Titchy Jo

all about me, my boys and my adventures in Canada

Cool Hand Casper

Apparently it rarely snows in Vancouver (it’s a lot milder than the rest of Canada) but they had their own fair share of it this week.  On Sunday I had fallen love with the place, being able to go skiing on a whim at the weekend is amazing, but on Wednesday I fell way out of love with it after spending two hours shoveling snow and gritting whilst the boys were strapped in the pushchair.

Saw these outside the house, what on earth are they from? Casper thinks it's probably a Monkey..or a Dinosaur...or a Dinosaur-Monkey.

At the moment we’re living it up in a lovely 5,000 sq foot house in a lovely area of central Vancouver, it’s a fabulous house and ordinarily way out of our league (I found a bathroom I didn’t know even existed about a week after we moved in).  The owners had gone traveling and we were basically house-sitting for them.  However, this was the week of their return.  We don’t move into our flat for another week (we’re crashing back to earth and moving into a much much smaller “duplex” apartment – house prices and rent are as expensive as everything else in Vancouver) so we are staying with them until the flat is ready.  I spent the first part of the week wondering (whilst frantically cleaning) about the etiquette of living with total strangers in a house which is theirs but has come to feel like home, do we ring on the door bell when we come back?  Make them dinner? Luckily Casper broke the ice by going straight into the kitchen lying down on the floor and crawling along like a dog with no back legs.

Fortunately they are an absolutely lovely couple.  They more than make up for all the nutters I have come across on my travels, though perhaps they are a bit mad in their own way letting a British family with two snotty boys loose in their house whilst they are halfway round the world.

I have of course encountered my fair share of nutbags though this week including:

The bloke riding his bike uphill on a three lane road whilst sitting backwards on the handlebars, a flower stuck where the saddle should be, what a dick (sorry mum I know you’re reading this over your breakfast Muesli – but really, what a knob).  The retired marine whose ex was apparently “Beautiful inside and out, it’s a shame she was schizophrenic, germophobic and had OCD.”  She dumped him because he kept “going downtown” to see ladies he called his “goddesses”.  I said, like Charlie Sheen?  He looked at me blankly and carried on telling me how he was a child of the 60’s and wanted to find a ghost writer to write his memoirs.  And finally the bus driver who used the intercom to promote his mates bar and comment on passenger’s clothing (talking of bus drivers it’s nice to see that a high percentage of them here are women, much more so than in the UK, they all look like Megan from Bridesmaids but still at least they’re doing their bit).

Having lived a virtual six week long episode of Through the Keyhole we knew David and Verena were pretty classy, well dressed and houseproud so I thought I ought to make a bit of an effort for our first meeting, I went for a sloaney yummy mummy(ish) look, knit dress, brown suede boots, pashmina – I don’t know why, it couldn’t last, the next day I was back to my baggy leggings and a top that had seen me through two pregnancies…and they’ll definitely see me in my pyjamas, it’ll just be pot luck whether it’ll be the ones that pop open at the boobs or the ones with a curry stain down the front.

I took the boys to a lovely little playgroup suggested to me by my new pals, the boys had a whale of a time, though I nearly ruined it by turning up with three dirty (and stinking) nappies in my bag. I reckon I could have got away with one, but three could be considered a dirty protest.  I had put them in my bag to take straight to the outside bin when I left, mindful of David and Verena’s return, smelly nappies are surely never a nice welcome home. But I totally forgot they were there until it was too late, we were nearly at the playgroup and there wasn’t a wheelie bin in sight to stash them in.  I probably shouldn’t have given the boys eggs the day before.  Fried eggs are Casper’s new favourite food – he ate two from Neil’s plate and then when Neil cooked himself more he started on those too – it was like a Nursery retelling of Cool Hand Luke.

Theo’s still eating everything in sight too, I was having a shower, peeped out to see what he was up to and found him chewing on a tampon, it wasn’t even mine, not that that really makes any difference I suppose.

Yum.

More soon, bye for now! x

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Twins?

My attempts to get the boys out and meeting people seem to have gone a bit better this week.  I revisited the toddler group and actually met a couple of nice sociable mums.  Neither of them were actual real life Canadians, they are from as far afield as Chiswick and Putney, but one bridge at a time.  I was relieved, particularly after my journey there.  I was walking behind another mum pushing her daughter in her pushchair, singing, loudly, not just to her daughter but really PROJECTING her voice, I could hear her from one block away, she was singing soft rock anthems trying to make it look as though it was for her daughter’s enjoyment but clearly in her head she was playing Wembley…or perhaps the Vancouver Rogers Arena.  She even punched the air as she went past a group of men in a garden.  By the way, she was skipping the whole time.  She then stopped on the corner to admire a stranger’s cute puppy, picked it up and let it lick her…on the mouth, there’s just no need.  I just kept my head down and trundled past feeling very reserved, British and a little bit sick.

I also took the boys on two trips to the library (they are just so lucky).  In my defense, they have very good song and story times there and a nice toddler play area.  The first time Casper was playing with a Japanese boy who was there with his Grandparents, the Grandmother was in with the child supervising and the Grandfather was hiding behind a row of books taking hundreds of photos, at least I hope it was the Grandfather, perhaps I should have mentioned it to someone in authority.

During the second trip after a great storytime I had the misfortune of having to take both boys to the loo.  With two children in nappies, changing time can be quite a mission, I took them into the family toilet and bent to get a nappy from my bag, I’d been looking down for about 3 seconds when Casper said “Mummy, wet hands” I stood to see that both his hands were soaking wet, he’d plunged them both in to a public toilet…that hadn’t been flushed by the previous occupant.  The North American shallow pan style loos are clearly very appealing for toddlers.

It’s a sad week though, my baby is growing up, I have totally stopped sterilising things for him or cooking him special meals, I decided there was little point after catching him eating on various occasions; tinsel, some pink flowers, a twig, a fuzzy felt, a sticker (I didn’t witness that one but saw it, digested but still whole, in his nappy) and the front cover of Hello magazine (featuring Victoria Beckham so at least it was low calorie).  However, I have inadvertently come over slightly earth mother and have decided to continue to breast feed him until he’s one.  During our first week here I was very impressed at Vancouver’s forward thinking attitude to breast feeding when I saw a special area set aside at the Aquarium, it was inside by the dolphin pool so you could sit there and watch the dolphins swimming underwater whilst you feed your baby, how beautiful and relaxing. That didn’t make me decide to do it though, nor is it the thought that it’s the best thing for him, just the price of formula is eye watering (it’s actually more expensive than wine), not that Theo’s complaining, he was never a bottle fan, though I am counting down the days now, he’s got three teeth and is frankly getting a bit bitey.

So far seven people have mistaken the boys for twins.  I know Theo loves his food but seriously, it could give the boy a complex, maybe their big winter coats are deceptive, either that or Canadians are big fans of the Schwarzenegger/De Vito classic.

I had my first “day off” yesterday woo hoo, I ditched the boys and went skiing, what a great way to spend a Sunday, less than 20 mins drive and we were up a snow covered mountain skiing by 9am…now that’s why we came to Vancouver!  Neil took the boys for a man day to Science World to look at Dinosaurs, grrr (it’s a brilliant place for kids, modern, entertaining and interactive if you’re ever thinking of visiting Vancouver – worth a trip even if you don’t have little ones in tow).  I would say that I felt terribly guilty whilst I was swooshing down the perfectly snow dusted slopes with a wonderful view of Vancouver spread out below me, but I didn’t.  After ten months spent with two constant companions…if I have a shower their little faces peer in at me from under the shower curtain, Theo flinching and giggling every time he gets splashed with water, they ‘help’ me in the loo – Casper waiting with the loo roll, Theo grabbing onto my tights and they’re always dangling round my legs when there’s hot food cooking.  A day blowing away the cobwebs was just what I needed.  I did miss them though and today Casper gave me his last biscuit, I know how much he loves those little teddy biscuits, it’s probably a combination of lack of sleep and the relief he’s not a total sociopath but it brought a tear to my eye, the little things like that do make it all worthwhile.

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Parallel Universe

I’ve been here a month now and still feel as though I’m living in a parallel universe.  Things are different but not totally foreign, people talk a bit like Americans, there’s a Starbucks on every corner but you can still get a decent cup of tea, the Queen is on the money yet whenever I’m trying to pay for something I still have to stare at every coin as if I have early onset dementia.

In this parallel universe It’s constantly raining yet people don’t moan about it, just put on sensible clothing (another difference to the UK) and say ‘ahh that means it’s snowing in the mountains”…come ON have a little moan about the weather, you know you want to.

Alcohol is fairly frowned upon, you have to have it in a bag if you are out and about and can’t be seen drinking outside, wine is extortionately expensive and is only sold in “Liquor Stores”…no handy supermarket booze aisles here or Tescos special little yellow labels shining promisingly from the shelf, yet people openly smoke marijuana in the street.  The first time we saw this Neil and I exchanged an “ooh they’re being a bit daring” look before realising most of the cloud above Vancouver must be a smoke fog, there is a constant whiff in the air.

Cheese is another hugely pricey commodity (I might have to do a “Worrall Thompson”).  Tofurkey is actually a food (vegetarian turkey – I don’t fancy asking where that is in the supermarket “umm excuse me where is your Tofurkey?”) and Clamato juice a popular and refreshing drink made of, yes, Clams and Tomatoes and sold everywhere.  Well, I say refreshing drink, I haven’t actually tried it…I’m not Bruce Parry.

People REALLY love the Royal family even when there isn’t a bank holiday in the offing.  There isn’t a magazine or newspaper with out Will and Kate smiling out from the cover.

Squirrels are black and furry and eggs are all pure white.

Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank Engine are still omnipresent but poor Neil Morrisey and Ringo Starr are distant memories, replaced by bland American voiceover artists.  A new favourite in our household seems to be “Dinosaur Train” a shameless attempt to combine two favourites of young boys everywhere.  It is however perhaps the best Canadian made programme I have seen, we haven’t been watching much TV (shock horror) but I did manage to catch a children’s programme which spent a full 30 minutes working through the problem of what to do if you go to the park and there is bird poo on the slide, I learned a lot.  A TV guide for Jan/Feb 2012 was delivered to the house advertising brand new drama for the new year: Ballykissangel and Monarch of The Glen.  Luckily through some technical wizardry we have been able to keep up with the masterful Sherlock – the BBC really is a wonderful institution.

Strangers talk to each other on buses and in the street, no hiding with your nose in the latest John Grisham here – people like a chat, probably because there aren’t many pubs.  I still find this a bit disconcerting and whilst it is definitely friendly it does also bring the nutbags to the surface.  In nice reserved Britain only the truly certifiable nutter makes his/herself known in a public place full of strangers but here there is plenty of opportunity.  We’ve heard a multitude of strange stories ranging from the drunk who apparently had a daily habit of a bottle of $2400 Cognac yet was trying to buy his way into a $5 a ticket party with a litre of eggnog and the sprightly Chinese man who swore he was 96 then jumped down a flight of steps to the man quizzing people on the surname of the Queen.

However, whilst they do seem very keen to talk to strangers on buses it seems mums are less keen to talk at playgroups.  Real life started this week with Neil starting work and me attempting to get the boys out to make new friends.  His job seems to be going rather better than mine.  My first go was a Toddler Gym Time at the local community centre which I thought would be a good opportunity to meet and chat to other mums (whilst the boys are wonderful it’s fair to say that their small talk is fairly limited, Theo’s all about the Dadada Mamamama and Casper mainly wants to talk about who may or may not have done a poo) – we arrived and Casper got stuck in straight away on the bouncy castle and dragging round Ice Hockey sticks, I looked around expecting to see groups of women chatting about the highs and lows of being a mum but they were all either on their own with their children or sitting round the edge on their phones or reading the paper – maybe they were seizing the opportunity for a bit of ‘time off’.  The one woman who did talk to me noticed my British accent and said that she’d once lived in Reading, I was delighted by this piece of shared history and gladly told her that I was from very near Reading, she said she had hated it and blamed Reading for her divorce (though she did admit she was rather fond of Oxford), there wasn’t really anything I could say about that so I sidled off to the ball pool.  Oh well better luck next time.

 

 

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The beginning.

 

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Vancouver from Grouse Mountain not too shabby.

 

Hi All (when I say all I mean probably just Mum and a couple of people who were looking for something else) – Here it is, blog post number one…it perhaps should have happened weeks ago but I seem to be way after a demanding two year old in the computer use pecking order and constant repeats of “Tom Train” and “Woody and Buzz” never seem to get boring (for him at least). So I think this first attempt will be short and sweet before the computer is wrestled from me. 

Well, we survived a ten hour flight with a two year old and a 9 month old and have had three weeks in Vancouver, a Canadian Christmas and New Year, lots of new experiences and not a huge amount of sleep (I’m not sure that moving house twice in two months and an 8 hour time difference was the ideal thing to do for a baby’s routine).  I will write more when Casper is sufficiently distracted but in the meantime here is a quick rundown of our time in Canada so far:

Things we have seen: stunning mountains, a beautiful beach, twinkling Christmas lights, people ice skating, Father Christmas (though Casper took a bit of convincing on that one, particularly when a 40 year old woman sat on FC’s lap and he leered “oooh just like old times”), a dog on a treadmill, totem poles, 6 days solid rain, a stand selling “Japadogs” (hot dogs with noodles on top, yum), the view of Vancouver from the top of Grouse Mountain, Sea Planes, a roller skating trans-sexual in turquoise tights, a local news story about a bear in a bin lorry in downtown Vancouver, Whales and life-sized robotic dinosaurs.

….I will write more soon…Casper has shut Theo in the kitchen and the shouts of “no, mine” are reaching a crescendo…my thoughts of sitting, perhaps in a coffee shop (there are hundreds of those here) tapping away for hours on end like Carrie Bradshaw, sharing my musings with the world seem pretty unachievable, particularly as Casper has pulled the “P” button off the computer keyboard so my typing (or tying) speed is struggling….now he’s playing with the buttons on the gas oven and Theo is eating something from the floor..I think it’s raw onion.  Better go. Bye for now!!!

 

 

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