And so the wheel turns

30 03 2013

What a lovely weekend so far! Highs of 17, despite a cool start.

It was Good Friday. (It’s good any day, in my book…) Mrs E and I took our two remaining offspring and their friends to the Vancouver International Auto Show. Don’t worry – First Born is away at University, she’s not met a gruesome end or anything.

The last time I went to a motor show, it was at the massive National Exhibition Centre in the UK’s Birmingham. Maybe it’s because I was only about 13, but I remember it as being humongous! A whole day to even begin to scratch the surface. There were lorries and fire engines and all manner of things. Not just cars.

Vancouver Auto Show was a much more leisurely affair despite claiming to be Canada’s third largest. (Perhaps the fourth largest is some pub car-park). We got there good and early, safe in the knowledge that Vancouver doesn’t really rise until early afternoon. We spent about 2½ hours there in all… and saw everything. It was just the one large room. The crowds were only just arriving as we left. It didn’t close until 10pm, so I felt a little sorry for the floor staff. A very long day… especially on a Bank Holiday!

Mrs E had gone to scout out a replacement for our aging Honda Pilot. Now the kidlings are moving on to their own things we don’t need such a bus any more, and she delighted in sitting in the driver’s seat of various more sensibly sized offerings from Subaru, VW, Honda and Mazda. Oh – and Mercedes, Audi and BMW… just because she could. It really was a very pleasant couple of hours. No sales pressure at all. Most weird! It was slightly bizarre that all the gear knobs were missing from the manual cars. I couldn’t decide if they had been stolen, or removed to prevent them being stolen. I suppose I could have asked. The staff might have enjoyed the distraction.

I entered every competition I could, and managed to get a sly chuckle from the young lady at the ICBC stand. She was a bit of a hipster with large framed glasses with no lenses. Along with a couple of other folk I’d encountered at other stands, she was bemoaning the temperamental behaviour of the tethered iPads being used for data entry. “Be patient – it’s an iPad” seemed to be all that was needed to explain things. I has pressing, she was pressing, she was holding my finger to press. All to no avail. In the end, I tried my bestest “finger-tip caress”. The word “caress” seemed to cause her fits of giggles. But it didn’t work either. In the end, we found that if you sneaked up on the iPad and pressed the on-screen button when it wasn’t looking, it seemed to work OK. And no – I didn’t get her phone number. Number 3 offspring was there watching.

Chevrolet had a couple of concept cars on show, and were asking people to vote on them. I asked the young lady what it was all about and she explained that they were testing market reception to the Code 130R and Tru140S in Toronto. My face caused her to think, and then she blurted “I mean Vancouver”. Chevrolet claim Vancouver was their Canadian debut for the concept cars so I can only think she herself was the Torontonian. The show runs 10am to 10pm and was already a few days old. I’ve staffed trade shows. I know the evenings can be, er, fluid. I suspect she was just tired. Very tired.

One of the first booths we went to was Fiat. The cinquecento (500 to you) looks very familiar to my European eye, though I wait to see how resilient the famously rustable Italian bodywork proves on the Wet (sic) Coast. I did happen to notice that the booth manager had done their job well, and the “500” logo was parallel with the floor on all four wheel hubs. A little detail to be sure, but just helped to show that care had been taken.

The highlight for me of course were the “super cars”, or “exotics” as they were being billed.  (Believe it or not – I know next to nothing about cars. Or sport. Or the finer points of beer. My manhood has been called into question on more than one occasion due to these facts). There was the Jaguar F-type; the Aston Martin Vanquish; Lotus Evora; Lamborghini Gallardo; some Maserati or other (not that big on them); ditto some Ferrari (red of course)… but then, oh – delight! The McLarens. A brace of MP4-12Cs. One in red, one in a lovely shade of grey.

The Aston Martin was modelled in “Silver – Skyfall Silver”. With obsidian black and spicy red interior.

But the wheels! The wheels were all over the place on the “exotic” cars!

It was as if to say “Look, if you’re paying $15k for a Fiat, we’ll put some effort in and make the car look the best it can. If you’re willing to pay $300k for the McLaren though… Come on… who care’s if it even has wheels?!”

They have a point, perhaps.





Haggis it’s OK.

30 01 2013

Now, despite my proud ownership of a blue Canadian passport, it can’t be denied that I was born in England. Yorkshire to be exact (as Yorkshiremen often are in such emotive matters of origin). I went to university slightly further North, in Durham. Slightly further North still (at least in galactic terms) lies Scotland, or Écosse as the more trendy Jacobeans would have it. The recent Burns Night celebrations reminded me of my collage days back in the early ’80s. The local Woolworth’s in Durham used to sell fresh (I use the term loosely)  haggis.

Being at a collegiate university, there was no need to cook or otherwise fend for myself during my undergraduate years. This was a major godsend (or Darwinsend, I suppose) to the hapless teenager I was then. I later matured and developed into a full-grown hapless adult, but that’s another story. In any case I remember acquiring at least one haggis (hey – it was 30 years ago – memories fade! I couldn’t swear to the exact number)  and cooking it.

Wikipedia: Durham Cathedral and Mill-house

Now, if you’ve never “partaken” of haggis, you’re missing out on one of life’s great experiences. Great as in large. It’s a personal decision whether it’s also great as in good. Memorable either way. Suffice it to say at this juncture that boiling up a haggis is a somewhat, er, pungent affair. Popularity was never one of my goals at university, and haggis-cooking pretty well excluded popularity from the horizon for a while.

Fast forward to a few days ago, and a cheeky exchange I had at work with a Scottish colleague. He proudly flies a St. Andrew’s cross on his desk, and I engaged in light-hearted nationalistic jest. I asked if he’d received a discount for said flag, as most of the white, and all of the red was missing. We both shared a laugh, but had to explain to the blank-faced “proper” Canadians about the various component flags making up the Union Jack. Anyway, conversation came around to wee Rabbie, and the Scots capability of making up a drinking excuse out of pretty much anything. From there, I lamented my failure to find haggis in the 12 years I’ve lived in Canada. I did however have to qualify that by admitting that I hadn’t actually, in all honesty, looked!

Wikipedia: Flag of St. andrew

Wikipedia: Union Jack

So tonight (there is a point to all this – stick with me…) Mrs E told me she’d bought me a present. Now this in itself is a massive event, so I rushed home with my mind’s eye full of Lamborghinis and holiday cottages. On arrival, I was told it was in the fridge. Strange place to keep a sports car, but hey ho. I gave up looking in the end, having incorrectly guessed that several bags of frozen blueberries and a loaf of unsliced bread were the goal.

No – there, hiding timorously  in the bottom tray, unassuming and shy was… a haggis! Frozen obviously, but a haggis nonetheless. The brand is Goodricks from New Westminster, BC. Purveyors, the label assures me, of quality meat products since 1987.

38846_143416432354535_3753815_n(Not sure how good their meat was before 1987, but that’s not the point here really, is it?) The ingredients list on my new haggis is short and to the point. In this day and age that in itself is a rare thing not to be undervalued.

The haggis itself does seem to be in a traditional sheep’s stomach, though it’s hard to tell through the frost-coated plastic. Nice to know there’s still a role for traditional sheep. Modern sheep with their piercings and tattoos remind me of a great New Zealand comedy-horror. But enough frivolity. The ingredients, I am assured in writing, consist only of the following:

  • Lamb Pluck
  • Oats
  • Spices
  • Onions
  • Stock

“Spices” of course can hide a multitude of sins, but otherwise pretty innocuous. Hang on though… “lamb pluck”? What in the name of Jamie Oliver is lamb pluck when it’s at home? It sounds like belly button fluff.

Enter my good friend Google…

Lamb Pluck, it would seem, is esophagus, lungs, heart, liver, kidneys… all still connected.

Lamb Pluck

egullet: Lamb Pluck

Well I guess that’s OK then. I thought it might have been something unsavory for a moment. What can I say? Well – “waste not, want not” springs to mind. I guess it depends on your upbringing. I frequently ate and loved the taste of lambs kidneys and liver too as a kid. I think I’d have drawn the line at lungs or heart – even in onion gravy – though on my trip to Brazil, I enjoyed many chicken hearts from the grill. (They’re like almonds – you can’t just have one. You need at least a handful.) I have also eaten “duck entrails soup” in a newspaper press-hall in China which I guess has pretty much the same ingredients… just with a dash of soya sauce.

Anyway, the haggis is defrosting in the fridge, and no doubt there will be complaints from the neighbours once I start to cook it. That’s OK – I’ll offer them a slice. Then tell them what’s in it.

I can be like that sometimes…