Thursday, 31 July 2014

The youth of today

I try to stay contemporary and relevant to the younger generation of Godchildren and nephews and nieces.  I don't want them to grow up thinking I'm old and weird, so I drop in references to cutting-edge bands, like Abba and Oasis, and the latest shows, like Bagpuss and Button Moon.

So imagine my surprise when our young guests had no idea what I was talking about and instead pointed me to what the kids are apparently watching on the YouTubes these days.

The first was a song about a duck.  To see them all cackling and rolling around, you'd have thought it was the first time of watching rather than something closer to the thousandth:



The next, more terrifying example, was something called asdfmovie.  Made for kids by kids it's...well...it seems to be a series of incredibly short cartoons with little narrative structure, plot development or central conceit.  When I was growing up there was a programme called The Fast Show where every comedy sketch lasted about three minutes.  With this one, three seconds seems to be the upper limit.

I warn you - if you have two brain cells to rub together you may find the following images disturbing:



I'm trying single-handedly to hold back this tsunami of cultural degradation by encouraging our visitors to play some real computer games, specifically Super Mario Bros 3.  Released in 1988, all right-thinking people know that it represents the pinnacle of fun:


All I heard were complaints that it lacked something called "3D".  Couldn't they see that the Nintendo Entertainment System is capable of displaying 25 colours at the same time?!

I'm off to make a cup of tea and watch repeats of Trumpton.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Fig leaves

It's always nice when people come to stay and you get to see new bits of the city.  Lots of new bits, as our itinerary included Wreck Beach, North America's largest clothing optional seaside.  Hmm.

But before that we went to the Caribbean Days Festival.  Every year the Trinidad and Tobago Cultural Society of BC puts on a week of events that culminates in a big festival and parade in North Vancouver.  There are steel bands, food stands, people in colourful costumes but - to my horror - no cricket!  Trinidad and Tobago, home of Brian Lara, Ian Bishop, Sonny Ramadhin, etc.?!  I'll be making some polite suggestions ahead of next year's gathering.

The day after that we visited the University of British Columbia Botanical Gardens.  Situated at the campus in Point Grey, it's a huge place full of plants.  I can't say I'm a big fan of plants - they just sort of sit there.  But there was a fine selection of them, and as Katharine and Hannah grow more and more like their horticultural mother their interest in such things increases.

The most fun bit was the canopy walkway.  It's a series of bridges and platforms, 50ft up in the trees, possibly put together by the university engineering students given its somewhat rickety nature.  Our party displayed the full spectrum of reactions, from wide-eyed fear to blithe goat-like gamboling.  Pete slept through the whole thing.

The UBC campus is right next to one of Vancouver's most famous swimming spots: Wreck Beach.  It's famous because it's North America's largest clothing optional beach.  Katharine has a history of shedding her clothes in public, something that got her into a fair bit of trouble at school, so she was adamant we made the trip down the long stairway so she could go for a dip in the squeaky.

The beach was...interesting.  There was lots of topless sunbathing (only surprising if you're prudishly non-European) and then quite a few old, fat, hairy men walking around baring all.  Nice.  While there were a few people, my family included, who went full Monty I remained resolutely dressed in the English manner, eyes forward to avoid interaction and awkwardness, just like on a bus.  My only regret is that I didn't have sandals to wear socks under.

Other beach trips have thankfully been clothing mandatory, and with all the swimming, walking, film watching, park going, game playing, etc. we have been packing it in.  I'm just waiting for my holiday to start...


Oliver feeds some Canadians.


Part of the colourful Caribbean parade.


And Sidney the kidney, a local celebrity who also took part.


No, I always dress like this.


The fab four.


Off into the wilds of the botanical gardens.


And into a tunnel.


Bethany and Rebecca next to their favourite plant.  Because it's pink, of course.


Spiky.


Hummingbird!  I thought we'd left them behind in California!


Growing like weeds.


Up into the trees.


Are you sure this is safe?


I waited for the bridge to empty before I ventured out.


Pete took it all in my stride.


Hannah, going Indiana Jones.


Jacob was...less enthusiastic.


Tree huggers.


Nudist beach, please respect people's privacy.  Right.  That's the only pic I took in this particular location - this is a family blog after all.


Back to a normal beach, in Kitslano, and Scott takes a break from our hectic schedule.


Katharine steals the kids' toys.


And here is where we'll dig the first exploratory oil well.


Beach bunny.


An army marches on its stomach, and that phrase has never been truer than around this lot.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Rendezvous with the southerners

It was a bit of a change of pace today - from completely manic to merely hectic - when we abandoned the family and drove south, across the border, to meet with Jack and Amanda who are on their way from Japan to Washington DC via Seattle.  So their life is the most hectic, to be fair.  Dana joined too and, with Guy, Pete, Charlie and Isabella, we had the company of four toddlers all born within two months of each other!  It was...an interesting day.

God bless Rustic Coffee in Bellingham for letting us turn half their cafe into a creche while us grown-ups enjoyed our lattes.  And a double blessing upon Keenan's restaurant who didn't make us clean up under our table after lunch.  Toddlers make even more mess than nephews and nieces, who knew?

In between we slipped easily back into the old Californian ways of our (relative) youth, and children were passed around just like in the kibbutz of Uni Village all those years ago.  Exact parentage was discussed, but it was fairly obvious: the prickly reserved Brit, the breezily outgoing Israeli, and the huggy oversharing Americans.  As for the parents, no comment.


Now banned from all major coffee shops in north Washington state,


The gorgeous Charlie...


...and beautiful twin sister Isabella.


Daddy, why isn't he just shaking hands, like normal people?


Cheers!  Charlie studies, knowing something significant is happening here.


Just like those lunches down in Berkeley, but with more progeny and less booze (for some of us).


Guy had to be wrenched from the playground.


The rather glorious weather south of the border.


Brits abroad.


Someone else enjoying the sun.


Born in the USA.


How to keep your daughter happy: feed her ice cream.


How to keep your nephews and nieces happy: bring them back the biggest donut in the world!


It didn't last long.

Friday, 25 July 2014

I'd rather feed you for a week than a fortnight

Going from one child to five children is a bit of a shock.  Going from two adults to four doesn't quite mitigate it.  I've threatened to pick up all the crumbs that are left on the table and floor after each meal and serve it up on the last evening.  That would save a bit of money as well - "back again?" the cashiers at Safeway ask when they see us each day.

But food is the fuel for all the fun that's going on.  We've already taken in the beach (on a very British grey day), the aquarium, the outdoor pool, the library, the Chinese gardens...I've lost track, and they only got here on Saturday.  Pete is still beside himself, screaming with joy every morning when he finds out they're all still here and launching himself into their bedroom.  His cousins are very generous with their patience, Nintendos, and iPads.  Hannah's even entertaining the idea of moving Pete into our wardrobe permanently, "so I can be near my baby again!"  Um, no.

As for the parents?  Well, Scott and Katharine kindly offered to do the daily food run yesterday while I stayed in with the kids, but the ten minute walk took them over two hours!  They came back with a very elaborate story of turning the wrong way out of the other store entrance, but their wide smiles and the smell of vodka and vermouth told a different story.  In short, everyone's enjoying the holiday rather a lot!


Cousins together, terrorising the streets of Vancouver.


Bad weather cannot keep Brits off the beach.


I maintain cool uncle status by letting Jacob play my guitar.  And just because I'm cool.


Shared interests.


Off to the aquarium!


Rebecca's wish finally comes true.


Hammonds in the tank.


More children in tanks - a brilliant idea, by the way.


Bethany and some piranhas.  Piranhas are slower at stripping a cow to its bones.


Uncle David babysitting, with a little help from childcare guru W. Disney.


Remember the giant Ferrero Rocher?  Well, today it was a mac'n'cheese tent that you could go inside.  Even stranger.


Scott has a rest on Kraft Dinner-themed linen.


Pete and a mac'n'cheese bean bag!


This is all a bit difficult to explain...


...but Kevin the talking horse got you to "pay" for goodies with "fun".  I won Hannah a pair of earrings.  Shaped like macaroni.


Actually tasting the stuff?  Not so impressive.



From the ridiculous to the sublime: the beautiful classical Chinese garden in the centre of Vancouver.



We did a guided tour.  The layout is all about symbolism, balance, attracting good fortune, and repelling evil spirits.



Unfortunately the repelling evil spirits bit is lacking.


This calligraphy reads: "Whoever sits on this bench is certain to rule the world.  So look out."  Yep.


Katharine and Scott enjoy the balance and tranquility, two things they're not used to.


Entrance to a hobbit hole.


Sisters enjoying some of the good stuff.


I like eating out.  Someone else cleans up.