Posts Tagged With: 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!


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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!


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

Ladies and gents, this is your Captain speaking…

“It’s not as if I’m never friendly. Okay, maybe I don’t go around loving everybody I meet, maybe my smiles are hard to come by, but i do care for some people.”  (The Hunger Games)

North Americans….they’re all about the friendliness, yes? I could write an ode to the friendliness of Vancouverites, but I’d get stuck on the verse about customer service. I can’t decide which way to go with it, the experiences have been so diverse. I get the same buses every day stuffed in Kate’s bag and have therefore gotten to know a lot of the drivers on the bus route. They span the whole cross-section of humanity – some practically know my name, they’re genuinely happy to see me and really hope I have a good day when they wave goodbye as I get off the bus. A great example was a recent new driver on the route – his ‘in-flight’ announcements were phrased as if he were the pilot of a plane, rather than the driver of a bus. He announced things like “ladies and gents, this is your Captain speaking. There is another bus behind me which is empty if you’d like to get on that when we stop. Don’t tell him I sent you…!” and berating passengers waiting at a stop for a different bus “Ah come on, get on – I’m paid by the kilo”. What a guy – he was entertaining us for his own amusement, there was no hidden agenda with his attitude, and we all got off with an extra spring in our step that morning.

However, when we move across different industries, we encounter a different set-up. One of the main, marked differences between the UK and Canada has to be the customer service element to every tiny interaction throughout every day. Now, this is not to say that in the UK there is no concept of customer service, or that in Canada they have great customer service, just that a whole different approach is taken. The cynics among us might call this ‘doing it for the tips’. Customer service in Vancouver bars and restaurants takes on a life of its own – it is the friendly elephant in the room – the one wearing a short tight skirt and high heels who greets you the second you enter a building. Now, this is great for lots of reasons – you don’t have to queue at a bar in lots of places, someone brings you drinks (a massive plus), you find yourself being drawn into conversation and occasionally learn new things, the quality of food tends to be higher and service is quicker. Generally. Strangely enough, however, this concept doesn’t filter through to industries other than the hospitality sector. Shops, for example, have a whole other customer service code, which I am still trying to figure out. They smile, they chat, they ask you how your day’s been….that isn’t the problem. The problem arises when you ask them for help and they don’t know the answer. This is where the two countries divide – in England, if this scenario crops up, on the whole the assistant might attempt to help you find out the answer. They might call another store, they might ask a colleague.They might look up the answer online or in a catalogue. In short, they see your problem as their problem. In Vancouver, we have the opposite – your problem is your problem; if the assistant can help by telling you something that they know off the top of their head, they will probably do so. But if they don’t immediately know the answer to your question, god help you. They might give you some helpful ‘advice’ (“have you tried googling it?”), or just look at you like you’re crazy. They might (in some instances that I have witnessed) snap “well I don’t know the answer to that, try someone else”. Or they play the ‘I don’t understand your accent well enough to understand what you’re asking’ card, which is the one they keep under the counter for unintelligible foreigners such as the Brits. It never ceases to amaze me – in a country (and indeed a continent) that is renowned for the smiling fake customer service (“have a nice day, now”), the contrast between these different elements of service is startling. And neither really feels honest – you veer wildly from the effervescent, chatty sometimes intrusive hospitality sector to the sullen, sulky and downright unhelpful attitude of some people behind a retail counter – are either of these attitudes real? It seems that people become caricatures of themselves when they accept these positions – they can’t really be that happy or that sullen in real life. Unless…everyone here begins life with a natural demeanour, genuinely interested in the world and people around them. Until someone tips them 20%, and a new beast is born – ladies and gents, meet the career barmaid hostess.

Would you like fries with that?


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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….


“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…


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

“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?


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

Oh I do like to be by the seaside…

Well, the unthinkable happened…we left the hostel. There were many broken hearts and tearful goodbyes to the terrible furniture and loud building work, but somehow we managed to ignore those enough to pick up our bags and leave. I say ‘we’ picked up the bags, I was in one, but still. We have now moved into our apartment, which is complete luxury in comparison. The bed is comfy, there’s a table I can sit at and Kate and Chris have just bought a massive new sofa/sofa bed so I can see I’ll be spending a lot of my time – face down, labels up – on there.

We have had a busy week. Or Kate has, anyway, as she has to go to work every day. I have mainly been sitting in bed and exploring when they’re both out. I did the Grouse Grind a few weeks ago! For those of you that don’t know, almost 2500 steps up about 2700ft in the air up a mountain. I know I do heights, but even for me it was damn high! Luckily I snuck into one of the baby harness constructions that some ‘super moms’ had on their back. They did the whole thing (in half the time it took Chris and Kate!) with a baby and me on their back!! mental! Amazing!

I do like to be beside the sea…
We also went pedal biking…in the craziest stretch of water ever! I like water, of course, but my swimming days are long over…and even in my youth I wouldn’t have been swimming along there! – too many massive ferries, yachts, speed boats, making colossal waves and trying to drown us. It was an experience that I don’t wish to repeat!, reminded me of my duckling days!

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