December in the rainforest in the Pacific Northwest consists of liquid sunshine, monochromatic grey skies and gun metal coloured water. People wear clothes from the same palette – shades of grey and black – and my mental state around this time of year reflects the weather and the clothes. Having a couple of beers with my friend, and sometimes mentor, Camp, is one of the week’s highlights, even though we mostly dredge through the most recent slew of bad news, politics and pet peeves. No different this time. It’s raining, the choppy grey water is mirroring the low hanging clouds and dusk is only a slight change from the rest of the day. I was early at our usual table, and to while away the wait I swiped through some news clips on my silly phone. Camp showed up soon thereafter, shook the water from his coat and hat and sat down with a contended sigh.
Despite the persistent rain I walked by the Granthams Wharf today and marvelled at how efficiently and quickly our small community was able to rally and get it fixed and even improved. Donations of money, time, materials, music and art made the swift reconstruction possible. A true testament to our community spirit. The pier was practically destroyed in a perfect combination of high tides and gale force winds, which washed tons of driftwood off the beaches and drove the watery logs into our wooden jetty. Disasters unite people, goes the saying. Just look at Paris and France and how the nation and its people, indeed the world, came together as one community, mourning the fiery devastation of Notre Dame Cathedral. Within one day enough donations were pledged to rebuild it. I vowed to raise a glass with Campbell in honour of community spirit. Also I had an interesting topic for tonight’s discussion, sure to raise an eyebrow or two.
‘What do think about the ferry ploughing into the dock last Tuesday,’ I asked my friend Camp who was no friend of the ferry system. He has over the years bitched about many unpleasant incidents with the ferry as most of us coasters have. Like constant delays, the ongoing game of chicken trying to wiggle and slalom into the left lane from the parking lot across three lanes of oncoming traffic or being cut off at the ticket booth while the boat was still loading.
At least it’s light now when I walk along the shore to our weekly chin-wag, I stopped by our storm damaged wharf which is getting fixed, thanks to a strong local community which came forward with cash, art and music. In fact there is a ‘Raise the Wharf’ fundraiser on Saturday, 16th March at the Gibsons Public Market.
I saw her the first time at Cuddy’s rum shop on the corner of Mainstreet. She wore a red and yellow plaid dress, a Redsox ball cap and large, golden hoop earrings. Her shoulder length hair was frizzy and stiff and twisted into dreadlocks. On her feet she wore plastic sandals that had seen better days. Her hands were like roots and her face was like Sonny Liston after his fight against Cassius Clay, with amber teeth and a flat nose. Her charcoal eyes looked into the distance and her head nodded to the incessant beat of the jab-jab trucks rolling slowly up and down Mainstreet, followed by gyrating partiers dressed in colourful carnival costumes.
We spent some time on an island paradise where the most precious commodity is water and during the dry season – half the year – the most common fear is running out. The island has a desalination plant but when the government sponsored piping project failed within six months — because somebody tried to save some money by downsizing the pipe – the plant now sells and delivers water only by truck. The big houses have big cisterns, the small houses have small cisterns, mostly just black plastic tanks and they are the first to run dry. Of course the poorest people live in the smallest shacks and they don’t have money to buy water. Also the desalinated water still tastes salty and is no good to drink. And sometimes the water delivery guy is not available or off island or just doesn’t pick up the phone. People every year have to borrow and beg water from their neighbours or public places.
It was a wintry walk along the shore, cold and monochromatic. I spotted a couple of seals cavorting and despite the sub-zero temperature I thought once again how lucky we are to live on the Pacific west-coast , on the edge of the rain forest. The winter so far had been mild, except for the Nordic blast the past few days, which pales in comparison to the deep freeze back east and the mid-west. Minus 40 degrees is just no temperature for any living thing and neither is +40 degrees on the other side of the world where roads are melting and animals and people are dying in the furnace of Australia.
Havana is a ruinous city, like an old prostitute covered in too much makeup to hide the pain and suffering, but yet resilient and full of life. The crumbling facades of the wedding cake villas and opulent palaces of the former sugar barons and casino moguls, of the corrupt regimes before the revolution, bear witness to the ravages of time, decay and lack of money. Sixty years of neglect, coupled with numerous hurricanes and the salty fecundity of the climate is not a recipe for a well functioning infrastructure.
“Did you hear that the new Mexican president, Lopez Obrador, put the presidential plane, a Boeing Dreamliner, up for sale and prefers to travel like everybody else, by commercial, scheduled flights,” I asked Camp after Rosie set down our first pint.
“ I just hope he stays alive, driving his own Jetta to work, sometimes with his wife and just one security guy,” Camp said, obviously aware of the changes.
It’s been a glorious week of sunny December weather, cold and bright and the reflection of the sun is sparkling off the waters of Howe Sound. The tops of the mountains are frosted and the only sounds are the screeching of the gulls and the crunch of the gravel under my feet. I hold on to moments like this but I know there is trouble in this vale of tears and laughter and my friend Campbell, Camp to all of us, didn’t disappoint.
“Black Friday, Cyber Monday, national shopping holidays next?” I said to Campbell as I sat down, shaking the rain from my hat.
“I take it shopping is not your happy place.”
“I know you run a bookstore Camp and you rely on people shopping for books but what kind of a world is this relentless consumer driven existence. We shop until we drop goes the clichée and unless we participate we perish,” I lamented.
November rain. But just at the edge there was the sun trying to push through the grey clouds. I stopped for a brief look and headed inside.
“Camp, did you hear the latest proposal by the pundits in Ottawa? This one is about Universal Basic Income, UBI for short.”
“Can’t say I have but this idea surfaces every now and then and it even has been tried in a few places and studied to death. How do they plan to pay for it this time?
“With online casinos and marijuana taxes. They figure the bill for a Canada wide UBI program would be $ 41 billion.”
In October 2018, ten of us, cousins and spouses, ventured on a two-week trip to South Africa, organized by our youngest cousin, who grew up in South Africa. We took an overnight flight from Zurich, and arrived 9 hours later in Johannesburg where we were whisked off to the Johannesburg Country Club, a left over cluster of old manors and lounges from the Brits, sprawled over a few acres of groomed gardens and surrounded by a ten foot high wall, topped with electric security wires. Over a scrumptious, extended lunch we were treated to a bit of history from our cousin who loved this country of his birth with a natural passion and he also knew that we were curious and keen to know where we were.
The LNG powered ferry from Tallinn, Estonia, to Helsinki takes two and a half hours and is a glitzy, floating restaurant, lounge, bar and garden patio with several large TV’s, a kids era, a live band and a whole floor dedicated to shopping. You can buy a fancy watch or designer clothes while drinking a glass of champagne. Living in a ferry dependent community as we are here on the Sunshine Coast, this was a jaw dropping luxury cruise compared to the old rusty and creaky, diesel powered boats plying the waters of B.C. Mind you that crossing cost $ 50.- p/person as in compare to $ 17.- or free for seniors during the week.
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 !