Thursday, 27 November 2014

Reflections and Gratitude

I hope I don't ramble here. Today was jam-packed. It was graduation day! Matthew and I went our separate ways in the morning, me to UBC to get my regalia on, and Matthew to the East Side to collect Gramma and Jessie.

That's right, Sister Jessie is visiting!!

I remember my last graduation, in the middle of a work day, struggling to get across town in terrible weather, and struggling to see the point of graduating at all. This convocation was much closer to the actual finish-time of my degree, so it was easier to see the ceremony as a natural end-point.

I met with a really lovely fellow English Department alum, Emily, in the Regalia lounge, and we pinned each others' gowns on, took photos, and paraded together. It didn't rain, and in fact at the moments of our parade, it was even a bit sunny. We recognised some friendly English Faculty faces on stage, and it felt satisfying to be witnessed by them.
Thanks to Emily and her lovely husband for this photo!

I want to write another post on Graduation Proper, when I have some more photos to share. But after the ceremony, I was whisked by Matthew, Gramma and Jessie to the VanDusen Gardens restaurant, where we were met by all my aunts. We had a beautiful lunch, and then went to Gramma's house for a rich and delicious tuxedo cake with raspberries on top, and a well-deserved cup of tea.

This post feels like a good place to try and express my gratitude. The degree took a lot longer than anyone expected. For Gramma and my aunts to mark out time to celebrate the occasion, especially in such a busy time as the lead-up to the festive season, means so much to me. I am thankful for their generosity of lunch and cake, and for being so supportive over so many years. I moved to Vancouver to do this degree and to be near to my family, and now my degree is over I am so grateful for the great constant that is family.

I understand Jessie's visit here as an early Christmas present for us all, but also something of a personal graduation present for me, so I am very grateful that she could be there to see the ceremony, see the campus at its most authentic (cloudy, chilly, windy, full of puddles), and shower me in flowers and good cheer.

Lastly, there can never be too many or too frequent thanks for Matthew, who with great integrity and patience has supported me emotionally and financially through this degree. Even just graduation day itself would not have happened had Matthew not bolted out of bed before sunrise and driven across the city to get our loved ones for the occasion. All morning he drove us around, and he always offered an arm to hang on to. Thank you, my love.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Remembrance Day at the Vancouver Aquarium

My good friend Ann took me to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra on Saturday night and we took in a very crowded and earnest performance of Britten's War Requiem. It was sombre and considered, and by the time Remembrance Day arrived on Tuesday, we felt we had memorialised with attention and care. There is no end to memorialisation, and when we were downtown that morning, we heard the guns and saw the planes fly overhead. But we didn't attend the Remembrance Day parade.

Instead, Ann took me and Matthew to the Vancouver Aquarium.  (Ann has a magical "keys to the city" sort of arrangement.)

Ann and me at the new front door of the Vancouver Aquarium.
All the Jellies. As I like to tell everyone, Jellyfish will take over the world, and it won't be pretty.

This sea otter is a young female. She tapped the glass with her paw to be fed more fish. So charming.

African Penguins! Their belly spots are unique to them, but they all have belly spots, so unless you carefully memorise them, they still all look the same.

These little eals are the best. There are striped and spotted varieties in this tank, and they are divided stripes on one side, spots on the other.

The clownfish loved to hide in the anemones.

These might be piranhas?

This ugly fish looked a bit out of place in the beautiful corral.

We took in the dolphin show, the beluga show, and the sea otter show. I can't remember the last time I went to all the shows! Still good. The belugas, especially.

There are no photos of the Amazon room, but we hit this up first, and the power actually went out while we were entering there! Once we were in, we saw marmosets, a green parrot, some turtles "having carnal relations" as a lady delicately described it, and two raucous blue macaws, one of whom was malting badly around the scruff of its neck. Wild times in the Amazon. And we had a sloth sighting!

Afterwards, we went for fish and chips (yes, we appreciated the irony of this) in the little log cabin pub beside Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park.

Matthew and Ann in front of the Stanley Park Pavilion

We found some swings!! And they were completely empty! There were three in a row, and they were just waiting for us.

We walked from Stanley Park back into town because it was such a beautiful evening. We passed the most inflamed and glorious trees on West Georgia. But gosh it was chilly.
Warmest thanks to Ann for such a lovely day out! The Aquarium is always worth a visit.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Parade of Lost Souls

Last night I met my friend Kelly and we checked out Parade of Lost Souls. I don't have any photos, so I hope my powers of description will suffice.

Parade of Lost Souls is a yearly "around Halloween" community event on and around Commercial Drive. It is mysterious because the location is a secret until the night before. And it is not sponsored or sanctioned or anything, so (as far as I can tell) there is no funding or roadblocks or anything. It is just a pop-up festival, really.

Our evening was off to a rocky start. On the bus to Commercial Drive I got harassed by an aggressive man. We went to some bar for a stiff glass of wine (it was chilly out), and this Australian guy with guitar came on stage and turned it up to 11; it was a bit early for that, before 7pm.

So we popped back out onto the street at about half past 7 and went in search of the Parade. Not having been to the parade before, I thought we had missed it. But we followed the costumed people and the sound of drumming, and before long we encountered some festivities.

An aside: We were wearing the most beautiful masks. Kelly's was like laced metal with clear diamentes. And mine was read lace with red diamentes. But we saw a pacmac and some ghosts, a lot of men in kilts (like I think they were dressed up, not just wearing them as usual). And one in three people had Day of the Dead face make-up on.

We realised that it is the spectators who do the parading, not the other way around. We realised that we had to push past the crowd around the drumming, that the drumming was the front door to the parade. It felt like Lucy in the forest of Lion/Witch/Wardrobe, or Alice falling through the tree trunk into Wonderland. Very liminal.

The parade was oddly quiet. There were lots of people, but not a lot of laughing, talking, shouting, etc. There was plenty of dancing though. We saw:
  • A group of mimes dressed in white, bending around on the spot. Every once in a while they would start "wooooo"ing gently, all in different and inharmonious tones.
  • A clanging station with pots and pans and drumsticks, DIY clang. Popular with the under 10s.
  • A small dark theatre tent which we filed into in a great crowd. Inside was a writing station with pens and paper, and a sign "What do you want to let go of?" I obviously wrote "my degree", and we proceeded, in a big human press, outside to a little fire pit to burn out papers. It was actually really simple and lovely.
  • (Aside: there were a lot of open flames in this festival. And everyone was on their best behaviour.)
  • A coffin station, where you could hop in a coffin if you wanted to. We did not want to.
  • Lots of nice music: a choir, a jazz band, a gypsy band, a thriller flash mob, a neon rave, and some other stuff.

The parade grounds were spooky in their own way, it was in the Brittania Community Centre, which feels like a massive highschool, and has the concrete dead-ends and high chainlink fences which feel like prison. On the grass field there was a giant lantern installation, with lights hung from wooden tripods. It all felt a bit Pinterest-y, a bit Cirque du Soleil-y. I loved the home-made feel of it, and people were careful and curious consumers of it.

Afterwards we took the bus to Gastown. There was a man carving wood with a stanley knife of the bus. At one point, the bus jerked to a stop and he dropped the knife. And when he got up, there was a radius of wood chips surrounding the seat and floor. Sigh. Vancouver. We love you, but...

Kelly took me to the Pourhouse on Water St. We had delicious cocktails and sat in high-backed arm chairs. It was so warm and cozy, we stayed for hours.