Sunday, 30 September 2007


I have been writing a long story for some time now. I read it at my writers' group and to be honest, I prioritise everything else but, even though it gives me a great deal of pleasure to write, and generally speaking only write the next part when it's my turn to read. We only read a maximum of 2,500 words at a time, so progress is rather slow.

The story is about a small town on the south coast of Britain, loosely based on Pompey, the town is called 'Horse-sur-mer' so there is a back story even to that. The action centres on a group of women who live in an Edwardian house divided into flats and on other key players in the town. Most of these people are women. There is nothing unusual about having a chief police officer, a mayor and a vicar who are women, the unusual aspect is that they are all in the same town. Someone once pointed this out to me as though it were a bad thing. Bizarre.

Last Monday it was my turn to read and I needed to name my church. I thought it would be amusing and appropriate to the town for the church to be named after a prominent woman in the Old Testament rather than a Saint - the church had originally been named for Saint Brigantia (Brigid) who had been decanonised - so the church is named 'The Blessed Deborah'.
I was however, quite surprised that no-one in the group, including those who attend church, had heard of the judge, Deborah.
Now on the one hand, I get that children do not do RE as a subject at school here, and yet I know I have discussed Deborah with one of my American friends in the past, for whom that is also true.

But they did seem to enjoy the idea of the Blessed Deborah, especially as Saint Brigantia is still watching over the congregation from the windows.

I believe there is a message in Judges 5 - I live in hope in any case.
Deborah had summoned Barak and told him to take ten thousand soldiers to Mount Tabor, and she would arrange it so that he won a great victory.
Barak is a bit of a weenie, so he says that he'll only go if she does, to which she replies,
'I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera (commander of the army who was oppressing the Israelites) into the hand of a woman.'
Oh well, Barak did defeat the army itself, but only because Deborah came with, and a woman (Jael) dispatched Sisera.

So tonight, not Deborah, but the new series of Dexter starts on TV.
Oh joyous bliss.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Sweet Fanny Adams

Rather an inappropriate picture, yesterday's sunshine has given way to rain today. Nil desperandum though, it's amazing how a little trip to Old Navy can brighten things up.

A little Pomp and Circumstance sent by Sleepy however, soon had the waterworks full on. Can't beat it.
Holy Haddock, I tried embedding the actual video in there and it took over the whole page, so I've had to edit it back to just a link.

Dubya, meanwhile, has been further annoying the rest of the world with his inability to grasp the idea of climate change and the fact that he has to do something about it.
Always, as the article suggests, a divisive subject between him and Tony, the gap is now widening and deepening. But Dubya acknowledges that there are challenges, and says that the US takes them seriously. Bollocks he does. I have no idea why he even bothers to protest. Why doesn't he simply sign up for everything and then ignore it as he usually does. There's sweet Fanny Adams anyone can do - witness the whole Canadian lumber fisaco. It didn't matter which international court told him to pay back the money, he just pretended that if he thought he was invisible then no-one could see him. And if he thinks he is invincible then no-one can touch him.

Back in New Series land, the second episode of the new Kelsey Grammar comedy, 'Back to You' still makes me think that they only have their B team (at best) working on the scripts. Lame, predictable lines.

'SVU' feels like everything has been sparkled up, things were going seriously downhill during the previous series, and Olivia has the cutest hair yet.

'Cane', starring Jimmy Smits, Hector Elizondo, Rita Moreno and Attia of the Julii, looks good, hot, Hispanic and sexy but hasn't yet engaged. We'll see.

'Big Shots' is another of those shows about rich people, and when I say people, I mean men. The men are about making money and getting on in the big old tricksy world of business, the women look nice. Not nice in the Helen Mirren type of way, more the Malibu Barbie way.

Vampires abound. Sadly, in this case, the Canadian 'Blood Ties' is the one which seems formulaic and lightweight and largely dependent on Kyle Schmid's ability to smoulder whilst the American 'Moonlight' looks deeper and darker and a lot more stylish.
I mean, in my opinion, there can never be too many vampire shows, but let's push back those boundaries, let's boldly go where no vampire has gone before.
That's the ticket.

Dawn, if you're reading this, have a wonderful birthday tomorrow dear friend. The next one of us to turn half a century. As I will not tire of repeating, 1957, a great, great vintage.

Friday, 28 September 2007


The temperature today was perfect for me. I have no idea what it was but I'm thinking maybe 11 or 12. The weather was sunny and the temperature was cool, with just an edge to it. Wearing a jumper I felt cold, but just comfortably so. Perfect.

To increase the perfection, Alex and I had to set out some props for the programmes that start next week, and we came across this little glade, the light was so perfect and there were several patches of Fly Agaric.
Later we went over to the east side of the park. Few people actually go over there but yet we found this little Blair Witch house.

We looked all around it, but there were no clues as to its origins.

The day before yesterday I received a letter in the post, unusual in itself. The letter bore the stamp of Bard on the Beach but this didn't strike me as unusual since we order tickets from them, albeit online ...... so maybe it should have seemed odd.

I opened it and was surprised to learn that I had become a member and generously donated to this non-profit organisation.
'Oh dear,' I said to Kevin, 'I'm rather afraid I've received a letter that should have gone to someone else, which is a pity because it the letter promises all kinds of good things, sit on Christopher Gaze's knee at the performance of my choice, wear a crown of autumn leaves while watching, be on their Christmas card list,' and then I found a tax receipt, and I was surprised to learn that Kevin's and my names would be put in next year's programme, in Kevin's surname. This mistake was beginning to look a little specific.

Finally I remembered that Austen had told me that my birthday present would arrive at some point. After making enquiries I discovered that this was it, and a most amazing one too.

There are all kinds of benefits to this, bearing in mind that I do adore Bard on the Beach, and there really is a handwritten addition to the letter by Christopher Gaze, the director.
Thus, I'm excited already. I have been to the website and know that I want to see all four of next year's plays. Titus Andronicus, King Lear, Twelfth Night and the Tempest.
My cup runneth over.

Thursday, 27 September 2007


Here's a question - is a watch merely jewellery today? Fewer and fewer people seem to wear one, most of us use our mobile phones to tell the time, and for a fair amount of our day in any case, we are in some way connected to a computer. So when people do choose to wear them, is it just for decoration?

The new show that Canadian Karen mentioned in yesterday's comments, 'Dirty, Sexy Money' is like nails on a blackboard - for those of us old enough to just about remember the blackboard that is.

There are some superb actors in it, the deliciously evil Donald Sutherland, the divine Jill Clayburgh, the brilliant Peter Krause and one of the lesser Baldwins. And it is well-scripted. But a programme about the pathetic squabblings of a bunch of rich people is just annoying. You want to watch it and yet, you don't. Scratch, screech.

We had a volunteer come in to see us today. She had been working during the summer for a Christian Environmental group. Alex and I discussed with her the inherent responsibility that all of us feel is part of any form of Christian worship, 'wise stewards of our own inheritance'.
And yet how far is the Christianity of George W Bush et alia from this? They will claim, no, proclaim loudly that they are Christians and that everything they do is inspired by God and yet they do nothing to honour that part of our duty to do everything we can to not destroy that inheritance.

And now we will watch Ugly Betty. I'm sure it will, as ever, be superb, but watch this space.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

News and TV

Autumn TV. Yes. Really, everyone is entitled to my opinion, so here it is.

'Reaper', caring parents have sold their son's soul to the devil before conception. On his 18th birthday, the devil does what the devil does, (and if TV is in any way accurate, the Mafia, do too) and collects his due.
Amusing. There's a chunky full-on side-kick who is excellent. This one could shape up well.

'Gossip Girl' could disappear in my opinion, it seemed very lightweight and un-engaging. But.... it will probably stay, it's full of beautiful people.

'Race to Mars' however, did engage and was full of ordinary-looking people, not in their twenties and from an international community. Nicely done.

In 'Journeyman', we have to put up with yet another British actor, Rome's Kevin McKidd, doing an American accent. Somehow, it just seems wrong. I'm sure the accent itself is sound as a pound (;) ) maybe it's just seeing McKidd wearing present-day clothes and not being gritty.

The new series of 'Bones' is off to a good start. I get the feeling the ante will be upped on the sexual tension between Bones and Booth. And Hodges has better hair, which is a definite plus.

Better hair also in the second series of the superb 'How I met your mother'. Alyson Hannigan has darkened up and Jason Segel as Marshal seems to have lost weight and grown his hair a bit - which looks better. Dougie Howser as Barney still steals the show,

'Corner Gas' has never disappointed and this series looks set to be no exception.
We have the first eps of the new series of 'House' and 'Boston Legal' still to watch.

I can't really keep up with the international news either. Fortunately, on Monday, we had a short lesson about Burma from one of our writing group who had been there at a previous time of turmoil, but I still can't get my head around the whole thing.

Mad, bad, Jihad Amadjinehad, or whatever his name is, what is he like? A complete nutjob, but he keeps popping up on TV making ridiculous claims, will no-one rid us of this turbulent traffic-warden?

You don't need more than the knowledge of what HIV stands for to know that the virus can't last long outside of the human body. Therefore the lunacy of the Catholic Archbishop of Mozambique who is claiming that European condom manufacturers are out to get Africans by putting HIV in condoms, is simply laughable. Frankly, they don't need any help, many African countries are doing a pretty slap-up job of self-destruction.

I am using hyphens. Yep, they are endangered. It seems that even the Shorter OED has dropped it in about 16,000 words. So while one bastion of conservatism, the Anglican church, affects the lives of real people, and turns backwards into the darkness, upholder of standards, the OED caves to the ignorant.

Bleeding typical.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007


Autumn has been creeping up since mid-August, and then suddenly, and in a technical sense, it's here. This morning, after a night-time rainfall, the huge spiders' webs in the Park were bejewelled orbs or lacy baskets. We saw the first fly agaric toadstools of the season and the frogs were sucking the last few therms of heat out of the air before they have to hunker down in the mud at the bottom of the pond.

And on TV, suddenly the drought of summer has been replaced by a downpour of new programmes, or new series of old favourites. But the trick is to save some for later. Don't watch it all at once, because just when they have you hooked, they have a week or two of desert. Sort of like the reverse of an Indian Summer.

Sandals have been replaced by boots. At the weekend I put away the summer dresses that I never wore in any case.

At work, Kris gave me a research paper to read, but fortunately she explained it first. Rough-skinned newts are prey for garter snakes, but the newts produce a neuro-toxin. The snakes have developed immunity to the neuro-toxin. So the newts have upped the ante, they have developed a stronger neuro-toxin in the areas where they are prey to garter snakes. Fascinating stuff, but with a message. Never lick a rough-skinned newt, you'll only do it once.

And the leaves are falling.

Monday, 24 September 2007


I always liked Steve Irwin, but today at the pond, I really got him. When I saw this garter snake lying on a raft of foliage under some blueberry bushes in the pond, I just wanted to jump up and down saying,
'What a beauty!'

And it was a day for snakes. We were given two new juveniles, Badger and Racer. I left them curled up around each other under the heating lamp.

Sunday, 23 September 2007


There is a haze of half- remembered conversations or posts into which my mind dips.

I see Dave Grohl on TV. He's made it, I think, he's made it without Kurt Cobain, and did I talk to someone about this? Austen perhaps. What would have happened had Kurt not died? Would Grohl have spread his wings and flown? Would Cobain have gone on producing amazing music?

In church this morning, the curate wants a little children's moment in the middle of the service, so I decide for no particular reason to read the Book of Esther while this is going on. Maybe from the haze I remember Sleepy telling me about the Purim, or perhaps it was a teacher from one of the Jewish schools.
I can see that Esther is a hero for the Jewish people. She uses her womanly wiles to foil the evil plotting of Haman against her father Mordecai and the Jews in general. More or less salts the earth behind him too, the Lord may have said,
'Vengeance is mine,' but Esther had her people allowed to go out and kill all the enemies who had been harbouring bad thoughts about the tribe of Benjamin. Fair enough really.
But hang on. In order for Esther to be in any position of power in the first place, her husband had chucked out his wife Vashti for not bowing to his wishes. Furthermore, he points out that if he lets Vashti get away with not obeying him, all women will think it's ok to do that.
So while you've got to admire Esther for working the system, spare a thought for Vashti who was basically a feminist.

On TV, just before Dave Grohl, there was a programme about the science of Superman. It seems that Superman travels at such a speed that the difference of speed between Lois Lane hitting the ground and Superman catching her would be so great that the more traumatic and painful thing would be to be caught by Superman.
Still, if it makes the guy look good.....

On BBC Canada yesterday, I caught the beginning of another series about British history - something along the lines of 'Buildings that Changed/Built Britain'. A historian called Simon Thurley, wrapped up against the Welsh wind, walked and talked and told us a tale of how Edward the First quashed a Welsh uprising led by Llewellyn ap Griffidd. It was mesmerising. My problem, and again, that conversation haze reminds me I've talked to someone about this, is that I have been trying to follow the Canadian series 'Historylands' where the format is not that dissimilar and succeeds in being as dry as dust.
Why? What the hell is it?

Yesterday I wanted to watch the episode entitled 'Head-smashed-in-buffalo-jump' about the place of the same name.
The First Nations story about how the place got its name, took all of two minutes, young warrior waits beneath a cliff to see how the buffalo fall as they come thundering over the cliff, gets a hoof to the head and it's all over for him. About three minutes after that I had to abandon it.

Perhaps it's an autumn haze. I think today is the first day. It's also the first day I have heard the noise of footie being played on the pitches opposite our house.

And it's also the birthday of my friend Eve.
Happy 50th Eve! 1957 was such a good vintage.

Saturday, 22 September 2007


In the sixth form at school we did a non- examination subject called Current Events. In the days before league tables for schools, one criterion for judging them was how many pupils made Oxbridge every year, so I guess they were preparing us in case we wanted to study PPE. The careers department in any case consisted solely of advising you about which university to go to.

And in Current Events we were told that the class system no longer existed in Britain. Five years down the line I would read the only Jilly Cooper book I would ever read - well so far - 'Class'. Thus I discovered that class was indeed alive and kicking.
Sad to say that experience down the years has led me to continue to believe that the trashy novelist was correct and the blue stocking - well just wishful thinking.

Rab Butler, architect of the 1944 Education Act which raised the school leaving age to 15 and gave free secondary schooling to all, certainly changed things in Britain, it was a deliberate step towards equality and I can see that class wasn't what it was before the war.
Education, and not money, has always been the key to class mobility in Britain. It's why we don't truly value celebrity. We will revere our great actors for their skill, and we look down our noses at those we consider unskilled, though wealthy.

It's difficult for those who haven't grown up in Britain to fully grasp how deeply ingrained this is in us. And it is equally difficult for those of us who did to grasp the ideals of a largely classless society. One where wealth itself is what people value and not class and education.

All of this preamble is an attempt to explain one level in the British class system. Not the chav, that's relatively easy to describe, a way of dressing, of behaving, beautifully depicted by Miss Vicky Pollard.

No, what I want to define is the 'Pikey'.

The working class in British society is essentially seen as just that, not that everyone who works is working class, and you can be working class and not work. British soaps such as Eastenders and Corrie are about working class people.

The Pikey isn't working class. They are lower class, but they are not decent and honest. The word is synonymous with 'gypo' although not in the sense that these people are actually gypsies. Some may be settled travellers. They may be part of large families, known by name who are responsible for petty crime and whose honour, if any exists, is 'among thieves', they will call upon members of the larger family but have no honour per se.

Anyone who would like to help me in this attempt to define the term pikey, please do, I am struggling.
You just know when someone is one, somehow, you just know, and you wouldn't trust them as far as you could throw them.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Coppers for Copper

Yet another series of...well not unfortunate, and in fact totally unconnected, events.

Walking to work I turned my ankle in exactly the same place as last week. Because I have to walk in the cycle lane, and in order to minimise my chances of death by cell-phone-using zombie motorists, I walk as far away from them as possible, ergo, I slipped off the tarmac onto the grass verge.

When I arrived at work, it turned out that Marco Polo, tiny garter snake, had kicked the bucket. Who knows why, maybe it had become too cold for him although we had put heating lamps above his tank.

Yesterday, the floodlights that illuminate our car park at work, had all the copper wire stripped out of them. A blue van was spotted. The RCMP came. Today, we saw three suspicious looking men walking around the park, they were carrying heavy rucksacks and they got into the same blue van. We took their number and called the RCMP. They came, but told us that if we insist on calling the non-emergency line, then they won't ever catch the it were.
They also took all the cable out of the streetlamps in Shell Road, the criminals, not the coppers, presumably without anyone noticing.
The Nature Park I can understand, after hours, after dark, they're pretty much only watched by the bats and owls, but a busy connector road?

Kris went to the freezer to get some ice for my ankle. She found actual food in there, all of which she chucked out and the dead animals remained. Go figure. To be honest, I wouldn't eat anything that had been in that freezer.
In the Nature House I could hear a mum drawing her kid's attention to the 'big puppy' or coyote as we call it.

In the afternoon, Alex and I went out looking for frogs and water bugs. We went to the small river known as 'the ditch'. It was indeed jumping with life, far more than our pond. I got stuck in the mud and Alex had to help me out. He actually seemed rather pleased to be out slopping around in the mud in the pouring rain. I like that in an assistant.

Kevin came to pick me up from work. My ankle was caning, although not very swollen. I had a hot bath and then settled on the sofa. The plan was to decide whether we'd drive down and across the border later, but once warm and dry with my foot up.....we decided to stay put.

I think I might break out the Horlicks that Sleepy brought over, or maybe the whisky.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Bowen Island

For those of you who are planning your next trip, here is a little taster of what is just a fifteen minute ferry ride away from Horseshoe Bay on the North Shore.
This is Killarney Lake on Bowen Island. There is also an area of East Vancouver called Killarney, no idea whether or not Mavaureen is the flower of either.

Some of the coastal areas of BC are temperate rainforest and Crippen Regional Park is a good example of this, on the forest floor, sword ferns, moss, mushrooms, plants that need little light because the forest canopy is where it's all happening.

There is a point in Killarney lake where it was dammed quite a while ago and now it appears that these trees are damned. The petrified forest stands and waits, it's green life of leaves over and its home to birds and animals yet to come. These trees become wildlife trees and they live a second life longer and with more impact on the ecosystem than the first.

Here at Snug Cove they sometimes use another method of transport. (You may need to click on the photo to see what I'm talking about.) Just as well. I was told that there were no petrol stations on Bowen Island. I'm not sure whether this is true, but I'm prepared to believe it.
I don't believe they have any secondary schools. When we were waiting for the ferry back, a huge flock of teenage children disembarked from the incoming one and filled up three waiting school buses.
Snug Cove has a cluster of little artisan shops, a gift shop, a gallery, a cafe, a dress shop with beautiful individual designs and a couple of interesting-looking restaurants.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

...In Which Nothing Happens....

Nothing happened today. Nothing happening happens from time to time, it's as though the world takes a snooze.

Nothing happened in newsland either, it can't have done because the Guardian reported that
liberties had been taken over the naming of the Blue Peter cat. Apparently 'Socks' wasn't the viewers' first choice. Some poor sod was sacked over this.

When nothing happens, the English-speaking world turns by default to the weather. The sky here was ...well, sky-blue all day. The temperature was cool however. So with the weather being cooler, the bedroom window was closed. The darker morning and the lack of loud noises outside mean it's more difficult to get up in the morning, there's less time between waking up and the alarm going off.

In Jam and Jerusalem, there are no pasties for the picnic because Rosie has forgotten to order them, so the ladies are cooking them,
'I'll have no Ginchers on my picnic,' says Eileen, so Rosie is measuring ingredients against a swede.
Thank goodness we finally have it here.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Solar Moments

Thunder, rolling around the sky, and lightning, a few streaks, just as I took off for the airport.

Once more, the house seems quiet. I look at the picture on the mantelpiece and realise that with all the pace and excitement of the past two weeks, I haven't thanked Crisp-e, so thanks mate! It's brilliant, and the frame - superb.

Alex and I caught an hour of sunshine this afternoon and were able to walk through one of the autumn programmes. The pond was bristling with frogs, sitting or hanging in the water like amphibious solar cells, soaking up the last of the rays.

Whilst the greater stability in southern Iraq allows Britain to withdraw ever more troops from Basra, my son's friend Stuart prepares for his second tour of duty there. Austen says he seems unconcerned and I remember how impatient he was to see active duty the first time.

The Canadian dollar is just two cents away from parity with the US dollar, great for shopping in the States, less fun for a number of industries up here.

The most horribly disappointing of today's news stories is that of the Archbishop of Canterbury trying to bully other churches in the Anglican communion, into not appointing any more openly gay bishops, nor in publicly blessing same-sex couples.
I have never been so ashamed of the Church of England. This isn't what Christianity is about and maybe Dr. Williams needs to open his heart up and listen to the message and spirit of his own faith.

Well, Sleepy is in the air, and if all has gone according to plan, she should be very mellow right now. Anxious to use up all of her herbal treats before leaving, and equally anxious to be able to manage the nine hour flight plus two hours at the airport without nicotine, she ate the last of it, with an expected kick-in time of shortly before departure.
And God bless you woman for finishing the Amaretto, I thought I'd never get rid of that from our drinks cupboard.

To Canadian Karen - sleep well chuck, hope you're feeling well soon.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Ten Mile Diet

Sunday's rain has left us cooler. Even those of us who couldn't get any cooler. It's cool, and yet sunny. Fab.

So....the ten mile diet. A lot of people around here are doing this for a month.

Let's pretend you don't know what it is, or that you've misread and think it's sex in a space rocket or some such.
The ten mile diet means you only eat things that can be obtained from a source within a ten mile radius of where you live.

My colleague was accompanying someone today who was on this kick, and he's a green one is Peter.
But it soon became clear to my environmentally aware co-worker that the ten mile diet involved a LOT of driving to find local sources of food, in fact, it may be that having the whole population driving two miles to the supermarket once a week, and having the groceries shipped to the store from Washington and California, may turn out to be not so different from individuals driving all over the place to get the local stuff.
Local food for thought.

Tomorrow Sleepy will be on her way back to Sleepy mansions, so we've been out this evening and shared the Elvis Platter at the Memphis Blues restaurant on Commercial Drive. That's a lot of meat. Afterwards, we made a side trip to Dairy Queen for puds. Now, all that is left for us to do is slowly digest it all and fart.
Perfectly splendid.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Resonant Lines

....'They bring the slanting summer rain to tap the chestnut boughs again...' John Betjeman : Before the Anaesthetic.

At last, it has arrived. Soft, slanting, late, summer rain. Fresh, cool air.

We went to Steveston in the rain and were easily able to find a parking space. We looked at T-shirts and books and ate gelato.
We saw a dog that looked like a wolf, or a half wolf and a husky. It had starey blue eyes, and you couldn't stop looking at it, until we'd finished our gelato.

I love the rain, how it changes the world, it quenches the thirsty ground, fills the pond and washes the dusty city. It patters on the skylight, dulls the sounds outside. It clothes us, covers us, creates a barrier, a vapour shield that keeps the others out and our own thoughts in.
Divine rain.

'...And watched the morning sunlight pass, through richly stain'd Victorian glass...' (ibid)
I can just picture those rays illuminating the tiled hallway of a house which in the winter would be draughty.

A propos of nothing, I dreamt of eagles last night, bald eagles, flying not as single birds, nor in pairs, but in a group, accompanied by a juvenile with tawny gold feathers. They were flying low, they circled, and I could see their white heads clearly.
There is some meaning in it, but I don't know what...yet.

Another quote that has been used here today, and is oft used, and makes a good mental image, when Macbeth's servant enters the room as Macbeth is obsessing about how he will be killed,

'The devil damn thee black thou cream-faced loon,
Where got'st thou that goose look?'

Good question.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Crime and Mispunishment

Here at Schloß Schnee, there has been discussion about certain news items.

Take the McCanns. There seems to be a feeding frenzy at the moment and the media are showing themselves to be like children. As the parents of the missing child have come to the realisation that they need to go home and try to get back to normality for their other children, so the Portuguese police have decided to interview them, and to do so, technically have to declare them to be suspects.

The consensus here is that they should be left alone until some conclusion is reached. If it turns out that they had anything to do with the disappearance of their child, the public will turn on them. But right now, they are being tried by the most ignorant parts of the press. And THAT, is out of order.

So, OJ Simpson, no stranger to the criminal world, has been named as a suspect in an armed robbery case. Well, well, who'd have thought. It sends a clear message to anyone that if you can get away with one capital offence, you can get away with another.

Actor Chris Langham has been gaoled for ten months for downloading child porn from the internet. Silly twat, what was he thinking? Even if he HAD been doing research for some TV role, and the court wasn't having any of that, by downloading the porn, he was helping to validate and create the market.
What a plonker.
Sad tosser.

Thursday, 13 September 2007


A little fly in the ointment, but first, the ointment.

The weather continues sunny and warm and Vancouver positively sparkles with pride at her own beauty.

This afternoon, Alex and I attended a meeting at the Vancouver Museum which overlooks English Bay, Kits beach, the North Shore mountains, Stanley Park and just about everything breathtaking.
The speaker at the meeting was the Education Director for the Vancouver Olympics, which is admittedly, outside my area of interest, but I tried mightily hard to concentrate. Unfortunately, I found his voice difficult to tune into. He seemed to be speaking slightly too quietly for the size of room, he also had a very unmodulated mode of speech, and dropped the ends of his sentences. I watched him and thought that had he been speaking French or were I not a native speaker of English, I wouldn't have been able to follow.
But interesting points were raised, of course, just, for the most part, not interesting to me.

What did interest me however, was that afterwards, we were given a short tour of some of the museum's exhibits. Vancouver through the ages, well, not ages exactly, but since 1900 or so plus one in the works that will cover 'pre-contact'.
It seems that until the 1920s, Vancouverites had to drive on the left-hand side of the road. I'm sure that many think that hasn't changed.
The exhibits were well set-out however, and marvellously and enthusiastically presented to us by the museum's curator.

We were able to preview a new exhibition about women's clothing in the Belle Epoque. The clothes themselves did not interest me too much, although some of the fabrics and embroidery and lace were exquisite, but what the curator said about them did. She pointed out that this way of dressing - which we would probably quite simply refer to as Edwardian - ended abruptly with the First World War, when women were suddenly needed in the workforce. After the war, the fashion changed from the pre-war corsets and curvaceous shapes, to flat, almost shapeless and oversized styles. She gave us food for thought. What was the psychology behind this? It was as though women were trying to hide, like children, in grown-ups clothes. This era, she agreed, had done a great deal for women's emancipation.

The fly. When Kevin came home, he brought in a letter from Richmond City. Was it rewarding me for being such a fine and upstanding member of the community? No! It was an 'alleged bylaw violation'.
It seems that when Kevin unloaded me and all my props for the Richmond City Children's Festival in the place we were told to unload, and where other poor saps who were giving up their Saturday for free were also unloading, somehow the city itself hadn't been notified - presumably by itself.
They will be now, and it won't be pretty.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007


'Ikea....I've just seen a shop called Ikea, and suddenly that name, will never be the same to me......'

Ikea! Ikea lives again! And I've been down and worshipped.

'Sing it loud and there's music playing, sing it soft and it's almost like praying....'

Yes of course I know it should be 'softly' and not soft.
It was apparently open yesterday, so, good omens, re-opening on my birthday.

My assistant Alex started today, so now we have a couple of weeks to practise and train for the autumn programs. I have had my office all to myself for long enough, I'm glad I was able to get him early.

I must sleep, sleep has crept up on my while I wasn't looking.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007


I am 50 today! I can't believe it, I'm the first of friends of my school year, I'm leading the way:)

I'm going to bed now, we've toasted my birthday with Islay malt - and Marmite. Tomorrow - still my birthday, I have the day off and we are going into town.

Expect more :)

AND....more. I am going to add whenever I'm back at the house. So, I've changed the picture. Sleepy came and pointed out these two spiders in one orb web to me, and so I took a picture against the blue of the sky.

I love the fact that we have so many different ways of greeting people now. I have a brilliant card from my friend Karen in Britain. It has things that happened in 1957, people who were born and most fascinating of all, what things cost then. A cinema ticket cost two shillings and a pound of sausages, two shillings and ninepence - two and ninepence. A Mars bar cost sixpence. A nurse earned £480 whereas a small saloon car cost £835. A black and white TV cost a princely £74. You could buy a colour one for less than that now. Thank you for that card Karen.

I have also received cards from my friend Hannah, from Kev's parents and from work, but also e-mails from Dawn and Ree and Eve, and messages on Facebook, I just love the diversity.

I've watched the French news, don't often get an opportunity to do that, and now I am waiting for phone calls from England, then we'll be going out.Later....we have had a wonderful day. I spoke to all of my children and grandchildren on the phone. Brunch at Havana on Commercial Drive (I always misremember it as being called Savannah)after which we discovered the most amazing 'Fair Trade' type shop next door, which sold very reasonably priced fabrics, clothes, crafts, household things, bric-a-brac, from around the world. 'Ten Thousand Villages' is the name of the shop, if you are on Commercial Drive, visit it!

Then over to Granville Island for more browsing and general retail therapy. We didn't find the Saki place though Gail!
When we got back, there was a card waiting for me from my friend Dawn, more Facebook messages and then some flowers arrived from my sister. Now we're going out for dinner....

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Canine Gargoyles

We have numerous slim black boxes around the place. They allow us to play our music, serve as an alarm clock and a clock and as a screen-saver, telling us the news headlines from around the world.
Except that now, Kevin has set them so that my blog also scrolls across. This takes me by surprise.
I was reading about the restaurant shooting in Vancouver, then all of a sudden, something about Sleepy. It's weird, and yet, seeing my own words scrolling across a screen like that, gives them a kind of validation, as though they were being broadcast in everyone's house just like the news headlines, although of course they're not, just mine.

I've had a spiffy day. Church, then speaking to all of my sons and my daughter. Then off to White Rock for a paddle in the sea and fish and chips and mushy peas, then back to Crescent Beach - to Blackie Spit, to look at the wetlands.

There was a big sign from the City of Surrey, warning dog owners that this was an environmentally sensitive area and that dogs were not allowed. It also pointed out the areas where you could walk your poochies. AND it even added a touch of humour by putting it in dog language.
And yet......naturally, there were two people walking and generally allowing to frolic, the ugliest dogs I have ever seen in my life. They looked like black pugs with huge bat ears, small, fat, canine gargoyles.

We ignored them once, the second time, I stood up and they stopped in their tracks. Sleepy was photographing a magnificent great blue heron.
I asked them if they realised dogs were not allowed in this area, they started mouthing off. Kevin had backed me up and Sleepy was now, head over parapet, enquiring if something needed to be done.
The two told me to shut up and walked off.
We started to walk back to the car, but realised they were not far behind us. I don't believe for one moment that they didn't realise, but presumably no-one else had challenged them. Either that or someone else had and they were beginning to feel outnumbered. They had told me that the dogs weren't hurting me and I pointed out that they were, according to the sign, harming the environment.

Afterwards, we went to see Kevin's parents. A fantastic day in all. Warm sunny, nature-y, mushy peas.


Saturday, 8 September 2007

Maple Keys

A vine Maple, beginning to change to its Autumn colours, and with almost ripe keys.
Winged seed dispersal.

Today is, it seems, the birthday of three people I know, so Happy Birthday to Gail, to Frances and to my colleague Rich's baby son Adam.

I'm not sure whether yesterday ended late or started early. There was drinking, Sleepy was second to last standing, Kev came to bed at around 3, at which time the film crew at the school opposite (until 3 am, the fictional Medora High, Wisconsin) revved up their trucks and left. Goodie.

Consequently, Sleepy has felt somewhat under the weather today. We went to Richmond's 'Nibbles and Bites' - an event in the grounds of one of the community centres where local restaurants sell samples of their fare for between 2 and 3 dollars.
But the staff shortages have nibbled and bitten at the event and many establishments that were able to attend last year reported that they were unable to spare the workers this time.
Sleepy spoke to god several times without the benefit of the great white telephone.

I turned the shelved plans into retail therapy, as you do, and went and mooched around the shops.
Lovely, and not too crowded.

A wonderful article in the Guardian to honour world literacy day, had readers sending in their favourite words, and I must admit, some were great, some were new to me. But I agreed wholeheartedly with eldritch, peculiar, mellifluous, indubitably, undulate, rebarbative, the list goes on, but makes enjoyable reading.

Friday, 7 September 2007


Small but perfectly formed hops, and growing bigger.

The calm before the storm. Next week we will start training in earnest - after my birthday. I have carefully arranged for my new assistant to start the day after my birthday.
But today WAS calm. Until, that is, I took time out to visit the Aberdeen Mall. The car park is unusually torturous at the best of times, but today, having lined up in the filter lane that ONLY GOES INTO THE MALL behind another car, we discover that the entrance to the mall is completely blocked. No signs, just barriers.
The line of traffic which included myself had no other option but to try and get back into the main lane, and as is often the practice of drivers here, we were honked at.

But lo! For once, I had the ultimate come back. I drove and Sleepy did the road rage. She opened the window and abused the fuckwitted driver right back. I'm afraid there is only one word for this, awesome.

Sleepy cooked dinner. And that too was awesome, roasted vegetables with garlic, lemon and chillies and feta, glistening with olive oil and flavoured with coriander.

Later, Canadian Karen came round and we all went to the nightmarket, but not until she'd eaten a whole chilli and almost lost her mind.
Ah, the Richmond Nightmarket. Such tackiness all at one venue, and yet there's something about the tackiness and food that you'd never actually eat, and the crowds, and the bad, bad music, and all the stalls glittering in the dark.

Thursday, 6 September 2007


In spite of the azure sky, there was a stiff breeze, making it feel cooler. Azure sky.

Yesterday, I was having to ring up pre-schools to get their addresses, they may not be published online.
'As-ooruh Drive,' said one woman to me, 'A-Z-U-R-E.' Dear God.

Many things are due to happen on my birthday, which in case you haven't been paying attention is 11/09.
Ethopia is celebrating its Millennium.
Osama bin Laden will be releasing a message. Yes, not entirely what I was hoping for, but what can you do?

At the Nature House today, we received a strange e-mail. The writer was complaining about some trees being cut down. The e-mail quickly deteriorated into badly spelt, meaningless diatribe, including some garbage about how people could avoid being hit by falling trees by not thinking about it or some tosh. You had to wonder what sort of person goes out of their way to do something like that.
One good thing came out if it, the word 'Certifiend' - I mean it says so much, the guy himself was definitely one.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

September Evening

A long day. An evening meeting meant that my day finally ended at 22.00, and how strange that from the open doorway of the Nature House I watched darkness fall earlier than I had realised. September.

The weather continues warm and sunny, we watched a Northwestern garter snake searching around in the moss, I'd never been able to observe one outside for so long. Late summer days, dragonflies, green frogs, the blueberry bushes turning red.

In the Guardian, Madeleine Bunting makes an amazingly pertinent point about the pay gap between men and women. The gap isn't narrowing, and she asks the question, why do we expect women to individually take their companies to court, it's like expecting each victim of burglary to sue the burglar.
She's right of course, those firms are breaking the law, they should be prosecuted by the State, not by women who have to prove their case.

She also goes on to talk about the blame game, women don't negotiate for more money,

"The most insidious aspect of the issue has been the "blame the victim" game. As government washes its hands and private sector companies mouth platitudes, women get the blame. It's reported that they don't ask for pay rises, they don't negotiate, they don't care about the money as much as men. But new research in the US shows that all these study findings are true for a good reason: women who are seen to be pushy and demanding are disproportionately penalised - while such behaviour in men is rewarded. The odds are stacked against women. In no other area of national life do we expect the victims to deliver justice for themselves, so why on the pay gap?"

Why indeed. I think it's way more insidious than people even realise, women don't advocate for themselves, they advocate for others, I know, I have just done it this evening.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007


Just a quick note to let those who are interested that BA delivered Sleepy, safe and sound and pretty much on time - although reacting badly to their on-board curry. And having got her to fly 5,000 miles, we've watched BBC Canada all evening.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Labour Day

It seems to be raining, although it started sunny and bright. This picture of Alex wasn't taken on Labour Day, but rather about three weeks ago, but it's a picture I love, so I thought I'd share it.

Ree alerted me to the story about the first woman Beefeater - I must say, I thought they'd had one some time ago, but it appears not. So I looked it up on the Guardian's website and Moira Cameron looks very much to me like the Duchess of York. And see, that would seem like a good bit of employment recycling. Fergie, no longer on the Royal A-List, could nonetheless turn her hand to a spot of royal-related Beefeating.

There is a story in our local rags about an arsonist who has set fire to children's playground equipment. That's a pretty mean and pointless thing to do, not to mention that it pollutes horribly. But what makes no sense at all to me is the headline in both papers that declares that an arsonist has spoilt the return to school.
Pulease. It's the return to school that spoils the return to school. Going back to school isn't fun, it's a trial, a bummer, it means the summer's over and both scholar and teacher have to engage once more in that battle of wills.
It is its own nemesis.

An interesting blog in the Guardian brings up the age-old problem of tipping in restaurants. And I agree with much of what the writer says. Why do we tip waiting staff when we don't tip other service workers?
I do also prefer the automatic adding on of a service charge as they often do in France and in some restaurants in Britain or when there is a bigger group.

Here, the norm is to tip 15%, as opposed to 10% in Europe. Although eating out is still much cheaper here than in the UK, and far more part of people's normal activity, when you see the prices on the menu, you need to realise that the real cost is almost 30% more. Prices here don't include taxes and if you add on the tip, it's nowhere near where you started.
The writer also mentions that in Japan, it is considered insulting to tip.
One commentator asks why what people tip should be dictated by the prices in the restaurant, and that is also a good question. Do the servers in expensive restaurants work harder than those in more moderately priced establishments? I think probably the opposite is true.

Another problem in British restaurants, which seems to be so easily solved here, is the apparent impossibility of producing separate bills. I have only ever twice had that situation here, once when we didn't mention that we wanted separate bills until the end, and then we'd all had the same thing anyway, so it was hardly a problem. Another time, the establishment bizarrely said that they wouldn't do separate bills for parties of more than six, but it was printed on their menu so that everyone knew.

Labour Day is nearly over.
And as ever when someone is coming here, the oddness of knowing that when I go to bed, Sleepy will be leaving Portsmouth to come here, when I wake up, her plane will have been in the air for two hours.
Time slippage.

Sunday, 2 September 2007


Well, well, well. So the French are to smile more are they? They are to welcome foreigners instead of treating them like something that got stuck to the bottom of the national shoe huh? Lordy, Lordy.
To be fair, I have worked with a goodly number of French colleagues and like any other nation they were good, bad, or indifferent. But one thing I will say. I worked with one on whom I soon learnt to never turn my back when I could see those gnashers smiling.

What to make of Senator Larry Craig's fall from grace. The thing for me was that it so echoed the crap we used to get from the Tory party when they were in power. They would always be spouting off about who we should or shouldn't be shagging and then constantly getting caught with their trousers down. I for one don't give a damn that he was soliciting in a public toilet. He's not my senator after all, and as long as it's all between consenting adults, well frankly, the more nookie most people get the better.
No, it really is that 'voting against Gay rights' thing that rankles. I mean it's almost, almost too cliched to be true.

It would be nice to think he'd now embrace his inner homo and make things better for everyone, but probably all that will happen is that his fellow Repugnicants will simply jump up and down pointing and screaming,

Still, if there's one good thing to come out of this, it's that the good burghers of North America now know the real meaning of the word 'cottaging', up until now I have lost a fair few mouthfuls of hot liquid as quite staid people have told me they were going cottaging for the weekend.

Ah, the shops are full of their autumn collections. I love this time of year, when the bright colours of the summer, give way to the earth tones of the autumn. I went to look for a present for my niece and instead got caught in the gravity well of Old Navy.
In my wardrobe I have about twelve black jumpers, and I nearly acquired another, but at the last moment swerved and chose the wine red.

The body of Christ tasted sweet this morning, more like a bun than a bread roll. I couldn't help wondering if that was allowed. One more reason for the consistency of the wafer, but then again, maybe the changing flavour is good too.

Saturday, 1 September 2007


An Inuit, we are told, has several words for snow, although Dr. Stephen Pinker claims to have debunked this as a myth.
Whatever, let's just say they do, since I love snow and I would like to think that somewhere there is a society who differentiates between various forms of it.
Sasha Aikhenvald in any case, makes a completely different case.


Likewise, if you tell a Brit you had curry last night, they'll expect you to be more specific. Saying you had curry is like saying you had meat or vegetables.

And to Canadians in this part of the country, the same is true for salmon. I'm still slightly bemused by this, but then I haven't grown up with it. When I was very young, salmon came in tins and was generally served up in sandwiches between slices of processed white bread and accompanied by the crunch of cucumber.

Later, there was smoked salmon, salmon steaks, Scottish or Atlantic.

Here we have Chinook, Coho, Chum, Pink and Sockeye and the Sockeye, particularly, are causing great disagreement between the local First Nations bands and.....well, just about everyone else.
The local bands, the Musqueam, the Tsawassen, are allowed a certain number of fish for their 'band needs'.


Rumour has it that even when their quotas are able to be fulfilled, band members can be found flogging them off the backs of their SUVs.
Note how I managed to avoid any mention of bandwagons.

This year, numbers are too low to even feed the elders. Local fisherman are not allowed to fish them at all.
Sports fisherman have to throw them back.
It is generally agreed that that the fish need to be left alone in order to restore their numbers.
Local fishermen agree, but are miffed that First Nations bands are still allowed to fish.
First Nations agree - sort of - but say that Sports Fishermen should be banned from fishing them, which, in fact, they are, if they catch them by accident, and it's said they're not as easy to catch as other types, they have to throw them back.

And now, and now.....Americans have been annoying the Tsawassen band by fishing for Pink Salmon - of which there are plenty - and doing it in American not Canadian waters.

Pink salmon is the one apparently that ends up in tins, but it is also available, much more cheaply than other types, for cooking and to me, tastes pretty damn good.

It seems to me that the First Nations bands have rights that locals don't because they have always pushed their special relationship with nature and the circles and cycles of life. But they are making quite ridiculous statements about a fish which right now is seriously in danger of not being able to replenish its own stocks.

Sour grapes, dog in a manger.

The only good thing to come out of all this it seems to me, is the debate itself.