A murderously early spring? (Is it really winter?)

A strange blog post title – what’s going on? Best answer these questions, PlaidCamper.

I thought I’d write this a few months early, as winter appears to have come and gone, and Calgary is gripped by an early spring. Temperatures hitting 12C (!) the next couple of days, and last time I checked the 14 day forecast, the seasonal daytime high of 0C won’t be happening until late December. If this keeps up, expect a photograph of a daffodil next week…

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Taken this time last year

Calgary has spring, and I’ve had man flu – very disappointing to have a winter affliction when it isn’t even winter outside. Doesn’t seem fair. Luckily, I’d never complain about the weather, and likewise, I’d never complain about feeling under the weather. Nope, I may be gripped by man flu, or worse, but you won’t hear a peep. Perhaps a sniff, sneeze, cough, and a small whimper, but that’s about all.

Having been confined to my sick bed (or sofa), I thought I’d recommend a couple of movies where winter does make an appearance. It’s the only snow we’ve seen for a while.

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Snow!

Let’s start with Wind River (dir. Taylor Sheridan, VVS 2017), one of the few decent movies  for grown ups (they let me in) released since the summer, worth your time if you enjoy a slow burn story, arresting scenery, and great performances. Sheridan wrote this, and he wrote Sicario and Hell or High Water, also good movies. If you’ve seen the others, you’ll know Sheridan enjoys a stand off. The characters he creates aren’t always the most immediately accessible or likeable, but you’ll care about them when the stand off occurs.

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More snow!

In Wind River, we start with death on a reservation, followed by death in the past, then more death on a reservation, and finishing up with a bit more death high above a Wyoming reservation. It isn’t the most cheerful of movies, although there are glimmers of hope in the troubled lives of key characters. The story touches on family grief, notions of justice, wasted lives, greed over resource extraction, racial tension, friendship and duplicity. Fortunately, there is also a sprinkling of deadpan humour. And lots and lots of snow. All this in less than two hours, and it is a taut little mystery.

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Snow in the city! A happy memory…

Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner are convincing in their roles, Renner as a hunter, Olsen as a rookie FBI agent. We can thank Sheridan as writer for avoiding what could have been a horribly cliched relationship between these two. The smaller roles are well cast and well acted, and the snowy mountain landscapes are beautiful. When the mystery of what happened to the original victim is revealed in a long flashback, it adds to the drama of what happens next. Great storytelling.

If all the gloomy death and despair of Wind River isn’t for you, then let me recommend a different movie. Be warned, it also features death, but there is far more fun to be had in Murder on the Orient Express (dir. Kenneth Branagh, 20th Century Fox 2017), if you are ok with watching a retelling of a story told countless times before.

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Train glamour (and snow)

I wasn’t too sure about seeing this one. I’d seen a trailer, and it was a touch off-putting. That moustache! The hammy-sounding Brit accents (I have one of those) and ‘eavy Belgian prrro-nun-cee-ation. Hmm – cliche and scenery-chewing alert!

Well, it was a blast! It’s hard to complain about a wonderfully familiar cast of good actors clearly enjoying themselves. Branagh is confident marshalling his players, giving each just enough space to shine.

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I like the snow in this one

The train is rolling through striking mountain scenery when a disaster strikes! It is stuck on a huge trestle bridge suspended over a deep, deep gorge after an avalanche blocks the track, derailing the steam engine. There is lots and lots of snow. There is a murder! Poirot has to solve the case before the avalanche is cleared, the engine restored, and the train is able to continue.

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Mist, not steam (and sn- ok, I’ll stop now)

In what is essentially a one set movie after the murder occurs, the delights are in the encounters Branagh’s Poirot has with character after character. The movie isn’t derailed and the story doesn’t run out of steam, even if you know what happens. Branagh himself gives a distinctive performance as Poirot, humanizing him behind the huge whiskers and sharp detective intellect.

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The Prairie Express

This movie is good to look at! As well as the colourful period costumes, the train’s interiors are glorious, all cut glass, wooden sheen, crisp tablecloths and gleaming silverware. This is a throwback movie, old-fashioned yet revelling in subverting an age that wasn’t as golden or glamorous as it appears. A fun film, if a story about murder is allowed to be fun.

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I hope it is winter where you are!

There you have it, a couple of deeply different movies to enjoy on a dark winter (fake spring?) evening if you are feeling sorry for yourself with a bit of a cold. Thank goodness I was able to get a winter fix, even if it took a murder or two and some CGI…

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Tipping points and falling out…

A brief post this week, and not as dramatic as it sounds – oh no, not the tipping point! Falling out? The drama! Nothing exciting like that. Simply a short piece about not falling out (so far)…

An uphill struggle?

We picked up a couple of kayaks a little while back. Hours and hours of research, window shopping, daydreaming, comparing different boats and their capabilities (bearing in mind our limited capabilities), materials, and price points. What fun I had, and how happy Mrs. PC was that there was a little project to keep me quiet. Once I’d made a final choice – and there were many final choices, me being a decisive sort – Mrs. PC pointed out that the real limitation wasn’t what would fit on the car, wasn’t even price, but the fact that we have limited storage space. I’m not the practical sort – I like boats because they’re old and/or blue, remember?

So we picked up two short kayaks a little while back, and they fit into our storage space. You have to be practical…

Green – from a blue boat

I love bobbing about in my little (blue) kayak! I always find kayaks feel a lot more tippy than a canoe, but so far – at the time of writing – I’ve yet to tip either, more through luck than skill or judgement. We’ve stuck to very calm bays and inlets along the shore, and made every attempt to choose the least windy parts of the day. This seems to be mornings, and late afternoons and evenings. No doubt, as I become overconfident, I’ll discover the tipping point, and rest assured, I’ll write about it on here. No misadventures will be hidden by this almost outdoorsman. Of course, if there are no pictures, that’ll be because I should have put my camera in a better dry bag…

Not too blurry?

I like playing in the boat, and I like taking pictures. A new challenge is combining the two! Canoes on lakes are wonderfully stable, and mountains and trees keep wonderfully still. Kayaks on tidal waters, with wash and wake from other vessels – you should see how many photographs I’ve deleted. I like that they can be straightened after the fact, but how off the mark I’ve been is something. I was tempted to post a few of the really poor ones with this piece, but I’ve tried your patience long enough.

More about our kayak adventures and explorations in the future. Much like our initial excursions, I’ll keep it brief – as promised. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Washed up and washed out blues

Oh the blues…

Not the “life is so sad, lost my job, s/he left me, the roof is leaking and my dog, cat and hamster died on me” blues, although there’s a time and a place. Rather, the “I love the colour of those boats in the harbour” blues. Not sure if there is a song in that, but maybe there should be. If you write it, I promise not to sing it.IMG_20170731_202257

We were wandering about Ucluelet Small Craft Harbour, admiring the variety of boats, watching the comings and goings of craft large and small, and admiring the catches of the day. A mixture of busy and quiet, it is a lovely place to find a seat and enjoy a warm summer evening, so we did.

My eye is always drawn to blue and green, and here it was no different. There was a smattering of beautiful blue vessels tucked in between the more prevalent greys and creams. I’m hugely ignorant of matters maritime, and it is a good thing I’m not in the market for a boat because I’d choose a blue one before choosing the right one.

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The right one?

A fool and his dollars are easily parted – that is why I rarely shop, and when I do, Mrs PC is there to rein me in. So when I saw the lovely Tromso was for sale, and for a mere $8000, she shook her head, took me by the arm and led me away. No, we don’t need to live on a boat, there’s nothing “mere” about $8000, and we don’t have $8000.

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Character?

I thought Tromso had character, and I could relate to her age. She’s rusting, I’m greying. Weather beaten and a bit worn around the edges? Yup. Some bulging and sagging where you’d rather it wasn’t? Okay. Looks good in blue and green? Enough already…

So the nautical life remains undiscovered by this old PlaidCamper, and the harbour side blues play in my head every time I look out and see the Tromso tethered and rusting down by the dock. She looks a little washed up and washed out, but I think there’s some life left in her. I hope the right person comes along and sees the potential. I’ve been searching down the back of the sofa, but to no avail.

Sing along if you want to – “I love the Tromso and I don’t have a cat…” – oh my unnecessary nautical blues!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

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I might be whistling Dixie…

This river is wild…

Or if not wild, certainly rising. Keeping a close watch, given the heavy flooding Calgary and other places on the Bow experienced a few years ago.

I like this truck!

As spring turns to summer, or as we skip spring for summer – tornado warnings/sightings, and gajillions of mosquitos being my prime evidence – I’m putting together the dreaded OldPlaidCamper road trip mix tape. Just to be clear, and for the record, Mrs. PlaidCamper has excellent musical taste, and a remarkable ability to fall asleep in the car when my mix tape is up next. That might be one of the rock solid foundations of a successful road trip…

You might be asking Why the bit about the river, and then the bit about mix tapes? Good question! This River is Wild is a track on the Sam’s Town album by The Killers. I like the album, and I like the track, and it has popped up in my head each time I’ve crossed the Bow this past week and seen the surging waters. Yup, I’ve got a fairly empty head most mornings, and this is what fills it – plans for a road trip mix tape.

That Killers track! I do enjoy their wailing histrionics, in small doses. You can’t fault them for effort, and the albums Hot Fuss and Sam’s Town include killer, haha, tracks. If you’re interested, follow the link for a live version – I prefer the studio version, but couldn’t find a link – The Killers – This River is Wild 

I like this truck as well!

On my little walks around Sunnyside, in between downpours and battling the bloodsucking bugs, I’ve stumbled across some more old trucks and snapped a few pictures. Old trucks always get me thinking about road trips and wide open spaces. The sad truth is, if I owned a cool old truck and was responsible for the maintenance, our road trips would be short. We’d see lots of verges, and be on first name terms with tow truck owners. Sadly, I can only look and dream when it comes to older trucks (or I could learn to be a mechanic – don’t let Mrs PC read that last part, she’s seen me fix and build…)

I really, really like this one!

Oh summer, I can almost see you there, just a little way ahead, and around the next turn! Here’s hoping the river isn’t too wild, the road is long and open, and an as yet unknown distant (wealthy) relative decides to lend me an old truck on permanent loan…

Thanks for reading. Keeping it short this week – mix tape planning can take a lot of time, you know – I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and please feel free to share a road trip song suggestion!

And I like this one!

Time to reappear!

Last week was about disappearing, so to balance that out, it’s time to reappear. Our break is about over, and we’ve had a very pleasant summer. I wrote last week about the temporary need to check out, suspend membership of the human race, and it did reflect how I felt at the time of writing. However, having had the good fortune to be able to sit, read, write and reflect with few disturbances the past week, I thought that this week I’d share one or two of the great people we’ve met on our recent travels. They were previously unknown to us, but each interaction affirmed that people are, by and large, pretty decent – it seems that when we escape group or mob mentality, humans get it right…

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Safe to pitch here?

Where to start? How about Daryl, the tree surgeon we met a few weeks ago at Green Point campground on Vancouver Island? When we arrived at our designated spot, a large silver pick up full of chainsaws, ladders, ropes and climbing equipment was blocking the entrance. Daryl came over and introduced himself, explaining that he and his work partner were spotting trees, ensuring that those with weak roots, rotten cores, or loose branches weren’t about to come tumbling down on an unsuspecting camper:

“Don’t worry, we’re talking about in the next couple years. That said, don’t pitch your tent there, don’t tie a tarp on this one, or that one, and maybe not that one either!”

Looking around, we could see Daryl had been busy, with little blobs of red dye on trees that were going to require action. It was good to know he was out there keeping things safe. We stood and chatted for a while. Daryl loved his work, and he loved living on Vancouver Island.DSCN6998

“I hardly ever leave the island – why would I? My wife and I like to go kayaking and camping most weekends, and it’s all within a couple of hours of our home. It’s all here!”

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It’s all here!

Indeed it is. Daryl was knowledgeable, friendly, and not too busy to stop and say hi and talk about what he was doing. He had a good sense of humour, too. As he was leaving:

“You know how I said these trees were okay for two years or more? Well, if it gets windy, that’ll change. You might want to move your tent. Or not. It should be alright. Sleep well!”

Funny guy…

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Too early for a cold one?

When we got to Little Bear last week, we’d about unpacked our kit, and were just wondering if it was too early for a cold one when we heard voices drifting down from further up the mountain. People? At “our” cabin and on “our” mountain? Oh no – we were meant to be disappearing…

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Bozeman is down there

A young boy, about twelve or so, and his grandparents hiked into view. They waved “hi” and apologized for disturbing us. They seemed surprised the cabin was occupied. It turned out the grandfather hadn’t been up this way for more than a decade, and had wanted to show his grandson and wife the cabin, and the tremendous view across the valley. They pointed out distant mountains they’d hiked with their grandson earlier in the summer. The couple had first come to Bozeman from Minnesota in the 1960s, to work at the university:

“And we never left. We love it here, working and now retired. This area is special. Can we show our grandson the inside of your cabin?”

Well of course. The boy was completely taken with the cabin, eyes and face lit up with excitement. He was still young enough not to be too cool about old stuff. It was clear he hero-worshipped his grandparents, hanging on their every word. When we told them where we’d booked the cabin and the modest cost, the grandson looked absolutely thrilled when his grandfather suggested he might come up sometime:

“When you’re a little older, with your own friends, for a few nights?”

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Getting late

It was late in the afternoon, and they had to get back to their vehicle and head down to Bozeman. Waving farewell, they disappeared from view, but we heard what they were saying:

“Isn’t it great that old cabin is being used? What a place! We gotta come back sometime!”

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That old cabin

Isn’t it great that there are plenty of friendly folks out and about? It’s easy to be suspicious, or wary, particularly when you are relatively far from home. It’s easy to generalize (that’s why I do it!) about how humanity is going to hell in a hand basket, especially if you take all the bad news stories as the only stories out there. But that’s not always true – it’s just that the good stories don’t always get heard or the same air time. Sometimes, having a little time out to reflect can help me remember that.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Coastal cursing

A brief post, mostly about cussedness and cursing (but not out loud, that would be wrong) because I was determined to have a lengthy hike on the Cornish coastal path, but it didn’t turn out that way. A pouty Plaidcamper…

We arrived late evening at Britain’s most southerly point, on the Lizard peninsula, Cornwall. Ma Plaidcamper is lucky enough to live here, and it is a very pleasant part of the UK, often blessed with mild temperatures and sunny skies. Those blue skies were evident our first evening, and a portent of great conditions for hiking the coastal path:

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Looking good for tomorrow…

The path hugs the rugged coastline, dropping into tiny coves, and climbing up to cliff tops above the sea. It makes for exhilarating hiking, and the view changes constantly, as each climb, twist or turn reveals new vistas. On a clear day, it is some of my favourite walking anywhere we’ve ever visited.Image 1

In wet weather, the path conditions are extremely slippery, and care has to be taken where the trail is close to the edge. And when it is blustery as well as wet, well, be very careful. Often, the advice is to wait another day.

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What wet weather?

We were there for three days, and all three were wet and blustery! It’s all about the timing! Hence the cursing – about the weather – and the cussedness – because I was going to go out, never mind the weather.

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Stay away from the edge and you’ll be fine

DSCN7043We chose a route that stayed away from the very edge, taking only well gravelled sections along the high tops, and although the track was still very muddy in many places, we were in no danger of falling off, only of falling over.

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Easy hiking, but a bit damp

DSCN7078So we didn’t get the best of weather, and the hikes we took were relatively brief, but it was still a wonderful place to be, blown along and getting great blasts of ozone charged air.DSCN7069 And if we weren’t walking, we spent time with Ma Plaidcamper, and with Mrs PC’s twin brother and family in the local pub, drying out over a pint or two. Job done, and a proper job too:DSCN7037

DSCN7067Thanks for reading! As always, please feel free to share a story or comment, and have a wonderful weekend!

(I’ve not been keeping up with all your blogs I read regularly – apologies, and I will read them in the next week or two – I’ve really missed not being able to do so. When we returned home, a routine eye exam revealed the need for some immediate corrective laser surgery, so I’ve had to limit screen time. Obviously, I’m glad it was detected, all seems well, and what passes for normal service at OldPlaidCamper will resume soon…)

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Good place for a coffee stop

Montana medicine

I’m writing this in a Montana motel room on a Saturday night. I know, life in the fast lane, and we sure know how to have a time of it. Actually, all is pretty good. The room overlooks the little pool, some kids are playing in it nicely, and we have a couple of beers cooling in the fridge. To be honest, it’s a bit of a selfish post this week.

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Empty road, empty head

After a relatively fraught couple of weeks, this might be just what the doctor ordered. Our trip to see friends and family in the UK was great fun, but there was a real feeling of Brexit blues about the place. Most people we know voted Remain, so their shock and upset over the outcome is still very real. Huge bewilderment and disbelief at the path Britain is now on. We haven’t lived there for fifteen years, and even from a distance we are struggling to make sense of it. It’ll take time, and tremendous optimism, to see how the situation can be improved. Perhaps I’ll write more about this later, if I can make sense of it all. We certainly left Britain feeling quite exhausted, and our Brexit incomprehension was a factor.

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Little Bear

We are now headed down to Little Bear cabin, and very happy to be on our way. I’ve spent the past week or so sitting and feeling sorry for myself in a darkened room, waiting (im)patiently for my eye to be up to the task of reading small print and taking on some sunlight. Well, finally! (although I’m not taking a retinal tear lightly…) Obviously, I’ve been a model of quiet and calm recuperation, with barely a complaint. Still, Mrs PC did seem to pack up and jump in the car with even more enthusiasm than usual…DSCN7099

Part of our journey through Montana went from Choteau to Wolf Creek on route 287. What a route! Rising and falling through rolling grasslands and golden hills, with mountains in the far distance all the way, this was a great road! It felt like essence of Montana, with hardly any other traffic, blue skies with high white clouds, a pleasant breeze in through the windows, and space, space, space. After a week indoors, and a couple of weeks before that negotiating Britain’s crowded roads, today’s journey was delightful.DSCN7103

What a relief to be able to read a road map, read road signs, roam along empty roads, and see to the far horizon. Little Bear is waiting, and we are ready to empty our heads for just a little while. Some Montana medicine, and it’ll be easy to take. Everybody should have some; even if you already feel good, you’ll feel even better!

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It’s good for you!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!