Thursday, 26 July 2012

How I Feel About Novels Today

This afternoon Dad is arriving from Edmonton where he has been living it up, country-style: hiking, turkey-farming, relaxing at a lake house, and generally doing an idyllic North American Summer. I'm excited to be meeting Matthew at his work for the first time, and we are driving to the airport together. Then we are heading over to Gramma's house, and tomorrow I will rendezvous with Dad at Granville Island (where I have not been for nearly three whole weeks!).

Ruth and Lorenzo are still with us, as they will be for another week and a half. On the first two days, the weather was too too awful, rainy and so cold Ruth had to borrow a coat. But then the sun came out and illuminated Vancouver's true beauty, including all the melted mountains. I think their spirits rose in correlation. So far, they have done:
shopping downtown
Vancouver Aquarium
Granville Island
Aquabus on False Creek to English Bay
and yesterday (with me) Hillcrest Olympic Centre (I sauna'd while they checked out the totally thrilling diving boards!)

Summer School is continuing well; today was The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde day. We talked about the Uncanny, artificial lighted urban spaces, the body considered as a space, and houses. Also, crime vs. vice and Victorian drug culture... sordid stuff.

I was reading Jekyll & Hyde on the bus this morning and I had an mild epiphany. Only mild.

Basically: when I was younger, I treated the actual book itself with real care, and hated dog-ear-ing pages and never read in the bathtub, and I would shake crumbs out of the spine-crease with a bit too much frenzy. As I grew up, and properly into adult fiction, I started buying second hand books more and more, since my fiction tastes tend to run pretty 19th century. But it's only been the last year (since studying I guess) that I have really divorced the book-as-artifact from the novel-as-reading-experience. I have been reading so much online through the screen (the cleanliness of which I never cared too deeply about, I'm afraid), and the physical paper books I own are so utterly pre-used.

This abstracting of objet from experience became really obvious to me this morning on the bus; when I was dog-ear-ing my page I suddenly wondered whether anyone was judging me like I used to, when I was younger, judge people on public transport who didn't treat their books nicely. And then I thought about the book my mum had my dad bring over, The Paper Garden, which is hardcover with a dustjacket itself plastic-covered. I realised I had been treating that book differently because the connection between objet and reading experience was a lot closer -- there is only one medium through which I can read that story, and moreover, it's new. Interestingly, it's different from how I feel about the new copy of Tristram Shandy that I purchased last August for my course on 18th century novels: that book was all po-mo typeset and chic colour scheme. I found those marks of newness and objet-ness kind of got in the way, and although I could have had the epiphany then, I didn't.

I don't treat paper books like crap. I do look after them inasmuch as they might be re-read by me in the future. But when approximately 50 pages detached from Jane Eyre and fell all over the gym floor the other week, did I stop cycling? Nup. Old me would have picked them up and fretted. But old me would never have taken a book to the gym in the first place.

/end epiphany.

Tomorrow afternoon is the Great Portland Escapade... wish us luck!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Lazy/Busy Sunday

Ruth and Lorenzo have arrived from Melbourne via Milan! We picked them up at the airport this afternoon, and we are looking forward to showing them around this week and next.

Matthew has been adjusting to a change in his work, which means five days, Monday to Friday, and evenings free. This is so exciting, as we have lots of evening plans! This past week has been uber quiet, however, as we were enjoying lazy summer evenings in and taking the opportunity to paint and study.

Summer school is good, this weekend I have been reading fabulous stuff about London's Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Crystal Palace. I also finished Vanity Fair  and started on a lovely book my mum lent me, called The Paper Garden about an eighteenth-century twice-widowed British woman who invented the art of collage at the age of 72. It's full of eighteenth century detail about dresses, marriage, and the lives of women, and I am fascinated.

Cherries are in season, as are strawberries and raspberries. We have been making these a part of our daily smorgasbord, as well as nectarines, peaches and plums. I love summer fruits! But cherries especially. Ruth and Lorenzo very thoughtfully brought some Double Coat TimTams with them, a packet of which we have already devoured with much gratitude. Homesickness! And Chocolatebiscuitsickness too! In a good way, though.

Next weekend we are heading to Portland, OR for a bit of a roadtrip. Looking forward to going stateside!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Adventures in our own backyard, continued

Symoblic: Jess and Aaron left last night, after a week and a half of stunning hot sunny weather. This morning we awoke to not only clouds and rain, but thunder as well! Our splendid mountain views are disappeared.

Last Monday I took our guests to UBC for the day, as I had to polish off a bit of reading before summer school started on Tuesday. While I was holed up in the computer lab and the actual library (yes I went to the physical library where they keep the physical books, how quaint, I know!) Jess and Aaron checked out:
Museum of Anthropology (large and impressive collection, especially of local indigenous art)
Nitobe Memorial Gardens (Japanese style)
Beaty Biodiversity Museum (where they keep the blue whale skeleton, must be seen to be believed)
UBC Gardens Treetop Walk

Tuesday J&A hopped the ferry to Victoria for a midweek getaway, and did high tea and all that fab stuff. Matthew went to work, and I went to the first day of summer school. My class is called 'Victorian Spaces', and we are reading specifically for ideas about public/private, interior/exterior, etc. The novels are a real treat (I was 'prereading' them all a couple of weeks ago), but not as totally gripping as Vanity Fair, which I am a mere 70 pages from finishing. I will never be finished in my heart. I love this novel. I experienced genuine frisson when reading bits of this, which I have not done since reading Great Expectations last summer. I crave visceral reading experiences.

On Thursday, J&A returned from gorgeous Victoria, and we had a champagne-and-strawberries evening in (more fun that a regular evening in). Matthew and Aaron played a roaring game of Scrabble on Aaron's iPad. Jess and I thought the game was silly because there was no rule that you had to put down 'real' words. So it was like Absurdist Scrabble (as apart from Rude Word Scrabble, my own personal favourite variation on the game).

Friday Matthew had the day off, so we all got up at a reasonable hour (and I ran 5 miles for the first time in my life! but on a treadmill so it doesn't really count). We headed to the local market and deli for supplies, hopped in the wagon, and drove to Buntzen Lake, just North of Coquitlam and Port Moody. On the way there, due to it being summer and all the roadworks happening (because the weather is so awful the rest of the year that they can't do roadworks at any other time) the whole of the freeway was chopped up and traffic-coned and covered in confusing replacement signs. At one point, we sailed over a little bridge closely paralleled by a beautiful big bridge which is being built, and accidentally landed in Surrey -- whoops! We then got stuck in traffic on the way back over same bridge ten minutes later.

Not our photo, obvs. The benefit of being stuck in traffic on the far left side (the way back), was that the view of the Frazer River was amazing. Filled with logs and boats, surrounded by mountains, etc.
But finally we reached out picturesque desination, with liberal assistance from Aaron's backseat iDirections (bless technology!).

There were quite a lot of swimmers, but we put our ankles in and decided we weren't made of stern enough stuff. Jess and I sat in the sun, ate loads of strawberries, and read our novels. Matthew and Aaron flaked out in the shade (sensible chaps) and consulted their iDevices. I love the kind of nature where you have a great view and also great phone reception. A very small squirrel ran laps around us performing his daily Nut Finding, Nut Burying and Nut Eating. Matthew got some beautiful photos:

On Friday evening we went down to Granville Island for dinner at a seafood restaurant called 'Sandbar'. We were upstairs, right underneath the Granville Bridge, and we had lovely views of the boats sailing up and down False Creek as the sun went down. It was total perfection, and such an appropriate way to celebrate J&A's Last Night In Town.

Having Jess and Aaron visit was excellent, I think, for a couple of reasons in particular:
  1. They were here for three weeks, and they really seriously explored the place: Vancouver, Montreal and Victoria, and downtown, suburbs, sightseeing, events, picnics, nature, action, art, everything. I'm proud of them for all the stuff they managed to do while on holiday, and I'm proud of Vancouver for scrubbing up so beautifully for their arrival.
  2. Also, Jess and Aaron live in our old neighbourhood in Brunswick, Melbourne, Australia. So we fully expected to be bowed by pangs of homesickness upon their arrival. But instead, we were just happy that we could show them our new neighbourhood. It's not that we don't miss our old 'hood. It's just that we are feeling at home in our new one.
  3. We did leave a couple of key tourist activities undone, so that a) J&A can come back next year if they please and b) when our next guests arrive next week we will not feel like we are doing the same things all over again. Win!
Today Matthew and I are having a quiet one, doing some study and Warhammer, and later on catching up with some new friends for a beer and dinner on Cambie. Looking forward to it!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

'A Whale of a Time' (sry, couldn't help myself)

Woah! Welcome back, Zoe! Summer is (still) in full mad swing.

Canada Day (Sunday 1 July)

Matthew and I went to the Vancouver Jazz Festival at David Lam Park. We went there by boat, because it was such a beautiful night. We saw two acts, Warren Dean Flandez, who was a bit like John Legend, and the Boom Booms, which was a bit like Cat Empire, but more white reggae (I know, not the most flattering description).

We also made not one but two cameo appearances at our friends, Patrick and Corinne's house. The first was to take Dad to the airport, and the second was to unceremoniously scarf a steak on the way to the Jazz Festival. Yes, we are such gracious guests. *fail*

The buses were all diverted, so we walked home over the Granville Bridge in the twilight. Very romantic.

The following week (2 to 6 July)

Monday: Jess and Aaron returned from their romantic getaway to Montreal. Matthew had the day off in honour of Canada Day. We went to the airport for the second day in a row.

Tuesday/Wednesday: Lots of reading of Vanity Fair for me and work for Matthew, Jess and Aaron got their tourist on. I felt totally justified in sending them up the Grouse Grind, and they admirably beat our time! Hot stuff! (Not hard to do; our time was about 2 hours; the average is about 1 hour). They also enjoyed the Capilano Suspension Bridge, and Cliff- and Treetop- walks.

Thursday: We made a dinner reservation for Seasons in the Park, because it was the most deliciously summery day imaginable. When Matthew and I went to Seasons in February for Valentine's Day, it was not Daylight Saving, and so we enjoyed the twinkling dark view of the city and ski runs. On Thursday, however, we watched the sun go down amid the treetops. It was like we were in a very very fancy grown-up treehouse. It was beyond beautiful and I will treasure the memory.

Friday: Whale Watching in Steveston!

(This one is so awesome it gets its own category) A couple of weeks ago I went out with my friend Kelly from UBC and we were having a couple of gorgeous pink cocktails and I mentioned that All The Australians were arriving posthaste. She recommended whale watching with her company in her hometown, the lovely seaside fishing village slash outer suburb of Vancouver, Steveston. Matthew and I always love Steveston, having visited for fish and chips, Dragonboat Festival, raspberry gorging, Buddhist Temple, and other fun tourist activities over the years. It is always associated in our minds with high summer, ice cream, and lovely views.

So Jess, Aaron, Matthew and I all met Kelly at her work, got sorted out with the paperwork, and then proceeded to a leisurely fish-and-chip-a-thon on the Steveston Pier. After which we hopped in our sexy yellow suits and embarked the Explorathor II for American waters.

Kelly is so modest she didn't appear in any of our photos!

A bunch of Harbour Seals chillin' on a little rock off the Gulf Islands. Harbour Seals are the primary food of Orcas (Killer Whales), and so even though they look relaxed, theirs is a fraught existence.

A yacht off the San Juan Islands with some fellow whale-watchers.

Right there, in the centre, is an orca!! I hope you can zoom in!

Again, please zoom for even more exquisite Orca detail.
I found the whole boating experience so soothing that I fell asleep a couple of times on the way there and back. The others gave me heaps for quite literally 'nodding off' while sitting upright; most undignified. We saw absolutely dozens of whales frolicking and generally swimming. Later we were told that they were members of 'J Pod' (as apart from K and L Pods which also frequent the area between Vancouver and Coastal Washington and surrounding islands).

The weather was beautiful and hot and pleasant despite the wind-chill of the boatride. The wildlife was awesome in the old-fashioned sense of the word. I really can't thank Kelly enough for organising this amazing experience for us! It was a once-in-a-lifetime event, and it was perfect in every way.

Last Weekend (7-8 July)

On Saturday, Matthew and I took Jess and Aaron to 'do' Main St vintage shops. Matthew picked up his Warhammer Winnings (did I mention that he won a gnarly prize at his midnight launch party? yeah he did!), and I am afraid to say I 'picked up' a rad pair of black satin peep-toes with mustard platforms (inspected by both Matthew and Aaron, and certified Not Ugly).

Saturday night was my cousin Sophie's 21st birthday party. Canadians don't treat 21 as a milestone birthday. That's all taken care of at 18. And later at 30, I guess. Nevertheless, Sophie's house was decorated in adorable photos of her in all stages of her fabulous life so far, and the Strawberry Shortcake Birthday Cake was mouthwatering. Matthew and I had a good catch up with the family, and met some of Sophie's super nice friends, and ate so much delicious food I am still full from the memory of it.

Sunday was a hot hot Vancouver summer day. We rendezvous'd at Chez Beavis (Jess and Aaron had had a Romantic Night in the City while we were partying with Sophie), and walked down to Vanier Park for... Bard on the Beach! Yes, can you believe it is that time of year again!? It feels like only yesterday that I was blogging about 'As You Like It' at Bard on the Beach last September! We all agreed that we had to see 'Taming of the Shrew', and we selected a matinee so we could combine it with general Kitsilano (trendy suburb) exploration in the afternoon.

The production was very funny, specifically full of physical comedy. The music was a glorious mash-up of Mozart operas, and the setting was late 18th Century. We had a good laugh.

Afterwards we walked to Kits Beach, where All Of Vancouver was. We even dipped our toes in, thus we are able to say that we have been to the beach this summer!

It's late, I'm tired, and I feel like I've just blogged my little fingers off. Next time I write I will cover... Summer School! (Started today, all good so far.) Lots of Love.