Democracy at its Worst

“Camp, did you follow the elections in Venezuela last Sunday? What a sham and disaster for the people of that country. ‘Maduro would beat Jesus’is how Venezuelans lament the rigged system.”

“I’ve come across a few articles but Venezuela is not exactly hot news here in the Great White North. We have floods in BC, the ongoing NAFTA theatre and Lord Stanley’s cup to keep us distracted. The Gaza-Israeli border war, the Venezuelan election or the ongoing refugee crises in Europe are too far away and too depressing to affect our day-to-day lives.”

Not to be deterred I said: “According to the UN, last year alone Venezuelan’s economy shrank by 13% and the hyperinflation is at 13’000%. Imagine that. Maduro’s brilliant solution: strike three zeros. Still, today a dozen eggs cost an equivalent of $ 150 and some 5’000 citizens leave their country every day.”

“Vote for Maduro if you want food, starve if you vote for somebody else, he proclaimed without shame,” Camp pointed out.

“You could be Major of this town Camp if you handed out free beer,” I suggested.

“That’s been done before. It was called the Beer Hall putsch.”

“What about our own pipeline wars between Alberta, British Columbia and the federal government.  Who is right there?” I asked. “Premier Notley claims that thousands of jobs in her province depend on it.  Horgen shouts that the B.C. coastline is in danger from increased tanker traffic and Trudeau yammers on about national interest and energy security,” I said.

“All three seem to have a point,” Camp said.

“Let me ask you this Camp, how many tanker accidents have occurred on the B.C, waterways? I tell you: none. A quick overview on the B.C. government site lists all the oil and gas accidents  have occurred on land involving trucks, trains, and processing plants and one pipeline. No tanker accidents, no spills at sea, not from any double hulled tankers, not even in Strait of Hormuz. So what is Horgan talking about?”

“He has to pander to the Green’s, his coalition partners who secured him a tenuous hold on government. It’s first and foremost a political position.”

“An April Angus Reidpoll has 58% of British Columbians in favour of twinning the Kinder Morgan pipe line and 34% against. What happened to democracy?” I asked, playing the devil’s advocate, “are interest groups and stalling tactics through the courts the new way to determine our policies and actions?”

“Imagine, two NDP governments fighting each other like the Hatfields and McCoys, Camp said. “Makes for a mighty thirst, all this shouting and finger pointing,” he mused, holding up two fingers of his own for Vicky to see who was already on her way with two new pints.

“And did you know that on two days this past February it was actually warmer at the North Pole than it was in Zurich, Switzerland,” I said, trying to change the subject.”

“Yes, and the Gulf Stream is slowing down, the Greenland ice is receding, the oceans are rising and Kilauewa, like Trump, keeps belching lava and toxic gases. I’m not worried about the planet,” Camp said, “It will survive. I’m concerned about the 8 billion people trying to live on it.”

“On a lighter side, did you see the Royal Wedding?” I said, desperately trying to steer our stormy conversation into some calmer waters.

“No, but Muriel told me all about the hats or head sculptors which are called fascinators. Some looked like birds nests while others could have come off the Vatican’s Christmas tree.”

“Fascinating,” I said, while Vicky set down the refills. “Did you watch the Royal wedding?” I asked her.

“No but I wish them well. I wouldn’t want their lives of endless protocol and permanent smiles. Gives me a face cramp just thinking about it.”

“You know Maghan Markle was a waitress once,” I pointed out.

“You telling me I could be a princess?” Vicky laughed, “and maybe Camp here could be  Pope while you could be an astronaut, shooting for the stars with your flights of fancy.”

“Leave the running of the world to us,” Camp said, “and we would make a mighty scrambled mess of it.”

“Depends how many of these you had,” Vicky said, pointing at the two foamy golden pints in front of us.




“Camp, you’ve seen that T-shirt that says: ‘Shopping is my Happy Place’?” I asked my learned friend as soon as I sat down at our usual Thursday table in the pub by the sea.

“Well, not in my bookstore,” Campbell said.

“Over the past weekend Clare and I found ourselves with a few hours to kill and like two drifting boats washed into the Park Royal mall carried on a tide of eager shoppers. We were snared by the lure of enticing bargains displayed in glamorous, glittering settings.”

“Of course you ended up with clothes and stuff you didn’t know you needed,” Camp said with a knowing grin taking a sip of the ice cold draught.
“You know that I do most of the shopping for our small household while Clare still brings in a few shekels and takes care of nurturing me and the garden, not necessarily in that order,” I said with a wink.

“Yeah, so what’s this about? I only shop if absolutely necessary. Luckily I get to share most of my dinners these days with Muriel who seems to enjoy my company,” Camp said. “For lunch it’s a dash across the street for a sandwich while watching the front door of the store, which usually remains untouched.”

“I actually like shopping,” I said, somewhat defensively, “because I get to meet people in the store and usually end up chatting to at least one neighbour or acquaintance. Shopping is also a reliable source of local news and I’ve even received investment tips in the checkout line. Mind you those didn’t pan out as promised.”

“You mean it’s a place for gossip, not news, sort of like the town square. You do live an interesting life my friend,” Camp said, “if finding out about the latest discount offer or who just came back from a holiday is considered news.”

I ignored the snide remark and tried to explain, tongue in cheek. “I meet the guys in the meat department and run into women friends in the baking or detergent aisles but I’ve also had interesting chats in the fruit and vegetable department with both. ‘You’re not squeezing that avocado!’ or ‘look at the prices of the asparagus!’usually initiates a conversation. I even promoted your bookstore,” I pointed out. “I saw a guy who I play soccer with looking at a book in London Drugs. “Don’t buy a book in the drug store,” I said, “buy a book in the book store.”

“Thanks for that. I need all the help I can get.”

“And then there is seniors day. First Thursday of every month. Clare got pretty miffed when the cashier asked her if she was entitled to the discount.”

“I realize we’re a consumer society but shopping is definitely not my happy place,” Camp emphasized. “I target-shop or avoid it all together. In fact I wear the same shirt until it disintegrates.”

“I noticed,” I said, “we have a rule that I strictly enforce: something new in – something old out. We always have a bag full of clothes ready for the thrift store. It never fails to amaze me how much stuff we accumulate: clothes, shoes, gadgets,  electronics, paper, tools, souvenirs.”

“Don’t forget books and bills,” Camp said.

“And then there are the shopping channels on TV or racks of magazines dedicated to shopping. It makes the world go around as the saying goes but it can also be an addiction,” I said. There is probably a shoppers anonymous.”

“It’s a crazy economy that revolves around buying stuff that we don’t need, accessories that only decorate and shoes that we only wear once. I have one suit that serves for weddings and funerals,” Camp said, “and one tie for all occasions.”

“And what about those high-end fashion stores that offer thousand dollar handbags and handmade shoes for the price of a small compact car.”

“Don’t forget the sports brands,” Camp said.

“Or the fifty jeans makers and work clothes franchises.”

Just at that moment Vicky drifted by checking on thirsty customers like us.    “Vicky, where do you do your shopping?” I asked.

“Well now,” she said, cradling a tray of empties. “I eat here at work or at my boy friend’s but for clothes I prefer Sally Ann over the Thrift store.”

“We must have met shopping,” Camp said, “that’s where I buy my clothes.”

“Probably from garments Clare and I donated,” I said. Vicky’s white, sleeveless blouse looked suspiciously familiar.

“You two fashinistas talk shopping?  I think you need another beer to calm you down.”

Clean Air

“Camp,” I said, as soon as I sat down at our usual corner table on the patio, “I’ve just had a lovely walk along the shore and it occurred to me that we’re very fortunate to breathe such clean and fresh air here on the coast. I’ve come across an article this week on the dirtiest cities on earth and it staggers the mind how nasty those places are to breathe and live in.”

“Yes, I’ve seen some stats from the WHO as well, which are rather depressing. According to their latest study, nine out of ten people breathe in polluted air and seven million people die yearly due to their poisoned atmosphere.”

“Of course, once again the worst places are in the poorest countries,” I said “like India and Africa.”

“Yes, the worst air quality measurements come from Varanasi, the holy city along the Ganges which attracts millions of pilgrims each and every year. In fact India has the dubious honour of the six filthiest air metropolises in the world. Next to India are China and Pakistan, Nigeria and even Haiti.”

“What about Europe and North America?”

“Well, we have Mexico City and there are some very polluted European cities, worst amongst them Milano and Ankara but they only measure a quarter of the nasty particles in compare to places like New Delhi or Cairo. Worldwide over three billion people, or 40% of the earth’s population, have no access to clean air technology.”

“I just talked to a friend who’s just returned from Egypt. He said that Cairo was just a cesspool of garbage, humanity and pollution. Not a place fit to live in and yet 20 million people crowd into a place with infrastructure for 3 million.”

“I remember being in Nanjing some twenty years ago and I couldn’t even make out the building across the street from our hotel, just a fogy silhouette and everybody was wearing face masks,” I said. “Probably because, then as now, most of the people still cook and produce light from kerosene, coal or wood.” I took a sip from my beer trying to wash some of the bad taste away. “Considering that the earth atmosphere is like an onion skin around the planet and rather thin.”

“Yeah, about 500 km but most of the atmosphere is contained closest to earth and gets thinner as it moves up. A tenuous separation between us and outer space,” Camp said.

“I heard outer space,” Vicky, who was just floating by, said, “anything I should know about?”

“We’re just talking about the abundant and lovely fresh air here in Gibsons,” I said, “and how we take it for granted.”

“Yes, and it’s even better since pubs are smoke free environments,” she said.

“I remember when bars were smoky dens with overflowing ash trays on every table,” Camp said, shaking his head at the memory.

“And being able to smoke on flights. Smokers at the back of the plane,” I said.

“Like a peeing section in a swimming pool,” Camp quipped, “or a smoking corner in a restaurant.”

We both took a deep, refreshing breath. “We should be contemplating the natural beauty of the scenery right out front of our lair here instead of being weighed down by the universe at large,” I said.

“Apropos the universe. Stephen Hawkins last publication before his death claims it is a lot simpler then he previously assumed,” Camp said.

“And 18 republicans nominated Trump for the Nobel peace prize.”

“What on earth for?” Camp said and then emptied his mug in one long draught.

“I almost feel guilty living in our little paradise by the sea,” I said.

“Just feel lucky, not guilty. Lucky because of where we’re born and live, not because we rolled the dice and came up winners or losers.”

“I’ll drink to that.”



Pizza Bbq


         Who doesn’t like pizza ? Nobody. It’s the ultimate universal meal or snack and ranks in popularity right next to bread and chocolate.

         Here is an easy recipe for home made pizza which tastes so much better then anything you order in a restaurant or that comes in a cardboard box. And it’s soo easy to make and so adaptable to your personal tastes and likes. Just look in the fridge.

         If there is some left over spaghetti sauce or salsa, maybe half a jar of pesto, some mozzarella or marble cheese, tomatoes and onions you already have all it takes to build a basic pizza. Add any other ingredients you have, like olives, mushrooms, garlic, any kind of peppers, spices and if you like a meaty pizza add ham, salami, pepperoni or my favorite, prosciutto.

         Of course there is no pizza without the base and here is how you can really impress yourself (and your guests). Make your own dough! Do you have flower in the house? How about some salt and maybe a packet of east? That’s it. Just add water and a bit of olive oil.

         Of course the real secret to the perfect pizza is where and how you cook it. Nothing is easier and soo perfect. Not everybody has a pizza oven but almost everybody owns a bbq ! It helps if you have a round pizza stone on which to bake your pizza. I’ve used 12” tiles from the building supply (clay or granite, some tiles will crack from the heat) and they worked just fine.

 Here is how you make the dough for one large  delicious pizza:

3 cups (450 gr, 1lb) flower (unbleached white or whole wheat)

1 tsp  yeast (you can skip the yeast if you want a really thin crust)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp olive oil

add some rosemary

1 cup (2.5 dl) warm water

mix and knead by hand, form into a ball , cover it with a tea towel and let sit at room temp for a couple of hours

roll it out into the size and shape you like

sprinkle some corn meal on the stone (helps to prevent sticking) and lay out the dough, curling up the edges.*

Spread the sauce, salsa or pesto. Next comes the grated cheese, be generous and cover the whole dough, then add whatever else you want over top of the cheese

Heat the bbq tp to 500° (hot !) and slide in the pizza.

Have a look after 12-15 min. It’s ready when the edges go brown and the dough is stiff. Check it by lifting it with a spatula. Watch you don’t burn it.

Oh, so delicious !

Merlot (from the Okanagan) will go great with any pizza !



Fitness or Obsession

Campbell or Camp as everyone on the Coast knows him, owner of ‘Coast Books’ – ‘a non-profit book service’ as he likes to call it sauntered in just as Vicky set down a couple of ice cold for us. After taking the first sip – which is always the best one – I confessed without delay. “Clare and I have joined a spin cycle class twice a week,” I said, “one hour of intense pedaling and sweating to 80’ies disco music.”

“Whatever on earth for would you subject yourself to such torment?”

“To counteract gravity and get our un-toned bodies into presentable shape for a bicycle holiday. It’s quite the workout and I’m proud to say I did no worse than all the other participants. Eight women and one lone guy. Me.”

“Therein lies the mystery. Women worry much more about their bodies than men do while we worry too much about money and politics.”

I ignored Camp’s comment and said: “ It’s not that I’m worried about my physique but I was dismayed when I started huffing and puffing when we walked up to Soames Hill last Sunday.”

“You walked up Soames Hill?  Good for you. As for myself I walk to and from work every day, except on Thursdays when I take a detour through the pub. I also lift boxes of books and do my stretches reaching for the books on the top shelf and bending for the lower rows and sometimes I bow and scrape at the bank.”

“That’s just everyday activity which doesn’t count as exercise,” I said.  “It’s like me claiming that doing dishes and the laundry are exercise. Maybe mowing the lawn or digging up rocks qualify but Clare decided we’ve become lazy and delinquent in the physical department and advocates for a regular exercise schedule. You know, daily push-ups, sit-ups, squats, regular swims, walks; hiking and biking. Good for the core, the back, the tummy and the appetite.”

“I think this fitness craze is just another obsession with our bodies,” Camp said. “We’re told by the fitness gurus that we all need to have flat stomachs, tight asses and calves shaped like drum sticks. When they talk about six packs I’m thinking Heinecken and Corona, not stomach muscles.”

“Well, I guess being fit is healthier and looks better than hanging guts, wobbly butts and legs shaped like sticks,” I said, “and a new study says that exercise reduces the risk for developing depression.”

“It’s all part of our glamourized body culture,” Camp retorted, “And no matter how much we jog, bike and exert ourselves in those torture chambers they call gyms, we cannot change our body types. That is always the illusion people want to buy into,” Camp said.

“Are you part of a fitness club, Vicky?” Camp asked our attentive server who was just passing by with a full tray of empties.

She raised a quizzical eyebrow and said: “I walk for miles and lift trays of liquids every day at work but I take yoga classes twice a week. What’s this about? You two boys planning to go to the gym?”

“Oh no, nothing as drastic as that,” Camp said, holding up his hand, palm out,  and shaking his head, “we’re just talking about the fitness craze sweeping our foolish western world. More gyms and Pilates studios than pubs and bars.”

“Don’t forget the joggers and speed walkers,” Vicky said, moving on.

“Not to mention the billion dollar fashion industry built around jogging, hiking, biking and yoga outfits. Fitness is big business, just like diets, weight control and ageless aging,” I said.

“Goes hand in hand with organic diets, yoga classes and light beer. It’s all because we eat and drink too much and have to shed those extra pounds by artificial means, while the other half of the world worries about their next meal and does not have a child obesity problem.”

We drank to that and looked out at the sparkly water and lush green islands framed by the snow capped coastal mountains and the baby blue sky, and it occurred to me once again how lucky we were to live in such a paradise.

“All this talk about exercise makes me thirsty,” Camp said. “I should have bought a spandex franchise instead of a book store.”

Like magic Vicky set two refills in front of us and said: “I have friends who live right on False Creek and the only sounds they hear is the swoosh of rubbing spandex and the slap of running shoes going by their house.”

“And all that rubbing of synthetic jogging outfits probably creates enough static electricity to set off a minor explosion,” Camp said.

Vicky almost dropped her tray doubling over with laugher.