The Olympic Effect

A while back I wrote about the Facebook Effect, which we all know and love, I suppose.  According to Facebook all our friends have much more exciting, fulfilling and generally marvelous lives than us, and it’s sometimes hard to put all that marvelousness into context.  Anyway, today we have been wondering about The Olympic Effect.  A friend in England posted his opinion about the Winter Olympics in his usual diplomatic, thoughtful way; “Watch some toffy-nosed bint sliding downhill on a plank cheered on by all her Hooray-Yah mates?… No thanks!”  And of course, in England, winter sports are, by and large, for those who can afford them; the ones who take a couple of skiing holidays every year, buy expensive equipment and send their children to train overseas.  There’s little chance of getting some support from the Government and no chance of a serious training program through the school.

When we moved here, one of the things we really enjoyed getting used to was the accessibility of sports, equipment and facilities.  How can we explain to someone back in the UK that skiing at Whistler is not really a big deal when it’s just a 2 hour drive up the road, and 2 of the children ski for free through the Government sponsored sports schemes?  Ok, it’s still a big deal because it’s fabulous, beautiful and awesome, but we don’t really bother with Whistler anyway because its more expensive than the 3 ski resorts within 30 minutes of our back door and for novices like us, they’ll do just fine.  When we were flying back from Heathrow after Christmas we were in the line-up behind the British Bobsled Team.  I asked them if they were traveling to Whistler to compete or to train, and they said a bit of both.  “Where do you train in England?” I asked. “I don’t remember hearing about a British sliding centre.”  “There isn’t one,” said one of the athletes, a bit ruefully.  “We mostly train on things like go-carts down a hill.”

So when our friend watches the Winter Olympics, he is likely to be watching well-heeled British athletes who have paid their way to the top of the profession, or are living and training overseas and competing for Team GB when the occasion arises.  They are no less dedicated for all that, but it’s hard to really get behind someone competing in a sport you can’t afford to try.  When we watch our Canadian Olympians we are cheering on people just like us and our children, who all have a chance to make it to the Olympics if they have the talent and the commitment.


Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe, Gold and Silver at Sochi 2014


Move on, Nothing to See Here…


Yesterday I was catching up with a bit of reading on the British Expats site.  This is a great website, with a lot of links to good blogs about moving to and living in Canada, and every one of them gets a reaction from me.  Yesterday, it was the turn of “10 Years And A Change Of Heart”, written by a couple who had moved in their 40s to the west coast of Vancouver Island, looking for the idyllic lifestyle of the holiday retreat.  Guess what they found?  First, there is no employment in idyllic rural retreats, unless you are a fisherman, writer or connected to the tourist industry.  Second, there is no-one to make friends with.  Third, there is nothing to do.  I guess everyone dreams of the quiet life.  We all imagine living on the land, going to back to basics, and sometimes we find ourselves in a place where we really imagine it can work, but usually we are on our holidays and reality is a little warped.  The lesson I took from this blog was, Be Careful What You Wish For.

Before emigrating to your dream retreat, consider the following:  What are you going to do for money?  What are you going to do for company?  What are you going to do for entertainment?  When I told my husband about the blog, he was speechless.  Then he said “Nothing to do? In Vancouver?”  No, not Vancouver.  Vancouver Island.  A space as large as the UK with the population of Cardiff.  A place where families travel every summer to their cabins, where they spend blissful months living the basic, uncomplicated life before returning to the bustle of real life.  One of the things we love about living here in Vancouver is that, if you want to get away from it all, you can.  A quick ferry ride to an island or a slow drive into the interior, and here are towns with a population of 1,000, where you can live for 20 years and still be the outsider, where the best excitement all year is when the local constable shot the cougar that had dragged a deer carcass under the next-door neighbour’s deck (this happened to a friend of mine, the day she moved to her new house with her new baby and her 2 year-old son, from the sophistication of Vancouver to the Wild West in one day).

Some days, like yesterday, when I have dropped off the youngest child at her Musical Theatre class and I am making a quick dash to the Art & Craft store for a gift card for the friend of the middle child, who must be dropped off at her party before I go to a jewellry party at my friend’s house, stopping to collect a friend of the eldest child who is coming to sleepover, but I can’t do any of these things because I am stuck in Saturday shopping traffic, nose to tail around the Mall, and I’m already late to collect the youngest… these are the times I wonder whether we are really any better off than if we lived in England.  But yesterday morning we were at the peak of Mount Seymour, playing in a pure white snowdrift and planning our next skiing trip, and this morning we were downtown, walking the seawall from Science World to Yaletown for coffee and pizza and seal-spotting.  The eldest and her friend took themselves off into the chaos of Chinatown to see the New Year Parade, to buy steamed pineapple buns and lemon triangle cake from the street vendors.  To get there, the two 14-year olds walked through the poorest area of Vancouver, and I did not feel a moment of worry for their safety.

We do not find ourselves outsiders, because in this multicultural melting pot, pretty much everyone is an outsider and we all enjoy our differences.  As Vancouver feels more and more like home, and the UK becomes a distant memory, we sometimes take our life here for granted and find ourselves grumbling.  The comforting thing is that we are grumbling about real life issues, because we are living life to the full.

Where do you dream of moving to, and is it a realistic dream?

When You Get Right Down To It….

Grouse Mountain - The Peak of Vancouver

Apparently blogging about blogging is really not on.  Totally off, in fact.  Utterly not cricket in the blogosphere, wherever that is.  I learn these things from my  husband, who has been blogging longer than me and hates the fact that I get more readers.  I keep telling him that I will not sink to his level, I will not play these sick little games of whose blog is better, then I find myself obsessively comparing our stats and laughing to myself (more Mwah-ha-ha, than hee-hee-hee).

The thing he finds most difficult is that the top search, the main reason, the path that leads my readers to me is, in fact, Sushi.  Last week I wrote about the women’s locker room – surely naked women would be a more frequent search subject than sushi, yes?  It was a post I wanted to write, but I will admit that I felt pretty smug including “women’s locker room” in the tags list.  But no.  Top Search again is, of course, Sushi.  And “knitted Marmite” (if you are the knitted Marmite person, let me know if you find a pattern – I quite fancy a cuddly jar of Marmite.)

I have been writing for my own creative outlet, and for the benefit of those who might be considering taking this giant leap of faith to another country, or who have recently done so and are asking the inevitable questions (“Will I ever feel comfortable saying pants instead of trousers?”, “Will the roadworks on Highway 1 ever be finished?”, “What the heck is Poutine, and should I be innoculated against it?”*)  I’d like to feel I’m doing a small public service, but apparently I am helping those who are confused about sushi (and want knitted Marmite).

So today, I’m just going to tell you what I have been up to this week and include the word Sushi in the tags for the fun of it.  If you arrived here searching for Sushi, there’s a blog post here.

It is Spring Break this week in British Columbia, or at least in School District 41 (Burnaby).  School holidays are not standardized across the Province, so many schools have started taking a 2-week Spring Break.  Without half-term holidays, the long drag from January to July is very, very long and this is a much needed break; 2 weeks would be nice.  I decided to take the week off and, as we could not afford a real ski holiday staying at a real ski resort, I designed our own.  Every day this week we have loaded the car and driven 30 minutes to Grouse Mountain, where we have had a lesson and spent an hour or two skiing, skating or hiking the trails, followed by hot chocolate in the cafe.  The whole week has cost about $1000, which includes a private instructor for the 2 eldest children, lessons for me and Tiny Weasel, rentals and some ski passes (we bought annual passes for the girls at the end of last year, for $60 each).  Not bad, really.

Dim and I also visited our local Garden Centre on Saturday to buy a blueberry bush for the hamster’s grave (have we really been here as long as a hamster’s life cycle?).  The Garden Centre was hosting a whole weekend of speakers and free workshops on all subjects – planning your garden, arranging plants in planters, composting, and our favourite, the Forest Grove School Garden with guest speaker, our friend, the wonderful and inspirational Barb McMahon, of Sprouting Chefs.

Barb McMahon at the Sprouting Chefs stand

Barb’s passion is food – growing it, cooking it, introducing others to it in all its infinite variety, which is why she is such a key part of The McTraslerRomeroMahon Dining Club.  Three families, one English, one Canadian (with Japanese in the mix), one Mexican, with 8 children ranging from 4 years old to 16 years old, meeting monthly to experience new cuisine wherever we find it.  My children are shamed into trying new food by their adventurous and confident friends.  Any day soon we’ll be trying the Chinese Dim Sum at Yan’s Garden on North Road.  February was Korean Barbeque at Insadong, also North Road, and January at Fuji... can you guess?  Yup, Sushi!

*the answers are yes, no and don’t ask, don’t touch, avoid at all costs.

The Year It Became Normal

When do you finally get to stop saying “We’re new here” and start feeling like a real Vancouverite?  For us, that would be 2011 – we all agreed that was the year when it all started to seem “normal” (to a given value of normal in a family of 5 nutters, lunatics and worry-warts).

Looking back, our emigration fell into 3 neat time packages:

2009 The Year It Was Scary:  everything was new, everything was confusing, the job and money situation was downright terrifying and we spent a lot of time finding ways to distract ourselves from the terrible mistake we might have made.

2010 The Year It Was Fake: the jobs were going well, school was great, and we found a house, but it still didn’t feel real.  It was like an extended holiday with bits of real life thrown in, and I think the children were waiting for us to announce “It’s all been a big joke, we’re off back to England!”  We were still trying to do everything Vancouver had to offer, just in case this adventure ended.

2011 The Year It Became Normal:  I was half way through the year before I realized I had not thought “I’m in Vancouver!” for ages.  The news every morning on my commute (“CBC News broadcasting from downtown Vancouver”) is as comforting as Radio 2 used to be.  I smile when I see the eagles perched along Ladner Trunk Road, but I don’t pull over to take pictures any more.  I can discuss the relative merits of the ski hills, but we are busy with our regular weekend activities – figure skating, Ringette, grocery shopping, walking the dog and gardening; we’ll get a couple of weekends skiing in, but there’s norush – the mountains, and we, aren’t going anywhere for a while.

Vancouver view - the new normal