Thursday, 30 December 2010


Yesterday morning we met up with Kevin's mum and dad, and his brother and partner. Outside the diner, when we came out, was this rather large dog, most likely part wolf, just sitting in the back of a truck, unleashed.

Today, I took Alex to the airport and right now she is on her way back to Blighty. I am bereft.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Comet's Tail

We're in the comet's tail of Christmas. It would be better if Christmas were more like Kwanzaa, which seems to have a focus for every day. Or maybe it does, but the meaning of each day has been lost in the mists of time and alcoholic haze. Today would be 'four calling birds' whereas for followers of Kwanzaa, today is 'collective work and responsibility'. Hmmmm.

Oh well.
The lights on the houses in this largely Chinese part of town are relatively subdued this year. There are a few houses with lights on the outside, but not many. Through the blinds of others, you can see the indoor lights, some, frankly, must be inducing unpleasant brain states through their flashing on and off.

For the past few years, the original white and blue LEDs have given way to more colourful options, and actually, I have to admit, they can look pretty good. If people stuck to one theme, there would be no problem, but there seems to be a tendency to just throw everything in together. At least there are no blow-up atrocities. After dark, the apple green house's lights are the best and most tasteful.
On Christmas Day, we visited Kev's folks and one of their neighbours had gone rather overboard with the red festive lights. You might think this would render it rather Amsterdam. In fact, if Satan celebrated Christmas, this is what the Satanic Macmansion would look like. We seriously expected trident carrying, satin-wearing devils to pop their horned heads out at any moment.

So, let's talk dates. Thursday, much to my sorrow, Alex returns to England for the foreseeable future. On the 17th February, Kevin and I pop over for a whirlwind tour, this takes in half term over there.
I see this also as the 'Jan the Baptist' tour, preparing the way for the Vicar and her Missus the following month (ish).

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

Thursday, 23 December 2010


''Til Burnham Wood shall come to Dunsinane'. The Bard probably meant the Schloss.

Christmas, as we know, is all about the booze, not the baby Jesus, more the wassailing.
Christmas is also the only time of year when I find it reasonable that we can't buy booze in our supermarkets, because that could significantly increase the mayhem. In Britain of course, you have the choice, you can go to the supermarché or your Threshers or Oddbins or any offie really, and this encourages healthy competition.

Our BC Liquor Stores are quite impressive though.
Yesterday, before going to see Mr. Lube, I went to the Liquor Store and bought more alcohol than I had meant to, mainly just because it was there. I managed NOT to buy a bottle of Absinthe, which I was attracted to because of the mention of the green 'Fée' on the bottle, I moved quickly past it, so I'm unsure whether I was just reading the French side or whether they were playing with words.
One of my favourite current Canadian TV series is 'Lost Girl', in which the Fée, both dark and light apparently, live alongside humans and lead fairly normal lives in a completely abnormal, human eating way.

So, the booze. 'Booz endormi'(Victor Hugo, and not in fact about booze).
I realise I've never really been MUCH of an imbiber. I like a glass, I can look forward to a glass, but in recent years, I haven't been able to knock back much more than a glass, two at the most. I overheat and feel very uncomfortable, so my own boozing is more theoretical than real.
Even when I was younger, at peak time for being drunk, I never got to the hangover stage because at a certain point, I would just throw it all up and that would be that.
But I can imagine what a hangover's like because I have been ill and felt like death warmed up. I am fairly sure I can conjure up the memory of something akin to a hungover state.

I have just finished reading a book about alcoholism and I now see that I had absolutely no idea what alcoholism was. My friend lent me the book, she is a recovering alcoholic and she said,
'This book speaks to me, I have lived through this.'
Oh dear, I thought, a book about alcoholics, and set it aside.

Then I looked at it again and realised it was fiction, it was a story, told in the first person, so I started reading. And it was a good read. Glaswegian writer, so in my head, my mind's ear if you will, I could hear her speaking. This was great fiction, that kept me reading in spite of the state the character was in, being just horrible, and I was in the head of someone describing an experience about which I had no idea.
There are a couple of people within the very wide definition of my family, who are alcoholics, have been treated for it, and I had never really understood the phrase, 'it's a disease,' or, 'it's something they have no control over,' or even, 'they do that because of the disease,' until reading this book.
Now, I think, I'm a step closer.
'Paradise' by A.L.Kennedy.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010


Things I have learnt today(-ish).

1. Macdonald's is open on Christmas Day - presumably for all your day after Christmas Eve hangover needs.

2. Apple green houses cannot in any way be made to look acceptable by any available colour of Christmas lights.

3. Marky Mark Wahlberg can really, seriously, act. I went to see 'The Fighter' to spend time with the kids and was utterly transfixed.

4. There is a casting director on this planet who is enough of a genius to cast Melissa Leo in a major role. (See 3 and pic.).

5. If you live somewhere long enough, you can go and visit Mr. Lube without giggling, chortling or in any inappropriate way, snorting.

In fact, the visit to Mr. Lube was the highlight of today. I think I've said it before, but going to car-themed places here is not the nightmare of patronising misogyny it is back home. At Mr. Lube, they treat you as though you understand them, as though the fact that you can drive a car and wish to buy their lube, entitles you to be treated as an intelligent lifeform.
BUT.....I'm still not used to this, so I approach with trepidation. Even though the person is calmly and precisely encouraging me forward to position the car over the pit, I am convinced I will drive into the hole.
They give you a newspaper, explain how long you will have to wait, how long it will take and offer you coffee, which they will bring to your car. They ask you to leave the window open so that they can explain things to you, let you see the cost on their computer.
Mr. Lube is indeed a well-oiled machine.
I realise I've forgotten how to open the bonnet, but I realise in time, before the person asks me to do it, before I have to panic and look like a nit-wit. I find the catch.
Finally, all is finished and paid for, I have my free torch and tyre gauge set. I have my coupons. My windscreen has been washed, my tyres adjusted. And in front of me, the hangar door is opening to let me out, like the space door in a sci-fi movie, the only thing that's missing is Star Wars music.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Eclipse and Solstice

We couldn't see the lunar eclipse last night, because of cloud cover, so I've had to borrow a picture, oh alright, steal, this is from earlier in the year.

I learnt, from watching Merlin, that a dragon's heart is on the right. Now don't you think that would have been a useful thing to learn in the Brownies? I mean, being able to use your Brownie tie to make a sling is not a skill to be sneezed at, but compared with knowledge of dragon physiology, there's simply no contest.

My friend Gail posted a link via someone else she knows on Facebook, to a monologue by Ricky Gervais on why he doesn't believe in God, and it's good Gervais. I liked the stuff about science too, many people don't think about Science philosophically. I taught A-Level Philosophy to adults for twelve years, and so I taught both Philosophy of Science and of God. Thus, I know my theoretical God.

I had recently read elsewhere that we are all atheists, because there are always other gods we don't believe in. I certainly don't believe in the god that Gervais describes, the male god who therefore presumably has either XY chromosomes or the male characteristics generated by that Y chromosome, presumably physical ones, since science, albeit social science, has repeatedly shown us that 'femininity' and 'masculinity' are culturally created phenomena.

Of course, God cannot have physical characteristics, since God is not corporeal substance as we are.
Then there is the peculiar problem of the Y chromosome.
Germaine Greer, in 'The Female Eunuch', shows us that the extra little arm of DNA that is missing from the Y chromosome, is the one that saves us from a whole slew of little problems, it would seem to be an imperfection - God being the sum of all perfections cannot lack one. One of the arguments for God's existence claims that existence itself is a perfection and therefore God must exist. *

But then there is also the oddity that the sex chromosomes have become more dissimilar over time.
From the Gale Genetic Encyclopaedia,

"Present-day sex chromosomes look very different from each other: The X chromosome comprises about 5 percent of the human genome, and contains about 2,000 genes, while the Y chromosome is quite small and contains only about 50 genes (Figure 1). This striking difference in size and gene content between the sex chromosomes makes it hard to believe that they are actually ancient partners in a pair of chromosomes that originally were very similar."

But this, of course, is about humans, not God and my central point is that the theoretical male God is actually theoretically impossible.

Today, however, is the Winter Solstice, the Celtic rebirth not of the son, but of the sun at 23.38 tonight.

And one more Christmassy thought.
My friend sent me an e-card, and in my bungling, trying to send one back, and it remains unclear whether I succeeded or not, I was able to see a list of e-cards that had been created that day, my favourite was,
'I'm sorry my dog fucked your Jesus lawn ornament.'

*There are a number of problems with this argument, one of which is that there is no particular reason why existence should be seen as a perfection, nor what the nature of existence may be.
Another is that if existence is a perfection and God lacks it, then clearly God cannot exist on either a theoretical or an actual level. The attempt here is to make God's existence a Necessary Truth, (something that is true by definition, such as mathematics or a tautology) whereas it seems to be a Contingent Truth (one that requires some information that is not contained in the statement itself).

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Joseph and Kant

The Schloss interwebs are not playing nicely today.
The weather got me all hopeful yesterday, the sleet became more snowy, then stopped all together. Now it's delightfully nippy, but the sky is clear.

Welcome to Rosalind, my friend Gail's new daughter. Good timing young lady, letting mum get out of hospital before Christmas. Congratulations to Gail, Ross and big sister Lily.

Ah...Christmas, Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Now firstly, what exactly is it in the Jewish faith that passes through the female line? Just Jewishness I presume, not actual lineage, because otherwise, Mary would have had to have been of the line of David, not Joseph and also....isn't the point of the story that Joseph was NOT the baby daddy? You think it's simple, and then it gets really confusing.

We had the children's Nativity play at church today. It was called, 'Benjamin the little shepherd boy,' Benjamin being the only reliable Jewish boy's name anyone knows. So there was a toddler dressed as a sheep, with a little hat with ears on, cute beyond compare, except the sheep was not happy with his sheeply tabard, nor his sheeply headgear and went somewhat awol. I'm sure there was another story in there somewhere.

Austen told me a story that made me cry with laughter. Recently, there have been a couple of high profile faux pas in the British media, to do with the unfortunate mispronunciation of the name Hunt, Jeremy Hunt, Culture Secretary. Hunt, culture - what could possibly go wrong?

Now Arts presenter Mark Lawson was interviewing Germaine Greer on his late night show. Greer of course, is originally Antipodean, and her accent is slight, but still noticeable sometimes.
So, she says to Lawson that (The C Word) has fallen into disrepute and that we shouldn't ignore (The C Word), in fact we should all be talking much more about (The C Word). Mark Lawson, horrified, stopped her and said that although the programme went out on late night television, they simply couldn't say that on air.
Germaine turned and looked at him, eyes wide, mouth open,
'What?' she said, 'we're not allowed to talk about German philosophers any more?'

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Mental Bubbles

I experience mental bubbles. Spheres of memory that rise through the dark liquid of my Psyche. Sometimes they seem to come from nowhere, sometimes I know what prompts them.

In spite of the lights, cards and decorations, I have not been feeling very Christmassy, until today when I smelt the mince pies cooking in the oven., I mean Christmas. Very good they were too. I still haven't found any shop's mincemeat here that involves only ingredients that can be safely taken into the human body, so the filling is home made. I can also never remember from one year to the next, what circular object I use to cut the pastry. The tops are easier.

Today is also my friend Karen's birthday, we must have been wishing each other Happy Birthday for not far off fifty years now. We went to each others' birthday parties as small children, wore paper hats, sparkly frocks and party shoes. Played pass the parcel and danced the twist.
But that's not what has actually caused the memory bubble.
When we were younger, both of us had the experience of dads going to sea, coming back from sea. And for Karen, this featured in her own earlier married life.
Now her husband has returned to the sea, and this past week, returned from it. Thinking of my friend looking forward to her husband's return has made me think of how we looked forward to my dad coming back.

I think my father's absence at sea gave him a sort of theoretical status when my sister and I were very young. We had a dad. We loved him. He sent us postcards from Hong Kong, Singapore, the countries, the ships were names we knew, but not places or vessels that we knew, just names.
He came home from time to time and brought us presents.
But our real lives were run by women. Our mum, our aunt, our nans. They did the day-to-day business of keeping us fed and cleaned and sent to school. My mother managed the money, planned the parties, made our dresses. Hers was the face we saw every day.

And although, like me, she was not adept in the kitchen, for Christmas, she pickled onions and at Christmas, she made the mince pies.

Bubbles of memory.
Happy Birthday Karen. I know you're in London so won't see this for a couple of days, but I hope you had a splendid time.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Desperately Seeking Snow

Catch-up day, and not going altogether to plan, but then, if things went according to plan, one wouldn't need a catch-up day.

Tuesday is Alex's one day off in the week, so yesterday we had mother and daughter time. We had decided to go snow-shoeing, but we had not fully factored in the snow. As we drove to the North Shore, the rain turned to sleet and this continued as we drove up the mountain.
'Are we going to be able to snow-shoe in this rain?' asked Alex as we wound round and round the mountain road,
'Oh yes,' said I, 'by the time we get up there, this rain will be falling as snow, no problem.'
Correct on the snow, incorrect on the no problem. As we got further up the mountain, the snow on the roads made it impossible to drive further and we had to turn back. We found the snow though.
Alex had to take pictures from the car while we were moving, I was in a low gear, but I didn't dare to try and stop.

As a consolation prize, we ate at Havana on the Drive, perused Dix Mille Villages, and drifted around an insanely wonderful Italian food store. It reminded me of the small Italian shops you find back home, only bigger, much, much bigger. Groups of Italian men hung around conversing intensely in Italian.

At the weekend, the rain was so torrential, we had to look out in the morning to check we were still in Birch Bay. Kevin cycled around the State Park and came back and reported that we could have kayaked most of it.

Because of the weather, also the current bizarre lack of TV, we watched two films.
Firstly, the Cate Blanchette Robin Hood movie. Excellent. Russell Crowe was good in it too.
Secondly, the Joan Jett movie, The Runaways, also excellent.
Oh, and I have also read a book by a New Zealander, Laurence Fearnley, "Edwin and Mathilda". A most excellent read, flawless writing.

Today, one of my tasks was to pick up a prescription. I went to the drop-off counter. In front of me an elderly woman, who clearly had no prescription to drop off, was testing the patience of...well me mostly, the long-suffering pharmacist was showing no signs of the frustration he must have been experiencing, since she was expecting him to solve the mystery of what medication she needed from colour description alone. There must be some kind of secret pharmacist's button under the counter, since eventually an assistant came out to help me.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Letting the Side Down

I hate it when someone lets the side down. The cretins who attacked the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall's car, just make all the students who are demonstrating for a legitimate reason, look like a bunch of hooligans. Bloody pillocks. In a war, those type of people get their own side killed.

An interesting article by Libby Brooks, on the Graun's website, almost makes me think I'm reading more Stieg. There was a lot in those books about the Swedish legal system.

"In fact what is significant about the Swedish system is not that it employs a broader definition of rape than in other countries – it doesn't – but that prosecutions are based not on consent but whether a complainant's "sexual integrity" has been violated. In addition, alleged victims can instruct their own lawyers, who often seek second opinions after an initial dismissal, which may offer a rather more pedestrian explanation for why the cases have been re-opened now."

Even a Swedish fringe freedom-of-speech organisation, doesn't believe the hype.

"Groups supporting Wikileaks in Stockholm also rejected speculation that the case was politically motivated.

Rick Falkvinge, leader of Sweden's Pirate party, a fringe pro-freedom of speech and anti-copyright party, said: "In theory, if you wanted to strike back at WikiLeaks to discredit the organisation, this would be blueprint 1A, but I have not seen anything to indicate that this was politically motivated." "

So, to counterbalance the misogyny with some woman worship, I give you, once again, Dame Helen. Isn't she just the best?

Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Beady Eye of God

And on the subject of privilege, whilst it's frustrating to the point of tears, doing battle with it, if you do happen to be white, male and straight, acknowledging your privilege and then refusing to use it to your advantage makes you a bloody amazing human being. Well, man.

Other people I admire at the moment are my own. The British. I'm about to royally diss the Greek nation, so step aside if you can't stomach it.
The Greek austerity measures had the Greek people rioting in the streets and generally refusing to play nicely. What a bunch of tossers.
The British austerity measures have the Brits doing what they do well. Intellectualising and debating and sorting out who really is getting one up the bum with a big stick, thus the Fawcett Society are challenging certain aspects through the courts and the National Union of Students have their people out in full force doing what all leftie intellectuals are supposed to do, demonstrating outside parliament whilst their own arse stuffing is under debate. Fucking amazing. If there's one thing a Tory government is good for, it's allowing the British people to show their true Brit Grit.
For this I salute you gruesome-twosome Decameron-Clegg.

Filed under the category of 'can walk and talk at the same time', is the recent Julian Assange controversy.
Yes, I get that he has clearly been extradited because of his Wikileaks escapade, but that doesn't mean he isn't guilty of the sexual assault crimes he has been accused of in Sweden.
He was certainly guilty of hiding somewhere in the South of England and not coming out when told to.
Also, I don't like the way he looks, although, since I'm trying to be objective, I won't mention that.
Here's the thing though. Most assuredly, the majority of sexual assaults are treated with contempt by those charged with protecting the public, so isn't it galling when one person gets singled out like this and hauled across the channel?
Well, not really. Yes, ALL complaints should be dealt with sensitively and fairly, but even one being dealt with publicly makes points and raises awareness. Sometimes, doing something not necessarily for the right reason, still has the same outcome as if you had.

Then there is Lollo Rosso. Who doesn't like a nice bit of lollo rosso lettuce? We bought some yesterday from Costco, who made a sterling attempt at the name and managed to come quite close with 'lolla rosa'. Splendid then.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Tradition and Privilege

Tradition and privilege, privilege and tradition. Excuses, excuses, fucking excuses.

The other day, a friend of mine said that he was aware of having been privileged growing up, because he's male. He was aware of it. Presumably until he worked out he was gay, not that the privileges of being male and white stopped then, but the other one must have done.
We're all aware of each others' privilege and each others' lack of it. AT least I think we are, maybe I'm just too naive about that, or too ideological.

Then today, that one lone slap across the face that brings you to your metaphorical knees. That lunge. The card that comes addressed to a non-existent Mrs. His First Name, His Surname. Because God forbid that I should HAVE ANY FUCKING EXISTENCE AS A BEING OUTSIDE OF MY MARRIAGE.
Ask anyone that you know who still does this to women, ask them why they do it and they'll say 'tradition'. Right, tradition. Tradition is having mince pies for Christmas, or standing up for an older person on the bus, or seeing your mate on her birthday. Denying the existence of someone you know well enough to send a card to, isn't tradition it's simply an archaic practice designed to keep women firmly in their place, second-best to a man.

I have a friend, a much younger woman than me, who burns with the humiliation of this, burns. And she won't say anything for fear of offending the person or persons who do it.
When the FUCK did it become more important not to offend the bigots than to champion the rights of those who are actually being treated as though they had lower status? Seriously?

On a different other day, a different friend said to me that remembering to speak respectfully to women was a little bit stressful. I made light of this, since one would assume it would have to be humour in poor taste. But behind that is an attitude that 'yay, equal rights, so long as we don't have to put ourselves out at all, so long as we don't have to make any effort, and so long as even a single atom of our being doesn't leave its comfort zone.'

Well, guess what?
Firstly, I've personally, never asked anyone to do anything difficult, simply speak to me respectfully, without implying that women are of a lower status than men. Not too hard you'd think.
Secondly, if it were hard, well, frankly, it should be, it isn't, but it should be, because equal rights are insanely important, and we should have to think about them every time we do something to promote them.
And thirdly, in the name of tradition, wtf? That woman who denied my existence, couldn't even claim that pathetic excuse, because she's been in a same sex relationship for donkeys' years.
So yes, WTF?????

I am SO pissed off and SO depressed about this.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Poetic Justice

I think this qualifies as poetic justice. I made some Koftas yesterday for Kevin. rest assured, they looked nothing like this. I put in plenty of garlic, coriander and mint, but since I dislike the special sweaty sock spice known as cumin, we had none, so none went in.
Today I felt mildly guilty. Kevin doesn't dislike cumin, so I bought some when I was in Superstore. As I finished scanning it and put it into the bag, I realised, as a cloud of it engulfed me, that there was a split in the packet.

It wasn't even as though the shopping experience itself had been particularly pleasant. In my opinion, 'All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth', should NOT be played where you expect people to spend money.
Vile song.

So, the past few days, there has been an annoying set of roadworks going on at one of the main intersections, slowing things down even more than normal. But there has been entertainment in the form of one of the crew. The person who directs the traffic in these situations, is often a woman, and this case is no exception. This one is a sort of petite Fagash Lil. She must be in the four foot something range and skinny, but she struts out into the road with her stop sign and her seven league boots, fag hanging out of her mouth and fake Viking plaits dangling from the woolly hat under her hard hat. Then she performs. I mean she really works those traffic directing gestures, the whole body is in it. She makes full-on eye contact with motorists who don't instantly obey her, followed by hand signals that leave no doubt. This woman has attitude, and so long as I don't get on the wrong side of her, I'm enjoying that attitude.

I'm being haunted by Dexter. The last episode in the current series is coming up, the ducks all seem to be lined up, it has been an excellent series, but since Sunday, when I wake up in the night with my waking-up-in-the-night heat I have immediately started worrying about what the twist might be.
Darkly Dreaming Dexterity.

Sunday, 5 December 2010


A picture stolen from Kev's Friday bike ride from Richmond down across the border to Birch Bay, some 60 kilometres in all, much of it uphill, some of it downhill too fast and altogether quite awesome and scary. Finally, when he rode up to the security barrier at the Static Place, the guard rushed out, clearly confused to see a cyclist trying to get in, but even more so when Kev just swiped his keycard, the guard laughed and called out,
'I didn't see that one coming!'
I'll bet he didn't.
I went down Friday evening, when all the monstrously over-decorated houses were all lit up.

Gott sei Dank, Laurence eventually got away late Friday afternoon, after the flight was delayed again. The other end, he made it as far as Chichester by train, before Austen had to go out in the car and rescue him.
There is controversy in the Schloss and across the sea, as to the advisability of sending him with a bag of health food labelled 'Hemp nut fines'. I was convinced by Alex and Ben that it was legal and safe and so I sent it. I was correct about the legal it seems, but whether the sniffer dogs would have alerted the latex glove snappers remains open to question.

Presently, in Advent, John the Baptist is preparing the way. He prepared his own way out in the desert eating locusts and honey. Now I feel this is very much to be encouraged. Locusts are a bloody nuisance and destroy crops, so why not get more people to eat them, it's a win-win. I've even seen Salma Hayak on TV eating fried crickets, so it can't be that unusual.
'Eat locusts,' I say and save the crops.

A great post on the F-Word blog shows how entrepreneurs create a self-fulfilling prophecy. They 'notice' that start-up companies by young, white males are more likely to succeed, so they put their money into them. Of course, if entrepreneurs support companies by young, white males, then they are likely to succeed, whereas companies started by women, non-whites and older people, never receive funding and thus....

The amusing Facebook thing where you change your picture to a cartoon character is quite charming, unless you happen to be in the following hypothetical situation.
You have driven a number of miles up the I5 to send your niece's present from the Post Office in the nearby town. You have left her address at home, but you happen to know it is in your Facebook inbox. Your partner has their computer and you cruise along searching for an open network. Finally, one is found and you try to log on to Facebook using an unfamiliar computer. Facebook notices this and makes you identify a number of your friends from their pictures.....

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Hijacking Hanukkah

So, my plan to hijack Hanukkah, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, the first person I wished a Happy Hanukkah to said...

'How did you know I was Jewish?'
'Well I am...we don't celebrate, but I am Jewish,'


But..on the other hand, I rang England and had a conversation with my granddaughter, she has been learning about Hanukkah at school. Austen thought we were talking about Holly's friend Hannah, there is a slight confusion since Holly does pronounce it 'Hannah Kerr'.

I wouldn't say the wheel has yet fallen off the hijacking wagon, but interesting times.

Interesting times too in the South East of England. Laurence flies in to Gatwick tomorrow, or rather towards Gatwick, since he doesn't actually arrive until Friday, except...well, Gatwick is closed due to snow.

Last time Laurence flew to England, the charter company went bust. When his dad came over, the volcano blew. Every time Ben flies something goes wrong. I'd say they were ill-starred in travel, but the truth is, a hell of a lot stops the smooth running of the travel industry.