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Seaforth Highlanders

I wanted blog about how the Seaforth Highlanders held a huge celebration this past Saturday to mark their return to the Seaforth Armoury.

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Instead, I spent most of the day mulling over the juxtaposition this held for me. The world is crazy right now.  So many places where guns are causing havoc. And here I am, a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner, celebrating the military.

Life is strange.

But for me, life is all about the people you cross paths with and their intent. What’s in their heart?

The Highlanders have been at the Jericho base for four years waiting for the massive reconstruction of the 80 year old Armoury to be completed.

Saturday was the Homecoming.

I got to attend the event as President of the St. Andrew’s and Caledonian Society. Being part of the Society has made me keenly aware of Vancouver’s history, and to be more precise, Vancouver’s Scottish history. Add in my love of pipe bands and it’s easy to see why I have a special place in my heart for the Seaforth Highlanders.  They were established on November 24, 1910 by a group of Vancouverites of Scottish decent. The Armoury was opened on August 26, 1936.

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For years I lived two blocks away and passed it on my way to work. The building and it’s inhabitants have always been a part of the Kitsilano neighbourhood. I remember hearing the pipes being played there decades before I knew I had Scottish blood in me.

Saturday was a day to marvel at this historical place.

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I loved seeing all the military personnel with their uniforms and rows of medals on their chests. The comradery was everywhere.

Saturday was a day to hear the Chor Leoni Men’s Choir sing with the 15th Field Brass and Reed Band and watch the Shot of Scotch dance! It was a day to see old and new friends.

Saturday was a day to hear some of Vancouver’s best pipe bands play their hearts out. I have a special love for the Vancouver Police Pipe Band!

Before the singing and dancing there was a formal ceremony when the Regiment officially marched past the dignitaries and invited guests.. The command of “face right” had been given. From my seat up front I could look right into these people’s eyes. Each so poised and dignified. I was overwhelmed to think of what some might have seen over their years of service. I feared what might be in store for others. I was filled with respect and admiration.

I hoped as they marched past they could see my tears of gratitude.

As the ceremony continued I slipped away to have a view from a high staircase.

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Many people took brilliant pictures of the day. I highly recommend you check out the Seaforth Highlanders Twitter feed if you want to see some of them.

I’ll leave you with the final march past.

Please take a few moments to look at all these amazing people.

 

 

 

 

 

A Spike and A Naked Woman

My Sunday morning was going to include a walk along the old railway tracks in search of some history. A souvenir. I wanted a spike. Loose ones were hard to find so I was prepared for a long trek. The land that makes up the Arbutus Corridor had been sold and the railway was being removed.

My quest would start where I’ve walked for years. The short distance between 33rdth and 37th in Kerrisdale. The route follows alongside Quilchena Cresent’s back alley. It’s secluded and offers some amazing views.

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I didn’t expect to find a naked woman sprawled across the tracks and a photographer perched above her. He took a shot then looked my way. I hurried past and told her not to get arrested. She shrugged. Of course I angled my phone to capture a picture as I walked away.

Then just around the bend I spotted a huge yellow excavator. The dismantling had begun.

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History was being unmade.

Kerrisdale is my home and the only reason it exists was the train stop at 41st. In 1905, the Railway manager, R.H. Sterling, asked Mrs. William McKinnon to name the station. She was from Kerrysdale near Gairloch, Scotland and suggested “Kerry’s Dale”, which quickly became Kerrisdale. I love that my home is named after a place in the Scottish Highlands. It makes me smile.

Remnants of the station still remain at the original intersection.

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Years ago, someone hung a bundle of white Christmas lights on top of one of the power poles between the alley and the track. When you’re very young and out for an evening adventure the glow was magical. We always said that fairies played there and the lights were their home. Years later I found out Kerrydale means “little seat of the fairies.”

No wonder I wanted to steal a piece of this place. And I wanted to find a spike close to where the fairies lived. I still believe in the magic.

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The rest of my day was spent watching the rails being pulled off the ties. The contraption underneath the excavator forced the rails up and pried the spikes free. Every few feet massive nuts had to be unscrewed and sometimes even the sledgehammer came into play. The process was much quicker than you would expect.

To stand near the tracks and be so close to the process was exhilarating. The sound. The vibration. The destruction. Here’s a little taste of what would happen…

 

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A few hours later and they were done.

 

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I’m not good with change so this morning’s walk along the same route made me sad.

All the ties had been removed and the rail remnants hauled away. The nostalgia was gone. I can already imagine the walkers and bikes and noise.

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Everyone will love this path… but the fairies will not be seen again.

Maybe their spirit will live in this rusty old spike?

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Special thanks to Corey and Curtis for indulging me as they worked.

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And as for that naked woman… did you really have to do this?

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Haggis Hunt

It’s hard to believe I was the person that discovered these mythical little creatures eight years ago. Until then, people didn’t Haggis Hunt at the BC Highland Games. Until then, we didn’t have kids running around Percy Perry Stadium searching for these wild, wee animals. Until then, I didn’t spend my day surrounded by Haggis Wranglers.

Who knows how I conjured up the hunt? Like so many thoughts, you can only feel blessed when your mind comes up with this kind of idea. I was thrilled that Angus MacPherson and his team, approved the concept.

The Haggis Hunt was born!

I was even luckier that a long drawn out search and a trip to Seattle led me to K-Mart. Apparently that’s where most of the Haggis lived back then. (Insert big wink here)

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The Haggis Hunt debuted on June 27, 2009.

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Since then we’ve been making lots of children very, very happy.

We even had a TV star, Brendan Meyer, join the Hunt one year!

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Then last year, Nic Brand of Men In Kilts stepped up to sponsor the Hunt.

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We decided to make searching for Haggis even better and Men In Kilts made that happen!

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Now it’s time to pass the torch.

Yes, all my friends and clients and acquaintances and neighbours and even random people on the street will be happy they won’t hear me endlessly talking about the wee Haggis for the entire month leading up to the Games. Everyone will be happy I won’t beg them to come and volunteer for the day.

And I’ll be happy because the Hunt will continue with the Men In Kilts as the official Haggis Wranglers.

Of course I will still be there every year. How could I not?

The look on those children’s faces when they spot a Haggis, find enough to fill their stamp page, and then receive their official pin is fantastic.

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The joy of knowing the hunt is in good hands and will carry on? Relief.

The joy of awarding the winner a wee Haggis each year? Priceless.

The joy of having one of these little guys forever by my side? Beyond words.

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YouTube and the Pipe Band

Why would I ever post anything on YouTube?

Why do I make the trek to visit the Victoria Highland Games every year?

Why do I endure the long weekend ferry line ups?

Why am I such a big fan of the SFU Pipe Band?

Here’s why…

It’s become a tradition. I visit some of my friends that live there and reconnect with the good people that put on this amazing event.

And it’s not just my yearly selfie with Jason. (Yes, that’s Jason Paguio, the world champion Drum Major for the SFU Pipe Band.)

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It’s not just eating a “double” portion of haggis! (And then coming back for more!)

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It’s not just having my camera ready for an iconic picture that receives thousands of views when I post it on Twitter.

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It is “being in the right place at the right time” and opting to start a video recording.

 

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A highlight of the Games is the impressive massed band at the opening and closing ceremony. I positioned myself to be on the side where the SFU pipe band would be.

Little did I know they would invite this young man to march with them?

Playing alongside a world famous pipe band is like skating with Sidney Crosby or cooking with Rachael Ray.

Priceless!

And so worth a post on YouTube.

 

 

 

Tartan Day Penguins

It was going to happen sooner or later. I can blame it all on Tartan Day but that would be a lie. For the second time in 153 weeks I didn’t post a blog on Wednesday. The last time this happened I was in the hospital.

This time I was so exhausted even a penguin couldn’t help me.

Yesterday, April 6th, was Tartan Day. For the last seven years I’ve been putting on some sort of event to mark the day. This year was no different except that this year may be my last.

I’m not an “events” person. People think I am, but they’re wrong.

Yesterday I joined up with Rob MacNeil and Nic Brand. I love these guys! Nic is the founder of Men In Kilts and let us use his tartan firetruck to drive around downtown Vancouver. Rob is the Cultural Committee Chair of the Scottish Cultural Centre and got us two pipers and a dancer to provide the entertainment. We made stops at many iconic Vancouver places, put on a mini show and in-between, drove around the main streets of downtown with the bagpipes going strong!!!

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Lots of fun but very crazy and a little hard to organize.

It’s “gorilla-style” with the premise that you do something and ask for permission later.

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A tad bit stressful for the person in charge.

Before we headed out I wanted to address the issue that I might lose my cool while we were on the road. (And when I say lose my cool I mean I could go insane and yell at everyone.)

So I gave this little speech to Rob, Nic, Roger Lye, Aiden Fowler, Alexandra Lye and the parents.

“We’re going out to have as much fun as we can, but I know that if I get stressed about something I can go a little crazy, get mad and totally crap out. It’s very ugly! So… if you see me start to get a bad face and get mean… I want you to immediately say a special word to me. And that word is PENGUIN! Then all I’ll think about are my favourite animals and the way they are so cute and how they walk funny and I will stop being mad. OK?”

I even tossed in my imitation of a penguin walking.

Everyone laughed.

The speech wasn’t for their benefit, it was for mine. It was a safety net in case the event went bad. In case I went bad.

But the day went well and no one said “penguin!”  The crowds smiled, took pictures, waved and realized it was indeed Tartan Day.

We only had trouble with two security people. Even those encounters ended well.

I got home after the fifteen hour day and wrote my blog. Then I accidentally deleted it. An exhausted, stupid move. I wrote another one and it was shit. I wrote a third one and can you believe this; my computer crashed and I lost it all.

I wanted to cry and scream and say I will never blog again.

Instead I said the magic word and went to bed.

Penguin.

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Finding Fraser, finding kc

Why is it so surprising when someone is kind and generous?

Back in January 2015 I got an email from kc dyer asking for my help to find a man in a kilt for a photo shoot. Well of course I know many men with kilts, but the one I thought would be most appropriate was Robert MacDonald. He even makes kilts.

Jump forward to kc self-publishing a book with a cover picture of a man in a kilt. (As you can see, Rob wears a kilt very well!)

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It’s called Finding Fraser and it’s a story about a young woman that reads the Outlander series and goes to Scotland to find her own Jamie.

I saw the book for the first time at the official launch party and was floored to see kc had thanked me for connecting her with Rob in the acknowledgments!

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Finding Fraser went on to become an Amazon bestseller.

If this story ended here it would still make for great reading. You would know how gracious and kind kc is.

But I need a longer blog post so I’ll add a little more to this story. And then tell you the best part…

kc is just one of the amazing people I’ve met at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference and my life is much richer for it. I’ve attended the conference for the last five years. When kc is leading a workshop I’m usually in the front row. Her “Beginner Intensive” master class not only gives you all the information you need to start your writing career but kc also inspires you with her enthusiasm, candor and hilarious attitude.

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Even more shocking… kc is surrounded by some pretty incredible people at the SiWC… Kathy Chung, Camille Netherton, Crystal Stanaghan, Eileen Cook, Jared Hunt, Jennifer Browne and Jennifer Striemer.

These people are the reason the Surrey International Writers’ Conference is famous for being so welcoming and generous. They make it happen.

And the reason I’m telling you this story today?

Yesterday kc announced that Finding Fraser will be published by Berkley (an imprint of Penguin Random House).

This is HUGE news! It’s rare for a self-published book to be picked up by a big publisher and kc and her agent, Laura Bradford made it happen.

I was thrilled to hear the great news as the tweets started bouncing around. Then I clicked on the link to find out the details.

And that’s when I started to cry.

kc has listed the names of the people that helped to make this happen. She included mine.

How can you not LOVE someone like that?