Songs from Northern Britain

With thanks to Teenage Fanclub for the post title. Never heard of Teenage Fanclub?! No? Try this: Ain’t That Enough?

I’ve been driving about northern Britain for the past week, windows down and enjoying almost sunshine and one or two rain showers. Then the windows go back up. They’re also back up whenever I start to sing, seems only fair to the people living here.

St. Andrews Castle

I never lived in northern Britain, but visited often over the years. I felt a little nostalgic for a place I don’t know that well, but I think it was more the music I’d chosen. My driving playlists had a northern leaning, and they made for better listening than the ongoing Brexit/Bloody Boris Johnson stupidity dominating the airwaves. Grrr.

Where was I? Teenage Fanclub, excellent listening for the past three plus decades, and very appropriate for the Scottish leg of the trip. I remember an album review from over ten years ago that described them as “wizened” even then – they were younger than my age now! So this wizened listener enjoyed hearing the old songs, particularly from the Songs From Northern Britain album. “Here is a sunrise, ain’t that enough?” Well, yes, sometimes. The last three tracks on that album are even better than the opening three. Cue beer fuelled debate with sibling.

The pale ale was better, unless you asked my brother…

When I drove away from St. Andrews in the Kingdom of Fife earlier this week, having caught up with Junior McPlaidCamper, the weather was a touch misty – or I may have had something in my eye. Whatever the cause, I’m pretty sure I passed a sign for Angle Park. Let the memories from distant youth flood back. Angle Park? The bonus track on The Crossing by Big Country? Big Country! I was in a big country alright, with high hills and low mountains accompanying me through the Kingdom of Fife. What pleasant surroundings to find yourself in. The North Fife coastal path will call me back for further exploration. Never heard of Big Country?! Try this: Big Country – The Seer

Sunny St. Andrews

Junior is happy enough in St. Andrews, working hard in several of the hotel kitchens, and producing good food mostly made from local ingredients. We visited the store that provides ice cream to the hotel, and if you’re ever up there, can I recommend the pistachio? And the rum and raisin? And the mint choc chip? And the salted caramel? And pants with an elastic waistband? Yup, that’s how some of the evening went.

I get a brain freeze just looking

Before St. Andrews, I stayed a few days with younger Brother PlaidCamper, allegedly to help him out a bit as he recovers from a hospital stay. Mostly we sat in his sunny backyard, talking nonsense about books, movies, and music, and drinking a beer or two. Then more nonsense. He’s on the mend, and probably not because of my medical bedside manner…

Didn’t see a purple moose on this trip. Next time?

My final stop on the northern Britain tour was in North Wales, and an overnight with Pa PlaidCamper. He’s also on good form, pretending to be annoyed with Blue, his constant canine companion. They’ve sold the farm, and will be moving to a small hillside cottage located a few minutes away in the same valley. We drove past it yesterday, and it is in a beautiful location with spectacular views in every direction. If you can imagine steep green hillsides dotted with sheep and stands of trees all about, then that’s where they’ll be. Green and pleasant is an understatement.

Blue!
Green! And pleasant.

Thanks for tuning in this week, and so to a final rousing song – if you know the words, feel free to sing along (I’ll roll the windows up): In a Big Country

There will be more about St. Andrews – and far less music, I promise – next week. Have a wonderful weekend!

Summer, is that you?

Oh, I surely hope so.

It’s been a busy end of school season wrap up, with exams, transition plans, and celebrations to mark achievements in an academic year well spent.

It’s a tough gig

Yesterday was a beach day, with students, families and teachers having a few hours down by the water, some play time and easy company before all leave and head off into summer, a year older and a year wiser. Certainly older…

Learning!

I’m looking forward to a busy and relaxed summer, if both can happen at the same time. The twin track approach will see me back in Blighty for a swift visit, a chance to catch up with one brother, one father and one daughter in little more than a week. Then it’s back to the island for a few weeks, with beach walks, paddling, maybe a few tent nights if we can find some quiet spots, and, fingers crossed, some time learning to build log cabins in remote parts. Mid August, we’ll be on the road, nothing too long, for a visit to Alberta, just to be sure friends, lakes, mountains, and a few big city haunts are all still there.

Lining up, ready to go

I love being in education, and especially in my current position, finding myself working in schools, the community and (best of all, I can’t lie about this) out in the backcountry. If I ever found myself in an occupation that demanded I work for pay over the summer months, then all would not be well. I did fake being a chef for a couple of summers when we lived in France – I was younger, leaner and hungrier back then – but those few years aside, I’ve had summers off, and for that I’m most grateful! (Apologies to readers who do work summers, and a tip of the hat – like that helps…)

A student has a new young pup – how cute?!

Keeping it brief, as time is short this week, having spent longer than usual days preparing for and enjoying an education celebration. This was a lovely evening where many citizens and residents over the bay were recognized for educational achievements – from pre-school through to post secondary and then all manner of lifelong learning.

Bannock in the school garden

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Boats, bows, rods, reels and traps

Yup, the last long weekend was a busy weekend. About 40 youth and associated mentors heading out and away for a few days of camping, fishing, trail-building, archery and anything else that seemed like a good outdoor idea.

The larger vessel

We set off in two vessels, one a speedy affair with room for nine, and the other a larger, more sedate boat with room for all the gear and space to spread out above and below. Going out, I was in the smaller boat, coming back, I traveled in the larger. Both were fun, with the voyage out being busier. As the larger vessel was cruising slowly and steadily toward our destination, the smaller boat zipped about, looking for favourite (previously successful) spots to fish, and to pick up and drop prawn and crab traps.

Two traps contained many prawns, and these were a mainstay for an almost midnight feast later that day. We ended up eating so late because the zodiac and tin boat transfer from the tiny offshore dock to the beach near base camp took quite a few journeys. All that gear and all that youth – thank goodness for young people when it comes to pitching tents and stowing gear in the rain and near dark.

Very comfortable

The rods and reels proved far less successful over the weekend, with very little success in hooking a fish. A large sea cucumber got a bit of a surprise and was no doubt mightily relieved to be returned to the deep. The prawn and crab traps did not deliver either. Oh well.

“Nothing! You?”
“Nope…”

The rain fell from the moment we left Friday afternoon to just before dawn on Saturday, when the skies cleared and warm sunshine was an almost constant companion through Saturday and Sunday. A fair number of mosquitoes were also near constant companions, but not unbearably so.

Very bearable

The weekend was visibly bear-free, aside from frequent scat sightings, and some splashing in the early hours from across the narrow channel. Nothing to be alarmed about. I alarmed a bald eagle that was perched atop an old stump at the point of the spit – I think it may have been my early morning pee break that startled her, causing her to fly off somewhat sooner than she may have been planning. A magnificent sight (the eagle, not me peeing…)

The dry and near windless days allowed for perfect archery conditions, and it was good to see the young ones honing their technique and improving their accuracy. They were able to display their skills to a group of ten elders who visited for the day on Sunday.

Prior to the arrival of the elders, much effort was put into further improving the trail through the forest from the beach to the camp. And you’ve never seen a tidier base camp than how it looked for that afternoon – when grandmothers and grandfathers visit, it had better look right!

When the elders arrived on the beach, they were welcomed with a song sung by a young warrior. His voice was strong and steady, and his song echoed back from the low mountains surrounding the inlet. A memorable moment from a trip with many fine moments.

We awoke on Monday to low cloud and a threat of rain. After the warmth of the previous two days, it was something of a relief to be able to pack up and shift all the gear back to the beach and on to the boats in cool conditions. And would you believe it, once we cleared the inlet and headed out into wider waters, the clouds fell behind us and we sailed under blue skies. A certain OldPlaidCamper might have dozed off up on deck, lulled to sleep and pleasantly tired after a very good long weekend.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Departure

Messing about…

…in boats! Oh, alright, we don’t have a boat, but ever since the courses last week, I’ve been keeping a beady eye on boats around here – more so than usual…

Too big?

I’m very pleased to report all the participants passed the other two courses, the Marine Emergency Duties on Friday, and the Restricted Operator Certificate (Maritime) for VHF radio, on Saturday. Now all we need is a small vessel to put theory into practice!

Too old?

We’ve been enjoying glorious weather, and Scout has insisted we stop and look at all the boats in the harbours. She’ll take me up and down the docks early in the day, then absolutely insist we go back later with Mrs. PlaidCamper, to show her our favourites. It’s quite a long list.

Lovely colour!

I give Scout a pat on the head for being a good dog on the docks, especially when we see harbour seals and river otters, and Mrs. PC gives a gentle shake of the head whenever we slow down at a particular vessel. The head shaking is a bit more emphatic each time we approach the Tromso. To be honest, I’m always surprised – and delighted – she’s still afloat. I don’t know if the price is falling in line with her water position. There’s a little less freeboard each passing season…

“Lovely colour?! Seriously? She’s no Tromso… Ooh, is that a seal I can smell down here?”

A very brief piece this week, as I scramble to catch up with myself after a week away from regular duties, and then start to get items sorted for an upcoming long weekend away off the grid. Yup, we’ll be heading to our destination in small vessels. Perhaps one of them needs a vastly inexperienced maritime OldPlaidCamper at the helm?

Any of these? Nope.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

All at sea?

Me? Maybe, maybe not. This will have to be a very brief post this week. My excuse? I’ve been back to school (Back? Don’t you work in schools most days, PlaidCamper? Well, yes, but this time I’m one of the students, and the classroom isn’t in a school, but in the community and well, perhaps I’d best just get on with the post?) Evenings have been very busy, reading up/doing homework for a course that continues into the coming weekend. It’s been quite intensive, and I’ve felt very tired at the end of each day, so much so, the fact it is May already almost passed me by. There are “learning celebrations” as our lovely instructor likes to say when talking about tests and exams. Will I pass? Maybe, maybe not…

Small vessels

The courses lead to theory qualifications for Small Vessel Operator Proficiency. I say theory because we are in a classroom, not a boat, and the learning, whilst important, is no substitute for practical experience – hours at sea!

I’m learning alongside a group of youth, and any one of this group has many more hours of practical experience in small vessels than I’ve had over a somewhat longer lifetime. They are often applying some theory to quite a body of practical knowledge. The aim this week is to give a basic safety foundation to these students, add the theory to their experience. I have to say the learning has been illuminated by many family stories being shared – sad, funny, frightening and thrilling. The West Coast roots and love of the ocean shows.

“This sort of log?”

It’s been great fun learning together, and I’m delighted to report everybody passed the first couple of exams. I’m not looking for a new career, but in a day and age where certificates and qualifications are needed along with developing experience, the young ones are positioning themselves very well for post secondary opportunities, in and out of school.

I know I wrote above about how tired I’ve felt, but in truth it hasn’t hurt to experience and be reminded that this is often how many learners in our schools feel day after day. Yes I’m tired, but I’m enjoying this learning – sometimes (often?) what we are asking our children to learn may not be all that relevant or engaging in terms of curriculum – how tiring must that be?

Small vessel

I’ll leave it there, as I’m off to refresh my memory about the finer points of coastal navigation, or I will if I stay awake long enough. Perhaps I should give myself some latitude, or even a little leeway, and have a beer, take the night off? Oh, that was bad.

Navigational aide memoire?

The photographs this week were taken last weekend, when April mistook itself for May, and we weren’t complaining. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Almost May

Eskdale exertions

Exhausted after our extreme Eskdale exertions? Yup, it wasn’t easy going up hill and over dale in somewhat wet conditions, but we enjoyed every step, every minute of our Lakeland experience. Even the soggy socks after getting sucked into a deep bog…

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Up and over

A brief post this week, written in haste and hopeful that a pub internet connection will see this one get out. Still staying in pubs? You bet, and we’ve enjoyed every minute and every pint in hospitable hostelries. It’s going to be hard to tear ourselves away, but for the good of our waistlines, we will soon be heading back to Canada.

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Never rains here…

I’m letting the photographs tell the story this week, and I hope some notion of the very best hillwalking we’ve enjoyed comes through. Unless it is obviously a stream, most of the water in these pictures is actually flowing along the trail. We splish-splashed across, into, through and over, and it was all the same – completely exhilarating!4DE0D5D4-9B43-4187-B2D1-1610205C0461.jpeg

We were very fortunate on our two hiking days up there, getting a short sharp rain shower in the first hour of each morning, and then it remained dry. Always threatening another downpour, this only added to the dramatic landscape, and made us feel very content when we made it back down (mostly) dry.

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Lunch stop

We stayed at The Woolpack Inn, and if you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend this pub. Hearty breakfasts set you up, and good food and great beer do just the job when you return. From the front door, there are any number of trails to take, ranging from easy strolls to full on scree-scrambling and routes more akin to climbing than hiking.

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Splendid stout

What a wonderful place! Might stay here next time:A590A11B-1855-4622-A2B8-D46ABCC885C6Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

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Departure (and letting things go)

It’s good to let things go. If you read on, a word of warning – this might not be about what you think it could be about. Just saying…

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Departure point

A departure from my recent regular schedule as Mrs. PC and I head off for a visit to dear old Blighty. Life on the road and in the air is generally fun, and access to internet permitting, I’ll aim to have something to post each Friday. Most of our time over there will be spent in the wild and woolly west of the country, so lots of hill-walking, pubs, old buildings, pubs in old buildings, coastal scenery and pubs for rest and recuperation. And rain. The real reason to be there is catching up with family and friends, and that means a bit less hiking and a lot more pubs. Oh, ok, if we must.

Last week was rain free, and the weekend out in the forest was a cold, dry and sunny one. We had over thirty boys, youth and young men, active and eager to learn land based traditional practices away from the distractions of the modern world. These fine young people are shaping up to be the leaders, protectors and providers for their communities in future years, drawing on skills and teachings shared by present day elders. It was a delight to be there and see the growth in esteem and abilities.

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We had to stop archery on the beach – too dark to find the arrows!

These boys looked out for and after each other, showing great responsibility in the boats, setting up camp, sharing the cooking, or teaching and learning archery. It’s something of a cliche, but it’s true to say eyes and faces were shining all weekend long. Even when one of the boats broke down as we were heading back, and there was a possibility of being delayed and stranded on a small island! These guys took it in their stride – I don’t think they wanted to head back as soon as we had to…

There was much laughter, singing and drumming around the fire, and stories from previous outings and experiences were shared, with a strong thread of humour running through many of the tales told.

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Story time

I’ll leave you with one story shared by J. He’s a quiet young man, growing into his role as a leader, and becoming more comfortable with using his voice in a group situation. He is rarely in a rush to speak, but when he chooses to, he’s a wonderful deadpan storyteller. He told me the following:

“I was invited to a gathering by another nation. We went by boat to their island and stayed in their longhouse. The food was good, and there was plenty, so I filled up. I am lactose intolerant and hadn’t realized how much cheese I’d eaten until my belly started to tell me. I couldn’t ignore the rumbling and asked a neighbour for directions to the outhouse. It wasn’t far, but it was dark, and I couldn’t find it. My need grew so great that I had to let things go before I found the outhouse. Luckily, I seemed to be in a small clearing with leafy trees all around. I needed many leaves.

The next morning, I joined a group setting off to explore some of the nearby trails. We went around a corner, and there, in the middle of the trail was a large pile of poo and leaves. It wasn’t left by a bear. Everyone was horrified. Who would do such a thing when the outhouse was so close? I was horrified as well, but I did not say why.”

J was laughing when he told this story, and then he started to grimace. His belly was beginning to rumble right then.

“It’s ok! This is better than an outhouse!” he cried, grabbing a shovel and heading away from the fire, a man on a mission.

There are plans to build an outhouse one day, along with a longhouse to make the traditional camp more appealing and accessible to all who visit, but until then, it’s grab a shovel and dig.

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Heading home

I think J is right about how it is good to let things go. I’ll stop there, and you’re probably quite relieved about that.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!