Thursday, 30 January 2014

Alone (again)

Emily has gone!  Actually, she went a few days ago, but I find it hard to type with tears in my eyes.  Pete has been crawling around the house saying "Em!  Em!"  Or maybe he's saying "ham! ham!"  He does like ham.

Spot the difference.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Caught by the fuzz

My sister Emily has had plenty of run-ins with the law.  For a while, no Friday night would go by without me being dragged to Frome police station to bail her out of the drunk tank.  I never told our parents, of course.  So it was odd that she picked Vancouver Police Museum as somewhere she wanted to visit on her trip.  Perhaps she was feeling homesick for the cells.

The museum turned out to be fascinating, detailing every twist and turn in the force's development from one man - John Stewart in 1886 - to the 1,700+ officers and civilians today.  You can try on various uniforms, view a gallery of confiscated weapons, and watch a video about the Emergency Response Team who get to abseil, travel by boat, wear black, and throw flash grenades.  That's what I'd want to do if I were in the force.

The main difference from the British police is guns.  Lots of guns.  The first room you come to is full of the things, including an uzi (Canadian police use uzis?!) and various short-lived experimental firearms.  It's all a little different from our "policing by consent" model.  That said, I only know one British police officer, and she's smaller and scarier than most of the guns on display.

The museum is housed in the city's old court rooms, which were attached to the morgue.  The morgue has been left pretty much intact, with a wall covered in various internal organs taken from "guests" and preserved.  I walked around with my back to that particular display.  It turns out that Errol Flynn, having popped his clogs in Vancouver, spent a night in this very morgue, and all the little refrigerated cupboards where they kept the bodies have been lovingly preserved.  In like Flynn, indeed.

Yet the most amazing, mind-blowing piece of information I received today was this: all mounted police officers in Vancouver are available as trading cards.  The dog squad too.  They're like Pokemon!  And they carry these with them!!  So if you see a mountie in the city you can ask them for their trading card and they have to hand it over.  I've been feeling a little bored recently - I've just got a new hobby.

We stopped for dim sum on the way there.  Emily is keen.

And so is Pete.

I'm very unsure what this poster is attempting to communicate.

Pete is entranced by the toy police cars.

Hannah is entranced by the real police guns.  Hmmm.

Modern technology.

His reading has just leapt since he turned one.

I thought these were the tools of the trade for Vancouver police, but apparently they're confiscated weapons.  Is that a blowpipe?  Suddenly it seems sensible to carry guns.

You're nicked, sunshine.

18 years inside!  And then you can leave for university.

They were certainly not suitable for this patron.

Which one was Errol's room?

Why don't you lie on the table for me to take a photo, Hannah?  It's for the blog!

Round up the usual suspects.

Who is Keyser Soze? He is supposed to be Turkish. Some say his father was German. Nobody believed he was real. Nobody ever saw him or knew anybody that ever worked directly for him, but to hear Kobayashi tell it, anybody could have worked for Soze. You never knew. That was his power. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. And like that - pfff. He's gone.

Of all the gin joints in all the towns...

Is it wrong if the proprietor of the gin distillery greets your baby by name?  Of course not!  It's evidence of my commitment to supporting Vancouver businesses.

Long Table is our local distillery (it makes me so happy to type the phrase "local distillery") and, to be fair, I had gone in yesterday as well, hence the baby-name greeting.  My first trip was fact-finding and, having found the fact that their tastings are free, I returned today with Hannah and Emily.

They started up last year and currently offer a vodka, two gins, and a couple of flavoured spirits too.  Their vodka is great - they add a little lemongrass into the still, which makes it smooth and delicious.  They have a cucumber gin, made with British Columbia-grown cucumbers, and then a straight London Dry.  That one's 45% strength, so I'm afraid I can't tell you much about the tastings after that.

I do remember being told that, from next week, they're starting a Friday afternoon gin & tonic bar.  Do you need any more reason to come to visit?

The walk home was somewhat wobblier than the walk there.

Line them up, bartender.

Where the magic happens.

Mother's ruin.

Pete was impressed by the balanced botanicals and citrus notes.

Shaken and stirred.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Annual appraisal

It's been a busy year for Peter, what with being born and all, and he has achieved satisfactory-to-good results in most of his personal goals.  Highlights include increasing his weight ten-fold, transitioning to solid food, and learning the word float-plane (seriously - "where's mummy/daddy" elicits no response; "where's the float-plane?" and he crawls to the window and points).

Pete lists his own significant accomplishments as: working out how to open the dishwasher (it's like a climbing frame...with knives!), managing to stay awake from 5.30am to 7pm with one 30-minute nap, and once eating half a toilet roll while daddy was in the shower and couldn't see.

Areas identified for improvement include hair growth, blowing fewer raspberries while his mouth is full of food, and eating less toilet roll.  Learning to change his own nappies will result in a rating of "exceptional".

Month zero.

Month one.

Month two.

Month three.

Month four.

Month five.

Month six.

Month seven.

Month eight.

Month nine.

Month ten.

Month eleven.

Month twelve.


Thank you to everyone for your love, support, prayers, gifts, food, books, clothes, etc. over Pete's first year - especially during the somewhat dramatic beginning of it all.  We unquestionably couldn't have survived without you, and anytime you'd like a trip to Canada you can babysit him for as long as you want as a reward.

Presents?  For me?

From Grandma and Grandpa: an inflatable cow!  Aunty Emily free with purchase.

Happy birthday little boy.

The carnage.

This is my best birthday EVER!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Waterfalls, and keeps falling

In California everything got cancelled as soon as a drop of rain fell, and people started driving like they were on an ice rink escaping the apocalypse.  How I scoffed, regaling anyone who would listen (i.e. no one) about an entire childhood spent in the rain, playing school rugby in sleet and gales, happy beach holidays under unrelenting downpours on the Isle of Wight, etc.  It takes more than a few water droplets to stop us Brits!

Now we live in Vancouver, where the weather threatens to make a mockery of even the UK climate.  It's been raining since Emily arrived - her fault, of course - so it was time to put our money where our mouths are, slip into the full waterproofs that had been lovingly mothballed in the Golden State, and head out into the maelstrom.

Yesterday we decided to drive up the Sea to Sky Highway.  The sea was grey, the sky was grey, and everything in-between was grey because of the fog.  We were on our way north to the town of Squamish, "Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada", and where better to stop in the rain than at a waterfall?  Shannon Falls is just south of town, and the perpetual precipitation ensured a dramatic flow.  We continued past Stawamus Chief, a granite monolith to (almost) rival those in Yosemite, and to a tea room to dry out.  We were going to visit Brackendale, home to hundreds of wintering bald eagles, but with visibility next to zero and all sensible eagles keeping their bald heads covered we turned for home.

Today we stayed a little more local with a trip to Lynn Canyon.  Like the more famous Capilano this has a suspension bridge, but unlike Capilano it's free, boasts its own waterfalls, and also has a 30ft natural swimming pool that's probably amazing when it stops raining and warms up.  The Baden-Powell trail runs past it and on for 48km.  Who knew that Baden-Powell was Canadian?

Our hallway now resembles a flood-damaged North Face outlet, and that slightly damp feeling familiar to anyone who's visited England pervades.  Time for another tradition from the homeland: a nip of whisky to help me warm up.  When I said I'm drying out I didn't mean like that...


Wet wet.

Wet wet wet.

Lynn suspension bridge.  Smaller, less crowded, and no warnings about running or rocking it.

This is the kind of Sunday afternoon walk we enjoy.

Emily eventually had enough and went back to the car with Pete, so Hannah and I got quality alone time together!  Here's a selfie to prove it.


Friday, 10 January 2014

Soup on the inside

One of the best things about Vancouver is the massive diversity of the city.  The only annoyance is that there are too many English people about.  In California we were special!  Here we don't even have to put on a fake accent when asking for water (south of the border: "warh-duh").

That aside, ethnic amazingness is most obvious in the restaurants.  There's a Ukrainian place around the corner, several Korean barbecue joints on the way there, and a fish and chip shop just past it.  I told you there are too many Brits.

And then there are the Chinese restaurants.  Not for nothing is this city referred to as "Hongcouver", and before we left Californian our Hong Kong-born Vancouverite friend Ken sang the praises of 小籠包.  As I'm sure you know, this translates as xiao long bao, or dumplings.  More specifically, "juicy" dumplings that have soup on the inside!  How is that even possible?

Ken's top recommendation was a place called Lin Chinese Cuisine and Tea House.  He claims to have given up eating dumplings in California, so disappointing is the comparison.  We rented a car for the weekend and put it to good use by driving over the Granville bridge and stopping by.

Wow.  They are definitely juicy.  And popular - Lin claims to make 200 orders a day, and as they're served in sixes that works out lot.  They're amazing little steamed parcels of porky pleasure, although a little difficult to eat in terms of coordinating chop sticks, a spoon, and not scalding your face off.

Pete looked on with envious disdain, somewhat appeased by eating an entire steamed pork bun by himself.  A plate of fried honey prawns was a worthy dumpling accompaniment, and a dish of mouth-watering spicy wantons was so fantastically garlicky that we won't make any friends for the next few days.  Heavy rain fell as we ate delicious food.  If this is a typical Vancouver day, I'm very happy (and probably should join a gym as a matter of urgency).

Here they are!  I've always enjoyed dim sum, as some may remember.

Emily has problems negotiating a 小籠包.

I have no such worries, although can't escape the feeling that someone's watching...

Fine - have a steamed bun instead.

And here's a pic of Em with some totem poles, because it's a nice one.