Tuesday, 31 March 2009


So the City of Richmond tied for last place in saving energy during Earth Hour. It seemed we were the only participants. It was, however, a very pleasant, calming experience. Kevin had just finished cooking the dinner when it started, so we were able to eat by candlelight, then we sat and listened to low-Wattage music on the slim-server, no TV, laptops and lights off. In fact we overran by a quarter of an hour.

I can't think.

Today was a very blustery day. Tree branches were falling. Eagles were flying very low and hummingbirds were hovering for dear life.

For some reason, I can't upload a picture. Bugger.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Earth Hour

Just over half an hour until Earth Hour. I am bizarrely excited about this. The idea that around the globe, at 20.30 local time, everyone will turn their lights out, it's like a kind of huge great Mexican Wave of tree-hugging.

Ikea, *genuflect* sent me an e-mail to say that they had met their commitment to reduce their own energy consumption by 25%. They rock. Because it's bloody hard. Well, it's hard at the Schloss because we are already fairly good about turning lights off and keeping the temperature reasonable and so forth, but Kevin has been round with the special meter-thingy that measures how much juice individual appliances are using and has made significant adjustments, and we are now turning off things we'd just have left plugged in before, such as the coffee maker and the microwave. The electricity company, BC Hydro are good at sending tips and ways of saving energy. They even have a higher rate for higher users, we don't even get halfway to that threshold.

So, no rants tonight, The Pope, the other misogynists and the bad drivers can cool their jets, I'm loving my planet tonight.

May the Force be with you.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Snip 7*ck

Grahame Norton - fab TV, supremo entertainment, but he has to work twice as hard when he has American actors on there. I dunno, somehow the dynamic doesn't work. The ONLY one that was ever almost up to it was Susan Sarandon. Here's an example. Tonight's line up was John Malkovich (worshipped by all) and Alan Davies (found to be irritating by all). OK?
So what happens ? Malkovich drivels and bores. Davies scintillates and amuses. Norton is as funny and naughty as ever, but Davies just sits as though he's with mates in a pub, and runs rings around the cumbersome Malkovich.
Last week it was Alicia Silverstone and the now-past-her-sell-by-date Joan Rivers. Silverstone had a face like a slapped arse and Norton had to work quadruple overtime to keep the show going.

Then there's the ads. So the advertising for Tide, is woeful. There is a new ad where women in the same blue dress walk down the street together, only one of the dresses hasn't been washed in Tide, so is faded. Not sure which one is supposed to be faded, since there's little difference, even in Hi-Def. But then the main Tide advertising claims that their product has 'much more cleaning ingredients'. No, seriously, they actually say that several times.
Talk about dumbing down.

Police in Germany have been chasing Scotch Mist it seems, for 15 years. The same woman's DNA has shown up in a number of cases and they have even nicknames the mystery woman. But it turns out that she never existed, that the DNA kits they were using were probably contaminated by a worker at the lab where they were produced.
Thanks Michael for that one.

In Italy, more horrific, horrifying violence against women. A repeat of the awful Austrian story about the man who kept his daughter incarcerated and raped her continuously. Dun't bear thinking about.

And blaming women for everything seems to continue to be de rigueur. After a previously gruesomely flawed piece of research indicating that removing the foreskins of adult males in Africa reduces HIV transmission, US scientists try again. This time, two scientists from Washington State, both with oddly Jewish sounding names have come to the conclusion that circumcising African (adult) males will stop the transmission of HPV and Herpes. (Rather than, say, changing their misogynistic sexual practices).

In response.....

"Dr Colm O'Mahony, a sexual health expert from the Countess of Chester Foundation Trust Hospital in Chester, (UK)said the US had an "obsession" with circumcision being the answer to controlling sexually transmitted infections.

He said: "Sure, a dry skinned penis is a bit less likely to contract HIV, herpes and possibly genital warts but it will get infected eventually."

Dr O'Mahony also said pushing circumcision as a solution sent the wrong message.

"It suggests that it is women who infect innocent men - let's protect the innocent men.

"And it allows men who don't want to change their irresponsible behaviour to continue to sleep around and not even use a condom."

Keith Alcorn, from the HIV information service NAM, also warned against a knee jerk reaction.

He said: "We have to be careful not to take evidence from one part of the world and apply it uncritically to others. "


Thursday, 26 March 2009

Harsh Words

Non-inclusive language is a real bugbear for me, and I think that's fairly obvious since my for most of my professional life, language was my area of expertise.
Today, however, it played a small joke on me.
I was updating one of the programmes at work, and this year, one of the male characters, Jack Frost, was a Jill Frost. Easy-peasy lemon squeezy, Word will do that for you in two simple moves. Then I realised I'd have to change the his to hers. Bosh, bosh, done.
Then as I checked through the script, I noticed that Word had done too good a job. 'This' had become 'ther', 'whisper' had become 'wherper'.

Goddamit! Red Dwarf is back after nine years and I can't even play the sodding trailer on the Graun's website!

This is most surprising. The Pope, according to the medical establishment, is distorting science when it comes to condoms. Woah, harsh words.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009


In my experience, Canada is pretty much an example of a classless society. I remember our Current Events teacher in the sixth form telling us how we were moving towards a classless society. We were so not.

Oh, they talk about people being 'middle class' or 'lower class' here, but it's got nothing to do with class, it's about money. So, strange. Huh.

Last night, we went to the opening night of a play our friend Steve had a lead role in. But it was in the grim part of town, so not the West End then. We decided not to park there, we chose instead to park near a Skytrain station and walk from another. Suddenly, as we crossed East Hastings, I realised we were surrounded by the in-your-face down-at-heel, sellers of flesh and drugs, I don't think I'd ever been so close to so much street trade. And yet it was also like an island that your ship passes. It didn't rush up and try to interfere with our ship, it was just there. An underclass.

Our friend was brilliant, I love to see my friends engaged in their work, and so good at it.
A class act.

Monday, 23 March 2009


A useful tip for ensuring that the traffic lights are always on green, is to have your camera beside you on the seat, ready and waiting to take a pic. Thus, I had to take my only opportunity and couldn't do much about the ugly monster car in front of me.

The hummingbirds have returned to the Nature Park. I have to take this on trust, since I haven't seen one myself, but the first sighting was yesterday. At last. They're normally here by St. Patrick's day, and whilst they were overdue, I was picturing them on one of those in-flight screen maps you get, winging their little way up from Mexico, their wings beating 900 times in ten seconds. Or 600, depending on how tired they are.
We call it the hummingbird homecoming, but I wonder how they think of it. Meh - maybe they do think of BC as their home - it is where they come to nest and fledge their young.

After a second beautiful, spring-like day yesterday, wet and cheerless today.

Saturday, 21 March 2009


Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, but no need WHATsoever to wonder where the birdies is. They're all over the bloody shop, shagging like it was going out of style.

I have gardened. Yep, no bloody garden, but I have gardened my little - well, moderate - arse off and now I feel all blooming and somewhat tidier on the decks.

Home Depot - what service. I thought I'd buy one of their watering cans and wrestled one from the display, only to discover that it was pre-filled! Who knew? I had an enjoyable outdoor cold shower. Oh well. I decided against buying it.

Coming back from the Depot, we followed a car with Alberta number plates. An interesting little style of driving. He (for it was a he) cut off a pedestrian, crossing on a crossing light, cut off a person on a moped, erratically changed lanes several times on the highway, then on the on ramp to the connecting highway, had some kind of quantum physics dilemma whereupon he attempted to occupy the same spacetime co-ordinates as us. And I thought the driving in Richmond was bad enough.

The spring-like day was a wonderful interlude. We've been promised more rain on Monday, I know this because on Friday, we suddenly had horizontal rain, lightning, thunder, more of the same, sunshine, rain... and the radio weather lady, of indeterminate accent - it sounds North of England/ Australian/ lived here a long time - assured us that was the back end of the weather system and the next one would be coming on Monday. Good-oh!

Mothering Sunday tomorrow, and I received a beautiful bunch of flowers today from my kids. I'm looking forward to the bewilderment on one son's face when I thank him.

Thursday, 19 March 2009


I now have the dreaded lurghi, and 'tis not pleasant. I shall give no details. But drinking Marmite is featuring heavily in my recovery.

Thusly, I will be terse.

What a terrible tragedy that Natasha Richardson has died, however I am astonished that her death has received more coverage as Liam Neeson's wife than as a woman in her own right. If anything, I think of her was the great Vanessa Redgrave's daughter.
It also makes me realise how lucky my nephew has been, considering the accidents he has had ski-ing.

The sentencing of Josef Fritzl for the incarceration and continual rape of his daughter reminds us of how unjust life can be sometimes. Just as with the hanging of Saddam Hussein, nothing could be done to in any way even the balance for what either of them had done. The ultimate is just not enough, so we have to trust in a higher power, whilst always remembering Portia's speech from the Merchant of Venice...." though Justice be the plea, consider this ; that in the course of justice, we none of us should see salvation...." Amazing stuff you learn at twelve and then remember for the rest of your life. (Gott bereit sein).

Meanwhile, one of the top news headlines in our Province has been an injured owl. What can you say? People love owls. And polar bears.

Right rainy weather today.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Mad Week

Mad week, mad.

Kevin sicker than a parrot.
Sunday, every weather condition known to humanity.
Sunday, visited Kev's folks.
Monday, Writers' group.
Tuesday, Church council.
Wednesday, Lent Meditation which I am leading this week.
Thursday, Wine bottling and shopping.
Friday, out and about to Science World and the Space Centre, then my friends' kiddie's birthday in Vancouver.

But in amongst all that, I was stopped in my tracks, as Kevin, barely able to sit up and take sustenance has a fit over the Pope's latest piece of trash-talk.

Oi! Pontiff-Plonker! Pay attention!
If African people use condoms, it WILL stop the spread of AIDS, it won't make it worse and I thought we'd agreed (well I did) that The Bible isn't a science textbook, and if it were, there wouldn't even be a line about AIDS, let alone a whole chapter that you could mis-interpret.


Saturday, 14 March 2009


On Thursday, we went to an afternoon meeting at the 'Fraser River Discovery Centre'. What I discovered was that tugboats pull logs down the river (see photo), which was quite fascinating, and that the aforementioned centre is so hot that the meeting participants mostly turned a flustered shade of reddish-purple.

An interesting survey by an Economist at the University of California shows that in the US, mixed race people fare the worst in terms of pay. He surveyed 3million US Americans and found that the average pay for mixed race people was $15.74 per hour, $17.39 for black and $22.04 for white. Bizarrely, this didn't even tie up with their qualifications, since 18% of the mixed race respondents had degrees, 11% of the black, and 28% of the white. Obambi is damned lucky he's Pres then.

On Friday, we had a staggeringly busy day, with three programmes out of a possible two-per-day. Yep. In the afternoon, in one class, were autistic twins, which seemed just so harsh for the parents to me.

In the evening, I went to my book group. It's a real blessing to spend time with like-minded women, and yet how odd that the two groups that I define that way, are both groups of Christian women, who, you would think, should be rather more conservative. Far from it, they are the most open-minded people I know.

Sleepy's i-pod (John) has shown signs of AI and has its own musical taste, not always in tune (sic) with Sleepy's. I don't have an i-pod, but I have discovered that when playing tunes on YouTube, my laptop ignores what I tell it and selects Melissa Etheridge tracks. I'm not actually complaining, it's just that it's being a bit aggressive about it.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

The Final Frontier

On a Wednesday evening in Lent, a group of us meet to do...well, Lenty things. Meditation, quiet times, prayer, sharing.

Last night, our theme was 'preparing for death'. It was food for thought. Last year, our friend Bruce spent much of the year preparing us for his death.

But the question pertained to us personally, how do we prepare for our own death?
I found everyone's thoughts interesting.
My answer was, by trying to live an authentic life, not filling it with things that don't matter, by fighting for the things I believe in, picking the fights that are important; by stewardship of the physical, the world we will leave behind and our physical self. By spiritual gardening, allowing the spirit to grow and flourish. By not becoming overburdened with and overly attached to material things.

The final frontier.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

The Other Brown

No, I'm not. Sick of it that is. This snow, yesterday's snow, was perfect. It was coming down full on as I walked to work and it had already snowed during the night so that there was a lovely carpet and general blanket of it.

At the moment, we are running a 'Mammals' programme at work. At some point, I ask the children how many brothers and sisters they have, in order to compare human family sizes with those of some (other) urban mammals. Whenever I ask a kid who is a twin, they never count their twin. This happened again on Friday. Two sets of twins in the class, same thing for each.

Modern History. George Brown. Not Gordon, another legendary socialist, Harold Wilson's number two, and almost Prime Minister - were it not, according to Andrew Marr, for his inordinate drinking.
At an official function in Peru, Marr tells us, Brown, rather the worse for wear, approached, and was turned down by, 'a willowy figure in scarlet'. Brown informs same that he is, 'Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs,' and wondered why he couldn't have a dance?
'For three reasons Mr. Brown,' came the reply, 'firstly, because you are disgustingly drunk, secondly, that music is not a dance, but our National Anthem, and thirdly, because I am the cardinal-archbishop of Lima.'
I think he'd have been rather a good PM myself.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

International Women's Day

International Women's Day. Rock on!

In church, we had an elderly, male, guest preacher. Yes, a man. An elderly man. He was also a Canon.

He started talking about Darwin, and this caught my attention after the weird Darwin-related conversations of recent days.
He told us that Darwin had been going to be an Anglican priest, but thank God he didn't become one, because Darwin went on to do far more important work.
The white-haired man went on to tell us that Darwin's ideas were pretty much what Christianity was all about anyway, that Humankind is part of Nature, of which we are stewards, and that Darwin's work, like that of Christ, showed us how equal we all are.
He talked about inequalities suffered by women. He talked about the ridiculous stance of some members of the Anglican communion who liked to claim that homosexuality was wrong. Neither Christianity nor Darwinism could support this.

And then he said it....
'The Bible is NOT a science textbook,' he said, 'it is ridiculous to make claims about science by reference to the Bible.' He went on to show how the Bible is our spiritual book, but in terms of science, we have learnt so much since the times it was written. And it never claimed to be a book of science anyway.

He was no greater a speaker than our vicar, Margaret, but sometimes, someone else reinforcing your point can be immeasurably powerful. This elderly, white-haired man, probably got the attention of the more conservative elements in our congregation, but he gave the same message as the women speakers.
All hail.

In honour of International Women's Day, here is a poem by Welsh poet Gillian Clarke, from her collection, 'Making Beds for the Dead'.

'Front Page'.

It's the photograph that does it.
A man howling for his child.
You can't forget it
despite a let up in the rain,
sunlight on a river,
a flight of geese over an estuary.
It's a rucksack of sorrow
on your shoulder, on your mind.

Try leaving it on the platform
to be defused like a suspect package.
Try leaving it on the train,
personal belongings
they remind you to take.
Try to lose, bin, burn it,
indestructible as the polythene
of flowers in a filthy stairwell.

Maybe just this once
we should forego the minute's silence.
Maybe this time, in supermarket,
street and school and public square,
studio, station, stadium,
standing together, eyes closed,
we should throw back our heads
for a one-minute howl.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Castles in the Air

The weather.
Yesterday, cold, but sunny. As I walked home, I thought, 'The perfect sky for eagles,' and I looked up and there were two, circling. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you might just about be able to see a speck, and that is one of the eagles.
The weather.
Then, we were promised snow. Last night, the wind raged and rain, or hail, or frozen snow slapped against the window. First thing, clear, blue sky again. By afternoon, lowering and then hail.

I have just finished a strange book. 'Sea of Poppies' by Amitav Ghosh. It was rich and complex, and weird and ...opium-filled, and at first, I had to make myself continue with it, but after a while, I got into all the characters and their strange language and ultimately was sad when the story ended. Not that it has ended, since it was the first book in a trilogy.

Barbara Castle. Fabulous, down-to-earth socialist minister, Barbara Castle. Hopeful of becoming Home Secretary in Harold Wilson's cabinet, she was offered transport (sort of like being sent to Coventry in British Politics) in 1965. And, being Barbara Castle, she did a sterling job. She introduced the Road Safety Act, the breathalyser, a maximum speed limit of 70 and compulsory wearing of seat belts. She received VILE letters of abuse, but she saved literally THOUSANDS of lives, and these days, no-one would think of NOT having any of those. That's a politician's job, to do unpopular things that make things better and to take the crap people throw at them.

In Canadian politics, our PM has just said he was going to spend 3 billion straight off the bat, to improve the economy. The Leader of the Opposition asked him to account for where that money was going to go, and Stephen went into orbit.
What a plonker.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Tarnished Stars

My friend Michael sent me an article that he thought might amuse me, and it did. The BNP - or British National Party, who like to send foreigners back, and the more foreign, the more they want to send them back - are having a pop at the Polish. Oddly timed, since after an initial influx to Britain of Poles, they have in fact also returned whence they came in their droves. They have produced a rather splendid poster to spearhead the latest campaign, featuring that iconic symbol of true Brit, the Spitfire. The Spitfire, you will remember, repelled the Bosch. (Not the kitchen appliances company you understand, the naughty, Messerschmitt flying ones).

An odd choice of photo, however. The Spitfire they chose to keep Britain for the British and free of Poles, is in fact, clearly identifiable as belonging to a Squadron of the Polish Air Force.

Tesco, the British supermarket giant, who e-mail me from time to time, presumably they have noticed I still use their services sporadically, have let me know that for
£3.97, I could purchase U2`s latest album. Clearly they haven`t been paying attention.

I have to support my friend Gail, who posted on her Facebook wall, about how we have come to constantly reward children just for doing what they`re supposed to do anyway, (giving them gold stars) instead of punishing them for not doing what they should.
Quite right.
This is the bane of the teaching profession. You can spend hours praising every kid who`s doing ANYTHING righr, `Thank-you Megan, for not picking your nose,` instead of getting rid of the one git who`s wrecking the class and then being able to get on with teaching them. And do you think the good kids actually appreciate it? No, they want you to get rid of the disrupters and teach them.
Gail also mentioned how this generation, when they come to the workplace, now expect the same treatment. Well, guess what? Good luck out there bozos. Your mummies and daddies won't be able to protect you from the American Border Guard.

Another story that Michael tipped me off about, and believe you me, anyone who has crossed the border here can relate to this, is about a Canadian man of Portugese extraction, who simply asked the guard to say 'please'. Natural enough, Canadian border guards are polite, and generally speaking, so are the U.S. ones, but every so often, you get a complete troglodyte.
The Canadian was pepper-sprayed, knelt on by a number of guards, and interrogated for three hours. One bright spot was that when they realised he was Hispanic and not Middle-Eastern, they eased up a little.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

In the Slipstream

Yesterday morning we had two claps of thunder. That's probably our quota for the whole year.

I was reading my Andrew Marr History of Modern Britain book in the bath. Now, I have to read it in small chunks because Marr is no great scribe, a great historian undoubtedly, but wordsmith, not so much. But the section about the Suez Crisis was just unputdownable!
I may have to re-read it.

Reaper is back. Yesssss.

The vile piece of human scum who beheaded an innocent victim on a Greyhound bus last year has pleaded not guilty. Huh. Yeah, cos his imaginary friend made him do it. Jeez.

I so love Lent. I really do.

I'm living in the slipstream.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

1st March!

St. David's day again! Only this time I was allowed to speak on the subject in church. Hurrah! (Maybe not for them).
Whisky will be drunk later, not because the Welsh are especially fond of whisky, but my dad was, and it's his birthday.
And yes, I know that dragon's green, but I just liked her.

Canada and Britain have worked together (presumably) and had a breakthrough, which is possibly world-changing, in stem-cell research. Or maybe it wasn't co-operation, perhaps it was like Nylon, perfected simultaneously in NY and LONdon. So the new technique will have to be called EDITOR, putting Edinburgh and Toronto together.

Who knew that University Challenge could generate so much controversy? First, a WOMAN showed herself to be so brilliant that she just HAD to be virulently attacked by all and sundry on the basis of what she looks like. (Remind anyone of Hillary?)Then, being even unable to agree on whether she was sexy as well as smart or just the usual speccy-frumpy and smart, they have to have a bloody witch hunt until it is found that some team member didn't get funding for his PhD and thus was no longer a student.
But the opposing team, Manchester, are being very gracious, they're giving the whole thing the full body swerve and saying, 'No, please, let's just agree that Corpus Christi, Oxford are totally brilliant, we really, really, REALLY don't need a re-match.' And they don't. Gail Trimble seems to have won the thing almost single-handed in any case, and there's no doubt that SHE's a student.
I believe my daughter's friend Hazel is at Corpus, and she is fecking brilliant too.