Thursday, 28 July 2011


Saffron-coloured nasturtium.

Why did I say I wouldn't have to get used to the loaner car? Because I wanted to tempt fate, clearly. Before half past eight yesterday morning, the autobody shop had rung to say they would need to keep our car until Friday. Friday afternoon. I managed to not drive anywhere yesterday, today I had to stop being a weenie and get used to it. Still smells. Still over-revs the engine, grumble, grumble.

The weather has taken a turn for the seriously hot. Sunny and hot. And we have been watching 'Hot in Cleveland'. Lightweight, but funny.

The other night we watched, 'Never Let me Go', a British Movie with Carey Mulligan and one of the blokes from 'The Social Network'. Excellent, but my advice, don't watch before bedtime, unless you have some episodes of 'Hot in Cleveland' to take the creep-factor edge off.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


This morning I took the car into the auto repair shop to be fixed. Of course, I knew what was coming, the courtesy car, the loaner, the automatic. Nothing to be done about it.
The man in the rental place remarked on my accent.

'Ah, British,' he said.
'I have a man in here yesterday, I ask him if he British, he say, 'no, Scottish,'
'Scottish is British,' say I.
'Yes! See, I know this! This is why I say British!' said he,
'Right,' I smiled,
'You see I know because I used to work for HSBC,'
'Ah. Actually in Hong Kong?'
'Aha! You see! Only a British person would know that HSBC, Bank of Hong Kong. But I'm from Philippines,'
'Ah, mmm.Good,'
We walk out to the loaner car.
'It's automatic I'm afraid,' he said.
'Yes, I knew it would be,'
'British people mostly drive standard,'

And whilst he demonstrated to me the wonders of the Hyundai and how you couldn't turn the engine on unless it was in 'Park', and told me of all the countries in the world where they also drive standard, and why vehicles that need more power needed manual gear change, and how some lady friend of his had coped badly with an automatic, I somehow missed where he told me that the bloody control thingie that replaces the gear stick can only be changed from Park to anything else when you put your foot on the brake pedal.
But he was kind, and well-meaning.
And with an afternoon appointment looming, I spent a frantic quarter of an hour trying to get the control thingie to move until I put my foot on the brake out of sheer frustration, and loss of a clutch, and lo! It all magically changed. Or at least it allowed me to move it.

Fortunately, and rather bizarrely, the car, which incidentally stank of stale cigarette smoke, had Alberta number plates, which seemed to make some other drivers keep their distance, and others to tailgate me, presumably because they expected an Albertan driver to speed off at any second.

Later, when I was trying to prepare Cannelloni for supper, and found the pasta to be mouldy, I begged Kevin to drive us to Superstore rather than having the stress of driving it myself again today.

I suppose in the end I'd get used to the bloody thing, but I certainly don't want to.
And whilst I don't need to - well, I guess I won't.

Monday, 25 July 2011


I was annoyed by Mormons this morning, who tried to suck me into their web of stupidity by pointing a Bible at me, open at a page of insane and potentially syphilitic ranting by some obscure Old Testament beardie. They persevered over Whisky's loud and frantic yapping, plus the wind whipping strands of dust right into the face of one of them, from the broom I had been using when they came along and interrupted me.
Witches ever had brooms.

'God has revealed Her purpose to me, and She wishes for more gender justice, please mind the steps on your way down,' I bade them.
They retreated with no further ado.

Across the road, the set of gardeners who insist on wearing coolie hats, were using a loud leaf blower to blow stuff, another job more efficiently done with a broom.

Yesterday, a kindly gent of my church proffered me a two page piece of tosh written by some unimaginative Irish priest about the King James Version of the Bible.

The tired old drivel followed the usual format, page 1, how important it was for people to have a Bible in English. Yes, yes, there is MAYBE some point to this, aside from the fact that at the time, a minuscule percentage of the populace could read. It could also be argued that had they not had the Bible in English, then perhaps the whole thing would have died a death and we'd all be happy Druids by now. It did, however, drive a nail into the coffin of compulsory Catholicism in Britain, so there is that positive.

Page two deals with how we would have missed out on such great works of the English language as Milton's 'Paradise Lost', 'The Pilgrim's Progress' and The Gettysburg Address.' Would we? Would we really? Methinks the Gettysburg Address would still have happened, it would simply have been different.
Had we never have had 'Paradise Lost' and 'The Pilgrim's Progress', would we be any the wiser? Would we be worse off? Were these works really worth the suppression of women, non-whites, homosexuals and Jews? Seriously?
It's easy peasy lemon squeezey to say, 'we wouldn't have had this or that,' but what about the things we MIGHT have had?

When the most phenomenal writing in the English language is now coming from women, who are, let us not forget, STILL oppressed, just not as totally as previous generations, might we not have had a Hilary Mantel, whose prose in my opinion is sublime, a Carol-Ann Duffy, a Margaret Atwood...I could write paragraphs of today's great English-language women writers, might we not have had them earlier? Of course, we'll never know, but it would seem to be a logical conclusion.

And this evening, this English-language woman writer will be attending writers' group after a couple of months' absence.
Tonight's venue is probably close enough for me to travel by broomstick.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Vision and Fuckery

On Wednesday, predictably, someone on the Skytrain station came and asked me a question in a manner that suggested we'd not only been friends for years, but had been travelling together for hours. I could easily tell she was from New Zealand,
'We're from New Zealand,' she said. I nodded. And very personable the woman was too, the man wore the same kind of shorts that Steve Irwin used to wear, but unlike the Croc Hunter, he said nothing.

I met up with my friend Danielle, in a small coffee shop on Ash Street, just off Broadway and it had quite the most lovely seating area at the back. I was never more taken by a coffee place, and now I wish I'd taken photos.

Friday was the last day of career planning and we watched a very dated video about being assertive. And it actually WAS a video. In spite of the 70s style clothes, hair and specs, the video itself was an absolutely perfect example of how to plan a lesson - or an instructional video. Equal numbers of women and men, equal positions, equal amount of time speaking. The problem was modelled, discussed, solved, and re-modelled. Good pacing, perfect length of time. Super-critic moi, was dead impressed.

We also made a vision board. This sounds like a totally dire exercise, and yet I found it incredibly interesting and felt I learnt something about myself from the exercise.
Overall, as well as having greatly enjoyed the past three weeks, it has been a personal voyage of discovery too, and I've met some fantastic people.

On the one hand, I now feel re-energised for my job search, on the other, now I have to get down to the hard work of re-writing my CV and applying for jobs.

It was depressing to read about Amy Winehouse's death. No doubt it was not only foretold, but writ large, still though, every death is a tragedy to the family members, and when talent like that is cut short, a loss to a wider audience.

The whole thing that has happened in Norway is beyond horrifying. What the fuck is wrong with people? I'm utterly, utterly at a loss to get my head round why someone thinks they have the right to take away the lives of not only innocent people, but people who are doing a damned fine job into the bargain. And then to claim to be a Christian. I feel as though something pure has been ripped open and its entrails scattered and trampled on.

To quote the now late Amy Winehouse, 'What kind of fuckery is this?'

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Boonies

My friend Lori used to talk about the Boonies, you’d ask her where something was and she’d say, ‘oh, out in the Boon Docks,’ as though it were a real place. Well I’m here although I’m not convinced it’s real. The normal laws that govern human behaviour and …well, traffic signs for example, are simply changed, or absent. There are boonie people circling the car, I’m wondering whether I’ve driven so far that I’m near the Thunderdome, I’m pretty sure Mad Max has been past a couple of times in an old reverse-pimped-out pickup.

The people are like characters from Little Britain or French and Saunders. One, Jabba-like, has been sitting on a BC Hydro (electricity) box - it has a picture of a person falling back, a red zig-zag of lightning bisecting them. Another keeps striking a pose, carefully NOT looking at the car out of the corner of its eye(gender uncertain) and two more appear to be taking cats for walks. Beyond the frontiers of civilisation.

I'm happy to get out of Dodge, but wait! Getting out of the rabbit warren, where the houses are actually labelled 'Cluster X', I find that the road only goes in one direction! it's like a bad dream, it's like a story from Kafka. But as in some surreal film, I find a bizarrely placed Mexican restaurant, the restaurant almost at the end of the universe, and I can creatively use its car park to turn around in.

We stop half way back so that Laurence can call in at Krispy Kremes and I can go to the loo. In the Boonies, you probably have to trap your own doughnuts - but I didn't wait to find out.

Monday, 18 July 2011


Today we learnt about how people make decisions - how WE make decisions. Some people accumulate information, some need to see a bigger picture and make decisions intuitively and some need the input of significant others.

In the afternoon, the sun came out and it became really hot, hotter still forecast for tomorrow.

We've been rather on the periphery of the whole Rebekah Brooks, News of the World phone-hacking scandal. I mean we've seen it play out, but we couldn't exactly say we have been in the fray.
There is, however, one question I would like answered. Is Rebekah Brooks actually Mick Hucknall? I think we should be told.

Took the car into ICBC - the Insurance Company of British Columbia - and the man who went into the back of my car had called it in and admitted responsibility. Good, good. That makes that part easier. The whole, having to organise it business is still annoying though.

One day, some future project, I would like to go to the Edinburgh Festival. I see that Marc Almond is appearing there this year. He is, annoyingly, the same age as me, and yet, despite two decades of severe drug abuse, looks younger.

Sunday, 17 July 2011


Biblical weather yesterday - that's what Kevin had down at the Static, up here - a single clap of thunder and some serious rain.

When I awoke this morning, the sun was shining, and the birds were on Facebook. Or twittering or something, pretty loudly too. I cycled to church, without the ridiculousness of last week, Alex's bike is a lot more comfortable than the one I had to take before. When I came out, the sky had clouded over, and this afternoon we've had more rain.

In an odd mirroring of my last week's fender bender, Austen also sustained damage to the car, however, his was due to an encounter not with a driver who wasn't paying attention, but with a deer who....was not paying attention.

On TV, we've been watching 'Game of Thrones'. Apart from the unnecessary and gratuitous female nudity without which HBO seem not to be able to make a series, it has been quite addictive.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Wednesday's Child

Yesterday, my kids' grandfather on their father's side, died. It was fairly unexpected, he'd been taken into hospital last week - a fact my kids and their father found out via Facebook. He had quadruple bypass surgery, but didn't regain very much consciousness and then Alex found out that her grandfather had died - via Facebook. Yesterday I managed to track them down to a pub in Woking where sorrows were being drowned.
Then both kids and their dad were anxious to ensure that Laurence was sat down and told properly rather than find out the same way, and thus it was. He finds it difficult to process that type of information, the others want him to go back to the UK for the funeral - well, two funerals in that part of the family as it happens, but he's not feeling up for it, given where he is in recovery. I've told them I'm just presenting the options to him and not pressuring him either way and he felt that his dad had done the same thing on the phone.

So today, coming back from my Career Planning workshop, a truck went into the back of me. There are two lanes of traffic coming off this particular bridge, the Queensborough, the right-hand one goes towards Richmond, and this is the one I was in. A yellow works truck, two vehicles in front of me, slowed to a halt and so the line of traffic did too. I think everyone must have thought it was going to move on, because no-one tried to move over into the other lane, but eventually, it seemed like it was stopped for some purpose, so I waited until the traffic in the lefthand lane cleared, then signalled to change lanes, and started to move over. The vehicle behind me did the same, and as we started to move, then the humongous truck in front of us decided it would too, and since my options were, stop or be crushed, I opted for stop. The gent behind me didn't, however and thus, my rear..well, got ended. It's a pain to go through all the rigmarole that you then have to go through, made the more frustrating by it being someone else's fault, and it occurred to me, that even if you argued that more than one person was to blame, you get down to three drivers, the works truck, the goods truck and the construction truck behind me, all of which are being driven in a work situation and yet who pay no attention to other road users. Aggravating to say the least.

Then there's the whole ESTA debacle. Now normally, every three months, because I'm not a Canadian citizen, I have to go into secondary inspection, when crossing the border into the USA, and get a visa waiver. Now, the situation is changing and you have to go online and get the same ESTA authorisation that anyone travelling from Europe would have. Ok, so I was told by the people at NEXUS, to google ESTA. This I did, and came to a website called USA e services. Clearly the website set up by the US to deal with the authorisation. But no. It is a website that does the work for you and then charges you way above and beyond the $14 the US government want. But they don't tell you that. In fact, all I really needed to do, had I not been hoodwinked, and given my personal details to someone not in any way connected with the US government, was to go to the government's own website. So in fact, I should not have googled anything.
And what-ho! The BBC are already onto this scam, and have a report on it!

And full moon.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Team Colours

I was doing a survey for British Rail, and one of the questions had the red, italicised instruction 'tick all that apply' and the options were yes, or no.

The reception desk at the place where I do my course, is staffed by two very nice ladies, one of whom is Glaswegian. Not that this is in any way pertinent. There is also a glass vase there with slips of paper with thoughts for the day on them, some are, as every better than others, but the course members have become used to starting the day reading out the thoughts in the way that one sits around the Christmas dinner table and reads the mottoes out of the crackers.
One person came in this morning and gave us a thought for the day he'd heard elsewhere,
'Forgiveness is when you finally accept that things could never have been any other way.' And it was successful, because I'm still thinking about it.

Yesterday, we talked about barriers to employment and it is an astonishing thing. When I look around the room, I don't see a bunch of no-hopers, in fact, quite the opposite. Both my writers' group, and the church council, are groups of educated, intelligent people. This group of unemployed people are educated, intelligent, able to work as part of a team, have amazing personalities and are all people you could happily do a year-long course with. The course co-ordinator is spectacularly good at her job, every aspect of the job. So the barriers that keep all these people out of the workforce, are not only keeping them from making a living, us, I should say, but keeping companies, government organisations or whatever, from having some tremendous personality and talent. It kind of makes you want to knock some heads together somewhere.

Today, we were doing 'career cruising', so one of the participants suggested we all wear red, white and blue, these being of course (tchyeah, everyone knows this, right?) boating colours.
And everyone did.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

A Snickety Start

A Lemony Snicket start to the day.

But let me start two days earlier.

The boy has had a relapse with the street drugs, the street drugs I didn't refer to earlier, but maybe now I can.
I have.
It took him a week to tell me, but fortunately, he told my friend R straight away and she said he must talk to us about it.
But as things sometimes do, several things have fallen into place over this. He has finally rung a support service we get as part of a benefits package from Kev's work, the anti-depressants the doctor has given him are starting to work, and we have found a support group for him. BUT....I didn't feel as though I could leave him this weekend. So Kev went to the Static on his own. Well, on his own with Whisky.

So, all I had to do this morning was to cycle to church, which, considering I used to cycle four miles to Mayhem every day, should not have been a challenge. I would take Alex's bike, and Kevin had pumped up the tyres.
HOWEVER....and typing this I feel foolish. I couldn't get the kick stand to go down. I even sat on the floor and tried to wrench it manually, but sans result. SO I undid the bolt and took it off.
Ok, result.
Nope. Then, the mudguard was loose and scraping against the tyre. So I tied it back. But however tightly I tied the thing, it kept coming back down.
Nil desperandum, there was a back-up plan. I would take Kev's bike. I needed to lower the seat, because I couldn't sit on it and still reach the peddles, but it has a quick-release catch, so no problemo. Yeah, right, no problemo if you had the strength of Thor. So that wasn't working for me.
But there are back-up bikes! Neither are in working order...except that Kevin has fixed one, and I hoiked it down from the rack. Seat too high again, but this time easily lowered with some WD40 and a spanner.
It was by no means a comfortable ride, and the gears are semi-stuck in a really high gear, but I got there in time to grubbily shake hands with a few people.

While I was doing all this, I was thinking, 'a few years back, (quite a few), I might have thought, "now this is a situation where I do need a man",' but the truth is, it was simply a situation where I needed someone more competent than me and in the end, I got there anyway.

So, unrelated to that, The Brompton Mix, Ben's band, have had a great review in an online magazine, Apple Juice.
Nice one.

And, although I've posted this on Facebook, it's so good, I'm going to put the link up here too. Nineteen percent calling Beyonce out on 'Run the World'.

This is a long video, 50 minutes I think, but it is a fascinating review of new research on how negative stereotypes affect career choice. It is amazing how subtle some of the factors are.

Friday, 8 July 2011


Hah! Friday has a different meaning when you're doing something outside of the home.
Yesterday we did an exercise about one of the Myers-Briggs components. These are personality traits as applied to the workplace. It was one of those lightbulb experiences.

One thing with all of the tests about personality and preferences is that we all have years of experience that have given us skills so that we often work in a way that overrides out natural ways of working. Several of us realised at the same time that we may have a natural tendency towards approaching something perceptively, but that at work, we would kick into a more logical mode. I think this is something it's important to understand before starting the tests.

Today, we did an activity to determine our transferable skills, it turns out I have a lot, although I feel that knowing what your transferable skills are doesn't necessarily get you anywhere, BUT....I shall not judge.

This afternoon, we watched an inspiring video, although, aside from some beautiful photography of the Tasmanian landscape, I didn't feel that inspired. Or, inspired at all in fact. It was decidedly uninspiring, and difficult to read my book with the lights off. Other people were though, so I just think I need to be prepared in case something like this happens again.

I'm looking forward to lying in tomorrow morning - I feel like a grown-up again.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011


Signs I saw today - on the Doctor's surgery (I kid you not) 'walk in's welcome'. On the florist's next to the doc's 'flowers for bar and hat mitzvahs'. Yup. And in the corridor that leads to the loos in the shopping mall where the offices of the career planning people are, 'service penetration prohibited'. Phew.

Today we did personality stuff. Interesting. In some ways, it's the stuff that goes on in between the stuff we do that is the most revealing. An example. Yesterday we did an activity to find out our values. Most people put appearance and popularity last. One man said that we don't value appearance because none of us has to really worry about it.
At lunchtime, I managed to spill balsamic vinegar salad dressing on my light-coloured top, couldn't remove it with a wet wipe, and then was pre-occupied with it all afternoon.
I learnt that lesson alright.

People-watching is fascinating. Some people you can see are just ordinary people that have fallen off the bus through no fault of their own, and simply can't get back on. Some, you realise, would never catch it in the first place. And some genuinely have gone as far as they can go on that particular bus and need to work out which one to catch next.

And now it's hot, quite, quite hot.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Victim Blaming

So, at the career planning today, we had a team activity. We were told a story, illustrated with a map, and then given a question to answer.

The story was as follows.

A woman and her abusive husband, live with their two children, on one side of a river. The woman has a man friend on the other side of the river. She goes to visit him and then finds she doesn't have enough money to pay for the ferry back. The friend has no money to give her. The ferry captain says if she can't pay, she can't take the ferry. There are piranha in the river. There is a bridge, but it is 'guarded' by a bandit who is known to shoot people. She takes the bridge and gets shot.
The question is, who is most responsible?

The group I was in, went into another room, and one man and I immediately said, without any collaboration, 'it's obvious! It's the bandit!'.
The others said, 'it's the woman's fault.'
'But that's the same as when a woman is blamed for 'getting herself raped','
'Oh, yes!' said one other man, 'you're right, it is like that, I get it,'
Another man said, 'oh but all sorts of people are responsible,' and the first man said,
'Well, there are contributing factors, but you can't argue that the bandit isn't responsible,'
'Oh,' said man three, 'yes, contributing factors, I like that, no, you're right.'
The two other women in the group still felt the woman was responsible, but actually couldn't argue with the conclusion.

The other group all felt the woman was responsible. They had various reasons for blaming the victim, she shouldn't have left home, she shouldn't have tried to get back, she shouldn't have left home without enough money to get back, and she knew the bandit shoots people.

It worries me. It illustrated a couple of things to me, one was that not everything can be decided by consensus, because sometimes, there is just a right answer and a wrong one. Secondly, that good leadership is essential to good decisions. This was demonstrated because of this conversation with a woman from the other group.

'I think it was the woman's fault,' she said, 'because I think about my sport of roller derby. I know that an opponent is going to go all out to win, so if she injures me, well, I knew the risk,'
'But this isn't the same situation,' said I, 'to use your analogy, if the opponent deliberately killed you, then it wouldn't be your fault, because when you go into the game, you might accept the risk of injury, but you don't agree to be killed,'
'Oh,' she said, 'you're right,yes, that's true.'

Victim blaming is wrong, and it is always wrong. Sometimes people do things that put them in risky situations, but ultimately, when one person deliberately takes an action against another person that deprives that person of their life, or dignity, or control over their own body, that is simply wrong and in many cases, illegal.

Monday, 4 July 2011

The Return of the Non-Native

We had a lovely week and a bit, Laurence was with us for the first weekend and was supposed to be with us for the second, but the wheel fell off the wagon to some extent.
The weather at each end, each weekend, was spectacular, but during the week - a bit of a curate's egg.

Whisky, the little sea-dog, got to ride in his trailer behind Kevin's bike, along the seafront, romp on the beach, and do a bit of whitewater kayaking. Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but there was a bit of white on the waves.

I read books and we watched films.
We watched the Simon Pegg and Nick Frost film, 'Paul' - brilliant, funny and referential. Superb. 'Red Riding Hood' - excellently atmospheric. 'The Lovely Bones'. Sadly, that was complete shit. And finally, 'Red', which was, if not extraordinarily engaging, at least not disengaging and only sent one of us to sleep, although, on reflection, the one of us was Kev, and it takes a LOT to send him to sleep.

Books. I had a fabulous book week. The first one was 'The Other side of the Bridge' by Mary Lawson, a Canadian author and a damned fine read. The second one was 'Secret Daughter' by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, a good story woven around the horrors and delights of India. But the last one was an absolute page turner and superbly written. 'Mistress of the Art of Death' by Ariana Franklin. Totally satisfying, gripping, historically fascinating and just generally utterly enjoyable.

This week, and for the following two, I am on a course for Career Planning. Today was most enjoyable, I discovered that I need to be many things and only need to spend another ten years at university to do any of them. Still, I was both impressed and depressed at the general educational level of the group and the fact that there was a very similar set of values shared by most. Basically, if you are environmentally aware, are up to your ears in degrees and are concerned about social injustices, you're probably in that group.