Texas

Right. That’s us all booked and planned as far as Albuquerque, New Mexico. Our next big step is Texas and frankly I’m a little stumped. We’ve decided to head down toward the Gulf coast to Corpus Christie to take a drive along the beach at Padre Island, but there are so many route options. Do we dogleg down from Amarillo through Lubbock, or cut down through New Mexico via Roswell and Carlsbad toward San Antonio? Or even take the easy route south into El Paso? The plan is then to take I-10 through Houston and across to Baton Rouge thence to Jacksonville on the Florida coast where I hope to make a side trip to catch one of the two scheduled SpaceX launches from Canaveral in or around the last week of April.

So many choices they’ve given me a wall to wall grin. As for the inevitable election stuff, no matter who asks me about it, my reply will be “What do I know? I’m a Canadian.”

Update:  Revision of route will take us from Albuquerque to Amarillo, thence to Abilene and the following day to San Antonio.  We’ll give the whole Roswell, Carlsbad, UFO route a miss.  Why?  Because I’ve already seen this movie and we’re having nothing to do with illegal aliens, honestly officer.

 

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A musical interlude

Yay! Have updated my music collection with some oldies but goodies for our impending sashay over the border. However, this is not without it’s downside. Mrs S voiced concern that our little SUV’s CD player would not play my purchases. I said “What? They’re CD’s, not DVD’s, of course it’ll play them.” But nothing I could say would placate her and I ended up sitting in the car for an hour and a half last night test playing the opening bars of every song. In the case of David Bowie, Steely Dan and one specific Queen track, I played whole songs, twice. Loud enough to make the car doors vibrate and all fourteen new CD’s worked perfectly. Including the track below, which was on one of the CD’s that got sacrificed when we sold up and made our leap of faith across the Atlantic in ’07.

All in all, quite a nice trip down memory lane. Yes, yes, I know I could have downloaded them as MP3’s, but having the CD after I’ve ripped the songs to my hard drive means we can play them in the car using either a USB drive on shuffle, or the cars CD player if we’re in the mood for back to back Bowie or suchlike. So this morning I busied myself organising my collection into one of those little fifty CD carrying cases so while on the road so the non-driver can pick and choose an epic soundtrack for whatever scenery we happen to be passing through.

While I was performing this mundane task prior to preparing Mrs S’s breakfast, I let my mind drift onto the subject of breakfast cereals. Now I’m not a fan, far too much wheat and corn for my liking. Not my thing because I’m still a bacon and eggs kind of chap. For me, most breakfast cereals are not only boring, but there’s far too much carbohydrate and processed sugar in them for my liking. Now for breakfast I generally get Mrs S a variant on a Parfait every morning, which is served in a largish sundae glass. Dead easy to make; Two generously heaped teaspoons of Balkan Yoghurt, a serving spoon full of Granola on top, two more heaped teaspoons of the same yoghurt covered with a sprinkling of bran flakes, walnuts and dried cranberries, sometimes capped with a little chopped apple or strawberries in season, serve and smile. I’m not keen, but she who cannot be ignored has declared it ‘healthy’. So there. But herein lies the rub; the commercial version of Granola tends to be polluted with wheat, wheatgerm and similar packing material, which Mrs S says does not agree with her. Now normally I purchase a Spelt, Flax, and Dried Cranberries variant, but of late this has been withdrawn from sale locally. Soo, being the inventive type I am, I spent five minutes looking up Granola recipes online and adapted one for my purposes.

A quick raid of the kitchen cabinets found all the necessary ingredients; rolled oats, demarara sugar, honey, vanilla essence, whole plain almonds, chopped walnuts and dried cranberries.

My home made granola was produced thusly; put three heaped cupfuls of rolled oats into a big mixing bowl, add half a cup of chopped walnuts, half a cup of chopped almonds, just over half a cup of dried cranberries and half a cup of demerara sugar, then mix until evenly distributed. Following that mix in a tablespoon of honey and a few spots of vanilla essence. To cook; lay out a large foil pizza tray and preheat the oven to 120 Celsius (about 250 Farenheit), spread the mix out on the tray and shove it into preheated oven for fifty minutes. Pull out and leave to cool before decanting into an airtight container ready for use.

Mrs S declared upon taste testing the result “This is good Bill. Bet you can’t do it again.”

Oh yes I can. ‘Cos I wrote it down. Nyer, ner, ne nyer-ner.

Update:  Mrs S has just announced she can’t use my home made granola because I made it with brown sugar and honey, and she’s not having any sugar any more (Yeah, right).  So I’m making a sugar free batch without honey.  Oven roasted like before, but you know what?  I wish she’d let me know before making these arbitrary decisions.  Heavy sigh.

 

On the plus side I’ve plugged a couple more holes in my music collection with Blackfoot Sue’s classic ‘Standing in the road‘, and R Dean Taylor’s ‘Ghost in my house‘, ‘Indiana wants me‘ and ‘Gotta see Jane‘.

Another day, another booking

The road trip planning proceeds apace. The first two weeks are pretty much mapped out and sorted. We have our ‘America the Beautiful’ National Parks pass, which covers us for most of the big National Parks without us having to hang around in line at a ticket booth. As far as I’m concerned we’ve got all the mechanisms and insurances in place for a jolly nice time. A hundred and twenty eight CAD now will probably save us two or three hundred (and a lot of blood pressure) later. Well, that’s my thinking.

However, this isn’t enough for Mrs S, who has chosen this week to go all obsessive compulsive and anxious at me, then refusing to discuss various route options, getting all bent out of shape when I don’t agree with her right this minute. She’s been like this since last weekend, obsessing over tiny details we covered in last years experimental road trip through Washington and Oregon. To tell you the truth I’m half way inclined to take out extra separate insurances, just in case hers fall over. Something is very wrong and she won’t tell me about it. She’s also been visiting the Doctor, who has put on his black cap and pronounced that her Cholesterol is borderline high and written her a prescription for Statins. Then there’s the rule changes on the UK state pension that I’m not going to rely on. Two months ago I was pronounced eligible for a full whack, now it’s looking doubtful – bloody hell. Notwithstanding that your pension value gets ‘frozen’ if you’re an expat. She’s obsessing over that as well, despite having full eligibility and two other fully paid up schemes.

Statins sentenceNow I’ve read the pharmacopoeia and various studies on Statins and I’m not convinced of their necessity in her specific case. She’s worrying about stroke risk twenty years ahead when I think she should be getting more exercise and eating an apple a day, which will probably do her far more good than all the prescriptions in Christendom. My big issue with Statins is that once you’re on them, you’re taking the bloody things for the rest of your days. Which is a long time, and a lot of money. Given that the link between Cholesterol (naturally produced by the liver) and heart and stroke risk Atherosclerosis has been found to be relatively weak, seems like a massive pharmacological sledgehammer to crack a relatively small health nut. Statins can reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol by five percent, but all that fuss for five percent which diet and exercise can handle just as well? That’s without considering the arms length list of side effects like muscle cramps, muscle pain, higher risk of Diabetes 2, memory loss and liver problems. Me, I’ll take the apple and brisk walks route thank you very much and enjoy active life to die at an active ninety with all my marbles rather than sit in front of a screen, bunched up with anxiety and serial popping pills until my body decides it’s had enough and major bits stop functioning age ninety one. Hey, but what the hell do I know? I’m not a Doctor.

It’s all very frustrating. Oh well, never mind, it’s Deals Day on Booking.com and I’m off to take advantage of the deeper discounts on some very nice hotels. Perhaps what I get out of it today will help get her out of this fugue.

Note to self; blessing count. The kids are fine. My college results are great. So far so good. As the falling man said as he plummeted past the tenth floor. Going down.

Thump

Today sees me feeling relatively chuffed. This is despite a car repair bill that almost hit two thousand bucks and dying cell phone and laptop batteries which will set me back another hundred or so. For the moment my only money problem is caused by the relatively poor GBP to CAD exchange rate and my banks moving like heavily chained slugs whenever I want money moved around. However, I’ve got a workaround in situ now that’s fixed that specific issue, so nae bother.

Anyway, our little SUV is now fixed, and can stop as well as it goes. Which is quite briskly, even if it will break no speed records, it will keep going like an Energiser Bunny. It has already proved it’s mettle, dancing nimbly over packed ice, potholed gravel roads, mud and snow during the last five years whilst bigger and more powerful vehicles have ended up nose forward in a ditch. Not that our car hasn’t been able to stop, but the front caliper was seizing, meaning both front calipers and discs had to be replaced. Which came as a nasty shock to the wallet and no mistake. Nevertheless, it’s our first real major maintenance and repair issue. Apart from the two occasions I’ve been rear ended by some of the local zombie population. You’d think people would be able to spot a medium sized SUV properly parked within a parking bay, but surprisingly this is not a skill taught by the local driving academies.

Despite the bills, I’m minded to think that life could be a whole lot worse. We’re a month away from the start of an epic US road trip, the car is paid off, and all our paperwork is up to date. Even my youngest sister in law seemed to be happy to see me over the weekend, which in some ways felt a little troubling given our history, but for the moment all seems well. I’ve just helped Eldest get her volunteer organisation’s web site back up and running, so I’m feeling fairly virtuous. I’ve also just aced my last University course and begin the next tomorrow. If I may essay a little immodesty, I’m feeling quite amused with myself. Surprised, shocked even, but still very pleased. What’s wrong?

Any old road up. Tonight I’m booking our overnight stay in Las Vegas followed by a two day respite in Flagstaff as a base for visiting the Grand Canyon area. I’m also going to suggest stretching the four hour run east from Lost Wages by taking the legendary Route 66 loop from Kingman to Seligman and after we leave Arizona, maybe as far East as Oklahoma City. Well, if you’re going to do an epic once-in-a-lifetime road trip, you might as well go the whole Harley Davidson full dresser with turbocharger playing Steely Dan’s ‘Showbiz kids‘ at full volume. That reminds me, must get some new tracks for our onboard music collection which currently ranges from Mozart to AC/DC. It’ll blot out the incessant US election coverage.

Sums

Apocalypse gift cardWell hooray! I’ve just won a free apocalypse, as I’ve just filled the last space on my gift card.  Isn’t that nice.

Let me explain; a few weeks ago, there was a story running about Asteroid 2013 TX68, due to make a close pass and possible impact with Earth at 0.044 Lunar Distances (Within 15,076 Kilometres or a smidgeon over 9,367 Miles) on March 5th.  Well, that’s today, and from Spaceweather.com we find that said lump of space rock is going to miss by a whopping 13 Lunar Distances (4,997,200 Kilometres or about 3,105,116 Miles) in three days time.  So, no fireworks.  Unless it’s like the Chelyabinsk meteor in 2013, where everyone was watching one specific asteroid sail sedately by that an undetected bolide from another direction altogether sped in and detonated near a snowy Siberian town, breaking more than a few windows.

Someone got their sums wrong, didn’t they?  Or was it our ever reliable (cough, splutter, guffaw) media misinterpreting the data yet again?

Notwithstanding, I am still planning on having a lazy day today.  For a given value of ‘lazy’, which comprises of chauffeuring wife and sis-in-law around town, writing around  1000 words, editing another 3,000 for my final coursework followed by a leisurely late lunch, in turn by a couple of glasses of a modest red wine when everyone is safe home and giggling from their ‘shop and scoff’ trip downtown.

Have a nice weekend.

A new one on me

I was talking to one of my stepdaughters on Skype yesterday, relating a minor spat I’d had with some person who had accused me of being ‘sexist’.  Being, as my wife often tells me ‘an unreconstructed male’, I am happy to put my hand up to this thoughtcrime.  I am biologically and culturally male, within a given set of parameters, but also a gentleman.  By the same token my wife and stepdaughters are wonderfully female, for which I am alternately very grateful and highly perplexed, but hey, that’s my problem.  I celebrate their strengths, and offer my own up where theirs are not able to cope, on the very rare occasion that this is necessary.  In their turn they offer crusty old me the occasional hug when I’m feeling less than masterful.  It all works out.  Closer to home I open doors for people, particularly young mothers with their hands full of children, because I understand that they have their work cut out with these little not-quite-housetrained little humans bouncing around like manic pinballs, and need all the help they can get.  Does this make me a bad person?  I’d like not to think so.

Being male of course, I also can’t help my biological programming not to look at any passing young female of pleasant proportions or parts thereof, but I do try not to make them feel uneasy by staring overmuch.  Although this is sometimes very difficult and requires much self control.  So yes, I’m ‘sexist’ and unapologetic with it.  My girls (Wife and stepdaughters both) like grouchy old me this way.  Now kiss my cosi fan tutte.

Now what my stepdaughter actually said made me sit up and think; “What on earth is that?”  I’d just recounted that in a minor online spat with someone who seemed to have left their masculinity in their sock drawer that morning, I’d been accused of being ‘sexist’.  My stepdaughter remarked with an acid laugh; “Sounds like a right mangina to me.”  before changing the subject and going on to talk about her next job move, possibly to Australia.

Afterwards I wondered ‘what is a ‘mangina’?’  So I looked it up and burst out laughing. From the Wiktionary entry:

Etymology

Blend of man +‎ vagina

Pronunciation

  • IPA(key): /mænˈdʒaɪnə/
  • Rhymes: -aɪnə
  • Hyphenation: man‧gi‧na

Noun

mangina ‎(plural manginas)

  1. (slang, derogatory) A man with a pronounced feminine side, or a weak masculine side.
  2. (slang) A homosexual or bisexual man’s anus and rectum

Or perhaps a nominal male who thinks that being falsely ‘non-sexist’ will up their value to a certain radical feminist mindset.   It’s a submissive attitude which, if the student politics coming out of academia is any guide, owes more to sexual insecurity and immaturity than anything else.   However, the sad truth appears to be that many young women hold this mindset in the roundest contempt.  Hence the pejorative.

We males often let our limbic or ‘reptilian’ brains do our thinking, but as women have a similar, but not identical biological structure and often do the same in their own idiosyncratic and erratic fashion, I think with a little give and take we can all rub along together just fine.  Apart from those on the extremes of the sexual bell curve who should not be seen as spokespersons for the majority, or anyone else apart from themselves.

Blowing his own Trump

I’ve been watching the political news filtering up from dahn sarf in the good old U S of A with interest. This Donald Trump guy certainly has polarised voting opinion, and unlike the other candidates seems to be an über-pragmatist of the first water. Within the Sticker household opinions are sharply divided. Mrs S says she thinks he’ll be a ‘disaster’ if he wins the presidency because he doesn’t understand how the levers of power work, but I’m not so sure. I’ve a sneaking feeling he’ll deliver a few bitter pills, but overall he will undo some of the damage done by the current administration. Not all of it, but some.

From what I can see from this side of the border, his win is an increasingly likely eventuality, if not, according to a certain Dr Helmut Norpoth, a 96.1% certainty. Having checked out the good professors track record, I’m inclined to think he may be not far off the mark.

Now I think Trump will win the US Presidential election because he’s a better showman than his republican competition, and comes over better than the shrewish Hillary or wimpy Sanders. Because if there’s one thing the Yanks love, it’s a show, and if there’s one thing they hate it’s perceived weakness. Barack Obama understands this, which is why he’s won the last two US presidential elections, despite policies that have been highly unpopular in a great many quarters, as well as pissing off allies of the US and extending the current economic crisis, now beginning it’s epic ninth year.

What would overturn the good professors speculation is that some nutjob will probably try to kill Trump if he gets confirmed as the Republican candidate. This isn’t a laughing matter, no matter what some pundits might think, but it’s my observation that US presidential candidates, especially those as flamboyant and outspoken as ‘The Donald’ might as well have a bigger than usual target painted on their back. The US Presidency is a high risk job which often attracts the odd stray round from the mentally unbalanced. But that has always been the penalty for any high office of state. The raiments of Kings, Presidents and Ministers might as well come with a big bulls eye painted on the back, because there are always those mistaken enough to think that by smashing the figurehead you can divert the ship.

So yes, I think it’s more or less a done deal. Notwithstanding accusations of possible ‘election rigging’ or other malfeasance like voter bribing as pointed out in the Chicago Sun Times back in 2014. At that time a Rasmussen telephone poll indicated that 68% of Americans agreed with this point of view.

Of course I could be wrong, but in order for Trump to lose, he would have to self destruct spectacularly for the comparatively weak opposition to beat him or, as I mentioned earlier, he might even get killed by one of the lunatic fringe, but that’s the US Secret Services headache. As an aside it’s worth noting that Trump got his Secret Service protection back in November 2015, while Sanders got his in January 2016. The only other hopeful to get a protective detail is Ben Carson, while Hilary Clinton already had hers because of her previous rank as US Secretary of State and former first lady. Cruz and Rubio get Capitol Police protection because they are sitting Senators. Jeb Bush would have had a suits and sunglasses detail because of his family connections, but he’s out of the running now, so that’s by the by.

Any old road up, that’s enough speculation for now as Mrs S and I are hopping on the ferry tomorrow for a visit to the fleshpots of Vancouver. We’re also going on an extended US road trip in April and will be able to get a closer view of the American political machine in action as we pass through the afflicted states. Could be interesting.

Update: After a couple of comments from my last two readers, I found Conrad Black’s editorial in Saturday 27th February’s National Post enlightening.  Not just about Trump, but of the sea change his rise represents.

Bloody hell, Sarge

Oh this is absolutely precious. The ultra PC British Brainwashing Corporation made a ‘Documentary’ about how recruits are treated in the Army, then got all upset when a noncom instructor took a squaddie to task for not doing what he was supposed to and swore at the newbie. Yes, he swore at the delicate little petal. He said nasty words because someone couldn’t follow a simple written instruction. Aw, bless.

Then the BBC got their undergarments all rucked up about a few four letter words and complained to the MOD. Swearing in the Army? Heavens to Betsy old thing, you’ll be asking them to kill people next.

So what? I’ve never been in the Kate, but a good few acquaintances and boon companions have. They have told me that when you join up you should be certain of two things; people will try to hurt you, and no-one gives a flung turd about your ‘feelings’. You’re there to do what you’re told smartly and effectively, be that pulling a trigger, wielding a spanner, filling in forms or digging a hole. It’s called obeying orders, and according to my old acquaintances the Corporals, Sergeants and Officers tend to get rather cross if you’re a bit slow. So yes, they swear at dunderheads and people whose self centred little world view won’t allow them to keep their kit clean and tidy or turn up when they’re supposed to, and justifiably so. No matter what some prissy middle class pursemouth at Al-Beeb thinks. Or rather doesn’t.

However;

“The BBC says it has now been informed a meeting will he held to address the issue, but that it is unlikely swearing will be banned throughout the British Army.”

An amused thought just crossed my mind. I have a vision of a British RSM loudly telling off a bunch of new recruits and brandishing the regimental swear box : “So you ‘orrible lot. There will be no more fucking swearing. One more incidence of bad sodding language and you sad bunch of useless cunts are all on a fucking fizzer, got that?”

Well, it’s put a smile on my face.

Addendum: I’ve just seen that the paedo-witchhunters have been going after Tony Blackburn. Yep. I thought that too. Tony fucking Blackburn? Now that’s just plain desperate. Back in the day he was the breakfast DJ everyone loved to hate because of his corny jokes, but no-one in their right mind would think he was a groupie-groper. I hope he sues his accusers and their sponsors back to the dark ages. This whole persecute a retired celebrity thing is so blatant that it’s got to crash and burn soon.

Chowderhead

I confess. I’m becoming a full blown chowderhead, but not in the classical definition. No. Today I shout my new found affiliation from the rooftops. I love chowder! I’m getting quite good at it too, developing my own recipes from the many variants out there on the jolly old Interweb.

Over these comparatively mild Winter months, Mrs S and I have elected to eat a little more frugally, as our mainly sedentary jobs don’t involve burning up a whole lot of calories to keep warm. So I’ve been batch cooking in the kitchen and storing my output in the freezer, ready to be taken out and defrosted for a hearty late lunch. My current chief favourites are; Tiger shrimp and Basa fish with mixed veg; Chicken, bacon and sweetcorn and variants thereof, and they’re pretty easy to make. Guaranteed brownie points and a Nobel Peace prize.

All you need for this particular gastronomic delight are the basics; onion, potato, celery, sweet corn niblets (canned or frozen) chicken, bacon, flour, salt, black pepper and garlic or garlic powder, oh yes, and water. For seafood variant, simply replace the chicken and bacon with your preferred frozen or fresh (but never canned) seafood. There are ugly rumours that you can make a totally vegan chowder by substituting bean curd or Quorn, but as I’m not a fully paid up follower of Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch I won’t be turning my culinary eyes to that corner of the kitchen, ta very muchly.

Now chowders are meant to be thicker than a Vice President of the United States, but far more tasty. That is, almost dense enough to stand a spoon up in. Gloriously glutinous, cheerfully chunky, and stick to yer ribs slick. Anything else is just soup.

To achieve such a state of nutritional nirvana, simply follow this basic recipe and you can happily disappear, leaving only a simple message reading; “Missing, presumed fed.” while your stomach hugs your spine to say thank you. Oh yes. It’s that good. Well, I think so, anyway. My blog, my opinion, so there.

Right. Here we go. Chop up one very large onion fairly finely. Likewise one stick of celery. Put the celery and onion in a very large saucepan over a low heat with about a tablespoon of cooking oil, canola is okay, as is vegetable oil. For that little extra edge, a dollop (tablespoon) of peanut or olive oil can be substituted. Leave to sweat down and soften thoroughly. Half a teaspoon of garlic powder or two crushed and finely chopped cloves of garlic may be added after it’s all gone slick and semi-translucent. Some authorities advocate a large pinch of allspice, others chilli. But as seasoning is such a personal thing, I’ll leave that to you.

While the onion and celery is on the go, take one cardboard (skinless and boneless) chicken breast, or three boneless chicken thighs. Chop into small chunks. Do likewise with two rashers of bacon. Put on one side. Mix a tablespoon of flour with salt and black pepper, roll the chicken and bacon chunks in the flour. Heat up a tablespoon of cooking oil (Canola, Olive, Peanut, Vegetable, whatever) in a frying pan and throw in the floured chunks, turning and stirring almost constantly until light gold. Keep the remaining flour mix. You’ll need it.

Take a baking potato and partially (over 50%) cook it in your microwave (If no microwave, peel and dice spud, the only difference will be to extend the cooking time by half an hour). Remove potato skin and cut into thumbnail size chunks. Add chunks to the frying chicken and bacon and keep stirring. As the chicken is turning light gold, add a cupful of sweetcorn niblets and fry gently with the potatoes, chicken and bacon. When chicken is cooked through and can be easily cut with a wooden spoon, add frying mix to the pan of softened onion and celery. Stir. Add enough water to the same level as the mix in the pan. Do not cover with water. Bring to a slow simmer and stir every five minutes or so. Do this for half an hour.

If you have a liquidiser or blender, ladle in two or three medium ladlefuls (about half a cup size) of the chicken, bacon, potato onion and celery mix. Blitz. Put liquidised mix back into the main cooking pan. At this point take the remaining seasoned flour mix and add water until it’s the consistency of thin mud. Add flour and water mixture to slowly seething mass of chowder in the large saucepan. Stir every five minutes or so.  Keep on heat until reduced to a thick, glutinous and chunky consistency, tasting the mix periodically to ensure it is neither too watery and bland, or too salty. Add salt and black pepper to taste. A little extra garlic or garlic powder can be added at this late stage, just to get the desired flavour.

When you’re happy with the taste, take chowder off the heat and decant a couple of ladlefuls into a bowl. Cut some fresh bread or get some crackers. If you’re feeling really posh you can sprinkle a pinch of fresh parsley to give a little visual appeal. Eat. Enjoy. Relax. Let your taste buds do the talking. Think deep thoughts. Solve the worlds multiple crises. Chowder is so good it can help you do this. Although it is recommended that you do not try to leap tall buildings in a single bound afterwards, no matter how good you feel, as that kind of behaviour always ends in tears, charges of criminal damage and multi million dollar civil lawsuits.

When the rest of the chowder left in the pan has cooled, decant into some one or two serving freezer containers, and when cooled completely, seal these and put in the freezer for future consumption. You know it makes sense.

TTFN

Facts and fantasies

Finished my studies and other work for today and took time out to pop over to Wattsupwiththat. A few minutes later Mrs S was knocking on my office door because I’d been laughing so hard.
“Bill, what’s happening?” She asked. By way of a reply I pointed at the screen. She paused, read, and then giggled mightily.

It turns out that some academic ‘green’ fantasist is trying to promote a return to collective manual labour and draught animals in farming as a solution to the non-problem of ‘global warming’. Well I’m sorry. I come from a long line of farmers and market gardeners and am calling this garbage out for the complete and utter ivory tower shite it is. I’m presuming that said Swede has never lived and worked on a farm that has no machinery to till the soil, or if he has, has only tried his theories out on a part time hobby farm for a couple of years at most.
Back to the land
Well, excuuuse me! There’s only one reason for such a retrograde move, and that is blind necessity. I’ve worked and grown up around farms for much of my younger life throughout every season, and I’ll tell you this for free. The last thing anyone with two brain cells to rub together is to go back to doing things the hard way. Without mechanised assistance, farming is hard, very hard work, not that I’d expect a soft handed academic to have even the faintest idea of what it’s like to graft for at least nine solid hours six days a week shifting shit, planting, weeding, harvesting and getting ready to do the same thing all over again, year in, year out, regardless of the weather.

Being in the great outdoors may look like fun while the sun shines or the rain is light, but if like me you’ve spent a few (In my case three) years with a fork in your hands in all conditions where the sky is flinging it’s load hard and horizontal across a farmyard and that job has to be done today or it won’t get done at all. And if it doesn’t get done, well, no crop, and after that, no wages. My excuse was that I was working my way through college at the time, and it was a local job that meant I could finish work in time to drive into town for my evening class. So I shut up and pitched in. Not that there weren’t fun moments. Getting the livestock together for a vets inspection. You’d think a fit young two legged man could outrun a three legged lamb with an ulcerated shoulder wouldn’t you? Wrong! I’ve helped a goat down from a tree, other livestock (mostly sheep) stuck in mud, herded sheep and cows, lost more than one Wellington boot (always the left one, oddly enough) in deep piles of cacky, and developed a sense of smell that can distinguish between numerous types of shit. I think said boots will still be there centuries from now until some latter day Time Team dig them up. “Arh, that be one of they 20th century foot garb.” An expert will opine. “Oi got this theory that in the 20th century they left these as offerins to some pagan goddess of shite.” That’s my best Phil Harding impression.

In cold weather, the boss usually got to ride in the relative shelter of the tractor cab when yardwork had to be done. The rest of us insulated ourselves against the elements as best we could. On one memorable occasion when the snow hit, I was swaddled in a waxed coat, gamekeepers gilet, two sweaters, two pairs of jeans, long underwear, two pairs of thermal socks and heavy boots. The wind cut through all of that, and after two hours I was quite drenched. By the end of the day my toes and fingers were numb, and when I got home the pain as my near frozen extremities thawed, was quite incredible.

My point is that really living such a life puts calluses on your hands and heels, turns the skin of your hands into leather and in Summer gives you a ‘farmers tan’ deep enough to pass for an ethnic minority in poor light. Notwithstanding all the constant little aches and pains from bone and cartilage damage due to prolonged physical labour in later life (Around 40). Hard agricultural work is neither for the faint hearted or the less than robust.

Not as though people like Andreas Malm, Naomi Klein, would ever sully their hands with such honest labour. That’s only for the little people….

Expatriate expostulations from Canada; a.k.a. A Sarcastic man abroad trying to stay in the middle of the road without getting run over.

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