Thursday, May 10, 2012

True Tales From Childhood: The Price Of Air

When we were much younger than we are now, my brother Philip and I went to a childminder after school every weekend until mum and dad got out of work. She had two older boys, Adrian and Noel, and together the four of us would play Action Man (they had an Eagle Eyes figure and a pull string talking one!), dinky cars (which, for us, referred to all small metal cars), and, of course, LEGO.

We could spend hours on the floor building incredible constructions before playing out some adventure with our creations. Adrian and Noel had a big pile of LEGO that would get dumped in the middle of the living room floor and then it would be race to grab the choice bricks and figure out something wonderful to fabricate. We made a good team, and there was never any fighting over parts. As I recall, it was pretty collaborative, with everyone looking for their own pieces, while simultaneously keeping an eye out for a "red 3 by 2 flat bit" for Noel, the elusive "grey thick corner piece" for Adrian, a "long white one" for Philip and a "flat blue light" for me.

One afternoon Adrian had spent all his time building a garage and petrol station (gas station, for all you US readers). I had done my usual bang-up job of spreading the remaining pieces from the pile into a circle with a few free standing windows and calling it a "house", while focusing my attention on more important things, like a space ship or a rocket car.

Some time into our game Adrian exclaimed "Why isn't anyone using my garage? I spent ages building this. Come to my garage." As the youngest one in the group, Philip drove his car over to the front of the garage, parked by the pumps and requested, in a most matter-of-fact voice "£10* of air, please."

Noel, Adrian and myself exploded with laughter. Wiping tears from our cheeks, we informed Philip that you didn't pay for air for your car. People can pump their tires for free. It's air. It's everywhere. You can't charge for it.

I was reminded of this wonderfully happy moment from my childhood by a tweet posted recently from someone I follow. It read:

The compressed air at the local gas station just went up to $1.00 for 3 minutes. I should really get these tire rims fixed.
I was stunned. Garages are now charging for air for your tires! And at a dollar for three minutes! After the best part of almost 25 years, Adrian's garage can now charge for air!

What a strange and funny world we live in.

*- This was long before Europe thought the Euro was a clever idea, so Ireland was still using the Irish pound, or punt.

Post Script: This story remains very clear in my memory to this day, but just writing it now, I've begun to realise just how long ago it took place. I have no recollection of my other brother Stephen being around, so it probably took place before he was born, putting it at around 1987! I would have been 7, Philip 4, and Adrian and Noel 10 and 13 respectively! I wonder if any of them remember this story?

Monday, May 07, 2012

Overheard On...

Gmail, while discussing the hunting and trapping of cats* with a friend.

 Brian:  So with ye're stay of execution, I mean deportation, ye gonna get another kitty?
 me:  Erm... probably not. At least, not right now.
 me:  We're looking into getting Permanent Residency, then getting a pet that's a bit more long-lived, won't appreciate being called a pet in later life, and probably needs more than a box to sleep in...
 Brian:  :O
They're like, waaaay more expensive than kittens.
 me:  I know, I know! But you can teach them to talk and do party tricks as they get older.
 Brian:  Get two! That way, you can ignore them, and they'll entertain themselves!
 That's right folks! Claire and I are planning to get a parrot.

Wait... you thought WHAT?!?

*- All for a good cause. They get trapped, neutered and released back into the wild. Spay your pets folks!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Review: Marvel's The Avengers

I've been waiting to see this since the after-credits scene from Iron Man back in 2008. I've watched all the related movies, most more than once. I adore the choices made in actors for the characters, and I had faith that Joss Whedon could succeed in producing a big cast movie that gave everyone their due time in the spotlight.

I went to book tickets for The Avengers last Tuesday afternoon in a big, flashy, new, high-tech movie theater in Downtown Vancouver, only to find out that it was effectively sold out and what seats were left were either right up the front or at the extreme left or right sides. Instead, my friends and I headed for a cinema on Cambie that was also showing the movie.

The Park Theatre is one of three cinemas owned and operated by Festival Cinemas, an independent cinema group. Built in 1941, it still maintains a classic feel to it, from the single ticket counter at the front to the concession stand just before you reach the single screen. However, recent renovations mean that it can play summer blockbusters as good as the big boys, in 3D with full surround sound.

The staff are lovely, the butter is real (though why people put butter on popcorn still confuses me), and the seating is comfy. In fact, even more than comfy, the Park Theatre sports "love seats", with the ability to raise the armrest so you can snuggle with your loved one and enjoy the movie together.We didn't realise this last night, but we'll know for the future! I plan on making good use of it.

This has become, after just a single viewing experience, my favourite theatre in the Vancouver area. We've all decided that it will be our first theatre of choice for any upcoming movies for the foreseeable future. A wonderful, friendly experience.

Oh, and The Avengers was awesome. But then, you knew that already.

My Morning Circuit

Last night Claire and myself joined seven other friends to watch Marvel's The Avengers. More on that in a later post. After the movie, we all went for food in one of my favorite restaurants, Café Gloucester, right near the theater we attended. We got home shortly after midnight and played a few rounds of Mass Effect multiplayer, bringing me up to an astonishing N7 rating of 1,001, before tumbling into bed, exhausted, at 3am.

Then waking again at 5am.

And again at 8am.

And just getting up at 9:15am.

At this point I was a little grumpy and grouchy from lack of sleep, but several factors quickly conspired to cheer me up. Firstly, it was beautiful outside, sunny, bright blue skies, with a gentle breeze. Secondly, it was Free Comic Book Day, and my local friendly comic and gaming store opens at 11am on a Saturday. And thirdly, Vancouver's first LEGO Store had opened yesterday in the Oakridge Mall on Cambie and 49th, about 20 blocks north of the comic store.

I decided that today would be a great day for an early morning walk. So I had some oatmeal and a cup of tea, kissed my wife, rousing her from her slumber just long enough to let her know of my plans for the morning, and struck out on my adventure.

I left our place and headed along 70th to the comic store, arriving just after they opened. They were virtually empty, so I grabbed a few of the comics on offer that interested me, namely Mouse Guard and Atomic Robo, stuffed them into my bag and walked north along Cambie.

I don't know what I was expecting given that it was the opening weekend of a LEGO Store, but it wasn't what I found. There was a three hour queue to get into the store! It's heartwarming to see that LEGO is still so popular, but not so much that I wanted to join the queue. Instead, I resolved to return on Monday when all the children will be in school.

I did find the event area where Eric, a master LEGO builder was building an eight foot tall LEGO R2-D2 with the help of the public. It's coming along nicely. The public follow plans on various tables to build, basically, giant LEGO blocks, which then get left in some containers until Eric uses them to continue building the toughest li'l droid in the galaxy! I stopped by and made a block or two to add to the cause.

After resting up a little in one of the seating areas and flicking through the comics from my bag, I headed back out of the mall, taking 49th avenue as far as Granville Street, and then following that back to 71st and home.

One thing's for sure: I'll sleep well tonight.