Thursday, 27 June 2013

Yukon ho!

One of the great things about being a Chevron trophy husband is that your better half can be sent anywhere to help with the noble worldwide effort to produce energy.  And that day has come!  Chevron has picked its brightest and best to go to Canada to oversee a new, cutting-edge gas pipeline.

The project is actually based in a place called Kitimat but we'll be moving just over the border to Vancouver.  Hannah will be making sure that local First Nation communities will be getting the inward investment they deserve from the sale of their gas (you see: Chevron is good.  Chevron is good.  Chevron is good.)

Processes have now begun for our move; today I had to take an International Assignment Profile test to make sure that I'm suited to living in a foreign country.  One question was: "How dependent is your mother on you for her emotional well being?".  Another: "How concerned are you that you may drink too much alcohol during this assignment?" and the next: "How concerned are you that your wife may drink too much or have potential problems with alcohol during the assignment?"  I answered as truthfully as my conscience would allow.

So Canada it is!  They do a few strange things there, like call "ice hockey" just "hockey".  I have no idea what they call hockey.  But the Queen is Head of State so I'll have to change my American quips from "we used to own you" to "we still own you".  I wonder how many Canadian friends we'll make.

It looks like we'll be moving in August, so it's time to fill up on all the goodies that the Creek has to offer.  Hannah is relishing the challenges of her new position, I'm dreaming of an apartment with an in-suite washer/dryer.  It's going to be hard to leave here, although easier when today's temperature is close to triple figures.  Vancouver, I believe, has a more "English" climate.  Other than that: Go Canucks!

I told people that Hannah's job was moving to Kitimat and they said "wear the fox hat".

We'll see how this one does with a move away from his homeland.  Parlez vous Canadien?

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Childcare needed

My au pair has quit!  Some excuse about having to return to England to go to school, but the upshot is that Meg and Ellen bid us farewell yesterday after a Northern Californian epic that took in everything this great state has to offer, especially the ice cream.

A picnic at Lake Elizabeth in Fremont.  Note the crockery.

A happy picnicker.

While we ate, we were treated to a live performance of rare virtuosity.  It seemed to be a free-form jazz odyssey mostly played on (I believe) traditional Chinese instruments.  There are moments in life when a conjunction with art can leave you a different person.

We stopped at a winery on the way back which, without naming names, was the worst we have ever tried.  Luckily we were also passing Fenestra Winery, which more than made up for it.


Designated driver/creche worker.

Never too young to start on the strawberry basil martinis.

Our most regularly visited location all holiday.

My preciousssss!

But Daddy, I love her and want to run away with her to England!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Back from the utter east

Meg and Ellen have returned from their easterly loop for a final few days with us in the Creek.  Their latest trip took them from the snowy volcanoes of Lassen to the granite cliffs of Yosemite, and included a bear.  Much hiking was done, including Meg's ascent to the top of Vernal Falls and beyond - no small accomplishment on her small legs.  There was, however, a dearth of fine coffee and gourmet ice cream out that way, something we are more than happy to put right now they're back in paradise.

Little house in the big woods.  Ellen would like it noted that she made that fire.

Meg and Mt. Lassen.

Up in the snow on the volcanoes.

The appropriately-monikered Boiling Springs Lake.

Hikers together.

It's a bear!  This one was a cinnamon-coloured black bear, who they saw twice, so he was probably trained for the tourists.

Keeping Tahoe blue.

Campfire at Tuolemne Meadows lodge.  Ellen's fire building skills increase!

Tenaya Lake in the east of Yosemite Park.

Megan receives her Junior Ranger badge for Yosemite (the best Junior Ranger badge) from Ranger Sheree.

On the way up the Mist Trail.

Vernal Falls in good flow.

Meg: ranging, hiking, smiling, loving California.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Sink or swim

There comes a time in every man's life when he must be dropped into a freezing cold pool of water to see whether he sinks or swims.  It's what they did in ancient Sparta, it's what my parents did for me, and it never did me any harm, apart from giving me a life-long morbid fear of water.

That moment came for Pete today, when it was judged (by me) that temperatures had risen high enough for him to take a dip in our unheated swimming pool.  He loves his bath, and this wasn't very different, apart from the extreme increase in size and precipitous dip in temperature.

He loved it!  Nothing occupies him for too long (he might be ADHD - our American pediatrician has already offered to medicate, of course) but he splashed about with only a faintly bemused and worried look for almost half-an-hour.  I now have to add swimming to the list of sports at which he may represent internationally (cricket, rugby, backgammon).

Straight in and not sinking, which is a relief, as I'd have some explaining to do to his mother.

Chilling with the ladies.

The lifeguard was on duty at all times.

A look of pure happiness on the little boy's face!

Thirty seconds after drying off.  Here's hoping for a quiet night to follow too.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013


Scenes of wonder and amazement here in Walnut Creek today as we witnessed a halo appearing around the sun!

What could it mean?  It's not every day that a degree in theology is useful, but on this occasion I was able to advise the restive locals that either:

a) the sun god is demanding a sacrifice,

b) the end times are approaching, or

c) light is passing through the 60° apex angle of hexagonal ice prisms in the atmosphere and being deflected twice resulting in deviation angles ranging from 22° to 50°, where the angle of minimum deviation is almost 22° (or more specifically 21.84° on average; 21.54° for red light and 22.37° for blue light) and this wavelength-dependent variation in refraction causes the inner edge of the circle to be reddish while the outer edge is bluish - as no light is refracted at angles smaller than 22° the sky is darker inside the halo.

What could it mean?

Attempting to read the signs with a teaspoon (or, at least, block out some glare to get a better pic).

And here's a photo of a baby looking cute in a bouncer.

Thursday, 13 June 2013


I love hospitals.  Why else would I spend so much time in them?  I love the crisply laundered bed linens, the constantly beeping machines to keep me awake, the top-notch catering.  I love the smell of iodine in the morning.

But it's not me really, it's Pete, who is enjoying another night on the wards to have an inguinal hernia fixed.  I'm not a medical man, but it seems that his guts are poking out where they shouldn't be ("have we been feeding him too much?" the guilty parents ask).  Luckily the medicine men and women fixed him up yesterday, and now we're just waiting for the word that their spells are strong enough to let us go.

It all went pretty smoothly.  "He's too young to suffer from separation anxiety, so you can say goodbye here and we'll just carry him to theatre," the anaesthesiologist told me.  "I'm not too young to suffer from separation anxiety!" I pointed out.  "I'm not allowed to give you any drugs", she replied.  She was joking, I wasn't.

They saved the good stuff for Pete - morphine with a tylenol chaser - so he spent the post-op day being tired and grumpy; his mother's son.  At 10pm he decided it was time to wake up, eat, and play, and he's been back to his old self since.

All this took place in Oakland, Kaiser's first ever hospital, and it's certainly not as shiny as the Creek's.  We're triple-bunking in our room and out of our window, constantly mocking us, is the brand new hospital that's half-completed.  I'm looking forward to trying that one out with all our future children (i.e. never).

Looking good, pre-surgery.

And post, like a bear with a sore head.  (Do bears take morphine in the woods?)

The view is more impressive than Kaiser Walnut Creek, I'll give them that.

On the ward, on the mend.

Breakfast of champions.

"Morning daddy, where's my food?"  Yep, definitely getting better.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Northern line

The travellers have returned, which is good because nothing goes on around here when we don't have visitors.  Ellen and Meg completed their northerly loop of Humboldt redwoods, Pacific coasts, elk herds, ospreys, fern canyons, and multiple ice cream shops.  Of course, they agree that Lottie's in Walnut Creek remains the best, and Ellen said that she hasn't had as good a cappuccino as mine since she's been away.  So they can stay.

Oh, we did do something, which is enjoy a visit from Edward, his parents Drew and Sarah, and his Grandma Vicky (although that does still count as fun things only happening with visitors).  Pete and Ed got on...ok.

To console myself with their absence, I decided to read some of Meg's books.  Interesting stuff!

Meanwhile, on a northerly beach.

Fern Canyon, which I hadn't even heard of but now have to visit.

Meg completing another Junior Ranger badge!  Any more of these and they'll offer her a job.

Little and large.

The view from one of their hotel's balcony.

Paddling fun!

Meanwhile, in the Creek, temperatures soared to Death Valley proportions.  This was not nice.

Safely returned, I put Meg to work with a little coffee grinding.

While I aired the tent, and entertained Pete at the same time.  I'm a multitasking carer!

Farmers' market tattoos.

And Lottie's!