Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dishwasher Initiative Failure

Oh, woe is me.

The new Dishwasher Initiative that started a few weeks ago in this house is failing miserably. The mother decided the children were old enough to rinse out their own dishes and place them in the dishwasher themselves after eating. Sounds easy enough to me.

More often than not they just get slung anywhere in the vicinity of the sink, resplendent with gunk left over from whatever they ate. I am at that jaded stage of feeling like it's just easier to clean up their mess since even if they do it themselves I generally have to re-do everything anyway. Was I a horrifically messy pre-teen? I have no recollection of this.

It's as if I just came out perfectly formed, with the mind of a 30 year old even as a new born. This is why my Grandad called me 'Here Before' perhaps.

This can't be true, yet the level of detritus left in the two sweet girls' wake leaves me frequently incredulous. The worst thing about the abject failure of the Dishwasher Initiative is that the parents contribute to its failure on a daily basis by slinging their own plates in or near the sink rather than putting them in the dishwasher. It's as if I am the dishwasher conduit and nothing may be cleaned unless it has first been placed artfully in the machine by my own fair hand.

The other day the mother made a note on this aloud telling me 'That little girl is going to need reminding to put her dishes away!' while simultaneously shoving her own dish in the sink, oatmeal quietly crusting at the edges.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Winter in Van is on the way, the rain was torrential yesterday.

I spent my time holed up in the basement being warmed from the inside out by Gloria Steinem's interview on the CBC. I can't express enough how much this is worth listening to, if you are a woman or know someone who is.

In other news, I have a new crush. Her name is Ariel Schrag. See earlier post about how the best things in Van are free - the libraries. I borrowed all four of Ariel's awesome autobiographical comic/graphic novels on Thursday and today I am finishing the last one. If you have ever wondered how comic book sex looks, or would enjoy a flashback to that time you had to tape your friend's miniscule dress together as you got ready to go out while No Doubt blared in the background, then locate the last of your glitter eyeshadow, slap it on and put the kettle on. These are books to be devoured.

Also, Erika Lopez has a new book coming out soon. I was horrified (at first, because I am a selfish snob who wants to be cooler than the other graphic novel readers, but then of course I was pleased and delighted for her success) to discover people know who she is; like the writers of Bust who just interviewed her. I am nervously excited to read it. I was at university when I fell for her incredible wit and deliciously trashy illustrations that look like they were drawn by a horny, yet exceedingly talented, fifteen year old boy with a Betty Page fetish. Opening the first page will be like going back in time. I can't wait.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


The 31st of the month is not yet upon us, but I have already decided I don't like Halloween.

When I was little I used to dress up as a witch and just walk around the house in my get-up. There was nowhere to go, Halloween didn't really exist then in England.

Here people have had their homes decorated for weeks. I walked by one the other day and I thought lots of plastic bags had got stuck in the bushes but on closer inspection I saw that each plastic bag had a face and that they had been purposefully tied on to resemble ghosts swarming near to the house. I saw another very similar thing a few days later. I always liked the idea of pumpkin carving but as the inevitable draws closer I am finding it hard to work up any enthusiasm.

Maybe this is because I have agreed to dress as a fairy godmother. This is because it's the only outfit in the house that fits me. There are hordes of frightful dressing up things, but I fit into a 70s broderie anglaise dress and a towering sequinned princess hat, almost as if they were made for me. There is also the upsetting truth that in Walmart the week before last I bought a bumper bag of Halloween sweets and they haven't even lasted until Halloween. (A hundred packets of Rockets which are the Canadian version of Fizzers. )

My initial reaction was that Rockets are not as delicious as Fizzers but after 100 packets* of Rockets I can't remember what Fizzers taste like anymore.

* Sadly not an exaggeration

The Best

I remembered! The absolute Best thing about Van is the public library system. My library on the North shore has the incredible bonus of being newly constructed with mostly glass walls so that if you go to the 3rd floor during the early evening you can watch the splendour of the sunset from the study section. This isn't just any sunset, it is the sunset over the ocean, from a pleasing height. It really is gorgeous.

This does not even have anything to do with the cerebral pleasures contained within the library's heaving shelves. Yes I can make the library sound sexy, because it is. (Especially the downtown library, which appears to concentrate on hiring nymph-like yet vaguely androgynous looking graduate students; the type that have Dewy decimal numbers tattooed on their wrists.)

I like to test the library, just to see if it is really as amazing as I like to think. I think of books I read long ago, books I only half recall the title of, then I look for them on the online catalogue and see if it true that this library could take all my crappiest thoughts on Neanderthalic North 'Cougar and flush them down the loo. This library just never fails. I found the wondrous works of the seemingly unheard of Elizabeth Knox, a book I recalled wanting to read that had Trieste in the title (Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere by Jan Morris) High Art on DVD, the whole of Veronica Mars, the legacy of John Marsden who scared me witless (delightful!) as a teenager....but then the best gift of all. The entire High School Comic Chronicles of Ariel Schrag.

Downtown I was awed to discover that the library not only carries another healthy selection of comics and graphic novels, but it has an entire section devoted to Zines. I had thought Zines were purley a mid-90s phenomena that sprung up solely to inform me of new bands and bad poetry that was being created across the country before the internet was even a figment of our collective imaginations. As it happens, they still exist. I shouldn't be surprised, since Book Art as a genre still exists. Book Art however, protects itself with the sparkling yet invisible cape of chic mystery bestowed upon anything with 'art' in the title. Zines are clearly made by people who do not believe in the value of the invisible cape, they think that what they scribbled on their wall last nigt at 3am is art and that computers and our reliance on them is the true embodiment of evil.

They are my people.

The reading room at the Regional Assembly of Text is another pure joy and it offers a selection of handmade books that wear the Book Art cape but have Zine-like sensibilities. I could live in there.

Grease the Wheels

The other day I was mentally composing what to write here as I felt I had discovered the ultimate Best and Worst things about Vancougar. I even wrote a note about it later on something I cut out of the Georgia Straight (my notice board is full of newspaper cuttings regarding obscure events I rarely end up going to).

I lost the note. I no longer have any idea what the Best thing about Van is, but I definitely remember the worst:

It is almost impossible to get drunk.

It's not even that I want to get drunk, just to enjoy some drinks, but it takes a tremendous amount of effort. You can't buy alcohol in Safeway or at the 7-Eleven. Nowhere but at a liquor store (an off-license to people at home) or a bar. At bars you are often encouraged to sit and be waited on. This takes away the brilliant opportunity to drunkenly make friends with other patrons while standing at the bar waiting for a drink or to flirt with the bar staff. And drinking here is expensive!

However, my Fellow European and I are intrepid in our such for fun and alcohol in this rainy yet strangely dry metropolis. This led to my great idea of attending the book launch for Inkstuds at Blim. Inkstuds is a book of interviews with comic book artists (made from a radio show) and Blim is an art workshop/gallery space in Chinatown. Oh, my poor, beleagured artist's hopes were high for a night full of drinking cheap book launch wine and chatting to nerdy looking comic-book reading dudes with glasses and tattoos and sultry art school drop-out girls. In other words; heaven. (If you're 15. Or me.)

Having once (5 years ago) co-thrown an opening-night-of-an-exhibition-do along with 7 artful friends, I feel qualified to assert that I know the ropes*; I know how these things should go down. Namely, alcohol should be thrust upon you as soon as you enter.

The theory behind this is that hopefully you will get tipsy enough to ask questions about the art work so the artist can revel in describing their artistic intentions or enjoy making up a load of bollocks on the spot. Also, people get emotionally attached to pieces of art when they feel emotional. In the sense that they may simply have to buy that seven foot tall paper mache and cigarette butt sculpture of David Beckham right now, no matter what.

I liked the feel of Blim, but it was too reticent an opening to inspire us to stay when cocktails were calling from Guilt & Co. down the road. We looked at the book (which looks interesting) and we chatted to a nice but wary guy behind the book table, but it was too much like hard work.

* Please note irony, or something else if that is not in fact irony, it's too cold for my brain to function at optimum capacity.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The trouble with love.... that it is akin to carrying a bucketful of water on each shoulder.

On one shoulder you have the bucket containing your love for a person, and on the other shoulder is the bucket containing their love for you. When it's weighted evenly like that you can't feel the pressure of it. You're content to carry it forever.

Only when the balance drops does the burden of carrying one bucket reveal itself. It weighs you down so low, whether someone has withdrawn their love from you, or you have withdrawn your love from them, you are left with one heavy bucket to carry and nothing to balance it with.

I don't know which bucket is heavier, when you're left with one full of your love for someone who has left; or when you're stuck with a bucket of love you can't accept from someone else.

Eventually though, carrying it around unevenly, sloshing it about like that, or due to a hole in the bucket itself, it slowly empties and the weight is lifted.

There was probably a hole in my love bucket for Linus even at the start of our relationship. It must have been tiny because I didn't notice it. Even when it became evident, I didn't care. I just wanted to stare at him and listen to him sing. (Are you noticing a pattern?)

I was left with the heaviest goddamn bucket of love for that boy that one woman ever tried to carry alone. It nearly broke my back. But it didn't, and I would like to announce to the world that with a little help from home and the people in it, from Robin's unwavering support (because blood might be thicker than water, but golden syrup is thicker than blood) and from the lilting French accent of a hot 18 year old intern, that bucket is now empty.

That's not to say all the love goes away, that it all spills over and out or leaks and leaves. There is a residual sheen, like an undercoat of paint. I don't regret a single moment I sat on the kitchen floor of a 1920s apartment, and stared at Linus, and listened to him sing. I just don't need to do it again.

Shipping Forecast

I can hear the long low bellow of a ship's horn. The quay is a half hour walk away if you don't want to hurry.

At night, or early in the morning, you can be woken by the moan of the ships as they slowly move their hulking weight through the harbour. The noise sounds like the ache of a whale's belly.

I never use the word belly for humans, I think it sounds ugly; it sounds huge and distended. We have tummies. Whales, though, have bellies that are gigantic and fit to swallow you whole. The rumble a whale's belly would make if the whale felt hungry is the sound of the horn. Or the low tone of a whale when it is sad, a deep baleful call because it can't cry tears underwater.

Wino Forever

As mentioned in the previous post, my lengthy Kevin Costner fantasy was replaced when Jordan Catalano came into my life when I was 13, the exact age that he leaned his way into Angela Chase's life in perhaps the best celluloid interpretation of teenage angst ever: My So-Called Life.

Jordan was replaced by Winona Ryder. I had forgotten about Winona. I thought of her just the other day as I was vacuuming the hall floor. I have forgotten a lot of things, a lot of early influences, which is why I am re-hashing them now. It occurrs to me that who you once were is not irrelevant to who you are now. Like the first time you realise that the reason you keep getting your heart wrecked is because of the people you choose to sail it with. It's just the same person, again and again, in different incarnations.

See this post for an introduction to this topic, but lately I have been playing an ongoing game with myself called 'How gay am I really?' It's a very intresting game. Try it yourself! I know I fit between the two big categories of hetero and homo which is why this game interests me - I'm just like everyone else, pushing myself to see if I can swing it over one way and pick a side. Wouldn't that be easier for everyone? Most of all for me. I'm kidding. To be honest, I'm just curious. And surprised.

I was once told by my very lesbionic friend 'You are the gayest person ever' and it just so happened that the majority of my cultural leanings, thoughts and influences were, upon closer inspection, really very gay indeed. I read Stella Duffy and Carol Ann Duffy avidly. I listened to Sleater Kinney and Bikini Kill. I watched every movie Winona had been in, and when her portrayal of Jo in Little Women made me believe nothing could make me love her more, I wrote to her to tell her so. I don't actually remember anything I said in the letter. I blocked out that I wrote a love letter to a woman when I was 14 (14!) and didn't think there was anything remotely gay about it.

I went to a girls' high school and never once noticed any of the girls in it. I was never in the closet; I lived in Narnia. I was so deeply entrenched in my own world (where I never once questioned my sexuality - why does that word sound like a disease?) that I wasn't even aware a closet existed.

Of course Winona had to move over for River Phoenix who in turn (once reading not one but two of his biographies had influenced me enough to turn me into a vegetarian for the next 10 years) had to make room in my adolescent heart for Dave Grohl (awesomely talented and bearded frontman of the Foo Fighters who had been the lanky, long-haired drummer in Nirvana when I fell for him).

Now Dave was the real deal. I spent hours comtemplating our future together, how I would meet him at The Laundry Room in LA, (his recording studio) how we would sit in a diner and he'd sing 'Big Me' from the Foo's first album (which I had borrowed from the library, ha!) and most of all I worried about how much he smoked and whether I'd be able to get him to stop. These were my real concerns. I never imagined kissing him even though I was sure we would be married. I just wanted to stare at him and listen to him sing. Eventually I had a boyfriend who was incredibly cool (he still is! and he's getting married, but that's a whole other post) and he took me to see Dave play live. I wore my favourite dress, a little black number with an empire waist (adds boobs) a mesh overlay and adjustable spaghetti straps. I bought it with my first ever wages/paycheck (bar what my brother paid me for picking raspberries for him at his summer job and the five quid I earned for forging his signature dozens of times on his personalised business cards in his Ferris Bueller days). When I saw Dave on stage I actually cried a bit.

I was 20!

Ha! Just a year later I was confounded when during a flirty conversation with my not-yet first girlfriend, she declared I would have to fight her for Dave, whom she adored. I didn't understand; she was a giant homosexual, she had said so herself. Surely the rights to Dave would be all mine. Even then I knew I liked her so much I would allow her to encroach on my long held Dave Grohl fantasies. On the street where the bus stopped nearest her house, there was a shop I always wanted to go in to. It was a cute, adorable looking little boutique in Stoke Newington in North London. I saw it every time I got off the bus to go to see her, and I never went in. Going in would have meant reaching her later. Even if I just went in for a minute, it would mean I would reach her a minute later. I couldn't do it. I literally walked as fast as my legs would carry me.

That seems like madness now. Much later, when she was gone and all my longing belonged to another girl who seemed to give me an electrical charge every time we were in the same room, I went back to that neighbourhood. I visited that little boutique and spent an entire week's salary on an Orla Kiely handbag. (It was in the sale even then.)

Now of course, I understand it all completely differently. Probably no one is completely blinded to the attractiveness possibilities in each gender. Kind of like, I can see that Jude Law is attractive, but that's as far as I'd take it. My crush on Dave did not inherently have more value in it that my crush on Winona, merely because he's the opposite sex. My attachment to a man is not superior to an attachment to a woman. This is true for me, and and that is all I can say. I know it's not true for the world.

And so now, even though I will continue to defend the many hideous hairstyles Lee Min Ho deigns to wear in his Korean TV performances, Min Ho must move aside, for my current celebrity crush has a face that lights up like no one else. She also has a pony tail.

The reason I am boing your arses off with a post practically idenitical to one I wrote recently is that I can't keep this stupid smile from spreading across my face every time I think about this. It's like I've been set free. My to-ing and fro-ing over WK, and all the date-ish non-dates I had over the last year with perfectly fine gentlemen (where I kept hoping they wouldn't kiss me) left me feeling as if there was a hole in my heart space that was never going to fill up again, not quite to the brim.

I was wrong. The space isn't empty after all. I've just been barking up the wrong tree.

Friday, October 15, 2010


As well as chief cook and bottle-washer, another of my roles in this job is 'bodyguard'. This does not involve singing that song where each word has about ten syllables, and I almost never think about Kevin Costner anymore (although I had a long, involved fantasy about him after he appeared in Dances With Wolves, which came out when I was 9, and lasted until Jordan Catalano came into my life 4 years later).

I have to take the dog with me when I do the school run. And the ipod, otherwise I would be at risk of enjoying the silence of nature. Then I wait on a patch of grass while the dog rolls around slobbering. After a while (about four or five songs) the Little One comes up the steps from school accompanied by her rather worldly classmate. I put the ipod away, greet the girls and they tell me little bits about their day at school. Then we proceed to walk home. I walk behind with the dog, and the two girls walk in front of me chatting about their substitute teacher, the boy who has a foster mum, whether they like Amanda (usually), how much candy they won during class for answering questions correctly (yes, really!) and possibly a trillion other inanities of school life. I don't know any more because by the time we have reached the pedestrian crossing I am fully immersed in my role as bodyguard and start wondering why I left my mirrored shades at home.

The classmate would be walking home alone, if it wasn't for me being provided as courtesy escort. So every day I get the overwhelming feeling, as I follow these two giggling pre-teens, that I am nothing more than a bodyguard. One who walks at a discreet distance while trying to keep up, having to stop to pick up poop once in a while.

Having to take the dog really ruins my image.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Spirit Level

When I consider my own sexuality (gasp!) I always visualise a spirit level.

In our house when I was little, we had an orange spirit level with a yellow bubble that sat in the middle when the spirit was level, as it were. This is a memory I am not certain of, perhaps I invented the orange colour, but it's what comes to mind.

When I let myself (or make myself) consider it, I know I am not straight. I also know I am not gay. As Al Gore might put it, this is an inconvenient truth.

My Fellow European hit the nail on the head for me by using one word in reference to this over a glass of wine the other day:


The reason it is inconvenient is it is difficult to build a coherent identity, an idea for yourself and also an idea for others (especially other people you love) to have of you when they can't be certain where the bubble on your spirit level lies. This is due to the impossibilty of separating your sexuality from every other facet of your life. It's true that it impacts other areas, but I know truly and completely that I am exactly the same person, in essence, as I was before I ever found out I could be in love with someone of either gender.

And this issue is not about what you do with someone, not for me. It is about who you do it with. It is about love. In the absence of any faith that grips my heart except the faith that love inspires, I am beholden to it and spend my life in it's joyful and heartbreaking pursuit.

I can say without any doubt that when I have truly loved someone I have never doubted that they were the 'right' gender for me. For me there is no right answer, no right team to play on, just a right person. I think I've loved the right people so far. (Of course I would eventually like to love someone who is so right for me, who I am so right for, that we stay together for a billion years and have 27 children.)

I think my gayness (I'm single so I don't have anyone to sway the balance; let's call it 50%) is more deeply rooted than I first thought when I fell in love with a girl at university. I thought it was just her - the way her hair smelled like rosemary, her contrasting boldness and sensitivity, her fine bone china tea cups and the floral, lavendery Earl Grey tea that they always held. It didn't occur to me before that I was different from a lot of girls way before then. I'm still not sure now, because I have no one to measure myself against. I don't know if my childhood devotion to Rosemary Ford (the glamorous assistant on the Generation Game) and passionate support of Jennifer Capriati at Wimbledon in 1991 when I was 10, was just a normal growing-up thing, or if it meant I always saw girls differently than most girls do. That girl at school in the year below, with the pale blonde sheet of hair that waved to me like a white flag after a fight and made me happy each time I saw it; did I just admire her lack of frizz or did I have a crush on her? Does it make a difference now? Why am I thinking about it at all?

I haven't thought about girls in a long time, about the way I feel about some of them. Last weekend I went to see a band play and it is not an exaggeration to say that it rejuvanated my zest for, well, absolutely everything. There is still a spring in my step that had been lacking for months before. The music was awesome, I had fun sharing it with a friend and seeing Stanley Park for the first time. But that wasn't it - the magical part was that it made me remember something I like. When you forget what you like, you forget who you are.

I have been here, swamped and wading around, directionless, forgetting all the tiny things that make me who I am. No wonder I have been so miserable. Since the show I have set myself the task of remembering them; I want to chart the influences on my life since the first time I went to see that particular band play when I was 21, to now, till I saw them on my 29th birthday and felt like something in me was bursting open.

This is a totally self absorbed project that I don't plan to write too much about (but hey - if I turn out to be self absorbed enough I might change my mind on that later). The point of it stems from seeing this woman on stage, singing to me as I stood in the mud in a crowd of 2000 people, and remembering the first time I saw her. It was in the bathroom of the Metro Club on Oxford Street in London and as I was washing my hands I noticed a petite, dark haired girl wearing a parka with a furry hood washing her hands next to me. It was Sara Quin, one half of the band Tegan and Sara. When I realised I recognised her I wanted to hug her I loved their EP so much. I was absolutely too shy to say hello, or thanks for coming to London, or your new album rocks, or anything like that. I loved that show and the one I went to 2 years later, both venues so tiny that they played in front of me as close as Sara had been to me in the bathroom that time.

Six years after that first Tegan and Sara show I saw them play in LA and was astonished to discover their rise to fame meant fans were sleeping outside the venue to catch a close up glimpse of them (in Hollywood! Instead of being synonymous with 'glamour' it should be synonymous with 'dirty on the ground', don't sleep outside!). Within a few weeks of seeing that LA show I had the utter pleasure of bumping into another woman in a bathroom, who's music and attitude and face I have loved since university. You can bet your sweet anything I didn't let the opportunity of meeting Pink (or Alicia as she's known to good friends like me!) slip by, I said hello and chatted to her for a good five minutes in the bathroom of Hotel Cafe. I didn't faint or anything!

How things have changed.

When I bought Tegan and Sara's EP (before I had even heard their voices - I admired the cover) I didn't know they were both gay or that it would be important for me later. Or maybe I did, maybe my gaydar was so super duper and subconscious that I knew without knowing.

Either way, it's knowledge about myself that can't be undone. I don't want it to be. I don't know where it's going to take me. I'm going to try to stop fretting about that part.

p.s. I remember one of the most confusing things anyone ever said to me regarding my gay behaviour; she asked how I ended up being friends with a girl I had just met (who was also exploring her own signs of gayness at the time) in the manner of 'how come you don't fancy her? she's gay too, so how do you know who you fancy and who you are just friends with?'. This was useful for me as it really gave me the idea that maybe some women grow up without their version of Rosemary Ford, maybe some people have no capacity for empathy with that. To me it's obvious - straight women (and me too) are able to distinguish which men they fancy and which they don't. It's even more pronounced than that, we can distinguish which men we fancy, which we don't mind, which we are repulsed by and which we view in an asexual manner (i.e.brothers). I can do the same with women too. Instead of being all in one group of 'don't fancy' there is a scale and my friends all fall under the 'not attracted to, at all' category while Pink comes under 'definiftely attracted to but can maintain composure during surprise meetings'. It's not that you aren't totally beautiful, my friends, I just don't fancy you.

p.p.s. This does not even touch on the anxiety produced in me by the term 'bisexual'. I can't deny the real meaning of it about myself, because it's true, yet the term has been hijacked so completely by society, by both gay and straight communities, as being a purgatory for people who are sitting on an imaginary fence, people who are polyamorous (this is so not what it means - 'bi' should stand for 'either' not 'both') or people who want to have their cake and eat it too, who are confused or lying to themselves and everyone they know. That's why I rarely use this term in reference to myself, but if you need a term to process me with, its the only one I've got to offer you. If you are reading this and were not already aware of it and think that I should have mentioned it to you before, please know that I often forget that the fluidity of sexuality is a big deal to some people, and that to some others it is a foreign concept altogether. I wouldn't imagine regaling everyone I know with intimate details of my early 20s if they concerned a boy, because I don't think it matters. (Except you Robin and Mimi, you get to hear all the fun stuff, sorry!) The fact that much of that time concerned girls, I tend to think is only relevant to me. Oh goodness it has taken so long to organise my thoughts for this post it is past 3am and I am now ravenously hungry. Either that or my basement-fellow's pot smoking session earlier has given me the munchies. I must go and sacrifice the last Dairy Milk in my stash. Thanks for listening.

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Back in the present, I am experiencing some strange, unfamiliar feelings of contentment. For now, I am content to live in Vancougar and see what happens for a while. I'm not promising I won't come home screaming shortly, but maybe I will last a bit longer than I originally thought.

Maybe it's autumn. It really is stunning here. At every turn, and most frequently when I am without my camera, I come upon rows of trees alternating golden and bright red leaves, or startling blue sky above defined mountain peaks. Then there's the sunlight.

I was on the bus travelling over the Lions Gate Bridge with my friend (whom, in a reference to the timeless Bewitched, I shall call Sam) when we became utterly speechless at the site of the city at sunset. The sunlight hit the glassy buildings in such a swathe of rays that the result was a heavenly shimmer of golden reflected light. The soft sparkle was beguiling and gorgeous and I couldn't take my eyes off it, not even to gaze over to the other side of the bridge where I would have been met with the site of the sunset against the ocean.

Tonight I watched the sunset on the ocean side as I was travelling home a little later and missed the bedazzled buildings spectacle. Huge ships from Japan and Korea occupy the harbour here and 3 of them were far enough out that I could see their twinkling lights underneath the orange horizon. Not to mention the dark shoreline spreading out to the intense, behemoth mountains behind.

In other news, I carried three bars of Dairy Milk and two Mars Caramels around London Drugs (Boots/Walgreens equivalent) today for ten minutes while I looked for shampoo, and then I put them back. I got a packet of Tropical Trident gum instead. Proud of me? My Uniqlo jeans are. They want to be worn again.

Something else that wants to be worn again is my yellow party dress, which has such a profound effect on my mood I really ought to wear it every day. It's a frothy chiffon confection and I wore it to my birthday drinks. It was truly sad, having to research a venue online because I haven't been out enough here to know anywhere to go. It was even sadder recruiting my friends' friends so that it actually resembled a birthday gathering. It was even more tragic when the extra friends couldn't make it. Go ahead and get your tiny violin out. What turned out to be fabulous though, was that my research paid off and I spent my birthday drinks party here. The pretention factor of such a very cool and arty venue was offset by the fact that when I walked in they were playing the Amelie soundtrack and I felt like I had come home. Added to that, the cocktails were inventive and yummy, you could go up to the bar and get your drinks yourself, all the staff were friendly and one of them even complimented my yellow dress. The evening gave me so much confidence that I finally had the courage to confront my good friend WK about his shirtless behaviour and request that he stop it if didn't have any ulterior motive. I would quite gladly have taken advantage of any ulterior motive, mind you, but if he thinks he can platonically parade his finery in front of me, he is quite mistaken. He took this news good-naturedly and with assurance that he is as affectionate to all of his friends as he is to me and there was nothing to it. Although my super sized ego isn't entirely convinced that this isn't a load of tosh, I have taken it onboard and accepted the truth that sometimes one 10 year crush is only good for one historical, champagne fueled kiss (circa 2009). Or like, 200 kisses if you divide up how many make one hot half an hour. Suffice to say, I like leaving no stones unturned so full investigation of this particular stone's potential leaves me satisfied.

This evening I came home from a gloriously sunny day of exploring independent record shops (horrifyingly expensive, they made me miss Amoeba, Head and the late Fopp with a pronounced longing pain) and as I was walking from the bus stop through my neighbourood, admiring the firey red end of the sunset I could smell the hot sugar scent of candy floss in the air. I got home to find half of the family outside sitting around a fire pit underneath a canopy of vines, toasting marshmallows on long sticks. When I sat down to join them I regaled them with the incredible true story of how this was my first time toasting a marshmallow over an open fire. I was really able to appreciate the autumnal bliss of the evening and of the delicious burnt caramelised taste in my mouth as the fire was not a campfire, and I was free to go and sleep in my bed afterwards.

So autumn's beauty has hypnotized me and I'm gaining more willpower. I've happily left my long time crush in the realm of non-possibility where it safely belongs. Does this mean you are in for a boringly contented blog? Never fear. The orange haired aunt returns to the house for an overnight stay next week, with one of her men in tow. I doubt I've developed enough willpower to withstand her prying without coming up with at least one huffity teenage response. Stay tuned to rate the immaturity level!

(N.B. I must not discount the possibility that almost 3 months of passive smoking in VanPot means I am now as brainless laid back as the rest of them... that would also explain the overeating tendency)

False Advertising

This job is not what it said on the tin.

Two weeks ago I received a lesson on how to clean the sink with a toothbrush. Yes you read that correctly. Also, it is pretty hard to give childcare when the children are never around. The main part of this job is meant to be a responsibility for and relationship with the children. In reality the state of the bathroom takes precendance as the children take a constant stream of classes (school of course, plus 25 kinds of dance, sport and music lessons.) I love my parents even more than ever before. I love that they let me grow an imagination. Who cares if I don't know judo or how to play the clarinet? Our weekends were spent together, frequently walking around large National Trust estates where I alternated my different horse-riding-princess fantasies. (I felt positively fated to become an aristocrat.) Here no weekend is free to do anything except ferry the younger half of the family to their respective appointments.

My struggles with the job have recently been discussed between me and the mother of the house, and the outcome is I feel more at peace than I have since I arrived. Although no resolution came from the conversation, and nothing has actually changed, the tension of having to keep my anxiety over it in a tight little ball that was hip hopping all over my stomach, has dissipated. I don't feel like re-living it too much to be honest, but it did end well even if in the most awkward hug of all time, not initiated by me, needless to say. I am quite a tactile person usually, but there is such an air of oddity about all physical contact I have experienced of late that I am beginning to retreat slightly.

Both girls had days off school recently and on each respective day I set up a one on one craft class to help them make some jewelry while I made them something for them too. It was relaxing and fun and they hugged me in thanks. Even though every time I get hugged here I feel a sense of Stepford Wife-ness about the place, there is genuine good intention behind it and that is reassuring. I am fascinated by these kids. When I was 14 I was listening to Nirvana constantly, and nursing crushes on Courtney Love and River Phoenix while spending all my spare time on the phone and painting my nails, often simultaneously. Here there are no thrashing guitar sounds coming from upstairs and no one is tying up the phone line (except me sometimes). There are no posters of Jared Leto on the ceiling (I stole that idea from a Judy Bloom book, which is how you can tell I was still a kid at heart) and no one ever slams a door.

I wonder how long it can last?


I have come to the conclusion, upon turning 29 and spending time with a 14 year old, that I have matured in ways I had not previously suspected. Much of the time I feel I could very well be 14 myself, but after experiencing the truly grossly immature habits of a real 14 year old, I can proudly say that I never ever leave gum stuck to my bedside table, so I have definitely evolved into a mature woman.

Having said that, I was recently startled by the depth of my own special reserves of immaturity that I keep deep inside to dip into when necessary. I have a lump and bruise the size of a tennis ball on my right knee to remind me of this.

This is what happened...

Someone touched me. After months (yes over 12 months makes a year but that is too depressing to type) of fending people off (including an over zealous Frenchman) someone touched me and I didn't push them away. I didn't grab hold of them either, I just stopped breathing and wondered what it meant.

It means I am alive. It means even if I can't let anyone in my heart (or the space where it once was - it's like a hologram at this point) that I might be willing to let someone in somewhere else... somewhere more easily accessible.

It wasn't just touching. It was...shirtlessness. The same person thought nothing of stripping off to finish painting a wall, while I lay on his bed watching in awe. Like a pervert.

Having woken up to this I ended up getting mightily confused since the person in question, the aforementioned old friend I shall reference as WK, was alternately intensely affectionate and then forcedly casual to the point that it drove me quite mad. I got so angry with the whole situation that when leaving his house after we ate lunch together one day, I marched out like someone storming out from a big fight, even though he had no idea of how irate his hot and coldness was making me. It had rained heavily and the front stairs of his house were sodden. I slipped and fell unstoppably, earning the enormous bump on my knee that subsequently turned seven shades of purple. And green! And yellow! (Arnica gel helps abate this by the way.)

I was so furious at this unfortunate turn of events that I screamed a blood curdling scream, partly from pain and frustration, but mostly for attention. When this failed to elicit a response from inside the house I clambered up and huffed and puffed my way to the bus stop.

Later that night (and 13 outfits later, give or take) I returned to the house for a big party that was being held in honour of WK's birthday. I barely saw him. He didn't make much effort to talk to me, and I didn't make much effort to talk to him. I was seized with annoyance at his fickleness (I appreciate the irony) and proceeded to drink most or all of the bottle of wine I brought with me. Over 5 or 6 hours it didn't seem too much, but since I spent the last couple of hours sitting on top of a cooler in awfully close quarters with a tall, dark, handsome stranger, it may be that it was rather too much indeed. I don't remember much about the tall, dark, handsome stranger, except that he was cute in that way that you instantly know he's trouble. Despite being trouble, he was not my type. At all. He adored Vancouver. He was Persian! (Persian = extraneous hair, presumably. While I know someone who actively seeks this out, I am definitely not partial to it.)

Then I woke up in WK's bed, having retired early, letting him sleep on the settee. I felt sort of bad about ignoring him at his birthday in favour of the attention of a hairy Vancouverite, and stealing his room, so I got up and proceeded to collect 95% of the discarded beer cans strewn about the house before the others woke up and started cleaning. There were a few cans of some mixed drink called something like Palm, that pertained to be 'a sophisticated drink' on the front of the can. Something tells me if the manufacturers have to write the word sophisticated on the can, a high level of sophistication should not be expected. I didn't try it so I can't tell you, I am far too sophisticated to drink in the mornings. Not to mention too hungover.

Anyway, of all the immaturity I displayed recently, worrying about this situation for a whole week and wailing about it to my friends was the most immature. It all turned out rather differently than I expected.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pot Paradise

I read today, in a Douglous Coupland book about Van, that it is not uncommon for hordes of Japanese teenagers to visit the city with the sole aim of having a pot smoking holiday. Although calling it 'pot' in England makes you sound impossibly '60s and like you have no sense of humour, in the US and here pot still seems to be common parlance. I could be wrong about this, but I dislike the English term 'weed' anyway, since it sounds like a gardening activity and for some reason brings to mind grimier images. Pot sounds perky! Weed sounds gross.

It's all gross to me now anyway since I have outgrown any fascination by, let's see, over a decade....which is why I was clueless when I first moved into my room here. It's in the basement and the rest of the basement is rented to a dude who has been renting here for ten years. I don't think he ever opens the windows. He's very white, like Jim Gaffigan, and he coughs a lot. The coughing might have been a clue about what was causing the strange pee-like reek I noticed soon after I moved in that occasionally permeated my room.

Although only occasional the smell was so strong that I leapt up from the bed where I may have even been typing this blog, to dance around my room sniffing things, including myself. It took literally weeks for me to realise that the dude next door was busy toking himself into his next coughing fit and that my room's ugly pee smell was actually eau de pot coming through the walls.

Note to Self

....and to everyone else:

Don't attempt to make a birthday card involving the use of super glue half an hour before you leave home to attend a birthday party.

Such antics could result in a severe medical condition, known colloquially here in Van as 'reptilian hand'. This occurs when you have left card-making to the last minute due to 4 outfit changes. (It's true that it's tough to choose appropriate get-up for a birthday at a Mexican restaurant where the birthday boy will end up donning a sombrero and being serenaded.)

Anyway, if you plan to use super glue to adhere a Love Heart sweet that reads 'Cool Dude' to a card for a boy you have harboured a crush on for about one third of your life, then you should avoid rushing this delicate activity. A bubble may pop up from the super glue and burst all over your left hand, rendering it unfit for use.

Even after the successful separation of glued fingers by desperate swabbing with nail varnish remover-soaked cotton pads, a scratchy crocodile-skin feel remains. This leaves the hand unfit to be touched by humans, especially any humans who might be having a birthday and for which you carry a very small, yet persistently burning torch.

However if you do encounter this difficulty, you may be lucky enough to come across transit issues on your way to the birthday, causing you to walk for 40 minutes across the city in your carefully chosen party clothes. That way you are sure to arrive at the party destination hot , sweaty and irritable which is perfect since sweat is the most convenient thing for breaking down super glue chemicals and allowing your skin to regain it's usual texture.

Not Twenty-Eight

When too much happens, I don't write.

Suddenly it's October. I really missed my brother on Friday, October 1st, when no one snuck up to me to pinch and punch me in the arm and say 'Pinch, punch 1st of the month'. I had no chance to respond 'Flick, kick for being so quick' with a Karate Kid flourish.

It's not the first month to go by since I left home, but it's the most monumental so it struck a chord.

I was 28 when I left to come to Vancouver, and now I'm not. Twenty-eight sounds grown up, yet still fun; it sounds witty and brave and knowledegable and flirtatious. Twenty-eight owns an awesome handbag collection and can afford to actually buy books from shops. Twenty-eight is certainly beloved by someone and able to cook.

Of course, all these things weren't necessarily true for me when I was 28, but I liked the sound of the number, and these are the images conjured when I read about other people who shared my age. She's 28 too! She must have it together! Yet her boobs won't have fallen down yet. Cool!

Twenty-eight is hot, it rocks. I don't intend to stop aiming for hotness or rocking on occasion, but 29 just doesn't create the same kind of mental image. In fact, 29 only says one thing:

Almost thirty.

I can hear the chorus now; Robin Sparkles (formerly LNB takes her new name from How I Met Your Mother) 'It doesn't matter these days!' and Mimi, my friend in Milano 'You've earned every line on your face!' and my Mum, specifically, 'Whatevs, you still look 12 in a pony tail.'

But maybe it should matter. It's a milestone, like turning 16 (and cutting all your hair off the exact week that the meanest girl in school, who happens to share your first name, also got all her hair cut off, whatabitch!) or leaving home (for the fifth time).

I am 29 and I live in Vancouver. How did I get here? Before investigating this I plan to back up a little and mention a few notable exploits from the last 3 weeks.

p.s. there is inconsistency in the way I have expressed numbers in this post. It's because I don't properly understand the rules on this and a cursory googling led me to divergent results. I know you can't start a sentence with a digit, but then I wrote out 'thirty' instead of '30' to give it more weight.

p.p.s. I have been reliably informed that this blog is home to numerous typos. While this horrifies my sensibilities, I re-read all the posts before publishing them yet I am obviously unable to see my own errors (much like in life!). I've decided to try to let it go. This isn't easy and it haunts me at night.