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Claire Martin

Claire Martin

The Taste of Home – by Claire Martin

I have just come back from a fabulous holiday, back home, in Jolly ‘ol Blighty.

I was primarily there to see family and friends, but I also managed to sneak in a fair few hours eating and drinking in great British pubs.

The pub culture in England is (‘scuse the pun) bar none! From a grubby “local” to a 16th century thatched tavern, taking an hour a day to sit in a pub is as requisite for a visitor as having an expresso in Italy or a patisserie in Paris.

For me, there is in fact, something almost sensual about the scent of an English pub. It is truly heavenly.

But enough of these wistful musings! Here’s my rant:

Food in England has improved immensely since I left! Pub grub has gone from being greasy egg and chips chased down with a warm and murky brown bitter, to roasted pigeon in a whiskey cream sauce, followed with a bowl of wild berry and brandy trifle – smothered in single or double cream. YUM!

Now for those of you that don’t know – cream in England is as heavenly and as unique as the pub culture itself! High in fat, double cream boasts a 48% fat content, while single cream is 22%. And we simply cannot get anything like it in Canada.

I’m not sure what is going – some websites tell me it’s to do with the pasteurization laws in Canada, some sites tell me to buy clotted cream.

For the record – clotted cream (although now widely available) at 55% fat does not work for baking nor (more importantly) making a proper Irish coffee – it curdles as soon as it hits the hot alcoholised liquid.

Since emigrating in the 1980’s I have learned to live without Persil detergent (now here, but with a devastatingly different smell), Fudge fingers (also available here now, though usually slightly older than their packaged “due-by” date), Tetley’s (sorry, other brands just don’t cut it), and real scotch eggs.

Sadly there are some products that appear to have eluded the “we-can-get-anything-anywhere” shipping industry, and as an ex-pat with a barely sated yearning for real double cream, I am imploring other ex-pats to help me out!

Where or how do I get real cream in Canada??

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Claire Martin

365 Day Lessons – by Claire Martin

This month last year I was diagnosed with melanoma. It was NOT how I expected to go through my 50th year, and it managed to lay waste to me and my normally busy life for the ensuing 4 months.

That said – this is 2017 – and so far (fingers and eyes crossed) – I’ve made it clear through my anniversary doctors appointment with a clean bill of health. 4 more of these yearly visits and I will be considered “cancer free”.

It’s amazing what life can throw at you. And it’s even more amazing when the light at the end of the “dark tunnel” appears bigger than the dark space itself, and you find yourself finally looking to the future without so much fear.

The BEST THING about a rogue (and thank God, fleeting) cancer diagnosis is the outlook you have afterwards.

I discovered hoards of old and new friends that came to lift me through the ordeal.
Like the Grinch, my heart grew three sizes last year.

And I decided to follow through on as many of my hospital-bed promises-to-self that I could:

1. Lighten up – life is to be enjoyed.
2. Love and laugh – 100% more than ever before.
3. Enjoy life – even the crappy, boring bits.
4. Move – check, check (my God that’s another story I need to write!)
5. Pay it forward.

 

Number 5 is the tough one. So far I’ve volunteered at Lions Gate Hospital, and I’ve reached out to a few people going through similar health issues to offer help and advice on a 1-1 level.

But we started #mybackyard as a safe place for our community to share stories and ideas – so I’m asking the community now, what else can I do?

Thanks for your thoughts!

Claire

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Claire Martin

Real Facts: Paris Agreement – by Claire Martin

A lot has been said over the past few days about The Paris Agreement – and what it means for any one country. So without getting into politics (seriously) – let me set the record straight about this Agreement. And I’m going to use overly simplified language here, not to demean anyone’s comprehension, but so that everyone understands exactly what the Agreement means for us and our planet.
 
1. The Paris Agreement is an agreement between 195 UN countries to deal with global greenhouse gas emissions. In this agreement the countries basically all got together and agreed to try really, really hard to slow down climate change by limiting their greenhouse gas emissions and to submit their own individual ongoing progress reports. For clarity I have to state that there are NO penalties within the agreement.

2. The agreement is NOT legally binding. But that doesn’t mean it’s toothless. If I agreed to help a friend – and (for example) said that I would pick their kid up from school – that is NOT a legally binding agreement. You can’t, strictly speaking, punish me if I decide to leave the child sitting on the curb. But — and this is a big but — you can shame me. You can avoid me, distrust me, and not make any more social agreements with me. Essentially turning your back on an agreement is bad for a relationship.

3. Sovereignty is the ability, inherent or granted, to govern oneself or self-determine one’s course. The Paris Agreement does not affect a country’s sovereignty.

The Paris agreement, signed in 2015 by 195 countries, does four simple things.

  1. It sets a global goal of keeping global average temperatures from rising 2 dec C (compared to temperatures pre-Industrial Revolution) by the end of the century.
  2. It sets a nonbinding agreement for countries to reach peak greenhouse gas emissions “as soon as possible.”
  3. It adds a framework for countries to become more aggressive in reaching those goals over time. In 2020, delegates are supposed to reconvene and provide updates about their emission pledges, and report on how they’re becoming more aggressive on accomplishing the 2 degree goal. 
  4. It asks richer countries to help out poorer countries: to give them capital to invest in green technologies, but also to help them brace for a changing world.

And it’s important to remember: The Paris agreement, as it currently stands, won’t stop global temperatures from rising. The point of Paris was to create incentives for countries to voluntarily grow their efforts to avert a warmer future. 

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Claire Martin

Dear Claire… – by Claire Martin

Last Friday, I was lucky enough to snag a U2 ticket.
To attend a concert, that I had already been to, 30 years ago.

Judging by the average makeup of the crowd – I wasn’t the only one on a night’s trip down memory lane. My girlfriend even had in her purse the cut-out front and back swatches from her original tour shirt!

Yeh, we were going down memory lane hard; together, with faded props and 40+ thousand of our closest friends!

Needless to say, the concert was wonderful. For those of you that don’t know The Joshua Tree (and #really who are you?!) – it’s a “listening experience” type record (are they still called records?!). It was written in the tumultuous 80’s during a time of political unrest in England and Ireland and many of the lyrics and all the songs resonate profoundly for me, even to this day.

The first 5 songs “Sunday Bloody Sunday” / “New Year’s Day” / “A Sort of Homecoming” / “MLK” / “Pride (In the Name of Love)” sent me reeling back to Wembley, London, June 12, 1987 – the last UK date of the original tour. It made me want to pen this letter to the 21-year-old who watched raptly, buried in the exuberant crowd.
Dear Claire,

Chill out!
Stop worrying so much!
You’re going to be ok.
Life will actually get better than this.. and this is just the beginning.

Capture this moment though; burn it into your memory. Moments like this are rare, and they will become rarer and more precious as you pass 50.

Enjoy yourself as much as possible. Life experiences like this are the building blocks of your evolving character – and they will stand you in good stead for the tough times.

There will be tough times….but never more than you can’t handle. The strength you discover inside you will surprise you. So too the bonds you develop with your friends during the tough times.

Your women friends will become your rocks. Trust the ones around you right now – they will be with you for the next 30 years – tightly close, unwavering and supportive – cherish every moment you have with them.

Finally – reconsider the perm and leggings. (They do you no favours.) Trust me, you, on this one!

Love
Me.

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Claire Martin

Slow Down, Smell the Roses – by Claire Martin

It has been brought to my attention that I have been posting a lot of “ahhh, life” photos recently (check @ClaireMartin50 on Instagram). And here’s the reason why.

1. At 50 I found myself unemployed and diagnosed with a rare form of melanoma
2. At 51 I found myself a fabulous new job and cancer free (6 months and counting).

As has often been noted on #MyBackYard – I’m an acerbic, sarcastic little shit of a person. Until very recently, when life got scary and real. Then, surprisingly, I found myself soft, caring, vaguely weepy, introspective and in awe of L’Chiam.

So why the change of outlook?

I have recently moved to the BC Interior – given up on the Vancouver market as I got methodically priced out – and I am thrilled with my choice.

I am lucky enough to have found a little piece of heaven in Vernon, BC. I wake in the morning to the sound of birds, and I go to bed in the evening to the cacophony of bullfrogs. Last night I heard thunder booming in the hills around me, and I’ve routinely watched the space-station crest overhead in the night sky from my little backyard deck.

Ahh-life.

I am not writing this to

a) extol the virtues of the BC Interior,

b) encourage people to give up on the most magnificent city in the world (aka Vancouver) nor c) feel some sort of misplaced jealousy.

I am writing this to say that at the grand old age of 51, I have decided to start treating myself to the life I’ve always wanted.

Now, let’s be honest: I’m not retired. I will have to work for at least another 12.5 years (yes, I’ve counted), to pay off this decision. And, admittedly, at times I find myself a little lonely. But I am surrounded by astoundingly beautiful scenery, I am finally sleeping through the night and I am actually slowing down.

So here’s the point of this note: at some point, we all need to slow down and smell the roses. We need to put ourselves first.

So here’s to posting a few more “ahhh, life” photos. May they bring everyone a little piece of quiet in what can often be the chaotic, rat-raced pace of life!

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Claire Martin

Campaigning: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – By Claire Martin

As many of you know, I ran as the Green Party of Canada candidate for North Vancouver in the last federal election. It was an incredible experience. I learned so much about our country, politics, the process of election campaigning and where my strengths could lie if I was elected.

I wanted to be the second no-bullshit MP in Canada – with (in my opinion) Elizabeth May being the first.

The promise I made to myself, to my campaign and most importantly to my constituents was that I would always be straightforward, hard working and honest. And that hasn’t changed.

So as a defeated-but-not-down former federal potential MP, I’d to like to pen this note to the morons out there that think defacing campaign material FOR ANY PARTY is an ok form of protest.

IT IS NOT.

IT IS 100% NOT OK.

Campaigning is a very humbling yet rewarding way of reaching out to as many people as possible and asking “how’s your government working for you?” The answers are incredibly enlightening – and if you’re wise enough to really listen to folks – you get a true litmus on the state and soul of the community. You get to chat with everyday people on doorsteps, in shopping malls, heading home from work and on holiday. It is honestly a massive learning experience.

The most rewarding aspect is hearing from people who then say “You’ve got my vote, how can I show my support?”. The answer – during the writ period only – is “I’ll give you a sign for your lawn, or your window, or your balcony”.

It’s a visible, non-confrontational show of support.

Now, it’s not for everyone. Politics can a be a tricky subject in some households – and some chose to keep their choice private. And that too – is fine.

But when someone decides to put up a sign, that action should be respected.

Several candidates in North Vancouver have recently fallen foul to idiots out there that think defacing a sign is akin to saying “I don’t support you”, or “I don’t support this election” or whatever.

You know what – IT ISN’T.

As Jody Vance, Sarah Daniels and many of us ex-TV types will tell you – voting (and by that, I mean changing the establishment) comes by simply changing the channel. Nothing hurts a TV station/network more than falling audience numbers. And it is exactly the same in politics. Defacing a sign does little more than garner mediocre, momentary attention. Then it’s back to getting people to vote.

If you’re pissed off with the established political party in power, vote against it.

Change the channel. Don’t scrawl on the TV screen.

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Claire Martin

Cleanliness is next to … Happiness – by Claire Martin

Getty Images: Westend61

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I’m a nutty neat freak! And to be quite honest, if they said just that, well, then they’re being quite kind.

Hello. My name is Claire Martin and I’m an obsessive-compulsive cleaner.

I have lost more than one relationship over my need to keep my floors gleaming.

One gentleman, in particular, stormed out with the words “.. and what’s with all the bloody floor-cleaning?? You could do surgery on your floors..” Personally, I was glad to see him go but also slightly bemused – he was a slob (by my standards) – and his parting jab felt, to me, like a back-handed compliment!

My flaws aside (word-play intended!!) I have often wondered why my desire to see things clean, neat and orderly exists.

As an educated, fairly well-balanced adult – I have thought long and hard about my enjoyment of cleaning (and I’m assuming that therein lies a subliminal need for therapy but let’s not go there right now!).

Needless to say, I find cleaning cathartic.

My cleaning usually involves a lot of physical work. Pulling out gear from closets, wiping down back walls and baseboards with soaps and sponges (sometimes even painting), putting everything back newly organized by colour, shape, size or season. I often reorganize furniture and I have (confessional moment here) even alphabetized a spice rack!

When all is said and done – I feel rested; complete; at one-with-the-world.

So here’s why I am a little at odds with my world right now: I’m moving. And everything I own is currently on a large, shabby (by my standards) truck heading into the BC Interior. I have actually enjoyed packing; my love of boxed orderliness was thoroughly sated. But I am now living out of a suitcase.

I have done this numerous times before – but for some reason – at this stage in my life, I find it completely disconcerting. I’m discombobulated.

So if you see me wandering around the streets of Vancouver looking vaguely lost – I’m not – but in a way – I am!

Here’s hoping everything arrives in one piece, to the correct address, on the right date and time – and I can start opening boxes and organizing. Here’s to the organization that awaits me at the other end of this adventure!

 

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Claire Martin

England, My England – by Claire Martin

Getty Images: HGL

There is something profoundly frightening watching live news play out in front of you. Especially when you know that people you care about may be caught in the cross-fire.

I’m writing this from the safety of my office, numb and shaking at the same time.

Apparently a “lone wolf” (as reported by the UK media) has struck London with devastating violence.

My brother is a very proud black-cab driver in London. He has owned his Hackney Cab license for over two decades and loves driving tourists through the city he adores.

Westminster Bridge
Whitehall

Parliament Square

These are all the areas he knows like the back of his hand. And just rolling the names on my tongue takes me home instantly.

On July 7th, 2005 – I got a frantic call from my brother – who just kept yelling “I’m ok, I’m ok, I’m ok” into the phone. I was completely confused and spent several minutes trying to calm him down and ask what was wrong.

The 7 July 2005 London bombings, sometimes referred to by Londoners as 7/7, were a series of coordinated terrorist bomb attacks in London which targeted civilians using the public transport system during rush hour.

The fourth bomb went off on a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square – about 100 yards in front of my brother’s cab. He was traumatized by the event, but unharmed. And has continued to drive in London despite suffering anxiety attacks for a year afterwards.

About 20 minutes ago, I got a phone call “I’m ok” he said quietly “I’m ok”. But I can tell he’s not.

WHAT have I done for you,
England, my England?
What is there I would not do,
England, my own?

Claire
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Claire Martin

PDA – by Claire Martin

I’m a hugger.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that even if I meet you with a handshake, I will generally depart with a hug.

This is absolutely not an inherited trait. I come from a family of true British stiff-upper-lippers (!) who generally frown on tears and find hugging far too intimate for comfort. My hugging is, in fact, an attribute that my family simply considers an amusing personal “quirk”, and no doubt blame much of it on my time in Canada!

I don’t know when or how I got into the habit of hugging, but I do clearly remember certain events in my life where PDA’s – everything from a simple hug, to seeing couples hold hands, became powerful symbols of love, comfort, and humanity.

In the late 80’s for example, I clearly remember watching Princess Diana one night on the TV news, defiantly holding the hands of Aids patients in an east London hospital when many still believed the disease could be contracted through casual contact. I was impressed by her dignity and conviction. But mostly I was impressed by the unspoken offer of love and strength given by simple touch.

This past summer, I found myself alone waiting for skin-graft surgery in Lionsgate Hospital. It was literally a “Hot August Night”, but I was scared and consumed with “what-if-thoughts” for the next few hours. A nurse came over and saw me trembling under my hospital gown. Despite the warmth of the evening, I was chilled. “Ah honey,” she said, “let me get you a blanket”. She came back moments later with a warmed blanket and tucked me in. She then took my hand and asked me about my day. We talked, well, she talked for a few minutes. She never once let go of my hand. I could feel her warmth gradually seep into my fingers, and I literally clung on for dear life.

When we are at our most vulnerable, a simple touch is an absolute sign of humanity.

Two days ago, on the Seabus coming home from work, an elderly couple got on and sat opposite me. Their knees were touching and they were holding hands. Every now and again, the woman would reach over and whisper something in her companion’s ear. He would smile and respond with a tighter grip.

I tried not to stare. But it was simply lovely to watch a couple so obviously still in love and enjoying each others company.

I’m writing this as current world and political events would lead us to believe that we are hurtling towards an unholy mess, that there is little good left in the world, and that decent humanity is a thing of the past.

I want to reassure everyone that we’re ok. Character is, in fact, defined not when times are good, but when they are bad. And as the wonderful former First Lady of the United States said, “when they go low, we go high”… Yes, ma’am!

Mantra for this year then is as follows:
“Go High”
“Show Character”
“Hug lots”

Claire

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Claire Martin

Stuart McLean – by Claire Martin

Getty Images: Bernard Weil

Everyone has a story.

Stuart McLean has more than one.
Stuart McLean wrote, and voiced books, that spoke to us all.  Spoke to us about a simpler, easier, more honest time.
Long before “fake news” and “alternative facts” were commonplace, Stuart McLean was entertaining us with funny, genuinely sweet, stories of small town family life.
They were all so very true, so very Canadian.
My favourite Vinyl Cafe story is not a podcast.
It was the late ’90’s and I was driving to Vancouver with my best friend Susan. She had never been to the west coast and we were going to have a road-trip and an adventure together. She had bought “Home from the Vinyl Cafe” to read en route. She was reading out loud in the car as we came towards Kamloops – and had started the story “Road Trip – Cat In The Car”.
 
We laughed so hard as Susan was reading, we had to pull over on the side of the road. About half a kilometer coming into Kamloops – here we were – two fully grown women, pulled over on the highway, out of the car, laughing so hard that we were both bent over, crossed legs, laughing at each other. Susan was practically yelling her way through the last piece of the story. It took us close to 15 minutes to compose ourselves and drive into Kamloops.
It is one of my most favourite memories of our road trip.
I first met Stuart at a CBC promotional event. He was, as always, utterly understated – and sidled up to me and said: “You and Peter are pretty funny you know”! I was stunned – I had no idea that someone of Stuart’s ilk would watch “The National” let alone even enjoy the late night banter that Peter and I shared.
He was, as his stories are, genuine and honest and sweet.
But that’s not the point of this note.
Stuart McLean was battling melanoma. I had been informed late last year as to his diagnosis. I had sent him a brief note of well-wishes.
I can not comprehend that the disease that has given me just a few scars has silenced such a great man.
It is a reminder that life is short and sweet and to be enjoyed.
RIP Stuart.
Dave and Morley will live on.
Claire
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