Vancouver

Tick Tock…

FreedomI know, I know. After ‘The Pressure to Blog’, I promised I would try and write more. And I have tried. I haven’t really succeeded, but I do have an excuse – I’ve been blogging less because we’ve been living more. I couldn’t quite put it into prose without a bullet-pointed list, so I wrote a pome (with some tenuous rhyming phrases) instead:

 

The drums of time are beating on,

With all of life’s demands.

But this time, life is really fun,

More cooking than washing of pans…

 

A road trip, a hike, a surf in the sea

Have been keeping us busy and so –

The blogging and writing just take a back seat

And wait for ideas to grow.

 

But ideas come slowly when living carefree,

And sat watching The Turtles outside.

And talking of whales, and bears, and bald eagles,

Seems like bragging, not passion and pride.

 

I wanted to write about sunsets and views

But thought that’d be sappy, at best.

I wanted to write about me in a wetsuit,

But you’d be sick before you’d read all the rest!

 

The visits, the laughs, the friendships we’ve made

Are making this summer so great.

The playlists, the tennis, the ‘Scatch’ that we’ve played

Make all of my blog posts too late.

 

I’m aware that this time will not last forever,

So we’re laughing and eating ice-cream,

Before we return to real life’s endeavours

And this time of our lives is a dream.

 

So I’m sorry, my readers, if I’m not very good

At keeping my blog up to date.

I’ll write more of it down – and I know that I should –

To stop you all having to wait!

Sunset

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The hierarchy of traffic: An observation

Just in case you ever need to venture out into the Vancouver traffic, there are a few vital nuggets of information that you need to know:

1. There are some roads that you cross using a white pedestrian crossing light. Some using flashing green traffic lights. And some where you walk out into the road with your eyes closed and hope the cars on what appears to be a dual carriageway see you in time.
2. You think you’re safe on the pavement? Wrong. The buses can get you there. And will loudly beep their horn if they think you’re within a metre of the kerb in case they hit you with their bits of sticking out metal. If you think it doesn’t happen, talk to the bin on Granville Street which was minding its own business when a bus completely took it out. It’s never been the same since.
3. If you’re in a car, good luck getting anywhere. You’re bottom of the food chain. Yep, behind pedestrians, animals and….yes…cyclists! (I know!)
4. As an extension of this, if you are a pedestrian crossing a road at the appropriate time (see point 1) and a car tries to nudge you out of the way, the appropriate response is to pointedly look up at your legitimate crossing light. And walk slower.
5. Finally, if circumstances dictate that you need to board a bus, look carefully into the eyes of the bus driver. If you see manic laughter in their eyes, make sure you get a seat and anchor yourself down quickly. These types think an emergency stop is gentle braking, and they’re not afraid to use it.

Now, these tips may save your life one day, so it’s important to read them carefully. Or you could do what I do – ignore the traffic conventions and fly!

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Categories: Duck's soapbox, Vancouver | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

All I want for Christmas is…not to be completely won-over by false advertising, pretty pictures and a vivid imagination

It was a clear, peaceful Christmas evening. We walked towards the ship’s dock, hearing children’s laughter tinkling in the background, and feeling full of the festive cheer which comes but once a year. As we reached the dock, excitement coursing through our veins, we saw it, rising up out of the water in front of us, like a beacon in the night sky

Not like this in any way...

Not like this in any way…

…Hang on…

It only had one string of soddin’ lights on it!

Much more like this...

Much more like this…

My expectations of a ‘Carol ship cruise’ were high, I’ll admit it. I’d heard stories of the cruise ships travelling in beautiful twinkly convoy, covered from bow to stern in thousands of beautiful, colourful lights. The reality – on that cold, crisp Vancouver evening – looked remarkably more like a family yacht, half-heartedly decorated by the teenage kids as a treat. Who had then run out of money. As we waited to board, we examined the queue of people who were starting to arrive around us. It was safe to say that even in duck years we were by far the youngest people in about a 1500 metre vicinity. The people were old, lost and confused…maybe they too were expecting more than one string of lights and a half-dead fibre-optic tree hanging, Titanic style, from the front; they thought they had happened upon the wrong ship. “Ho, ho my dear wife, this can’t possibly be OUR cruise…oh no! Ours, my darling, is going to be covered in lights, and we’ll be able to hear the angelic choirs singing even from the lowly shore. Oh no, this isn’t OUR cruise”. It was. And unfortunately, it was ours too.

On embarking the ship, with my boarding card printed out from the work printer, not being required to show my passport that I had hopefully brought along, we walked into what can only be described as a Phoenix Nights style social club with a mirrored gold ceiling and table cloths. We were greeted in a friendly and excitable way by the hostess, who walked us across the tired, plaid carpet and showed us to our window seat. Excellent, we thought, what a great view we’ll have – until we realised…we couldn’t see anything out of the window due to all of the condensation – that had no qualms about dripping all over my face and right down my neck. This was going to be a long, damp night.

On the plus side, they served alcohol, so a stiff glass of red and a lighted tea-light candle later, we were feeling much cheerier about the whole debacle. We could smell the food, and could see people returning from the buffet with their plates heaped high, so we ate our fill of the random combination Caesar salad, bean salad, bread rolls, tomato pasta, chicken in some sort of sauce, pilaf rice and beef. At this point, buoyed by our plentiful food and drink, and having wiped down the windows with my sleeves, we were looking forward to the delightful musical treat that would be the carols. We could hear it getting started…a crackle of electricity…some excitable mutterings, followed by………. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. Huge mic feedback, and what felt like an electric shock through my ear drum – all the water that had dripped in there probably didn’t help. Take two. An excitable introduction, and, like a vision, a woman emerges (with her dress tucked into her knickers) and begins to sing that most famous of traditional carols “Santa Claus is coming to town”, followed by more traditional classics including a tortured version of ‘All I want for Christmas is You” and a much too low “Merry Christmas Everyone”. All this was complemented by the truly awful CD backing track, and the tuneless singing of our peers on the neighbouring tables. We thought we had hit the lowest point, but we were wrong – it was still all ahead of us.

An introduction began playing on the CD player that sent shivers down my spine…the (slightly flat) electric piano intro of one of my most favourite true Christmas carols, O Holy Night. I looked out of the window at the beautifully illuminated Vancouver night skyline, marvelling at the reflection in the water of the real thousands of colourful lights and beauty. When I turned back to survey my new friends the small boatful of old people, with gladness and merriment in my heart, I saw it. Two middle-aged couples were …. DANCING. Despite the small dancefloor, and the lack of follow-on participation from anyone else in the room, they went for it, gliding around the dancefloor like swans from Swan Lake, sliding and spinning to the poor-relation-cover of the Il Divo classic. And then it was over, just as quickly as it had begun, followed by ‘disco party time’ for the remaining 45 mins. It is the only Christmas experience I have ever witnessed where there has been such a seamless transition between Silent Night and ‘If You like It Then You Should Have Put A Ring On It’. It worked, in a strange way, and we all went home smiling.

Don't believe everything you see on the internet

Vancouver – Don’t believe everything you see on the internet

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Nice weather for ducks…and duckin’ umbrellas

Thursday night.

’twas the night before Rain,
And all through the street
People were strolling,
enjoying dry feet.
The brollies were hung
in the wardrobe with care,
In hopes that the rain season would never come there.

The children were playing,
enjoying their fun
With visions of beaches,
filtered by sun.
And mamma in her skirt,
and me in flipflops,
settled ourselves down,
to sunbathe on the rocks.

When out on the road
there arose such a splatter.
I sprang from my seat
to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew in a flash,
Tore up the shutters and threw open the sash.

The moon from the glare
of a newly soaked spot,
Turned all the green spaces
To grey parking lots.
The silvers and dulls,
the washed away sand,
The rivulets of rain
turning liquid the land.

With a shake of my head,
and a shiver in my bones
A wail of sirens,
And the water-soaked homes.
More rapid than seagulls,
The raindrops did fall,
Until the roads were all flooded,
and all the people in malls.

So up to the bus stop,
The people did flock,
Joining queue after queue To travel only a block.
But I heard them exclaim,
through the steamed-up window,
“Get your brolly from the Island
The shop’s quite a show!
There’s purples and pinks,
And auto open and close,
The waterproof canopy
takes away all your woes”.

So now I step out into
puddles with joy
The rain a mere nuisance,
It’s simply a ploy
To get more people shopping
and away from beach fun
So now it’s quiet when I go
Who needs the sun?!

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The crazy, the dull and the downright depressing…

The good thing about having my ears covered by three layers of extra woollen skins is that people don’t realise you’re eavesdropping on their conversations. One of my favourite current pastimes is not ‘people watching’, but more specifically ‘people listening’! You can separate what you hear into three basic categories:- the crazy, the dull and the downright depressing. I thought i’d share some of these little gems with you….

Crazy

“Where am I going?”. Philosophical

“So I said to him ‘open your mental notebook'” (Guy talk on Seymour st)

“Who has the best hedgehog service that you know?!” …try as I might, I still can’t figure this one out! Answers on a postcard…

Dull

“An’ then I just sat at the end of my bed for a while… An’ just went to sleep”
riveting

“Why would you wanna go for that long when you’re gonna be worried about Darcy doing this and that and constantly being bitten by mosquitoes?!” / “Ok ok how bout we leave Sunday morning?…” (middle aged couple having row on Robson st) …wish I was Darcy

“What do you think of terminal 5?”

Downright depressing

“Focus on getting some sorta security object, like a dog” (homeless guy to homeless novice on Davie Street)

The last one struck me deeply, sad because in one phrase it sums up the ‘darker’ side of Vancouver. There is a huge homelessness problem here due to the milder climate (birds fly south, homeless people come West). There’s so many that alot of them do tricks or write amusing signs in order to persuade you to part with your cash. But how on earth do you decide who is ‘worthy’? Kate and Chris had leftovers one night that they decided to give to someone on the way home…they passed a crazy half-naked 70 year old, a young guy sitting on the kerb rocking and moaning and a girl whose hand-scrawled sign said ‘Money for drugs please’ and then listed underneath all the drugs she wanted. All of these people were homeless and therefore equally deserving…right?! Anyway, it blew all of our combined ethical compasses to try and pick just one person out of this huge melee of people, so we placed it (wrapped) in a bin for one of the ‘binning entrepreneurs’ to find. Is this survival of the fittest in action?

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Categories: Duck's soapbox, Vancouver | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

I’ll help you carry on

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on

This is the song I have been singing to Kate all week as she has been getting overwhelmed with the sheer amount of things to sort out before our trip. I’ve done my best to calm her down, pack her up and move her out and we are now at a more peaceful place in our journey. Certain things we have learned:

1. Make lists, then make another one, and then make another and then put it on a calendar.
We all sat down (me, Kate, Chris and Ted) and contributed to a giant list. Chris being Chris, he tried to stop the creative flow at point 5 but we persevered and got to a more realistic 25 points! From that we made another list which linked related tasks and prioritised our items and THEN we drew out a calendar for the next three weeks and put the tasks in. This would have been a great idea until we saw that most of the tasks had to be done in the first 5 days! Cue Kate-faint number 1! We then colour coded responsibility for each item (I had important contributions like ‘be blue’ and ‘sit still doing nothing’) and we were off. I have to say, lying in bed sitting here at the other end of the mammoth week, it did work well.

2. It takes longer than you think to clean a 1 bed flat and we have been living in filth without realising
So far, the time tally is racking up on the cleaning front. Kate has spent the about equivalent of 2 days cleaning and scrubbing and bleaching. We have also realised that if you have to clean this much to move out, why weren’t we cleaning this much while we were actually living there?! I’m not going to highlight this fact anymore – I’m not a big one for cleaning as the bleach makes my wings wrinkly.

3. Looking forward doesn’t stop you looking back
I think it goes without saying that we’re all very excited about our trip. Especially now we’re packed and more on our way. However, I think we’ve also learned that no matter how excited we might be, it doesn’t stop the feeling of sadness that something special has come to an end. I know Kate feels like that about her job and it has tinged this part of our trip with a bit of sadness. However, lovely quote is helping us to move on –

You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present. ~Jan Glidewell

So we may keep glancing back, but eyes (and wings!) now turned to the present.

So, many useful things learnt over the last few weeks, which we will hopefully use over the next year with our strange lives. I’ll need a new skin at this rate! Get knitting granny!

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Categories: Duck's soapbox, Vancouver, Working holiday | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Best bird watching in North America?

Browsing the details of my future abode, I decided to look further afield. Being a crow duck, I am not put off by a bit of a distance, so I started to look at places I’d not read about yet. I came across a pleasant sounding Qualicum Beach but, on further investigation, found that its absolutely FULL OF OLD PEOPLE!! I know, right?! Ha. Now, I am an old duck, I have nothing against old people but I obviously timed my Vancouver investigations perfectly as…

You’ve guessed it – it’s Canadian census time! Apparently,  in Qualicum Beach, there are more than twice as many people over 80 as there are kids 14 and under (Vancouver Sun). This could actually be a great thing…looking at the pictures, the place looks beautiful – well-kept grass verges, litter free, no grisly youths hanging on street corners, lots of golf…and actually if I had to pick somewhere to grow older, it would likely be there! The clincher for me is this phrase from the town website – “some of the best bird-watching opportunities in North America”. I’m SOLD…as long as they are not using ‘birds’ to mean women over 80…!

I went to Tesco yesterday to get some new Aloe Vera lipbalm to protect my beak from all this sun. The cashier asked me whether I was paying by cash or cheque…I told her to put it on my bill…

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Now it’s my turn to speak…

My name is Duck. People also call me ‘stuffed animal’, ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘what the hell is that thing?!’. I live with Kate and Chris and we are currently preparing to make a big move to Vancouver. They’ve sold it to me on the basis that I can hook up with some Canada geese (the bad boys of the bird world!), as I am getting a bit old for big trips now – I’m 25  which is 232 in duck years so I get a bit tired!

Kate and Chris have been going on and on about this trip and they’ve even made a list of all the places they want to see (pretty sad if you ask me!). I have looked over it, though, and decided to include it, as I am sure we’ll be seeing a lot of it in the future months:

Big trips:

1. Vancouver island and Victoria

2. Rocky mountain trip – Banff, Jasper, etc!!

3. Alaska

4. Whistler (and sea to sky highway)

5. Whale watching

Local things to see/do:

1. Granville island

2. Lynn Canyon

3. Grouse mountain (annual y2play ski pass already purchased!!)

– learn to ski (ever seen a duck on skis?!)

– go zip lining (bit like flying!)

– eye of the wind tour

4. Stanley park   – remember how to cycle!! (or sit in a basket at the front of a bike)

5. Jericho beach

6. Deep Cove

7. North Shore

8. The Aquarium

9. Science Museum

10.Sea plane trip

My main concern is the massive bed bug problem, but I’ve been assured by Kate (with help from http://www.bedbugregistry.com/ – yes there is a real site for bed bugs to register on!!) that Kitsilano might be a safe place for me to spread my wings (inside, obviously).  I’ll be updating a bit before we go with some other useful stuff that I pick up whilst looking over Kate’s shoulder. It’s gonna be a big adventure for an old bird with one leg!

Categories: Canada, Duck, Vancouver, Working holiday | Tags: | Leave a comment

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