Friday, December 30, 2011

Not The Drill!!!

Years back a good friend of mine was living on the Island, I was talking to him on the phone one day and mentioned that I was heading to Victoria, he said to me 'oh when you're here you should visit Miniature World'.
This made me laugh, I said, 'why, so I can be amongst my people?' He of course didn't mean anything by it, merely pointing out a tourist attraction that he enjoyed, but being only 5 feet tall it amused me that it was the first place he mentioned.
I've always liked miniature furniture, the fine details of these scaled down versions fascinated me. Even when I was a kid and watched The Friendly Giant, my favourite part of the show was the close up of his hand moving around the small furniture in front of the fireplace.
On a recent trip to Victoria I happened upon a shop window filled with miniature furniture and all kinds of doll houses. As I was looking through the selection on offer, I came across this little beauty. I mean what doll house would be complete without ye olde Victorian dentist chair?? One can only assume this would go in the dungeon room?? Thinking of it now, I perhaps should've bought this and put in on the bathroom counter as a friendly reminder for my kids to brush their teeth - probably be a good motivator. Just put a little post-it note on it saying....'this could be you!' Worth a shot.


WOW!! That's the reaction I have each time I pass this house....WOW!! There's too much for my brain to process in that moment, so I finally had to take a photo to better analyze it. I still think, WOW!!
This little gem of a house is located in Vancouver and I'm rather curious as to what the neighbours think about it. I'm even more curious about what kind of people live here. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm all for people having freedom of expression - that's cool. I'm honestly interested in how their mind works...what makes you stand back, after the 200th ornament and say, 'hmmm, something's just not right, I know, we need more'. Obviously they must get a lot of pleasure from their display and I definitely enjoy things that make you pause and ponder and it does bring a smile to my face each time I see it.
It's clear to see that they put a lot of thought into it, colour selection, repetition etc, however my favourite detail is the small 'beware of dog' sign in the window. I mean do they really need a guard dog as a deterrent to theft?? If a burglar managed to make his way through the maze of characters and silk flowers and actually make it inside the house and grab one of maybe 60 TVs inside (assuming the more is more rule applies indoors too) wouldn't he be worried about making his way back through the maze with his arms now full of stolen goods and maybe limited vision!! Surely the risk of tripping and being impaled by Woody Woodpecker trumps getting a TV....I say, skip the risk and head to Best Buy - much safer!!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fun With Strangers!

Some people absolutely love a fair, I can't say I've ever been one of those people. Though as an observer and a photographer, well you can't find much better of a location to watch and capture people at their finest.
I've never been one of those kids that loved going on rides - for the most part they give me a massive headache. However, I've always been intrigued by fairs/carnivals. There always seems to be something underlying all of that happiness - I don't know, I think it goes back to when I was about 7 and the circus was in town, me and my brother had free tickets for the show from our school... it was kind of standard issue to come with your report card back in the day. Of course my brother is never happy with just the nice circus show, oh no, he wants us to try and sneak into the 'freak show' which you needed to pay an additional fee to witness. While my brother tried to test the slack between the tent stakes to see if one of the panels had enough give to crawl under, I stood back with great concern running through my mind. I was relieved when some dude kinda shooed us away. I mean, God only knows what was lurking in 'that' tent. No siree, I did not need to see that, I was cool with ye olde trapeze! I like to think that I came through that Ray Bradbury moment unscathed - though it did leave a lasting impression on me.
So while the rest of you hit the fairs in the summer to get your thrills, know that I'll be there too....wandering and wondering what's behind 'that' curtain or 'that' trailer..yup, it's just how I am. I must say though, as a gal who is always inspired by colour, I am in Heaven at the fair. While I do my best to block out the crowds (it's an introvert thing) I am soaking in the sights and sounds and find that side of things pretty thrilling!
Here are a few of my recent people watching photos - the PNE edition. For your best viewing pleasure, click on each image to enlarge to get a better look - especially the first image!!

Here's a classic example of how people's enjoyment levels vary - check out the expression on the kids faces in the front of the car....and then check out the dude behind them - clearly he's not diggin' this ride!

Foam fingers - not just for sporting events!! C'mon, how can you not smile when you see a big foam hand like that! He was enjoying himself - her, not so much.

This lady watches her daughter preparing to go down the slide...then she actually tries to go back the way that she came from so she didn't have to take her turn, but there were too many people so she had to go down.

She makes sure her sari gets tucked in before she launches.... she speeds down she slide grabbing on for dear life, her daughter is almost doubled over in fits of laughter.....

...and she makes a safe landing!! To be fair, I went down this slide last year and it does go surprisingly fast!!

Even monsters get scared!! Here we see mini Hulk in line for the ferris wheel, it soon becomes clear that 'Hulk no wanna go on ferris wheel!' Click on that first photo and check out this kid's eyes....super Hulk like!!

Hulk sleepy.

I'm thinking this man likes garanimals - a perfect match every time!! Only natural he choose the red dragon...and yes, there were other colour choices.

Who doesn't need one of these around the house?? The rasta banana - all your friends will be so jealous!!

Talk about a fish story!! 'He was how big?' This poor woman, not only had this mega fish flung over her back but she also had an armful of other equally fab stuffies. We couldn't take our eyes off of that fish though....I mean, it was crazy BIG. We chuckled as she walked past and she turned to us and said,'what are the chances my kid would get this with one shot'....she looked less than thrilled to be cruising around on one of the hottest days of the summer with her new friends. Heat and plush - nasty!
So there you have it, more fun with strangers....and when the PNE rolls around again you can bet I'll be there...enjoying you, enjoying yourself!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Now That's a Nutcracker!!

At 85 years old, my nan gave up her apartment and spent the rest of her days living between my mum's house and my uncle's house. One day I headed up to her apartment with my mum, to help her sort through her things and start the packing process. My nan asked me to let her know if there was anything I wanted. Over the course of the day, I found a few items that I asked her if I could have for keepsakes, 2 of the items belonged to my grandfather, known as pampy to the family...he had passed away about 4 years earlier.
I had such vivid memories of these items from way back, when they lived in a house in Surrey. I'd often see pampy sitting outside playing a game of dominoes with some old crony from work, so I asked for the set of dominoes, still in the original box and I also asked for his nutcracker. For as long as I can remember my grandparents had 'his and her' chairs, very much in the way that Archie and Edith Bunker did. Sitting beside pampy's chair was always a bowl of nuts with this nutcracker resting on top. Now granted, thinking about it as an adult, it may have been considered a bit rude to some, but having a sense of humour runs in the family so I don't know anyone who ever took any offense to it. As a little kid I thought it was the coolest thing and my opinion hasn't changed, it has great lines and it's quite a heavy object. I didn't even like nuts back then, but me and my brother would ask if we'd could crack some nuts just so we could use it. So my grandfather would sit in his Archie Bunker chair while we took turns choosing nuts from the seemingly vast assortment in the bowl, all the while giggling at the 'lady's legs bustin' up nuts!
Aaah the simple pleasures in life - nut bustin'! I'm not sure if they brought it with them from Wales or how long they had it, but my memory of it goes back almost 40 years! This little beauty now sits on my desk, and word to the wise, if I ever need to bust some nuts, I'm well prepared!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lost in Translation Part Two (saying it wrong)

Ok, so part one of Lost in Translation dealt with how I've often heard certain phrases incorrectly as a result of my family's accent.
Well for part two, I'll explain how some common phrases that I grew up saying have often been taken the wrong way - and all of a sudden I feel more like Mae West, than Melanie May!

For the most part the British sayings that I grew up with would leave people looking puzzled but not shocked.
It falls along the same line though, to me they were just words and phrases that I grew up with, I didn't initially distinguish what was British and what was Canadian, I didn't ask the origin of each word I was taught to speak.
You got the tip off from friends either giving you that blank stare or laughing at you, then I'd backtrack and try to find out the 'offending' word.
Usually there wasn't really anything to be offended about, many were just simple adjustments face cloth/flannel, candies/sweets, hood of a car/bonnet, trunk of a car/boot etc. Some words seemed a bit more confusing, like telling my friends I kept my clothes in a tall boy, which no one else seemed to have a clue what that meant and saying things like I was chuffed, also had friends wondering if that was good or bad?! Many of these phrases are much better known now, so it's not such a mystery to figure out what I'm saying.
Though there is one word that my mum often uses when talking about me to others, that usually leaves the listener slightly confused. She is often heard saying, 'Melanie has always been chesty', now people obviously think she's referring to 'my girls', which granted, yes I have 'em, but this exclamation by her always provides a smirk to those who hear it - especially men! What she is actually trying to convey is the fact that I've always been prone to chest infections, I had pneumonia three times before I was 2 years old, so in her way she's explaining my early medical condition. It makes it sound like she's trying to pawn me off to some job that'll make the most of my assets!

Having said that, I have gotten myself in a few awkward situations by way of my own tongue - already that sounds wrong!
My innocent words have often left me feeling a little bit like Jessica Rabbit -
the line where she says, 'I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way', well I sometimes feel like, 'I'm not bad, I just sound that way'.

One such example finds me giving a whole group of people a good ol' chuckle combined with a few blushing faces.
The scene - Newport, Wales - in a living room filled with about 20 family and friends all gathered to have a visit with my mum and I on our first return to the 'old' country together in almost 10 years. To fit everyone in the room, we've formed a large circle of chairs, all is going well, teapot working over-time and everybody's having a good ol' chinwag. One of the guests is a adorable little boy who was about 3 years old, he's decided to go round and round this circle of people, passing each one with a twinkle is his eye, he's enjoying that everyone is giving him a little wave, or saying 'hello' as he passes. This goes on for about 5 minutes, and he's getting a bit cheeky (in a fun way) with and I always connect - for 2 reasons I think, one because I love kids and I think they sense it and two because I'm pretty much kid-sized and not intimidating. So he starts to get braver with each passing, tapping my knee, or grabbing my hand, then on his final trip past me he decides to just stick his tongue out and touch it to my knee....laughing all the while. I, in a joking way with him say, 'get lost you little bugger'. His mum who was about the same age as me says, 'oh what did he do, is he bothering you?'
By this time, everyone seems to be at a break in their conversations and listening for my reply. I say, 'no he's not bothering me, he just licked my pants'.
Yup...pants....aka the most common term in Britain for underwear!!!!
So um, yeah, kinda puts a whole different spin on the situation!!
For some reason, it's the one word that I never remember to (quickly) translate. When I was little, my mum did refer to underwear as 'little pants', but that phrase just didn't become the norm in our house.
So to everyone's ears there, I just announced to a (now quiet) room full of people that this little boy had licked my underwear!! Lucky for me, everyone had a pretty good sense of humour, so once I clarified my blunder all was good. Yay me, way to make a great impression!

Now back on this side of the pond, while at work is where I once again find myself in need of a little s'plainin'. I was in the backroom of a store to get my stock, it happened to be placed in the high steel, which means I needed someone there to get it down for me. I asked a young guy in receiving if he could give me a hand, and he was lovely enough to agree. We just had to wait for the area to be cleared so he could get a ladder in the area that we needed to work in. While we're waiting we start chatting...about all kinds of stuff, he tells me that he just quit smoking and he's trying to make some positive changes to his life, started to run again and is going back to the gym too. He further explains, that he used to play football, but got injured quite bad and because of the resulting back injury he could no longer play. I make some mention about his job being very physical, and continue to say, 'it must be hard on your back, humping boxes all day'. As soon as the words left my mouth, I thought 'ooops'!!! The look on his face was priceless. Before he even got to ask me to explain, I quickly said, 'oh man, sorry...that's an expression I grew up with, it means to move a lot boxes etc', my nan would always say that. He laughed about it, and just 'I wondered what you meant'. Really lost in translation!!

Another 'offending' phrase I use, and can't seem to find just the right replacement phrase is 'cock up'. I know, obviously that's going to cause me all sorts of trouble, but it's a pretty innocent phrase really. Used when someone makes a big mistake, when they really bugger something - I'll say, 'well that was a massive cock up'....or 'what a bloody cock up'. It explains the situation like no other phrase can and it's usually the first thing out of my mouth....again, that sounds wrong!!!

I do take comfort in knowing I'm not the only one who makes these kinds of 'errors'. When I was in high school, we had a new student from England, one day during consumer math (yaaaawn) he put his hand up, and when the teacher asked him what he needed, he said, 'I need a rubber, does anyone have a rubber that I can borrow?' Well you can imagine the roars of laughter that burst out of our classroom doors. His face went beet red from everyone laughing at him though he had no idea what was so funny....I headed back to him and explained in Canada it's called an eraser and that a rubber is a condom. He then turned an even deeper shade of red, pretty sure he learned to drop that word quick like!

And the last example I have to share with you also comes from the mouth of another. On the same trip to Wales with my mum, we stayed with her childhood friend Edna in a home that would become my home away from home several times over the years. On this occasion though her nephew happened to come to stay with her for a few days, I remember thinking with him there, the dynamic of our stay had changed slightly, it was no longer me and a few older gals hanging but we now had a 17 year old male amongst longer would I feel comfortable lounging around in my pj's etc. I was 21 so at least there was someone closer to my age so that was good, and I always get along well with men so it wasn't a terrible situation. While the women nattered into the wee hours, Stevie and I sat at the kitchen table and played cards and I started to warm to the idea of having him around. Then when everyone decided to turn in for the night, there was talk of what time we should get things started the next day...people and places to visit etc.
At this point, my mum's friend Edna turns to me and says, 'what time do you want Stevie to knock you up?' Wow!!! Um....I just met him!!! Lucky for me I knew this was an innocent phrase that merely meant 'what time should he get you up'...she figured we'd both want to lie in a bit, so he could wake me up later while the rest of them could work on downing vast amounts of tea. Even though I knew the phrase it still surprised me for a split second. I mean, yeah I like playing cards with him but let's slow things down just a little!
Funny enough, the following year I came over for a solo, 3 month stay, at the same time, Stevie ended up moving in with Edna and well as fate would have it, we became a couple!
And I can share with you that although he never had to 'knock me up'....he was nice enough to occasionally wake me up with toast and a cuppa to be enjoyed in bed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lost in Translation - Part One - (hearing it wrong)

This blog isn't about one of my travels to a foreign land where I don't speak the language and the trouble that ensued - though I do have a few of those to tell, but not at this time. This time, I share with you my troubles with the English language and to some extent my hearing.
I was born in Canada, and I speak English, pretty well for the most part, near fluent I'd stretch to say. However, my parents were both immigrants to Canada, my mum was born in Wales and my dad was born in England. Nothing too crazy as far as a language barrier really - or so you'd think.
However, I have found that having British parents has caused me a few issues over the years. Part of it comes from them being the ones responsible for teaching me to speak....I mean granted, that was their job and all but still. To be honest, I never really thought either of my parents even had an accent, it's not something I was ever aware of. In fact I didn't even clue in to the fact until I was in my teens and one of my friends was doing an impersonation of my dad and it came off sounding like Michael Caine!! I laughed and said, 'my dad doesn't sound like that, he doesn't even have an accent!'. To which my friend then boldly laughed in my face with a 'whaaaat?!'...followed by a 'yes he does and so does your mum!'
Hmmm....I was shocked - really. Two of my dad's brothers also emigrated from England to Canada and I could clearly hear their accents but not my own parents - weird.
I knew they used different slang words and sayings but that's about it, and even that fact only came to light as a result of my friends pointing them out when I said them.
When you learn to speak, you mimic the sounds that you hear your parents saying, so when I say, 'bloody 'ell' or flippin' 'eck' it's not because I'm trying to sound British and use an accent, it's because that's how I heard it said as a child.
I don't mean to give you the impression that those particular words were ones that they 'taught' me as a baby, but more words that I heard throughout my childhood.
Wouldn't paint the greatest parenting picture otherwise would it -
My parents - 'say doggie'....'good, yes, that's it doggie'
and say, 'milk'....'yes, what a clever girl you are, milk'
and can you say, 'bloody 'ell, flippin' 'eck, the dog just drank my milk!!' not quite like that, just more of repeating a word exactly as I heard it.

So without me really being aware of it, the way they said words (because of their accents - I now know that) has caused me to have certain things lost in translation at times. Combined with the fact that these are words and phrases that I heard - not ones that I had ever seen written down.

Take for instance, if I missed school because I was sick. I would go to my mum and say, 'I need to take a note today so they know why I missed school yesterday'. She'd reply (or at least what I heard), 'I'll tell them you were pauly'.
I'd say, 'don't put that!'...I was fully aware that my family wasn't 'full Canadian' now we're going to make it super obvious with that statement!' I'd say, 'just put I was sick'...the compromise was always a note saying I was 'unwell'. Even that made me feel daft! But 'unwell' was certainly less of a tip-off to our half Canadian status than me being bloody pauly!!!
Many years later, I was in Wales and heard someone saying that their son was 'pauly' and missed school and like a light bulb going on, I realized that the word was 'poorly'....not 'pauly'!!! Flippin' 'eck, now it made sense!!! For years I pondered why being sick was always blamed on pauly....was this Paul fellow perhaps responsible for the Great Plague of London?? Was he first one to be bitten by an infected flea?? How did they know it was him? Boggling of the mind now over - Paul didn't do it!!

Another phrase that I heard incorrectly for years was when my mother would say things like, 'headed to do some Christmas shopping on Saturday and it took ages to find a parking spot, (followed by what I heard to be) parfathecourse'...she used this statement all of the time as did I over the years. I understood it's meaning just fine - it meant 'what's to be expected'. One word, parfathecourse.
Once again, years later I was watching golf with Tony as I had many, many times and I hear the announcer use 'my families term' parfathecourse, I thought, 'how odd, I've never heard anyone else ever use the term!'
Then in that very moment, confused to why he's using it, my brain slowed things down for a moment. It's like I went into slow-mo mode....'course'...'golf'....'par'. Now though I don't play golf, I've watched more than my fair share of it, and I'm familiar with not only many of the players but most of the golf terms too, so the slowing down of the phrase continues in my brain...'par...for...the...course!!'
Not parfathecourse!!! Seriously, you have no idea how chuffed I was in that very moment - I exclaimed out loud to Tony...'I get it'....'it's 'par for the course'!!!
That's what I've been saying all of these years!!! I felt like I had made some great discovery...OK maybe not like Columbus, but for me just as exciting!! I mean I've used the expression for as long as I can remember but never gave much thought how that one odd word might be spelled.
At that point in our relationship Tony was well aware that I sort of spoke two languages - English, and something else...he was also well aware of the fact that I was slightly nuts, so he just watched as I beamed with pride from my new found knowledge.

The last and maybe most embarrassing example comes from a phrase that my Welsh nan (who also immigrated to Canada) always used to say.
First in my defense let me say going to church was not part of my upbringing though I wasn't completely clueless to the whole God and religion thing. My mum always told us a few key points, 'Jesus loves everyone...followed by, he was friends with the prostitutes and the thieves'. My nan also sometimes would sing a hymn or two in Welsh and had a picture of the Last Supper in her hallway. And yes I mean a copy of the famous painting, not a photo of my grandparent's last meal - which if it was my grandfather, better known as Pampy, the last supper would surely be a plate of spuds swimming in a pool of butter and covered in pepper. I digress...religion, God and stuff, I did have some insight. One of my most vivid visuals comes from my nan's frequent saying of 'Jesus swept'. I've seemed to have painted a clear picture of a non-stop cussing family! Anyways, my nan would say 'Jesus swept' often, as kind of a term of, 'Jesus swept, they ate all the cake!' seemed to come in handy for many different things. Once again, the accents and the speed of the speech had me hearing it wrong, but every time my nan said it, I'd picture his robe, not his bathrobe of course but one of those 'man dresses' of his time, also sporting a pair of sandals and with broom in hand I would see him sweeping. I must say, for such an important historical figure his house was not grand. He was always sweeping a porch that was in area, about a 5x5 foot square, wasn't even a raised porch, more of just a square outside his door. I've had that same image of Jesus sweeping up since I was about 5 years old, always impressed by his modest home and good housekeeping skills. Made me feel like I knew a bit about religion, granted I didn't know all of the characters in the Bible, but I felt like I had a bit of insight to Jesus - he was tidy, modest and non-judgemental - I like having this knowledge.
In my thirties I bought a few 'easy to understand' books about religion, well not so much specific religions, but more of stories from the Bible. I figured it would be good to know another character or two, a way to string the together the ones that I was aware of. I knew tidy Jesus, Joseph with his wildly coloured coat along with some of his brothers (this knowledge came courtesy of doing a production of Joseph in elementary school), Moses and his basket, I knew that some dude named Job apparently had a lot of patience, Adam and Eve - snake/apple/garden, Noah and his mega boat - lots of rain/saving animals and a few other tidbits like that. I thought it was time to put some of these people and events in order so I bought myself these books for my own kind of enlightenment.
And indeed I did find enlightenment when reading the story about Lazarus dying I read the phrase -'Jesus wept'. And again, my brain slowed down for a minute, and I actually thought to myself (albeit for only a second or two) reminds me of my Nan's phrase - 'Jesus swept'....'Jesus wept?!'....oooh, Jesus wept!!! He didn't sweep, he cried!!!

So in that moment I discovered that Jesus was a sensitive man. Was he tidy? I could no longer be certain.

Next time.....Part Two....saying it wrong. How certain phrases just don't translate well. Stay tuned.