Enlightenment on a spring, Canadablog #5

I know, you see the title and think what has he been taking (dope is legal here, but no). I was looking around the gift shop at Departure Bay Nanaimo while waiting for the ferry to take us back to Vancouver City and found this. A dashboard Jesus. I was sorely tempted to buy it, but having got this far I’m going to risk the rest of my days without.

The crossing was pleasant enough although the weather had taken a turn for the worse, it being overcast and rainy. We did get a brief glimpse of an Orca/killer whale. We saw its back breaking the surface of the water as we were sat in the cafe area having some breakfast. It beats watching breakfast tv.

We now have three days in the same place, that being Vancouver City. Kip had booked us an Airb&b which was great. The couple (Jen and Andy) whose house it is used to be in the punk band Submission Hold a few years back. They’re very arty and the house is home to many paintings and quirky objects as well as their son Sam, two cats and a dog.

We were made very welcome (just don’t run two appliances at once, you’ll trip the electric), the bed was comfy and the shower was hot. It’s all you need – well, that and decent coffee, which Jen also provided.

That night we drove into downtown Vancouver and we were both shocked by the amount of people we saw living on the streets and so many of them obviously had serious health/addiction problems. You get a bit immune to seeing homeless people to a degree (shameful I know) as you see it in so many cities in the UK these days, but we’d never seen it on this scale before. The following day Kip was talking about it to Jen (who works in a detox centre) and Jen explained that Vancouver is something of a magnet for this issue. It’s the warmest city in Canada, it’s the largest port on the west coast and they have a reputation for providing some of the best support services for people with addiction issues. As a result people with similar problems in other cities are often given one-way tickets by the authorities to get to Vancouver and get cleaned up. One three-kilometre bus ride down East and onto to West Hastings into the city centre takes you from an average street with shops and restaurants, past people laid out on the pavements, sleeping under umbrellas, wandering with all of their worldly goods on their back, to a beautiful and affluent city centre, with its high-rise buildings, conference centres, shops and cruise ships in the harbour.

Our gig on the Sunday night was fine and as we’d not got a gig on the Monday we had the whole day to ourselves. It pissed down rain nearly all day. Not that that stopped us; we took the hire car back in the morning and then walked until our bones ached before getting the bus back to our Airb&b late afternoon.

Later that evening we became hungry and walked out in search of food. We settled on a tiny Indian takeaway that also seated about six people. If you can remember Julie Walters doing the brilliant “two soups” sketch on Victoria Wood’s Acorn Antiques, you’ll get a rough idea of the service in this place. The whole operation from taking phone orders, orders from people calling in, to cooking the food, serving and waiting on tables was done by one elderly gent. He was a grafter – I’ll give him credit for that and his food was tasty.

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