We are currently enjoying our “Indian Summer.” Perhaps that term is now politically incorrect, but then what the hell isn’t? With no ethnic slurs intended, it is the only term I know for the spell of fine weather that comes in autumn after a significant frost or two. The weather is gorgeous. I was in Victoria on Sunday and the streets were thronged with folks who seemed out and about simply enjoying the solar celebration. In the face of the West Coast winter’s darkness and chill wet ahead it is almost a biological need to savour sunlight and cloudless sky. Despite all of our modern distractions, we still possess a primal, pagan instinct for the star which gives this planet its life.
In Victoria I attended a splendid gathering held in honour of two dear friends just returned from nine years of voyaging on their sailboat. After sailing the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, the South Atlantic, the Caribbean and then the Eastern Seaboard They finally sold their beloved cutter ‘Sage’ in Nova Scotia and drove back to Victoria, camping along the way. They previously spent seven years in the South Pacific on a much smaller boat. After sixteen years of cruising and living “tiny” they’re still together and looking forward, I’m sure, to new adventures. They have been a great inspiration to me and many others. Their blog is ‘Sage On Sail.’
After the visit I strolled part of old-town Victoria and took photos of different spectrums of living. Times, for many, are tough and getting tougher. Affordable housing is a challenge requiring ingenuity and the artful business, for some, to stay ahead of the “Man” who is bent on punishing non-conformists. I’ve lived on boats for many years and can easily rant ‘ad nauseum.’ Even when ones tries to be discreet and fly below the radar, there is always someone looking to jam a stick into your spokes. It is odd how in our culture where the individual is glorified, the non-conformist is punished. End pre-rant!
A recent BBC television documentary hosted by Neil Oliver was simply titled ‘Vikings.’ In what I saw of it ,he divided those much-love nautical thugs into three groups, the Norwegians, The Swedish and the Danes.
The Danish Vikings, basing themselves in Ireland, conquered most of England. It is entirely possible that my fair hair and blue eyes are from long-ago-bestowed Nordic DNA among my ancestors. I don’t mind that idea at all. Apparently the Swedish Vikings travelled across the Baltic and down the rivers of Europe, plundering their way as far as Constantinople where some became revered as the fierce martial masters they were. Some were even recruited as personal bodyguards of the Sultan. In the grand Blue Mosque of today’s Istanbul, where the Sultan once attended, and his bodyguards would have stood watch, ancient Nordic letters are carved into a solid marble banister saying something like “Olaf was here.” What an amazing tangible connection to history!
An old Gary Larson cartoon depicts a long table. Around it sits a group of Vikings. At the head stand two more. The chairman is saying, “Now that the business portion of the meeting is out of the way, Lars would like to talk about his new idea for hats.” Lars is holding a fabled (and fictitious) horned helmet. All of the Vikings are wearing a duck on their heads. “Ya vell Olly, now dats fonny!”
Friends recently visited Scandinavia and sent back fantastic photos from Viking museums and others dedicated to Thor Heyerdahl and to the Arctic explorer Nansen and his rugged ship the ‘Fram’. I have long ached to get to the Baltic region and see some of these amazing examples of iconic marine history. There is a flair to old Baltic vessels which is instantly recognizable. The lines of those Viking boats are the most amazing of all. Sensual, flexible, rugged and incredibly seaworthy, those boats underscore how much we humans have lost as we think we advance with technology. Perhaps those old boats are a pinnacle of human technical achievement, an ultimate blend of art and function. I doubt that with all our electronic wizardry and tools, that we can match the intuitive high skill evidenced in these amazing icons of nautical achievement. And… not a drop of oil or one electron was employed in the whole process from harvesting living trees for material to landfalls on far distant shores, and then coming all the long, long way home again. Heil og sael. Takk!
This past weekend our ferry service was down for more than a day due to high winds and seas. I doubt that would have held those ‘Old School’ Vikings back. If you look at the new hi-tech sailing boat hulls which begin to plane like a powerboat after reaching specific speeds, then carefully study those old Nordic hulls, you’ll see some amazing similarities. Truly! Are we progressing or regressing?
“Never stop because you are afraid – you are never so likely to be wrong.”
We’re back from our morning walk. There was rain and a blustery wind last night. This morning a thick carpet of leaves are on the path. Jack loves snuffling through those freshly fallen maple leaves. There are all sorts of new scents, including those from other dogs so he usually needs a huge drink once we’re home again. We progress toward Halloween, the next commercial event before Christmas madness begins. At least most of the election signs are gone now as we settle in for another four years of tedious politics and the occasional episode of more silly pajamas. Instead of face-black, maybe our re-elected PM will show up at the next party wearing a Trump mask. That’s almost funny. Politically correct?…… Well ! Of there is always a Putin or Boris mask. Boo!
In my last blog there was a link to my latest little video. For those of you who bothered to look at the effort, you saw a compilation of originally unrelated clips edited together into a vague continuity of theme. In the first clip with the loud sound track of flocking geese, did you hear the little dog yelping in the background? In the clip with the grand motor yacht, did you notice the exotic ensign being flown on the back of the vessel? It was, I believe, the flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Interesting that a vessel from a tropical homeport is northbound on the BC Coast in October. Perhaps, it is now nested on the deck of a Dock-Wise yacht carrier heading back to warmer latitudes. In that same clip, there was another yacht. Did you see the mast southbound passing the tree tops of the foreshore? Here is the link again to ‘Just Another Day’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jQtJ2j-74A&t=6s
My narrative briefly notes the sound of passing aircraft. There were, actually, five clips with the sound of airplanes. When I reviewed those clips as I had first put them together, I believed that all that aviation noise made the film impossible. I digressed to writing a short narrative that matched the time line and suddenly it occurred to me that with a simple mention of the audio pollution I could use it to underscore the theme about awareness. That’s my story, I’m sticking to it. Some folks really liked the effort, and there are plenty who don’t give a toss, just as I expected. I learned a long time ago that if a creative effort is first intended to please others, it will fail in all regards. One must pursue any art form to please yourself. Do it simply for the joy of the process. Once that sincerity shines through, others are touched in some way.
I have learned clearly that images are only a part of a video’s value. That is why there used to be live music in cinemas to accompany the old silent movies. A carefully scripted narrative, sound levels, a tweak of sound effects, all blend to make moving images successful. A simple and properly timed bit of background can make or break the whole video. It is an expansive art, there is no end to the learning and as a self-teaching rookie I am boggled by all that is involved. I have a long way to go before messing with special effects. I have a new appreciation of all that must be involved in making a full length feature film. For me, good, clear simple perspectives will continue to be my indulgence. I still labour to take good, stable, clear footage and have developed a huge appreciation of wildlife videographers. They sometimes take years to eventually capture a few seconds of good video.
In my last blog I posted a photo of my dad’s old brass-riveted suitcase. It contains treasures, things like his dip-penned birth certificate and original English driver’s license. There are sacks of photo negatives and tiny old black and white prints, often of people and places I know nothing of. There are pre-war photos of my grandfather’s farm near Coventry, photos of my parents when I was merely a gleam in their eyes and then a procession of little ‘Freddie’ photos and my early environs. I was delighted to discover the postcard I’ve included in this blog. It confirms an early memory about the era when my family moved off the farm and into town.
At the end of each summer this vessel would appear as depicted and discharge a full cargo of coal into the creekside coal yard. We moved to Oakville in 1957 and this image matches my memories of that time. The little freighter, to me, appeared to be a monstrous black apparition. Steam trains were still in use then and the locomotives also appeared incredible, belching steam and smoke and the wheels, then, seemed at least thirty feet high. Coal was still a prime fossil fuel for heating buildings and homes and this vessel’s appearance was an early sign of winter’s approach. If you look carefully you can see a wisp of smoke coming from her stack. It makes sense that she be steam-powered and coal-fired. I can remember the coal man delivering coal in hundred-pound burlap sacks, emptying then into coal chutes, often right on the sidewalks of main street. Buckets of coal ash, called “clinkers” would be spread on icy sidewalks and paths. I marvel at how the little ship was squeezed into that tiny harbour and backed out again. The old wooden lighthouse at the end of the pier still exists. It eventually became a landmark for the yacht club which is now across the creek on the port side of the coal boat.
At that time I spent many and hours beside the lighthouse lurking about out on the end of that pier. Life was reduced to some very simple elements there and I loved it. I can close my eyes and still smell the funky reek of Lake Ontario. Much has changed but I believe the building behind the vessel is still functioning as the local tennis club. The last I saw of the old coal yard, it was a parking lot for the high-end restaurant built inside the old stone-walled flour mill just up the hill. The soil in that area was red clay. There were several brickyards nearby. When it rained, the Sixteen Mile Creek would become a thick russet plume that bled far out into the lake. Eventually it blended with all the industrial muck that many folks claimed was preventing the Lake from freezing in winter, in earlier times allegedly as much a mile from shore. By the time I was in high school the was a paranoia about an impending ice age. It never ends folks!
This image also marks the beginning of my fascination with boats of all sorts and of going to sea. Anyone who sneers at “lake sailors” has not been on the Great Lakes. They are vast, often with the far shore hidden over the horizon. Every mariner believes they have sailed in horrific storms but the Great Lakes are an equivalent of any other large body of water for nasty weather. The seas are massive even with no tides for the monstrous waves to build against. Storms often rise quickly and viciously, often proving to be very deadly. The legend of the ‘Edmond Fitzgerald’ is only one of hundreds of similar disasters.
I also marvel at the quality of the photo on this postcard which measures about 4” x 3”. People actually posted these to each other with short messages written on the back for everyone else to read along the way. I believe postage was one or two cents. How long has it been since we gave up our pennies? The hand-retouching on this image is clearly visible and the general quality is very low. Yet, it was what we had. The card itself was produced by the Photogelatine Engraving Company Limited, Ottawa. And imagine then, if folks had been told that the Kodak Company would eventually go bankrupt, displaced by something call digital imagery? Imagine trying to explain how I have reproduced this image, and all the others in this blog, with my mobile telephone, something not much bigger than a deck of playing cards. Imagine trying to explain internet, wifi, or what a blog is! How about a President who runs his country with Tweets! I must confess that these considerations leave me feeling as old as a lump of coal.
In the process of aging comes the moment when you must concede to yourself that memory is not indelible. In the repeated remembering of specific memories things slowly become skewed and faded. It is much like the classic telephone game where someone will provide a simple statement which is whispered to the next person and then the next until it has gone all the way around the room. The final person offers up their version of what they say they were given. That message is often totally unrelated to the original statement. What one recalls as absolute truth is sometimes revealed as a very different reality. That can be very sobering. I find myself wondering what is fantasy and what actually happened. I can vaguely recall a milkman and his horse when I was barely old enough to walk, yet what I had for lunch requires some contemplation. I envy those who simply declare that they can’t remember and leave it at that.
“A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory”… Steven Wright
It has bucketed rain all day; a steady, splattering, cold soaking rain. I am happy to not be sleeping under a bridge today. Jack, in his primal wisdom, stowed several bowels of food yesterday and has retreated into hibernation as the deluge continues. The rain drums on the skylight above my desk, echoing down through the light shaft, muffled, it seems, by the grudging grey light sieving through the thick low clouds. Kept inside by the weather, I salvaged yet-to-be-used video clips and put them together in a stew of vague continuity.
I marvel that a year ago it took me several weeks to finally upload my first video. When I watch it now I am surprised at how good it is for a first effort despite some very obvious flaws. Onwards and sideways, that’s the life for me. Someday, I’ll be able to take some lessons and afford better equipment but for the meantime I am enjoying the challenges of learning more about this very challenging art. Here are some local photos from the last few days. It is election day and I hope, my fellow Canadians, that you have got your soggy bottoms out there and voted. Eh!
“Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”
H. L. Mencke
(PS: It’s still raining… only six months till spring.)
I was sanding a piece of plywood purchased at Home Depot as work continues on my little trailer. I am no fan of any big chain store but these guys will cut up wood to my exact specifications and so there I go. They also sell lumber stored inside, out of the rain and sun, at least for a few days. Impressed with the superior quality of this particular product, I noted the clear grain and the lack of voids between laminations. Then I noticed the stamp, “Made in Chile.” WOT! I bought this in British Columbia? I’ve previously found the ‘home despot’ selling 2x4s cut from loblolly pine from Louisiana and marked “Product of NAFTA.” How do you harvest, mill, ship and sell lumber at a profit from the diagonally opposite corner of the continent…into the global forest products capital of BC? And the US president rants about the inequities of NAFTA. I agree!
The media constantly runs stories about the dire state of BC’s forest industry. I frequently write about the chicken farmer who goes to town to buy his eggs. I repeatedly use my example of a local sawmill shut down allegedly due to a shortage of timber supplies. Several ships a week come to that former mill’s dock to load raw logs for export across the Pacific! That has been going on for years at several locations along our coast. And, I’m buying wood products from far across the same ocean! Is my plywood made from a BC log milled in Chile? Think of all the fossil fuels burned to ship products back and forth around the planet. Green? Meanwhile our young Norwegian school girl environmental messiah is in Alberta to suss out our environmental evils. Is she still travelling about in Arnold Scharzenegger’s electric car? Scotty? Helloo Scotty? Beam me up. Please!
Clearly, this old sailor knows nothing about economics but there is something very wrong here. I’ve found bottled water from Texas in local stores, meat and produce come from the other side of the planet and this British Columbian, living in a wine-producing valley, often finds the best quality and value in imported wine…often from Chile. Apparently Chile often uses the same poor environmental practices which we have proven wrong and unsustainable, from fish farming to forestry. Questions anyone?
On a more positive note, I went to the advanced poll to vote in the Federal Election. The lines ran out the door and still people came waiting for nearly an hour to mark their X. It was encouraging to see such a turnout. Hopefully, for once, the election will not be decided by all those who are too comfortable to get off their butts and vote. It would be grand if someone else’s apathy was not running everyone else’s lives.
It is Thanksgiving Monday in Canada. Our roads and ferries will be clogged with folks rushing home after their “holiday.” We have one day left of clear skies before a forecast of several rainy days is due. I’ve declared this to be a BNG day. (Burn no Gas) Just back from our morning walk, Jack and I took a tour of a few suburban blocks and along part of an extensive creek-side trail network. We met lovely dogs and their lovely owners and exchanged greetings on this calm, warm sunny day. It is a lovely wee town and I take pleasure in seeing well-kept, older smaller homes. They are not pretentious but express a quiet dignity and contentment without any need to impress anyone. And that impresses me. Sadly, there is a cancer of neo-suburbia encroaching all around the town but it is easy enough to stay on this side of the creek where clear, cold, safe to drink for the stream water still runs. Today is the only one I have and I intend to enjoy it. It is Thanksgiving and I did not wake up elsewhere. Good enough!
Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich by promising to protect each from the other. ~Oscar Am ringer, “the Mark Twain of American Socialism.
We slide down the slippery slope called autumn. Our first frost of this fall glitters on the roofs this morning as the reluctant sun rises under a clear cold sky. There’s no turning back so we may as well ride it out and get on with it. If we gain enough momentum, perhaps we’ll zoom across the valley called winter and find ourselves well on the way to spring before we know it. Yeah right! It was only a month ago that I slept out on a dock. Now here we are digging in the closet for winter coats.
Like springtime, if you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes and it will change. There are periods of lovely sunlight, then bursts of cold rain. Within the advance to winter we are having the cold approach of a federal election later this month. The wearisome political signs are everywhere. Posters line our streets and highways, dot lawns and store fronts much to vandal’s delight. A televised “debate” earlier this week between the federal leadership hopefuls left me squirming in disdain as everyone tried to outshout and insult each other. Other inane election stories on television leave me inclined toward indignant rage. A friend and I recalled how as kids, for Halloween costumes we would black our faces with burnt cork. No one considered it a racial innuendo. That candidates would use twenty-year old photos of a young man at a costume party to try and slander another is pathetic. It is childish and self-demeaning; I know who has persuaded me away from voting for them.
Beyond our Canadian borders, US politics also amuse and confuse me; England too. With all the politicians stumbling about peeing in each other’s cornflakes, how the hell do they ever get around to actually doing the job their constituents hired them to do? If you are old enough to know what a gong show is…well! The bong of the gong goes on. There are no alternatives. Party politics, in the end, are ridiculous, no matter whom you decide to support. At least, in our system, we are still free to leave, any time, anywhere. Real estate is very affordable in Syria, or Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Bangladesh, just to name a few. No need to name this dude, but how to you sit idly by when anyone tweets that they “have a great and unmatched wisdom?” (No, that is not taken out of context) It seems to be a neo edition of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes.’ Seriously! And apparently, they are all as goofy.
A neighbour who has held a major bucket-list item of seeing Africa finally dreamed and schemed herself onto her trip of a lifetime. Several countries were on her two-month itinerary and on her arrival in South Africa, she sent a photo of herself paragliding. I joked that was a slow way to fly the length of such a big continent. Nearly a month into her adventure her ankle exploded during a white water rafting adventure in Zambia. She never got to see Victoria Falls. The hospital there was so basic that the doctors had to hold her x-rays up to the sun to read them. Struth! It took a few days to get to Johannesburg where that hospital would not accept her medical insurance. Miraculously she found a flight home via Hong Kong and made it through that airport without any political demonstrations. I cannot imagine the misery of her travels.
Finally, in Vancouver, after a jaunt around the world, the hospital there turned her away and directed her back to Vancouver Island. By the time she arrived in Nanaimo her fragmented ankle had been injured for well over a week and so then the hospital here tried turning her away; no beds. Finally, in desperation, she persuaded them to look at her x-rays again and so she found a bed in a hall. The ankle was in such bad shape by then, they waited another six days and have finally operated and pieced the mess back together. I worry that she is able to keep her foot. And we thought we had troubles!
Back from our morning walk Jack and I huddle by the gas fireplace. It was crisp and lovely with a light Westerly wind rising. Municipal workers were blowing the water out of the sprinkler system on the lawn of the town hall. It is indeed time to focus on things south. It occurred to me this morning that the local anchorage dubbed as Dogpatch was once regarded by myself, I’ll confess, with low regard. Folks living off the grid, for whatever reason often impose themselves on the tolerance and benevolence of others. They undermine their own dignity by doing that. Now I am on the beach, boatless. What a change in perspective! And in humility.
I cannot come up with resources, or even employment, to sustain myself. In an effort to stay positive and active I have put myself to work building an enclosure on my little trailer to haul camping amenities behind my truck on my next trip south. (Yes, I AM determined.) I have been thinking that an older, small camper for the back of the truck is all I need. Then I would have a four-wheel-drive RV of sorts. Now it has occurred to me that all I need is a safe, dry place to sleep comfortably. Why not turn the trailer into a small camping vehicle? One of the best trips ever was with a teardrop trailer. I can build this into a fold-up camper with standing headroom at one end. It already has a ramp which can double as a small porch, snake and scorpion-proof. I already have plenty of camping gear so why not do something big in something tiny? My cameras and laptop don’t know what sort of RV I’m based in and I’ve learned from experience with my little teardrop trailer that this is the way to meet some awesome people. Those that pick you out because of your humble rig are the ones to get to know. So there!
I’ve just discovered something worth sharing if you happen to like genuine Mexican food. This Michoacán rural grandma has become a YouTube star with her very basic cooking show. No glitz, no make-up, just out in the rustic backyard with the chickens. You don’t need to speak Mexican to see how she does things. She has some very neat tricks.