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Claire Martin

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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Claire Martin

Activating Your Belief System – by Claire.

Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT an activist.

In fact, I am rarely “fervent” about anything, actually.

But on Jan 21, 2017 my inner civil-protestor rose up!

Here’s the backstory.

I woke up on Saturday 21st ready to “march”.. very unaware of what was happening around the world. I expected – maybe – 5000 in Vancouver. I expected to see “familiar faces”.

The Seabus was packed. The feeling was jovial.

I am lucky enough to know someone who works on the route, so we sat and chatted. Just this year she had written .. a personal vision statement. She read it to me as we crossed the inlet, and as she sat reading, surrounded by strangers,  I realized that “something” was happening. She echoed a sentiment, an ache we all feel.. to be connected to be a bigger, better “thing”.

I was already goose-bumpy by the time I disembarked.

A few minutes later I stood in Jack Poole Plaza – surrounded by very very normal, nondescript people.

We listened to music, we heard speeches.. we yelled in agreement to the calls for action, and we agreed that we would pick up the garbage en route.

So with “the” people, some in pink hats, most in comfortable shoes, I realized that American call “we, the people” means something else to all of us. It means that “we” stand up in a dignified way when the need arises; that “we” stand together as one; that “we” is inclusive; that “we” is incredibly powerful when pulling together; that “we”, no matter what the issue, will rise above adversity.

I walked and silently wept.

I am so proud of all the activists and non-activists that walked in Vancouver on Jan 21, 2017.

Apparently there were 10, 000+ of us.

Claire

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Claire Martin

Christmas Communications – by Claire

So far this year I’ve received just 10 Christmas Cards, and 3 of those are signed-sincerely-by-the-office “corporate” cards. And I’m kinda bummed.
Let me back up here.
My annual Christmas routine USED to include 2-3 evening weekends, in late November and early December, spent diligently writing close to 200 Christmas cards. I always added a personal note. I always added a Christmas letter. Though it was a pain in the arse to physically write and sign all these cards – I loved the routine. And just as importantly, I loved the cards that I got back. I loved the connection I felt, to friends and family spread literally around the world.
There’s still something quintessentially delightfully “old fashioned” about getting hand written mail.
I kept 3 pages of lists of names of people (family and friends) that were annually added -or sadly dropped off- the Christmas card list. Don’t get me wrong. It was a chore. But it was a rewarding, ultimately “connecting” chore.
That all said – Christmas card sending is going the way of pennies, lamplighters and Blockbusters! There’s simply no need to send a paper card via snail mail when you can send an e-mail and connect (virtually) instantly.
So why am I a little sad at all this?
I mean, the cost alone is prohibitive. A single stamp to England is $2.50 – and I have all my family, everyone, in the “old country”. And I understand that it’s not particularly “Green” of me to have trees cut down for such a frivolous use.
But I am a little sad.
I loved the notes. I loved the family updates. I loved the cards.
But wait.. there’s a happy end to all this (it is Christmas after all!). My seriously technically challenged family has managed to jump on an App (yes a mobile phone App) that can connect us all. And this year (for the second year in a row) have decided that all of us must send the whole group a Christmas-related photo every day for the entire month of December.
My cousins live in Norway – the scenery is breathtaking;
My brother is in London – his shots of my city twinkling and sparkling make me smile and a little homesick;
My mother – who doesn’t understand the task nor the App, sends strange shots while shopping!
I love it when my phone chimes.. and I glance down and see another new “card”.
It is, after all, the most wonderful time of the year!
– Claire
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Claire Martin

Brolly Brawling – by Claire

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Photo credit: Domo-Domo-kun

I do not own an umbrella!

I KNOW!! CRAZY, EH?!

Most of you right now are laughing at me, some are shocked, and some are simply dumbfounded..

The question is: How can I live on the WET west coast, on the fringe of a rain forest no less, and not own an umbrella?

Here’s my thinking:

  1. I have had bad relationships with umbrellas in the past. I had one beautiful, bright flowery brolly – but it would just not close properly. Right there, always on the bus, always surrounded by my cordial commuting cohorts, who all carefully cloistered their brollies lest they drip on seats etc., right then and there this wretched apparatus would spring open. WHOMPF.

Sigh.

  1. I have owned cheap-ass, poorly constructed umbrellas that simply don’t do the job. They barely cover me, they don’t stay fully open and I look like I’ve got a poorly constructed plastic mini-tent over my head. Not cool!

So – I have yet to find a great umbrella. So I have given up!

Furthermore, umbrella etiquette seems to be missing on the streets of Vancouver.

Please, people – leave the golf umbrella for the golf course.

Also .. I’m “petite” (read: short) so even with a suitably sized umbrella, some maneuvering is going to be necessary on a crowded Georgia Street sidewalk. Taller people (I beg you) please raise your brolly when approaching us littl’ns. As my Granny would say “eyes can be lost with a careless use of knives and brollies”!

Finally – the real reason that I’ve given up on owning a brolly – have you tried texting, or holding a coffee with a brolly in your same hand? It’s impossible!

So I walk the soggy streets of Vancouver in Gortex.

Forgo the brolly.

It’s actually quite liberating!

 

Claire

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