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…