Bell and Anchor

Is that the name of an old favourite pub? No, but it should be, and I’d be surprised if it isn’t a pub name somewhere.

It’s great to be back on the coast, anchor dropped and secure, with no chance of us drifting off anywhere else. Our safe harbour is a lovely place to weather the pandemic storm, and to try and navigate the swirling political seas engulfing the planet. Hmm, a bit overly dramatic there, OldPlaidCamper? We’re not complacent about what is going on, but perhaps we’re pleasantly detached, or more able to be so, living on the Pacific edge. The issues that are cause for concern almost everywhere are also present here, so maybe it’s simply a matter of scale. Whatever it is, warts and all, I find it’s easier to breathe here.

Pretty calm!

The anchor photograph that heads the post this week is from a very special guest photographer. Step forward, Mrs PC, and thank you for allowing us to enjoy your photograph!

The final photograph also features an anchor, and it decorates the can of a long anticipated Ucluelet Brewing Company release, the Belle Tower farmhouse saison. Using the scale suggested by Wayne, I think we can award four soaring eagles. Holding a salmon? Not quite. The beer is slightly too strong in alcohol for my taste in a saison. Not that that stopped us trying a second can, just to be sure.

Awarded four eagles

I’ll leave it there for this week, as there’s a South Swell propelling me toward an IPA of the same name moored in the bottom of our fridge. Apologies for all the nautical nonsense – imagine how bad it might be by next week, when I’ll have (hopefully) completed the next stage SVOP course. Haha, me hearties! No?

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

Benches and beaches

Last week’s post was firmly rooted in unreality, so I thought I’d better demonstrate I haven’t completely lost the plot by writing a more grounded piece. A brief item on benches and beaches, since that’s where we’ve mostly been in between bouts of online work.

What bear? Where?

Scout has enjoyed sniffing out and rediscovering her old haunts, and many of these happen to be in front of convenient benches with a view.

Last Sunday morning, we spent quite some time lost in thought, sitting on a bench and watching bald eagles spiral and sing in lazy loops above the water. Our eyes are a bit out of focus, and at first we couldn’t be absolutely certain if we’d spotted a bear over the bay, or a rock pretending to be a bear. It was a bear. Or the rock was walking…

Could be a moving rock…

Later, we ventured out to Long Beach, uncertain about how busy it might be. We needn’t have worried. The parking lot was about half full, and most folks were surfers judging by numbers in the water. Once we’d walked down the beach for a few minutes, we were fully physically distanced by many hundreds of metres from the very few souls we saw.

Long bench or long beach?

Back on a beach, on a sunny day, it was a relief to sit on a log, watch the surf, and forget the world wide woes for a while. We smiled and smiled, and Scout decided to dig and dig. I believe the trench she created is the only dog-made construction – or deconstruction – that can be seen from space. She sure put in some effort for her beach return.

Hitacu to Ucluelet – you can almost see “our” bench from here!

Speaking of grounded (were we?) I’m delighted to say, all being well, I’m breaking out of self-isolating/work-from-home exile next week. Coronavirus grounded me – and sent me to my room young man – for over twelve weeks. Young rebel that I am, I’ll be taking the car keys, climbing down the drainpipe, and driving off into a summer of misadventures. Or going back to real work. Real work? Yes, if a summer of chainsaw courses, trail building, wilderness survival training, search and rescue skills, beach-keeping and other related learning/mentoring is allowed to be called work. It’ll be a proper grounding, working and learning alongside a group of motivated youth and young adults. We met earlier this week, and it’s going to be an effort for me to keep pace! I predict weekends full of benches, beaches and long snoozes…

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

Unmoored (2m/6ft)

We had a pretty good road trip back to the coast last week. It was strange to be traveling in these socially distant times, with caution and uncertainty over new protocols very evident. What was lovely was how considerate people were – at gas stations, the hotel, and on the ferry. Kind, friendly, creating space, and aware of each other, maybe this can continue post-pandemic?

Coquihalla Highway High

Anyway, rather than write a heavy-on-boring-details account of our Trans Canada Highway drive, I thought I’d describe it through a set of song titles from the playlist. All tracks are by my new favourite band you won’t have heard of, Gays in the Military. They hail from the PNW and here are the songs, most found on the album “Your Devoted Son, Ned”:

1. Coquihalla Highway High

2. Runaway Lane

3. Drooping Hemlock Tip (huh?)

4. ManBaby in Orange/Unmoored

5. Taking A Knee

2m/6ft

6. 2m/6ft

7. Queen of Alberni

8. Duke of Duke Point

9. Cargo Pants Capacity

10. Sovereignty/Taking Back Control (How do you like me now?) feat. Oops, I’m A Unicorn

11. French Roast Alarm

12. Green and Blue feat. West Coast Pale

13. Bonus track, Chicken Kibble Again? feat. Sad Mutt

So there you have it, a new band, some new songs, and they all seemed to fit with being on the road last week. I don’t know, does this seem likely?

Chicken Kibble Again? OK!

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

All the right notes, wrong coast

PS Alright, I’ll come clean. When the ferry unmoored from the Tsawassen dock, my own mind untethered from reality as I sat in the sun watching the mainland recede. An unhinged mind, free from the shackles of whatever was shackling it, came up with a make believe band and their first album. If they were real, they’d be huge, in an understated indie scene way. I’m thinking a modern day sound influenced by Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and Bob Dylan, with a hint of plaid commentary and I’ll play the drums. Sounds good, eh? How modest of me. If you’d like further liner/sleeve notes, feel free to ask in the comments below. Every song title has a story…

Green and Blue

PPS I think it’s clear I should return to some proper employment. I start back next week, and my only regret is I won’t have time to focus on the often difficult second album. I agree, a musical loss. Perhaps a future project…

PPPS Imagine my surprise when I checked to see if there is/was a band called Gays in the Military. Well, confirming there is rarely anything new under the sun, they already exist, with an album released in 2005. Having played a couple of tracks, you’ll be happy to know I think my future project is still a go.

Backwater

Backwater? Used here positively – as in isolated and peaceful locations, not places that could be perceived as backward, societally. With my usually vibrant social life much reduced (although I have enjoyed Zoom beers with friends where we compare hair loss and beard growth – anyone else doing this?) I do what many others have been, listening to music, the oldies but goodies from my youth. Yeah, ok, PC, but Backwater?

Scout and I have enjoyed sunnier and warmer early morning walks this week, inhaling the soon to be past it blossom scent up and down quiet side streets in our neighbourhood. When we cross some of the busier roads, we’re struck by how noisy it is. Starting to pine for the coastal backwaters…

Sunnier and warmer paths!

Backwaters again? Are you going somewhere with this? Yes! It leads us to the two tracks I’ve (over) played the most this week. “Backwater” and “Just Take Me” always put a smile on my face. The percussive stomping and forward motion of these two tracks are irresistible, and make for a fine opening to the 1974 Status Quo album, “Quo” – if only the previous album was called “Status”…

Here is a video of the boys (um, boys?) in the band playing these two tracks several decades later. If you have the time to watch it, I guarantee you’ll be smiling, and maybe even tapping a toe. So much to enjoy here. My parents telling me to turn that bloody racket down. Francis Rossi’s hairline. Alan Lancaster’s moustache and hair. John Coughlan’s drumming. Rick Parfitt fully embracing being a rock star, and the sadness he is no longer with us. All best appreciated with the volume up and Mrs PC out of the room.

We took a drive south of the city last Sunday afternoon, in its own way a trip down memory lane. Not because we lived in southern Alberta back in the 1970s, but because in those days, at least as far as I remember, “taking the car out” on a Sunday afternoon was what families did. I have hoppy memories of sitting in a sunny London pub beer garden, flapping away wasps from sticky tables, drinking warm lemonade and watching my uncle sink a pint or two of Worthington E. Sneaking a sip, I liked the smell, but not the taste, of Worthington E back then. How times have changed.

Sunday, somewhere in southern Alberta

Last Sunday, we didn’t find a pub with a wasp infested beer garden – oh, if only – but we saw cattle, clouds and those lovely metal bridges with wooden decks. Yes, we’re missing the coastal backwaters, but I like the Albertan backwaters too, a chance to be out of the city and under big skies.

Would you believe, I don’t have a photograph of a pint of Worthington E? We have enjoyed a glass or two of the following, and it was just right after taking the car out on a sunny day:

It’s no Worthington E, but I bet my uncle would like it

And on that golden note, I’ll leave it for this week. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

PS The third track on “Quo” is “Break the Rules” – I’m looking at you, Dominic Cummings. I know, I shouldn’t have…

Upbeat

I’ve a cheerful face, with movie star good looks best suited to radio. When I stand on my head, I appear to be smiling. Appearances can be deceptive, as I’m actually quite a happy soul, a glass half full person, especially when my glass is half full. Keep me away from the daily political and environmental news, and you’ll see a happy chappy.

Glass half full – this was an excellent IPA!

Having said all that, like many of us, I’ve had days when the current crisis has dented a positive outlook. How couldn’t it? What a time we’re all going through. Initially, there were aspects of stay at home social distancing that were quite welcome for this introvert. I didn’t mind the extra quiet that befell the city, especially at the start of the shutdown. Reduced traffic and hushed streets were rather enjoyable. Vehicle use is picking up again now, noticeably so, and I’m looking forward to when we’ll be able to return to the less noisy coast. It’ll happen.

Fresh

The city is brightening up, greenery more abundant, and the first blossom starting to show. Scout and I stood under a tree the other morning, sheltering from the rain and breathing in the fresh fragrance. Heady stuff, and we’d have stood there longer, but people were starting to stare…

Staying dry

We’ve missed being able to hang out with mates, so when we were invited by mountain friends to go have a physically distant beer on their deck, we jumped at the chance. Calculating we’d all been in isolation (aside from a weekly supermarket run) for over two months, and hadn’t had any significant interaction with anyone outside of our respective households, we rolled the dice and said let’s meet.

Colour!

The weather didn’t cooperate, with intermittent rain and low cloud cover obscuring the mountains. Never mind, and it was coffee rather than beer, sheltering under the deck instead of up on top.

It was so good to catch up, to sit (together but apart) and chew the fat, make plans for a camping trip to be taken… well, who knows? But it’ll happen.

It’ll happen

The best part of the day wasn’t for the humans, it was for the dogs. Our friends have taken in a rescue pup, a delightful little dog called Ponyo. Part husky, part beagle, all fun, Ponyo and Scout had a wild time. They wrestled and rolled in the backyard, ran and ran in the dog park, then wrestled and rolled some more. We’ve never seen Scout so tired!

Wrestle and roll

All in all, we aim to remain positive, maintain an upbeat outlook, make plans for the summer and beyond, and keep our glasses half full. And beyond.

Ponyo!

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

Distractions

I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve been looking for distractions. How is it possible to follow the daily news and not need them? So here are a few of my current distractions, ones that help pleasantly while away a few shutdown hours.

Navajo mug rug (and time ticking on)

The Tony Hillerman Navajo tribal police series. I’m halfway through the first book, The Blessing Way, and I’m really enjoying it. I get a kick out of recognizing some of the places where the story is set, and I like the dialogue of the Navajo characters – it is full of respect between generations, even when there is disagreement. The details about ceremony and song are a plus. I think there are quite a few books in this series, so I’m looking forward to spending more time down in the desert Southwest.

SW desert visit – one day?

The Adrian McKinty series about a Northern Irish Catholic policeman, Sean Duffy, serving in the RUC during the 1980s. I think I’ve now read all the books so far, and given I remember many of the events used as a backdrop for the crime stories, it’s like a strange trip down teenage memory lane. McKinty uses musical references from the time pretty frequently – I often have to follow up a musical lead after reading, see if the tunes were as good, or bad, as the musical snob policeman thinks. It’s a matter of (poor?!) taste. The dialogue is often witty, black humour in dark times, and the frenemy relationships across the divide are interesting.

Alright, away from the book reports. How about my exercise regime? That’s a scary distraction! I’ve been doing some very heavy lifting in the garden, or what is better described as my orchard. Yes, I have an orchard. I was eating an apple and one of the seeds fell on the floor. I picked it up before Scout could snag it, and decided I’d plant the seed. This is what boredom does. I planted it in an empty egg container. Daily watering and conversations worked, as I now have an apple tree. See picture below. Yes it is a tree. Let’s not argue.

The orchard. My apple tree. Yes, it is.

It’s important to have long term and realistic plans, to think beyond the crisis, and the plan here is to make an apple pie using my home grown apples. If you’re free that day, it’ll be baked on 15 September 2030. Please do drop by for a slice of pie. Oh, c’mon, that’s realistic. I have an orchard now. Let’s not argue.

Distancing

I get the sense that these distractions aren’t really holding your attention? Are you looking for a distraction to get away from here? I get it. I’ll stop now – I have to tend to the orchard anyway, you understand how it takes quite a chunk of my time and physical energy – and perhaps I’ll post some more handy distractions next week? I have dozens…

Another handy distraction

Thanks for reading, stay safe, and enjoy your weekend!

Show pony shutdown

Time to saddle up! Be warned, it’s a rambling piece this week, detours and tangents aplenty as we take an armchair slow ride to nowhere in particular. That being said, with no topic or destination in mind, how will we know there’s been a detour? Anyway, I’m allowed to be off topic and tangential – squirrel – I’m not a president. Just saying…

High noon, Kneehill County

I got an email from a friend yesterday morning, describing how he’s coping with lockdown in London. Some brief background? Ok. My buddy is a young man, only a year older than me. We met over 30 years ago, when I started my first proper job, working for a government department in central London. I can’t say exactly where, or name the department, all very hush hush. Regular readers know I can be trusted with the truth. Hank (not his real name, but one he wishes was) still works for a government department, and he’s currently plotting, I mean working, from his small apartment in North London. He’s fine, the evidence being he’s taken to dressing up in C&W clothing, complete with Stetson, and is listening to “Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels” by Whitey Morgan and the 78s. (Good cover there of a great song – what do you think?) Cowboy duds and country music – that’s normal for North London these days, isn’t it? He’s doing this as preparation for a (now postponed) road trip we were due to take this summer. I might have dodged a bullet there…

High plains drifting

Sticking with the Western theme, Scout and I were moseying down the middle of 10th Street at high noon yesterday. As with all good, and not so good, Westerns, townsfolk scurried indoors as we passed, shooing their children ahead of them and peering out through the gap in the curtains. Showdown! Hairy and mean looking varmints (squirrels) moved from tree to tree, trying to get the high ground and a clear view of the sheriff (Scout) and her good looking and trustworthy young deputy (me, of course – how could you even ask?!) We faced them down, made it out of there.

The sheriff, tracking

‘Scuse me while I take a moment, spit my chewin’ baccy into the ol’ tin at my feet. Well sh*t, now I gone done made a mess on my boots. Shee-it. New old timey story? Ok. Okey dokey. You bet. I pardnered up with a law-abiding school master from Red Deer a few years back. He was principal of a Junior High School that had even more than the usual share of middle years miscreants, rebels, and wannabe outlaws. Education badlands, allegedly, but in truth, not at all bad, these were spirited and lively young people. Sheriff Duane was excellent at his job, corralling and educatin’ his young steers with great good humour. He was never overly fond of a meeting, preferring to be in the field teaching, rather than pushing darn papers. He’d always start a meeting with “Let’s get this dog and pony show on the road!” This young buck never quite understood what that meant, but I do think of Sheriff Duane every time I drink a Last Best Show Pony pale ale. Yup, all that just so I could use this photograph:

No dog, all pony. Cheers, Duane!

Well, I think that’ll ‘bout do it for now. I gotta get me a glass of something to sip slow and steady as I sit on my rocking chair, watch the sun set, dog at my feet, with Whitey Morgan and his boys crooning quietly in back. So long!

Goodness, what is going on? Where did all that come from? You’re doing something similar, yes? Or is it just me? Is this what happens when an old PlaidCamper is in a long term shut down. Or decline? Neural pathways rewiring themselves in new and not so interesting ways, and make believe takes over. It’s not all make believe. I am actually growing (or trying to grow) a fine “sad cowboy” moustache, for when Hank and I finally take that Western road trip. We’ll look (and sound, haha) completely authentic. You have been warned, small town bars of Alberta, Montana and Wyoming. That fast moving cloud of dust on the outskirts? Two thirsty show pony buckaroos riding into town…

Thanks for reading, I hope you’re well, safe, sane enough, and ready to enjoy your weekend!

PS I’ve just finished listening to “Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels” for the second time. It might (or might not) be a great way to plan a road trip, but it is definitely a fun old school country album. You’ll be growing your own sad cowboy moustache, or drawing one on. My thanks to Hank, the North London urban cowboy, for the recommendation.

“Oh no, elephants!”

I was out with Scout earlier this week, tramping the neighbourhood streets, enjoying the nonappearance of spring, and laughing at the squirrels laughing at us. We came across (another) patch of ice, frozen snowmelt, a perfect mini-hockey rink spread over the sidewalk, and another opportunity for me to reenact and explain to Scout how Iginla and Crosby combined to score the gold medal winning goal at the 2010 Olympics. Given the number of icy patches out there, various hockey moves happen quite a bit. To mix things up, I’ll sometimes charge the net, and Scout also appreciates my ability to score on the wraparound. I’ll admit that Scout’s stick handling is the best…

Wednesday, no spring

The picture of sporting excellence I’ve painted in your mind is, obviously, quite something to see, so now it’s going to hurt me (and you) to come clean, tell the truth. Ready?

We came across (another) patch of ice, and I muttered to Scout “Oh no, elephants!” She did what she always does when she has no idea what I’m going on about, wagged her tail and looked expectantly at my coat pocket that has the extra kibble. She’s a well fed dog.

Scout, lots of spring!

“Oh, no, elephants!What are you going on about, PlaidCamper?

Good question. Let’s take a time travel trip, back to the distant, distant past, to an era when young PlaidCampers roamed the earth, wearing NHS spectacles and terrorizing the neighbourhood when playing out on bikes for hours at a time.

We would build ramps so we could perform death defying leaps across canyons filled with (toy) trucks, pedalling furiously to gather up enough speed so when we hit the ramp it would fall apart before any chance of lift off. Looking back, it’s strange none of that group of friends and family ever became engineers or involved in construction projects.

Anyway, back to the elephants. I think we came to the conclusion that jumping over toys wasn’t sufficiently dangerous, that we somehow lacked motivation, the necessary element of danger. The solution? We didn’t need to leap over toys, what was needed was for the smallest of us to lie down in the canyon. It was at this point someone said “element of danger” and it became, because we were young and silly, the elephant of danger, a kind of shorthand for when we were doing things we shouldn’t. Not that that ever happened. Riding down Langley Hill, a steep, busy and pot holed road, a speeding stream of (poorly) self maintained bikes, wobbling madly in an attempt to keep up with the fastest kid, the guy with a speedometer, shouting out “32mph!” No elephant of danger there. How about climbing up onto the garage roof, leaping from garage to garage, knowing the construction was little more than balsa wood and tar paper? Yup, one of us fell through the roof, stuck at the waist and shouting for help to get free. It’s hard to help when you’re practically peeing yourself laughing, and looking around hoping there were no adults ready to give us what for.

Tall can, tall tales (The truth? This one is excellent – you can believe that…)

Yes, the elephant of danger. There are other stories, but if I told them, I’m quite certain there’d be a knock on the door, and the long arm of the law would finally catch up. There are untold reasons behind why I keep moving on…

Back to the present day. I’d forgotten all about the elephants of danger until confronted by the ice sheet earlier this week. Did I really reenact the Iginla to Crosby Olympic golden goal? The truth? The long forgotten elephants phrase popped into my head as I flailed wildly, skating and slipping to reach the other side and the safety of drier pavement, as if being chased by the Hanson brothers. Less Olympian, and more Slap Shot. It’s probably the glasses…

Yesterday, signs of spring?

Yes, that’s why the squirrels were laughing. As for spring and safer sidewalks, rumour and the Weather Network has it that we are due a warm, sunny and dry spell the next few days, which is great news, as I’m not as young as I was, and certainly far more cautious around elephants.

Thanks for reading, stay safe, and have a wonderful weekend! Must go, I can hear a knock at the door…

City tails

I was walking down our local high street the other day, aware of the need to have space between myself and any other person out and about. It was early in the morning, but still, it was so quiet. Scout and I saw barely a handful of other pedestrians throughout our walk, and very few cars were on the road. It has to be said, well done, people, for taking the distancing seriously. From what I’ve read, that isn’t the case in all places.

A near empty bus did go past, and the destination lit up on the front was “North Haven”. I’m not sure where exactly that is in the city, but it made me think. I hope wherever you happen to be, it resembles something of a haven, north, south, east or west.

Well, this is new…

Being back in Alberta, we’ve switched to winter, at least compared to the coast. Toques and coats, and hold on tight as Scout leaps into snow banks, tail wagging furiously. I slip and slide and smile as she reacquaints herself with the delights of snow…

Yeah, snow!

Being back in the city means that (an appropriately socially distant) visit to the beer store offers the chance to catch up on the Alberta craft beer scene. I’ve over two years worth of developments to discover!

Yeah, beer!

I was drawn by the name “Hawk Tail Brewery” and hoped the beer was a match for the packaging – I can say I’ll be drinking another glass or two of this when the weather warms up. Clean and crisp.

Thanks for reading, please be well, and I hope you have a pleasant weekend!

What a week

First off, I hope all is well with you, your friends and your family. Trying times…

Very quiet

I was in Calgary last week, a flying Spring Break visit, and quite a good thing too as it turned out. We were aiming to surprise Junior, who is (was) teaching cookery and early years in the city. The surprise happened, smiles and elbow bumps all round. Then we had to scramble to find her a flight to Scotland via London, because, not being a Canadian, Junior’s partner is unable to return to Canada for the foreseeable future. Understandably, they didn’t want to be apart, so, fingers crossed, by the time this is posted they’ll be reunited in Bonnie Scotland. We’ll miss them, but know they are together to get through the next little while. Aah, lovely!

Very cold

I returned to Ucluelet, just long enough to pick up Scout, shut up shop, and, travel restrictions allowing, should be on the road as you read this, heading to Calgary once more so Mrs. PC and I can be together full time. Aah, lovely! Mrs PC can’t wait to see Scout.

I did try and explain social distancing to her

I know you might not be, but if you’re willing to watch something virus related, try this from Leo Varadkar, Taoiseach of Ireland. It’s how a leader should sound in times like these…

Yup, what a week. Please take care of yourselves, friends, neighbours and family, and, although it might sound strange, I hope you find ways to enjoy your weekend.