Winter Solstice 2009 in Vancouver

Posted 27 December, 2009 by graham in Canada

For Winter Solstice there was all sorts of fun organised in Vancouver. First, Janette went to a workshop at the community center to make a lantern.

Lantern making, originally uploaded by GrahamKing.

It’s papier-mache glued around a balloon. Once the glue sets you pop the balloon and peel it out from the inside. Put a tea-light on some aluminium foil, attach the whole thing to a bamboo pole, and hey presto a lantern.

We took the finished product to a lantern procession. Several processions started all over Vancouver, and three of them, including ours, converged on Granville Island.

On a hill, on the island, torch bearers told tales and sang songs.

Winter Solstice torches, originally uploaded by GrahamKing.

We decorated Julian’s stroller with battery powered icicles. We received many compliments. Possibly people genuinely liked the lights. Possibly they thought we were homeless, and were trying to be nice.

Decorated stroller, originally uploaded by GrahamKing.

Then, incongruously, a marching band led us all to the other side of the island, where a fire dance was starting.

Shadow fire shapes, originally uploaded by GrahamKing.

The company performing is called M. Pyre Fire.

Dancing with fire, originally uploaded by GrahamKing.

Fire loops, originally uploaded by GrahamKing.

After that, all sorts went on. Cookies, hot chocolate, line dancing, and even Morris Dancing, which Julian loved. He clapped to the music and bobbed his head.

Watching the Morris Dancers, originally uploaded by GrahamKing.

Finally, it was getting late, and we crowded into a small room to watch a shadow puppet show, about a bear emerging from hibernation.

Behind the scenes are two people, a slide projector, and lots of transparencies and cut-outs. With such simple equipment, they put on a wonderful show.

Shadow puppets, originally uploaded by GrahamKing.

As we walked home, we stopped to talk to a women heading to the celebration. She told us that a new condo development had put some trees out with a ‘Free’ sign. We weren’t going to get a tree this year (we have an outdoor one), but we felt like it found us.

So the three of us, a stroller decorated with icicle-effect lights, a papier-mache lantern, and a 7ft pine tree, attempt to get the bus. The first two buses to go past politely declined to let us board. The third bus had a young driver, he was amused, and kindly let us on. Thanks!

Christmas Tree on the bus, originally uploaded by Janetterie.

However the ancients celebrated the longest night of the year, we like to think that they would not have been disappointed by our attempt.

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A day in Vancouver

Posted 4 August, 2009 by graham in Canada, Vancouver

The last section is the fireworks competition – four night of fireworks!

The webcam is downtown, pointing West out over the Pacific. If you cycled West along the shore on the left of the picture for twenty minutes, you’d be at our house.

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Happy St Paddy’s Day, Everyone!

Posted 16 March, 2009 by janette in Canada

Down the Pub

The leaders of the big beer companies meet for a drink. The president of Budweiser orders a Bud, the CEO of Miller gets a Miller, the head of Coors orders a Coors, and so on. Until it’s Arthur Guinness’s turn. He orders a soda.

“Why didn’t you order a Guinness?” everyone asks.

Guinness replies, “if you guys aren’t having beer, then neither will I.”

Photo credit: Grandpa King.

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Why We’ve Moved to Vancouver

Posted 22 January, 2009 by janette in Canada

Canada: America's hat We debated our next move for quite a while. Did we want gleaming high-rises or wide open spaces? The hustle and bustle of big city life or locals who have all the time in the world for a chat? The density to support a variety of shops and restaurants and good public transport, or a place where property is cheap enough that we can afford a cute little house to live in?

And if the doomsayers are right, that the bottom’s going to fall out of the economy, climate change with wreak havoc, the freshwater supplies will dry up, and civilization as we know it will break down as resources become scarce, where would be the best place to set up our Mad Max camp?

Up until a few centuries ago, Vancouver was one of the few places in the world where the environment was so productive that hunter gatherers didn’t have to migrate with the seasons.

Robson St, VancouverToday, Vancouver is a mix of shiny steel sky scrapers, little craftsman houses, and blocky low-rise apartment buildings, surrounded by 1500m high snow-peaked mountains and the Pacific Ocean. There are two snowboarding parks within the city limits, reachable by a $2.50 bus ride. Then there is the 1000 acre Stanley Park (New York’s Central Park is 843 acres), with wild woodlands at its heart and beaches on 3 sides.

The locals are almost universally NICE, which was a little disconcerting at first. Not in a peppy, cheerleader sort of way, but in a genuinely good-hearted way. You almost forget you’re in a big city.

BirdhouseProperty is apparently the most expensive in Canada, but after London and LA, rents seem very low. We’re currently staying in a vacation rental run by a whimsical Frenchman who is crocheting a hat for the baby. Our garden is full disco balls and decaying statues, and there is a gilt-framed portrait covering the thermostat. We’d happily stay here for a while, but the rent is so much cheaper elsewhere that we can’t really justify it.

The Economist twice named Vancouver the most livable city in the world, and numerous other indices name it the best city in the world overall.

The Canadian economy is expected to experience a recession for only 2 quarters in 2009, shrinking by 0.5%, according to last week’s report by the Conference Board.

So why doesn’t everyone move here? Well, from this Californian’s perspective, the weather is TERRIBLE! The city was built on a rainforest. The winter temperature hovers a bit above freezing, so you get all the cold without the fun of the snow. I was prepared for grey skies, but there has been dense fog since we’ve come here, so the grey is all-pervasive. I’m convinced it would seep into my bones were I not fighting it off with extra strong Mexican hot chocolate and my HappyLite.

YurtAnd just in case it all goes Pete Tong, Canada was named the best place to escape the consequences of climate change, and Vancouver has one of the largest freshwater supplies in the world. And I bet the Vancouverites would still be nice to each other after the fall of civilization, in their moose-skin yurts!

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