Category Archives: Emigrating with Weasels

Posts that refer mainly to how my family and I are coping with emigrating to a different continent.

Packing it in before packing it up.

It’s not the last day of the holiday, but it was the last day at Disneyland. We’d thought we’d bought Park Hopper tickets, enabling us to spend some time at Disneyland and some time at California Adventureland, across the way. As it turned out, we could only visit one park per day, and since we’d spent the first two at Disney, we felt we should give the third day to Adventureland. However, Mrs Dim wasn’t going to have any disappointment on her watch, so our first stop on Thursday morning was the Customer Services booth outside the parks. They upgraded our tickets (at a minor cost of Oh My God How Much? No, Don’t Tell Me) and we skipped off to see how long we would have to wait for the Guardians of the Galaxy ride.

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The last time we visited Adventureland, they were in the process of converting the old Tower of Terror ride into this new one. We were eager to see how they had done, but were nervous how many other people were there ahead of us. And it turned out, not that many!

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The queuing system took you through the lobby of the Collector’s establishment, showing you some of his collection, as well as introducing you to the conceit of the ride (The Guardians have been captured for display).

Naturally, we saved all the Guardians through our amazing “Sitting strapped into seats” ability, then moved on to find a superhero to hug.

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Once we’d finished browsing the local web, as it were, we had to rush off, because Mrs Dim had set her sights high – we were going to get on the Radiator Springs Racers ride this year! Last time we came, we could not ride it, because the queue was so long and all the fast passes were booked up for the day. This year the line was long, but not as long as the one for Smuggler’s Run had been, so we toughed it out.

It was worth it.

This was awesome. We had already crossed two rides off our list that we had doubted we could even get onto! We rushed off to Pixar Pier to try our luck with the newly renamed “Incredicoaster”. (Used to be the California Screaming….)

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Once again, the queue wasn’t huge, and it was moving pretty fast. There were funny videos playing to distract the nervous, and we reached the gates before we knew it. The people in front of us got onto the coaster and the gates closed. Then there was an announcement and the gates opened again. The reluctant and confused people were ushered off the coaster and the WHOLE QUEUE was turned away. Something was wrong, and they weren’t going to let anyone ride until they figured it out. Fair enough.

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To make up for our first failure, we jumped on to the giant ferris wheel (which probably has a comedy name, but I can’t remember it…) Mrs Dim asked me and Eldest Weasel if we were ok with a swinging gondola. We shrugged and said “yes”. But, dear reader, we were not ok. The stunning views across the park were not enough to distract us from the hideous sensations and I have rarely been happier to get off a ride.

There was some good representation for “Coco” in Adventureland, and we recovered while listening to the Mariachi band, and filling out our own contribution to the “Family Memories” area in memory of Cousin Shaun, gone far too soon.

Two successes, two less successful ventures. Mrs Dim got her spirits back up with a trip on the flying chairs, and then we headed across to Disneyland. Middle Weasel and I agreed that we had come to terms with not having another visit to Galaxy’s Edge, but now the chance was here, we were both thrilled.

We walked in to Disneyland, just as a parade was setting off. That gave us a chance to snag a couple more character pictures.

Then, to save our poor tired feet, we hopped on the train to ride around to New Orleans.

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We walked into Galaxy’s Edge along the route we have been using to leave, and almost immediately bumped into Resistance heroine, Vi Moradi. This time we didn’t just see her, she came over to chat to us!

While she was asking us how we were getting on, she was interrupted by another familiar face who also wanted her photograph taken with us…

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When we had finally stopped being mobbed by famous faces, we strolled into the Smuggler’s Run ride for one last trip on the Milennium Falcon. It was great fun, yet again.

We emerged with the ship mostly intact, and went to try both Blue Milk AND Green Milk. Green milk tastes like soap, and blue milk is more like brake fluid, but they’re both very expensive.

While we drank, we saw Vi getting escorted to prison by two troopers.

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Less than a minute later, she came strolling back down the street.

“You didn’t even use your blaster?” asked Mrs Dim.

“Piece of cake” Vi shrugged and disappeared again.

We closed out our final day with a meal at Pizza Planet.

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Thanks to all our lucky breaks, the great rides, and the cast members in Galaxy’s Edge, this visit to Disney really has been out of this world. The drive home is going to be a long one, but it’s been worth every mile.

Taking a Disney break at Universal

We have tickets for three days at Disney, but we know from the last time we were here, that it’s possible to sneak in a day at Universal Studios and see the other kind of Parklife (damn, got that song stuck in my head now…) The difficult bit is deciding when to leave, because no matter when you choose to go, it’ll take about two hours because of LA traffic. The park opens at 9, and that’s when we left.

Obviously, I didn’t take any pictures while driving over there, and the kids were zonked out in the back, with Mrs Dim doing my navigating for me. We DID spot the Hollywood sign, way off in the distance, so cross that one off the list.

For some reason I was a little grumpy when we arrived. Might have been the driving, or that peculiar aggressive grumpiness that suddenly seizes people when they realise they have to share something fun with other, ordinary people. The last time we came to Universal we had a wonderfully strange stroke of luck, with impending bad weather keeping most people away, but never appearing. This time it looked like we were going to have to share, and worse, QUEUE. Then I dropped my phone and shattered the screen. Bother. BUT….

It was still a really good day. We kicked it off by heading over to Hogsmead. The snow looked ludicrous in the heat, but we snagged some cold Butterbeer and started to relax.

We were trepidatious about the main ride in Hogsmead, but the wait time was only 20 mins. This sounds rough, but after weathering a 90 minute wait in Disney, it seemed reasonable to us. Plus, the queuing system for this ride takes you all through Hogwarts castle, and the decoration is fantastic. The portraits are animated and talk, and there’s something happening in every room you pass through – in the Defence against the Dark Arts Classroom, for example, Harry Ron and Hermione are wandering around under their invisibility cloak. Items move, doors open and close and their voices are clearly heard. Turns out, 20 mins isn’t long enough to see everything before you reach the ride.

The ride itself is an amazing combination of physical ride and simulation. You move through actual environments like the Forbidden Forest and the Observatory, and 180 degree screens project the illusion of flight around the outside of the castle and across the Quidditch pitch. Sounds, light and physical interactions like hot air and water help sell the experience. It was great!

You’re helped off the ride and gently ushered into the Gift Shop, of course. Like Galaxy’s Edge, there’s not a lot to ride in Hogsmead – the Hippogriff coaster and the Hogwarts ride are the only two, but there’s the “wand-choosing” experience, which provides you with a wand that can activate a number of shop window displays when you perform the spell action correctly. This is an amazing thing for the kids (and adults!) All those times you have wished you could perform real magic, and here’s a very convincing simulation.

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At that point we had to leave before Eldest Weasel sold a kidney to buy yet another wand. We had to go all the way down to the lower lot to see the Jurassic World stuff. Dinosaurs, remember? (She did say the ideal thing would be to ride between the two lots on a velociraptor, on a broom, drinking Butterbeer and throwing amber left and right, with Porgs on both shoulders. Kids today, huh?)

The old Jurassic Park ride has been replaced with an updated Jurassic World ride. Although the essentials of the ride are the same (you ride in boats, get wet, and there are dinosaurs), the details are different enough that it felt like a new experience. And wet enough that we didn’t take photos. When it finished, Eldest Weasel shook herself and ran over to the Velociraptor Encounter (which was the only reason she came…)

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She was told the book was probably in bad taste, but Blue the Raptor didn’t seem to mind too much.

After that, the only sane thing to do was go on the World Famous Studio Tour, currently celebrating its 55th anniversary. We had ridden the tour two years ago, and weren’t expecting major changes. Of course, you get a different commentary each time you have a different guide, and Marcellus was a master raconteur. He knew a lot about the shows being filmed, even if we rarely recognised any of the ones he mentioned. We were thrilled to go through the streets used for The Good Place though, a show that didn’t EXIST two years ago…

The best bits of the tour are still there: the Bates Motel and house, the Jaws attack, the earthquake in the Metro station, the flash flood, and the two newest additions, the King Kong 360 3d and the Fast and the Furious “What the heck is going on, who are these people, what was that, why did it explode, please let it be over, why does Vin Diesel play anyone but Groot?” experience.

On a whim, we wandered into the Special Effects Show, which was short but punchy, and paid tribute to some of the less sexy areas of special effects, like the Foley artists, who deserve more credit and adulation. After that, it was time to cruise the gift shops once more and head out… Except that on our way we passed the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, and opted to have an early dinner, rather than rush off to sit in traffic.

The decor was great, combining movie memorabilia with info and pictures from behind the scenes. Our server, Chris, was attentive and knowledgeable, and pointed out the sign on the table. It said “Run Forrest Run”, but if you flipped it over it said “Stop, Forrest, Stop”. If you needed assistance, you flipped the sign, and ANY server would stop to see what they could do for you. We ate great food, and Mrs Dim FINALLY got her cocktail.

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After a good meal and such a busy day, the ride back through LA wasn’t too bad at all, despite the reappearance of the Christmas songs in our random playlist. Still, if you’re driving through LA on a hot October evening after playing with Dinosaurs, why not do it with The Muppets singing the Twelve Days of Christmas?

The first two days at Disney

When we visited Disneyland in 2017, they had just started building Galaxy’s Edge. Although it’s open now, there’s only one ride, with the major attraction of “Rise of the Resistance” not scheduled to open in California until January (it’s open in December at Orlando.)

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Our first day at Disneyland in 2019 was going to be a slow appraisal. We all had goals and objectives, but the ones I was interested in were going to be busy. I’d have to book an appointment to build a lightsabre at Savi’s Workshop, and the lines for Smuggler’s Run (where you actually pilot the Millennium Falcon) would be long, and there’s no fast pass available.

So, on Monday morning, we strolled.

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Disneyland is all dressed up for Hallowe’en – the shops, the decor, the characters – everything is spooky and scary (but not ACTUALLY scary, because kids.) This was fun because a: we like Hallowe’en and b: last time we visited was in March, so this was all new.

We sauntered up Main Street, ignoring the statue of Walt and Mickey (because we took THAT picture two years ago.) We were delighted to stumble across an area dedicated to Coco and the Day of the Dead.

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Once we’d taken this picture, Laurel spotted a good flower to photograph, and a hummingbird appeared to improve the picture. Just as we finished that, an osprey started circling the lake.

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True to form, the entire Trasler family ignored the attractions of Disneyland to discuss the origins of the osprey, and whether or not there was anything in the lake for it to eat. Took a while for us to get moving again. We couldn’t agree on whether or not to go into the Haunted Mansion, but we could agree that a one hour wait time was more than we wanted to take right then.

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Since there was less of a line up for the Jungle Cruise, and none of the party objected, we rode around the gentle river and admired the animatronics.

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As always, it’s the dry delivery of the dreadful jokes by the driver that make the trip worthwhile.

Ever alert for more thrills (and because Tiny Weasel is a huge Wind in the Willows fan), the next stop was Mr Toad’s Wild Ride.

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It’s very reminiscent of the old Ghost Train rides we used to have in the UK, with sharp turns and doors that snap open at the last second. It’s not wildly scary, but much longer than it looks like it could be from the outside.

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It was finally time to go through to Galaxy’s Edge. Even though we weren’t planning to try and get on the Smuggler’s Run ride, it was still a big moment for me. I’d read so much on the web, and watched countless videos on the design, building and finally the opening of the area. This was the closest I was ever going to get to being in the Star Wars Universe.

It was AMAZING!

The look of the place is right out of the movies. Within seconds the tourists look out of place. Everywhere there are tiny details that catch the eye and insist you’re in the Star Wars Universe.

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But of course, the centrepiece of the land is the Millennium Falcon, reproduced in 3d, life-size.

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It’s weird, seeing this ship that I have known almost all my life, finally here in the real world. It’s so familiar, but looks so strange outside the viewfinder of the phone camera.

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Though the second, and biggest, ride is not yet ready, there’s still a lot to do at Galaxy’s Edge. There are many different types of shops, and several places to get food and drink. Oga’s Cantina needs to be booked, so we plumped for eating at Cargo Bay 7. The food is themed, but much better than normal. Last time we were in Disneyland, they had “Star Wars” food that was regular chicken nuggets-style offering with space names. Here in Galaxy’s Edge, the food is Earth native, but with a twist. We ordered the Fried Endorian Tip Yips and the Braised Shaak Roast.

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These two dishes were recogniseably earth meats, but they had been cooked or prepared to alter the flavour from the expected (or usual) and they were definitely NOT the standard fast food park fare. The two were enough for the five of us to share, not being too hungry. The bowls they were served in were ceramic, the cutlery was metal, and the tray was metal. Good environmental points all round!

We ran into some familiar faces (or masks) during our first visit too:

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Outside Galaxy’s Edge, we even bumped into a famous Bounty Hunter.

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We’d seen a ton of stuff, and tired ourselves out, so we repaired to the hotel. I found us a nearby place to eat, and the Weasels attempted to double their bodyweight in pasta before they fell asleep. We turfed them out of the restaurant and back to bed, while Mrs Dim and I went back to the park for the evening firework display. We stood with hundreds (thousands?) of others in Main Street, until 9.30pm arrived and the lights, sound and fireworks came to life.

Tired, but happy, we stumbled back to the hotel. We had intended for the next day to be our “Magic Morning”, where we could enter the park an hour early, but then we found the park opened at 8am, so we’d have to BE there at 7am. Instead, we resolved to be at the park when the gates opened at 8.

We nearly made it.

This was the day to achieve the first set of goals, after all, so we went straight in and through to galaxy’s edge to queue for Smuggler’s Run.

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After twenty minutes of queueing through various areas, we reached this huge open backstage part, obviously utilised for large crowds. There were no ropes, just lines on the floor, but the crowds obediently shuffled back and forth, careful not to step over the taped lines. We shuffled on for an hour and a half before we reached the actual ride.

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An amazing animatronic of Hondo Ohnaka gives you the introduction to the situation and invites you and your crew to fly the Falcon for him, to grab some Coaxium for the Resistance. Through another set of doors and there were some very familiar surroundings.

I was surprised that we weren’t warned not to film or photograph during the ride, but it turned out that was because you don’t have enough hands! I was Pilot, and Middle Weasel was Copilot, with Tiny and Eldest Weasel being Gunners. Mrs Dim and a loaner crewmember were the Engineers. I could only control left and right, while Middle Weasel was in charge of up and down. The mission lasted longer than I thought it would, but it was still fast and furious and FUN! Definitely worth the wait.

There was going to be quite a wait between coming out of Smuggler’s Run and the appointment I had made at Savi’s Workshop, so we decided to take in another ride. We opted for the Matterhorn.

When we joined the line, there was a sixty minute wait time, but halfway through they made an announcement that there was some kind of issue. Time ticked by, and I began to worry that I might have to rush to catch my appointment after all. But then we were on the ride and ready to go!

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The Matterhorn Bobsled ride is fun, with scary Yetis lunging out at the carts as they rocket by. We yelled and waved our arms in the air, then stepped out with half and hour in hand.

I was allowed two guests at the building of the lightsabre, and Eldest Weasel came along to document it with her better camera (and I don’t have her pictures yet!), and Tiny Weasel was press-ganged by the guy standing next to me, who wanted to film his own build, but didn’t have a buddy!

The process is wonderfully theatrical, and it’s helped if you’ve read ‘Black Spire” by Delilah Dawson. I assembled the pieces of my lightsabre, but was embarrassed to find that it didn’t work when tested by the workshop supervisor. She disassembled it, replaced a part, rebuilt it, tested it – nothing! By the time I got “my” lightsabre back, it had been rebuilt three times!

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We closed out the day with drifting around the park, through shops, past parades, and getting Mrs Dim a coffee for her to sip watching the people on Main Street.

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Tomorrow we head out to Universal Studios for some non-Disney entertainment, before returning for one more day in the Magic Kingdom. I hope we can fit as much into those two days as we managed in the previous two!

 

 

Paris in the Spring time…Wait, is it Summer?

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This is not a travel blog.

Having said that, my family did go traveling recently, and I’m about to blog about it. Huh.

It’s been six years since I last went back to the UK, so a return visit was overdue, plus my folks had moved into a new house etc etc. However, we knew from past experience that trying to visit all the people you want to see after traveling so far can be exhausting. y wife, always the smart one, programmed in a three-day hiatus in Paris so we could recharge.

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We Air BnB’d a small apartment in the 16th Arrondissement. (When I say “we”, I mean Mrs Dim did.) The place was small, but since we were only using it as a base for day trips, that didn’t matter. There were basic cooking facilities and more superior coffee-making facilities, so all was well. Each morning we had a five minute walk to the bridge pictured above, and from there we would walk along the Seine until we reached a Metro or the Bateaubus for the day’s activity.

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I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow account of our visit, because not everything we did will work for other people, and some things were just plain wrong, like trying to go to the Musee D’Orsay on the one day of the week that it’s closed. But maybe it’s worth noting in passing that there are still huge crowds flocking to Notre Dame, even though it’s (obviously) closed, and the streets around it are clogged with building supplies and trucks.

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The best view of it may be from the Bateaubus.

We loved strolling most of all, taking advantage of our flexible schedule to stop off in cafes whenever we felt like it. Tiny Weasel objected to the endless cigarette smoke, but they do at least attempt to keep it outside, even if all the cafe windows are wide open in the heat.

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Versailles was disappointing in many ways, but we didn’t brave the mighty queues to go into the palace itself, so maybe we’re just really critical gardeners, but for me, the high point was a tip we got from Richard Ayoade’s YouTube Series “Travel Man” .

In his visit to Paris, he mentioned that it was pointless to climb the Eiffel Tower, only to take pictures of the Paris cityscape without the Eiffel Tower in it. He recommended the Tour Montparnasse, so off we went.

It was BRILLIANT! No queue to get in, Europe’s fastest elevator taking us up 59 floors in less than a minute, and a wonderful 360 degree view from the top:

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Which INCLUDES the Eiffel Tower.

I enjoyed the trip a lot more than I thought I would, because of the company, the relaxed scheduling and the regular food and drink. It’s likely to be many years before I go to Paris again, but if I do, I’ll do it this way again.

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10 years in British Columbia

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Outside the Rosellen Suites, our apartment that first month

10 years ago we arrived in Canada. It was night, and we barely made it through Immigration before the office closed for the evening. Some of our visas weren’t up to scratch and we had replacement photos taken, with our eyes red from the ten-hour flight.

Most of our belongings were in transit, crossing the Atlantic in a container ship, and wouldn’t arrive for another month. We had enough packed in our cases, hopefully, to last us that month. The taxi stand at the airport looked at our baggage and the travel-weary weasels and suggested we take a limo.

“It’s about the same price as a taxi big enough for all of you, and there’ll be room to spare.”

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We arrived at the apartment we’d booked for our first month. It was dark now, and cold. Whatever the real time was, we’d been up for around twenty four hours one way and another, and we just wanted to sleep. But the door code we’d been given didn’t work, so we had to call the Manager. Once we were in, we hauled our many cases up two flights to the room (finding out later there was an elevator…) Before we could collapse, however, there was one more thing – someone needed to go out and get supplies for breakfast. No one fancied the idea of waking up and having to dress and go out for food. I ran to the nearby 7-11 and picked up cereal and milk and bacon. That would have to do.

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Foraging for food turned out to be relatively painless…

From our perspective of ten years on, we look back on that night with a fondness and a vague horror. It was the biggest adventure we had ever considered, and the Weasels threw themselves into it with such courage. We were promising them a better life, new activities, a new house, a dog and all manner of great things, but the fact was we had no ACTUAL plan, beyond “Let’s get jobs and find a house.”

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That’s why this week we are trying to say thank you to all the people who have helped us in this first ten years. We got our jobs, our dog and our house, but we also found friends along the way who have done so much for us. We’re grateful to everyone who extended the hand of friendship and turned our crazy hopes of a better life into a reality.

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The night before we flew out, March 2009

 

Living with Derek

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Back in February or March, my Eldest Weasel said “Hey Dad, can we build a full-size Dalek to take to Fan Expo?” It didn’t seem like a completely crazy idea, because the Fan Expo is usually in November, and with Eldest helping me, it would be a breeze.

Since my usual efforts in building don’t go beyond the odd helmet (some of which are very odd…)

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..Maybe I would have to actually…you know..do this properly. To that end, I got in touch with the Project Dalek Forum.

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The PDF is a great group of builders who make daleks from every era of Doctor Who, including the movies. They have plans that have measurements for every aspect of the build, and within a few days of registering with them, I had a complete set of plans myself. Yay! Here we go!

But I know me, so let’s start out simply, using cardboard. After all, building a life-size dalek is going to take a lot of materials, and I want to know I can get it right.

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Cardboard is easy, and it gave me a false sense of security. I knocked up the base and the panels in no time, and because they only had to be secured with duct tape, it was easy to do. Then we decided to make the real thing out of wood.

Oh dear.

I measured the base on a piece of wood. Eldest came home and measured it again, correcting my measurements. Then I checked hers and changed them again. Then we took an average of the three measurements and cut it out.

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Well, that looks fine. Let’s stick the wheels on it.

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Brilliant! Except, of course, you have to make the bit with the wheels on separate from the “skirt”, because the bit with the wheels on is called the bumpers, and it’s the widest. If you make it detachable, you can fit your dalek through doorways, which is important.

So we have to make another base for the skirt. But we don’t have another piece of wood big enough. Never mind, we’ll use these planks. There has to be a hole in the middle anyway, so Eldest can get her feet through and pedal.

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Yeah, not as pretty. Then we cut out the panels from some kind of plywood. It was not successful. We decided to ignore the results, and use foamcore board, which we could cut to size in place. And stick together with tape. First, we have to get the top of the skirt fitted at the right height. That involved math.

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Before we clad the skirt, I had a brainwave and installed a small seat, because who wants to shuffle around inside a dalek without taking a break now and then?

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Once the panels were on, it started to look quite convincing.

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Of course, the problem was that this was pretty good. And the next bit was the shoulders, which were very complicated. I needed a good whack of free time to build them, and yet the phrase “I need time to work on my dalek” cuts absolutely no ice in this household, I can tell you. I tried making a mock up in cardboard, but ended up making a muck up in cardboard. A lot of useful time passed.

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When the chance came along, I made the base plate for the shoulders, and the circular plate for the top. Then I had to cut out the four pieces that would delineate the slope of the body. I looked at the plans. I looked at the wood. I looked at the plans. I went away and looked in the fridge for more beer. When there was no more beer, I had to just go ahead and cut something out.

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And this, believe it or not, was the easy bit. Because the next bit was cladding the shoulders, and for that we had to soak two enormous sheets of hardboard, and then clamp them into place so they dried in the right shape. This was not easy.

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See those clamps? They are almost all the clamps I own, and the only ones the right size for doing this job.

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While I had been wrestling with the shoulders, Eldest Weasel had been adding the bumpers to the bumpers, so we could stack up the bumpers, the skirt and the shoulders, and stick a weasel inside. Not bad!

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That white blob on the skirt was a hemisphere of styrofoam. They are light, cheap, and easy to attach. But you can’t spray paint them, because they melt. If you coat them with, well, almost anything, you get the results pictured above. We needed to find sixty hemispheres that would NOT do this. But not right then.

The next job would be building the gun boxes. Some people build them as one unit, but because of the way I’d built the shoulders, it made more sense* to build them separately. My issues with measuring came to the fore again (or the three?), and required a lot of filling, sanding and re-cutting to try and get the gun boxes to be any kind of accurate. Since the next logical thing would be to cut into the now dry and shaped shoulders to fit the gunboxes, I decided to build the dome.

The dome is not a perfect hemisphere, so I got Eldest to cut multiple silhouettes and form the dome that way. Then we covered that with card, then paper mache, then wallboard filler. Later, we slapped some fibre glass on there too.

Now we had the dome, it became necessary to build the second most complex part of the dalek – the neck rings. There are three rings – one sits right on top of the shoulders, then two more are suspended by eight uprights, and the dome sits on top. At the intersections of each ring and the uprights are neck blocks – so, 24 of those. Cutting out the rings was tricky, as was cutting all eight uprights to the right length, but this was nothing – NOTHING – compared with trying to glue those uprights in place. because, you see, all three rings slotted into cutouts on the uprights, and the rings decrease in diameter as they go up, so you can’t put one on and then do the others. All eight uprights had to be glued to all three rings at once. How did I do that? I have no idea. And, unsurprisingly, there are no photos of me doing it because I didn’t have enough hands to do the job, let alone photograph me doing it. Here’s the damn thing done:

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Ok. So now we see how big the final thing is. And it actually looks like a dalek. In this picture, you can also see the upper collar at the top of the shoulders. Professionals used more damp hardboard for this and the lower collar, but I tried that. After being smacked in the face by damp hardboard three times in a row, I cracked and bought two camping mats from the dollar store and used them (they’re made from thin EVA foam, smooth to the touch and easy to glue.)

See the lower collar in place here.

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Now the lower collar was in place, there were no more excuses for avoiding putting the gunboxes in. And let me skate lightly over the process for that, because if fitting the neck cage together was the hardest thing ever, putting the gunboxes in comes a close second. It should have just been “cut two holes and slide ’em in”, but no, the shape of the holes got weirder and weirder to accommodate the gunboxes, and eventually I got them seated, but had lots of tidying up to do. The logical response was to paint the whole area with some spare housepaint to try and get it to look like one unit.

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I’d love to say that this was where we began to sprint for the finish, but the honest truth is that this is the point where we had six weeks of visitors, and dalek production slowed to a crawl. I mean, they were great visitors, and we even put some of them to work producing Derek’s ears:

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But it was slow going. We produced a lot of “slats” from EVA flooring foam, then glued them in place.

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We made lots of neck blocks and sprayed them the right colour.

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We bravely cut into the dome and built the “cowl” to house the eyestalk. The parts we needed for the eyestalk were too tricky to build ourselves, so we go them 3d printed and sent to us.

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That left putting together the two most iconic parts of the dalek, the plunger and the gun (or egg-whisk, if you prefer). The gun was hardest, requiring wire bending and stuff…

The plunger arm was an old shower curtain rod, or something similar, and I made the plunger itself from EVA foam. I don’t know why. Perhaps, by this point, I just felt the difficult way was the only way to do things.

And that was the main work done, right?

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Well, not quite – we bought a LOT of DIY Christmas Baubles from a craft store and sprayed them, and glued sticks inside them to attach them to the skirt. There is a rotation mechanism inside the dome, but it was rudimentary and did not work smoothly. The eyestalk was raised and lowered by means of ( I kid you not) a piece of string. Dalek dialogue and sounds were on an MP3 player with a separate speaker, and the ears lit up because they were LEDs stolen from two flashlights and wired up using Dim’s Patented Home Electrics Method (not recommended to anyone, ever, under any circumstances.)

Derek was ready for the Fan Expo, which was a good thing, because the Fan Expo was the very next day!

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So, we took him to pieces and stuffed him into the car.

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We got hm to the Expo and assembled him on the sidewalk outside and were immediately mobbed by people wanting to take his picture and ask “Is it real?” I honestly had no answer prepared for that.

Next, we decided to move towards the entrance and disaster struck. The front wheel snapped off. Derek came to pieces and got moved inside the convention centre, where we made repairs and people once more gathered around him.

When we went to move Derek further into the hall, the wheel failed again, and this time it could not be fixed. Derek stood guard just past the Prop Check area and made a lot of new friends. We have some serious repair work to do, but for now we’re proud of our newest family member, and glad to have had the chance to share him with Fan Expo Vancouver 2018.

*In as much as any of this makes any kind of sense.

Changing my mind about camping

Camping was rarely fun for me. My parents would take us on camping holidays when my brother and I were small, and it was fun to be on holiday, it was fun to visit new places (or old favourite places, like FlamingoLand, or Market Harborough) but living in a tent is not one of my go to choices. Scout camp every year was an adventure, and a chance to do some great outdoorsy stuff, but returning home was always a great relief. Food! Electric kettle! Comfortable bed! Yay!

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The morning is my least favourite time on camps.

When we came to Canada, we discovered camping was a different animal out here. For one thing, campsites are different. As a kid, I wouldn’t be surprised when we parked the VW in a field, and filled our kettle and pots from a standpipe at the gate. There might have been a toilet block somewhere nearby. But here in Canada we have beautifully maintained individual plots, with a tent pad, a firepit and a picnic bench. There’s always at least pit toilets on a site, often a shower block, and the staff patrol the site several times a day, cleaning, restocking and offering firewood for sale, as well as checking who’s paid for their site and so on.

So this year, when Mrs Dim said she’d booked a campsite for her birthday/Mother’s Day weekend, I grumbled and complained because I always do, but I didn’t dread it. She’d picked Nairn Falls because we’ve been there before, and she loves the fact that the sites with the river behind them have their own white noise generator (the river) to drown out any sound from other campers. This was the first weekend the site was open, so it wasn’t that busy and we arrived on a Friday afternoon that was beautifully sunny.

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It didn’t take long to get the car unpacked and the site set up – it’s the same tent we’ve had these past nine years, and we’ve got a system for putting it up*.

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Since it was now almost teatime, Tiny Weasel and I figured sitting and reading was the best thing to do, but Mrs Dim had a brief commune with nature, and then said we should check out the walk to the lake.

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It turned out to be a little more of a hike than we’d thought, and it was a good thing that Tiny Weasel had grabbed a bottle of water on her way out of the site, but it was worth the walk.

Then we had food, and a well-earned rest.

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The next day we decided to tackle a bigger hike, and drove out to a start point that was along 8km of potholed track. But the opening view was encouraging:

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The terrain was occasionally broken up with fallen trees that will be cleared later in the season, but other than that it wasn’t hard going. Once more, we were heading for a lake.

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Which we had no trouble finding.

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Though it did take us a while to leave. Along the way we had talked of all manner of things, made great and wondrous plans, and revised the plot of a new play (Mrs Dim is an excellent sounding board for plays, and this one is almost entirely down to her invention.)

We even met a local having a snack.

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We spent the afternoon and early evening in Whistler, before returning to the campsite for one more evening round the firepit. Clearing up the next morning was nearly as efficient as setting up had been, and before long, there was just Mrs Dim and Tiny Weasel on the site, saying farewell to the view.

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Camping is still grubby and occasionally uncomfortable, and I don’t sleep well. But it’s also good family time, a great break from the digital world we’re so obsessed with, and a chance to listen.

 

*Argue, argue, argue, huff, argue, tent.

Rhododendron Days, Burnaby

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We came to Canada, in part, for a particular way of life. Part of that is the community events, and Burnaby is big on community events. This week it was the Rhododendron Days at Deer Lake.

We’ve been a few times before, and it’s one of Mrs Dim’s happy places. This year the weather was excellent and all the blooms were out on time.

Rhododendron Days isn’t just about the pretty blossoms, of course. There are plant sales, competitions, craft stalls and lots of information displays. There was a stall displaying the eco-sculptures that the City of Burnaby have all around the city, giving people a chance to help plant up the next sculptures.

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There was live music and kids’ activities (yes, I tried some of them. No, I won’t be posting my excellent pastel drawing of Mrs Dim doing a drawing of Eldest Weasel and her boyfriend…). There was even an appearance by the Burnaby Public Library Outreach vehicle, with the pop-up library!

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It was, in short, an enjoyable time in beautiful surroundings, and there were a lot of people enjoying it. It was good to be there.

The Pipeline and broken promises

 

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There’s probably a lot I don’t know about the situation with the Kinder-Morgan pipeline that’s in contention here in Burnaby. I’m not a businessperson, an activist, or a member of the government (federal or local). But to be honest, this doesn’t seem like a very complex issue.

Alberta want to export a bunch of oil products (I hear the word “bitumin” bandied around a lot. Says the Britannica Mining website: “Bitumen, dense, highly viscous, petroleum-based hydrocarbon that is found in deposits such as oil sands and pitch lakes (natural bitumen) or is obtained as a residue of the distillation of crude oil (refined bitumen).“) and to do that, they, or rather Kinder Morgan, have to expand the existing pipeline that carries oil products across BC to the sea.

The point where the pipeline meets the sea is a beautiful area. It would be irreparably damaged by a rupture in the pipeline. How likely is such a thing? Well, here’s the point: If I said “We have a WW2 era bomb here. It’s got a timing mechanism that’s probably faulty. It probably won’t explode. We’re gonna put it in your basement, right here under your living room. Where your kids play. The bomb almost certainly won’t go off. But if it does, I promise, we’ll clean up the mess.”

Would you be reassured? It doesn’t matter how unlikely that explosion is, what matters is that the “clean up” will be too late. So it is with the pipeline. Clean up will be mitigating the disaster, not preventing it.

So that’s one thing. This is a huge ecological disaster that’s waiting to happen. It HAS happened elsewhere. We don’t want it to happen here.

Here’s the other thing. Since the arrival of Europeans in Canada, the First Nations have been abused in horrific ways. For over a century they have been victimised and degraded. The disgrace that was the Residential Schools only closed in the last thirty years (the last one in BC closed in 1996). We have hounded and villified and tortured the original inhabitants of this land, and just very recently, we have started to acknowledge our guilt. We have started to apologise and try and make reparation. Pierre Trudeau, father of the current Prime Minister, was declared an honorary member of the Haida Gwaii in 1976. Most of British Columbia is unceded territory, meaning it still belongs to the First Nations, who believe they are to be the stewards of the land. We acknowledge this fact at the start of almost every public and school meeting, thanking the local First Nations for their forebearance and generosity in allowing us to be here.

And yet… They do not want the pipeline expansion. They have said so, loudly, and in many forums. Despite this, Justin Trudeau feels it is in the best interests of the whole nation to continue with the project. That says to me that we honour our debt to the First Nations right up until the moment it gets in the way of making a profit, and that makes me feel sick.

Alberta says they need the income from the pipeline to fund essential education and medical services for the population of Alberta. I understand that it’s important for the province to generate income to look after the people who live there. I’m sorry that the Albertans have to go through BC to get their oil products out there, but I’m not willing to sacrifice the environment of the BC coast, or the promise we have made to the First Nations, for the sake of Alberta. If the federal government really feels this is an issue they should get involved with, I suggest they should be helping Alberta redirect their energy industry towards the growing solar market, and away from dead-end technology like oil deposits. Oil is finite. We’re already reduced to horrific technologies like fracking to try and extract oil deposits that were considered financially inaccessible not so long ago, but now there is more demand and less availability. It’s time to get out of oil before it’s too late.

I lived in South Wales for several years, and while that was lovely, it was hard to travel through North Wales and see the effect that dependence on the coal industry had on small villages and towns. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Thatcher-era pit closures (and I’m sure there were both) those communities suffered because they had one central industry and nothing else was put into place when that industry shut down. The same thing is going to happen to areas dependent on oil production – it’s inevitable, because there is no new oil being made. Now is the time to make the changes.

I’m disappointed in Justin Trudeau. I realise running the country is harder than my job, ad that there’s a lot of pressure to put money into the economy, but it also matters that we honour the promises we have made to the First Nations.

The Bold Viking Quest

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It was Tiny Weasel’s birthday this week, and she had very specific plans for her celebration. We would get together on Family Day, dress as Vikings and hike through the woods playing a specially created D&D adventure. And then have a picnic.

We’re fairly new to D&D, having picked up the Starter Set at Christmas, so the campaign I wrote is very basic. It doesn’t actually follow the path we took through the woods of Belcarra to Jugg Island, so you could use it on any walk from about 30 mins to an hour and a half.

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Dressing as Vikings is essential, however. We had a bard, three fighters and a Cleric, but we couldn’t get the cleric to give up her battleaxe.

Since we are beginners, we played a very simple version of the combat rules, taking along a D20 and a D8. Since we were also outside in the woods, we carried each die in a tin with a clear lid, so you could “roll” the dice without losing them. (And, it turned out, you could jiggle the tin until you got the number you were looking for…)

The Bard suffered terribly, being attacked by Vampire bats almost immediately, and trying to fend them off (unsuccessfully) with her Kazoo. Later she remembered her magical arrow which would have been great against the bats, but was pretty useless against Skeletons.

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The cupcakes were as important as the combat….

Since it was Family Day, we were not the only people on the trail, so there was a fair amount of explaining to do as we went along, but this is Canada. No one minded at all that we were having fun.

After defeating several horrific monsters, falling into pit traps and solving fiendish riddles (only one of which I stole from “Labyrinth”), the weary questers reached the beach and opened the treasure chest of Captain Mica (Flint having been taken, you see…)

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Even the plain clothes DM got in on this picture!

I’m sure regular D&D players could make more of the campaign, but it’s also simple enough for noobs like me to run it without too much trouble. I’ve uploaded the text to this Google Drive location as a Word Document so anyone can have a go.

We wish you happy questing, adventurers.

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