Saturday, 31 May 2008


Today was my weekend - tomorrow I have to go into work for Slugfest. BUT, as weekends go, it was relaxing. I hung some pictures while Kevin put up some plasterboard in the space where the pretend fireplace used to be, and I contemplated whether we were doing work of equal value. I was contemplating it in a rather tongue-in-cheek fashion but nonetheless, it`s valid. His took more muscle power, mine took a practised eye.

The Equal Pay Act of 1970 in Britain (and dear Lord, how many dates of various Acts of Parliament did we have to memorise in History) not only ended the scurrilous practice of having different rates of pay for men and women, but also introduced the notion of equal pay for `like work`. You cannot begin to imagine how often I think about this.
The Guardian has a great article on the women machinists at the Ford Motor Company who walked out in 1968 in protest at male colleagues, doing EXACTLY the same job as them earning more.

I`m still smouldering over an article that Sleepy`s blog pointed to yesterday. The Vatican has send out a decree that all the world should be taxed. No, that`s not it, no, they sent out a decree that Bishops ordaining women would be excommunicated.
Now this pisses me off no end because it`s based on their own deliberate misinterpretation. Apparently, since Jesus only had male Apostles, only men can be priests. Clearly this was because at the time, women were seen to have different roles in Jewish society. Whereas now, we`re not.
Unless the man Jesus actually said, and it`s reported by more than one source,
'Oh, btw, just in case any of you are thinking of setting up a religion in my name after I`ve been horribly put to death by the Roman administration on the insistence of my own people, remember, NO WOMEN PRIESTS,' then frankly, sod right off.

Secondly, how dare the Vatican think they can excommunicate anyone? That may have worked in more superstitious times, but basically, today, the magic is in the act itself. If some worthy in my church said I could no longer take communion, it would make no difference to me at all. I would take it myself, go to a different church, whatever, but communion, both with God and with the rest of the communicant members of the Faith is not dependant on my receiving the bread and the wine from the hand of a priest.
AND, in Tudor times, when excommunications were flying around like bugs, the idea was to cut off access to the afterlife.
Well, guess what, that's not the prerogative of some bloke.

I agree with Sleepy wholeheartedly on this one. Bring it on bozos, bring it on. The more stupid they make themselves look, the more they pour their hatred and venom out, the more they damage themselves.

Over the years the church has burnt at the stake, broken on the wheel, mutilated, humiliated, violated and tortured women and this in spite of the worship of the Mother of God. But hear us roar, made stronger by the sacrifice of those who have gone before.

Friday, 30 May 2008

The Booze Shop

An amusing snippet in the kitchen at work the other day. I introduced the new person to a co-worker.

CW - Yes, we've met before,
NP - I don't think so...
CW - Yes, definitely, we've met at such and such event,
NP - No, I'm sure we haven't met..
CW - We have, you're on my Facebook.

Loving it.

After work, I went to mooch around the shops. Tracksuit clad fitness freaks were in the shopping centre demonstrating how to keep fit using Wii. Fair enough, I'll let the housebound and seniors have that one, but in general - GET OUT OF YOUR FECKING CARS PEOPLE!!!

Then I went to the Liquor Store. I do love the Liquor Store, oh yes, it annoys the bejabers out of me that the supermarkets don't have lovely big alcohol departments like they do in Britain, but, the Liquor Store is a treat, and ours has Shafiq. Shafiq - who I assume ISN'T Jewish, used to live in Golders Green and Rugby. He worships Tesco. He feels he is due for a refresher, a trip back to Blighty. But he knows his wine and doesn't try to get you to buy expensive ones. He caught me selecting a wine called 'Arrogant Frog', a must have simply for the name. We both chuckled over 'Chat-un-oeuf'. And then he showed me a couple of other good wines.
The lady flogging beers from a brewery in Kelowna tried to engage me in beer banter.
'I don't do beer,' I said. In the case of beer, rather than in a case OF beer, my feminism conflicts with my snobbery.
In the Liquor Store they have those shopping baskets that have a long handle and wheels.
There's a general feeling of Friday and camaraderie.

I'm several weeks behind in my New Scientist reading. But the one I read today had an article about how blood transfusions don't save lives unless the patient would die without one. I know, I know, but it seems they are used routinely and unnecessarily. We know this and in fact we know a lot about the effects of giving other people's blood because of Jehovah's Witnesses refusing to have them.
SO that's useful.
It's just that, their shunning of transfusions is apparently based on the words of Leviticus, 'No soul of you shall eat blood.' Which tends to suggest the practice of Kosher rather than avoiding transfusions to me, but hey, at least there aren't spaceships involved.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Love and Hate in a Cold Climate

A sudden and unexpected drop in temperature gave me a higher energy level today. What ho!

I never thought that I was the only person who hated Jeremy Clarkson, far from it in fact. Generally, anyone who is as unremittingly sexist, homophobic and racist as he is, not to mention anti-environment, is likely to be disliked by a wide range of people. But no-one sums up his loathsomeness quite as well as Kate Smurthwaite on the F-Word blog. Sharon Stone isn't allowed to even mention karma in the same sentence as China and Tibet, but the Chinese State News Agency is allowed to describe her as 'The Public enemy of all mankind'. Ho-hum, well, not in my book. I can't think of a single, solitary human-rights violation by Sharon Stone.
She must be gutted however, that they've banned a bunch of her really old films from their cinemas.
Scary that any cinema might still be showing them.
And she has GREAT hair. I love her hair. Oh, and her complexion and jawline. And a close personal friend of the Dalek Llama, I mean, how can you diss that?

Here, as everywhere really, 'tis the end of May and thus...the end of television. We have much to catch up on, so I'm not too upset.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008


So we went to see the new Indiana Jones film this evening. That's almost three hours of my life I'll never see again.
Even a cast of not Just stars but real actors, Cate Blanchett, John Hurt, Ray Winstone, Jim Broadbent and of course Han Solo, couldn't save it.
I realised at some point that the what-passed-for-plot was moving towards the end and I felt a sense of relief.

An item that has been in the news this week is about an advert on Craigslist advertising a newborn baby for sale for $10K. The parents were arrested but no charges laid. The father, and for father read fathead, says he put the ad in as a joke. And hilarious it obviously is. The mother of the baby isn't his girlfriend anyway he said, just a friend, no, his girlfriend has a three-month old baby. He has a long rap sheet for petty crime, but hey, at least he's passing his excellent genes on.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008


When I wake up, I go down and make the coffee then come back upstairs and turn the TV on to watch half an hour of the local news and weather. Yesterday morning, the traffic chopper was following a stolen truck, huge great thing, careering up the main road, barely missing oncoming traffic, kept doing U-turns, went up onto the median, slowed then sped up and this went on for over half an hour. Finally the truck stopped and a man got out and ran, at which point one of the eight police cars surrounding him, went after him and ran him over.
It was bizarrely compulsive viewing.
It later transpired that the man had been naked when he stole the truck, seems he stole a pair of overalls at the same time, and was nutty as a fruit cake.

For the past two days it has been hot. And as such, more nature is happening. Today I saw the first red dragonflies, the Cardinal Meadowhawks and the less pretty, but more robust skimmers.
The frogs were also chorusing, the green frogs sound like broken banjos. On one of the trails the strange, alien slime mold had appeared. It has to be the most artificial-looking colour in nature, and the overall appearance is of a brightly coloured pot of playdough that has been spilt.

Nature is strange, like this experiment with cornflour.

Saturday, 24 May 2008


Remember when mange-tout and sugar snaps were veggies you could cook? Yeah, me too, BUT I do love crunching 'em too.

I have painted one flight of stairs. The house is spread over three floors, the stairs I've finished are those from the basement level to the ground floor. Stairways are such a tedium to paint, there's always a bit that's too high so you have to have a long pole and a pointy stick or a special ladder. Well finally, after painting numerous stairwells, I HAVE a special ladder. was worth it, it looks fab now and my next venture will be the second set from the ground to first floor.

While I was painting, I had the garage door open so that I could actually see and for the first time, I saw a raccoon climbing a tree. It was a big old beastie as Raccoons go, and it went up a quite slender tree outside a house opposite, rustled around in the leaves for a bit then came back down as though he/she were walking along the ground.
In Britain we feed ducks and pigeons and I'd never thought a thing about it, but here, you can't be feeding anything for fear it;ll draw the raccoons, (on the North Shore)the bears, the rats.

I have a couple of trips planned now, one of which is booked. We will be travelling back to England in June and then to T'ron'a at the end of July. I'm pretty excited about the trip home now that it's booked and I'm hoping that Ellie will be christened when we're there.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Cutting the Mustard

It seems the Dalek Llama is worried about the Chinese settling in Tibet and 'diluting' Tibetan culture.
Well, see, I don't see that as much of a worry really. I mean, tis not like we're talking of flooding the area with women-and-gay hating Taliban is it? We have quite a few Chinese living right here in Richmond, in fact you could say that our Anglo culture is diluted by half, and really, although it bugs me that the official language (French) is ignored in favour of Cantonese and Mandarin, in general - meh - and frankly, the longer they live here, the more Canadian they become. Some would say, in any case, for 'dilute' read 'enrich'.

My eye was drawn to the Guardian's Food Blog, mainly because of the photo of a jar of Marmite illustrating it. They had asked chefs what their store-cupboard essentials were and there turned out to be three things they all agreed on, Maldon Sea Salt, De Cecco pasta and mustard, although there wasn't any agreement on which mustard. Not much agreement in our house either. Kevin's essential mustard is Dijon (Maille) mine is good old Coleman's English. Mustard that makes yer eyes water, splendid.

For some reason, I received in the post, a copy of SkyNews, not the satellite company's magazine, but rather the Canadian Stargazer's and Astronomy journal. Not ENTIRELY sure how I've rattled their cage, brought myself to their attention, but I figure it must have something to do with my subscription to New Scientist.

My friend Canadian Karen is not a big fan of Canadian TV. I on the other hand, love it. A series we have been catching up on recently is 'Rent-a-Goalie'. Like much Canadian comedy in my opinion, it has that dry quirkiness that British series have. Sadly, I doubt this one'll ever even make it to the Paramount Comedy Channel in Britain.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008


I'm breaking in a new laptop. Before, I have only bought a new computer when the previous one had given up the ghost, which is a bad, bad strategy, because it means you end up going out on a Sunday afternoon in desperation and buying the only one on sale in the area that your credit card will stand.
This time, the old one has been limping for some time, every so often playing possum and then, I feel, mostly due to the computer magic of the household electronics wizard, it has been coaxed back to life, so we have been doing a fair bit of looking around, waiting for a good deal.
Yesterday, such a deal came up. Now I have time to computer potter. Shift my bookmarks, settings, addresses and such like. Of course, that's still a chore.

Here in BC, another foot has washed ashore. C'mon people, FOUR dismembered feet? Is ANYONE working on this? This is becoming more mysterious than crop circles, well, not quite but, you know.

At the Nature Park, we have a camera on the nest of an American Robin. It's quite compulsive reality TV. The robin sits and looks almost cross-eyed and then, somewhen in the early afternoon, she lays an egg, then goes off for a snack or feather fluff or whatever. So far, we have two eggs in the nest, they often lay five over a course of as many days, so we wait...and watch.

There is also a mystery rash of beautiful, miniature, delicate powder blue butterflies, 'Spring Azures'. They had apparently disappeared from the Park, now they're back.

The dragonflies have hatched over the past week. We had seen a few damselflies, but now their bigger rellies are zapping around. I will still never manage to get a good picture of one, but I will also still keep trying.
Today, a few mayflies bouncing on the surface tension of the water, blue, ephemeral fairies.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008


Not much, just a single flash of lightning and one long roll of thunder. Then another this morning. We heard that four planes had been hit at YVR and flights were delayed.

Common sense and reason prevail on one issue in Britain, where MPs have voted NOT to lower the limit on abortions and NOT to change the definition of who can qualify for IVF by inserting a line about having to have a male influence in the life of the child, thus making IVF unavailable to lesbian couples.

Life imitates art in India. Canadian Karen sent me a link about a story concerning two women in a relationship who ended their lives by setting fire to themselves. This was the storyline of Deepa Mehta's film 'Fire'.

Idiocy in the US democratic nomination shenanigans. It seems that Hillary has approximately 60% in numbers of the vote of the people, but Osama has more super-dooper votes. So although more democrats want Hillary as their candidate, it may not happen.
Hmmm....democracy in action - not so much.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Victoria Day

The pictures are from my sister who was at Wembley witnessing Pompey's triumph.

Today was a Bank Holiday for Queen Vic's birthday, although on the radio (Jack FM) an ad has been asking why call it Victoria Day when it's also Tommy Chong's birthday?
Yep, I can see how that would be fairly appropriate for BC.

The weather, however, has not played well, after a stonking few days, it's all gone a bit 'approaching Mordor'. The thing about having an extended weekend is that I can't quite believe we'll be back to work and dressed up as a Dominatrix Bee again tomorrow. At least I will, Kevin doesn't have to wear a special costume to R&D electronics.
As far as I know.

Anyway, the transforming power of the paintbrush has continued and with each wall the house becomes more our home, the more so because every wall I paint gets another of our pictures. The original canvas 'Flowers in a Field' by Holly and Teddy is the most recent masterpiece to be placed. It's a lovely picture and hasn't really had a wall to do it justice, now it does.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Quiet Power

My vicar has a soft, peaceful voice. But her sermons, her words are strong. She rails no less than any Bible thumping preacher, but a damn sight more effectively.

On Trinity Sunday, her message was one of inclusiveness.
'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.' How did this message become twisted, how can some use this to condemn or judge others?

The others she was talking about were the gay and lesbian section of the Anglican Communion.

The church today seemed full of the grey army. I make no fun of them. To me the seniors, elders, are those who may be less distracted from their contemplation of matters spiritual. Their prayers are stronger, more focussed. I feel as though they are the big guns, that's what we need, extra strength.

'Doubt,' said the vicar, ' is a component of faith.' We all sat up. What? Aren't we certain? If we were, how would it be faith, if there were no doubt, if there were certainty, then we would have no faith, she went on to say that in this life, everything is provisional. The Jesus of the Gospels didn't set everything down in black and white, we were just given a basic set of practices by which to live, such as love and integrity. So how did we get from there to condemning other Christians?

I have just finished reading 'Disobedience' by Naomi Alderman. A Jewish woman from an orthodox background returns to the community of her childhood and teenage years.
I loved this book, there are different voices, it is thoughtful, quiet and yet powerful, like my vicar's sermons. And like the theme for Trinity, there is an exploration of rules. The orthodox community is bound, no, hamstrung by strict rules. And yet people are comforted by them, never having to expand their thinking.
But the book itself prods those limits, pushes the covers back. Exposes what the teachings of Judaism really say, not the ridiculous ties of people.
The protagonist feels the comfort of her upbringing but kicks against the limitations of it.
Spectacular read.

Saturday, 17 May 2008


It is, I must admit, quite pleasant as the sun goes down on an incredibly hot day, to sit outside on the balcony and consume a bottle of not-quite-bubbly between the two of us.
'Tis also a bloody miracle. In recent times I have been only able to have one glass of anything before overheating and then feeling quite bothered.

Lunch again on the Drive - although not at Havana this time.
I know, I know, it looks as though I'm looking for Lady Love, but honest guv, that isn't so, 'tis just co-incidence that two days in a row I have had reason to strut my stuff on Commercial.

The heat and humidity have been at a level today that makes me want to sit in a cold bath somewhere.
Instead, I wrecked the internal workings of the wardrobe, abandoned Kevin at Home Depot to have to walk home bearing new fitments in the blazing sun; sat in the traffic jam around East 49th, that I had somehow forgotten about since yesterday, but with the new and divine in-car air conditioning that Honda assures me has no adverse impact on fuel consumption, it didn't leave me wilted and weak.
They wouldn't lie to me would they?
Not Honda, surely.

When I returned, Kevin and I went to nosy around at the Open House of a neighbour. It is on the market at 30 grand more than we paid and is significantly smaller than ours. This made me feel smug until Kevin pointed out that it had better not sell at that price or property tax would go up.
Then I painted walls until I almost dissolved in my own sweat.

Sitting on the balcony, drinking fizzy wine, we watched a little brown, as yet unidentified bird, bathe in dirt.

Oh and Pompey won the FA cup. First time since 1939.
I hope this doesn't mean another war with Germany. I've grown quite fond really.

Friday, 16 May 2008


Even from the wrong side of the tracks the mountains looked beautiful today.

Lunch on the drive. Brunch really, in Havana.

In a week when Denny Crane was asked to run for President, my TV viewing highlight was nonetheless Temperance Brennan belting out 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.'

It has been Marguerita weather today. And so as the sun was going down, we had some.

Tomorrow is cup final day in Britain. Pompey are in it. My sister has tickets. I can't imagine being able to sit through a football match.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008


What I love about this photo is that I wanted to take a picture of the Warbler on the top of the pine tree, and have accidentally captured a spec, an eagle flying overhead.

For the first time in Canada I had a prescription filled today.
My doctor was shocked last week, to find that my haemoglobin was very low. I was shocked to find that my cholesterol was normal. I have been anaemic my whole adult life, so it seemed normal to me. But she gave me a prescription for iron.

In Britain, there is a set prescription charge, so that if you get a prescription for something you can buy over the counter at the chemist's, the pharmacist or your doctor may advise you to just buy it if it is cheaper than the prescription charge.
This kinda happens here. But not quite. Instead of a prescription charge, there is a cost of the drug, plus a dispensing fee. But many people have medical plans through their employers that means they don't have to pay for most drugs. So....I could have paid $11 PLUS TAX for the iron over the counter, or $17 to have the prescription filled and Kevin's company's medical plan will pay for it. There is, of course, no option to pay the $11 PLUS TAX and have the medical plan pay that. So somewhere, someone is being fleeced and ultimately, that's going to be the consumer. Hrmph.

Following seamlessly on from drugs... how is it that Britney Spears can be so fecking awful in 'How I Met Your Mother' and George Michael so good in 'Eli Stone'?
I think we should be told.

Today, Alex Y and I set out to catch a frog. We had a big net and a pond literally popping with frogs. Did we catch a single one? Did we 'eck as like. Every time we even put a hand on that net, the little froggies plopped back into the pond and disappeared. And they seemed to know. Oh we learnt, just not how to catch frogs, more .... that we were rubbish at it.

Here in BC, a Kenyan student went out to post a letter and a helicopter fell out of the sky and killed him. That's for real. Sounds like a sketch on a black comedy show, but it actually happened.

And the Province is rightly scandalised. A serial killer of children, has a 'MySpace' page. It shows pictures taken inside the prison, inside his cell.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008


Part of coastal BC, further north, is temperate rainforest.
Today, and according to the forecast, tomorrow, feels like rainforest right here. This morning was warm and rainy. Brilliant. Loving it. But as the day wore on, the rain became heavier and the temperature seemed to drop somewhat, either that, or I was so wet from repeatedly dragging groups of kids outside in it that it just felt that way.

'What meat do you like to eat?' I always ask the groups while explaining their own food chain.
'Pigs,' said one this morning.
'Ham,' said one this afternoon.
'What animal does ham come from?' I asked,
'Mostly from pigs,' he said,
'Er....always from pigs,' said I,
'And wolves,' said another kid,
'They're messing with me,' I thought,
'Well, only if the pigs try to blow the wolves' houses down, then they might get eaten and the wolf might taste a bit porky,' I played along, but this wasn't where he was going,
'Just wolves,' he said.
Hmmmm.....moving on.....

Having mentioned Seinfeld on Sunday, I was astonished to read in the Guardian that it had never caught on in the UK. I mean, what?
It seemed to be on TV continually for about five years. Everyone I knew watched it, or had watched it, or at least knew what it was.

In the just-outside-the-window rainforest, activity was frenetic. Warblers, hummingbirds, and squirrels in perpetual motion.
Towards the end of the afternoon, a black squirrel slipped off the roof above our office, it fell past our window and ended up clinging to a woefully skinny white flowering currant. The squirrel's fur was wet and bedraggled, it looked surprised and we all laughed at its predicament, well, we smiled at any rate.

Sunday, 11 May 2008


I never really got into the TV programme 'Curb Your Enthusiasm', in spite of being by the creator of Seinfeld - which I loved at the time, but tired of after the endless, endless repeats.
CYE just didn't hit the spot for me.

I realised today that I had never actually known the original meaning of enthusiasm; inspired by or full of god.
At the same time, the vicar told us that in two of the biblical languages, the Holy Spirit is feminine - our vicar in any case refers to the Holy Spirit as she.

Today was not just Sleepy's birthday, but it was also Pentecost, the time when the Holy Spirit inspired and enthused the disciples, possessed them if you like. The divine coming down to the earthly.

The Yang balancing with the Yin.

"The principle of Yin and Yang is the foundation of the entire universe. It underlies everything in creation..... Heaven was created by the concentration of Yang, the force of light, earth was created by the concentration of Yin, the forces of darkness. Yang stands for peace and serenity; Yin stands for confusion and turmoil. Yang stands for destruction; Yin stands for conservation. Yang brings about disintegration; Yin gives shape to things.....Water is an embodiment of Yin as fire is an embodiment of Yang"

And this interests me further because I am reading a book recommended by Sleepy, 'Disobedience' by Naomi Alderman.
One voice tells us that Torah brings life to the world, Torah is compared to water. Torah comes only and forever from the Almighty.
As water is purifying so Torah cleanses those it touches.

She inspires, she gives life, she cleanses, she is spirit and she is light, but she is also earth and deep, womb-like darkness.
She is spirit and she is form.
She is and she is not.

Saturday, 10 May 2008


Happy Birthday Sleepy! Tis not yet your birthday here, but what with Europe being ahead of us I'm sure you're well into your birthday cups :)

I'm bonding with my desk. There is a corner in our bedroom which was just perfect for such an item, even has a window from which I can see the mountains while I write/work/pontificate and so Kevin and Ikea have constructed my perfect desk between them.
I have a feeling that Kevin and Ikea are going to shortly be making my perfect dins between them too.

This week we wished our Swiss volunteers at the Nature Park well and saw them on their way. They have rented a Motorhome and are touring some of our fair Province. We did have a few European moments however over the three weeks they were with us. Nothing new, the same things I always mention and have had difficulty adapting to.
'I don't understand the duvet,' they said, 'there is a sheet on top of us and then the duvet, but it doesn't really look like a duvet .... cheques? ..... we don't understand the etiquette here, the people we are staying with eat very quickly then take their plates away from the table before we have finished...and they don't wait for us to start eating.... why can't we hire a car with gears?... what does it mean a 'twin' bed?...'

The weather teases us. We will have a warm afternoon and then it gets cold again. The tomato plants which I brought back from their temporary accommodation on my desk at work, have gone from looking bold and green to looking pale and frightened. They seem, like the proverbial violet, to have shrunk.

One of our news items this week - one that doesn't seem to involve hockey in any way, was that following new guidelines for the use of tasers, police are no longer going to be using them on pregnant women or each other. Thank goodness. They have been suffering too many shoulder injuries as they fall down.
But in order to continue protecting and serving the public, they will still be tasering unco-operative 82 year-old heart patients in their hospital beds.

In any case, it is clearly impossible to die of being tasered. Well, at least in Ohio, where a taser manufacturer, imaginatively called 'Taser International', has been successful in suing a medical examiner who put the cause of death of three people, to be partly due to tasering. Naughty lady, she won't do that again.

Thursday, 8 May 2008


The Nature Park, well, and the outside in general, has greened up over the past week. One warm afternoon and it passed the point of no-return.

This week has been insane so far. Even the evenings have been taken up with meetings, appointments, ridiculous schedules.
I thought our Bank Holiday was coming up, but alas, it is still over a week away.

I was cheered to see that in a 'landmark ruling' a Malaysian convert to Islam has been allowed to leave the faith.

This must seem annoyingly pointless to American-born Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who once told the Daily Torygraph that a ban on incitement to religious hatred 'makes no sense unless it involves a ban on the Koran itself'.
Hopefully none of his new constituents are Muslim.
Alright, I hope that SOME of his new constituents aren't Muslim.

I myself am seen as someone with god-like qualities. I realised this when I received an evaluation form from one of the schools that had recently been on one of our school programmes. I did a double-take because the teacher gave us merely a 'good' rather than an 'excellent', so I turned the page to see what we had done wrong.
The spring has been too cold.
I guess I'd better fix that before next year.

Speaking of excellence, the superb, SUPERB British series 'Gavin and Stacey' has finally made it to our TV. Although I have already seen the first series, I was transfixed by the brilliantly portrayed characters and the first class dialogue. I impatiently await the second series.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Mad Cow

My god, how quickly the light can change and all the trivia of life that delight or annoy can seem shadowy and irrelevant.

One of the people who works with the Nature Park Society, the one that could always be relied upon to turn out and keep me company at the annoying 'special events', a woman whose presence can literally brighten a room, some while ago wondered if, like Denny Crane, she was in the early stages of Alzheimers.
There was precedent in her family.
She consulted the doctor and, again like Denny Crane, she underwent a battery of cognitive tests. It was felt that she probably was indeed paddling in the shallow waters of the disease.

In March she suffered a stroke, and when things didn't seem to be getting any better, was admitted to a recovery facility where therapists would work with her, therapists who have a high level of success in rehabilitating stroke victims. wasn't a stroke and it wasn't Denny's 'Mad Cow'. She has an inoperable brain tumour.
How...the...feck...can such an appalling thing happen to someone so wonderful?
My god.

Sunday, 4 May 2008


When I came out of church this morning, I was sure I could smell the sea. I wondered if there were some illness you could have whose onset was presaged by that salt tang in the air, like the smell of burning toast indicating that you are suffering a stroke.
Perhaps it was a momentary haunting.

I usually phone home on a Sunday, I think I should have a radio programme along the lines of Alistair Cook's 'Letter from America'. Mine would be called 'Phone Call from Canada', or maybe I'd go posher and call it 'From 49 West'.

Today I managed to speak to all of my children. Austen's school is being inspected this week. Deep joy.
The format has changed and now, with only a week's notice, the streamlined team will descend like the Flying Squad, and judge your school in two days. The old week-long ordeal inflicted by a mighty team of specialists was just that, an ordeal. They still couldn't manage an actual linguist last time my department was inspected.

Alex asked me why I hadn't mentioned the Austrian case. Truth is, I can't deal with the horror of it. As it unfolds further and further I can't believe it really happened to human beings in a western country. There are aspects of it which certainly remind me of the way the women were treated in Khaled Hoseini's 'Thousand Splendid Suns'.
Which is worse, that such abuse can happen in a society where it is tolerated, encouraged even, or in one that considers itself above such evil? How can people survive something like that? How can they recover from it? And most of all, how can someone perpetrate it? There is nothing, simply NOTHING that could be imposed on that man that could be adequate punishment.
'Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord,'
But times have changed.

In church the psalm started 'Arise O God, and let your enemies be scattered,' but that's not how it is now. We cannot scatter enemies in God's name, that's not how our God is anymore. Now we must wrestle with ourselves and find a way to overcome our horror from within. Somehow we are all guilty. In a society we share responsibility.
And we condemn our social workers for interfering and then we condemn them for not discovering abuse.

The sermon was about prayer. Marnie prompted us to think about what we pray about and she was right, my own prayer is too often a litany. I want, I need, give me strength to.... save this person, comfort that one...
Does our prayer ever serve to bring us closer to God ?
I can't seem to reach that deeper level. I can't seem to look deeply at my own soul. I strive for self-knowledge through prayer but when I look I see a barrier. I can see a frightened child staring out into darkness. Is that maybe what we all are? All God's children, scared and alone. Never really growing up spiritually.

Back in the physical world, I have had a weekend of painting and sorting. Bringing the old house into the new one. It was satisfying.
Kevin went on the frat camping weekend. I'm sure it'll be out on DVD at some point. In different ways it was a full-on weekend for both of us.
May the Fourth was with us.

Friday, 2 May 2008

The Four Horsemen

I can virtually hear them pawing the ground and snorting. Which is odd, since they have hooves rather than paws, but hooves don't seem to have their own verb.

Austen had warned me that there was a real possibility of this. I have more or less resigned myself to seeing Conservative Britain once more, Gordon's had a rough ride and people are fickle. Fickle and rather stupid really.
But this.
Holy Carp.
This is like having Ronald Macdonald in charge. This is the lunatics taking over the asylum.

The man is a joke. He is a moron. He is the end of days.
Someone should go and check the Tower. Are the ravens still there?

Boris Johnson. BJ.
Oh feck.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Lap of the Gods

Kris and I have been interviewing candidates for summer camp leaders. It has been an interesting process for me, and has somehow reminded me of days gone by.

The school I worked at before Mayhem was challenging. More challenging than Mayhem itself in my opinion. We were the registered school for travellers coming into the area - not in itself a problem, but we also had a number of settled travellers. Let's just say they seemed to have their own rules and sometimes it behove them to thrash these rules out physically in the car park.

But I digress.

It was a much smaller school than Mayhem, around one third of the size. My department had three classrooms on a landing with one RE classroom. This meant that some language classes had to be taught elsewhere, but I think the reasoning for not dedicating the RE room to us was that the Head of Department (ie me) was there to look after them as well.
In that Godless place, RE was even more unpopular than languages.

I can remember trying to get a kid to go into the RE lesson.
'No,' he said, 'I ain't going in there, 'e keeps talking about God,'
'It's RE,'
'Well I ain't going in unless 'e swears 'e won't talk about God,'
'It's difficult not to mention God in Religious Education.'
'I ain't goin' in then.'
'Unfortunately, the only way you can avoid RE is to show that you are a practising member of another Faith,'
'Like wha'?'
'They go in there,'
'Clearly the parents of the Muslim children don't choose to have their children opt out,'
'Never mind, Jewish?'
Then followed some unsavoury comments about loss of certain male parts.

But I digress again.

During one of the many shortages of language teachers - and seriously, during a shortage, it's even more difficult to get them to stay and teach in schools like Badlands, I was obliged to travel to London and interview French people. My shopping list was a bit specific. Must be a superbeing able to survive Badlands. In spite of this, I found one. He seemed to be made of sterner stuff than most, so I went back and was allowed to open negotiations.

But two days later, my esteemed Headteacher, and he really was esteemed, just a bit erratic sometimes, had 'found' me a new potential employee. He felt able to interview her himself, along with the Deputy Head who taught in my department, especially since she was French, therefore it seemed unnecessary to conduct part of the interview in French.
I went down to participate during my free period.
She could barely speak English, had a pronounced speech impediment and couldn't answer any of my questions about the National Curriculum, assessment, or any of the standard fare.

'Well, she seems alright,' said the DH. And no, she wasn't attractive in any way that would appeal to the male blind spot.
'Alright in what way?' I asked.
'Well, I think she'd do. '
I wondered whether we'd actually been in the same room and pointed out her deficiencies, plus my feeling that she would last less than half a lesson before bursting into tears.
I had to fight hard, but I got my way. I shouldn't, however, have had to fight at all and it was lucky I was able to crash the party.

I was able, in the end, to appoint the French guy and it worked out well. Lap of the gods.

We're in a shortage situation here now. We have few applications, and yet we have interviewed two really good candidates.
The rest is yet again in the lap of the gods.