A Time Traveller's Diary - Vancouver BC
Must read Booker Prize winners 2009, 2012
...and the sequel
The Time Traveller's Diary - Selected Excerpts
Thursday 6th May, 2010 09:30
It’s a funny old spring - an icy wind blows off the North Sea. The cold never leaves your bones. I’m reading a historical novel at the moment, "Wolf Hall", and the cold Tudor spring described within its pages must have felt like this. Stating the bleedin' obvious, the BBC weathermen are saying it has been a long cold winter and that spring is slow in coming, duh!. They aren’t wrong. No matter, Sheila and I are flying off to Vancouver tomorrow morning to spend almost three weeks on the other side of the world - a different continent, different coast, different ocean, different climate and different time zone. But first, we have to vote!
Friday 7th May 2010 11:30
Entry No. 193,866
Yesterday, in the hysterical confusion of the British political climate, in a spring where the leaves still haven’t appeared on the trees, we cast our vote, then drove south to Gatwick where a bed & breakfast near the airport awaited our arrival.
Note: There is something very '1970s' about Gatwick Airport and the surrounding conurbation - the Fawlty Towers B&Bs, the concrete carparks, the dilapidated gangways and the undersized Departure Hall, tinged with sadness and Helvetica signage.
The election results are in but no one knows who has actually won – not the candidates we voted for, that’s for sure, but then they never do!
Friday 7th May 2010 20:00
Entry No. 193,867
Gained a day or lost a day? That is the question. Left Gatwick (LGW) at 1300, arrived Vancouver (YVR) 1500 same day. WTF! Day gained, but also lost due to spending 10 hours of it in an aluminium tube defying time at 800kph and 35,000 feet.
Met by Mum and Dad at YVR – They’re Aussie-born Canucks. He’s 80+, she’s 75ish, but they both behave a bit like 25 years olds - talking all at once, driving devilishly through the Vancouver traffic, dressing in jeans. Good to see one’s parents after a year or so; it's nice to be with people who occasionally refer to one as “The Little Fella”, despite one being the eldest son, and well over 50 to boot!
Monday 10th May 2010 22:30
Entry No. 193,872
All four of our feet ache, as we have just walked most of the way around the heart of the Olympic City of Vancouver, British Columbia. We strolled along the shoreline promenade that leads into the city centre from the West End. I discover that Vancouver has well and truly embraced the 21st century since I was last here (two weeks in 1998 – last century!) Green-glassed towers, like stands of Douglas Fir, march down to the waterfront, reflecting the forest-clad mountains of the North Shore on the other side of Burrard Inlet.
All is new. The sun is shining; spring has sprung upon Vancouver. But all the walking has made me tired. I am very sleepujhtttttttt..zzzzz
Some Zombie flicks - nothing to do with Vancouver but fun nevertheless
First proper "Rage" zombi film
...and the sequel
Tuesday 11th May 2010 08:00
Entry No. 193,873
Sorry, I fell asleep writing this journal last night. Exhausted by walking. Where was I? Oh yes... on our walk I discovered that 21st century Vancouver ends exactly at the entrance to Gastown, the old part of downtown that was done up in the 70s when old parts of cities were being restored and made into tourist havens. Gastown is full of tourist tat – stuffed beavers, growling grizzly bears, square-jawed mounties and native Indianwear.
Then, in the city blocks beyond Gastown we walked into 'The Past' – West Hastings Street - AKA Skid Row. The 'Rubbity-dubs', as my dear, politically incorrect and unintentionally redneck mother calls the down-and-outs, have been corralled into a ghetto of poverty, drugs, deprivation, violence and handouts, just a few blocks east of the sparkling hi-rise forest. The most common vehicle we saw as we walked brisquely through this ‘neighbourhood of nought,’ were shopping trolleys, some piled high with worldly possessions, others overflowing with bottles and cans bound for one of the huge, cash-back recycling depots hidden down the darkly unfashionable alleys of the East End. Out of these movie-set back roads, dozens of shadowy figures - the down and outs (the rubbity dubs), patrol aimlessly, like the zombies of old I note, before zombies were given the 'run-fast, rage' treatment in films like 28 Days Later.
Through a pungent aroma of cannabis and vomit, we emerged safely into a vast clearing on the north side of False Creek that is soon to become another forest of glass and steel. A futuristic skytrain silently swooshed overhead. Vancouver is going green, it has a transport infrastructure, and with a great recycling ethos, has found something for its poor people to do in their spare time.
Friday 14th May 2010 17:45
Entry No. 193,885
Bus to the bottom of Seymour Street. Walk down the Gangway to the Seabus dock. Board the ferry. Cross the harbour to Lonsdale Quay. This is where I used to live during my time in Vancouver, back in the 1970s. I lived at various addresses in this suburban heartland at the foot of the coastal mountains. Hollyburn, The Lions, Grouse and Mt Seymour – these were the peaks that formed the backdrop to my late teens and early twenties. Lower Lonsdale village was where I was happiest back in those days. It was also where I was at my 'hippiest', that’s for certain.
My girlfriend and I lived in a shared house on East First Street. It was a big joint and we colonised it with us, her 10 year old son and her younger sister; my two younger brothers lived in the flat downstairs, along with one of my brothers’ girlfriends. My best mate also had a room in our part of the house too. Plus, at various times throughout the two or three years we lived there, we shared house with a morbidly obese OCD book collector; a pyramid-worshipping cabbie; a pleasant, but very straight Department of Fisheries officer and his wife; a psychotic Persian refugee from the Ayatolla’s regime in Iran; a sexy, but very dodgy, black glamour model, and, as my girlfriend was a First Nations person, an endless stream of natives from various reservations and communities around BC.
The neighbourhood has changed a bit since my time. There's more buildings and some nice trees have grown, but it has less of a village atmosphere. Gone is the iconic Seven Seas floating restaurant, and the Alice and the Olympic Hotels – the two rough pubs – both are no more. Sadly, time and gentrification has dulled the edge on Lower Lonsdale.
Tuesday 18th May 2010 07:00
Entry No. 193,922
Quick entry – we are driving north this morning. Destination: a one-horse town in the interior of British Columbia; we are going to visit my old girlfriend’s family who I haven’t seen for over twenty five years.
This is a journey tinged with nostalgia and sadness as I only recently discovered that she passed away suddenly a few years ago. Her family have invited me to visit as a way of reconnection with the memory of their beloved sister, and so, accompanied by my current partner and my parents, we drive north, into my past.
(As a footnote to this part of the journey - I became a Facebook friend with some of my Ex’s family only a few months prior to this visit, after losing contact with them for 25 years. I am astonished by the way modern technology has enabled me to link up with my past in such a tangible way. Now I really am feeling like a time traveller).
This was a favourite film amongst my Indian family
A troubling slice of contemporary First Nations life set somewhere in Ontario
Thursday 20th May 2010 19:00
Entry No. 193,923
Now sitting in a luxurious hotel room at the foot of Whistler Mountain, where the Winter Olympics have recently been staged. Looking out the window I can see clouds of mist drifting over the ski runs which are still snow-covered and open for business in late May.
Privately, I can reflect on our brief but emotional visit with my First Nation-in-laws on their remote family ranch, high in the eastern foothills of the rugged Coast Range. Their traditional land is a place of sage brush, ponderosa pines, wood rail fences, cattle, creeks, and marble canyons - cowboy country, where eagles soar and 'heesh'* dwell in the hollows and high country.
My Dad, once a keen skier, keeps reminding me how much Whistler has changed. Indeed it has - I barely recognise it as the rustic, hard to get too place, where we skied so enthusiastically in the early 70’s when our family were newly arrived in Canada. It was a time when double denim and cowboy hats were considered trés-cool ski attire. Now speaking of fashionable ski-wear - I noted today, a couple of snowboarder dudes slinking through the apré ski village toward the gondola. One of them is wearing the lowest ‘batties’ I've ever seen, the crotch of the baggy jeans hanging barely a foot from the ground with half his arse crack and all his underpants totally on view. If nothing else it must be cold when he wipes out. The youth of today… huh?
Tuesday 25th May 2010 09:30
Entry No. 194,001
We head back to the UK this afternoon. It has been a good trip, I think. I’ve sorted out some important pieces of my personal jigsaw and spent a goodly amount of quality time with my parents, who show no sign of aging, what with their laptops and their state-of-the-art home entertainment centre with HD telly and a subwoofer so big they daren’t use it in case they upset the neighbours.
The calm waters of the (the expanse of salt water that lays between the mainland and Vancouver Island) sparkle in the late May sun. Dad tells me they are thinking of renaming the Straits “The Salish Sea,” in honour of the First Nations race who are the original inhabitants of the region – it sounds like a good name to me, after all, WTF is Georgia? Straits of Georgia
Looking forward to getting back to the UK to see what has come of the elections and all that…
Time has changed all, but nothing has changed
Thursday 27th May 2010 23:30
Entry No. 194,002
Oh. My. God. Call me if you like. I feel like I’ve been away for 20 years – Late spring sunshine and a warm spell have turned the bare English countryside into a leafy jungle. But the real shocker is the Government… it has coalesced into a bizarre blend of the Left and Right with a strange feeling of retro-doom in the air - it's the only way I can describe the queasy fear of neo-Thatcherism that seems to lurk in the back of many minds. Is the UK to be plunged into an 1980s-style 'Anti-society' with every man for himself? A free-enterprise free for all? Is a consensual coalition really going to work? I have no idea. In one way I dearly hope it does work… but in another...Mmmm… I've seen Zombieland, for that is what we could end up with - rubbity dubs and all. Rip Van Bloody Winkle
On my finger I now wear a magic silver ring, engraved with Native Indian designs. It was given to me at YVR, just before we went through security, by lady called Bonnie Eaglenest. She knew me when I was her late Aunt’s fella, way back in 1980, when she herself was only 10 years old. The 40 year old Bonnie had rushed to the airport to meet me at the last minute. She handed me the ring, hugged me, said it was great to see me again after all these years and that I was a crucial, missing piece in her own jigsaw. Then she went. With that, we said farewell to my parents, entered the time travellers’ queue, and were soon, once again beyond the bounds of earth and time.
*Heesh – Secwepemc: Ghosts and spirits