Tinkering on the coast

Helga’s Post # 90 — Ever so slowly we can feel the season changing. It’s still summer, and here on the West coast we are enjoying some of the best days of the year. But there are some subtle changes that indicate the dog days of summer are definitely behind us. Most noticeable are the shorter days. As the fading light and cooler temperatures beckon us indoors a little sooner each day, it also adds to our writing time. Theoretically speaking at least. Mostly back from our holiday travels, it’s time to dust off the keyboard to get reacquainted with our characters and immersing us in their lives.

Hightailing for mom

Hightailing for mom

I was off to a good start getting back to my writing routine, when an invitation arrived to join our close friends Paula and John on the Sunshine Coast for an overnighter. It was an awesome weekend, filled with sunshine, laughter and good cheer. Even water sports. I could not believe how warm the ocean was in that bay. Perfect for swimming. Then there was fresh crab from the dock (executed by the vendor in Stephen King like fashion), and later a beautiful surprise birthday cake. A magical evening among good friends at a picturesque ocean-front setting. A perfect scene for a novel. Smitty’s Oyster Bar was on the agenda the next day. That too would be worthy of at least two pages in a chapter!

Shucking oysters at Smitty's

Shucking oysters at Smitty’s

A week later, another invitation. This time to Vancouver Island on the occasion of (vegetarians, hold your noses), a pig roast. To be held on a traditional farm in picturesque Cowichan Valley. The pig, we were assured, had a happy life. Never crated, able to root to its heart content, its quality of life made up for its short duration.

The event proved a total success in every way. First, the setting: A traditional high-ceiling barn, set with tables to accommodate at least a hundred adventure seekers. Barn doors were kept wide open to all sides to enjoy views and smells of gently rolling hills, meadows and vineyards. A lively youthful band struck up some event-appropriate tunes. They inspired people to try out the two-step on the improvised dance floor. The food turned out to be delicious. I will not go into detail, respecting our vegetarian followers.

IMG_0912Of course there were tons of interesting character studies. A grizzled veteran with a Mao cap; women in their eighties with flouncy colorful skirts and petticoats; teenagers who couldn’t keep their eyes (and hands) off each other, and every age and social background imaginable. Maybe pig roasts attract peculiar people.

Then there was a ‘gypsy wagon’ parked in the meadow near the barn. That’s where some farm produce is sold on an honor basis. Farm fresh free-range eggs were on offer when I visited. There was no cashier, only a wooden box where you put in your 5 dollars.

Nice. That wouldn’t work quite as well in other venues.

To round out the day we visited the sleepy little Genoa Bay. Walking to the end of the dock we came upon a small boat with an elderly men sitting in it. He was straining to read a book in the fading light. I took a closer look at the title: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spie. ‘My favorite author’, I told him. ‘Mine too,’ he replied, ‘but bloody hard to understand. I am reading it the third time and still don’t quite get it, but my, do I love those characters.’

Reading J.Le Carre at Genoa Bay

Reading J.Le Carre at Genoa Bay

The next day brought more unusual things to see and do. I had visited Vancouver Island many times, but always with a tourist destination. This time we had our newly residing island friends to show us the ‘in the know’ places. Take the city of Duncan. We had always just passed it on the highway, or stopped to gas up at the Co-op. Not this time. Our friends took us to a traditional butcher, the kind that does not exist anywhere else around Vancouver, to my knowledge. Another scene of great inspiration to a writer. And again, I will spare you the details. Maybe you have to read about it in one of my future novels.

An extraordinary seafood shop (‘Mad Dog Crabs’) was next. In-house smoked oysters (not the tiny canned ones) were on tap, as was a most delicious and unusual cured salmon that tasted almost like candy. Free samples made it easy to decide on a purchase. Huge fresh scallops were also offered, but we had to pass because they would hardly survive the trip back home.

But the pièce de résistance was a two-floor kitchen/bed/bath store located in a beautifully restored heritage brick building. Pots & Paraphernalia is a true feast for the eyes. There were only two sales women in the huge store, but you never had to wait for advice. Friendly and efficient, knowledgeable about their products, and eager to tell you that Duncan is the best place to live on earth.

Of course no trip would be complete without a memorable lunch. We actually had two. One in Mill Bay directly at a marina overlooking the harbour, the other in Duncan on a vine-covered patio. Seafood dishes reign supreme in the region (in addition to locally raised, afore-mentioned pork dishes).

So, while these two trips were short, I got to know the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island in a way never experienced before. It does help to have insiders show you the ropes. In addition to having shared quality time with our generous friends on these two trips, my writer’s brain got plenty of images to digest – in addition to the poor, but happy little piggy.

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