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For the benefit of my Darling: Recent ridiculousness in Whistler and the Island

12 Jun

It doesn’t matter that it comes every year, each time Summer rolls around the delights it offers seem fresh and new: long evenings where you can sit outside on your deck (or driveway/windowsill if you don’t have one); walks to the beach that might actually include swimming; music festivals; road trips; holidays and; fruit stands on the side of the road (in Ireland some of these sell strawberries AND potatoes) . Much like with the Rory Gallagher festival I can never quite explain why Summer is so brilliant until it’s here and then suddenly I remember all of these things and terrific excitement builds up.

This year whenever I thought of Summer it was with a feeling of apprehension bordering on dread. As much as I was looking forward to getting exams over with and having time to just  wander around Vancouver and Whistler guilt free my lack of concrete plans for the 2 months in Canada I had left once my final papers were in was filling me with all kinds of panic. It didn’t help that every time I spoke to anybody from home they wanted to know exactly what I would be doing. I know it probably seems ridiculous that i didn’t have it sorted. But the idea of applying for a working visa or investigating under the table work or a J1 just seemed too herculean a task when trying to cope with exams (and fitting in the last bit of whistler time) so did keeping this blog up to date actually… So i let the time pass, really there was enough going on to keep me focused on the present, and just like that Summer crept into view.

The first week all thoughts of choosing a summer lifestyle were put on hold as we opted to go on a bit of a leap of faith road trip with a perfect stranger.  It came about in the most seamless and marvellous fashion. The afternoon before finishing exams Stacie, Freda and myself were sitting in the library trying desperately to avoid writing papers or doing any kind of depressing cramming,and we got onto the topic of road trips and how awesome it would be to see more of BC, if only we had a car.  Then in one of those flashes of freakishly good luck that have become almost commonplace this past year we found Kyle. I was just skimming through my e-mails when one from the Vancouver couchsurfer group caught my eye. Somebody was hoping to go camping, he just needed companions to help fill his car/tent and pay for gas. We shot  him an e-mail and that was that, 2 days later we were in the back of said car swapping couchsurfing memories and figuring out where we should stop to buy beer and marshmallows.

Vintage Hanging out in KelownaThis little holiday saw us revive the lost art of ‘hanging out’, you know back when you were a teenager, still living in a small town where your socialising options were limited both by a general lack of independent funds/ transport/ appealing places to go, and the added hindrance of being underage. Instead of meeting your friends for coffee or going for a beer it was a crate of Rolling Rock in a windy field, or maybe no Rolling Rock at all, just 5 or 6 young ones and their imaginations, cue four or five hours of absurd conversation and at least 3 uncontrollable laughing fits. We tested the hanging out waters in Kelowna,  Sicamous, Salmon Arm, by Margaret Falls and on the Kettle Trail and the little beach at Herald campsite.

On reflection the best spot was definitely the beach. So for any teenage readers and the nostalgic hanger out who now has a car get yourselves to a beach if you want to create cheap amusement from limited resources (we spent a good three hours totally engrossed by a very competitive game of ‘pebble log’).

Our travels in the Okanagan region also led to our building our SECOND fort of 2011 (yep we were all about the revisiting childhood past times around this stage). The first came at the instance of my dear friend Helene. Others doubted whether we could build a fort big enough for 16 people to sleep in, or that we could build a fort at all in fact. But Helene had a dreeeeeeeeeam! Ignoring the skeptics and overcoming all kinds of obstacles (including a couch that really didn’t need to be turned over) we managed to produce this:

The exterior, clear Moroccan influence

Fort exterior, Whistler April 2011

Interior...I really thought it was necessary to include this, just to fully impress upon all reading the fort's unimpeachable epicness

Unfortunately life can’t be all fun and fort building and when the Okanagan explorations came to an end it was time to weigh up my options and decide finally what Summer was going to have in score. I could stay in Vancouver and work on campus or take my chances elsewhere, WWOOFing on the island or working in Whistler. I may have given this decision a bit more thought if I hadn’t gone to Whistler for a little visit (it had been 2 entire weeks since our last ski escapade). 3 days of the usual insane fun and the choice was made . At the time the idea of getting some kind of cash paying job as a babysitter or employee in a  mafia run factory (Kyle told me about these, they exist) seemed fairly realistic and the draw of built boys on bikes, long days sunbathing, swimming in lakes, spring skiing and dancing to dubstep while getting all kinds of merry was just too strong. plus you know there are a few people living there I’d be kind of fond of. So a few last days were spent in Vancouver, a much looked forward to birthday was celebrated in hilarious fashion at that pillar of Vancouver night life the Metropole. Breakfast was eaten for dinner, cafés were crawled to, and there were some last revisits to Lynn Canyon and Granville Island. Bags were packed in a rushed manner (too rushed, I have serious concerns that my precious lumberjack shirt has been left in Marine Drive forever) and then I was stepping off a bus to begin a sun drenched Summer in the most brilliant and ridiculous place ever.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this there was a jaunt to Victoria: Scooters through the city; barbequed moose; s’mores; stalking peacocks; that kind of thing. Though no fort was built, we did stop off at this one. We also hung out more, it was becoming a right old trend. With that flying visit to the Island over (and summed up here in similarly brief fashion) I had to face up to some less splendid happenings.There was the small, devastating matter of saying goodbye to Stacie (at whose request I have written this post) and Freda. Without my partners in couchsurfing/hitchhiking/mountain and everyday adventures I felt rather lost. It was all I could do to go out and get ridiculous in that special WHistler way. It’s a very different place in Summer, in early May it is at its quietest, the bike season hasn’t opened but enthusiasm for skiing and boarding is dwindling. Yet the snow stubbornly refused to stop falling, well past the first week of May there were powder days in Whistler, with fresh tracks until the last run for the few who ventured up the hill. In the village Tommy Africas was closed (tragic) with other bars hiring new staff for the busy summer to come. There was talk of buying tire tubes to ride down rivers and dinghies for spending lazy days in the middle of the lake (superior to tubes really since you can take a beer and a book onboard). People were moving houses, changing jobs. Business may have been slow but locals were gearing up, making the necessary preparations for this new summer landscape spilling over with opportunities for new laughs and frolics.

I got to hang out in that awesome environment for a couple of weeks before it became abundantly clear that employment that didn’t contravene the terms of my visa was not forthcoming. Without a job spending the rest of my Canada days in Whistler made very little sense. It’s a great place but it’s not for the empty of bank account. It was time to check out WWOOFing possibilities. For anybody who hasn’t heard of WWOOFing it is yet another incredibly clever internet initiative that lets one travel all over for minimum costs. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms and the long and short of the program is that organic farmers sign up to their national wwoof website as hosts and travellers can come and work on their farms in exchange for room and board, learning all about different types of organic farming in the process. Countries all over the world have their own WWOOF sites and networks, most have an annual members fee which you have to pay before you can see the locations of hosts or read their details but in some countries there is no charge at all. With so much fresh fruit and produce coming from BC there is plenty of demand for WWOOFers in Summer. I emailed a few farms on the sunshine coast, north of Whistler and on the Island and almost all got back to me wanting to come either immediately or in the next few weeks. In the end I chose a farm in the Cowichan valley on the east coast of the Island, said goodbye to married Kiwi companions and family dinners and got my hitch/ferry/bus on to my new home/place of work. It’s a big change of plan. We’ll just see how the rest of Summer plays out.

The photos in this post are not mine, I have stolen them from Celia Burnett and Stacie Jay Godfrey!


Coppers yeh beaut!

19 Jan

It’s the 18th day of a new year. Unspoiled and just barely out of its wrapper, 2011 is full of delicious potential for deadliness! As I’m sure the world has noticed it has been a while since my last post. There have been distractions i’m afraid. Mostly in the shape of late nights spent desperately trying to understand evidence or write about islamic law, ski trips, Seattle trips and Passion pit (the latter a particularly sweet slice of awesomeness). in short the kinds of things I’d usually want most to be writing about (yes even exams, I’ve got a very ranty draft squirrelled away which basically lambasts them for their utter pointlessness. Might be best if it never sees the light of day actually…). But all of these things seem too far away now. i mean it’s a new year, hardly time to go reaching way back into the old one. So instead I’m gonna focus on the most recent banter and antics, the very cream of which took place not in Vancouver at all but in Dublin, and where in Dublin but Coppers?

I’ve been meaning to get to the brilliance of Coppers (or Copper Face Jacks if we’re being formal) for quite the while now. For the uninitiated Coppers is a mammoth club in the Camden/ Harcourt area. Before entering there are a few things that you should know. First of all since it’s a fairly huge place you should always be fairly merry when spending an evening there, you need to be a little bit drunk to endure the vast amount of time you’ll inevitably spend looking for folks after losing them on the stairs/ while you were catching up with somebody from school/ Irish college/ holidays. It’s also important to be aware that Coppers has a (deserved) reputation for being something of a cattle market. In other words, the majority of its patrons are there in search of the shift. So do expect people to come onto you in both traditional and creative fashion, and to see an awful lot of messy people getting pretty into each other on the dancefloor.

Now that you have some idea of what’s in store you can concentrate on enjoying the special Coppers atmosphere. I spent two awesome nights there over the Christmas with some of my very favourite people. Ridiculous dancing, running all over the place. Fairly standard nights in Coppers but then a standard night there is a bit brilliant, I guess put it down to the fantastic mix of people you find in there. Coppers is famous for being the haunt of primary school teachers (and teachers in training), nurses, Gardaí and country people up for the GAA but you can also expect to find a nice handful of Dublin people as well as businessmen and lawyers in their late 30s who have ended up there after a rowdy one at Doheny and Nesbitts.

It’s packed out every night of the week, the soundtrack split between chart and old school cheese. You’ll give it socks on the dancefloor, have hilarious chats in the smoking area, steal an abandoned drink or two, run away from the owner, lose the friends you came with, find new ones and at the very least you’ll go home with somebody’s phone number and a huge smile on your face.


30 Jun

Do you ever remember things that you absolutely loved when you were like 5 and wonder whatever became of them? In the course of chats with my sister there have been recurring mentions of a character called Percival pea,  Percival, if you’re not familiar with him, is a pea with some  human like qualities- a personified pea you might say- he lives in a house, has friends over for tea (although sometimes he forgets they have plans and goes off fishing,very forgetful fellow is Percival), that kind of thing. He’s the co-star of a book called Percival Pea and Polly Pomegranate, which is one in a series called the Garden Gang. The gang are all fruit and vegetables that go around acting like people (Bertie Brussel Sprout was a brilliant footballer) and their names were all delicious alliterations (see Percival and co) except for Penelope Strawberry, that was perhaps an attempt by the author-who was only 9(!)- to go in a bold new direction.

So today, after maybe the sixth conversation in which Percival had somehow come up, Ellen and I got to reminiscing about the Garden gang and their adventures-we had nearly all the books-and just wondering what happened to them. So we decided to find out. I have to admit it wasn’t much of a task. The internet is so great. No need to rummage through the attic or flip through filing cabinets in some dusty library archive. Nope a few fractions of a second’s googling and here they were

I’m pretty sure they’re out of print…I wish we still had them,they’re probably worth well into the zillions at this stage, especially the ones I decorated with red crayon. Well ok this one on Amazon is only 1p but surely that’s because Belinda Blackcurrant was one of the dud members of the gang?

All the talk of Garden Gang then led me to search out this fella

writer of another beloved series about things acting like things that they weren’t. We had this book and it was probably my favourite thing EVER

Mum’s friend gave it to us for Christmas I think, (the previous year she had given me this weird picture book dictionary yoke in French so she had a lot to make up for really). I used to just draw all the characters and pretend I was in the cat family. There was a really hilarious boy cat, bit of a Bart Simpson type who I wanted to BE…I was only like 4 or 5 though and I’m sure any 5 year old, or expert on 5 year olds will tell you this sort of aspiration was 100% normal.

Then I discovered that there was also a TV show of the books (I think I remember watching it actually)on TCC (REMEMBER TCC?!) which led to even more searching and rediscovering. I must say the successful unearthing of the childhood faves was a bit of a thrill. Gotta recommend it as a source of entertainment when it’s raining and you want to inject yourself with some of that lovely childhood joy..