Thursday, January 20, 2011

Citizenship Exam, eh ?

This morning we both sat our examination for Canadian Citizenship.  We had been given about 6 weeks notice that it would happen today and so had the opportunity to study for it.

It was a multiple choice style exam covering Canadian history, politics, geography, economics and culture. Although David and I were given different exam papers we both agreed it seemed fairly straightforward, but only thanks to the studying, revision and test exams we had taken in the previous few weeks.  I suspect that many born & bred Canadians might struggle on some of the information required : What year was the Constitutional Act that divided the Province of Canada into Upper Canada and Lower Canada ?  Who was Sir Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine ?  What is the name of the The Sovereigns representative in the Territories ?  and as we sit in our home-office looking out at a million trees in a Province with a billion trees, seemingly obvious questions such as Which Province produces the most pulp & paper are sometimes not what you expect……Quebec. 

I’m sure we would also not fare well taking the British citizenship exam without prior studying and I think they are often focused on factors that play a very small part in most citizens day to day lives.  

Now, if only the questions were – How much is a tall-extra shot-vanilla bean-latte at Starbucks ?, what are the five flavours in a 12-piece box of Timbits or How are the Canucks doing at defending a spot in the Playoffs ?  Well….the exam would probably have a much higher pass rate !

Anyway, we sat the exam at the Citizenship & Immigration Centre which is downtown in the shadow of BC Place Stadium.   I actually took this photo yesterday when I came down to find where we would need to go so that it would be easy for the actual exam.  Today, it is snowing at home and raining downtown, a proper Vancouver winter day.

IMG_3657After the exam we had to wait and be interviewed briefly about ourselves, background, family, employment and have our travel statements verified by the stamps in our passports. 

Now we sit and wait.  Apparently it works on a ‘no news is good news’ basis.  They will tell us if we failed.  Assuming we have passed the exam then they will invite us to a swearing in ceremony in about 2-3 months. 

After which, we become Canadian ! 

Incidently, if anybody wants to test their Canadian Citizenship Trivia they can try a test exam here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wet Wintery Walks

This past week or so has been mild and wet, very wet.  So, no walks this week worthy of their own blogpost as we stayed close to home.

As always we have been to Lynn Headwaters a couple of times this week.  The great thing about a downpour is you can ALWAYS snag a parking spot in the main lot by the gate and you don’t have to walk in from the over-flow parking.  Not sure if that actually outweighs the getting soaked on your walk problem though. 

Lynn Headwaters in the rain is actually still beautiful as the tops of the trees disappear into the mist, the creeks rage like at no other time and new ‘tributaries’ appear all over the place all racing down the hillside to finding their way eventually into Lynn Creek.

Lynn Creek here in full force, only after heavy rain does the river cover the full width of the riverbed.


Looking downstream.  Logs and other debris are swept down by the force of the river, crashing against rocks and boulders on their route towards Burrard Inlet.


The view from the bridge across Lynn Creek adjacent to the picnic grounds.

We enjoy the quiet trails.

IMG_3601 Further along where the trail becomes more rugged there are many places where the trail also doubles up as a temporary tributary. This photo shows the trail as we head up into the forest. It can be very wet underfoot at Lynn Headwaters in the rain.

IMG_3608 A couple of days later I wanted to do a walk from home without using the car so headed off to explore more of the Powerline Trail.  Owned and maintained by BC Hydro the trail runs for a couple of blocks from Wellington to Braemar, stops for a couple of blocks then continues from St. Marys Av all the way to the Grouse Mountain parking lot.   I don’t know why the two sections don’t appear to connect unless the St Marys Av – Braemar section disappears into the forest on Mt Fromme. Something for me to investigate this Spring I think because it would be terrific to walk all the way from home as far as Grouse which would be a good few kms roundtrip.

So we walked up St Marys Av and joined the trail from there heading West.  It no longer surprises me when we wake in the morning to snow but discover by the time we drive down to Highway 1 they only have rain, however for some reason it still surprises me when we walk the few blocks up to the powerline trail and hit snow when we left a soggy green garden at home.  Thankfully I did have Yaktrax in my pocket and they were necessary.  Although the top layer of the snow had turned to slush underneath was still a couple cms of packed, slippery ice.


The trail weaves along the hillside ahead of us.

IMG_3612 There were a couple at best described as ‘peek-a-boo’ views, nothing noteworthy especially on such a miserable grey day.  Looking towards Stanley Park.


Downtown and Canada Place just visible through the mist.


Still a few good watering holes enroute.

Then yesterday we headed over to Lynn Canyon Park.  We usually avoid this park much of the year as it gets so busy with tourists, some of whom having read the wildlife warning signs will have a tendency to panic that Mojo is some kind of wild rabid wolf.  Besides, why go somewhere so busy when we have so many other beautiful and quiet places within easy reach ?

However, Lynn Canyon is a lovely park in its own right and just 5 minutes by car from home so it was an ‘easy’ option offering a good hour or so loop.

There is often filming taking place in Lynn Canyon Park and today was no exception.  However we didn’t see the film crew on our walk so they must have been further into the park.  Previous sets have been used for series such as Kyle XY and the Stargate SG1 and Atlantis series.  Perhaps they are filming the latest Stargate series Extinction here ?


We approach the suspension bridge and I think for the first time in the 4.5 years we’ve lived here – we have it to ourselves !

IMG_3626 There is quite an impressive waterfall just next to the bridge, but partially hidden by trees.  I’m surprised they let the viewing areas get so overgrown, given there is so much protected parkland, these few small areas could be trimmed given it’s such a huge tourist draw.

IMG_3624 The view from the bridge up and down the impressive canyon, carved away gradually over thousands of years.

Mojo isn’t a huge fan of the swinging bridge but accepts it in order to get the walk that follows.IMG_3623

The Lynn Canyon Park was created in 1912 around the newly built Suspension Bridge. 5 hectares of land was donated to the District of North Vancouver by some developers who were hoping the park would attract people to their new residential development. The District added another 4 hectares to complete the park in 1912.  In 1991 the District added a massive 241 hectares making it one of the largest parks in Metro Vancouver.  When it first opened the park would have looked very different as the area had recently been logged so the forest would have been very young.

Originally there was a 10c charge to use the Suspension Bridge, today however it’s free and a welcome additional to our city parks system.


All the forest at Lynn Canyon Park is second growth but there are still stumps left from the old grown that was here when the first European setters arrived.  This stump still had the cutouts on the side from when it was felled.


The beautiful temperate coastal rainforest environment, moss covered trees and the ground strewn with huge rocks and boulders.


Mojo looks over 30ft pool.


Then we climb the steep staircase to the top of the canyon side.  Now, grafitti is not a significant problem in North Vancouver but this staircase has become an exhibition ground for teenagers and schooltrippers to express their inner thoughts, hopes and dreams as candidly as they see fit. 

One very small downside to such a diverse and cosmopolitan city as Vancouver is that you end up with grafitti you can’t read – Mojo here is trying to decipher the Korean (thanks Doug :)) writing on this fence but ended up tongue-tied.  It is however clear that Dan and Celeste were having a good trip………


We continue our walk through the forest down to Twin Falls.

We spot two brave (read mad) kayakers paddling upstream.


So I videoed them just incase they were about to kill themselves on the approaching falls.  They had the good sense to turn around.

Then it was back to the car and continue studying for Thursdays exam.

So not a terribly exciting week of walks and this week won’t be much different.  Roll on Spring and bright sunny days…….

Squirrel Face-Off

When faced with a squirrel in the backyard Mojo knows it’s fair game – he can chase and bark at it to his hearts content.  The squirrels know they’re safe on the 6ft fencing and leap effortlessly into the trees and up to safety but they put on a good show squeaking and running around the garden in Mojos presence.

The front however is a different matter.  Mojo can only sit at the living room window and watch helplessly as one of the evil tree-rats attempts to out-stare him and then proceeds to raid the bird food dispenser, something Mojo also has an opinion about. 

When Mojo dreams at night and his legs are moving and he lets out the occasional ‘woof’ under his breath – you know the squirrels getting it.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Congratulations Max !

Congratulations to our friend Helens son Max who at age 13 recently landed his first acting job in a TV commercial. The commercial which is part of a campaign to support farmed salmon is currently being aired primetime on CBC, CTV and Global. Go Max !

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Christmas 2010 – with family

After our two nights in London we caught the express train to Peterborough – a 46 minute run and were collected from the station by Sue.  We relaxed that evening with Davids family.  The following morning we got up and headed into Peterborough city centre to catch up on some last minute shopping and presents – things we weren’t able to bring with us from Canada.

Walking into the shopping area from the parking took us past the Cathedral.  Originally the site of a monastery since AD 655 Peterborough Cathedral was predominately built between 1118 and 1235 and is a beautiful example of Norman architecture and a rarity to have remained in such original condition after 900 years.


In the main city centre shopping area is the Town Hall.

IMG_3381 Priestgate

IMG_3382 The bustling Market Square full of pre-Christmas shoppers.


The Guildhall constructed in the 1600’s and built on columns so that the open-air ground level could hold the butter and poultry market and remain shaded from the direct sunlight during the summer.


After a couple of days visiting in Peterborough we drove to Birmingham to visit Chris, a university friend of Davids.  Sam, a mutual friend of theirs was also travelling down from Northumberland and meeting us in Birmingham.  Having left Peterborough and no snow on the ground between Leicester and Birmingham there was snowfall and slick roads.


Chris was a great host, providing a tasty roast lamb dinner and here he makes custard for desert.

IMG_3390 Chris with his dog Lulu.

IMG_3397 Lulu however was happy to take a snuggle from anyone who was offering.

IMG_3388We stayed the night in Birmingham then headed down on the now very snowy roads to my parents in Oxfordshire.  The views here from the M40 in Warwickshire.



For the next few nights we stay with my parents who looked after us impeccably for our all-too-short stay.

We had intended to use some of the daytime of our visit to catch up with friends in Oxfordshire.  However, the snowfall and poor condition of the roads in the county meant we were unable to make some of the lunchdates that were planned.  Two of Davids ex-work colleagues lived nearby to my parents so we were still able to go and meet with them.  We put on our brilliant Yaktrax as demonstrated by David here, and headed across Bure Park to meet them for lunch.

IMG_3404 Warmed by a tasty lunch and a few drinks we pose for a photo outside the pub.  From L-R, myself, Diane, David and Elizabeth.


The following day there was still plenty of snow on the ground as temperatures never got above freezing.  The snow here in Mum and Dads backgarden.


We decided to put the Yaktrax to good use once again and this time walk into Bicester Town Centre.  We take a short detour on route and check out our old home where we lived before moving to Canada.  Still looks much the same aside from a new front door.



Each day of our stay in Bicester the warmth of the house had melted a little of the snow in the gutters and on the roof, but the air temperature was still so low as it tried to drip off the gutters it was forming icicles.  By the 22nd Dec the icicles on the guttering were huge.

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While this plant was dealing with an icicle issue all of its own.

IMG_3411 My sister and her husband were visiting from Cumbria, so we walked their two border collies in the dog park.  Here is Crag.

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Bess patiently awaits the stick being thrown.

IMG_3421 As does Crag.


After a lovely few days at Mum and Dads with Karen & Andy we headed off early Christmas morning to re-join Davids family in Peterborough.  At 9.30am the temperature was still only –11 degrees C.


We arrive at Sues and unload our luggage before crossing the road to Dennys house where they are hosting the Christmas festivities this year.  Annabel, Davids niece is ready in front of the tree and a huge pile of presents, while wearing the antlers Mojo had donated to her.

IMG_3427 IMG_3430 The Waller Christmas is an extended affair, with all the presents given out and then opened one at a time.  Annabel and Denny take charge of present distribution.


Does Denny end up with the biggest pile of presents ?

IMG_3435 No, of course Annabel wins that

IMG_3436 After all of the presents have been handed out, Sue prepares the appy’s

IMG_3446 A yummy spread of smoked salmon, trout pate, prawns & garlic mayo and frogs legs. 

IMG_3450 You can’t hide the shape, but they DO taste like chicken !

IMG_3449 Barbara and I tuck in.


Then it’s time for more present opening.


While Barbara tries to keep tabs of who gave Annabel what.



IMG_3466 Denny

IMG_3467 Annabels ‘Old Navy’ wardrobe gets restocked.

IMG_3479 After the round of presents it’s time of our Christmas dinner, a collaboration between Sue and Denny.

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Annabel has a giant cracker to pull


Our hosts Denny and Jay


Annabel with the grandparents Barbara and Tony


The festive dinner was rounded off by Sue’s first ever home made Christmas pudding

IMG_3496 And Barbaras home made ‘white’ Christmas cake.

IMG_3499 On Boxing Day Davids uncle and aunt came up to visit from London.  Jane & David.

IMG_3501 The day takes a similar format to Christmas day with another round of presents, this time it’s the small ‘tree’ presents being opened as we didn’t get around to them yesterday.


Then it’s time for the Boxing Day dinner.  Again a very traditional affair – cold meats, salad, mashed potatoes, pickles and chutneys.

IMG_3508 We didn’t organise a group photo before the meal but remembered after…..

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All the presents and packaging means we need to squish down the recycling.  This is a job better done sober.  Or perhaps not.

IMG_3515 After the meal we have some entertaining if not rather smoky indoor fireworks and then follow up with lighting a sky lantern in the garden.  These sky lanterns seem to have appeared and taken off (excuse the pun) since we moved to Canada.  Basically you light the wick underneath and then the heat from the flame lifts the lantern up and you can watch it get carried away into the nightsky.

IMG_3539 It draws an expectant crowd in the garden.


Somehow we managed to successfully launch the sky lantern without igniting any of the neighbouring homes.  Essentially living as we do in Canada in a huge forest I don’t think these sky lanterns will ever be a good idea in BC.  However, they are a fun event for a more safe environment such as Cambridgeshire and they are certainly much less scary for neighbourhood dogs than traditional fireworks.

We return to the warm indoors and play with Annabel on some of her new gifts, including her ping-pong.


On the 27th December Sue held an ‘open-house’ – a great way to catch up with all the family friends while we were back visiting and before they all head back to work.

Rebecca is the sister of Craig (who we met up with in London).  She is here with her baby daughter Emilia.


A short while later Finn, Georgia (David’s cousin) and Sandy arrive.

IMG_3549 Georgias daughter Delilah.

IMG_3550 And then the house completely filled up with many more guests and we got lost talking and eating and didn’t take any more photos.  At the end of the evening as the last of the guests depart, Denny, Annabel and David.

IMG_3557 We then enjoyed a couple more relaxing days in Peterborough.  Visiting excellent English supermarkets, but complaining that they’re far too busy !

Flying out we had brought two suitcases.  One for our clothes and one with presents (mostly presents for Annabel and many of them quite bulky such as that large coat she modelled).  Once our presents were in this left us with about half an empty suitcase.  Going home with a half-empty suitcase is just not acceptable so we visited Tescos and Sainsburys and two unorthodox shopping-cart-loads later………the second suitcase is full !   All the things we either can’t get or is really expensive at home – an eclectic mix of bouquet garni, soup mix, gravy granules and good chocolate.


Eventually 30th December arrived and it was time to head home.  The two-and-a-bit weeks here seem to have passed in a flash.  We had returned our rental car on 27th as Denny kindly offered to drive us to the airport.

This was our first time flying out of Heathrows new Terminal 5.  We were impressed by how big, bright and airy it felt. The layout was good and signage excellent.


IMG_3565 IMG_3566 IMG_3567

Once through security we await boarding our plane.


We had an excellent flight home, thanks to BA and a complimentary upgrade to Club World !

The day after our return we collected Mojo from the Dog Ranch who appeared to have also had a great time.  He opens his presents from Mum and Dad and Karen & Andy.

IMG_3592 And the present sent to him by Annabel.

We had a really lovely Christmas and to have spent time with family although this is always too short.  Thanks in particular to Mum and Dad, Sue and Denny for their excellent hosting, wonderful meals and looking after us on our first Christmas back in Blighty !