29 August 2008

The Bible rubs shoulders with Angela Carter

Well, my holiday in Canada is drawing to a swift close. I'm not sure how I want to commemorate the experience online, if at all, though I do want to say that a vacation rarely ever offers a break from life, and that a long break from family rarely ever results in happier visits. I'd do well to keep that in mind the next time I plan a trip to the homeland, and also to make damn sure we have our own place to stay.

Still, the bits that weren't fraught with the overanxious, clingy neurosis of my parents' suggestive hive mind were just what I was hoping for, and we do plan to return to these things next summer independently (for a longer period, and with our new addition).

If I felt there was something essential missing from my life in London, it certainly isn't here, though I do wish I could rescue all my books.

Hey: 21 weeks today! I think I feel little bursts of movement, but I'm not entirely sure.

See you back there.

24 August 2008

So cool it hurts

I have tried to write about my experiences of being back in Canada on a few separate occasions, and under the influence of various mood-altering family members/scenic routes/local cuisines, without success. So instead, I present you with a meme nicked from Mrs. Slocombe’s fine page.

Having looked more carefully at the rules, I’m suddenly unsure of how one would go about pretending to be cool with this meme. Presumably we’re all under the impression that our taste in music is impeccable. If we could come up with anything ‘cooler’, well. Then I guess we’d have downloaded it by now.

Though I’m not actually sure how Metric ended up there, so.

1. Open your music library (iTunes, winamp, media player, iPod, whatever)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question below, type the song that’s playing
5. New question — press the next button
6. Don’t lie and try to pretend you’re cool

Opening credits: “Say Valley Maker” Smog
First day at school: “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Your Grievances” Daniel Johnston
Falling in love: “At the Break of Day” Bonnie Prince Billy
Breaking up: “Want” Rufus Wainwright
Prom: “Say You Do” TV on the Radio
Life’s Okay: “Flight Tonight” The Avalanches
Mental breakdown: “In the Warm Room” Kate Bush
Driving: “Hustle Rose” Metric
Flashback: “Strayed” Smog
Getting back together: “Speed is the Key” Sugarcubes
Wedding: “Heaven” The Rapture
Divorce: “Let’s Hear That String Part Again” Sufjan Stevens
Current Mood: “If You Find Yourself Caught In Love” Belle and Sebastian
Final battle: “Breakin’ the Law” New Pornographers
Death scene: “Wind is Blowing Stars” Laura Viers
End credits: “Today Will be Better, I swear!” Stars
Leaving Theatre: “Falling Man” Blonde Redhead

14 August 2008

Through flight

Wading through life is a bit like trying to dig a hole in soft sand – you can scoop out as much as you want, but the grains of its circumference will tumble back in as surely as the tide licks in and out with each stroke of a moon.

The boiler’s been replaced, hot water restored, flat cleaned and sorted, laundry washed and folded, lists drawn up and calls made. And still I’m coming down with flu.

And still we’re flying out on Saturday.

And the Saturday grains mingle with the grains of impending flu until the two are so indecipherable, I can’t tell if we’re flying out of rain or into sun; if I’m digging a tunnel or burying myself alive.

So I’m fixing my gaze on being there, however quickly the hole fills and whatever happens in the interim, because regardless of how I perceive these physics, I am going on holiday.

There is no other dimension.

11 August 2008

I'd rather be the ugly duckling

I’ve been working not too hard at getting though my x365s, as you can probably tell. It’s taken me over a year to write twenty five of them. But seeing as how I’m at least bothering to stick to the word count rule (only as many words as years of your life) and most x365ers show flexibility in some way or another, I won’t be too hard on myself.

The problem isn’t cutting back on words so much as trying to nail down the individual. So many faces vie for attention, and then one finally pops into place like a bingo ball and there’s nothing I can do about it. Obviously, you don’t always have a glowing report for every person in your life either, or can be sure they aren’t reading your blog. But on the other hand: who cares! It’s a blog, not a livelihood.

Speaking of which, I can’t wait to get away from work for a solid two weeks. The culture here is driving me nuts, for one thing, and for another, I’m not overly fussed about the work itself. As soon as I get that promotion they've been promising I might just have to change my tune, but this bird don’t sing for free, yo.

A colleague of mine was telling us how he had to beat a swan with a branch nearly five times before it gave up trying to drown a Canada goose for getting too close to its children or something. He did this not because he had any particular affinity for the victim (and swans know people in high places in this here country) but because his young daughter was in hysterics over the scene.

I had no idea that a swan would have the compulsion to drown a goose in the first place, let alone the ability, but live and learn. It only strengthens my conviction that beauty gives most people/places/things more than enough leverage to behave like assholes.

Anyway, that same colleague is now clearing his throat repeatedly, I guess to get me to look at the time, it being a few minutes beyond lunch. But that’s what happens when you give me content at the eleventh hour. I take lunch. And sometimes I go over.

x365: 25 of 365 - Mrs. V

You ridiculed me in grade six for using ‘devastated’ to describe failure. Is it because you didn’t believe I knew what it meant? Or because my average mark didn’t endorse the sentiment?

10 August 2008

Recipe for Sunday and other matters

Sunday: you good for nothing day of the week. But I’m learning to take it in stride.

Hot chocolate and strawberry jam on baguette, eggs chuckling in hot oil. Swab the jewel cases of CDs, the plastic bodies of boot sale cameras, the miniature Che Guevaras - return them to tenderly dusted shelves.

Paddle unhurriedly through the thick, yellow hours. Boil kettles, pots and pans for a bath; fog stipples the bay windows, creeps damply across wood floors.

Mad Men and mountain music, Bruce fixes the letter ‘n’, partially. I love him to the balls of his eyes, which he insists are green, though they’re often blue, or overcast.

Pots steam on the gas range. Laundry hangs in the damp bedroom, the picture window sweating. Lamps seal out the gloom, and it rains cold, misty rain you can really imagine, dashed down haphazardly into lush shrubbery.

Red grapes glisten in white crockery. Swiss roll for afters. The sun makes a surprise guest appearance and dries away the remaining minutes before tea.

Next weekend we’re on holiday. God help us though, we’ve bought another lens. Medium format, and there is so much more to account for.

I’m eighteen weeks along and in good health. Perfect health, actually. For once, I’m not arguing.

06 August 2008

Friend or foe

Each time Yuan sees me now, she reaches out a hand to cup my ill-formed paunch (instead of pregnant, I look like I’ve just consumed a platter of burgers) and exclaims loudly. She does this not to gauge the growth of my very young tadpole, but to indicate to others in the vicinity that I am in a family way, and she a close ally.

It’s the same behaviour she exhibits when I say, “Let’s take a look at the showers in the basement” if I’m contemplating on using them because our boiler at home broke (it did) and she announces to the room, “Yes, you should be able to use these. You remember where they are? You go down to the basement and turn RIGHT. Okay?”

Because it pleases her if she can make me seem like a simpering idiot that needs all the help she can give me.

Today in the stairwell, after the shower fiasco, she cupped my belly again and then ogled my massive mammary glands for a moment before decidedly reaching out and poking these as well: They are so HUGE, Friday!

Yes, yes they are, Yuan. Thanks for the friendly reminder.

Our boiler broke, did I tell you? We haven’t had hot water for a few days, no thanks to the rental agency whose job it was to maintain the thing in the first place, and who is already waffling about sending over any but the least expensive tradesperson they can drum up. I have an appointment with a midwife tomorrow afternoon and I do not want to show up without having had a hot shower. Emphasis on hot.

Aside from being a princess who cannot condone a jet stream of less than 23 degrees Celsius on a good day, I am now a moderately pregnant woman who will burst into tears over a missing button on my top, or tomato sauce. Spluttering and shivering under an icy stream first thing in the morning, or leaning my growing uterus against the rim of the bath with a heated kettle in hand is simply not an option.

Anyway, no amount of railing at my poor defenceless husband or the bastards that put us in this position in the first place has made any difference whatsoever, so I’m left to direct my frustrations elsewhere. I’m at work, which is a dangerous prospect for all involved.

Here, read this – the BBC really knows how to make a gal feel safe about the prospect of giving birth overseas.

Oop! And more excellent reading material for the flight home next weekend.

I promise I’ll write something uplifting soon, like when somebody invents calorie free Haribos.

04 August 2008

Uncut and uncensored

Lately I’ve been fighting the urge to run screaming back into the arms of Canada, Oh Canada, my home and native land. When I try and think of the specifics of what I’d gain from this escape, though, I come up empty handed.

My hometown is sleepy and predictable as ever, last I heard, and I’d probably go stir crazy within a few days of seeing it (given too that my current condition precludes indulging in the preferred pastime of locals – beer). Vancouver is too abstract a concept, my family an unhealthy illusion hastily erected by the trembling hands of unsubstantiated nostalgia, so that’s out.

Then a few things happened and I remembered why being here is good for me. The first thing that happened was I read a news story on the CBC website, about a man who killed and beheaded another, younger man on a Greyhound bus. It wasn’t the incident that gave me pause so much as the journalism, and then the attitude of the readers, conveyed through commentary.

News stories on the BBC website (and in many newspapers I read here) typically function as a series of pure, dispassionate vehicles for information. You can bet that if someone were decapitated in England, you’d get the details first and foremost. Any ensuing pieces would include further details as released by police or officials, and from this you could paint your own picture of what took place.

In Canada, news is nearly always a community event, and the community spends a great deal of time debating broadly through the singular voice of a newspaper or the disparate voices of its readership about what that event should mean. The man beheaded on a bus was sort of a no-brainer, but Canadians cannot be trusted to their own interpretations, thus we’ll throw them a few more maudlin headlines like “Man slain on bus had ‘a heart bigger than you can know’” - blatantly not news, but just in case you didn’t catch on the first time.

And as though in validation of this journalistic patronisation, readers give their poorly articulated (and often grammatically abhorrent) views on the matter, leaving comments riddled with religious propaganda at best and, at worst, racist slandering (the killer was of Chinese decent).

Reading the CBC website made me recall an aspect of Canadians I can’t abide, which is that even though we have plenty of educated, well-spoken individuals, the loudest voices (I hesitate to say bleeding heart Liberals and brainless Conservatives, but I can’t think of a better catch-all) are the ones that pollute the airwaves with utter nonsense. The better voices stand quietly by for the most part, out of politeness or for fear of dirtying their hands.

This is not exclusive to journalism either – impotence is a way of life for Canadians, and you see it in their politics, their profit and non-profit organisations, their arts & entertainment and various institutions. It makes a body feel more alone in the world than if she were to read a newspaper that inadvertently scrambled the communal impetus of a newsworthy topic, or travelled the busiest streets of the busiest city and found not one open face among its pedestrians.

So I’ve taken cbc.ca/news off my list of favourites and now that leaves the second thing that happened which made me realise that maybe I should sort out my differences with London and get on with my life here: a conversation with my mother.

There was nothing overtly wrong with how the conversation went. We speak every Sunday, and usually manage to struggle through with mostly happy results. But I suddenly had a flash of what life used to be like when my parents were no more than a ten minute drive - or an inexpensive phone call - away. And that unleashed a montage of imagery related to what holidays in Vancouver are actually like: frustrating, disappointing, and with mere flashes of repose, affection and rare exhilaration.

My family – exhausting and often mortifying to be around – are usually too self-involved to bother with one another, and that is the sad, honest truth.

But aside from the likely erroneousness of all this synecdoche, it is true what they say about escaping the self: wherever you go, there you are. And most of what needs fixing in my life has to do with how I perceive myself in relation to others in my environment, and the environment itself at times. I honestly believe (right now, breaking news) that it will be easier for me to do this here.