Winter's A-Comin'

Well, it seems like today is the first day of the rains. We've heard so much about the rain rumours since we arrived in Vancouver, lots of; "Wait until the rain starts, then you'll see what Vancouver's realllly like!" to which I always guffaw and smugly reply; "Hey, I'm from Ireland, you guys don't know what real rain looks like"...although I don't quite know why I'm boasting about that particular curse to my homeland!

Doth the lady protest too much?

Yes, she does.

As I type, I can barely even hear myself think over the torrential rain that's splattering down against the windows. The lights are on in the afternoon (that's another thing, did you know it's not a done thing in Canada to have a main light on the ceiling of the main room, it's just the kitchen, bedrooms, halls and bathroom and lamps are used instead...another minor cultural difference but one that struck me as odd!) The heat would be on if I knew how to work it and the Irish tea that was sent over to us is a-boilin' (thanks Simon's mum!)

Wait...........wait..........yep, the hailstones have just begun. And not just any hailstones, hailstones the size of golfballs! They are peltering down on the balcony, my used-to-be sunny suntrap full of ornamental butterflies, now soaked outdoor candles and not-very-weatherproof bamboo that provides us with a small bit of privacy from the Sandman Hotel which overlooks us to the left.

Our Irish and Canadian flags are no longer blowing in the wind like proud compatriots but drooping miserably like two drowned rats side by side. And as if that wasn't enough a leak appears to have sprung somewhere in our apartment block which means we have no running water which seems quite ironic considering the flooding outside.

Mother Nature, why must you be so such a cruel temptress?! Maybe I'll leave a pot outside, that'll solve all my problems!

However, I should say here that we've had quite an exceptional four month run of good weather so I can't complain. We bought our season ski passes for Seymour Mountain Yesterday so we're all looking forward to the snow and our first time on the slopes in Van. My first time ever in actual fact as my family missed the boat on the ski holidays when we were young and instead we always ended up on a campsite somewhere in France, all six of us squeezed into the one tent and living on a diet of French baguettes and red wine (or was that just my parents?!)

I'm looking forward to trying my hand at snowboarding but presume I'll spend most of my time on my bottom. I've bought wrist guards to protect my scrawny bones as I can't really afford a fall...or the hospital bills...or not being able to go to work...or having to crawl home to Ireland with my broken coccyx between my legs. Oh, the joys of winter sports!

The big news here of course is the 2010 Winter Olympics so I really just have to perfect my skills enough to know what I'm gawping at for the next month!

Other events of note recently on Rachel's Radar include Arthur's Day and one of the most anticipated gigs of my life, Pearl Jam.

The first I only heard about an hour beforehand so we rushed off to raise a glass and that lived up to expectations (but very sore head the next day!) and the second I've followed since I was twelve -- with a general hiatus on the last four albums, sorry diehard fans -- and I'm loathe to admit it but they just didn't cut the mustard.

Let me start with Arthur's Day. This is a day in honour of "the black schtuff" as we call it in Ireland celebrating its 250th birthday and, of course, being "good for you"! Best advertising ever!!

Apparently in Ireland it's been quite a big deal for quite some time with a huge marketing build up. 50 million people joining in on the toast worldwide, from New York to Lagos to Kuala Lumpur. Leg-ends like Tom Jones singing at Dublin's St James’s Gate brewery, Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood jamming on Grafton Street, The Kooks doing an acoustic set, Kelly Rowland turning up as as surprise guest...the list is endless

On this side of the world, we saw all of the Arthur's Day celebratory posts on social media sites online and, in true Irish style -- 8 hours earlier in our time zone may I add -- so circa 11am we hotfooted it to the nearest Irish pub and the Guinness started flowing!

I've often admired the look of a nice fresh pint of cool Guinness with beads of water dripping down the sides invitingly and a perfect smooth white head that almost looks like a cappuccino and mmm I love cappuccinos so I always give in and say, "Oo, gimme a wee taste of that" yet I inevitably come away disappointed as it looks great but it tastes like muck!

Apparently though, I was informed by my Guinness lovin' partner in derision, I've been "drinking it wrong" the whole time! I didn't know there was a particular way you were meant to drink this drink, or any drink for that matter, but yet there is. I was told in no uncertain terms that I needed to drink under the head and to avoid gulping a whole head of form and, yes, okay, it does taste much better that way!

So, with the Guinness technique mastered, we got down to the nitty gritty and went on a bit of a pub crawl through Gastown, frequenting many drinking establishments, regalling bemused barmen and women with the tales of Arthur's Day (it does sound quite regal doesn't the Knights of the Round Table...if they all liked a tipple!) and trying to talk our way into free pints. In one, we even succeeded!

As for Pearl Jam, that was a different affair altogether unfortunately.

Tickets were originally meant to be $30 and so my other half (who's a bit more of a funk head if you ask me) agreed to go, but then tickets were being snapped ridiculously quickly and I had to think on my feet so I ended up coughing up a whopping $80 for each ticket...suffice to say, he wasn't at all pleased!

However, in fine Canadian style we got ourselves together and off we strode with open minds and a positive attitude - me all dolled up in my new PJ merchandise...not knowing that no-one else at the gig was bearing even anything resemblinhg grunge-like gear!

We joined the lines of seats thousands of hard rock hopefuls longing to relive their youth just one more time and, as you can imagine, the crowd what what we would call "eclectic"! There were forty-something year old parents dragging their reluctant kids behind them; thirty-something year olds clutching their beers tentatively and smoking a cheeky dube in the dark (which you can do at these gigs apparently - another strange phenomenon!); and twenty-something year old naive little fanatics like myself hoping to retrieve something of those glorious grunge days and reasoning with ourselves that, "If I can't see Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder is the next best thing, right?!"


I mean, don't get me wrong, I love Pearl Jam, I really do, they have some of the best and most lasting songs out should I put this?...Would you guys mind playing some of them?!

It's always a risk going to see a big band like this that has such a large and varied discography: are they going to do what the crowd wants and play all the old classics, or are they going to try to sell their new album by playing all new material that no-one, apart from a few diehard fans who've probably pilfered it off the internet, knows?

The latter, as you can guess, was true. They must've played around 3 known songs - Betterman, Even Flow etc - but no sign of Jeremy (I know you're probably sick of playing it boys but we paid $80 after all!), Alive, Oceans, Daughter - nothing.

Très disappointing. The crowd was ready to rock too but we were left sitting down, chatting and looking around, hoping that the next song would be something we'd know and could sing out loud. Also, the sound was atrocious so you could barely hear the usually velvety tones of Eddie Vedder, even if we didn't recognize what he was singing!

All in all, it was a bit of a disaster really but, unlike my childhood obsession with Nirvana which went unfulfilled, at least I can say now that, "I've seen Pearl Jam live."

That's gotta count for something, right?!

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