April is like a preview for summer. Kids are already swimming in the ocean and shorts and T-shirts are replacing jeans and sweaters. I love the longer days, letting the light in and making the birds sing. Maybe I also felt better having gotten my first Pfeizer shot. Not that it changes anything. Camp just sauntered in as I sat down and Vicky appeared right on time with some lovely golden refreshments.
‘How was your week?’ I asked Camp. ‘Did you get your shot?’
A garden is a microcosm of the bigger world out there. There are predators like slugs, deer, rats, bugs, and blights. One has to constantly be on guard against these foes. Armed with sprays, traps and tools and protected with fences and rewarded with fertilizers the plants will eventually comply and deliver edibles like fruit, vegetables, spices. And a myriad of colour which attract bees, butterflies and humming birds. There are other plant species who proliferate, invade and steal nutrients, sometimes choking and destroying the pampered and coveted crops. Those are called weeds and like vermin and bacteria, they are very successful organisms.
Lucky for us that our pub has installed some outdoor seating under party tents right on the beach. And since this is the first week that almost feels like summer Camp and I decided we better support our local watering hole. The whole pandemic feels like dejà-vu, from a year ago. Maybe even worse. Despite vaccines finally getting into people’s arms, nothing much has changed. We just have to roll with it.
‘It was V-day for me yesterday,’ Camp said. ‘Astra Zeneca at the pharmacy, courtesy of Biden who graciously sent us a million doses.’
‘I got mine, Pfeizer.’
We raised a toast to the vaccinated.
I wanted to talk about a subject I had just read about in my Swiss paper but I’m sure it applies to Canada as well.
Once again, we moved our weekly meeting to Camp’s porch because of the rising numbers of infections and the indoor closure of pubs and restaurants.
‘The numbers are going up and the vaccine ooze-out is like molasses flowing uphill,’ I complained when I sat down on the bench beside Camp, facing the view of the north shore mountains and Gambier Island.
‘Yes, it’s discouraging and exhausting at the same time,’ Camp said, handing me a can of Coast Life lager from the local farm brewery. ‘Just think a year ago, we were all banging pots and watching covid-aid concerts, supporting the front-line workers. Now, a year later, not even teachers are considered front-line workers but we expect them to teach our kids and keep them safe at the same time and nobody is banging pots for them.’
I met Leroy for the first time in Switzerland at the open-air market in Oerlikon, under the viaduct. His colourful, exotic fruit and smoothie stand at the market’s entrance was an eye catching and radiant burst of colour in a grey zone and stood out like a Christmas tree in a graveyard. Under the granite stones of the arched viaduct, and the overcast grey skies, with people dressed in shades of grey and black, Leroy’s stand offered a burst of sunny colours. Mangos, papayas, pineapples, coconuts, bananas, starfruit and other tropical fruit were displayed in an open stand decorated with palm fronds and strings of chili peppers. The steady rhythms of Reggae music issued from this tropical island in the middle of Zürich and Leroy himself was as exotic as his produce. His sunny wide smile displayed a set of alabaster teeth in a face carved from ebony with Rasta hair tied in a colourful kerchief. His eyes were dark brown and friendly and I had the feeling that he was able to look right into me, like I was an open box with all my bits and follies spilling out. Tall and regal he represented Caribbean beauty and diversity in the midst of monochromatic Switzerland.
I removed my new Bluetooth earbuds when I sat down on the patio since the pub’s interior is closed once again due to new restrictions. Camp gave me the quizzical eye. ‘These little beauties also contain a mic and deliver a sound like a full room hi-fi system,’ I explained.
‘Wow,’ Camp said with a hint of cynicism, those make you look fifty years younger.’
‘I’ve subscribed to Amazon Prime Music streaming service and somehow they know how old I am. When I chose the ‘Your Soundtrack’ option they played only songs from the late sixties and early seventies. First, I thought that they just played the best songs ever but then I realized that they tailored the music to my age group. I must have put in my birth date when I signed up.’
‘And you will get all targeted advertising like dentures, adult diapers and reverse mortgages,’ Camp said with a chuckle.
‘I’ve ordered us a pint of Guinness for a change,’ Camp said when I sat down at our usual table. ‘I know it’s long past St Paddy’s day but here is some good news about beer. Despite its rich flavor, Guinness it’s not the highest in calories compared with other beers. A 12-ounce pint of Guinness Draught has 125 calories. The same size serving of Budweiser has 145 calories, a Heineken has 142 calories. This makes sense when you consider that alcohol is the main source of calories in beers. Guinness Draught has a lower alcohol content, at 4.2% alcohol by volume (ABV), compared with 5% for Budweiser and Heineken. In other words, Guinness is almost like a light beer.’
‘Who would have thought?’ I said, ‘we could go on a Guinness diet.’
In another few days it’s officially spring and it’s already light until 8PM, perfect for and evening stroll along the shore to the pub. The mountains are still topped with fresh snow and the air is brisk but the trees are budding and the daffodils are out. Are we going to best this pandemic this year and will we be able to go to concerts and foot ball matches? I could see my friend Campbell already seated at the window by the sea and I had a question ready for him. ‘Camp, did you know that we’re all part of a massive stage three trial for these vaccines?’
‘How do you figure that?’
Unlike the 1985 movie, we will not be able to go back in order to change the future. In fact, the future will be nothing like the past, not even from two years ago. Our behaviour, social conventions and latent suspicions of each other will stay with us for a while. I was never a kisser or hugger so I don’t miss that but would like to visit friends without feeling awkward. When I walked into our pub, Camp was already there checking his stupid phone which he quickly stuffed into his pocket when he spotted me.
The world needs power, ever more, to energize everything from electric toothbrushes to e-cars, from computers to manufacturing processes, for lights, cooling and heating. Thousands of activities and consumer gadgets, industrial processes and comfort needs require electricity: power and energy. When we talk and think about renewable energy, we tend to confuse this with free energy, drawn from the sun, the wind and the thermal heat underground, the kind of energy which is boundless and there for the taking. But like the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which states that entropy within an isolated system always increases, so is the 1st law of life which proclaims: there are no free lunches.
‘Ten days ago, Canada’s parliament passed a non-binding motion condemning China’s treatment of the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjian as genocide. Trudeau and most of his cabinet abstained from the vote.’
‘While Justin Trudeau has made statements in support of Uyghur rights, his government is not allowing three former Uyghur Guantanamo Bay detainees to settle in Canada, where their families now live,’ Camp said.
The days are getting longer and I was able to walk to our pub before it got dark. Camp was already nursing his first pint when I got there. These are the slow days at his book store. Few people were in at this hour but when I mentioned this to Vicky, she assured me that weekends were packed. ‘Everybody wants to get out and we have to turn people away.’
‘Camp, I’ve read about a new study by two ETH researchers in Zurich,’ I said. ‘They calculated that infections could be massively reduced if large parts of the population were to regularly perform spit tests. The study authors are convinced that with such a mass test concept, many lockdown measures could be dispensed with.’
‘The Covid vaccine is first and foremost about self-immunisation since the vaccinated apparently can still spread the virus, and so far, nothing changes for the vaccinated. The same rules still apply, don’t they?’ I asked Camp after I sat down in our corner. We feel we should support the pub and our servers who are fighting for their existence since the pandemic started.
‘Yes, I believe so’, Camp nodded. ‘Same quarantine rules, same distancing, mask wearing and social conduct. Not sure when all that is changing. When the curve is completely flat and no fatalities due to this virus?’ Camp said. ‘That would mean never.’
More Travel Woes
‘I know we talked about travel woes a couple of weeks ago. Actually, it was me doing the talking and you drinking my beer.’
‘Which you so generously offered to buy me,’ Camp said.
We were once again sitting at our local pub, even though it doesn’t really feel like a public place since there is hardly any public present. And it’s snowing.
‘Everyday there seem to be new travel restrictions, each more confusing than the last one?’ I said. ‘Travellers are now framed as disobedient distracters, to be vilified and punished.’
As Sophie, Muriel’s daughter, would say: ‘Rich people’s problems.’
‘Unless you have the wrong test on arrival like those 2 guys in Calgary who were hauled away like criminals and incarcerated in a plastic lined room, with no information, inadequate food and no communication.’
‘Yes, I read about them. The Westin, Calgary Airport is now a quarantine Hotel but sounds more like a detention centre,’ Camp said.
‘Hi Camp, enjoying the rain?’
‘Yeah, we always have the sun to look forward to?’
‘You know I read a lot of news, hopefully from reliable sources. What’s your recipe to sort the grains from the chaff?’
‘Be aware it’s mostly chaff as you call it – keep a keen and open mind, be sceptical, check facts if you can, talk it over with discerning people like you.’
‘I have my favorite authors like Wade Davis or Finton O’Toole but mostly I’m just a maw who absorbs anything in print.’
I know it’s not Thursday but Saturday but I called Camp to meet me for lunch and have a chat about Trudeau’s latest move to punish travellers. He only agreed to join me when I promised to pay for the beers. I really wanted to know what Camp thought about these new travel requirements.
‘The new measurements enacted by the Canadian government yesterday amount to nothing less than a fine and punishment for travellers, no matter how long they’ve been away or where they’ve been to. The penalties are especially aimed at snowbirds, who remove themselves from the Canadian winter to sunny destinations like the Caribbean and Mexico,’ I said.
‘You live in Granthams Landing and are a member of the GWA, Granthams Wharf Association, aren’t you?’ Camp said when I stripped of my winter coat and sat down, at our usual place in our own local watering hole which is awfully quiet these days.
‘Yes, we are. You probably want to know what I think about the lodge proposal at the old Granthams post-office site. I’m in full support of the present owners and their plans. They are doing a fantastic job in renovating the historic building and improving the parking and access to the wharf.’
‘I thought you’d say that,’ Camp said, nodding. ‘Of course, there is a vocal opposition, claiming that the proposed lodge with 5 short term rental apartments, will forever change the character of the community as well as endanger and impact the lives of the present residents.’
‘Did you hear about the police patrolling the sleepy city of Sherbrooke observing a woman ‘walking her boyfriend attached to a leash, as he padded along the sidewalk on all fours?’ Camp asked after he sat down.
‘You’re kidding right?’
‘Nope, read it in the news. When the cops asked why she was breaking the curfew she replied that she was merely waking her dog. She still had to pay a hefty fine. Apparently, they’re not alone, people have been busted walking stuffed dogs or pet tortoises. People will do the craziest things to survive isolation and lockdown.’
‘Like zoom yoga or zoom concerts and plays?’
We decided to go back to our pub by the sea in order to support them and our servers. We sat at our usual table, surrounded by plexiglass partitions on wheels, even though there were only a couple of other guests, in the opposite corner. Vicky was happy to see us and when I asked her how her holiday was, she said: ‘What holiday? Oh, you mean the time off over Christmas and New Year. Like in: no work, no pay. Thankfully, I got the BC recovery bonus and we’re still open to the public. I missed you two.’
Once settled in, we decided to leave a big tip, a belated holiday bonus.
There has been a lot of outfall from the hooligan assault on the capitol last week. Arrests, firings of top officials, resignations at the White House, impeachment proceedings, bans on Twitter and Facebook for the chief hooligan and condemnations from around the world.
‘A journalist asked the big question during the assault on the capitol last week: Is this the end of an area or is it the beginning of a new movement?’ Camp said.
The world still revolves around the sun, weather happens outside and reactionary politicians make up new rules to catch up to the ever-evolving new reality. It’s the same old world but boy, did the rules ever change. From travel to office work, sports and performing arts; from school and university to family gatherings. It’s all different now. Nobody moves, nobody gets hurt or sick. Is that really a workable policy?
‘Will the vaccine be the magic potion, the panacea that people are hoping for,’ I asked Camp, who came over with a six pack of Coast Lager from Persephone, our local farm brewery.