Tag Archives: Moose

What a lot of people say to me:

“It must be tough, being the only guy in the family…”

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I have three daughters and one wife. When people are told the dog, Moose, is a female too, the reaction is often as above. As if Moose being male would be some kind of compensation, as if we could share a beer in my workshop and talk about sports and carburetors while the little women got on with their knitting upstairs…

Why do I need this sympathy? How am I disadvantaged by being surrounded by my family? Am I supposed to be unable to empathise with my daughters? Is there something about their gender that means I can’t speak to them, understand them, laugh with them? Eldest Weasel knows more about Doctor Who than I do, it’s true, and I wouldn’t try and beat Middle Weasel when it comes to Sherlock Trivia. Tiny Weasel has more style in her little finger than I managed to acquire in 42 years, but I don’t wish she was a boy.

Men have a lousy reputation these days. We’re portrayed in the media as stupid and forgetful. We forget birthdays and anniversaries, we don’t get the right gifts for Valentines Day (which isn’t about the men, remember). We’re smellier than girls, untidier than girls, we leave the toilet seat up ALL THE TIME, we can’t cook for ourselves, we’re obsessed with sports to the exclusion of our loved ones and we can’t talk about our emotions.

So, if you want to sympathise with someone, sympathise with a poor lady who has a husband and three sons. Or, you know, talk to her a bit first and see how SHE feels about it. Maybe she likes them, or something. Weirder things have happened*.

 

 

 

*”Jersey shore”, for example.

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Still juggling after all these years

Juggling responsibilities....

Keep it all in the air, and don't worry about what happens when you stop...

So I’m still fighting the battle of three fronts, but it feels like the domestic reno fight is being won. We have a beautiful guest bedroom now, with a luxurious carpet, bed, wardrobe and new armchair. Yesterday I took my life in my hands and wired in the new light fitting. I don’t do electrical or plumbing normally. Plumbing has the nasty habit of flooding the house in the time it takes to get the plumber to answer the emergency hotline, and electricity gets you dead before you have time to think “Did I switch off the BZZZZT!” However this was a special case – if we kept the old fitting, people would bang their heads on the shade as they crossed the room, and I wasn’t going to call the electrician out AGAIN…They’ve done brilliantly with the various assigned tasks, but we’ve paid generously for the privilege and the reno fund is dribbling away fast enough already. Anyway, despite spending twenty minutes stood on a chair with my arms above my head, I managed to complete the job and reset the breaker. Then I flipped the light switch and nothing happened. I had time to mutter the rudest word I know, then the light came on. Of course, energy saving bulbs! Ha ha!

The next challenge is going to be the roofing and guttering. A nice man from the local company came out to check over the roof and admitted that it could last another couple of years, but he wouldn’t swear to it. Sadly, the fascias and soffits (my favourite word of the week! Say it three times to yourself and try not to smile…) are almost all rotting and need replacing. Some of these we could *gulp* try to sort ourselves. So, today’s question to consider – should we purchase two very long ladders and twenty metres of soffits and fascias, write off a couple of free days and spend them cursing and swearing because the one sodding screwdriver I need is back on the ground AGAIN and I’m at the top of the ladder holding fifteen screws and a length of soffit….Or should we pay most of the remaining reno fund to the nice man and his company, get the roof and soffits done professionally and admit that the deck was just a lovely dream? Answers on the back of a twenty dollar bill please….

On the work front, I have three whole weekdays off. One I squandered yesterday in catching up on reviewing and buying the new armchair, but since the sun was shining I also walked Moose and got a haircut (I only get haircuts in the sunshine. It’s like not buying a car in the rain.) Today (Day Two) I’m returning stuff to Ikea, doing more reviewing and maybe some writing. I have a screenplay I have resurrected in order to enter it for the wonderful Red Planet Prize (http://www.redplanetpictures.co.uk/prize.php ), since it was co-founded by the brilliant Danny Stack ( http://dannystack.blogspot.com/ ) who I met during our time in Bournemouth. As a Canadian, I’m outside the entry requirements, but once I’ve got the first draft into shape, it’ll go through TLC Creative, who are officially based in the UK and we’ll enter it when we all like it. This is a pet project that I’ve already had rejected by the BBC – it was a proposal for an hour-long comedy drama, then it became a stage musical, now it’s back to the standalone tv piece again. It’s one of the few things I’ve written that has a complete outline for me to work from, but it keeps wriggling and changing while I’m typing, so it may emerge from the process as something different to the piece I originally imagined. As long as it makes me laugh, I’ll be happy. Although a big fat paycheck would be welcome too, obviously.

Speaking of which, the e-book is creeping closer to production. This week I received a full draft version – if we were printing it on paper, this would have been the Galley copy. There are very few typos, and only a few points that need changing. Since it’s coming out as a pdf file, we can include fun stuff like hyperlinks to the plays online so people can read about the play, then follow the link to read the play itself. And since it’s a pdf, you don’t need a dedicated e-book reader to read it. David and Steve have done a brilliant job, adding a series of great comedy pictures and captions to the text, breaking it up and rasing the laugh level considerably. Now we have to sort out the various ways we’re going to sell it : through Lazy bee Scripts (www.lazybeescripts.co.uk ) obviously, but we may host some of the sales direct from the TLC site too (www.tlc-creative.co.uk ).

In more local news, I heard that there was a sale of one of my short plays to a group in Burnaby, just down the road from where I live. I got in touch with them and hope to receive tickets for the show fairly soon. They’re called “Third degree Theatre” (http://bradtones.webs.com/shows.htm ) and their current show is a really good one. I’m jealous! With luck, I should be able to join the group and get them to work with me on some of my more recalcitrant plays, like the wretched Holocaust piece that won’t BEHAVE ITSELF AND STICK TO THE PAGE!

Mrs Dim was suggesting that I revisit the idea of being a playwriting guru, running classes at the local Adult Ed centre, something I’ve always shied away from. I’ve written a lot of plays, most of which have sold and been performed, but do I really have anything to teach? Well, the e-book was part of that experiment. I wrote a book about playwriting, so I must know something about it. Maybe the next stage is setting up a teaching programme.

Cleaning up the homestead

We dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, in mine the whole day through...

It's ok, that's where we wanted the veg patch anyway...

Imagine you’re in the market for a car. You see an advert for a nice looking machine and you go to check it out. The body work has seen better days, but it’s whole and intact. Maybe it needs a new coat of paint, but there’s no rust. The inside is immaculate, with the seats reupholstered in luxurious material, a new stereo system and sat nav in the dash and it runs ok. When you take a look under the hood, you can see there’s still some work to be done, and maybe some big jobs a few years down the line, but nothing that can’t be sorted out in time. More to the point, it’s the kind of car you can use right away AND stil have the final bits of the restoration as your hobby for a few years to come. It’s all good. You hand over the cash and drive away in your new car.

Two weeks later, an inspector arrives. He’s concerned about your new car. He tests the emissions, listens to the engine, has a close look at the sub-frame. He’s not happy about what he sees and he shows you a few things he’s found. The exhaust system isn’t right for this type of car, and it’s leaking badly. In fact, it could even be venting into the car and damaging you and your family as you drive around. Look here at these weld marks – this isn’t even one car, it’s two or three cobbled together. Here, he’s got a report that proves the previous owner used this car in some illegal street races, probably making a pile of money, getting the car pretty smashed up in the process. He patched up the machine and sold it on to you, you chump. Now here’s the tough break. You have to get this car up to spec within a week, or the inspector will impound it, and you’ll get a fine. Yes, he knows you’re not the one who did all the illegal stuff, but you’re the owner of this car now, it’s down to you to fix it.

That sounds like a hard luck story, but it’s pretty much what happened to us a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t a car though. It was our house. Yep, the lovely new Wonkey house, our brilliant purchase and project has proved to be too good to be true after all. Despite being cautious, using a Property Inspector and dealing with reputable Realtors, we got stuck with a house that used to be a Grow Op (a marijuana farm, for you non-North Americans) What’s so bad about that? Well, the amount of power used to run the lights that grow the weed has burned out the main power cable to the house and left it a dangerous fire hazard. The heat and damp conditions promote the growth of mould and the plants themselves leave spores in the heating system and can contaminate the drywall itself. The Inspection Team said we were very lucky to be allowed to stay in the house at all, and gave us a week to have the work completed and the house brought up to code.

Naturally we asked a few pointed questions of our Realtor, and consulted solicitors. Their opinion was that we had a cast-iron case and could expect to recover any costs through the courts in as little as three years. Provided we could find the previous owners. And they didn’t hide their assets. So we shouldn’t attempt to contact them or in any way alert them to the fact that we were aware they defrauded us by selling a house they knew to have been used for a Marijuana Farm.*

All this had me furious and raving for a week or so. The electrical folks came in and dug up the garden to get at the cable and rewired pretty much the whole house. Every inch of ceiling is now covered with smoke detectors and we have Carbon Monoxide detectors in every room. I evacuated Moose and Maxi the Hamster for a whole day while the house was filled with Ozone to kill the mould and spores, and then I tore out the contaminated drywall and ripped up the old lino and bleached the floor underneath. After a fortnight’s work and around four thousand dollars, we’ve nearly got the house we paid for, and that figure doesn’t include money lost through working days destroyed by work on the house/electricity/mould.

But with the completion of the work, we’ve achieved a bit of serenity. The house is better than it was now, and though the stigma of Grow Op will remain for years, we’re not planning to move out and sell anytime soon, so the lost value doesn’t count yet. We’ve kept careful records and kept copies of all the reports and certificates and photographs. We’re using the work as a springboard for our own renovations, starting with carpeting the basement and moving on to the deck. We have more visitors arriving soon, and we want the place to look like a home, not a stoner’s dream. There are still days when I could cheerfully throttle the previous owners, but I mostly just want to ask them why. Why sell the house and lie? For more money, obviously, I guess, but how can you tell that barefaced lie? What if we’d met them face-to-face and asked them if it had been a Grow Op? Would they have admitted it then, or continued to lie? One day I may get to ask them, but for now I’m turning the page and claiming my home back.

*Ok, legal folks, I know that’s supposition on my part, but the evidence that lead the Inspection Team to come to the house in the first place indicated that the farm was still running in the basement of the house up until the week before we visited the house for the first time, well within  the time that the house was under the ownership of the previous owners. Also, in redecorating the basement they covered over many of the signs of the Grow Op, including the place where they had bypassed the electricity meter to get free electricity. I can’t believe they could have missed all the signs. Even if they weren’t running it, they knew it was there, and they signed a contract that said the house had not been used to grow weed.

Hamsters and puppies and rabbits, oh my!

I am not, I think, a very responsible person. That is to say, there are many things I have been responsible for, but I don’t often rush to take on new responsibilities. Certainly at the ripe old age of however-old-I-am-now, I thought the three Tiny Weasels were enough responsibility for me to be going on with.

But, we’d promised that once we were settled in Canada, we would get a dog. I argued, quite persuasively, I thought, that the best time to get a dog would be in September, when the Weasels were back at school all day and Mrs Dim would be plying her trade, and I could adjust to life with a new puppy in a quiet and controlled environment.

So we got our puppy in June, and she fitted right in with the family. Her training was accompished by me taking her to a real Puppy Training school and being taught as severely as she was. And she’s pretty good, as small dogs go. She still has a tendancy to bark too often at things that aren’t worth barking at (Squirrels, small boys, trees, paper bags…) and she delights in bringing leaves into the house and shredding them under the coffee table, but all in all, she’s not a lot of work.

I think this was the idea behind Middle Weasel getting her Hamster at Christmas. Dim doesn’t have a lot of work to do looking after the dog, so if Middle Weasel wants a hamster, it’ll do her good. Teach her to be responsible.

Now, I definitely heard that last sentence being bandied about. It was familiar because I heard the same logic behind getting Biggest Weasel her rabbit, many years ago. Back then, I was dead against it, having the aged but saintly Sydney, Prince of Dogness to care for. Admittedly, since he was 126 in dog years, he didn’t require much care either – other than the occasional mopping up. All he wanted to do was sleep and be near the people he loved, a bit like a drunk at a party. Still, the rabbit arrived and we started the large-scale importing of hay and rabbit food and the export of small black pellets and used hay. When it became apparent that the Weasels were no longer using the garden playhouse, we cut a hole in the side of it, fitted the rabbit run to that and it became the Rabbit Palace. Much easier to clean, since you could walk in, and it gave the rabbit (hang on, there was a name, wasn’t there? Er…Lucy! Yes, Lucy Rabbit) room to wander around even when the weather wasn’t rabbit-friendly.

And here’s the thing, the cry of the parent since the first cave-child brought home a partially domesticated dog: Biggest Weasel would look after the cleaning and restocking of the rabbit palace if asked. On Sunny days she would rush to release the bunny and play with her in the garden. But on so, so many days, I was the one sweeping up the damp hay and replacing it. What, exactly, did Biggest Weasel learn from owning (so passively) this rabbit? Well, ultimately she learned that rabbits can be killed by an extraordinary range of diseases. Lucy caught a weird one that convinced her the world was actually upside down. She hobbled around unhappily, twisting her head around as far as possible to try and get things the right way up. The vet said that there were three or more possible causes, but none of them were really treatable, and so Lucy passed on to the Rabbit Palace in the sky.

Moose is a real pet. She interacts with us, comes with us on walks, learns to respond to commands. The Hamster (Maxi) occasionally runs in his wheel. He comes out to roll around in his ball (much to Moose’s bemusement) and gets stroked and brushed, but he’s another passive pet. I don’t see Middle Weasel learning anything about responsibility from being Maxi’s owner, other than “Responsible owners don’t leave their hamsters unattended outside their habitat when the dog is wandering free” and she only just learned that one in time (Lucky for Maxi, Moose isn’t very quick on her feet.)

Luckily for me, my own predictions of gloom have not come true. I’m not the one who ends up cleaning up after the hamster. Mrs Dim delights in cleaning out the habitrail and rearranging it in interesting new ways. She had mice for a while, as a child, and I think we got the hamster as much for her as for Middle Weasel. So I’m not complaining about Maxi joining the family. He may not contribute much, but he’s not much of a drain, and Middle Weasel is very happy to be a Responsible Hamster Owner, and a smile from her is worth a dozen hamsters.

It’s Christmas time….

I think I’ve said before that, in many ways, this emigration has not been hard. It wasn’t easy leaving family and friends behind, it wasn’t easy having to re-equip a home, and it’s never easy fitting into a new school or new job….But generally things have gone well and we’re settled.

Up til now, the only test has been time. Mrs Dim has a Social Calendar in her head that goes off every few weeks saying “We haven’t seen/heard from so and so, we must call/write/visit/thank our lucky stars..” It’s a supersense she has developed over many years, and is therefore not something that gets deactivated by minor details like moving a few thousand miles. So moments have come and gone where she suddenly sits bolt upright and then slumps slightly… I know she’s thinking “We should go and see…oh.”

But then you get to Christmas. Like any married couple, we have evolved a system for visiting family over the festive period that allows the maximum exposure with the minimum of fuss. Clearly, dropping in on anyone’s parents this year would involve quite a bit of fuss.

It was difficult, but at the same time, it was simple too: There was no way we could go back to the UK and visit. It was not an option. That only left deciding how to spend it here. We’d been invited to some friends of Mrs Dim for Christmas Day, but that didn’t feel right yet, so we plumped for throwing a Christmas Drinks do for the people along our road.

Most of the church stuff was done on Christmas Eve (I’ve decided not to talk about Religion on the blog, at least for the moment) so we spent the afternoon watching the kids being angels, then got a babysitter in so we could go to the evening service. We got to sing my favourite carol, so that got some extra points.

Christmas Day itself was non-standard. Yes, the smaller weasels got up at ten to four in the morning, but they were persuaded to go back to bed. Once everyone was up and conscious we compared the presents we’d been left in our stockings and exclaimed over the sooty footprints by the fireplace. (Some of us, with responsibilities for household cleanliness, exclaimed a little more loudly than others…) Then we clambered into the car and went off up a nearby mountain for tobogganning. I was a little disappointed at how regimented it was, with lanes marked out, rules to follow and a fee to be paid, but actually, none of that matters once you’re hurtling down the slope on your flimsy plastic sled. The views were amazing, and the other people (of which there were many, surprisingly) were good natured. Well of course they were. They were Canadian.

Then we came home and had Hot Dogs for lunch. Yep. With a boned and rolled turkey in the fridge, we had Hot Dogs for lunch. I may never get over that. On Christmas Day, we sat down for our midday meal and ate Hot Dogs. Huh.

Then came the massacre of presents, with wrapping paper everywhere, the dog in a frenzy over her new toys (and everyone else’s new toys – three pieces of Middle Weasel’s action figure were recovered from Moose’s jaws during the day.) And we all got what we’d asked for, more or less. It was good.

THEN came the turkey with all the trimmings, though we skipped both the Christmas Pud and the Christmas Cake, not being big eaters of either of those. We may have to figure something out about those for Mrs Dim next year.

And where was the family in all this? Well, in that magical time after stocking presents but before getting dressed, we hooked the webcam and computer up to the tv in the lounge and went online. We spoke to both sets of parents, my brother and his family, Mrs Dim’s Aunt and Uncle, their children…It felt like they were just around the corner (although my brother’s internet connection is as reliable as British Rail.) We may not be able to drop in at a moment’s notice, but we’re not out of touch. It’s times like these I believe Father Christmas can get around the world in one night – it’s such a small world after all.