Tag Archives: British Columbia

Other people’s lives – Boat-based Anna Smith’s bus stops in Vancouver, Canada

Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, lives on a boat in Vancouver. I have just received this missive from her…


Aquatic dweller Anna Smith travels on buses

I have finally arrived home just now and my boat is bouncing and rocking in a stormlet.

Yesterday, I was on a downtown bus. An insane young man was in conversation with a dog barking in the street.

I stepped off the bus at Main and Hastings, to go to music practice at The Carnegie Center.

Outside The Carnegie Center, individuals sell ‘hard’ drugs like heroin, fentanyl, cocaine etc.

Across the street, against a building, the pavement was lined with lawnchairs (some with umbrellas) and native people, mostly selling ‘Indian Cigarettes’ which are in similar packets to regular cigarettes, but they are a third of the price.

They sell other stuff too, like cannabis, but not so much as there is a ‘compassion club’ (free cannabis distribution center) in the same block.

Whenever I get off at that stop, I have to walk past the crowd and say “No” to the various vendors shouting “Smokes! Smokes!” or saying a bit more quietly “Weed” or almost inaudibly – by nondescript men walking quickly – “Cheese… Cheese”. 

Then I walk to the corner and, while waiting for the lights to change, I scan the lamp post which is always blanketed in posters of missing young people and memorial notices for locals who have died suddenly.

Yesterday, as I stepped off the bus, a large native guy seated amongst the tobacco sellers called out to me: “Are you from Bountiful?”

Only people in British Columbia would get the meaning.

It has to do with a perverted Mormon cult who lived in a secret mountain enclave near the small town of Creston, B.C.

The name of their community is Bountiful.

B.C’s slogan is ‘Beautiful British Columbia‘ but maybe it ought to be Bountiful British Columbia.

For years, Bountiful has been in the headlines here, because the residents practised polygamy. The ‘wives’ of the religious leaders were usually young teenage girls – underage girls. It went on for decades and somehow the police investigators were not able to make arrests, due to the isolated location and claims that marrying underage girls was part of the cult’s religious practice.

Polygamous Mormons in British Columbia shock

Finally the head of the cult was arrested, on charges of transporting the girls across the US/Canada border, in co-operation with similar cults in the United States.

So a stranger asking me, as I stepped off a city bus, whether I was from Bountiful was completely preposterous.

Do I look like a Mormon?

Sure, I was wearing a fake tweed hat, my black military surplus coat, a short skirt and grey leggings…

Most women in that area near the bus stop are a bit more garish, their hair streaked in vivid primary colours, wearing tight bodices, flashing earings, rings on every finger and tattoos abundant; in lace pantyhose and sexy-looking flat black boots. And many have Narcan kits attached to their belts. (Narcan blocks the brain receptors that heroin activates, instantly reversing an overdose.)

Sometimes they just wander around in pyjamas and sandals, with their wigs falling off, even in this blustery storm…

So maybe, at a stretch, I do look like a Mormon in comparison to the locals.

Still I was a bit thrown, being asked that.

I ignored the comment and ploughed ahead and began crossing at the intersection. But, as I crossed the street, I began to laugh, because it was so ridiculous. I looked over at the man who had said it. Who would say such a thing? He was laughing his head off and, when he saw that I was laughing too, he gave me the thumbs up.

The man who had been going around uttering “Cheese… Cheese” was nothing exceptional.

Other people there call out “Steak!… Steak!”

One time, I saw a lady sitting on the sidewalk with an enormous amount of pickled olives for sale, spread out on a piece a plastic.

Surprisingly, the men around there are often well dressed in the latest brand name sportswear because, being freshly stolen, it is sold for next to nothing on the street.

Because I have a new phone and forgot to switch off my location, Google has now asked me to write a review of my bus stop, which is called ‘Highway 91 Offramp’. 

It really is nothing exceptional and it strains the imagination to think why it needs to be reviewed.

The Highway 91 Offramp bus stop has nothing exceptional and it strains Anna Smith’s imagination

Bus drivers often ask me: ”Are you sure you want to get off HERE?”

How would I describe Highway 91 Offramp? 

It is a forlorn stretch of highway where much of the traffic is composed of lorries roaring past.

The bus stop didn’t even have a bench until very recently. One time, some builders working nearby built a bench out of stones and boards.

The people who use it are mainly Chinese workers, (ladies from a nearby orange juice factory) and me and the occasional worker at the shipyard whose vehicle is under repair. There is rubbish strewn about – beer cans, candy wrappers and things that fall from garbage trucks.

One day, a chain link fence was put up. The orange juice workers cut a hole in it so we could still use the path to the Highway 91 Offramp bus stop.

A few years ago somebody, most likely a lorry driver, threw a large milk jug with an unknown yellow liquid in it from the offramp and it landed and balanced on top of the chainlink fence near, but not quite on top of, the hole we walk through.

Everybody felt a bit uneasy, walking under the perilously-positioned jug.

For several months it languished there and the yellow liquid changed colour gradually to green and brown. After six months, somebody wrote on it with black marker: JUG O’ PISS.

I told my neighbours about and some of them walked down to see it and take photos. 

One lady, whose husband drives a lorry, marvelled: “Holy shit! That piss could have come all the way from Alabama!”

Nearby, along the path, are a few boulders and some pine trees.

A few weeks ago, a couple of guys set up a tent and were camping there. Within days, piles of junk started appearing around the tent. It was annoying because then I was afraid to use that path at night and I thought it must also be worrisome for the orange juice people.

Accommodation near Highway 91 Offramp: “I thought it must be worrisome for orange juice people”

Public art by Patrick Wong at Anna’s Aberdeen bus stop

I thought I could add that to my review of Highway 91 Offramp… Camping available, sandy soil easily hollowed into sleeping area, near two bus routes, shade, river view, no toilets.

One morning when I was on my way to the Highway 91 Offramp I saw a man standing near the tent. He called out: “Are you looking for Mike?”

What the fuck, I thought, and I answered crossly: “NO. I am NOT looking for Mike. I am going to the bus stop.” 

My other bus stop is called Aberdeen. It is in central Richmond and has two benches, a bus shelter, a pizza parlour and community art. The current art is by Patrick Wong and I like it. It is about migration and the migrants seem to be depicted as aliens.

Rain drops transform the view from the Aberdeen bus stop in Richmond into something glamorous.

 

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Not only Fools and Horses in Peckham – Now they have absurdist comedians

Tina Turner - Tea Lady performs at last night’s show

Tina Turner – Tea Lady performs at last night’s PTOO show

NB NOT FOR THE EASILY OFFENDED

Michael Brunström won the increasingly prestigious main Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality at the recent Edinburgh Fringe but, by the time it was awarded, he had finished his run and was back in London. So I gave him the trophy last night.

I gave it to him shortly before a Pull the Other One comedy night at the mis-named CLF Art Cafe in the Bussey Buildings, Peckham.

The CLF Art Cafe is mis-named because it is really a large dance hall (and used as such at weekends) in a vast rambliing building which used to be, among other things, a Victorian sweatshop and an armaments factory. Pull The Other One are running four not-quite-monthly variety nights there between now and March, as well as their monthly comedy nights in nearby Nunhead and – perhaps – more shows in Leipzig.

One of last nights poster survivors

One of last night’s show posters which survived

Vivienne and Martin Soan run Pull The Other One and put up 200 posters plugging the new show, but almost all disappeared quickly. This might have been due to heavy rain or because “It’s posters war round here,” as Martin says. “It’s very much like the Edinburgh Fringe. People ripping down your posters to put theirs up. It’s all happening here.”

“Peckham?” I asked. “Home of Only Fools and Horses and Del Boy?”

“You know it is,” said Martin.

Martin had been going to perform with The Greatest Show On Legs at the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show in Edinburgh – actually titled Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrghhh! It’s The Increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show – And It’s Free! but, instead, had to be in London for the premiere of Steve Oram’s new film entitled Aaaaaaah!

There’s been a lot of Aaaaaahsing about lately.

There is a trailer for Aaaaaaah! on YouTube.

“I’ve got a tiny cameo role in the movie,” Martin told me last night. “Two brief shots of me as a has-been rockstar in his underpants singing at a coked-up party.”

“Has Aaaaaaah!,” I asked, “got naked women and armadillos?’

“Yes,” said Martin, then added, “well, I’m lying about the armadillos. But it has naked women and a lot of action and graphic violence – but not gratuitous. And, in it, Steve has created this TV world for them to watch.”

“Like?” I asked.

“Cookery programmes, but done in the genre – without giving the game away – of the whole premise of the movie. There are just so many elements to it.”

“Is it even odder than his previous film Sightseers?” I asked.

“Extremely odd, but brilliant.”

“Much like Michael Brunström,” I said.

Well, no, I did not say that.

But I have to cover over the half hour gap between the above conversation with Martin and me giving Michael Brunström his Malcolm Hardee Award.

Michael keeps his Award next to his books by Boris Vian

Michael keeps his Award next to his books by Boris Vian – French writer, poet, musician, singer, translator, critic, actor, inventor and important influence on the French jazz scene.

“You will be wanting to say you are deeply honoured,” I told Michael.

“I’m deeply honoured,” said Michael. “Last year, I did ten shows and got nominated for the Award. This year, I did six shows and won it. Next year, I’m thinking of not turning up at all.”

“Where are you going to put your Award?” I asked. “Laurence Owen put his on a shelf next to two small Daleks.”

“I have a bookshelf,” said Michael. “Are you only running the Awards until 2017?”

“Well,” I said, “In 2007, I only had eleven years’ worth of trophies made. So I run out of them in 2017.”

“After that,” suggested Michael, “you should just steal trophies and palm them off as  Malcolm Hardee Awards.”

“You’re right,” I said, brightening up. “It would be a fitting tribute and it’s what he would have wanted.”

At that point, Brian Damage arrived for his performance.

Brian Damage with Vicky as Krysstal

Brian Damage bearded with his wife Vicky de Lacy as Krysstal

Well, no, he did not.

But I have to cover over the gap between the conversation with Michael above and Brian talking about my newly-grown beard.

“You should think ZZ Top,” he told me. “What you got now is just bum fluff. Think of a beard as a straight line down to your waist. It catches food. You will never go hungry.”

As he said this, Spencer Jones arrived.

No. You are right. He did not. But, later, he told me about his bad drive back from the Edinburgh Fringe on Tuesday.

“I didn’t just have babies in the car,” he explained. “I had budgerigars and, because the budgies were in the back, I couldn’t recline my seat and have a quick hour’s sleep in that long 12-hour drive back to London. So I had four Red Bulls and two large coffees. Yesterday – the day after – was weird.”

Spencer has a budgie close to his heart

Spencer has a budgie close to his heart

“You took your budgies up to the Fringe?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“What did the budgies have to say about that?”

“They twittered on for a while, but they were OK about it. I nearly took them on stage up in Edinburgh. I thought Who’s ever taken budgies on stage? But I realised it would freak them out.”

“The audience?”

“The budgies.”

“I had,” I told Spencer, “a budgerigar act on a couple of TV shows I did.”

“I think his name was Don…” said Spencer.

“Don Crown,” I said. “I met him six or seven years later and he was a broken man: he had become allergic to feathers. His act had been destroyed by an act of God.”

“I think he had a song,” said Spencer, “which we used to sing in our house: Budgie Man... He’s the Budge-Budge-Budgie Man…”

There is a video on YouTube featuring Don Crown and his budgies.

“Do your budgies speak?” I asked.

“No,” said Spencer. “They fly around the house.”

“Shitting everywhere?”

“Shitting everywhere,” agreed Spencer.

“Much like children,” I suggested.

A budgerigar not owned by Spencer not shitting in his house

A budgerigar not owned by Spencer not shitting in his house

“Yeah,” agreed Spencer. “The reason I bought the first budgie was that, before my girlfriend and me had kids, I wanted to see if me and Ruth would get on looking after a little life. So I bought a budgie without telling her and we got on fine, so then we had kids. But then the budgie needed a friend. I had bought it thinking it was a boy, but it wasn’t. So we had a girl budgie called Ernie and we bought another one called Dirk.”

“Is it possible to ‘doctor’ male budgerigars?” I asked.

“I doubt if anyone’s ever tried.”

“Otherwise they’d breed all over the place,” I said.

“I think you have to have a very high calcium diet,” said Spencer.

“The owner?” I asked.

“The budgerigars,” said Spencer. “Though I do have quite a high calcium diet and have two kids.”

This morning, I looked up Don Crown and found recent YouTube clips of him with his budgies.

So either I imagined meeting him after he became allergic to feathers or he got over it.

Perhaps I have started hallucinating past events. But who has to?

This morning, I got an email from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith. It said:

A man in Kelowna, British Columbia, has grown the world’s largest cucumber which he is planning on turning into the world’s largest pickle and he is wondering if anybody is making the worlds largest hot dog.

Michael Brunström also posted a photo of himself online this morning, holding the Malcolm Hardee Award.

Michael Brunstrom holds his Malcolm Hardee Award

Michael Brunström holds his increasingly prestigious Award as Malcolm Hardee would have wanted

 

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Live forest sex in Canada amid massage parlours and marijuana plantations

After reading yesterday’s blog about live sex on-stage at a rock festival in Norway, this blog’s occasional correspondent Anna Smith sent me the following from Vancouver.


The ever interesting Anna Smith

Anna Smith: woman with a past

It’s not that unusual for people to have sex in the forest here. It’s a bit less crowded than the beach.

Most of British Columbia is conveniently covered in forest. Forestry is a major industry, it may even provide more jobs than massage parlours, but not as many as the marijuana plantations. Work in the orchards, fishing and mushroom-picking industries is more seasonal. Tree planting, logging, sawmills, pulp & paper and forest fires provide a lot of work year round and excitement every summer. Fire fighters pour in from across the continent, livening up small towns and dumping toxic water bombs from helicopters onto burning railway trestles to the delight of intoxicated teenage ferry passengers.

I have always turned down any job that involves having sex on stage. So I did find it hilarious that, when I was dancing in the Belgian Porno cinemas (which was not quite the same thing as the Belgian Congo, although the cinemas could be described as conflict zones), the signs outside the cinemas advertised Live Sex Show but it was just me doing a striptease. We had to sign lengthy contracts in quadruplicate stating that, if we were performing with wild animals or on the trapeze, we were responsible for our own insurance.


Anna’s father sounds interesting. She also sent me this:


Anna Smith last night, "after three days of sleeping on a psychiatrist’s couch"

A photo taken last night of Anna Smith, “after three days of sleeping on a psychiatrist’s couch, not wearing any make-up.”

My father is asleep right now, which I am glad of as he has a large hole on the top of his head. He looks like he has been hit by shrapnel and I am very glad he did not remove his cap at the concert on Saturday, although he did threaten to.

His friend, a languages professor from Manchester, pleaded that he not remove his cap.

I asked the professor: “What’s the matter? Don’t you have a hole in your head?”

He said he did not, so I asked him where he did have holes – a question which did not displease him.

We were in a church. There was an announcement over the PA system that someone had left their headlights on and that they should be turned off.

My father pretended that it was an announcement that someone had left their cap on and, again, threatened to remove his.

After the concert, we noticed two spooky effigies against the wall. One represented a refugee and the other a homeless person with angel’s wings.


I have no explanation for the above.


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The link between the giant pseudo sea slug of Canada & 3 British comedians

Death of 17 in the boiling waters of a copper chamber pot

The savage slug war being waged in my back garden continues with increasing ferocity. Last night, at about one o’clock in the morning, my eternally-vigilant un-named friend went out, encountered, captured and dispatched seventeen – count ‘em – seventeen – of the ghastly gastropod molluscs, picking each up with two twigs, as if eating with chopsticks, then tossing them into a copper chamber pot and pouring boiling water onto them.

An ignominious death, but no less than they deserve.

Meanwhile, according to Anna Smith – one of the So It Goes blog’s increasing number of foreign correspondents, who has previously suggested drowning slugs in beer – the slug threat to the economically-vital marijuana plantations of Canada (a part of the economy unconnected to her) has lessened. She told me yesterday, from her home in British Columbia:

Giant sea slugs emerge from the waters off Western Canada? (photograph by Anna Smith)

“The slugs have subsided for the moment. But a large creature appeared on our dock which resembled a gigantic slug. It turned out to be a rare Ringed Seal from the Aleutian Islands. These are not rare in Alaska, but we have never seen one here before. It may have gone off course, trying to avoid the Japanese Tsunami waste, which has now started to arrive on these shores. You might want to avoid showing the attached picture to your eternally-un-named friend, as it could give her more nightmares.”

Even though the Canadian slug threat may have temporarily subsided, other dangers lurk in our Western Colonies.

“The most exciting thing to happen in Canada recently,” Anna tells me, “has been the theft of thirty million Canadian dollars worth of maple syrup from a storage facility in Quebec.

“The police stated that it would be ‘difficult to trace’. My first thought was that it might have been a special order from China (or North Korea!). Most Canadians (myself included) had no idea that such vast amounts of maple syrup were being stockpiled in gasworks-sized tanks. I thought they just took the buckets from the trees and bottled the stuff. We are now being warned that syrup might appear on the black market. I fear it may result in a shootout in Saskatoon, involving tanker trucks of maple syrup and railcars exploding with bales of marijuana.”

Anna is shocked by the size of Canada’s syrup reserves. I am more shocked by the fact that the police accept there is a lively black market in maple syrup. I always thought Canada was a relatively law-abiding place. But, no, Anna continues:

“There has also been a large scale theft of potatoes in Canada. We are wondering if the next thing to go missing will be bacon.”

According to a C-FAX 1070 news report:

Richmond RCMP are scratching their heads after hundreds of pounds of potatoes were uprooted from a farmer’s field. 

It’s not just a few potatoes that have been pilfered, but a football field full of spuds.  Richmond Police are investigating the theft after a local farmer reported that someone had moved in overnight and removed an estimated 5,000 pounds of taters. RCMP Sgt. Cam Kowalski says they are stumped.

“Someone has gone and uprooted all the potatoes in this particular area and gone off with them to, I don’t know, make French fries or vodka, but they are missing and we have no idea who’s done this because it certainly isn’t something we regularly patrol for during the night.”

Even Richmond’s Mayor has spoken out about the crop thefts saying it is a “disturbing offence”.

This easily-disturbed, potato-thieving area of Richmond is where Anna Smith lives. It is a suburb of Vancouver. She tells me:

“It is located on Lulu Island, the largest island in the Fraser River Estuary. Lulu Island is named after Lulu Sweet, a sixteen year old actress/singer from San Francisco who visited these shores in 1861. She was famous for appearing in public with bare arms, which in 1861 was probably the equivalent of doing a naked balloon dance in London in the 1980s.”

In London in the 1980s, Anna encountered (separately) the anarchic comedy triumvirate of the early Tony Green, the late Malcolm Hardee and the late Ian Hinchliffe, so I suspect there are more stories to emerge from this blog’s foreign correspondent’s desk in British Columbia.

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Filed under Canada, Comedy, Crime, Drugs, Gardening

Bring back the Fabulous Poodles and Hank Wangford + slugs & comedians

Last night, I went with my eternally-un-named friend to see Paul Astles and Bobby Valentino’s wonderful semi-regular music evening at the Wickham Arms in Brockley, South London.

I blogged in early July about violin virtuoso Bobby’s spat with PRS (the Performing Right Society) over royalties on The Bluebells’ worldwide hit Young at Heart. This seems to have been progressing and I somehow think that PRS have chosen the wrong person to have a fight with. I did not realise that venture capital companies regularly invest in prospective court cases which are likely to be won. Capitalism and gambling intermingled. Or is that tautology?

I suggested to Bobby (as he links the two groups) that the Fabulous Poodles or the Hank Wangford Band should play the Edinburgh Fringe next year, perhaps only for one week, as a teaser to attract a promoter interested in touring them. Fabulous Poodles frontman Ronnie Golden is already a Fringe regular with comedy writer Barry Cryer

I suggested a show with either The Fabulous Poodles or the Hank Wangford Band or preferably both in an hour long show at the Fringe. Maybe only for one week, to sell the idea of a tour. Those are certainly shows I would (unusually) pay to see.

But accommodation cost is always one of the major problems at the Edinburgh Fringe, so I guess it won’t happen.

Accommodation is not the only ongoing financial problem in Edinburgh, though.

A ‘think piece’ by Bob Slayer which the Scotsman newspaper suddenly pulled and which I then posted in one of my blogs on 4th August – How the Edinburgh Fringe is financed – got a lot of hits at the start of the Fringe; and a flurry towards the end of the Fringe; and today it has had another burst of sudden hits with a few comments at the bottom of the post.

I have a feeling people don’t spot any subsequent Comments on my blogs, so it is maybe worth pointing out that, in response to my blog yesterday about slugs in my back garden (it’s a glamorous life), Anna Smith made this Comment from Canada:

In British Columbia, which is neither British nor Columbia, we are over-run with slugs. Slugs have been known to decimate entire marijuana plantations, a vital industry here, now that much of our forests have been logged or destroyed by the pine beetle. The only solution to the pine beetle problem is a winter cold snap, which kills the larvae, but we have no control over the weather. Slugs are easier to combat. We place a saucer in the garden, and pour beer into it. The slugs soon appear and drink themselves to death within hours. Many comedians take years to perform the same accomplishment.

My eternally-un-named friend, at the forefront of the UK’s battle against the slug menace, has dreamt of slugs the last two nights. Giant ones climbing in and out of drains. She may try the beer option but, as I do not drink alcohol and she seldom drinks – in case the slugs do not take the bait – I may invite comedian Bob Slayer round to clear up the left overs.

Although, if I do, this may prove to be a major mistake.

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Filed under Comedy, Gardening, Music