Category: personal reflection

Flying out of YVR

I am writing this at Vancouver International Airport (YVR), sitting in the beautiful landscaped area the other side of the security checks. Not something you expect to say about an airport – landscaped interiors! But there is a stream, a huge fish tank, bridges and comfortable seats. Lots of them, most of which are empty.

Above me the walkway has a stream of people walking. They have arrived off some international flight (your intrepid reporter is not going to find out which one). If anyone has flown into YVR they will have walked along this way too, looking down on the stream and wondering what the line-ups are going to be like at immigration.

Of course there are the usual duty free shops to entertain me. And I have had my double espresso from, unfortunately, Starbucks. My daughter, Alice, would be horrified. She, like me, favours the boutique coffee bars – caffe artigiano, 49th parallel or the like. (Ask Alice for her favourite ones in Victoria if you’re planning to visit there).

The standard of service has been good so far. The security staff were friendly. No bleeping sounds when I went through so no need to frisk me. The barista at Starbucks was super friendly too. Perhaps he wanted me to leave him all my Canadian money as a huge tip.

One thing worth noting is that I am using the airport’s free wireless internet connection. Something which I find very useful. It is too crowded at Heathrow for me to have even tried looking for a hot spot so I don’t know if it is available there for free. I do know that Vancouver is very well served by free WiFi connections. Some are deliberately so, and others simply not secured. I doubt that you would need an internet connection of your own in many downtown apartments… just borrow one of your neighbours!

In London, on my last visit, I struggled to find an internet service that did not charge and at a huge cost. Hotels have certainly woken up the fact that they can charge for this service and make a bit of extra money on the room bill. Grrrr.

I cannot say that I am looking forward to the flight. This, as you may know, is going to be a very short visit to the UK. Arriving tomorrow (Thursday) and returning on Monday. In the meantime, two days at the Opportunities Canada Expo at Olympia. Anyone who sees me dozing off there will know why. I am hoping there will be somewhere I can get regular supplies of double espressos. Or doppio ones from Starbucks as I will need them.

See you in London.

Snow angels

Snow season is approaching. We have already had some snow on the north shore mountains. Like most Vancouverites I am hoping for a lot of snow to settle on the mountains.

One of our friends has some lovely photos of their hike up on Mount Seymour last week, where there was enough snow for their oldest daughter to make a snow angel. For their youngest, not yet a year old, it was her first experience of snow. How exciting.

Actually locals too have this same excitement about the opening of the ski season. With the mountains visible from all over the area we have a constant reminder of the state of the snow and the urge to get out onto the mountains comes on strong.

It is something that most of us from other countries have not experienced – the thrill of waiting for the fun to start. And here in Vancouver, unlike eastern Canada which has already had a big winter storm, we look forward to snow purely as a recreational activity. It is rarely an inconvenience. And if we do have a big dump of snow, then the kids get to enjoy a “snow day” – with their schools closed.

Happy 150th Birthday BC

Today British Columbia is 150 years old. On November 19, 1858 in Fort Langley British Columbia came into existence. The colony’s first Governor James Douglas presided over the ceremony held in the fort. Apparently it was raining. By contrast today is bright and sunny.

There are a few other differences that someone present at that ceremony 150 years ago might notice. Fort Langley did not stay the capital for long. New Westminster took over only a year later and eventually Victoria.

More obviously of course, the Province has grown in population. It is estimated that in the 1850’s there were less than 150 people of European descent west of the Rockies. The first BC gold rush in the same year and the second one in 1862 soon changed that. Tens of thousands of men, and a few women, came up from California seeking their fortunes.

There were no roads in the colony at the time. Instead the rivers were the main transport routes. With the Rockies as a seemingly impassable barrier and transport no faster than walking or paddling pace, it must have seemed a very remote place.

The area was also densely forested. Imagine the huge first growth forests. Nowadays we have to use our imagination since so little of these mighty trees are left. I doubt that the few Europeans looked on these trees as anything but a nuisance or a business opportunity.

British Columbia has come a long way. Like me, many others are still attracted to this beautiful part of the world.

US Election coverage

The big thing this week was the election of Barack Obama. Sue and I, like many others, watched the election coverage on tv. We started out watching our local tv station – Global. But it was not long before we switched to BBC Canada. Somehow these landmark events need the cultured tones of a Dimbleby.

For anyone who grew up in the UK, the BBC is an automatic accompaniment to any big event. Probably that is true outside of the UK too. The BBC is far more global than our own Global TV will ever be.

It is one of those things that I miss from the UK – the BBC, good news coverage and good newspapers. Our local tv can be very folksy. Watching one of the news anchors being made up for halloween is a recent example of our news programming. What else was going on while Steve was being dressed up and having his make up applied?

As to the election result, so far I have not met anyone who is disappointed. Obama seems to be as popular north of the border as he is south of it. He has his work cut out for him, but we are all, it seems, ready for the change he promises.

Federal Election

Canadian politics is not very exciting. At least I cannot raise much interest in it. Watching the tv news here in Vancouver, I thought that I was not alone. One of the lead stories was about the failure of one of the polling stations to open on time. Disappointed voters were interviewed. Did I catch you yawning?

Voter turnout was also at a low – 59% set a new record low. Perhaps we are tired of the regular elections and minority governments. As one friend of mine said, Canadian political parties and politicians seem almost interchangeable. I guess we will not see much change as a result of our continuing Conservative minority government.

Well, I did go out to vote. Civic duty, combined with walking the dog, allowed me to be a good citizen and a responsible pet owner at the same time. The polling station seemed fairly well attended and there were a lot of people hanging around and chatting to their friends and neighbours. Most were combining their duty with other things – jogging, back from the grocery shopping or whatever. One lady I passed on my way back seemed to have made this into a special occasion. She was dressed most elegantly, especially in comparison to your dog walking author!

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