Tag Archives: Family

Looking forward

Am I optimistic? Well probably yes and then possibly, definitively no. We have in laws visiting us in April, however, this means both of my wife’s sisters will be descending upon our doorstep for two weeks. For a delicate sensitive soul such as myself, this is not a favourable scenario. So I have offered to make myself scarce for a few days to allow for a little sisterly rebonding. All they’ll want to do is shop and gossip and my small talk is next best thing to non-existent. Ergo, I would be a constant brooding presence, resented by all. Better to make like a banana and split. Yes, I’m a coward. Next!

A downtown Victoria hotel room beckons for a few days while all three are together. The current plan is for me to take a couple of books and perhaps enjoy the rooftop bar at the Sticky Wicket. Mrs S has kindly offered to pay for my accommodation as recompense for my exile. I might even treat myself to tea at the Empress. They do an excellent Kenya blend there.

Current reading is Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France and The Great Degeneration by Niall Ferguson. I like Dr Ferguson’s writings, he has a fluid, eminently readable style and is frequently bang on the money, as it were.

On a broader front I’m hoping that the EU rejects the UK parliaments’ request for a BREXIT ‘extension’ and the UK can simply slip it’s moorings to sail away and let the whole shoddy faux-empire collapse. Let’s face it, the Italians don’t want it. France is too busy with the Gilets Jaunes protests and the Germans don’t want to have to carry the economic can for the entire bloated bureaucracy. Could it be ‘game over’ for the EU? Maybe more sensible minds will come to the fore and propose winding back the idea of the EU to a simple free trade zone, although that is rather unlikely. Even if they do, the French farmers and fishermen won’t like that. They’re too prone to riot if they don’t get their way.

Am still rather looking forward to sending all my UK email contacts a “Happy freedom day” email on the 30th March. Depending upon the EU’s final response, BREXIT may still happen on time despite the remainer MP’s frantic treasonous backpedalling.

Good luck everyone. Nil Desperandum.

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Power

There is no such thing as power without responsibility. Well you can try, but it always ends in tears. Even when you don’t there are winners and losers. Let me enlarge…

Over the last three weeks we have been busily involved in exercising our legal powers as powers of attorney on behalf of an old family friend. Emphasis on the ‘old’. We’re talking upper nineties here.

Recently our very good friend became ill. For twelve long hours she lingered at death’s door, or should I say dithered indecisively before deciding to stay with what she knew. Which annoyed some people, but less about them later.

Upon hearing the news, we thundered up the Island highway. Made sure all was under control at the hospital, obtained reports, discussed issues with medical staff and care home manager. Then we thundered back down home getting back late and very tired. Daily phone calls to hospital and relatives ensued while juggling new work issues. A disinterested and cynical reader might think we were being a bit over the top, but we reckon we owe our elderly friend a debt of gratitude for the help that she and her late husband gave us when we first landed. That is a debt I will not consider paid until she is gone and her estate settled.

What didn’t help was Hospital staff and Doctors often giving conflicting information. On one occasion within an hour of each other. On the third day one refused to give us any details over the phone because we “Weren’t on the list” which we bloody well most certainly were. Top of the list of contacts as legally registered powers of attorney if you please.

In the middle of this muddle our friend was blithely and obviously non compos mentis so we held all the aces. A terse conversation with hospital administration was had. Apologies were received. “Oops, sorry, that was on another screen.” Yeah, right. A full report was forthcoming. Necessary people were notified and informed, arrangements made, through which our old friend glided sedately as a Swan, while we and others were doing a lot of desperate paddling underneath. Which made some people, how shall I put this delicately, a little defensive.

Let me explain. A lot of West Coast Canadians hate confrontation to the point where it’s almost comic. They cannot negotiate like a European or our Southern cousins will. They either duck the issue and pass the buck like nobody’s business or get all whiny and passive-aggressive. For our part Mrs S and I handle confrontations without all the circumlocution and squirming West Coasters so often go in for. To us a spade is a spade, you use them to dig holes. Or hit people who won’t give you a straight answer. As people we are often direct, concise and to the point. Which makes us unpopular but what the hell. Did I say West coasters hate confrontation? The passive-aggression we occasionally meet is easily deflected by a flash of legal powers. The opposition might know their ‘rights’ but unfortunately for them, so do we.

Notwithstanding, another trip up and down the highway with a two night stay was booked so we could be there for our friends release from hospital into her residential home at the weekend. Then a phone call from the Care Home Manager. Why not from the Hospital? We’re the powers of Attorney, not him. She’s being sent home when? Today? Hells bells! Thanks for letting us know, you utter tossers. Change of booking. Thunder up Island highway again. Negotiate care instructions and agree with fortunately co-operative Manager of Residential home where elderly friend is resident. At least he appreciated our no-nonsense approach.

I’ll say this for this particular care home, it’s very nice, more like an upmarket hotel for Seniors than a UK pattern care facility. Elderly friend’s apartment is compact but more of a studio apartment plus bedroom. It’s roomier too with a full en-suite bathroom. The facility also has it’s own care unit for the less able, which is where elderly friend stayed until she retrieved all her marbles and got reassessed so she can go back to living more independently.

Additional problems arose when a couple of ‘relatives’ decided to turn up out of the blue and foist themselves on our elderly friend. Eating her food, using her facilities, which we, as her powers of attorney thought was a bit of a nerve. Especially when other family members far closer than we would not put them up. Which I found a little odd. When we asked why, no-one wanted to deal honestly. Mrs S and I found it quite comic listening to someone literally squirming on the other end of a phone line. Obviously no love lost there. It was a pity they couldn’t just be honest with us. “No, they’re an utter pain we don’t want as a house guest.” Would have been quite acceptable as a response, but no, we had to listen to fifteen minutes of ever more elaborate excuses. They had their own lives and wanted someone else to make the hard calls while the vultures descended.

My attitude to the vultures is simple; visit by all means, but pay your own way please. Elderly friend gets charged for having guests in her apartment, which even we as her legal guardians are refused access to. Another set of terse phone conversations were had with the care home. Veiled statements of legal intent were issued. Instructions were reiterated. If elderly friends recovery is threatened by these people, out they bloody well go. Do not pass go, do not dip your hand into her wallet. Elderly friend is supposed to be resting after a very life threatening illness, not in need of ‘cheering up’ or ‘taking out of herself’ by mindlessly well-intentioned freeloaders with their piggy little eyes on our old friends money. Have the common decency to wait until she’s dead, you greedy bastards.

That’s one thing about our part of the Sticker clan is our fierce loyalty to close friends. We look after our own and we like our friends alive thank you very much. Now sod off.

Space oddities

One thing I’ve been looking at around during our sojourn in the ‘Dam are the odd looking little gadgets the Dutch use to get around their highly populated little metropolis. The huge amounts of sit up and beg style of bicycle common to this part of Europe for example. I’ve had to grab Mrs S between seven and nine times today to yank her out of the path of one of these speeding velocipedes. They don’t brake. Well they don’t want to and most of them expect you inconvenient pedestrians to get the fuck out of their way. I’m reliably informed the only thing that can stop a cyclist from the ‘Dam is one of the cities many trams and buses.

However, the psycho cyclists aren’t the whole story. Although only a tiny minority wear helmets and we have yet to see one person wearing spandex. Not one. Everyone cycles in ordinary street clothes. There are no Lance Armstrong impersonators. Also helmetless and spandex deficient are the majority of moped riders who speed along the bicycle lanes without a care in the world. In addition curious little four wheeled two seaters like mini smart cars occasionally whizzing through traffic like manic scalextric toys. One model is called a Canta, but there are others not listed on wikipedia. They exist because I’ve seen them. Parked at the end of a row of mopeds, scooting down bike lanes and scattering pigeons.

A word to the wise regarding hop on and hop off tours of Amsterdam; the boats are best. Failing that, trams and buses. The rest of the time walk. Forget trying to drive in Amsterdam. The buses won’t even get you close to where you want to go. Indeed, the one way system can only be described as Byzantine and the delays mean that it takes you three times as long as in any other city to get anywhere. And the best bit is that there are no bicycles on the river, just pedalos whose unskilled drivers veer all over the bloody place and annoy the tour boat drivers and passengers.

Anyway, we’re moving on now on the third leg of our European Beano to the Sarf a France to sample the liquid delights of Provence, Languedoc and Gascony. Game plan is to fly in, unpack, have a shower and several large glasses of the local vineyards finest before collapsing into a well deserved somnolence. The rest is all day trips out to Carcasonne, Toulouse and maybe a breeze down the Corniche, whichever one of the three that takes our fancy.

Amusement today was found in a Times op-ed about certain companies refusing to allow meat on expense paid for lunches. There’s a simple way round this restriction known to any exec worth his salt. Ask your friendly restaurateur to alter your bill to show a vegetarian meal for the price of a nice steak and glass of red for you and your client. I’ve done it a couple of times back in the day and no-one batted an eyelid.

Oh, and I’ve decided what to nickname our two girls. ‘North’, previously known as Youngest and ‘South’ previously called Eldest. Sounds okay to me, hemispherically speaking.

Travelling again…

Next step of our journey looms. Amsterdam and all points Dutch. A Switch of beers from Tuborg to Heineken. From apartment to hotel. A few points further south. Day trips to the Hague and similar are planned.

As cities go I’ve enjoyed our stay in Copenhagen. Very easy to walk, very flat. Picturesque, with few buildings more than seven storeys tall. Also undergoing a couple of large scale redevelopments in the centre. I wouldn’t want to drive here, that’s a certainty. This is not a vehicle friendly city, even if it is mostly a friendly city. Fine to visit, but like most capital cities, very expensive to live in.

Youngest, although she’s not a girl any more but an intelligent young woman in her own right, capable of making her own way in the world, has gone back to jolly old Londinium to continue her work of trying to sort other people’s legal lives for them. She has a solid network of friends and associates now, some quite highly placed in her section of the legal firmament, so needs very little assistance, either emotional or financial, from us. ‘Youngest’ no longer seems an adequate term because although she’ll always be the second born, she’s earned the right to a more flattering label. Something will come to me.

I notice the two minute media hate is still spewing against the President Trump who has actually been talking to those naughty Russkians instead of listening to the constant litany of ‘Russia is bad’ propaganda, which gets us nowhere. Newsflash kiddies – this is not the old Stalinist Soviet Union we’re dealing with here, they’re mostly democratic and quite capitalist nowadays and definitely not filling mass graves with tens of millions like they used to in the bad old socialist and communist days. So why aren’t we talking to them? Jaw-jaw is better than war-war, as Winston Churchill once put it. Trade better than conflict. All right, Putin jails the odd journalist, but so does everyone else. The Russians are just more open about it. They have a robust attitude, which is to their credit.

Eldest has been to Russia and recommends Moscow and St Petersburg as Summer tourist destinations. So a trip there might be worth the price of a visa. There’s a lot of Russian tourists here in Copenhagen if these old ears don’t deceive me. Just like there are a lot of Americans. I’ve picked up a pdf copy of ‘Russian for Dummies’ and over Winter will be trying to gain a smattering of Russian so we can at least navigate and negotiate our way around.

Back in the UK again

Well there I was. Back in the UK. Did the necessary family visits and with the backdrop of England’s recent World cup run, have been to the smoke for a long weekend in the fleshpots and museums before heading over to Copenhagen.

One thing made me stop and think; All of my relatives were parroting the same lines and stopped dead in their tracks when challenged. Everything they said was from the television. The idiot box, the boob tube. I was made aware how much this blaring boombox dominates their lives. Never even switched the cursed thing on in the hotels I stayed at, it was either full of the world cup or other crap.

Everyone talked about the insulting ‘Trump baby’ blimp, not that Trump will see it, he’s directly off to Chequers (Or has a deal been done at Blenheim, which is not London, it’s Woodstock near Oxford FFS!) when Air Force One touches down, then Scotland for a round or two of golf. What should he care about a country that’s doing like the UK football team? Specifically an early small success (Brexit leave vote) followed by a complete screw up (The current Brexit negotiations), but nowhere in the mainstream UK media was the news that another blimp of that ilk is being crowdfunded. One satirising the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, for his crummy downmarket virtue signaling support for the Trump blimp and presiding over a massive upsurge in crime? No doubt the cameras will be pointed away, provided the Police don’t actually prevent it’s inflation.

Perhaps a similar blimp could be crowdfunded to satirise May as the PM that betrayed the British people over Brexit? Or is she, as my wife has suggested, merely playing the EU, seeming to give in to their demands and all the while setting up to crash the UK out in March 2019 with no deal, simply refusing to pay the EU any more? The latter seems unlikely.

Although I’m reserving judgement until after Trump’s UK visit because, and here’s a thought to annoy remoaners and the left wing whiners. Maybe Trump will offer May a bargaining chip against the petty Euro overlords. An out so that if the Eurocrats do take it to the wire and there’s no decent European deal available, US markets will open their arms. It’s an interesting thought. And it would work for US interests. The US needs markets on the edge of Europe, so perhaps he’ll throw dear old blighty a bone or two.

Who knows?  Update; Well we do now.  Trump has dropped any hope of a US deal because May wants the UK as a vassal state to the EU with her Brexit in name only approach.

Oh what the hell.  Copenhagen is still warm and we’re here until the middle of next week, working our way up the street breakfast by breakfast. Youngest hits town tomorrow and we’ll be squiring her around. Poor thing has been going through a rough patch of late, the dreadful mathematics of the actuarial tables has come to play Danse Macabre in her social circle so she’s feeling a bit vulnerable. I know how it feels to watch your friends fall around you and will be playing the non-judgemental parent while she’s with us. It’s a bloody hard road and I shall be doing my best to keep her cheered up.

I’m a tourist get me out of here part two

Packing today. The litany of lists and suitcases with a smidgeon of “Why the hell do we need to pack that?” Thrown in. Trying to get our single suitcase down to below the 23kg airline limit. This is not an easy task and requires a few sacrifices. Fortunately we’re going premium economy most of the way which means slightly looser baggage allowances. We might also invest in a small to medium suitcase for Mrs S, despite my misgivings after she tried to shift a bag that was way too heavy for her in Paris and ended up breaking her wrist.

We’ve only a few days to go before we step onto the plane headed east and I’m starting to have strong misgivings about the ‘family’ part of the trip. Phone calls to relatives have not exactly been encouraging. Indeed I feel they were a bit ‘off’ with me. There’s no apparent enthusiasm for any meeting and even a whiff of burned bridges in the air. Well this was what I was going to find out but all the clues so far are not that positive, so this looks like being a one time thing for me. As I’ve written about previously. We live and we learn, eh?

Otherwise, we’re just living out of the fridge and making sure there are no leftovers that have been left alone so long that they have spawned strange new lifeforms and evolved into tiny, highly specialised civilisations. Then there’s the final cleaning so we come back to a sweet smelling and comfortable apartment.

Frankly, I’ll be happier when next week is over.

Friends, Countrymen, whatever…

I write not to criticise but to praise. Saturday afternoon I was sitting in my office writing when Mrs S drew my attention to an email she had just received full of ‘Awesome’ and other superlatives commending her for a job well done. My good lady seemed somewhat stunned and cynical about the missive, automatically believing the sentiments contained to be a piss-take. Well, we are both British born, it kind of goes with the territory. “Can you read this Bill?” She said, handing over her iPad.
“It’s a bit OTT.” I remarked after a short perusal. “But accurate. You are officially awesome.” I gave her the tablet back.
“I find that hard to believe.” She rejoindered. We continued the conversation as she went into her bathroom.
“You shouldn’t. I know how good you are. Even when you were just one of the thousands working the teaching chalkface you were remarkable.” I pointed out, getting up to stand in the bathroom doorway as she washed her hands. “You forget, I saw the stats on your kids. I saw how you could get them up two grades and more in just one term. Even children others couldn’t be bothered with.”
“Well I’ve never thought of myself as more than ordinary.”
“But you are. Extraordinary.” I persisted. “Hell, I was just your backup when you were working ten hours a day at your job and then another eight having to requalify for your BC teachers permit back in 2010. I just kept you fed and watered.”
“You did more than that Bill, you kept me sane. You took the calls. Took care of business. Gave me a hug when I needed it. Did all my tech support.”
“Ach!” I protested. “That was just routine stuff.”
“But I still don’t think I’m anything but ordinary.”
“Rubbish!” I retorted. “You are so much more than that. I knew before we married how remarkable you are.”
“I’ve never thought of myself that way.”
“Well I have always thought of you that way.” I reiterated. “You’re better than you know. It’s blindingly obvious to me and I’m no genius..”
“Oh, Bill.” She said.
I wrapped my arms around her and hugged her close. “Look. You know I’d literally take a bullet for you. And the girls. What a great job you did with them. Look how they’ve turned out.”
“Yes, but you helped give them continuity.” She still won’t look me in the eyes until I make the effort to look right down into her face. I swear even then she tries to avoid my gaze. She’s embarrassed by the attention. My best girl has a terminal case of acute modesty.
“All right.” I concede. “We’re both a bit special. I’ve known that since the day that van driver tried to wipe me out on the Swindon Road and I didn’t even drop my bike.”
“Then that guy who…”
I pull her closer. “Enough.” I let her pull back and let her go. If she wants to list my misguided good deeds we’ll be here all week. Okay, I’m a bit of a Boy Scout, so sue me.
“I still don’t know how to answer that email.” She says.
“How about a simple thank you?” I suggest. “If it’s genuine, no one will mind.”
“Okay.” She disappears back to her office. There is a brief rattle of keys and an intake of breath as she hits ‘send’.

Half an hour later she gets a reply and all is well. Even so, such exaggerated praise does not sit well with her. At supper she seems distracted, out of sorts. Her inner world-view has obviously clipped the kerb. I know why this is. She thinks that whenever someone is that effusive it makes her wonder if she’s being set up for a fall. The fact that just occasionally they’re not adherents of Niccolo Machiavelli often comes as a shock to her belief system.

But I will repeat myself. My wife is an incredible woman. One who does an immense amount of good in her working life, every day. She also drives me nuts on a daily basis but she’s someone I couldn’t live without. I know how good she is and to me that’s all that counts. A thoughtful man should always praise his woman and be thankful for her to whatever deity happens to be his choice. Because a little gratitude in a relationship goes a long, long way. If I’ve managed to teach our two reprobates that simple lesson I can die happy.

P.S. The Lemon Tree seedlings are doing well.

Unclean

“Unclean! Unclean!” Chortled Mrs S.
“Thank you dear.” I responded tersely. She knows I don’t respond well to false sympathy.

I’ve picked up a rather painful but not completely debilitating type of virus infection which means I currently have a bad case of spots before the ankle. Which has led to me popping painkillers like they were sweeties in order to stay half way sane and functional. For which the occasional bit of light relief is required from the late great comedy team of Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe a.k.a The Goons.

Just in case I’m infectious have exiled myself to the spare bedroom. I’d laugh, only that hurts even more. Bugger. Hi-ho. I console myself with the old stoic country axiom; what cannot be cured must be endured. These things last around two weeks maximum if you take care, so I’ve another eight or nine days to go. Note to self; lay in extra Ibuprofen.

Anyway, if my Doctor calls about my set of tests from last week to tell me, “Bill, you’re sick.”
I can reply, “Tell me something I don’t already know. I caught it when I went to get those routine tests you ordered.” Although this dose of the dreaded Lurgi won’t show up in those test results. Infections in the incubation stage are hard to spot.

So if I’m a bit slower than usual answering or approving comments, don’t worry. They’re on my to do list. Or my to don’t list. Whatever. Catch you on the flip side.

All this and it’s started snowing.

Have I missed anything?

We’ve had snow. Nothing much, just a hard sugar frosting which will be gone by tomorrow. So what’s the latest craze? Oh yes, it’s something called the ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ which has been sliding under my radar, so I’m having to play catch up.

Like with the documentary above. Watch it all. Seriously. Food for thought and an antidote to the screaming incoherence from the extreme side of both political aisles. ‘Dark’? Not really methinks. Just depends how naive you are. Or could it be said that the path to enlightenment leads through the darkness of accepting our own ignorance? Hmm. Sounds suitably apocryphal.

This weekend I’ve been introducing Mrs S to the work of Dr Jordan Peterson and the theories of Karl Jung. Her response was, “Why haven’t I come across this before?” I replied that I didn’t know. Which sparked off one of our long in depth conversations where I told her how I’d learned and failed until I found out how to reconcile and control the diverse parts of my personality. From which I derived the thought that there are people out there who rely on others not having integrated their dark side properly (I’m looking at you Skywalker! And your Father.) and thus gained the emotional distance necessary to reason. Perhaps because the only way to access these essentials to becoming a more rounded individual have previously been hidden in academic level psychology courses or been overshadowed by popular religion and new age psychobabble.

Just an afterthought, but why is open discussion of ideas being called the intellectual dark web? I know ‘Dark Web’ is one of those labels invented for the hard of thinking as far as the wide open prairies of the jolly old Interweb is concerned, but ‘intellectual’? Doesn’t that imply that many out in medialand are unable to discuss ‘uncomfortable’ issues like grown ups? Now as far as I can see, the TV talking heads seem to be pushing an agenda whilst not recognising their own blatant biases and how repulsively divisive and dishonest they are being. Whether they are just victims of mindless groupthink or deliberately being obtuse I leave to my last remaining reader’s good(?) judgement.

Indeed, it is my observation that all many talking media heads do is slap a cheap label on something then never actually think or re-examine the issue again, except to react to the label like a dog whistle. Like GMO’s being ‘Frankenfood’s’ or referring to genetic interventions to help would-be parents with a hereditary defect that can be genetically corrected as ‘Designer Babies’. Both of which are highly misleading. As are referring to certain practices being ‘kind’. By way of illustration, the evils of Eugenics and involuntary Euthanasia used to be defined as ‘kind’ by such luminaries as the Fabian Society in the early parts of the 20th century. It was only after large scale experiments conducted in Europe and the Far East between 1933 and 1946 had filled a few million graves that the whole matter was ditched as a really epoch-breaking bad idea. Until recently.

As for Dr Peterson’s online lectures, I do believe Mrs S has become quite a fan. Well, she’s watched ten of his YouTube videos plus a few on related topics this Sunday and she’s already asked me about buying his book; “12 Rules for life, an antidote to Chaos“. I may even send copies to the Stepkids.

On a jet plane

Well we’re back in soggy old Vancouver BC with our body clocks threatening to send their mainsprings twanging off into infinity. It’s a fourteen and a half hour flight from Sydney to Van, but what really catches you out is crossing the international date line. Now all of this shouldn’t have been so bad, we could have got some sleep on the flight but for two modern parents who didn’t have the skill to stop one little girl grizzling and crying very loudly for over twelve solid freaking yours. Wail, wah, moan, bitch went mommy and daddy’s little fucking princess. She was unhappy and everyone was catching a slice.

Personally I’d like to see a complete ban on children under ten years old on long haul aircraft. Especially if they haven’t been properly sedated first. Or fitted with some form of sound suppression.

Then there were the insomniacs in the row behind who chose to have a less than considerate conversation, along with lots of wriggling and thumping on my seat back as they played with their tray and in seat entertainment as they got up and down to continually visit the lavatory or stretch their legs. Should the tray be up? No I’ll put it down. Oh hello Mrs Miggins we’ll have the lights on and what was that crossword clue again? Sorry, could you say that more loudly, I don’t think the other ten rows heard you. And this was in Premium Economy. You’d think people willing to stump up the extra for a ticket might have more consideration. I did try to get some sleep, but to no avail.

The resultant lack of repose means that since landing I have been less than my usually sunny self and even positively hostile to any Vancouverite ill advised enough to cross my path. Maybe I should be wearing a t-shirt which says “Warning. Jet lag.”

Notwithstanding, I will be returning to the Fabled land of Oz despite all these travel teething troubles. There is talk of happy tidings if a certain young gentleman can get his act together and ask Eldest the right question. They’re doing plenty of horizontal jogging if all the clues I observed are any guide, so I’ve already given eldest my tacit approval. Nothing verbal, just a candid bit of eye contact and a gentle nod over his shoulder at her. However, we will see what we will see. Their friends all seem to know whats in the offing, so it’s probably one of those open secret thingies.

Note to self. Add decent set of noise cancelling headphones to travel kit.

In the immortal words of Mr Schwarzenegger:

G’day

Well here we are in the middle of Sydney ‘stralia and overjoyed at connecting with Eldest once more. Youngest has just landed after winging her way cross dark and foreign lands having qualified as a genuine honest-to-goodness fully fledged lawyer. Give her any trouble and you’ll be ass-deep in lawsuits before you know it.

For me, the time travel lag travelling from BC to Sydney hasn’t been that bad, despite being cooped up in an alloy tube with about three hundred other souls for over fourteen hours. The cabin crew kept us fed and watered, although the menu was a bit starchy for my liking, so we just tucked into what protein there was and left the sweet and stodgy stuff alone.

So, Sydney. First impressions. I like it. We overnighted in Redfern before heading to our downtown base in one of the more upmarket hotels. Redfern is a cute little place full of narrow streets lined with iron ballustraded houses, and at this time of year the blooms are blooming colourful. The architecture reminds me a little of French Quarter New Orleans with narrower roads. Very relaxed. Very old colonial. Redfern used to have a bad rep for shall we say the less salubrious type of Bogan, but since the 2000 Olympics, when they were shunted out wholesale, the Pink Dollar has taken over as the main currency and coffee shops abound. The main shopping areas surpass Vancouver, even if it seems that half the city is being dug up to install tramlines. The atmosphere is overall busy, friendly and fun.

Oddly enough about these new trams, Mrs S and I were tucking into some salads on our first day and on a hoarding across the way there were pictures of the old tramlines from the 1940’s and 50’s. Wonder how long it will be until these tramlines are removed for the next big thing.

Currently suffering a little from retail induced migraine. Which is a condition induced by doing too much shopping with female companions. A man needs man stuff, or he becomes little better than a pet, a lapdog. Which is something women often don’t really understand. However, I growl every once in a while and do the equivalent of a good scratch at the door so Mrs S knows when to let my inner geek off the leash. She goes off with the girls, and I get to take a stroll through the gadget stores, Science museums and suchlike. Seems to work.

Oh yes. The spiders over here are kind of big. Saw my first Huntsman splayed across a fence in Eldest’s back yard. Not a big one, only three inches across. I’m told they come way bigger, but the little ones like Redbacks are more poisonous. Rather like the Black Widows we get in our woodpiles back in BC. So a little caution when sticking vulnerable tootsies in sandals or when negotiating midnight bathrooms is warranted. Then there are the three inch long cockroaches, which amble through the most active night time pedestrian areas as if they owned the place.

What else? The Gay marriage thing is big local news at the moment, and since Redfern has more of those folk than generally speaking the campaigning is a bit in yer face, but people can’t help what they are, so I tend to deflect with a friendly “I’m just a boring old heterosexual – not really my issue.” excuse. Which nobody seems to mind. Although when the divorce bills come in they’ll probably get the hint, but like I say, not my issue. Just remember that we warned you guys. Civil partnerships are far less legally problematic. And it’s not like the non-heterosexual demographic will be actively breeding, so the out of wedlock side of things won’t be an issue. Nor the fact that their genes won’t be swirling around the gene pool if fifty or so years. Which is probably an ‘ist’ or ‘ism’ thought crime by modern standards, and if so I’m guilty as charged but don’t really care any more. I’ll cop a plea in mitigation of total apathy about the SJW obsession if I’m ever brought to book. Whatever...

Aside from that, I find the directness of the Aussies rather refreshing after the cloying PC-ness of BC. Yesterday morning for example, I found myself explaining the whole business where some Feminist ‘comedians’ in Canada would only work to female only audiences with no heckling allowed. To which my partner in conversation could only stand aghast. They, like me, understood that Comedians, in order to be any good at all need to learn their craft in a hostile environment. Honing their wits and reacting to their audience so that they can communicate effectively and do their job, which is to help make people laugh. Simply standing up on stage telling lame simpering stories with bad punchlines to an audience which cannot criticise does not develop any would be comedians talent. Such milquetoast routines centuries before would have a local ruler sending their old style medieval fool to the scaffold for a quick downsize. Nowadays the only thing such restrictions will kill is the art of comedy.

This is where modern ‘third wave’ feminism fails because it’s not funny at all. Yes, and I include Amy Schumer in this statement. ‘Feminist’ comedy is often two-dimensional, lamely unfunny and takes itself way too seriously, then compounds the error by shutting out almost half the population from the audience. From where I stand they’re all gimme, gimme, gimmie for nothing in return. This isn’t a bid for equality. It’s an attempt to get something for nothing.

My own stepdaughters understand this, which is why they are well liked and already modestly successful in their own fields. As capable young women they are both well able to make their way in the world without the irritating whining of media feminists. This is how we brought them up to be. Seems to be working.

On being an Expat

Apropos yesterdays post. Another in-car conversation on life, the Universe and everything found Mrs S and I discussing our lives. Why we keep so few real friends, which is more an act of personal preference than anything else. Neither of us have ever been manic socialisers. Although we are decent enough folk, well, we like to think so, we find that there’s little point getting involved as everyone else has stuff to do and so have we. So dinner parties are rare events as neither of us is that keen on small talk and always find ourselves at odds with some of the regurgitated media talking points certain people call their opinions.

There are sayings that “You can never go home again.” or “You can’t cross the same river twice.” and now ten years after Mrs S and I began our Canadian adventure I find there is much truth in them. Having gone back to blighty on five separate occasions, visiting places where I grew up only to find a chilly welcome and a “Oh, what’re you doing back here?” No one wants to know you. Old work mates make repeated excuses to not have a beer and a chin wag like you used to, even when you’ve spent thousands to go and see them. When you meet people you thought were good friends it’s a little spooky to watch their faces close down when you say “Hi.” Like while you’ve been living and working overseas you’ve been doing something they’re ashamed of, but it’s not simply that. There’s often a mix of jealousy and disconnection which gives you the sense of being a stranger in your old home town. A feeling of isolation within familiar spaces. Like you’re just a tourist. Which feels like truth. Because it’s not your home any more. You moved on, they stayed. You’re now an outsider, an exile, who shouldn’t ever have come back. This is not your tribe.

There’s a century old story about a man who went to Australia and made his fortune. I think it was told as an anecdote in one Thomas Hardy’s Wessex Novels, not sure which. (Correction: From Laurie Lee’s classic “Cider with Rosie” – A staple of my Senior School English Literature classes – Thank you to the commenters for this correction)  Now the story goes that this newly enriched Australian came back to visit the English village he’d grown up in but left twenty years before. While he’s there he shares his good fortune with old friends and neighbours. Even spending one evening in the village pub buying drinks for everyone. Yet on his way back to his lodgings he was beaten up and robbed by some of the very people he’d once called friend. The very people he’d tried to share his good fortune with.

Life is a river, and like water, time flows in only one direction, unless you’re a very advanced physicist. Sometimes it pools, other times it bounds along, effortlessly carving its own way through solid rock. But always onwards, down to an estuarine end, or abruptly off a cliff or down a hole. So it is with old friendships and family. Those who stay still get left behind. This can breed resentment within them because perhaps they did not really want to stay, but somehow lacked the impetus, like me, to begin new lives for themselves in a different land, or even wonder, and feel a little betrayed by, my need to do so. In their minds, I left them. Which may have bred ill-feeling.

Which leaves me in a dilemma. I have to visit the UK next year anyway, but knowing what I do now, do I go visit and try to reconnect, or just accept what I’ve been told at face value and forever suffer a small nagging doubt? Considering my family history, or rather lack thereof, it has been characterised by a certain; “You don’t need to know that.” feeling. Indeed, trying to track my own Mother’s side of the family has proven interesting* because I was always shut out of the conversation because my very existence (Well I am a bastard from a time when this was frowned upon) is a source of embarrassment. Very few will even acknowledge that I am a blood relative. That and my Mother’s tendency to ‘re-invent’ herself every twenty years or so has not helped.

Oh bugger it, I’ll go and knock on some doors while I’m back in the UK. What can my relatives really do apart from tell me to sod off?

Update: There is also the thought that if we were such great friends and family, all my emails and letters would have been answered. But instead responses dried up fairly quickly, so maybe my erstwhile family and friends don’t really want to know at all. Heart says go and see, head says that they haven’t been in touch because they don’t want to be. Rather like an old mate who broke surface only to disappear into the mists of the Interweb. I offered to come over next time I was in the UK and have a chat over old times and where our lives had taken us. Result; complete radio silence. I’ll take my Aunt and her son out for dinner next time I’m in Blighty, but as for the rest, yes, well. Their lack of interest has been duly noted. Moving on…

* “Interesting” in like pulling a Bull’s teeth without anaesthesia.

Best Christmas message ever

Got a letter today. An old fashioned honest to goodness handwritten letter on ten pages of paper written in real pen from one of my two surviving Aunts. It absolutely has made my entire Christmas because it’s helped me reconnect with people who I didn’t think cared I still existed. My extended family. The pages repeatedly scanned today could not have been more precious if they were written in diamond on 24 carat solid platinum sheets. All right, my Aunt hand wrote the letter because her printer ran out of ink and my cousins won’t be visiting until next weekend to buy and fit a new cartridge for her, but as I read my crusty old eyes were almost moved to sentimental tears. Even if she hadn’t sent a Christmas card, this was far better.

I say better because all the sentiment within was genuine, not forced or the grisly secondhand saccharine sloppiness or ghastly lame humour of the usual run of Christmas cards. The letter was chock full of the dark humour typical of my clan, stuffed with information on a branch of the family who I thought had forgotten all about yours truly decades ago. Some of the news was sad, about a distant aunt and uncle who have left this world, but more was happy because people I used to love and trust, and think I still do, are still around and sinning despite all life’s vicissitudes. No, none of us do ‘Social media’, we have real lives. We connect in four dimensions not the two of Farcebook or Twatter.

Which gladdens my scabby blackened old heart. As my good lady wife observed having noticed my smile; “Well, something undid a twist in your soul Bill.” With which I agree, because I feel part of my own special river of humanity again. Connected. No longer as distant or excluded. And you know what? It feels good and it’s the best Christmas present I’ve had for decades. Possibly the best seasonal missive I’ve ever had.

Honestly, I’ve come over all North Brummagem.

I’ve been told that some of our lot are visiting Oz at the same time Mrs S and I are. It would be interesting to run into them and see what they’re really like, or if we’ll even recognise each other after so much time estranged. Family, eh? Who knew?

Past ‘The Hat’

Wham-wham! Grumble, Wham-wham! And another bridge is crossed as our tyres slam over poorly patched potholes and worn expansion joints. Mrs S stirs sleepily in the passenger seat, moaning softly in complaint. She’s had a reaction to the painkillers the dentist prescribed and been throwing up all the livelong day, poor lamb. Now with some Gravol to quell the queasiness, she’s out for the count, leaving all the driving to me.

The resulting delays from having to pull over on high speed roads to let her chunder have turned what should have been a happy seven hour shared drive into a ten hour chore for me. Fortunately I had a good breakfast, and with my camel-like constitution didn’t need very much to eat or drink on the long hack into Calgary, where we’ll be resting up and going to see the Stampede for the next few days. In my younger days I’d be on the road for up to twelve or thirteen hours some trips, driving a delivery van up and down the UK, but now ten is hard work. Maybe I’m getting soft in my frail dotage.

After the last two days I could do with a break from driving, even under the wonderfully broad blue skies of the prairies. It’s been hot too, 36 Celsius recorded by our little SUV’s external thermometer, which means it might have been anything between 30 and 39 Celsius. But it’s a dry heat like in a sauna, and therefore quite bearable, even pleasant.

Now we’re in the air conditioned comfort of a modern hotel, Mrs S has crawled into bed exhausted, leaving me to the perverseness of keyboard and mouse. No bother, she’s past the worst and finally keeping fluids down. We’re past ‘The Hat’ (a strange place called Medicine Hat) which many old expat Canadians considered the break even point of any trans-continental trek. As in if you make can it this far, the folklore goes, you’re likely to make it to the other coast. I don’t care for the place myself, and after a rather unpleasant experience trying to book into one of the local ‘pet friendly’ hotels ten years ago, don’t much care to stay there again.

As far as the rest of the trip is concerned we only have four more days actual serious driving to do before we are back home. However, that’s a couple of weeks away because we’re stopping first in Calgary for a few days, thence in a spa break and wine tour before we stop over in Vancouver to pick up some furniture for the new residence. I’ll also do a bit of calculation on how much in the way of resource we’ve used in terms of petrol (Gasoline) and such. We’ve been keeping a log to see how many miles to the gallon our little SUV can deliver on really long run, thence it’s off to the dealership for a new windscreen and a thorough service and what they call ‘detailing’ over here. Which is rather like a thorough in and external valeting of the vehicle, including the engine compartment. The way I reckon it, the car has done us proud and deserves a proper treat. Maybe I do, too. And I’ve got an idea about that.

From the land of living skies

I blinked and all of a sudden we’ve crossed another time zone, this time overnighting in Regina. Today was fraught with the drama of Mrs S cracking a tooth requiring urgent dental treatment. So I found myself in a strange town in a land that even pancakes would vouchsafe; “That’s a bit flat, that is.” searching for an emergency dentist.

The Gods of fools must have been smiling because within thirty minutes of Mrs S declaring in tears; “Bill, I can’t do this.” We had located a suitable dental practice and she was waiting for a chair to become available. Another hour and a half (and four hundred dollars) later, we set off back on todays trek into deepest Saskatchewan.

My powers of persuasion must have been on form because we went from a ‘No can do’ at front desk to a ‘No problem’ inside five minutes. Must have been the kicked spaniel look that I gave the receptionist, and the pitch and roll I put on my voice that carried into the back treatment room to bring a Dentist scurrying out to declare that one of her other patients had just canceled and she could fit Mrs S in right away. Which left me filing out the paperwork, and Mrs S being helped into a welcome treatment chair.

Now I’ve cracked teeth before and am fully aware how bad it feels. So I was fretting a bit, but even so managed to keep running interference on a parking meter, reading a book, and translating Mrs S’s slightly muffled voice into something everyone could understand. Filling in the gaps of her medical history and just being generally helpful. Thus we went from pain to no pain and the balance of my world was restored.

One of the things I will say about North American dentistry is it’s quality. From pain relief to diagnostics, these guys kick your average NHS Dental surgeon into touch. I’ve even got to the point of looking forward to my twice yearly checkup because fillings are fraughtness free and the one time terror of a dental examination is now a relaxed sit down with a pleasant windowed view of trees. Yes, they’re all (OMG!) private. But they are very, very good.

I did all this fuelled by a single Werthers Original because what with one thing and another I completely missed my morning coffee and any semblance of a breakfast. My sole sustenance was a single hard Caramel candy. The sort Scott of the Antarctic should have taken along because he and his team would not have frozen to death in Moose skin sleeping bags if they had. They would have had the energy to man-haul their sleds all the way to the pole in jig time, beating Amundsen to the punch by a week. Sadly they did not have any such candy (Probably because they’re made by the beastly Hun) and paid the ultimate price for this omission. But everything is obvious with 20/20 hindsight, isn’t it?

Which may be one of the possible downsides of a hard BREXIT. No more Werthers Originals. Or BMW and VW spares. Although those companies will be looking to keep their markets by funneling cash into a British import business to bypass any extra tariffs imposed by vengeful EU Bureaucrats.

The EU needs a good hard kick in the bureaucratics anyway. These petty little tyrants have been busy empire building and siphoning money out of the European economy for far too long. All it needs will be a number of the other member states to tell them the magic money tree will not be giving the pompous plutocrats any more fruit and tell them their new offices are in the basement. Not the French, because they’re used to being subjugated by turbocharged globalist Sir Humphreys. The type I’m referring to are the pompous little pricks who take over the best Parisian Restaurants and double park their Mercedes, blocking the street while their bodyguards practice their bladder control outside trying to look tough. I’ve seen this on numerous occasions in Paris, and twice been unable to book a table because some over promoted suit has decided they have to have the best because they are the masters, not the servants they really should be seen as. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of the copybook of other empires (Ottomans and Chinese) and have the bastards castrated when they get above a specific pay grade. Want a government job? – here’s the downside of your pension scheme.

Anyway. Mrs S is now well and recovering from this mornings ordeal. She has said she may be fit to drive a little tomorrow. We shall see. I’m a cautious man, and would prefer to shoulder the burden of driving until the pain has ebbed enough for her to be painkiller free. So we’re off too see Alberta tomorrow, because we’ve heard they’re stampeding for something in Calgary, and we want to see what all the fuss is about. Especially since Justin Trudeau has said he won’t be going. And that’s good enough reason for me.