Tag Archives: Canada

Officialdom, an object lesson

Well, as with any return to home base, there’s always good and bad news. The snail mail contained a number of not quite unforeseen bills and the usual round of things which had to be paid right now. A couple of difficult to reach taps had stuck. The phone wouldn’t work until I’d spent half an hour with tech support on the line while stripping out the modem for several hard reboots. And sadly my Tomato plants have died. That’s right, all of them. The watering device worked, but the recent BC cold snap took it’s toll and there is nothing to be done but recycle as compost. Such is life.

Still recovering from jet lag, but one item of personal news had me pumping my right hand and saying “YES!” in a loud triumphant tone. Let me enlarge. Just before we were due to leave for the fabled land of Oz I had a run in with a minor branch of Canada’s bureaucracy. What they were demanding would almost certainly have demolished our travel plans and they were quite willing, one would say even eager, to wave the full force of authority in our face with threats of fines and even imprisonment. Over a relatively minor matter, but that’s bureaucracy for you. Even though I thought we had done nothing wrong and was gearing up to fight these faceless fuckers to their last breath. However, Mrs S tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me of advice which I have so often given to others. “Don’t get mad – get devious.”

Now after my last run in with British bureaucrats two years ago I knew there was no point in taking their Canadian counterparts head on. Public sector employees love those who resist emotionally because they have the law, well at least their interpretation of it, on their side. So they think they can just tick a few boxes and hey presto, you’re up before the Judge, fuming with outrage and struggling to put together a defence while watching lawyers fees chew merrily through your hard won resources.

Now for those of you who think that butting heads with officialdom Ranty-style is the right thing to do, take a tip from your Uncle Bill. Don’t. Don’t ever play the bureaucrats game because they make up and interpret the rules as they go along. Seriously. I’ve worked alongside these people and this is how they think. They’re right, you’re wrong, so pucker up buttercup. You will lose because they have a full house of two’s and fours against your piddling pair of threes, and they know the house rules better than you do. So don’t play their game.

What you need in these troubled times is a big friend who can ring the bureaucrats boss and say; “Your people are out of control, stop it.” For UK local government there are ombudsmen and all sorts of referees who will listen if you can take a deep breath and a slow step back before playing the victim trump card oh so carefully. Over here we have our local politicians. Federal Members of Parliament and Provincial Members of the Legislative Assemblies. These are the people who make the rules. And guess what? They work for you. Find one hungry enough for your vote, make your case without getting too histrionic and and there is a strong probability that they can get the mindless machine of bureaucracy to back off. Because that’s what a bureaucracy is, a barely-accountable brainless behemoth that follows set rules, no matter how square-headed and insane those rules might seem. All you have to do is find someone higher up the food chain to push the right button. The idea being to make your oppressors dinky little jackboots do a smart about face and quick march in the opposite direction. Away from you.

In short; when in doubt, escalate. Field your problem upstairs. Don’t shout, don’t threaten, don’t, whatever you do, simply get angry with the forces of dead-headed conformity. Because when you’re angry you’re not thinking straight exactly when when you most need to have your mind right and firing on all cylinders. And if you start shouting, any message will immediately get lost in all the emotion. The best you’ll get in that case is being put on hold as the person who really doesn’t need your shit buggers off for a coffee. If you get mad, they will win because all they have to do is nothing while you rail on at a dead line or some poor zero hours contract call centre drone on little better than minimum wage. Oh, and it goes without saying that you should record everything and refer back to any minor concession on their part in painstaking detail. Better still, speak softly, and let someone else wield the big stick on your behalf.

Furthermore. Don’t bother with junior management or departmental heads because they are the very people who would cheerfully sign the Dalai Llama’s death warrant if it meant they could finish early on Friday. So immediately go over their heads to someone with a little real power and make a carefully worded complaint, detailing how you think these public sector pen pushers are out of order. Which is what we did. And bless me Vicar, this time it worked. Hence my minor celebration. A letter has even arrived apologising for the ‘misunderstanding’. Although they can’t guarantee it won’t happen again. So, only a partial success. Just a reprieve.

Not that I believe the oily platitudes, but like someone who has been stung by nettles, or a bully who has just been kneed in the unmentionables, they will leave us alone for now. They may be back, but in the meantime I’m changing my phone number and migrating to a new email address. Which will do. The trick with bureaucrats, like with petty criminals, is to make their life just difficult enough so that is not worth the effort to bother you, but not so tricky as to make your life awkward. Or for now, which in our case will be long enough before we slip away into the mists and out of their reach. Which may just take the Sticker family even further than it has gone to date.

Which is another happy thought.

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Restrictive practices

The longer I’m a global citizen, travelling the globe and finding what differences there are between countries, the more amazed I become. Today’s object lesson came from those jape-a-minute practical jokers, the main Canadian cell (Mobile, whatever) phone companies. Let me enlighten my one remaining reader. I have a GSM phone. One that works in just about every country on Earth. Tri-band, three frequencies, great range. Yet GSM phones are only supported by one Canadian company, Rogers. Bell, Telus, and all the sub variants of these companies, including Virgin Koodoo and Fido don’t support GSM-only phones. They have gone straight to LTE, 3G and 4G networks. So if you need a SIM card for a retro GSM phone, don’t waste your time with at least three of the ‘big four’.

There’s also the bit of news that GSM phones are being phased out in Australia. Vodaphone is the last supplier of GSM pre-paid SIM cards down under and will be shutting down their last GSM network in March 2018. So there’s just enough of a window for me to have a working phone while I’m there. In the new year I’ll be in the market for a new phone because otherwise I’ll have no means of emergency contact. Not that I’m that bothered, but Mrs S does fret when she can’t get hold of me in ten seconds flat. Besides, I like to talk to people rather than text at them.

One of the issues up here in the not so frozen north is that Canada is so mired in protectionism it acts as a direct hit on the bank accounts of the general populace. Calling long distance is a credit killer, and you would be amazed how short a distance that can be. Every cell phone ‘plan’ I’ve come across is designed to get at least CAD$50 out of a users pocket every month as a bargain basement figure. Then there are all the other little charges that hungrily suckle on your financial teat that were abandoned in Europe back in the early 00’s. I’m loathe to say ‘rip off’ but it’s funny how the layers of costs mount up.

As for those who trot out “Well, Canada is a big country…” to justify the cell phone companies glaring omissions and excesses; that’s a very poor excuse. My considered opinion is that Canadian monopolies and their subsidiaries just can’t be bothered to cater to the market sector that neither wants nor needs to upgrade their cell phone every three years. Indeed, they could be missing out because at present there is a very strong ‘retro’ movement. Even if the planned shut down of 2G networks goes ahead. A lot of people only want their phones to make calls and texts. To them, Data is just a character from Star Trek- the next generation played by Brent Spiner in heavy makeup. Besides, who wants to ruin their eyes staring at tiny screens all the time? Do your eyeballs ache a lot? That could be a clue you spend waaay too much time checking the mindless garbage on Twatter.

By way of a personal observation, two of the people served before me at the four cell phone stores I visited today bought old style flip phones. That’s two out of seven people in total without me going after a GSM compatible prepaid SIM card. With my input that’s just over a third of the total customer base in a random Sunday sample. Now there’s a message in there for those who would but see.

This sort of thing is true for many other services and goods this side of the border. Especially when every attempt to import has certain folk raising their arms in horror and shouting about ‘protecting Canadian Jobs’, which probably don’t really exist because Canada has huge manpower overheads and a relatively high minimum wage, which means many goods are simply too expensive to manufacture this side of the 49th parallel. Then the Government gets lobbied into leaving economic power with a few large companies who have had what some might call a stranglehold on the Canadian economy since the early days of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Take for example cheese. A recently successful motion to allow specialist French imports raised a loud outcry because, claimed the protectionists, it would ‘cost Canadian jobs’. Even when Canadian dairy manufacturers can only just managed a very average Brie or Camembert. Although they can manage a halfway decent Aged Cheddar, but not much more. But don’t ask about the near tasteless ersatz yellow rubber substance called ‘Monterey Jack’.

Now when it comes to cheese, the French rather bake the quiche, with the Italians and Germans coming in a close second and third and the British finishing a very creditable 4th, having clawed their back way up from the bottom of the cheese producing pile where they had languished for far too long. Well, that’s my estimation, having spent quite some time around British, French and German street markets and the local fare on offer. Same for beer. It’s only since the mid 00’s that we’ve seen a proper resurgence of what are called ‘craft’ beers over here.

Talking about markets, that’s another thing Canadians don’t really understand. Street markets, which are found throughout the rest of the civilised world, are almost unknown up here. The last time I went into a Vancouver Christmas street market, it wasn’t really a market at all as I understand them. It was a theme park designers idea of a street market. It was fenced off, you had to pay fifteen bucks each to get in to get in and it was full of tourist trap garbage. Nothing like the open access, noise, bustle and sheer doggoned fun of a proper street market. Far too twee. Far too restrictive, and there lies the crux of the matter. Something will have to give.

Anyway. I now have what I need, my tomato plants are beginning to develop fruit and the deadline for stepping onto that plane for a sunshine filled festive season in the fabled land of Oz draws ever closer. Yeah.

All Hallows Eve

Oh Gawd, it’s Halloween again. A.k.a All souls / all Hallows, Hallowmas / day of the dead (For Mexican Christians). The net effect of which here in the not so frozen north is children and teens begging for candy at the door and more work for your local dental surgeon five years down the line. Not to mention the additional risk of Diabetes in later life. This doorstep begging for candy element is the American gentrification of the ancient Celtic fire festival of Samhain. Which literally means ‘Summers end’ or ‘end of the warm season’. Which is a kind of prehistoric harvest festival. Not the bizarre cultish melange of marketing spinoffs it has become. At least in suburban Canada and North America.

Halloween was more of a fun thing when I was in my teens, bonfire jumping, bobbing for apples, drinking too much and letting the local girls laugh at us. The Harvest Festival formed the churchy side of things which some people went to, but mostly under duress from their more religiously minded parents. Yes, we disturbed the peace sometimes, but most of our antics went unnoticed because apart from the odd self inflicted minor burn or bruise we caused no harm. It was just an excuse for the local lads to party. No zombies, skulls, monsters, or pumpkins. In that era only posh kids did pumpkins, we made do with turnips or just a candle stub, if that. No goth makeup, just us. I think the consensus was that all the dressing up was for kids, and those adults who got invited to the better sort of party. Or those adults who got invited to what were then called ‘wife swapping’ parties, where clothing rapidly became optional. Which reminds me of lots of old and very politically incorrect jokes. We weren’t allowed skulls though. No idea why. You only got a skull if your dad was a doctor and didn’t mind bits of his anatomical skeleton going missing once a year. Our local vicar could get a bit shirty about graveyard shenanigans too, but he was very old school and tended to set his Dogs (He bred English Mastiffs) on such late night invasions of consecrated ground.

As for the North American version of the festival of All Souls, I find it rather dull, saccharine and not a little nerdy, like a dressing up party for six year olds. Lots of pretending to enjoy yourself and sugar fuelled hyperactivity, but not much else. Like having the show without the substance. Wot, no human sacrifices? Well that’s no fun.

Anyway, Summer here in BC has fled, the Maples are a glorious riot of colour (at least until the next windstorm), our propane tank is now full and we’ve set the heater on full blast to dry the house out and ensure we don’t get any issues with black mould like we had when we moved in. Black mould being the minor downside of living in a temperate rainforest zone. It’s a problem in poorly heated and ventilated properties where damp has been allowed to seep in, either by condensation or osmosis. Or the heating kept too low with too many sources of moisture (like people) indoors. It’s also a potential health hazard. Nasty stuff. I nuke it with a heavy duty mould killer if ever a trace is detected in our household.

Honestly folks, it’s worse than the local zombies. But spraying them is rather frowned upon in polite society. No matter how tempting it might seem to sanitise the afflicted who arrive on your doorstep demanding sweets. No idea why, but when you get out the anti-undead spray (Kills 99% of all known Witches, Zombies, Ghouls and Phantoms), people, especially their parents, get so easily upset.

 

Update: I’ve just remembered another quaint little rural custom that happens in quiet unregarded backwaters of the UK.  The ‘Wild’ or ‘Woden’s’ hunt or chase which is basically a lot of drunken hoorays out for the weekend running around with lit torches in the dark, shouting and screaming.  Rarely witnessed, it normally happened (happens) on the grounds of large private estates, away from prying eyes.  I’m told clothing is optional and sex is usually involved.  Never heard of it happening on a rainy night though.

BC Culture

The longer I live here, the more I get a handle on what BC is missing. What would make it a far better place to live for hundreds of thousands. This morning I had one of those “By George I’ve got it!” moments while ironically researching the Melbourne region of Australia. We’ll be passing by in December 2017 & January 2018, so if anyone is passing by this blog who has any suggestions, I’d be happy to hear them.

Similarly Cairns, Queensland, where we will be passing Christmas with the down under branch of our clan. Sydney is where Eldest has set up home, so we’ll be going there, too. This time the money is in place, as are the financial facilities, so no cancellations like the planned European Motorcycle trip, something that still rankles with me, but there you go.

Anyway, regarding my little epiphany. Why is Victoria BC such a cultural backwater? In short, Political Correctness, the crass Socialist doctrine that says you can’t say anything that the PC promoters think (?) anyone, anywhere else in the world might find ‘offensive’. This is endemic over here and actively erodes creativity. Having been to a few Victorian stand up shows I find the local brand of ‘approved’ humour absolutely cringeworthy. Indeed, I’ve given up on visiting local comedy clubs because of all the deference to this milksop-making malevolence that populates the front stalls with the incredibly smug and humourless calling out. “Ooh, that’s offensive!” Well actually yes it needs to be. Humour that doesn’t offend, or at least make a spirited attempt to do so, is often so unfunny one needs 500mg of Largactil as a stimulant before each set. I saw this last year when comedian and writer Dylan Moran came to play a tour. Don’t know what he’d done to deserve it, but to the mans credit he did put up a spirited defence against one of the local earnestly dull.

This is where Victoria is. If you don’t ascribe to a particular worldview, you won’t get very far. This is from a community that preaches and practices a very restricted view of ‘tolerance’ you understand. Yes, they paint rainbows on crosswalks and sprinkle pixie dust, but any other opinion outside their own narrow view is actively frowned upon. Indeed, by the time I finish writing this post it may actually illegal to disagree or even blink in the wrong manner when one of the earnestly dull locals is holding forth about how nice the First Nations are and how privileged we are to live cheek by jowl with them. Which is why they must be praised to the skies at every public event, regardless of whether or not any of them are in attendance.

Which ultimately means that the nightlife it a bit, well, moribund. Vapid. Insipid. Duller than dishwater that’s lost all its suds. I’d link to the local stats about death from terminal boredom, but the person tasked with compiling them fell into a coma and hasn’t been heard from since. No wonder there’s been an epidemic of Fentanyl overdoses locally. Indeed, there is even a ‘Death Cafe‘ for those who want to talk about ending it all.

Now don’t get me wrong; Victoria is a nice place to live. At least where we are in the outer suburbs. You just have to go travelling a lot, or face the ennui or le Cafard of living here.

Which is why there are so few modern Canadians who stand out. Because no-one is allowed to. Indeed, most of our real talent has to be exported before it does any real good for itself.

Update: Just picked up the news from The Blocked Dwarf and Grandad over at Head Rambles that the doyenne of the Scriblerus group, Anna Raccoon, the erudite Suzanne Cameron-Blackie is no longer with us. The Grim Reaper finally claimed her last night having won by three falls and two submissions.

Best regards and condolences to Mr G and all those who were closest to her. They broke the mould when she came to pass. Celebrate her memory and cherish all that which she contributed.

Windows 10 and other crap

Since I’m ‘in funds’ at present with spare disposable income, I decided to buy a few things that will make life a little easier. No problem, right? On so many other levels, oh so many other directions, completely wrongety wrong-wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Yes, dear reader I bought two new Windows 10 Laptops for our business. Silly me. But they looked a good deal, had a reasonable spec and for a while worked quite well. Email was processed. Applications processed data. Web was browsed. Skype conversations had. Even movies watched.

Until the last ‘upgrade’. Bloody Windows upgrades.

For the last 72 hours my new laptop has been making a loud buzzing noise before crashing and rebooting, and all the changing of sound and video settings was to no avail. My professional virus checker found nothing, even after update to the latest version. When I tried to watch Youtube flash video, five minutes later; BZZZZZZZZZ! And the whole machine went tits up and rebooted. Until I delved into the dusty recesses of Windows Device Manager and found that something had added an Intel Video chipset as well as the onboard Realtek. So what was causing the crashes was a conflict between system drivers which provoked me into tearing out what remains of my once-flowing locks. However, it’s an easy fix. The Intel drivers and chipset have to be deactivated, which is what I did, and since then all is well (Fingers, toes, nose and eyes crossed). Until the next ‘upgrade’ (snort of derision).

Then when we get home we find that we’ve been ‘selected’ for something we didn’t volunteer for. Erm excuse me. I don’t have to, so I won’t. I’ve got better things to do with my time and have no truck with complete bullshit like ‘social cohesion’ which is a complete nonsense term peddled by complete nonces to force their values upon you. The Trudeaupians can talk about ‘Canadian values’ all they like, but there’s a problem. I’m not Canadian born and don’t kiss arses any more. I’ve paid all my bills and my taxes are up to date so this particular branch of officialdom can Arkell vs Pressdram as far as I’m concerned. They will find my studied politeness is finite.

On the upside, whilst we were away, our landlord, nice chap with whom we have a reasonable working relationship, had bought our apartment a new washing machine because a worn out bearing in the old one was making the whole house vibrate. This new one bleeps, plays little tunes, has a lovely light show built in and sometimes it even deigns to wash our clothes. Strange but cute. And we have a lot of clothes to wash.

Anyway, that’s one thing about an extended road trip. No matter how far you go, or how long you’re away, you’re always stuck with the dirty laundry when you get back.

There’s a life lesson in there somewhere.

Past ‘The Hat’

Wham-wham! Grumble, Wham-wham! And another bridge is crossed as our tyres slam over poorly patched potholes and worn expansion joints. Mrs S stirs sleepily in the passenger seat, moaning softly in complaint. She’s had a reaction to the painkillers the dentist prescribed and been throwing up all the livelong day, poor lamb. Now with some Gravol to quell the queasiness, she’s out for the count, leaving all the driving to me.

The resulting delays from having to pull over on high speed roads to let her chunder have turned what should have been a happy seven hour shared drive into a ten hour chore for me. Fortunately I had a good breakfast, and with my camel-like constitution didn’t need very much to eat or drink on the long hack into Calgary, where we’ll be resting up and going to see the Stampede for the next few days. In my younger days I’d be on the road for up to twelve or thirteen hours some trips, driving a delivery van up and down the UK, but now ten is hard work. Maybe I’m getting soft in my frail dotage.

After the last two days I could do with a break from driving, even under the wonderfully broad blue skies of the prairies. It’s been hot too, 36 Celsius recorded by our little SUV’s external thermometer, which means it might have been anything between 30 and 39 Celsius. But it’s a dry heat like in a sauna, and therefore quite bearable, even pleasant.

Now we’re in the air conditioned comfort of a modern hotel, Mrs S has crawled into bed exhausted, leaving me to the perverseness of keyboard and mouse. No bother, she’s past the worst and finally keeping fluids down. We’re past ‘The Hat’ (a strange place called Medicine Hat) which many old expat Canadians considered the break even point of any trans-continental trek. As in if you make can it this far, the folklore goes, you’re likely to make it to the other coast. I don’t care for the place myself, and after a rather unpleasant experience trying to book into one of the local ‘pet friendly’ hotels ten years ago, don’t much care to stay there again.

As far as the rest of the trip is concerned we only have four more days actual serious driving to do before we are back home. However, that’s a couple of weeks away because we’re stopping first in Calgary for a few days, thence in a spa break and wine tour before we stop over in Vancouver to pick up some furniture for the new residence. I’ll also do a bit of calculation on how much in the way of resource we’ve used in terms of petrol (Gasoline) and such. We’ve been keeping a log to see how many miles to the gallon our little SUV can deliver on really long run, thence it’s off to the dealership for a new windscreen and a thorough service and what they call ‘detailing’ over here. Which is rather like a thorough in and external valeting of the vehicle, including the engine compartment. The way I reckon it, the car has done us proud and deserves a proper treat. Maybe I do, too. And I’ve got an idea about that.

What day is it?

After a few dozen days on the road, you tend to lose your sense of time and, well not exactly space, but place in the calendar. Today was definitely Tuesday. I think. Well my automated calendar thingy tells me it is, and I know the name of the town we’re in so it must be Tuesday 4th July. I think. It’s actually Wednesday the 5th at the time of posting, but even then I had to stop and check.

Well, we’ve crossed half of Northern Ontario and I can honestly report that there’s next to bugger all up here, so if Kim Jong willy waver manages to fire a missile that can actually hit North America, the odds are that such a warhead will detonate somewhere in northern Ontario, where it will not be noticed by anyone but the local wildlife and maybe a very lost deep woods hiker. You have to drive across Northern Ontario to appreciate how abso-sodding-lutely vast this country is. Then remember that all you’re seeing is a very limited slice of what is actually here.

We left the environs of southern Montreal, just on the border of Ontario three days ago, and we’ve still another full days driving to reach the Manitoba Border. You might think it’s a long way down to the shops, but hey, that’s nothing compared to Canada.

Frankly I’m beginning to feel tired and irritable. Mrs S likewise and we’ve had a couple of occasions when we’ve come close to taking chunks out of each other. Voices have been raised. Then apologies have followed. I do not lose my temper or raise my voice lightly, but with just over two weeks to go, it’s becoming a chore. By way of relieving the tensions I’ve scheduled a few days at the Calgary Stampede followed by a wine tour in lower eastern BC before we leg to to Vancouver for a quick bit of shopping in Vancouver and then the ferry home to clear the spiders out of the bathtub. Which should calm things down.

Then I’m going to wonder (As usual) why people in the UK (and elsewhere) keep voting for left wing policies. Every time they do vote in Labour it all ends in tears. The seventies were a case in point. Getting anything done took an age and fifty bloody forms. Taxpayers money simply got pissed up the wall up to the point where everyone seemed to be on strike because the government were trying to do everything and succeeded in fucking it all up. It seems this is a lesson the Canadian electorate have yet to learn. Or re-learn. I see the evidence every day on my travels across this wide land, so full of potential and resources. Closed stores, idle machinery, abandoned farms and houses. Honestly. In seven hours driving yesterday we must have passed a couple of hundred houses with broken windows, no windows, no doors and open to the elements. Abandoned churches and other buildings that seemed to be collapsing in on themselves, like the owners had just packed their bags and simply walked away. On that topic I recall council estates in the UK all boarded up and left to the vandals, simply because well-meaning but economically illiterate people had simply made it impossible for business to provide the necessary work opportunities. That’s the problem with lefties and any other people who think they can run other people’s lives for them, they have to meddle with things they don’t really understand. Like matters of economics, or just about everything else, really.

Car keys, full tank of gas. Here we go again.

Bear fifteen

Another Black Bear sighted legging it across the road a scant two hundred metres ahead of our speeding metal box in of all places, Newfie-land. Or rather Newfoundland. A spectacular place in the early morning light. At present drying out like an old time British rail sandwich, but not quite curling at the edges.

Crap overnight ride in on the ferry with no air conditioning. Even in our cabin we almost found it too hot to sleep. The weather has turned summer in a single day, as it is wont to do in this part of the world. The air heavy, like warm wet silk on your skin. So much so that after the morning fog lifts it’s almost suffocating. Scenery a bit like the nicer parts of the north west of Scotland. With even less habitation and warmer weather, at least in Summer.

Watching the UK news in the comics can make you shake your head in despair. Buildings with cheap ‘green’ insulation going up in flames, all to save two squid a square whatever. So much for eco-friendly, eh? Not the Tories fault, more the housing association and local functionaries from what I can make out. Shonky upgrades made the building vulnerable, so with Grenfell the worst has happened. Rather like with Ronan Point in the 60’s.

This is the thing about the state taking responsibility for more and more. Eventually you get total wankstains like Corbyn blaming the party in power for anything and calling for a ‘coup’ just days after his party failed to gain an electoral majority. Oh the faux-outrage, oh the virtue signalling, oh the posturing. Makes you want to vomit.

On the BREXIT front, the Brussels mafia have scented blood in the water and are going to offer less acceptable terms from their kamikaze negotiating team. Seriously, if May hangs on in there and is forced into a ‘Hard’ or no deal pull out, the EU will be hurt ten times as much as the UK. But that won’t matter to the Eurocrats. Their global ambitions have been snubbed and pride wounded by the rebellious Brits, so they want to punish those perfidious albionites. Someone should remind them about the meaning of a pyrrhic victories. Frankly the story is this; in the case of a ‘hard’ BREXIT the UK can simply set up shop as a free market and offshore banking haven right on Europe’s doorstep and the money will flood in. If Madame Tracey has the guts to do it. Short term pain, long term, big gain.

As for that bloke from Wales giving back what has been dealt out by radical Islamists, like the radical Islamists he went for the entirely wrong target. Colour me un-surprised. The radical Islamists take it out on UK civilians and everyone acts all surprised when there’s a backlash? Don’t they understand the nature of the native British? Britain, like most European nations, is a seething pot of low level resentment. Give them enough of a sting and they’ll turn on you. Of course running down people in the street was a stupid act, but so were the terrorist attacks that gave him the idea. Quid pro quo, Clarice. Quid pro quo, said he in his best Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter impersonation.

The remedy of course is in the hands of ordinary Muslims. They must be more active and vocal in outing the radicals. Same as any other minority group must be. Disown the radicals publicly, turn in the crazies to plod and in turn assimilate. Which means no more calls for ‘Sharia’ law etc, if they want to live under that regime there are plenty of hard line Muslim states to move to, or they will burn in the resulting inferno. And that fire will burn worse than Grenfell Tower.

The rewards for assimilation are great; the penalty for irritating a host population greater. Hey, but I’m just a blogger. An over fifty with a keyboard and a set of hard formed opinions. No one’s going to bother to listen to someone like me who bothers to read history and has seen a lot of this stuff before.

Stuff it. This morning we’re off northbound to the turnaround point on this epic road trip. Into the land of Northern Lights, trees, sea and yet more Bears. Of which, in the words of Otto Hairybreeks, Skald to Leif Ericcsson when they first set up in this neck of the woods; “But boss, there’s bugger all here but Cod and Skraelings, and too much seafood brings me out in a rash.” Ericcsson’s reply is not recorded.

Oh the humanity

In Winnipeg this morning touring the ‘Canadian Museum of Human Rights‘ where I feel they were missing an exhibit. A small headstone inscribed thus; “Free speech in Canada. Killed by M103 and Bill C16 May 2017. Let ’em Bleed.” The last phrase in that epitaph being borrowed from our current PM’s daddy talking about the heavy crackdown on Quebec separatists back in 1970. Which reminds me somewhat of the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. It should be noted that junior is not a patch on daddykins. Although he’s quite capable of getting us into a similar mess.

I was quite intrigued to see the mass murderer Che Guevara lauded in said museum. Someone missed the memo there. Old Che was a nasty piece of work, more in the category of oppressor than oppressed. More Pol Pot than Mohandes K Ghandi. He may be a favourite on your student unions wall, but read up on what he and Castro really did to Cuba. Guevara ended up shot in Bolivia, which couldn’t have happened to a more deserving case. Castro garnered a fortune from the suffering of the Cubans under communism. Don’t believe me? Look it up.

Yes, they included the Holodomor, the name given to the deliberate starvation of 7-12 million Ukrainians 1932-3 by Stalin, but the Holocaust or Shoah 1938-45 which is credited with around 6 million deaths gets way more shelf space. Maybe the Nazis had better press agents than the Communists. I don’t know. The slaughter of Poles in events like Katyn and various other bits of extreme WWII nastiness were omitted, maybe through lack of space. And if the museum had a section on the Rape of Nanking I must have missed it. Yet it’s not as though the museum is short of space. Space is what occupies it.

Overall the museum itself is an architectural masterpiece more inside than out. Beautiful open spaces lauding those historical figures who demonstrate the best part of humanity with the aforementioned exception scumbag Guevara. The garden of contemplation could have done with a few more Japanese elements in my opinion but generally served as a quiet place to stop and think about the general thrust of the exhibits. Mostly about the lack of books in the gift shop. Now for a museum of human rights I’d have stocked it with the works of every related volume on the law code of Hammurabi through Socrates, Aristotle and Cicero to Tom Paine and Bertrand Russell. Did we see anything but lip service to these noted thinkers? No. Just toys and the usual gift shop tat. So in that sense it left me a little underwhelmed and only served to cement some of my own thinking about the absolute need for freedom of expression as enshrined in article 18 of the fundamental declaration of human rights and in particular article 11 about the right to a fair trial, which is something lacking when it comes to the CHRC. Human rights, huh? Whose? For a country that purports to believe wholeheartedly in the rights of the individual, such a court of the star chamber should be a mark of shame.

After visiting the very top of the central tower for a quick dose of vertigo but splendid views of the city, we dodged out as the freak show (Pride week) next door got properly underway. The one thing that struck me was the majority of the attendees appeared young(ish) and predominantly female(ish). There were a few children there too. A few corporate sponsors cashing in on the Pink Dollar, well the more well-heeled attendees tend to have a high disposable income so why not?

Lots of bright colours and balloons like an attempt at a kind of poor persons Mardi Gras. Very festive. Although not the kind of thing I’ve ever been interested in. Doesn’t matter what I think about it anyway. They’ll all have died out in fifty years or so. Maybe these proclivities are natures way of editing the gene pool? Lots of unconsummated sexual activity means that those who don’t breed die out. Anyway, that’s all rather academic unless some form of politically mandated cloning comes about.

However, the one thing that really struck me about Winnipeg was the state of the roads within the city. Winnipeg is a beautiful city with much to commend it architecturally, fabulous green spaces, lots of trees, a superb foot bridge just across the way but when you get up close and personal it’s crumbling kerbs and poorly maintained city streets which tell the real story of low infrastructure investment of a city in real decline. Once we got back out onto Highway 1, we could see Federal money being spent on resurfacing the main highway, but inside the huge square ring road, the rot was obvious, like a tooth dying from the inside out.

Which is a shame.

Cruise control and wide open skies

One of the things that we don’t generally use on our car is the cruise control feature. Until yesterday when I was getting bored with the unending flatness of rural Manitoba and clicked on the ‘cruise’ button on the steering wheel followed by the ‘Set Coast’. There was a sense of the accelerator pedal developing a mind of it’s own, then as I gingerly pulled my right foot off, our little Subaru took over, taking care of all the throttle controls, leaving me nothing else to do but hold onto the steering wheel. Now when it comes to driving I’m a bit of a control freak, I don’t like not knowing exactly how much pedal goes to the metal or which gear I need to be in.

Like with riding a motorcycle, you are not really a rider, your machine should really become no more than an extension of your own body. Your hindbrain takes care of the weight distribution, line into corner, throttle, gear and so on, and the bike provides the power and grip, letting your higher brain functions enjoy the ride, occasionally making conscious decisions like trying to scrape your sidestand on a particularly fast left or right hand bend. Depending on which side your sidestand is fitted of course, unless of course you own a particular model of Vincent, which is one of the few motorcycles ever to be fitted with two sidestands. Saw one back in the 80’s on the ferry to the Isle of Man TT races. Something to do with rapid wheel changes as I recall. The guy who owned it did admit his machine had been modified, and joked about it being one of the ultra-rare ‘White Lightnings’. Although I think what he really had was a repainted Black Shadow.

Any old road up, after that brief sashay down memory lane, back to the main thrust as it were.

It’s a bit disconcerting to find yourself sailing up hill and down dale at the same speed without your right foot being involved. But after a while you get used to it. It even becomes fun. So after the initial discombobulation I simply sat back and enjoyed myself cruising across the (very) flatlands of Southern Manitoba until we arrived for tonights stopover in Winnipeg. Holding on to the steering wheel, for want of anything else to do, chatting idly to Mrs S as the scenery rolled on by under magnificently cloud decorated skies, chasing the coat tails of a recent storm.

In our hotel we checked the news as is our wont, and were greeted by the grim item of another couple of terrorist attacks in London. So we got on the phone to Youngest to check that she was okay, which she was. Reading further I noted with grim satisfaction that the attackers sponsors both for Manchester and London, are about to get a very nasty shock. The real dogs of war have been set on their trail, no doubt with orders not to mess around and dispose of any evidence without fuss. I would not like to be in the Islamists traditional dress right now. A lot has been learned since the Gibraltar Fiasco, when three IRA murderers got offed in public on their way to attack an army band giving a concert. I am led to believe matters are dealt with a little more discreetly nowadays. While the PR team do the flashy stuff like jumping out of helicopters for the cameras, the hard core specialists will be down at street level disposing of the garbage.

At which point I’m moved to comment that sometimes society at large needs the protection of its meanest sheepdogs, and with the Daesh facing annihilation in their current domicile, they are lashing out in desperation, exposing their UK operatives and networks with these last ditch terror attacks. Of course the terrorists eventual demise will be no comfort to their victims, or the inevitable collateral damage to the innocent, but digging out a cancer like the Islamists can be a messy business and not always possible without amputation, even with the best of surgeons. Sad but true.

Just hope Youngest doesn’t get caught up in the resultant mess, that’s all. Despite the fact that she’s old enough and wise enough to make her own life choices, we still worry. Why? We’re parents and worrying is part of the job.

Anyway, it’s past bed time and my presence in same is being demanded.

TTFN