A Road Crew In Quebec Put A Power Pole In The Middle Of The Road

20 11 2012

And in today’s news…

Temporary perhaps. But even so!

A Road Crew In Quebec Put A Power Pole In The Middle Of The Road.

Well THAT was a funny old day…

29 07 2012

As I get older I realise that there’s no such thing as “normal” – just varying degrees of “weird”.

Things got off to a bad start due to the normal miscommunication anyone with children will be very familiar with. It doesn’t get any better… get used to it. I’m 48 now, and my parents understand me no better today than when I was a teenager bristling with attitude and bad skin. I’d spoken briefly with my father over in Blighty on Friday and he’d said my mum was very keen to chat via Skype, as we hadn’t spoken for several weeks. (Now well into retirement, they make good use of their abundant free time and travel extensively around the UK and Europe.) This was also father-speak for “I’m uncomfortable speaking to you, male offspring, so I’ll leave that to your mother – and she’s not here right now.”

So anyway, I’d reminded him that BC is -8hrs from Yorkshire (well, 8 hours behind, and a few centuries ahead, all at the same time), and that if she really wanted to call me on Sunday, please make it after 4pm their time, which is 8am in BC. So anyway, at 8:15am the phone rang, and with bleary eyes I answered. My mum said she was surprised I’d wanted her to call so early, and wouldn’t it have been better to call a bit later?

“After 8am” had become “at 8am” somewhere along the way. No matter. I made arrangements to reconvene on Skype – keeping emigrant offspring connected to long-distance parents, the world over – and blundered my way downstairs to be regaled with tales of my sister’s exploits in Spain, and her concern at my nephew travelling to Italy with his girlfriend. (He’s almost 21 now, and she seemed to think he was in imminent danger of getting engaged.)Que Du Vent

Mrs E rescued me from falling asleep by delivering me my morning tea at the PC. Morning tea – a ritual that, should it be missed, can result in near-fatal consequences for those around me. It’s not so much a mug of tea, as a small bucket. Anyway, once my mum had run out of things to tell me, and failed to ask me anything at all about events in BC, we hung up and my day began in earnest. Well, not really. I had some thick sliced toast and marmalade, got washed, shaved, and tried to look human, then watched a film (something I’ve not done in too long).

I had a tasty, but lingering Mexican bean salad for lunch (it’s the raw onion… overdone a little), and generally wasted my limited time on this spinning globe. After lunch, we offloaded half a garage worth of empty bottles and cans at the recycling, and went “barbecue shopping” on the proceeds.

This became quite stressful as Mrs E forgot the first cardinal rule, and considered it the same as normal shopping. Barbecue shopping is the sacred domain of the male of the species. It is when he pretends that he knows all about home economics, and good choices in nutrition. Or not. A wise woman will find her “happy place” and just let the moment pass. Mrs E, on the other hand questioned why I was looking at peppered goat’s cheese. I was merely interested in it as a product, with no particular interest in actually purchasing it, I might add. And then the blue touch-paper was lit: “It’s a bit expensive, isn’t it?” Despite the fact that I had no real interest in purchasing the goat’s cheese in the first place, this was breaking the second cardinal rule “barbecues are not a particularly cost-effective way of feeding a family of four (or five with an absentee student), so ignore all the price tags”.

Knowing that calm is often restored to my fetid mind by taking photos, I took my trusty Canon for a walk. Together we perused the neighbourhood. Its gardens, its shopping centre… and its cricket match. Yup… there was a full on Sunday league match in full swing. Oh – and a beach volley ball game.

Finally it was time to start the barbie, and the womenfolk had figured it was best just to keep out of the way, since sharp objects and flames were involved. Not a bad little spread really. Grilled veggies (red peppers, sliced portabello mushrooms [OK, not technically a vegetable], courgettes, red onion), steamed sweetcorn, burgers, bangers, Maui marinaded steak and chicken. Garlic bread of course, and ciabatta for stopping the meat burning your fingers.

The dog surprised me by asking most politely for a sweetcorn of her own, and I resisted alcohol preferring instead fizzy water with a few squirts of angostura bitters.

So I sit here now drinking “False Creek Raspberry Ale” from Granville Island Brewing Co., (having sworn that beer and fruit should never mix – don’t tell anyone I know… it’s actually quite passable at 4.5%), and listening to “Que de Vent” by “Les Cowboys Fringants” from Quebec.

Now tell me that’s not odd…

taking the tourist trail | Lost in Canada

25 03 2012

So, coming up to completing year 11 in Canada, with about half that as a voting full-blown (as it were) citizen, I do so love to see photos of bits beyond my own camera’s reach.

I’ve been to Montreal on business with previous companies – to Le Journal de Montreal actually. The older, European feel to the more Eastern city made me feel quite at home. Especially as I went when the weather wasn’t so cold!

Anyway, just stumbled upon this blog by Jonathan Haydock, which I heartily recommend: taking the tourist trail | Lost in Canada.

A sample of the delights you’ll find now follows – enjoy!

Lost in Canada: The all too familiar (though never disappointing) Habitat ’67.

The dangers of early Spring in Vancouver.

26 02 2012

Life is dangerous. Generally. The actual event of birth itself, though inevitably still a little gooey for reasons beyond the scope of this posting, is far less dangerous these days than say even 50 years ago. For mother and child. Sort of lowering the standards of the entrance exam, you might say. But, having overcome that traditionally difficult initial challenge, one is thrown headlong into a battle to maintain superiority over this mortal coil… until one day, with 100% certainty, one must eventually fail.

At that point, assuming ones heritage isn’t Norwegian, and ones plumage isn’t particularly blue, you will be generally agreed as being dead, and not likely to be offered the option of being nailed to a perch in perpetuity, or kept as a hunting trophy. [Confused readers may prefer to just quietly leave by the back door at this point. Those a little more curious can catch up here – but don’t be long, we can’t wait for you. Regulars can continue in the safe assumption that things will get no better. Or less confusing.]

Peter Clayton: Stuffed Heads

Peter Clayton: Stuffed Heads

So anyway…

Though the wonderful annual Darwin Awards catalogue the many and imaginative occasions when the human gene pool does a quick self-clean to remove the floaties, by and large most of us lead pretty unremarkable lives. Someone has to be average, after all. If you don’t like the idea of being average, then simply content yourself that you almost certainly have more than the average number of legs. (Come on, think about it…). If in fact you have less, then though I certainly meant no offence, you are just as un-average, and that was my only point, after all.

Where the hell was I going? Yes – Vancouver! So, I work in downtown Vancouver. I use the word “work” loosely, you understand. It rains a bit there. Often. With feeling and gusto.

Personally, I love it. I find it refreshing; renewing even. I’m also 6′ 2″ or thereabouts. (Patience. if you’re new to these pages, you’ll get the hang of it. There is a point, eventually.) Being born amongst the green, wet hills of Yorkshire , I feel most at home in the dashing rain, letting it soak my head, and feeling it cleanse my soul.

Actually, I was born in a hospital in Wakefield, but that’s much less evocative, don’t you think? It’s true that I did grow up (as much as I’ve managed, anyway) on the moors, and loved sitting in the rain at the ruins of Top Withens (or “Wuthering Heights” if you prefer).

Walking Englishman: Top Withens

Walking Englishman: Top Withens

Vancouver’s a very accommodating city – along with much of Canada. There’s Quebec of course, which largely takes the Welsh view of multi-ethnicity (i.e. “it’s too hard to spell – lets ignore it”), but by and large, Vancouver takes on all-comers. Over recent years this has meant a relatively high intake of folks from the Far Eastern countries. No issue here whatsoever. Certainly makes for a much more vibrant mix, great food, colourful customs, multiple Christmas/New Year time excuses for parties, and so on.

Genetically however, there are a couple of traits I’ve particularly become sensitised to. First and I think undeniably, a lot of oriental folk (here we politely use “Asian” just to mix up the newly landed Brits, who then have to learn to re-categorise “Asian” folk as “East Indian”) are somewhat under-represented in the height department. According to the oft-quoted Wikipedia, the average height of an urban Chinese bloke in 2002 was 5′ 7″, and a rural Chinese lady 5′ 2″. Those are averages, so presumably 50% of them were shorter.

The second thing I’ve become sensitised to is how eagerly Vancouverites generally, but Asian folk specifically love to own, and deploy the humble brolly. I have to admit that I’m really impressed with the design and technology used these days. No mere folded newspaper over the head!

I’ve seen umbrellas with silvered undersides, so they can double as sun-blocking parasols (eternal hope is such a quaint human trait, don’t you think?), and I’ve seen (and for a time, even owned) umbrellas with collapsible plastic sheaths which allow the owner to avoid leaving wet puddles at their destination. These come replete with a little screw-off bottom to drain them at a more opportune moment. Brilliant! (I only paid 99¢ in Taipei, BTW…)

Oliveira non-drip umbrella

Oliveira non-drip umbrella

I’m not sure if you’ve experienced road rage. It’s not pretty. I suppose if it were, it’d be called road rouge, black-top bonhomie or something equally flouncy.

Now imagine that in a country with a population of oh, say 1.4 BILLION people, where cars have become relatively commonplace relatively quickly. Quickly as in “before more roads can be built to accommodate them” quickly. Mental image forming? I enjoyed Beijing, but the traffic scared the living daylights out of me. And I’ve driven in Italy!!

Now take that “got to make the gap now” mentality, and transplant it to a pedestrian. Say around 5′ 2″ tall, just as a random example.

Now transplant the pedestrian to Vancouver.

At rush-hour.

In the rain.

With an umbrella – held say around a foot higher than their head, just for argument’s sake.

Now let’s add some more  pedestrians.

Say around the 6′ 2″ height mark.

See the problem?

I half do… 🙂

Spo-Reflections: Eye-patch

Spo-Reflections: Eye-patch

Just don’t get me started on young mothers, pushchairs and spatial awareness…

Sank a set

10 02 2012

So it is often remarked how the UK and America are two nations separated by a common language. Canada, always liking to play nicely with everyone, sits neatly in the middle and accepts either country’s spellings and idioms as its own.

I still struggle, 11 years into my Canadian adventure, with “healthful” though. What, in the name of all that is good for you, is wrong with “healthy”?! And WTF is “normalcy”?!

Webster, the well meaning Victorian reformer that he was, massacred much of the language in the name of rationalising it for the American people. “Colour” and “labour” were trimmed, as the ‘u’ is silent (though in Yorkshire, “culler” would be more phonetic but just as long), yet “cough” is left unsullied instead of being changed to an Orwellian “coff”, or double-plus-coff if it’s a serious one.

Wikipedia: Noah Webster

Wikipedia: Noah Webster

Shakespearian-era “fall” was crystallised in lingual amber in North America, while the rest of the English speaking world moved with the times and accepted the more trendy French “autumn” in preference. After an experimental airing with Chaucer in 1374, “autumn” came to us for keeps via the Bard himself in The Taming of the Shrew – 1596. These mini-facts come to you via The Daily from Washington Uni.

But the French language suffers a similar lack of transference too. Plainly it’s something to do with the mysterious lingual effects of the Atlantic.
Studies should be done!
Taxes should be idly squandered!
Oh… they are already?!

French (Parisian) French is taught in Europe, and some bizarre blend of this French French and English schoolboy French is spoken in Quebec, New Brunswick, and by association, the rest of Canada (but only when really pushed… like at exam time!). I was brought up to pronounce the French for “now” (maintenant) as man-te-non, with lots of nasal emphasis. My daughters, both taught French in BC, and therefore in the style Quebecois, pronounce it main-te-nant… exactly as it’s spelt! On reflection, this trait does explain the bizarre North American pronunciation of Worcestershire (as in sauce) exactly as it’s written, instead of the correct “Wustersha”.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah” I can hear my regulars moaning… “get to the point, assuming there is one!” So here it is…

In France, when they say “cinq à sept“, which literally means “five ’til seven”, they are referring to a bit of private time with their mistress. In France, having a mistress is mandatory, and written into the marriage contract. (A mistress of course being defined as “somewhere between a mister and a mattress”). There are hotels which cater for the needs of such liaisons with few questions asked beyond “And how will you be paying for the room Sir?”. Such is the way of life in La belle France.

However, as the language came over to North America with those lusty young Frenchmen, who’d been lured with promises of high adventure and seemingly limitless beavers (I didn’t say they were smart!), things got a little skewed. Here in Canada, (at least the almost-French speaking bits of it, like Montreal), “cinq à sept” has come to mean, rather boringly, “after work drinks”. Tame, or what?!

Anyway, if you happen to be out that way and have lost your usual beaver, here’s a few places to go look for a new one: Notable.ca | Notable Cinq a Sept Hotspots in Montreal.

Notable.ca: cinq à sept

Notable.ca: cinq à sept