The weather is hot and sunny, dry and there is no rain in the foreseeable future. Water restrictions are once again coming to your house, despite ongoing construction of homes, subdivisions and multiple family housing, all on the same water supply. When I pointed this out to Camp, who was late, he shook his head. ‘Water shortage in the rain forest is like running out of sand in the desert. It’s an infra structure problem, not a water problem. The local breweries still seem to be able to make beer and they use a lot of water.’
We both appreciated our beers, which are over 90 percent water, as Cam wisely pointed out.
‘Dr. Fauci recently called the resurgence of Covid cases in the US ‘A Pandemic of the Unvaccinated’ since over 99.5 percent of all infections, hospitalizations and fatalities are not vaccinated. Over 100 million Americans are still not immunized.
‘The British are lifting their covid restrictions on Monday – euphemistically called ‘Freedom Day’ despite 40’000 daily infections,’ I pointed out to Camp who walked into the pub without his mask, the first time in a year and a half. ‘And Spain has close to 50’000 while Canada is below 1000.’
“France is ordering full vaccination compliance amongst its health care workers or else they’re fired with no pay and the French also issued a vaccination passport which is now required by most businesses, airlines and universities,’ Camp said.
‘I remember being inoculated with the small pox vaccine. I was at school and we all had to line up and white clad nurse went from on to the other and jabbed their upper arms. I still have a divot there and I remember it hurt. Did we have a choice? Nobody asked. The same with polio and the multiple childhood illnesses we were vaccinated against. I think the Polio came disguised as a sugar cube.’
When Camp walked in and sat down at our usual corner, he caught me thumbing my iPhone. Just like a teenager. ‘Did you know that there are 5 billion smartphones in the world and more than half of them subscribe to Facebook, 2.8 billion users. And growing,’ he said.
‘No wonder there is such a bewildering number of interests vying for our business, attention and shopping habits,’ I said, putting my phone away. ‘This means that everybody from a toddler on up has a smart device and half of them are on social media. Everybody has a soapbox and is a film star. Does this make for a better world or is it the curse of our modern society, akin to the opium addiction of the 19th century?’
‘How did you survive that heat wave?’ I asked Camp, after I removed my mask and sat down at our seaside pub.
‘I wore shorts for the first time to work and kept doors and windows wide open but then I closed early. And I drank too many beers after I got home.’
‘Monday was the worst. My phone registered 41 Degrees C. Higher than Phoenix, Arizona. Clare’s garden went into shock and so did we. Lucky us we were able to escape to the water all afternoon.’
Finally, it’s summer here and restrictions are being lifted, cases are down and vaccinations are up. There seems to be a path back to some kind of normalcy, which is evident by the crowded pubs, parks and beaches. Watching the Euro 2020, a year late, with the stadiums half full, gives me hope that we’ll get back to the future. We all want to come out of our confinements and hibernation and toss that mask in the bin.
‘Camp was reclining in his chair by the window, pawing his smart phone and already nursing a pint. ‘What are you looking at?’ I asked.
‘An interesting article on the green investment boom and the bottlenecks that threaten to hold it back. Already, supply-side strains are growing. The price of minerals used in electric cars and power grids – cobalt, nickel, lithium, manganese, zinc, graphite and rare earth minerals – has soared in the past year and timber mafias are roaming Ecuadorean forests to find balsa wood used in wind-turbine blades.’
‘We’ve been out on the water with friends, meandered all around Gambier Island and watched the seals and birds on the Christie Islets and the Pam rocks and had a picnic at Halcett Marine Park. We do live in paradise Camp. An old Canadian warship 334, HMCS Regina, did a tight turn right in front of us. Maybe they heard there were pot smokers and three immigrants on our boat.’
‘Lucky you, I had to work but I do have that million-dollar view out the back of the bookstore. Much like here at the pub. The only downside is wearing a mask all day long. Gives me a headache by the end of the day.’
‘Talking about million dollars. What do you make of Alberta’s million-dollar lottery to entice people to get vaccinated?’
‘Did you know Camp that anti-vaxxing and disinformation is a growing, lucrative business and turns over millions of dollars?’
‘How do they make money?’ Camp asked.
‘The vaccination opponents earn money in various ways: they have advertising revenue from YouTube videos, they sell vitamin supplements on their websites or sell themselves as event speakers. Over 30 million Facebook users follow pages with false vaccination information, the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) estimates. They also insert anti-vaccination messages into make-up or vitamin ads, thereby avoiding the algorithms that are set up by social media to trap misinformation.’
It’s June and the days are long and the best part is that we can spend them outside, in the garden, on the deck, on patios, on the water and in the parks and on the beaches. I could do this all year long. I joined Camp who was already seated in our usual corner. I was upset and wanted to discuss the rise of pseudo-religious far right conspiracies that seem to proliferate, especially during this pandemic.
‘Camp, we’ve been down this road many times but it’s really unsettling how many people still believe in the easter bunny, Santa Claus and the tooth fairy,’ I said.
‘Not to mention angels, horned devils and immaculate conception,’ Camp retorted.
‘I’m not talking about established cults,’ I said. ‘Religion is for the believers, as are cults. Let me read you the quote by CNN following results of a poll done last week.
Winners and Losers
I sat down at our usual spot since restaurants and pubs are open once again to serve indoors. Without much ado I handed Camp my arbitrary list of winners and losers during the reign of Covid-19. He glanced at it and took a long swig from his pint. ‘I don’t see personal freedom, mobility, social interaction, hugs and kisses on your losers list,’ he said.
‘Well, you just added them,’ I said. ‘And I invite anyone to amend or add to the list. I’m sure there are more on both sides of the ledger.’
‘And what’s going to happen to the vaccine providers like Moderna and AstraZeneca after we all had our 2nd shots? Are they going to close shop and go home?’ Camp asked. I knew it was a rhetorical question and he provided the answer: ‘They will recommend 3rd and 4th booster shots and then another one every year or so. Keep the ball rolling. But go and get the vaccine. It’s free, it’s safe and it’s not just for you but the people around you.’
‘And the world keeps turning. Cheers!’
When I walked over to our pub which is still only allowed to serve outside, I couldn’t get the radio interview I just listened too out of my mind. It was about the low number of bankruptcies compared to last year or the year before. ‘It’s a false picture’, the bankruptcy commissioner said. ‘It costs money to file for bankruptcy but thousands of small businesses just closed their doors and walked away: Restaurants, esthetics, fitness, yoga and dance studios, music and entertainment venues, catering and service businesses associated with sports and concerts, small retail stores, hair salons and many more.’
‘I’m just glad the bookstore is not one of them, actually we are doing as well or better than in a normal, non-pandemic year,’ my friend Campbell said.
‘We drank our beers and looked out at the Gibsons’ Harbour and the pristine west coast wilderness right at our doorstep. I wanted to know what Camp thought about the recent escalation of an old war in the southern Levant, that’s been going on since 1948: Palestine vs. Israel. I knew Camp would have an opinion.
‘Are you afraid of old age?’ I asked Camp after I sat down. On my walk to the pub I’ve been reflecting about the time when I thought fifty was old and sixty was shaking hands with the grim reaper.
‘I’m not afraid of getting old but I fear not being able to wipe my own ass or getting out of bed on my own or even not to be able to tell the bathroom door from the closet door. I am afraid of losing my ability to function, to decide and to recognize and to have to wear diapers. Getting old is easy. One day at a time.’
‘Like you, I don’t want to lose anything, least of all my mind or my continence,’ I said. ‘The question is what can we do to prevent any of this.’
We’re locked down in BC until the long weekend and although nothing much changes for us, it is stopping tourists and any non-essential travel to and from the Sunshine Coast. I wanted to check the numbers yesterday and just put in the date but the stats from a year ago came up. Wow. This year our infections are ten times higher but our hospitalizations and mortality percentages are lower. Still, a wakeup call.
I wanted to talk about something else with Camp besides the bloody covid for a change and came across an interesting piece of journalism the other day. Camp was already enjoying his pint, looking out at the rainy-day weather.
‘Camp, did you ever hear about Somaliland, the small African country the size of Greece that’s an independent and peaceful nation?
Every bar, restaurant and pub is adding patio space if they can. Indoor spaces are tabu these days but we can still go out and sit under tents, with propane heaters and properly distanced, despite being vaccinated.
‘So now that over one and a half million, or close to the 30 percent of BC residents are jabbed, at least once, and another few hundred thousand are recovered, probably with some kind of immunity, then why are we locking down even harder?’ I asked, my frustration shining clearly through.
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?’
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 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.