Wednesday, October 24, 2007


A nice stroll with sis and Lord Spud through Covent Garden. Having a nice chat. You know. Sunny day. All that. Suddenly brother and child are forgotten...Cue: Neglectamummy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


In all of this, they only lost my bags once. And I got them back. Miracle, when you come to think of it.

Monday, October 15, 2007

European Weight Loss Program

The Bad News: 24 hours of puking and other evacuations thanks to gastrointestinal plague caught from nephew.

The Good News: 7 kilos down since I arrived in London on Friday.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wireless Blogging

Ok so blogging is pretty much the most self-centred and egotistical form of communication. The blogger can carefully choose his or her words, can choose whether or not to post comments and replies from readers, and can blather on about pretty much anything that he or she believes is interesting to his or herself, notwithstanding the opinions of others.

This blog was intended as a personal test of my comittment to wireless handheld devices as the ultimate means of communication. In reality it has been extraordinarily taxing to make these posts from a keyboard that is not much larger than my two thumbprints held side-by-side. Even more taxing because there is no reasonable way for me to get phone pictures posted to Blogger. There are few readers, really, other than my immediate family members. Even they will find little value here, other than the abbreviated diaries of my sporadic business and road trips. In perusing sparx' blog, it's clear that her content is more interesting to an almost infinitely larger audience, better executed, more frequently and consistently delivered and incorporates feedback religiously, no matter how lame. In fact sparx has marketed her product as effectively as any
good Product Manager would even though she would modestly claim otherwise. She chose a large target market that is consistently growing and refreshing itself (pregnant women and new mothers), kept her product quality high (executed effectively using her innate and considerable writing skills), delivered frequent product updates (writing almost daily), and listened to her market (interacts frequently with her readers, posted feedback and responded to it). So hats off to her for all of this.

I still haven't found a consistent voice, or topic, or energy to post frequently from my phone, and may soon abandon this effort, but until that time, I will endeavour to hone my product, seek an interested target market, and increase production, with sparx as my inspiration.
(sent wirelessly from my phone)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Drei Linden Hangover

My colleague ordered the schnitzel, and two came, and I ordered the ribs, as did the rest of the party. He managed half the plate of ribs and one and a half schnitzel. And he's not a big guy. And yes, it's covered in cheese.

It's Thursday: Must be Nurnburg.

Europe by the numbers

This trip is getting a bit old. Since I was a child, I have always tried to break tedious experiences down into ordered lists. Things I've done, things I need to do, that sort of thing. Like riding a motorcycle 600km in one day: After the joy and pleasure wears off, and you're just riding along, I would count cars, play the alphabet game, that sort of thing.

So this trip, while full of variety and interesting people, has hit the Alphabet Game , or rather, the Numerology Game. On the way back from yet another customer meeting today, this time in northern Bavaria, I started a small and meaningless catalogue in my brain.

So for my own edification, here's the tally:

It's been 13 nights away from home with 7 to go.

It's been 9 cities with 2 to go.

It's been 7 flights with 5 to go.

It's been 8 hotels with 2 to go (counting my lovely sister's accommodations)

It's been 5 trains with 9 to go.

It's been 7 meetings with 4 to go.

It's been 4 currencies with 1 to go.

It's been 7 shuttle buses with [unknown] to go.

It's been 13 taxis with [unknown] to go.

It's been 8 restaurants with [unknown] to go.

It's been 2 lost bags and 2 found bags.

It's been one funeral wake, one 1st birthday party, one disappointment, one triumph, many unknowns and...well...not so far to go.

I can say please, thank-you, black-tea-with-sugar, goodbye, and hello in Swedish, German and Finnish except you can't say please in Finnish because the word doesn't exist.

So you raise your eyebrows and smile. {8o)

[Picture: Nurnburg Spital in the alt stadt, dating from 1486, apparently]

Taxi Heads-up Display

Your fare appears in the rearview mirror. Looked slick.


A most bizarre dining experience was had in Helsinki. We couldn't get into a couple of restaurants we wanted to try so stumbled upon a giant barn of a place in downtown Helsinki right near the bus station. Older gentlemen in varying stages of drunkenness swayed dangerously on the front steps. At first appearance we thought it was a country and western bar, with tractors sitting in various locations around which tables were formed. Lots of old farm implements, wagon wheels and plows, and a dance floor large enough for a group of enthusiastic line dancers to scoot a boot. The staff were surly and non committal but we finally found a table and read through the menu. It was written up with a lot of apparently tongue-in-cheek-humour, and appeared to be based on old Finnish farmhouse recipes: lots of meat, potatoes, sausage and swedes. We ordered and received two hugely-mounded plates of food, mostly potato. The rest of the clientele looked like rejects from a Billy Ray Cyrus video, with lots of mullets and cheesy clothing: The Finnish equivalent of the Nascar set. Anyway, the men's bathroom walls were completely covered in pictures of half nude pinup girls from 1960-1970 girly magazines, interspersed with advertisements for tractors.

Turns out the Zetor is a revered old Czech brand of tractor that just ran and ran. Finnish farmers could get low-powered versions of them very cheaply in the impoverished days of Finland's independence from Russia (Finland as a country was only formed in 1917 and was previously part of Sweden, followed by a stint as a Grand Duchy within Russia).

Anyway, we were glad to get out of there as the clientele and staff were equally unfriendly, and the former were mostly blind drunk.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Land of the Moomins

I forgot that Finland was the home of Tove Jansson and the tale of the Moomins.

Stumbled across this in the Helsinki airport. Unfortunately Finland has failed to capitalize on this delightful series of children's books that I grew up on, since the souvenirs are absolutely shite.

Who can buy a china Moominmamma dish in the departure lounge and get it home in one fucking piece?

Loads of people browsing, not so many buying.

Birthday cake #1

Blow, Charlie, Blow.

No nephew of mine

Since when does a Parker infant reject a pint of perfectly good ale?

Evidently he is of true French descent and prefers a fine vintage over the humble hop.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Don't ask for a receipt

The bakery was well named. Asked for a receipt and the lively staff member leapt into action. Ten minutes later... However the chocolate covered meringue blobs were Finn-tastic. Try it out in the inner harbour of Helsinki, close to the open air market at
Gamla Kauppatori

A fine recent show in Helsinki

Profanity is universal. Last night in Stockholm, some kids were chatting in Swedish, (think: teenaged Muppet Swedish Chef) when the universal language of English shone through:

"Hurr de fleur de doom bi diski doo what the fu-u-uck de blurr shi donski fu-cking shoop be doop".

Uhh, ye-eah. I need to find....

Linkoping, Sweden.

A Vancouver Girl's wet dream

West Kensington, London vs. Vancouver, BC.


Laundry Bag with attitude

Clarion Hotel, Stockholm.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

It's Monday: Must be Linkoping


Meeting in Swindon as blah as I expected it to be. Customer's site office was like a gunmetal Red Dwarf had crashlanded on a windswept and abandoned Teletubby set. Customer was lukewarm and indifferent, coy and self absorbed. So thus I expect to get a deal there, since I didn't want one and never want to visit them again. Black batwing logo atop the entrance was a suitable tipoff that a dark and troubled master resided within.

Was driven back to Heathrow where we took up in the Ibis hotel nearby, pending our morning flight to Stockholm. Had missed my Great Aunt's funeral held that day at Mortlake, but managed to tube-bus-walk to the reception held in her old house in Kensington. The one and a half hour journey brought me to the door of her home, now filled with a subdued but loving crowd. Her two sons, their wives and children were there, along with her niece, friends and various cousins and other loved ones. Sparx was there and we hugged and commiserated quietly together. Great Aunt was wonderful to Sparx when she moved back to the UK, and the two had a very special and personal relationship as a result. We stood in the high ceiling'd rooms and reminisced ruefully. Met, chatted, and laughed with some cousins I didn't know I had. Nice but hard.

A lonely and cold walk-tube-bus back to my grim and charmless hotel made it more poignant. Hard to know that I'll never see her again, given that I'd seen her on every previous visit to London in the past 25 years.

The next morning, my colleague and I caught the 9am flight to Stockholm Aranda, and express-trained to Stockholm Central Station where we fumbled about trying to find the right station to Linkoping (Lin-SHO-ping). Finally found the office for the SJ station (SK is intracity; SJ is intercity). 1244Krona later (about $90 Canadian) and we were on our way. 20 minutes into the 1:20 journey however, the train (which had been travelling along at about 150km/h) stopped abruptly and the acrid smell of burning asbestos brakes filled the cabin. Some announcements were made over the PA system in Swedish. The other passengers didn't seem too concerned, so we assumed that the delay was temporary. So we waited.

And waited.

And bought a beer and sandwich.

And waited.

And bought a tea and sandwich.

And waited.

And slept.

And waited.

And watched the sky darken outside.

And waited.

After two and a half hours the conductor finally made an announcement (thankfully in both Swedish and English this time) that the train had broken down irreparably and we would be transferring to a different train. Given that we were in the middle of the Swedish countryside, now in the pitch dark, and trains were blasting past us at 200+km/h, this was interesting news.

True to their word, a duplicate train pulled alongside and stopped. Two rickety gangplanks were stretched across the gap between the two trains, and 400 people made their way to the one exit, and transferred to the other train, each to the same seat as on the original. To our surprise, this was conducted with minimal fuss or complaint, car by car, seat by seat.

And we were off again.

Moments later, another announcement was made that the NEW train had mechanical problems, and would be speed-limited for the rest of the journey. Since we still had over 1 hour to travel at the old train's original pace, this was not welcome news.

Finally, 6 hours later, we arrived at Linkoping and cabbed to our hotel.

It is cool, brisk and gray here. The hotel is comfortable and clean. Swedish is utterly incomprehensible, but everyone is very nice and most are thoughtful enough to speak English very well.

Off to bed. Conference tomorrow.

Eyelids drooping.

Goodbye, Liz, I say to the cold and dark night.

Please let me age the way you did, with grace, dignity, delight, and elegance. Please let me hold on to my wit and sense of self. And let me be as funny and giving.


(sent wirelessly from my phone)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Planes Trains Automobiles Buses and Tubes

I landed in London Saturday morning after flying through Toronto for a total of 13 hours. Managed 0 hours sleep but watched Spiderman 3 (mediocre), Hot Fuzz (fun), and read two books: Ondaatje's In The Skin Of a Lion (stunning) and Haddon's The Mysterious Case of The dog in The Garden at Night (excrutiatingly good) (can't remember the title but it was something like that). Took the Heathrow Express to Paddington, dropped one of my unneeded bags at Paddington' left-luggage, bought my train ticket for Reading on Monday, and then tubed to Covent Garden to meet sparx and the spud. She had to divert to the bus, since the Victoria tube line was out of service for the weekend. She made it right as I arrived, but had had to cancel her original plans to meet me at Paddington.

At Covent Garden, the cufflink store I wanted to see was closed despite saying they would be open. Looks like someone else was diverted that morning too.

We had a tea and breakfast roll sitting at an empty cafe and chitchatted while we entertained Charlie. I walked him totteringly around the tables. I estimate he will be walking in two months, at least that's my inexperienced, uneducated, uninformed and yet hopeful opinion. The worst thing is that he still doesn't talk, which I always find frustrating in the children of someone that I love. Despite my fervent attempts, he never mastered "Hoto" or even "Uncle" which I felt was very insulting and thoughtless of him, although since he's not yet really mastered "Mama" or "Dada" I shall have to wait for him to trot out those two tired old epithets first before I can hope for anything more (sigh).

After sitting and listening to a lively string quartet+flute in the Garden, followed by an odd couple singing decent opera, we gave up on waiting for the cufflink store and bussed/cabbed to Brixton where we met sparx' better half D at the house and dropped my bags off. We then just pottered about, had an exceptional Thai dinner at D's hand before my eyelids finally were too heavy to lift and I staggered to bed. Slept late on Sunday (9-ish) and had a good breakfast followed by the much anticipated Japanese F1 race, where we watched Lewis Hamilton rise above all the conflict and hype and take the win in the pouring rain.

Then we all bussed back to Covent Garden, obtained my cuflinks, had lunch at Neal's Yard (where Monty Python's offices used to be when they were starting out), took some pics in Trafalgar Square with the Spud on my shoulders, and finally arrived back for a pasta dinner in Brixton.

Now I am barrelling west on the train to Reading for a meeting; am being picked up by colleagues to head to a customer site in Swindon.

The sky is yellow and gray, but as always, the England tearing past my window seems surprisingly green and verdant. Like a very old house, England is always somewhere that I will belong, comfortable and grimy in the corners, friendly and full of welcoming life.

More later.
(sent wirelessly from my phone)