Saturday, 30 June 2007

1997 And All That.

Pandas are nice, but Democracy is better.
I love this quote, I have been mulling it over all day, and it just makes me smile, a little, internal, evil smile.
I heard this on the BBC news this morning, they were talking about the two giant pandas that have been given by the People's Republic of China to Hong Kong, to 'celebrate' the tenth anniversary of the handover of HK to China.

People that they interviewed however had mixed views on the past ten years. Mixed..... but in a consistent way.
The rich seemed to be richer, and the poor were poorer. And what they really all wanted was to be able to hold democratic elections. Still, they have their pandas to keep them warm.

Egypt has banned female circumcision.
What? Egypt? People go on holiday there. Surely people don't go on holiday to places where women are routinely mutilated do they?
No, relax, it was made illegal in 1997.
Phew. how come it has been banned now?
Well, a 12 year old girl has just died as a result of it.
But, hasn't it been illegal for ten years?
Yes, well, except in exceptional circumstances.
Do what? What exceptional circumstances could there possibly be that might warrant mutilating a young woman?
Well...pretty much seems to be 'being egyptian'.
From the Guardian,
"In 2005, research by Unicef found that 96% of Egyptian women aged 15 to 49 who had ever been married reported they had been circumcised. The Egyptian government says a more recent study found 50.3% of girls aged 10 to 18 had been circumcised."
And they don't even have pandas. Progress is slow, very, very slow.

And in Canada, progress is slow in cell phone technology, service and pricing. I know, I know, I've said this before, but it was brought home to us once more today.

My son Laurence went out and spent $100 on a pay-as-you-go phone. Ok, except that we don't have that here, what we have is non-contract phones.
Again, as I've said before, for the non-contract phones to stay active, you have to buy a voucher every month, but these aren't like the vouchers you buy in Britain which you just use until you've finished them up.
No, no, no. If you buy a $20 voucher, in 30 days, your voucher runs out, so if you have only used up $5 worth of calls, well, turns out you made some enormously expensive calls.
And you are automatically charged an amount for 911 calls. So let me run that past you again. YOU ARE CHARGED FOR EMERGENCY CALLS, and that's even without making any.

In the Vancouver Sun in March, they ran an article in which they showed that Canada had the highest cell phone charges among the 30 member nations of the OECD.

"Canadian cellphone bills average $56 per month, and have increased by six per cent since December 2005.

By contrast, Vodafone -- Europe's largest cell-phone provider -- charged an average of $38.28 per month across the 17 countries it serves, and has decreased its prices by 11 per cent since December, 2005."

One of our biggest providers still doesn't have GSM and one of our others has only recently switched to it.

We still have a system where most users are charged minutes for incoming calls.

We explained all of this to Laurence and took the cell phone back to the shop. They gave him his money back with no questions asked.

So we may have shit mobile phones and no pandas, but we do have democracy.

Friday, 29 June 2007


Fireweed, Rose Bay Willow Herb, same thing. First Nations people used to eat the roots and it's one of the first plants to reappear after a fire.

'The threat from terrorism is real and enduring.' Yes, it bloody well is, lest we forget, lest we become complacent.
The bomb discovered in London yesterday, may be the work of Al-Quaeda, but this is horrific and well-trodden territory for Britain.

Yesterday, the training room where the course was held, had a whole wall of windows, outside the windows, a balcony with a view out over the City. I had my back to the bank of windows, I was almost leaning back against them, but I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. A boom. A film crew were out on the balcony interviewing David Suzuki. And I had forgotten that.

First Aid hadn't changed very much since we did lifesaving at school, blew up the chests of Rescusiannies, counted how many times we hit the poor, plastic chests in ratio to blowing into the lifeless mouths. Except that now it's more hygienic, there are special masks to put over the torso's mouth. And here in Canada there is an additional risk to health from breathing someone else's air, they are not routinely vaccinated against TB as every school child is in Britain. This was Fireman Dave's main reason for wanting to use the mask.

According to 'It must be true I read it in the tabloids' in The Week, in 1994, researchers in the US Air Force asked for $7.5 million in order to develop an interesting twist on chemical warfare. The plan was to release a high performance air born aphrodisiac which would be dropped behind enemy lines and would ensure they all made peace and not war, in short, a Gay Bomb, the idea being that they would all be attracted to each other.
Worthies at the Pentagon must be kicking themselves that they didn't see the project through to fruition now, it would be the most perfect weapon against the Taliban and Al-Quaeda.

I have often complained about the low standard of journalism in our local freesheets. Yesterday, a piece of reporting plummeted to a new depth.
Two local heroes rescued two young women from an overturned car, this is how the story started, accompanied by a picture of the two heroes smiling.
The article then went on to say how the vehicle that the 'heroes' had been driving had 'broadsided' the vehicle the two women were travelling in.
SO at this point I went 'huh? que?' Already mentally composing my scathing letter to the paper in which I point out that people who ram into other people's cars and then feel overcome by remorse and so rescue them are not heroes.
But wait, there is more.
Lastly we learn that in fact the young women were trying to find their friend's address while driving instead of watching the road and pulled out illegally and with no warning in front of the heroes' car.
Surely those infamous Shakespeare producing monkeys are writing this stuff.
The journo or journos don't get the use of emotive language. They use language, but not meaningfully.
Another example of this which had me staring at the paper a short while ago was when they used the expression 'crawled out of the woodwork' not for evil or unpleasant people, but for some story where Good Samaritans or other helpers had appeared when needed.

The Observer wrote to me for no apparent reason.
It must be global warming.
Thank goodness for fireweed.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

First Aid

For those of you who know him, and/or are interested, this is Laurence's latest tattoo, which I tried to pretend indifference to, then tried to dissuade him from getting, then asked him at least to wait until Sleepy was here, whose advice with regard to tattoos he has previously listened to and taken, but no.
So here it is, he insisted I should photograph it so everyone could see it.
Hear me sigh.

You know, it pisses me off when there's no way of getting information except from people who are in the know.
I was scheduled to go on the First Aid course today and it was at City Hall. I assumed straight off that there was nowhere to park at City Hall, and in fact Kris at work said to me that the only place you could park all day was on the top floor of the Cultural Centre's car park.
And halfway through the morning, people had to rush out and re-park their cars because their three hours was up. Yet the person who organised this course, who works at City Hall, must have had this information, but didn't think it might be nice to pass it on.

The other thing that it was impossible to do was to get up or down in the lift at City Hall without being a city employee. So everytime I or any of the others who also didn't actually work there needed to do so, we had to wait for a grown-up with a pass to operate the lift. It was the same for the doors on the stairs.

The day was however, fun. Our instructor was Dave the Fireman. He had a level of literacy similar to Derek Zoolander, for example he wrote on the board 'your' when it should have been 'you're' amongst other similar faux pas.
He also repeatedly failed to acknowledge the existence of adverbs and actually wanted us to repeat the words, 'if someone isn't breathing good enough,' - there, you see the Derek Zoolander similarity?
But he WAS a good instructor and he made it fun. And seriously, CPR and artificial respiration are just NOT fun. The day went quickly. There was a written test at the end, which Fireman Dave didn't approve of so he went out of the room so that we could confer over the answers - just as well for me, many of them seemed ambiguous, several seemed to be contrary to what we had just learnt and others were not covered by the course at all, but between us we got them all, and since we marked them ourselves, we could have filled them in at the end. Fireman Dave had already given out the certificates anyway.
Dave had research to back up his dislike of the written test. It seems that as we get older, so our performance in test situations is increasingly adversely affected by stress. He was good at making us feel there was no stress.

Another course participant, a recent immigrant was working as a security guard when he had three separate degrees in computer science from an American university.
I can't imagine why he had moved to Canada apart from the fact that his name was Mohammed which could be a bit of a handicap in the current climate.

After the course, since I was parked right opposite the 'Aquatic Centre' which you might think would be some kind of aquarium, I went swimming. I had brought my swimming stuff - which presumably will soon be known as my 'swim stuff'- because I knew I would be near there. (Some people here, and I emphasise some, refer to a waiting list as a 'wait list' and I noticed that the changing room for the pool was called a 'change room'.)

The Aquatic Centre turned out to be less lovely on the inside than it appeared from the outside. Only one of the several pools was open. This was a main pool with two lanes sectioned off for people who actually went to the swimming pool to swim.
Or to the swim pool to swim.
But I'm ahead of myself. To start with I would have suffered extreme embarrassment were it not for the fact that only I spoke English.
I thought I was being helpful when I tried to stop a gentleman from going into the ladies' toilet.
'This is the ladies',' said I helpfully. When he replied to me in some version of Chinese I grasped from the timbre of his voice that he was in fact a she.

The changing room was pitiful. It was also ..... full of fat, naked Chinese women. This is one of the few situations in life when a person can sincerely thank the Great Goddess for myopia.
It seems so strange to me. The Chinese at times seem such very private people, Kevin has found that co-workers will rarely talk about their personal lives. On the other hand these women seemed completely unabashed at performing quite intimate washing and drying operations in public.

In the pool, things were no better. Well, no, to be fair, they all were clothed, and really, more clothed than many white people. Not for the Chinese gentleman the closely fitting Speedo.
Gott sei Dank.
But they had noodles. Now, I've never actually seen these things in Britain, but that's not to say they don't exist. These are brightly coloured pieces of tubing made from some kind of hard foam rubber, the kind that has replaced polystyrene as packaging material.
I had seen them in Stupor-store, and had been told they were 'pool noodles' but never seen one in operation. The lady I had tried to stop from going into the ladies' toilet had one making a U-shape under her crotch. I have no idea whether these things keep you afloat or whether there is some kind of outrageous use for them that I don't even want to think about, but they didn't seem to be in short supply.

There were rules for the pool. You stay to the right when swimming down your lane, do not stand at the end, but turn and swim back, keeping to the right. If you were in the playing-around part of the pool, you didn't interfere with the swimming part.
All of these rules were displayed in big, clear writing. And had people followed the rules, all would have gone well, but no, of course they didn't, so I did my 20 lengths as best I could and then got out.

I went to my locker to take out my towel and shower gel. But wait! The locker system is quite different here. The quarter that I had put in was not returned to me as in every other swimming pool I've ever been to, no, in order to get my stuff while leaving my clothes in the locker, I had to find another quarter.
And then of course, the other dilemma. Was I to be the prissy little Englishwoman who alone kept her cossie on in the communal showers?

Damn right.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007


The patio smells divine, the seeds that Alex and Ben gave me for Mothers' Day back in March have grown and bloomed.

I brought back two leaflets from the mountain yesterday, one on bears, the other on cougars. Not the middle-aged sex-mad women, the mountain lions. The leaflets offer conflicting advice.
To avoid bears, don't take your dog on a walk in the mountains, because dogs can lead bears to you.
To avoid cougars, do take your dog on a walk in the mountains, because dogs can scare cougars away.

I put my leaflets down on the desk and crunched a yellowjacket wasp with my wrist. It retaliated by injecting me with venom. Fortunately, my first aid does extend to reaching for the First Aid box and cracking one of the little vials of anti-sting. This is amazing stuff, my wrist really caned and came up in a big, red welt. Five minutes after the anti-sting, all back to normal..

Tomorrow I have to go on a real First Aid course. I haven't done this since I was in the Girl Guides, we tend to go in for division of labour in Britain, so long as someone has First Aid, you're ok. Here, everyone seems to be expected to do some kind of certificate in it. Unfortunately what this leads to are courses that are the equivalent of common sense.

Yesterday, when I was driving to the supermarket, we were stopped at traffic lights. Coming across the intersection was a car being driven by a man with his small daughter sitting on his lap. The tot's hands were on the steering wheel and the man's weren't.

Further on, and I'm sure in an unrelated incident, an old lady was lying in the middle of the road. She was surrounded by people helping. Now this was a genuine multi-cultural event. The lady was white, but her rescuers were Asian and Chinese. The stupid city doesn't need to invent things when things like that just do happen naturally.

In the supermarket, I noticed that the signs at the end of one of the aisles promised 'tin vegetables, tin fruit, tin meat'. Presumably these can only be eaten by tin men.
I also assume the signs were made up by someone with a tin brain.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

More Beauty

So....just in case I haven't yet completely managed to convince my friend Karen to come out and stay with us next year, here are some more pictures of beautiful BC - all within an hour's drive from where I live.

We found ourselves at the top of the mountain by mistake. I swear that's what happened. The plan was that I would drive the two summer school leaders to Mount Seymour where they are taking a group of kids in two weeks' time. So, it seemed logical that when we came to the bottom of Mount Seymour, we should drive up the winding mountain road. Only when we got to the top - where as you can see there was still snow on the ground, we realised the trail we were looking for, wasn't there. A Provincial Parks guy told us to go back down the mountain and turn right.

There were confusing signs along the side of the road, reminding you to drive slowly because of deer. That wasn't confusing, but the camel, rhino and elephant on them was. Made us look though. I also still haven't figured out the message on the bear-proof garbage bins, 'A fed bear is a dead bear.' Hmmm.

Eventually we found the lake trail and that was also beautiful as in fact you can see.
We finished back at the Nature House eating Dairy Queen sundaes.

The weather today was pretty damn nice too, although now the trees are blowing about. If I were in Britain I'd know a storm was coming but here, it could just as easily blow itself out.
I feel kinda spoilt having had such an idyllic day, good thing it ended by my managing to spill hummingbird syrup in my hair, but then that's another story.

Monday, 25 June 2007


It hath been a busy few days and no mistake and it doesn't look set to ease up either.

On Thursday, when I went on the seniors' tour with Kris, we had a medical crisis. Betwixt moving from one breathtaking vista to another, one of the ladies had a 'diabetic event'. Basically she passed out, came round, tried to stand up and then collapsed while Kris was trying to help her. We called the emergency services.
Here, whichever emergency service can respond most quickly, does, so both times that we have had to call them out, the fire brigade have turned up first. They are trained in first aid and, I suppose, triage. I have no idea whether we have this same system in Britain, but every time I've ever had to call an ambulance there, you bloody well had to wait until the ambulance got there. The system here is, in my opinion, better.

In the evening, we went to a Carribean restaurant. Interesting choice, thought I but oh well, it's somewhere different and of course hideously difficult to get to but whatever. And it was friendly, had a menu full of different rums, a typically laid back attitude to....well, everything really, but here's the thing, or, if you like, da ting. I decide I will order the most Carribean of dishes, jerk chicken and rice and pea. Now me, I'm not much of a cook, so this hypothetical scenario is dead certain not to happen, but say I were to open a British resto, then I'd make bloody, BLOODY sure that my bangers and mash, my fish 'n chips and my roast beef and Yorkshire were absolutely spot on.
The jerk sauce was good, but I'm thinking - out of a bottle. The rice and pea were dry, no-one had spent three days making that bad boy.

Tonight I had a half an hour turnaround. Just time to say hi and bye to Kevin and Laurence. Mañana, Mount Seymour for a field trip with the summer school leaders.

So at the weekend, we watched two films, 'Little Children' with Kate Winslet and no-one else of any consequence. It was good. She, of course, was superb. The second was 'One Good Year,' with Russell Crowe. Like La Winslet, he can hold a film. Just as well really, this film was nice, beautiful cinematography, some great supporting cast but....ehh, it was Ridley Scott, so it should have been stunning.

In Kabul, two women journos have been murdered, basically for being women. THAT'S worth fighting against.
Turkey have astonished me most this week. They want to get into the EU. They know that Angela doesn't like them very much. So to ingratiate themselves even less, they threaten to invade the Kurdish enclave in Iraq. Hmmm, let me think about that. The part of Iraq that is the most vulnerable because Sadist Hussein attempted and pretty much almost succeeded in eradicating it, yes a bit of genocide before breakfast certainly gets the blood circulating, why not go back in and finish the job off?
Even the wishy washy countries in the EU might be able to see a problem with that.

Finally, the statistic of the week - the average age for a first kiss for a Chinese person is 23.
Quote of the week, Lily Tomlin quoted in the Calgary Herald and then in 'The Week', 'I always wanted to be somebody but I should have been more specific.'

Sunday, 24 June 2007


They'll let you in, but getting out was no party. Ten minutes to cross the border on Friday evening, almost two hours to get back today. If someone could think of a way to streamline a few hundred yards of West 49, North American emissions could be slashed straight away.
Oddly, the queues through customs and immigration between England and France have been thusly streamlined.

The weather at the weekend has see-sawed between pounding rain and steaming sunshine, although perhaps the rain end has seen more action. That being said, everytime I have scurried out to get into the pool because I want to swim in the rain, it has stopped, then as soon as I'm out, it starts up again.

Swimming by moonlight was pretty good though, the herons with their pterodactyl flap passing overhead.
I love swimming, but rarely make the time to do it. I like to do a certain number of lengths and then get out, which is why I like the swimming pools at the complex. The recreational hanging around in the pool holds no interest.
And whenever I swim, I can hear the voice of my PE teacher at school, reminding us how to kick properly, to synchronise our arm and leg movements, to put our head under the water and breathe out, then come up and take in air, not to gasp, but to develop a natural rhythm to it.
I don't swim like that, but I like to have the ideal to aspire to. The voices of so many great women internalised.

I can't say I liked school, but I sure as hell gained the most incredible grounding from it.

Friday, 22 June 2007


Uncle Sam for the weekend. Be back Sunday.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Just ....

Just photos today I'm afraid. I went to help Kris on a Senior's trip to two locations on the other side of Vancouver and yet again had my breath taken away by the sheer beauty of the place.
Tonight we have a dinner in Vancouver with people from work,so I have to get off my backside pretty quickly.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Marco Polo

I walk to work and I pass Chinese people, mainly seniors, walking the other way. We smile and nod and say, 'Good Morning.'

On Monday, our events programmer at work said,
'I need someone who walks to work in Richmond to write a short piece about walking for the paper,' I pretended to look around, but I knew there was only one candidate for this. And I had to write it there and then. Then I had to have a photo taken.
I can hardly contain my excitement until the eight page spread on walking comes out in our badly written local rag. So we have a rag whose standard of journalism is somewhere around what a year seven pupil could come up with, doing eight pages on something that many people may think is about as exciting as watching paint dry, and in it there is a hastily penned piece by me, in which I say that walking helps me to keep my weight down, accompanied by a picture taken from a bizarre angle that looks up at my stomach which seems to approach the camera like a huge, wobbling beer belly. Well, disproportionately large at any rate.

So this morning, as I walked to work, and smiled, and nodded, a Chinese man approached me with a dog on a lead and the dog looked exactly like Tintin's dog Snowy. Well, apart from the fact that this particular dog was black. But it did look exactly like Snowy otherwise.
'Oh, your dog looks just like Tintin's dog!' say I, thinking as the words passed my lips that the man wouldn't have known the old-fashioned Belgian hero and his trusty canine companion. I needn't have worried, the man only knew the word 'dog', however, we managed an entire conversation of nods, smiles and pats on the dog's head.

Around ten, I got my wellies on to walk one of the quite overgrown trails. I got just outside the Nature House and encountered a group of Chinese people, standing stock still as though hypnotised by something invisible in the air.
My 'Excuse me please,' broke their spell, and one woman must have noticed my wellies and realised I was a member of staff.
'Oh,' she said, 'you work here?'
I nodded,
'Please, is this hummingbird?' I peered at where she was pointing. I listened, but could neither see not hear anything. They all pointed and there, finally, I could see hovering in the air, a tiny wasp-like hoverfly.
It was funny, but I felt bad, only two years ago I had never seen a hummingbird, never heard one either. I showed them the hummingbird feeder and took them into the Nature House, I knew I had a dead one in my kit for one of the programmes. They were enchanted to see the dead bird, they took pictures of it lying in my hand, I showed them a picture in one of the books. They photographed the dead hummingbird lying on the picture. They were such a lovely family, with very little English between them, but very game.

Later, a boy who had been at one of the school programmes, brought me in a baby Northwestern garter snake.
'He's called Slither,' he said,
'We used to have a snake called Slither,' said Kris,
'Well he has a back-up name,' said the mum, 'Marco Polo,'
'Marco Polo it is then,' I said.

Kris and I decided he should go into the tank currently being occupied by Freckles who had to be quarantined after Annie tried to eat him. I picked Freckles up but he hung limply in my hand, I fear he isn't going to make it. Well, dammit, I know he isn't. His wounds are necrotising.
But now we have Marco Polo and we'll keep him away from the big old girl snake, however intrepid an explorer he may turn out to be.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007


Good bloody grief. Let me get this clear. Britain honours one of her great writers with one of her great honours, and for some reason, twats who have nothing to do with either literature or Britain, get all aeriated yet again. What tf is wrong with these people?
And you know what? Despite the appalling, and I mean APPALLING reaction from Pakistan, should she ever suffer a horrible natural disaster again, the people of Britain would put their hands in their pockets once again and help them out.
Still think cricket should be off the menu though.

Eesh, I didn't have my specs on and read that Israel were willing to negotiate with Abba. What for I wondered? Don't they have their very own spangly-clad artistes?

So, we're supposed to get all wet around the knickerline because Sarko's appointed a woman are we? Well, not just any woman, but a former synchronised swimmer. But wait! Before you think badly of the French for electing such a silly person (read it with an Antoine de Caulnes accent) she wasn't elected, no, she's in the cabinet, but not elected. Bit like the majority of us on a Friday night then.
And the French National Rugby coach will also be there, he is to be Secretary of State for Sport. Yes, they have a minister for sport. I wonder if they have one for drinking, and if not why not? I think we should be told.
Oh, and you know that thing where I was trying not to interfere in the affairs of state of other countries? Doesn't apply to the French.

Or to President Bush's paltry and pathetic poke at matters environmental.'s all a matter of how you word things, had he made a point on his mission statement to no longer be top of the league of polluters, then he would have scored, his simian arms could have shot up in the air and he could have shouted 'goal!' followed by a five minute session of air punching on hearing the news that China has now moved into top polluting slot by virtue of its CO2 emissions. Oh Glory be!

Following my own post about men not being the enemy, and since I am re-writing the teachers' notes to go with our Bees in the Bog programme, I am grappling with how the teachers should deal with the rather moot subject of why the female bees do all the work and they don't even bother to produce many males. In a hive of 50,000, there are just 300 drones. And the problem gets worse! After wrestling with it for a couple of hours, I went to bounce some ideas off Kris, and it seems it all boils down to racial purity. Yes, honeybees are incestuous lady Nazis. I may be better off letting all the mums go home muttering,
'See, it happens everywhere, the women do all the work and all the men want to do is copulate,' which they do at the moment, just not quite as politely as that, and I haven't bothered to point out to either mums or kidlets that the drone only mates once and then his 'nads get ripped out so he dies. Hmm...come to think of it, that may be the answer to yesterday's little problem.

But I can't not comment on the story that Katie Holmes is so far up her own backside that she is 'consulting lawyers' about a would-be porn star who has changed her name to Katee Holmes so that she can pop her cherry online and with maximum attention. Oh! Perhaps I've misjudged the less interesting one, possibly she is just trying to ensure publicity for her copyKat.
Hold that thought.

Monday, 18 June 2007


Series three of the New Doctor Who has finally arrived here and I am liking the new assistant, although Val Barlow from very early Corrers trying to ingest someone through a straw and uttering the words,
'Oh, I'm a survivor Mr. Stoker,' was rather surreal as were the invaders who looked for all the world like Vogons.
Mixed metaphors, not really, but mixed sci-fi, oh yes. And they are less cruel than the Vogons, they summarily execute the guilty rather than reading them poetry so awful it produces a long, slow death.
And a wonderful referential joke coming from an advert for a cold sore remedy.
'Where do they come from?' asked Martha, referring to the motorcycle helmeted aliens, 'the planet Zovirax?'

But fact, reality, the actions of human beings, are more vile and monstrous than fiction. The breaking story today of an international paedophile ring, master-minded from the UK, simply defies everything. Creatures masquerading as human beings who live and walk among us and who commit unspeakable crimes, just dwarfs everything.
It prompts everyone to sin because none of us could forgive these grossly deformed beings and most of us could come up with some unspeakable punishments for them. Punishments that would go on horribly for days, weeks if possible.
Creatures whose very existence turns the casual sinner into Satan's helper.

Sunday, 17 June 2007


Ah...Marsala, who knew ?

Today I mooched. And while I was in a book shop, I met a confused Chinese gentleman from Singapore. He was very polite, we were both looking at dictionaries, but he, as I would have done, was trying to get the one he had looked at back into place and the ones around it tidied up.
I reached for one near it, then we had the usual British, 'sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry.'
The man was looking for a Canadian dictionary with phonetic pronunciation, but couldn't find one.
'Barrage,' he said, 'I was always taught to say BArrage but here, it sounds as though they say, 'baRRAGE.'
'That's true,' I said, the same thing with garage, and I pronounce them both the way you have been taught, but then my English is RP.' Of course, that's how he was taught in Singapore, by teachers with RP English accents. He had lived and studied in Britain, near Bristol, but had gone to the university of Bath. We talked about the amazing architecture there.

'Your English is very good,' I told him, 'you shouldn't worry about it, you don't need to reproduce the pronunciation, just understand it.' Then we talked about the BBC, the touchstone of correct pronunciation.
So there we both were, neither of us quite got it, this Canadian thing, but we both understood each other.

The arrival of almost all of the rest of my family is now five weeks away and I am getting pretty excited. It's like Advent. I should have a special mid-year Advent calendar - the sort with choccie in of course.
And yet for Austen, five weeks until they come over also means only five weeks of term. There is some blindspot that teachers have where the summer term is always going to be the term when you catch up on all the backlog. And it never, ever, EVER is, because everyone thinks the same thing, so all the days you think you will have get packed by other people with the things they didn't have time to fit in during the rest of the year, so I can really, REALLY empathise with him right now.

My friend Dawn is just three weeks away from a trip, funded by a Fulbright-Hays grant to study natural disasters and health issues in Bangladesh. I'm excited about her trip too.
Dawn, who I've mentioned before, is an alternative High School teacher, but has kept her studies alive and has a tremendous range of interests.
Dawn and 11 colleagues are going with three Geography University teachers, so I imagine it is going to be a pretty amazing and rewarding trip.

When my sister and I were quite young, maybe I was ten or eleven, my parents looked into the possibility of emigrating to Canada. Her sister was here in Toronto and a few years prior to that, my nan had visited her. She came back with tales of how everything was bigger in Canada, everything.

But we - obviously - didn't ever make the move. An irony really, since my father was an engineer and I'm sure would have made a good living here.

I am glad I didn't miss out on a British grammar school education, that was a real privilege, and I wouldn't want my children to be anyone other than who they are, but I do sometimes think about how much both of my parents would have loved this country individually.

My mother would have loved the people, the social aspects, being near her sister, although to be with one sister she may have had to leave another, and perhaps that factored into the final decision.
My father would have loved the natural world here, the rivers and mountains, the flora and fauna.
But we didn't come then, and this isn't where we would have come to in any case, although I'm sure at some point we would have made it out here to visit my dad's cousin on Vancouver Island.

But sometimes I wonder.....

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Sacred Cow

In Lahore, a couple has been gaoled because they lied about the husband's gender. Well, not lied exactly, just didn't give the answer the Law there required. The husband had been born a woman and had undergone two transgender surgeries. This apparently offended both Pakistani and Islamic Law.
I think someone should get in touch with their god occasionally.

Meanwhile, in Blighty, Cambridge's new mayor and mayoress are a lesbian transgender couple. I don't know what that means, did they both start out male and are both now female or t'other way round? It doesn't really matter of course, except that I would argue that we get rid of the term mayoress. Mayor and partner would cover all eventualities.

What I would say however, is that we should continue to play cricket with Cambridge, but not with Pakistan, not until they stop being stupid anyway.

In any case, it wasn't cricket, but the female orgasm I wanted to write about. It kind of becomes more important with transgender surgery.

Last week, Sleepy sent me a light-hearted article in which the writer tested out a new diet supposed to restore a woman's orgasms in two weeks. I'm sure we can all remember when Sex and the City's Samantha lost hers. For the life of me however I can't remember how she got them back, nor do I particularly care since it was a TV show and thus at the whim of the writers.

The female orgasm is a feminist Holy Cow. As in Holy Cow! That was amazing! Or..not.
The question, 'why do women have them?' seems insulting all on its own, but it does kind of open a can of worms.
There have been many theories.

'Because we're essentially the same, slightly modified but the same.'
'But in Nature,' oh... whenever, 'but in nature' rears its ugly head there's going to be trouble, 'in nature, other female primates don't have orgasms, so why do women?'
'Oops! Seems they do...just, only with other females.'
'Er...what? Hmm...that kinda hoops the whole 'homosexuality is against nature' argument!'
'Pretty much, yep.'
Try a different tack then....

'It's needed to persuade women to have babies...'
'Hmmm...not so much, in societies where women's ability to experience orgasm is removed by men, fertility is higher,'
'Yeah, but that's just stoopid, in those places, women are repressed, deprived of personal freedom,'
'Sure, but orgasms don't result in increased childbirth.'

'Ah...but....they do increase the chances of conception, research shows that, if a woman climaxes just before or after her male partner ejaculates, the cervix dips to allow more sperm in,'
'Well, hmm..yes, interesting. So what you're saying is that in societies where women have more freedom, the rate of childbirth often goes down,'
'It does seem that way, yes,'
'But then women are more empowered in their relationships,'
'Stands to reason, yes,'
'So.....then they demand to have their sexual...whatevers...met,'
'That....kinda describes it, in a lame, inadequate way, yes,'
'And when women have the sex they want, then men do too,'
'Well, yes, unless the sex men want is the unpleasant non-consensual kind,'
'True, of course, that's true, but as a general rule...'
'Sure, as a general rule.....'
'So then men and women are having MORE sex, possibly, but fewer babies....'
'As you say, possibly,'
'So when they do decide to sprog, the female orgasm, so well-practised by then, actually helps them to conceive,'
'Mmmmm...well, it's a thought,'
'Yes, just a thought,'
' a more egalitarian society kind of...part of evolution?'
'Interesting, you mean, because there's already something in our bodies to deal with just such an eventuality?'
'Sort of, yes,'

'Of course, there was that theory that the female orgasm was designed to prompt women to mate with as many different partners as possible, so that each would search out the best orgasm, then men wouldn't kill the offspring because no-one would know whose was whose...'
'Seems a bit unlikely,'
'Yeah, it does really, men don't normally go around doing that anyway, that's more.... lions,'
'So when was that theory around?'
'70's I think,'
'Mmm...bit post-hippy, maybe some bad drugs,'
'Who knows?'
'Yeah, who knows?'

'Fancy trying the diet then?'
'Any drinking involved?'
'Er...nope, some choccy though,'
'Yeah, go on then, any excuse to eat chocolate.'
'And if it doesn't work, then at least you can have more chocolate,'
'So do you need this diet?'
'Not really, just want an excuse for more choccy,'
'Good point.'

Friday, 15 June 2007


I'm going to recount something that happened today and make no comment on it, because none is necessary.

At around 15.00, Kris and I both came out of our offices because we heard small feet running back and forth in the Nature House. There was a two-year old girl there and no sign of a mother.
'Where's your mummy?' we asked, but she seemed too young to answer.
'Is she in the washroom?' asked Kris and the girl nodded. We both stayed in the main area waiting for the mum to emerge, but after a while I thought I'd check that nothing had happened to her.
There was no-one in the toilet.

I started pointing in different directions and asking the girl if her mummy was there. She nodded every time.

'I did see her mum in here before,' said Kris, 'she was quite well-dressed but wearing high heels,' - this is odd for the Nature Park.

I walked towards the door to look out, and the little girl followed me. As I stepped through the doorway, my hands were by my side and she slipped her hand in mine. I could see a couple with a child in the play area, so I walked towards them.

'Is that your mummy?' I asked the girl, and she nodded. But as I drew nearer, a woman got out of a car in the car park and the little girl ran towards her. The woman thanked me, but she had just been sitting in the car with a man.

What other details can I add?
There are two public entrances and one back door, all of which are open on a hot afternoon like this.
I don't think the public are necessarily aware that we are all police-checked.
Yesterday a woman in her middle years came in and asked if she could borrow a whistle in case she saw anyone strange out on the trails, she said this had happened once. To be fair she seemed rather odd herself.
The back door has easy access from the trails.

'Nuff said.

The school programmes have finished for the summer. Betty Bee has hung up her duster and the props have been packed away. I will have a week of tidying and clearing up before getting started on my game plan for September.
Oh and I'll need a new assistant, we'll have to see how that one goes. Rob told me about a friend of his who genuinely thought that Italian was just an accent. I'm hoping for a French speaker who doesn't just think that French is an accent.

Thursday, 14 June 2007


The Homeschool is a strange phenomenon, butt of many TV jokes, and it is a concept I certainly don't support.
Here though, it seems pretty well organised and there are networks that link people who home school, floating teachers who coordinate things. Now, now, I didn't say 'floaters'.

Today we had home-schoolers in and they were nice, well adjusted kids, previous groups have ranged from nutty as fruitcakes through to strange pigeon boys and girls.

But even the well adjusted ones are not socialised properly, they lack something.
In some ways I admire the parents who take this on, because when parents constantly whinge about state education, you should be able to say to them,
'Well fuck off and do it yourselves then,' and these ones have.

On the other hand, they are kind of making their children abnormal. By not allowing them to suffer the slings and arrows, they are treating them like orchids and guess what, when the rarefied atmosphere disappears, the orchid dies.
Kids need a bit of rough and tumble, they need to be able to make friends and know how to deal with enemies. They need someone to make fun of them when they wear a ridiculous woolly hat that their mum has made them out of hemp dyed with nettle juice. They need to have the piss taken when their strange little foibles emerge, because at some point.... they are going to have to join back in with the game.

And on the subject of strange kids, the picture on the front of magazines at the supermarket checkouts is Canadian embarrassment, Celine Dion and her son. Except that.... Celine Dion's son looks like a girl. Not just a girly boy, no, you would argue up and down that this was a girl. Still, on balance, he-she doesn't look as strange as his-her mother.

This afternoon we had a school that just had 'Christian' in its title. Well, way to go, we have Jewish schools, Muslim schools, they're allowed to say it, why not Christian ones?
As I was pointing out how the poisonous bog laurel grows in amongst the medicinal Labrador tea, one little boy muttered ominously,
'Like Satan.' Well, quite.

At almost the end of the day, I found myself up the tallest step ladder I have ever seen. It was made of wood and creaked. In one hand I had a jerry-rigged net, the handle bodged together from two pieces of wood to make it longer.
A hummingbird had flown in and was trapped under the skylight. The real trick is apparently to quite literally take your life in your hands and climb right to the top of the ladder and then with almost nothing to grasp, to try and catch the bird in your cupped hands because the net may damage the bird.
Well, sure, but I'm just thinking, three gram bird or me? I won. Hummingbird eventually got her long, pointy beak stuck in my net and I pulled her down. We both lived to tell the tale.

And when I put it like that, stuck up a ladder talking to a hummingbird, I wonder if I come across as any less strange than one of those home schoolers.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007


Men are not the enemy, truly, they are not, not our men at any rate.

But there HAS to have been a time when they were, when they imposed a testicular view of God on us, when they realised that since we give birth, we'd do anything to protect the children, ANYTHING. And by anything I mean everything. We'd do all the work, run the society, the clan, the tribe, the huge extended family, feed it, clothe it, keep it clean and then when the men came back from chasing meat animals, having eaten all the meat, we'd shag 'em and expect naught for our troubles. Not even very good sex.

Now of course we do expect great sex, we expect them to share responsibility, work, household chores, everything but what colour to paint the house. But as a gender, we don't sodding well get what we want.

A couple of days ago, Sleepy sent me this superb article by Joan Bakewell. In it she points out that we have come a long way in our fight, but we have by no means arrived. She also makes a point that I myself have made on several occasions, that women's rights are one of the most important issues in the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent.

Last week, I went in to see one of the senior Bank personnel. Kevin has seen her on a number of occasions and she was quite familiar with my inability to get my teaching qualifications recognised here. In fact, she says she sees it all the time, teachers, doctors, dentists, all professions remarkably well qualified coming in from abroad. All that is, except engineers. Engineering qualifications are recognised here.
Kevin is an engineer and his professional body have been very successful in convincing the government to accept other countries' qualifications.

Out of the major professions now, teaching, medicine, dentistry, law and engineering, engineering remains the only male dominated one. So, this makes me ask, is it because men shout louder, is it because they shout more effectively, or is it because they are listened to more readily?

I have been extremely lucky in that my assistant this term is just excellent at his job. But then so were Lori and Jo. They also made a great team, a team that was greater than the individual parts. They were, as a team, and as individuals, a phenomenon. And yet they never received the amount of acclaim that Rob has. I would argue that his acclaim is well deserved, but no more than theirs would have been.

The other day, a school evaluation came in. One of the pictures was of Rob, with his name beneath it and it reminded me that after one day of Ben coming into work with me, doing the puppet show and coming round on the trails with me, there were three drawings of him that mentioned him by name.

Men get noticed more. And they get noticed by women. The majority of primary school teachers we get in and the majority of parents accompanying, are women.
This is where is starts. Already the boys are pushier and already their parents, of both genders, are supporting that. You have to be a pretty damn committed and AWARE teacher to do even the first thing about redressing that balance.
You start off by making sure you ask the girls questions as often as the boys, you try to stop the boys from answering anyway. But the girls' confidence has already been eroded, it's already going backwards, at the age of five. Fewer girls will answer confidently than boys will.

But in spite of this, enough barriers have been removed that girls are out-achieving boys. So what happens? As soon as this is noticed, the cry goes up to even things up for boys, in spite of the hundreds of years of girls' underachievement when nary an eyebrow was raised.

And yes, it's about equality, not about girls overtaking boys. But wait! Soon girls are out in the workforce and in spite of their comparative overachievement, their pay is lower, their career prospects compromised, they are over-looked or treated like dolls. Everyone loves Ugly Betty, but in reality, the Ugly Betties don't have the self-confidence.

We do it to ourselves. We do it to each other. We misinterpret female lack of confidence as over-confidence. We see a woman who has adapted to the status quo, the inability of anyone to judge her simply on how good she is at the job, we see her push her sexuality as a means of communication and instead of looking at what lies beneath, we slap her down. And yet, who should break that circle? The woman, who will then be overlooked, or the man who reinforces it and makes it carry one?

And at the other end of the scale, those of us who have become really good at our jobs, through experience, through having to fight, slip gently into invisibility.

So what? Why bother to constantly harp on about it? Why not just accept what is?

Because the first step to any change is awareness. And because men are not the enemy. My sons, my husband, the men I work with, all of these are wonderful men who value and support the women in their lives, who cannot tolerate the iniquity of suppression.
But if every time we have a conversation about this, or something gets said by one of us, or one of these men, there is some small hope of change, even a small step closer to equality, that will make this world fairer for my daughter, my granddaughter(s), the women I work with, the women I care about.

Because we ALL sin against each other, and we are ALL the victims.
Men gain when women are happier and more fulfilled. And then those happier and more fulfilled men and women produce happier and more fulfilled children of both genders. This HAS to be our future.

And roar? Why should I only be heard when I roar? Why not when I miaow? But whatever I do, I must not remain passive, silent, complacent, because to do that is to acquiesce.
The issue of female inequality must be raised at every turn, by every right-minded one of us.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007


One of the many things I'm going to miss when Tony leaves office - prematurely in my opinion, and yet I admire him for leaving and passing the baton on to his anointed one - is how he will pick a theme from my blog and then give a rip-roaring speech about it.
The Press deserved that Tony, and you said it so well and so passionately.

My day however, started with another politician. Linda Reid, our Provincial government representative, a large, attractive and charismatic woman, came to the Nature House and presented us with a set of car booster seats.
Last year the Province decided that all children under a certain age and or weight, should have booster seats while travelling by car. Most of the schools we deal with immediately bought a set so that parents transporting other people's children on field trips could borrow them.
Others have cancelled trips due to not having them. Well now we do and they can borrow them.

Sleepy has solved my bra dilemma. I think I may have not mentioned this for some time, but I cannot find ones in the right size in the style I like, no-one does underwear like M&S. And then Sleepy pointed out that Marks and Sparks have an online service, so now I can order them and get them brought over.

Now....I've sat on my specs twice recently and they are pretty much out of shape. Boots are making a slight inroad, but clearly t'will be a while afore their Opticians get over here. I am going to have to bite the bullet on this one however, since I can claim some money back through Kevin's medical insurance. Sheesh, I much prefer it when the world accommodates me rather than t'other way round.

I can feel a real feminist rant coming up. It will be spilling over at some time during the next couple of days, so you may wish to look the other way.
You have been warned.

Monday, 11 June 2007


On Saturday, I met my first opossum. This is the only marsupial in North America. It stopped in its tracks, looked at me, and then trundled off.
My camera had already given up the ghost by then, but managed to rally for two final and not very good pictures, sadly I didn't have time to zoom.
This must, I think, be a baby opossum because I am told they are usually the size of a small cat, whereas this one was only as big as a regular rat.
But to me, it was an extraordinary creature.

Yesterday we saw the last ever episode of two series. Firstly, the Sopranos. That's all I'll say, I have been cyber-spanked for mentioning big Tony before.
Secondly, and to me, more importantly, Trailer Park Boys. I'm not overly happy that there won't be any more series of Ricky, Bubbles and Julian, but I must sigh and admit that it has run its course.
The boys ended up bargaining with both US and Canadian police, from a stolen launch in the middle of the river. Who were they going to give themselves up to? The Americans or a drunken Jim Leahy? All I will say is that Conky has had his last stand.

So, this is the last week of programming. I downloaded and printed off the science curriculum in French, now I have to design some programmes around them. Oddly, I feel quite enthusiastic about this.

And one, two, three, I'm back to TV. I notice that ITV are showing a new drama series, Talk to Me, starring Max Beesley, he of Bodies and Hotel Babylon. The Graun's critics are divided. One thing seems clear though, Maxie baby, in spite of hardly being one of TV's pretty boys - and thank goodness, I'd far rather watch the kind of good acting we've come to expect from the likes of Beesley - has his kit off again.
Well whaddya know.

Bouncing all over the place here. One thing I admire about Whatcom county, Washington, is that they have a fair number of traffic cops out and they give on the spot $300 fines for speeding.
Richmond, or BC in general, could certainly take a leaf out of their book, the driving seemed to be less terrible down there too. On t'other hand, it must be said, you'd be hard pushed to be getting the old engine up to the kinds of speed limits allowed there. 70 mph is about 110 in our language. Still, a speed limit's a speed limit and that's all there is to it.

Now, much as I try (and repeatedly fail) not to tell other countries how to run the affairs of their nation, I feel a tad anxious about the new strategy the US military is using, the one where it gives weapons to disenchanted Sunnis, on the basis that they say they are fed up with Al-Quaeda - well, seriously, who isn't? - and that they have promised they won't kill any Americans.

The trap I must however avoid, is that of trying to understand what's going on anywhere in the world from reading journo's accounts. Standards of reporting have dropped rapidly over the past couple of years, although admittedly there's still a long way to go until they reach the level of our local rag. I think the technical expression for that garbage is sheer unadulterated crap and badly written to boot.

You might think, that if you have an actual job where you get paid for writing, that you may be able to use adverbs and past participles.
Well, you might think that, but all that proves is that you haven't read our local news-sheets.

Sunday, 10 June 2007


The anniversary of my landing in Canada was spent in the States. Yes, I've been here for a year - officially.

Crossing the border into the States at the Peace Arch turned out not to be a problem. There is an electronic sign just before you get there, advising you of how long the delay is likely to be. On a Friday evening, I felt I was pretty lucky to get away with 40 minutes, 40 minutes it said, and 40 minutes it was.
Inside the Peace Arch are gates, low, iron gates. Along the side it says, 'may these gates never be closed.' That is to say should relations between Canada and the US become too frosty, or too heated, the gates may close and none shall set foot in the other country. Unless of course, as with the Maginot line, you just walk around the side.

The weekend was rainy, as forecast. Friday afternoon - bloody, intolerably hot. During the night, rain started drumming on the roof and kept up most of Saturday and today.
Nonetheless, I walked a trail in the State Park, I enjoyed that, and I went swimming in the pool on the complex.
And I whinged at Kevin.
'Why do they have one dollar bills? Why don't they have coins like us and Europe? It's stupid, it's not convenient, it's backward,'
'Their currency is very important to them, they don't like anyone messing with the greenback.'
'Hrmph. Why isn't there any recycling?'
'Yes, that is a good question, people obviously want it on site, they pile recyclables separately by the garbage,'
'Maybe you can ask at the reception,'
'They don't know where there is any recycling,'
'Why doesn't anyone make sausages as good as Walls?'
'That's your opinion,'
'These are inedible, that's not my opinion,'
'It kinda is,'

But it is nice to be surrounded by even more flora and fauna than usual. Naturally I had decided my camera battery would last, and it didn't, it died.

Between swimming and walking, we watched the first series of Boston Legal a series we came late to, and only then after several reminders from Sleepy. And thank goodness.
I am considering whether Shirley Schmidt should replace Kate Janeway as my top Top Woman. I love them both, I think I'll have to leave them both in place.

It reminded me also of something else I always knew to be true, the word 'naughty' has to be said in an English accent to sound truly, truly naughty. That's not just my opinion, that's the truth.

Thursday, 7 June 2007


I was surprised to wake up later than usual this morning, and still feeling quite sleepy. Hmm....I procrastinated about actually typing that, avoiding 'I woke up and felt a little sleepy,' for obvious reasons.

Kevin is already down in Blaine, Washington State. For the most part it's I who keep him awake with my snoring, so I wondered whether maybe he keeps me awake with his, just that I'd never noticed before.

Yep, wondered for about five minutes before I realised that the temperature had been cool enough to close the window last night, so in fact I wasn't awakened by enthusiastic birdsong and even more enthusiastic neighbours going to work.

The birds at the Nature Park are all following some kind of curriculum just like their human counterparts. They have all sprogged, or chicked or some such and now they are teaching their little, or in some cases quite large offspring to do stuff.

Yesterday they all seemed to be learning to talk. The chickadees, the towhees, the robins, the juncos, they were all at it.
Today, it was flying, or in the case of the ducks, swimming.
The ducks were launching themselves into the pond behind their mum, the birds were fussing around on various branches until they could half fly, half plummet and then soar.

And what a day they all had for it. The rain poured so hard this morning, we were all waterlogged even before we ventured into the coyote tunnel, afterwards we might as well have all gone swimming with the ducks.
Tis on such a day that we discover jeans are not a good option. My cotton trews dried out quickly, Rob had to sit around in his drenched denim all day.

We had older kids in today, almost secondary age. There are days, and many of them, when I worry about teaching Canadians about Canada. Not today though.
'What animals might you expect to find in a pond here?'
' a pond in Canada,'
'Hmmm, I'm thinking more.....mammals.......and in CANADA.....our national animal.......'
'Oh...OH! know....caymans!'
'Not so much, no....beavers?????Maybe???? Have you heard of them...ok good. Well, you might expect to find them, but we don't have any....BUT.....what's the animal that looks very like a beaver only smaller?'
Yep, I could still be waiting for the answer to that one.

I haven't watched any TV for two days, well except the French channels, and that doesn't really count. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not. It's certainly strange.

Tomorrow I'll be going to attempt to cross the border after work.
Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast.
Well, Monday's breakfast anyway.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007


It seems that data can now be teleported 89 miles. This is hailed as a breakthrough and yet seems bizarrely irrelevant to me since data can be sent almost instantaneously via cable or satellite over the internet. If I could travel this way, I wouldn't be losing sleep over teleporting.

I see a great many injustices in the world and find them difficult to cope with.

This however, isn't one of them. A young man who spent his stag night behaving inappropriately in Bratislavia has been sentenced to two months in prison and will thus miss his £20,000 wedding. Oh dear. Not only that, but Foreign Office time is being wasted dealing with this matter.
Oi, twat! You have more money than sense if you can afford a 20K wedding. And you have more money than sense if you take 13 of your imbecile mates to Bratislavia for a stag night. And, you are playing to every stereotype that Brits abroad have to fight. So personally, and this is personal, I hope you rot in there.

I learned something word related yesterday that I didn't know before. That rule, 'i before e except after c' applies to words that are pronounced 'ee'. Therefore all the things I thought were exceptions, actually aren't. This pleases me. Furthermore, I learnt that there is a correct pronunciation of neither and either, both should be pronounced with an 'I' sound.

The moon is currently in a gibbous phase, [adjective (of the moon) having the illuminated part greater than a semicircle and less than a circle] and so is moving away from full moon. So crime rates should be dropping off according to work done by the Brighton police.
And there seem to be other studies to support this, including one showing that animals are twice as likely to bite at full moon.
Then along came a bunch of scientists who said the studies were all wrong - poxy killjoys.
But then.....along came another bunch, this time from Poland, who said the full moon effect was correct after all. That's better! That's what I like to hear.

The Poles are not only supporting lunar insanity, but it seems, due to their immigration into Britain in huge numbers, look set to topple the Anglican Church from its long running number one slot and become Britain's top denomination once again - well the tide has taken several hundred years to turn, but whatever, some things you have to wait for.

Methinks that once they all arrive, they'll abandon hope just like all the rest.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007


Ay Caramba! - was basically what we said today as we panicked. A school had cancelled a programme this morning, so I had an appointment elsewhere at ten.

Approximately five minutes before I was intending to leave the building, a class arrived. The admin person hadn't told us she had re-booked. You've never seen anything like our little bee bums getting our props out.

Respite from the heat continues. I am enjoying it while it lasts.

One of those things that no-one likes to talk about - well apart from me obviously - is the menopause, probably because it affects older women.

And yet it will at some point affect all women and therefore also, by association, most men.
I am at an age where friends and relatives are starting to experience symptoms as will I sometime in the next few years, maybe I do already to a certain extent.
Thus, I have been reading about HRT. Now this is not as easy as it sounds, advice on whether it is dangerous, or in fact how dangerous continues to be confusing, no-one seems to be sure about whether it is good or bad.

Today in the Guardian however, Sarah Boseley gives it a firm thumbs down. And guess what? It turns out that the confusion is largely being generated by the drug companies themselves.

According to Boseley, use of HRT has dropped from two to one million women over the past four years. But she uses this as a springboard to make a very pertinent point.
She says that no-one is suggesting that women should not use it to deal with the severe symptoms of menopause, but all agree that use should be short term.
300,00 women a year enter menopause, of whom 20% suffer debilitating discomfort, 60,000, so it would seem that even if some of those 60,000 are taking it for several years, there are others who are taking a risk.

Experience has taught me however, that you never know how you are going to react until you are walking that path. So, it's good to have this overview of the research, but when push comes to shove, will I or won't I?
Time will tell.

Tomorrow, Kev is going down to the States to help his dad do some work on the RV. I will join him on Friday. So, Friday I will attempt to cross the border for the first time on my own. I'm hoping this will be a dull crossing. I already have my visa waiver from before, so in theory it should be a wave through.
Again, we'll see.

On TV earlier on, there was a quote from some First Nations chief who could not understand why the white man needed to know the time to tell if he were hungry. Of course this is presented as some incredible insight, some brilliant wisdom.
But it's not, not in my opinion. It makes no difference whether you let your tummy tell you it's hungry, or the clock. You'll probably still eat the same number of times. And maybe watching the clock requires more discipline, a skill that the white man needs.
Why do we always assume that because we do it, as in we westerners, we technocrats, we progressives, that it's wrong?

Not all that glisters is gold.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Change in the weather

When the weather changes, odd things sometimes occur.

The air was very heavy this morning, the kind of humidity that makes you sweat standing still, and I was walking. Swimming through the air.
I was cursing too, why do people leave litter as though they'd emptied their cars along the road? One piece of litter caught my eye, it looked like one of our booklets from work, but when I looked more closely, it was a rental agreement with someone's personal details on.
Next to it was a cheque. Then another, and another, I picked them up along the road until I had eleven in my hand, eleven cheques, signed, made out to someone, with the account holder's name, address, and of course, account number on each.
How odd.

About half an hour into the start of the morning programme, the rain started.
When a class comes in for a school programme, the teacher hands over her class to us effectively. We teach them, the focus is on us.
But there is one type of school where that temporary switch of focus keeps being drawn back, and I have never quite grasped the dynamic of it until today, until one teacher took the trouble to include me.
When we have a Jewish school in, the teacher will often interrupt, say something in Hebrew, say a blessing perhaps. We respect their need to do this of course, but it excludes us from the class while that is happening.
Today there was a different teacher, one who took the time. She addressed me as 'Mora' (no idea of spelling) just as they are always addressed, and she explained that this is the word for teacher. It is used as a courtesy title.
I like this, I have always thought that there should be a title for teacher as there is for doctor or priest.
I had been playing with the idea of insisting on being called 'Magister'.

There were three children in the class who have just arrived from Israel and spoke no English. But again, she explained this. I said it must have been tough for them living in Israel at this time. She said it was, but you get used to it.
'You hear the rockets going off when you take the children to school, and you hope they will come home but get used to it,' she said.

At the part of the programme where we give the children honey, they had to wait for the special honey blessing. And she explained to me why this was so.
This woman made a difference to me today. She made an exclusive practice inclusive. Her name was Esther, the same as my mum, and we established that both of our dads were called David. Her own parents had lived in Manchester but had retired to Israel, seemed like an odd choice to me.

Afterwards, I phoned the bank about the lost cheques. They took the details down, they seemed nonplussed that I would ring them. They asked me to take the cheques into any branch of that bank, which I did. At no point did anyone ask me who I was and honestly, I would expect that the police might be involved in this at some point.

I have food ready. My writers' group should be arriving at any moment.
Toodle pip.

Sunday, 3 June 2007


Here's Rob, weighing slugs at Slugfest. A beautiful afternoon, although I wasn't the only one dying from the heat, several slugs actually did die from it.
We did everything we could but alas, being cooped up in a jar or yoghurt pot on a hideously hot afternoon when you are a slug, is not conducive to continued life.
Actually, one of the pieces of info that we were supposed to pass on to our audience was the most humane way to kill slugs. You freeze 'em. They pass away peacefully.

My own part started with the puppet Slimey the Slug. Slimey for some historic reason, speaks with a Glaswegian accent. So I practised.

'Would ye like to see the breathing hole in ma heed?'
'Can you do the bee dance, pleeeeease?'
'I'm nae a bee, ah'm a wee slug,'
'Yeah, buuuut, you're Betty bee, can you do the bee dance?'

At this point it always seemed a plan to get out the real banana slug and demonstrate slug power (slime is sticky) and put it on the glass plate so the kids could see its movement.

Slugfest didn't attract crowds exactly, but those who came were in a cheerful mood and seemed to enjoy themselves.

Yesterday, we saw the film 'Blood Diamond'. Leo di Caprio, an actor I'd love to be able to dislike, was beyond superb in this part. He has Chutzpah. He is a GREAT actor.
The film gave plenty of opportunity to feel the fear and horror of ordinary people living in Sierra Leone at that time, to understand.
But as a film, it seemed pedestrian to me. It lacked real vision. I felt as though I were looking through a camera lens rather than a director's eyes. I like a film to give me something to think about, but it left me nothing.

The character played by Jennifer Connelly was a strong woman. And Connelly isn't glamorous, so that strengthens the character further. But she was still very much a secondary character. I criticised Halle Berry for whining that she wasn't considered for some parts because she was black and I stand by that. But over 50% of the population of everywhere is female and this film, more than any other made me wonder whether whoever cast the movie even considered that the main character could be female. Because it could have been. There are some outstanding women actors who could have taken on the di Caprio role. This role, like Connelly's was not based on looks, far from it, it was a role where gender wouldn't have mattered. So why are we still not seeing women in better roles? Why are we still, as a society, so bizarrely prejudiced against women?

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Hmmm.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Of Ducks and Shoes

Alright, I admit it, it was lovely today. Hot, but pleasant, very goddamn

I'm rather disappointed that I haven't heard from Sarko. He's currently appointing his new cabinet and I'm sure he's the sort of person who wouldn't be put off by my mere absence from Europe or the fact that I'm not an MP. The lack of Frenchness should be of no consequence whatsoever since we have employment mobility in Europe. (Unlike within the Commonwealth.)

I have been brushing up on my French - the bad words that is, 'les mots verts', different ways to insult the rabble and such like.
Perhaps my invite is lost in the post.

It bugs me beyond belief that I am having to tumble dry clothes at the moment. I feel like poking someone in the eye with a sharp stick over it, not to mention the thousands of other people in condos and apartments who aren't allowed to hang washing out. But hey, at least we'll have to have better lightbulbs.

Having conquered Canadian dress sizes, I thought shoe sizes would be a doddle. After all, we've had US shoe sizes on the boxes of trainers for ever. But....that slightly out of phase thing occurred again.
My UK shoe size, 5, translates as a US 7½. SO...what's the problem? Well, same problem as trying to buy half sizes in Britain. It's not always possible to buy half sizes here. Today I was looking at some fairly pricey training shoes, but even so, I could get an 8 or a 7, just not a 7½. And that's always going to be the case going one way or another, since women's shoes are 2½ sizes higher in number here.

Ducks, according to Richard Wiseman in The Week, are funny, they are a comedy dead cert. It's all apparently tied up with the smile muscles needed to say the word 'quack'.

This week however, I had a meeting with a woman from an organisation called 'Pink Duck'. I asked her why her organisation was called that.
'People tend to forget my name,' she said,
'That surprises me,' said I, 'Tatiana seems rather a memorable one in my opinion.'
She sighed.
'You'd think,' she said, 'but you'd be wrong. Anyway, no-one has ever been offended by a duck, so I decided that it would be a good name for my company.'

A statement like that strikes me as a challenge, but then, I couldn't come up with a bad duck story there and then so I had to let it pass.


Friday, 1 June 2007


Dominos falling.

There is currently an advert on TV for Boston Pizza, it features the Sasquatch as a server.
The fact is that if a Sasquatch went in to almost any organisation looking for work today, she or he would be given a job.

The Nature Park is a small organisation and positions there are not well paid. But any work in environmental interpretation is sought after. Usually.
Right now, staff shortages over here, or maybe here in BC are really biting. Every time we try to fill a position, the person we choose gets whipped away from under our nose. We line our dominos up and they get knocked down.
I'm not looking forward to trying to get a French speaking assistant for the autumn.

So on Sunday we have Slugfest coming up. Slugfest isn't what it sounds like, no-on eats slugs, well, except Freckles the injured snake who has been promised some of the slugs once they have performed. Sounds cruel and unusual really. You get to be on show and handled by many, then you get fed to the snake. Tough breaks.

For some reason, Slugfest isn't well attended and doesn't make us much money, and yet whenever you mention the Nature Park to anyone, they remember Slugfest.
Some poor sod in the heat forecast for Sunday, currently down from 37º to 29º, gets to wear a slug costume. Deep joy. Even deeper joy that it ain't me.
I get to lead the guided walk.

Yesterday, Kris had to do an interview about Slugfest for some Chinese TV channel. They wanted to film her taking a container of slugs out of the fridge. I was worried about that. There's bound to be some hygiene law that prohibits that kind of thing. If not, there probably should be.

Not in any way related to either dominos or Slugfest, I noticed in this week's 'The Week', that Asda fears the imminent demise of the paper doily. Apparently 15 years ago they sold 12,000 packs a week, now, a mere 400.

It still worries me that 400 of my fellow countryfolk go out and purchase paper doilies in any given week.