Wednesday, 25 February 2015

From a real cricketing nation

No longer will I sing "get your stars off our flag!" when we play cricket against New Zealand.  Mainly because they always beat us, but also because today we came home to a waiting package bearing the unmistakable emblem of the silver fern.  Our fine Kiwi friends Dan, Fiona and Patrick had managed to smuggle us something it's impossible to come by in Canada: a Pete-sized cricket set!

I immediately set things up, and we had a fun hour bowling and batting (I'm working up slowly to a five-day test match).  Pleasingly, Pete seems to be a left-arm fast bowler, so an England call-up is virtually inevitable.  But he does like to run down the wicket in his follow-through and kick over the stumps.  It's only a matter of time until he starts sledging me.

Don't worry - your US passport means you'll be able to represent a less embarrassing team than England.

I like it!  Reminiscent of Sir Viv Richards in his pomp.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

For the first time in forever

As you may know, Pete's marriage has already been arranged to young Genevieve from Walnut Creek, California.  But no contract can govern the human heart, and so we've had to accept that he's fallen for Amy from playschool.

The spark between them was instantaneous, and he professes his love for her daily (when he's not professing his love for Carter or Natalie), so it was no surprise when we were invited to her 3rd birthday party.  Yes, Amy is an older woman, which has caused some problems now she's moved to the big kids' room and she and Pete have to steal glances through the glass panes in the dividing door.

Amy's favourite film is Frozen (i.e. she's a 3-yr-old girl).  We arrived at her house to find it decorated with snowflakes and princess stickers.  Not only that, but Amy's mum had set up craft tables where you could make your own cardboard snowman or reindeer, all the food was ice-themed (blue and white), there were fluffy snowballs for indoor fights, and she'd read online that you can make fake snow by mixing cornstarch and body lotion.  And a lady came and sang Frozen songs to us.

Suddenly, sending Pete to daycare with a dozen cupcakes (they provided the candles) doesn't make us seem the most loving parents.

Bearing gifts, we catch the bus.

In a basket with the birthday girl!

Frozen songtime!

Did I mention the cake?  This was the cake.

And these are the children waiting for the cake to arrive.

Best party ever!  Especially when compared to his.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Northern reunion

We managed to smuggle some more people over the border to see us: the Pellegs!  They moved to Seattle after all the MBA fun finished, and Amir has been working there for Amazon ever since.  He and Hannah are among the few 2010 graduates who haven't switched companies since their internships.  Chevron and Amazon are obviously excellent at mind control.

Along with Dana and Amir came Ayal and Guy.  Guy is Pete's age, and similarly built for the front row of a rugby scrum, but is a lot huggier so it was a novelty to get a few cuddles from a toddler.  He's also very into making coffee.  Ayal is currently obsessed with music so guitars were twanged and pianos tinkled non-stop.

We kept it local, with walks around the parks and city, numerous dips in our pool, and we could even offer Dana a trip to Crate&Barrel 2 (yes, in Vancouver we have something they lack over the border!)  When the kids went to bed we enjoyed imported Trader Joe's wine (we still lack the really important shops).  It was an ongoing party, just like down in California, except we're now all used to cold and rain.

Ayal resembles the young Paul McCartney.

My apprentice barista.

On the move.

Happy family.

There's always room for one more.

Dana took this. She's a professional photographer.  I'm not.  But she was using my camera.


Sunday morning brought an incredible fog bank across the harbour.  Who needs a telly?

I teach Guy everything I know about the piano.  It took almost five minutes.

Monkeys kept behind glass!

Monday, 9 February 2015

Get thee to a cannery

Today is a public holiday in British Columbia: Family Day.  We celebrated by visiting an industrial facility that employed child labour!  Ah, the good old days...

The Gulf of Georgia Cannery in Steveston is one of 72 that used to exist around BC, taking the daily catch, squidging it into small tins, and sending it out to the world.  There are only two left in operation (I don't think they use children anymore) so now this one's a museum.

If I had any romantic notions of what it is to be a fisherman - the ever-shifting ocean, the huge skies, the breathtaking sunsets - it quickly disappeared as I sat in a tiny replica galley hearing recorded reminiscences of seasickness and the cramped, close proximity you have with your colleagues.  It's bad enough sharing my house with Hannah and Pete.

Surely working onshore in the cannery is more attractive?  Well, the place is built on stilts in the river, to take advantage of the 'natural refrigeration'.  And it was brass monkeys today, I can tell you.  The immigrant women who did the nasty jobs (always women, of course) used to stand in buckets of hot water.  They kept their babies strapped to them, until the kids were old enough to go upstairs and feed cans into the machine for 10c per eight-hour shift (enough to buy one tin of what the cannery produced).  A lot of the museum is, unsurprisingly, dedicated to the story of how unions were formed and quickly improved things.  Pete didn't seem to mind, dressing up as a fisherman and then jumping on a mini truck used (in the cannery's latter days) to push fish about.  All his preferred careers currently involve trucks or diggers.

The porpoise of our visit was to enjoy Family Day and fillet with new experiences, and I don't think we could have done any batter!  We had a hull of a good time, although the cold gave me aching mussels and a splitting haddock.  Perhaps it was shellfish but we decided to take the little buoy home, and even then it was hard to drag him away from the plaice!

The preferred outfit of the Canadian fisherman.  Maybe.

Oi, mate.  Where do you want these fish?

( for all those cod awful puns at the end there).

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Sticks and stones

Up in Canada they do birthday parties differently.  None of the caterers, multiple entertainers, or bespoke party bags that our southern neighbours lavish on their darling little ones.  Around here all you need are full waterproofs, a forest, and rain.

This is where we found ourselves early this morning, ready to celebrate the 2nd birthday of young Jacob.  What else does a group of 2-yr-old boys need except large sticks, plentiful stones, muddy puddles, and a river or two to throw stuff into?  They were all supplied, plentifully and free of charge.

The rain certainly kept up its side of the bargain, and the waterfalls of Lynn Canyon pounded down into a raging river.  It's a good job this wasn't a kayaking party.  Pete found smaller streams to wade up, and there was even some rock climbing, where certain parents struggled to keep up with their offspring.  Children have a lower centre of gravity, it's easier for them.

After this fine backwoods outing it was home to Jacob's for meatballs and spaghetti, and a fabulous chocolate and raspberry cake with - what else? - two dumper trucks on top.  The children were happy so the parents were happy, and a fine time was had by all.  Here's hoping that every party, between now and when Pete leaves for uni/the navy, can be as rustic and successful.

Off into the Canadian wilds.  Don't you guys have bears around here?  That would certainly make this party lively.

Who wants to go across a slippery suspension bridge above a roiling torrent?

Pete wades upstream, like a salmon, with legs.

Ascending the north face.

But it's after twelfth night!

This is actually Pete's "I'm having fun" face.

Time to refuel.

Chocolate cake, delivered by dumper truck?!  Best birthday ever.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Treading the boards

After our immensely successful debut on the small screen it was time to get Pete some classical training, and somewhat unfeasibly the Vancouver Museum of Anthropology offered a stage.  While Hannah looked around the exhibits, Pete was very taken with the empty auditorium that offered a platform on which to perform and flip-down seats that made lots of noise when you opened and shut them.

The aim of all this theatricality is obviously a spot on a talent show, from whence he can construct a short and undeserved career comprised of forgettable hits and tabloid scandal, netting me some hard-earned cash in the process.  A father can have dreams, can't he?

Oh yes, the Museum of Anthropology.  It's fantastic - huge, new, and absolutely riveting in its detail.   Most of it is dedicated to the local First Nation cultures, who together with the Inuit and the Metis make up the aboriginal inhabitants of Canada.

The history of the First Nations is complicated, in the way that whenever the British Empire invaded a country and subjugated its people while stealing their land we like to describe it as "complicated".  As one video in the museum pointed out, there was never any war - the first westerners to Canada were welcomed as guests, but went on to do various un-guestlike things that empires tend to.  Things are slowly getting sorted out but it's...well, complicated.

The museum houses many thousands of First Nation artifacts, most of which are now displayed with permission, and has become something of a gallery for new local art and continuing heritage.  It also has a ton of stuff from across Pacific island culture as far as Japan and Indonesia.  I'm not sure how much of that is displayed by permission or was simply "acquired".

Hannah, who works extensively with the First Nations as part of her job, moved through the galleries methodically and thoughtfully, absorbing the vast information on display.  I sprinted around the whole thing, chasing a two-yr-old intent on pulling open every drawer and display case, and determined to touch anything claiming to be 1500 years old or more.  If you want to talk about cultural destruction in progress, look no further.

Some of the ancient totem poles, behind worryingly low glass barriers.

Pete listens and learns...perhaps.

Taking a short breather.

"Please touch gently" says the sign.  Ha!  Anyway, these things made nice noises when tapped.

Finally, some stillness.  Short lived - Pete soon realised he couldn't find Peppa Pig on YouTube using this.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Call my agent

Since moving here I've been taking Pete along to a weekly music class.  I've mentioned it before - it's where I had an existential crisis while dancing with a parachute to Edith Piaf.

Anyway, the lovely lady who runs it called Orith wanted to make a promotional video, and so a few weeks ago we all got filmed.  The video was finished a couple of days ago, it looks amazing, and it starts with me and Pete!  This may be because I bear a striking resemblance to the young Gielgud, but could also be because I'm the only dad that ever turns up.  Diversity, you know.

Orith had mentioned last week that Pete and I are the opening act.

"I love the way you say maracas," she told me.  "How do you say it again?"

"Maracas," I said, in the way any normal person who speaks English should say maracas.

"Yes, that's it!" she exclaimed.

So there we are.  Enjoy below - for our next role, I will be working on getting Pete to actually look slightly cheerful.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Everything is awesome!

I don't often get to meet a genius - apart from every morning when I look in the mirror - but I did today.  And not just any genius, but a Lego Genius!  His name is David Brear, he can do amazing things with plastic bricks, and he came to church to share his magical knowledge with the kids.

Yes, that was the only downside: kids were involved.  I had to compete for the vast selection of blocks with various small people, who all managed to get the one I wanted just before I was about to!  But, in the face of this fierce competition, I still managed to whip up a pretty fine spaceship.

As for the genius, he'd got the kids to build the Temple in Jerusalem for a Lego Mary and Joseph to present the Lego baby Jesus in, it being Candlemas today.  So...yeah, a little more impressive than my efforts.  But could his Temple fly into space?  Exactly.

Getting started, before the chaos/mess got out of hand.

A big part of being a parent: passing on your skills to the next generation.

And what skills they are!  Spaceship!!

Hannah makes tracks.

These days you can build Lego on an iPad, which is wrong.

The Temple in Jerusalem, before its destruction.

Smiling faces everywhere.  And for the eagle-eyed, notice that Duplo and Lego are compatible in an exact 2:1 match!  It took a genius to teach me that.