Sad New World

We live in the best part of the world I thought to myself as I walked along the pebbly beach towards our village by the sea and my weekly chin wag with my pal Campbell, simply Camp to all of us. I was early, worried that we wouldn’t get our usual table because of all the summer traffic. I needn’t have worried because Rosie, like Vicky, knew our habits and was holding the spot. I sat down, ordered and there was Camp walking in, his shoulders a bit slumped and his head slightly inclined, not his usual forward and upright stance. I immediately knew what ailed him. England lost against Croatia and even if he didn’t admit it, he had secretly been hoping for England, The Three Lions, to bring home the golden cup.

“Sorry about the loss,” I said as soon as he sat down.

He gave me a surprised look and then the quarter dropped. “Ah, yes, but you can’t win if you can’t kick the ball at the goal,” he said, shaking his head in sorrow.

Just then Rosie arrived with our pints. “Why so glum,” she asked. “Did you know that we now have Happy Hour in the summer. Two for one. And you two lucky guys just made it in time.”

“Fantastic,” Camp said, regaining some of his old composure.

I tried to change the subject towards something positive. “It’s amazing that all 12 teenagers and their coach have been brought to safety by a spectacular rescue operation in Thailand. I can’t believe that it took over 5 hours to bring each of the kids through 2.5 km of murky cold water and tight dark passages. This is surely a good news story,” I said.

“Yes, it’s fantastic and heroic,” Camp said but then added: “What on earth were 12 ill equipped teenagers and a young coach doing so far into an underground cave? Trying to find the arc of the covenant? A rite of passage? Anyway, you’re right, we’re all very happy they’re safe. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this was a welcome distraction from the usual smorgasbord of miserable news.”

Boy, was he in a foul mood. “Like what?” I said, “Merkel’s fight against the rise of the neo fascists or Trumps pick of supreme court judge or his latest verbal gymnastics at the NATO summit and in England or his ludicrous trade tirades or more importantly: how about those devasting floods in Japan or the sauna like temperatures in Montreal.”

“Yes, yes, all of the above but I just read the latest stats on refugees by the UNHCR.”

“That sounds uplifting,” I said with a whiff of sarcasm knowing that I was in for one of Camp’s lectures. Those usually made him feel better in inverse proportion to his audience.

“Just to clarify the refugee part: According to the report, one out of every hundred humans is on the run from war, famine or persecution, in other words a fugitive and potential refugee and asylum seeker in a safer part of the world. All together about 66 million people but the impression that the rich countries are the most impacted is simply wrong. About 85% have fled to countries close to home like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey but 3 out of 5 fugitives have remained in their own country but fled conflict zones.” Camp was on his soapbox, finger wagging and nose in the air.

“It’s a sad world when we start talking about closing boarders and building fences, going back to a medieval model of fortresses mentality,” I said. “Considering that all of North America’s ancestry came from Europe and other parts of the world in search of a better life. How quickly we forget and how convenient to blame the victims.”

“It’s about sharing responsibility,” Camp carried on, “and about finding common solutions. We should be concentrating on solving the causes of wars instead of managing the dire consequences but there goes Trump calling for doubling military spending as if there weren’t enough weapons in this world already.”

I couldn’t argue with that. “Closer to home we are not doing a great job either,” I said, staring into my empty beer. Vicky would have sensed that moment, but Rosie needed to be signalled with the customary V sign for a refill. “I was in town the other day on Commercial, known to be a trendy, fun neighbourhood full of cafes and funky stores but not so much anymore. The old hood seemed a bit downtrodden and stressed. And then I took the # 20 bus along East Hastings, that sad corridor of human misery. Everybody should take a ride on that bus once a year to see what I mean. It is depressing and infuriating how many people there are just barely existing. While stopped at a red light I watched three geezers dressed in Salvation Army fashion share a joint on a bench. That was one of the brighter sights.”

Rosie put down a couple of free and happy pints in front of us, which helped considerably to improve the mood.

“When is Vicky back?” Camp asked a bit offhandish.

“She’s due back next week, but you’ll have to put up with me for the summer,” Rosie said, giving me a conspiratorial wink.

“Oh, that’s great, I didn’t mean it to sound like I prefer Vicky. In fact, I love both of you,” Camp warbled and wiggled.

“And the feeling is mutual,” Rosie said, “You remind me of my dad. Mind you he ran away when I was a young teen.”

Camp was going to say something, but then he thought better of it.

“May you always have love in your hearts and beer in your belly,” Rosie said.

“We’ll drink to that,” I laughed.