Hasta siempre, Comandante!

13 04 2017

Scottish Wife and I got back from a 15 day visit to Cuba last week. We had a wonderful time in a fascinating country and have many tales to tell of the dynamics of the Cuban state and its people. There were a couple of constants, though: firstly, there was music everywhere we went, and secondly there were the slogans, some obviously state sponsored but many others daubed on walls or rickety posters. Many were in praise of Fidel Castro, but many others referred to ”el Comandante”, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. I leave you to your own opinion about Che – after all, one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist – but I do love this song:

In every city, town and village we visited we saw the iconic slogan ‘hasta la victoria siempre!’ (‘to victory, always!’), Guevara’s closing words in his farewell letter to Castro and the Cuban people, written just before he left the country for the Congo and Bolivia where he was captured and then killed by U.S. backed forces in October 1967.

My own favourite slogan, however, was one I saw written on a dilapidated cement factory wall just outside of Havana: ‘Aqui no se rinde nadie, cojones!’. I figured out that the first four words meant ‘no-one’s surrendering here’ and our Cuban guide Eric explained they were shouted at President Batista’s men by Juan Almeida when his men were surrounded by government forces during the Castro-led invasion of December 1956. Almeida was one of only 12 out of 78 revolutionaries to survive that particular battle, but went on to become an important part of the ‘Triumph of the Revolution’, when Batista was finally ousted in December 1958 and Castro took power.

“But what does the last word mean?” I asked Eric. “Ah, mi amigo,” came the reply, “That word is too rude for me to tell you!” So I looked it up – and if you want to know the answer, you’ll have to Google it too!

Viva Cuba y la gente cubana!

Dave B.

(P.S. I should mention that SW and I travelled on a tour organised by Tom Robertson of the Comox Valley. I can’t speak highly enough of the tour. Tom can be contacted by email at tom@cuba1tours.com or by phone at 1 877 334 0355. I’m not on a %age for endorsements – as far as I know, anyway!)

Viñales haircut

(Oh, and here’s the customary me-getting-my-haircut-in-another-country picture. The catch? The hairdresser has nipped out of the kitchen – yes, that IS a kitchen – for a minute and our bus driver Angel has grabbed the comb and scissors and is actually cutting my hair!)

Advertisements




Viva Italia!

4 11 2016

Scottish Wife and I have just got back from a visit to Europe. Three weeks ago we flew in to London Gatwick and I immediately headed west to see my family while she headed east to see hers. One week later I joined her at her sister in law’s in Essex to be told that we (SW and I) had two days to plan a trip to ‘somewhere warm’. The following day we’d settled on the Amalfi Coast in southern Italy and 24 hours later we were on an EasyJet flight to Naples.

Here’s the Coles Notes version of our trip:

1. We stayed in a very friendly, family run hotel in Pompeii, about 100 yards from the nearest train station. Unfortunately, the bridge you had to cross to reach it (the Ponte Persica), which had been there since Roman times, was closed for repairs and so every day we had to use the next station, a mile down the line, and brave the traffic without the benefit of any sidewalks. We quickly learnt that Italian drivers are very skilled at missing pedestrians – by a couple of inches.

.

Up Pompeii! And yes, that is Vesuvius you can just make out in the background..

2. The guided tour of Pompeii was my non-culinary highlight of the week. We spent two hours hanging on our guide’s every word and then went off to do some exploration of our own. Brilliant! We also visited the less famous (but better preserved) ruins of Herculaneum and of course made the mandatory hike up Mount Vesuvius.

3. All these places (as well as Naples to the north, Sorrento to the south and all points in between) were easily reachable by train (once you’d got to the station, of course – see 1. above). And the maximum fare was 2 euros 20 (about $3.30). Say what you like about Mussolini and fascism, but he did set up a decent railway system. (Let’s hope they’re not saying the same thing about Donald Trump 80 years from now…)

4. On the down side, train etiquette seemed somewhat lacking. Some people (I’d like to claim they were all American tourists, but that may not be wholly true) would literally shove their way onto the train before passengers had a chance to disembark. However, one of our best train encounters was with two elderly, non English speaking ladies from Naples. We tried French, Spanish and mime without success until a young couple in the seats across from us started to translate for us. We covered family, tourism and Brexit and were well on the way to world peace when the young couple had to get off. By now everyone else in the carriage was looking on and a young lad offered to take up the role of translator. We eagerly resumed, only for the youngster to interrupt us 30 seconds later to say “I not understand. I no very good at English. Maybe 5 out of 10?” “Er, maybe 2,” I said, and the whole carriage cracked up.

I like me full English breakfast, but only Italians start the day in this style!

I like me full English breakfast, but only Italians start the day in this style!

5. Real Italian pizza is every bit as good as you imagine it’s going to be. Ditto for ice cream and espresso coffee. However, I’d never heard of sfogliatelle (pastries filled with sweet ricotta cheese) before last week. Now just typing the word has put my salivary glands into full flow mode.

6. What with me being a bit of a polyglot an’ all, I figured I’d be able to learn basic Italian on the 3 hour flight from Stansted to Naples. That kid on the train who I rated a 2/10? Put me down as a 1.5. Just enough to ask a basic question and then have no idea what the answer means. “Sono inutile!”

7. See Naples and die? We had beautiful weather for 7 days out of the 8. The one day it rained and blew a gale was when we went to Napoli. We traipsed up and down the cobblestones of the admittedly cool (but slightly scary) back streets, me singing the Peter Sarstedt hit “Where do you go to, my lovely?” all the while, getting wet feet while trying to avoid the detritus all around us. Naples: city of dog sh!t and broken umbrellas.

Positano. Wow indeed!

Positano. Wow!

8. Capri and the Amalfi Coast on the other hand were spotless and very, very upmarket. Also, given the narrowness of the winding roads in both places I would say there’s a case to be made for the bus drivers there to be as talented as any in their profession world wide. And Positano? Wow indeed!

9. SW and I slept through the tremors that rocked central Italy. On hearing the news that the earthquake’s epicentre was only 100 km from us, my perfectly innocent question as to whether the earth had moved for her during the night was met with a snort of derision.

10. Co-winners of the Nicest Italians award were our lovely hotel receptionists for their unendingly enthusiastic suggestions for our day trips; the translators on that train trip from Sorrento to Pompeii; the restaurant owner who, when he learned that we knew Pasqualina at the Hotel Costa, cancelled our expensive taxi ride back from the restaurant and told one of the waiters to take us back in his beat up Fiat 500 instead; and finally, the brothers who ran the fruit and veg stall just down the road from the hotel. They’d already endeared themselves to Julie by insisting she try one of their fresh figs for free before buying and then gave her half a kilo for 1 euro 50. When I asked where the nearest wine shop was one of the brothers tapped the side of his nose, disappeared through a curtain and returned with an unlabelled bottle of red: ‘vino di casa vero’, he said. Real house wine, from his own house!

Grazie mille, Italia!

Dave B.

And, just in case you’re struggling to remember that Peter Sarstedt song, here it is:





Diary of a Hacker (Part Two)

1 12 2014

Wednesday:

One of my pet hates in life is reality TV shows, which I absolutely refuse to watch on the grounds that they are often demeaning to the contestants and an insult to viewers’ intelligence. Even so, I know enough about ‘Big Brother’ to see parallels between it and life for the seven of us in our rental house here in sunny Maricopa. Sleeping arrangements have been the first bone of contention. It’s fine for me, having picked the ace in our draw for pick of the bedrooms – I’m the only one who has his own room, with en suite bathroom to boot. Everyone else is having to share, and to judge by the mutual recriminations fired at each other by, say, Glennie and Donny, things are not always going well in the bedroom. I’ve slept with Glennie on several occasions (insert your own unsavoury comment here) and he could certainly snore for Canada. This morning, however, I was somewhat surprised to learn that he attempted to smother Donny Mac with a pillow last night because Donny was keeping him awake. Strong words were had over breakfast this morning.

Davey F-Bomb has been sleeping in a bedroom closet up to now and keeps reminding me that he’s coming out of the closet (so to speak) tomorrow, when he gets the master suite and I shall have to drag my mattress off into some quiet corner. I’d like to think that lack of sleep is the cause of a couple of mental aberrations on my part in the past 48 hours, during which time I have lost my fleece (found later in the trunk of a car I hadn’t travelled in) and lost my shoes (also in a car trunk, although in this case I suspect foul play on the part of one or more of my golfing partners). At least I didn’t clean my teeth with A535 rub, like Kenny V. He says his headache is gone. I wonder if it cures toothache too?

And so to golf. We played The Duke at Rancho el Dorado today and after a one hour frost delay (seriously) the temperatures soared into the high seventies. Most of our scores soared into the nineties, with one notable exception: Mighty Tim shot a superb 80 (net 60!) and surely earned the undisputed title of Sandbagger of the Week. Due to the ‘rolling handicap’ system we’ve adopted his handicap has gone down from 20 to 14. In other words, he’s pretty much screwed for tomorrow. Great round, though, Tim!

Thursday:

And screwed he certainly was. Tim’s 80 yesterday turned into an even 100 at Superstition Springs today, and several others in our group fared even worse. I actually played OK, shooting 83, and was the big money winner, which makes up for losing every single day up until now. Of course my handicap has now been cut while everybody else is creeping up into the 20’s and even 30’s, so tomorrow could be problematic. In addition, my win today attracted some unwelcome attention from Tug Boat Bob, who has now nicknamed me ‘Overseas Dave’ to differentiate me from F-Bomb Dave.

I’m surprised to discover that I actually quite like riding in a golf cart. I’ve always considered them a blight upon the game of golf, used only by unfit lardy bloaters, but because the gap between greens and tees is so large on most courses they are a true necessity. Not only that, but when the weather’s in the 80’s (sorry, Comox Valley dwellers, I know it’s a bit chilly up there right now), the breeze in the golf cart as you zoom up the fairway is a welcome relief from the Arizona heat. I kind of feel like General Patton, driving around and mustering the troops. Well, it is a war zone out there, with balls – and profanities – flying in all directions.

Friday:

I had to move out of the master bedroom yesterday and so last night was my first night in the closet. I actually slept really well, but that might be connected to the amount of alcohol I’d consumed. Anyway, I felt surprisingly chipper this morning.  We played at the Foothills golf course today. F-Bomb Dave had spent half an hour on the phone yesterday persuading some poor lady to give us seven $59 rounds for $39. The lady was from England originally and I think that Dave’s clinching argument was that she should help out a fellow Brit and give us a special deal. Anyway, it worked and maybe now Tug Boat Bob will be more appreciative of  having Overseas as a member of the group. Talking of Bob, he had the runaway low net score today, 69. Unfortunately for him, we were playing a team match (total net scores) and our team prevailed, mainly thanks to Donny’s outrageous handicap of 33 meaning he could shoot over 100 and still break net par.

Saturday:

Today it was off to the lush greens of Cimarron, home course of Gene Genie. Finally everybody matched or beat their net par, partially due to the course being a tad easier but mostly due to the fact that everybody’s handicap had gone up so much that we were pretty well bound to record better net scores. Mighty Tim and F-Bomb recorded net 62’s (boo!), but the wall of shame was reserved for Kenny V, who scored an amazing net 59. In a modest acceptance speech Ken explained his success as follows: “If you f*ck up five days in a row, at some point your handicap is going to be so high that you have to win”. Wise words indeed, as he and Gene tied for first place with Tim and F-Bomb. Net 62’s? Shameful.

We came home to burgers, beers and the hot tub. Good news that tomorrow is our final day – we’re all well and truly knackered.

Sunday:

And it showed. Our last round was back at Foothills and nobody broke 90. Even so, we all had a blast. Somehow Davey F-Bomb had persuaded the course to let us on for $30 which, as it happened, worked out at exactly $3 per shot for me. Bah!

If you look closely, you can see that all seven of us look just a little bit worse for wear. Seven successive days of golf ( not to mention the accompanying excessive eating an drinking, will do that to you.

As Shakespeare expressed it so eloquently  in Henry V, “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”  Glennie put it thus: “We sad bunch of hackers!”

Final round over, it was back home to Maricopa. In the ‘Miracle on Baize’ Davey F-Bomb and I won the final pool tournament of the week and then I exited first in the finale of the poker competition and was relegated to drinks server for the rest of the evening. What a great week though! Davey F-Bomb is the undisputed God of golf trips.

Many thanks to Davey and Donny, Glenny and Kenny, Tug Boat and Tim, who all mercilessly took my money at the pool table, the poker table and even on the golf course. It was an absolute blast  and I thank you all for letting me be part of it.

All da best!

Overseas Dave.





Diary of a Hacker (Part One)

25 11 2014

Sunday:

It’s hard to know exactly where to begin with an account of our golf trip to Phoenix, Arizona. For a start, Glennie was the only Sandbagger involved apart from myself, and it will be interesting to see how things pan out with a new cast of characters. It wasn’t long before my new acquaintances began to make their mark. On Sunday, not ten minutes after picking up our rental cars (seven of us plus baggage and, of course, golf bags) we found ourselves in the nearest Costco. Forty minutes after that we were back in the parking lot having spent $406 on ‘groceries’. These ‘groceries’ largely consisted of staples such as beer, wine, vodka, rye and pizza with a couple of ready made salads thrown in to ensure we were starting off the week with a healthy, balanced diet. Oh, and Davey F-Bomb insisted on buying a massive turkey that he plans to prepare for Thanksgiving. I shan’t explain Davey’s moniker except to say that after a couple of drinks he appears incapable of completing any sentence without a liberal sprinkling of fairly colourful language. Somehow we managed to squeeze all our purchases into the cars along with all our other stuff. The  evening was spent settling into our fancy rental home for the week, allocating rooms (I ‘won’ the master bedroom for the first four nights on the turn of a card) and making quite a dent in our stockpile of alcoholic beverages. Glennie and Donny ‘Mastercard’ McCririck persuaded me to join in their poker game, promising me that ‘I’d soon pick up the basics’. I left the table 45 minutes later, minus all my money, and still with no idea what a Royal Straight or a Running Flush was. I don’t think I’m a natural.

Monday:

Plenty of time for a quick shop at the local Basha’s supermarket in Maricopa. Apparently we’d already depleted some of our vital supplies, but this time we also filled a cart with more sensible items. Imagine, if you will, seven grown men running round the supermarket with only a small scrap of paper between us for guidance. Somehow, twenty minutes later, we all met up at the checkout having filled the cart with a huge and mostly healthy array of items AND having signed up with Basha’s loyalty programme to get 15% discount. “Wow,” I said to Donny Mac. “Scottish Wife is going to be impressed.” Just at that moment, Tim called out “You’ll need this, Dave!” and launched a packet of something or other in my direction. I caught it and handed it over to Donny. “That’s absolutely not going in the cart, Dave.” I looked at the packet: Extra Pleasure Trojan condoms. I put them back on the shelf, next to the cookies. Note to self: watch out for Tim.

The (not so) Magnificent Seven: from left to right, Davey F-Bomb, Tug Boat Bob, Bagger Dave, Glennie P, Mighty Tim, Kenny V, Donny Mac

The (not so) Magnificent Seven: from left to right, Davey F-Bomb, Tug Boat Bob, Bagger Dave, Glennie P, Mighty Tim, Kenny V, Donny Mac

Then it was off to Ak-Chin Southern Dunes golf course for the first stop of our seven day, seven round golfing odyssey. It was a gorgeous desert course which we thoroughly enjoyed. There are 105 bunkers on it, and Glennie made it his personal mission to land in as many of them as possible. At the end of the day, our net scores were all very close but Tim and Davey F-Bomb shared first place with a low net of 74. Hard to accuse anyone of Sandbaggery, and all our handicaps will be going up tomorrow, especially that of Kenny V, who suffered uncomplainingly through the mother of all headaches today. Perhaps a bit more hard liquor will put him right.

Back at the ranch, Tug Boat Bob proved that he’d spent enough time on dry land to hone a pretty good game of pool, dismissing all challengers with ease. At the poker table, miracle of miracles! Despite still having only the haziest notion of what a good hand was, after what seemed like hours of play, I scooped the pot. Time to announce my retirement, methinks.

Last but not least, I have to mention tonight’s meal. We dined on salmon and prawns, caught by Davey F-Bomb, smuggled through customs by Davey F-Bomb and cooked by the man himself. He honestly never stops – truly an energy bunny in human form!

Tuesday:

Today it was off to Ocatillo golf course, half an hour east of Maricopa. We were joined by Gene Genie (if you’re a David Bowie fan you’ll get the reference immediately), who was announced as a 32 handicapper. Later, when Mighty Tim, Donny Mac, Kenny and myself had been soundly thrashed by the Axis of Evil (Glennie, Davey F-Bomb, Tug Boat and Gene), it was conceded that Gene might actually have been a 22. Too late for us – our $5’s had already  been handed over. Slight consolation when, on the return trip, Davey F-Bomb and Glennie found themselves in the wrong lane on the way home and our other two cars refused to let them into our lane, causing the mother of all snarl ups, but the fact remains that they came home with $5 in their pockets and we didn’t.

But what a meal we came home to! Davey F-Bomb had the turkey simmering all day and Tug Boat and I threw a couple of bowls of roasted veggies into the mix. Admittedly Donny had to interrupt a phone call to his wife to say “Excuse me a minute – the oven’s on fire”, but apart from that everything went swimmingly and our early Thanksgiving meal was truly outstanding. Teams have been drawn for tomorrow’s round at The Duke course at Rancho el Dorado and already the trash talking has begun.

More to follow later in the week.

All da best!

Bagger D.





Have clubs, still travel

4 04 2014

Yesterday the golf clubs, Scottish Wife and I got back from a three week camping/golfing trip in the States. It actually lasted 23 days (including a somewhat unexpected stopover in San Francisco), during which time we drove 4,405 miles – that’s 7,048 kilometres in Canadian money – visited some beautiful places, hiked some gorgeous trails, traipsed around some of America’s finest malls (allegedly) and generally spent some quality time together. That would be Scottish Wife and I having the quality time. The golf clubs came out just once, 20 days into the trip. And I started my round with a triple bogey, so not exactly worth the wait. Anyway, here’s a picture of my beloved ’95 VW Westfalia camper van, which ran like clockwork for over 3,000 miles:

Westfalia

Ours is the white Westy – note the nice left hand rear bumper; the red van belongs to our friends, Wayne and Marina. The setting is McDowell State Park, north of Phoenix.

Any would-be Sherlock Holmes (or indeed Staff Sgt Len Doyle wannabees) amongst you will have spotted a) that I mentioned the van ran trouble free for 3,000 miles and b) that I pointed out the nice rear bumper. This would be because while travelling north from Barstow in south east California a week or so later fierce cross winds actually tore it from the van. The bumper now resides somewhere south of Bakersfield in the Mojave Desert.

Probably our favourite place of the whole trip was Sedona, forty miles or so south of Flagstaff, Arizona:

Bell Rock

Bell Rock, in the ridiculously beautiful Red Rock State Park.

I may have mentioned Scottish Wife’s hiking prowess before. She might be only 5′ 2″ (on a good day), but she’s virtually impossible to keep up with on a long hike. Here she is, as usual, way ahead of me on the trail:

And to think that for years I thought our daughter Kate got her athletic prowess from me...

And to think that for years I thought our daughter Kate got her athleticism from me…

Then there was the evening entertainment:

Sunset over Sedona

Sunset over Sedona. Right after this we had an excellent meal at the nearby airport. Planes don’t so much take off from the runway as simply drop off a plateau into thin air and take it from there. Not really for the faint of heart…

We left Wayne and Marina in Sedona (Dead Horse Ranch, actually) and then headed north via the splendid ghost town of Jerome. 120 years ago the owner of the town’s biggest brothel was reputed to be the richest woman in America. Possibly offended by Jerome’s lurid past, the van now decided that it had had enough. The minor bumper hiccup in the Mojave Desert was followed, the same day, by the sudden failure of the indicator system. I haven’t used hand signals for years (apart from the occasional raised middle finger), but somehow we negotiated Bakersfield’s rush hour traffic and got the relay switch fixed the next morning. The following day we headed north and west to Interstate 101 and enjoyed the coastal highway and the testimony to opulence that is Hearst Castle. If you’ve never been, you probably should, if only to see how much stuff one man (newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst) can accumulate and pile up in one oversized dwelling.

I should mention at this point that I’d had a haircut in Bakersfield. More of a scalping really, (I’ve no idea why the barber assumed I was ex military), so when the official photographer at Hearst Castle prepared to take our picture I burst out laughing and whispered to Julie that I looked like a convict (as if she needed this being pointed out). I obviously didn’t whisper quietly enough, because ten seconds later I heard an unmistakably Essex accent saying ” ‘Ere, mate, ‘ave you just come aht of prison, or what?” Turned out to be a lady from Chelmsford who was on a course in Los Angeles to improve her confidence and communication skills and thus be more likely for in house promotion. I told her she’d just failed.

I shall try to gloss over the next day’s painful events. Suffice it to say that just south of San Francisco, in a downpour of biblical proportions, the van came to a sudden halt in the middle lane of Interstate 101. Fortunately I managed to steer her towards the gap between the highway and the exit, where we sat in a deluge while traffic splashed by either side of us. Fortunately, too, our phone call to BCAA must have been frantic enough to gain us priority status, because the tow truck arrived in a matter of minutes and took us to the nearest VW dealer. It being Saturday morning there was, of course, no diagnostic work being done so we knew we would be there for a while. The dealership gave us a ride to a nearby motel, and promised they’d look at the van first thing Monday morning. The hotel was scuzzy but at least it was near a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport) station and Julie and I spent the weekend touring downtown San Francisco, including a terrific hop on hop off open top double decker bus tour of the area. We had a blast!

The Golden Gate Bridge, toll free when heading north, which we did the next day. (Teachers will do anything to save a dollar or two).

The Golden Gate Bridge, toll free when heading north, which we did the next day. (Teachers will do anything to save a dollar or two).

Three days later we were home, after the usual dash up Interstate 5 but making sure to stop at our new favourite pub, the Olympic Club, just off the highway in Centralia, Washington, owned by the McMenamin chain. Their specialty is to do up old buildings and turn them into pubs. Their first one, in Troutville, had at one time been a poor farm. Another, in Portland, was apparently once a lunatic asylum. The Olympic Club was a former brothel. I know this is the second time I’ve mentioned brothels in this post, but coincidences happen, right? We concentrated on the food  and micro brewery ale, both of which were outstanding:

So nice we visited twice. Once again, the would be Sherlock Holmes will be able to detect that this was the first visit.

So nice we visited twice. Once again, would-be Sherlock Holmes will be able to detect that this was the first visit. (Absolutely no idea why this picture is so large. Flippin’ computers are just one of life’s many mysteries to me).

I mentioned earlier that I only golfed once throughout the trip – the very enjoyable Senior Estates at Woodburn, Oregon. Larry the pro lets me play as his guest for $25. Scottish Wife lays waste to the nearby Shopping Outlet and spends $175 in the three hours it takes me to complete my round. Everybody’s happy!

But I do have one more picture to share. I didn’t get to play Pebble Beach, but I did have a mighty fine (and cheap – $12.95) burger and fries at The Bench, the outdoor patio overlooking the famed 18th green. Close enough!

Now that's a sight to set the pulse racing - and I'm not talking about the haircut!

Now that’s a sight to set the pulse racing – and I’m not talking about the haircut!

Anyway we’re home now, safe and sound. SW, who dealt with all the vehicular trials and tribulations in her usual calm, good humoured way, is still talking to me and so the van and I live to fight another day.

To all my fellow golfers and travellers – all da best!

Dave B.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





Of doctors and computers

26 01 2014

Scottish Wife and I have been in Guayabitos for three weeks now, about an hour north of Puerto Vallarta and considerably further from the fog bound Comox Valley. Please don’t think I’m being smug here: smug is a term more properly applied to our fellow hotel guests who hail from Winnipeg and points east and who have swapped -40 degree wind chill temperatures for +28. Those guys are positively brimming with smugness.

Leaving the balmy weather aside (along with the white sandy beaches, the palm trees swaying in the breeze and the 12 peso beers), I don’t want to give the impression that life is a bed of roses here. There’s always something to complain about. In my case it’s the internet access, or lack of, here at the otherwise impeccable Hotel Loma Linda. I don’t want to say I’m an obsessive, but it’s very hard for me to go through an entire day without an update from the world of sport. Whether it’s the latest news from the hockey pool (encouraging), Southampton FC (mixed) or the England cricket team’s tour of Australia (disappointing verging on humiliating) I need to know how things stand so I can enjoy the rest of my day. To put it kindly, however, our internet access thus far has been somewhat patchy.

And talking of patchy, yesterday I woke up with what seemed like a bunch of mosquito bites on my back. All part of the rich tapestry of life in Mexico, I thought, and headed off to the beach. There we bumped into our friend Kathy, who immediately said ” I don’t think those are mosquito bites, Dave. I think you’ve got shingles.” Like many males I have blind faith that medical ailments will tend to sort themselves out if just left well alone, but as soon as we got back to the hotel Scottish Wife went to look up the symptoms of shingles on the computer. Sure enough, the internet was down again. By now, however, SW was in full Dr Julie mode and sent me off down the street in search of a doctor. I quickly found a shingle (a sign! a sign!) above an alleyway next to a restaurant saying “Dr Vladimir Muñoz Valles, Médico”. I looked high and low, but for the life of me I could not see any sign of a doctor’s office. After a few minutes, a waiter from the restaurant came out to ask if I needed help. He said the doctor was away in Guadalajara but would be back later tonight. I was somewhat surprised that he knew so much about the doctor’s comings and goings, but wrote a note on a piece of paper he gave me, asking the doctor to phone our hotel and, if possible, give me an appointment on Monday.

Back at the Loma Linda, there was still no luck with the internet, but we were assured that it would be sorted out soon and that a technician would come round to each room if necessary to enter the new hotel code. And so, at 8.00 this morning (Sunday) I wasn’t totally surprised when there was a knock at the door and a young man in a green tee shirt presented himself. “Ah, gracias, gracias,” I said, and pointed to the computer on the table. He seemed a little confused, so I said helpfully ” Computadora?” “Ah, no,” came the reply. “Soy doctor”.

Five minutes later the diagnosis was confirmed – shingles (or ‘herpes’, as it is somewhat embarrassingly called in Spanish) – his call out charge (400 pesos, about $35) had been paid and  I had a prescription for the necessary meds. That’s not quite the end of the story, however. An hour later, having picked up the meds from the nearest pharmacy, I found myself walking past the restaurant by the doctor’s sign again. And who should I see behind the restaurant counter? Dr Muñoz himself, still in the same green tee shirt, and smiling at me as if it was the most natural thing in the world for a doctor to be making a home call to a patient one minute and then serving breakfast in the family restaurant the next.

Doble dipping, Mexican style. (Seriously, can you imagine a Canadian doctor making house calls and then heading off to work in the family restaurant?)

 

When I got back to the hotel the receptionist wanted to know how I was (it’s apparently an unwritten rule at the Loma Linda that everybody who works there knows absolutely everything about your personal life). “Bien, bien”, I said, and told her how impressed I was that a doctor would make a house call to a stranger at 8.00 on a Sunday morning, charge only $35 and then go back to his other job, serving omelettes and huevos rancheros. “I can’t imagine that happening in Canada,” I said. “Ah, señor David,” said Maira with a smile. “En Méjico, todo es posible! In Mexico, everything is possible!”

Que les vaya bien, amigos!

Dave B.





Full Circle

3 10 2013

My brother Graham came out from England last month with his partner Julie for a visit. For three weeks they enjoyed fantastic weather and marvelled at how sunny BC was. “Try coming back in the winter and then tell me how lovely it is” was my dour response. They left on the Friday and the rain started on Saturday. Apparently winter started a little early this year. While they were here, my wife Julie and I took them to a few places that we never seem to go to unless we have visitors staying. Maybe it was for the best that my other brother, Mike, wasn’t here as well – his wife’s name is Julie too. (Julie Two, actually. To avoid confusion, my wife is known as Julie One and Graham’s partner is Julie Three). And no, I’m not making this up.

Here are some pictures of our camping trip to Tofino, where we stayed at the Bella Pacifica campground along with daughter Kate, son in law TJ and grandsons Eli and Miles:

Grammy (aka Julie, aka Scottish Wife) and Eli check out the view from a secluded beach near Tofino

Grammy (aka Julie, aka Scottish Wife) and Eli check out the view from a secluded beach near Tofino.

Eli checks out the ocean, King Canute style

King Canute style, Eli commands the waves to stop. Eli lives in the Naimo, as he puts it. He seems to like going to Fino, as well.

It's easy to forget how impressive Cathedral Grove is. English Julie  thought it was the most beautiful place she visited in BC

It’s easy to forget how impressive Cathedral Grove is. English Julie
thought it was the most beautiful place she visited in BC.

Miles and his mum take a stroll on the beach with English Julie

Miles and his mum take a stroll on the beach with English Julie.

Eli makes sure mum and dad's boards are seaworthy

Eli makes sure mum and dad’s boards are seaworthy

Grig and I search in vain for whales. We might as well have been looking for Wales.

Graham and I search in vain for whales. We might as well have been looking for Wales.

Two days after Graham and his Julie had flown back to England, my Julie and I went off for a camping/hotel/shopping/golf trip down the Oregon coast. Needless to say, it poured with rain for a good part of the journey, but we had a great time nonetheless:

It's pretty hard to beat cannon Beach.

It’s pretty hard to beat Cannon Beach…

...but I think the Frank Lloyd Wright designed house in Silverton was pretty neat.

…but I think the Frank Lloyd Wright designed house in Silverton was kinda cool. As was Silverton itself.

After driving

After driving all day in a torrential downpour it was great when we reached Birch Bay State Park near the BC border. The rain stopped and we could finally enjoy a campfire.

The next day we met up with our son Joe in Kitsilano. He took us for a massive breakfast at a café on West 4th Street, appropriately named Joe’s Grill. I hold both Joes personally responsible for the five pounds I must have put on over the course of the meal.

The following night Julie and I made our first trip to the famous Commodore Ballroom on Granville Street in downtown Vancouver. We met up with our aged friends Stu, Wayne and Clyde to see Half Moon Run, a band which features three young Comox Valley guys, one of whom used to be in my French 12 class at Highland Senior Secondary. To Conner Molander and the rest of HMR – chapeau! The band is absolutely awesome, and here’s one of the tracks they played at the Glastonbury Festival in July this year: Full Circle.

An hour after the show at the Commodore had ended, Julie and I were kipping in our VW camper van at the front of the line up for the 6.30 a.m. Horseshoe Bay ferry. By mid morning, we were back home in Comox after our 2,000 mile camping odysseys. I guess you could say we had come full circle. Sorry.

P.S. I really have nothing to say about golf except to say that I played three rounds, including one in Mount Angel, Oregon, where I played with two elderly gentlemen, one of whom had palsy. Suffice it to say that his putting stroke was quite a lot smoother than mine. The other gentleman had dementia, but I forget what I was going to say about him.

All da best (and go buy the Half Moon Run album. It’s called Dark Eyes – you’ll love it!)

Dave B.