Friday, 31 August 2007


Sweet. Three-day weekend with no poxy Special Events to go to, after which.... the visit from Her Royal Sleepiness. Sweet, sweet, sweet.

My office is tidy, oh boy is that sweet. Rob came in and cleared up all the remnants from the summer schools. Oh, and the film set guy came and collected the stuffed wolverine he'd left by accident.
The location assistant had told us that on the day the crew were setting up, a member of the public had come in and tried to walk off with it, but they spotted him.
Couldn't believe that.

Rained today, and after yesterday's heat, that was sweet too.

Saturn, which can be a difficult planet, but apparently for my sign brings deep, solid joy, moves into my sign on Sunday. I hope this will be sweet as promised.

My daughter has found a flat in London Bridge for the coming year, after quite a depressing search, she and her two friends have found a place they're happy with, good and very sweet. I wish them luck in it.

I have found a new assistant, and he is called Alex, like my daughter. I'm pleased to have found someone that I feel good about. The name thing has already caused problems though.
When he was coming in for interview, I said to Rob,
'Alex is coming to see me on Monday,' - look of total confusion,
'I thought she'd gone back to London, how come she's coming back already?'
'Er, no....'

And sweetest of all is that today is my son Ben's birthday, God bless him and bring him wisdom and guidance. Maybe the other way round, guidance and wisdom. Saturn will sort out the rest.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Timon of Athens

Mostly, today, we were all pooped.

I was at work at seven again to open up. Kris had been there until gone eight last night.
I was there, the location production assistant was there, the plumber who had nothing whatsoever to do with the film crew was there.....and the set department rolled up at something like ten thirty.

At lunchtime, Kris and I decided we'd go to the inappropriately named Aberdeen Mall - aka the Chinese Mall, to see the animatronic dinosaur. We arrived after midday and there was a 'show' scheduled for 13.00, so we thought we'd better eat there. We regretted that. You can eat any type of Chinese or Japanese food you like for around six dollars, but it makes you yearn for Tang's in Elmgrove. (Portsmouth).

Finally the dino did its thing. It moved its tail and head a bit and roared, however, the lead up to it was more impressive, the fountains dance to music and the music was anything even remotely connected with dinosaurs.

This evening we had tickets for Timon of Athens at Bard on the Beach. This play is not often performed so we were keen to see it. And unlike the dinosaur and general Chinese food debacle, we were not disappointed.

The set never fails to astound us, the simplicity and versatility of every part of it and the way the cast members subtly move bits of it around, a well-oiled machine.
The play was riveting, the players, the same who had performed Julius Caesar, which Kevin and I had seen with Austen, were as ever, exceptional. There's just nothing quite like it. The tent, the lights, the fluidity of costume changes, the actors so near, the constant movement on which you cannot help be focussed.
Magical. Made the whole film thing look very klunky and unpolished. But then....good Shakespeare can do that.

Shakespeare done badly just makes you want to boil your head.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

On Set

An interesting day.
At seven, I opened the Nature House for the set builders to finish off, and indeed, there was a flurry of activity ..... that lasted about three-quarters of an hour. I was discovering the stop-start work pattern that everyone who has spent time on a film set already knows.

The young film-school graduate who was first on set will be the last to leave after midnight tonight, then back when I open up at seven tomorrow. When I left at 16.40 ish, he was still smiling and working hard.

And it was to him that I mentioned the spelling mistake on the side of our pavilion, disguised as an elementary school. You may have to click on the picture to see it properly.

During the morning, I had an errand to do in Steveston. This was when I discovered that sleepy and yet touristy Steveston, doesn't open until 11. I wondered why I was so easily able to find a parking spot. Not too much of a hardship to spend an hour browsing the little shops in this waterfront part of the city however, especially as there is a shop where you can buy imported British food. And by food, I mean chocolate. I had no idea there was now a praline Cadbury's flake. Well, I do now.

When the shop where I was supposed to pick up some out-of-print books finally opened, I asked the shopkeeper whether this was his normal opening time and why there was nothing on the shop front to indicate the hours.
'See, what happened is this,' he started, 'I semi-retired now, so I get lazy, used to open at nine, now I forget sometime.'

Alrighty then.
Dave's Fish and Chips still wasn't open.
The temperature had reached 27º.
When I got back to the Nature House, the set builders had blocked off our kitchen and it was lunch time and we knew there was leftover pizza in the fridge.

Two hours later though, they returned and let us in. We had just liberated some pizza when the young man with the long hours came in and asked us if we wanted to come and get food from their set truck.
The catering company seemed to be called Divine Food or something containing the word Divine, and it was a good description. Never have I seen such ambrosia come from a van that looked as though it could only supply burgers or ice-cream.

The actors arrived. Now, bearing in mind that our friend Steve is an actor, and he is thin, but looks normal, these two looked like some different species of human. Like fairy-folk. Not just thin, but scaled down. They practised saying their lines. One of them seemed to be having a lot of difficulty.
That's all I'll say.

When I was leaving work, suddenly the entire car park was full of vans, trucks, canopies, people, equipment.
Finally, what I went in at seven to start, was about to happen, ten hours later.
Interesting for a day or two.
Just, not quite my cup of tea....well, unless the price were right.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007


Today we found Freckles the male Northwestern garter snake, dead in his tank. He had been previously savaged by tankmate Annie, but seemed to have pulled through. Still, this kind of thing happens among human roommates, so what can you do? Unfortunately, it really did look as though he'd been squashed, but then maybe we all look as though we've been squashed at the end...especially if we have.
A death I wouldn't wish on anyone.

There was a short Pythonesque (sic) moment.
Some children were standing around the snake tank and told me they thought the snake was dead,
'Nope, nope, he's just resting,' I said without looking,
'But he looks dead,'
'Yep, just sleeping,' then I actually looked and he did look rather limp, so I opened the tank and poked him.
I thought a line about pining for the fjords may be inappropriate as we lifted his lifeless body out.

The film crew have been working hard making our Nature House look like someone else's Nature House all day long. Tomorrow they will shoot a scene and then that'll be it. The Aliens in the title, apparently refer to Muslims, a sort of Little Mosque on the Prairie kind of thing it seems, although I still hope it's just a working title.

August is exam result month. Second Thursday is A and AS results, following Thursday GCSEs. My son Ben slid into goal by the skin of his teeth, my nephew Jeremy gained good grades and today, Kevin received the results of his Professional Engineering exams, which he had passed.

But when you are in teaching, you suffer the results of other people. You can knock yourself out trying to get the little blighters to come to the lessons and hand in their coursework, you probably face another line of opposition in the form of their parents, you may even have other departments actively working against you, most likely the drama department, but only God and you know all this and you will be judged in any case on the grades they were given by the examining board.
If you are a Head of Department, it's even worse. You will also be judged on the results of the classes taught by other staff, whether or not they have been there, whether or not you have been unable to fill a post whose timetable has been babysat by non-specialists or even non-teachers. So results time can be pretty traumatic.

The link which Artemesia sent about Hagar, the mother of Abraham's son Ishmael, is pretty damn interesting. I think there are conclusions to be drawn, but everyone may draw their own.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Spiritual Pretzel

Yesterday in the nearby city of Surrey, a hot air balloon caught fire and crashed to the ground, falling in a trailer park, killing two people, passengers in the balloon, and injuring eleven others. What a nightmare, one of those things you must fear when you go up in one.

And the twist is, that something similar happened in Manitoba earlier in the month. Freak hot-air balloon accidents.

This morning, the vicar referred to a woman whom Jesus healed in St. Luke's gospel, as a 'spiritual pretzel'. It captured my imagination, the idea of being bent and turned back in on yourself spiritually, caught in some kind of feedback loop. I'm still thinking about this one, but it kinda speaks to me.

My personal interest in Hippopotamia has prompted me to try to find out about the genesis of Arabs. Who are they? How are they different from non-Arabs. The first thing I found out that surprised me was that they are a 'Semitic race'. Surprised because I thought the term semitic referred to Jewish people.
When I looked the word up, it seems it is a family of languages that includes Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic.
However, genealogically, the word refers to the tribes of Arabia, and some of these tribes are descended from Ishmael, the son of Abraham. Hmmm....curiouser and curiouser.

I could get wildly side-tracked, but then it's good to have an interest other than chocolate and Ikea.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Jesus Rain

Towards the end of an eight hour stint at yet another Special Event, red T-shirts proclaiming that Jesus loves us, swarmed the plaza, giving out bottles of water.
'Jesus has kept me well-watered today thanks,' I told wave after wave of them.
Most people had packed up and gone by then, it seemed that only I was pinned to my table with kids colouring in dragons and leaves.

I don't know if Jesus was on weather rotation this week, but if he was then we kept us watered in all senses. Not that I would have been complaining, after the heat of the past few days, were it not that I had liberally applied sunscreen, only to have it migrate into my eyes all day, so they stung and watered.

As well as water, Jesus supplies lead-free Coke, I admire him for this perspicacity. The sodium benzoate is a bit of a problem, but I'm sure he's on top of that though.
He didn't give me any loaves and fishes, I was hoping for a Tim Horton's toasted BLT on whole wheat to appear in my hands. It didn't, but Kevin bought me LA Chicken instead.

Whilst Kevin was performing one of those TV ad miracles, by packing into our tiny car the amount that lesser people need an SUV to carry, I was standing on the edge of the pavement with my pretend tree, coloured card leaves fluttering in the breeze and a woman asked me which church I represented. You can see a theme here can't you? and it's only Saturday.

'I'm from the Nature Park,' I replied,
'Is that the same as Emmanuel Church?'
'No, it's a Nature Park,'
'Where is that church?'
'It's not a church,'
'Which church has organised this?'
'The city, no church, the city,'
'No church?'
Honestly, I could see where she was coming from at that moment, it was raining Jesus.

Mesopotamia, that of RI and history lessons, was the alluvial plain between the Tigris and the Euphrates, and provided fertile land by the early civilisations developing and maintaining systems of irrigation. The Sumerians and Assyrians lived there at different times, or rather these were the names of their dynasties, who knows whether by our definitions they were the same peoples.
These were lands referred to in the Bible, these were lands we learned about at school.

'Nineveh city (its capital) was a city of sin, the jazzin' and the jivin' made a terrible din, the beat groups playing rock and roll and the Lord looked down and said, 'Bless my soul!','

Well, to be fair, it doesn't actually say that in the Old Testament. Something about a bit of a difference of opinion between God and Jonah.

Or...from a historical perspective, Assyria was invaded by barbarians from Central Asia in the seventh century BC, was saved by being brought into the Persian Empire, then Greek-accented briefly by Colin, I mean Alexander the Great and there seems to have been no more major unpleasantness until the 8th Century AD when the Arabs invaded.
Of course, the Bible pretty much finishes not too long after BC becomes AD.

Yeah, no, just thought I'd mention Mesopotamia, in case no-one else had today.

Friday, 24 August 2007


A couple of days ago, I was called on to interview a dramaturge with Kris and Peter. Perhaps interview is an exaggeration, we only had one person to see and we weren't paying him very much. I had also only ever used the word dramaturge in French, and when talking about the Renaissance I think. And yet I think it was an appropriate word for what we want of him.

Halloween is coming. Yes, 'tis only August but the shops are stuffed with Halloweenery. Our dramaturge, should he agree to our pathetic terms, will be the visionary who will design and co-ordinate our Halloween event, 'Wild Things'.

Peter and I start with artistic differences. He is and I'm not.
Or....he thinks that our event should be safe and not scary, I think it should be physically safe, ie no-one should come to any actual harm, but really rather scary. I mean, think Brothers Grimm. I think that hair should be standing on end and children should be experiencing nightmares until Christmas. Christmas 2008. Plenty of ectoplasm. No sweeties.

Contrarily, someone out there is sick enough to be hiding razor blades in children's playgrounds. We have had two incidents notified from Burnaby (part of Greater Vancouver, to the east) and since we have a children's play area, we have to increase our checks on the equipment, especially the rubber matting where children land after coming off the slides. That's bad scary.

When last in the States, I bought a book from Borders, reduced from $24.99 to $2.99, an end of run.
It is written by an Historian of some note and is a look at the war in Iraq. So far, we have looked at the history of the area from Biblical times onwards and I am finding it absolutely fascinating. Some of the stuff is familiar from history lessons, some even from RI lessons (now known as RE in most schools) at school, but of course the detail is greater, there is more depth to the explanations, and frankly, history lessons are 35 years since.

The author is certainly a good writer as well as being a good historian.

He also repeats himself in slightly different ways, and I say that not as a criticism, but as a strength, the situations he is describing are complex, tough to keep pinned in your mind as a background whilst following the events he is beginning to explore.

One of the most enjoyable moments of each day currently, is getting home from work and stepping into the shower. I feel so hot, sweaty and sticky, and this is always rendered worse by the continual application of sun creme, which migrates into my eyes at some point, seemingly when the temperature gets too high and it melts, although I know that can't really be the case.

Katt and Rob finished the summer programmes today. It has been an exhausting summer for them, they have worked hard and done a brilliant job, but they both have to return to university, which for Katt means flying halfway across the country. I'm going to miss both of them.
I won't however, miss their mess ;)

Thursday, 23 August 2007


Yesterday, Kris and I stood on the bridge watching the frogs in the pond and one jumped and caught a fly.
'I would so love to see one actually on a lily pad,' I said,
'I've never, ever seen that,' said Kris, and I agreed.

Today I left the Nature House to go out to the pond and then, something made me go back for my camera.
Later, when I showed Kris the photo, she thought I'd put a toy one there. I'd have to be a mighty good throw.

Next Wednesday, the crew that were filming 'Aliens in America' at the school opposite our house are coming to the Nature House. As anyone who has travelled to the US knows, everyone who goes there is an alien, so I'm not necessarily expecting sci-fi.

In local news, a man has found his stolen trailer on Craigslist. This must surely count as one of those 'most stupid criminals' things. This trailer was, apparently, custom built, therefore the thieves must have had to mention some pretty specific details in the ad.
And Craigslist is, it seems, the place to look for most things. A work colleague's daughter, has just found a house share through the website, in one of the most desirable areas of Vancouver, for an unbelievable price, and the unbelievable price includes all amenities except telephone and cable.

Last night we watched the film 'Venus'. With a cast of the highest pedigree, Peter O'Toole, Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Griffiths, Leslie Phillips, it posed some interesting questions, like, would you really want to get old in London? and how vile is it to be on the receiving end of the latex glove with the KY jelly? it failed to completely convince.
However debauched O'Toole's character was meant to be, it still seemed unreal that he would actually quite literally slobber over a rather obnoxious young woman with a thick Yorkshire accent.
And however obnoxious she was meant to be, it seemed unreal that she would let him.
Talent there was, and the locations were interesting, as was the fin d'été feel to the film, but it just failed to hit the spot for me.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Pig's Ear

I'm not sure I understand the little Traffic Doctor (Head Prefect of Iran)'s reasoning for hanging criminals in his own country.
He seems to think it will piss off 'The U.S.' as though the whole of the United States spoke with one voice.
And then, it turns out, the executions are supposed to put The Fear into the hearts of some mysterious political activists, spurred on by the U.S.

Ok, so what would annoy right-minded people in the western world?
Be careful, the U.S. is the only remaining country in the West where Capital Punishment is still practised, so hanging people on its own isn't sufficient to get the collective American knickers in a twist.

In recent reports however, we have seen such outrageous shenanigans in Iran as a young woman being put to death for being raped. So, that would pretty much get us all hopping.

But no, the executed have been the actual rapists, murderers and general naughty people. Admittedly, I smell a bit of a rat over the 'indecent acts'. I can well imagine what Mad, Bad, Jihad thinks of as indecent acts, and it isn't hanging pre-teens for being raped.
But again, the U.S. doesn't speak with one voice about homosexuality, and I'm sure there are probably parts of deepest Texas where hanging a few gay guys wouldn't upset the locals. Homosexuality is a declared capital offence there in any case - no! Iran I meant.
Apostasy is too apparently, and to be fair, it's not four hundred years since Heresy was a burning, hanging or disembowelling offence in Europe.

The argument is apparently, that those who have been hanged are not the thugs and criminals Pint Size Prefect declares, but rather, the aforementioned political activists. But then if the activists are the ones who murdered a High Court judge, I'm not convinced.

The Traffic Doc is already unpopular, and not just because he's short. Oh well, alright, maybe it is because he's short, but mainly because young people in his country actually want what America has to offer. I think he's losing the plot, let's just hope he stays lost for a bit longer.

All of which pales into insignificance beside the news that Ikea has gone on strike. Not just any Ikea either, MY Ikea. And as usual, the local press is making a complete pig's ear of letting us know any details.
According to the papers, the workers, who have a union, are striking because people who have been there longer are being paid more. Hmmm...well, duh.
But I think the story should be that a couple of years ago, the union negotiated a certain entry level of hourly pay for its workers, and ones who have been taken on recently are being paid less.

Still, I am not amused.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

False September

It feels like September. The light has changed, the mornings are colder and the leaves are already starting to change, and in some cases, even fall.
The blueberry bushes are tinged with red, they will be spectacular soon, but this is early. In the trees, the birds are fussing. The hummingbirds are already making their way back to Mexico.

Tonight we drove out to Surrey to see Kev's mum on her birthday, but on the way back, the Alex Fraser bridge was blocked with traffic, moving no faster than first gear.
Repairs, and aren't we glad that they're repairing our bridge whilst there's apparently nothing wrong with it.

At work, I'm starting to look at Halloween programmes, writing the French one. Witches, pumpkins, enveloping darkness.

Surreal. Last night, surreal. One of the writers' group told us very calmly and evenly that the cancer he had licked has returned, and now there was little that could be done.
There used to be an ad on TV and I don't remember whether it was in England or Canada, where the patient is receiving news of the cancer that has been diagnosed and then everything else goes fuzzy, while the doctor witters on, the patient's hearing has been blocked by the single word, cancer.

That's what it was like, our friend told us about what treatment was available, what wasn't, I heard none of it, and I presume nor did the others, because he had to repeat everything as we asked questions that I knew had already been answered once. I was glad he spoke about it so freely and openly, but shocked at the possibility that he might not be sitting on that sofa with us at some time in the future.
I feel immeasurably sad about this. I know I'm not alone in that.

Sunday, 19 August 2007


Happy Birthday to my friend Ree. Without looking at the calendar I thought it was two days ago, so consider the birthday wishes I sent you then as a pre-birthday hail.
I hope this year brings you a great deal of contentment.

Today, Marie's birthday, we celebrated the Feast Day of Saint Mary in church.

The happy-clappy brand of Christian worship doesn't suit my needs. I like church to be a time for quietness and contemplation. Prayer interspersed with Liturgy. When they brought in the sharing of the sign of peace with others it was almost too intrusive, maybe it IS too intrusive for the English, but here, and now, I see that it is good.

I wonder whether hearing Mass said in Latin might be a deeper experience. The cloaking of meaning in an older language, would it concentrate the mind, opening it up at a more profound level?

Of course it is important to have the Eucharist in English too, at least one of my sons, like many people, would get nothing from it were it in Latin.

The curate took the service today. I listened carefully to her use of language, because I had noticed something when the vicar takes the service. Anywhere possible, they avoid attaching a gender to God. Instead of 'he' they will say 'God', instead of 'his', they said 'this'. I admire and appreciate this almost too greatly to express. The only word that seems impossible to replace is 'Lord'.

The Curate's preaching was different from that of the Vicar. The Vicar's talks show a wisdom and knowledge, and attention to the interpretation of the Bible as a whole text, showing us how to approach it.
The Curate, a younger woman, shared personal experiences. But she too, directed us back to the words themselves.

She painted us a picture of the Garden of Eden before the fall, perfection and happiness, bliss. Every action taken was exactly as it should be.
But it was only when Eve persuaded Adam to eat of the forbidden fruit (whatever that was, maybe an olive, maybe an apple) that life in the Garden took on meaning. Now, they had choice, now they could choose to do what was good, before, there was no perception of right or wrong, so really, no-one could be good.
A old message, re-emphasised. Eve, the bringer not just of life, but of meaning, reality, value.
The Prime Mover perhaps. God created everything we needed to set things in motion, but Eve is the one who sets the pendulum swinging.

I miss the wafers though. In this church, we have real bread. And so there is always the possibility of letting some crumb of the body of Christ fall.
There is just something about the way the communion wafer sticks to the roof of your mouth and is then moistened and freed by Christ's blood.

At least I knew all the hymns today. The final hymn was the rousing 'Bread of Heaven'.
Nothing finer. Well, except having a bunch of rich-voiced Welsh people singing it, now there's perfection.

Saturday, 18 August 2007


Having not cleaned the house for over three weeks I have enjoyed doing a Kim and Aggie from top to bottom today.
There's something therapeutic about cleaning and then having done so, sitting and knowing that the house is clean.

We watched a stonking film tonight, 'Zodiac', very long, I'm writing this well past my bedtime, but it was engaging and very well done. Apparently based on a true story too, but then what isn't these days?

I have also spoken to the folks back home.
Heathrow, it seems, was not behaving nicely when my family's flight was finally allowed to land.
It's an embarrassment really, and yet maybe Heathrow is just growing old and curmudgeonly, and who can't relate to that? Well, ok, I can, still, if I were as cranky as that old airport, someone'd kick my butt.

Friday, 17 August 2007


I don't know whether it is because there is so much filming goes on around here, but there is an understanding apparently, that Vancouver is a place where no-one bothers stars as they walk around.
(With apologies to Canadian Karen who makes it her declared mission to bother them.)

Thus it is the most natural thing in the world that directly across the road from us, there is currently a film set , the luminous signs, the trucks, the lights, the lot, and no-one stands around and stares at it.
I was however, intrigued by the huge lights being shone through a window into the building as the light outside started to fade. A filter was being held over the lights, what was it meant to be? Clouds in a sky? Leaves falling? Impossible to know really.
You can't even guarantee you'll see it - whatever 'it' is - on TV. Our friend Steve was in Saskatchewan last year filming a series for CBC, 'The Englishman's Boy', but the screening of it was put off until this autumn and now it's pushed back until March.

At the supermarket checkout I glanced at the mags. Scott Peterson, on death row in San Quentin, California, had shocked everyone by taking drugs and engaging in gay sex.
I can't see this as much of a shocker, I would have thought that the drugs and gay sex were more or less compulsory in prison, possibly even a selling point.
And really, it's quite difficult to come up with anything that shocks after murdering your pregnant wife.

I guffawed and moved on. I get a tiny look, an Augenblick of what goes on with all these pretend people from glancing at the mags at the checkout and judging them based on a one-line headline.

I have another letter published in the local rag.
It was fortuitous, I got so much stick about the mis-spelling of my name in the 'Walk Richmond' pullout, that I needed to have my name spelt correctly on something. Anyway, a man wrote something about one of my pet peeves, so I peevishly responded. That's all, I'll spare you the details.

Thursday, 16 August 2007


Through the open patio door, I could smell the rain, couldn't see it yet, couldn't hear it, but I could smell it.
Across the road, the sounds of the film set packing up. Sounded like trouble, but Kevin looked, we'd forgotten the film crew and they, for their part, never even knew about us.

At work, a woman brought in two leaves. They were leaves I could identify, one was birch, it grows like dandelions in a lawn here. One was red alder.
'I have these trees growing on my patio,' she said,
'Can I bring them to the park? I rang the city and they said they didn't want them,'
'The park's a city facility, and we are having birch trees removed at the moment, I'm not in charge here, but I'm pretty sure the person who is will say no,'
'But what shall I do with them?' I liked the woman, she was warm and at least she'd brought leaves.
I'll ring her back tomorrow with a solution. The cottonwood trees whispered it to me on the way home, even though I hadn't been drinking.

Last night we watched 'Hot Fuzz', dammit I could so relate to Simon Pegg's character in that. He was like me only fitter and on occasions drank beer. It was a funny and engaging film, parodying parochial life in Simon's county of birth, Gloucestershire. But I fear that this and 'Shaun of the Dead' show us something paranoid from that same childhood, a little boy afraid of being misrepresented, misunderstood, of being ganged up on.
So, I'm still relating.

It's interesting, now that I am receiving other people's CV's, I can look back to when I went to the Employment Resource Centre and the woman there, the professional, told me how to revamp mine, make it look unreadable, ridiculous, claim skills I didn't have.

'Don't listen to her,' said Gail and I didn't. Gail was right. The CVs I'm getting now are better laid out than any the woman at the place showed me as examples. More succinct than she wanted me to be. More like the one I had already.
Funny that.
And I find that although I read them all through, and make note of the ones with the skills I'm after, the presentation does draw me, keeps a CV in my head.

It has been my experience here that when people advertise jobs, they ask for too much, for skills that are irrelevant, so I understood when a woman rang me up today and said she had all the skills I asked for except the French.
'That's really the central skill,' I said, 'the others I can teach you in the time available, I can't teach you how to speak French in that time,' but I understood why she had asked.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Summer Leaders

At the Nature Park, we have summer programmes run by two students and at the Museum they have the same deal.
Today, the summer programme groups from the Museum came to the Nature Park and I gave them a guided tour. I suppose that all the community group programmes I do during the summer are someone else's programmes.

The university students run them, the primary school pupils are signed up.

Our own summer leaders had the annoyance yesterday of a group of mainly six-year olds with one thirteen-year old girl in it.
'How could the parents have thought this was a good idea?' I asked.
'Oh, she's a home-stay girl,' they said,
'And that is....?'
'A Korean girl who...well it's kind of like an exchange only without the exchange bit. The family here gets paid, and then they put her in our programme and pay less than they are getting paid,'
'I...THINK I see,'
'But also, because she's Korean, she's fourteen there,'
'Er...pardon?' (Is this like dress sizes, I wonder,)
'They count lunar months, so she's 14 in Korea, but 13 here,'
That blew a few diodes in my brain.

To increase the feeling of cross fertilisation today, several of the kids had been to one of my school programmes.
'You're that bee,' said one, who felt that gave her the right to hold my hand.
'Yes, which bee was I?' I asked, removing my hand,
'The worker,' hand slips back.
This went on most of the way around the trail, with a brief respite when we went through the coyote tunnel.

I told them about some plant or other and one of their leaders, in that sing-song valley way of speaking, where the end of each sentence becomes a question, asked a real one.
'One time [at band camp] I was out right, and I brushed against some plants, like this [demonstrates brushing against plants] and I came up in a rash right?Like...all over my hand, like this [demonstrates what she means by 'all over her hand'] question is..... do you know what it was?'
I set my face to 'kill' but she didn't drop, so I reset to 'you effing moron,' but she still looked at me expectantly like a large-eyed puppy.
'Well,' I said, trying to banish the sarcasm from my voice, 'it could have been one of the plants that affects everyone, like poison-ivy or nettles, or it could have been any plant at all that you just happen to be allergic to.'
She nursed her hand as though it had just happened.

At the end of the tour, the other leader asked them to thank me. The girl who had kept holding my hand launched herself at me and hugged.
I pretended I wasn't there.

When we went to Granville Island with Austen and Sue, I had taken Holly to the toilet.
Inside, there were two cubicles. One was occupied and the occupant's friend was standing outside. It was a first-time-tampon situation. Very soon, the whole toilet queue was coaching.
'Why can't she just use a napkin?' I asked,
'We're summer leaders,' said the girl, 'and we have to go swimming with the kids,'
'Try squatting,' said another woman,
'Squat,' reinforced the friend.
Inside the girl was groaning,
'It hurts, it hurts sooooo much...'
Eventually the mission was accomplished and the girl came out, unembarrassed that all these women had been involved in this rite of passage.
And good for her.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

End of Summer

It isn't of course, far from it, but it feels that way.

Two minutes after I got up this morning, the phone rang and my son Ben told me that the rest of the family were on the ground.
Relief, just as the night before they arrived, the night they left, we hardly slept.
The house is quiet.
I dreamt that lights were dancing around me as I went down the stairs, but those lights are dancing somewhere else, still, while they're dancing and happy, so am I.

Back at work, things are winding down for the summer programmes.
There was a new snake, a red Northwestern whose presence outside had closed down the restorations, it was feared it was different snake from an endangered species until finally he was caught and identified.

I have my laptop back, I'm very grateful. I think Kevin's a genius, but he doesn't.

The sun is still shining, the sky is bluer than ever, but summer is over. For now.

Monday, 13 August 2007


The spell has been broken, I feel as though I've had a three-week roller coaster ride more magical than anything Disney could have ever dreamed of. I think that Austen, Sue, Holly and Teddy have gone back with wonderful memories of where we live. I wish they could have met more of my friends, but there simply wasn't time, so they will go back not having met people they've heard about even though they were here.

Sue's tum was decidedly bigger when they left than when they arrived - ours too, though for different reasons, we have eaten non-stop. Teddy has four new teeth and Austen and Sue said that both children had increased their vocabularies.
Alex has shopped like a trooper.

But they have left a footprint here too. I can see where I live through different eyes. The waterpark across the road, the swings and play areas, I've never noticed what amazing facilities there are for young children here before.
I will continue to go to the church we attended while they were here, what a truly amazing woman the vicar is, what insight she has.

Having my family here has been like gardening. I prepared my patch of soil, planted the seeds, hoped they'd come to fruition and they did, although not always in the way I might have expected. And now I must do the tidying and garden work that you have to do in the autumn, make things ready for the winter.

I have to publish now and not wax too lyrical. Microsoft have done a good old job of brainwashing me because this Mac is driving me nuts.
Thanks again to Gail for the funny in the previous comments.

Saturday, 11 August 2007


I feel completely disconnected. Not because I have been away for most of this week, first on Vancouver Island and then in Washington, and not because I've been off work for three weeks, but because the cable to my laptop has broken.

It had been a bit dodgy for a long while, but finally it has given up. Kevin has ascertained that although it is no more than two and a half years old, the part can no longer be obtained. I'm now hoping for an engineering miracle involving equipment that we don't have around the house and a more sensitive soldering iron. Or soddering iron as they call it around these parts.

So I have no computer, although it would be fair to say that there are three other internet connected ones around the house. But that's not the point. The laptop, your own personal notebook, is like an electronic handbag, so suddenly being without your own is like suddenly having to manage with someone else's bag.

On my computer is everything I use on a daily basis. It's connected all the time, when I'm at home,I pretty much get e-mail from any of three accounts as they come in. I have my photos and the software for them, my writing, all my passwords, my bookmarks, my banking, my trillian (instant message manager). Now, even checking e-mail is a chore. I have to go into webmail for each of them, it takes forever to load them up, and of course, this is Kevin's laptop, so although he makes a great deal of effort to ensure I can use it when I need it, obviously he needs to use it too. I feel it unreasonable to sit and do my crosswords when I am taking time from his use of his own notebook.

And yes, I'm totally aware of how pathetic that all sounds. Spoilt even. I'd stamp my foot and scream and scream like Violet Elizabeth, but I know it wouldn't have much effect.

And of course, I know it's awfully untrendy of me, not to mention both ungrateful and ungracious, but I do hate mac! Yes, yes, everyone says it's just a case of getting used to a different system, but I've tried and tried and I just don't like any of it. There's nothing, apart from the literal weight of the machine, that I like about the mac.

Anyway, enough moaning, I have just two more days with my family, and I'm going to savour every minute.
THEN I'll get back to whingeing.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007


Here's how it all started.
We were travelling to Vancouver Island on Bank Holiday Monday, so it seemed prudent to make a reservation.
BC Ferries' website also offered hotel and motel reservations, so I went ahead and booked rooms for us.

The population of Richmond, where we live, is more than 50% Chinese, so that now, I realise that I don't really notice Chinese people, because that is the norm.
The nearest ferry port to us is Tsawassen. When you get there, there is the odd effect that there are fewer Chinese people, some, but not the same percentage. Then after a while, you start to notice that most of them aren't Chinese at all, but First Nations. Tsawassen is the name of the place and of a band.

When we arrived at my cousin's, she asked about the motel.
'I don't know,' I said, 'there's something about it, I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think it must be owned by First Nations,'
'Were there First Nations people on the desk?' she asked,
'No, just some grumpy Hispanics, hmmm...that's odd, huge generalisation of course, but Hispanics are normally quite cheery...oh....oh, I see....'
'Well you are on the reservation,' she said.
I'd booked a motel on a reservation. Of course there was no knowing when booking online, you have to actually see the area to be able to tell.
First Nations land can usually be identified because of the billboards. They are the only people in Canada who are allowed to put up these giant advertising signs.
So it turned out the motel was on a reservation, so what? Well, exactly, the so what was just that. I think I thought you couldn't go on reservations or that it would be different, but that wasn't so. Yet it is confusing.
Sometimes police aren't supposed to go on their land, so there is an area in North Van where junkies go because the police don't, but then the bands complain about them and their paraphernalia, on the other hand, some bands own casinos, where presumably they want people to gamble, so I'm not sure what the boundaries are.

Coming back today, we were glad of the ferry reservations. The electronic infoboard told us that the five, six and seven o'clock ferries were all full, bad luck if you didn't have resos.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

More Truth

Sue took this picture of jellyfish at the Vancouver Aquarium. I think it's rather stunning.

This morning's sermon was thought-provoking. The vicar rustled up some questions that Jesus had been asked. Some of them were the usual sort of questions that all teachers get, ones where, had the questioners being paying attention, they wouldn't have needed to ask. (How do I enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Who is my neighbour?).
Others were more original. (Does this make me look fat?) But then the vicar said that none of these were the kinds of questions her parishioners came to ask her. No-one ever sat in her office and asked,
'Will I go to Heaven or Hell?' what people actually asked was how they could deal with problems in their own lives.

I guess that may seem obvious, but it wasn't to me, that people ask their vicar about the mundane rather than the spiritual.

She also quoted Sophocles as saying,
'No-one can tell whether a day is good until it has ended,'

For some baggage carousel reason, it set me thinking about truth again. One person sees that the other started something, the other sees it as the first.
At Mayhem, you were often called upon to make these judgements. What you really had to do was ignore the quarrel and get their attention back, because.....once you do start trying to find out who started something, there is frequently no answer.

You may get the he did-she did back to a,
'But Miss, she give me the evils....' So it starts with a perceived look. What that is really saying is that it starts somewhere else, outside of the current arena. It's all like some Vicky Pollard sketch inside their heads.
She thinks that he dissed her with a look, because somewhere in the past, someone has done this to her, he has looked, but may or may not have had any idea that he has looked that way, or that it meant that.
So who is to blame? There isn't always someone to blame, the truth is not always out there. When people are involved, science often isn't.

Another thing I have been poleaxed by today has been the continuing sorrow of the parents of the little girl who was abducted from the hotel room in Portugal. Another extensive search, and yet nothing.
It must seem that so many of the things we do wrong every day are forgiven, we get away with things, slip beneath the radar, but then sometimes, something someone does, the same as everyone else, nothing huge, will end in a death sentence or an unbearable loss or an irreversible outcome.

Elsewhere, in the made-up country of Iran, the world has been saved from 230 Satanists who have been arrested for taking part in music, drinking and general revelry whilst inappropriately dressed.
Phew, what a near miss.

Saturday, 4 August 2007


The untidy truth.

But what is it, truth I mean? It's one of those things you study in philosophy, is there something out there to which the world we perceive corresponds and thus some absolute or is it pragmatic, whatever we agree it shall be? A bit of both methinks, neither of those theories really satisfies.

I have been thinking about truth. I received what will probably be the final e-mail from Bangladesh, Dawn returns on Monday. I had asked her about the flooding there.

"we get conflicting opinions which appears to be
the norm here. We hear the news reports of 50-60% flooding, but the locals
continue to say a lot of the flooding is normal. I think it may be a conflict
between the city versus rural perspective. Perhaps it is not bad flooding to
the urban dwellers until the flooding hits them? Even between our hosts, they
have differing opinions."

And yet the BBC give us a very clear picture, that must be the truth. Of course I understand that the media distort to suit whatever their party line is, just, surely not the Beeb.

Dawn also makes another interesting observation,

"What is troublesome here is that the flood prediction technology is poor." Why? This is exactly the kind of thing the west could be helping with. It may even be that we know what is going to happen to them and they don't, or is that meteorology is so hit and miss?

The truth for those people is whatever their perception is, whatever affects them.

In the case of the foot and mouth outbreak near Guildford, there seems to be a suggestion that the virus escaped from the Animal Virus Research Institute in Pirbright.
My father used to work there. As kids we were not allowed to go on farms or anywhere near anyone's livestock, and yet of course, there was no way of determining whether we did or not. It was down to your parents' integrity.
And of course, we don't yet know the truth, and I think in this case, there is an actual answer, that virus came to that farm from somewhere.

Pride tomorrow in Vancouver. One year I'd like to go downtown and party with them.

Not this year though. Tomorrow we have plans, and of course, small children.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Tempus Fugit

It positively flees.

I can't believe that two of the three weeks of my family's visit are almost over. We've done a lot, but there's a lot we haven't done also. Some of the things are ones on my list, some are between the activities things, like just hanging around and watching TV.
No matter, their just being here is sufficient for me.

Our wine cupboard now has a batch of white in it - in preparation for Sleepy's visit. Kevin tells me it's good stuff.

In the world at large, a wildfire in California, another in the BC interior, horrendous flooding in India and Bangladesh where my friend Dawn is currently, an outbreak of foot and mouth in Guildford in England.
These of course pale into insignificance next to my own discomfort, difficult to tell for sure since the weather is still so bloody hot, but I feel like I've been having one long hot flush for most of the day.

I'm interested. Idi Amin had 43 children - as far as he knew - he was a spectacularly depraved and bloodthirsty dictator, now one of his offspring has been convicted for his part in the gang murder of a young man from Somali. So what were the odds? Was it simply a chronicle foretold?
One thing I liked about 'The Last King of Scotland' was that it didn't buy into the whole 'evil British empire' shite.
The sentiment is mooted.... and then soundly dispelled. It was a good film though, considering what a tall order it is to deal even partly with any aspect of the patchwork of problems in any of the African countries, that film did a sterling job.

Alex and Sue went to see 'Pirates of the Carribean 3' tonight. Alex was looking forward to a Depp-fest. But they came back sadly disappointed with the film, even dear, dear Johnny wasn't up to snuff. Kiera, according to reports, was lamer than ever. Poor show really, and nearly three hours of it.

Tempus didn't exactly fugit for them.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Being Nan

Like Being John Malkovich only more energetic and slightly less surreal.

Tonight, the others went to watch the BC Lions Canadian football team play and I stayed at home with the kids - Gott sei Dank.

I had forgotten quite how much you don't get to sit still with small children around. But they are also very happy with quite unsophisticated things to play with.
The temperature is so high at the moment that they were able to play out on the balcony for a couple of hours in the evening with just a pan and the washing up bowl full of warm water and bubble bath, some yoghurt pots and a wooden spoon.

When the sun had sunk low in the sky, we watched the film 'Monsters Inc' which was a lot of fun, but then we were hooked into children's TV and it makes me wonder how the entire nation isn't ADHD. Everything in 'Treetown' is brightly and garishly coloured, the inhabitants' speech is hyper and they waggle their heads like idiots on speed. Through this, children are supposed to acquire an appreciation for French, I fear that their fear starts here.

It was lovely to have them to myself for the evening, have Teddy snuggle off to sleep in my arms. Holly never quite did, but she stayed in her bed for most of the time.

The bridge collapse in Minneapolis is quite horrifying. As well as several of my friends having friends and family there, I can't help wondering about our own bridges here. Whose job is it to maintain bridges, the city, the province, the country? In a country where there is little socialism, you can't help wondering who looks after the good of the public.
A couple of weeks ago, I met another Brit at a party who solved a couple of perplexing problems for me. I said to him that I couldn't see why so many people see themselves as having left wing views and yet I never meet anyone who is a supporter of the NDP, Canada's apparent equivalent of the Labour Party.
At the same time, you do meet people here who are proud to say they are liberal.

We have a Liberal Party in Britain, and at the beginning of the twentieth century, it would be fair to say that at a time of huge social reforms, many of them were orchestrated by the Liberal Party. But that was also the time when the Labour Party was started, and by 1924, Britain had her first Labour Prime Minister.
This was the death knell for the Liberal Party at national level, David Lloyd George, the same premier who had instigated all reforms, was also the last Liberal PM in Britain. The Liberal-Democrats are now seen as a centre party, or a local party, someone to give the Tories a run for their money in their strongholds.

Meanwhile, back in our own backyard ....... well let's just say, when you hear the words 'Nigeria' and 'internet' together in the same paragraph, you'd factor in the word 'scam'.
And yet......Richmond RCMP have had to actually issue guidelines warning people not to fall for some dating scam now parting them from their money. Exactly how stupid do you have to be to send money to someone who e-mailed you from Nigeria?
Pretty damn stupid.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Holiday within a Holiday

So where was I? Oh yes.

So Sunday, we went to church, a local one for local people. And visitors from abroad. We made it - due to the fact that I missed the turning - on the last stroke of the church bell.
It was an almost entirely female-led service. The vicar is a woman, ditto the curate, the lay reader who preached, a bunch of other people in robes, all women.
On our way out we spoke to the vicar and it transpired that her son plays Canadian rules football for Calgary, Austen had heard of him and she in her turn was pleased to have someone to talk about Canadian Football to.

In the afternoon, we went to Kevin's parents' house for a barbecue, which was amazing. I was the designated driver for the evening, which sounds trivial, except that ..... the behemoth has automatic transmission.
Automatic transmission seems like madness to me, you have the machine straining at the leash and you have to keep it tamed with the brake. Bizarre.

On Monday, first thing, we set out for Birch Bay. We had to take both cars because Laurence had arranged his days off so that he could come with.
Kevin was driving ahead in our car with Laurence because they could get straight through the border and get food in.
All in our car, bar me, would have to 'go inside' for a visa waiver.
And at 11 am on Monday morning, the Peace Arch was backed up for one and a half hours.
But when we did get through and into the immigration office, everyone was in good humour, and boy oh boy does that make a difference, like getting a good crew when you fly.

It was fantastic to see Sue and Austen share the 'wow' experience of seeing Mount Baker, of Fred Meyer, of Bellis Fair and of seeing the RV itself. They really enjoyed their two days, holiday within a holiday.

Kev's parents came down Tuesday evening and we all had dinner together, then drove back as the sun was setting. At nine o'clock on a Tuesday evening we were door-to-door in under an hour, straight through border control, hardly got down to first gear.

We have a free trade agreement with the States, but we have strict allowances of how much in goods we can bring back, dependent on how long we stay down.
For less than two nights, we can only bring $50 worth. Now bear in mind that many Canadians go down for a day's shopping and you can imagine how many layers of clothing some of them wear when coming back.
We only had a couple of books, but we could have brought whatever, the guard didn't even ask the question.

The rest of the journey, as the sun was slowly sinking, was magical, Alex and I were in the little car and we had road music to sing loudly to. An endless train crossed a bridge above us as we drove through Delta, and the mountains and the sea, and the sky were black and coral and gold.

Today, we were up early again and off the the Vancouver Aquarium. Despite the City Workers' strike, it is still up and running.
We had a great day out, but now the kids are pretty exhausted, however the heat is doing what the heat does, and no nearby swimming pool to cool off in.

The day isn't over, Alex, Austen and Laurence are off to see 'The Simpsons' movie.
But me, I have a Marguerita and ....well several more probably.