Saturday, April 30, 2011


Today's soundtrack:
"Barbra Streisand" by Duck Sauce
"In the End It's Your Friends" by Shout Out Out Out Out
"Piste 1" by Galaxie
"Stop or Start" by Fine Mist
"Synesthésie" by Malajube
"True Patriot Love" by Joel Plaskett

Living in Scotland is a lot like living in a parallel universe: Everything looks the same, but is just a little bit different. And I'm not referring to the driving on the other side of the street. Well, not only. I'll be going about my day when, all of a sudden, I'm forced to admit that Scotland is another country that I know very little about (Braveheart and Trainspotting aside). A smattering of observations from the past few days:

- Fresh Produce: I had no idea how much we overpay for fresh produce in Canada. Jets, schmets. We should be up in arms protesting for cheaper produce this election. A week's worth of tomatoes used to run us around $9 CAN. Today, we spent a scant £2. Even with the conversion, that's a steal at twice the price. NAFTA was supposed to makes things like veg and fruit cheaper, but really didn't. The EU actually has.

- Lingo: I know say things like "veg" instead of "vegetable". I also say "chips" rather than "fries", "crisps" rather than "chips", and "christened" instead of "ah crap, a seagull just shit on me". Also, I've learned that "frisky wee burn"* is not as dirty as I thought it was.

- TV License: In the UK, in addition to paying for cable, you must also pay for a license. Failure of payment will result in several men showing up at your door for an inspection (NB: a lack of need to pay for a license may also result in several men showing up at your door). The means that if you want to watch TV or a show live on your computer, you must pay a fee of around £150 per annum. But if you wait an hour, the show'll turn up on the iPlayer and then you can watch it for free (it's no longer "live"), without having to pay the fee. As a result, even though we don't have a TV license and I must wait an extra hour before being able to see the new Doctor Who episode, I can still watch it hours before my Canadian Whovians.

- High Anglicans are more Catholic than the Catholics: We went to a lovely wedding ceremony today which was celebrated in a High Anglican service. I've never seen so much incense flung around in my life. Am now very curious to see what passes for a Catholic mass in this country. My suspicion is that it's nothing more than a drum circle of folks singing "Kum-by-ya" by comparison.

- Crazy Old Ladies: Granted, we do have these in Canada as well, but usually I can understand what the toothless old lady is yelling about at the bus stop. Today, all I managed to glean was "miner's daughter", "Dundee", "handicap", and "my own country". I also don't think teeth would've really helped the situation.

- Beer, wine, and spirits can be bought at the supermarket. Warning: buying San Miguel may result in a particular Spaniard shouting "donde va triumfa!" at random intervals. May also result in an Edwardian polishing off a bottle of wine and then deciding this was the best time to blog about moving to Scotland.

- Sean Connery: Don't be surprised if one or more of your neighbours bears a striking resemblance.

- Birds: The variety and differences are amazing. When I was down on the seashore, I snapped a photo of a black and white duck I'd never seen before. I asked the local experts if they knew what it was. "An eider", they smartly replied. "An eider?" I asked, trying to get the pronunciation right. The resident Sean Connery piped up, smiling, "Aye, eider a bird or a duck".

These are just a smattering of slightly-jarring differences I've noted. In all, it's been a surprisingly easy transition. Everyday, thus far, has been sunny and beautiful. We've ventured up to St. Andrews, around the village, and I've wandered up and down the seashore. We have wonderful landlords/neighbours who threw a welcome bash for us last night, making sure we met the rest of the neighbourhood characters. Tragically, the Spaniard did not break out either his beret or his blanket kilt for the occasion.

Aside from our neighbours, who've gone out of their way to make us feel welcome, my acclimatizing to Scotland has taken the form of writing in a "Keep Calm and Carry On" journal that the great and illustrious Lady J gave me, alongside copious amounts of wine (of which, I've no doubt, the Lady J would also approve). The Spaniard's acclimatizing has taken a different form. He's hibernating with the final Harry Potter book, shouting about giant snakes and does from the Tower.

* a fast-moving stream.

Friday, April 22, 2011

it's all over but the cleaning

Today's soundtrack:
The Cleaning SkipMix

And then suddenly, it's real. The movers came yesterday and loaded everything, we're living out of our half-packed bags, and we slept on an air mattress last night (Thanks John!). The chaos we've been living in for the past two months has changed into monk-like simplicity. We are bravely facing life spoonless, tableless, and internetless.

Well, maybe we're not so bravely facing that last one. Hence this hectic and not at all coherent post. Everything must get done before the 5pm Shaw deadline and we're sent back into 1991.

Everyone seems keen to send us off to Scotland right. Yesterday, the moderators of CID started a thread of Canadian goodness (Rav Link) to send us on our way. They know full well I'm not leaving the group, but they still felt compelled to send me off right (unlike the Canucks, who are apparently compelled to send me off wrong)... although this likely has something to do with my soon-to-be proximity to Scottish yarns, wools, and tweeds. And tonight there'll be an iLab party to send Miguel off in style, which means that by 3am he'll likely be shouting "Exterminate!" at all and sundry. Apologies in advance.

In all, I'm pretty happy, excited, and even a little relaxed about the move. The only thing that is bothering me is the internet. Our internet won't be set up in Scotland until May 4th, but, for those of you keeping score, the Canadian election is on May 2nd. The only free internet access is at the public library, open a sparse few hours a week. So, if anyone knows of a reputable, fast carrier pigeon, I'm all ears.

Friday, April 15, 2011

bermuda shorts day

Today's soundtrack:
drunken debauchery in the back alley

Any given day, there is a to-do list. At the top of today's list was changing our mailing address. Not a big deal.. except that today is Bermuda Shorts Day up at the University of Calgary and since we live in the Student Ghetto, this place is lousy with drunk undergrads. But it's only around noon, so I ask myself "what's the worst that could happen on the 3 minute walk between here and the post office?". Piles of vomit? Passed out engineers? Bah! The most dangerous thing between here and the post office was that the temperature is hovering around 0ºC. So I pop on my oh so snazzy CBC Radio 3 toque, head out the door and down the alley.

I am not more than a dozen steps into the alley when one of the undergrads, who has been holding court on the first floor balcony since 9am, pops his head out the door and shouts "Nice hat, faggot!". I stopped, looked up at the window where his rather mortified friend was standing, and said "really?!". I was shocked. I couldn't think of a wittier retort. My mind was reeling.

I've never had the word "faggot" hurled at me before, but it brought back all the associations of Grade 7. McGirr Elementary. Allison. Oh yes, I remember you. See, I was a real late bloomer and definitely going through an awkward stage. I was also new to this rather cliquey elementary school. And Allison started a rumour that I was actually a boy and that I'd moved to Nanaimo in order to restart my life as a girl. People believed her, including a boy, who would later become a dear friend of mine, but was so afraid the rumour was true that he wouldn't even speak to me for that first year. I was a complete pariah. Didn't help matters when the following year I chopped off my hair into a very cute pixie cut. "Are you a boy?" was a now-familiar refrain. I started to wear makeup and became hyper-feminine in an effort, I thought, to stem the abuse. When that didn't work, I picked up Friedan and de Beauvoir and challenged the stereotypes directly. No makeup. No form-fitting clothes. If you're going to judge me based on my appearance, then you're the last person I care to get to know.

I'd love to say that this new post-Grade 10 outlook left me full of self-confidence and self-esteem, but that'd be a lie. I've never felt secure in how I look, but I firmly believe that this is true for the majority of girls and women. Even now, I have absolutely no self-confidence when it comes to my appearance, while simultaneously I am aware that this lack of confidence is the result of a sexist media and patriarchal society.

By the drunken undergrad shouting "faggot!" at me, all the gender insecurity came flooding back. Am I not feminine enough? Maybe I should have worn some makeup today? What am I doing wrong? Yes, I know that the fellow is drunk, homophobic, insecure, and likely compensating. I know that I, in fact, did nothing at all wrong. I also know that I'd have to multiply how I feel at the moment by around a gazillion in order to come close to how a GLBT individual would feel.

Yet here I sit, firmly committed to growing my hair long again.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Rob Anders: Hasn't He Done Enough?

Today's soundtrack:
"True Patriot Love" by Joel Plaskett
"Oh.. Canada" by Classified

Today, I proudly announce a campaign to help out one of our own. A fellow Calgarian, just like our esteemed Prime Minister, who has worked tirelessly in Canadian politics since 1997 (CPC profile). A man so bold in his convictions, so firm in his beliefs, that the party that he represents does not even feel the need to force this man to campaign in his own riding during elections. I am speaking, of course, of Calgary-West's own Rob Anders.

But who is this man that has worked so doggedly for his riding? You may well ask, gentle reader. After earning a degree in Political Science from the University of Calgary, Anders grudgingly went to work in the States, helping the Republican Party's Jim Inhofe and overcoming his own quiet, demuring ways to become known a "foreign political saboteur" and a professional heckler (CBC profile). It was there, analysts believe, that Anders first became acquainted with the emerging philosophy of speaking from one's gut, or as it is known colloquially, Gut-Oral-Projection (or, more colloquially still, GOP). It is the GOP philosophy that has provided Anders with both his outlook and dogmatic guidance over the years.

Anders returned to Canada after his years abroad determined to make his home country a better place (unlike Michael Ignatieff who most definitely did not come back for us). He began by bravely facing off against fat, bureaucratic unions whose only goal is to swell their numbers in order to beat terrified, undefended, poor capitalists into submission. It was here that his path first crossed with that of Stephen Harper and the Reform Party of Canada. He was integral to the development of the Reform Party and their policies, both of which were helped not only by his GOP philosophy, but also his links to Focus on the Family and the Canadian Family Action Coalition, to name a few.

After being elected, Anders worked so tirelessly that he did not even have the strength to speak up in Parliament but a few times; however, those few times he did step onto the floor, Anders bravely spoke up for those who didn't have a voice. Who among us can forget the time when in 2001 Anders denounced Nelson Mandela as a "communist and a terrorist", striking a blow simultaneously for both McCarthy and Botha. Or the time when Anders gave Patton-esque military wisdom with his message in 2010 to Canadian troops in Afganistan "If in doubt, pull the trigger", brilliantly sweeping away past the past demons of Somalia. A true parliamentarian to the core, his giving of the middle finger to the opposition didn't even make hansard.

Yet after all he has done both on the Hill and in his riding (I, for one, am filled with glee when I open my mailbox to find yet another CPC mailer warning of the dangers of immigration, Muslims, and the Canadian Human Rights Act), Harper still will not let Anders take a knee, relax, and retire. How much more does Harper want to wring from this poor, over-commited, dedicated public servant? How much more can Anders take?

The solution is clear. The only way to give Anders the retirement he deserves - the retirement that all partisans so intent on destroying cronyism that they themselves become cronies truly deserve - is to send Anders to the Senate. It shouldn't be too difficult, seeing as the Senate is still an appointed body and Anders has the unblinking support of Harper. Send Harper a clear message. Support Anders by getting him into the Senate. Support Anders by voting him out this election.

Rob Anders: Hasn't he done enough?