Tag Archives: Family

So…

Another day, another picnic. Today I have prepared Tacos and Southern Fried (In my case baked) chicken. Previous taste tests have been positive, so I’m sticking with the tried and trusted today.

Anyway; what’s new out in the wider world?

I see 50,000-odd (Some odder than others) people have been marching against Democracy in London. By comparison; London February 15th 2003, around 750,000 protested against the Iraq war. Didn’t make a spit of difference. 50,000 by comparison, some of whom (If you read the text) are not UK citizens and therefore not eligible to vote in a UK referendum, making the protest a mere drop in the ocean. Not that the anti-Iraq war protests really achieved anything. Blair still committed the UK’s armed forces. 50,000? As the French would say; “Call that a march? It’s not even a Janvier – pff”

Similarly; Mrs S’s Open University course on the EU is proving lively, with a great many sceptical voices in the forums. It’s an online course with people from as far away as Brazil and New Zealand taking part. She tells me that only one pro-EU voice spoke out to indulge in a single trollish ad hominem attack against everyone else, which was promptly ignored. I think the person who made the bitter remark subsequently left the course in a huff as they haven’t been heard from since. Or possibly even huff a minute. (Ouch. Sorry, I’ll get me coat)

Over here the Postal workers are going on strike next week. I will be using UPS myself for important documentation. They get my packages and letters where needed on time every time. Not in three bloody weeks (For Air mail no less!) I have some important legal documents to go to the UK next week and am not entrusting sensitive documents to Canada Post. I can’t afford to muck around either as Mrs S and I are off to a conference on Wednesday and have to get stuff notarised and sent before then. Costs me a hundred and fifty bucks a time for notarising and sending, but as the deal is time sensitive it’s worth the expense.

It’s also National Fishing Week. Which I’m going to miss this year (Again!). Never mind, when I’m back home on the 12th I intend to cast my cares on the waters regardless of whether there’s a festival or not.

Another day…

…Another few dollars, although not quite as many as I’d hoped. Still, not a bad result for all that. Money is complicated. People must be reimbursed for their services, taxes must be paid, and so the money goes round. The timing could have been better, but I’m not totally unhappy. Next time it will only be me with my finger on the financial trigger, so I’ll only have myself to blame if it all goes arse about face. However, I’ve looked at the options of my chosen course of action, and I’m fairly confident of a stable long term outcome. Short of a cataclysmic meteorite impact or the Earth suddenly opening up and swallowing the piece of rock my money will be accumulating in, or the world having a total civil and cultural meltdown of course. Which is the investment version of touching wood or other action meant to placate the gods of finance.

2017 Europe tripAnyway; with all the whining and bitching about Brexit, this weekend I thought I’d post something a little more uplifting and pro-Europe (Although not pro-EU). Or annoying, depending on how sore a loser you are. The road map for the Bill Sticker European tour of 2017. Ta-daa! (Click to enlarge)

Now as no plan survives contact with the enemy, the above map should only be viewed as a general guideline. All locations are open to change. No definitive bookings have been made, and only a deposit has been put on the machine we are to purchase. Proposed starting date is from the UK in the first week of May 2017, thence heading south and west into France, towards the Rhone Valley and may take us further East and North than illustrated on the return leg, depending upon weather. I’ve done my stint riding in all sorts of shit and slush over the last three decades and have decided it’s not much fun. Especially when even the most impermeable waterproof trousers (Why is it always the trousers?) start to fail and unwanted moisture begins to make its presence felt in all those embarrassing little places.

The only way our proposed tour can go tits up is if all the wronged Brussels bureaucrats have a major snit at anyone speaking English and decides visas and passports from predominantly English speaking countries are invalid. In which case I’ll have just flushed a great deal of money down the great white telephone to no good purpose. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. Article 50 negotiations and changes will take a lot longer than two years because the lawyers will want all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. Then said negotiations can’t even start until there’s a new Prime Monster in Number Ten Downing Street. Even if Brussels decides a total ban on all things and people British is a jolly super wheeze, we’ll have until at least September 2019 to shoehorn our trip in. Besides, we’re Canadian with certificates to prove it. With an EU fiendish PM no less. So will bluff our way through somehow.

I’m not going to find myself in the position my dear departed old mother found herself in around 11th June 1940. She was touring with a band in Italy at the outbreak of World War II and found herself with a whole train load of British, French and other refugees at the French / Italian border, having been kicked out by Benito Mussolini’s Fascist government. “Suitcases all over the place.” As she often gleefully recounted her temporary predicament. How she got out of Vichy France she never said, but I think she escaped as one of the civilians taken out by Operation Ariel, which is the unsung cousin of the famous Dunkirk evacuation.

Not that anything like that is going to happen to we 21st century travellers. We might get a little unhappiness from border guards, but frankly I think their attitude will be; “We’ve had your money – now piss off.” Which is fine by me.

A new hope…

Well the rebel alliance has struck a genuine blow against the evil empire. Forgive the Star Wars reference but I feel it’s relevant.

My Youngest just messaged us to say “Can I come and live in Canada now the UK is going down in flames?”
To which we said “Sure. For a fee.” We’re practical folk.

Not that the UK will go down in flames. The European Union will. It is a solution that creates too many problems in a desire to shoehorn too many diverse nations under one set of laws, without understanding that those laws have to be simple enough for everyone to understand and abide by. Nor does it understand that real prosperity comes from ordinary people doing ordinary things every day of their lives rather than unelected bureaucrats making seemingly random rules and regulations.

Bags I be Obi-Wan Kenobi, or as Mrs S has just observed “I always think of you more as Chewbacca.” Heavy sigh.

Meanwhile, away from the politics…

A pick a nic basketPolitics, like all creepy crawlies, gets everywhere doesn’t it? However, today I will be making a strenuous effort to avoid the wretched topic by staying away from the Interweb and going out for a picnic. We’ve been doing quite a bit of that recently. Going out to the park, choosing a shady spot away from all the noise, and just sitting to relax and partake of a little light lunch and delve into something literary. We’ve even got a proper picnic basket, just like the one in the picture. We have a small cool box for the food, a chill sleeve for the wine. Well, non alcoholic Cider really, as I don’t drink and drive, ever. Not even one glass of wine with a meal, but that’s just me. All of which fits in the pictured basket. Stylish, huh? Well I think so. No sitting on insect infested blankets for us, as we’ve also purchased two sturdy and very comfortable lightweight folding chairs which now live in the back of our pert little SUV.

Anyway, today’s little repast is spinach, salami and cheese stuffed chicken breasts, a small side salad with my patented hard boiled eggs (Large egg, boil for 8 minutes and 45 seconds only, then immediately dump into iced water for half an hour before serving – golden yolks with a still oozing centre) and a couple of nice crusty buns. I would have included a couple of small slices of cheesecake, but felt that would be gilding the lily. Did also toy with the idea of Salmon (It’s cheaper than chips locally at the moment), but decided against it. The idea of taking a small barbecue along has been mooted, but frankly they’re just too much fuss. Especially for just two of us.

Such is currently setting the tenor for our Late Spring / Early Summer Sunday afternoons. Mrs S and I chew the fat, set the world to rights, read, or just watch the antics of everyone else letting their kids burn off steam away from their Xboxes. Which is as pleasant a way of spending an afternoon as I can think of, short of fishing. Which is the next step. Leaving Mrs S to watch while I do some casting practice so she can have a giggle when I screw up. I can think of worse ways to spend my downtime.

The idea for today is to avoid politics. No American election news or reading about the forthcoming EU Referendum. Even though Mrs S insisted upon reading an article from the Spectator to me this morning about Donald Trump. Yes, he’s pissed off all the political insiders, which is no bad thing. They’ve had it all their own way for too long, made too many messes, and need a kick up their collective arses. Frankly I don’t care about whether some journalist thinks he’s ‘presidential material’ or not. I’ll reserve judgement until if and when he actually gets elected. The scary lady hasn’t finished singing yet. Or is there an Aria yet to be composed when the FBI finish messing around and decide to play hardball?

That is speculation for another day. For today we are going on a picnic.

My perverted tastes

Many years ago, when you could still do these things, I had a motorcycle licence plate bearing the subtitle ‘Leather pervert’ under the license number. It was a bit of fun, nothing to get wound up about because I used to wear a lot of leather. With body armour, because I’d learned that being hit by one of those clumsy people in their four wheeled tin boxes tended to hurt. As did falling off your motorcycle because your brakes jammed, or hitting a nasty patch of spilled diesel or ice on a sharp corner. These were my salad days, when I was green in judgement. At least according to someone else called William. I had a lot of fun back then, bending rules and generally just being a lad. Not that wild, but not that tame, either.

Anyway, I’ve always had a hankering for the different and occasionally exotic and my circle of close friends has often been a little eclectic to put it mildly. Much to my father’s irritation. He wanted me to join the golf club and settle down to a ‘job for life’, which never really existed anyway. Sorry Boss.

My issue with my Dad was always him telling me “Do this!” or “Do that!” but never exactly helping me find out how. Which was probably why I was such a disappointment to him. I was forced to make up my own rules as I went along. Without any guidance. So I experimented. In the process I ended up making some less than ideal life decisions but; I have learned a few things that I would not have otherwise have known. Like Frozen Vanilla Yoghurt and a teaspoonful of top notch Seville Marmalade make a dynamite dessert. By ‘Top notch’ marmalade I mean not the usual store bought stuff that’s mostly jelly. I mean the opaque, peel rich variety, solidly fruity and sinfully bitter. It’s like BDSM on the palate. The innocent creaminess of Frozen Vanilla Yoghurt contrasted with the wicked lash of Seville Oranges giving just a hint of barbed wire undergarment. This is a dessert that almost demands you raid the exotic corsetry section of your local sex shop to wear while eating it. Although if you’re not feeling formal you can go with the informal look of jeans and T-shirt with your zip partially undone at minimum. Notwithstanding; it’s what this perverted confection does on your tongue that’s important.

It’s so good it must be illegal.

A little weekend drama

A sunny Victorian Friday afternoon around four. Unscheduled call from sister in law up island. Our elderly widowed friend up there has suffered some kind of sudden illness and called an ambulance. Mrs S gets on Skype and contacts the sheltered living facility elderly widow is domiciled at. No answer. They’ve gone home because Friday is ‘poets’ day (Piss Off Early Tomorrow’s Saturday). Has the Ambulance been called or not? Has it arrived? Has friend been admitted yet? After half an hour of phoning hospital we have our answer. In-laws will go in first to check because they’re closest. We’ll get ready. Just in case.

While waiting for answers I pack. Five minutes and we’re all set. Suited and booted. I’ve even thrown in a couple of books because I know from long experience that hospitals are all ‘hurry up and wait’. In-laws agree to put us up for the night, saving us a hotel bill, and after a flurry of exchanges on cell and Skype, we decide that since we have power of attorney over friends ‘living will’ we have to be there. Just in case. We were heading oop norf tomorrow for a visit and delivery of birthday presents anyway, but this event has shifted our timetable forward by twenty four hours.

So, out into the crawling nonsense of Victoria’s Friday afternoon traffic we go. Taking half an hour to travel the first four miles. Once out onto the highway it gets better and the hammer goes down, in a genteel sort of way. Moving briskly but safely. Out of the way boys and girls, Uncle Bill has a job to do.

Around seventy miles later. Me driving and Mrs S on the phone, we pull up and head into the hospital emergency department. Finding to our eternal relief that elderly widowed friend is mostly just dehydrated after a nasty bout of gastroenteritis, and will be ‘filled up’ and sent home between twenty four and forty eight hours later, providing all the other tests hospitals and doctors like to do draw a blank. We regale friend with tales of our recent US road trip to keep her entertained before a porter comes to wheel her down to X-ray. By the time we leave the hospital it’s eight, so Mrs S and I brave the sluggish evening service at a White Spot restaurant because neither of us have eaten since breakfast.

Over to in-laws for a tea and jaw session before bedtime. Hospital in the morning so we crash and roll out of our pit for a swift mug of tea before getting on the road again. Agree to meet in-laws later.

We arrive at the hospital and pile into the short stay facility to find elderly widow friend has had her check up from the neck up and down again. According to ER physician “There’s nothing we didn’t expect to find in a ninety six year old body.” So we found her rehydrated and good to go home, which was a pleasant surprise. By eleven am Saturday we’re all done and elderly widow friend is home and resting. We make sure Reception knows about her current state and ask them to make sure an appropriate fuss is made, which they are happy to do.

Thence it’s coffee, chat and cookies in a trendy but basic café with in-laws before heading back to the barn. Job done. By twelve noon all is well. After a stop for a leisurely lunch we’re home by three thirty. Our little weekend drama is over and we have now stopped to catch our breath. Wasn’t that fun? No. But we’d have only been bored otherwise.

Cunning planning

Well, I’ve successfully planned our road trip from up here in the not so frozen north all the way down to Florida and our planned turnaround point. Hotels are booked as far as Jacksonville, just so’s I can get a chance to see the scheduled SpaceX launches for that week. After which we’re looking at Charleston for a few days to soak in the local Revolutionary and Civil War history. It’s taking a lot of discussion, argument, rolled eyes and subterfuge to agree on where to go and stay. Still, we’ve more or less agreed on where we want to be and what to do while we’re there. It’s proving a mammoth task, especially as Mrs S wants stuff all booked up in advance. Which I feel interferes with the spontaneity of the trip, but that’s where we’ve had to compromise. So far we haven’t quite threatened each other with divorce. Yet.

Minor frustrations aside, things are shaping up nicely. Mrs S did ask me if I’d buy her an Alligator skin handbag. I smiled and did my usual ‘yes dear’ until I saw the prices. A thousand bucks! Yikes!

No doubt whilst we’re down in the deep south we’ll have to dodge all the political campaigners. I’m watching with amusement as the Republican party upper echelons appear to want to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, simply because the current front running candidate is not “One of us.” and is more of a pragmatist than they’d like. As for the Democrats, I can’t see much of a choice from Bernie Sanders’ redistributionist policies and Hilary Clinton’s, the only difference between them is whose pockets the ‘redistributed’ wealth ends up in. Sure as hell won’t be the voters. Never is, never will be. But that’s left wing politics for you. The little guy always gets screwed, only the insiders ever get anything out of it.

Talking of people getting screwed by officialdom. In our municipality some dozy half wit passed the EDPA bylaw in 2012, which on the face of it isn’t much. Basically what the bylaw is supposed to do is to protect endangered species. Which is a laudable sentiment. Unfortunately, the road to hell being paved with good intentions as it is, this bylaw is in some places preventing people from mowing their lawns and repairing properties into which the rot has set. All in the name of ‘protecting the environment’. This bylaw is being enforced with such zeal that even the new Mayor wants it repealed. Which won’t happen. Because the problem is that the ‘green’ insanity is so entrenched in our locale that this will never happen. Which is why Mrs S and I won’t be buying a house in Saanich. Why bother buying a property when some silly bylaw takes a chunk off it’s value whenever your house needs repairing or the hedges need cutting back? What happens when you can’t lawfully trim the big tree in your yard that tries to put a branch through your bedroom window whenever there’s a windstorm? All in the name of ‘protecting’ the environment.

What the zealous enforcers do not seem to have a grip on (apart from reality) is that properties and land need maintenance. Like the environment. We live in a managed environment. Our houses are proof of this. 21st century man is not well adapted to living without the necessities of life like shelter, heating, fresh water on tap, sewage disposed of, light at the flick of a switch, clean dry clothing and food they don’t have to catch or grow themselves. What is it modern people do when deprived of these things? Oh yes, starve. I wonder how the enforcers would fare if deprived of these modern conveniences. Probably not well, although going onto a more survivalist footing might deprive them of the time they spend on gleefully interfering in the lives of others.

One thing I have promised myself this year is that I’m going to join the local fish and game association, do my gun safety course, get my license and buy a couple of rifles for Mrs S and I to do a little off duty plinking. We may even do a little hunting up Island. Maybe not. Fresh Game is nice for a special treat five or six times a year but it’s such a nuisance to prepare and process a whole animal just for two people.

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.