On New Year’s day, 2011, we went for a walk along the seaview trail in West Vancouver. It was a cold but sunny day and we met a lot of people out enjoying this beautiful day. I thought that it was an interesting snapshot of life here in Vancouver.
We were with our dog Jasper and not surprisingly a lot of other people had their dogs too. Most were larger breeds, like Labradors and Alsatians, but there were also smaller dogs. Some of these were the fashionable cross-breeds, like cockapoos. Mercifully few were dressed up, though we did see one in her coat and hat.
Walkers were of all ages. Families with young children, some trying out their new bikes, passing older walkers and of course the occasional runners. We were mostly rugged up in warm coats, gloves and hats, but there were those who felt that shorts, big boots and a fleece were sufficient protection against the cold (it was just below zero). Several people were carrying their coffee cups of course. As normal, everyone says hello or hi, and today there were happy new year’s to be said too.
Being a local trail, you can expect to meet friends and neighbours. This day was no exception, and we paused on our walk to chat with several people. Even if it was only to check on their dog’s health!
On the way back, we passed a man sawing up his Christmas tree ready for collection! He didn’t seem to be a grinch, as he said hello quite cheerfully, and wished us happy new year. We wish you all a happy new year too!
Canada still loves the car. And there’s a lot of real estate given over to the car. We have parking lots and parkades and the street too. Most of the time there is no problem finding a parking spot. Actually this was something that took us a while to get used to, as we’d come from west London where parking is at a premium.
One of my weekend duties was driving the kids to their activities. Dropping the girls off at Miss Sarah’s ballet school was the worse. It was one on one of those narrow suburban roads, with cars parked on both sides. I would circle and circle looking for a spot that I could get into. Then I’d demonstrate my skills in parallel parking.
Here in Vancouver, most of the time, you can find a parking space very near where you’re going. Until we got used to this we’d “premature park” – scooting into a spot blocks away from our destination. Then, after walking those blocks, we’d find several available spots right outside.
Canadians, by contrast, seem to expect to find the perfect parking spot right where they want it. Their level of expectation is so high that when they see someone about to leave “their” spot, they will stop and wait. The traffic behind watches their flashing turn signal and patiently waits. Often it can be a long wait if there’s any attempt at parallel parking involved as this is not a skill much in evidence in Vancouver.
The holiday season brings this tendency to ludicrous levels. For example in the Costco parking lot, I saw someone in an SUV waiting with the flashers going while another shopper was unloading their groaning shopping cart into their car. It must have been a long wait. It was probably worth it as it was a premium spot, close to the store’s entrance.
I guess it is a good thing that drivers are so patient. In England, waiting for a parking spot like that would have had other drivers honking their horns at the very least.
We are getting our first taste of the winter with snow sprinkling over the local north shore mountains. Our local ski resort, Whistler, is opening this weekend too.
Local skiers and snowboarders are dusting off their equipment and looking forward to getting out on the slopes again. As is mostly the case, Vancouver at sea level is still free of snow.
There is probably a bit of a scramble for winter tires just now! The city is also getting the snow ploughs and salting trucks ready as there’s nothing like a snow fall for us soft westerners to go to pieces. Our cousins back east and in the Prairies usually laugh at us when we complain about winter weather. We laugh right back when we are golfing in February – and enjoying spring blossoms.
Orange is this season’s colour. As soon as October is here, and often well before, you will see a lot of orange in the stores. The thing you see most often is pumpkins. They make an appearance in several different ways.
Firstly there is the Halloween Jack-O-Lantern, the kind you carve into scary faces and use to accessorize your driveway and front yard. For these you need a large pumpkin and one that is well proportioned so that your carved face works out the way you want it.
The supermarkets tend to have huge boxes of these outside in case you’d forgotten that it was Halloween.
The second way that pumpkins appear is as a table decoration. Actually the decorative squash bears little resemblance to the Jack-O-Lantern variety. They are small, often come in irregular shapes and aren’t always orange. So you can choose ones to go with the theme for your table – you do have a theme don’t you? (Table decoration themes are second only to throw pillows in importance to Canadian householders).
The third way that pumpkins make their presence felt is as a food. This is mostly as a pumpkin pie. For those who have not tasted this delicacy, imagine mixing cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice with any bland heavy vegetable, then add a lot of sugar. (Do check your recipe books if you really want to make this yourself, my grasp on the recipe is not that strong).
Actually pumpkins do also slip into other food stuffs. Sometimes even as the main ingredient as in pumpkin soup. Otherwise look for them in muffins and breads. For those of you who are wondering, I doubt that Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte actually contains pumpkin.
The colour orange also makes its impact in Halloween related merchandise, which is usually black and orange. You can’t miss Halloween here. Not only are the stores full of costumes, candies and table decorations, but also your neighbours have probably been working really hard to decorate their front lawn with an assortment of gravestones, goblins, ghouls and pumpkins. Canadians love these displays and they are often considered the ideal way to out class your neighbours. Touring neighbourhoods looking for the most gruesome displays is something that is encouraged since often it is more entertaining than staying at home and carving pumpkins.
I was amused by reading that Bowen Island, the beautiful island just minutes from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, is thinking about introducing a ban on objectionable noise on Sunday’s. This would limit noise from construction sites and major equipment. I understand that the traditional Sunday noises of lawn mowers and weed whackers would still be allowed.
Bowen already has bylaws that restrict noise to 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays and between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekends. These proposed new measures are aimed to keep Bowen a peaceful haven, away from the hustle and bustle of nearby Vancouver.
Now it happens that one of our daughters was at a party on Bowen on Friday night. She tells me that the police turned up at the party. Not because the party was getting out of hand but because the police were bored. In her words “there was nothing going on in the rest of Bowen”.
You might have to stretch your imagination for this but the cops stayed for an hour. They chatted with the party goers, though they did not drink with them. They only asked that their pictures not be uploaded to facebook! That’s modern policing.
I felt that the cops did a god job because one reason for their extended stay was that they got involved in a competition between their breathalyzer and a store-bought one that one of the party goers had. They seemed happy enough to help with testing the accuracy of the store-bought gizmo. Their public service proved that the store-bought gizmo was not all that accurate.
When they left the cops wished the birthday girl a happy birthday – over the tannoy on their cruiser! (Quietly of course – this is Bowen).