Friday, 29 August 2014

Back to Manchester

No!  Today I put Ellen and Meg on a flight to Manchester, as their three-week stay had to come to an end.  Pete is bereft, wandering around the house saying "Gone!  Gone!"  Thank goodness his Grandparents are arriving soon, otherwise I'd have to actually partake in childcare.  He's also finally moved out of our wardrobe and back into his own room.  I'm happy not to have to lie there listening to him laughing/singing/chatting in his sleep all night, but his mother already feels her baby is too far away.  There's a sofa bed in his room, so she's welcome...

We spent our visitors' last few days hanging out in Vancouver city, visiting Granville Island, various shops, a water park, and a food truck or two.  More importantly, Ellen has been spending her free time knitting Pete his first cricket jumper, which had the finishing touches put to it today (popping into yarn shops has also been a feature of the holiday - if they inspect her luggage at YVR she might be had up for wool smuggling).

So goodbye Ellen and Megan, and thank you for such a wonderful stay.  Get your tickets booked for Easter.  And bring more of that Scottish gin, because it's all gone.

Meg, with one of Lee's Donuts from Granville market.  Child nutrition is overrated.

Take a look at your future England captain right there.  Hopefully Ellen will still be knitting his jumpers then.

There's a big shout, and he's walking!  He's not even waiting for the umpire's finger!

In other news, Hannah bought a "pasta extruder", and is extremely happy.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Royal Victoria

We decided it was time we visited this colony's capital and so, with Meg and Ellen, caught the ferry over to Victoria for a long weekend.  Situated down at the bottom of Vancouver Island, the trip by sea takes you in and out of the various fjords and archipelagos that make up Western Canada's coastline.  There was even a naturalist on board to tell us about orca whales!  Although we didn't see any so she ended up talking about lighthouses.

The town of Victoria is a wonderful place to wander around, and that's exactly what we did on Saturday.  It's a strange location to have a capital to be honest, as far in the corner of the province as you can get, but Hannah listened to a history talk while Ellen and I got lunch and tells me it's something to do with having to be between the 48th and 49th parallels when the Brits settled it in 1843.

Its Britishness hasn't diminished since that time, as red double-deckers tour the streets and fish shops and pubs are everywhere.  There's the second oldest Chinatown in North America too (after San Fran), and lots of nice thrift stores in easily walkable distance.  Maybe I'll move here.

We toured the parliament building and met Queen Victoria herself (she was a fake, Meg complained), saw the house boats and took a water taxi.  Most of Sunday was spent lazing in Beacon Hill Park, where a Celtic band played many a tune, including "Donald Where's Your Troosers", and Pete worried goats at the petting zoo.

While the trip over by public transport had been very picturesque it hadn't been the quickest so we returned by float plane.  Pete, who's been obsessed by the things since we moved, fell asleep on take-off.  Meg, who didn't sleep a wink on their ten-hour transatlantic flight, was snoring shortly after that.  I enjoyed looking down on the various inlets we'd sailed through a couple of days earlier.  "I think we should buy a yacht," I told Hannah.  "I think we should buy a float plane," she replied.

All aboard!

Sailing away from Vancouver.

Tiffany turned out to be a naturalist rather than a naturist, as I'd originally hoped.

In between the inlets.

Pete takes the wheel.

Some more splendidly beautiful islands.

Victoria's Chinatown.

She's got the whole world in her hands.

The parliament building, completed in 1898.

By the fountains outside.

The queen herself!  They had a younger one too, walking around and speaking in a lovely accent.

The BC coat of arms.  Splendour without diminishment!

Some more of the decoration inside.

Where the work takes place.  Or doesn't, because they're politicians.

God bless you, ma'am.

By the houseboats.

Enjoying an ice cream.

One of the local rides - it's the easiest way to get around Victoria's big harbour.  But they charged $3 for Pete!  Outrageous.  Do we look like tourists?

Another tourist ride, one we didn't partake of.

There's a sign asking you not to pick up the pygmy goats.  Shame.

Priority boarding for us, as we needed an extra safety demonstration with Pete.  It involved being handed a tiny life vest and told "this is for him".

On board, in first class.

Pete checks everything is done the way they do it in Coal Harbour.

The main safety video, on a convenient iPad.

Sailing out of Victoria...

...before taking to the air!

Just like the Caribbean, except for the temperature.

Swooping in over Stanley Park.

Touchdown back home.

A flying end to a very fine weekend.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Reproducible results

Pete is very taken with methodological empiricism, with all its attendant button-pushing and lever-pulling, and so it was no surprise when we returned to Science World with Meg and Ellen.  We've actually become members now, which means that my previously unshakable beliefs in epistemological antireductionism may be sorely tested.

But leaving that aside, the place is a lot of fun!  We got to the sports science bit this time, where you could try to balance on a beam and see how fast you can pitch a baseball.  My complete ineptitude at sport hasn't changed since rugby lessons at school.  We also saw a show where a scientist had a cannon that fired smoke rings!  My suspicion is that witchcraft was involved, but I managed to restrain myself from calling for a burning.

The science of looking strange.

Who is the water play for?

Pete does...something that proves something.

Meg experiments with a clever gravity-defying device.

How was I meant to know that it was your face?

Multiple Megs.

Constructing with the cool Keva planks.

Ellen's rather magnificent architectural creation.

Apparently this shows how long your guts are.  Hmm.

Making flying seeds.

Landing like a cat (or not).

But there's no scientific explanation for love.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

All the fun of the fair

It's fair season in Vancouver, specifically the Pacific National Exhibition.  Since 1910 they've been hosting a huge agricultural show in Hastings Park to the east of the city and, after its grand opening this past weekend, today was the first official full day of the 104th iteration.  To celebrate, entry was free!  It was too good an opportunity to miss on a quiet Tuesday morning so Meg, Pete and I caught the #4 bus and went along.

It was too good an opportunity to miss for most of Vancouver!  We arrived 15 minutes after the gates opened and had to queue for another 15 to get in.  Inside the queue theme continued and we jostled with a vast amount of humanity to attempt to get anywhere.

One of the big draws this year is an exhibition about the Game of Thrones TV series, including a chance to sit on the famous iron throne itself!  We went straight there - who doesn't want to see a scion of House Davies ruling Westeros? - only to find that the first humongous queue got you a ticket that told you the time you were allowed to join the second queue.  The 8-yr-old and 1-yr-old with me made it quite clear that they weren't about to spend that much time waiting.  Same with the Internet Cat Video Festival, which didn't kick off until 3pm.

We rejoined the seething masses until we found an oasis of calm: ironically, the agricultural part of this agricultural show.  There was a livestock auction for some of the current champions, and we watched a prize goat go under the hammer for around $800.  You'll need a lot of cheese out of it for that investment.

The children's area was also not too densely populated, but after a picnic we decided to cut our losses and head for home.  "You went to the fair on free day?!" someone we met on the way into our building asked incredulously.  It seems that sunny weather + freebie = Vancouverites, an equation I can completely understand, so with that, Wreck Beach, the Grouse Grind, and attendance at the PNE Fair, I'm feeling more native than ever.

So where are you all headed?  The same place as us?  Oh, ok.

Inside - even crazier than out.

But what do you expect, when there are things like this to attract people!?

Finally, some real agriculture.  That is one pricey goat right there.

Some more, less lively farming.

Megan: nearly a llama.

Pete meets a sheep.

Oh, a cute rabbit.

Argh!  The horror!

This is Canada's actual prototype for their space shuttle program.

The kids' colour-in mural.

My au pair earns her keep.

When even the church tent is packed, you know it's a busy show.