Category Archives: Emigrating with Weasels

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

Escaping to Fan Expo Vancouver

There’s little doubt that 2016 has been a grim year. We’ve lost folk heroes, rock stars, and a little bit of belief in the fundamental goodness of regular folks. But yesterday we set aside our fears and doubts, and dressed up as someone else for a day. We went to Fan Expo Vancouver 2016.

If you’ve read this blog at all, you’ll know we try to go every year. I always intend to dress up, and I never do. Time and again, the Weasels have outshone me with their brilliant outfits, and been photographed over and over.

This year, I was ready. Having spent only a short period of time building s Doctor Strange outfit for Halloween, I had spruced up the Shakespearean Vader suit that I built so long ago. I shortened the cloak so I didn’t trip on it. I added extra bling. I was ready.

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We didn’t rush in this year – there would be no queuing! Eldest Weasel had booked a photo shoot with her personal Doctor Who idol, Alex Kingston, and that wasn’t until mid-afternoon, so we had a leisurely drive in to downtown, and then we gathered outside the convention centre while Mrs Dim figured out how to exchange our tickets for the wristbands that would get us inside.

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Eldest Weasel’s friend came along as Kaylee from Firefly, while Eldest herself had really gone to town on improving her Time Lord Headdress.

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Middle Weasel was Quicksilver (somewhat ironic, given her tendency to avoid moving whenever possible) and Tiny Weasel was Frisk from Undertale. You know, Undertale? the Game? No, me neither.

Attending Fan Expo in costume was wildly different from going in regular clothes. For one thing, I was stopped quite often so people could take photos of or with me. For another, I couldn’t actually see very much. My breath fogged up the eyepieces after about four minutes, and Mrs Dim had to guide me through the halls. I was glad she’d chosen a white jacket for the day, as it was easy to follow the white blur. Only once did it turn out to be the WRONG white blur….

From an atmosphere of fear and hate (through the internet news and the reactions of friends and family) we found ourselves in a place of acceptance and encouragement. Fans can be sticklers for details, vocally critical of the film industry when details are altered for a movie, or when a beloved character is treated badly for plot purposes. But I heard no criticisms of any of the costumed characters at the Expo. There was open admiration, compliments, applause, and , of course, photographs. Prominently displayed in the convention centre and the nearby hotel were signboards with the “Cosplay is not consent” policy clearly laid out. Some female characters wear skimpy outfits, and those that chose to dress as those characters could have no fear that they would risk assault for that choice.

Respect. Inclusion. Honest fun. Pursuit of interests for the joy they bring, not the financial gain.

It was a delight to step into this world, and imagine the one we live in coming back to these values one day.

Halloween is coming

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Lazy summer days are great, and fresh spring mornings can be wonderful, but I have to admit that autumn is my favourite time of the year. It’s not the crunchy fallen leaves, or the tang of snow to come in the air, but one night of silliness: Halloween.

As a child in the UK in the 70’s and 80’s, Halloween was not a big deal. There would be a party on the night itself, or the weekend closest to, I guess, and there would be costumes and apple bobbing, but no trick or treating. By the time I was at Secondary school, there were Halloween discos, and rumours of trick or treating in local areas, but these were always accompanied by horror stories of razor blades in apples and so on. We knew about North American Halloween traditions, of course, because we watched movies like “ET” and saw the parades of costumed kids going about collecting sweets. None of them seemed to suffer horrific murder as a result….

In our final few years in the UK, we were on RAF stations, usually behind the wire, where a small community made for safe trick or treating. Mrs Dim came up with the idea of making a huge cauldron of soup and some hot dogs and making a gather point for adults. We could see the kids working their way up and down the road while the adults took turns supervising and eating.

By 2008, we were hosting our own Halloween party out in the world of civilians.

The kids even got to go trick or treating around the local roads (with adults in attendance, of course.)

But over here, the sheer scale of Halloween is impressive. When my writing partners from TLC came to visit in our first year, they went back with a suitcase filled with Halloween decorations that were cheap over here, but non-existant at the time in the UK. I suspect that situation has changed in the years since, but there’s no denying that people go all out for  Halloween over here.

The last two years I have been working Halloween night, and I will be again this year. It’s a quiet night in the library, even though the staff dress up and the Librarians usually have some sweets for any trick or treaters who make it in.

 

The Weasels will also be dressed up, and some will be roaming the streets in search of sweets, while others will man the Witch’s cottage, or whatever scary house we set up to trap the unwary….

Finding Balance

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It’s been Summer Holidays for more than a month. Traditionally, it’s a time of year where I lose my mind, trying to fit in the demands of the irregular work schedule, my own writing desires and the various activities (or not) of the Weasels.

This year has seen a few changes, with Eldest Weasel leaving school and filling some of her free time with volunteering at the Vancouver Aquarium and the Pacific Northwest Raptor Centre.DSCN8839

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Middle Weasel took a brief course that will help her if she decides to continue helping out on ice – she’s done her Ringette Ref training, and now is ready to help teach a new generation of Ringette players.

Tiny Weasel took two weeks of the school-run summer entertainments and we’ve all traveled with my parents who were over for a fortnight.

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None of us are in this picture, but we were there – it’s Long Beach, Tofino.

What I have to relearn every year is the trick of balance. I’m not being denied my work time, or my solitude, and the kids aren’t being forced to go out and have fun. There’s time for writing, time for relaxing, time for exploring and time for socialising. There’s even, god help us all, time for watching brainless twits on YouTube blathering about the very latest thing that they found in their breakfast cereal….. I may be a little prejudiced about the value of YouTube as an entertainment delivery system.

Anyway, for every five minutes where I’m convinced we’re not going to get anywhere or do anything, there’s times like this:

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or places like this:

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or discoveries like this:

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I don’t know what state we’ll be in when we reach September, but most years we seem to have done alright. We’ve had fun, been to some interesting places, seen some good people and and spent a healthy amount of time outdoors, as well as getting in some good screen time. This year, I’m going to remember that Summer isn’t about what you can cram in, or what you worry about missing out.

It’s about the balance.

 

Slow progress all round

Workshop progress

There seems to be something of a tradition on this blog of not talking about Fathers’ Day until it’s done. Well, it was over a week ago, so I think we’re safe now….

This year I didn’t ask for presents. I asked for help. My workshop had reached crisis point, and it was so messed up, I couldn’t actually do any work in it. My latest project (Handles, from Doctor Who) has been mostly made in the kids’ playroom, and the bathroom reno has been carried out in situ.

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Handles still has a long way to go….

Anyway, the point of this post, apart from the opportunity to publicly thank my entire family for helping me sort out my crisis of a workshop, was to remind everyone that getting things done often means getting other things done first. With a tidy workshop, I’ve been able to get a whole load of pending things done, because I know where everything is (as opposed to “I know I saw that a week ago…”). Clearing out the junk meant I was doing a tip run, which means the other junk waiting got taken away.

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I like to think the bathroom progress is more noticeable..

Best of all, I feel things are possible again. I wish it was as easy to clear out the clutter from my brain, and leave only the useful, clean and modern tools. But if I can’t do that, I can be sure that the workspace I go to is ready for me to work in.

Graduation

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Seven years in Canada means there are now very few moments where we stop and say “Hey, that’s a bit different!”, but this week, there was a big one. Eldest Weasel has graduated High School.

*Puts on flat cap and lights pipe*

Back in my day, we didn’t graduate from High School. For a start, we didn’t GO to High School. Mandatory Secondary Education finished with the Fifth Year and G.C.S.E.s (I was in the first year to take these new-fangled replacements for the O levels). We spent May and June taking an assortment of exams (nine, in my case) and when you took your last exam, you were done. No more Secondary School. There was, I think, a final assembly, but I got sent out of that for talking, so I don’t know what happened in it.

As an avid consumer of North American film and TV, I’m familiar with the concept of High School graduation (though this one turned out very different from that Buffy Episode…). What I hadn’t realised was the ceremony is really worthwhile. Poor Eldest Weasel was consumed with nerves about the whole thing, which was a shame because this was a great way to mark the early years of education, the culmination of the time that this age group would spend together in school. From this point on, as was made clear by the statements read out for each graduate, they would be scattering to all kinds of different colleges, careers and ambitions.

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That’s not to say that the mood was entirely sombre. The Principal (who is also moving on to a new job) gave a speech that was upbeat and encouraging, inevitably quoting Dr Seuss, and making several jokes (some unintentional). There were catcalls and cheers for the students receiving scholarships, and many of the hats had been decorated by their owners, since they would be kept as souvenirs of the big day. It was a long ceremony, only broken twice by performances from the choir and the band, begun with “O, Canada” sung by one of the graduates and closed with “God Save the Queen” sung by another. The hats were thrown into the air after the Valedictorian’s speech (and you have to love Drama Students for stepping up when it comes to making a great speech) and the graduates filed out to meet the friends and relatives who had packed the arena.

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I had come to the event believing it to be overblown and unnecessary , just one more stress to drop on a group of young adults already being pressured to decide their futures. But I came away feeling it had been exactly right – a celebration of the time and effort these students had put into their school, an acknowledgement of what it will come to mean to them in the future, and a reminder that the friendships they have made here can be carried forward no matter how far apart they may travel.

The Great Canadian Adventure is FREE!

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Yes! To celebrate the fact that it’s been EXACTLY 7 years, 2 months and 14 days since we arrived in Canada, I’m giving away my account of our first year here for FREE!

It’s filled with fun pictures and interesting facts! It’s an e-book, so people won’t see it on your shelf and ask why you bought it! It’s free, so you won’t regret spending money on it! And it’s an Amazon product so you can leave reviews warning others away from making a similar error!

(I may not be good at this marketing thing.)

You can get your copy from Amazon.com, or Amazon.co.uk . If you live somewhere else, check out your local Amazon site and see if it’s free there too!

And ok, yes, it may not be because of the timing, but because i haven’t given away any of my e-books in a long time. There’ll probably be other giveaways coming up soon. I’m busy working on a new play, co-writing the next pantomime, and there’s a side-project running over on Wattpad that I’m not convinced will be worth publishing, but is making me smile. Also, I haven’t made any kind of replica film prop for more than a week.*

 

 

 

*There may be a complete set of plans for a Cyberman head in the bottom drawer of my desk. I refuse to comment.

1985 on my mind…

We’re all hearing a lot about today being THE day, finally, when Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrive from the past. We’ve bemoaned the lack of hoverboards, the fact there isn’t a Jaws 17 in real 3d on at the movies. Surprisingly, there ARE still a lot of Deloreans kicking about.

But I’m looking the other way. I’m remembering what I can about 1985, wanting to remember what I thought the future would really look like.

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In 1985 I was thirteen. In my third year of Secondary School, and doing reasonably well. I was a big Star Wars fan, although I actually had only seen “The Empire Strikes Back” for the first time the year before, on VHS. (I’d seen “Return of the Jedi” several times, including once up in London as a result of winning a competition…)

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The last days of Winchester’s cinema.

I saw “Back to the Future” at the cinema in Winchester, a relic from the glory days of the movies, sandwiched between anonymous buildings on North Walls. I likely saw the sequel there too. At thirteen, the cinema was a place I could suddenly go to with friends, not parents, and back then it was also within my limited budget.

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What the cinema site looks like today.

It was obvious that the 2015 shown in “Back to the Future 2” was over the top, but thirty years was a long time. Look at the advancements we had made since 1955, after all – we had digital watches, space shuttles, a phone the size of a small briefcase you could carry around with you! Clive Sinclair was trying to get people to ride a three-wheel electric scooter, for Pete’s sake, surely we’d have hoverboards by 2015?

I think I missed the clear message of Back to the Future, though : that no matter how much times may change, people remain the same. If I could talk to that thirteen year old now, I wouldn’t tell him that we have a company making all-electric cars that can outperform most petrol cars, but people are still fighting wars over oil. I wouldn’t tell him that there’s overwhelming scientific evidence and vocal protest about climate change, but people are still putting profit first. I wouldn’t tell him that people are still fighting and killing over gods, over land, over ancient feuds.

I might tell him I carry a device in my pocket that can access almost limitless information and play movies and games. That my kids use computers every day and they are as common in schools as exercise books were in my time. That there are people like Malala who stand up to ignorance and cruelty, and a whole generation growing up who believe in recycling, renewable energy, healthy eating and are anti-bullying.

If you’re not sick of movies yet, try watching “Tomorrowland”. Near the beginning the heroine of the film is in class after class, being shown terrible images of the near future – climate change, over population, deforestation, animal extinction. The teachers are grim and despondent, and she raises her hand to ask “How can we fix it?”

That’s how we get the future we need. Not by aiming for hoverboards and shark movies, but seeing the problems ahead and asking “How can we fix it?”