Category: Uncategorized

A fabulous Pulp cover

Britain is so screwed, but you’ve got to laugh, right?

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Don’t run with scissors

Theia has been ‘developing fine motor skills’ at daycare recently, and as such, now loves randomly cutting things up with scissors. One of those things where when you actually need scissors, they are nowhere to be found. But when you haven’t used them for a while, you can bet Theia has found not one but all three pairs and is gleefully shredding the power bill, unintentionally giving herself a haircut and threatening to stab her sister.

“You mustn’t wave those around!” I say, repeatedly. “You might hurt someone!! No! Get it out of her face!!”

Theia is two and a half. I’m hoping she learns this lesson soon.

Apparently, there are some fully grown adults that still don’t understand it.

I am very reluctant to write my opinions on the Gerald Stanley trial because it is such a toxic issue right now. But I feel compelled to, because after the verdict I felt emotionally hungover – like I did after Trump “won” the US election. Shocked, appalled, incredulous, nauseated and scared.

Saskatchewan, I am disappointed in you.

I am finally beginning to accept the irony that we, as godless liberals fed up with Tory bullshit back in the UK, ended up emigrating to the most conservative, backward part of Canada. I would still argue for the most part, that things are much, much better over here. However, Canada is far from the liberal utopia we all believed it was from overseas. Furthermore, Canada’s own version of institutionalized racism is possibly more dangerous, precisely because it is not as overt as it is south of the border. Too many people (myself included) can naively ignore it, until cases like this one bring it sharply in to focus.

So. Colten Boushie and friends from the Red Pheasant First Nations, drunkenly drove over the Gerald Stanley’s farm, caused a load of havoc, tried to steal his ATV and apparently Stanley feared for the safety of his wife and family. As such, Stanley got a gun, fired warning shots into the air, and then *somehow* Coulten Boushie ended up being shot in the back of the head.

The defence claimed the gun misfired, (a claim that police firearms experts stated was extremely unlikely) and that Stanley did not intend to kill anyone. Apparently, because the (all-white) jury couldn’t decide beyond all doubt that Stanley had actually intended to murder anyone, they acquitted him.

This is where it gets divisive and racially charged. Few people are denying that Boushie and his friends were misbehaving, and similarly, it’s believable that Stanley feared for his family’s safety. BUT, what would have happened had the roles been reversed? If Stanley had driven on to the reserve and caused havoc, and someone there had ‘accidently’ shot him? They’d have been locked up for life, accident or no.

Not so long ago, the Saskatchewan Party Minister for Highways and former deputy-Premier, Don McMorris, (an old, white man) was charged with drink driving, several times over the legal limit, at 11am. He got a small fine, lost his license for a year, and resigned (not fired) from cabinet. Seven months later, he was reinstated back into the government.

When Trayvon Martin’s killer was acquitted in the US, there was a great deal of Canadian smugness – ‘Murika, for shame. Good thing nothing like that would ever happen here….’ Well, it just did.

I do not get this. I don’t understand the acquittal in the first place, and I don’t understand the mindset that allowed it.

I am not defending Boushie’s drunk driving, nor trespassing, nor theft. But NONE of those things are punishable by death.

It is very, very unclear that Stanley actually fear for his personal safety. Of course he has the right to defend his property from intruders, but you CANNOT kill a person to save a thing. His ATV could never be more valuable that a human life.

Stanley fired two ‘warning’ shots into the air.  What exactly is he ‘warning’ if not “I will shoot you if you come any closer”? If the gun really did misfire and it was all a tragic accident, surely Stanley’s first reaction should have been remorse, and an attempt to help the kid and get him to hospital. There is no evidence he did anything of the sort.

To my mind, firing the warning shots alone shows intent, and with that clear intent, the charge of second degree murder should have held up, regardless of whether the shot that actually killed Boushie was an accident.

 

Theia doesn’t mean to hurt anyone when she wildly waves scissors in Miranda’s face. But occasionally, the scissor-waving is accompanied by “Noooo!! It’s MY paper, miiiine GO AWAY”.   And this is when I intervene. You don’t wave scissors in people’s faces, even if you want them to leave you alone. In the same way, you don’t fire guns at people, even just as a ‘warning’. If a two year old can understand this, Gerald Stanley had no excuse whatsoever.

Twenny-Sevunteen

I had to explain the concept of Round-Robin letters to my friend at work the other day. Apparently they are Not A Thing in Canada? (It’s not him being dense, I’ve had similar discussions in previous years.) I did receive something suspiciously similar in a Christmas card from a friend, but it simply wasn’t smug enough for a proper Round Robin.

I could regale you with stories of how proud I am of little Genevieve and Lucinda, the skiing trips, Auntie Paula’s unfortunate illnesses and the amount of French wine we have in the basement, I mean, cellar, but if you’ve read this far in this blog, I hope you wouldn’t believe me.

Instead, suffice to say, my highlights of the year have been all the fun we’ve had watching the kids grow up so fast with daycare and French school and judo and so on, my new job and getting a publishing deal for my book. The lows were far more numerous: saying goodbye to all my cafe dreams at the beginning of the year, Carl losing his job, my forty-five job rejections letters and our stressful five months of being painfully hard up, Theia going through the terrible twos in the most sleepless fashion she can manage, and adjusting to life with Carl away for 5 days out of 7. All this was made worse by – well, everything else going in the world. Just reading the news is enough to drive everyone sane into a permanent malaise. Then of course there’s the current polar vortex, windchill of -43C on Christmas day. So, for all these reasons, I’m quite glad to be done with 2017.

We are ending the year on a high though: Christmas itself was lovely! The Parents are here, and despite the intense cold, much silliness is happening. The girls now have a mischievious Elf-on-the-Shelf each (although they aren’t the judgemental ceiling-Jesus type) and elf-related narratives got even more elaborate as a result. Despite the elves, they both got an obscene amount of presents and are still madly excited about it all three days later. Sharing Christmas with squealingly excited girls is wonderful and I love watching them open things we’d managed to keep secret. That applied to Carl too!

It’s going to be difficult going back to work next week, and worse when my parents leave again. But, work is good, the parents seem like they are having a great time, and the girls enjoy their daycare and school routines (even if they won’t admit it straight away).

My priority for 2018 is getting Carl home somehow. Ideally, that would be via his job allowing him to work from home at least part of the week. Then, I have a couple of big projections at work that I’m looking forward to getting started on. Then, the book is coming out. Yay! Things to work on. Positive things. Excitements. Bring it on!

 

 

Get Real?!

To the guy who yelled “get real!” at me as I cycled to work in the snow this morning and made me jump out of my skin:

1. You’re an arsehole.

2. What possible difference does it make to your day whether or not *I* cycle to work? You weren’t even heading in the same direction, so it wasn’t like I was in your way.

3. I hope you skid and get stuck in a snow drift.

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Get real: Whereas I don’t expect random idiots like that to comprehend that some people actively don’t want to drive, I’d hope that maybe he’d understand that not everyone can afford to drive. I kinda fall into that category. Very, very reluctantly I am learning to drive finally. I feel like I am selling out and going against everything I believe in… but even if I miraculously pass my test, our functional car is in PA with Carl, and the other one needs a new transmission that will cost nearly 3 times what we spent on the car in the first place. We do not have that sort of money right now, so biking is where it’s at for me, even in the snow. (For the record, there is no bus that can get me to or from work at times when I actually need to travel, annoyingly).

Get real. To my mind, cars are like cigarettes. They are highly addictive. Once you start driving, it is very difficult to break the habit of driving everywhere, all the time. I’ve seen all my friends who got their licenses in their 30s do just that – we all used to walk everywhere and take the kids in strollers, but now they all drive 3 blocks ‘just cos it’s easier’ as the kids got bigger.

Get real, cars are bad for you (as they stop you walking/biking), and bad for the whole planet. More people are killed by cars every year than by cigarettes  (I think?). Cars smell and pollute the air (like cigarettes), and if that guy this morning is anything to go by, they are as anti-social as cigarettes too.

It is my fervent belief that in the not-too-distant future private car ownership will be looked back on with horror, as early cigarette adverts are today.

Until then though, in Regina we have totally inadequate cycling infrastructure to deal with, brutal winters and screaming car-worshipping commuters. Bike safety advice from this city might as well be:

– Do not expect drivers to waste time looking for you. Wrap yourself in fairy lights at all times and sound an air horn as you travel.

– There is no situation where bikes ever have right of way.

– Reexamine your life choices at every intersection.

– Never inconvenience your superiors in cars by occupying the middle of the lane. Your place is in the gutter. To turn left, please levitate above the traffic.

– For safety, consider travelling in a motorized metal box at all times.

Staring at the Sun

There are some definite advantages of having a geek for a husband.

Last week, we managed to engineer a few days away from our brand new jobs to go down to Casper, Wyoming for the solar eclipse. Carl really did drive a 2000km round trip for the sake of 2 1/2 minutes. But it was well worth it! Casper was in the path of totality – as in, we got the full, eerie dark eclipse. The sun really did appear to go out for a few minutes.

 

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Totality Awesome

 

Two different telescopes accompanied us, one of which Carl fitted with a camera hooked up to his laptop with some nifty software that tracked the moon automatically and took around 4000 images without us having to do anything! Much better than my pathetic attempts with my normal camera.

The drive down there took over 10 hours in total, but we split the journey and stayed at a small town called Gillette (not where they make razor blades, much to my disappointment). We holed up in a cheapish hotel along with very many other people who had had the same idea as us. Unlike virtually everyone else convoying down through the US, we had to stop at the border, get our conspicuously red passports checked, get photographed and fingerprinted, pay $18 for a visa waiver, and sent on our way by Customs. In the customs office in Montana, they had a display case of contraband – things you can’t bring in to the US. Antlers, exotic animals (they had a very pretty but depressing tortoise shell in there), rum, cigars, and so on. Right on the top were Kinder Eggs with their killer plastic toys.

That night I walked to and bought some (very cheap) beer in a “drive-thru off sale” that had a sign outside saying Bikers Welcome! I wasn’t sure whether I should tip the woman who handed me beer through the window. I have never felt more British in my life! There was a “fun facts” section in the little blurb about Wyoming left in the hotel. Apparently, one archaic Wyoming state law still persists: it is illegal for a woman to stand within 5 feet of a bar. So we can go in, get table service, but we can’t actually order anything at the bar by ourselves. Good job I was at a drive-through I suppose!

We spent Sunday in Gillette, Carl recovering from the drive, and the kids recovering from their attempts to eat the utterly ENORMOUS breakfast portions included with our hotel booking.

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So. Much. Food.

We also found out that Gillette wasn’t that far from Devil’s Tower, a weird rock formation where they filmed Close Encounters. We even found the aliens. Ahem.

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In the gift shop, there was a giant display of wooden toy AK47s – perfect for saving the world from aliens of course. I hope.

But back to the Eclipse! Carl dutifully forced himself awake at 5am, as the plan was to drive the remaining couple of hours to Casper as early as possible to avoid the crowds. I was already awake as Small Beastling had invaded our bed around 4am and woken me up. We managed to get the kids in the car without waking them. That was short lived though, and they woke up as soon as we set off.  The drive was quite fun – Wyoming is possibly even more empty and spacious as Saskatchewan, but it also has hills and a higher speed limit. And deer. Many, many deer who were very active at that time in the morning and tried to play chicken with cars, leaping out in to the road. They certainly kept Carl awake!

We were right to get in early; luckily the first place we tried had space and we parked and just set up right by the car in a field at Casper fairgrounds. By 9am, the field was full up. So was the RV park next to it. Miranda and I wandered around hunting for breakfast and found people setting up telescopes in McDonald’s car park. I read later that 317,000 people had descended on Casper!

We had some special eclipse glasses that allowed the kids and I to just look up and view it without any hassle – Carl was worried that they would knock his telescopes out of alignment through over-enthusiasm! It took nearly an hour of the moon moving across the sun (looking like it was taking a bite out of it, we got “Full Pac-Man” around 10.45am) before it actually got dark. But totality was completely surreal. Even Miranda, who had been watching DVDs in the car all morning and bored, was blown away. For those two minutes, you could look directly at the sun without the glasses. Twilight, and then late evening suddenly happened at 11.30am. All the dogs that fellow sun gazers had brought with them suddenly shut up. The temperature dropped dramatically. Such a weird experience!

 

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Disclaimer: Half-a-car effect not actually caused by eclipse.

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I hope Miranda remembers this trip. The next one will be in Mexico in 2024 and Carl is determined to go to that too, but by then Miranda will be a teenager! Terrifying thought.  Here are some of Carl’s laptop/telescope images. Impressive hey?

The significance of yellow boots

It seemed like a good idea at the time…

I don’t often give my dreams much thought, other than when helpful friends point out the screamingly obvious – teeth falling out dreams meaning insecurity and so on. (Thanks Andie!) However, I think recurring patterns and one very vivid recent dream have some poignancy. The other night I dreamt about riding a motorbike. I did used to ride, but never got my full license. In the dream, I knew it had been a long time but that I could ride if I tried hard. Except for some reason, I was chasing something down a hill on a huge yellow motorcycle, whilst wearing my yellow Doc Marten boots but I was sat on the bike the wrong way. My feet could just reach the pedal, but I couldn’t really see where I was going. Yet, I was swerving around successfully and just about navigating, but I did not feel at all safe. Someone else passed me on a bike also wearing yellow boots and I knew I could catch them up if only I could turn round and see the road, but I couldn’t. And I still didn’t know what it was I was supposed to be chasing.

An odd metaphor for my present situation, I believe. I know I can make this business work, I have done so before, but I am out of practice, and there are various factors outside of my control. I have to go on despite not being able to see where it is all headed, and I am also consciously aware of competition – the folks who are sat on the bike the right way round! A quick google reveals that yellow is the colour of intellectual design and of awareness and identity. Make of this what you will, dear reader.

dr-seuss-life-picture-quote

 

 

The Wascana Tea Party

I may not have written since Theia was born, but that does not mean we haven’t been up to much. In fact, at 10 weeks old, she has been getting political:

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Since my last post, the country has changed, or at least we all hope it has. We experienced our first federal election! The build-up to it was (by Canadian standards) exceptionally long, and it was certainly expensive. But well worth it in that the deeply unpleasant cyborg tyrant, Stephen Harper was finally ousted after 10 years.
I have rapidly been learning Canadian politics from the relative comfort of my safe little left-of-centre middle class bubble. I even read Harper’s biography, and that was worryingly negative given it was written by a more right-wing sympathiser. I always thought that, ignoring a lot of dismal social policies, Harper had at least handled the economy well in comparison with most of Europe after the 2008 global banking crisis. Unlike the UK, Canada did not have any collapsed banks or major industries to bail out. It also recovered from the recession quicker than anywhere else. But then, I learned that we are now in another recession – in part of course a consequence of falling oil prices. And oh boy does Harper like oil. He probably dunks his Timbits in it. As I see it, the only way Harper managed to balance the budget was to cut the funding to all that was good in the world, namely women’s groups, First Nations services, environmental research, health care and support for war veterans, immigration and refugee services, CBC and Canada Post. On top of that, he’s also muzzled scientists and prevented any one publishing research that is in any way inconvenient to Tory policies – in other words, any thing related to climate change and how damaging the oil industry is. His environmental record is appalling. The government’s relationship with First Nations leaders is disfunctional at best. He’s an Islamaphobe and somehow managed to turn one woman wearing a Niqab into an election issue (although that did give rise to the wonderful tumblr account, Niqabs of Canada) and I even read about the PMO apparently vetting refugee applications from Syrians and giving priority to non-muslim applicants. I sincerely hope that’s not true. And he’s royally ballsed up the temporary foreign worker program (as I’ve documented on here!). Oh yeah and there’s the C51 anti-terrorist/license to spy on people bill and the un-Fair Elections act. And all the senate scandals. All in all, not a very nice guy.
Theia and I have already been on an Anti-Harper protest, we went to go sing “Harperman”. A pissed-off  government scientist (researching migratory birds?) wrote the song and put it up on Youtube, then got fired for it. So last month, groups all over the country staged a mass Harperman singalong, Regina included:
Harperman singalong in Regina

Anyway, we sat up to watch the election last night. We couldn’t vote, of course. We’ve been living here for 3 years, paying taxes for three years, we’re 3 years into the inordinately long permanent residency application, I started a business here and employ Canadians, I gave birth to a Canadian(!) But nooooo. No vote for us.(flippancy aside, I am not that surprised really…) I got talking to another expat on Twitter, and we decided that in the spirit of 18th century Bostonians, we would form the Wascana Tea Party. I got my tea bags ready to chuck in the lake:

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No taxation without representation!

Even without our votes (ahem!), Harper was ousted. Unfortunately the NDP, who I would probably have voted for, also got pretty badly defeated. That leaves us with a Liberal Prime Minister called Justin. Justin. He’s young and charismatic and made out to be the saviour of the old liberal party, snd he fills me with fear because I just see a better-looking Tony Blair. Please don’t be a Tony Blair, Mr. Trudeau. I admit, I don’t know much about the Liberal’s actual policies yet, but, well, Harper’s benchmark was set pretty damn low, so they MUST be an improvement,  right? And as the internet has already pointed out, Trudeau is showing how in touch he is with the millenial generation – by moving bank in to his parents’ house…