Friday, 29 April 2011

Kev's Birthday Week /End of Whirlwind Tour

The whirlwind tour has ended, all too quickly, sad to say.

The rain finally gave up somewhere around Tuesday, which apart from that, was rather a downer of a day.

Wednesday however, was Kev's birthday. Alex took us to a taster bar in the evening, which was an interesting experience and enjoyed by all. Dairy Queen ice-cream cake for pud, some of which is inexplicably, still in the freezer.

Thursday, we had intended to go to the States, the border wait was reporting at 80 minutes, but we were in a great snarl up of traffic just to get to the tunnel, so at that point, and after that stress, we abandoned the trip and turned round, ending up at Havana for brunch.
We took a walk down the Drive, just for the craic.
We weren't disappointed. As we crossed a side-street, a driver was doing something unusual and potentially dangerous on the main road, and a man was standing in the street behind her shouting, 'Chinese! Chinese! Chinese!', I imagine in case the driver was unsure of her ethnicity.
We also noticed a couple of places where someone had nailed those Ikea plastic bag-holders to trees, so that people could stuff plastic bags in, and dog-walkers could take one out.
The Drive is so cool.

Yesterday, Alex had invited people she worked with to a Royal Wedding Party. I was instructed to wear a frock, and a friend was set to making bunting. Alex made lavender cocktails, which were....interesting. She had also made cucumber sandwiches and dipped strawberries in chocolate. The Royal Family are far more important when you're not living in the same country as them. Watching the service, however, made me pretty proud of my own church here. How tired and archaic the old, sexist language seemed, how the Church of England seems to be withering on the vine. I couldn't help comparing the sad old ceremony with the personalised, and meaningful one of my friends Margaret and Andrea last summer.

I do, however, have a wonderfully clean and tidy house as a result of yesterday's exertions, and tomorrow, I will be planting out my seedlings.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Easter Monday

Good Friday and St. George's day were fine, sunny and warm, really warm in the sun, but Easter Day the rain started, started in earnest. Again. I drove up for church on Easter day, spent some time with Alex and Laurence, phoned England and went back again.
As we left the Static today, puddles were turning into small lakes.

On Saturday, warm, sunny, clear, we loaded up the kayaks and drove the five minutes to the beach - where it was still sunny, but cold, very cold, and the wind was whipping up the water so that even the ducks were looking scared. We bailed and went home.

We've been re-watching the Simon Schama 'History of Britain' series. Alfred the Great gets some air time and then Edward the Confessor. You might think there was no-one in between, but in fact there were eleven kings that separated the two, seven of whom had names beginning with E. Pointless trivia I suppose, but who can't help wondering about them?
Alright, I can't.

Thursday, 21 April 2011


Ah, the routine bloodwork, it comes up every once in a while. The first step is to fast for ten hours. On the one hand, not eating for ten hours hardly seems like a fast, it's a bit of a low-key one, on the other hand, I find not eating during the evening much harder than it should be.

So having done that, I tried to go to the lab place as early as possible. It opens at 06.30, so I'm there at 06.40. I'm number 30. The small waiting room is packed full of mostly Chinese people wearing pyjamas and Uggs. And for some reason, it seems that the ones who have been sent to have their blood tested, are the ones who speak no English. The woman on the desk has infinite patience, explaining over and over again the most simple things, like 'take a number and sit down'. Some have had the foresight to bring a friend or two, one of whom may speak a little English, but this naturally has the effect of making the room even more full.

And it turns out that under Canada's Constitution, although as a country we have two official spoken languages (plus International Sign Language), any Province or Territory apart from Québec, Manitoba and New Brunswick, are allowed to have whichever and however many official languages they like and they don't have to include English or French. The three aforementioned can also increase their number of official languages, but French and English must be two of them.
Thank-you Kevin for that, the link I mean, I know you're not responsible for this bizarre constitutional anomaly.

In the meantime however, before BC announces that Cantonese and Mandarin are its official languages, at which point it'll make not a blind bit of difference, since there are signs that have only Chinese on them anyway, and Canadians are notoriously bad at being told what to do, things are being right royally held up because of the language barrier.

The jhumming and boshing of the neighbours' house has now been going on for over two weeks, I think they could have re-built it in less. It has, however, been going on for so long that the dog no longer takes any notice of the noise. Small and meagre mercies.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The Home

I have been doing battle with forms and I have been being creative with writing. It's all quite tiring and the first one is trying and tiresome. The more you look at a form the more complicated it gets.

This morning when I visited my friend in her nursing home, I brought her down to the ground floor where there is a living room type of area. We sat and talked and I noticed that opposite us, three women in wheelchairs were lined up one behind the other as though they were in a train or on a bus.
After a while, an alarm starting going off intermittently. An orderly dashed out and checked to see if the lift was stuck, or a smoke alarm was going off, and then she noticed that one of the ladies in the wheelchairs, the middle one, was pulling an emergency cord on the back of the wheelchair in front of her.

The nursing home is both hopeless and hopeful. The state of some of the people tears at your heart and makes you wonder what their experience of life is at this point. But the staff are cheerful and patient and the nursing home seems so much more lively and present than the old folks' homes of yesteryear, or maybe of Britain.

Still, not quite sure why we call it a home.

Friday, 15 April 2011

On Footwear

The reason footwear has been on my mind recently is that my absolute favourite pair of shoes are about to give up and die. I love these shoes, they are Nike slip-on trainers and are all kinds of comfortable. Sadly, I will never be able to find another pair the same, because I bought them from the outlet shop in Gunwharf and they were being discontinued.

Today my mind was once more focussed on the foot, as I waited at a crossing light whilst a woman in a ridiculous pair of heels actually tottered across the road as though balancing on something too small, and then suddenly, I really, REALLY got the whole Ugg boot thing, because following her was an almost identical woman, wearing the ubiquitous Uggs. How weather appropriate, I thought, given that yesterday we had sleet that had clearly fallen as snow on the mountains, followed by hail that stayed in piles around the frame of the windscreen. Today is sunny, but cold. The Ugg woman looked comfortable and in control of her own body space.

I'm not saying there isn't a place for sassy heels, most definitely there is, but today, on the pedestrian crossing on a main road and in the middle of the day, did not seem to be it.

As for my beloved Nikes, well, something better'll come along and I'll no doubt forget all about them, just as I've forgotten how insanely I loved my Dr. Scholls in the 70s.

And not in any way footwear related, Ben's band are interviewed on Eagle FM on Sunday night at 21.30 GMT.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Green Days

Yesterday, we watched the first episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution in LA. On the one hand, it was pitiful to see the intransigence of everyone he tried to deal with. It was as though he were an alien from another planet speaking in clicks, although, to be fair, no-one tried to dissect him. At best, a bunch of parents watched as he demonstrated how much sugar their children were eating, making tut-tut faces and then all cleared off. But what bothered me, was that I could see myself standing there, trying to convince people at my church that racism and sexism are wrong. I WAS Jamie Oliver, but on a teeny, tiny scale and without using sexism myself.

Every week, or, more accurately, at random intervals, I receive an e-mail from the Guardian's Environment section. This week's was particularly edifying.
Firstly, the World-in-Wildlife pictures were spectacular.

Then, I found the explanation of the difference between internal and external radiation quite fascinating, although the spat between the two environmentalists was disturbing.

I love the idea of seedbombs, even the instructions, the sort of terrorism one's grandchildren could do. Nice. What's not to love about random acts of environmentalism?

Lastly, I love the idea of that a whole street could co-operate in monitoring and decreasing their own energy use. Let's hope it's an idea that spreads like a seedbomb.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Alex and the Geese

Alex is here, this was a last minute plan, and I have been under a gag order until she'd surprised everyone. And she has surprised people, there has been much screaming and general...well...surprise.

The Snow Geese are also here. We took Whisky for a walk along the dyke - shows how long I have been here that I can even type that word - and the snow geese were abundant, rafts of them floating on the river, blankets of them just hanging out, and then gangs of them squawking and taking off.

In the garden, my spud bags have been half filled and spudded. At the first hint that the weather is warming up, I'll be planting my pea seedlings out, and probably some onions. I have also planted carrot seeds left over from last year. The biggest problem is that I'm following instructions on the BBC's Gardeners' World website, which has a week-by-week checklist, but temperatures are clearly higher in the UK than here right now. Unfortunately, I can't find a local equivalent.

Anarchy really isn't my thing. Just saying.

I'm entirely ready for the Royal Wedding. I have my stylist here. Easter will have passed, so I'll have my chocolate stash to consume. That's about it really. Is there a special, loud musical instrument for the celebration? No? An oversight I'm sure.

Oh, and this is how far we haven't come in the desire to just be allowed to be who we are and not to be judged on an impossible and undesirable goal.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Saturday Special

Friday morning was frosty, making me glad that my seedlings are still inside, even though I have been preparing the ground for planting when the weather warms up.

On Thursday, the general doggie mayhem caused by all the garbage and recyling trucks, was greatly exacerbated by the jhumming and boshing going on next door. No-one yet seems to have moved in, but of course, why miss an opportunity for hammering and noise? And to add insult to injury, since it was sunny, the gardener for the strata was out with his big man-toy leaf-blower, which succeeds in doing a less efficient job than a broom, whilst adding to sucking life out of the planet and simultaneously winding up small dogs (ie not just ours).

The past couple of days, I have found myself, bizarrely, having to talk people at my church out of a bit of casual anti-Semitism. And I have by no means yet won the debate, but the most ridiculous argument I have had thrown at me is, 'it doesn't matter if we do it since the congregation are intelligent enough to know we don't mean it.' What a freaking wonderful catch-all argument. Let's just indulge in the occasional sexism, racism, homophobia because everyone else is clever enough to know we don't mean it. Well guess what? that excuse is no excuse at all. The leadership of absolutely anything is supposed to be better than that and furthermore, if we do it, even once in a while, then we get tainted by it.

For the second weekend running, internet access at the Static has been as good as non-existent. This is annoying and frustrating but oh well, what can you do?

I have been mightily taken by one of Raymond's posts in which he talks about a Japanese idea that the brain works better when the head is cold and the body warm. I thoroughly concur with this, being a woman of middle years, it is my head which always feels uncomfortably warm most of the time, and at this discomfort stops me from concentrating fully on other things.

Simon Schama, whose name I have now learnt how to spell, continues to enthral me with his History of America. I think I admire Thomas Jefferson quite a lot, and many members of the Meigs family. I'm also still quite focussed on the growing horror of many Americans, particularly in the north, of the practice of slavery, whilst the south were willing to go to war to protect the 'right' of white people to 'own' other human beings. It's just quite incomprehensible to us now.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Mothers' Monday

A weekend without internet. For some unaccountable reason, it was running like a dream last weekend, and was completely dead this one. Still, we had a splendid fire, managed to find new bricks for our firepit and there was a hummingbird at our feeder.

I received a delicious selection of e-books for Mother's Day, what a fantastic surprise, especially since I didn't receive the notifications until the evening when we got back. very brill of Kobo to offer this service. I wanted to send a book as a gift to Austen, for his Kindle, they, sadly DON'T offer the service, they must be missing out on a lot of potential (and eco-friendly) sales there.

I am currently reading two books, both paper copies. One, 'Kissing the Hag' is about accepting the things that make us female, rather than trying to apologise for them, or hide them.

The other has been sitting on my desk for about two years since Austen told me it would be a good book to get. Simon Sharma's 'History of America', apparently there was a TV series based on this book, or vice versa.
But what an interesting book it is turning out to be, and what a sublime writer Sharma is. One of his opening lines is,
'"America has never been a warrior culture," just because it was Dick Cheney said this didn't automatically make it untrue,' and then we you are thinking, 'what the hell?' he goes on to show you how the founders of the country really did try to build something that was different from the warrior cultures of the Old World, and how, when it became necessary to defend themselves, (from the French who were rather put out by the signing of a peace agreement with Britain) put in place a college where future officers would learn about honour and duty and how war was not to be taken lightly.

As Sharma moves us forward towards the Civil War, he shows us a mirror. You can so easily see modern schisms reflected in the horror of slavery expressed by some, and the arrogance towards the lives of other humans displayed by others.

To feed our addiction for 'The Killing', we watched the opening of the U.S. (filmed largely in Vancouver) episode last night. It wasn't bad, although I feel as though watching the original, you were not only drawn into the mystery, but also their world, and so, in spite of an attempt to re-create even the Birk-Larsen's house and business premises, the atmosphere isn't there. The actor playing the Lund character is a good pick and yet lacks the essential brooding closed-off nature of the original. There are three poor castings in my opinion, Larsen's side-kick, (Vagn in the original), Lund's co-officer (Jan Meyer) and Lund's fiancé.