Thursday, 31 May 2007

Amoebae?

The splash of colour on the forest floor in this picture is a slime mould.

Yesterday a woman came into the Nature House and told us she had seen a strange fungus on one of the outer trails. When the programmes had finished, I said I'd go and check it out.
Half an hour later, both of us were dispatched, suited and booted, a pair of secateurs each in case any trail maintenance was needed, a first aid kit in case one of us chopped anything we hadn't meant to, a bucket to collect slugs and another to collect a Northwestern garter snake. The only thing missing was a butterfly net that was taller than either of us.

Since the day was sweltering, there was no question of any slugs being out for a walk, similarly there was never any chance of a snake hanging around waiting for us to catch it, let alone the exact one to order.

BUT....we found our strange orange 'fungus'. It looked as though someone had spilt wax on the forest floor.
We picked up a bit and scrutinised it. It looked like a sponge. We put some in one of our buckets, it rattled around in there, and when we got back to the Nature House we looked it up. And up and up and up. We had to wait until our House Naturalist came in this morning for an identification.

Slime moulds are one of those things they teach you about in biology lessons, is it a fungus, is it an amoeba?
One type live as single celled organisms until the food runs out and then they join together and move off like a huge amorphous slug, like something Tim Burton might have in a film. Amazing and disgusting at the same time.

But enough already about the slime moulds, let's talk about something else. Maybe the G8 agreement that George Bush refuses to play ball with ? Silly sausage. But no matter, the prime minister of our Province, Gordon Campbell and Arnie, King of California have joined together to come up with their own game plan for dealing with climate change. And Arnie has told the car manufacturers to get their acts together. The Governator means business.

At long last we got to see the update on Jamie Oliver's school dinners series. That man is a diamond. He has made real change in the face of almost total apathy by the stupid parents. The government boshed over the money that they had promised, but the parents, instead of supporting the scheme, undermined it by continuing to give their kiddies money to spend on junk food, only now, the money couldn't be spent in school because they were no longer selling crap so they were buying the same junk, just in shops on the way to school.

'I've been PC about parents,' said Jamie, 'but now I've fed up with it, if you continue to buy your kids fizzy drink after fizzy drink and crap, then you're a fucking arsehole.'

Jamie mate, you never said a truer word.

Here, the proper TV programmes have all but finished. We face a TV summer desert. What do we have to look forward to?
American Inventor, America's got talent, American Spelling Bee.

I think I'd rather watch the slime mould.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Heat

I have been drinking water all day, which seems somewhat obvious in the heat and yet it was only when we had a big push at Mayhem to have pupils carry water bottles with sports tops that I started to carry one myself.
The initiative gave us permission to drink water during lessons as well.
This was the beginning of the 'accelerated learning' programme, the very first step, keep them hydrated.

Today, I had to do something I am very, very loathe to do, I had to undermine a class teacher. Her school arrived late, or, more accurately, she arrived late. Waiting for her, one little girl was industriously distributing sun creme. I remembered that mine needed re-applying.
When the teacher arrived she was a little fuzzy around the edges. She kind of told them not to go to the water fountain, but not very clearly, so I exploited the lack of clarity by praising the sun creme girl and asking them all to go and have a drink before we started the programme.

Why are we always caught out by weather? If it snows it is as though it has never snowed before. If it is windy in the autumn, likewise. And in the summer, grown people have never heard of sunstroke or the damaging effects of sun on their skin, or that they need to drink more water than usual.
The one thing I would always take with me when I took kids away on trips to Europe were a couple of large containers of water, because for some reason, and this in spite of my insistence that they should all bring water bottles, their parents wouldn't have thought of it.

So, I'm sticky from ambre solaire, but I'm hydrated and we have a shower.

Kevin was telling me about a case he had read in one of the Vancouver newspapers. A resident living in a flat was suing a resident in another flat in the same building ......... because they smoke.
The first wants the second removed from the building. But this is a condo complex, both residents own their flats. It seems to me that the suer is going after the wrong person. If he or she can smell the smoke in their own flat, then surely the problem lies in the way the place is built.
You might think the case would just be thrown out, but who knows.
If it isn't, it could be a pretty scary precedent.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Klamotten

Clothes. They mask us, they reveal us. They are us.

Here in Vancouver, I think it would be fair to say, people don't dress up much. And it was one of my Canadian friends who first pointed this out to me.

Everyone is casual all the time. Oh there is smart casual and down market casual, sure, but there is rarely dressy. And I don't say that in a critical way, just as an observation.

I remember arriving for the summer one year, and a good friend of ours was going to be in town the same day, so we went straight out to dinner. I still had my South of London head on, and more to the point, my brightly coloured, slightly up-market summer dress.
Walking from the car a little way to the restaurant, I suddenly felt like the woman in the ad who has the back of her dress tucked into her knickers. Everyone, I realised, was wearing shorts and T-shirts or some variation thereon.

I have my suits and other work clothes from England, hanging in the wardrobe. Sometimes I gaze at them wistfully, but the truth is, I'm more than happy to wear my khakis to work. Love it in fact.

My own dysfunctional relationship with clothes is twofold.
I have clothes in sizes I haven't been for a few years, but I like them. Yes, clothes escape the excesses of my weeding obsession.
And once I like an item, I keep buying slight variations on it. So I have many pairs of black stretch trousers, likewise khaki cut-offs. I have Old Navy vests in every colour they do. Oh, I wear these, wear them all the time, but that just makes it worse that I have all this other stuff that I don't wear.

Last weekend, I weeded, and didn't I feel good afterwards. Why, I wonder, are clothes so difficult for me to part with, when I even managed to get rid of some of my books before I left England.

Perhaps one reason is that it is only recently that I got the whole Canadian sizing thing sorted. Although my friend Ree and I had done some research on this, and found that Canadian sizes are one lower in number than ours, this didn't seem to be born out in the shops. In the UK, women's sizes go 12, 14, 16, here they seemed to go 11, 13, 15. But then I found a shop that sold clothes in the sizes I was used to, so I applied the one size lower rule and it worked! Not so much when I then wanted to buy something in the 11, 13, 15 range, but a step closer. That was when I was able to clear out my wardrobe, or at least go through it.

Clothes have changed, of course they have. Clothes have always been a measure of how society views women. And using that as an indicator, to my eye, it seems that women have liberated themselves from the corset, the high heel, stockings, tight fitting uncomfortable fabrics - unless they choose to wear any of those things of course, but men, well they still seem bound by the suit, shirt and tie.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Tricorder

Seriously, it pisses me right off that spellcheck, the same that refuses to acknowledge its own name, always underlines 'Tricorder'.
I mean, you can type in i-pod and it lets that one go with nary a mention, but Tricorders, which have been around donkey's years longer than i-pods, well they get singled out for derision.
Ridiculous.
It's not like it's a word you don't need often either.
Spell-Nazi would be more appropriate.

The pictures are of the view from the friend's house that we went to this evening - she knows how fortunate she is.

There is a column in today's Guardian by Zoe Williams, and very well-written it is, about the vagaries of the advice women get when pregnant. What has particularly, and in my opinion, rightly, enraged her today is the recent U-turn on drinking by the government's medical advisers, who freely admit that the change is not based on any new research.

"Five years ago," says Williams, "the government advice was as it was until last Thursday, one or two drinks once or twice a week, but it was taken as given that this was akin to government advice on regular drinking - that is, "14 units a week, are you kidding?", and nobody frowned upon the expectant mother having a drink a day."

Last Thursday, based on nothing, the advice changed to no alcohol at all. More demonisation. I think Zoe sums it up perfectly in this comment,
It's just a disclaimer from the government health authorities,
"Don't come crying to us if it all goes wrong. We have already warned you to be perfect."

And here's the thing. If Tricorders were freely available, why we could check up on our own health immediately and correct it with one flick of a switch.
But they're not.
Typical.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Giving Satan the Evils

Ha, Satan is playing with me. Here's the dilemma. It gets goddamn hot here in the summer and our little house becomes quite sauna-like, especially the upstairs. Sometimes, in spite of the ceiling fans, it's difficult to sleep in these conditions. So we have been toying with the idea of buying a portable air conditioner, especially with my little grandchildren coming to stay. But I have real problems with the profligate use of electricity to actually take warmth OUT of the air and blow it out of the window. After all, the year before last when the whole of the eastern seaboard suffered a massive power failure in mid-summer, it was blamed on people over-loading the system with air-conditioners.

And my resolve will apparently be really tested next weekend when we are forecast a freak mini-heatwave for the weekend, the temperature is supposed to reach 37º.

So, on the one hand, my babies and grand-babies suffering from the heat, on t'other, my integrity and the planet. Yeah, you know Satan's going to win on this one.

I'm not the only one being bugged by Satan either. I was shocked, yet again, by an article Sleepy sent me this morning. How, how, how, in this day and age, hell, in any day and age, can anyone turn out to chant 'Death to Homosexuals,' at a gay pride march? What is it that so threatens people about homosexuality that they are enraged to the point of assaulting other human beings?
I mean, I can kind of see it with religion. History has taught us some very sorry lessons about how connected religion and politics are and how people's daily lives are affected by a change of religious ideology in the driving seat.
But homosexuality? If we had an entirely gay government, how would our lives change? It's not like we'd all be expected to be gay in the way that a 'straight' government CAN expect everyone to be the same as them.
Argh, it drives me insane.

The picture of Home Depot is, well, because I couldn't resist. I do try to shop Canadian (Rona) but Home Depot is nearer and since what I wanted to buy was potting compost and Kevin had read that a new, more environmentally friendly brand was available there, to HD I went.

But HD has a couple of things I can't help but like. Firstly, although they are an American company, they have taken care to print their receipts with Canadian date notation. And they have introduced the self service checkout, which is, quite frankly, brilliant. Just stopped myself from typing 'awesome'. And it has evolved.
When it first appeared at our local branch, you could only use debit card and it was a bit frail. Today I used it and whoever is updating this thing is really paying attention. I like that. The goods go on a scanner, then onto the bagging area to check that the weight ties up with the goods scanned. The screen gives you step by step instructions. I was able to pay by cash, since the compost only cost $2.97. The coins came out in a little coin return place, and then I stood there wondering where my $5 note was going to appear.
'Bills are returned under the scanner,' said a voice from the machine. Nicely done, telepathy and all.
Not all that is wicked is the work of Satan.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Alex

My only daughter. Today is her birthday. I have been trying to wish her a happy birthday, but tracking her down around London has proved difficult. My elusive daughter. I have left messages on her mobile phone, on her room phone, with her brother. Finally, finally, I got a call-back. I think it's fair to say she has been having fun.

I am currently having some kind of Mexican stand-off with my baby girl. She won't add me as a friend on her Facebook. This seems bizarre to me, but she is adamant. Facebook itself is a strange phenomenon. I signed up because I got an invite from someone, but then didn't do anything with it, it just languished there. In place of my face, just a question mark. Then I added some things to my profile and then the bad hair pics appeared, so I put up one of them. And still I only had two friends.
Kevin, on the other hand, has established quite a flourishing network of friends from when he used to go to school in Toronto. It is working for him.

And then suddenly, mine has sparked to life. Various people have added me as their friend and I can see what they're doing. Of course, I do have to remember to look at it sometimes. But how strange it seems. Like Alice's diagram on the L-Word, only without the sex. And it seems to somehow grow all on its own.
Here is someone I knew back in England, and this is someone she knows, and so on and so forth. Six degrees of separation. I thought it was lame. Now I think it is fascinating.

But my fascination always has a finite life. It needs to be able to work on its own - as indeed it seems to. And of course, while my Alex refuses to be my friend, there is motivation, because there is something I don't have that I want.

Ah well.
Happy Birthday to my girl.
Whenever you stop dancing long enough to read.
She doesn't always pout, it just that, well, I do sometimes.

Friday, 25 May 2007

Numbers Game

The population of Canada is 30 million or thereabouts. Therefore I was astonished to learn that Vancouver airport moves 17.5 millions passengers every year. Of course I realise that most of these won't be Canadians, in fact it stands to reason that the majority will be the same person counted twice as most people leave and return to the same airport, but that's still a hell of a figure.

When we were learning how to sensibly apply for a grant, the lady from the ministry told us to bear one number in mind. The grants are given out to benefit residents of the Province of BC. The population of BC is 4.1 million. If we claim that the programme we are asking for money to support will benefit 5 million - well that's a foot shooter.

Last night, Studio 60 returned to our screens. It has a second chance to get the numbers right, it might do better right now since we have now reached the TV wasteland time of year. There is sod all on apart from repeats.

I never cease to be stunned by the perfidy of some men. In a divorce case heard and appealed in London, the ruling of the original judge has been upheld that the wife should have £48 million of the couple's £131 million assets. The couple had been married for 28 years and had raised a family. Why the wife should be entitled to less than half is a question that I feel needs addressing, but the idea that she shouldn't even get a little over a third as was being hotly contested by the former husband, beggars belief.

It's a good thing that we don't actually have think bubbles hovering above our heads as in cartoons.
The teacher today said she was amazed at how I'd learnt all the children's names during the programme. My think bubble would have read,
'And I'm amazed you brought them here without name labels like everyone else.'
In Shoppers' Drug Mart, my bubble would have read,
'Back off you stupid twat, I'm in the middle of paying for my purchases and that's just as important as your buying a sodding lottery ticket, witless fuck.'
To the leader of the self-guided pre-school group, it would have read,
'Why the frell are you allowed to be in charge of small children when you can't read or manage unsupervised yourself?'
To the twonk in front of me in Stupor-store,
'You stupid moron, why the hell are you buying all that complete junk, then using plastic bags for each large bag of crisps, not to mention that you've told the shop assistant you didn't want any so you didn't have to pay for them and now you're treating him like he's an idiot for not reading your mind.' Then there would have been a cartoon picture of my foot connecting with his bollocks.

I don't know exactly what the number on the thermometer must say right now, but I'm guessing it's 20 something. A little something for the weekend Sir, Ma'am?
Yep, rain.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Glory

It's brilliant to have the opportunity to fine tune what you teach. Rob and I had the second booking for our new programme, 'Hands on Habitat'. The play went well - the better because I swapped roles with Rob. The intention had always been to have a woman scientist in any case, but it meant he had all the difficult lines. (Imagine Dick Dastardly's dog Mutley chuckling) but actually, the boy done good.
We also had better weather so the pond dipping was much more enjoyable. Very enjoyable in fact, one boy enjoyed himself so much that after I'd called them back, he fell in.

Back in October of last year, I mentioned the number and variety of places of worship on No.5 Road. Now, someone else has noticed this, and has nominated No. 5 Road as one of the Seven Wonders of Canada in a national contest. Somehow, it has made it into the final. What this amazing thing is worth is a mention in a blog, not some kind of award. Of course, city officials are crawling out of the woodwork to share in the glory and to bang on endlessly about how this proves what a multi-cultural city Richmond is.

Well it sodding well doesn't. The reason they are all there, down that road, is that they get huge tax breaks. This is designated farming land, and the various religions and cultural centres avoid paying tax by promising that although they are going to build their places of worship there, they will also farm the land. So while the city is allowing its officials to swan around taking credit, the city is also trying to pursue all but one of the faiths for not meeting their obligations.

I was amused to notice that the Celtic month that is equivalent to late May, early June, is Simivisonios. I read this as an entire lunar month dedicated to the way Sleepy sees things.

I slept badly last night, for some reason I dreamt more than once, about the last flat I lived in in Portsmouth. I dreamt that I hadn't moved out, but that my stuff was still there. I also hadn't paid rent since I left, so having discovered that my stuff was still there, I had to get it out before the landlord, an unpleasant knobhead, found out.

That flat was interesting though. It was just a few doors away from a house supposedly haunted by the ghost of the Duke of Buckingham who was murdered there in 1628 during the reign of the ill-fated Charles the first. And there were a series of strange things that happened while I was there. It was difficult not to believe there was some supernatural activity going on. I also continually had vivid dreams there. And yet it was a time of deep emotional turmoil for me, so to that extent, it wasn't surprising.
But there was something about the dreams I had last night, some quality I can't explain. By bizarre coincidence, my horoscope this morning began like this,
"Sometimes it's necessary to return to where you came from in order to appreciate how far you've come."

I wonder who's trying to tell me what.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Usherettes

My hair has been cut by a Persian lady. So I can tick that box. I had to rush from work to there and from there to a meeting at a secondary school in town.
In spite of sitting for two hours listening to one lady speak, it didn't suck and I learned a lot. Again, it's all about the code. I had no understanding that a section of the government has a department for gaming and that that department gives out grants in the way that any government department does, ie not at whim but according to clearly set out guidelines.
So just to recap, this department will sell you a gaming licence and give you money. And you can't sell raffle tickets to a kid under 13 even if all they can win is a cake.

At the hairdresser's I read stuff. Stuff that I had brought with me. I read the book I started weeks ago, and which I find most engaging but have had little chance to read. Fascinating but fascinating to read a Frenchman's perception of England, like looking at the negative of a photograph.

In 'The Week', I read a letter to the Grauniad. The writer bemoaned the passing of some services and felt that the majority of people would 'welcome them back with open arms'. These include : park keepers, bus conductors, lift attendants, railway station porters, petrol pump attendants, usherettes and telephone operators.
What a load of bollocks.
I don't want any of those people back. I am of course always sorry when jobs have been lost, but hopefully by now all of the above are gainfully and otherwise employed.
Cinema usherettes were a bloody pain in the arse, and that was just in the UK, in France they expected to be tipped and if you didn't tip 'em, they'd sure as hell tip you - over.
Bus conductors - the clippie, more often than not, a woman whilst the driver was a man. At least now you get both men and women drivers.
Park keepers? What were they about? Not a sodding clue. Chasing kids off the grass as far as I can tell. I can't remember ever actually seeing one except on TV.
Petrol pump attendants - huh, well we have them here in Richmond and we'll always try to get our petrol in another city so we can pump it ourselves. Bloody annoying to have to wait until some kiddie has wandered at two miles a fortnight across the forecourt to do a job any idiot could do for themself.

I did however greatly enjoy the cartoon at the bottom of the page. A boy is holding his head having broken a window with a football. His friend, hands thrust in pockets is saying,
'Don't worry, soon everything will be Gordon Brown's fault.'

Ain't that the truth.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Lupins

Lupins grow everywhere like wild flowers here. Wild lupins. Hmmm....

Yesterday, I went into Shoppers Drug Mart and I could hear my inner orchestra playing that tumultuous music that used to accompany Old Spice adverts, the music that follows the bridge of fog that allows Uther Pendragon into Morgana's castle in Excalibur.

Just inside the door was a new stand, stacked with products from Boots. Dadadadaaaaa dadadadaaaaaa, dadadadadada......

I stood and gazed, marvelling at how my needs are being addressed by the Great Controller.

Today, people had been to see Shrek 3. Not I. This is a foreign language classroom term ender film for me. Or trapped on an aircraft, amazing what you'll watch then. But the buzz was this. There was a trailer for a B movie.
-A B movie?
-No, no, a Bee movie.
-Ah...
-So what is wrong with that?
-The voices were male.
-Oh. Perhaps they were drones?
-They specifically made mention of things drones don't do, no, these were worker bees, but they were male.

Nevermind the state of Denmark, something's rotten in the State of Pixar or Disney or whatever.

Lupins. Loopiness. As I take the children into the forest, I point to the signs and go through the rules with them.
No.......? Dogs!
No.......? Bikes!
No.......? Cigarettes!

'But,' I say, 'there is something you must ALWAYS take with you when you go into the forest.'
The answer is a grown-up. I often get 'water, snack, umbrella.'
Today, 'A pretend dog.' A pretend dog. You mustn't take a dog with you so what absolutely must you have? A pretend dog. Hmm... yep, that told me something about the minds of the kids I was dealing with. Something preeeeetty damn accurate.

Ok, it's hot. Suddenly, I GET the sombrero. I have my wide-brimmed hat for work, it keeps the sun and the bugs off my face, but it isn't really enough. It's so hot now, I NEED a sombrero.

Forget the lupins, Sombrero, that's what's on my heat addled mind.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Moderato Cantabile

Ah, the decadence of a Bank Holiday morning, lying in bed on a day when you'd normally be at work. Bliss. My mum would have been 82 today, she wouldn't have liked that.

In fact I dozed rather than slept from around five onwards. When Laurence is on a late shift I like to hear some sounds from him when he comes in, the comfort of knowing he's safely home, but last night, no sounds. He was however home, I could have saved myself the wondering by going down and checking that his bike was there.

The last couple of rainy days, we have watched two films on DVD that contrasted rather starkly with Thursday's cinema offering.

The first, 'Notes on a Scandal', Alex told me to see some time ago, but this was the first week it was in the video store.
Dame Judi at full throttle, wonderful after the rather first gear Mrs. Henderson and well matched by Cate Blanchett. A slow burning story of self-destruction, a ponderous but inexorable train crash that we can see coming but are hypnotised by.
Blanchett's Sheba, beautiful, unconsciously sensual, her strength sapped by the neediness of those around her and ultimately judged by those whose needs she could no longer meet.

Dench's Barbara one of the needy, but predatory too, a reminder of the powerful destructiveness of suppressing human sexuality .... and of how necessary cats are.

The second film, 'The History Boys' was a filmed version of Alan Bennett's stage play of the same name. And thus the dialogue is not the realistic speech of good cinema, but the gentle discourse between Bennett and his audience's experience.

The moment, the pure intellectual pleasure of a term's work for Oxbridge entrance when A-levels had already been secured.
Taught and tutored by the finest, richest minds, whilst reminded that in their own heads, none of these teachers had made the Oxbridge grade.
Frances de la Tour's Mrs. Lintott had gone to Durham, Stephen Campbell Moore's Irwin to Bristol, both arguably more difficult to get into than Oxbridge in any case.
An unease which echoes the discomfort of grammar school boys trying for places at Universities still largely populated at that time by the Public Schools.

These boys both studied and yet were a moment in history.

The barely concealed homosexuality of Richard Griffiths's Hector is accepted by the boys. They buy into the richness of his teaching, the little scenarios they create in atrociously pronounced French, the cameos from films, plays, musicals, casually enacted in Hector's classroom. They are complicit because the power is theirs and they support each other, no boy reproaching another for his difference.
Everything just is as it is for that snapshot moment in their own history.

My only niggle was that in spite of Hector's frequent lessons on the wonders of the subjunctive mood, when it is called for in English, Bennett casts it aside, allowing the indicative to jar.

I enjoyed every moment of this film, I could hear Alan Bennett's voice in every line. But I went to grammar school, I loved the intellectual challenge and the enriching experience of great teachers, the more so in retrospect. And the moment was almost, but not quite, my own moment in history.
To me the film was like having a magnificent picnic in a cornfield full of harebells on a warm summer's day. Would it hold anything for a wider audience?

The proof of the pudding and all that.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Persia

Not that I'm paranoid nor nuffink, but I swear that A-mad-bad-jihad man, Pres. of Iran was in Tim Horton's and staring straight at me this morning. Of course, it could have been auto-suggestion since I have had Iran on my mind again recently.

Once again, my hair has reached that just past its sell-by date stage, where it's driving me crazy and so I need to get it cut. However, getting an appointment that is convenient to me is easier said than done. My hairdresser however is from Iran, although she always says, 'Persia'. I really don't know where Shakespeare was coming from with that whole,
'Rose by any other name...' line. Persia really does make you think of a more ancient and interesting civilisation. If you called a rose 'skunk weed' I'm pretty sure it wouldn't smell as sweet.

Anyway, Iran. So, in 'The Week' there is a pretty well written and comprehensive article on where it's at for women there. I'll give a little precis, which I remember as one of those skills they taught at school that seemed impossibly difficult at the time, but which was an invaluable lesson learnt.

At present, more than 50% of graduates are women and there are more female engineers than in the UK and more women MPs than in Germany. Women can drive, smoke, sit in mixed groups to eat and converse as equals, smoke and stand for public office. But, they have to wear headscarves in public.
Extramarital sex is tolerated because the Islamic authorities allow 'temporary marriages'.

The reason Iran is different from the rest of the Middle East is because of the religion of Zoroastrianism which preceded Islam and is a part of Persian heritage that they are fiercely proud of. One example of Zoroastrianism is that women and men fought together as warriors.

The Shahs took a liberal view of the role of women, Reza Shah (1926) for example forbade women from wearing the hijab in public. [Lucky him, British and French politicians who try to do that nowadays don't get such an easy ride.]
He gave women the right to divorce and raised the minimum age of marriage for girls from 9 to 15. Girls received the same education as boys.
Under the last Shah of Iran, women were accorded the right to vote and stand for public office. Divorce hearings were moved from religious to family courts. Polygamy was restricted and were allowed guardianship of their own children if widowed. He raised the marriage age to 18.

Then came the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and things started going backwards. The Family Protection Law was reversed, women were barred from becoming judges and from doing many other jobs.
The marriage age was set back to nine.
Segregation was introduced in the workplace, on public transport and in education. Custody of children after divorce was stopped for women. Women were monitored for lewd behaviour such as wearing lipstick and eating fruit seductively [can cause men to lose all control] and stoning to death for adultery became de rigueur, but only of course for women.

In 1997, reformist president Khatami improved matters a little, but in 1980, when Saddam Hussein attacked Iran, [the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war which would last until 1988] the response was to ban contraception and women went forth and multiplied. [How they did that on their own is a mystery].

As an unintended consequence, two-thirds of Iran's population of 70 million are now under 30 and want and expect to be part of the western world. They are very active on the internet [as you may remember from a previous post, so is Ahmadinejad who has his own blog], they listen to western rock music, watch western DVDs and host racy blogs replete with dirty jokes and acerbic wit.
In response, the mullahs have made contraception available again.

So...you can see why I need a haircut.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Repressed memories

On a whim I decided to look at The Calendar of Saints' Days, 'A Saint a day keeps the Devil away' apparently. Today is St. Dunstan's day. St Dunstan seemed like a pleasant fellow, for some reason the patron saint of armourers and gunsmiths, but just one of those saints who spent his life advising various kings and being promoted to Bishop.
As far as I can tell he died a natural death and never had to be martyred, apart from running away to Belgium at some point when he fell from the favour of King Eadwig. I'm not surprised there aren't too many Eadwigs around to be honest.

However, good St. Dunstan triggered one of those repressed memories. I had forgotten that I had sent my son Austen to a Catholic infant school, St. Francis of Assisi. And a very excellent primary school it was. But before he could go to the associated junior school, St. Dunstan's, we moved, and thus he went to another good but non-denominational junior school.
But when it came time for secondary school, I sent him to an Anglican one, Bishop Reindorp, which we of course always referred to as Bishop Reindeer.
And yet that particular son is one of the least confused people I know. Of course, he may well be very confused and keeps it well hidden, and he has turned out to be Anglo-Catholic.

A memory I will try to repress will be that of my trip to Ikea with Canadian Karen this afternoon. She rang me around lunchtime, and said something along the lines of that she had her dungarees on so we should go to Ikea.
'I'd better go to the liquor store,' said Kev, which sounded connected at the time, but I think he is trying to prepare like a good marathon runner, for the September visit of Sleepy.
Karen doesn't drink.

I insisted on going to the canteen in Ikea. I like the self serviceness of it, and I like the Swedish food. Canadian Karen can't believe I like to eat in Ikea, but at the same time she can't believe the prices, so she is torn. Another friend that she worships wouldn't be seen dead in Ikea's food place.

Eventually we got to wander around the store and as ever, we squabbled loudly. A man just in front of us was very amused and looked as though he might burst out laughing. He kept glancing at us, and finally made some comment about UBC psychology students.

Ah how I look forward to squabbling in Ikea with Sleepy in September. Not that we have ever squabbled before, so it may be more being loud and British.

As I said, Kev is preparing for the Sleepy-one's arrival. He is ordering white wine from Bayou brewing.
My own preparation for the first visit, that of my son, daughter, daughter-in-law and grandkids in July, is becalmed. I have every minute micro-planned already, so I am now tinkering and thinking about food, but for one detail.
I think my sports filter may be interfering with my attempts to book tickets for them to go to a CFL game. The BC lions website tells me it isn't selling tickets online at this point. Then they give a number of reasons why this might be. I may have to ring. I may have to ring a sports organisation.
This could get interesting.
Can a memory be suppressed before it happens?

Friday, 18 May 2007

Victoria

Bank Holiday weekend for us, in honour of Queen Victoria's birthday I believe. For some reason, Queen Vic's birthday is often accompanied by rain. And so.... this afternoon was bright and pleasantly muggy, hinting at the possibility of a thunderstorm. But a short while ago, big drops of rain started clattering and the air has cleared.

It was of course during Victoria's reign and on her instruction that British Columbia was formed as the Province it is today, snatched from the grasping hands of the dastardly Americans. Well God bless you QV, and you were a strong woman and monarch, but let us not forget that you opposed the enfranchisement of women. So in that respect, you were the very worst kind of woman, the type that undermines other women.

There is a series of Canadian history programmes currently showing, about Canadian Heritage sites. Recently there was an episode about the Heritage Site of Beaumont Hamel.
On the first of July 1916, the first Newfoundland regiment was all but massacred on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme.
This was the same regiment that was the only North American regiment to fight in Gallipoli in 1915, in general a rout in which one of my own relatives perished.
Strategically, Beaumont Hamel should have been a hard won victory, the British army, of which the Canadians were a part, had been heavily shelling the German front for days. Out of 801 men of Newfoundland, only 64 survived alive and unwounded. These men were all volunteers, many not old enough to sign up, but in a day when not everyone had a birth certificate, whatever age they claimed to be, they were.

There is a strong Irish influence in Newfoundland, to the extent that you can't tell the difference between some Newfie accents and a southern Irish one. So these were men from Newfoundland, many of Irish descent, who went across the sea to liberate France.
Were they foolhardy, foolish or courageous and altruistic?

But that's not my point. How was it, I wonder, that Québec was so under-represented in the liberation of France? Where were the French of Canada when it came to freeing France? I cannot find figures, maybe I haven't searched hard enough, but from a quote in the Globe and Mail, I get this,

"There was overt opposition to conscription and relatively few French Canadians fought in the [first world] war."
Is this because they were peace Nazis or did they see it as not concerning them? Or were they craven cowards whilst their countrymen lay down their lives to save democracy and the cradle of their own existence?

We will celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday on my own late mother's birthday. Queen Vic was in fact born on the 24th of May 1819 and she died in 1901, thus missing the First World War.

We are told that a single letter from her to her son-in-law's father, the Emperor of Germany, was sufficient to avert a second Franco-Prussian war.

I guess the pen is mightier than the sword.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Spidey

A short post to give the world my view on Spiderman 3 which we went to see tonight after drinks and grub at the Big River.

I found it clichéd, unoriginal and it didn't have to be. There were some grand themes in there that could really have been explored, and some interesting baddies, but all was painted with the garish brush of Hollywood.
I don't want to see a couple's mushy moments, I want to see how they actually feel inside. I don't want cheese on the big screen, I want it room temperature on a rice cracker.
The writing was lazy, the dialogue at times drivel. The citizens of hybrid New York a cross between the 1920's and the beginning of the third Millennium, were portrayed as babbling, gawping imbeciles, rather like the yellow-skinned denizens of Springfield.

If hidden in there was some attempt at irony or deliberate self-parody it was largely lost. The only moments of humour the interplay between the newspaper editor and his over-enthusiastic secretary, empowered with the ability to make his desk vibrate to get his attention. The French Maître D at the restaurant was also worth his paycheck.
And there were some wonderful effects. Nothing we haven't seen before of course, but always worth going to the cinema for.

Peter Parker only became interesting in his Gothic incarnation, although Toby McGuire is no heartthrob whatever hair and make-up does for him. He proved that you have to be evil to be even vaguely cool whilst lurching between Frankie Abbot from 'Please Sir' and a short, specs-less, uncool Jarvis Cocker.

I was hoping for some proper acting from Topher Grace, I feel he owes it to us for
a) Having had Laura Prepon as his girlfriend in 'That 70's Show' - he was so not worthy and
b) Having the most stupid diminutive of a name ever.
But alas, Topher's range extends as far as his own body space.

The film didn't stink. But it certainly didn't rock. I'm sure a lot of money was thrown at it, but I'd like to have seen more of that money thrown at some really good writers and ideas people.

Although Kirsten Dunst's rendition towards the end of the film of a song that I seem to remember Marilyn Munroe singing made me wish that Marilyn had been the only one to have sung it, there was an unknown (to me) treat from Snow Patrol during the credits.

In the midst of this almost banal superhero world, one pearl of wisdom from Peter's long-suffering Auntie.
'You must do the hardest thing in the world Peter, forgive yourself.'

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Alternatives

My friend Sleepy is sick as a dog again today. The way she describes the illness with dizziness and vomiting sounds like what I had three weeks ago.
The reason I mention this is because I am convinced that bugs - in the purely physical sense, can be transmitted over the internet. In spite of theories about sniffing each other's hormones, I am also convinced that we synch our periods over the internet too. The people I correspond with most frequently, seem to get bugs and illnesses just before or after I do.

But that's a stupid theory. It makes no sense. I'd like to say,
'And I'm a woman of science,' but all I can really say is,'and I'm a woman on the fringes of science, the outskirts, the suburbs.' But by Jupiter I believe in it.

Today was hot. The teacher with the afternoon programme was being hassled by a grumpy driver. Been there, know how that one goes. The thing is though, if you've booked a coach to take a field trip out in Britain, if the driver's an auld bugger, you might excuse him or her because s/he has drawn the short straw, could have got drunken footie fans, could have got lovely old ladies but what they got is your bunch of psychos.
Here, s/he is driving a big yellow thing that says 'School Bus' down the side. So if that's yer job, driving a SCHOOL BUS then don't pass on your pissiness to the poor bloody teacher.

Rob and I cleared up as quickly as possible (for Canglish speakers : cleaned up) and I got into the greenhouse on wheels to drive downtown. I had taken the precaution of getting some instructions on how to get to the Art Gallery. I hadn't taken the precaution of checking the provider of said instructions knew the difference between right and left. My bad. And since it was my bad, I paid for it by being continually in the wrong lane.
The car park I had been advised to park in was convenient enough. Until that is, I tried to get out of it as a pedestrian. I have been in one of these downtown car parks before with Kevin where we had difficulty finding how to get out. In the end I found a man in a uniform and he led me out.
I was wishing I had a bag of breadcrumbs with me so that I could find my way back.

The innards of the Art Gallery were no better. I thought I had been sent to the toilets, but no! The toilets are just a distraction, you had to go through them. I started talking to myself.
'Remember the ground floor is the first floor, don't go up too many floors.'
The lift didn't seem to have the floor I was sent to in any case, so I decided to follow someone who got in after me. Oddly, that worked as a strategy.

The talks were abysmal and dull. There were four speakers talking about their research.
One claimed that science education was too western, that it has an inbuilt bias.
What was that bias?
That time is linear, that science is objective, insists on measurability, claims to apply universally.
Er, well, duh! Yeah. That's kinda what science is yeah.
But Science Education needs to deal with an aboriginal view too.
So....what exactly does that mean?
That time isn't linear, that perception can be magical.
Sorry, what?
We must step outside of the bias.
So we must also step outside of discussing it?
Science thinks it can explain everything.
Well, it pretty much does, because that which can't be explained is outside of science. Not, however, incompatible with spirituality. Many scientists are very spiritual.

I didn't get it. It seems to be something which is always being stated, we should address the needs of the aboriginal viewpoint, and yet no answers are ever given as to how. Or even, for that matter, why.
I am quite interested in the idea of alternative viewpoints, but they have to work, they have to be put forward and able to be examined. Otherwise, to me I'm afraid, they fall into the same category as chopsticks. Completely pointless to anyone who hasn't used them all their lives as the sole means of eating food. The fork is a superior implement, a better invention and so to me, it doesn't make sense to use chopsticks.
I want to hear alternatives, but I want to decide which one is the best. And that, when it comes down to it, is how science works. That's how science always has worked. A theory is current until it is modified or replaced. Science explains how things work and because it is objective it is constantly under review, it is living, it is thriving and flourishing.

So when I talk about my stupid theory that is unscientific, I believe it only in the sense that I have observed some effects. Only if science somehow comes up with a theory that explains it will I ACTUALLY believe it. Until then, I maintain it, tongue-in-cheek.

Another alternative I want to mention today is my friend Dawn's class. Dawn, like Sleepy when she was at Mayhem, educates the students that mainstream didn't work out for as a result of a variety of reasons.
Dawn's this year's cohort graduated today. I think it's an amazing achievement to have given these youngsters a second chance, to have levelled the playing field for them. I know what a difficult job it is to keep them going through the year, be tough when tough is needed and have the wisdom to know when to bend. And I also know how fragile and on the edge alternative education is, it's the first thing to be cut, the last thing to receive funding.
Dawn's a star. It's such a contract to make, this temporary partnership between teacher and student.
This changing of lives.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Wisterious

As the temperature rose so the day became more surreal.

The wisteria in the morning sunshine exhaled the scent of sweet peas, a raft of perfume that followed me.

Walking along the road to work, I remembered a snippet from yesterday on the radio. A substitute teacher had shown a class the movie 'Brokeback Mountain' and for some reason, in spite of having some kind of degree, seemed unable to anticipate that this would result in a half million dollar lawsuit. A truly, humongously stupid thing to do but pulease, spare me the whole,
'I'm scarred by the experience,' claptrap.

The first group of the morning was interesting. In my group there were only girls. There is an activity where they have to use their sense of smell to match a sample they have been given to one of two parent 'bees'. Usually this involves a huge amount of dithering. But the group of girls, seemingly with no communication on the subject, all took the lids off their boxes and compared them with each others before going en masse to one parent or t'other. I was stunned.

By the afternoon, I was wilting. I warned Rob that from here on out he was going to be understanding why the Aussies call us whingeing poms.
The teacher had forgotten name tags, so I had to learn the group's names straight off. The only boy I couldn't understand was supposed to be English. His accent seemed completely Canadian to me. By the end of the programme, his original Derbyshire seemed to have resurfaced.

Later, I had reached the point where I had put off going to the toilet as long as was humanly possible. I had been confusing Sleepy by e-mail from my desk, using my work address. I was writing some teachers' notes for the new programme.
I got up and made towards the loo, but i was stopped by a deaf woman in a panic. The receptionist had ignored her. She was lost, she needed to get back to Chilliwack (about 100 km away), she had panicked because the traffic was at a standstill on Westminster Highway - there had been several sirens during the afternoon so possibly an accident - and she couldn't work out which way to go. She was on the verge of tears and quite literally flapping. I squeezed tighter.

But the reason the receptionist had been unable to help her was that she was having an even more surreal conversation on the phone.
'Can you send me a Park Ranger?'
'We don't have Park Rangers,'
'But you're a park,'
'A small one,'
'In Surrey they'll send out a Park Ranger,'
'That surprises me, but anyway, this is Richmond,'
'I know, I'm stuck in Richmond,'
'Stuck, in what way?'
'I've run out of gas, in Surrey they will send a Park Ranger with gas.'
'Well we don't have any and I'm sure we wouldn't send them out into the city with gas if we did. Where are you exactly?'
(Names a location about two blocks away from a petrol station.)


As I walked back across King George's park, the park where you see at various times of the day, Pakistani boys playing cricket, Chinese seniors doing Tai Chi, Sikh men playing cards and at night, teenagers smoking pot, there was a young woman, slender, long dark hair, a patterned top, plain skirt and sandals. She had a leather bound book in one hand, in the other a lead that when I followed it down, was attached to the collar of a rabbit. The bunny would hop two steps then stop, the woman would then resume her reading. I would have liked to photograph them, but how do you broach that? Please may I take your photo because.....???

Surreal is good. Tomorrow I have to drive to downtown Vancouver in the middle of the afternoon.
Then see how bitter and twisted I become.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Mercury Rising

The swift turnaround day, although looking at my diary for the next couple of weeks, there could be a few of these. I have to leave in an hour.

Clerical and admin staff can be seriously underrated. Our admin officer came back today after an absence of almost three weeks. Her replacement was fun, full of energy and ideas, and I wish she were still able to come in as well. But having our own person back is brilliant. She can be fierce when fierce is what is needed, she knows everything, she has a system for everything, at last, everything makes sense again. The answerer of questions rather than the asker.

I didn't sleep well. The temperature, tolerable yesterday, started to push the mercury up last night. Today there's a breeze, but the disembodied voice on the radio this morning threatened us with 25°.

I was however amused that The Wall Street Journal reported that Hollywood is having to find actresses capable of registering emotions on their faces from Canada and Britain, since Americans in the industry have botoxed themselves out of that part of their job. Bizarre. Perhaps that's why we are seeing so many Brits having to do an American accent, although it doesn't explain why so many Americans are being asked to attempt English accents. Perhaps the British acting profession is short on expressionless masks.

Something we all knew was that sitting through Power Point presentations where the speaker clicks a page onto the screen and then reads it to us, turns us right off. Well now it has been scientifically proven by the University of New South Wales, to literally turn our brains off. Far better to have a stimulus and then talk around it, than to read to a bunch of literate adults, what is written in front of them. The only place this is a reasonable thing to do is in Church.

Who the hell was it that said,
'Grab 'em by the balls and their hearts and minds will surely follow,' ? Dunno, can't remember but whoever it was knew their stuff.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Genes

My friend Dawn sent me a funny this morning, it was along the lines of things that you have thought if you're a teacher, and believe me, I've thought all of them. One that amused me particularly was, 'if you think 'shallow gene pool' should have its own box on the report card'.

Then Kev sent me an article which kinda proves that sometimes it's not nature but technology that deals with the shallow end.
In the UK, there have been a spate of incidents where people have blindly and blithely followed the instructions of their GPS systems and driven off a cliff, or onto a railway crossing. I suppose the fun ends when they just crash into someone else.

I'm spooked about the road. Yesterday something happened to me that was straight out of a road safety advert and I'm waiting for the third one to happen now.
I was driving down one of the main roads, Cambie, but as often happens around here, even many of the main roads have a speed limit of 50kph. Local residents seem to be unable to understand the word 'limit', thinking it means something like 'loose guideline'.
Well predictably I was driving at 50 when a few yards up ahead, a small child, around two years old I'd say, broke away from a group of mothers who were standing talking on the edge of the pavement and ran into the road. Just as in the ad, I was able to stop in time, also as in the ad, had I been even closer and actually hit the child, he may have survived being hit at 50, where he wouldn't have survived the impact at 55 or 60.

As you know, in spite of it being none of my beeswax, I am very concerned that Hillary should win the US Presidential election. I don't understand why she's getting so much flack and I wish that the first hurdle wasn't that she has to beat Barrack Obama, another very appealing candidate, although I will not be swayed.
My friend Ree told me yesterday that Obama had been berating the auto manufacturers in Detroit for producing gas guzzlers. I have to say this, what balls. He has said what needed to be said, what no-one else has ever had the guts to say, but my god, you have to admire the man.

Yesterday we finally got round to watching the Eddie Izzard, Minnie Driver pilot, 'The Riches'. And despite my fears, and also despite both Brit actors having to put on an American accent (and two different ones), it was pretty damn good. We'll certainly give it another go.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Euro-visions

Saturday morning - what could be better? Even though I don't actually sleep much later than I normally do, it's the relaxed sleep of Friday night that makes me feel refreshed. The knowing that if I wanted to, I could sleep in, that and being able to just wallow a while in bed.

Our house is not very old, so it seems bizarre that in the shower there is a soap dish attached to the wall. One of those pointless fripperies that no-one who designs such things will think about doing away with for about the next fifty years. Since it has a concave bottom, I can't even stand my shower gel in it. Stupidly showering in the semi-darkness earlier this week, I reached down to grab my shower gel and clonked my head on the poxy soap dish. It hurt like billy-o however no bruise appeared, then like a plant that has taken its sweet time to germinate, yesterday morning it emerged in forty shades of green. Well, maybe three, but very green. It would be completely covered by my fringe were it not that I have to scrape my hair back for my costume, so I had to lard on several layers of make-up, which of course was just as noticeable as the bruise since I'm not prepared to build up a several layered mask on my entire physog.
I have no idea how to spell physog, but I suspect it's short for physiognomy in some way.

Another dinosaur that I had no idea was still around, is the Eurovision Song Contest. And what's more, I could swear it used to be in March. Until that is, I was watching BBC World News t'other day. It seems that the act tipped to win is a Ukrainian Transvestite. Now that's the spirit. It looked to me like a good old thorough pisstake. Nicely played. And yet, now Russia are squinnying that s/he is making fun of them. Take it on the chin Russia, in any case, your own act looks fairly shonky. Remind me which bit of Russia is in Europe in any case, I thought part of it was in Asia minor, but then geography never was my strong suit.

A couple of days ago it looked as though the monsoon was about to start in India, but as far as I can tell, they are still waiting. Must weigh heavily that wait. No pun intended, I know it's not a matter for mirth.

I have realised, now that I have slept, that I can't be fretting about Tony's resignation. For pity's sake, he had given us plenty of warning. But the real turning point for me was a comment on Polly Toynbee's blog from an Australian woman. I apologise for pasting the whole comment, but there is no discreet link.

"I'm an Australian and have spent two periods in Britain. The first was as a tourist in the early Major years (1992-1993) and the second was 2002-2004 when I worked in Brighton.

The change in your country between those two periods I found remarkable. In The early 90s I found a Britain rather depressed sullen and down at heel. Contrast that to the latter period when the country seemed to have become so much more confident, optimistic and vibrant.

It's sometimes difficult for those living in a country to fully appreciate even very profound changes."

She sums up what I was feeling, that with Tony stepping down things would just revert to the depressing Tory years. But of course they won't, the golden labour years have wrought changes that will not be reversed and more than that, both Gordon Brown and, if it came to it, even David Cameron, will continue Tony's work and vision. I think Gordon would be another great leader in any case and I'm wondering what the perception of the Scottish Nationalists would be if he were to have a full term as premier.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Spiky

I started the day feeling really rather spiky. I think it was a combination of getting in very late and having to wake up really early to take Kevin to the airport - he had to go to Calgary for the day and since he had to take a bunch of electronics with him, it turns out he had some serious security to clear.

Someone, somewhere has coined the term 'Canglish'. On the one hand, there is something satisfying about this term, on the other, quite sad. The people in my writers' group are every bit as committed as I am to correct usage of the language. But for the parts of the day when I am constantly biting my tongue and not correcting people, no seriously, I actually can't do that here, the ability to mentally square it away as 'Canglish' soothes the torment somewhat.

And then, today, I was humbled. My obsession with protecting the English language became irrelevant.

The first group of the day to arrive for the programme was an entire class of recent immigrant Chinese children with limited English.
I'm often stopped short by the recent Chinese immigrants, many of them have experienced every bit as much difficulty having their qualifications recognised as I have, but unlike me, they don't piss and moan, they get on with becoming re-qualified.

Today's children were quiet. They didn't understand the verbal humour in the play, so Rob and I worked hard to up the physical humour, just to make them smile. They were obedient children, and they easily form a line, and yet they are scared. The line is a support for them, something they can do and understand, it's more of a linear huddle.
Our task now becomes to interpret nature for them by reinforcing what we say by using as many non-verbal cues as possible. In contrast with the class from yesterday, what one little boy couldn't believe today was that I was showing him a real frog.

The first word they probably learn is their English name. In some cases, it gets well used within the course of one programme. There was one boy whose name I had had to use constantly to get him to concentrate.

And then I was floored.

There is a point where we have flapped like bees. I then put on my tiara and tell them I am the queen bee and I am going to lead them to a new hive. I leave them with the parents or teacher, whichever adults have accompanied us and they have to count to 15 before coming to find me, a few yards further down the straight trail. The boy suddenly crumpled his face.
'You leave us?' he asked. I was pole-axed. Here they were in a forest in a strange country where they hardly spoke the language. They had given up their Chinese names. And now the person who had led them boldly into this forest was going to leave them out there. My god did that make me think.

Fortunately I was able to reassure him. The parent I was leaving with the group looked as though she could manage a Maori rugby team in her spare time, so when I had redirected his attention to her he was able to let me buzz off and happily flapped down the trail to find the new hive.

My British friend Dave, one of our friends that we went out with last night, is doing a PhD at Simon Fraser university, thus it had never occurred to me that he might have experienced any of the problems I had encountered. Dave's first degree is from Imperial College, London. The name alone is enough to draw reverence. And Dave is much younger than me, so he actually has transcripts. But what was news to me was that this itself can become a hurdle.
Dave has a good honours degree and an MSc. But he told me that when people look at his transcripts they see marks of 70%, 68%. He had gained the highest marks in his class in some of the papers, but British papers are marked differently. And he's right, often a grade A will start at 65%. But here papers are marked so that scores in the 90's are possible. Now THIS had never occurred to me.

It has been stinking hot the last three days. This afternoon was about staying inside the Nature House and then scuttling for shade. The turtles, frogs and snakes are staying somewhere cool.
So I was somewhat p-o'ed yesterday to read an article in the Graun, dissing the profligate wearing of sunglasses.
To be fair, it was one of those non-articles, a space filler, no substance, but on the other hand, I think it's a bad message to be putting out even tongue-in-cheek. I for one CANNOT go out in the sun without my shades, I find the glare too much. I have a friend here who never wears them and yet complains of severe headaches all the time.
I feel that some of the problem is that people do perceive the wearing of sunnies as slightly pseud and so don't. We can do without bad journalism making matters worse.

This morning on the news, David Beckham, a man I consider to have NO redeeming features and whose open mouth gives cause for national humiliation, was appealing for the British kiddie kidnapped in Portugal to be returned to her parents.
Again, I am humbled.

Collecting Kevin from the airport, the legendary appalling drivers of Richmond attempted to kill us.
A car from my right, attempted to occupy the exact space our car was in at the precise moment when to to my left, a taxi overtook me at breakneck speed. I'm not entirely sure how I got out of that one, but it seemed to involve some stunt driving.
Saving lives is all in a day's work. Hmm....humility was short-lived, at least it would be if only I could feel comfortable that I'd be able to do it again.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Urbanites

This evening we went to an art exhibition at a small gallery in Kitsilano. Art - paintings, interpretation of what we see in paint and other media, is quite beyond me, just as poetry is. Beyond me in the sense that I can't do it myself. Other people's art, as other people's poetry, fascinates me. It allows you to look at something you may have seen before, quite differently. And I was privileged this evening to be with other people who also had interesting insights into the art we saw, and to be able to talk to the artist. And yet it was what she wrote about her own work that had most impact on me. Speaking my language I suppose.

Afterwards we went to eat with the two friends who had come to the gallery with us. We talked, we realised afterwards, for three hours. This was a treat for me because for one rare evening I wasn't the outsider, three of us were Brits. They asked me how I was coping with the impending departure from office of Tony Blair. Badly is the answer to that one.

So part of my job is to educate urban kids about nature and the natural world. Today I asked a group what they thought they might eat if plants could not produce fruit or seeds because there were no bees or other pollinating insects.
'Orange juice,' said one.
'How do we get orange juice?' I asked, predictably she answered,
'We buy it in the supermarket.'
'How does the supermarket get it?'
'We get it from the shop.'
'Ok, well, orange juice is made from oranges,'
'But we buy it,'
'Yes, but we can buy it because someone has made orange juice from oranges.' This continued until I gave up after about ten tries.

Next I tried meat. None of them could recognise that meat came from certain animals. They somehow didn't even tie the food called 'chicken' with the farmyard animal that they must have seen pictures of.

Someone suggested that if we didn't have any fruit or veggies because there were no more bees and pollinating insects, that we could eat honey.

This kind of undermined their previous enthusiasm for the play. They are wowed when we come out afterwards, no longer dressed as bees. Super-excited, 'I like your water bottle, I like your sunglasses, I think you're a really good actor,' all came out in one rush.
This was nice, sometimes they say, 'I love your accent,' which seems very random, but not as much as some comments. It's days since someone asked me what part of Australia I was from. Beth and Dave, the Brit friends we went out with this evening, both reported the same thing.
'The law-abiding part,' suggested Dave.

Well, the clock has moved past the witching hour so it's Sleepy's birthday. Happy Birthday me old mucker. Get your arse over here !
Sleepy has promised to help me celebrate my own birthday in exactly four months. That could be one HELL of a celebration.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Moaning Minnie

So, a number of things have been pissing me off over the last few days, and I don't want to become one of those hippy types who thinks everything is all peace and love, cos frankly - it ain't, so I must vent my spleen.

Plans for world domination are NOT going well. Ségo didn't win the French election and I feel this is my fault. I didn't check her out thoroughly enough ahead of time. Her ideas and politics were good, I'd read those, but when finally I heard her speak in a debate on telly - well, let's just say she was no Angela Merkel.

Osama bin Barrack is doing better in the presidential race than I would like. Under normal circs I'd be singing his song, but not when it's threatening Hillary. Oh ho ho no. I'm not liking that AT ALL.

The US Defence Department have annoyed me. Not because they have made a big old stupid fuss over the 25 cent coin with the poppy inlaid in it, but because they have made themselves look freaking stupid by wasting time trying to work out how the terrorist device works. And they completely ignored the breast cancer one we had last year.

The Guardian Unlimited has changed it's front page, which has pissed me off no end. I don't remember the memo about this coming out because I certainly wouldn't have binned that.

Someone at work asked me why British people say 'maths' instead of math.
'What's it short for?' I asked.
'It's not short for anything,'
'Yes it is, it's short for Mathematics,' said I, I rest my case.

An unsupervised rabble of pre-schoolers wrecked the set-up for my programme.
'Oh, I didn't see them doing that,' said a woman over the top of the hive.
'That's because you weren't supervising them,'
'We didn't know it was a school programme,'
'These three brightly coloured notices on each of the benches that seal off the area say, 'Attention, School Programme in Progress,'
'I didn't see those,'
Oh dear Lord how I wish I'd had the boldness to say,
'Well that's because YOU shouldn't be out unsupervised.'

That irritation was counter-balanced by the afternoon class teacher who actually used the correct preposition after 'different'. A rare but sparkling thing to hear.

And most of all, I am fuming about an article that Sleepy sent me in which a Cardinal in Latvia wants the Gay Pride on the 3rd of June opposed and is totally out of order about gay people.
But that's not the worst of it, the buggery stupid twat has the audacity to have my name, as does another Latvian archbish. Since Janis is clearly and irrevocably a girl's name, I think that makes them both pretty gay themselves.

So here's what I'm thinking, and this would REALLY make me feel better. Let's ALL march on Riga on June the 3rd and SUPPORT gay pride. I'd send in the gunships only I don't know if I can guarantee to only take out the bigots and in any case, I have them trained on Portugal for the time being.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

My Big Adventure - Part Deux

Food came at us all weekend. And it's difficult to not eat food that is just there and prepared by someone else. From the full English onwards it just kept appearing and heaps of leftover snacks seemed to be ever-present.

Workshops kept coming at us too. Some were good, some were full of western promise but didn't deliver. Some were just a bad pick for me. But this did mean unfortunately that we didn't get to see much of the park.
Someone commented that it was good to see the signs for Manning Park back. Apparently last year the signs had been replaced by 'Yellowstone Park' ones as some movie was being filmed there.

I took a pair of binoculars from the Nature House with me and didn't have an opportunity to take them out of the case. Until this morning that is. Walking to work I noticed a bird sitting on top of a fir tree. I wished I had a pair of binoculars and lo! Or rather duh! I did. It turned out to be a juvenile bald eagle. The juveniles don't have the black plumage and the white heads that the adults have, they are similar in colour to a golden eagle, perhaps a little more golden. But they are recognisable by their shaggy 'pyjama bottoms'. They look as though they have feathered trousers on that stop just above their ankles.
I moaned to Kris later that I hadn't got a photo because just as I got my camera out it flew away, and she reminded me that many people would feel blessed just to see one and watch it fly. And she was right.

Progress back to Richmond was quicker than going up since everyone was fairly shattered, no-one was in a party mood anymore.
I think the overwhelming thing I got from the trip was the people. What extraordinary people work in this field. They are just outstanding, and so welcoming, so willing to share what they know and how they present it. When I compare that with the cool, nay frosty reception I have received from my own profession here, well, there just is no comparison.

I really would like to go back to Manning Park and spend some time exploring. But there's bears in them thar hills, I will certainly go with someone who knows what they're doing. And then I scare myself, because to some people, I am the person who knows what they're doing.

Gulp.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

My Big Adventure - Part 1

About five minutes before I was due to be picked up on Friday afternoon, bees started dropping from the ceiling of the Nature House.
How very Ridley Scott.
The beekeeper had come and filled our hive on Thursday evening, but this is a tricky operation and a few had escaped. Friday morning was fairly warm and sunny, but there must just have been a point where they had all had enough.

Transport to the conference was a bit of a moot point. I think transport as a subject right now is a moot point for Canadians in general. For the sake of argument, if I ignore Alberta, my experience is that Canadians are a fairly green bunch of people, so the lack of public transport systems here concerns them a lot. And now here were we, all working in the field of, if not environmentalism then at least the environment, and all travelling a fair distance to a conference.

The usual argument. Something like two thirds of the population of BC lives in the Coastal regions of Vancouver Island and the Greater Vancouver Area, so those who live further inland feel that everything is geared towards Vancouverites. And yet, and yet..... can we really justify NOW moving everyone from Vancouver to the interior, especially given that for many the only option was private vehicles, rather than a few people travelling to the coast?

I was fortunate enough to be able to hitch a ride on a minibus coming from Vancouver Island, but there was little of this kind of organised transport.

As we got toward our destination, we got caught up in a bear jam. On the side of the road in the mountains, a bear, just standing there, but every car, including us, had to slow down or stop to take a look or a picture. By now it was starting to snow, sleet at first, but by the time we got to Manning Park, flakes of snow. Even so, I think I had been overwarned about the cold, it really didn't warrant the number of jumpers and blankets I had taken.

Then the whole experience became annoying. We were staying in cabins, but the key to mine didn't work, nor did that of another woman in the same cabin. In fact, when compared with the one key the hotel found that did work, they were clearly the wrong keys. The hotel were not only unwilling to do anything about this, but weren't even very polite about it. I was not very polite back, not rude mind you, just not very polite, not shouting, but quite loud.
I was moved to another cabin, but was then expected to share a key with the other occupants. They were all very nice people, but that isn't an acceptable position to be in. A letter will be sent.

The first night we had a speaker who had been involved with Interpretation Canada from its inception, but although he was a good speaker, there was little content, no insights, no vision, no food for thought.

There was a campfire, but I needed my bed. I was luckier than one of the other occupants of my cabin. At three when she came back, her key wouldn't work because the last person in before her had put the deadbolt on. It was pretty damn cold at that time in the morning and she had to knock on all the cabin doors before she could find someone still awake and kipped on their floor.

This was what was outside when I opened the door in the morning.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Es donnert

Thunder and lightning, Donner und Blitz, two separate things that are really one.

Yesterday evening at the meeting at the Nature House, we could hear the torrential rain falling on the cedar shingles and the glass panels of the roof. Then a sudden deep roll of thunder. Pretty rare here I must say, and you can't expect one crack to mean you can snuggle in for an evening of it rolling around the sky, nope, once, maybe twice and that's your lot. Not, to be fair, that I could have done much snuggling in a hard chair at a board meeting.

A new TV series has been advertised starring Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver. But the premiss of the series sounds really naff, Eddie and Minnie go and pretend to be dead rich people. But it's Eddie Izzard. I'm torn. I know you'll think that the obvious answer is to watch one ep and see what it's like, but what if it's shite? What if Eddie Izzard is in something shite? I don't know if I could take it.

I'm getting ready to travel to the interior tomorrow. Er, by getting ready I mean I have a wine box. Now Canadians, unlike the British and French, are a little wary of the wine box, a tad slow to embrace. So what I have is a litre of somebody or other's family reserve in a box like a litre of fruit juice. This is being marketed as a 'French Rabbit', delightfully amusing bunny references down one side. The one litre cost almost as much as a three litre box of Stowell's of Chelsea, sadly, as I have bemoaned before, the complete lack of Sainsburys here makes it difficult to find such home comforts.
And to be fair, although I miss the sheer convenience and, yes, comfort, of having a box on the side in the kitchen, we do have Bayou Brewing. This is an enterprise which stocks various grape musts which you can buy and allow them to make into wine for you. The end result is good wine at around the same price as a vin de table at Sainsburys.
Of course the downside of this is that you have to dedicate space to storing 60 bottles of wine in your garage, or wherever, instead of just buying what you want or need with your weekly shop at the supermarket.

While I was standing in the supermarket queue earlier, I marvelled, as usual, at the garbage in the form of magazines being peddled at the checkouts. How to lose weight like Oprah; poor Oprah is putting on weight again; Katie shocker, she loves Tom, but can't handle scientology; Katie shocker, she can't carry on with Tom; Jen and Brad back together again?; whose boob job is worst?; plucky Kate after split with William; William having seriously bad hair day but being brave anyway; my secret gay life - Loretta Lynn; my secret gay life - Virginia Tech shooter.

And on it goes..... until I spied something at the end of the aisle opposite that made me snort - literally, it was more embarrassing than having my debit card rejected - there is a range of drinks called 'Beaver Buzz'. I swear it's true. I'm not sure whether it sounded more like a challenger to the infamous Brazilian Wax or an unmentionable itching disease.

I'm travelling tomorrow, be back Sunday. May you all enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Wrinkles

This little beauty is bog laurel, and it is quite, quite poisonous if ingested. So don't ingest it then I hear you say. I won't, however it grows in amongst another similar looking plants that have medicinal properties, how cunning, although I can't work out how it benefits the plant to be accidentally ingested.

I signed a petition online for pro-choice rights. It's a pretty cool website, because it scrolls through the names of all those who have signed, of course I can't not sit and watch them all scrolling past until my own name comes up, well, seriously, who wouldn't? And then there is the fridge light phenomenon, does it still scroll when I'm not watching it?

There is a very short, sharp little article from Zoe Williams in the Guardian, showing the misogyny that Hillary is being subjected to. Once again, it seems, Hillary cannot be taken seriously because of her husband's wandering willy. Well, to be honest, I didn't even think Bill's wandering willy made him any less of a politician, so I sure as hell don't think it affects his wife's suitability.

I have received a totally unsolicited horoscope for May and it is worrying me. Its impact is lessened by the bizarre syntax of the thing and the author's inability to capitalise the word 'I'. Apparently, until the 14th of May I am at risk of being falsely accused of something. But here's the thing - maybe I wouldn't even know! Being falsely accused is bad enough, but not knowing about it would really suck.

So, Boots the Chemist are expecting a stampede for their face cream that really does beat the signs of ageing. The cream has apparently been endorsed by none other than the BBC2 Horizon programme. But here's the thing, wrinkles are only part of the story of ageing. Can the miracle cream stop your face from succumbing to gravity? I think not.

I have to go back to work for a meeting. Now that's a wrinkle I'd like to iron out.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Quote, Unquote

I know it's cheating, but I just can't help myself, there are so many funny quotes I want to share, and they are all from 'The Week' so if you already subscribe, don't bother to read.

In their 'Wit and Wisdom' column, this was so nicely done, first, George Bernard Shaw as quoted in New Scientist.
'Love is a gross exaggeration of the difference between one person and everybody else.'

Then John Osborne in the Torygraph,
'George Bernard Shaw writes like a Pakistani who learnt English when he was 12 years old in order to become a chartered accountant.'

I keep re-reading this one from Martin Rowson, in The Independent on Sunday, and chuckling,

'My father always said you should never join a paramilitary organisation - even one with woggles.'

In response to the snippet about the French trekker in the Amazon, for whom almost the last straw was eating undercooked spider, someone from the British Tarantula Society wrote to the Torygraph with the opinion that it was not that the spider was undercooked, simply wrongly cooked. It must apparently be placed on the charcoal so that the hairs that cover the rear of the abdomen are burnt off. You'll be interested to know that properly cooked bird-eating spider doesn't taste like chicken, but rather like 'a fish stock cube without salt'. Eesh.

Liz Hurley, I feel your pain. Not only was your earlier life tainted by your spending several good years sleeping with the horrible Hugh Grant, but now, just when things were going so much better, a freak wedding incident involving the failure to remove footwear, compounded with drinking alcohol and kissing your bridegroom may mean a three year spell in the brig for insulting the religious beliefs of Hindus. You shocking hussy you, whatever next, cartoons maybe?

In Science news, if you want to influence the gender of your offspring, then either smoke, or don't smoke, which I guess all of us do anyway. If a woman is a smoker at the time of conception, then she is one third less likely to conceive a boy child. If the father is a smoker too, then the chances of having a boy are halved. So, no idea why that should be, but the research comes out of Liverpool, so it must be true.

And before you even GET pregnant, or more to the point, get someone else pregnant, don't be too successful or too good-looking. Research has shown that women favour less successful men over handsome high-fliers. Oh, they like the lookers alright, just not the rich ones. It seems that in the study, the handsome and wealthy were ranked as low as the poorest men.

And finally, as they say, a telegram sent to Sigmund 'Siggie' Freud, with an unfortunately misplaced space,
'The rapists of Philadelphia send their congratulations and good wishes.' Freudian slip perhaps?