Thursday, 31 March 2011

Zombie Apocalypse

Thursday, bloody Thursday. Thursday is when the recycling collection comes to us and the people across the way, and their garbage collection comes. Ergo, Whisky is in yap-frenzy mode on a Thursday.

Spring has sprung, the grass has ris, but no need to wonder where the birdies is. If you are lucky enough to be one of those people with a gas fire that vents up to the roof and comes out in a metal chimney-like affair, then you are unlucky enough to have the male Northern Flickers drumming away to their little hearts' contents on your metal vent, trying to impress the ladeez.
The daffs are still being weenies, and on the back balcony, I am preparing for planting. I am putting way more out there this year because it's the only one that faces south (ish).

The other thing that's underway is the election campaigning. Harper is looking all sour and dissing everyone, Layton is looking perky and going like the clappers in both languages and Ignatieff is making far too much sense for a politician, but again, in both languages. Where are the womenz? Yep, good question. We have one in charge of the Province for the time being, but we'll see how well the previous incumbent fucked things up for her come the next provincial elections.
This article sums up the general apathy that abounds, if apathy can be said to do anything as pro-active as abound, so in spite of the desperate need for change, we probably won't get any.

And then for me, there are the meetings, which seem to have sprung up like daffs should do, but hey, who can ever have too many meetings huh?

My friend Anne, is now in a nursing home. Partly, it's ok, because there are a number of reception rooms on the ground floor that are nice, and where the people can sit and look out at the beautiful flowering cherries whilst some kind of very vocal exotic birds squawk in their ears.
Partly, it's grim, because the upstairs where their individual (but shared) rooms are is full of people lying around the corridors and making strange noises and on occasion, forgetting to flush the loo, so there is an ambient poo smell.
And that's the thing that is most distressing. My friend has ALL her marbles, she just can't get around anymore. It's her physical self that has given up. But she's surrounded by people whose mental selves have started to shut down. This must be what the real zombie apocalypse is like.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Small Things

Ah, so many small things.

In order to feed our addiction for the Danish serial 'The Killing', we are now watching series 2. Unfortunately, the sub-titles haven't been through, or anywhere near, the BBC and so frequently have no meaning.

I was quite overcome yesterday evening, while driving home from Kits, to come upon two electronic road signs that said, 'Drive Safely', (what is the opposite of 'dumbing down'?) contrasting starkly with the two outside Surrey Memorial Hospital a couple of weeks ago which read, 'Be Prepare to Stop'. (sic).

Safe driving however, was not what we encountered coming back from the Static on Saturday night. On the off ramp from Highway 99, we waited at the traffic lights until they turned green for us to turn left onto Westminster Highway. There are two lanes at those lights, and we were in the right hand one. Therefore we were lucky enough to escape being ploughed into as a car coming from our left, ran the red light and took out the car next to us in the left hand lane.

Walking through Zellers just now, I noticed a stand for 'Women's (name of brand) Bras'. I decided not to walk around to the men's section to check whether there was a stand for men's bras. Mainly, if I'm honest, because if there are, I don't want to know.

Q & A videos on the impact of Lip Service, via Lesbilicious.

Thursday, 24 March 2011


A few days of sun and warm enough temperatures for things to finally start growing a little, hovering around the 11° mark, today it has been up to 13°. For some reason, this spring-like weather in the actual spring has gone unanticipated by Canadian Tire. I went there today to try and get some potting compost. Their garden centre is shut whilst it is being remodelled. Last time I went, before going to England, it was shut whilst being remodelled. 'There's going to be a grand re-opening when it's finished,' the enthusiastic shop assistant assured me, 'but I need supplies now, and not only that, but I can see the bags of those supplies in your closed off area.' He gave me an 'I'm sure you understand,' type of look.
Thus, Home Depot got my custom.

Sleepy has got us hooked on the Danish detective serial, 'The Killing', or 'Forbrydelsen'. According to Google translator, this actually means 'Crime'. I like that it's sub-titled, it's nice to hear the original language. Danish sounds as though it is gargled, I can't imagine how they communicate with one another, I find it difficult to pick out individual words. I only know a few words of Danish, but what I do know has all been used in this, or almost all.

When I was fourteen, we went to stay with my parents' friends in Copenhagen, or rather København, during the summer holidays. We came back and immediately bought duvets, yoghurts and with a new appreciation for Danish pastries, known as Vienna bread to the Danes. We also brought a massive and extremely smelly Havarti cheese that didn't increase our enjoyment of the ferry crossing and long drive home.

In the serial, one of the characters is called Vagn, as was my parents' friend, and I remember the youngest son of the family, quite a large boy, and older than my sister and myself, constantly yelling something that sounded like 'Mooah!' (Mum and actually spelt 'mor'), and the children say that a lot.
The friends had a sommerhus and we went there, and learnt to be polite after a meal and say, 'tak for mal!' To my (now) embarrassment, we also learnt to say 'nej til EF', no to the common market. For some reason too, we were allowed to drink Schnapps, which burnt the lining off the back of your throat.

One of the noticeable things on the TV programme is the prevalence of smoking, even inside the house, and when we were in Denmark, my mother, a fairly committed smoker herself, was somewhat put out by the habit of our hosts of stopping after each course and smoking at the table. Of course, the average British table at that time really only ever saw two courses, the main one, and pud.

We were also taken to Hamlet's Elsinore - Kronborg Castle, although neither of us had studied Hamlet at the time, so it wasn't the enriching experience it should have been.
Our Danish obsession will end this weekend, whether we want it to or not, and I won't be buying the jumper, in spite of their apparent popularity.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Vernal Equinox

It's rather worrying when the Weather Laws as passed down from generation to generation, go awry.
I wish, I wish, I wish, that I had been able to take a picture of this, but, you know, driving, the sky coming back from Washington yesterday evening was bewitching. It was as though the whole sky to the west was on fire, and a deep, coral-coloured fire at that. The mountains to the north were tinged with pink and then further round, sparkled with snow and lights. So, Shepherds absolutely delighted or what? But this morning, do we wake up to the most glorious spring-like day EVER? No! We wake up to rain.
Well, all I can say is, the rain on the Static on Friday night was brilliant, followed by a lovely, clear, sunny day on Saturday, and that incredible, luminous moon on Saturday night. Then, of course, the sky on Sunday.

Anyhoo, I had completely forgotten that the hummingbirds come back around Saint Patrick's day and lo! They had certainly arrived at the Static. I hurried to put their feeder out, and was rewarded with the low hum of wings not long afterwards. Today I have put the one at the Schloss out. Visitors to it were infrequent last year, and yet they did come. This year, the Salmonberry doesn't seem to be showing any willing at all, and that is the only real possibility of nectar for them, so who knows, maybe we'll get more.

Friday, 18 March 2011


On the one hand, some people criticise the Nanny State that wants to interfere in the lives of its citizens, on the other, they want that same Nanny State to come and rescue them from the Middle East, Japan, Mexico, whichever human-made or natural disaster they find themselves stranded in the midst of. Get on the planes that are still flying, people.

Earning the title of complete bunch of amateurs, Harper's government are currently having to distance themselves from Minister Bev Oda who has stopped Canadian funding to the international aid group, Kairos. She did this by having the two other people needed to authorise payment, sign the document that gave that authorisation, then getting her aide to insert the word 'not' in it. I mean adolescent or what? Not only that, but instead of falling on her own sword in a welter of shame, she is trying to defend this outrage.

To add insult to injury, well not really, but still, adding to the whole rank amateur feel of the thing, Canada's most prestigious and publicly owned news channel, CBC, can't even speak or spell the Queen's English when reporting on it.
"...she is in contempt of Parliament over her earlier explaination for the defunding Kairos"

Yesterday, I was expounding the theory that if you're good at something, nobody notices, or it just looks easy. It's not easy to teach a class of 30 adolescents, but it can look like it is with an experienced teacher. Likewise, you go into a fairly ordinary restaurant in France, the sort that seems like it's in someone's back or living room, and the service just happens without your noticing, quite a pleasant contrast to what you often find in North America, where you are oh so aware of the server because they're in your face every ten minutes whining about wanting to know how you're liking your meal.
Our music director at church is a fabulous musician, but you don't notice necessarily, because it just all sounds perfect, nothing off key or out of synch, it just dovetails with everything else.

Ok, but these blokes are amateurs in the original meaning of the word, and that is a good way. Kevin showed me this the other day, and while I was watching, I couldn't help thinking that Kev could be in this group. Maybe it's just the West Coast garb, but maybe it's because he is quite the singer.

Thursday, 17 March 2011


The great British tradition of having pint bottles of milk delivered to the doorstep before you get up every morning, has long been the subject of humour. If you were up early enough in the morning, you could see the little electric milk floats keeping Britain healthy and ensuring that there was at least always milk for the breakfast cereal and tea or coffee. I'm sure there was even a time when the vehicle was horse drawn.

Looking for a picture of a milk float, I found this article, by a Canadian.

I received an e-mail today that was a collection of notes that had been left out in the milk bottles, for this was indeed the way we used to communicate about our milk needs. They made me laugh and I can absolutely believe them to be real notes.

Dear milkman:

I've just had a baby, please leave another one.

Please leave an extra pint of paralysed milk.

Cancel one pint after the day after today.

Please don't leave any more milk. All they do is drink it.

Milkman, please close the gate behind you because the birds keep pecking the tops off the milk.

Milkman, please could I have a loaf but not bread today.

Please cancel milk. I have nothing coming into the house but two sons on the dole.

Sorry not to have paid your bill before, but my wife had a baby and I've been carrying it around in my pocket for weeks.

Sorry about yesterday's note. I didn't mean one egg and a dozen pints, but the other way round.

When you leave my milk knock on my bedroom window and wake me because I want you to give me a hand to turn the mattress.

Please knock. My TV's broken down and I missed last night's Coronation Street. If you saw it, will you tell me what happened over a cup of tea?

My daughter says she wants a milkshake. Do you do it before you deliver or do I have to shake the bottle?

Please send me a form for cheap milk, for I have a baby two months old and did not know about it until a neighbour told me.

Please send me details about cheap milk as I am stagnant.

Milk is needed for the baby. Father is unable to supply it.

From now on please leave two pints every other day and one pint on the days in between, except Wednesdays and Saturdays when I don't want any milk.

My back door is open. Please put milk in 'fridge, get money out of cup in drawer and leave change on kitchen table in pence, because we want to play bingo tonight.

Please leave no milk today. When I say today, I mean tomorrow, for I wrote this note yesterday.

When you leave the milk please put the coal on the boiler, let dog out and put newspaper inside the screen door. P.S. Don't leave any milk.

No milk. Please do not leave milk at No. 14 either as he is dead until further notice.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Ofwat and Broccoli

A fine day! A FINE day I tell you. I was able to open the windows - pretty important as it happens, since I'd blanched and frozen a load of broccoli, and the smell was hovering up in the bedroom. I was able to go outside and start tidying my balcony boxes. I have seeds germinating indoors, I have seeds refusing to germinate indoors. We're forecast another partially sunny day tomorrow, so I'm hopeful of more outside time.

In spite of that, we are still not seeing much in the way of flowers. March is halfway through and there is nary a daff. A few crocuses here and there but that's about the extent of it. Ergo, I offer some snowdrops from Winchester. Ah, Winchester, beautiful, beautiful town.

This evening is my meeting-free evening. Divine.
However, I have spent my day and evening firstly visiting my friend in hospital and then by doing paperwork. My last letter of the evening has been sent to Southern Water, who have tried sending me a bill, for a flat I moved out of seven years ago and which I in any case, paid monthly by direct debit. It also found its way to Austen's address, at which I have never lived. Quite a mystery. My first thought was to simply contact the water industry's watchdog, Ofwat. This was also my second thought when, after the most basic google search, Kevin discovered that Ofwat had fined Southern Water 20 million pounds in 2006, for fraud relating to customer service. However, Ofwat tell you to try contacting the water company first, so I have done so.
Watch this space, as indeed, shall I.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Euphemistically Speaking

Friday's border crossing was golden, in that all the people we spoke to or who dealt with us, spoke to us respectfully and they were efficient.

The weather god seems to have much rain in stock that she is trying to get rid of. I understand that of course. I went swimming anyway, you can never be too wet. Or at least, my skin hadn't osmosisised and crinkled, so up to that point I wasn't.

I'm always interested in which things we pay attention to and why, and in some ways, more importantly, which we don't. Japan has us all riveted. Here, anyone is quite likely to have a number of friends and acquaintances who have family there, but then if you compare that with the apathy that seems to be shown to anything that happens in Pakistan, that alone can't be the answer. Everyone in Britain is likely to have any number of friends with family in Pakistan, and thus everyone really knows that the average Pakistani family doesn't harbour terrorists and are in fact just ordinary British people.

No, I think we here, at the very least, are looking so keenly towards Japan, and having such empathy, is that we fear it could be us next. Just as in Japan, our buildings are constructed with earthquakes in mind. Our city councils have departments whose reason for being is ever-readiness for that or some other disaster. We live with the knowledge that 'the big one' is not an if, but a when.

But enough about global crises, let's talk about toilets. Now, I would generally argue that Brits talk about their bodily functions more than most, but not, I am beginning to believe, more than Canadians.
Last night, at my writers' group, someone asked about the meaning of the word 'ablutions'. This now gives me three words that Canadians use to mean toilet related, that actually have a much wider meaning.
The first I cam across was 'constitutional'.
The OED gives us this definition and this is indeed the way I would use it,
"noun, a walk taken regularly to maintain or restore good health."
Apparently here it means having your morning poo.
The second one, 'outhouse'
"noun a building such as a shed or barn that is built on to or in the grounds of a house. "
Apparently here it means an outside lavvy.
And finally, 'ablutions'
(usually ablutions) formal or humorous

an act of washing oneself:the women performed their ablutions "
Apparently here it means going to the toilet.

So what's occurring? Well, I think it's down to euphemism. I think at some point, all of these expressions in their actual meaning, have been used euphemistically to talk about the lavatorial, and then the euphemistic meaning has been used more than the actual one.
When we were little, our parents would sometimes ask if we needed to 'wash our hands', meaning go to the toilet. Fortunately, the euphemism never became common parlance, because that would have been most unfortunate in the way that nowadays, if monkeys misbehave, you can't actually spank them, euphemistically speaking that is.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Driving Rain

It was a dark and stormy night, and the Captain said to the Mate, 'give us a tale,' she said and the tale she told was this, 'it was a dark and stormy night....,'

Well, cor blimey, love-a-duck, there has been an awful lot of weather about today. And as well as weather, there has been a fair amount of things-not-going-according-to-plan.
The plan was this.
Cross the border and get the old visa waiver renewed, since today was the day it ran out. What could possibly go wrong? The guard screwed up his eyes and said, 'I wouldn't go in there, it's up to you of course, but it's all backed up and we're short staffed,'then he sort of squinted sideways at Whisky, who was making a lot of very irritating noise in the back.
'Ok,' I said, and drove off to the Static, promising to come back tonight, and lo, I did.

It was a constant bloody battle to keep the car going in a straight line, it was so blustery, and the sky was full of birds, just playing at being birds buffeted by the wind and enjoying every minute of it.

I went to the first of three supermarkets and slipped in the mud.

Back at the Static, I took Whisky for a walk, and we were almost knocked off our feet by a loud bang that sounded like gunfire. A man popped out of his RV and asked me what it was.
'Dunno, trailer just pulled away, maybe it was a backfire,' said I, and he seemed willing to take my word for it, although I didn't really know.
Another man pulled up in his truck and asked me what the noise had been. I repeated my theory.
'Oh, thought so,' he said, not looking at all like someone who thought a vehicle had just backfired.

I'll have to get my visa waiver tomorrow. At least if they let me back in, we'll have plenty of food.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

International Women's and Pancake Day

I have always loved pancake day, although I don't love it so much when I have to make the pancakes, and even less when I can't just pop down the Co-op and buy a big stack of ready-to-heat ones for a couple of bob. Oh alright then, a couple of quid.
I have of course, consulted Delia. I have done everything she has told me. It's not that I've never made them before, just that I only do it once a year as a general rule.

In the garden, things don't seem to be anywhere near as growy here as back in England. There, daffodils and violets abound, here, bulbs are pushing scared greenery through the soil.

The jetlag is in play. I fell asleep last night, sitting on the sofa watching telly, and well before nine o'clock. This morning however, I wasn't wide awake until around half past five, it had been three the previous night.

So, International Women's Day. Well played Dame Judi Dench (genuflect) and Daniel Craig, for using their roles in the James Bond films, for good.

From the Feministing website, I shamelessly repost the link to the Jane Austen drinking game, one drink for, 'Conceited Independence' and another for 'Small Dog'. Sadly, at my womanly time of life, that's about all I can manage. I'd love to be able to get as far as the 'chug' section, and I daren't enter the 'Womanly Skills' part, for fear of being the last to raise my little finger whilst holding the glass.

On the theme of the moment, how Feminism makes life better for men, writer Taylor, on Gender Focus, takes the so-called author of the so-called humorous, and completely blank book, 'What Men Think About Apart From Sex', quite firmly to task for portraying men as just that shallow and feckless.

Penultimately, 'The Rise of 'Enlightened Sexism' ' by Susan Douglas who quite rightly burns the part of the establishment who try to get us to buy into the 'you can have it all and you have arrived' myth.

And finally, although I have already written about it, the DVD of 'Made in Dagenham' isn't out until the 28th March, but however you do it, see it, it is beyond brilliant. My favourite speech by Miranda Richardson as Barbara Castle, in response to her lackeys trying to dissuade her from meeting the machinists, on the grounds that it would give their cause credence, goes thusly,'

"Credence? I will give credence to their cause. My god! Their cause already has credence. It is equal pay. Equal pay is common justice, and if you two weren't such a pair of egotistical, chauvinistic, bigoted dunderheads, you would realise that. Oh, my office is run by incompetents and I am sick of being patronised, spoken down to, and generally treated as if I was the May Queen. Set up the meeting! "

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Until Next Time

Yesterday we bid farewell to England, this is what I wrote at the fantastic new Terminal 5. Not so state-of-the-art that it has free wi-fi however. Pull your finger out BAA, there's absolutely no excuse for not having free wi-fi, especially as you keep people hanging around with no explanations.

"Great Britain, the Island of the Mighty, it changes, it morphs, it welcomes and it spits out. Here we are on the way back to Vancouver. We have planned plenty of wiggle room into the various stages of our journey.

We eschew breakfast, choosing to fast before flying. Fast, pshaw, we’ve eaten enough ‘British Tapas’ (buy a ridiculously mis-matched selection of the Co-op’s ready meals and then share) and pudding tapas, (same but with puds) to keep the peristalsis going all night. Downstairs, Holly is confidently reading poems from ‘When We Were Very Young’, a well-used and loved book from the look of it. I notice that it’s the copy that Karen and Steve gave to Edward at his christening.

There is an earlier-than-planned train at the platform at Havant station, but we miss it by fewer than thirty seconds.
When we do get the train, the planned-on one, both toilets are out of service, thus, arriving at Woking, I have to make for the ladies’. Both cubicles are taken. From one, I can hear a woman having a loud conversation, I presume on her mobile phone, about visiting someone in gaol. I try to make my presence known by shuffling about and eventually the door opens. Two women come out. Neither washes their hands. This causes us to miss the bus, again by fewer than thirty seconds, but we still have plenty of time to spare.

As we pull out of Woking, the Mosque is letting out. Several men dressed like Baber Siddiqi, make me realise that Little Mosque on the Prairie has replaced apprehension with affection.
At the airport I notice that the disabled toilets no longer have big signs proclaiming them as such. What joined up thinking, those signs simply aren't necessary.

We wait and wait at the Departures gate, boarding time comes and goes, departure time comes and goes and not until twenty minutes after the time we should have left, do we get any information. The aircraft has had to be changed because of a freak food trolley accident. It doesn't seem very likely."

The flight was more tolerable, the seats better than before, the entertainment system is on Video on Demand, so we were able to watch as many films as we liked. We saw 'The King's Speech', Helena Bonham-Carter was beyond brilliant, 'Black Swan', - engaging, and 'Made in Dagenham'. This is a must-see, in fact, I will watch it again. Fecking supreme. And Miranda Richardson as Barbara Castle was inspired casting.
But it was still unbearably hot.

Whisky had been brought to meet us by Kevin's parents. Both Laurence and Whisky were happy to see us. Now there's just the reverse jet-lag to deal with.

Thursday, 3 March 2011


Yesterday afternoon, I went to Woking to visit Ben. All good. We had lovely food from Sainsburys and an 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' marathon.

This afternoon, I attempted to get back. Not so good. I arrived at Woking station to discover that all the trains from Waterloo were either cancelled or delayed owing to a 'police incident'.
In the case of any incident that involves inconvenience to gathered Brits, the Dunkirk spirit immediately comes into play.
Of course, I don't mean that civilians turn up in small cars to ferry you wherever you need to go, rather that the camaraderie rolls out.

A man told me not to take his word for it, but, that the police at Waterloo had been chasing a man who ran onto the tracks. An oncoming train's brakes failed and thus the man was fatally injured. He then gave me an alternative version that he'd also heard, but was mostly the same as the first. In any case, his story was corroborated by a British Rail employee and a woman whose daughter had found it online and then phoned her.
I walked back to Ben's flat and sent an e-mail to Kevin.

When I arrived back at the station an hour later, the body of stranded passengers had reached critical mass. It was like a solid form that moved forward as one when a train finally arrived on a different platform. The beast rolled up the stairs, across the bridge and down again.

On the train I soon discovered that on one side of me was a young woman from Toronto, who had been travelling around Europe for a while and was excited to talk to someone about Canada.
On the other side was a man who was visiting for just two days, from Israel. He thought Bibi's government were in dire straits due to the Foreign Minister's indictment and that they'd be gone within six months. He was still gloomy about the prospect of Israel getting anything but yet another right wing government.

The temperature tonight is supposed to drop to zero, and it certainly feels like it could.