A medical history

Things of a medical nature have been all over the news cycle the past few months, and particularly the last week or two. A helicopter for an ambulance? A healthy glow?! Immunity! Don’t worry, this won’t be a PlaidCamper rant about miracle cures and inequalities in health care as personified by mango-hued tax dodging toddlers. Although it might have been, had the last sentence run on any longer.

No. No ranting. This is a post full of true and nearly true stories. Almost cinematic, full of visual poetry, and likely requiring a Terence Malick, Jane Campion, or Peter Weir to capture the moving intensity and subtle dreamy drama. A tale of a man at a crossroads in life. Cue voiceover: In a world…

Dreamy – one of the recent Planet of the Apes was filmed near here

Cut! Too much? Ok. Cut. Take two. This will be a post full of the brave exploits of a young-to-early middle-aged PlaidCamper, a potential boon to the medical world if only he would consider yet another mid-to-very-early life crisis, and switch careers. Montage! A white coat? Nice. A stethoscope? Yes please. Rugged calmness in the face of death and disease? Oh, yes doctor. Cut! Stop! Enough of this.

Sorry, I don’t know what came over me. I almost swooned, understandably enough, at the thought of me in a white coat. Imagine a cross between George Clooney and Dr. Fauci, only many decades younger, and you’d be close. No? Assisted by soft lighting, and no close ups? And a wig? Not even? Where were we? Poor scriptwriting on this one. This is like Apocalypse Now, but medical. Let’s start with basic training.

Ongoing basic training, almost essential

Did I mention I participated in a Wilderness First Aid course? A week of skills and scenarios, designed to replicate real life situations, complete with all too convincing fake broken bones, buckets of blood, and stick on wounds and injuries too disgusting for The Walking Dead. All in a rainforest setting, and directed by a first aid trainer who looked nothing like Francis Ford Coppola. I think a young Martin Sheen, slightly too old for the part, yet fortunate enough to bear a certain resemblance to an OldPlaidCamper, will play me in the following scenes.

Cut, cut, cut! Sorry, Martin, we won’t be needing you. Haven’t you heard, PlaidCamper? Cinema is another victim of the virus. And Martin at any age looks nothing like you.

In truth, my never entirely realistic dream of becoming a doctor soon evaporated in the heat of simulated medical battle. I’m not a particularly good first aider, certainly not compared with how well our young participants coped in testing situations. They’d be elbow deep, or at least, gloved hands on, treating the injuries while I was still reciting lessons and trying to remember how to tie a sling. Fluffing my lines. Let’s just say I won’t be in any reboot of ER…

…unless it is in the patient role. I excelled! Lie down and grumble about aches and pains? Check! Fake a heart attack? I’ll do it! Food poisoning due to mushroom picking stupidity? I can fake that! Make up a medical history to confuse trainees? No problem! Wander off, pretend to pee in the woods, be startled by a bear and shoot myself with bear spray? I did that! Pretending, not for real. I was meant to do this! I’m a natural.

No bears in this scene

I really have had a near miss with bear spray, and know what it feels like. Method actor, that’s me. I search for the truth in stories and inhabit the characters I portray. I have to get under the skin of a role. Or under the skin of anyone nearby.

You’d like to hear my bear spray true story? One of Nature, red in tooth and claw? A terrifying tale of one man alone in the wilderness? Nope, it was none of that. I was in a supermarket parking lot, and walked round to the passenger side of the car to get my wallet out of a backpack. The pack was in the passenger footwell. I pulled on it to pick it up, when a strap got caught under the seat. Instead of slowing down and releasing the pack gently, I simply pulled harder, somehow breaking the trigger guard on the bear spray attached to the pack, delivering a dose all over the car radio and hand brake. Customers in the parking lot were treated to my first performance of man almost shoots himself with bear spray and scrambles backwards on all fours. If you’ve seen The Exorcist spider scene, you know how it went. Like that, but faster and with more swearing. It made my head spin, and some of the onlookers too.

I love the smell of bear spray in the morning

It took weeks to clean and remove the remnants. I’d be driving along, sipping a cup of coffee and changing the radio station, and a few moments later get a bad burning sensation around my mouth. It wasn’t how I made the coffee. A few particles of weeks-old bear spray really pack a punch…

Fascinating insight into the craft, don’t you think?

Yes, I brought all my experience to the patient role. I certainly tested the patience of fellow first aid participants. I drew the line at letting them volunteer me for staging a drowning recovery after falling off a dock incident, although it was kind of them to think of me. It’s an honour just to be nominated.

Under the dock

I got an email from Francis, our first aid trainer, just the other day. Imagine my surprise that it contained confirmation I passed the course! It was like winning an Oscar. If I had them, I’d like to thank my manager, my agent, the producers, my personal trainer, personal chef, accountant, my personal trainer’s personal trainer, the wig maker, George Clooney, Dr. Fauci, and the bald one in ER. Also, commiserations to Martin, but come on, only I could play me in this movie…

Oh, the monstrous ego. Cut! That’s a wrap. I’ve got to wait by the phone, be ready to take the calls from Hollywood. Fade to black.

Monstrous ego indeed. Enough of that guy. I’ll finish by acknowledging how well our young participants did in the WFA course, and how safe we’ll all be out on the land in the future. They learned so much in a relatively short time, and showed real leadership and an ability to act and think clearly in stressful situations. Nothing fazed them!

A screen presence! Planet of the Dog

Well, thankfully none of the plotless nonsense you’ve just read will ever get a theatrical release. Are you still here?! Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Canadian Thanksgiving

We’re thankful to be living in Canada. As a nation, it’s far from perfect, but in this most troubling of years, we’re delighted to be here.

Delighted to be here

Looking ahead, I really, really hope I’ll be writing a thanksgiving post next year that includes giving thanks for a calmer, kinder and gentler post-COVID world, where a vaccine has proved successful, and we’ll be laughing at how ridiculous it was that “alternate facts” was ever a thing. You have to hope…

Calmer

We’re always thankful for our family and friends; near or far, wherever you are, we know we’re lucky to have you.

Lucky

If you’re celebrating (a safe, socially distant and bittersweet) Thanksgiving, I hope it’s a good one! If you’re not celebrating, I hope you’re safe and well, and you have a wonderful weekend!

Celebrating

Slow down!

What’s the rush? Tell that to autumn, what with fall racing in here on the west coast. The transition from summer to fall seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. I like the fall, but goodness me, the waves and banks of leaves along trail edges seemed to gather very quickly.

A rush!

We’ve had very heavy rain, and some exciting thunder, rolling in on wave after wave of storm fronts. No gentle transition into a mellow season. To balance that out, we’re lucky enough – if the forecast is correct – to be in for a few days of soft sunshine and late summer warmth after the current bout of rainstorms subside.

Slow down, 2020! A little calm would be very welcome – a lot of calm would be even more welcome – a chance to steady the ship in these tumultuous times.

A lot of calm…

The photos included this week are all shots from this past September, and apart from the rushing tide, are a reminder it’s good to slow down, find some quiet, and adopt a steadier pace. Perhaps the tide picture is a reminder to myself that some things happen irrespective of what I might think or feel, and I’ll have to accept it. (But if you’re eligible to do so, please vote in November to rid the world – politically speaking – of the orange hued would be tyrant. Oops! Calm, OldPlaidCamper, calm…)

A steadier pace

Calm! That’s exactly what we plan for the weekend ahead, rain or shine. A stroll past the Ukee Brewery takeout window will be on the cards – a friend mentioned they’ve a couple of new autumnal offerings, and it would be wrong not to do the necessary research.

“A stroll past the brewery? Let’s go!”

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

Sad and smiling

My Dad died last week. We’re sad and smiling, as we recall so many memories of time spent with him. I don’t want to write anything lengthy here. My aim is to catch up reading your blogs, and to be writing my more usual posts from next week. Perhaps bits and pieces about my Dad will be woven into some of the stories.

The photograph is from summer 2019, when we enjoyed our last evening out together. He was very keen I had a beer photograph to post on the blog! We went to a bring your own beer local curry house, and ate too much and laughed a lot, like always.

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

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!

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!)

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!

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.

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.