Some Dad stuff

With a tip of the hat to this coming Sunday, let’s say the photographs and some content this week is slightly Dad biased. That said, you don’t have to be a Dad to enjoy old trucks and good beer. My Dad does enjoy old Land Rovers and Range Rovers, and he will drink a beer if there’s nothing else, but he’s more partial to a full bodied Rioja.

Full bodied

Before we moved away from the UK, each summer my Dad, brother and I would meet up for a few days and play three rounds of golf. That’s not quite true. My Dad would play golf – he’s a very good golfer, toyed with the idea of turning pro – and my brother and I would go for a long walk trying to find our errant golf balls. My Dad was referee/coach/guidance counsellor/man mercilessly taking the piss out of our monumental sporting struggle. My brother and I were playing to win a penny. It’s true! We even called it the penny trophy! (I’m not the current holder…) My Dad had tremendous patience in the face of our (mostly my) inability to remotely master the game, and if you could have seen how bad we were (I was), his restraint has to be admired. We’d enjoy a glass or two of something good after each round, recounting the highlights and lowlights, and I do miss those fun summer meetings, even if I was often a miserable so and so on the course. I know, that’s hard to believe!

Summer 2019 release – cheers!

Anyway, cheers to my Dad, and to Dads, and cheers to everybody, because it’s fun to raise a glass if you’re so inclined, and I will for almost any reason, but maybe not on a school night.

School nights? Not too many of those between now and the end of the academic year! Lots to keep us busy between now and then. I was at a celebration of Nuu-Chah-Nulth learning earlier this week, one where some beautiful murals were unveiled and blessed at a high school. A collaboration between local indigenous artists and high school students, the three paintings were stunning depictions of local history, nature and culture. To see so many people of all stripes come out and celebrate, enjoying the artwork, singing, drumming and dancing was wonderful to see. The accompanying feast was also a highlight, with multi-generations present.

On the way home, I saw this green truck parked up, and I had to stop and take a picture. They do look good in green, don’t they? It probably isn’t what’s meant by going green. Old man dreams?

Going green?

At a cafe the other day, Mrs. PC spotted a weighty tome she thought I’d like to look at. It was a picture book – she knows me so well – with great photographs of pick up trucks past and present. Perhaps her thinking is if I look at the pictures, that’ll be more than enough to be going on with, no need to actually buy an old wrecker. Good strategy, bound to work, and anyway, the real thing is too expensive to maintain. Far better to buy a cup of coffee at that cafe every now and then, and look at the book.

Low maintenance? I think so!

The following day, we were leaving the grocery store when I spotted this old pink-wheeled delight. Imagine being the proud owner of a truck like this. I bet it doesn’t need that much maintenance. After all, it’s been going this long, it’s bound to have many years left in it. Way more fun than looking at a book. Probably even has cup holders?

I’ll leave it here for now, as I’ve got to head over the bay, put some hours in on the forthcoming education celebration we’ll be enjoying next week. You’ll be interested to know I always slow down when I’m passing this beige beauty:

A beige beauty? Perhaps not

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Wolf Willow

Let’s head away from the coast and into the interior this week. A title borrowed from Wallace Stegner, a recommendation to read the Stegner title, and some Saskatchewan memories. What brought this on? Friends from Alberta emailed us last week, catching up on recent events and checking in to see if we had plans to be in Alberta over the summer. Likely yes, and I hope we can mesh our summer schedules and meet up face to face. We’ll have to time it so we see them before or after their planned camping trip to Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan!

I have fond memories of a Saskatchewan road trip and cabin stay we did during our second summer in Canada. Big skies, long distances, empty roads, and the biggest bugs ever. Ever! Also, the week we had in our cabin provided me with some of the most restful sleep I can ever recall. Ever! It was quiet and the backroads cycling was easy. Apparently, parts of Saskatchewan are quite flat. That summer had been rainy just before we set off, so the prairies were a vibrant green and gold – and the abundant insect life was big and bold. The dragon flies were enormous, or so it seemed when cycling through them.

The following year we camped a few nights in the Cypress Hills area, a windswept and beautiful location straddling the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. We had a fun time camped down by the water, aside from some of the biggest mosquitoes ever. Ever!

A different cabin

So what about the title of the post? Wolf Willow? It just so happens I’ve been reading Wallace Stegner’s remarkable book about plains life around the end of the nineteenth and start of the twentieth century. It is a spellbinding account of the trials and tribulations of settlers heading west. It also acknowledges the terrible devastation wrought by those early settlers, on people and place.

Storms, wind, fire, hard winters, dry summers, near starvation, genocide and environmental destruction – this is not a cheery account of that life and those times. Yet Stegner loved the several years he spent there as a child. His account of being a “sensuous savage” running pretty wild with his peers is quite a contrast to the experiences of many children today. There might be an argument made for the rough and tumble of his childhood being a more meaningful experience. Many true and a few tall tales are told, the secondary heading of the complete piece being “a history, a story, and a memory of the last plains frontier.” He had many exciting and striking memories, that’s for sure.

Tough country

There is much on the nature of nature forging identity and character, how a landscape can define a person, even years after they have moved on. For all the tough times and challenging living conditions, Stegner has a real love for his brief – yet formative – years on the prairies, his family scrabbling to survive on what felt at that time like the last frontier. Or the end of the last frontier in North America.

There are any number of wonderfully descriptive prairie passages in the book. The wind is a constant companion:

“Across its empty miles pours the pushing and shouldering wind, a thing you tighten into as a trout tightens into fast water. It is a grassy, clean, exciting wind, with the smell of distance in it, and in its search for whatever it is looking for it turns over every wheat blade and head, every pale primrose, even the ground-hugging grass. It blows yellow-headed blackbirds and hawks and prairie sparrows around the air and ruffles the short tails of meadowlarks on fence posts. In collaboration with the light, it makes lovely and changeful what might be otherwise characterless.”

No need to hurry

The central part of Wolf Willow tells the story of a cattle drive undertaken just as winter approaches. This fictional account is utterly compelling, a tremendous piece of writing about fighting to stay alive in a snowstorm and do a job of work. The main character is a fresh faced romantic recently arrived from England, and he is desperate to be recognized as being stoic and hardbitten like his work colleagues. A few days of driving cattle in plummeting temperatures forces a reassessment of what he saw as a romantic life, and as for achieving the stature he believes his colleagues have? Well, you’ll have to read Wolf Willow to find out. If you do, you won’t be disappointed, although you might find some of the attitudes and prejudices from the time of writing a touch off putting. Maybe treat it as a history lesson on past social attitudes, and then enjoy the tales told.

A welcome thaw

From when we were road tripping in Saskatchewan all those years ago, a strong memory is of how friendly people were. One morning we found ourselves in the tiny town of Tisdale, a few hours northeast of Saskatoon. (As an aside, I delight in writing or saying Saskatoon or Saskatchewan. Even better, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan!) Anyway, we were lost, which is hard to do in a small rural town, but soon knew where we were when we inadvertently turned onto a street and found ourselves driving at the head of a parade. Oops. For a few minutes, we headed the floats and marching band. Those friendly townspeople clapped and cheered as we drove on up the street, and was I ever happy to turn off as soon as possible. I’d love to visit again, but I don’t want the townsfolk feeling pressured about putting on a parade…

Captivating country, and never characterless

Ah, Saskatchewan! Land of Corner Gas, a show that told us all we needed to know before heading out on that particular vacation. Corner Gas shows that life has changed on the plains since Stegner’s day! I have to say, prairie life is still a tough business, maybe not Stegner period tough, but there is something so attractive about it nonetheless. Honestly, I’m as hopelessly romantic about it as that young Englishman in Stegner’s story…

Wolf Willow was one of the first prairie shrubs I learned to recognize when we moved to Alberta. One freezing November evening, a kind botanist walked me through a river valley in the prairie edge lands as preparation for a school field trip. The Wolf Willow and Red Osier Dogwoods were a delight, each standing out, even in failing winter light. I’ll be honest, it’s easy to remember a plant with a name as captivating as Wolf Willow. (A quick search earlier revealed it isn’t a willow at all, but that’s okay…)

A good read (Image from Goodread.com)

I think I’ll leave it here, otherwise there’s a danger I could meander on like a slow and muddy river flowing in a summertime prairie valley. In Saskatchewan!

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

All the photographs this week are from Alberta prairie visits in previous years. I have photographs from our SK trips, but couldn’t find them this week. Maybe we need to plan another SK trip…

Saddle up!

No, we haven’t headed back to Alberta – no plans to visit before the summer – but I am feeling a touch saddle sore. A short but very fast post this week. You’ll have to be quick to catch this one as I race by in a blur…

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I raced very slowly down this lane

The local community has been geared up with encouraging as many people as possible to ride their bikes this week. Well, I have found out that it’s a good idea to ride a bike a bit more frequently than I have been. Ouch. Still, complaining muscles (and complaining about muscles – or lack of) and a wobble or two have all been part of the fun.

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Bikes!

What a sight it was on Monday at school to see over 110 bicycles out front, and only one vehicle in the parking lot. On Tuesday, the bike count was almost 140. That day, I felt terrible for riding home at lunchtime and coming back in the Jeep. I had work to do later in the afternoon over the bay, and I would have been very late if I’d cycled. I’m all about the journey, not the destination. I like to say that, it sounds better than “I can’t pedal very quickly!” Maybe an e-bike is the answer? Pedal assist on the hills, and self-propelled on the flat. I’m fairly sure I’d end up deciding it was all hills and require a lot of assistance…

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Time to stop and smell the roses – and I was tired

I’ve included a few photographs from my pedalling travels this week. You’ll understand I was only stopping to take a picture, and not because I’d ridden up a small hill or slight incline and needed a quick rest.

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Bike to work, not bring your bike to work

I have enjoyed getting back on the bike, and I’m committed to cycling whenever my work is in Ucluelet, and only driving for the trips over the bay or to meetings in distant places. Have you seen the price of gas? Yikes! Perhaps the wobbling will diminish, the hills will seem flatter, and I’ll be a speedy two wheeled PlaidCamper. So please take care as you overtake that grizzled geezer on his bike – he’s doing his best and going as fast as he can!

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Stopped to look at the boat, not stopped for a rest

Speedy as promised – thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend!

Proof of bike

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

Pony up…

…I was going to write some more about Brexit, straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were, based on our recent trip. However, I simply don’t have the energy or enthusiasm for it, mostly because I’ve been silly enough to keep following events (non-events?) since returning home. I cannot believe, at this late hour, politicians – remain or leave – are unable to pony up on this – and we’re already past one “not to be missed” deadline! So instead, I’ll write a bit about our Cornish adventures, and include a picture of a pony…

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“Brexit? Neigh…”

Whenever we visit Ma PlaidCamper down in Cornwall, we find some time to tramp the trails on the Cornish coastal path, and it is always a treat! Rain or shine – and we were lucky to have almost shine – this path is one to savour. We enjoyed a day that more than hinted at spring. Wildflowers were mere minutes from appearing (I’m betting some bloomed the next day!), rabbits were bounding and bouncing, birds were singing, one or two bumblebees buzzed and hummed in and out of the hedgerows, and Shetland ponies were happily grazing along the cliff tops. All this in the first few minutes! Spring! Boing!

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“There’s a cafe just past the beach behind the next headland, hidden in a cove. You can’t miss it!” It’s the tiny white blob. A good place to stop.

Often, the cliff tops are wind blasted, and that, combined with copious mud underfoot can make things challenging. This time out, a relatively lengthy dry spell just before our visit, and an almost windless day meant we had benign conditions. With the sun making an occasional appearance through the mist and haze, we found the walking very pleasant, long stretches along the tops punctuated by steep and short up and downs between coves. Fully loaded with snacks and a light lunch, and a brief-that-turned-long stop at a cafe for coffee, our day on the path was about as good as it can be.0B6961C7-576D-4E40-82D7-5425C33C094E

This isn’t a path to be rushed, and why would you with varied views to take in as you round headland after headland? The springy turf invites you to stop and sit, so we did, time after time. Our light lunch became a long lunch, and the timing was just right as the sun shone for a lengthy spell, burning off misty remnants and turning the grey waters blue.

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Lunch stop

We couldn’t spend the entire day on the path, as we had plans to meet up with friends and family at a local pub, and a pint or two of Tribute pale ale to test – it passed, with flying colours.

Parents with small dogs was a bit of a theme this trip. Blue lives with my dad, and Bertie lives with mum. Bertie is the most energetic dog in the world, and luckily for him, he is hilarious with it. He reminded me of an extra from a Wallace and Gromit movie…

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Bertie!

The noise and nonsense of Brexit aside, we thoroughly enjoyed our trip. Family, friends, lovely scenery, silly (not really) dogs, beer, and the hugely necessary British sense of humour (how else can a nation survive the Brexit debacle?) all added up to a great time.

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

British stuff

A few years ago, back in Calgary, I taught a wonderful young man, MW, and he had a real talent for drawing funny cartoons. Before he was born, he and his mother suffered terrible abuse at the hands of his biological father, and as a result, MW’s brain ended up wired differently.11F3020D-222F-406B-9F5E-80F66078F30F

MW sees the humorous side of life, and he enjoyed some work we did reading “A Christmas Carol” and watching the movie version starring Jim Carrey. MW drew a cartoon strip retelling the story, and one frame he drew was of Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past flying over the wintry British countryside. MW labeled this panel “British Stuff” and I always smile and think of MW when back in Blighty.

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“Hello? Hello? Operator, could you please connect me to a sensible politician? Hello?”

Last I heard, MW is still drawing funny cartoons, and still making his teachers and peers laugh when they read them. He’s in high school now, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if, one day, he has his cartoons published for a wider audience.

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We fort (spoken with a Sarf London accent) this Roman remnant was rather wonderful – a link to an early European past (no doubt, rabid Brexiters would ask “Well, what did the Romans ever do for us?” and complain about subjugation and taxes. And then not mention stone buildings, central heating, good roads, different food, new ideas, and short skirts for men. Yes, we’re British dammit, through and through. Not a mix of Vikings, Goths, Visigoths, Normans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Indians, Africans, Jamaicans and many other groups I can’t even remember. Oh stop it PlaidCamper. Brexit means Brexit. Hey ho…)

Anyway, all of the above serves to explain the title for this week, and the few random photographs I’ve chosen from our recent British trip. Away from the noise and nonsense of Brexit, we were able to be charmed by little glimpses of “British stuff” on our travels. (Goodness me, doesn’t that last photograph have a long and incoherent caption? It’s like I’m tired, tetchy, and jet lagged…)

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Our next vehicle? If only…

A brief post as I struggle with some of the worst jet lag I’ve ever experienced – making sense at work this week has been something of a challenge! Still, it’s great to travel and visit with friends and family, and it’s also great to return home and calm things down a little. I won’t describe the teary eyed reunion we had with Scout the other day, but I will say it was a joy to see her again. Obviously, I must have had grit in my eye.

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British institution

I’ll unpack my bags properly in the next day or two, and I’ll unpack some more of our trip on here in the next week or two. Yup, be warned, there will be a bit more British stuff to come, and perhaps it will be a bit more coherent…

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A drop or two of good British stuff

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

Logging on and logging off

A very quick post this week, dashed out in between visits from family and friends, about a little place we like to sit and stare from when we need a short break.IMG_20180802_155702

Life is going along just fine out on the coast, a blend of warm and sunny days mixed with warm and foggy days, and, so far, just a hint of rain every now and then. We never need an excuse to head outside, but it is great to log off (I must spend less time reading online newspapers – isn’t it all fake anyway?), put down our books, avoid any household chores, and choose instead to get up and get going to a beach or trail.

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It’s not here

The pictures included this week were taken from a spot just off the Wild Pacific Trail. You know the place, where you have to push through a tangle of salal and other bushy undergrowth, and then scramble down some rocks to get onto a tiny pebble and shell beach. Yup, that place, but don’t tell anyone. Anyway, it doesn’t exist…

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Our last couple of visits there, the grey skies and grey seas were very soothing. In truth, I think on a sunny day we would find it almost too hot to sit out there on a log. Scout prefers it not too hot, and we are doing all we can for her by brushing out her shedding coat – so far, she has shed ten times her own body weight in fur this summer. (That probably isn’t true, but let’s embrace the current fashion for saying anything and insisting it is true because I said it and you didn’t – isn’t that how it works?) It is fun to watch her leap from log to log, her own version of logging on and off. Sensible dog.

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Logging on

Yikes, and I think I’ll leave it here, saying thank goodness for favourite quiet places just off the trail. Thanks for reading, I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and it’s one where you’ll find yourself in your own soothing spaces.

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