Talk about fresh air.
Ah, Vancouver. So good they should have named it twice and got old blue eyes to sing about it. Maybe I can make amends for the artistic neglect suffered by that fair, far-flung foreign field by composing and dedicating a short poem to it and its people:
No Heimlich Manoeuvre
Could clear my airways so.
No oeuvre in The Louvre
Can match thine landscapes, oh.
No Hoover runs smoother
Than British Columbia’s flow.
No shaker and mover
Has shaken and moved me like you.
(If nothing else you can see why I don’t write poetry. I think even Pam Ayres’ bile might rise at that.)
In case you haven’t worked it out yet, I spent last week mostly in North Vancouver. Vancouver’s in a region of Canada called British Columbia. The local vehicle licence plates refer to it as ‘Beautiful British Columbia’, and it is. It’s other things too. If I were half my age I’d be applying for working visas instead of writing this.
The Vancouver I saw is clean and neat and ordered and orderly and well-maintained and spacious and obviously loved and cared for by the people who live there. (Sound unfamiliar? Maybe you live where I do. In these things Istanbul is the antithesis of Vancouver.)
The people I encountered were about the friendliest and politest people I’ve ever come across. Pedestrians acknowledge each other and often say hi. (Until I got used to this I kept looking behind me to see who they were talking to.)
Drivers ALWAYS stopped and indicated that I should cross the road in front of their vehicles, even when I wasn’t using a designated crossing. I don’t carry a white stick or walk a Labrador. (Having lived in Istanbul for a few years I have learned to shy away from crossing roads with moving vehicles around. You just don’t do that sort of thing here unless you’re feeling suicidal or drunk.) Not once did I nearly get run over on the pavement by something on two wheels with an engine. And Vancouver’s pavements are wide and litter, faeces, parked motor vehicle and tripping hazard free.
The people who worked in the customer service industry were friendly and polite and smiley and helpful. And other customers waited their turn to be served. The elbow shaped bruises on my upper arms have almost completely disappeared.
Public transport was excellent: frequent, cheap and clean and (you probably won’t believe this) when passengers get off the bus they often call out their thanks to the driver. Thanks to the driver! Honestly, it’s like Walt Disney had one of Martin Luther King’s dreams and went into town planning.
The great outdoors is on the doorstep and in the winter the local mountains are havens for winter sports enthusiasts. I had some great hikes in stunning scenery, but to really get an idea of what the place has to offer, a twenty minute seaplane flight laid everything out perfectly – a buffet of British Columbian delights.
I stayed at a place called the Lonsdale Quay Hotel. The room and facilities were more than adequate. But the real bonus of this location was that the bottom two floors of the building are occupied by eateries and drinkeries of the organicky, home-producey, home-madey and bespokey style. Nothing franchised. I’ll name and reference three of them that I used almost on a daily business.
Sharkys Chophouse – https://twitter.com/SharkysHotMeals
The Soup Meister – https://twitter.com/thesoupmeister
The Green Leaf Brewery – https://www.facebook.com/GLbrewery
There were others: a brilliant bakers, a super smoothie maker and a bumper breakfast provider among them.
The hotel is situated right on the edge of the channel of water that divides Vancouver’s south and north shores. It’s a busy shipping channel, which reminded me a lot of Istanbul’s Bosphorus, except that I never saw one empty plastic bottle, discarded carrier bag or dead body floating in the water. I did see an otter, a heron and a couple of seals though (all alive and doing their thing). Much nicer.
Talking of nice and nicer, I’ve come away from Vancouver believing that there has to be a correlation between people’s behaviour towards one another and the physical characteristics of the cities they inhabit.
I returned to Istanbul full of good intentions to be nicer to everyone, to smile at strangers, to say hi and after you and thank you (in Turkish) more often. It lasted as long as it took for me to try to get off the Metro with my suitcase. As soon as those doors opened I was stampeded, knocked to the floor and trampled on by travellers who weren’t interested in standing aside and waiting the seconds it would take for travellers to disembark first.
The only downside with the trip was the jet-lag. Fine going but my body clock was seriously skewed when I came home. I took the Halfling to the park the day after my return and fell asleep on a bench. I felt particularly bad about this because I’d left my son locked in a swing and while I was asleep it rained hard (fortunately my bench was sheltered under a broad-leafed tree). I woke up to the tapping of a policeman’s baton on the sole of my shoe. On the bright side, I’d made fifteen Lira in change in the baseball cap that had fallen off my head. (I hadn’t shaved for a week.)
For anyone who’s reading this because they want news of my writing, my apologies. My news is: I took my hard copy of R&M#5 with me to work on but I didn’t even finish reading it through once. In fact I didn’t even get half-way through it. It’s not that it’s bad but Vancouver kept me distracted and tired (especially that brewery with bar.) I might have got some work done on it in the evenings, but my daughter – the reason I was visiting North Vancouver – took one look at my hotel room with two queen sized beds facing a 42” plasma TV with a digital package and decided to move in for the week. (After seeing her digs I can understand why.) We stayed up every night watching crap on the food channel and loved it!
So, you are now back in the world of work, instead of pleasure, but, frankly, I should stick to the prose instead of the poetry.
Firstly, I do feel very envious, though, of your trip. Never been to Canada, been to the States, and now Vancouver is on my To Visit list, as you make it seem ideal, just like Stepford. But don’t envy you the jet-lag. I had it once and I was a walking zombie for about a week afterwards. Was in bed by five in the afternoon. Would say, though, we in Nottingham – England – also thank the bus driver when we get off a bus.
Secondly, I’m not surprised you didn’t get any work done, as it was a break to visit your daughter; have some quality time together; and being in a different country there is so much to see and take in, work tends to take second place. But even though you didn’t do any work, there will be something embedded in your sub-conscious that you will bring out, perhaps not immediately, but in the future. I find I have a clearer perspective viewing something later, rather than sooner, if you get my drift.
Last, but not least, I’ve heard of women leaving their babies on the bus, or leaving the pram outside the butcher’s shop with the baby still inside, only to find they’ve forgotten something when they’ve arrived home, and it’s not the lamb chops. They can claim post natal depression. I don’t think jet-lag will wash in court for leaving your son out in the pouring rain, chained to a swing.
Thanks for your comment.
I highly recommend the place for a visit and you could do a lot worse than stay in my hotel.
Being a writer yourself, you know how my mind works. You can’t help looking at new places with a writer’s eye, wondering how they might be utilised for a future book. Acer just might end up there.
Good job he was chained to the swing 🙂 he might have run off and left me there.
I lived in Istanbul for a number of years, and I took a trip toCanada, the differences were really stark.Driving in Canada is enjoyable in Istanbul a challenge to say the least. Oliver you can always do a Peter Robinson he writes about Yorkshire and lives in Canada.
Thanks for your comment.
I drove in Istanbul once. Never again. Canada seemed a Sunday afternoon driver’s paradise. (That’s me.)
I didn’t know Robinson lived in Canada. I’m just off to look him up on the web and learn more.
With a publisher promoting your books, you will be independant and be able to live where ever you want.
If a publisher was interested in my books I’d head back to the UK to live and do what Leigh Russell does – attending loads of functions. I think that would be a must for an unknown like me. Peter Robinson’s such a big name his book sell themselves now.