Wild Weekend

31 08 2015

Bit of a to-do here in the Lower Mainland this weekend.

After literally months of uninterrupted sunshine the weather finally broke on Friday night. By mid-morning the welcome rain was joined by a much less welcome wind storm. The parched trees suffered mightily and the urban landscape is still strewn – almost 3 days later – with bits of tree. White Rock/South Surrey got away pretty lightly and we didn’t even lose power except for 2 or 3 “glitches”. Enough to reset the olde worlde desktop PC and aquarium air pump but not enough to lose the time on the cooker’s LED clock.

Number 3 offspring had to help me do some running repairs on our panel fence as the gusty winds blew two panels completely off the fence. Spiketta the devil dog was too scared to go out into the garden otherwise I’m sure she’d have made a break for it. I knew those random pieces of drilled steel from the old overhead garage door opener I replaced a few years ago would come in handy…

Saturday was largely a day for hunkering down and writing, but I did venture out towards lunch to take aforementioned devil dog for a promenade. As we got to the wooded ravine she likes to sniff, we were met by a city workman who told us it was unsafe until someone had been through to check for loose limbs. Having already had to circumvent a pretty large tree limb in the normally serene butterfly garden, we decided that it was prudent to listen, and we detoured around Centennial Park instead.

Sunday was a lot more bright so offspring numbers two and three accompanied me to Van Dusen gardens for a breath of fresh air. We began by having High Tea at Truffles, the café there. It was atrocious! Number two and I had taken tea there before and had a most excellent experience. This time though? Yuck.  They offer afternoon/high tea for two or four. We were three, so we ordered “afternoon tea for two ($40!) with an extra cup please, and a Turkey Club sandwich (~$9!!)”. The order was relayed back to me as “afternoon tea for two and a Turkey Club sandwich”. There was a moment of confusion when I was asked what kind of sandwich we wanted, but this was my mistake as I  hadn’t realised there was a sandwich as part of the High Tea. So, all good, I went to pay. Only as I walked away did I realise the price was wrong. It was $42… not enough! I returned and said, there seems to be a mistake, the bill is $42 and the High Tea is $40 (meaning… the sandwich should have made it nearer $50). At this point I was told (presumably because of my not exactly local accent) that this was “because of the tax”. Here in BC the tax is added on at payment time and not included in the sticker price like in the UK, and I suppose the young lady thought I hadn’t realised that the $40 would become $42. I explained that there was a whole Turkey sandwich missing from the reckoning, but by now there was a large queue and they were on to the second person after me. We slunk off to get a table and I sent last born to rejoin the queue and re-order his Turkey sandwich.

After a while his sandwich arrived all hot and steamy and by all accounts was most tasty. This despite being ordered SEVERAL orders after our High Tea. Then the pot of tea arrived. Without the third cup. The server was pleasant enough despite exuding studied boredom from every pore of his being. He reluctantly sloped off to reappear with a third cup which was no less wet or poorly presented than its two earlier siblings. I don’t take sugar, but the sugar bowl was huge yet held only a small number of sugar cubes. Worse… it was dirty with some old coffee drips on the inside and the sugar was covered in fluff (or worse!). Just as my son finished his sarnie, the main event arrived, was swapped for the number we’d been given and that was it. No cutlery. No serviettes. No smile. Just lots of attitude!

I can’t complain about the food itself. The Croque-monsieur we’d ordered was hot and tasty. The lemon/white chocolate truffles were delightful. The petit fours were exquisite. The scone was a bit odd. Despite being attended by strawberry jam and thick cream (and for the locals – honey), it seemed to have orange in it rather than the more customary raisins or currants. Still that and the croissant went down very nicely thank-you and I can report that at least the kitchen staff were on their game, if not the front of house.

Both offspring were affronted enough to fill out pretty vociferous comment cards (with their real names!) and we went off to tour the gardens. We’ve visited many times and yet I was surprised to find that we ended up in various stretches of the garden I had never before visited. It really was a very pleasant little visit, and I was quite sad when we had to call it a day and leave.

As ever – click on an image for a larger version.

Summer Holiday – day 15

29 08 2015

Day 15 was spent being tourists in Portland. First thing’s first – figure out the Transit! It turned out we were just a couple of blocks from the station and it was easy peasy lemon squeezy to get into town. Cheap too. You get all sorts on public transport. The lady with the pet rat running up and down her arm was a first though…

Second things second… coffee! I’m a big tea drinker but this is Portland! We tried to find a non-chain establishment to better support the hipster economy.

Brazilian coffee sack

Brazilian coffee sack

I forget where we ended up, but I was amused to find the above coffee sack on the wall. Minas Gerais was the area of Brazil I had visited several years ago. Small world, isn’t it? Portland has cute names for its districts, Pearl, Rose, etc. I guess we were in the Rose District when I saw this cover for some utility ducting.

Utility cover

Utility cover

Number two offspring wasn’t with us for this trip, but we’d promised to return with some offerings from Voodoo Doughnuts. After first spending a couple of joyous hours in Powell’s bookshop we dutifully joined the queue for these doughnuts. No idea why they were so popular but the queue ran round the block. Over the road was a telling sign…

Keep it weird

Keep it weird

Having queued the length of the building, we then got the joy of queuing all the way back! Good job we were English… this counts as entertainment! I got dripped on once or twice and I eventually figured out it was an Air Conditioning unit in a first floor window up above the queue.

Little England. Love a good queue...

Little England. Love a good queue…

The jokes I was making about AC units and Legionaire’s Disease suddenly didn’t seem so funny when I realised that the doughnuts we were about to buy spent some period behind this open doorway protected from airborne disease and children’s bogey-laden fingers by nothing more substantial than a wire grille! Pink, I admit, but even so…

Now THAT's healthy...

Now THAT’s healthy…

I’m told by more discerning doughnut-lovers that they were especially scrummy, but personally I don’t think they were worth the effort…

Voodoo doughnuts

Voodoo Doughnuts

Art for art’s sake

14 07 2015

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter went to the Vancouver Art Gallery on their Tuesday “by donation” evening. She didn’t get to see everything, but was enthusiastic and wanted to go again. Somewhat reluctantly, I agreed to go with her this evening.

Now, first of all, I have to applaud them for having Tuesday evenings as “by donation”. It allows people who might hem and haw about being able to afford the normal entrance fee to pay what they can, or what they feel appropriate, and still get to experience the art on display. As we queued I saw several posters informing attendees that it was entrance by donation, and that a donation of $10 was appropriate. The normal entrance fee is $20 (or $15 for students) and I think a donation of $10 or even $5 would be quite achievable for anyone who was even vaguely interested in visiting the gallery.

I was quite prepared to fork out my $10 and though I accept I am reasonably affluent, I was appalled by the number of well-dressed, iPhone-toting student types who were handing over 25c coins as their entrance donation. Now, I used to be a student in a former life. I know money can be tight, but 25c?! That, dear reader is most definitely taking the piss! All due respect to the staff though – they smilingly took the mite and issued a receipt and entrance ticket (which possibly cost more than the 25c received!) See elsewhere for my thoughts regarding integrity!

The temporary exhibition was “Of Heaven and Earth: 500 Years of Italian Painting from Glasgow Museums”. These were good, solid religious paintings by the likes of  Botticelli. Not sure why, but I found them intensely boring. Shocking, I know. Some of them were literally hundreds of years old. They were incredibly skilfully painted. Ground-breaking at the time. I could appreciate their art, but they were just not doing it for me.

As we moved to the stairs and the first floor, I was completely lost for words. Here was “modern art” in its extreme. My daughter loved “How Do I Fit This Ghost in My Mouth?” Me though – it looked like a bunch of random items from a car boot sale. With some of it I could again see the skill in its execution, but I was left with an overwhelming sense of WTF?! One entire room (Geoffrey Farmer’s The Surgeon and the Photographer) was filled with foot high folk created from fabric bodies and carefully placed collage from magazines and the like. It looked for all the world like the left-overs from a Terry Gilliam segment of a Monty Python film.

The full half hour?

The full half hour?



Sorry Mr. Farmer… just not my cup of tea.

One of the other rooms was a bizarre installation of animatronic items with changing lights and sound. A small anteroom had an IKEA bed with a sleeping bag on it, and my artsy daughter told me that the main installation was supposed to represent a nightmare as experienced by the person who was overnighting in a strange house. Hm-mmm. Perhaps… I definitely think one of the Slag Brothers from The Wacky Races was there though…

Slag 1 or Slag 2?

Slag 1 or Slag 2?

The installation is called Let’s Make The Water Turn Black and is another Geoffrey Farmer work. It’s supposedly an homage to Frank Zappa and his developments in xenochrony or “strange time”. I can believe that.

The top floor made up for everything though. There was some weird nonsense with “wallpaper” – basically digital patterns projected onto the walls of the room, but otherwise there was some of the VAG’s Emily Carr collection and… photographs! I loved the photographs. “Residue: Persistence of the Real” included a series of photos by Robert Burley (from The Disappearance of Darkness series) of disused manufacturing plants associated with film and photography. There was Polaroid, Ilford and Kodak. I was just mentioning the lack of Agfa (where I used to work) when around the corner there were two images of Agfa’s Mortsel site near Antwerp in Belgium, which I knew very well. I wonder how many casual viewers had even realised the connection between the images.


One wall had a series of three or four images depicting the demolition of one of Kodak’s plants in Rochester as it came to terms with the death of film. End of an era that everyone saw coming except Kodak!

There was another series of images by Geoffrey James called “Inside Kingston Penitentiary” which depicted the final day as the Ontario prison was closed down. These images were stark but very human, showing how prisoners had imprinted their personalities on the harsh environment of the old prison.


A Library That Plummets into an Abyss by Susanna Hesselberg for Sculpture by the Sea

30 06 2015

I’m always a sucker for books, and home libraries in particular. I think I was hooked when I first saw “My Fair Lady” as a kid. (I also remember being amazed when I bought it on DVD that – just like the cinema rendition – it had a 20 minute intermission!). Professor Higgins had an amazing home library complete with one of those wheeled ladders. Now one of my life goals. That and the fishing lodge…

Anyway, this art piece is titled “When My Father Died It Was Like a Whole Library Had Burned Down.” Only true bibliophiles can relate to the feeling of devastation that alludes to.

Check out the link to Colossal to learn more: A Library That Plummets into an Abyss by Susanna Hesselberg for Sculpture by the Sea | Colossal.

Donna Lee Stevens – Idiot Box

26 06 2015

Amazing work by Donna Stevens that graphically illustrates what we all inherently know about TV… it sucks your soul out through your eyes!

Parents: beware the downside of “the easy option” for a bit of peace and quiet…

Idiot Box — Donna Lee Stevens.

Donna Stevens - Idiot Box

What’s in a name?

8 06 2015

I was invited out for drinks and a bite to eat on Friday with some old work friends. “Old” as in long-standing, as opposed to elderly. That said, we’re none of us getting any younger. Anyway, we ended up at The Main on Main, in Vancouver’s trendy Main Street. Parking was a pain. Though plentiful, the meter-controlled parking on Main was unavailable due to me habitually travelling like royalty… and therefore without cash. Eventually I parked in a twee residential area around the back and only a few minutes walk away.

I’d arranged to arrive early for pre-drinks and my friend and I took a table in the open (as in not present) window to soak up a few rads before the others arrived, and to more readily watch the world pass by. I noticed a large old pub sign on the wall, being used as “art”. It was a Tetley’s sign for “The Oak Tree Root”, and obviously a few thousand miles adrift from its origins in the north of the UK somewhere.

Tetley's Sign - The Main on Main

Tetley’s Sign – The Main on Main

I innocently asked if they served Tetley’s and the waitress asked if I’d like tea. Taken aback, I had to explain at length that Tetley’s tea had nothing to do with Tetley’s brewery. Despite being far from a common surname, they were in fact two completely different things. The Oak Tree Root is a bit of an unusual name for a pub, and it turns out it’s in Howe Bridge, near Manchester. No idea if they realise their pub sign has been stolen though…

A photo of the pub (complete with assurances that they did indeed sell Tetley’s) can be found here on Flickr. Unfortunately it seems they went bust and the building is now a cheap Costcutter shop.

The sun was warm and still high, and we enjoyed a pint of  Driftwood’s White Bark wheat beer. Thankfully it didn’t arrive with the usual fruit salad. What is it about putting orange slices into wheat beer?!

Driftwood - White Bark

Driftwood – White Bark

Our other friends arrived, and as predicted, we had to move away from the window due to their vampire-like dislike of the sun. Oddly, I’m not a big fan of hot weather, but I don’t mind sunshine per se. The Main on Main is OK, foodwise. Slight air of pretension with the way it serves its pretty basic food, but clean and friendly. There were a few too many Greek items on the menu for a traditional pub, but all-in not too bad.

Fairy Tale Foodstuffs

28 04 2015

What do you get if you cross Vancouver’s creativity with the need to help the less fortunate with the daily basics of a good meal?

Canstruction! An annual competition to build art pieces out of (mainly) canned food around a theme. There’s a few venues around town each year. One is in the Four Seasons hotel, and I happened to see a couple of this year’s entries there last night.

Kudos Vancouver. An imaginative way to bring focus onto a real issue. Despite the wealth of our city, there are still people who struggle to put nourishing food on the table and this is a creative way to bring attention (and money) to it.

Canstruction 2015


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