Another step away

Gave up my driving licence today. My UK (motorcycle) licence that is. My pristine, never got a speeding or other ticket UK (motorcycle) driving licence. Not that I didn’t come close quite a few times, even got flashed once by a speed camera, but nothing ever came of it.

It’s an odd feeling, having finally transferred all my licences and permits over here. The sensation is like cutting an umbilical, a further step away from the land I was born in.

Still busy with running around after everyone else’s errands. The saga of our family friend who is on the shorter road out of this life continues. He’s in hospital, but when you’re that far gone, as the Doctors keep pointing out, there is little to be done. So they keep him hydrated and fed as best they can. We double as a taxi service for his wife, and try not to say anything that might upset her too much. I suppose it’s bad enough watching your life partner slowly slipping away, going home to a house that will never seem full again, and there’s a fair amount of denial on a number of fronts. For my part, I’ve purchased a black tie and hope it won’t get used all that often.

The waiting is hard on everyone, and the strain is telling. Rows break out over stupid things. Psychosomatic aches and pains come and go like ghosts. All I can do is pick everyone up when they fall, and not worry too much about having my own psychic skin cut about by all the emotional backlash. Early morning fishing trips help. Nothing much, just a wander down to the beach to cast my cares upon the water, and the odd whiskey in the evening to take the edge off things. I cook a lot. That helps too.

Have lost the urge to blog much. I mean, I simply can’t get angry about stuff happening almost a third of the planet away. In a land where most of the problems are caused by people trying to impose dunderheaded inflexible top down ‘political’ solutions to every problem under the sun. It’s not my fault they can’t do joined up thinking. Getting mad at them from this distance solves nothing, and candidly; I couldn’t give a shit. Not even a wet fart about a country flushing ancient rights and freedoms down the toilet of History. The Eurozone currency thing too, is running out from under the whole edifice like sand, and as each country is forced to default on the imaginary money they owe each other, it’ll all end in tears.

I feel sorry for those stuck there, but I can’t help. It’s rather like watching someone die. There’s that much of a sense of sad inevitability about the whole process. To governments drunk on spending, the party is definitely over, and the hangover is going to be a bitch.

Like with our coming bereavement, all I will be able to do is walk away, shaking my head in sorrow, and give what comfort I can to those who are left.

Post updated for clarity. Re type of licence transferred. A clean UK motorcycle licence?. Am I a wuss who never opened the throttle? A moped rider? (derisive guffaw) Well, you might think so, but I couldn’t possibly comment. My Triumph 900 spent most of its working life on English A-Roads. Not posing around the main drags where all the speed traps were, asking for trouble.

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Never felt a thing

There was quite a sizeable earthquake off the west coast this morning local time (Lunchtime actually, even our Earthquakes are too laid back to get up early). All the fun happened about 145 miles away, a few miles out from Nootka Island on the Western side of Vancouver Island, which is mostly unpopulated. In town no one seems to have felt a thing, and there’s no news from Tofino of any Tsunami.

“Hear about the big quake?” Someone asked as we gossiped in the grocery store checkout line. A number of people shook their heads, although one of the local hypochondriacs recounted a tale of her house shaking. No one seems to have been hurt, or even mildly inconvenienced, at least in our part of the mid island region.

Panic over. Time for a beer.

Busy

Too busy to blog. Even more family are due to descend upon us shortly. Still running errands for terminal friend. Major project finished and have been asked to deliver a talk at a book signing (Write presentation, practice speaking, rehearse, promotional material design, work, work, work). Mrs S has insisted I make time out for fishing as I’m as hyper as a puppy with a new squeaky toy.

All in all, having a nice time. I think.

Tweeting is a two edged sword

We’re hearing a lot of heated rhetoric about ‘shutting down social media’ because of the use some rioters have been putting it to. On the whole, I’d say this is a mistake, and proof positive that ignorant politicians who don’t understand the uses of technology should back off and let the Police get on with the tough job of keeping the peace.

Like the MPS used to keep the lid on the recent situation in central London. They couldn’t catch it all, as evinced by the copy cat riots around the country, but from all accounts it could have been worse. Much worse.

As for the rioters, don’t they understand all this public domain stuff is available to the Police? I mean posting ‘Going to xxxxx to nick stuff’ on Twatter is an invitation to arrest. Dozy lot. Especially if the cops have got your number, or even one of your mates Blackberries. Same epithet can be used for senior coppers who can’t understand what a useful tool Social Media is.

Can you imagine Rent-a-mob tweeting “To the barricades, Comrades!” Only to find a line of tooled up riot Police waiting for them? (Evil snigger) Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch.

A short interlude

Not really the time or inclination to blog recently. The awful reality is that an old family friend is, not to put too fine a point on it, dying. Cause; Mesothelioma (Cause, Asbestosis) probably contracted as a Petty Officer in the Royal Navy. So we’ve been spending quite a bit of our free time visiting, doing the shopping, running other errands for his wife (Who doesn’t drive) and reading to him, as he’s too weak to hold a book.

Nothing too strenuous, just a bit of Kipling, Frost, Robert Service. The more ribald the better. Although I have to tone the funny stuff down sometimes as the poor chap’s only got half a lung left, possibly less according to his Doctor. I don’t want him to die laughing because of something I said or did. Not that laughing is such a bad way to go, but I don’t think I could forgive myself if I was the cause. Besides, he and his wife helped us a lot when first we arrived in Canada, so we feel that we have a bit of a moral debt to discharge, and too little time remaining to do it in.

Considering the life the man has had; WW2 saw two of the ships he was on torpedoed and sunk; Distinguished Service Order; lost in the Arctic for ten days while surveying for Decca radar, travelled trans Canada any number of times with a Radar training unit. Yes, he is a ‘real’ person, and when he dies I will publish a link to his obituary if it’s available online. Although for our old family friend I think that’s pretty much certain, and if not I’ll bloody write it myself. Such people should not slip from memory so readily. They are too rare.

Watching someone die slowly is not exactly my favourite pursuit, so to lighten my glumness (and Mrs S’s), I’ve been scouring the Interweb for ‘cheer-us-up’ recipe’s. Stap me if I didn’t hit paydirt. Perfect chip batter in a simple, quick and easy recipe. See the youtube clip below. Just tried it out on Snapper and Pacific Cod fillets, and believe me, the result is light, tasty portions so easy even I can get it right every time. Much better than store bought, and rivalling most chip shop batter I’ve tasted. Try it for yourself.

Don’t forget, the water should be properly chilled and the mix thoroughly whisked for lightness. With only a handful of decent Chip shops on the Island, sometimes the DIY method is the only way.

Pub Justice

After an exchange of views over rough justice over at Witterings from Witney, I’m reminded of a system of ‘justice’ that used to exist in various out of the way places.  Back in my late teens and early twenties I used to frequent a lot of rural pubs and learned quickly that laissez faire was not permissible, but that you could get away with a hell of a lot providing you observed the landlords writ. Which usually went;

  1. Pay for your drinks and settle your bar tab
  2. Respect the premises and other drinkers
  3. Take your fights outside and off the premises

Failure to observe rule 1 often meant having your tie cut off, and more seriously no more beer until you had settled, knowing full well that you had blotted your copybook, and the privilege of a bar tab would no longer available to you.  Rule 2 was a little more fluid, and varied wildly from pub to pub.  Where landlord A) Would permit near naked drinking games and all manner of robust hilarity, landlord B) Might eject you from the premises for simply laughing too loud.  Rule 3 was sacrosanct.  All disagreements that threatened to tip over into a pummelling or even bloodshed would be met with a firm “Outside.  Now.”  Failure to comply was not on the agenda because landlords always had some form of ‘equaliser’ behind the bar.  From a heavy stick or cricket bat to a baseball bat, or even a shotgun reputed to be loaded with blanks wadded with sand.  No one was ever stupid enough, at least in my recollection, to test out that particular landlords patience.   The subsequent ban from the premises was also a serious incentive to mind your P’s and Q’s, never mind the F’s and C’s.

This was also in a time when there was such a thing as a village Policeman, who was responsible for enforcing things like gun licences, and turning out with a couple of other coppers to hit any trouble spots mob handed, and leave serious drinkers to their own devices.  Like the ‘lock in’.  also known as “Roll on four o’clock, let’s get out of here”.  That was another thing.  If you were part of the ‘in’ crowd, you gradually migrated into the serious drinkers bar, and waited for all the strangers to be sent home before the doors were locked, curtains drawn, and the party could begin in earnest.   Misbehaviour or disrespect could lose you this privilege, so you had an incentive to respect the ‘rules of the house’.  this was a time of course when landlords had the right refuse service to whomsoever they pleased, and suffer little or no sanction from outside.  This might be ‘No Bikers’, ‘No Travellers’ or even ‘Anyone I don’t like the look of’.  Argument meant a ban.  A ban meant no beers.  It was a sellers market with plenty of punters, so the system of enforcement after a fashion, worked.

The big change in pub culture was apparent in the late 1980’s.  Breweries had developed a policy of asset stripping publicans with punitive rates for ‘barrellage’.  Which essentially meant that the more beer a landlord sold, the more he tended to be charged for it by the brewery company.  His margins shrank, so prices went up, which drove drinkers away to the few Free Houses and private clubs.  Flowers / Whitbread used to be a major villain in this regard.  I don’t know whether this practice still continues.

As the 1980’s wore on, country life became more attractive to the suburban crowd, who bought up local houses, pricing locals out of the market and changing the village demographic.  These new suburbanites brought their own rules, demanding more food, no smoking areas, and whined about everything.  By the late 90’s, the rural worker, once the backbone of any country pubs clientelle was an endangered species.  The New Labour war on the countryside, resulting in the foot and mouth debacle, was more or less the death knell for the pubs I knew and once drank in.  Quite a number of my farming friends got out of the business, others went bankrupt, and fewer survived.   Again this meant fewer rural drinkers, and the rise of the appalling ‘Gastro-pub’.  Now there is the smoking ban.  Even fewer people visit public houses now, and that’s without even mentioning the frequent drink driving ‘crackdowns’.  My last visit to England six weeks ago included a ghastly experience in one of the remaining watering holes I used to frequent.  Only one guest beer, and the rest of the place almost deserted on a Saturday night.

There may be places where pubs are still frequented by locals, with laughter and good conversation the order of the day, but their time is almost up I fear.  The forces of darkness have driven such people from each others company, and the country of my birth is all the poorer for it.

Or as a drinking companion of mine (an old school country lawyer, and latin speaker) might have said; Sileo in pacis meus imbibo frater. Pro virtus decretum ut vestri carmen quod risus.

Interesting point there..

H/T to Bishop Hill for this one. Martin Durkin (Director of the Great Global Warming Swindle) points out that a lot of the top dogs in high profile ultra green advocacy groups come from very wealthy backgrounds. You know, the ones squawking about how global warming will kill everyone, setting up protests to block airports, shopping mall protests, anti capitalist protests, anti cheap energy advocates. Those sorts of people.

Prosperity is good apparently, but not for us proles.

Almost ready

New bowstrings for my favourite fifty inch recurve are almost shot in. Have ten shafts to be cleaned and refletched. Need inserts for readily converting field points to broadheads. Spent my evening shooting to test out how hard and flat my bow still shot and the initial results are encouraging.

A little more practice and I think I’ll be ready for the start of the hunting season in September. Excellent. I’m looking forward to it.

By the way, just in case there’s a little disbelief out there. Since I’m not working today, I’ve been doing a little prep work. (See photo) Centre foreground is an arrow in my one and only fletching jig along with some old XX75 Easton Alloy shafts cleaned and ready for fletching with glue, pliers etc. The 50 inch recurve is one of these The sharper eyed will see the ‘Quicks Archery’ logo on the belly of the bow itself. Had it for over twenty years, man and dog, and it still shoots sweet, fast and flat. Cost me the princely sum of forty pounds back in 1987. Might only be a forty five pound draw weight, but ballistics beat brute force any day.

Meanwhile…….

Over here on Vancouver Island…..

In a meeting this afternoon I introduced myself as ‘The token Englishman’. Good meeting, lots of ground covered. Stuff organised without fuss and bother. People have heard my accent and diplomatically tiptoed away from the subject of wall to wall riot reports.


This evening Mrs S and I went to see ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ a Spielberg Sci-fi / Western / Horror romp. In the queue outside one of our two local multiplexes we took our place in line, only to be handed a free two for one ticket by a complete stranger. Not a promo worker, just someone who had saved up a bunch of special offers and handed them out to the queue. So we had the added bonus of getting in half price. Enjoyed the movie thoroughly with Mrs S hanging tightly onto my arm during the shlocky bits where the monsters almost leap out of the screen at you.

Walked outside, in the middle of town with the highway less than a hundred metres away. You know what? Without a siren in earshot. Not a Cop, a Fire Engine or Ambulance. The traffic barely a whisper. In the car park there was no discord. No shouting, no arguments, just a little far off good natured joshing between friends. Even in my relatively quiet town of origin in England that would almost be unthinkable. Every day was punctuated with sirens of one sort or another.

There are days on this Earth, in this locale, with the neighbours and space we have, that it seems like this part of Vancouver Island is the place God comes to chill with the locals on his time off. Although I’m sure some selfish self-entitled tosser will try and ruin it at some stage. But for the moment we have peace. I intend to savour it while it lasts.

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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