Monthly Archives: August 2014

Darkness On The Edge Of Gastown

I consider myself lucky in that I’ve never gone too long without some kind of vacation, be it for a week or a long weekend. However, with kids, even a vacation doesn’t automatically mean much downtime. The kids still have to be organised, fed and entertained or at least taken to the ski school early in the morning, getting away for the evening is impossible and one always has  to figure in their ability to remain engaged in anything that the adults want to do.

Lest you think this is a major gripefest, I can honestly say I’ve had some great vacations whether they were in Whistler, the Bay Area or Disneyland, but still, there is much to be said for a trip sans offspring. My sweetie and I have had a couple of opportunities this summer – Portland for a school friends’ birthday, San Francisco so I could meet her friends and so she could meet some of mine, and while these were great, we had limited opportunities to spend time alone.

This changed recently when I decided to take her to Vancouver for her birthday. This was no surprise, but I decided that the schedule for the trip would be up to her.  Her main agenda items were a trip to the Museum of Anthropology and dinner on her birthday at her favourite Lebanese restaurant.  Of  course, things didn’t go as planned. Not long after arrival I explained that I saw the trip as being her present and there would be no big reveal later, should she be expecting some special gift at some point.  Picture Roald Amundsen looking out across the Antarctic wastes and you will get some idea of how this was received.  I guess there was some confusion over the phrase “For your birthday”. However not all was lost as my failure to pack socks and shorts as a result of my severe mental confusion resulting from my recent moving meant I needed to go on a mission of mercy      (  See “The Boxer”).  I found a charming if somewhat pricey First Nations art and jewelry store in Yaletown and all was saved. Phew! I will admit that I was sweating profusely during this dash although most of it can be accounted for by the 85 degree heat and 95 percent humidity. Oh, the joy of returning to a fully air conditioned room.

I hadn’t been in Vancouver since before my son was born, and boy, have things changed! Robson Street, which had been a rather charming collection of boutique stores and restaurants seemed to have gone decidedly downhill and  become hobo central in the intervening 12 years, which I found rather a shame, as seediness is not something I at least, associate with Canada. Whilst on the topic of our northern cousins, I have to ask one question: Are you really going out dressed like that? Maybe I missed an email about the fancy dress party taking place that weekend, but oh boy! What the hell did they think they looked like? I can’t honestly believe that some of the people I saw dressed the way they did without some extenuating circumstances.  Or maybe it was the result of them all having one  Molson too many.

That aside, the Museum of Anthropology was a true revelation. So much indigenous culture has been co-opted that it truly puts thing in perspective  to see objects displayed in a way that explains their true socio-cultural significance and treats them as art in their own right and not as a design on a tee shirt in a souvenir store window.

Of course, the birthday dinner was a big deal. We had some trouble finding the restaurant as it is in a basement in  Gastown  and the only signage is above the doorway and seen from the street is at approximately waist height. However, we found it on the second pass and found parking nearby, so we at least were able to enjoy a wonderful dinner in my sweeties’ favourite restaurant.

One thing that has always fascinated me about Vancouver is how it seems to want to be somewhere else. Let me explain: We took a trip to Granville Island as neither of us had ever been there, and what we found was a destination designed purely for tourists that felt like a cross between Fisherman’s Wharf and Pike Place Market but with the unique feel of neither. To be honest it felt a bit like Disneyland. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but it felt less than genuine, and in fact it could have been anywhere. I found this to be a real shame as Vancouver has a lot of history and a culture all its’ own, so why does it feel the need to manufacture something like this? I hope it is not just for the sake of revenue, but then again….

The one thing that stands out about this trip is that it was just for our benefit. We had no agenda, no schedule to keep, no need to do anything other than what struck our fancy at any particular moment, so I guess it was a true vacation.

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Filed under personal relationships, travel, vacation

The Boxer.

Now before you all overreact, no, I haven’t taken up the “Art” of pugilism. I’m a lover, not a fighter as you all well know, although to look at my face you might think otherwise. However, I have just completed a bout against a much larger opponent and feel as if I’ve been kicked by a large and especially bad tempered horse. Having heard that my new place will be ready soon, I began the process of packing up and moving my possessions into storage in anticipation , there being a month between moves. This proved to be a bigger task than anticipated as I was under the impression that I’d divested myself of quite a lot of extraneous items already. Not so.

In the end it required the purchase of 30 banker boxes to pack up the majority of my stuff – largely books, which should come as no surprise to anyone, but it was not as easy as that – my car is not designed for haulage and packing it full of boxes, clothes and furniture is a task worthy of a Tetris world champion. Add to this the fact that I was making three trips a day in 80 plus degree weather and you can imagine just what a slog it was, with most days ending with your humble writer drenched in sweat and with aching limbs.

The storage unit seemed large enough at first, and I made the most of the space, stacking boxes as tightly and as high as possible, but it soon became clear that it was not going to be enough – even a pint pot can’t hold more than a pint, and I had somehow managed to cram in a quart. Even the thankless task of reorganising wasn’t sufficient, although it did buy me quite a bit of extra space, but not enough to avoid the need to rent an additional smaller space to take the overflow.

This wasn’t a solo task, however. I had the kids with me and they were more than willing to help me as I recovered the television in order to donate it to Goodwill by helping to move some of the furniture out of the way as I moved the heavier items in order to clear a path. They are as excited about the move as I am, so it took little encouragement to get them to help me.

I did this on a day I had been waiting for for some time as our trip coincided with the delivery of a very, very nice piece of furniture restored to full glory by a schoolfriend – a Scandinavian Mid-Century Modern cabinet that will grace the living room of my new home and provide a worthy resting place for my rather impressive collection of single malts.

I mentioned furniture earlier, and this needs some elaboration. The only bed I was able to move was my sons’ as it disassembles very easily and is small enough that the mattress fits (only just) into my car with only a modicum of intense discomfort for the driver, although the frame had to be lashed to the roof using home made duct tape string and a firm grip on one of the slats through the sun roof whilst driving. For the bigger pieces I rented a truck and after an appeal for help was assisted by two friends who evidently had nothing better to do on a Saturday morning. Even with three people it took two trips and a great deal of effort to move my bedroom set, futon and other assorted items, although I’m pretty sure the beer and pizza afterwards went some way to restoring us to something close to normality.

I’m thankful at least that I didn’t have to move my daughters’ bed. I had  been given a captains’ bed which took quite some effort to move, and as the bedroom in my new place is too small for both kids’ beds I made the decision to give it away. It was snapped up in no time, and whilst this was a load off my mind I had some trepidation over how my daughter would react as she loved the bed, especially the “Secret compartment” in the base. However, she took the news with equanimity and nary a complaint as I explained that as only one of them would be using the kids’ bedroom at a time, there really wasn’t much point in trying to cram two beds into such a small  space.

“So where are you now?”, I hear you ask. With the bare minimum of clothing and a few books I am spending a month living with my sweetie until my new place is ready for occupation. This presents a whole new situation but more of that anon. It feels weird to have one’s whole life packed up and stacked in a storage unit (and a friends’ garage). Is that all we are, merely a collection of appliances,furniture and personal possessions? It makes me wonder what some future archaeologist would make of such a find and what sort of picture of 21st Century life they would compile from such an assemblage of items. Would anyone care? I hate to go all Marcus Aurelius on you, but it does make me wonder about how much of ourselves we invest in our property and how much it reflects who we are, or who we think we are.  Perhaps some 35th Century Howard Carter would break the seal on my unit and in an awed voice whisper ” Ahh, a heavy drinking military historian with a taste for late 20th Century music and a wardrobe to match” (  See “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion”).

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Filed under lifestyle

World Cup Willie

Hmm. Now I look at it, that title may give the impression that I suffer from some sort of embarrassing social disease. Well, to be honest, I do, as loving football is still looked upon as something vaguely unpleasant and not to be talked  about in polite company. As you know, I love football ( see “Football Crazy”) to a fault and like any true fan spent most of the second quarter of this year with bated breath in anticipation of the  extravaganza that is The World Cup. Just to turn it up to eleven, not only was this years’ Copa das Copas held in Brasil, but my dad was here for the first time in two years.

Four years ago I thought that South Africa would be the last World Cup my dad and I would watch together, so this year had a special  poignancy to it.  Logistics took the lead as I only have my desktop monitor to view the games and that makes for a less than ideal situation, so I was pleasantly surprised when my ex said that it was O.K. for us to watch some of the games at her house while she and the kids were at Disneyland. Seeing as she has a 60″ HD screen, I jumped at the chance.

For the first two weeks my dad and I looked at the schedule and decided where to watch the game depending on which teams were playing and the kick off times. Of course, we watched the first two England games on the big screen, all the better to watch our pathetic performances and well deserved defeats. Watching England is a soul destroying experience at best, and this was not best by any means. Mind you, the 5-1 thrashing Holland gave to Spain took some beating as a spectacular game.

For some reason, when talking about the U.S. team, he always calls them “You lot” as if my having lived here for 22 years somehow makes me no longer English, which I think is rather amusing.  I will admit to following the “Von Trapps” with a great deal of enthusiasm, but I’m still a proud and loyal Englishman, so the team that represents  the country of my children’s birth will never be more than second choice.

Of course, the highlights of the tournament were the Germany v. Brazil semi final which showed beyond any doubt just what an incredible game football is and made even more laughable (if that were possible) the eyewateringly high level of ignorance displayed by Ann Coulter in a recent article that did the rounds on  social media – Excuse me while I disinfect my keyboard – and Tim Howard’s amazing display against Belgium

However, the weirdest part of the whole tournament was the final. My dad was basically wherever the kids were, and Final day saw them with their mum. My sweetie and I were both invited to watch the final there and it was without doubt the weirdest experience of my life to watch a football game with my ex on one side of me and my sweetheart on the other. I have to say that my sweetie was very nervous about the whole situation, but displayed a level of aplomb and courtesy that just emphasised how much  our relationship means. There are not many women who would share a couch with their boyfriends’ ex for the sake of a football game.

The World Cup is always something of a Curate’s Egg, and while the bad parts are truly dreadful  –  yes, I’m looking at you, England – the good parts are to be relished and savoured like a fine single malt whisky shared with good friends. The best part of it is the male bonding. My dad and I get very little one on one time and the World Cup gave us the opportunity to spend true quality time together by staring at a screen and moaning as the team in white disappointed us once again, just as we’d expected.

And yes, I can’t wait for Russia 2018. Only a little over 1,400 days to go and I’m already looking for a suitable pen with which to fill in my wall chart.

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Filed under soccer, Sport