Tag Archives: Canada

The Quidditch Global Games… Wait, what?

There’s a joke circulating on the internet that goes something like this:

Despite the darkening tone of the books, there’s no denying the appeal of the magical world depicted by J.K. Rowling, but it’s nonetheless surprising that one of the few things to leave the books and arrive in the Muggle world, along with Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, is Quidditch.

A GB player attempts to defend the goal from another determined US attack.

A GB player attempts to defend the goal from another determined US attack.

Ok, the admissions: Firstly, clearly, no one is flying here. None of the balls in play are moving of their own accord. And the Golden Snitch is not a tiny magical metal marvel, it’s…well, see for yourself:

He's the Snitch. To score, you have to grab what's dangling from his shorts.

He’s the Snitch. To score, you have to grab what’s dangling from his shorts.

But there are more similarities with the written game of Quidditch than differences. All players have to be on broomsticks, making catching the thrown Quaffle (here substituted by a Volleyball) that much harder. The Beaters may not have bats, but they throw the Bludgers (gym balls) at opposing players, and if you’re hit, you have to drop the Quaffle (if you’re carrying it) and run back to touch your own goalposts before returning to play. And there are three goalposts at each end of the field of play, two low hoops on either side of a higher central hoop.

This shot of Team GB leaping into action at the start of the game shows the three goals nicely. Also the ACE team strip!

This shot of Team GB leaping into action at the start of the game shows the three goals nicely. Also the ACE team strip!

Like the books say, Quidditch is a fast and furious game. There were no injuries in the UK/US match we watched, but the game preceding it was stopped twice for injured players to be helped off the pitch.

What astonished me most was that teams had travelled from distant countries to compete here in BC for the Global Games (sadly, and for whatever reason, not The Quidditch World Cup). There was a team from Australia, for pete’s sake! Each team was enthusiastic and dedicated, and played hard, though it’s hard to deny that the UK were outclassed by reigning champions USA, as they went down 150 to…. zero! (In this game, capturing the snitch only awards 30 points.)

It made a good spectator sport, and I was sorry we only had time to watch one and a half games. There was a good crowd, made up of supporters from around the world, and there seems to be a good chance that Quidditch will stick around as a sport, though whether it will make the jump from amateur University teams to the Pro Leagues is anyone’s guess…

Two beaters...er...tussle over the Bludger. Eventually a UK Beater tapped the US player with the other Bludger and released his team mate.

Two beaters…er…tussle over the Bludger. Eventually a UK Beater tapped the US player with the other Bludger and released his team mate.

The UK team manager/coach had the right outfit, the exuberance and the team spirit. Possibly he should have studied the tactics as well....

The UK team manager/coach had the right outfit, the exuberance and the team spirit. Possibly he should have studied the tactics as well….

Keeping astride the broomstick may be authentic, it may be part of the rules, but it isn't graceful...

Keeping astride the broomstick may be authentic, it may be part of the rules, but it isn’t graceful…

For more information on playing Quidditch in the real world, check out www.usquidditch.org

 

 

They make you swear, they really do….

Actually, that’s not true. In the Citizenship Oath, you have the option to swear OR affirm.

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It wasn’t that long ago that I shared this post about sitting our citizenship exam, and we began the wait for the Oath ceremony. Certainly the exam was the more nerve-wracking of the two – though there were several dire warnings about what could happen if you failed to repeat the oath, or didn’t produce the required documents.

The main difference this time was taking the entire boatload of weasels along. Only Eldest Weasel was actually required to make the oath, the other two being below the age of fourteen, but we made this emigration as a unit, and we signed in as a unit too. They seated us together, a row of five seats on the right hand side of the same room we took our exam in. The clerk explained what would happen when Judge Nguyen (pronounced “Wen”) took her seat and began proceedings. The judge was a calm, smiling presence, and took the opportunity to tell us about her own history – nine escape attempts from her home country when she was only a little girl. At least six trips to “Re-education camps” before the successful escape which led to a refugee camp and finally Canada. Mrs Dim and I exchanged glances. Suddenly the various stresses and panics we’d suffered in the run up to our own arrival here seemed very, very minor.

The flags were waiting for us on our seats, along with copies of the Oath and little Maple Leaf pins

The flags were waiting for us on our seats, along with copies of the Oath and little Maple Leaf pins

We were all asked to state our full names in loud clear voices, one at a time. I was happy to note that even Tiniest Weasel had no trouble with this, and then we were reciting the Oath in English and French. After that it was a simple matter of lining up to receive our certificates and take photos with the judge.

DSCN0837After that it was much like the day we took our exam – with a beautiful day outside and no one having to really be anywhere for a while, we walked the seawall all the way up to Milestones on English Bay. Anyone who’s read this blog for any length of time will know that’s the first restaurant we visited after arriving in Canada. It’s just round the corner from the apartment we rented during our first month, and we’ve celebrated at least one arrival anniversary there. Since we missed the five year anniversary meal out, this seemed like a great opportunity for a double celebration.

Walking the Seawall. I love Vancouver.....

Walking the Seawall. I love Vancouver…..

Messing about in Milestones. Good food, though!

Messing about in Milestones. Good food, though!

Every time I think “Ok, that’s it, now we just start living…” another big moment pops up. Is there more to come after gaining citizenship? Now we have to apply for passports and things, and I already miss the security of carrying my Permanent Resident Card with me. But I can vote now! I get to take an active interest in the things going on around me, because I have a voice and I am going to use it. Local, Provincial or Federal, I will get out there and use my vote!

Fifth Anniversary : Looking forward and back

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of our arrival in Canada. It seems funny to celebrate during the day, since we spent most of that day traveling, only emerging from the airport when it was already dark. In past years we have returned to the restaurant where we had our first meal out (Milestones on English Bay), we’ve had meals with friends, and we’ve completely missed the evening a couple of times too.

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Three Weasels arrive at Vancouver airport, March 9th 2009

This year the busy pace of life has meant our celebration meal is going to be postponed until Spring Break, a week away. I’ve found that, rather than looking back on our five years here, we all seem to be looking forward. Eldest Weasel is starting Grade 11, and making decisions about courses that will help her on to her plans for employment. Middle Weasel begins High School in September and is aiming high with the courses she’s planning to take. Tiny Weasel is struggling to overcome her focus issues (which I’ve tried to help her with, but I keep wandering off to do something else.)

Modern-day Weasels enjoying life in Canada with Mrs Dim and a minion

Modern-day Weasels enjoying life in Canada with Mrs Dim and a minion

Mrs Dim is enjoying her work, feeling positive about the direction it’s going, and I’ve found working at the library is the job I’ve been looking for all this time. We’re all looking ahead and enjoying where we are now.

The irony is, that while we’re doing this, we’re also sorting through cupboards and boxes in the house and trying to organise, which means scanning in photos and converting old VHS tapes to digital files. This has meant looking back in a big way, seeing pictures and film of family and friends, some of whom are long gone, and some of whom have simply slipped out of touch.

In this screenshot from family video, Gran Nichol and Gran Trasler chat at Eldest Weasel's Christening party.

In this screenshot from family video, Gran Nichol and Gran Trasler chat at Eldest Weasel’s Christening party.

Looking back is fun, and it’s important to preserve these memories and pass on the stories that go with them, so the people we have loved and lost are not forgotten. But looking back doesn’t prepare you for what’s on the way, so we’ll be watching the road ahead this year, so we don’t get thrown by unexpected bends.

The story of our emigration and first year in Vancouver is still on sale for the bargain price of $1.99 all through this month. You can find it at Amazon.com, Amazon.ca or Amazon.co.uk .

Preparing to recross the pond

It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about emigrating. Long ago life settled down into a regular form, became just the ordinary every day. Yes, there are still times I marvel that we live in Canada, that I tell which direction I’m driving by seeing the mountains on the North Shore, but I don’t convert dollars into pounds any more, trying to see if things are cheaper or more expensive. I don’t flinch from saying “pants” instead of “trousers”, and I no longer think “parkade” is a fizzy drink.

Soon we’ll head back to the UK for our second visit since we emigrated. This time we’ll be going back in the winter, with all the added unpredictability that brings. Will there be a sprinkling of snow that closes roads and railways? Having once shoveled my driveway clear three times in the same day, I’m inclined to roll my eyes at that thought. And we don’t get “real” snow here in the Vancouver area… Just ask someone from Winnipeg.

Our last trip back was a summertime thing, and we met friends on the beach in Bournemouth. We walked through parks, in London and Worcester. When I think of going back, those are the images that come to mind.

Weasels and pigeons in the park, Bournemouth

Weasels and pigeons in the park, Bournemouth

After a while out here the view of the UK becomes somewhat idealised, like this:

Younger Weasels and their Grandma in a very English garden.

Younger Weasels and their Grandma in a very English garden.

But we’ll be there for early nights, cold, brisk days. And probably rain. We’ll be spending almost every day going from one place to another so we can visit as many friends as possible, but we also have to set aside time so we can celebrate Christmas with the family we’ve been away from for so long.

The travel is, as ever, the part that bothers me the most. Our appreciation of distance has changed significantly. To illustrate, let me show you our last but one holiday : we went to Cardiff-by-Sea, Encinitas, by way of San Francisco. We drove, and it took a week or so to get there. It was fun (except for going through LA, obviously.) Here’s what that journey looks like:

Thank you, Google Maps!

Thank you, Google Maps!

You can see (perhaps) that that journey is 2197 km. If you need a translation, that’s 1365.153 miles, or a trip from John O’Groats to Land’s End and more than halfway back again. We did the journey home again in three days.

We won’t be traveling nearly as far in our trip around the UK, but our nomadic lifestyle prior to leaving the country means we have friends all over the place, and I look at the map of the UK Mrs Dim has pinned to the wall and the little flags stuck into it and I think….”How hard is that going to be?”

Four and a half years is quite a long time. It’s time for a child to be born and reach school age. It’s been time for one of our Weasels to reach High School and settle in. Middle Weasel is now in the top age group in her school. I’m on my third job, and am convinced the ancient curse has followed me to Canada (I worked for TVS – they lost their franchise. I worked for Peter Dominic’s – they went out of business. I worked at the Bell Hotel in Alresford – it looks like they did  a good job of rebuilding it after the fire. Here in Canada I worked for Canpages and they went out of business.) But I’m happy in my library job and hope to stay with it for a long time to come.

I guess the idea I’m circling here is that the only part of the UK we miss is the people. We moved every two years all the time we were married, and learned to place value on friendships, rather than places. We loved the old stuff like the Cathedral in Winchester, the Standing Stones in the Avebury Ring, or Roman ruins, or Iron Age Forts. We loved medieval towns and historical buildings, and we loved the modern parts of the country too, but they’re not why we’re going back. *

We’re going back to see our friends and family, and we’re only sorry we won’t be able to visit everyone in the time available. And of course, if it snows, we may not get out of the airport….

*There are certain factions within the family that maintain the ENTIRE reason for the visit is The Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff. If anyone from the BBC is reading this, we know the perfect person to co-ordinate a Doctor Who Exhibition in Vancouver – she already knows EVERYTHING about Doctor Who.

Doctor Wheasel - TARDIS not included.

Doctor Wheasel – TARDIS not included.

Book Launch: The Great Canadian Adventure

The terrific cover designed by Eduardo Ramirez

The terrific cover designed by Eduardo Ramirez

It’s been almost exactly a year since I last worked in an office for someone else. In that time I’ve increased the trade through the Lazy Bee Appraisal Service, completed hundreds of play reviews for my publisher and written a handful of new plays and sketches.

Behind it all, I’ve been polishing old blog posts and working with some neat software to repackage that material with some new entries and information to make this book : The Great Canadian Adventure.

The whole family, just before we left the country

The whole family, just before we left the country

This is the true story of our emigration to BC from the UK. Starting the week before we flew out, it tells of our rush to clear the house we’d been living in, the whirlwind tour of family and friends and the first twelve months finding our feet in the Vancouver area.

But it’s not just a memoir – along the way I’ve collected useful links and made note of things I wish I’d known in advance, and laid them out in the book. Thanks to the Amazon Kindle technology, you can read this book on your PC, your smartphone, your iPad…or even your kindle… and follow those links to learn more.

Writing this book took over four years and several thousand pounds – I had to apply for residency in Canada, and move three children and one wife. We had to get new jobs, a new car, a new house and a dog. And dogs aren’t cheap.

Enjoying our new life in BC!

Enjoying our new life in BC!

Officially launching on May 1st, if you’re seeing this blog post it means you’re special enough to warrant a head start on everyone else! Plus, for the first month, I’m lowering the price by fifty percent. Buy now to avoid disappointment!

If true-life stories of emigration, excitement and orthodontics aren’t your cup of tea, then perhaps you’d rather take a look at some of the other ebooks I’ve written in the past:

Troubled Souls : Three short stories told from the male perspective, each dark and a little disturbing.

Coffee Time Tales 1 and 2: Easy reading for coffee time, two collections of five tales with warmth and often, romance.

Sci-Fi Shorts: Four stories of Science Fiction and Fantasy, including “Twist Stiffly and the Hounds of Zenit Emoga”, a golden-age sci-fi romp.

Writing a play for the Amateur Stage: Guidance and advice on writing plays for community theatre groups, written from the perspective of someone with over a decade of experience in the field. (Me.)

If you’ve produced an ebook, or have some other kind of project you’d like to shout about, HOP ON THIS BANDWAGON! I’ll be posting links to this page as I travel the internet, hawking my books, so why not drop a link to YOUR brilliance in the comments section?

I hear those sleigh bells ringing…

Eldest Weasel makes a Rockin' reindeer in the school production of "North Pole Musical"

For many people here in the Greater Vancouver area, Christmas has been coming since Hallowe’en bowed out on November the first. Folks round this way really seem to enjoy decorating their houses, so barely had the month changed before the giant spiders’ webs and inflatable Frankensteins were being pulled down and replaced with miles and miles of twinkling strings of lights and inflatable snowmen and Santas. Since the World’s Largest Home Improvement Retailer skipped straight over Hallowe’en and started flogging Christmas decos way back in mid-October, I was a little jaded about the whole thing, but recently Mrs Dim and I have taken the odd stroll out along our neighbourhood of an evening, and I have to say I’m charmed. Yes, by UK standards, I suppose the houses look a little gaudy, and there’s an austerity measures voice in my head that mutters about the electricity bill all these people must have to pay in January, but look, it’s PRETTY, ok?

If the lights are going up and the evenings are drawing in, then the weasels must be performing in the school play, right? I fear so, but this being Vancouver, the multi-cultural melting pot of the most laid-back country in the Northern Hemisphere, we won’t risk anything as controversial as tea-towel wearing re-enactments of the Nativity. Nope, last year’s fiesta was a play that stressed the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (a common theme for the school that year) and this year we had the North Pole Musical, where the inhabitants of Santa’s workshops competed to see who would get to perform in the musical. This year the performance was by the elder two age groups in the school, so the singing was more tuneful and there was less “Ahh, doesn’t he look lovely?” from the watching parents.

Middle Weasel had a less demanding role - First Flower in the three-minute Nutcracker

As always, I was torn between enjoying the show and wishing I had written something for them. At the climax of the piece, Santa, Mrs Claus and Crystal Snowflake sing a song about the heart of Christmas, which seems to be about, you know, peace and love, and hope and generally nice but vague concepts. Because, you know, it’s Christmas. A time for presents, and…stuff.

I can appreciate that not everyone at the weasels’ school wants to celebrate Christmas as a Christian festival, but recently we (being TLC Creative) were asked to consider writing a secular piece for a schools Christmas show. I was hesitant, because I dread getting to that moment when one of the characters steps forward to talk about the true meaning of Christmas. I’m sorry, but if you’re atheist, agnostic or of another religion (all of which are fine by me, go right ahead…) then there is no true meaning of Christmas for you. Just as Eid, Ramadan and Diwali mean nothing at all to me. I won’t stop you celebrating them, and if you ask me to come along and hold up a lantern in a Diwali celebration, why I’d love to. Sounds like a neighbourly thing to do. But does it mean anything to me? Nope. So just as I wouldn’t write a secular play on the true meaning of Diwali being what draws a group of street kids to reform their thieving ways and become teachers, I don’t feel comfortable writing about the True Spirit of Christmas being to give out presents and be nice to people you don’t like the rest of the year.

This feeling comes round every year and it makes Mrs Dim cross because she has always worked in a multi-faith, multi-cultural environment, whereas for most of my working life I’ve been in a dark room, staring at the computer screen, so she knows it’s not about the True Meaning of Christmas, it’s about making people take part in Christmas when they don’t want to. People of other beliefs have no option about Christmas, she says patiently every year, the whole place (UK, Canada, wherever) closes over the holiday and some people don’t want to celebrate Christmas. Saying “Happy Holidays” may set your teeth on edge, Mr Grumpy, but it doesn’t offend.

So let me apologise. I know a fair few atheists, agnostics, and folks who just find the whole “Them and Us”ness of religion too much bother. Fair play to you, not going to convert you. You are not a rugby ball, as I point out in one of my plays. But please, let me wish you a Merry Christmas, with no ill intent, no offense meant. I hope it brings a little light into the darkest time of the year, even if it’s only from the strings of lights around your tree.

As the first snow falls…

The youngest weasels examine Canadian snow for the first time.

All this last week, Eldest Weasel has been checking the weather forecast every morning. On my days in work, I’ve been watching happy shoppers struggle out with armfuls of de-icer, sand, snow shovels and Christmas lights. And at least one Barbeque, but hey, it was a bargain, and it’s a healthy way to cook…

I get nervous when the forecast talks about snow. Judging by all the de-icer and snow shovels, so do a lot of other folks around here. I’ve had little experience with serious snow as an adult. I remember my parents having to cope with terrible winter weather when we lived in Sunderland, but the only dangerous snow driving I did in the UK was when the car spun out on a corner on some black ice. Since we were only doing about ten miles an hour, it was a stately revolution that ended with us facing the wrong way on an empty road. A little slower than those Tea-cup rides for toddlers at fairgrounds. We just sat there for a second, said “Huh.” and drove on.

The year we arrived here in Canada they were just recovering from an unusual amount of snow – it doesn’t normally fall on Downtown and the suburbs, you understand, just on the mountains. Vancouverites weren’t sure how you went about clearing your drive without throwing the snow onto your neighbours’ drive. They certainly weren’t sure about driving in snow. Gary, a supervisor at work, gave me this sage advice:

“When it snows and you’re waiting at a red light, don’t pull away when that light goes green. Count to ten, and I bet you there’ll be someone come sliding right through the intersection…”

Last year there was no major snowfall, but we did have a couple of white days, and on one of those I was driving the kids down a steep hill that also turned a corner. On the bend I felt the wheels lose traction, and in a very male reaction I snapped off the stereo, yelled at the kids to be quiet and got a death grip on the wheel. We were fine, and the snow melted the next day, but I can’t help remembering that I wasn’t cool and calm under pressure, just very, very scared.

If there IS the big snowfall this year, I may just hand in my notice, let Mrs Dim drive the bigger and heavier car to work and walk the kids to school every day. Frostbite may be preferable to car accident.

Here's today's forecast....DOOM!