Remembrance Day. The weather is typical, cold, damp and rainy. I recall parades on this day over half a century ago when I was a pimply Air Cadet. I’d stand in rank on rank at attention in my immaculate blue wool uniform, very heavy Lee Enfield rifle sopping wet with rain or snow, fluttering pigeons trying to crap on the uniforms. You’d get an itch you dare not scratch and then the bugler would blow the ‘Last Post.’ Warm tears in that cold rain. At the time it was somehow romantic and en-nobling but then I grew up some more. It is always the young people who get charmed into going to become immortal. I got to know some real veterans and almost went to Vietnam (because the US Army would teach me to fly helicopters for free) That’s another story.
After getting to know some of those people I can tell you that Remembrance Day is more than a little twisted. Yes there are hundreds of thousands of military personel who never came home but there are uncountable thousands of dead and maimed innocent civilians that were left behind. Conveniently we don’t take time to remember them. Of the veterans who made it home, there are thousands with shattered bodies and minds who truly pay an ultimate price over and over again. We try to ignore them.
War is no video game. If you think so, try an all-inclusive holiday in the Ukraine or perhaps Afghanistan.
Well, there’s my annual Remembrance Day rant, but remembering the horrible consequences of our base human nature is a daily obligation we all need to fulfill. Pray your children do not get called to go run the gauntlet.
Why do we name something with the noun or verb which we do? Why is a tree called tree instead of wrench or spoon or brainfart or porridge? In English an egg, in French un oeuf, in Spanish el huevo. There’s no apparent link but that’s the way the pickle squirts and we all understand each other; or not. How come hi means hello but not high? An old English expression says it’s a “Corker” which mean “unanswerable.” Bugga! There’s a lot to be said for grunts and facial expressions.
When I began blogging I named my website “Seafire Chronicles.” That was the name of the boat I owned at the time and I intended to document my journeys in body and soul aboard that fine little ship. Now, the boat is long gone and I’m still here (Not hear). I decided on a new clever name and renamed my blog Driftword.ca which, I thought implied travel writing, both by land and by sea. A web designer whom I hired said no. I trusted her. She’s gone now as well. I understood how hard it was not to think driftwood instead of driftword. I was probably missing a lot of “hits” because of that. I need a name which might not be poetic but will embed itself in one’s mind, be easy to remember, spell and to find. Good idea! Furthermore, she explained, anything British Columbia is a hot topic globally so best to incorporate at least “BC” into the name. And, I should register my blog as a home business for obvious tax advantages. It made sense to have a business name and an URL that were the same. My blog has essentially been a hobby and I want to produce some income with it so it is time to wax pragmatic.
I looked up an available unclaimed URL and eventually came up with bcawesome.ca. It met all the criteria and although the name did not thrill me I decided to learn to live with it and applied to register it as an official business name. NYET! Someone else has a name which is remotely similar so the name and the thirty dollar registration fee were flushed. After considerable thought, lap after lap in the local swimming pool and day after day walking the dog I came up with a new name. It was one of three which I again submitted for approval. The name which was approved is BC BOGTROTTER.COM. Yes the URL was also available, it’s easy to remember and spell. Now I learn, I must apply for official provincial government permission to employ the term BC within my business name. Once that permission is granted, probably for yet another small fee, I’ll go and see if the URL is still available. Phew! Would you believe that one of the questions in this little inquisition was “What direction does your street run?” I wanted to respond, in degrees magnetic or true? Check out Google Earth and decide for yourself.
What’s a Bog Trotter? Well you may ask. It’s an endearment installed on me by my Scottish mother-in-law. I think it was originally an Irish term. It means lowest of the low, homeless one, eternal wanderer, despised, unwelcome, rough, course, primitive. An approximate close appropriation on my continent would be hillbilly or perhaps country bumpkin. I’ll take it, with pride. It has suddenly occurred to me that a bog trotter could even be a sasquatch. AHA! What could be more BC than that? If all of this comes together I’ll have managed a minor coup without pissing in my own knitting. Look! I can say what I want, after all I’m a bog trotter. Would you expect anything less?
Frankly I don’t give a toss about being politically correct, socially acceptable nor fashionably appealing. That’s the problem with being a reprobate, your appeal comes from offending folks yet you need them in order to be sustained. Most successful comedians have mastered this fine art of balancing themselves delicately between being universally offensive and wisely charming all at once. You must manage to get folks to laugh at themselves and also feel enlightened. I swear that our prominent comedians are also our foremost philosphers and even leaders; Volodymyr Zelenskyy for example.
And so we move on to the pig on a roller skater. I haven’t crashed my new motor scooter, yet. A friend who is a seasoned motorcyclist recommends some good protective gear. I’m sure losing a piece of your butt skidding along a gravel road is not a preferred weight loss method. The little fliver sits in the garage shiny new and red for the moment while I divert my attention to plan F. My little home-built trailer will grudgingly accommodate my stuff and my scooter but there’s no room for me to sleep in a pinch. I’ve happened to find a small livestock trailer which has never hauled a beast. There’s no rust from bull pee or other critter emissions and the price was relatively reasonable. It’ll hold all my gear and provide a little extra accommodation if the need arises. There will be no fancy upgrades but it will be a forever trailer which will stand up to back roads anywhere I choose to go. It may even have to become my home some day. You never know, the world seems to get progressively crazier and the notion of an old clown in a box is not that ludicrous.
Yesterday I bought some gas at a station while a tandem tank truck delivered a load of fuel. Another customer pulled in to the pump behind me. He began to rant at the truck driver about the high price of his gasoline. Pointing at the metre on his pump he screamed “I bet you’re not paying this price!” Fortunately the trucker was physically massive character. He could easily have defended himself and had clearly endured a fair share of morons. All the while an aroma of fuel vapours wafted in the air as the sparks flew. I’ve always admired these folks who keep our wheels turning and demonstrate a very high driving skill manoeuvring their massive tandem bombs in tight places. Then they have to face idiots whenever their boots hit the ground.
I was hoping to end this blog right about here with something witty and humorous. Then I watched the six o’clock news. In the wake of the disgusting mass school shooting in Uvalde Texas, and the carnage in Buffalo the usual rhetorical tsunamis wash over us once again. There have been almost two hundred mass shootings in the US so far this year. They are not a big news item anymore. And don’t exonerate yourself from the pandemic of violence because you are Canadian. We are all North Americans with the same culture no matter what side of the border we live on. The sickness has reared its ugly head here as well too many times.
This old country boy has owned and used many different types of firearms. I’ve done a lot of hunting. I’ve killed as many deer with a tiny .22 rifle as with any other calibre of rifle or shot gun. Dead is dead, no matter what killed you. Banning any single type of weapon will NOT solve the problem of gun violence. There was never ANY firearm produced that is not capable of killing. That is their purpose and what they are perfected to do. SO STOP THE BULLSHIT! NRA be damned! We live in a violence-immersed culture in North America. The concept of violent death is our prime entertainment. Whether it is a video game, a movie, a book, yet another murder mystery, try to find one that does not orbit around death, death, death, the more graphically gory and violent the better. Violence is embedded in all of our collective sub-consciences. We endorse it. Even Christianity uses a symbol of capital punishment as its icon! Sorry God-botherers but violence is so much a part of our culture we are all desensitized to it.
So long as we refuse to look within ourselves, and admit our dark primal instinct we will continue to have this escalating issue. Our consumer culture tells us we are worthless unless we look like this, smell like that, own some of those, hang out with pretty people. We live with a massive insecurity and sense of inadequacy, frustration and smouldering rage. We all have an aching expectation toward things we are convinced since childhood that we are entitled. We cannot love others until we learn to love ourselves. That will not happen until we start using our personal intelligence and ability to ask questions which come from within ourselves and not from the politicians, the clergy, the advertisers and certainly not our news industry. I, for one, am weary of the notion that someone else has to solve our woes. Every one of us, is in some way, to some degree, responsible for the incipient violence in our culture. We continue to tolerate the embedding of acceptable in all our brains, both young and old.
I do not know how to sow the seeds for universal self esteem and peace. I struggle with this issue within myself. We are each a miracle, a product of amazing cosmic wonder, every one of us unique and special. We don’t need divine fantasy to realize that. Perhaps that is the problem, inverting mind knowledge to heart felt certainty. An ultimate description of evil is the destruction of innocence. But naivety and ignorance are not innocence. Wilfully ignoring darkness is not innocence. Let’s each take a long look in a mirror then follow our conscience.
When a country with less than five percent of the world’s population has nearly half of the world’s privately owned guns and makes up nearly a third of the world’s mass shootings, it’s time to stop saying guns make us safer.” ― DaShanne Stokes
Over the past month of shock and emotional devastation after the sudden loss of our daughter, it has occurred to me that grief is simply a massive attack of self-pity. Now then, I am one of those who prefers the company of dogs to people so value my opinions at your own peril. I can certainly tell you that dogs do grieve but they have also found a balance of living in the moment and getting on with simply being. The little dog Ayre which we have inherited from our daughter has endured a massive trauma from the loss of her prime human unit but she has attached herself like a limpet to Rachel’s mom. She is learning to trust me (a male human unit) and allows me now to show her affection without employing her piranha teeth. She possessed a natural dread of men in general and we have climbed a steep and slippery slope in the past weeks.
Each day is a triumph in the development of our relationship and we enjoy long pleasant walks on the wonderful trails here around Ladysmith. I’ve reluctantly allowed her to wander along off-leash and she is proving to be quite trustworthy. I also find myself scanning the sky for eagles, I’m sure she’d make a nice light snack for them. We also have cougar, coyotes and other predators so I’m constantly playing father goose as I allow my wee hound the full parameter of being a dog. I learned long ago that to establish a full and lasting bond with any dog is that you must demonstrate your trust in them. I don’t pick her up whenever another dog approaches so that she can develop confidence in her abilities to socialize with her own kind. I focus on the other dog’s owner and I may pick Ayre up if I can detect any darkness. I’ve watched these creatures in action in their native Mexico and know how well they can fend for themselves. She has to learn that too.
Speaking of darkness, my website designer, in whom I had placed my trust, suddenly announced that she would go no further with my account. She had put together a proposal of how to develop my talents and provided a quote. The quote seemed reasonable and the proposal was exciting. I did mention to her that I had no money pit and operate on a very tight budget but accepted her terms. I also asked to meet her for a few minutes, just to hang a face on the voice. Our working relationship has been amiable and complimentary. I know that I have a social skill-set of a badger at times but I don’t know what brought on this prompt flush. Strange! Folks these days develop intimate relationships with each other although they are on opposite sides of the planet. Someone five minutes down the road wants to have an arm’s length interaction. I am one confused bog-trotter on this one.
WANTED One local web designer.
So suddenly, my little home-made stealth/transformer trailer needs some major attention. I was quite proud of my clever fold-up design and it has impressed many people. However, I made it with bargain-priced plywood from Chile. It was beautiful but after a couple of our winters it’s falling apart like old cardboard. To complicate my Fredondrum I’ve just bought a tiny motorcycle which requires a partial dismantle and a full set-up of the trailer every time I want to load or unload. Yep, here I go again, rip and rebuild. I’ve decided that maybe always being to stand up inside, the full length of the trailer is a good thing. Not having to erect and assemble my contraction is a good thing too! Some sniffing about turned up a few old truck canopies, for FREE, and so here I go again. Now I have a solid top with sides and windows and all (yeah right) I have to do is fit it to the trailer base and make it look like something which did not come from Clem’s garage. Stay tuned as once again I try to reinvent the wheel.
More on the new motorcycle next blog. I drove it home from Nanaimo to Ladysmith today through and hail. Yet I live. I just can’t feel anything. Thank goodness for the face mask I just bought. I was worried about catching bugs in my teeth. “Haar Billy, back before global warming we used to have insects. They were all crusty on the outside and gooey in the middle. Some didn’t taste so good.”
“Every morning I wake up to perform my one and only character. A Rising Phoenix in spite of it all.”
― Michele Bell,
It is two days before Christmas, 2012. The Mayan apocalypse has not occurred and there are no more excuses. I vowed to my wife last night that this time next year our boat ‘Seafire’ will be moored somewhere where palm trees grow indigenously.
This dream began thirty years ago when my then-new wife made it clear that she was not about to be persuaded of any of the joy of flight in light aircraft.
I was beginning to build a biplane which I intended to fly around the world. I rationalized that for the same amount of money and a lot less beaurocratic regulation I could own a small offshore sailboat which we could live in and leisurely travel wherever we wanted. It had been years since I had done any sailing but, with the inspiration of a friend who had built a boat in South Africa and sailed it offshore extensively, the notion was cast in stone.
Our first boat was a 21′ trailerable sloop which languished through a Northern BC interior winter. I remember checking the ice on a nearby lake on the May long weekend and deciding then that we had to move to the coast. The following spring found me bashing Northward in the late winter weather of March from Vancouver to Port Hardy. A small boat with squatting headroom and only a camp stove for comfort was a rude reaquaintance with the romance of the sea.
I beat the centerboard trunk out of the little boat on that trip. When I finally made it back south to Nanaimo, the first task was to remove the damage and design and build a permanent keel beneath the bottom of the boat. It was a huge job and if I were a sane man I would have turned my back on the sea forever but I was hooked. With memories of perfect minutes when the sea hissed past, the sails rumbled contentedly, a pod of dolphins rose and cavorted beside me and the last cold, wet, squall was now a rainbow retreating ahead of me, there was no turning back.
There have been seven more boats since. Each boat was offshore-capable. Each was a massive labor of love, intense effort and expense to refit and I never made a significant profit selling any of them. I can underline the ‘ Go simple, go now’ mantra of the fundamental sailor’s creed. At the time, there was always a good reason for my decisions but in hindsight, one only regrets what they don’t do. Go now!
All that having been said I am writing this morning for my own benefit. Today is committement day when I put a written pledge before my readers. Seafire is the eigth boat in twenty-six years. She is, incidentally, the second Seafire in my history but that is another story. She is a Downeaster 41, one of twelve motorsailors built by Downeaster Yachts in Santa Ana, California. Using their famous 38′ hull, they created a pilothouse boat with a large engine, a second helm inside, and a guest cabin, It is a perfect ‘Geezer boat’ and I intend to see a lot of palm trees through her windows as well as castles and pubs in the UK and Europe.
I’ll describe the boat and it’s refit and how I found her in future blogs. Today is the moment when I’m laying out the fleece. Despite being on the downhill side of middle-age, having some health issues and absolutely disastrous finances, the dream is alive.
Sterling Hayden once wrote that one should never begin a voyage when you can afford it. Only when you go out on limited means will you truly understand what sailing and life are really about. I know people who have sailed both with and without adequate means. Some describe their passages in miles and yet clearly have missed one passage of utmost importance. It is a distance of about six inches, the space between one ear and the other. It is the inner journey that endures over and beyond all others.
So today, I heave the lines aboard and point the bow toward the harbour mouth.