Monday, May 19, 2008

Vancouver Spit or the Four Hour Lunch

I guess that title takes a bit of explaining. I talked long ago about dunnetworks, a listserv group to which I have belonged since the early nineties and which later morphed into a Yahoo group. Its sole purpose is to discuss the works of the Scottish author Dorothy Dunnett and for a long time it was rather inactive. Recently it has sprung into life again and in an exchange of emails with a member in the UK, he mentioned about the group of Dunnett fans who live in Vancouver and meet quite regularly. What? Who? I had no idea about this.

They belong to a Canadian Dunnett Yahoo group and he put me in touch with one of them and I was invited to join. Since the moderator of the group was coming to Vancouver for a visit the local contingent was arranging a lunch get-together or VanSpit and I was invited to come along.

Over the years when Dorothy was still alive there were several Dunnett gatherings or conferences really with extensive programs which were attended by many fans from around the world. The last of them during her lifetime was at Edinburgh in 2000 and was to celebrate the publication of the last of her books in the House of Niccolo series. I had always planned to attend this gathering in Edinburgh however, in the end, it coincided with my mother-in-law's 100th birthday and I had to go to Australia for a large family celebration instead.

Since then there have been other mini-gatherings, including one in Malta in 2005, where most of these Vancouver Dunnett fans seem to have met each other and continued to keep in touch. OK, OK, I'm getting to the spit part. One of these gatherings was held in New Orleans in 2003 and was named the Y'all spit which no doubt is some local colourful term unknown to me but since then any gathering of Dunnett fans, large of small, is called a spit. At the moment a gathering is being planned for Paris in 2009 or 2010 and of course is appropriately titled Le Spit and has its own Yahoo group. Maybe I'll make that one, if all else works out.

However, yesterday, on a gorgeous, almost summer day for Vancouver, I met up with seven other Dunnett fans to have lunch on the outside deck of Monk McQueen's Fresh Seafood and Oyster Bar, affectionately known as Monk's which you see in my photo above. It is a wonderful place to appreciate all Vancouver has to offer on a fine day with its location on False Creek, along from Granville island and with its adjacent marina and views of the domed Stadium, BC Place and the geodesic dome of Science World around the shoreline.

One of the things I have always found when I meet dunnetworkers, even for the first time, is that there is never a lull in the conversation. While it was true they all knew each other, they were extremely welcoming and the conversation flowed back and forth, non stop for almost four hours. Admittedly the service was unbelievably slow for some reason but the food was delicious when it came. I had the crab cakes with shrimp and organic Spring salad and a cheese and fruit plate for dessert. Sorry, too busy talking to remember to take photos.

Yes, we did talk about the Dunnett books intermittently but the conversation seemed to flow from one thing to another and I have noticed that dunnetworkers always seem to have similar taste in many other things including books, consequently there was also some time spent discussing Patrick O'Brien books which always seem to have a great appeal in the group. In fact many excellent book recommendations have come to me from the digests of dunnetworks. I was very happy to hear all about the group's visit to Malta and there were some funny tales told. I'm sure we were a rather noisy, unruly group in the eyes of the other patrons, however being outside on the deck made it more acceptable, I hope. All in all, a very good occasion.

I hope you will allow me to do a little prosetylizing for my all-time favourite book, Niccolo Rising. A very fine review and teaser written by Judith Wilt can be found here and below is the first sentence of the work itself. What a merry ride you will take if you follow Niccolo, a Renaissance hero who rises from being an apprentice to an influential man of trade.

"From Venice to Cathay, from Seville to the Gold Coast of Africa, men anchored their ships and opened their ledgers and weighed one thing against another as if nothing would ever change."

The great thing about reading this book is that when you have finished there are seven more in the series to read. Will you be another one of my Dunnett converts? I do hope so.


Dr.John said...

Sounds like a good "Spit".

leslie said...

I just might try that book and you never know....


Josie said...

Well, first of all, the opening sentence of that book has me hooked.

I love Monks, and the last time I was there, I had exactly what you had. Aren't the crab cakes fabulous?

Great photo too!

Lil Jimmy said...

Absolutely fabulous and I think I have actually been there or else memories are playing tricks.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

You do such fun things. Never heard of this author though. Reveals my level of literary ignorance, doesn't it?

Nunyaa said...

I have never heard of her until now, but as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained so I would read her work, in particular the book you mentioned .

Smalltown RN said...

I would have to agree with Joise...that opening sentence has certainly caught my attention....

Sounds like a great time was had by all.....but Paris in 2010? No Olympics for you? Oh wait I would assume you would do Paris in the Spring or Summer not the winter...silly me.....

Have a great day!!!

Heart Of Darkness said...

Oysters... never had them. You recommend?

(if I promise to keep the cat away from you?) :)

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Well, I did wonder about the "spit" till half-way down! Sounds like you had a very interesting day and I must get hold of that book!

Carver said...

Sounds like so much fun and I love the photograph you started this post with. What a great setting to meet. Paris would also be a great setting and I hope you can make it to that gathering. I'll have to try to remember to read one of the books. Every time you mention a book I think I'll read it but I have another box of books from one of my sisters in the mail, on its way to me, which will probably keep me busy for a while. If it wasn't for my sisters I would miss a lot of books since they both pass good ones on to me.

Sienna said...

What a fascinating person Dorothy, and a memorial for her on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, I'll look for that next time, and get a photo.

Well, I will be sampling her books, love historical fiction, (or non fiction for that matter).

Y'all spit! :)


Liz said...

I haven't read any of her books. For some reason it made me think of Barbara Pym - have you read hers? I think because she has a 'fan' club.

I like the look of Monks.

Ellee Seymour said...

I would love to join one of your book reading groups, it sounds such fun. I've another who hasn't heard of this book.

jmb said...

It was Dr John, indeed

I hope you do Leslie, I'm sure you would enjoy it.

It's a great first line Josie. The crab cakes are fabulous

You probably have Jsmes, it's a popular spot for visitors to the city.

Not at all LGS, lots of people don't know about her. But she also has a lot of devoted fans.

Why don't you try it Nunyaa, I think you would like it.

I don't think we locals will be able to afford the Olympics but the spit will no doubt be spring or summer or fall.

I personally don't like oysters but I'm in the minority on that I know.

I know you would enjoy DD Welshcakes, right up your alley.

Monk's has a great setting but it's hard to park there. I did valet parking! Your sister sounds like a gem.

Pam if you like historical fiction you will be in pig heaven because she wrote a lot of it. Another series, the Lymond Chronicles and one about Macbeth.

I know the name Barbara Pym but don't recall reading any of her work.

Well if you ever get any spare time Ellee, give it a whirl. She was a very good writer, a great researcher and good spinner of a story.

Thanks to everyone for visiting and commenting.