Over the Border

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And onwards to my fifth city on this whistlestop tour of North America. On Tuesday afternoon I caught the train from Union Station, Portland, through Seattle and over the border to Vancouver, Canada. Despite the fact that this trip sliced nine precious hours, (pretty much a whole day), off my trip, it was completely worth it just to watch the sun dipping down over the Puget Sound as the train crept up the Pacific North West Coastline. Besides, trains in America are reliable and luxurious in a fashion far removed from the Translink Belfast to Ballymena service.

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My host in Vancouver was the lovely Melanie Brown and we stayed in the UBC campus area of the city, landing in the middle of what I can only presume to have been Fresher’s Week, so everything within a ten block radius of the university felt a little like stumbling unto the Saved by the Bell set. Mel is currently studying theology at Regent College and the fine folk there graciously hosted a reading of Malcolm Orange Disappears on Thursday evening. There is, I soon discovered, nothing quite like a Q and A with theology students to make you wonder what exactly you meant when you were writing a story. At the end of the evening I left with several new theories about my own book and a desire to dive back into my old theology books. Sometimes it’s great to be stretched with questions which don’t circle round the habitual themes of writing habits and influences.

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Vancouver is possibly the only city in the world where it rains just as much as Belfast and perhaps because of this, the people are a similar breed; stoic, friendly, inclined to administer warm hospitality in order to combat the nullifying effects of almost constant drizzle. I had wonderful meals and conversations with old friends and new, incredible hospitality, (I honestly think, short of offering one of their own kidneys, the people of Vancouver could not have been more kind or generous), and quiet moments with good coffee where I was able to get back on top of my writing schedule, (finishing up Roundabouts seems to have been taking something of a backseat to being social recently).

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I had the brunch of my life with Wendy Bateman, (breakfast paella, please hold me to the fact that I intend to recreate this when I get back to Belfast), sat inside the most beautiful art installation I’ve ever seen at Vancouver art museum, (a room with a thunder, lightning and rain storm trapped inside it), pretended to be a millionaire home buyer at a swanky real estate party and stumbled upon a library sale where I got to snap up some fifty cent book bargains for the road. Vancouver is the kind of city I could actually see myself living in and I really hope to return there very soon. That’s me done with the West Coast now. I’m heading inland towards the Midwest and looking forward to updating you from the US side of the border next time.
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