I’m on hold. That’s as far as I’ve progressed with an inquiry to our beloved Canada Revenue Agency. What? Well I’ve been on hold for only an hour so far. Yes, I’ve noted their message warning me about using foul or abusive language. I wonder why that note comes up front??? I hope that if I do achieve contact with a living being that they can speak fluent English. I shall always recall being told by someone with a broad Asian accent that I “No spreak Engritch vely good.” This year the good folks at CRA have decided that my taxable income should be doubled. Instead of a desperately needed refund I’m told to pay a huge amount beyond my ability. So, I’m practising my polite-speak and enduring the horrible looped bargain-classical music while once again I hurry up and wait and (redneck words) bloody wait.
I wonder how many Canadian citizens just roll their eyes and groan and pay. Complacency seems to be in our dna and the path of least resistance is what we choose. Well, not me. I’m too old and arthritic to goose-step to anyone’s tune. Eventually I was connected with two different ladies with, once again, broad Asian accents. We all soldiered through amicably and discovered the mistake. It was mine. Uhuh!
To enhance the experience I am apparently enduring Covid 49. Whatever the virus, it has sneaked past the perimeters of my flu shot and I have all the resilience of a left-over noodle. I won’t describe the graphic details. I’ll just say this is snot a recommended weight-loss program. I’m told that this strain of flu is rampant at the moment so it is the chicken soup diet for me. I can only hope that the birds in my broth did not come from the Boneless Chicken Ranch.
After a third attempt, I’ve finally received a third keyboard to match the wee tablet I purchased. Amazon was quite affordable compared to locally available products. The company was also prompt with correcting and refunding my orders, twice. I love to rail on about computer errors and big company fumbles but in this matter it was my fumbles which caused my problems. Kudus to the monster. It is interesting that Amazon can perform as it does with its computerized infrastructure. Without the demand for computers and all that cyber stuff Amazon could not exist. There was a time when every dollar Canada Post charged included five cents for shipping and the rest was for storage. Now, with Amazon as a prime client they are able to deliver across the country, sometimes in a day. Amazing what happens when we inject a little free enterprise.
The renewal license for my wee scooter-cycle insurance came and it is clearly described as a motorcycle. My recently renewed driver’s license clearly has an endorsement for scooters only. Should I have a wreck or an apprehension by constable Bob there is an obvious conundrum. So…here goes a 70 year old to get his correctly endorsed driver’s license. That involves at least three tests which will require me to endure various subjective interpretations by various examiners. That I’ve held the scooter ticket for forty years and have an accident-free driving history of over fifty-five years is irrelevant. I’ll feel like a hero when this geezer gets the correct number on my driver’s license. Just wait till I go to renew my pilot’s license!
The licensing issue is resolved. I’m perfectly legal as I was licensed but to cover any doubts I also took out a motorcycle learner’s license which permits me to drive any two-wheeled beast I choose. So off to the chopper shop; I’ll take the black one with the orange lightening bolts and the signal light skull.
I’m afraid I don’t have much respect for licenses. All the suicidal morons hurtling around on our roads have ostensibly passed tests and are licensed. In the marine and aviation industries I’ve often found that the most incompetent were also those who held the highest ticketed ratings. There’s no point in dissecting a situation which is already firmly in place. Clearly my notion of competence is irrelevant to someone’s license. So now I can wobble off with a pocketful of paper, straight into a telephone pole.
Sadly real life is not like being on hold to a government telephone line. You only get one quarter to make the call. There’s no “Please hang up and try again later.”
A molten dagger of sunlight found its way behind the curtains and crept across the wall toward the foot of the bed. Another crystalline morning. The world outside is eerily quiet. Quarantined. There is no frost until the sun rises a little more then instantly everything is covered in whiteness. Then the sun’s radiation burns it away again with a sweeping line as it climbs into the day ahead. A Covid dawn. I like to be up before dawn, it’s the best part of the day. However, I’m still struggling with the long-term effects of whatever flu bug I’ve had. Hopefully I have the right cream for bed sores but sleep seems to be what the body demands. Apparently many others endure a similar affliction. It is not the Big C but it sure is debilitating.
Overhead a few contrails lazily dissipate in the flight corridor which parallels the length of Vancouver Island. Unless those are military aircraft on international routes someone is still making commercial flights. This evening, minutes ago, I looked up to see a jet’s thick contrail aligned with the North Pacific Great Circle Route; bound somewhere in Asia I’d guess. The sun had set behind the island’s mountains but its golden glow rendered the long thin cloud iridescent in the azure sky. On the same flight path, four cranes silently winged their way Northwestward, their elegant black silhouettes contrasting sharply with the long glowing cloud tens of thousands of feet above.
My most indelible photos ever are embedded in my personal hard drive. They’ve all been viewed when there was no camera handy; of course! So they sit in the back of my brain. As I wrote this, those birds descended with their wings set to land in some field or marsh to feed and rest for the night. Usually, cranes honk distinctively, calling for more of their kind already on the ground. Their silence seemed strange; maybe they knew they were the first of the spring migration. Maybe they were going to do a red eye and fly on past the coughing, sneezing hordes below. Life goes on.
This old ranter is stuck. This is a time to be especially careful with one’s words. I’ll keep my criticisms to myself. The internet can be a fantastic tool or a weapon. The information available is staggering and imagine enduring this pandemic without all the ready information, whether accurate truth or blatant lies. It is up to each of us to be discerning about what we choose to believe but think of going through this event without the advise, news and entertainment. That was how it must have been with the Spanish Flu pandemic. Well, I’ve long felt an obligation to try and bring a little light to other folks, be that with humour or questions that I think need to be asked. I’ll do my best to brighten your days…and so too mine. This all shall pass and a day will come when we ask each other, “Remember that spring of 2020?” Yes, really!
Here’s a link to some pertinent Australian humour. That continent has, within the last year, endured massive wildfires, severe drought and flooding and now Covid-19. Still there is humour to be found. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ia0bfWbOLjY
“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt March 4, 1933
With all the media’s doom and gloom, from our present deadly global virus pandemic to the endless hordes of victims from war and famine, there’s not a lot of cheer out there. My personal issues are pathetically tiny in comparison but it all wears a person down until there seems no point in anything. One of those little things was that my Goldfield Nevada radio station was no longer live-streaming. For weeks the repeated message was about an error but with no suggestion whose it was. But I kept checking. Apparently it was down for upgrades. I can’t describe the boost I felt on a recent morning when there it was again, loud and clear! It doesn’t take much to cheer me up. I love this small-town mid-desert station with its eclectic play-list and refusal to be slick. It works for me. Burros, blues and country music and then a little bit of classical…can’t beat it with a stick!
I won’t begin to discuss our current global health situation. I don’t know where to begin. Who do I trust? Already being in a state of personal cheerlessness and lingering flu, yes still, I don’t want to damage any of the peaches you may still have on your tree. I doubt that any of us find humour or confidence in the news from anywhere. I think of the tens and tens of millions of us culled by the Spanish Flu a century ago. That was before casual global air travel. And we didn’t learn a thing.
Friends have gone off on their boat to escape the madness and that merely underscores my own situation. For decades I always had an “earthquake plan” at a nearby dock and boy do I feel naked without that. If I had a boat that’s exactly what I’d be doing as well. I think a couple of weeks without any news would be wonderfully restorative. And… I suppose if folks start tipping over by the score there’ll be all sorts of boats available simply for the taking.
For the last two weeks the sky has been clear and cloudless with a chill dry wind blowing. It seemed ominous, even surreal for this part of the world. This morning, the breeze eased enough for me to unzip my outer jacket. Then I heard it. Struth! A mourning dove. Its soft “hoo, hoo, hoo” was the sweetest music I could imagine. It was a little personal cheer for me. That sound is the instant harbinger of many things “desert” and of warmer days to come. There is hope.
In consideration of all the panic-buying of things like toilet paper, I’m heading into the woods to collect a few sacks of moss. No-one seems able to explain the fascination with all that loo paper. Maybe that will be our new currency. I can image board meetings at companies like the Purex Tissue Company. “Well folks,” says the chairman, “I am happy to report that this quarter’s earnings are really shitty!” They all double over in laughter. Then I heard about a pre-flight announcement. “Welcome aboard folks, this is your captain. The weather is fine, we should be about one hour enroute. I also should let you know that I have chosen to work from home today.”
I am especially bemused by politicians who want to assure folks by promising to throw money at them. Governments are always presenting themselves as a source of wealth, which they never are. The money that they are assuring folks is coming doesn’t exist. It is your money and they haven’t extracted it…yet. What bullshit! But we’ll baa the myth and wade on into the swamp. I am a bit of an expert on government financial matters, I have operated a deficit budget for years. I know that debt begets debt and I also know that to have a growing national deficit all the while declaring a surplus is a grand chicanery; especially when we believe them. I sometimes have the terrible thought that I was a politician in a previous life; no wonder the Gods punish me. Seriously, throwing money at things seems to be our eternal solution. If we had not tried to operate on a business as usual plan, we may well have impeded the spread of this plague. Global travel should have stopped at least a month ago. The donkey is long gone from the barn. But I say it again, maybe that’s what all that toilet paper is about. Commerce first, now turn you head and cough.
Meanwhile, there before the cameras, stands yet another “Official” scratching their eyes and wiping their nose while telling us not to touch our faces. And wait until the world realizes it can survive nicely without the eternal pandemic of sports! For more comic relief you have to chuckle at the many travel companies currently promoting their wondrous packages. “It’s a strange world we live in Master Jack.”
A friend and fellow blogger sent me this YouTube link.
In my last blog a few days ago I made a crack about Schlitzvirus. The Gods took note. I got it. Their sense of humour at times truly leaves me gasping. I’ll spare you the yukky details, when two or more malfunctioningbody systems collaborate to bring you down it ain’t pretty. I’vedropped ten pounds in four days, everything hurts. Note: Schlitzvirus is not a recommended weight-lose program. And yes, cold sweats do exist. I’ve been invaded with alien movie worms, you know those ones that click their evil yellow teeth while crawling out through the skin of your belly once they’ve spawned. The evolution of my contamination is not over yet, I’m too sick to go to the doctor… as if he has a magic pill. In fact, come to think of it, I probably caught this wee monster from my visit to the doctor’s office last week! Snot funny! For fear of spreading this contagion I don’t even want to talk to anyone on the phone.
This morning is clear and frosty. Devil be damned I thought, we’ve got to get some air. It was glorious, but for once, Jack was the one up ahead on the path waiting for me to catch up. Back inside again after our little outing the crystalline light reflects off the neighbours wall. It’s beautiful. Even passing aircraft seem to glide extra easily through the silken air. Birds trill and twitter joyfully. Being too weak and wobbly to get out there again is a misery. There are murmurs of spring in the calm air. Hope lives. These are this morning’s photos.
“Spring is nature’s way of saying let’s party.” — Robin Williams
“If the world didn’t suck, we’d all fall off!” A friend e-mailed me a collection of humorous signs. That message was the only one I remember. I spent last week with some horrible flu virus, flat on my back most of the time, projectile-dehydrating in simultaneous directions all at once. That dark experience had me afraid of dying, then angry because I might not. It went on for days. I’m back up onto my knees now with the complexion of used paper, a bit wobbly yet but onward and sideways as ever. As another buddy put it, I’ve been through Satan’s anus and successfully cast out. Whohaa!
Through part of the ordeal of this spiritual experience (I spent considerable time prostrate at the old porcelain alter) I did some bargaining and parted with my black Ford truck. No complaints, I’ll simply say that I’ll never own a North American-originated vehicle again. If Asian and European auto manufacturers can produce superior products in the homeland of Chrysler, GM and Ford, there’s nothing further to discuss. An old Croatian maxim says that a fish stinks at the head first. No apologies Donald! Just fix it.
I’ve ended up with two vehicles as part of my deal, an old GMC bush-basher truck and a lovely little 16 year-old Honda CRV. It was designed to be easily towed behind an RV, but more on plan F another time. I apprenticed as an aircraft mechanic and have retained some of my anal make-things perfect attitude. It’s kept me alive more than once but has also caused a load of hurt along the way. I really like this little AWD car and can easily see it putting along some narrow Central-American dirt road. I am going through it, making sure all is order and to my personal satisfaction. The ‘Check Engine’ light came on. After several checks and some computer codes I determined to change the PCV valve. This little widget allows the engine to recycle combustible vapours from the crankcase and is an essential part of modern engine emission controls. It had not ever been changed and was certainly overdue.
On this engine it is located in a spot which is barely visible and hopelessly inaccessible, especially with hands like mine, each of which are the size of banana bunches. My philosophy is that if one man put it there, then I should be able to deal with it. And so with my characteristic brute force and ignorance I soldiered in.Of course the job involved dropping a tool into the splash pan in an impossible-to-reach spot which meant removing that pan and breaking half of the brittle plastic clips that hold it in place. While I had my arm contorted up beneath the engine to grope for the wrench a friendly neighbour came along and bade me a boisterous good morning. She scared the hell out of me. Well I managed to do the job, minus some skin, but the engine purrs beautifully. However! Resetting the computer fault codes requires disconnecting and reconnecting the vehicle’s battery. This in turn lobotomizes the radio in a measure to make the darn thing worthless to anyone who would steal it. At one point today I was ready to give the damn thing away. I discovered all of this while trying, and trying, to reset the radio’s clock, which eventually further dummed out the radio. By holding this button and that while pushing a third, all at the same time, you can eventually re-enter your personal radio security code and the music box is freed from its cyber dungeon.
Like all good modern mechanics I looked up pertinent information on YouTube and found a tutorial by some well-intentioned fellow speaking with a broad Quebecois accent. He said things like navy code when he meant navicode and vecule instead of vehicle. I was already confused thank you! I was referred to a Honda radio-code-recovery online site where I entered all sorts of information, serial numbers and codes, which the site kept rejecting. Finally realizing I was on a US site, entering Canadian numbers and zip codes, I stomped back out to the vehicle in frustration and despair. Tabernac! Thankfully the first owner had kept all pertinent documents and I found the original radio access security code tucked away inside the owner’s manual. After trying over and over, it eventually twinkled on me that I had fumbled my entry attempt too many times. I had to disconnect the battery, let the onboard computers have a nap, reconnect and reboot the “devices.” Finally the code was accepted, I have a radio and clock again. Bugga! Wot an ordeal! This is on a 2003 Honda, a simple product which came 16 years before the rolling I-bots we now call vehicles. They’re starting to want to drive themselves and I’m beginning to understand why older vehicles have an increasing value. Now I can go for a drive and see if changing that little valve was the fix. It’s funny now!
Nearing the end of a hot dry summer the paths are littered with dry leaves. The streams are dry. Jack’s footfalls kick up little clouds of dust. The sky is blue again, there is a refreshing wind and no-one is complaining about the heat. The evenings are lovely and cool, it is almost dark by 9pm, sleeping is easier. It seems I was just posting photos of spring flowers a few blogs ago. Late summer is a splendid season and time for some good sailing now that the anchorages are more open and the plastic pirates have gone back to the marinas until next year. Let’s go!
“It is always in season for old men to learn.” …Aeschylus
A blood-red Christmas sunrise! Really. Look! “Red sky in morning, shepherds warning.” The forecast is for a stout sou’easter to blow up this afternoon and hopefully push this damned cold air away. ‘Seafire’ is ice-bound at the dock despite the kindly ice-breaking efforts yesterday of Keith and his little steel dozer boat. The Prime Minister has issued his Christmas “Statement.” Yep, that’s what they call it on the Environment Canada website. Isn’t that just so warm and fuzzy? Even the old British Queen, despite a severe cold delivered a Christmas “Message.”
A Russian aircraft bound for Syria with a load of entertainers has crashed just after takeoff from Sochi. Ninety-two dead on their way to entertain the Russian troops in Syria. The question is, of course, what the hell Russians are doing in Syria. Neither they, nor the Americans ever learn. Afghanistan? Vietnam? Ukraine? The missionary complex of world powers seems to be an irresistible compulsion. The concept of staying home and cleaning up ones own mess has always eluded we humans. Sadly, I am sure the Russian song and dance troup was fantastically talented. They always are. Part of the group was also known as the “Red Army Choir” I actually have a recording of them and I especially like their traditional renditions of the “Vulgar Boatsman.”
Oh, “Volga” not vulgar! Сожалею! .So sorry! I know, and I’m not making light of a tragedy, but then that’s what they were on their way to do. Mr “Put it in” has declared a day of national mourning; quite unlike the aftermath of his repeated bombings of Syrian civilians. Now we are about to have Commander-In-Chief Trump joining the mix, with his already eager pro-nuclear rhetoric emerging from his itching twittering fingers. Happy New Year.
At the same time a 7.7 earthquake in Southern Chile had everyone on Tsunami standby. It never arrived there, but might show up here and hopefully, it’ll get rid of the ice. There’s something to look forward to. Enough! I’ve shut off CBC radio with all the dark news I can do nothing about, as well as the damned mutant Christmas carols. Where do they find them? Somehow a blues version of ‘White Christmas,’ left me craving for a little Tibetan throat singing. It would be a tad more Christmassy. A week later both these events are nearly forgotten, although up to a million Chileans are homeless.
Jill arrived back in Canada a few days ago from a quick visit home to Scotland. On the connector flight she contracted a severe bout of the Queen’s own snifflis and has been honking and coughing drastically ever since. Maybe my wife was aboard with a cargo of immigrants from Europe and what she has, and I’m getting, is an exotic strain of camel virus from Syria. I was south for a few days which involved surgery to remove a creature with no eyes that was growing in my plumbing. I’m sure it’s not the dreaded C-word, I’m too damned fat for that, but the recovery is a bit miserable. So we’re having a low-key Noel.
The brilliant red sunrise of this morning was rapidly pushed inland by a mass of warmer air. A stormy night is forecast with heavy wind, rain and snow forecast. A heavy ominous overcast has arrived. The cabin lights have been on since 2 pm. As darkness settles flags are beginning to crackle and the trees are flailing. It seems that yon virgin went south in search of a silent night. Meanwhile, in the midst of all this doom and gloom, we have a loaded barge with, among other things, a beautiful new crane, slowly listing further and further to one side. The freshening wind may capsize the whole rig but that’s life.
On Boxing Bay, the barge is listing badly and there’s a vicious variable wind blowing. Apparently instructions are to leave things alone, but it frustrates me to not try and prevent an apparent inevitable tragedy. No-one will be injured but the old adage of a “Stitch in time to save nine” seems appropriate. Finally a local working mariner gave in to his compulsions. Rob went out after finding a working pump, levelled up the barge and drove some wedges into the worst of the leaks. There are some great folks here.
Rain and sleet are pelting in the swirling, gusting wind. It is a miserable winter day. Jill and I are confined to the boat. Friends invited us to a wonderful Christmas dinner yesterday but now we sit like two rats trapped in a small cage as the boat lunges and rolls at her lines. I feel badly that Jill has come to endure this. We are both ill and miserable. She will have an indelible impression of Weirdwater and I doubt it will be positive.
The next morning yields a grudging release of blackness just after eight o’clock. Barrages of ice pellets and thick rain drops have bulleted the boat all night. Jill is not eager for the boat to leave the dock. This is the first full winter I’ve spent here and I find myself marvelling at how the Heiltsuk and other coastal nations survived millenniums of winters. How did they stay warm? Fed? Sane? I can’t imagine sitting around in cedar-bark long johns for months with the incessant taste of fish in my mouth and a permeating dampness everywhere. We can romanticize the “Good Old Days” all we want, but clinging to select parts of an ancient culture does not seem to inspire anyone to return to a fully authentic aboriginal existence. I certainly do not have any interest. I like warm insulated rain gear, dry feet, electric and diesel-fueled heat.
I extend my speculations to being a pioneer on this coast. Not only did you have to live with, and learn from, the indigenous folks, yet felt compelled to implement white man methods whether they worked or not. If you wanted a little farmland each tree had to be felled by hand, then removed or burned. Considering that one tree might contain nearly enough wood to build a barn it was a lot of work. Then you had to deal with the stump. There are photographs of hollow stumps so big that people built homes inside them.
Many folks must have worked themselves to death. In many places along this coast, where people worked so very hard to carve out farms, or even whole communities, there is little or no evidence remaining of these human dreams. Perhaps a small feral fruit tree is the only monument to a hard and futile existence. That’s depressing, but then, how many of us will leave something of value to succeeding generations? The population on the central and north coast once supported a large fleet of coastal steamers and supply vessels. Now that population has dwindled to a tiny fraction of its former numbers and getting supplies in is an ongoing problem despite the availability of modern aviation.
The weather is dreary. Rain, wind, snow and clear skies can occur all withing twenty minutes. Our daily walk devolved to a 20 minute drive on sleet-slick roads and then checking my spam. First I was warned of a sexual predator in my neighbourhood and then someone from Mahé in the Seychelle Islands wanting to “Date me” tonight. I didn’t realize that Shearwater was so close to the Seychelles. I feel no warmer. I’ve managed to inherit Jill’s flu and have coughed myself to a near-death feeling. There are some residual effects of the surgery and every minute for the past few days has been misery. The weather is bleak and raw, at best, we have about seven hours of light. I fear Jill will never want to see this place again and I certainly understand. Today she flew home. The taxi operator in Bella Bella was not answering his phone and we began the long uphill walk to the airfield. A very kind lady summoned a relative and Jill had a ride. I am repeatedly amazed with the spontaneous kindness of many folks in Bella Bella and am cheered with the hope that provides. The airfield was fog-bound for most of the day. Late in the afternoon Pacific Coastal airlines sneaked in through the fog banks and Jill is now hundreds of miles to the south. It is one lonely night. I have a few more days to recover from my infirmities and adjust my head to the new year ahead. The daylight is supposed to be slowly increasing and there be more adventures ahead . Happy New Year.
“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” ….Albert Einstein