Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Take a Walk

The many layers of a city take a while to explore, and for me one of the best ways to unravel the ins and outs of a city is on foot. Walking the streets of a new city at different times of the day, seeing the light change, seeing the habbits of the people and feeling the temperature shift are all things unique to being in a place- as opposed to looking at pictures in a magazine or on a hand held device. 

While I was in Vancouver I took many walks:

to my various backpackers
to the library
out to dinner
to Rogers Arena- the home of the Canucks to watch the ice Hocky
to Granville Island to get tasty and pretty things
to go and see the twinkling Christmas 'Lights of Hope'

Rogers Arena- Home of the Canucks

'Lights of Hope' St Pauls Hospital, Burrard Street Vancouver

The walk best worth sharing however is the one I did around Stanley Park on the afternoon after my Visa interview. I was pretty mentally worn out- having spent all remaining omph on getting my papers together and over the line. But after a post interview nap I set off outside again- the sun was out and the 10km walk along the sea walls seemed like the best thing for my tired brain. 
It was late November and although the sun was splendidly out when I started, it (and its warmth) were well and truely gone when I had finished. It was a people watching expedition, nature walk and sculptue walk all in one.  

The first sculpture I encountered was  Dennis Oppenheim's Engagement, this eye catching piece was originally only a temporary installation as part of the Vancouver Biennale, but it has recently been gifted to the city. Of course they speak of romance, commitment, promise and love, but the twin 'stones' on the rings, illuminated at night, also remind me of light house beacons, are they warning ships off? Or showing the way home safely.  

Engagement: Dennis Oppenheim,

An Inuk Shuk looking out onto English Bay

Some of the sculptures on my walk tell stories of Canada's indigenous population. The hefty stone blocks are an ancient symbol of Inuit culture traditionally used as landmarks, but also representing northern friendship and hospitality. Before I saw this sun drenched mammoth I had only seen examples of the Inuk Shuk dangling from key rings. The one on my walk was far more impressive. The same goes for of the grand, vividly coloured carvings telling first nation origin stories- they were the first real looking totem poles I had seen in Canada.

As the journey progressed I became anxious that I had missed my most looked forward to sculpture. I knew it was possible to miss her, as she is positioned out in the water, but I was reassured when I asked a passing local that she was still ahead. Many people refer to her as the mermaid, though any attentive glance will reveal that she is wearing flippers and goggles. I don't think of her as marooned there on her rock, she is just taking a break, The sun had gone from the harbour by the time I greeted her, giving her something of a lonely aura, but I imagine the swimmer takes on different attitudes in different seasons and it would be lovely to revisit her some sparkling morning.

Girl in Wetsuit: Elek Imredy
Getting back towards the city I re-visit the Meeting - a sculpture instalation I first encountered on a morning run on my first day in Vancouver. I love this serene circle of figures who mock world leaders who sit down to endlessly try and fix the worlds problems, but also reminds you that the act of sitting down together is probably the best way forward.

Meeting: Wang Shugang

The Drop: Inges Idee
By the time I got to The Drop my legs were weary and the air was cold. It is impressive- but more so are the views beyond it.

Making it back into the city as dusk was falling the 10km I had walked on concrete was making my legs very tired, that and the icy wind from Grouse Mountain told me that outdoor time was over for the day- so  I took myself for a feed in Gastown. Slightly re-invigorated after my meal I could not help finishing my sculpture filled walk at the Vancouver Public Library even though it was slightly out of my way.  The whimsical light installation outside this magnificent, and always welcoming curved building were great favourites of mine in Vancouver-

The Words Don't fit the Picture: Ron Terada
This work by Ron Terada makes me think: what words- the words in my head? The words in a book? The words on the forms I have to fill out? Does the bureaucracy ever fit with any picture of reality? No!
But we do it anyway- because sometimes it gets us what we want/ where we want to be.  

A walk helps you get to know a city, but it also sets me free, sends my mind spinning in new directions, fills in the blanks, reminds me that there is more to life than paperwork.
And the Stanley Park walk – packed full of mountains, trees, ships, bridges, sculptures and history... PERFECT.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012


I went to the library on Saturday afternoon only to discover that on the weekend the library is basically closed. Preparing to write at home- in January in Scotland- means that as well as getting my brain into gear I  have to shovel piles of his papers and miscellaneous debris off the desk, then boil the kettle for my hot water bottle and work out how to sit on an office chair wrapped in a I doona (duvet still sound silly if you ask me).

Then I have to unwrap myself and go and get my fingerless gloves and hat.
Then I have to turn off Facebook and get to work.

At the moment I am:

thinking about plot lines
thinking about how to get my work out there should it ever get good enough/ finished
thinking I need to take the rubbish out and pick up some milk
wondering how to balance writing/job search/ me time/ him time
listening to Norah Jones one more time to try to get into my writing zone
trying not to check Facebook
trying not to get distracted taking self portraits
trying not to get distracted writing a blog about trying to write
trying not to get distracted loosing my pen inside the doona again...

but somehow there are words coming as well.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

New Year List

The end of 2011 saw me bagging two snowy Munros in the Scottish Highlands, which brings my total Munro count to a humble three.

Ben Nevis (1344m) is the tallest and was my first earlier in the year, then in the count down to 2012  I did two in two snowy days. First there was Garich (919m): the day started with bogs, climaxed with ice axe assisted assent to a white out summit and ended just on dusk tramping back through the bogs.

Loch Quioch Dam, picturesque start point for Garich climb.
This was back to back with the humble Beinn Tealluch (950m), another overwhelming bog slog- especially with no recovery time for my legs. There was no need for an ice axe this time, though the walking pole proved to be a powerful ally in the seemingly endless snowy terrain that went agonizingly up up up.

at the top of Bein Tealluch 

There are 283 Munros in total and at the moment I seem to know a lot of people who have them all on their to do list.

Back in Edinburgh with the new year begun and my lists are a little more mundane:

To Do
Edinburgh dressed for Hogmanay
fix up resume
do dishes
do laundry
get a new phone
get a UK bank account
look at volunteer options
make friends
look at work options
get a hair cut
stay warm
admire my new boots
pay credit card bill

To Get
knitting needles
hot water bottle
hair dryer