Tag Archives: Vancouver

The Great Canadian Adventure is FREE!

Great Canadian cover

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.

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Fan Expo Vancouver 2015

Cosplay girls and Fett

This was our Third Fan Expo – we don’t count that first trip because we didn’t actually get inside the building. I’d made several bold claims about how I was definitely going to wear a costume this year, but for various complicated reasons, I didn’t.

It’s a big thing to decide, actually. Some people go to events like SDCC and Fan Expo for the big name stars. This year Fan Expo wasn’t stinting on those, bringing out William Shatner, John Barrowman and Carrie Fisher, as well as other big names from series like “Once Upon a Time” and “The Walking Dead”. And, of course, there were big names I had no clue about, like the voice artists from anime series and real comic book artists.

Other people go for the costumes – they want to see and be seen. At least, I think so.

Can you name all the GoT characters here? Quick, before GRRM kills them off!

Can you name all the GoT characters here? Quick, before GRRM kills them off!

But say you have your costume. Maybe it’s as stunning as this one:

In case you were wondering, I added the blur afterwards....

In case you were wondering, I added the blur afterwards….

She looks fantastic, and as far as I can tell, it’s a spot-on match for the game graphics. But you look a bit daft carrying your bag of loot too, so you have to put that down every time someone wants a picture. And lots of people will want a picture if your costume is this good…

Spy Vs Spy! Now that took me back a few years...

Spy Vs Spy! Now that took me back a few years…

And what if you’re a masked character? When do you get to have a drink or a snack?

We met this guy carrying his helmet, and only putting it on for pictures. He said he could see fine, it was just breathing that was a problem....

We met this guy carrying his helmet, and only putting it on for pictures. He said he could see fine, it was just breathing that was a problem….

This year we helped Tiniest Weasel with her costume – Pippin the Hobbit.

She's the one in the middle

She’s the one in the middle.

It was a good choice – she was warm enough for the times we were outside, and though her custom made hobbit feet were a little uncomfortable, she put up with them for a couple of hours.

One does not simply take the escalator into Mordor....Unless you're showing off your custom Hobbit feet.

One does not simply take the escalator into Mordor….Unless you’re showing off your custom Hobbit feet.

It was a practical costume, easy to make and maintain throughout the event, and she was comfortable enough.

Eldest Weasel went one better, going for the “Minimalist 11th Doctor” look.

There's always a TARDIS at these things. Hey, maybe it's always the SAME TARDIS?

There’s always a TARDIS at these things. Hey, maybe it’s always the SAME TARDIS?

But Middle Weasel got the best of the deal. Thanks to a massive cosplay malfunction on the night before, her Astrid costume morphed into a Sherlock minimalist affair that looked cool enough to be recognised, but not bothersome enough to be hard work.

She's the blonde Sherlock. And no jokes about that, please. I'm in enough trouble....

She’s the blonde Sherlock. And no jokes about that, please. I’m in enough trouble….

I went as me, wearing my Darth Vader t-shirt and some badges I’ve accumulated over the years, and there was a wonderful freedom in NOT being dressed up. I could wander the stalls, take pictures of the others, and trade duties with Mrs Dim, since we had our three Weasels plus two friends on loan for the day – that meant lots of phone tag and texting “Where r u? We at T-shirt stall…” etc etc

What other costumes were there? Well, I’m glad you asked:

This was one of very few Lara Crofts, and she was brilliant - I played the game last year, so I know....

This was one of very few Lara Crofts, and she was brilliant – I played the game last year, so I know….

My 11th meets a pretty good 4th.

My 11th meets a pretty good 4th.

Amy Pond and Rose Tyler

Amy Pond and Rose Tyler

The one, the only, Captain Jack Sparrow! Well, one of several that day, as it turned out...

The one, the only, Captain Jack Sparrow! Well, one of several that day, as it turned out…

Brilliant Weeping Angel

Brilliant Weeping Angel

I haven't seen

I haven’t seen “The Book of Life” but I can tell these guys are good. And one of them is Captain Jack Sparrow again…

Another 4th Doctor... It's the scarf, isn't it? Or maybe the jelly babies...

Another 4th Doctor… It’s the scarf, isn’t it? Or maybe the jelly babies…

More memories from my childhood...ok, from last week. It's Mean Machine Angel and a Judge.

More memories from my childhood…ok, from last week. It’s Mean Machine Angel and a Judge.

Pippin meets Tauriel.

Pippin meets Tauriel.

Huntress and Black Canary

Huntress and Black Canary

Oh, come on guys... Starlord? The famous outlaw?

Oh, come on guys… Starlord? The famous outlaw?

Nightwing and Young Thor

Nightwing and Young Thor

Lady Loki

Lady Loki

How does Luke Skywalker get across the road? Ewoks!

How does Luke Skywalker get across the road? Ewoks!

It wouldn't be a FanExpo without Rimmer, Arnold J.

It wouldn’t be a FanExpo without Rimmer, Arnold J.

Filli, Pippin and Killi

Filli, Pippin and Killi

Sherlock is not impressed by Jango Fett or Bossk.

Sherlock is not impressed by Jango Fett or Bossk.

The Book of Life crew don't rate a smile either.

The Book of Life crew don’t rate a smile either.

The same goes for this Nightwing.

The same goes for this Nightwing.

...And if you're not impressed by this bunch, what hope is there?

…And if you’re not impressed by this bunch, what hope is there?

These costumes were top notch...

These costumes were top notch…

As was this ShadowTrooper

As was this ShadowTrooper

When I was a kid, THIS was what Batman looked like. None of your modern Kevlar and nightvision.

When I was a kid, THIS was what Batman looked like. None of your modern Kevlar and nightvision.

These guys proved you don't need to look to Superheroes or television to find great cosplay ideas...

These guys proved you don’t need to look to Superheroes or television to find great cosplay ideas…

Gandalf, Pippin and Aragorn save the day!

Gandalf, Pippin and Aragorn save the day!

We’ll be back at Fan Expo next year, though it’s going to be in November in stead of April. I might dress up, I might not, but I know I’ll have a great time there. It’s a wonderful atmosphere, and we all agreed – when you see a cosplayer, you smile. It doesn’t matter if you know the character or not, you can’t help grinning like a loon. They’re happy, they’ve worked damn hard on their costumes, and no matter how tired, hot or hungry they are, they’ll take a second to pose for your camera.

(But if I do go in costume, I’ll look an awful lot like this:

I got the whole thing finished and ready to go...

I got the whole thing finished and ready to go…

So watch out next year for Shakespearean Darth Vader!

So watch out next year for Shakespearean Darth Vader!

They make you swear, they really do….

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

WP_003747

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!

Hey, Random Citizen….

Citizenship.

When we told folks we were emigrating to Canada, many of them asked us if we were going to get Canadian citizenship. At the time it seemed a ludicrously precipitous question. We needed jobs, schools, houses, short scruffy dogs, that sort of thing. But citizenship? No, not really.

That’s not to say we were opposed to the idea, but it wasn’t something we were really prepared to think about. Like asking a twelve year old about their pension plan. Sure, they’re going to think about it sometime , but right now? Nope.

But over the last year or so, it’s been more of an issue. We’ve been here long enough to apply, we’ve met other ex-pats who DID apply, and the question of electing people we actually WANT in government has become more interesting. To vote, we need to be citizens.

So we underwent the gruelling form-filling and document finding, made all the more gruelling by the fact that we were duplicating a lot of the effort we had to make to renew our Permanent Residents Cards (turns out the “permanent” only applied to our residency status, not the life of the cards themselves, which need renewing every five years…)

We’d been told that processing the papers took a good length of time, so we were very surprised to find an invitation to attend our citizenship exam on April 1st. Surprised and, of course, suspicious. April 1st? Really?

But it was true. I can’t go into details about the exam itself, or I’ll invalidate my own application, but I will say that the booklet “Discovering Canada” is a great source of information. Mrs Dim and I learned a lot about our new home country, as well as discovering that learning new facts has become harder now that we are old and set in our ways (by which I mean “used to Googling stuff we don’t know, so we don’t have to remember it”) I was seriously worried about retaining all this information – Canada’s history, political system, cultural icons…. For a young country, it’s been busy!

On the fateful morning we lined up outside the building with a wonderful variety of folks from all ethnic backgrounds. The test itself went by in a whirl, and then we had a brief interview before our details get passed to an immigration judge. Mrs Dim and I took advantage of our mutual time off to walk through Downtown and admire the city that is our home.

Just a house in Downtown Vancouver...With the most amazing Magnolia tree.

Just a house in Downtown Vancouver…With the most amazing Magnolia tree.

Whatever the final result of the test, I’m happy to be living here, to have the chance to walk through Vancouver, or over Burnaby Mountain. Most of all, I’m happy that my Weasels have the chance to do these things.

When people ask me “Why did you emigrate?”

WP_002610San diego 6 060Me and the weasels eat lunchThe view from the Yacht ClubWP_000331Viewty spaghetti and doors 017 095 Viewty Victoria ferry trip 015 Deep Cove 011 007 Katie Lily Doughnut Skating and fireworks 117Rocky Point November WP_000713 WP_000753 026 036 (2) Bloedel conservatory 165Any questions?

As the Autumn leaves fall…

Must be Fall... There go the leaves.

Must be Fall… There go the leaves.

One of the things we told people about wanting to live in Canada was that there were real seasons over here. Summer was hot, Autumn was crisp, Winter was cold and snowy. I think we were both remembering those mythical seasons of childhood, when Summer went on forever and the snow of Winter came up to your hips.

It was an odd claim to make, because until we emigrated, we had only spent three weeks in Canada. Three weeks of glorious Autumn, granted, but in Ontario. We were visiting my Aunt and Uncle, and they certainly told us of cold and snowy Winters: They described being woken on a Winter’s night in their cabin by the sound of trees exploding – the sap had frozen, expanded and broken the tree trunks. We saw the wonderful colours of the trees, enjoyed the late sunshine and the good weather as we drove an RV down the edge of Lake Huron.

But when we came to Vancouver, it was a different story. We arrived just after the worst Winter that many people could remember. Snow had fallen Downtown, and Vancouverites had demonstrated their inability to drive in the snow. Spring was cold and wet and lasted a long time that year, giving us the impetus to book a springtime holiday in San Diego the following year, which turned out to be bright and warm and sunny.

The view from our San Diego balcony March 2010

The view from our San Diego balcony March 2010

Last year was another cold and wet one, with people reminding each other that this area is a temperate rain forest, and really, if you want sunshine, you should be going to Hawaii. We went back to San Diego in the Spring, determined to get some sunshine.

But the Summer was awesome this year. Long, long hot days, breaking records with a completely dry July. We baked ourselves in our own yards, and it’s possible that some of those green lawns may have been illegally using their sprinklers. We were prepared for September to bring the rains again, but the sun has persisted, carrying through into Autumn days that might have sprung from a Famous Five book. The leaves are dropping, crisp and brown, and you can sweep them up because the rain hasn’t plastered them to the ground.

September's weather was good enough for camping and hiking with friends.

September’s weather was good enough for camping and hiking with friends.

Whatever the Winter brings, we’ll be ready. Our Vitamin D reserves have been topped up,and we have the box of gloves, hats and scarves sat by the back door. Not far from that box is the one that holds the ski gear.

Whenever you’re ready, Winter – BRING IT ON!

Grouse Mountain 029

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.