Returning

Shovelling snow then coming inside for a bit to thaw out

Shovelling snow then coming inside for a bit to thaw out

An interesting word, ‘returning’. When you break it down – ‘re’, and ‘turning’,  it feels like it’s more of another turn on a spiral, rather than coming back to the same spot on a circle.

Which is, of course, my preferred way of looking at Life, the Universe, and Everything, (to quote the famous, some might say, infamous, Douggie Adams) on this mortal coil.

And so, I have re-turned into 2023, hoping most fervently that it be less … perhaps ‘epic’, might be an appropriate descriptor … hoping it be less epic that the preceding year. (one can only sustain such epic-ness for only so long before the cardboard underpinnings of the entire mess collapse beneath one. Up to, and including, spending 3 days in December, at -37C temperatures without indoor running water – not an experience to be envied, I tell you)

This was before the ice turned into a solid sheet

This was before the ice turned into a solid sheet

 

A bit of a close-up - I never really understood what these looked like when I read about such things in books as a kid. Now I do

A bit of a close-up – I never really understood what these looked like when I read about such things in books as a kid. Now I do

There were days I wondered if I was going to make it. Not that I ever considered offing myself, but the question of whether I would make it, back here, back to writing, back to blogging, back to being a writer who was writing, reared its unsavoury head more than once. The tricky part about it was that I didn’t have, couldn’t find, an answer.

For most of the second half of last year, since we stopped being wanderers and, oddly enough, finally settled into our lovely house here, I was depressed. (situationally, rather than clinically) Which, wouldn’t’ve been a stretch to figure out given the barely submerged sub-text of my semi-infrequent blog posts during that time.

I’m slowly crawling out of that rather bleak place, thanks in part to the passage of time, the indomitable Mrs Widds, my own ability to self-critique, lots and lots of rest, a twisty sense of humour, and views from every window that are truly uplifting. (not necessarily in that order, but probably in that order)

Trying to capture the uncapturable deep blue colour of a full moon rising over a blanket of snow, with Venus, I think, a tiny sparkle of light, up there near the top of the frame

Trying to capture the uncapturable deep blue colour of a full moon rising over a blanket of snow, with Venus, I think, a tiny sparkle of light, up there near the top of the frame

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Tired

I’m tired.

‘Weary’, is a word I’m using far too often these days. It has crept way down deep in my bones.

Like Bilbo I feel as though I’ve been spread too thin for far too long.

This year’s been a bit taxing, folks.

Nothing that lots, and lots and lots, of rest won’t heal, I’m sure.

-oOo-

May you score lots of loot in ten days time. (if you’re into that celebration)

May the Birth of the New Year in five days time, bring you the double blessing of the release of the old and the renewal of all the good things that warm your heart. (if you’re into that celebration too)

On that note, I bid you adieu for the remainder of this year, and leave you with a piece of music, the second half of which never fails to send me into a most peaceful sleep, wherein perchance I dream …

The Wee Tadpoles Of Life

A quick snow update:

I went outside to clear a few paths of snow that the 40kph wind gusts last night, had filled in. It was -26 … in the sun. A tad brisk, I thought.

On with today’s thinks that I thunked last night …

-oOo-

It’s not something we thought about when we were wee tadpoles, that the musical icons, the artists, the people who impacted our lives, whose songs moved us and got us through all those hard times, who tend to be a generation older than us, we didn’t think that one day they’ll go and die on us.

As we get older, occasionally accidents, (self-inflicted or otherwise) took some of them away from us, and we mourned, and were perhaps forced to confront our own mortality, our own foibles and addictions, but there was still an aura of indestructability in the air, for us to breathe and take comfort in as we merrily trundled along our chosen Paths.

We weren’t encouraged to think of them dying. (we’re certainly not encouraged to think of ourselves dying, perish the thought!) They were supposed to be immortal, or at least immortalised by their art continuing to be in our collective consciousness after they were gone.

But they weren’t immortal. They faded with time, as the years pile up behind us, as did our memories of why they impacted our lives. And when we heard of their passing, we may have paused a while, smiled a bit whimsically, and said to each other, “Oh, I remember that song,” and along we trundled again.

But now, here, around-about the middle of my sixth decade, it hits harder, some days when I’m feeling melancholy, when one of those figures dies.

Christine McVie … 12th July 1943 – 30th November 2022 … Bon Voyage, and thank you for all the beautiful music.

There’s Snow Business Like Snow Business

Everybody sing it with me now, and do your best impersonation of a drag-queen, or king, doing an impersonation of Ethel Merman singing, ‘There’s no business like show business’ …

… what’s that you say, you don’t know who Ethel Merman is?

Well, this is Ethel …

 

I don’t think there’s an entertainer in the world today who could belt out a showtune quite like she could.

-oOo-

I’ve temporarily retired the ‘The Wunder-Lusters’ category, (over there on the right of my blog) because we’re not doing anything remotely wunder-lustery at the moment … which isn’t to say we aren’t having adventures. No, certainly not … and, I’ve started a new category, here and, on The Wunder-Lusters Youtube channel, called ‘The Prince Georgian Chronicles’, which will, as the name implies, chronicle our adventures here in Prince George.

First and foremost, as you’ve probably gathered from the title of this post, I’m going to talk about snow. What a surprise, eh?

And after that, well, who knows where this new adventure will take us …

In response to a request for more ‘snow-on-trees’. Here’s a photo, and an epic wee video …

I’m pretty sure there’s a snow-dragon somewhere in this picture

I’m pretty sure there’s a snow-dragon somewhere in this picture

The last time we saw this beauty she was still in her Autumn robes. Looks like she’s wrapping up her Season with a bang …

SNOW … But I’m Getting Ahead Of Myself … Part 2

Outside temperature -14C. (7F)

Soon I’d bundle up in as many layers as I could wear and still be able to move, and head outside to clear pathways through the 40cm (15”) of snow that fell last week.

Mittens from 2010 when Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics. Never really had an opportunity to wear them ... until now, when they are a necessity

Mittens from 2010 when Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics. Never really had an opportunity to wear them … until now, when they are a necessity

I suspect I may have found the Winter I’ve been searching for all my life. It certainly is a tad different than the fantasma I created in my imaginasium when I lived in Australia, or even back on Widder Island.

Normally I’m outside shouting, “SNOW!!!”, as loud as possible but when this lot started to fall, I timidly peeked through the curtains and whispered, ‘snow’ – just in case someone heard me and decided I needed an extra three meters of the stuff. One can never be too careful with the Weather Deities these days.

This is what I call, COLD

This is what I call, COLD

In all fairness, those temperatures were, according to, Environment Canada, a bit of an anomaly brought about partly by La Nina’s third winter in office. The ones at the end of the 7 day forecast are the averages for this time of the year. That being said, nothing about any weather forecasting is ‘average’ in these interesting times.

However, I’m getting ahead of myself again. The tale continues …

-oOo-

Part 1 HERE … In which we have arrived at our new ‘sticks-and-bricks’, home after living in our RV for months …

Every major joint in my body seemed to be letting it be known that they never EVER wanted to set foot on an uneven, or unstable, surface, again.

It took several weeks for me to stop expecting the floor to sway with every movement. I suspect it’s the same for anyone who spends any length of time on board a boat, of any size. Even now I occasionally catch myself bracing for something that never comes. A bit rough on the joints, that too.

-oOo-

But, I had come to terms with the fact that our Great Adventure, might well and truly end in Prince George. (which, all things considered, isn’t a bad place to end up)

For all the years we’d been planning and preparing for, (and the actual doing of) this, relinquishing the wider possibilities was turning out to be more of a challenge than I anticipated. It was all tied in with my self-image of a foot-loose and fancy-free vagabond, out to see what the world had to offer, rather than the reality imposed by my physical limitations which, scarily, appeared to be on the increase.

…… but that was the emotional, physical, and spiritual place I ended up at, and I’m getting ahead of myself again …

-oOo-

So, this happened …

Driving through the Fraser Canyon

Driving through the Fraser Canyon

The quickest route from Prince George to Agassiz, where our storage unit was, is through the Fraser Canyon. It’s usually a spectacular drive along a pretty decent 2-lane highway winding up and down and around and through the canyons carved out of the mountains by the Fraser River, and ending up on the Fraser Plateau.

Still driving through the canyon

Still driving through the canyon

It was still a spectacular drive, but it was also very smoky from wildfires burning in Washington state (in the U.S.) and others much closer here in British Columbia.

Repairs, necessitated by the damage from last November’s disastrous floods to the highway, were still going on, and we had several occasions to sit and enjoy the scenery as we waited for the road ahead to clear…. a road that narrowed down to a single lane emergency bridge thrown across a washout, bookended by torn asphalt and concrete barriers.

(this video is a bit long, but if you can watch on as big a screen as possible, I think you’ll get a feel for the road as we traveled through the canyon and out onto the plateau on our way home)

 

The saddest thing I think, were the closed shopfronts in the tiny villages we drove through. Covid-19 had devastated these communities long before the flood damage closed the highway.

We took it, relatively, easy, driving the 700 kilometers over two days … Met up with Sir L, and proceeded to empty out our rather well stuffed storage unit, ably assisted by son-in-law and twin grandsons.

The next day was a little different. We’d decided, in the interests of getting the damn job over and done with, to do the return trip in one day. With a 4am start and switching drivers regularly, we managed to get back home with a decent bit of daylight to spare. Which isn’t to say we weren’t absolutely knackered the next day – we were, but the deed was done. (luckily I was passerger-ing when we drove through the canyon and was able to point the camera on my phone at the windscreen and hope for the best)

However, where was our stuff, I hear you ask. It remained in the back of Sir L’s very large truck until he drove up a week later.

Not having grandsons up here was a tad inconvenient so we hired a bloke to help with the heavy lifting, and to our surprise son-in-law turned up with Sir L, so the unloading went just as efficiently as effectively as the loading had.

We had our stuff … boxes and boxes, of stuff … everywhere.

Just as well we had lots of rooms to put it all in.

Mrs Widds downstairs study – one day

Mrs Widds downstairs study – one day

One side of our craft room. There’s a worktable somewhere underneath all that

One side of our craft room. There’s a worktable somewhere underneath all that

But then, sometimes rainbows happen just when you need them the most …

A bit of rainbow in our back yard

A bit of rainbow in our back yard

SNOW!!! … But I’m Getting Ahead Of Myself … Part 1

The Winter Tree 2022 edition

The Winter Tree 2022 edition

I didn’t deliberately set out to take such a long break from blogging, but as events unfolded, it seemed, hmm, well, necessary … so I did.

-oOo-

First this happened …

 

(this video’s being a pain to embed into this post. If you could let me know if it’s working, that’d be great, otherwise you can watch it on YouTube itself)

It was only a short pootle from the BeeLazee campground, through town, along the highway, and on to a quiet street, where …

… oops, getting ahead of myself a bit.

We knew we needed to move on before the campground closed at the end of September or we’d be, almost quite literally, orphans in the snow.

Rentals in town were ridiculously astronomical, and apparently nothing was to be had elsewhere. But, just as Mrs Widds went on Craigslist and found our cottage on Widder Island, so too did she find us a house, on a quiet street, with an acre of lawn, (which I’m going to turn into a huge garden next year), and surrounded by mature trees.

This is the view from our front door, and the back – Tree heaven!

 

The trees, the trees, they stole my heart.

-oOo-

Even though we hauled in whatever we needed from the trailer, the house was so large (three times bigger – at least – than our little cottage on Widder Lake) we felt like two little lost socks in the Washing Machine of Life. Very disconcerting it was, after living so small for so long, (ten years in the cottage) and then smaller still in the RV.

Being on unstable ground for so long, (people with bad knees should not live in a small RV for any length of time – I’d far surpassed by ‘use-by’ date) I could hardly walk by the time we signed the lease and officially moved in, if you could call my hobbling along a ‘walk’. There are steps up to the front porch and off of the balcony at the back. There’s also another set right in the middle of the living room, (don’t ask me why they had to be in that particular spot – it’s a mystery) that lead to the downstairs craft/workshop, the storage room, and Mrs Widds study.

Hobbling up and down all those stairs was hard, painful, time consuming, and exhausting … however, we had our Winter home.

We set up camp in the living room and began to figure out, 1 – how we could afford twice the rent we were used to paying, (which is slowly sorting itself out) and 2 – how we were going to bring up all the rest of our worldly possessions from our storage unit 700 kilometers to the south.

U-Haul, it turned out, was U-seless … their business model only works if there are as many people needing trucks going one way as there are going the other. Unfortunately, all the U-haul trucks of the size we required were in Alberta, (the next province east of us) and weren’t likely to come back any time soon.

After literally weeks of not knowing if we would be able to even do the move this year, let alone before winter set in, a friend of the family, I shall call ‘Sir L’, stepped up to the plate with his 7-ton moving truck.

The catch was, (of course there was a catch, there’s always a catch!) we needed to be at the storage unit to help with the loading … 700 kilometers away.

Bon Voyage, her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

I have no words or pictures, just soft tears.

The Wunder-Lusters Origin Story – Epilogue

Read part 1 HERE, part 2 HERE, part 3 HERE.

In the immortal words of Sophia Petrillo, ‘picture this’ … Kamloops, the summer of 2022, the middle of summer 2022. We’re sleeping with blankets and hot water bottles. It was bloody freezing!

A bit of authorial musing ..,

… what started out as a simple recounting of the path of our Wunder-Lusters Adventure has ended up including so much of what has gone on throughout the entire world over the last handful of years. Political, climactic, environmental, metrological, virological, social, etc.

But these are the times we live in, the times we have to live through, probably for the rest of our lives. The butterfly effect of our appetites has turned into a cyclone, sweeping all up in its path, will-we-or-nil-we, and to not acknowledge that, even within the confines of the story I’m telling, feels inauthentic, perhaps even dishonest.

Our world is a beautiful place, full of terrible wonders and beautiful dangers…

And so, to continue my weather report of the past handful of years.

It wasn’t until the very afternoon before we were due to leave Kamloops we found our next camping spot. Turns out campgrounds throughout the length and breadth of British Columbia fill up very quickly when a long weekend is nigh. Who knew? (I think Mrs Widds and I were too knackered at that point to pay attention to such minutiae)

The very last campground on our list of ones within a reasonable (4 hours max) drive had a spot available.

We hitched up ol’ Bessie and off we pootled.

For the next two weeks we called iRVins RV Park and Campground in Valemount, our home.

Two cold, glorious weeks.

Glorious, because I could see snow-capped mountains everywhere I looked, and cold, how cold? One morning we discovered that our ‘city water’ hose had frozen overnight.

We figured two weeks, (where at the very least it wasn’t raining all the time) was long enough for us to rest and gain an appreciation for what we’d actually accomplished, rather than just be so fucking exhausted that we could barely put one foot in front of the other at the end of the day. After we’d done that, we estimated a few days at the most, (hah!) we’d take a look around Valemount and see what we might see.

It wasn’t until about day 3 that I noticed how long I was sleeping each night and realised how far into total exhaustion I’d pushed myself. I was ready for bed by 7pm, sometimes earlier, and I wouldn’t wake until well after 9am. I averaged thirteen hours sleep for almost the entire time we were at iRVins (that’s how they spell it) Even when I was up and moving around, I had so little energy that walking across the campground each day to have a shower took all the strength I could muster. (if you’ve ever tried to have a decent shower in a very tiny ‘shower’ in a very small RV then you know why I made that trek)

Throughout our last days there, we reevaluated our priorities.

Our dreams of those early years, to travel the country, perhaps the whole of North America, and beyond, had crumbled beneath the harsh realities of the Covid pandemic, an on-rushing climate crisis, and a culture, a society, of increasing scarcity, that inexorably polarised (to the point of violence in some instances) on just about any issue, real or imagined, and more and more, we felt held no place for a couple of old woman nomads. (although, the nomad community is far more accepting of ‘oddballs’, like us than than the ‘traditional’, one) We had to find our own place, make our own place.

So, what to do, what to do?

We certainly weren’t going back. We’d come too far and struggled too hard to leave, to even contemplate that option.

We couldn’t stay where we were. (for longer than our allotted two weeks) Valemount in the summer of 2022, was defined by snowcapped mountains, (which I absolutely adored) and a complete and utter lack of housing options or long-term camping due to a natural gas pipeline construction running the entire length of the Southern Yellowhead Highway and soaking up every site it could for its workers.

There was only one thing for it then. North, Miss Teschmacher. (gold star if you get the reference. I’m looking at you, Admiral Hutson)

Prince George was our first stop, a mere three hour pootle up the road, (Hwy 16) where we restocked our supplies. They had a Costco – our favourite store!  … and a Nissan dealership, which we desperately needed because of ongoing brake issues with our trusty steed. (the truck) That fix took longer than we anticipated, and along with other time-devouring delays that sucked up the very last of our contingency funds, we decided to stay in place for a wee bit longer than we’d initially planned.

Enter the BeeLazee RV Park and Campground, run by an octogenarian couple who’d owned the place for the last fifty years. Once upon a time it would’ve been a showcase, but time and wear-and-tear catch up with the best of us eventually, and the old gal was showing her age. There’s a charm in run-down rustic, and in contrast to the almost sterile campground in Valemount (not counting my beloved snow-capped mountains, of course) it was a welcome change to the senses.

Mrs Widds fell in love with it immediately. Me, not so much, I was still grieving my snow-capped mountains … and it finally had warmed up enough for the mosquitoes to come out of hiding and do what they do best – try every way possible to drain me of blood, to which they were more than moderately successful.

The strain of living in the RV, getting in and out of it, and generally moving around it, had taken a grievous toll on my knees as well. That coupled with the strain I placed on them during the move meant that I could manage a hobble, leaning heavily on my cane, on a good day. I came to appreciate the tiny shower in our RV. At least there was always a wall close at hand for me to lean on.

-oOo-

Summer, such as it was, (cold-and-rainy with a few sunny-and-warm days here and there) was slipping through our fingers like fine-grained sand.

The thought of not having a home base to over-winter in, in a region where the snow depth can often be measured in meters, and winter temps well below freezing was not something either of us found at all attractive. Even if we did find a campground that stayed open all winter, our little RV would turn into an RV-cicle at the first hint of snow.

We would have to find a place with four walls instead of four wheels.

Enter Craigslist.

Mrs Widds found our home on Widder Island via a Craigslist ad so we were cautiously hopeful that the odds were in our favour this time too. (they were – but that’s another story) Which was just as well because La Nina, that pesky Pacific weather phenomenon, (she who had kept summer at bay until well into July) was forecast to smack us with a Winter colder and longer than usual, once she’d finished chilling the ass-pidistra out of Spring and Summer.

-oOo-

And so, our great Wunder-Lusters Adventure has come to a close for the season.

We have no idea what the future holds, but here’s what I do know …

I estimate that I’ve probably taken five to ten years off the lifespan of my knees. Time to find an orthopedic surgeon.

Mrs Widds and I are far stronger and more resilient than we ever thought we could be. (we had inklings but now it’s confirmed)

Always carry duct-tape and a roll of wire, and a water bottle, at all times.

People are far more willing to be of help when one is ‘travelling’. It’s the nature of our species I suppose when we encounter those outside our ‘tribe’, to offer assistance, and help them on their way.

For all the stress and tears, laughter and awe, for every kilometer we travelled, and didn’t travel, for all that the world is irrevocably different now than when it was when we first conceived this madcap idea, I wouldn’t’ve missed a moment of it.

-oOo-

The Wunder-Lusters Origin Story – Part 3

Read Part 1 HERE, and Part 2 HERE

The summer of 2021 was also when our little Widder-cottage started to experience electricity ‘brown-outs’.

Here’s the thing with old houses, when things start to go all agley-googly, they really go agley-googly. In this case the electrical wiring, still the original stuff from when the house was built in the 1970’s, was in serious need of updating.

Over time we’d gotten used to using only one appliance that produced heat, the microwave and the kettle for instance, otherwise the circuit-breaker for that particular area would be tripped. That was OK, but when the ‘brownouts’, started, (also during the infernal summer of 2021) it was a horse of an entirely different kettle of kittens.

When we ran any major appliances at the same time, like the clothes dryer and the oven for example, (in different rooms and on different circuit breakers I might add) half the house would be without power until an electrician could be called to replace a major, and very expensive, fuse, (not expensive for us, thankfully, but certainly for our landlady) which sometimes took a couple of days. (different from your average fuse that we were able to replace ourselves)

In spite of our best efforts we blew that bloody fuse three times.

Even our little cottage, that had sheltered and nurtured us through all sorts of trials and tribulations and celebrations and laughter, was telling us it was time to leave.

That hellish summer of 2021 ended, as summers tend to do in these uncertain times now, with a sudden shift in temperature. The long lingering evenings of yore (the stuff of fairy-tales – be they film, book, or spoken around a campfire) are almost gone from the land. All is abrupt and extreme, and suddenly it was Autumn.

Covid numbers soared and provincial health region borders were again sealed.

Also, it started to rain.

Well, I lived in a temperate rainforest, what did I expect?

Ah, but we were also living in ‘interesting times’, and the rain didn’t really stop. In fact it just got heavier and heavier … then heaviest,  as a new weather phenomenon entered the collective consciousness, ‘atmospheric rivers’.

As our little blue marble of a planet warmed up, the atmosphere (now all toasty and warm) was, and is, able to hold more moisture. Unfortunately, what goes up must eventually come down, and with the help of another atmospheric event called a ‘pineapple express’, (so called because it usually originates near Hawai’i) down it came.

Drainage ditches filled up in the blink of a eye. Creeks and rivers overflowed their banks. Water, with nowhere else to go, pooled in low-lying farmland. Still the atmospheric rivers kept coming, and more and more land, and people’s homes, kept flooding.

The annual ‘melting of the snows’ regularly produced such freshets throughout the Fraser Valley, (where our little island was, and still is, of course) so most folks in the usual at-risk areas were well prepared for such events when they occurred in the appropriate season (late spring through summer) but in Autumn? No-one was prepared.

This was the extreme weather event that did indeed show up on our very doorstep. We were on a flood evacuation alert for over a week. Waiting, like so many people in and around our little island, and indeed throughout the Lower Mainland, for that knock on the door, and be told to leave immediately.

We’d winterised and covered our RV, just a week before, those ‘rivers’ started drenching everything, so with practiced ease, we dewinterised (which consisted mainly of draining the ‘anti-freeze’, out of the water systems) took the cover off, prepped our escape supplies just in case, and waited, and waited.

Like some sort of slow-motion train-wreck, the floodwaters rose higher and higher. Low-lying parts of the island disappeared underneath the silently creeping brown floodwater. (once you’ve seen that particular colour of water you never forget what it means) People were evacuated with barely enough time to gather their long-prepared belongings and head for higher ground. Neighbours helped neighbours. Shivering dogs were rescued in the middle of the night by volunteers who waded from house to house to make sure everyone got out.

Our little cottage was on a slightly higher part of the island, but the uncertainty of not knowing if or when we would receive that dire knock on our front door was nerve-wracking.

The knock never came. We dodged a very close bullet there. Others were not so lucky.

The torrential rain did however, wash out parts of every access road, highway, logging road, railroad track, bridge and tunnel into and out of the Lower Mainland. No road or rail freight, or traffic of any kind was able to leave or enter.

With the entire region basically marooned, gasoline rationing was introduced.

-oOo-

For reasons I won’t go into here, the one thing guaranteed to give me the ‘willies’ is feeling trapped …

Surrounded by floodwaters – check.

Floodwater only centimeters under the only bridge off the island – check.

Gasoline rationing, so even if we left, how far could we get? – check.

Not able to leave the Lower Mainland anyway, because of Covid, and destroyed infrastructure – check.

Yep, I had the willies.

(I’m amazed I actually got through these years with my sanity, relatively, intact. Although, sanity, especially mine, is a very subjective concept, I’ll admit)

I actively restrained myself from wondering, ‘what was next’? (out loud at least, because winter was coming)

-oOo-

Winter of 2021/2022 in our little corner of the world became the season of arctic outflows. During one such event the external fuse (the one that required an electrician to replace) blew yet again. Three days without power in half the house and daytime temperatures never getting above zero. We had extension cables everywhere, but remained very careful that we didn’t overload the rest of the house. That would’ve really, really pissed us off.

We’d had enough. Come hell or high water, as soon as the high passes were clear of snow, as soon as the roads through those high passes were repaired, (the damage to them being as a result of the atmospheric flooding mentioned earlier) we, were, leaving.

Unfortunately all the stern resolutions in the world didn’t alter the fact that we still faced the same dilemmas … Where to go. How to get there. How to cram everything we weren’t taking with us in the RV (almost the entire contents of the house, 2 storage sheds, and a well-stuffed patio) into a 20x10x8 storage locker.

Those storage locker dimensions are in feet, I have no idea why Canada has a dual measurement system, when ‘officially’ we’re using metric, but there it is. I suspect it’s because our neighbour to the south still uses the ‘imperial’ system and politicians lack the will, and captains of industry, on both sides of the border, remain unwilling, to adapt. One of my biggest challenges when I first arrived here from Australia in 2004, was to retrain my perception of distances, measured in centimeters/meters/kilometers to include inches/feet/miles at the same time. My brain freezes up only ever fifth or sixth time I have to convert something, which I think is a pretty good average.

Time, dancing to its own tune, and be damned to the effect us humans were having on the environment, passed. Snow melted, the days grew perceptibly longer, and the outside thermometer I’d sacrificed to record just how cold it did get throughout winter, breathed a sigh of relief as its mercury started to slide up its glass tube. Strangely enough though, it didn’t move quite as high or as often as I expected.

The reported numbers of people infected with Covid slowed (I doubt none of us will ever know the fullest extent of the pandemic) and our regional borders started to open again. Emergency repairs to the Coquihalla Highway, the main route up off the Lower Mainland, the one we would have to take, and damaged in the flooding, were completed in record time.

Spring sprung into action, and it rained.

I felt as though, except for a brief snowy interlude, it had been raining since September the previous year, but a little rain wasn’t going to stop us now. Our resolve to leave was unstoppable.

We packed in the rain. We took trailer-loads of boxes and bags, (the things that couldn’t be boxed or bagged, we taped together with duct tape) to the storage locker in the rain.

We re-dewinterised the RV, in the rain.

Mrs Widds lost her footing on a soaking wet board and fell, injuring her back two days before we were scheduled to leave, in the rain.

Our wonderful landlady allowed us an extra week to take care of the myriad last minute things that needed taking care of, which we did, in the rain.

On Friday, the 6th of May, we finally hitched up the RV to our truck and hauled it out of the driveway for the last time. Note I said the RV left for the last time.

We parked it at Cheam Fishing Village and Campground, where we’d camped previously, (in the rain then too, I might add) and merely slept there while we returned to the cottage several times to finalise the cleaning/tidying up, and videoing the final results to send to our landlady … in the rain.

-oOo-

For the following ten days most of the entries in my day-planner simply read, ‘too bloody exhausted to do anything … and it’s still raining’.

On the 16th of May we left the Lower Mainland behind us, and headed up into the coast mountains with only the RV campground in Kamloops, where we’d stay that night, as a fixed destination. We had no idea where we’d go after that.

We broke through the rainclouds at the top of the Coquihalla Summit. Blindingly bright sunlight bounced off the snowdrifts, piled high by the snowploughs, bathing us in all its glory all the way to Kamloops. We stayed for two days, visiting with Mrs Widds sister, the Melodious One, and replenishing supplies … and it didn’t rain. However we did experience a few icy snow flurries.

People we met there, (and by my own observations) said it was the coldest, longest winter they’d ever experienced.

La Nina, responsible for the seemingly never-ending rain, had decided she was also going to delay spring, for months.

The Wunder-Lusters Origin Story – Part 2

Read Part 1 HERE.

… Wherein we find ourselves at the very beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic …

Apart from a few highly qualified virologists I don’t think anyone really knew what was happening, or what to do. Most of those in authority seemed to be running around like chooks with their heads cut off, and/or trying to protect their arses at the same time.

Would this be the ‘armageddon’ event that so many people feared it would be and civilisation would degenerate into warring tribes, (not that we weren’t doing that anyway) bent on claiming the remaining resources for themselves? Truth was, no-one knew how bad it would get.

Across the world people started dying in the hundreds, then the thousands, then finally, horrifically, millions. Talks, (let alone taking any sort of action) between nations, about closing international borders started far too late to stem the tide.

As the days passed it seemed the only voice of reason we could find in a sea of inertia, arse-covering, and ineptitude, was Dr John Campbell. We watched his daily updates with a growing sense of dread.

I was (still am) immune-compromised, and Mrs Widds wasn’t (and still isn’t) a spring chicken, which made both of us prime candidates for this global killer to target.

We pulled our RV out of storage, de-winterised, and provisioned it so that if one of us caught the virus we would be able to isolate from each other. We were unclear how effective that might be, but at least we had a plan.

Even before borders, both international and domestic, finally, and with the speed of a snail on valium, began to close, it was obvious, at least to us, that any sort of long-distance travelling was completely out of the question. In fact we picked up our RV only days before travel in our entire province shut down.

Growing up in the country, albeit in different hemispheres of the globe, we both understood the value of a well-stocked larder in times of crisis. (we tended to have a fairly well-stocked larder at the best of times) And if those early months of the pandemic didn’t constitute a crisis, I don’t know what did.

Face masks were suddenly as rare as hen’s teeth and what stocks were available were slated for first responders, so we sewed our own.

Only ‘essential travel’ was allowed. After the Canadian/USA border closed, and with no-one having a clue about ‘essential services’ needing to include the trucking industry that kept every aspect of modern-day living running smoothly, things started to look dire indeed.

Where previously we’d topped up Mrs Widds baked goods supplies only when we were running low, we now doubled up. Two bags of flour at a time instead of one. Two boxes of baking soda instead of one. Never emptying a shelf though.

(And we certainly didn’t contribute to that ridiculous run on toilet paper in any way. I understood the reasoning behind it, the fears people had, supply-chain disruptions, etc, and most people didn’t buy more than they immediately needed. But seriously, those bastards who bought it by the truckload and profiteered off other people’s fears, and not just toilet paper … there are no words to describe how fucked-up that was)

Fresh fruits and vegetables soon joined the ‘hen’s teeth’ brigade, so we bought canned or frozen varieties.

Thankfully Mrs Widds was working in an essential industry at the time so we still had an income, unlike so many, many, people who lost everything.

I remember very clearly, developing this little twitch, where I would constantly run my thumb across the insides of my fingers. At first it was an involuntary thing, but even when I noticed what I was doing I couldn’t seem to stop. I don’t know if it made me feel any better, but it was an action that I could take, it was something I had control over, which was a far cry from the world around me.

Human beings showed their very best side, doing things for each other, reaching out, (as best as could be done from afar with masks and gloves) and sharing the burdens of ‘lockdowns’.

We all saw the news stories, and perhaps we were some of those doing the reaching out, sharing a friendly word over the back-fence with the neighbour we’d never talked to before. All of us have stories like that, and each one I read about or watched had me weeping with the true humanity of our species.

On the other hand, humans also showed their worst side. The me-first-and-screw-everyone-else brigade hoisted their colours from the nearest flagpole and posted their deeds of complete arse-holery on their social media blogs, YouTube, Instagram, etc.

I was already aware of the growing divide between these two aspects of our humanity. The pandemic not only pulled back the drapes of civility behind which we hid our ravenous hungers but somehow was seen to be giving permission for some of us to exhibit our foulest natures.

Was this how we, homo sapiens – the current peak of evolution – had always behaved? Had society, civilisation, only coated us with a veneer of domesticity, so that all it took was a simple act of will, a choice, to crack it wide open and expose the festering wounds beneath?

I had no answers. (only opinions) None that would change anything. I stopped watching the news, barely glancing at the headlines before retreating to more sane pursuits …reading, sitting in our garden, drifting with the clouds …

… waiting, for … something …

Vaccine trials intensified and by the end of 2020 their results, in the form of mass-produced vaccines, began to trickle out into the most vulnerable communities. The conspiracy theorists put on their tin-foil hats and took to whatever social media platform that would give them their fifteen seconds of fame, (and there were so many platforms willing to do just that) to spew their idiocy to any audience they could find.

Sadly they always found an audience.

A simple internet search of those times will lay bare the hysteria exhibited by people from all walks of life, in all professions, from the very highest authorities, in quite a few lands, to the lowliest of the low.

The only thing that hadn’t irrevocably changed for any of us was the passage of Time, and eventually 2021 rolled around.

2021 – would we be able to get away this year?

Viruses, like all living organisms, including us, want to survive, to live, to thrive, and we do it with either our intellect or our biology.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus, (aka Covid-19 – finally called thusly, to avoid offending anyone’s delicate sensibilities or stupid people wanting to be racist arseholes) was no different. Not having an intellect as we humans define such things, it used biology and mutated, again and again, until in May of 2021, the Delta variant reared its brutal head above the crowd.

Too few people had been vaccinated. Too many were resisting the simple ‘masks-and-social-distancing’ concepts that were either mandated or ‘highly recommended’, (depending on where one lived) to make much of a difference.

No, we wouldn’t be travelling anywhere in 2021.

With the beauty of 20/20 hindsight, had we braved the wildfires of the years before the pandemic and headed out anyway, our story would’ve been so much different. There were times in those early months of 2021 when, again as in 2020, no-one knew what was going to happen, we fervently wished we had. (hell, if the pandemic hadn’t happened in the first place, things would’ve been so much different)

In the midst of all this, quite frankly, terrifying new paradigm, and after feeling emotionally paralised for a year, I began to write.

I’d had a vague idea for a story rattling around in my brain, and computer, for a while but not enough to hang a whole novel on. I was in no particular writerly frame of mind either. I simply sat and read through my sparse notes one day, pictured the scene in my mind, and began to describe it.

Words flowed through me like the boundaries of my body were made of nothing more than the vaguest of tissue, porous enough to let the story, from where, I knew not, flow unheeded. A thousand words a day, (on my writing days – I still had the non-writing aspects of my life to attend to) became two thousand, and after a few weeks, evened out at three thousand words each day. They were good words too. About dragons, and living forever, and how a world wracked by, and recovering from, WWI and the Spanish Flu pandemic, might respond to such wondrous things.

I wrote, edited, and published, The Last Dragon In London, in six-ish months. It was a glorious experience in the Time of The Plague. (as I called it on days when the never-ending, always-increasing, death-toll got me down)

By mid-Summer, the continuing threat to our water quality on Widder Island resulted in weekly water interruptions, as them’s wot knew wot needed to be done, purged the system of increasingly nasty bacteria. (we finally bit the bullet and bought our Berkey water filter, which paid for itself in a matter of weeks – In fact as I write this – August 2022 – it’s saving us a fortune in bottled water as the water here in our ‘home’, is too ‘hard’ to drink safely from the tap)

Mainstream politics, as reported by mainstream media, continued to fracture and polarise like nothing I’d ever seen before. Perhaps those who are a generation or two older than me could name what was happening, as could any student of history.

I discovered a brilliant series on YouTube called ‘Fall Of Civilisations’, which, apart from being highly informative and entertaining, reinforced my feeling that we humans have been stuck on this ‘rise and fall’, of civilisations since ‘civilisation’ began. And all we do is keep repeating the same cycle, over and over and over.

Yes, technology improves, and the overall quality of life takes an uptick each time around, but really, imagine all the resources, human and otherwise, that are completely and utterly wasted every, single, time. (perhaps this is why I’m fascinated by ‘alternate history’ SF – the ‘what if’, stories that start with a pivotal incident whose outcome is changed in this reality, and an alternate reality heads off in … who knows what sorts of directions)

Then it got hot, and hotter and hotter, then hottest. (so far) They called it a ‘heat dome’, and it killed over 600 people in our province alone.

The town of Lytton, only  a hundred and eighty kilometers away from us, burned to the ground.