Probably the most bonding thing Canadians do is watch Corner Gas, and who was on it as a guest last night? Why our very own Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. He read his lines well, even parried a little joke against himself.

I am totally loving this, children in 14 schools across Britain will be introduced to books with gay and lesbian characters. I really, really like this one,

"Spacegirl Pukes
A little girl who is about to set off on a space mission falls ill. Her two parents, mummy Loula and mummy Neenee take her home to look after her but then they fall ill too. When she recovers, the spacegirl puts back on her suit and goes on an adventure to space."

So, no cow-towing to eejits who don't believe God is capable of inventing science, no protests over someone mentioning polar bears, just get the hell on with it, this is how it is, get over it. Nicely played.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Corrigenda

At the beginning of Latin lessons, we used to have to do our corrections, same in French and German. I think it was a good practice but not one that goes down too well these days. No-one wants to admit their mistakes, let alone correct them and learn from them.

Whatever. Here are my corrigenda that all came up yesterday, but maybe don't read today's post if you are eating or about to eat.

Osama bin Laden's birthday is actually 10/03 not 11/03, there goes my speculation down the toilet. Oh well.

Studio 60 has not been completely axed, it turns out it was simply shelved, it could and may return if scheduling allows. I guess the first reports we read must have been similarly misleading.

This one links quite firmly to Sleepy's comments about Gehenna on yesterday's blog. I had taken my 'The Week' to the hairdressers and was reading an article about a Jewish man and his Christian wife living in Austin, Texas. They knew they were having a baby boy and it suddenly occurred to the woman that her husband may want to have the baby circumcised.
She pointed out to him that the American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends circumcision. (This is my correction, I hadn't realised they had withdrawn support.) She also said she didn't want their child genitally mutilated, and in fact he agreed, he didn't see himself as a practising Jew.

Enter the family.

'6,000 years of tradition!' screamed the man's mother, 'your father says that without circumcision he won't recognise the child as his grandson.' She then went into guilt overdrive on her son.
'We have come to terms with your marrying outside the Faith, we can overcome that you moved to Austin, Texas, we can even overlook that you are naming the baby Elijah (huh? you'd think she'd be well up for that one, what with him being top prophet and all)but the no circumcision, that we can't forgive!' Amusant what?

So the man had to weigh up the guilt trip that only a Jewish mother can truly deliver against his marriage and the thoughts that he was trying not to have about his son's future orgasms being less intense because of the desensitising of the penis caused by circumcision.
Finally, 6,000 years of tradition wins out. The wife can no longer see her husband torn like this and gives in.
During the procedure, the child cries and screams and they torture themselves listening. The last line of the article was,
'He'll be fine,' said the mother-in-law,'it didn't hurt at all.'
Gehenna and a Jewish mother-in-law are strong foes to fight.

But the article actually makes me revise my original premiss too. What I was writing about in a previous post, was the idea that a quick-fix for AIDS in Africa was to circumcise men. Adult men at that. This in itself is controversial, since counter claims from research published in February of this year seem to point to circumcision being a way of spreading AIDS rather than diminishing its transmission.
My argument was that 'we mutilate our male children so why shouldn't you?'. The article in question however, points out that circumcision was re-introduced to some extent in the Victorian era to make masturbation less enjoyable. It also implied that 'little boys are dirty' (because they don't wash behind their foreskins among other things). 'Sex and the instruments of sex are dirty' was the message.
So, now, Neal Pollack (the Jewish subject and writer of the article) makes me think, are we simply saying that to the African men we want to circumcise? Just like the Victorians, are we really saying,
'You're having too much fun and you're dirty'?

So, tis summertime here, we have cried très bon and put the clocks an hour on. Or, autrement dit, pay back time for the blissful extra hour we had in the autumn, another imbalance corrected.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Puzzles

Question - 11/03/07, what is significant about this date? Turns out it's Osama bin Laden's 50th birthday, assuming he's still alive. And I find it significant, since he orchestrated the twin towers atrocity to happen on my birthday, that his is exactly six months before mine. Exactly six months before or after that anniversary.
He's certainly more famous than I am, more infamous, both of which, fame and infamy I'm more than happy to have so far avoided, but it make you think. When I meet my God I'll have a few bits and pieces to account for, but the errors of my ways just pale into insignificance beside what he'll have to account for before his.

We watched the movie 'Babel' last night. It was excellent, as you'd expect from the director of 28 grams. Events in Morocco, Mexico and Japan are shown to subtly intertwine, each from the perspective of one of the characters. The Japanese character was of particular interest, partly because there was clearly a whole back story that you were left to think about and construct for yourself, and I always like a story that leaves you thinking, but partly because she was a deaf-mute and belonged to a whole group of similar friends. The camera watched her, sometimes in a voyeuristic way, and sometimes we moved inside her head and we were doing the watching, the silent watching.

I had rented the movie a couple of weeks ago. When I took it to the counter in the shop, the assistant said,
'Ah, Babble.' Unsure whether he was joshing with me I said,
'It says Babel on the box, babble would be spellt with a double b.'
'Babble, like the tower of Babble,' he said,
'That's the tower of Babel,' I said, even less sure now that he was joking. It turned dark.
'I've lived in Canada all my life,' he said, 'and I've never heard it called anything else.'
Yet still, this seemed too preposterous for him not to have been winding me up. I showed the box to Kevin.
'What's this film called?' I asked.
'Babel.' Phew.
When I got into the car with my friend Yvonne later, I asked her about the tower of...?
'Babel,' she said, double phew.
I asked at Writers' group. All but two said 'Babel' and then I asked Lori the following morning, without hesitation she said,
'Babel.'
Babel, like label, Mabel, Abel, able, table, gable, stable, cable, fable, sable.
I'm still not sure whether the guy in the video shop was pulling my leg or whether he was just stupid, but one thing's for sure, he never had any RE lessons and he never went to church.

Still, it was a superb film.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Divergence

A fellow Brit that Kevin works with was surprised, since I am English, that Kevin wasn't familiar with the term Poets' day for Friday. I suppose it's one of those terms you use with colleagues rather than at home. For anyone else who isn't familiar, Friday is 'Piss Off Early Tomorrow's Saturday' day.

The subject of divergence is something that is pre-occupying me because of the book* I'm reading. The Earth has been recreated in an experimental network, and it followed the same course of world history as our Earth until 1940. On E2, the Second World War didn't happen, the German army were defeated in the Ardennes. Because of this, Germany didn't develop high altitude rockets, the same technology that went on to put people on the moon and start the space race.
The atom bomb never existed. The results of that are more controversial, less tangible, but arguably the nuclear threat has kept superpowers on their toes developing technology.
Lastly, the enigma machines used for encoding led to the invention of computers and ultimately to the extremely computerised world we live in today. Food for thought.

But Earth, our Earth, has moved forward. Computers have continued to get ever smaller. Nano-technology, machines so small they can live in our blood stream, in our brains, was used to manage the weather, to reverse our own destruction of the planet, which they did, until like Asimov's humanoid robots, they evolved the ability to transcend their own programming and operate independently of our instructions.

The Cylons in Battlestar Galactica are another example, although in some ways they are a convergence, because they were created as different from humans and yet they are becoming more human and as that happens, the question of treating them simply as machines, becomes more muddied.

So you can see my problem with the old TV set making its own choices of programme. The TV has its own computer sitting beneath it, hard drive, CPU, memory. Kevin has fortunately backed up all the music, pictures and movies that are on there, because now that he is trying to upgrade it, get rid of the bugs, it's all gone pear-shaped. How much we get used to. The news currently isn't scrolling across the screen of the slim server in several rooms as it usually does. Our alarms aren't working. We only have one old-fashioned clock with hands, and frankly, were it not a beloved heirloom of Kevin's family, that would be gone, but then I'd just be reliant on the clock in the corner of the computer screen to tell the time. Oh, or the sun, as I did this morning.

What if, in another compossible world, (Leibniz) a different version of me had stayed in England. My life by now would possibly have been simpler, the future more certain. But oh my goodness, what I would have missed out on. What SHE has missed out on. The moment of divergence by definition has to be a significant one, even though maybe impossible to pinpoint. And the results are unlikely to be clear until those muddy waters clear.
But they will.

*Century Rain by Alistair Reynolds

Friday, 9 March 2007

Plots

From time to time I've pissed and moaned about the annoyances caused by the ongoing preparations for the 2010 Olympics. But of course London is not far behind. The Olympics were always going to be a double-edged sword for East London. There are some poor areas which could benefit from having a huge amount of money spent and drawing money in to the area.

But when people's allotments are under threat, well that's just asking for trouble. Way to upset the people.

Now, to be honest, I've never had an allotment, but I can totally see the importance of them to people who don't have gardens. For inner city folk on an overcrowded isle to not only get away to their own small plot of land, but to actually grow veggies for the family, allotments have been an important part of life.
I think it's just rotten for suits in offices to design for the needs of the event with no account of the needs of the people who actually live there and who will continue to do so long after the Olympics have finished.

Jack Black. Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny has about as much plot as a Macdonald's advert, but I just loved it. Watching Jack Black throw his porky little body around yet again, and mug to his own singing, not to mention the musical magic from Kyle Gas's guitar kept me transfixed throughout. Or, to put it another way, Pick of Destiny was probably made on someone's credit card and kept me entertained. Miami Vice no doubt cost millions and didn't hold my attention.
There was a kid at the beginning of the film, supposedly playing a young Jack Black to Meatloaf's JB's dad. He was utterly, utterly brilliant.
There was another moment in the film where Jack Black looked like a slightly chunkier version of Max from L-Word.

A sign outside the secondary school across the road from us tells you to 'Slow Down and Drive Safe'. Yep. A secondary school. Yep, drive safe. I kid you not. I want to go out there at the dead of night with a can of spray paint and graffiti on it 'Drive safe what you fuckwits?' OR, be kinder and just add an -ly.

Our TV has developed its own private taste in viewing, just not very good taste. It keeps spontaneously changing itself to 'Footballers' Wives'. It's getting its hard drive wiped.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

International Women's Day

Rain, sun, rain. Bit of frost, but that's another story.

So, today is International Women's Day, I'm an international woman, and another international woman is Canadian Karen, currently enjoying a break from Vancouver life by holidaying in the Dominican Republic. I'm glad to say she has arrived safe and sound and hasn't yet caused any international womens' incidents.

So, I see that US scientists have been told not to discuss polar bears. Isn't that the sort of tactic that used to be used in the Soviet Union? I can't see it happening myself, scientists being told what they can and can't discuss? Unlikely.

I have found my bath. To recap, the bog standard bath tub here doesn't slope at one end, so it has no therapeutic value whatsoever, well, ok, not none exactly, but it is seriously diminished. A bath in our house currently lacks that essential element of indulgent luxury. Hmmm...essential luxury, an interesting notion. But I have seen a tub with a sloping back and higher sides, I have seen the future - well, the past really, so the past is hopefully in the future.

Hillary has a website! Of course she does, why wouldn't she? Go Hillary you international woman you.

It's strange writing a story with someone else. Lori had been keen to update the play in our Snakes and Frogs programme and she wanted to have a storyteller reading with puppetry to accompany it. Firstly, I have had to think about how to write for younger children and secondly, Lori and I have quite different writing styles. So it tends to jog along like a chipmunk with an English accent, kind of like something written by international women. My own input is a little Kiplingish, though of course, he did write exceedingly good books, so not a bad person to plagiarise.
Ah well. Life at the park may get stranger for a while. Lori has resigned and leaves at the beginning of April.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Webs

Lori and Kris had been to a training course on Monday that was run by the city and was about the support networks that are needed to get a young person through from childhood to adulthood. The speaker's contention was that whereas it was often held to take a village to get a young person through, the actual number of adults needed was five. Leave the barn raising to the villagers.

Five significant adults that a youth can turn to, five people she or he can trust. It seems impossible that there might be any child who doesn't have five people they can go to to ask questions of, to go to with problems. But just going round the table when we were discussing this, it was surprising how few adults people remembered trusting from their own childhood and teenage years.

Many children don't have that kind of relationship with their own parents, although with the prevalence of step-families, there are more possibilities. The speaker talked of the importance of teachers in this and of course in Britain we had a highly developed pastoral system. Church members can be important, but round the table, two who were brought up as Catholics claimed the opposite was true.
Clubs were talked about, and this seemed to be significant. When I was at school I was a Wildlife Ranger. There were all kinds of clubs and groups, led by adults, that met in the lunch hour or after school, Christian Union, Guides, Brownies, Rangers. In no school that I have worked in has there been any of these, although of course both Guides and Scouts still exist.

But the main thrust of the training was to make adults who dealt with young people in the course of their work, think about how they influence them. Do we make ourselves available as part of that support network that they need? And it can be as seemingly insignificant as being a neighbour that speaks rather than one who doesn't.

It was a thought provoking discussion.

Another thought provoking thing was an offhand comment by Lori when we were out on the trails. We met another Brit, and he and I talked about this and that. When he'd gone, Lori said,
'I love listening to two Brits talk to each other. You kind of debate things. It's like you have opinions but don't get emotionally attached to them, you say something and the other one might say something different and then when the discussion is over you both go off as if it hadn't happened.'
I guess it would be fair to say that I at least was taught debating at school, and I know this is part of the curriculum in many British schools, but not all by any means. I'm going to have to give this one more thought.

The last thing that had me thinking just before I left work, I read in the Vancouver newspaper that two writers from what I would claim is Canada's funniest and most brilliant comedy, Corner Gas, are moving to Little Mosque on the Prairie. So, it can get even better then. I hope Corner Gas doesn't suffer.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Surrey

Surrey, in England, is generally considered to be a 'posh' county. It's where I lived before I moved to Pompey, and I can tell you that every posh county has its underside, in many ways the more so because the upperside is so well-heeled.
Whenever I'd go to some course or meeting out of county, someone would invariably ask where I worked and I'd say Surrey and they'd say,
'Ooh, Surrey,' in a mock nose-turney-uppey kind of way and then I'd get a bit defensive, because it was a matter of pride in the teaching profession if you could survive in a rough school, and tell them that actually, where I worked had been demarcated as an Education Action Zone and then they'd shut up and so would I.

Surrey in BC is a huge, sprawling city that many people who don't live in it think is entirely inhabited by Indians and Pakistanis. This is far from the truth. If it makes you exclaim,
'Ooh, just like Birmingham then,' I can see why you'd think that, but no. It is possible to buy a much larger house for less money there than in Richmond or Vancouver, but believe you me, there are some very, very nice houses there.

To the south of the city of Surrey, some might say that it actually IS the south part of Surrey, is the small town of White Rock. On the map it is literally a square of streets and it draws to itself a bit of a postcode war. I am told that people want to say they live in White Rock rather than Surrey, so they tend to be a bit imaginative with the boundaries.
Further along the coastline, coming back from the US border and towards Richmond, are other small communities, Ocean Park and Crescent Beach. From this coastline around the shelf known as Boundary Bay you can see Mount Baker in Washington. You can also see Bald Eagles, Cooper's Hawks, Great Blue Herons, Snow Geese, owls and many more birds.

Yesterday, my friend Yvonne and I went on a little reccie of the area. I was struck as we drove down to the beach at White Rock, by how much it reminded me of the small town of Cobh in County Cork and it was as though Yvonne were thinking this at the same time.
We had a nose around, we had coffee in a cafe that promised 'coffee with attitude' although we didn't discover the 'tude at all, rather the opposite in fact and then we finished up having an early supper in a small Italian restaurant in South Surrey proper.

This morning, back in Richmond, the temperature had risen and the sun was shining. Perfick. The rat guy came and couldn't find one, although he kindly told us he had a body for us that we could send to the taxidermist, how often does that happen? Rarely, fortunately.

We are awaiting the return of the hummingbirds, they should arrive within the next two weeks and Kris has put out the first of the feeders just in case. As soon as they do arrive, the twitchers with their huge-lensed cameras will be all over them like paparazzi around tiny celebrities.

Monday, 5 March 2007

On the Box

Well shiver me timbers, if I haven't finally solved the riddle of the non-compliant comments. I had reached the point where I couldn't comment on anyone's blog who had word verification enabled, and when Kevin went to mine from a different computer, the same seemed to be true. I had already cleared the cache and rebooted and really was just thinking it was a Blogger problem except that other people were managing to comment, although sometimes with difficulty. Actually, in retrospect, I think it was a Blogger problem to begin with - and then it became mine.

The weather continues grey and rainy and I think we've seen the last of the snow. Too bad, but at least we've had some.

We've watched a couple of films, or filums in the Irish vernacular. The Departed was excellent, yet again, Scorsese showing us that it's not just Italians who ... and there I have to stop and think, I need a verb which means 'to rule by being mafia', to mafiose, ok, it's not just Italians who mafiose. Remember to mentally pronounce 'Italians' 'Eye-talians'. Brilliant it were.

Yesterday, Laurence wanted us to all watch an old film, 'Of Mice and Men', the version from 1992 with Gary Sinese and John Malkovich. He remembers reading this book at school. I'm sure that we didn't read any American authors when I was at school, although I do recall someone once mentioning 'The Grapes of Wrath' en passant. We did however get to wrestle with James Joyce's 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man'. Stephen Dedalus still haunts me, which I suppose I could interpret as James Joyce haunting me.

Finally, finally, I recorded and watched Boston Legal, having an odd feeling of déjà vu, although I then realised it was more déjà entendu, and that someone had been telling me the plot earlier in the week. Bill Shatner continues to be marvellous.

My friend Ree, from time to time had mentioned 'Nip, Tuck' and I realised it hadn't been on our TV in a while. Well, last night while searching for something else, I noticed it. No information, just this, 'Pungent Plastic Surgeon drama'. Pungent? Does the drama itself smell strongly, or just the surgeons. Quite, quite bizarre.

On Rome, which I swear goes from strength to strength, because Herod - couldn't quite remember which one - was in town to ask for support in keeping his people in check, the city crier made this pronouncement,
'All mockery of Jews and their one God must be kept to an appropriate minimum,' ah, such tolerance in those days.

The L-Word saw evil Eric Roberts take his son back from Shane, and Cybil Shepherd's screen husband comes round to join in the fun in Alice's bedroom and ask what is it, what does Alice have that women can't resist. How has she made his wife into a lesbian? And a raging one no less.

The superb Studio 60 has vanished, never to return. Life is harsh in television. If only ten million more people had watched it every week it would have been saved, and so another imaginary world dies, the story never to be finished. Matthew Perry was great in this, it showed that he was a real, grown-up actor. And Dawn from 'the Office' was good too.
Too bad for all of them.

Sunday, 4 March 2007

History

History. Ho hum. Osama bin Barack* now has to answer to some bozos who are asking,
'Did your family ever own slaves, careful now, we actually already know the answer and the answer is yes.'
Six generations ago - by my calculation 4 greats and a grand adds up to six - Barack's family had two slaves.
Well so freaking what? In those days, people owned slaves. It wasn't right, it got rectified, history moves on, if his family owned slaves now that would be worth a furore, but four greats and a grand ago, so what?

It's something that does bug me about Canada. There I've said it. Anywhere else, anything that happened in a country's history is just that, history. Here we have to pussy foot around and make amends.

Ok, say you think that's a reasonable thing to do, and presumably many people here that I love and or admire, do think that, then how far back is it reasonable to go? Last Tuesday? Ten years, a century, ten thousand years?

And then there's interpretation. An equivalent in Britain to some of the things that Canadians feel compelled to make up for would be the Roman invasion. Should Italy be recompensing Britain for taking Britons as slaves? OR should Italy be compensating for leaving Britain? After all, they gave us a great deal, they improved our food, enriched our language, lay down roads that are still used, they protected us, gave us systems of management, coins, trade, they connected us to a vast and successful empire. Then they left. Well, tough, Britain gained from the next wave of invaders eventually. It was a rough, tough history, but something was gained or learned from each horror.

The Hudson's Bay company's blankets is a case in point. The bare bones party line is that the evil white folk gave the Indians blankets infested with smallpox germs and wiped out a part of the local population.
But some historians say that this was not a deliberate strategy, that there were germs that the white population carried but were no longer susceptible to and therefore not aware of. After all, if it were a deliberate thing, and it was so successful, why didn't the evil bastards use it on the whole population?
And then another way of looking at it is the same as for the slavery question; so what? That may seem unacceptable to our liberal, modern sensibilities, but I'm fairly sure that no-one would have seen it as such in those days, even if it could be proven to have been deliberate.

Why are we so paranoid about any of this ? It's artificial. It's nonsense to think that people with degree level education can't work out some reasonable line, use common sense, or that there is no politician willing to just HOLD that line. No, it's purely for the sake of stirring things up, muddying the waters and making the good citizens of Springfield get their pitchforks out.

Quite disturbing really.

*While I'm not prepared to condemn Barack Obama because way back in the mists of time his family owned slaves, I do reserve the right to make fun of his name while he is a rival to Hillary.

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Mercury

The picture's a couple of days old, the rain has pattered down on our part of BC and washed away any snow that survived the sunshine.

I'm convinced that Mercury is playing up. I don't mean that I think the planet's wobbling, nor that more of the element is finding its way into our tuna, no, I mean in the astrological sense. Oi! Stop that! It's not funny. Communication is important to me and it's all going Pete Tong.
My internet connection has been beyond flaky, the imps in the machine are on go-slow. I can't post on Sleepy's blog because the little letters you have to put in for word verification don't show up, things I'm waiting for in the post and by e-mail are holding out on me, oh yes, I'm pretty sure that Mercury ain't rising.

I read my horoscope every day, partly because it just shimmies into my Inbox unbidden, though I always have the option to unbid it. I make it fit what I want it to fit in my head and then I feel ok for the next day. It's comforting, because mostly the astrologers who write them make it positive in some way.

I do get e-mails from a couple of astrologers. They tell me that humungous events and changes are about to occur in my life and they will help me figure things out if I pay them $29 per month. I don't know how I picked up these atro-stalkers, but there they are. They go the way of all spam.

But the thing is, I do believe, illogically, that our lives are linked to the solar system. It's a bit like that butterfly effect. Or is it simply self-fulfilling? I order my mindset according to the daily blurb and so it comes to be. No matter. What I don't find illogical or hard to believe is that the world is differentiated only twelve times over. Actually I find that quite a large number. If there are only seven stories in the world, then the idea of there being twelve different ways things can turn out in any given day seems fairly broad. Even the Chinese system is a 12-year cycle.

But Mercury dogs my steps. It's always going backwards. And at this point, although I have been mostly writing tongue-in-cheek, I actually googled 'Mercury, astrology' and my first hit was this site. It turns out I am going to have to push against the tide until the 28th of this month.
Well fancy that, I'm genuinely stunned, although speech it seems is another area of communication that Mercury rules. I can't help wondering why my daily horoscope hasn't mentioned this though. Hmmmmm......

Friday, 2 March 2007

Plonkers

There is a lesson to be learnt from the story of Mohamed Abderraman who was hoping to obtain political asylum, presumably for some reason in Gran Canaria. Unfortunately, he chose to hijack a plane leaving Mauritania, for some reason thinking this would endear him to the authorities. When he burst into the cockpit, armed and dangerous - one must wonder what security is like at Mauritania central - the pilot soon worked out that Mohamed, unlike the rest of the passengers on the plane, spoke no French. Pilot, crew and passengers hatched a plot over the PA system and on arrival in Gran Canaria, the pilot lurched the plane, hijacker fell over and dropped one of his guns, crew threw boiling water on him and ten passengers leapt on top of him.

I suppose it largely depends on just how bad conditions were in his country of origin, we're not told where this is. He is now in police custody, so he may be temporarily better off.

I notice that the British press this week has been full of the trouble with British children. My take on this is that the main problem is they are allowed to think of themselves as adults. This was reiterated in a Canadian magazine I was reading this week which was pointing out the double standard of allowing (female) children to dress like slappers and then expect them not to be treated as such. Of course, how any woman dresses is not an invitation for her to be mistreated, it's one of the many freedoms we expect that certain less liberated countries do not, but there's a message being sent out nonetheless.

This was echoed in the film 'Little Miss Sunshine'. At the final of the 'Little Miss Sunshine' contest, when Olive takes a few bits of clothing off, mocking the beginning of a striptease, although looking and behaving entirely like a little girl, the audience of parents are shocked, horrified, they want her removed from the stage, while their own children are dressed as grotesque parodies of adults, full make-up, big hair and inappropriately seductive clothes.

At Science Jam on Wednesday evening, children were invited to use felt pens to design their own 'bald eagle' hat at our table. Several times they said how wonderful it was to be using felt markers, these really seemed to be a draw. When Lori asked them whether they had any at home, they said no, they didn't, but these weren't by any means poor kids, you could virtually guarantee that they each had several hundred dollars' worth of electronics in their bedrooms.

But then there are adults who behave like kids. Here in Richmond, our firefighters have been in a great deal of trouble about the way they have treated what few female firefighters we have. The Richmond Firehall has been in the National Press. They have been told in court to get their act together and now, the powers that be have a plan to do just that. It was announced yesterday that there would be affirmative action on recruitment, in favour of women and ethnic minorities.
But the announcement itself was not made by the City, it was information at the discussion stage that was stolen by workers and handed to the press. And do the perpetrators make any attempt to make it look as though this was done by 'women and ethnic minorities' ? Nope, just crash in there, take the sensitive document and crash out, leaving a trail like a jumbo jet. And now, they have the brass neck to moan about the idea that white males are going to be last on the recruitment ladder. Aw, shucks.

What plonkers.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Aquarium

Much bigger snow today, and yet bigger snow that seemed to be fairly localised to our section of Richmond. Very satisfying snow it was.

A new series of Life on Mars has started on BBC Canada, and I'm fairly sure we're not far behind the UK seeing this. Fantastic.

This evening, Lori, Beth and I went to the Vancouver Aquarium. They were running workshops based on their school programmes, and they do seem to have some good ones, and a lot of great resources, but our programmes are more imaginative. We took away some ideas and some validation.

The Aquarium is just superbly located in Stanley Park. There was a magical moment when we arrived in the car park as the sun was setting and the track playing was Cohen's 'Hallelujah'. The view down over Vancouver, the bridges, the fir trees, the lights, everything was just, yes, just magic. This wasn't the view, this was English Bay a few minutes before we went up to Stanley Park.

I've been wearing a daffodil all day, St.David's day, my dad's birthday.
And that's all for me today, it has been a long one.