My last blog was about poor old me worrying my way toward the final steps in the sale of my beloved ‘Seafire’ on this coming weekend. I thank those readers who have offered their warm support and kind comments to help me through the angst of the next few days. I am coping by staying busy indoors and out. I’ve sorted through my recent photo files, tinkered on the camper van, did some dog-sitting for friends and put together yet another short video from my recent trip. I am scheming ways to produce some income and looking forward to whatever comes next. This too shall pass. Idle hands find the devil’s work it is said. So it’s head down, arse up while staying gainfully busy. I am never stuck for things to do.
And then it happened. The van sold, in less than a day of advertising it. Remember the song, “The thrill is gone?” Change the word thrill to van…yeah you’ve got it! Yes, I immediately bought a lottery ticket. May my karma not run over my dogma. Here is the latest video from the recent trip.
I need just enough to tide me over until I need more. …Bill Hoest
(Note: This blog is finally being posted eight days after beginning my journey southward From Ladysmith. At present I am in an RV Park in Yuma Arizona. I’ll catch up to immediate events as soon as possible)
I’m almost on the road, finally, into the land of Trump, heading for the wall. It has occurred to me how that man could effectively close the gaps in the already half-built fortification, if he simply erected a continuous billboard across the continent, ten feet high with shoulder to shoulder portraits of himself, facing into Mexico. He could be shown waving his hands horizontally as he does, and with a quote saying something like “This will be very effective, very effective, you will pay.” Better than bullets! An endless chain of his porky fizog peering out from beneath that blond mop on his head would certainly repel me. Sorry Republicans, nothing personal, it’s just a repugnance I’ve developed after all the news stories about this character’s latest tweet. (Feel free to slander our own flacid Canadian Prime Minister.) Well, I know that I’m supposed to be a smiling non-partisan guest as I greet each gun-toting American child of God. And so I shall. “Is that a Smith & Wesson in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”
My experience with the ordinary American citizen is that they are warm, friendly, generous and compassionate. They are trusting and complacent which is why they’ve ended up with the porcine fuhrer they presently have. When questioned about the dangers of driving in Mexico I always explain that I’ve beaten the odds once over the Mexican border. After the drive across the US I feel much safer. It is a beautiful land with lots of great people, too bad there is a cloud of constant anxiety above it.
So here I go. The old van I bought has proven to have the usual plethora of used vehicle woes but I sally forth with some tools and optimism. I’ve even cut a hole in the floor above the electric fuel pump which is mounted inside the fuel tank. If that fails, I would otherwise have to remove the entire tank, which of course will be full with gasoline when the fuel pump dies. This is accomplished by squirming underneath the vehicle, on your back, while laying in the dust of a remote desert area. I’ve been in that situation before. There’s no romance to any of it, even looking back. There is no valid excuse for putting a pump inside a tank without providing an access panel like many foreign vehicles. A friend has loaned me a used fuel pump to carry, just in case. I know that since I have that angle covered, Old Murphy will find something else to to nail me with. Well, enough nattering. Shut up and drive! Find a country music station on the radio and let the miles erase the angst. I’m worried that I have forgotten how to relax and how to play. So here goes!
So what is it that I like about Mexico? I love a journey with constantly changing scenery. I love being warm and dry. I love Mexicans. Despite all the negatives I’ve heard I am far more inclined to trust a Mexican than most gringos. I have not met a lazy Mexican, which is why the US economy is built, in no small part, on the backs of these folks. Their economic system does not allow them to sit around leeching off of others. Work or starve. They possess a dignity that defies our comprehension and also the wonderful ability to live in the moment. If you can feed your children today, bueno! Besides, what can you really do about tomorrow? Mucho Gusto!
Mexican also still embrace the concept of family. Both children and the elderly are treasured and provide elements of security within the basic unit of government in any culture. Drugs. Yep a, nasty business, made even worse by the incessant focus of the media. Nature abhors a vacuum and we all know where the huge market is for that poison. Yep, right here! If you want to stop the drug trade, stop buying the shit! There is plenty of violence and death right here at home, drugs or not. By the way, The Mexico and its people I know is always as far away from the tourist centres as possible. There are many folks who go into Mexico, stay in a resort area and never see nor taste the real country. I prefer the back roads, rural areas and remote pieces of coast. I also do not portray myself as a shiny, wealthy, arrogant Northerner. A smile and a sincere effort at the language also goes a long way. Ándale!
Well finally! January 17th, 10:15 With a mighty boooop of the ship’s horn, we pull away from the ferry dock at Duke Point in Nanaimo. Propitiously, we are exactly on time. The van is two decks below me, stuffed randomly with food, clothing, tools and cameras. I will have to sort it all out later, but the immediate objective is to cross the border. There is an electrical problem, the brand-new battery which runs the house system including lights, fridge, and furnace is flat dead. I need to find out the problem right away so the battery can recharge while driving along. I am dead shattered-weary but I’ll fix it.
There is an exhaustion which is due in part to the stress and duress of preparing the old van, worries about money and the general low health blaahs which I fall into every winter. My arthritis this year has made it difficult to walk at times, to hold a wrench, or even a pen. My handwriting is more terrible than ever. My fingers miss the letters on this keyboard and I understand why as a youngster, I knew old people were often grumpy. Now I get it. I hope that I do not yet exude the old man smell I remember when I’d have to sit near an oldster on some hard oak pew. It was not pleasant. To increase my duress there is a tentative deal cooking on my beloved ‘Seafire’ which is very bittersweet. But I have plans beyond parting with my dear old boat and I assure you, I have not swallowed the hook. There will be another boat, somehow, in my future. I have a dream. Continuing my blog is part of it. Thank you all for your support and your many cheering compliments and creative criticisms.
So the first hurdle is dealing with Homeland Insecurity as I cross the border. They can see the horn which sprouts on my forehead each time I have to deal with them. I need to thumb through my copy of “ Being Contritious With Bureaucrats For Smart-assed Old Farts.” Perhaps I have enough points to earn a free trip to Guantanamo Bay. As it turns out, they did query me about all my camera bags and if I was going to work in the US. For once, I kept my pie-hole shut and simply answered YES/NO as required.
One of the grand things about travelling in the US is that there are fast food outlets everywhere, in fact it is often difficult to find a real restaurant that serves those jelly belly hi gluten and trans-fat meals otherwise know as home cooking. The fast food joints all have wifi so the blogs will continue to be beamed out to you. You’ve been warned!
Ps: Here’s a link to a blog posted by my dear friends Tony and Connie. They’re home taking a brief sabbatical from their ongoing wandering sail around the globe. They’ve been on this trip now for nine years…and it ain’t over yet. Tony posted a blog about the walk we went on in the fog at my now-beloved Swallowfield farm on the same day. https://sageonsail.com/
“Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.” …Raymond Lindquist
There’s no fool like an old fool. Sadly, that weary old axiom is as true as ever. Yesterday, in the middle of a busy morning my computer went KABLOOWEY KERPLUNK. The Screen was suddenly frozen, white with a broad red band across it. There was no way to escape (At least so far as I knew.) A bold message read that Microsoft had detected an insidious virus and had frozen my computer to prevent further damage. A toll-free phone number was provided for me to contact immediately. There’s no-one as gullible as someone in deep panic. I was on my way to an important meeting and the timing of this cyber trap completely blew my cool.
A man with a thick Asian accent answered my call through a very bad connection and the fun began. I should have caught on immediately. For half an hour I was switched up the line to yet another supervisor, with difficult accents, and then another who soon had control of my desk-top. An alien curser began dancing across my screen at their will and reams of data scrolled on and on. I was told that my IP address was severely hacked, all my personal data was now in the hands of these bad guys and with such a high-end computer, now drastically infected, I had huge problems. Eventually prices in the hundreds of dollars began appearing on the screen. I finally began to smell fish. I was warned of dire consequences if I switched off the computer and/or took it to any computer repair facility. At this point I became the next curser, and a loud one at that. Bastards! Looking back I knew that Microsoft simply does not operate in such a way. Hello! Hello!
Originally assured that there were no fees for this online repair, the story evolved. Now the scam was that my IP address was in the hands of nasty hackers and hopelessly irretrievable. The only way I could ever use my computer again was to buy a license for a new IP address. This is yet another version of my ongoing theme about the profit of paranoia. Scare the crap out of folks and you’ll be able to steer them in any direction you want. That ageless persuasion continues to work very well for the church and for politicians. That, and greed. I was once selling a boat for a friend when a nasty Nigerian scammer tried to pull my chain. That’s another story. I should have known better this time. I’ve already skipped through the big scam about Revenue Canada threatening me with imprisonment. I’d been warned. Now this! So you too stay alert.
Suddenly I could see that I was being had and knew I’d soon be asked for credit card information. Finally I hung up and headed for my neighbourhood computer guru where I was met with a quiet smile. Yep, just another old fish who had bitten the dancing lure. Fortunately I spat the hook. All is well that ends. My chagrin has not. These dudes were utterly convincing and part of my fury was at myself for being swept through some very obvious signs, in retrospect, that I was being had. Almost duped I felt like an absolute stupid ass. Here’s what you do if you find yourself in the same pickle. Shut it down and go to your computer repair man. They’ll remove any nasty thing that was installed… by the hackers. Those were the guys who installed the problem. I’ve also been shown how to unfreeze my screen should the same thing ever happen again. Bastards!
The rest of the story is that I was heading off to an appointment to look at a vehicle. A very good friend was having dinner with another of his amigos and learned that their old camper van was for sale at a very, very reasonable price. He e-mailed me immediately. Now I’m flat-assed broke for the moment but many of my pals have noted how badly I’ve been faring with winter and other problems which are rapidly becoming a great dungball of darkness. One of those friends has graciously loaned me the means to acquire the van and go south for a while. So, there will be some interesting blogs as I travel down the cactus trail to old Mexico. Meanwhile the rain hammers down as usual. There was a time when the sound of rain on the roof was soothing and peaceful. Now, it is an irritating white noise. That’s a bad sign in itself. Yesterday, I had to walk several blocks in the downpour when I could hear a red-winged blackbird singing. That is one of the first joyous sounds of spring. Instantly uplifted, the singer soon proved to be a starling, one of the great mimics. I’ve actually heard a starling perform a perfect eagle song. I spotted the little bugger singing his head off after I had looked all over the sky for a big baldy. That seemed quite funny at the time. Now it just depressed me a little more. Is everyone up to some sick trick? Bastards!
The rest of the story is that my benevolent friend wants to buy a sailboat in Mexico which he will leave there to use during the winter months. He wants this old salt to watch his back and offer a second perspective and any other relevant assistance. So we’ll call this a bus-man’s holiday. Of course cameras, both still and video, will be whirring all the while and evenings will be spent working at the computer keeping everything sorted out and recorded. Spring arrives in the Sonora Desert next month and the flowers are profuse and fantastic. There will be blogs.
Meanwhile I have a plethora of woes to sort out on the new old van. It has sat unused for years and as old Lord Nelson said “Ships and men rot in port.” The vehicle was stored under a roof and as soon as it was moved out into the pouring rain, windows began to leak. I turned on the pressure water system, the plumbing leaked badly. Electrical systems need attention. The rig needs a full service, including brakes and steering. I’ll have some busy days ahead.
“Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.”
A thin, grey light began to seep through the skylight. Snug and warm, I cracked one eye open. Protruding my feet from beneath the cozy covers, I rose into the day one toe at a time. Yesterday had been crackling cold, today was back to the normal dank drizzling wet of a coastal winter. I made coffee and reviewed the news headlines. Buried amid the tales of war and corruption is a story about the machinery we have dropped onto the face of Mars. Of all the data it is busy gathering, the audio recording of the Martian wind leaves us spellbound. A gentle murmuring over the face of our marvellous contraption is soothing, like a summer breeze in long grass. That sound is one more encouragement on our quest to find our way home, somewhere out there.
Well, that’s how my next blog began. Then I received an e-mail from a good friend in response to some remarks I’ve recently made. I replied and the rant is on! I haven’t posted a good rant for a long time.
Hello Fred. It seems that many of the self proclaimed environmentalists have never left a city, have no idea how goods are transported, where the minerals that are used to make the every day essential goods we use come from nor how they are mined. We have a whole group of citizens who are educated by books and yet are totally clueless about the real world. Now unfortunately we have elected politicians that come from this group!! It does not bode well for our future. I would like to see them all go back to the caveman days. Walk, don’t ride bicycles because iron and aluminum have to be mined to manufacture the components to make bicycles. Live in caves because God help us if we cut down a tree! What a bunch of hypocrites they are to eat food that has to be trucked here from warmer climates where it can be grown. Oh and don’t let them buy anything made in China! Make them use sticks and bones as tools, and NO GORTEX high tech synthetic clothing that may have been made by petroleum byproducts. AAAAHHHHH!!!
Well, I have to go now. I am going to drive my diesel pickup truck to the store and buy some grapes grown in Chile and a bottle of South African wine, and I’m not going to feel guilty about it one bit.
Will the wine be enjoyed with a New Zealand Lamb roast or Australian beef? Either way it came on a ship made in China fuelled with oil from Romania and delivered to your store in a Japanese truck rolling on tires made in Korea. And why, I ask, are we, in BC of all places, eating seafood from Asia? Even the otters are apparently getting into the act! (Remember Koi Boy?) Once again I offer my old saw about the chicken farmer who goes to town to buy eggs.
It is the biggest ongoing rant I have. In British Columbia, which with its natural boundaries, immense resources of energy, industry, clean water and agriculture could be a very, very wealthy sovereign state. (I’m quite in favour of the idea of Cascadia.) Anyone who can put down their I-pad and sweat, maybe even bleed a little and get some dirt on their hands, in other words produce something, should be wealthy. Instead, we import folks who are willing to do the grunt work and then regard them as inferior beings and complain if they get ahead in life.
We could, and should be, completely self-sufficient for food. We have been in the past. Those monster green houses in the lower mainland area could easily grow tea, coffee and citrus fruits instead of the marijuana they probably will cultivate in the future. The price for one cauliflower in the store yesterday was $8.99! That is to cover, I assume, the immense amount of diesel required to move it from Mexico to Vancouver Island. Or perhaps, from a Vancouver Island farm to a Toronto warehouse and then back here! Gawd! You now need to take out a mortgage to acquire a handful of asparagus! As you know, I have no acumen for financial management but I do understand that before you go off spending money on anything else, you figure out how to first feed yourself. We have, or had, very prime farmland throughout the province but we’ve managed to flood it, pave it over for malls and roads, or build subdivisions and golf courses. And, think of all the food we could grow if we simply replaced the expensive vanity and environmental stupidity of our lawns with vegetable gardens. Why are we importing any foodstuff? It is sheer political genius multiplied by our collective idiocy and comfort zone apathy.
We indeed will end up back in the caves as we deserve. We may now be able to listen to the Martian wind, but have learned bugger-all of basic value about living on this planet. With all of our technology we have dummied ourselves into a state of mental oblivion. A few years back someone came up with the bright notion of only consuming food produced within 60 KM of home. WOW! That’s original. The human race has been doing that in a much tighter radius for millennia. We don’t need rocket science to feed ourselves. Remember the Paul Simon lyrics? “Isn’t that astute, why don’t we call ourselves an institute?”
On a parallel note I watched a report on Scotland’s green energy program last night. Their goal is to be 100% green in a few years and are now rising through the 80% mark. This is a country which until recently, relied entirely on coal and its own rich resource of North Sea oil and gas. (England switched from coal to nuclear power years ago and is realizing the horrible pitfalls of that.)The Scots are now placing tidal generators on the ocean floor of their coastal waters, each of which will supply the needs of 1000 homes. They do not rely on sunlight or wind but use the regular and predictable diurnal tidal currents. They can calculate the energy that will be produced over the next twenty years simply by consulting the tidal books. I have advocated for that here in BC for decades. Both our coastal ocean currents and our mighty rivers produce massive amounts of unharnessed clean energy. Think of the electricity we could produce without flooding another inch of land or erecting ugly expensive wind generators. River turbines in Europe have proven themselves long ago. A few years ago, on the banks of Northumberland Channel near Nanaimo there was a serious proposal to build a natural gas-powered generating station. That immediately beside uncalculated kilowatts of eternal unharnessed tidal energy. The gas has to piped to Vancouver Island. Just what were they thinking? Fortunately, for once, public outcry was massive and the project was abandoned.
Oh to hell with it. At my age it’s easier to just move south and live with the unique problems down there. At least they grow their own food. Cave For Sale!
Well, so it goes for two old farts who are still audacious enough to ask WTF! We may not have any answers, but refuse to live in a world where asking for simple logic seems increasingly out of order. And… I don’t know how to say Baaaaaaaaaa with a down-under accent.
Three more quotes from Thomas Sowell:
“People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.”
“Stopping illegal immigration would mean that wages would have to rise to a level where Americans would want the jobs currently taken by illegal aliens.”
“You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.”
It is a time of year here on Vancouver Island when we usually have incessant wind and rain. For the last week we’ve had clear, cold weather under a massive high with light Westerly winds. High-flying jets leave contrails that dissipate quickly, a sure sign of stable air aloft which means the fine weather will last a while. This afternoon a high ridge of cloud advanced rapidly from the Southwest. Now the cloud cover is descending which means a warm front has penetrated the high. Soon it will bring rain, perhaps with snow flurries at first. As a sailor and former pilot it is instinctive for me to keep an eye on the sky and I can confirm that the forecast appears accurate this time. I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas.
I have worked in Northern regions where winter was long and hard. The romance of the great white north soon wore off. There were many feet of snow and the cold was extreme. In the dead of winter we would service our machinery around mid-day because it had warmed up to -40. (Celsius and Fahrenheit are both the same temperature at that mark.) Now, much older, some of my health issues probably stem from those days when I was young and invincible and seldom wore gloves or hats. Now with temperatures at a mere 6° and humidity at 90% it hurts. My old bones ache and burn. I am glad that I am not back on the Great Lakes where I grew up. The humid winter chill there was bitterly horrid. The only worse damp cold I have known was in the Northeast of England along the shore of the North Sea.
Incidentally, while working in Quebec long ago, I spent some time one winter in Baie-Comeau. The temperature one night dipped briefly to -72°F and a brisk wind blew in from the Gulf Of Saint Lawrence. Gawd! I shall never forget that insidious, penetrating chill even inside the motel where the steam radiators clicked and banged, threatening failure at any moment. All’s well that ends. We drank a lot of cognac. My employer hired pilots retiring from the French Air Force. They could speak the language and they had considerable experience flying turbine powered helicopters. (The local Quebecois held a huge contempt for these foreigners who were perceived to be taking their jobs.) I went to meet one new recruit at the airport. There was no trouble picking him out as he stepped out of the airplane. It was a balmy -40°. He had left Algeria two weeks earlier where the desert temperature regularly rose to 120°F. He told me that mechanics there often kept their tools in a bucket of water so they were not too hot to handle. I was used to having tools freeze to my bare hands when I had to reach into a tight spot. It’s all relative I suppose.
Jack and I have taken advantage of the dry days and with life on hold we have gone on some grand walks. Here are photos from this week. There has been a hard frost, even at mid-day anywhere the sun’s radiation could not reach. There are two weeks to winter solstice.
As I was about to post this blog a very happy story came up on the evening TV news. A week ago a disabled Vancouver man in a wheelchair who earns much of his living by panhandling had his sole companion abducted; a tiny chihuahua. He and those who knew him were shattered. The local community rallied and went on a dog hunt. Eventually they found him in the hands of a n’ere-do- well in a city alley. Dog and owner are reunited.
And…remember Koi Boy as described in my last blog? He’s gone; disappeared in the night, last seen crossing Hasting Street. Eleven prized Koi eaten, he’s got away with his gig. And so there are two happy Christmas stories. The way I see it.
“Too much of what is called “Education” is little more than an expensive isolation from reality.”
“It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.”
Like many folks around the time of the full moon, I often have trouble sleeping. I’m loony enough at the best of times and right now I have a special sense of unrest. This month we have some especially high tides so clearly the moon is showing a potent effect on this planet. The abode where I live has several skylights. They are a delightful feature providing plenty of light. The rain has hammered incessantly on them in the last thirty-six hours. It stopped sometime in the night and the silence woke me up. I drifted back to sleep and into twisted dreams only to be awakened again with a bright light in my eyes. It was the moon beaming in through the skylight. So now I sit at my keyboard, pecking out this blog.
I’ve already grinched on about how our culture celebrates Christmas, or, at least, the shambles it has become. There are still Black Friday sales pop-ups appearing on my computer screen. That only exacerbates my Scroogely darkness and even if I had cash to spend, I’ll be damned if I’ll succumb to this invasive cyber badgering.
Now here is a current TV news item that is warming my heart. In the heart of Vancouver lies a lovely place on the edge of Chinatown called the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
Here is the link: https://vancouverchinesegarden.com/
You can learn more about this lovely “Urban oasis of tranquility and reflection.” It is claimed to be the only classical garden of its kind built outside of China. Someone had the foresight to acquire the land and create this place while it was still possible. Land in downtown Vancouver is now probably valued by the square inch. Chinatown as it existed is rapidly vanishing inside the swelling cancer of neo-urban renaissance sweeping over Vancouver. All is now glass and metal and concrete. It is easy to claim that the whole of Vancouver has become the New Chinatown, but that is another story.
What is making the news is that a lone river otter has somehow found its way through the concrete jungle of downtown Vancouver to the Sun Yat Sen Gardens. They are a long way from the shore of the Burrard inlet from which he had to have started out. There are several ponds in the gardens. They are filled with Koi. This sleek beast is behaving like a fat man at a buffet. He just can’t be stopped. A dedicated sushi addict, he is slowly cleaning out the pond’s murky waters of their much loved monster goldfish. Why he would give up fresh clean fish, crabs and shellfish for scaly bottom-feeders mystifies me. But then, look at the crap we eat simply for the easy pickings that they be. A story of the path of least resistance and survival of the fattest, I find it quite amusing. Folks are frantic. All attempts to trap the otter have failed, now they are evacuating the fish to the Vancouver Aquarium for the interim. So, call me perverse, but I’m rooting for “Koi Boy.” The latest update is then when the ponds were drained in order to catch the remaining old fish, it was discovered that there were loads of baby fish no-one knew about. “Koi Boy” is proving to be a blessing as much as a curse.The intention is to catch the critter and move it miles away far into the Fraser Valley. I think it is a wonderful story and I follow it with glee. In the aftermath, someone will make a movie. There will be Koi burgers sold in local restaurants and of course, there will be T-shirts.
Midnight, the end of a long day. Can’t sleep again. Bugga! More hot cocoa, more abstract thoughts too strange to write about. I’m not usually an insomniac. I guess life is extra troubling at the moment. I’ve just sold my beloved Achilles inflatable boat to make ends meet for month-end. It is on its way to Mexico this weekend, in someone else’s truck. Bugga again. I had my own plans for it down there. So another morning approaches and something good will happen. The dinghy is gone, there was money in the bank for a few minutes, but now at least, the overdraft on my overdraft is cleared up. Haar! The banker asked me about dipping into my investment portfolio. I said “Sure” and showed her my lottery ticket.
The rain is hammering down again and I enjoy the luxury of being warm and dry. Many out there do not have even this. Stay grateful and appreciate what you have. A week has passed since I began this post. Now it is December. The weather has turned clear and cold. Recently I’ve found myself working on a friend’s boat. It really is time I stopped squirming around in bilges. It hurts. There is a reason there are few rubenesque marine mechanics.
Well, the latest headline is that “Desperate officials continue hunt for otter.” The beat goes on.
“The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.” …Walter Bagehot
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
February first, Bella Bella airport. Calm, clear, bloody cold. Again! I’m off south to the big smoke to see the vets again, for the same thing. The flight is uneventful but I can tell you that travelling with a UTI (Urinary tract Infection) has reduced my sense of manliness to a new low. Perhaps I’m just living out my life as a dog but moving about with the incessant urge to piddle becomes an incredible burden. It pisses me off. There are just not enough bushes out there some days. A residual effect from my bladder surgery at Christmas, it is definitely a gift that keeps on giving. Jill accompanied me to Vancouver for yet another heart procedure. It snowed persistently and on the crossing it was announced that all the Vancouver buses had been shut down. A big burly fellow began wailing loudly. He wore an interesting costume which included a studded dog collar. He whined loudly that he’d put all his money into attending a “Metal Concert” to the point of missing meals and now what would he do? I truly felt the urge to apply some slap therapy and wanted to ask him how he’d deal with being a Syrian refugee. Feckwit! More on the stupidity of our species shortly.
As it turned out, the buses were running, on time, and once again I was amazed at the efficiency of the Translink system in the lower mainland. People still find room to complain, but for less than the cost of one hour’s parking downtown, you can buy a day-pass that allows you to be whisked anywhere all day long without risk of theft, accident or parking problem. Jill and I were bemused to recall the panic on the ferry about how foot passengers were going to get themselves downtown. There were negotiations for rides with driver-volunteers and while I admired the obvious milk of human kindness, It was intriguing to see how easily blind panic was induced with a simple pre-emptive inaccurate announcement.
Back on Vancouver Island, also snowy and slushy, I ventured forth in my new-used truck. It is a lovely thing and will take my little off-road trailer on many future adventures. I have seldom acquired a vehicle, new or used, which did not provide some sort of an initiation break-down. Today was a repeat performance. In the middle of a slushy street, my lovely new used truck died. It turned out to be a corroded computer module which shut off the fuel supply; expensive, but easily remedied. My capitalist pride turn to instant frustration. A previous time when I’d just put a fresh set of tires on a new used vehicle, the engine promptly blew up at the top of the Malahat Summit. Yes, there’s another set of new tires in the store this time!
The stunning part of that wee adventure was the incredible stupidity of many motorists. Some folks stopped to offer assistance which was dead lovely. Many others, although my full-sized black 4×4 truck, stalled in the middle of the snowy road with emergency flashers pulsing, could be seen for several blocks beforehand, would pull up immediately behind the vehicle. They would either sit with a blank look on their face or begin sounding their horn. In the hour it took a tow truck to arrive, this occurred many dozens of times. With my leaky plumbing issue, it was not at all a pleasant experience. Mein Gott! These folks are licensed to hurl themselves around the planet in large, deadly projectiles at high speed, yet apparently have the cognitive skills of a mudflap. No wonder the Trumps of the world can so easily take control. Living in a backwater like Shearwater clearly has some advantages. The only fool I need worry about here is myself. Fortunately, while repairs were being made, my dear old pals, Grethe and Niels, took me under their wing and soothed this sorry beast. Thank the gods for good friends.
Checking my e-mail I discovered that other friends has just completed the very long passage from South Africa to Trinidad on their sailboat ‘Sage.’ Tony and Connie left Victoria on Vancouver Island a few years ago and now have sailed over half-way around the planet. Where they go from Trinidad is anyone’s guess. What an intrepid pair. You can find a link to their blog site on the right hand sidebar of this blog. Another friend is sending me amazing photographs from Thailand. A sailor friend wintering in Mexico is urging me to just “Do it” and get my old buns down there. As soon as I can take the next breath, and the next pee, for granted, I’ll be on it like never before. The tears are running down my leg. (there’s a lot to be said for kilts.)
Monday morning, back to Vancouver today. It’s still snowing. Another adventure lies ahead.
I find myself worrying about ‘Seafire’ languishing in Shearwater without me to look after her. There is another strong wind warning up for the area and within the next few days they’ll be blasting a monster pile of rock that has been being drilled for several weeks near my dock. I’d like to be able to take my beloved boat away a mile or two from the blast site. What will be will be and there’s enough to worry about right where I am; after all, it’s just a boat. Right? I have to haul myself, the old “wutless gonder,” off to the meat shop and get probed and zapped some more. That’s all that matters today….and a place to pee. Damn! How the mighty are fallen. There are so many kinds of courage and I marvel at those folks who bravely face horrible illness and injury and the ubiquitous poop-brindle beige halls of medical institutions. Then there are those who go to work in those places on a daily basis. I could not do that. We took a room in the lovely Lonsdale Quay Hotel. I’d planned to take Jill for an early Valentine’s dinner in a favourite restaurant; there was a gas leak and all the local restaurants were closed. We ended up enjoyed a fabulous meal in a Thai restaurant a few blocks away. You never know what’s around the corner!
February eighth, Campbell River Airport. At the hospital in Vancouver yesterday, in preparation for yet another “Cardioversion” (It sounds a bit like a religious experience …and it is!) the anaesthesiologist asked me if I remembered anything of the previous treatment. I replied that I did. I said I recalled a helluva bang and then the smell of bacon. She berated me for being a smart ass, although the rest of the attendant crew seemed to appreciate a little humour. This time I don’t remember a thing and the application of high-voltage has brought my pulse back to a normal rate. Now I can focus on getting my plumbing problems under control. A prescription has turned my discharges a brilliant orange. Tracking me in the fresh snow will be no problem.
Seriously, it ain’t no fun. Loss of bladder control is an agony, night and day, and I’m in pursuit of a new urologist for a second opinion and to see what’s going on. The one who did the reaming and ripping is arrogant and dismissive. Tests have revealed that there is no infection. Something else is wrong. Bugga! I understand why some folks launch malpractice litigation. I’m almost ready to rig up a bucket and hose tied to my leg. Patience I tell myself, patience, this too shall pass. Meanwhile the fluorescent tears run down my leg.
Jill drove me to the Campbell River airport this morning and I hope to shortly be back in Shearwater. The trees and roadside were laden with snow. There is more forecast for later today. Up in the Great Bear Rainforest, there was a fire on Denny Island along the power line from Ocean Falls. Aerial photos on the TV news show miles of power line in flames. How that could happen, in rain forest in mid-winter is everyone’s mystery. The high winds must have fanned the flames. Some local local natives are trying to use this as yet another example of whitey’s disregard and neglect of First Nation needs and priorities because they were without electricity for a while on the weekend. No comment!
Meanwhile we’re holding our breath about the weather being good enough on for today’s flight. I’d rather be sitting under a palm tree wondering which cantina to go to for dinner. Finally back in Bella Bella, there is a sinus-pinging north wind blowing. The wait on the dock for the water taxi was interminable. I returned to Shearwater a short while after the blast. A few rocks fell on the far end of my dock but ‘Seafire’ sat unscathed. A rock was fired through the wall of a house above the dock. It emerged through the ceiling into the kitchen. Collateral damage and all’s well that ends. In the afternoon I soon found myself head-down unbolting an engine for removal from a water taxi. Life goes on. This morning, as I write, a fresh blanket of snow is descending. Ordeal or adventure, life is what you make of it. Suddenly it is nearing mid-February and I’m still here. It is the Saturday of the year’s first long weekend but I’m going to work today. The weather is crap and the work in the shop is piling up. Too much time away gallivanting around in southern hospitals!
On Sunday morning any plans for the long weekend have dissipated. A full storm has raged all night but fortunately with steady howling winds. No slamming gusts! I slept peacefully most of the night! Sleep has become a rare commodity because of my health issues which demand I visit the loo several times through the night. I’ve discovered Tibetan and Mongolian throat singing among other soothing types of music I can stream from You Tube. It’s weird perhaps, but it works and to be able to nap for two continuous hours is now a rare treat. As the day drags on the rising wind begins its slamming gusts. I clean and tinker on the boat as I upload the photos of this blog on our flickering internet. It will be a long day. I’m not complaining, just explaining. There will soon come a morning when the skies are clear, the wind will be warm and dry. The old verdigris-stained sails will fill and the compass will read due south.
“Now is the winter of our discontent.” William Shakespeare