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!

Virtual camping?

Can that be a thing? Not too sure it’ll work, but here’s what I’ve been thinking. Thinking?! I’ve gotten very close to setting up my little solo tent on our tiny balcony. If I thought Mrs. PC would let me in again the next morning, I’d probably take that trip. This week is a bit of a repost, or perhaps a remake? Redo?

This time last year was the last time I went on an off grid trip. Over thirty young people plus elders and mentors set off in two boats, in high spirits, low temperatures and steady rain. The smaller boat was a zippy number, speeding ahead and stopping every now and then to drop a line, see what could be hooked. We had time. This was because the second boat was a larger slow boat, carrying most of the group and all of the supplies. A steady steamer that probably felt smoother in the roughish seas.

The slow boat

I was on the small boat for the outbound voyage, “enjoying” those roughish seas and the chance to stop and fish. The fishing wasn’t a huge success, unless you count snagging a surprised sea slug. Or was it a cucumber?

Beware, sea cucumbers!

The weather improved over the three days we were away, so that by the time we were ready, if not willing, to return, we completed the trip under blue skies. I took the slow boat back – anything to prolong the fun.

Another picture of the slow boat

Out at camp, we rebuilt trails that had taken a battering from a couple of spring storms. Everything was tidied and spruced up, ready to present to and welcome a group of elders coming out to see the area, for some, the first time in years. After the first night, I reset my tent properly in daylight. I’d really rushed the set up, doing the best I could in strong winds and rain in the dark. Besides, who wants their untidy tent letting the side down?

The small tent

What I didn’t report in my first piece about this year ago trip was that on the final afternoon – the day before we were leaving – I turned my ankle over. It was jolly painful, and my left foot turned all sorts of jolly interesting colours.

Since then, the recovery of the high ankle sprain has taken many months. It’s unlike me not to have complained about this sooner, but as I’ve time in this pandemic, and because you’re interested, let me share that I couldn’t ride my bike, and really struggled with walking up anything with much of an incline. My dreams of shimmying past the last defender and scoring a beauty of a World Cup winning goal have had to be put on hold. Again. I know, I know, it’s a loss for sport.

The small boat

All of this slight moping and retelling and reminiscing is simply a way of me wishing we could all go camping again soon. Not all at once, and not in the same place. I love you dearly, but there are physical distancing issues that we need to respect. Still, until we can be out in our favourite places and with our favourite people, there’s always the virtual camping and old stories to share. Again. Did I mention my ankle?

Off grid inlet. Soon?

Thanks for reading, enjoy the long weekend if you have one, the regular one if you don’t, and stay safe and well! Now, where’s the spare back door key, and let’s see if that solo tent will fit on the balcony…

PS I’m told those seas really weren’t that rough, or roughish – even the sea slug laughed at me. Or was it a cucumber?

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!

The wheels have fallen off!

Hmm, what could that mean? In so many different ways, and in so many places during the current crisis, it seems wheels have been falling off. If you’ve been here before, you’ll know I (mostly, haha) steer clear of matters controversial. So let me say, when the wheels are falling off, I mean the wheels are falling off…this:

What a find!

A weekend or two ago, the walls were starting to close in a bit more than usual. Like many, we’ve been missing time on trails, and our usual visits to wide open spaces. For me, like many, positive mental health can be boosted by time spent in green and blue outdoor places. Alberta in late winter/early spring isn’t renowned for vibrant greenery, so we did the next best thing, and went to the gold and brown prairies – under vast blue skies.

Gold? Brown? Blue!

Phew. A sneak trip out of the city, a drive along empty back roads, windows down, cold fresh air, and space, space, space. From above, our car bouncing along dusty ridge roads would have looked like a little black socially distanced insect. One badly in need of a wash.

This vehicle is cleaner than our Jeep. Really.

We didn’t see many other people, but we did see a couple of red tailed hawks, numerous waterfowl bobbing on icy cold knob and kettle ponds, hundreds of geese overhead, and maybe best of all, a herd of bison up on a distant ridge.

We did stop to enjoy our cup of coffee and small(ish) bar of chocolate. Wondering where would be a good place for this, with great timing we came around a bend and saw a rusting relic sitting in a field. What a beauty, an old Mercury (I only know that because the rear badge was still visible) stranded in golden grass. The remains of a failed getaway, perhaps? There’s a good story here just waiting to be told.

Busted getaway? Busted headlight, busted taillight, busted windshield, busted…

What was slightly strange was seeing a set of what looked to be reasonably ok tires, one at each wheel arch. The car looked distinctly undriveable, but maybe someone out there on the prairies has plans to ensure the Mercury isn’t in its final rusting place? That would be cool. Next time the walls close in, maybe we’ll take another spin out there, see if the car has been saved. Wheels fallen off? Doesn’t have to be a permanent state of affairs…

Busted, yeah – but sort of beautiful?

Thanks for reading. I hope you’re well, please stay safe and enjoy the weekend ahead!

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…

Looking back to look ahead

With the long Easter weekend almost upon us – life has turned into one long weekend if you’re one of the many staying close to home right now – I thought I’d post a few past pictures taken around this time of year. Sort of heartening and disheartening at the same time…

Take the long view

Aiming to be positive, it’s nice to think that next Easter, or maybe the one after, most that choose to do so will be able to celebrate with their friends and families close by, rather than on FaceTime etc.

Maybe next year?

On a lighter, borderline trivial note, and perhaps somewhat worryingly, I have a trove of beer photographs dating back many, many years. Hmm, now why is that? Well, don’t some adults take pictures of trains and write down the engine numbers? Not that I’m being defensive or anything. The real reason is one of my brothers doesn’t like beer (you remember, he only drinks Peroni, proving he doesn’t like beer) so whenever we’re out and find ourselves – and this is rare – trying new beers in a microbrewery or bar, or a friend’s house, or at home, or on a day ending in a “y” – like I said, rare – then I’ll take a photo and send it to my brother. It’s ok, he likes getting the photographs, he really does. Anyway, seeing the photo below of North Coast Brewing’s Red Seal ale reminded me we haven’t tried that in quite a while. This is clearly an issue for me, because there’s still the important research needed to catch up on the past three years of AB new beers before revisiting old favourites. Looking back to look ahead. Clutching at straws, but maybe that’s a lockdown silver lining…

Not Peroni…

I’ll finish this one as I did last time. I do hope you’re keeping well. The current crisis is very serious, and frightening for so many. I admire and thank all the people who are doing all they can to keep what is necessary going. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful long weekend.

Positively strutting! Striding forward, that’s the way.

Today’s soup is…

Beer?! No! Not yet…

Soup, of course! More about the soup below. I know, you want to bail out now – but then you’ll never know about the soup. It’ll eat away at you…

Did you really think it was beer? It’s not like this blog posts a seemingly endless stream of beer photos.

Oh. Erm, a hop forward soup?

We walk past this chalkboard at least once a day, and if the current specials aren’t too inspiring, I find the soup of the day makes me smile.

Why not?

At PlaidCamper Towers, yesterday’s soup was a rather good homemade tomato and lentil, cooked from scratch with love and care, and the need to do anything except read another online article about how to improve oneself during the enforced sabbatical. I mean, if I read one more thing about how making your own soup from scratch with love and care will help you cope with hours indoors, and help me reach my potential, why, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll start writing about how making soup can help while away hours spent indoors. Is it too early for beer yet?

This blog is meant to be about the adventures of an almost outdoorsman, but given the current situation, I may have to rename it. Ooh, rebranding, isn’t that a thing, like conservatives suddenly loving public health, and finding the magic money tree is actually a magic money forest?! Time to start over, a new identity. Maybe, the adventures of a confirmed indoorsman? Indoorsman – is that a word? Adventures in dusting behind the books, vacuuming the baseboards twice a week, sweeping the little deck, and some updates on how the paint is drying where we’ve fixed a couple of drywall dings. I might even start some deliberate dinging of drywall just so I can fix it, and then write about it. Did I mention yesterday’s soup already?

A brief escape for the indoorsman

Anyway, I’ll leave it for this week, as I’ve got to go and find the hammer, plaster, paint and brushes Mrs. PC hid while I was writing this.

I do hope you’re keeping well. The current crisis is very serious, and frightening for so many. I admire and thank all the people who are doing all they can to keep what is necessary going. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend.

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!