I posted my last blog ten days ago. When I awoke the next morning it was beginning to snow, just a wee skiff to keep the children happy; so I thought. I’ve spent many years in the great white north where a metre or more of snow overnight was not newsworthy. You just carried on. I regularly drove hundreds of miles on wilderness roads in extreme conditions of cold and deep snow. If you ended up in a ditch or broken down it could prove fatal so you drove accordingly and carried a few extra items in the event of emergency. If you saw someone off the road you stopped and made sure no-one was in trouble. It was all in a day’s passing. Here, if there’s enough snow to cover the ground, it is best to simply stay home. Today, the forecast is for 17 or more centimetres. A few people will die out there. Only half that fell and the sirens still wailed constantly all day.
The white stuff is slippery and if you have experience as a winter driver, you know that no amount of ability is enough when there is zero traction. Superior drivers use their superior experience to avoid situations which require superior skill. Unfortunately there are many motorists who apparently have no clue about winter driving. Steep hills covered in wet white grease and littered with goggly-eyed drivers stuck in their suv’s is reason enough to stay home. Those television ads depicting an all-wheel drive vehicle bursting through a bank of fluffy, dry snow forget to tell you one thing: you’ve got to stop sometime. Last night I saw a plug for an Alfa Romeo suv. (Stupid Urban Vanity) It was a gorgeous vehicle! But somehow I doubt the Italians fully understand Canadian driving conditions, not that many of these look-at-me-mobiles ever leave pavement. So I stayed home that morning and sat here pecking away at my writing.
Then there was a horrific train wreck just south of Seattle. It was the very first run with paying passengers on a new high-speed rail service between Seattle and Portland. The train leapt off the rails and crashed down onto the main interstate highway in the state of Washington. The carnage incurred prevents this from being a hilarious story. To ad to the ludicrous tale, our boy Donny Trumpet (He’s always blowing his horn) was tweeting within three hours of the crash that this was a great example of why his infrastructure funding bill should be passed forthwith. The gormless ass! There were still people, dead and alive, trapped in the wreckage as he massaged his pathetic ego! Here on Vancouver Island we have solved any issue with railway safety. We cancelled our rail service.
Now over a week later I slide this blog off the back burner of my writer’s stove with a story from today’s local newspaper about a visiting Calgary man who “Spun a few donuts in the snow at Transfer Beach last week to clear a path for his 70-year-old mom to walk.” There’s a photo of a little car sitting in the middle of several circular furrows. That this was a news-worthy story says a lot about the pace of life in Ladysmith. I’m wondering how long this dude has had his mom going in circles. Such is our existence between Christmas and New Years. The days are grey and wet, the nights are long and wet. My sense of humour is short and dry. Outside on the final Friday of the year, I go to the local pool to swim my final lengths for the year. This morning I crawled out of bed one toe at a time and now dawn reluctantly squeezes the black sky to a porridge grey. A thick fog descends with a syrupy penetrating drizzle. In the afternoon, the drizzle turned to snow.
When I went aboard ‘Seafire’ to check on her, it was colder inside than out, like a tomb. This old boat has been my home, warm and snug through some long winter nights. I feel as if I’ve abandoned her and wonder where I will be this time next year. Well, life has to be lived as it comes, one moment at a time. When you look back, even 365 days, you’ve already forgotten so much of the blur. Just this moment, it’s all we have.
I wish everyone the best in 2018. May we all have something to do, someone to love and something to look forward too.
“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” … Hal Borland
Black Friday has past. It may become known as the day that Darth Vader got stuck in the chimney. Forget the Star of Bethlehem, it’s Star Wars part 49. Bzzt, zap, whoosh! I’m not a fan, especially when the marketing of this film has be forced on us for months. “May the force be with with you” takes on a new meaning. What a way to start a celebration of love and peace and warmth and fuzziness! So it must be getting close to Christmas. Each morning there are deflated Santas and elves and snowmen lying on lawns nearly everywhere.
!The sacred act of consumerism is in the air. Even before mid-December advertisements for Boxing Day sales already clog the media which all the while keeps insisting that this year is a tight economic time, with housing and grocery costs at outrageous highs. Well, maybe so but as I drive by the malls, there does not seem to be many empty parking spots. Tap, tap, tap, click click. I’m not talking about the little drummer boy! Remember the ad, “Just say Chargex?” Jaded and cynical, I’m just not in the mood for anything other than peace and rum.
Online, folks are posting yummy recipes. I have some good ones too but gluten, glucose and alcohol are bad for you, at least this year. I don’t know what happened to trans-fat, but apparently eggs, butter and coffee are OK again. My Christmas cake is delightfully heavy, dripping with syrupy alcoholic elixir; one slice is guaranteed to bring on a case of acne. Then there’s my glug, a mulled concoction of fruit completely desecrated in a blend of wine and brandy and other secret flammables with exotic spices. This year it’ll be cranberry juice and soda crackers. It’s the high life for me.
Once a simple pagan celebration of winter solstice and a return to lengthening days, this time of year was an affirmation of hope and familial security despite the long winter ahead. It was a simple defiance against the elements, things that went bump in the long dark nights and all there was to dread. It is supposed to be a celebration of life. Then religion imposed it’s toxic notions and Christmas was gradually perverted into an orgy of money grubbing. I’m well aware of the entire Christian story, I was force-fed on it for too many years. It’s dark and cold and wet outside tonight. There’s homeless folks out there, lots of them, and all the church doors are locked. In Victoria recently I saw security personnel guarding a church entrance. Homeless people were setting up camp for the night on the grass boulevard in front of the church. Shopping carts and garbage bags just didn’t look like the makings of a warm and safe winter night; in front of a church. Remember the stable?
I do have golden memories of Christmas from a childhood many decades ago. A sudden aroma of home-cooking, woodsmoke or the tang of frost, the smell of wet woollens and barnyards (Yes, good old cow shit) the pungence of a real tangerine, fresh-cut conifers and a puppy’s gentle musk are among the stimulants that bring those old memories back to life in an instant. I know folks wrung their hands back then and worried about what the world had come to and how things just couldn’t go on like this much longer but by today’s comparisons, it was, at least for me, truly an age of innocence. That smells can induce memories, good and bad is an affirmation of our primal origin. I wonder about all the other senses which we have stashed away in the dim light at the back of our caves beneath the hanging bats.
In this particular area on Vancouver Island some hummingbirds spend the winter. This morning I was contemplating the brilliant multi-coloured led lights decorating a neighbour’s tree. A hummingbird zoomed down and began examining each light. Clearly, I’m not the only thinking creature confused about reality. With the thousands of lights gleaming through the night in Ladysmith It’s a good thing the wee bird is not nocturnal.
I’ve busied myself with a few projects on ‘Seafire.’ First a thorough cleaning in the main cabin and the galley. I was stunned to realize how much cooking effluent had accumulated behind and on the curtains and in niches my regular cleanings had missed.That accomplished, I turned my attention to a long-delayed project. The foredeck was slightly flexible. There was no issue with strength; I simply wanted to feel a rock-solid deck beneath my boots. Besides, the deck beam job will incorporate more book shelves and storage space in the forward V-berth. “Idle hands do the devil’s work” is something people liked to say when I was young.
I am not sure that boat projects are not devil’s work but it helps maintain some level of sanity within my chosen madness. While I’ve been fiddling around inside ‘Seafire’ different sorts of madmen are hard at other endeavours. Francois Gabart has just returned home to France on his massive trimaran after sailing around the world in 42 days and 16 hours. He set out on November 4th. I can remember where I was on that day, it is that recent! I’m not interested in going hyper fast on a sailboat, but I respect the achievement. To be alone and drive a boat that hard without a catastrophic mechanical failure while staying mentally and physically sound all the while is a miracle. It must seem very strange to be back ashore.
Feet on the ground, now there’s a concept. The massive storm of inappropriate sexual behaviour accusations leaves me afraid to even smile at anyone of any gender, however many genders we now recognize. This tsunami of innuendo began with Bill Cosby and now anyone with eyes and hands is a suspect. I don’t want to dissect the issue, nor sound dismissive but… The US president openly bragged about his aggressive misogynistic sexual behaviour before he was elected. If an avowed pervert is running a country with impunity, surely that raises several obvious questions. He’s not welcome on my boat.
One of the ways I endure winter is to have something good to look forward to. Last year I had sequestered myself away in Shearwater and missed my annual pilgrimage to the Fisher Poet’s Gathering in Astoria. This annual event is held on the last weekend of February in Astoria, Oregon where poets and singers gather to celebrate the many aspects of the commercial fishing industry. It is a wonderful festival of blue collar eloquence and Astoria is a fantastic town to visit for any reason. You can learn more by going to the Fisher Poet Website (FPG.org)and can even hear some performers, including myself, read their work. If you’re in the area and want some late winter cheer, check it out. By the Way, Astoria has some of the best craft beers and ales anywhere.
Well, back to Christmas. I’ve just received a Christmas card from an uncle in England. The photo he enclosed shows himself and my aunt. It was hard to accept how they’ve aged. I have been receiving letters from him since childhood. They used to come on tissue-thin blue Royal Airmail paper. The letter cleverly folded quarterly with two sides reserved for the addresses. They were self-sealing and were bought prepaid, like a postage stamp. The sender wrote in as small a font as possible in order to say as much as possible on the six blank quarters. Somehow, the Brits had a style of handwriting that was generic. Everyone’s looked the same. That’s all gone now along with the whole fine art of letter-writing. Uncle’s handwriting is unchanged after all these years. There’s a comfort.
The English journalist I mentioned in my last blog, Johnathon Pie, is actually a self-described political satirist whose real name is Tom Walker. He also calls himself a “Devil’s Advotwat.” His work, which appears on You Tube, is impeccable and utterly cutting as he rants about local and global political issues. He is crisp and irreverent and convincing, confirming my contention that our contemporary philosophers often appear in the guise of comedians. That, of course, should not be confused with a clown appearing in the guise of a politician.
Yep, as the song goes “It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas.” But I’m not dreaming of a white one. If you are celebrating the season, do it with your bow into the wind and your sheets hard. Wishing everyone empty bilges and full sails.
“The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.” …Jay Leno
“So what’s Mr. B.N.D. doing up here buying a dinghy?” A friend’s wife queried me when I arrived in Campbell River to purchase a used tender for ‘Seafire.’ It was a fair question especially when my last blog was about buy nothing days. It was also a fair question in consideration of the wintery weather. A viscous rain was being driven by the rising sou’east wind. The water in Discovery Pass was a mass of building foaming hard lumps, the usual meringue of wind against tide. I know this piece of ocean all too well, but for once I was ashore. I’d come to buy a nine foot fibreglass dinghy already modified to hang almost perfectly from the davits on ‘Seafire.’
I already have a nice little kayak and a splendid inflatable tender. There’s no place for the kayak on mothership in the winter where it doesn’t get hammered by the wind, or partially filled with water. It also blocks visibility from either helm. Getting into it in winter weather raises a good possibility of a frigid dunking as I try to finesse my Rubenesque thorax into the bobbing little cockpit while clad in clumsy boots and rain gear. The willowy, flat-bellied former younger self still hiding within my senior mass cringes as he realizes what he has become. Gawd! The Michelin man in a kayak.
The Achilles inflatable is a wonderful little speedboat but also an awkward thing on the davits. It refuses to accept being lashed solidly under the davits and has caused me much grief during heavy weather passages. The drain hole in it’s transom only allows shipped water to dribble out; not a good thing in big seas. It constantly moves no matter how I secure it to the transom of ‘Seafire’. Chafe is a sailor’s worst enemy on a boat. This inflatable is built from hypalon, a very tough, long-lived material, but it won’t live long if I allow it to continually wear on parts of the big boat. If it were a hard-bottomed dingy there would be little problem with the davits but I wanted an inflatable that could be rolled up for long passages. I refuse to tow a dinghy any distance for several other good reasons. Every thing is a compromise. Oddly, my first boats all had a hard dinghy; I longed for an inflatable.Now I’m back where I started.
The fibreglass dinghy affords me a way to get ashore from an anchorage and still provides the hope of being a life boat in dire circumstances. It already has solid lifting points and two drain plugs in it’s keel. I can also carry it about 30 centimetres higher than the inflatable, so there’s less chance of flooding it in rough weather. The little cockleshell was also reasonably priced. Nautical items tend to be less money at this time of year; about half-price in fact. So there, I’ve blogged half a page to explain my spending spree on Black Saturday. The drive home took two hours in a nasty downpour, darker than black. It was one of those night drives when your headlight beams are eaten in the spray and other drivers were demonstrating their worst motoring manners and low skill-sets. I arrived home to find a blog from friends in the Caribbean showing idyllic anchorages in clear tropical water. Swear words! It just ain’t right! In the morning an e-mail comes with photos of the beach in La Manzanilla, Mexico. Curving miles of golden sand, surf on one side, palm trees on the other. The TV weather girl tells us it has been the wettest November here since 1953.
I step into my tiny garage/workshop and there lingers an aroma of spring and of hope. The fresh smell of curing paint is aroma therapy to me. Suddenly I can hear twittering birds and feel warm sunlight, all of that in a whiff of paint. It is December 1st today and I’ll cling to whatever I can as the rain drums on the skylight above my desk. Bumhug! It’s Christmas time again, already, so soon! As if there would be a chance of forgetting. Happy Consumermas. Two days later it proved to be a sunny Sunday. Jack and I went exploring and found a lovely walking loop beside the local river which I’ve been driving past for over thirty years. Then in the afternoon Jill and I drove to Crofton to take the ferry to Saltspring Island to see a movie in a 120 plus year-old building call the “Fritz.” The film was the “Viceroy’s House” which never played in the mega theatres of Nanaimo. That is probably because there are no explosions, gunfire or graphic violence. And that is probably why it lost out to film titles like “A Bad Mom’s Christmas.” Tis the season!
“Viceroy’s House” was spectacular in all regards and helped clarify how much of the mess in India was created by the British colonialists. I heartily recommend it. All that adventure in one day! The decadence of travelling to another island just to see a movie did not elude me, so we crowned the afternoon by having a lovely dinner in a humble but wonderful Thai restaurant in Chemainus. Now it will be all dénoument for the rest of the month. Then the daylight will begin to increase each day. Yeah right!
While I’m in a complimentary moment, check out Johnathan Pie on You Tube. He’s a British journalist who manages to turn every report into a very raw rant. His ability to provide candid in-your-face opinions is very refreshing indeed. He has clearly been around for a while but he’ll probably disappear in mysterious circumstances. Catch him while you can.
The fibreglass dinghy is now hanging from the back of ‘Seafire.’ It rows beautifully and fits the davits perfectly. Jack sat in the back looking like a little prince surveying his realm, clearly enjoying the ride while I rowed the royal barge. I love it when something works out and even the ship’s dog is happy.
“ If it’s a wrong number, why did you answer the phone?” James Thurber