Busy Few Days

13 05 2015

Well this afternoon I make my way to old Blighty for a couple of customer visits in Brum. It’s an overnight flight so when you add the inevitable lack of sleep from annoying seat-mates or teething children to the lost 8 hours due to physics and time zones, I’m really hoping I just remember to drive on the left when I get there! As I recall, LHR to Birmingham is pretty straightforward, but traffic in the UK was already a nightmare 15 years ago when I left. I think I’ll swing by my father-in-law’s in Milk’n’beans for a sit-down and a cup of tea en route. He’s coming to the Wet Coast in June to join us for my eldest’s graduation from Waterloo, so I’m half-expecting he’ll be wanting me to carry something or other back with me.

Anyway, from Milton Keynes I continue to the hotel in Birmingham tomorrow night and visit the customers on Friday. I have to pick up a colleague flying in from Dusseldorf, so it’s a lot of to-ing and fro-ing.

The pay-off though is that I get the weekend in the UK to myself. It’s my mum’s 74th birthday on Saturday, so I’m heading up to Yorkshire to buy her a fancy dinner (despite her insistence on using some voucher at the local pub/restaurant). Sunday night I’m flying with Germanwings to Cologne, and spending the week there at a trade show. FESPA if you’re in the ‘hood.

Monday’s a holiday here though, so I’ll miss out on that. I’ll just have to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday on my own in Köln. Quelle domage. Fizzy beer and sausage!

Thursday night, I’m back in Heathrow and stopping off for a curry in Sipson – most recommended, by the way. Time zones and physics pay back on Friday and I land in Vancouver at a time that is impossibly close to the time I set off. Saturday I’ll most likely sleep it off, which is a shame because that’s my own birthday.

I really must start looking into the possibilities of growing up.

Nah… maybe next year.

The Day Tour de Yorkshire came to Silsden

9 05 2015

Hot on the heels of the Yorkshire leg of the Tour de France, there is now The Tour de Yorkshire. I shit you not!

Here’s a write up from the 3rd of May, when it passed through my home village of Silsden: The Day Tour de Yorkshire came to Silsden | news.silsden.netnews.silsden.net.

news.silsden.net: Tour de Yorkshire

I confess I sat patiently through the entire scroll of 68 photos just to be amazed alternatively at (i) how much the village has changed since I left for university back in 1982, never to return and (ii) how much it was just the same as I left it.

The old millstone grit houses and sagging stone (not slate – sandstone) rooves made me briefly homesick. The sight of Ilkley moor in the background of the photos pointing up Bolton Rd. was a particularly fond memory. With or b’aht ‘at.


Culture Shock on The Minnow

9 05 2015

This last week, we had a visit from a new member of our team. Due to an organisational reshuffle he was now reporting in to our Vancouver based marketing team, despite being physically based in Venlo, The Netherlands. The main result of our company being split over these two sites is that the Vancouver members are expected to attend regular con-calls and video conferences at obscene times in the morning. The Dutch, being very “socialised” largely refuse to take calls past their 5pm nominal finish time. Being 9 hours ahead, it leaves a vanishingly small window of overlap. Taking a call in your pyjamas, eating breakfast, slurping tea – and hoping “mute” is engaged – is one thing; being physically in the office and attending a video conference at 7am is quite another. I really should start questioning this whole “Canadians are so nice” thing. It was in the small print of my citizenship test though. :)

Since all but one of the newly configured team is living in Pacific Daylight Saving at the moment, our newest crew member came to stay for a week and get to know the oddballs he was now working with. I had a business trip to Chicago in the middle of the visit, so didn’t personally get to see much of him, but quickly decided I liked his enthusiasm and lack of world-weariness. (He’ll learn soon enough! It was good to form the “before” impression though.)

Anyway, our boss graciously offered to take the entire team for a couple of hours sailing around English Bay on his 37′ C&C yacht.

C&C 37 yacht - under way

C&C 37 yacht – under way

The wind was up, and we had a few high-speed, 45 degree tilted runs across the bay, weaving in and out of the various empty freighters anchored there.

Freighter and North Shore Mountains

Freighters and North Shore Mountains

At one point, I glanced back over the city and saw a huge pall of black smoke. It looked so dark I thought it might be oil and feared the worst – there’s recently been a lot of highly emotional talk about Vancouver’s oil terminal, pipelines feeding it and the potential development of the LNG industry in BC. Technology (Twitter in this case) answered the question and told us there was in fact a fire at a Vancouver church.

We were a mixed bunch, in possibly every dimension you could imagine. Six in total, we had 4 blokes and 2 women, one of whom didn’t behave that way (this is the West Coast in the 21st century, after all. We have both expressed an appreciation for the on-coming summer and the attendant rise of skirt hems – it’s always nice to share one’s interests!) Five had current certification to manage a boat on the water, though three readily admitted that their memory of the details were sketchy. Personally, I now only claim confidence as far as which way up the boat should be. Three were born Canadian, four had a Canadian passport, one was waiting for a Canadian passport and one was visiting Canada for the first time. Three also possessed European passports – well, 2 plus a UK one, grudgingly European. Of the three Canadian born members, one was of Scottish descent, one of Welsh and one of German. The remainder were born in the UK, France and The Netherlands, Ties to the old world, it seems, run deep.

We had a fine afternoon under clear, breezy skies and greatly enjoyed each other’s company. Eventually we slackened the sails, pointed almost parallel to the wind to regain a level keel, set the auto-pilot and broke out the picnic.

Terribly civilised!

One of the natural-born Canadians then tried to explain to “Dutchie” that “all North American men”, and indeed “a growing proportion of North American women” who were “of a certain age” had a ready answer to a specific question, namely “Ginger or Mary Ann?”

To prove his point, all three “proper” Canadians (apart from our new Dutch colleague, we were all of “a certain age”) readily replied, with Mary Ann winning 2:1 – Ginger getting her vote from our lady crew member “mainly for being blonde – I have a thing about blondes”. One of the blokes modified his reply with “it depends if it’s long term or over-night” and around this point I became aware of a huge gulf in North American vs. European popular culture.

The three of us born outside Canada had no idea who Ginger or Mary Ann were. None of us had heard of The Minnow; Gilligan; The Professor or any of the other various names thrown around. We stared politely while each of the six of us were assigned a character from “Gilligan’s Island”, though we had no point of reference at all. The low point was when half the crew began singing the theme song with much gusto.

Gilligan’s Island

Comments were subsequently made about the altitude of my eyebrows at the culmination of the singing. I think it was George Bernard Shaw (of Pygmalion and other plays) who said that the US and England were two nations separated by a common language. (He was Irish, by the way…. just sayin’.) It seems equally true that US-TV and Euro-TV can be similarly divisive. Despite having different home languages (one each in fact), we three non-locals culturally had a lot of similarities and shared our own common TV. We chose not to sing anything!

As a child I remember lots of childrens TV in the UK that I subsequently learnt was from The Continent. Animated programmes such The Magic Roundabout or puppets like Hector’s House (both French, I believe) were easy to internationalise. But it didn’t stop there. I remember watching a programme that introduced me to dubbing, as I gradually became aware that the lips and sounds weren’t matching. I recently discovered that The White Horses was in fact German/Yogoslavian! Wikipedia also tells me that the UK audio dubbing has been lost except for a single episode. Ah, the vagaries of pop culture….

MagicRoundabout.com: Les Amis


Carter Collectables: Hector’s House


http://www.fernsehserien.de: The White Horses

Cabin Lake Loop

3 05 2015

After a bit of a “meh” week, weather-wise, we’ve been treated to a lovely weekend here in The Lower Mainland. On Friday evening, number 2 offspring came back from Montreal where she’s just completed her second year of studies at McGill. That put her psychologically 3 hours ahead, so she was up bright and early on Saturday. The weather looked good, so after a suitable delay to feed and walk the dog, we headed off to the hills. Cypress Mountain to be specific.

I’d pored over the free-to-download routable trail maps from OpenStreetMap in Garmin’s free-to-download BaseCamp application, and selected a likely looking circular route for a couple of hours in the fresh air. The beauty of using routable trail maps is that you can use your handheld GPS just like a car model, and it’ll let you know how close to any turnings you are, as well as re-routing you if you choose to detour for some reason. That said – I tend to only use it for areas I’m unfamiliar with. Though the major North Shore trails are well marked… there are many minor ones that are not. Our original intention was to do about 6km with some reasonable ascent up Black Mountain, to the west of the Cypress resort.

BaseCamp: Cabin Lake Loop intended route

BaseCamp: Cabin Lake Loop intended route

All things being equal, we expected to take in not only Cabin Lake, but Owen Lake, Theagil Lake and Sam Lake, all to the south-west of the Cypress resort. The original route was only about 5km, and even with elevation gain, I didn’t think that would take us very long, so I added a little more to the route by visiting Yew Lake to the north as part of the circuit. That made the expected route 6.2km, which seemed like a nice outing without being over-strenuous.

So off we went.

When we arrived, it was lovely and bright, but the altitude made it feel decidedly crisp and out came the “spare” jumpers immediately. The thing about circular routes is that you inevitably come down every metre you ascend. (Assuming you’re not on an inter-dimensional Möbius strip, of course.) That being the case, it doesn’t seem to matter which direction you go, so we opted for anti-clockwise and headed off to Yew Lake. This first kilometre or so is pretty flat and incredibly well maintained with a crushed rock surface. Yew Lake itself was quite still and picturesque and a foreshadowing of what we were to see at Cabin Lake. There were a couple of picnic tables and I can easily predict that with warmer weather this small 1km loop will be very popular with the great unwashed visiting Vancouver for a day or so. Pretty though it is, visitors that only take this loop trail would really be missing the best parts.

Yew Lake, Cypress

Yew Lake, Cypress

Not long after leaving the shore of Yew Lake, we came to the junction with the BP Trail which would take us up towards Black Mountain. Around about now I realised the folly of not actually checking the contours of the circular route.

Over the next couple of kilometres we encountered several parties of walkers and hikers. A statistically abnormal number of student-aged young women, in various party sizes, were amongst them. As is de rigeur in the Lower Mainland, they were all wearing Lululemon. There were a few couples, a selection of various dog varieties, elderly folk, a couple of fell runners. All though had one thing in common… they were coming the other way!

Yup – you guessed it: this was the steep way up! The route took a series of switchbacks up a well-defined but loose path. At each turn though, we had great views of the opposite hills where in season there are several ski runs.

Runway, Collins and other ski runs

Runway, Collins and other ski runs

After a while we came to some lingering snow on one of the runs. The snow-making machines were still in evidence, and I suspect this hard-packed icy snow was only there because it was the result of these machines early in the season.

Icy snow lingers on Maelle Ricker's Gold run

Icy snow lingers on Maelle Ricker’s Gold run

The similar angle of the previous two pictures would imply that the switchbacks were almost perfectly above each other. This next part, up the side of the ski run was so steep that they’d actually built a full-on staircase out of hewn stone. The regular tread made it quite easy to ascend, despite the grade.

Onwards and upwards!

Onwards and upwards!

At this higher elevation we were treated to small patches of natural snow, still clinging on into May. Another small pond again showed the beauty of a mirror-like reflection.

Snow in May - Cypress

Snow in May – Cypress

We were pretty much at the top of the climb now, and we took the short 80m detour to Cabin Lake itself. It lies just off the main path, and it’s definitely worth the trivial detour. I could see no sign of a cabin so I’m not sure of the origin of the name. The scene was stunning though, and as we stopped for a bite of late lunch, we were possessive of the view, resenting the small number of other hikers that briefly joined us.

Boardwalk to Cabin Lake

Boardwalk to Cabin Lake

Reflecting on Cabin Lake

Reflecting on Cabin Lake

The surface was so perfectly still and polarised the blue sky wonderfully in the photos. I couldn’t help but try a bit of photographic surrealism…

Beware of falling rocks

Beware of falling rocks

By now, time was getting on a bit, so we opted to cut off the far south/west loop which unfortunately meant skipping a couple of the lakes we’d hoped to see, as well as the south summit of Black Mountain. These would wait for another day, and we headed back. After a pretty easy minor ascent we found ourselves at the top of the Eagle Express chair lift. This plateau gave us a view down the snow-covered run we’d seen from lower down as well as great views north over to Howe Sound and The Lions, and south to Vancouver.

No quick way down today...

No quick way down today…

The Lions in the distance and black runs in ski season

The Lions in the distance and nearby black runs in ski season

Oo - you can see our house from here!

Oo – you can see our house from here!

From here, the descent was very easy, basically following the Panorama and Windjammer runs back to the lodge. This, it would seem, is why everyone else was going the other way! Though long, it was a steady ascent on basically an unmade road, as ski runs are, out of season. No complaints though – the views were spectacular. Unfortunately, Google Earth seems to only have winter satellite imagery of the North Shore Mountains, which kind of gives the impression we hiked in snow. There was the odd patch here and there, but it was certainly not as it appears below. The 3D imagery helps visualise the route we actually took though. Click on this, or any of the other images for a closer look.

Google Earth: Actual track we took to Cabin Lake

Google Earth: Actual track we took to Cabin Lake

Despite the short-cut we ended up walking 6.1km anyway, because of the route we took coming down Windjammer instead of the originally planned 3 Bears run which was a bit more direct.

What goes up, usually comes down

What goes up, usually comes down

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

Another Sun Run behind me

19 04 2015

Well, I’ll not bore you with the details, but today I got a personal best (though not exactly record-breaking) in Vancouver’s 31st annual Sun Run – a 10km event. My group set off around 9:55, and though the staging area was in cool shade, it didn’t take long to get out into the sunny weather.


Vancouver Sun Run 2015 route

I’m not a big race fan, but I do like the Vancouver Sun Run. The atmosphere is always so generous and friendly. People line the route playing encouraging music (Elvis Costello’s “Pump it up” being an example today) and hold out witty signs to encourage the participants. Here’s a couple I passed on the home stretch, about 3km out, though I personally failed to get the power-up.

Source VS: Signs of encouragement on the home stretch

As I said though, the biggest thing for me (despite a bit of pushing and shoving – it is after all playoff season – and being tripped from behind by some knob with his kid in a pushchair who didn’t see any reason to apologise), is the generous nature of Vancouverites. I thought this photo from the Vancouver Sun of spectators offering encouraging high fives summed it up nicely. Well done Vancouver!

Source – VS: Vancouver Sun Run 2015


Grouse Ascent 2015 No. 1

18 03 2015

Route: BCMC Trail

Time: 1:25 (unofficial – GG timer not available)

Bunked off work a bit early and got there dead on 5pm. Car-park was empty. So much so, they’d fenced off the overflow car-park altogether. The resort must really be hurting by insisting that the Grouse Grind remain closed “due to current conditions”. For Pete’s sake…

Some community-minded soul had wedged open the gate and a couple with the obligatory large dog were warming up and stretching as I arrived. I’ve suffered a lot less leg cramp on runs since a great friend had recommended this stretching nonsense, so I too began my cursory regime of calf stretches – more for show and to fool myself into thinking it helps. At this point a red-coated Grouse Mountain Resort employee stomped over to the gate and slammed it shut. The lady with the hound asked why, and he grumpily pointed at the many yellow placards loudly declaring that the Grouse Grind is still shut due to “current conditions”. Completely unruffled, the couple descended the steps over the little bridge and began to walk the 15m to the end of the fence to enter via the completely un-gated alternative route. Assuming I would also take this route, I continued my stretching as a couple of Asian ladies approached the gate and called to a bloke on the inside who was still performing his own elaborate pre-Grind regime. He happily opened the gate from the inside and all three of us began our hikes. The ladies were indeed doing the Grouse Grind, but I set off on the BCMC Trail via the BP Trail. After about 20 minutes I was over-taken by the couple with the Cerberus wannabe, so I guess they went a really long way around the fence!

The BCMC is always a lot quieter than the rat race up the Grind, but out of season and close to dusk it was delightfully empty.

Around the 3/4 mark there was a definite shift in the temperature and though there was no low cloud and lovely glimpses of the sun reflecting off Howe Sound through the trees, it was definitely a lot cooler. I was glad I had my MEC fleece jumper in my rucksack, though I didn’t need it until I’d actually got to the top. The “current conditions” were absolutely fine. Admittedly the top 1/4 was still pretty wet from snow melt, but it was perfectly safe, and I imagine the Grind was just the same. I totally support areas being closed off for safety concerns, but this seemed to be nothing more than an economic decision. A bad one at that. Closing the main entrance to the Grouse hikes was dissuading people from hiking up and spending cash at the top. Presumably in the mistaken belief that they’d be forced to pay to ride the gondola instead. Nope – they just stay home.

At the top, I had the best laugh yet. Though the impressive looking chain-linked fence and gate at the bottom seem to deter most people from hiking up (those that can’t be bothered to walk the 15m or so to circumvent this stupidity), at the top, they relied on a particularly large yellow “closed” placard and a single hurdle – like the kind you’d use for crowd control at a public event.

Eastern Fence: Barrier

Yup – that should work! No attempt at all to fence off the myriad of other trails that go down the Grouse though. Bizarre. Sadly, its apparent effectiveness goes to show just how unimaginative most Grouse Grinders really are. They do it for “the time” or whatever, not for the joy of hiking the mountain. Let’s face it, if they did… they’d never choose the Grind. It’s got to be the least scenic hike in BC!

The chalet was empty. Probably no more than 20 people in it. They’d even closed off the main restaurant part. It was a bad ski season this last winter, but by unnecessarily keeping the Grouse hikes closed they must be haemorrhaging money. There was no snow anywhere at the top, except bizarrely for a little bit around the ice rink – presumably shipped in from elsewhere for effect. There were puddles on the rink. Temperature was ~12C today.

I was the only one waiting for the gondola down, and they were making the one girl do everything – check people in and ride shotgun up/down. I asked her if it was individual limousine service this evening, but a handful of others arrived before we actually descended. There was even a couple of kids with their mum – they’d apparently just had a skiing lesson, so I guess the snow blowers installed for the 2010 Winter Olympics are being put to good use on at least one of the runs.

I quite enjoyed pretty much having the mountain to myself. It’ll be in contrast to the merciless pounding it’ll receive when the Grind officially opens and the hoi palloi descend in droves.



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