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!

The forest

The past week has been the most enjoyable for quite some time. I’ve got bruises and scratches, I ache almost everywhere, and I’m writing this at the second attempt, having dozed off previously. Hmm. I’m awake now, drool wiped from chin, so let’s share a little of the last few days.

A group of youth and young adults have been learning from two trail-building teachers. They were so good, teaching us that how a trail is built is its own story, then trails are used to retell old stories and create new ones. Walking in places where the spirit of ancestors reside, and where predecessors walked in times past, certainly fired up the youth. They’re excited about creating community paths to allow easier access to the local lake. Improving and replacing sections of an old boardwalk, as well as building a couple of new trails is what they’ll be doing over the course of the summer.

A shovel didn’t go into the ground for the first day and a half. The time was spent bushwhacking, searching for likely routes and places to see, using the terrain and marking out possibilities. This was fun stuff, and somewhat harder for one or two of the older folks accompanying the young crew. Yup, me.

Old boardwalk, new tools

It turns out I’m not as nimble as I thought when it comes to jumping up on to (or off) a log. And gaps in dense thickets get smaller when I’m in them. At one point I got stuck pushing up and over an old log, completely caught in the tangle of smaller branches. Couldn’t go forward, couldn’t go back, and couldn’t lose (any more) face. I ended up using my COVID kilos, and simply let myself “fall” forward, counting on gravity and a heavy backpack (or those COVID kilos) to pull me through. It sort of worked. Probably not in any training manual…

Digging it

Anyway, older folks were recovered, plausible routes were marked out, and we’ve spent three sweat and mosquito filled days breaking new trail. The young ones are so strong, and so ready to learn. After months of mostly indoor time, the hours in the forest are wonderful. Purposeful activity, great company, lots of learning, kilos to lose, and all under the watchful eye of bears, spirits, leaders, and spirited leaders-in-making.

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

Happy Campers

It’s Canada Day next Wednesday, a day we like to stop and think about how fortunate we are to be living and working where we do.

Warmer than it looks

For almost everyone, the year so far – are we only six months in?! – has been challenging, so it’s good to pause and be positive.

A different sense of time

Canada is very far from perfect, but I choose to believe that it’s a nation trying to progress towards greater inclusivity, aiming to ensure what comes next for all Canadians is an improvement on the past. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, in good times or tougher times, and I’m looking forward to Wednesday. Peering ahead, I’d like to think every day is Canada Day for all who live here.

Taken from Mount Ozzard. Hitacu near side, Ucluelet far side

So if you’re Canadian, know a Canadian, will become a Canadian, have visited Canada, would like to visit Canada, or you’re a big fan of maple syrup, then happy Canada Day to you!

A good idea from Nelson Brewing, BC

Thanks for reading, and enjoy your weekend!

All accompanying photographs were taken this week when I was at work – what a spot to work in! (Not the beer photo – that was after work!)

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!

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.