Friday, 26 September 2014

Coarse grind

Why do we spend our lives doing things that aren't fun?  I'm not talking about having to do the washing up, or getting a full male body wax, but about choosing to do things that aren't fun, for fun.  Is self-punishment the fulfillment of the human ideal? Do we grow by these experiences, surrendering ourselves to the refiner's fire, testing our mettle, to become the best me that we can be?

I had plenty of time to reflect on these and other, more pretentious thoughts as I trudged, again, up the Grouse Grind.  The idea had been to take advantage of the fine warm autumn day that was forecast and, together with Andrew and his son Jacob, do something manly before they shut the trail for the season (they then open the Snowshoe Grind, but that might be several literal steps too far).

Well, best laid plans etc., it was a day of the worst weather the city has seen since...last week, at least.  Unrelenting rain lashed down, soaking us as we got ready in the car park.  I checked with Andrew that he was sure he wanted to do this.  At the 1/4 mark I said "I think this is the point of no return."  "Great," he replied, "let's keep going!"  Was my message - that if we both agree to lie then no one can prove we didn't do it - too subtle?

In the summer the trail was a nightmare of crowds rushing to the top, with mixed success but with plenty of pushing and jostling.  No such annoyance today, but it was all about what was rushing to the bottom.  We ascended a waterfall with the odd step or tree root to perch on above the deluge.  Many who passed us (there were still plenty) commented on our bravery.  One told me that, if he could, he would buy me a beer, and I pointed out that he could just give me $10 and I'd promise to do it myself later.  Or I would have, but at that moment of the ascent I was too busy trying not to black out and/or be sick.

Both babies slept for bits of it, and I worried that they might drown in the 180% humidity, but after a reasonable 1hr 45mins (about five times the course record) we arrived at the top.  It was in a cloud, and it was still raining torrentially.  Clouds rain from the middle as well as the bottom?  This seems unfair.

Inside the summit cafe we shed as many dripping clothes as we could and made liberal use of the hand dryers in the toilet before recaffeinating.  And still we had to pay for a ticket to ride down on the cable car!  Schlepping a 30lb baby to the top of a mountain on a day like today should. in my opinion, grant you a lifetime's free pass.

As we left the cafe we basked in more adulation from our fellow summiters.  Most had walked the Grind like us - who would pay to go up a mountain on a day like today? - but no one else came with babies.  We did a couple of circuits of the room to make sure everyone saw this, before leaving for the gondola.  Soon we were back in Andrew's car with the heat turned up to maximum.  "Well, the best thing about doing that is that we never have to do it again," I told him.  But that's what I said the last time.

Getting ready for the off, in the shelter of Andrew's boot lid.

Selfie at the start.

Half-way up.

 And at the end (with two very unimpressed children).

They perked up once we got some coffee inside them.

And the view from the top made it all worth it.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Imminent divorce

But darling, it was $10 from a thrift store!

Ringo, Reni, Bonham, Copeland, Davies.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Sex & tugs & rock'n'roll

It's always a good idea to be in at the start, and that's exactly how I felt at Vancouver first ever Tugboat Festival.  In 50 years time when this is the biggest event in North America we can say: we were there.

For now it's quite small, with around ten tugboats of different sizes and ages tied up alongside Granville Island market.  We watch daily out of our window as these plucky little boats push giant tankers and container ships around, so we went down to lend our support and climb on board.

Cranes and winches and thick ropes covered every surface, and given the job they have to do it's little wonder that several were a bit rusty and grimy. Towering over them all was Falcon - a massive, new, space-aged tug that had a lovely air-conditioned bridge full of technical gizmos.  At the other end of the scale was the S.S. Master, build in 1922 with an engine bought from Glasgow as WW1 surplus, the only remaining example of a wooden steam powered tug.  Unfortunately the Chevron barge doesn't sell coal.

Yes, it's true, we were there at the first ever!

A flock (?) of tugs.

A little thing that's very adept at pushing bigger things around.

Tugs and kisses.

Pretty swish inside!

Checking the outlook.

A tug boat is not a playground!  Except when it is, like today.

A special one for Hannah.

No one wants to upset the captain.

This is the Master's steam engine.  To change speed you have to turn it off then turn it back on again.  Which, given that's the way to fix every computer problem, shows we haven't progressed very far.

If you don't talk to your child about tugs, who will?

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

End of season

And so the shutters come down on the Davies Resort and Spa for the Summer 2014 season.  What began in April with my parents arriving has finished symmetrically in September with them leaving.  They did go home in between, but to be honest who remembers?  I've received word that they've landed safely in England, and that they'll be back for Christmas.

I've stacked the deck chairs, paid off the kitchen staff, and the entertainers have performed their last cabaret.  It's like the end of Dirty Dancing, except that I will be putting baby in a corner.  Or perhaps it's more like The Shining as I trundle around the empty corridors and wonder what horrors lie in the rooms (clue: a 1-yr-old).

As ever, book early for 2015!

Platinum loyalty card holders.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Foreign exchange students

It's always intriguing to find out what another culture thinks about yours.  I was once in an "Olde English Pub" in California and on the front of the menu it said "Bill of Fare - that's what they call a menu in England."  Until that day I'd never heard the phrase "Bill of Fare".

I thought about this as we wandered around the beautiful Dr Sun-Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden here in downtown Vancouver.  The guide waxed lyrically and knowledgeably about yin and yang, symbolic meanings, flows of energy, etc. despite admitting she'd never been to China.  I wondered what someone who actually owns a Chinese garden would think.  Probably how much weeding the place must need.

We continued our cultural adventures by visiting The Fat Badger for dinner on my parents' final evening.  It's a newly-opened pub - it used to be called "La Gavroche" but the universal truth that British food is better than French won them over.  There's a British chef, and a British music mix playing (Arctic Monkeys followed by Phil Collins is a bit jarring), and a large photo from the film Trainspotting on the wall.  Presumably that will be taken down if Scotland votes to become un-British on Thursday.

Dad and I enjoyed authentically delicious plates of fish and chips, washed down with a Canadian rosé, and I wondered: where does home start and finish?  That's the kind of question I need the peace and sanctity of a Chinese garden to contemplate, before eating Texas barbecue washed down with Danish beer followed by Guatemalan coffee in an Italian-themed Vancouver cafe...

Ahh, ultimate peace... quickly and cruelly taken away!

This is an example of penjing, the Chinese form of bonsai but more concerned with wild naturalness.  The real genius is it doesn't have to involve trees!  After a short and troubled history of bonsai massacre, even I could manage to look after one of these.

Balanced family.

How Mum retains her balance.

Just like at The Red Lion in Woolverton.

Pete's tastes, and manners, remain firmly British.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Child of the sandwich generation

We're a "sandwich family" at the moment, my mother tells me.  That is: grandparents at the top, baby at the bottom, and me in the middle.  Which is fine, as I've always thought of myself as a slice of prime beef.

There are complications - who is meant to be entertaining who?  Who changes whose nappies, etc.? But mostly things have gone without a hitch.  It does make it cheaper when you only have to buy two senior tickets and baby gets in free.  I am the most expensive, and therefore valuable, member of the family.

In the last week we've taken the travelling sandwich out and about to Science World, Queen Elizabeth Park, and several beaches.  We do have to be home at 3pm every day for nap time - for three out of four of us, at least.

Down on Jericho Beach in Kitsilano.

Taking a break on a sea wall bench.

Down at the float plane terminal - both Petes are equally entertained by planes and boats.

Queen Elizabeth Park.

An interesting sculpture - like Doctor Who from the 70s.

What's this?  A coyote in QE park?  Yep!

Hannah bravely plays in the fountains.

Next day, and back to Science World!  Buttons!!

Dad shares everything he knows about naval architecture.

Look!  Science!

Hot sandwich.

Dad builds patiently with Keva planks.  Shortly afterwards a toddler arrived.  What happened next?

At the Science World canteen.  An experiment that should definitely not be repeated.

Another day, another beach.

How much sand am I going to have to hoover up later?

The outside generations, waiting for mummy (another tasty filling) to get back from work.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Anniversary visit

My parents are back!  This is the "extra" visit that they decided to slip in.  I'm hoping that they notice/talk to me soon, because currently they seem rather distracted by their grandson.  Actually that's not true, they do talk to me: "I think Pete needs a chocolate biscuit."  "Could you change Pete's nappy?"  "Do you have to put Pete down for a nap when he's having so much fun with us?"

But the BIG celebration today is their 40th wedding anniversary!  40 years!  You get less for murder!  Who'd have thought that, 40 years ago, when an engineer from London married a physio from the Welsh valleys, that we'd all be sitting in Vancouver toasting their ongoing health and watching them fritter away my inheritance on trips to see their grandson.  Congrats, Mum and Dad!  Here's to the next 40 years.

We began celebrations with a harbour cruise!  The boat is ten years younger than my parents' marriage.

Fine constitutions all around.

Dad inspects the propulsion system.

Hannah and Mum under the British Columbia colours.

Looking through the picture window at North Van.

Dry dock (it's an oil tanker, so Hannah made me take a picture.

Pete enjoys a treat sent from his Aunty Em in England.

Powering onwards.

Mum surveys the skyline.

Toasting a long and successful marriage!  I hope Hannah and I look as good at that stage.

One day, son, you'll be allowed the gin and tonic that this fruit was invented to accompany.

It skips a generation (love and attention, that is...)