Oh Canada… you ARE silly.

24 01 2015

So I live in Surrey, BC.

It’s just an address, but hereabouts people like to be more specific and say SOUTH Surrey to differentiate it from NORMAL Surrey. The reputation of drugs and associated crime being a little too ungenteel for some. Compared to the UK, even deepest, darkest Newton (area of Surrey) is as safe as houses, but all things are relative and it is comparatively bad by BC standards. White Rock is a separate little city, just a few blocks big, carved out of the very south of South Surrey… and they therefore get the best bit of the beach. If they’d been born separately and merged together over the space of a millennium or so, White Rock and South Surrey would be called a conurbation. But this is North America and the paint is still drying on even the oldest “heritage homes”, so they’re not.

White Rock itself has changed quite dramatically in the 14 years we’ve lived here. Lots of development – some of it vertical (the city limit of 4 storeys – intended to protect the ocean views for all – seems to be negotiable if you are a developer with deep enough pockets… or an interesting photo collection, I suppose). When we first arrived, it was like Little England. Every other person was either an elderly war bride or a recent UK immigrant. Far from the case now, but that genteel aspiration lives on, and by and large White Rock/South Surrey is  a twee seaside town. I was frankly a little disappointed all those years ago. We’d emigrated to the other side of the world and accidentally arrived back in England. The largest difference was realising that we’d also travelled back in time to the late 70s! BC has a disproportionately powerful union culture, but it’s also very polite and friendly.

Recently though there have been a couple of troublesome events. Not least the attempted abduction of a 9 year old girl from the local school playground (not during school session, but even so…).

The latest though? A bank robbery. Yup – a real life bank robbery. At the HSBC (though I currently have little sympathy for that particular brand). Best part though? The disguise was a ludicrously obvious false beard. Did I mention that this occurred about 4 blocks from the RCMP police station? a 750m, 8 minute walk according to Google. Oh dear…

Bank robber with fake beard sought by RCMP in White Rock, B.C. – British Columbia – CBC News.

CBC: White Rock robbery

Google Map’s suggestion of the 8 minute walk the police might have taken…

Google Maps: 750 from bank to RCMP station.

Google Maps: 750m from bank to RCMP station.

EDIT: It seems the police now have some suspects.





2015 Vancouver Sun Run

23 01 2015

No going back now!

I’ve been running and to the gym every night this week… well, except last night (7:30am con call took it out of me a bit. What?! Hey – it was bloody tipping it down, OK! I might have drowned out there!).

There didn’t really seem any point to it all unless I signed up for this year’s Sun Run, so I did. Now I’ve spent money (and am from Yorkshire), I’m feeling a bit committed.

Only downside was being reminded I was now in the 50-54 age group now. :o(

2015 Vancouver Sun Run.

2015 Vancouver Sun Run

Vancouver’s Sun Run





OK – That’s it!

17 01 2015

I’ve been gnashing at the bit ever since I was a kid, to go to Iceland. There and Canada. Since I now live in BC, I’ve got the latter one reasonable well covered… though it is one humongous country, and I’ve barely scratched its surface! Last year was the nearest I’ve come to Iceland – I even priced up hotels, but in the end I enjoyed the Grand Canyon/Antelope Canyon/Arches National Park. They were amazing places, and I’m glad I went, but definitely not the same.

I just read an article on Bored Panda though. Julien Ratel lives there and has himself only just visited the Ice Caves in the south-east, under the giant Vatnajökull glacier. As well as obviously an accomplished photographer, it seems he’s a guide and travel agent too. What an amazing place to be a travel agent!

Julien Ratel

I Finally Visited The Ice Caves In Iceland | Bored Panda.

Amazing photos. Click on the image above for others.

So that’s it. This year I’m definitely going.

Probably.

Maybe.





Bill’s Sonnet CXVI

14 01 2015

I’ve been watching an old TV series called “Dead Like Me” in which a recently dead girl “finds herself” while performing her new job as a reaper of souls. It’s vaguely entertaining, not least because it was filmed in and around Vancouver, so it’s always fun trying to figure out where the locations are. She supposedly met her demise when hit by falling space debris… outside the Mink chocolate cafe at Hornby and Hastings. Anyway, the episode I watched last night included quite a bit of Shakespeare, so I thought I’d share one of his sonnets. For no other reason than he was the world’s greatest writer, and you really should read some of his stuff!

When he couldn’t find a word to subtly describe a human emotion, deed or thought… he’d make up a new one. And I mean words that are now thoroughly mainstream like “green-eyed” and “mountaineer”. Now that, dear reader, is owning your language!

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.





Too Rich For Us

23 12 2014

I mentioned elsewhere that a few of us got together to have a drink with an old colleague that was visiting from out of town. We tried to go for eats at The Flying Pig in Gastown, but the wait for a table (on a Monday night) was too long. OK, OK, so perhaps we should have taken into account the lead up to Christmas… fair point.

 

The Flying Pig

The Flying Pig

So anyway, on we went, five gents in search of sustenance. We eventually alighted on Wildebeest, also of Gastown. They managed to find us a table straight away, and the greeter was very friendly. We perused the menu and I was quite taken with it. “Meat centric” is how they describe it. I was all set to try the horse tartare until I realised it was only a starter. Main-course prices but for starter-sized portions. In the end we left after only a beer. I had the Dry Stout from Persephone Brewing Company on the Sunshine Coast – highly recommended! I am sure the menu prices were worth the ambiance and quality ingredients on offer, but it isn’t really the place for a lads night out.

I will try and find a more fitting occasion to try it again – I have to say the menu resulted in Pavlovian reactions. You know – watering mouth; instinctive clenching of your wallet.

Wildebeest Starters

Wildebeest Starters





Knee-jerk Jerk

22 12 2014

A few days ago I went to collect number one child from the airport. She was returning for the Christmas holidays from university out East. I bumped into an old colleague from a previous company, and he was keen to make sure I was going to attend a get-together the next night to celebrate the arrival in town of a mutual friend who now lived with his wife in Toronto. We arranged to meet at his new place in Gastown first to have a couple of warm-up drinks before heading off for dinner. I fully expected to arrive a bit later than the arranged 6pm kick-off, but as it happened I managed to finish off my tasks at the office and was actually slightly early as I set off from the SkyTrain station to try and locate his place in Gastown.

For those of you not familiar with Vancouver, Gastown is named after “Gassy Jack” who arguably founded what became today’s Vancouver. It’s a bit of a tourist trap with its steam-powered clock (which was shrouded when I was there) and purveyors of made-in-China baubles and trinkets. It’s also home to many amazing eateries and watering holes, and borders on the less salubrious “Downtown Eastside” or DTES. This is a less touristy place which is “home” to the homeless and many of Vancouver’s less fortunate residents. Inevitably there’s a little “leakage” and it’s not uncommon to be accosted by several homeless people whilst walking in Gastown. The vast majority are polite and will wish you a good day whether or not they receive anything from an encounter. A few, as in any large town, are a little brusque, but it is a rare exception in my experience.

That said, it is patently true that most such people have issues related to substance abuse, though some are merely struggling to get back on their feet and could benefit from a decent meal and a permanent place to stay. A typical request might be “could you spare me the price of a cup of coffee/burger” or potentially the price of a Transit ticket. In my more naive days I have been known to give a ticket-less would-be transit rider the price of a ticket and watch them march directly away from the SkyTrain station. I know of several people who have offered hot food to people pan-handling “for the price of a meal” and literally had it thrown at them… presumably because it does not provide the high that they really seek.

It was with this somewhat jaundiced background that I stiffened myself as I headed through Gastown. Shuffling towards me was a shabby looking guy. As predicted, he asked me if I would buy him a coffee. I gave my knee-jerk response of “sorry mate, I don’t have any change” (which is conveniently usually true – being primarily a credit card user), I was wished a pleasant evening which is often the case in Vancouver, and I marched on without a break in my stride. It was probably 25 metres further on that my mind replayed the brief interchange. I had not – as assumed – been asked for the price of a cup of coffee, but an actual cup of coffee. My lack of willingness to support self-harm through illicit drugs, and my in-built prejudice towards “the typical homeless guy from the DTES” had blinded me to the simplest of human requests for help – a warm drink on what promised to be a rather chilly evening. Suddenly feeling sick to my stomach at the blasé manner in which I’d brushed off this gentleman, I quite literally spun on my heel. The exchange had taken place directly outside a Starbucks café (which I’d not even noticed in my determined march to my evening of conviviality). The man was nowhere to be seen, and I do not exaggerate when I felt a little shiver of cold and something of the “visitation of Christmases Past” vibe.

My reflex response to the usual request for cash had proved my self-righteous self-deceit for what it was. Pure hypocrisy. The man had asked me quite plainly for a physical cup of coffee. Something that I tell myself I would be willing to offer, but not cash, which could be used to buy less savoury substances. My judgemental expectation that he would ask for money had deafened me to a simple human request for a warm drink. Something that my comfortable existence had withheld so trivially.

I am not at peace with myself at present.





Ying, yang, and disproportionate effects

24 10 2014

I just got back from a business trip to Las Vegas. Almost a week.

I hate that place.

It oozes excess and waste and pointlessness.

Arriving home this afternoon, I underlined my hypocrisy by getting onto the internet, burning up a few watts of electricity and seeing what vital bits of trivial nonsense I’d missed whilst I was away. Almost immediately I depressed myself by watching a documentary online about the great Pacific Gyre. A huge area of the northern Pacific where the currents conspire to trap and concentrate pretty much anything that floats. Historically this was mainly organic waste, and so it became a great feasting place for animals. and the animals that ate those animals. Now though… it traps plastic. The wave action and UV from the sun break down that plastic into ever smaller pieces. This is NOT a good thing. All that happens is that the pieces of plastic eventually get to a size where ever smaller animals can eat them. Even larger pieces such as plastic carrier bags are consumed. They look surprisingly like jellyfish, and get eaten by relatively large predators. But the tiny pieces of “microplastic” can be eaten by the smallest of fish. It’s depressing.

Even people who don’t consider themselves polluters are culpable. We consume. We might not directly throw plastic into the sea, but we consume any number of things wrapped in plastic. Only a fraction of that plastic is recycled. In my entire stay in Vegas (a city built on vacuous consumption) I didn’t encounter a single opportunity to recycle plastic or aluminium drinks containers. Of the non-recycled plastic, some “escapes” during transport to the waste tips. I was surprised how much of the ocean pollution was of plastic pellets – “virgin” plastic. It hadn’t even made it into a consumer product before it became pollution! Lost freight off a transport ship perhaps.

Thoroughly depressed, I was consoled by this short film. Despite the huge onslaught that the human race makes against our shared home, this gentle Indian man shows how the efforts of just one of us can help reverse some of that damage. In this case, soil erosion due to deforestation. One man. A labour of love over 35 years. A huge impact. So what if we did one small positive act? As small but as frequent as the many daily negative acts.








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