Wednesday, 31 October 2007


Here, you can avoid having other people's children annoy you during your well-earned evening by not turning the light on outside the door. This is the signal that you're not going to fuel their habit.

Quite a few of the children came to the programmes wearing costumes today. I get the demons and bats and so forth, but why princesses? What tortured version of anything links princesses with Halloween?
Also, in one class, there was a child called Apple sitting next to one called Coco. How can you not titter?

The Eve of Samhain, the Celtic New Year, end of summer, death of the summer god. Traditionally celebrated with fire, and outside, fireworks are exploding in the sky. A celebration of the non-human, the time when that veil between the worlds is at its thinnest. The time of the Crone, the time of the White Goddess, of women and their spiritual power. The beginning of the darkness.
All Celts had councils of elder women who chose the leaders for the community because of their wisdom.

We all come from the Goddess,
And to her we shall return,
Like a drop of rain,
Flowing to the sea.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

GMT - 7

So I got up at 6 to take Shaniah to the airport. Even at that time in the morning, one of the bridges into Vancouver that we could see was solid with traffic going nowhere.
Somewhere, someone should be doing some bloody joined-up thinking on this.
On Thursday morning I get to take Kevin to the airport even earlier, we will see how early this madness starts.

The thick green make-up is making my skin break out. It's not pretty either way, but at least it will be Halloween tomorrow and so after that, programming will be back to normal - well, mostly.

One of my work colleagues lost her dad while she was on holiday in Australia. Not in the careless sense you understand, but in the true sense of loss.
And her pain brings back memories of my own loss seven years ago now. Same time of year, and in my mother's case, I was away too. And as with my friend, although the loss was anticipated, when it happened it was a shock because of the finality of it.
Death separates us from them for ever or until our own death, whichever is in fact or pragmatically true.

We're an extra hour adrift from Europe at the moment. Britain went back to GMT last weekend, we go back to GMT-8 next weekend, since Britain obviously owns Greenwich Mean Time, it must be they who are right.

Whilst I rail at JRM for being unable to cover his Irish accent, the worst Irish accents currently on TV have to be from Katie Carr as Caitlin and Dominic Keating as Will in 'Heroes'. Both Brits. And Keating with a name like Keating too. No frelling excuse.

I was interested in this article in the Guardian by a woman called Margaret Sandra who decided after divorce to ditch using any surname, either that of her father, or her ex-husband's.

She says " February 1979 I became Margaret Sandra. "(Please use my name in full)," I would add in correspondence. It says a lot about my confidence at that time that I thought I need only ask for the change for it to be easily accepted."

I know what she means on that score. When I was first married as a young woman, I thought I only had to point out politely (and shouldn't have had to) that I did not share a Christian name with my husband and my wishes would be respected. Far from it. In fact, to the extent that the two of us lost friends over it.

My then husband whined about this, in spite of my feeling that anyone who was rude enough in the first place to address me by a man's name, let alone persist when I had pointed out that I was deeply offended by this practice, wasn't actually a friend.

I admire this lady. Good luck to her.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

No Denny

We came back earlier than intended, several reasons, but let's just say Denny Crane was involved - or lack thereof.

The border, arbitrary line that separates one country from another, really is annoying. We came back late last night, but there was still a wait. Why? What is it about? Terrorists coming in from Canada? Cheap goods coming in from the States?

In general, the American Homeland Security just hassle the Chinese. Why? There are a lot of issues the West has with China, but so far they don't seem to be part of Al Quaeda.
The flights coming into Vancouver all seem to be from Britain, Germany, possibly one or two other European countries, other Canadian cities, the USA and the far East, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and the Philippines. So....... perhaps the Border guard think the terrorists coming into the States via Canada from the Middle East are changing in Beijing or Shanghai. Hmm.... but why would they look Chinese?

Oh, or maybe we could all be working down there. Or they could all be working up here. Would it matter? Would it matter if we all went down and did our weekly shopping at Fred Meyer?
Well, I suppose it would add a bit to global warming, but then probably not as much as having all those cars constantly idling at the border.

I'll tell you one thing they have south of the border that we don't up here. Road markings that you can see. Here, at some time in the history of Canada someone went along with a white-liner but the fact is, you have to keep re-marking. And cats' eyes? As rare as if they actually waited for cats to die and then used the real thing.
But you get across the line into the forgotten north-west corner of Washington and suddenly, you can see the lines and there are enough cats' eyes to light a runway.

Anyhoo, another reason we decided to come back last night instead of...well, around now I suppose, is that our friend is flying in from Toronto and is spending tomorrow night with us.
I sandblasted the bathroom that Laurence has to share with the guest and flicked an invisible duster around the spare bedroom. And thus I found a stack of books that Sleepy had left for me to read. Thanks m'dear!

Our friend's name was borrowed by a well-known Canadian country(ish) singer when my friend was working at a place at which the aforementioned singer made an appearance before she was famous, in fact when she was still called Eileen.
This fact was mentioned in the MTV biopic of said singer, but recently on TV I saw a dramatised clip of the actual incident.
The person playing our friend seemed to be a rather plump First Nations person, à la Marilyn from Northern Exposure. The name in question is said to be of First Nations origin, so I suppose it fitted the drama.
Our friend is in reality, pretty, petite and white.
Less believable I suppose but frankly, that don't impress me much.

Friday, 26 October 2007


I never thought I'd be doing a job where I was cursing because the machete was too blunt - although there may have been times teaching at Mayhem when even a blunt one would have been welcomed.
And in fact, this afternoon, we were glad of it.
On the way to the river we came across two likely lads skulking off the beaten track. We couldn't see that they were doing anything wrong, just...well, skulking, but they looked shifty and when they saw us coming along with the big kick-arse secateurs that look like bolt-cutters and a machete, they kind of took a step back.

Hacking through the undergrowth however, made us realise that a blunt one was worse than useless since it had to be carried as well. In the end, Alex used it for flattening some of the brush.

We didn't find any lost tribes, nor Dr. Livingstone, but we got further down the great, grey, green, greasy Limpopo all set about with fever trees and we felt like explorers.

So, we're heading south for the weekend. It was frosty here this morning, and more than likely it'll be frostier still in Birch Bay, but the journey down there should be more comfortable than before.

Hasta domingo.

Thursday, 25 October 2007


Why don't people on TV watch TV? Well, to be fair, sometimes they do, usually some old crap, stuff that people don't really watch. But in general, people on TV spend their evening down the pub or visiting each others' houses.
It's annoying. If we didn't watch TV, we would, apparently, suffer from depression, but we'd also have twice the amount of time we have now, we'd have our daytime life and our evening life.

But you do learn things from TV that you couldn't possibly learn anywhere else. For example, I learnt from watching 'Reaper' that even the Devil washes his hands after going to the toilet. Who knew? And what does what say about the skanks who don't?

Then there's reality and non-reality. I don't mean reality TV. But consider two programmes we've been watching recently.
The first one is 'The Tudors'. Sleepy sent me an article in the Daily Nazi this week that I found I almost totally agreed with. The story of Henry the Eighth is so compelling that it doesn't need to be tortured and invented. The Beeb claimed artistic licence. Well they must need their bumps read. When something has the BBC stamp on it, you expect everything to be polished, historically correct and correctly pronounced.
But not so. Rhys Meyers continues to take liberties with the language whilst the writers continue to take liberties with history.
'If you accept American money,' said several of the commentators, 'I'm afraid you must expect Americanisation.' In this case, I'm afraid that Americanisation equals dumbing down.
One commentator pointed out that Katherine of Aragon had quoted TS Elliot. Dear God.
And I have reached the point where I would like to punch Jonathon Rhys Meyers in the face and honestly - in my entire life, I have never punched anyone.

On the other hand, the excellent series 'Waterloo Road', shows where it is acceptable to use a bit of artistic licence.
The school seems to have a staff of about eight, and a student body of twenty, and yet they show things that really do happen in schools unlike the usual romanticised rubbish.
In this week's episode, the Head tried to exclude a pupil who had sexually threatened a member of staff.
The parent came in and complained about the pupil being picked on. They actually tried to get the exclusion rescinded, to 'win' against the school. This happens.
The member of staff had to give evidence at a hearing, where her word was doubted because she was the only one in the room apart from the boy. This happens.
The exclusion was reduced from permanent to 15 days. This happens.
It was all so real it had to have been written by a teacher.

Off the topic of TV, but still on children's behaviour, I have noticed since doing the Halloween Howl play up to three times a day, how true it is that the kids, usually boys, well, to date it has been always boys, who make the most noise and draw attention to themselves, are the ones who won't touch the snakes, slugs and worms. The ones who claim they love yucky things, and who hassle the others the loudest, back off when faced with the beasties themselves.

And wouldn't you think, that parents who bring kids to a play, would perhaps NOT talk all the way through it?
And then there are the things that go missing.
While Alex and I have been indoors, our 'un-nature trail' for one of the programmes has gone missing. I can almost, almost mind you, understand the parachutist and the helicopter disappearing, but why oh why, would anyone crawl through brambles and undergrowth to take a plastic squirrel and a child's wellington boot?
Beggars belief.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007


Sleepy and I have been discussing spookiness. And I can feel it, something in the ether. Not that I feel something's about to happen or what have you, just that I feel kind of...connected, like a spider in a web.

I can taste something in the air, like Terry Pratchett's Octarine, the metallic taste of magic.
I can smell the heavy scent of the otherworld, see it in the dreamworld, but I'm not receptive. I can feel, taste, smell it there, behind a heavy curtain, but I can't see through it.

There is a bite in the air, the wind is blowing down the chimney and during the daylight hours, I could see the leaves being whipped from the trees, the air was full. And the ground is strewn with them, beautiful, autumnal carpets. Treacherous carpets of wet leaves.

And all the mushrooms, more and more, the amanitas, Fly Agaric now replaced with shaggy inkcaps. Evidence of life feeding on death, pushing up from the depths, through the soil. Musky soil.

All Hallows E'en is coming, Samhain, and there are certain things about the celebration of Halloween here that I like. The carving of the pumpkins, the mists, even the pretend type.

But there's a hell of a lot I don't like. It's not a time for sweets, it's not a time for plastic frippery, blow-up ghosts and witches.

Plastic and sugar, what have these to do with Halloween?
They debase it. They bury it beneath the cartoon spiders.

But the truth is down there, buried in the soil, rotting under dried, brown leaves, howling through the trees, slithering in the undergrowth and shimmering on the edge of perception, and contorting reason.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

A and J's Excellent Adventure

Today was surprisingly warm and sunny. This afternoon's group had cancelled because they 'couldn't find drivers', whatever.

This seemed the ideal afternoon for plotting out our walk for when the TV guy comes to film it on the fifth of November.
We went to the ditch. It now looked rather like a river, the little platform that Alex and I had planted there was completely submerged, there were now trees apparently growing out of the water.

We left the ditch and started down the bog-forest trail. We looked up into the clear, blue sky and high above us were a couple of black specks, something about them made us think they were hawks.

We went a little further and found what seemed to be a trail leading off the trail. I suggested we go and check it out and Alex agreed. We got so far, and then the way became less clear, so we stopped and looked at the sky again. The sky was full of gulls, but as we watched, two black shapes appeared, and as they soared and glided, we could clearly see that it was two eagles, flying quite low.
Try as I might, I couldn't get a picture, but we stood and gazed. I thought if we made our way back to the main trail, I might get a chance to snap them, but that wasn't what happened.
Almost back at the trail, we found a plastic box.
'It looks like someone's lunchbox,' said Alex, and it did, but it also looked full of stuff. We gingerly retrieved it and opened it. There was a selection of items in it, and a notebook, a log, a number of people had signed it going back to 2003.
'I know what this is,' said Alex, 'it's a geocache box. People hide them and other people find them. '
We wrote in the notebook that the Park Rangers had found it on the 23rd of October 2007, replaced it and moved on.

As we came to a corner where there is a beautiful hemlock tree, we heard the sound of birds screeching.
'That's the sound of eagles,' I said, 'but they sound so close.'
Then two eagles arose from the forest, the most magnificent birds I have ever seen. In spite of there being a stuffed juvenile in the Nature House, I had no idea how enormous they were. They chased around for a few minutes, always appearing through the trees so that I was still unable to get a picture.

It was the most spellbinding encounter to date, we were awed.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Drawing In

It turned out that the pilot of the small plane that went into the side of a building in Richmond yesterday, was 82 years old.
There is always risk to people driving cars or flying planes, but the risk of allowing someone that age to operate machinery is too great. It was indeed a miracle that more people weren't injured in this accident, although I don't suppose the residents of the block of flats were too impressed by having to be evacuated from their homes until the building can be declared structurally sound again.

Kevin has just told me that the city pays to have them put up in emergency accommodation for six days, but they're not allowed to return to their building for two months.

Last night was the Nature Park's Halloween Event, 'Wild Things'. I was a crow. It's quite good fun once it gets dark, because you can skulk around and scare people, although in general, kids don't fear anything these days. Only one child cried. Another one kept hitting my beak and I told her to go away. Then she apologised, but there was a complete lack of parental intervention.

Last Sunday, Austen and I compared church service readings, and then on Monday I compared with Alex.
It seems that as advertised, across both the Anglican and Catholic communions, and at least over two continents, the New Testament readings are the same.
That's pretty cool in my opinion.

Someone in church noticed that George Bush had signed the visitor book. Can't have been the one we all know if he managed to sign his name.
We sang the hymn again whose tune is 'I vow to thee my country' although the words have been changed to suit the lily-livered.
I wonder where that expression comes from, why would cowardice make your liver white ? Who knows, probably I need to query 'Notes and Queries'.

There is something incredibly stirring about the words,

'I vow to thee my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love,
A love that never falters, a love that stands the test,
That lays upon the alter, the dearest and the best,
A love that asks no questions, a love that pays the price,
A love that makes undaunted, the final sacrifice.'

There was a rather good opening sketch to SNL last night (which we watched today). Hillary 'certain-to-be-elected President' spoke about her future victory. I'd like to think it really were that certain.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Something in the Air

Weird, a plane crashed into a building near the city centre today killing at least one person.

In Surrey, there was some kind of gas leak by the skytrain station that may have caused injuries.

This evening we had thunder and lightning both at the same time. It's rare here in any case, but that close.... twenty minutes or so later, my friend called from Vancouver and and as lightning flashed here she had the experience we had earlier.

Today is my sister's birthday and co-incidentally, we picked up our new car. It's lovely. And today the dealership was abuzz with the news that the Fit now attracts the government eco-rebate. This makes us happy.

So the Guardian reports that after ten years of Labour rule, the classless society still remains elusive. Well duh. The fact is that anyone in Britain has the opportunity to be socially mobile, but people don't want to. And that's the point, while people had no access to education they had no choices, now they do and they often choose to stay where they were. We value our class system in Britain and too bloody right that's how we judge people, just not in the way a lot of outsiders think. Possibly not in the way some insiders think either.

Today, Alex and I practised the French programme all day. And there was something strange that happened. People stopped and watched us as though transfixed. Ok, to be fair, I was screeching French in a silly voice, and yet..... it was as though these Canadians had never actually heard it spoken before. They weren't laughing, they were just...gazing. My only hope is that the kids on Monday are as entranced.

Thursday, 18 October 2007


The groove, the rut, I walk to work, then back again through the rain, I graze then settle down to watch TV.

The second episode of Exes and Ohs was yet another tour round Vancouver. I'm surprised you can move in this town for film crews.
Of course it's set in Seattle.
I was amused by 'The Big Book of Lesbians' and in case anyone didn't get it, the café was called 'Beevers'.
It's tongue-in-cheek or ....... wherever, of course.

So, scientists have discovered another M class planet, and it's only 20 light years away. Perhaps we could twin with them. But I find it comforting to think that maybe we're not alone, even if we're only at the point of realising there are other planets out there that could be habitable.
If there were beings, if Gliese 581c had life on it, how would the different environment define that life? There is a whole different mind-set to being a race of intelligent beings with a year of 365¼ days than of just 13.

It absolutely appalls me that the Taliban are so twisted and perverted that they think it's ok to send suicide bombers to kill Ms. Bhutto. I hope that somehow she can be strengthened by this. Those vile, vile people need to be exterminated like the vermin that they are.
Not so long since General Musharraf was telling Britain who they could give Honours to.

But when looking at the domestic affairs of other countries, I'm pretty interested to see how things work out between Sarko and some of the leading French unions. He says he's going to stand firm, so we'll have to wait and see, but in the meantime, his divorce from Cécilia has just been announced, so he has plenty to contend with.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007


'Aliens in America' continues on TV, and whilst it is fascinating to watch the students of Medora High, Wisconsin going in and out of the building opposite my home, and do studenty things in the playing fields I have to walk across to get to the shops, it kind of....spoils the fiction of it for me.
I know that all this is playing out in HJ Cambie Secondary school and I need to believe in Medora High. Next week they'll be in the 'butterfly sanctuary' that is actually my place of work.
How weird.

Alex tells me there's a storm a-coming, we're going to be whipped by the tail end of a hurricane. And Alex is learning lots of new stuff. For example, today he learnt how to apply moisturiser under make-up so that it goes on smoothly and how to cleanse fully afterwards. Yesterday he learnt how to apply foundation and lipstick - the latter not until he had broken one however. He also discovered how to use eye-liner, or mirror drawing if you like.
All things I never had to teach my own Alex, I think she just got that information passed on genetically.
Still, clearly the slap is what turns us evil, until I had him apply that he looked like a priest standing there in his long black dress. Oh and the red wig probably took away from the priest bit too, but we'll test drive it all on the Catholics tomorrow, see whether they get confused.

Fred - 'The first thing we need is an angry mob....'

Yasir - 'Where did you meet your wife?'
Baber - 'At our wedding!'

Little Mosque's second series is shaping up well.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Green and Grey

Green and grey, the colours of our uniform at grammar school.

Green and grey, the Shore Pine and Douglas Fir trees in the angry rain.

Green and grey day.

Grey because the friend of ours who is ill, but we thought would have a couple of years, has taken a turn for the worse. Those of us who pray, pray, those of us who don't, do whatever they do and we all fret.

Green because my three weeks of wearing green face paint at work has started. Our first performance went well I felt. Alex was nervous, I could tell, but he played a good Griswald. We have written into the play that he has tricked Witch Hazel into thinking he is a girl, he shares the secret with the kids and tells them not to tell me. But they are BURSTING to. Halfway through some of them couldn't hold in the knowledge any longer, so then I had to pretend not to believe them and then close them down, but it was funny.

I received a lame reply from the college tutor I complained to about her students smoking pot while I was teaching Kindergarten kids. She seemed to have missed the point. She asked whether we had 'no smoking' signs up.
Clean up the Anglo Saxon and this was basically my reply or at least, this is the reply I would liked to have sent.

'Of course we have no smoking signs you fuckwit, it's a peat bog, aren't your students supposed to be studying the environment ? A carelessly discarded fag butt in a peat bog can burn out of sight and uncontrollably for weeks and can travel under the surface until it comes up a few yards from houses. But that isn't even the point. I shouldn't have to put signs up saying 'don't break the law' that surely is taken as read?'

Yes, I know, fag butt.

I apologise to the sensitive for this, but it's raining hard at the moment. No, that's not it. It's just that in the rain, Sikhs, who seem to be much given to riding bicycles around here - for which may their God and mine bless them - wear special plastic covers on top of their turbans. It makes me smile.

Albert Schweitzer I am not -well, fairly obviously, it seems he died seven days before my eighth birthday. Today, however, I did think about him when I was forced to cut a living creature in half because it was disappearing down the throats of two snakes at the same time.
This bothered me and probably stupidly. In nature, this would have happened naturally and possibly with greater carnage. But as it was at my hand, it bothered me.

The choices and pain felt by greater beings than I however, is something I consider when thinking about history.
In spite of having reservations about Jonathon Rhys Meyers as King Henry, I do adore the choice of fellow Irish actor Maria Doyle Kennedy as Catherine of Aragon. I think she is superb in the part.
I have always admired Catherine of Aragon, and yet there was something necessary about her suffering in that without it, we would never have had the magnificent Elizabeth the First.

And it's not a great leap from the forces of history to traffic control in Portsmouth. Oh wait, yes it is. Well never mind.
Portsmouth is apparently leading the nation in reducing the speed limit in residential areas to 20 mph in order to reduce road deaths by two thirds. The country is considering following this fine example. One difference of course, is that in Portsmouth, it's rare for anyone to be ever able to drive over 20mph. When I cycled from one end of the city to the other, I would go past all of my colleagues in their cars. They were constantly telling me this, however, few of them took to their bikes.

Sunday, 14 October 2007


Ok, let's get this out of the way first.
The English rugby team are complete gods because they whipped the French, who are a bunch of preening fairies (not the good kind who work in the entertainment industry, but the bad 'up their own backside' kind) and for having previously seen off the unbeatable Aussies.

If any of them read my blog, I bow to your awesome and supreme rugby skills, and to all rugby fans who read my blog (both of you) is there anything I missed? (Because if there is, I feel sure Sleepy'll have it covered anyway.)

Ok, so, the Devil. I've been giving this some thought recently due to the new and extremely entertaining series, 'Reaper'.
Now, it has always been my understanding that Protestants are not contractually obligated to believe in the Devil, let's face it, we're not even contractually obligated to believe in God, just allow that it's possible she may exist.

So I never have. (Just in the case of the Devil you understand).

When Babylon Five was on, I didn't re-think my stance, but I did start to think around the idea of what Evil might be. All the time the Shadows were just...well, that - big, shadowy, spidery things to be feared, I didn't think too much about them, but as their real purpose started to be revealed, well, it all looked less clear-cut.
The Shadows pitted the younger races against each other so that the weaker ones didn't survive and generally clog up the universe being wimpy, also, the survivors would become stronger. Hmm.... so that seemed to be ...well, quite interesting really.

Then there was Osama et alia. Surely they are evil, their actions and intentions certainly are. And yet you could argue that they destroy and generally do bad stuff because they believe it is what they should do. Polar opposites, 'The West' and 'The Axis of Evil' (easier than typing out Al Q'aeda, the Taliban, Saddam Hussein etc.) D'oh!
Good and Evil - polar opposites. Is that all we mean by 'Evil', simply the opposite of what we believe is right ?

And then Reaper. Finally back from relatives to an absolute. The Devil in that is kind of naughty, he'll cause a meaningless accident in a supermarket car park by randomly shoving a trolley out. And he obviously oversees Hell. But he's a kind of necessary overseer, like prison warders or traffic wardens. (Only with very white teeth and a spray-on tan).
I can get my head round this, because he's not the antithesis to God, more like God's dirty jobs guy.

Not that I'm suggesting that Al Gore is in any way connected to the Devil, far from it, I can remember being very impressed by his documentary film, 'An Inconvenient Truth'. I'm just not sure it was worth a Nobel Peace prize.
Maybe something bigger than Brownie Points, possibly a letter from someone important - say the Queen or Helen Mirren, or even an honourable mention in the UN tea room, but a Peace prize???

Jon Bon Jovi has been hosting SNL, and doing a damn fine job in my opinion. I'm not a huge fan of SNL, but between Jon and the Foo Fighters, there has been some considerable entertainment value this week.

The picture is the one Crisp-e sent me for my birthday, I've finally found the perfect spot for it, which, I realise from my photo is just 'the wall', but you'll have to take my word for it, it's perfect.
Come and see for yourself if you don't believe me.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Bhangra and Chocolate

We test drove the Honda Fit today. And it was mighty fine, mighty fine indeed.

We also asked about the eco rebate, there seemed to be some debate about it. One guy said that it had been offered on the manual transmission Civic, another the manual transmission Fit, but it seems that the government is still prevaricating in any case.

It feels unseasonably warm again today, to walk down to the Auto Mall, neither of us could wear a jumper and I reinstated my summer sandals.

I'm mildly amused at the notion of a 'British-Asian Glastonbury' that goes on in West London, not least because it is apparently the springboard from which Bhangra is set to go global. And why not, Bhangra is quite peppy, I don't mind it occasionally, but the problem I have with it is that there isn't much variety. I have noticed that it is played a lot in our local fruit and veg store, but it always sounds the same, however long you're in there.

At the same time as researching cars, we have been researching airlines. We hope to book our flights on Monday. Oddly, at the moment, the scheduled flights are looking like a better prospect than the charters.

The most exciting news today however, even more exciting than driving the Fit, is that the Guardian reports that next week is Chocolate Week. My, my, I wonder how I'm going to celebrate something as seriously celebratable as Chocolate. I have a few ideas, but I'm sure more will come to me.

Friday, 12 October 2007


Cars. We have to buy one. Personally I have a short shopping list, manual gears, hatchback, low environmental impact, not a horrible colour.
Fortunately, Kevin, whose initial list is the same as mine, has done a lot of research and has both expanded and then honed those needs into something realistic. We're looking seriously at the Honda Fit, this is sold in Britain as the Honda Jazz.
And whilst I was still living in Europe, I would never, ever have even dreamed of looking at a Japanese car.

The Honda Fit makes it into the Californian category for low emission cars, here, for some reason, the manual transmission model just misses the band that attracts a $1,000 government subsidy for low emission cars by a pip because of the safety features, so Honda gives the subsidy itself.

At some point, we'll test drive one.
For the moment we have a rented Kia something-or-other. Nice car, a little bigger than I'm used to, although still termed 'compact' here. But it has automatic transmission, and boy oh boy do I loathe and despise automatic transmission. I hate not driving the car, but rather having to restrain it. I hate not being able to change gear when I want to. I hate the whoosh, whoosh of the engine as it decides for itself. I hate the lack of smoothness that you can only achieve with manual gears. And I hate the feeling of just 'operating machinery' rather than driving a car.'s a car, and it's free for a few days, so I shouldn't be looking a gift horse usw. Or maybe I should be thinking, oh yes I should, there's no reason why I am no longer able to still drive our own car, it has been taken away from us by some guy's bad driving.

There is a time and a place.
At the Park at the moment, we have a steady stream of further ed students from a programme at a local college.
Yesterday, I took a group of ten five year olds up to the pond platform to discover two of the college students there smoking pot.
I asked them to move on and tried to play it down, but several of the parents noticed. I e-mailed the college tutor but have had no response.

And yesterday MY Alex moved into her new flat in London. I hope it all went well.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Valley Girl

Oh the inconvenience of it all.

Yesterday I had to go to the Insurance Company - they had given me an appointment at 16.30. Since I was going because I didn't have a car, this wasn't easy, but Alex gave me a lift to the place.
The insurance guy was a Kumar from Swindon. He told me we could have a rental car for a few days, which will take the pressure off a bit.
The company have written our car off and we won't get anything like what it was worth to us. A ten-year-old car that was in excellent condition and with only 80k on the clock.
They said this to Kevin.

After that one, I had my long-awaited hair appointment.
'Can I do something different with your hair?' she asked,
'Yep,' I said. Later, hearing this, Kevin said,
'I can imagine what Sleepy'd say if the hairdresser said that,'

I got the last bus home, 20.08. Buses are annoying of course because they come in their own time instead of yours, and it takes hours to get anywhere, but I like travelling on them, especially when it's dark outside.

At the bus stop there was a bench, but set a way away from the actual bus stop sign. A young woman had been sitting there for about ten minutes, talking continuously on her cell. The bus she wanted came along and she stood up and teetered over on high heels, dragging a suitcase with a handle behind her. She was still on her phone and I could see that it was encrusted with fake jewels. The bus passed.
She had that Valley Girl speech pattern.
'Was that like the 405?' she said,
'Yep,' said I
'Like, that was my bus,' she said into her phone,
'Did it go past?'
Into phone, 'It like, went past,'
'Why didn't it like, stop?'
'I'm like, ringing Translink,'
'It's uh engaged,'
'Is there another bus that goes to like, Marine Drive?'
I look up at the list of buses,
'Don't think so,'
'Like, what time does the bus to UBC go?'
'I....will look on the timetable for you,' I said, hoping it was pointed. At that moment, Translink answered her call and my bus arrived, so I was spared the continuation of such scintillating banter.

Tonight we watched 'Exes and Ohs' a new lesbian comedy, this time set in Seattle, eventually there will be one that is not only filmed in but also set in Vancouver. In case you don't get that it's about lesbians, they keep mentioning the fact, instead of women, they refer to themselves as lesbians. Still, at least they aren't all immaculately turned out as in the L-Word, there was one couple who shared a name and who dressed the same as each other. I'll stick with it through another couple of episodes, but it'll have to get way more engaging.

In the new series of SUV, Olivia's hair has grown bizarrely long in a week. Guess they don't always show the eps in sequence.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Little Houses

A day which started badly for me, ended well because of this little house of plywood.

I didn't sleep well last night, and I just felt scratchy, off-key. The first programme of the day, the bugs one that I usually love, seemed flat.

There seemed to be a steady stream of sirens all day long. Great, so somewhere, other accidents were happening.

And my hair, oh dear Lord, my hair, is way past overdue for its MOT.

But the prop house for next week's programmes turned up and was way better than I expected and I had been unsure that it would be ready in time.

If you were an advertising agency, wouldn't you research your market before sending out a thick envelope with actual photographs and a pretend letter from some worthy in the company, a letter that begins,
'Dear fellow car enthusiast...' I mean, exsqueeze me?

In the e-realm, I receive, for reasons unknown to myself, monthly bulletins from Southampton University. I have never had any truck with them, although they are a well-established and worthy uni. But somehow, they have tracked me down and added me. Sort of like Facebook.

I do love my sci-fi and one of the many reasons I love it is the imagined situations where different ideas can be tried out.

I have just finished reading Ben Bova's 'Titan'. The Titan in the title is one of the moons of Saturn, but the main part of the story concerns an artificial habitat housing ten thousand men and women that is in orbit around Saturn. The questions that Bova poses are fascinating ones, with a habitat of limited size, albeit one only partially inhabited, what happens if you allow people to reproduce, and how can you stop them?
And the artificial habitat is so fragile that the momentary act of a single man could cause the inevitable deaths of every single person in the community. What incredible trust to place in any being, to have that amount of power.

The inhabitants risk war too, by ignoring the scientific ideals of Earth - to protect new species, and yet how can they take such an enormous risk, given their fragility?
Fascinating stuff.

Another story that has fascinated me has been the real one of 'White Lobster'. Small subsistence fishing communities on the Mosquito Coast of Central America, have been transformed by a new catch, big floating bags of Columbia cocaine bobbing to shore.
God, it seems, blesses the villagers by sending them the ill-gotten losses of Columbian drug barons.
Very Robin Hood.

We have been watching the British series, 'Afterlife'. I can't help comparing it to the American series 'Ghost Whisperer'. It's difficult not to, subject matter is similar, it's just that 'Afterlife' is more real, gritty, explores how people must really feel in these situations, whereas 'Ghost Whisperer' is soft and flabby, like eating whipped cream from an aerosol can.

In the vampire series 'Moonlight' one vampire warned another not to trust a third party, 'in case he gets all Van Helsing on us.' Nice line. Not one most of us have much use for, but a good one nonetheless.

Monday, 8 October 2007


Yesterday was Thanksgiving in Canada and so today we had a Bank Holiday.
I find it odd that Britain, which has an established Church, doesn't have a Bank Hol for Harvest Thanksgiving, yet Canada, where Christians aren't supposed to mention their festivals and beliefs whilst everyone else can, has one.
Gordon needs to get working on that.

I can't believe Britain has a PM called Gordon, but oh well, he's a good guy.

So divine to have a three-day weekend, an extra lie-in. But...since we have no car, we have stayed close to home. No biggie, I have enjoyed the pottering, cleaning the ceiling fan blades, chopping back the dead stuff in the patio pots, while working around the massive spider's web.

Since it is vid rental day, we also walked down to the plaza and rented two dvds. One was 'Iraq in Fragments' a trio of film clips following the lives of three different sets of people in Iraq after the war. This was a fascinating film, funded partly by the Sundance Movie Festival, which I believe is on at the moment. A Seattle filmmaker spent time in Baghdad and Kurdistan.

The first clip focussed on a young boy, Mohammed, in Baghdad. When filming started he was working in a café, he said that his boss loved him, looked after him like a father. His real father had disappeared. He had been a policeman under Saddam, but had criticised the dictator and had been put in prison.
Soon, the boss wanted Mohammed to go back to school, which he did, but then he could only work in the café for one hour a day. He wasn't making any progress with his spelling either, so he was soundly insulted by the café owner and sent packing.
There were hardly any women in this clip apart from the schoolteachers, boys and girls didn't seem to be taught together.
The old men in the café sat around doing the philosophising that only men in bars and cafés do. And as uneducated men in bars everywhere, they came up with second-hand thinking.
They decided that the Americans were just after their oil, but who cared, it was never theirs anyway. For 35 years, Saddam had taken everything, so there was no difference to them if the Americans took it.
Of course, it would make a difference to Canadians in Alberta, whose oil the Americans actually buy to supplement their own, but that's another story.

The second clip was a bunch of confused Shia. They were complaining, in between a bit of self-flagellation - that apparently Saddam didn't approve of, presumably he preferred to keep the flagellation of Shia to himself, that the Dawa party had suddenly reappeared after 35 years. Where, they asked, had the Dawa party been for the past 35 years, why had they not bothered to take Saddam out themselves during all that time.
This lot seemed to be generally of the frothing-at-the-mouth variety, narry a woman in sight. They had fat, bespectacled clerics to whip them into a frenzy at the drop of a hijab. Not that there were any in sight, the more psychotic the fundies, the fewer the women.
The only one we saw was begging the Shia militia to return her husband to her, they'd taken him while he was selling scrap metal.
They were against the American occupation, they were against Saddam, they were against the Dawa party. Nobody loved them, everybody hated them, they just refused to go down the garden to eat worms, they just hated everyone right back.
This bunch you just wanted to put in a pit and leave to fight it out amongst themselves until they were all dead.

The third section was in Kurdistan. These people were poor but worked hard and had a sense of humour. And there were women. We saw the elections, a smiling woman on her way in joked that they should make sure they searched her properly, she looked like she was enjoying it.
The focus was on a family of seven. The old man had six children and he was sure he would die soon. One of the sons, strangely light-haired, worked in the brick factory, went to school - where boys and girls were taught side-by-side and looked after the sheep as well.
He liked to eat quickly so that he could spend more time asleep, but he prayed to Mecca before he did so.
The old man wanted his son to go to religious school, but didn't have enough money. He wanted one of his sons to be for God. They must protect their beloved area of Iraq, Kurdistan, that God had given them. God had sent them the Americans who had liberated Iraq. God was good to them.

Later, on Food TV, Alton Brown, our favourite American TV chef, was showing how to make pretzels. Why? Who the frell eats these things? I hope they're a secret weapon, because otherwise they're a waste of ingredients and shelf space.

Sunday, 7 October 2007


I do feel ok really. The RCMP officer told me I would ache today, but I don't. I know it could still come, so I'll leave it there.

Kevin and I discovered another cultural difference yesterday, and one I hadn't noticed before.
Lemon Meringue Pie.
I always thought this was one of the top puddings when I was a kid, and that in spite of the fact that my mum used to make it with a packet of 'Lemon Meringue Pie Mix'. Birds, the custard people I think.
But here's the thing, it was always a hot pudding for us, yummy cold the next day, but essentially, at its best served warm.

Yet Kevin has never eaten it warm. I have noticed that we always seem to have it cold when we do have it here, but assumed that was for logistical reasons.
The logistics of the LMP.
In Britain, it's one of the few puddings we don't pour custard on. Pies, sponge puddings, crumbles, stewed fruit, anything we can pour custard on, we do, but the LMP gets cream.

I looked up a few recipes from British food Czars and the main dissent seemed to be the amount of time you should leave it to stand after it comes out of the oven, this varied from 0 to 20 minutes. I think Delia might have been the 20 minute leaver.

Kevin cooked a superbly lemony pie yesterday, and since I was needing comfort food, against his own better judgement, put mine back into the oven.

This afternoon we have been listening to Bill Shatner (genuflect) telling us how difficult it will be for people to get to Mars. Very, apparently. However, he felt it might happen, 'in our lifetime', but I'm thinking maybe not so much in his.
May he live for ever, but just in case, well, you know.

We managed to view a couple more new shows that we had backed up yesterday, 'Chuck' which we both thought was excellent, and 'Life' which we felt had potential.

The weather has turned serious. Strong winds and heavy rain. There's a big, fat orb-weaver spider who has spun the most enormous web on our patio. It seems to not be anchored to anything you can see, so the spider is being battered by the wind as its web gets blown around like a see-through sail, it's probably a spider's equivalent to some of those theme park rides.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

The Life Idiotic

I'd like to enthuse - or even waffle - about the rugby, but
a) y'all remember being curt with me about my fumbled attempts at making any comments about football and
b) car accident beats rugby hands down.

So here's the thing.
I spent the afternoon selling cranberries. It was raining, we were under the shelter, but it was rainy cold. Afterwards, I went to Shoppers Drug Mart.

On my way home I had stopped just before a pedestrian crossing on Five Road that is placed bizarrely, just before an intersection. I was indicating that I was turning left onto McNeely.

I had waited until the oncoming traffic was clear, checked that there was no-one about to step onto the crossing and was just about to turn left.

There was a loud noise, I was moving forward and steering, but other than that, had no control over the car, the wind was coming in the back, I was lying back in my seat, I couldn't see very well. When I reached the curb, I braked. I guess I braked, I stopped. I thought the back of the car had exploded. I couldn't work out why or how. I opened the door, I looked out, but couldn't turn, I didn't have the presence of mind even to take the seatbelt off.
There was a strange taste, like chlorine.

An Indian man was running towards the car, he looked in, asking me if I was ok, that he was so sorry, his brakes had locked, he had sneezed and his brakes had locked. Only then did I realise he'd gone into the back of me.
I undid my seatbelt, I was shaking, badly.
'Where are my glasses?' I asked. He told me they were on the back seat. I reached back and they were there, so was the windscreen. I got out. The man was still apologising, asking how I was.
He asked if it was ok if he moved his vehicle from the middle of the road to the side road that I had been about to turn into. He was driving a pale blue Chevrolet pickup truck.
The radio was talking to itself. I fiddled with the key and couldn't seem to turn it off. I realised the car must have stalled when I was hit and my foot must have slipped off the clutch.
I looked for the phone in my bag, couldn't find it, kept looking, found it, phoned Kevin.
'Call 911,' he said.
By the time Kevin got to me, the police were there and the fire brigade (first response medical) soon after.
I was still in shock, but when Kevin got there I knew I didn't have to think anymore, just as well, I couldn't think. Couldn't find my driver's licence, found it. Kevin found the insurance.
The glove compartment and cup holder had opened out. The driver's seat had gone into a reclining position.
The police did all the paperwork, getting the man's details, giving us the case number. The Indian guy was there right to the end, still apologising.

The whole thing was shock. I just kept saying,
'I thought the car had blown up,' in a shaky voice. And yet the car protected me. The back lights were all crushed and the windscreen blown in, but it didn't crumple. The emergency services arrived quickly.
But first and foremost, I'm generally a calm person, and yet given this situation, I couldn't even think to undo my seatbelt or call 911.
I was lucky that it happened just as I was about to turn, ie when there was no oncoming traffic and that the guy wasn't the kind of shit who just buggers off. He could have done, since I didn't even realise I'd been hit.

I'm ok. I'm not even shaking anymore.
Now we have the inconvenience of no car and having to go to the insurance place, I have an appointment.
Here in BC, there is no competition in car insurance. The insurance company is Province-wide, and they are also responsible for issuing driving licences, so it's all a bit of a rum do.
I think this is always the way with insurance. Insurance is supposed to put you back in the same position you were in before the accident, and yet it doesn't, and nor does it in any way alleviate the inconvenience you have suffered whilst just going about your daily business.

The Life Idiotic. But at least I still have one.

Friday, 5 October 2007

The Life Aquatic

We spent the morning bagging cranberries that had been donated by Ocean Spray. Tomorrow, we'll sell them.

In the afternoon we had some odd jobs to do out in the park, and what a superb afternoon. It was sunny. Clear enough now to see the snow on the very tops of some of the mountains. Clear enough to see a school of minnows swimming in the pond, and some frogs, and these two turtles doing the dance of unrequited lust.

The great Brunhilde of a female was going after one of the frogs, the little male just wanting to get him some fine turtlicious arse, was waving his long claws in her face. She ploughed past him like a Sherman tank.

The light was glinting off the surface of the pond as the four of us park employees leant over the railings, watching the aquatic goings-on and enjoying the remains of the afternoon while above us, chickadees and robins flew between trees, twittering and maybe watching us.

A lone chickadee desperately called for females, and a last dragonfly found one.

Perhaps this afternoon was the last of the summer wine and what a strange wine it has proved to be.
An autumn that was coming from the middle of August and a summer that has hung on, fighting the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.

Thursday, 4 October 2007


Yesterday turned cold with a real bite in the air in the afternoon. I was told that the first snow fell on the North Shore mountains, but even today, the mountaintops are shrouded so from here we can't see.

Yesterday the day was long, in the evening we had a meeting at work, and since the copper wire had all been stripped from the floodlights in the car park, it was very dark indeed, but inadvertently, a point was made, one of our city councillors was there.

And yesterday I finished a task that has been hanging over me. One of those tasks that you keep finding ways of avoiding. Now I'll have a few days' peace before starting to fret about how I could have done it better, I was always like that with exams too.

Another new show - Bionic woman. Not only is this one more programme with a British actress playing an American - Hugh Laurie certainly opened a can of worms - but yet another where almost every shot looks familiar, filmed in and around Vancouver.

Today, out with a grade 3 class, we saw a Garter snake making its way lazily through some logs. I was surprised that it was warm enough. One of the mothers, who had previously lived in Bombay, back when it was Bombay I guess, either that or the people who live there still refer to it as such, said that her family had lived in a high rise block in the city.
Even so, often, when they looked down into the courtyard below, they would see cobras, which could grow up to nine feet long, and sometimes they would see a mongoose attacking them.
'You get used to it,' she said, ' and it teaches the children respect.

I guess it does. All sorts of things can teach children respect, but frankly, cobras at the base of your block of flats seems awfully efficient as methods go.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Great Blue

It was like a cartoon. I was boldly leading my half of the rather large class from a private Vancouver boys' school out to the bridge. I was confident of being able to show them a stretch of water bristling with frogs. I looked to my right and stopped, my mouth open and with a sweep of my arm I signalled them all to stop and be quiet. They all bumped into one another. The adults crept forward, equally awed. I thought it was about to fly off with its pterodactyl lope, but it simply moved and then stood, motionless.
The frogs of course, had gone. Most likely into the belly of that heron.

Every teacher knows that the more outrageous the name a child is given, the more bizarre its behaviour.
And there are some names, maybe they weren't even names before someone first labelled a child with them, which will necessitate that those parents are pretty much contracted into paying for their kid's education, owing to the propensity towards perpetual torment of such children by the average state school pupil.

Today, we had a child who ticked both of those boxes. Let's just say that the child was named after the type of heavenly being that accompany the Cherubim around the throne of the Deity. Yep.
'But...isn't that....plural?' asked Carmen.

Now I'm not going to explain this, you'll either know, or you'll not know, but you don't want to be telling Sig Hansen that you have a court date that you thought you'd be back for, when he's halfway through a trip. No siree Bob, you don't wanna be doing that.

On Friday afternoon, Alex and I put some props out for the seeds programme. One of those props was a plastic parachute man, the sort of thing you might get from a cracker. Cheap and cheerful.
And yet every time this particular prop gets put out, it is stolen. And lo! By Monday morning, it had disappeared.


Wasn't Alan Rickman the ultimate Sheriff of Nottingham? I mean wasn't he even better than the actual sheriff? And by the actual sheriff I mean Alan Wheatley, who played opposite Richard Greene in the old black and white series,
'Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen,
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, with his band of men,
Feared by the bad, loved by the good, Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood.'
Yeah, that one, all steely grey hair and pointy evil looks.

But now.....(well for us, I know that for Brits it's old news)....isn't Keith Allen the most amazing and ultimate Sheriff of Nottingham EVER?!?

I rest my case.

Monday, 1 October 2007


One of those long Mondays.
Programmes have started.
This morning was the first in our 'Bogwalker' series, a drop-in programme for the general public. Frankly, none of us expected anyone to turn up, but they did, and we ran over.
Shaw TV didn't, but I was cool with that.
Alex and I had to scramble to get ready for the afternoon's school session.

When the school was leaving, one of the accompanying adults came and asked me if I were a biologist, 'because I really know what I'm talking about.'
'Nope, I'm just a teacher,' I said, and then realised that I have often replied with that. Just a teacher. Why is that not as good as a biologist? Or anything else for that matter. And you know what? I know the stuff I'm teaching and that's about it, but she thought I knew more because I am a teacher, and I create an impression of confidence.
And I don't mean to be disingenuous, I was flattered by the complement.

I booked a long overdue hair appointment, then had to unbook it because I had forgotten Wednesday evening's meeting.

After writers' group, Kevin and I watched the pilot of 'Aliens in America' the series that has been partly filmed in the school opposite us and some small part of episode five at our Nature House. I liked it. I found the central character very amusing and sympathetic, Kevin was less impressed.
I hope we get to week five at any rate.