Saturday, October 30, 2010

Very disappointed!

There was a new event to look forward to on the Peninsula this year: Enchanted Halloween at Heritage Acres. Organised by the folks who put on the spectacular Luminara in Victoria, we turned up with high expectations of a great evening out in exchange for the rather stiff entrance fee.

We came away sadly disappointed.

There were good points, to be sure. The grounds were well-decorated in Halloween themes.

We enjoyed the musical performers and the comical elf in the creepy boathouse.

But beyond that, there was in fact very little to see.

Furthermore, we'd skipped our evening meal intending to support the event at the concession stall. We lined up, hungry, for about 20 minutes and ordered hot dogs. For $3 apiece we were given the tiniest, stingiest hot dogs I've ever seen in my life. About two mouthfuls each, even for the children.

We wandered around the rest of the village and stopped off last of all at the miniature train ride. The miniature railway, snaking for hundreds of yards through the forest, through tunnels and over bridges, is a must-do every time we visit.

But the line-up was staggering. Probably a combination of the number of people there and the fact that there was not much else to do. In the end even Matthew conceded that we were not going to wait over an hour for a ride and, sadly, we turned away.

To cap it all, stomachs rumbling, we headed back to the car intending to raid the freezer at home - and got stuck for half an hour in a traffic jam. An unbelievable first for this venue. The event organisers had allowed people to park on both sides of the narrow, kilometre-long road from the highway, leaving room in many places for only a single line of traffic down the middle. Half-way down this road, where it was at its narrowest, a convoy of exiting traffic came head-to-head with a line of vehicles trying to enter.

Obviously only a rocket scientist could ever predict out how that was going to work.

In summary, we felt that Heritage Acres usually put on a far more lively, atmospheric, and enjoyable evening out for their annual Christmas in the Village, and for half the price.

We thought this would be a great event to put Heritage Acres, a place we enjoy visiting but which seems to be little known in Victoria, firmly on the map. In the end our most fervent hope is that this disasterous event has not damaged the place's reputation for people who've never been before, and who are unlikely to want to return.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Festive veggies

Here's a couple of very simple but delicious twists on vegetables to add a little variety to that Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

These are both "seat of the pants" recipes, so quantities are expressed with cheerful disregard for cook-book precision.

Parsnips in creamy horseradish


Horseradish sauce - mild, medium, or strong according to your taste
Whipping cream
Grated parmesan


Whatever quantity of parsnips you want to serve. Depends on number of people, and what other veggies you are serving, and how much you like parsnips.

Equal quantities of horseradish sauce and cream, enough altogether to coat the parsnips. If I'm making a small dish for 2 or 3 people I usually use about half of a small (125ml) jar of horseradish.

A generous sprinkling of parmesan.


Peel and cut the parsnips into pieces. I usually cut them lengthwise into finger-sized pieces.

Place into salted water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

Drain and place into a small baking dish. Mix the horseradish and cream and pour over the parsnips. Sprinkle with parmesan.

Put in the oven at 350 F for half an hour. The cream should be bubbling and the cheese starting to brown.

Sprouts with mushrooms


Flaked almonds
Button mushrooms - either white or chestnut
Generous knob of butter


Equal quantities of sprouts and mushrooms. Depending on the size of the mushrooms, use them whole, halved, or quartered. The pieces should be about the same size as the sprouts.

Enough almonds to sprinkle over the top.


Fry the almonds in a little butter until they start to brown.

Remove the almonds from the pan and set aside.

Add more butter to the pan and fry the mushrooms.

Meanwhile, boil and simmer the sprouts in salted water for about 5 minutes. They should be just about cooked and still crisp. I think sprouts get a bad rap mostly because people overcook them. A properly-cooked sprout should never be soggy!

Drain the sprouts and add them to the mushrooms. Stir until the sprouts are coated in the butter and juices.

Serve sprinkled with the fried almonds.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Happy anniversary!

Today is our sixth anniversary in Canada. Hurray! And (random uninteresting factoid coming up) October 24 six years ago when we landed in Vancouver was also a Sunday.

In the end, we didn't do anything special to celebrate. It was just a normal Sunday. Ali and Matthew spent most of the morning sorting bottles at a Cubs fundraiser for a camp next year. I tried (and failed) to find a replacement part for a wonky kitchen drawer, and cut a load more pieces for the pirate ship. Then, in between showers and the hands-on stages of bread-making, we all took a wander around Butchart Gardens and renewed our annual memberships.

Today also marks the completion of the first year of this blog.

When I looked back at my first post, I tried to remember what was going through my mind when I embarked on this first foray into an online presence.

I think a part of the initial impetus came from the inescapable exhortations for writers to establish themselves online well ahead of any prospect of publication. Build a platform, we keep getting advised. I guess a part of that was in my mind, and the timing (no prospect of publication on the horizon, captain) was in the right ball park. But that motive certainly wasn't foremost then, and it isn't now.

My main aim back then was to provide a means for family and friends in distant parts of the globe to keep up with our adventures in Canada. We have friends back in Guernsey who still dream of emigrating themselves, and this might give some window into the pleasures and pitfalls of such a move.

A year ago, I thought that the only people who'd ever see this blog would be people who already knew me.

A year later, and the people I started writing for rarely, if ever, visit. But instead my online life has been enriched by a small group of regular visitors.

And you are all most welcome.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Global Suckishness Index

I guess it's just coincidence, but there's been a bit of a trend in some of the recent blog posts I've been following. For example (and ignoring the many blogs dedicated entirely to rants about the state of the world) there's Sam's and Lettucehead's sad experiences in today's employment market, and David talking about the perils of the New York subway.

Anyway, it sparked some thoughts about the general suckishness of the world at large, and why this might be so.

And I came to a startling realisation.

There's a lot of natural danger and hardship out there, and disasters regularly hit the headlines - hurricanes, floods, droughts. But in reality those are minor blips and there is more than enough wealth and resourcefulness in the world to deal with them. Nature really accounts for only a tiny proportion of hardship.

The only logical conclusion is that the vast proportion (I'd guess maybe 95%) of human misery is entirely man-made!

Worse, much of the man-made misery is deliberate, and all of it is avoidable.

Some of it is down to religion - "my belief is better than your belief, and you'd better believe it!" - but most is caused by people wanting to get more out of the system than they are willing to put in.

And that's almost always expressed in terms of money.

Money is the root of all evil?

Here's a little thought experiment.

What if I suggested that money is unnecessary?

What would happen if we all woke up tomorrow in a world without money?

Chaos! Mayhem! Everyone suddenly penniless and starving!

But wait. Why should that be? Did the sun fail to rise on this penniless world? Did crops stop growing?

Stop and think for a moment. What if everyone simply carried on as they did yesterday? You got up, went in to work and did whatever you do. You went to the store and took from the shelves exactly what you would have done before. The shelves are still stocked because the people who stock them turned up as normal. The delivery trucks arrived, fully loaded, as normal because all the factories and warehouses kept working.

It gets better. You walk out of the store a lot quicker because you didn't have to line up to pay. OK, spare a thought for all those cashiers who suddenly don't have anything to do. Aren't they in trouble? Out of a job? But why would they be in trouble? In a world without money they don't need a job. Every other part of their life could carry on as normal. But then they could pitch in and help unload the trucks and stack the shelves and then everyone could go home early.

And think of all those millions of people working in banks across the globe. A whole industry, suddenly redundant. But nobody need go hungry because nothing important has stopped happening. And all those spare pairs of hands that could be turned to doing something genuinely productive.

When you look at it like that, the whole concept of money is nothing more than a vast and unnecessary drain on the planet.

OK, there's one glaring hole in this scenario. Everyone wouldn't just carry on as before. How many milliseconds would we be into the new day before somebody, somewhere, said to themselves "why should he get fillet steak while I'm making do with a Kraft dinner?" Human nature would kick in PDQ, and we'd all start taking more out of the system than it can sustain. That is why everything would descend into chaos and mayhem.

The truth is that there is more than enough food and water, space and energy for us all to live comfortable lives. But human nature compels us to want more, and to take it unless something stops us. Money may have its problems, but it's the most effective mechanism we have for putting a throttle on what we take from the world.

For me, the most frightening thing that global capitalism has unleashed on the world is a new and insidious form of life, and this is where the endemic global suckishness comes from. All the big corporations and financial institutions have taken on a life of their own and they are out of control. They've become self-serving and self-perpetuating, all-powerful, and utterly divorced from any moral or social conscience.

I don't think we're going to change human nature in a hurry, we probably can't do without money as a means of regulating access to resources, so as far as I see it the answer must lie in changing how we manage the flow of money. What we need are financial and corporate mechanisms that put the welfare of the general population back into the frame as the most important shareholder.

I don't pretend to have answers, this is only a rant after all, but I'm happy to accept any suggestions...written on the back of $20 bills.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Braised pork with clams

Following up on the promise I made to post some recipes, here is a dish we had as a pre-Thanksgiving warm-up the day before the main turkey event.

This is inspired by something I ate at a wonderful Portugese restaurant in the Channel Islands, and which I tried to recreate from memory many years later so I won't make any claims of authenticity. Would you believe that I had to wait until we reached Canada to have a proper go at it, because I just could not get hold of clams in Guernsey?


1 medium onion, chopped
Olive oil
Lean pork, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 or 2 tomatoes, chopped
Tomato ketchup
1 or 2 tins of clams, drained
Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes


You'll notice the above list is a bit light on quantities, because this is a "seat of the pants" recipe, not something from a book.

Basically, you want enough pork for a meal for however many people you are cooking for, and roughly the same amount of potatoes. Enough clams to make a noticeable contribution without overwhelming the dish. When cooking for two people I use one tin. For a larger quantity I use two.


Cook this dish in a large pan or frying pan with a lid.

Fry the onion gently in some olive oil until it softens and starts to go golden.

Turn the heat to high, add the pork to the pan and fry until it changes colour.

Add the tomatoes. Keep stirring until the tomatoes start to mash down. The pork and tomatoes together should provide enough liquid, but if the mixture looks dry and starts catching on the bottom of the pan then add a splash of water.

Once you have some liquid coating the bottom of the pan, turn the heat down very low. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the pork is tender - at least one hour. If you can leave it going very gently for two hours then do so.

Timing is not too critical for this dish, it is something you can comfortably leave on a low heat for ages, or even prepare ahead of time, turn off the heat, and resume cooking later on.

While the pork is cooking, place the diced potatoes in a pan of salted water. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Timing depends on the variety of potato. You want them to have started cooking but still be firm, not about to flake at the edges.

Drain the potatoes, and fry in a mixture of olive oil and butter until crisp and golden. Take off the heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, back at the pork...

About half an hour before you are ready to serve, add a generous squirt of tomato ketchup to the pork, enough to thicken the sauce a bit.

Stir in the clams.

Ten minutes before serving, stir in a dash of cream. Bring the heat up to medium and add the cooked potatoes. Mix everything thoroughly and simmer to ensure the potatoes are hot through (depends how long you left them to one side, and this will depend on how good your timing is), then serve.

Delicious with a simple green salad, fresh-baked olive bread...and a nice Chianti

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It could be you!

From time to time, us unpublished writers battling through the writing, revising, querying process just need a reminder that occasionally unpublished writers really do become published authors. Occasionally.

N.B. I seriously dislike the term "pre-published". To me it sounds pretentious and has a slightly icky air of entitlement to it. I am unpublished. I don't need to dress it up and make it sound like something it isn't.

Anyway, to get back to the point, here is that reminder.

Today is the release date for Alex J. Cavanaugh's sci-fi novel CassaStar.

So pop over to Alex's blog, say "Hi," join in the party and read more about his work. Then you can say "I knew him before he was famous."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Take a bow...

Bow section finally finished, and I'm pleased with how it finally shaped up. I've been worrying about that part for ages, with planks going at all sorts of funny angles, but it was remarkably easy in the end.

You can also see the planking starting to extend down to the stern, and the rope ladder up to the crows nest.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Olive bread

Here is a recipe transcribed from a photocopied sheet. I think we inherited this from a book somewhere in the mists of history, but there are no obvious clues as to origin on the sheet.

This is a recipe for a bread maker, and makes a 2lb loaf.

Official version

1 1/4 cups water
1/3 cup chopped pimento-stuffed green olives
1/4 cup chopped ripe olives
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast or bread machine yeast

The instructions are to put the ingredients in according to the manufacturer's directions (in our case, liquids, then all the sundry ingredients, with flour on top and the yeast last of all) and bake on a basic white bread cycle.

My adjustments

I've found with these recipes that it works best to use slightly more liquid and sugar than directed. So nearer to 1 1/2 cups water, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar. This is something you have to experiment with for best results.

I don't bother with green olives, just using a generous 1/2 to 3/4 cup of chopped black olives instead. Generous, because Ali and I both like our olives. Exact quantity not really important.

I like to include a bit of wholewheat flour in the mix, maybe 1/2 cup, rather than all white flour. Same overall quantity, though.

Rather that use a full cycle, I prefer to use the dough setting and finish off in the oven.

Once the bread maker has finished the dough, turn it out into a bowl, knead briefly, then cover and stand in a warm place to rise for about 45 minutes.

Knead again and shape on a baking tray. Leave to rise again for another 45 minutes or so.

For rising, I get good and consistent results by setting the oven to 170 F, and then switching it off as soon as it is up to temperature.

The nice thing about dough is that you have a lot more freedom to portion it out or make one big loaf, or even make little buns just for fun. Last weekend I split the mix in half and made two loaves: one to eat immediately, and one for the freezer.

Once the bread has risen, decorate with some whole olives. Bake at 365 F for 25 minutes.

When the bread is baked, brush lightly with olive oil and leave to cool...if you can!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

In the spirit of "when in Rome", we've taken to celebrating Thanksgiving. I think it is fitting, because this was the time of year we were busy winding up our old lives back in Guernsey and getting ready, nervous (read: petrified), to decamp to a new country.

For many Canadians, this is a huge family affair. People don't bat an eyelid at talk of cooking for 20 or more but it took a couple of years for us to realise this, because, although huge, this is an intensely private holiday. Although it is talked about, there is none of the OTT commercial hype of Halloween or Christmas.

Of course, we don't have family over here so we celebrate in our own quiet way.

This weekend, we were joined by a good friend now living up in Courtenay. He arrived yesterday, shortly after Ali and the kids returned from an overnight Cub camp. We saved the turkey dinner for today, getting the gastronomic side of things off to a start last night with a dish of braised pork and clams with fresh-baked olive bread and a crisp salad. Today, we pottered around for a while before preparing the turkey for the oven, then went out for a good long hike (and a bit of geocaching along the way) to work up an appetite. Turkey was served with a couple of our signature vegetable dishes: sprouts with mushrooms and almonds, and parsnips in creamy horseradish sauce. We finished off settling down to watch Avatar.

If there's any interest, I'll try posting some recipes another time.

So that was our Thanksgiving. How was yours?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

An award

Many thanks to Gary for passing me the "One Lovely Blog" award.

Gary is another expat, but in the opposite direction. Native of British Columbia, now living in England. Good luck over there, Gary. I recommend you check out his blog, and his surreal sense of humour.

In turn, I need to pass on the award to some of the many fine blogs that I know about. I'm limiting myself to five, and not putting a lot of science into this, so please don't feel put out if I miss you. Also I know this award is well-established in the blogging community, so I apologise if you've already received it. Hey! It gives you a chance to pass on to someone new if you were spoiled for choice first time around.

So, in no particular order, I declare the following Lovely Blogs:

Saloma (About Amish) - with some inspirational views on life and freedom.

David (The Bimillennial Man) - Mr Gadget, with some astute observations on the world at large. David, I know you don't care for tags and awards, but I wanted to acknowledge your blog anyway.

Jean (Discarded Darlings) - and her office full of characters giving her hell as she tries to focus on writing. But watch out for the cyborg attack weasels!

Laura Pauling - with her insightful views on writing.

Jan (Tartitude) - from the land of pith and zest.

And Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!

Friday, October 8, 2010

A day in the life...

Sometimes when we sit down to eat as a family, we go through the usual rounds of "what did you do at school/work today?" We each take turns to tell something about our respective days.

When it comes to me, unless something out of the ordinary has happened that the rest of the family can relate to (i.e. not technical IT stuff), and unless I've seen deer or other wildlife on the trail, my stock response is usually "meetings". It's become a bit of a standing joke. I mean, most of what I do would need an hour of backstory and explanation to make any sense of it, or is just one of a myriad tiny events that make up my day.

So here is my dinner-time report of a typical day last week...

8:15 Drop lunch things on desk and sign on to network. Launch usual programs - Outlook, a time tracking spreadsheet, and a word document with all my "to-do's" and reference information. I'd be lost without that document.

Clear out action items finished yesterday, check calendar (groan!), and skim emails for anything burning. I like to keep my inbox down to one page, everything else gets deleted, answered and deleted, or added to my to-do list and filed or deleted.

8:30 Weekly one-on-one with one of my direct reports. Quick check-in, things going OK. Finish early.

8:50 Manage to get hold of member of staff to verify what an expense claim covers (system descriptions not very descriptive) and what is still left to pay.

9:00 Meeting with five members of staff to discuss exchange of knowledge on how to maintain part of one of our systems. They've already got things rolling. Good. Way more "can-do" and initiative now than when I first joined the department.

9:25 Director collars me and one of my team leads looking for some information on another application. Needed urgently for a business case going into the new technology planning process for next fiscal.

9:30 Weekly progress meeting on a development project to replace an obsolete module that refused to port to Windows 2003. Verified everything ready for a demo to the business owners this afternoon.

10:00 Gap before next meeting. Clear off the emails that keep magically appearing.

Crap. Server issues affecting another one of our applications. The team is stretched trying to keep production services running, and an aggressive project manager is still badgering them about some testing due to be completed today. Get real! I need to step in for a manager-to-manager chat about priorities. Few trips backwards and forwards through the building to calm nerves, discuss business pressures and priorities, and get a true sense of the issues and possibilities. With contractual obligations hanging over us, the business owner is seriously thinking about putting this testing ahead of production. That is unheard of; he must be nervous. It's his call at the end of the day, but I need to make darned sure he has good information to base a decision on. The team at my end also need clear direction and reassurance that I'm ready to back them up and keep the shit off their backs. Compose a quick email to summarise the conclusions clearly, and then speak to the director in Hosting to escalate the issue.

11:00 Weekly one-on-one with another direct report. All calm there too.

11:30 Meeting with a Security manager to discuss internet blocking policy.

12:00 Another email blitz. Wow! Some good news about a member of staff who's been battling cancer and might be getting ready to return to work. It's nice to hear good tidings once in a while.

Server issues still not fixed, but business owner seems reconciled to the testing being held up.

12:15 Update performance and development plan. Work goals still relevant. Career goals...entirely irrelevant while we're all in siege mode trying to survive on a shoestring.

12:30 Breathing space to get back to those emails that I've not had a chance to deal with properly yet. Yes, I do have a system, but some things need a bit more time to handle than others and it's amazing how quickly things can get out of control. Clear out all the older versions of running email conversations. Delete anything that I missed first time around. Read the rest carefully to make sure there's not an action item buried in there. Don't want to drop anything.

12:50 Try to track down my director to check in on a few things. Saw she's had some information from the team but want to make sure she's got what she needs for the planning meeting. Also not yet had a chance to brief her on the service issues (still outstanding).

1:05 Eat lunch while reading a redrafted business case. Morphed from a relatively simple replacement proposal into a transformational service management strategy. Nicely worded, clear story. Well done. Note of appreciation to the authors.

1:50 Go down to the presentation room to help prepare for the demonstration. Mild heart attack. The room is full of other people and they look like they're settled in for a long spell! Double check room booking. Yes, officially we're still on. Start sweating as 2:00 approaches, my team and business users gather outside the door, and the squatters seem no closer to finishing.

2:00 Mild heart attack.

2:00:30 Room empties. We enter. Presentation goes well and we finish early.

2:50 Meet with manager colleague to discuss agenda items for an all-staff meeting scheduled next week. Director supposed to be there but warned me she might not make it. We reckon there are some big-ticket items that will be on people's minds so build the agenda around those.

3:30 Back to email hell.

3:40 Mentally shift gears again. Gather together preparation notes for interview we need to conduct next week.

4:00 Meeting with other member of interview panel to discuss key selection criteria and suitable questions. Director still tied up in planning meeting, and it's her competition. We reckon we've got a good set of questions now, but will need to discuss weightings and scoring next week.

4:40 Final tidy up. Check no loose ends and nothing critical left outstanding.

There's a year's worth of stuff on my to-do list that I may never get around to doing. In this overstretched and understaffed world prioritisation is the name of the game. We are all living under the tyranny of the immediate. If I can get through the day finishing the things I'd earmarked for today then I'm happy. If I knock off an item from tomorrow's list ahead of time, well, that's a bonus.

4:50 Shut down PC and head for home.

So, how would you convey any of that at the family dinner table?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Then and now

In case you hadn't noticed, the "Dear Aunt Agatha" series of posts is a flashback to snapshots exactly five years ago (at the time of writing), giving a real-time account of our progress as new immigrants. These posts are in the form of fictional letters to a fictional relative back in The Old Country (as we immigrants like to say).

David's comment on yesterday's post sparked a thought: opportune moment to provide an update on where those things I wrote about yesterday stand now.

Work: I feel I'm well entrenched in the fabric of the organisation now, and fully at home there. Yes it's big and complicated, and I still learn new things every day, but I feel like I've got my head around it now. I suppose this is helped by the fact that the Ministry has reorganised at least once a year since I joined, so the current organisation is really only a few months old, and people who've been in the building for thirty years are at almost as much of a disadvantage in understanding it as a complete newcomer.

One thing I can say with confidence: I've not experienced a single day of boredom there. In fact, it can be too exciting for comfort at times.

Cycling: I wasn't too far off in my estimate. My commute takes about an hour on average. A bit longer at the start of the year, and a bit less when my body has lost some of the winter sloth. I don't cycle in the dark months, and I certainly don't cycle every day. Hmmm...idea for future post...have to take the camera out one day and show you the trail rather than talking about it.

Megan and Matthew still enjoy school. The boredom didn't last long and Megan is a good, keen student but has to put in the effort to keep up nowadays, rather than breezing it like she did at first. For Matthew, we've concluded that the content of his lessons is probably less important than simply having a teacher he can relate to and will listen to. They are both busy these days with extra-curricular activities. Way too much choice available!

Ali's commitments have expanded too. Stints on the PAC, and other school committee duties, as well as Guide and Cub leader, and even Guide District Commissioner along the way. Talk about sucker for punishment.

So, after the frenzy and pioneering feelings of immigration, life has settled into familiar routines. Hectic ones at times, yes, and ever-changing from one term to the next as everyone tries to juggle a multitude of interests in the standard allotment of time. Does any of that sound familiar to other parents out there?

Incidentally, yesterday's post was the 100th on this blog. I had no idea when I started this venture that I'd have so much to write about.

(2005) Work and school

October 2005

Dear Aunt Agatha,

Life is finally settling into something like a normal routine.

I think I'm starting to get a grip on my new job, even though it's so unlike anything I've ever done before. More differences I've noticed: love of email (I think I now get more in a day than I used to in a month) and endless meetings.

After nearly a year out of the saddle I've finally got my bike back into commission and I'm checking out possible routes into work. The good news is that there's a stunning trail going all the way down the Peninsula and into Victoria, well maintained and well away from busy roads. The bad news is that I haven't figured yet how long it's going to take me to commute, but it'll probably be at least an hour each way. Good job they have changing rooms and showers at work.

Megan and Matthew are enjoying school and pre-school respectively. Megan said once that she wished it wasn't the weekend, because she wanted to be back at school! Wonder how long that'll last. On the flip side, though, she is struggling a bit with the slower pace of schooling here compared to the UK. She went into kindergarten last year writing whole paragraphs in her journal while many of her friends were still learning to form the letters of their names. Now in grade 1, they are starting all over again for the benefit of kids who missed kindergarten. Megan is getting bored and we've asked her teacher to give her assignments to stretch her a bit.

I know that the disparity between the school systems can cause problems the other way, too. When I was 11, a kid from Canada joined my class. He struggled and never really caught up with the more academic subjects. At the time everyone just thought he wasn't too bright, and I think he came to believe it. But I wonder now how much of a different course his life might have taken if he'd stayed at a consistent pace within one single school system.

On the other hand, we reckon the pace will suit Matthew well. He won't be pushed, and he likes to pick things up when he's good and ready, thank you very much.

Ali's been getting involved in the school, working with some of the other parents to organise a "walking school bus". And she volunteered to help set up a Sparks unit in the district. Megan wants to join Sparks, but the nearest unit is full and they have enough girls on the waiting list for another unit. What they were missing was helpers to run it. Well, there's nothing like getting involved in the local community to help settle in.

The whole moving experience was quite an adventure, but now, nearly a year on, it's good to feel that we are all establishing ourselves in this country.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

My, how you've grown

The pirate ship has much more of a ship-like feel to it now that the masts are full height and partially rigged.

I had one heck of a job capturing the end result on camera, though. I settled for a close-up from each end to try to show both the height of the masts and some of the detail.

Even so, it's not too easy to see properly in these photos. As usual, if you click on an image you can see it full size which might help. You can see the new steps in both of these shots too.

I spent most of yesterday clambering up and down ladders, and I can feel the effects today so I think it's time for a day off.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Tent city

So this is what happens the first fine weekend after a rainy Guide camp...

Some are hidden behind others so you can't actually see them all from any one angle, but there are actually nine tents in all adorning our front yard. Pleased to report, though, that despite the downpour and a few leaks last weekend the Guides had a good time.
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