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





Please Look After This Bear

3 01 2015

I’ve been trying to be more creative this holiday. Trying – and I may add: occasionally succeeding – to write each day as part of my Creative Writing commitment. Taking photos too. I post on Flickr and in perusing a friend’s photos I came across another commenter. You know how these things work. The interwebs I mean. A click here, a click there… and suddenly you’re down the rabbit-hole.

This particular poster had themselves posted a series of photos from London. Though no longer on display, there had been a series of 50 statues of Paddington Bear. Each had been uniquely decorated and they are being auctioned off to support the UK’s NSPCC (a particularly worthy children’s charity). I urge you to check out her photo series here.

There was actually a guided trail to make sure you could visit all 50 statues. You can see them all here. There was even a Chief Scout one… by Bear Grylls (UK’s Chief Scout. Really).

Chief Scout Paddington

The bears were to help market the up-coming Paddington Bear film, starring Hugh Bonneville. I was somewhat wary of this, given the travesty that was made of The Magic Roundabout – a firm childhood favourite, despite being French in origin. Eric (Emma’s dad) Thompson was a master with the original.

If you weren’t familiar with the original Michael Bond books as a child, then you couldn’t have missed the Michael Hordern animations, surely?

The new film seems to have some “odd” additions (like Nicole Kidman’s taxidermist), but thankfully seems to also include classic themes such as Paddington getting his name, making a mess in the railway café… and discovering bathroom etiquette. “Dogs must be carried on the escallator” is also a classic Paddington-esque double entendre. Due to some of his “unsafe” escapades such as being stuck in a fridge and skateboarding whilst being pulled by a bus, the film was given a PG rating – much to Mr. Bond’s personal surprise. Here’s a piece from CNN regarding the rating.

Having seen the full two and half minute trailer though, I have to admit to being quite interested in seeing it. I think it could very well hold enough of the original quintessential Peruvian bear to merit paying the extortionate cinema fee!





Seen In Vancouver #374: The City’s Coolest Roundabout is at St. George & 10th Avenue : Scout Magazine

18 06 2012

 

Seen In Vancouver #374: The City’s Coolest Roundabout is at St. George & 10th Avenue : Scout Magazine.

Seen In Vancouver #374: The City’s Coolest Roundabout is at St. George & 10th Avenue : Scout Magazine

So cool, so cool! I love the quirky nature of Vancouver and its environs. I have a soft spot for roundabouts too, having lived 15 years or so in Milton Keynes – where they’re bred competitively. But, the king of all roundabouts has to be in Hemel Hempstead. Not to be outdone by Danot, they have their own special Magic Roundabout. A roundabout surrounded by roundabouts. Not for the faint-hearted… or tourists!

Wikipedia: The Magic Roundabout

 





Don’t stand on ceremony

29 01 2012

So, Florence + the Machine have a newish album out: Ceremonials. My daughter loves it, but I’m still in the “meh” stage. It’s yet to grow on me. But, like fungus, and if I’m lucky enough a mixed coloured, quite uncategorisable hydrangea – I’m sure it eventually will.

Wikipedia: Ceremonials

Wikipedia: Ceremonials

Dougal and the Blue Cat (Buxton, the more learned amongst you will already know) is on my list for future potential postings, but let me just say that this is not the same Florence. No, that Florence is the one much maligned by Jasper Carrot’s parody of Magic Roundabout.

Florence + the Crew

Florence + the Crew

And I have to say I think that Noddy has much to regret in that whole sorry affair.

Now hang on while I have a sip of tea. I need a second to just try and remember where the hell I was going with all this….

(slurp)

… ah yes! Got it. Nearly there. Keep your legs crossed, the bus will stop soon enough.

So this Florence, one Ms Welch, is from London (not Ontario), and fronts the band. “The Machine” is a group of musicians who back her. The appeal her music has to me is that it’s very hard to categorise. All the best things are, in my view (the only one, let’s face it, that I actually care about). One of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do was to describe a peacock’s tail feather to a blind lady. She eventually took pity on me, and we got drunk instead. It was a simpler concept. So anyway, earlier on in her career, Florence wrote a boppy little number called Kiss with a fist. She rerecorded it with The Machine and put it on their first album Lungs.

Despite the apparently violent lyrics, Florence (according to Wikipedia at least) claims it is metaphorical, and actually about a couple who express their love through tension and violent fantasy, a “destructive force”.

I quote:

Florence explained the song’s meaning on her MySpace:

“Kiss with a Fist” is NOT a song about domestic violence. It is about two people pushing each other to psychological extremes because they are fighting but they still love each other. The song is not about one person being attacked, or any actual physical violence, there are no victims in this song. Sometimes the love two people have for each other is a destructive force. But they can’t have it any other way, because it’s what holds them together, they enjoy the drama and pushing each other’s buttons. The only way to express these extreme emotions is with extreme imagery, all of which is fantasism and nothing in the song is based on reality. 

So – take it how you will, but without further ado, I give you, ladies, gentlemen, and anyone else feeling left out by those labels, Florence, her Machine and Kiss with a Fist:








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