Saturday, October 26, 2013

Simple pleasures

Its the little things that give the most pleasure.  Being able to flush the coffee grounds down the drain is no problem on the boat but it has always been a big no-no on the bus.  Its no problem now in the house.  Setting the dishwasher last night and waking up to clean dishes is another treat that we haven’t enjoyed for a long time.  My big new-to-me recliner chair feels great.  I really REALLY missed a recliner chair and a shop.  I still don’t have a shop but I’m getting closer and yesterday we picked up a leather recliner in Saskatoon - $80 off Kijiji and you can’t tell it from the $1300 ones we looked at in the Sears appliance store while they were jerking us around about our new dishwasher.

Marilyn had lined up several meetings in Saskatoon for Thursday and Friday so early Thursday morning we drove into the city.  We ended up with a bit of time on our hands Thursday afternoon and were right next door to the Sears appliance centre on Circle Drive so we stopped in and were delighted to find a portable dishwasher floor model on a deep discount.  SCORE.  So Marilyn bought the dishwasher but we didn’t want to load it in the truck on Thursday and then drag it all over the city for a day and a half.  “NO PROBLEM!” sez the nice Sears lady “You can pick it up tomorrow before you leave town.”  So Friday morning we were between meetings and relatively close to the north end of the city.  We pulled into the loading dock at the back of the Sears store and showed our invoice to the mope on the dock.  And then it all came off the rails.

First the mope wandered around the warehouse looking for the dishwasher.  Then he came back and asked us who had sold it to us.  “Some woman.”  So then he wandered around some more muttering loudly about how nobody told HIM about any dishwasher.  Another woman who appeared dressed to work in the warehouse but never actually seemed to do anything appeared and they had a long conversation which consisted mainly of blaming “Maggie” for not doing her paperwork right.  Then the mope disappeared into the store for a long time.  Finally he came back and announced that they couldn’t find the dishwasher.  Well duhhhhhh.  “So what are you going to do now?”  He didn’t have a clue.

Somebody suggested that we could show him where the dishwasher was on the showroom floor.  I thought that was a faint hope but we needed to do something so off we all traipsed across the showroom to where the dishwasher clearly wasn’t anymore.  There was a blank space on the floor so it was at least believable when Marilyn pointed to the space and said “that’s where it was” and everyone around agreed that “yep, there had been a dishwasher there.”  Then they had a long discussion about who had been working last night and who might have sold our dishwasher again and who might have loaded it but mostly they talked about blaming Maggie.  After a while the group had dispersed and there was just one guy with a hook nose and a bad suit plus the mope standing in the middle of the showroom blaming Maggie.  I had been biting my tongue to the bleeding point so I finally announced “We’ve got a meeting in 45 minutes so rather than standing here blaming Maggie you guys need to get doing something.  CHOP CHOP!!” (I thought punctuating the “chop chop” with a couple of loud handclaps was a nice touch but Marilyn mocked me about it afterwards – actually I thought I did really well to keep profanity out of it at that point.)

Mope 1 and Bad Suit then wandered through the warehouse yet again and not surprisingly still didn’t find our dishwasher.  By this point it seemed clear to me that someone else had sold it again.  Eventually Marilyn got escalated to a short round woman who called herself a manager and I left them alone to fill out paper.  I didn’t think the situation warranted any yelling at that point, no matter how much better it might make me feel.  I did return at the end of that conference to hear Marilyn say “OK, I’ll phone you at 1:00” to which the round woman nodded her head vigorously and agreed that would be good.  I thought, “right, I can see where this is headed” so I asked her roundness “will you actually be here at 1:00 or will you be gone for lunch?”  Sure enough, she had every intention of being gone until 1:30.  So then we went through another little discussion about how useful that information might be to us and got to meet someone younger and bitchier who would however be on duty at 1:00. 

The story wrapped up anticlimactically shortly after we left the store when Marilyn got a phone call saying they had found the errant dishwasher.  I expect they finally located the famous “Maggie” and she said something to the effect of “Oh for gawd’s sake it’s behind the ………..”  Of course when I returned to actually pick up the machine it was a whole new rodeo but on that visit I could be a lot ruder because Marilyn wasn’t with me. 

By the time we left the city we looked like the Clampetts arriving in Beverley Hills.  We had a dishwasher, my recliner, a very large flatscreen TV, Marilyn’s nice black leather office chair, a microwave, toaster oven, vice, bench grinder and a host of other miscellaneous household effects plus a grocery order.  The Exploder isn’t much more than a car with a parcel shelf on the back so we had stuff strapped on all over the place and the back seat was stuffed to the point where we couldn’t open the doors without something falling out.  A very large percentage of the “stuff” came from either the Thrift Store or Kijiji – ya gotta love recycling.

This morning I think Mother would be horrified to see a flatscreen TV bigger than her secretary’s desk sitting on top of the desk but it actually looks right at home there.  Someday we’ll mount it on the wall but for the time being it is sitting happily on the old oak desk.  We can’t really watch it – well I guess we can “watch” it but there’s not much happening because the Shaw installation crew hasn’t arrived yet.  If I was a better husband I’d install a dish myself but the crew is coming Monday and I’m leaving for Idaho Sunday night.  Between now and then we’ve got a lot of “stuff” to put away so TV will just have to wait.

Mostly this week we’re just rattling around in more space than we’ve had for a long time and frankly we’re both enjoying it more than we expected.  The house is roughly 4x the living area that we have in the bus and at least twice what we have on the boat so it feels huge.  Tonight I was trying to find a couple of suitcases that I was sure were in the house but there were just so many places where they could be.  That’s very much not the way our life has been for the last 5 years. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Moving day

Including a couple of moves before I was out of high school, I think I’ve moved 7 or 8 times now.  The move this week was about as painless as it could get.  The house that SWMBO bought is 4 blocks north of where the bus is parked.  We still haven’t slept in it but we ate all our meals in it starting on Monday. 

We met Dizi Dingbatski, the Ukrainian realtor at the house at 9:00 Monday.  She very kindly brought a bottle of cheap champagne along which we finally got around to opening tonight.  I was busy figuring out where we were going to put our meagre possessions while Marilyn very kindly pretended to listen to Dizi but it finally got to be too much for me when she started doing a “home tour”.  I pointed out that we had a long day ahead of us and mercifully she took the hint and buggered off.

The holdup on sleeping in the new house was that we decided to move the mattress from the bus into the house which meant I needed to build a base for it before the move.  We’ve got two really comfortable beds – I think the one on Gray Hawk is slightly better but they’re both pretty damn good beds.  Most beds in the world don’t fit me so I insist on a good bed when I’m at home.  The one on the bus is close to 8 feet long so building a base for it was no trivial matter but I got the base put together Monday afternoon & got one coat of paint on it.  That first coat took a long time to dry but Tuesday night I was able to sand it and put a second coat on.  That second coat dried much faster and I was able to get a third coat on this morning.  By supper time it was dry enough to finish the assembly and a few minutes ago we moved the mattress onto the frame.  It shouldn’t be noteworthy that the mattress fit but I have inherited my father’s abilities with regard to wood butchery – I am more of a carpenter than a craftsman and not that good of a carpenter either so when things work out it is cause for celebration.

Yesterday I got the bus drained and pumped antifreeze into all the lines so it is ready to freeze up whenever we get done sleeping there, which now looks to be tonight.  We have been slowly moving “stuff” from the house at 110 to the new house at 515.  Its really alarming how much “stuff” we have accumulated.  When we left Nipawin all our “stuff” fit either in the bus or in the cubevan.  Unfortunately I think we have grown our stock of “stuff” significantly since then and I fear that growth will now turn into an explosion.  On the other hand the move has allowed us to consolidate food and booze in a single location and that has turned up booze that we didn’t know we had.  Finding single malt that you didn’t know you had is like finding $50 bills in the pockets of a seldom worn jacket.

SWMBO says she needs a serger for her new sewing room.  I have agreed, on the condition that I can have a metal lathe.  I’m not sure what I’ll do with a lathe but I’ve always wanted one.  I’ve been watching Youtube videos to try to learn some of what I don’t know about lathes.  It turns out that there is a very long list of things I don’t know about lathes.  SWMBO is not sure what she’ll do with the serger either but she is more reluctant to admit that than I am to admit that I don’t know what I’ll do with a lathe.

20131023_173428 We didn’t stop to take any pictures in the midst of the move.  Mind you the whole affair didn’t really take long enough to be worthy of photography either.  The one above is from this afternoon after we got the mattress unloaded.  As you can see, most of our snow has melted.  Maybe we’ll have a green Hallowe’en after all. 

We’ve been very busy this week, all the more so because this little village is a beehive of activity.  The sign on the highway says that 220 people live here but they keep pretty active.  There was a fall supper here last Sunday and the Ukrainian Catholics next door to us are having another one this Sunday.  This week I discovered that some group puts on a Wednesday lunch every week in the community centre.  There’s coffee twice a day at the Co-op.  It was hard to fit in our move around all that community activity.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Thanksgiving in Buchanan

Its good to be home.  Going to Ruukki was about a 24 hour adventure but coming home was a 36 hour ordeal.  I left my hovel at MTT around 4:00 Friday morning their time which was really 7:00 Thursday evening. (to avoid further confusion all of the rest of the times will be real time)   My flight from Oulu to Helsinki left at 10:00 PM and arrived an hour later.  Then I sat around the Helsinki airport until 5:00 AM Friday morning waiting for my flight to London. 

I think Heathrow is a perpetual fuckup.  I used to think Toronto was the worst airport in the world but Heathrow changed all that.  Once they got us loaded in the tin can at Helsinki the pilot announced that we would get to sit at the gate for at least half an hour because he couldn’t get us a landing slot at Heathrow.  Apparently he couldn’t have figured that out before they loaded us.  Then when we got close to Heathrow we went into a holding pattern circling closer to the airport until we finally landed.  We went through the same nonsense on the way over but at that point I thought it might be an isolated incident.

Once we landed we were subjected to some bizarre British security BS.  At one point they had us in line and they were stopping the line every 10 or 12 passengers to give us a canned lecture about how we couldn’t bring liquids through security.  The clowns giving the lecture seemed to believe that none of us had ever been through security screening ever before.  I (and many others in line) couldn’t help wondering how they thought we had arrived in that particular line between customs and re-screening.  I think we were supposed to leave there about 11:00 AM Friday and of course they loaded us before admitting that we couldn’t leave on time.  It was after noon before we finally got airborne but we made good time.  On the way home we came much further south – more or less over Labrador, arriving in Calgary with a bit of time to spare for my Westjet connection back to Saskatoon. 

When I cleared Canadian customs in Calgary I had a young guy who said “Oh, I was in Finland twice” to which I responded “why the hell would you ever go more than once?”  He agreed with my assessment and then asked if I had any booze to declare.  I had a bottle of some kind of brandy that they had given me before I left.  The customs guy then went off on a rant about Finnish booze before he welcomed me back to Canada. 

When I checked my bag in Helsinki they tagged it for Saskatoon but only gave me a boarding pass as far as Calgary.  Fortunately Westjet has a baggage counter just inside security so that wasn’t any big hassle.  And after enduring Heathrow security the Calgary flavour wasn’t so distasteful.

We spent Saturday in Saskatoon running errands and visiting Aunt Norma in St. Paul’s Hospital.  She was doing a lot better than we expected and I wouldn’t be surprised if she is home by now. 

We need to find a dishwasher for Marilyn’s new house & I’d like to find a good recliner so we spent some time looking for them.  We eventually struck out on both counts and came home to spend Thanksgiving in Buchanan.  I don’t remember a fall where there was such a variation in the tree colours.  We have trees in the yard that have completely lost their leaves and trees whose leaves are still green. 


This afternoon I went for a drive and took some photos for Marilyn’s project.  There’s still a little bit of harvest left to wrap up around Buchanan but its getting real hard to find crop left out.  I did find a truck line-up at the Pioneer elevator in Canora that brought back memories.  I can remember sitting in line-ups when the elevator “got cars”.  The line-ups looked similar but the trucks are a lot bigger now.  The elevators are a lot bigger too – and a lot farther apart.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Serves me right for staying away so long

So I went away for a mere 2 weeks and SWMBO went and bought a whole house.  Sheeeeesh


We decided this summer that it was time to stop pretending that we are fulltime RV travellers.  Since we spend 4-6 months on the boat we are at best 1/2 time RVers.  And much of our RV time now is spent parked on the lot in Buchanan.  So we had a couple of options

  • We could fix up the hovel to make it liveable.  This is really only a theoretical option but I suppose if you threw unlimited money at the place then at some point it might become marginally liveable.  We never really intended it to be liveable so its not a great surprise that it in fact isn’t.
  • We could build new on the lot where the hovel currently sits.  This is actually a pretty attractive option and – despite our new current status – its by no means off the table.  We briefly toyed with the idea of moving something onto the property but unless you can find the perfect house somewhere close to town and then get it for free its really not a very practical option
  • We could buy something in town.  The problem with this option is of course that our choice is limited by what is on the market at the moment.  For a while last year the house directly across the street from us was on the market.  We should have moved on it at the time but Mac & Emily have since taken down the signs and we we don’t really know them well enough to ask whether they still want to sell.  We looked at a few places in town but most of what is on the market is only marginally better than what we already have, with the exception of one little bungalow 4 blocks down the street from us.

The little bungalow in question is about 1000 square feet with a fully finished basement and 3 bedrooms on the main floor.  Its your basic 1970’s vintage square box with absolutely no character unless you consider a Ukrainian paint job character.  The old girl that used to live there evidently died and the family just cleaned out the fridge and her personal effects and left all the furniture in place.  That’s not a big deal in monetary terms but it is definitely an advantage for us to buy a place that comes fully furnished.  It even has a pool table in the basement. 

When I left Buchanan we had ruled out the little house up the street, mainly because they wanted way more than we thought it was worth.  While I’ve been over here next door to Lapland Marilyn made a couple more visits to the house and compiled a list of what it would take to make it into a retirement home.  The list turned out to be shorter than she had expected.  Then she made a real stinker of an offer to the vendors who responded that the offer was so insultingly low that they wouldn’t counter offer.  That made me feel good because I think in any negotiation if you don’t initially get told to fuck off then you offered to0 much to start with.

A few days later the realtor phoned Marilyn back and at that time she made a slightly higher offer which was still significantly under the asking price.  She also made it 100% clear that the new offer wasn’t a negotiating point but rather a final offer.  The vendors initially rejected that offer too but a few days later the realtor phoned back and said that if we would sweeten the new offer by $2,500 the vendors would likely roll over.  Apparently there were two executors involved and one wanted to just get the sale over with while the other wanted to hold out longer.  Adding $2,500 to our offer still left us under our drop dead price so we agreed and this morning Marilyn signed the papers.  We both think we’ve bought the place low enough that, if we decide we would really still like to build new, we can get out of the place we just bought without getting hurt.  Its been on the market for close to a year but we are buying it for 2/3 of what it was listed at. 

We’ll close as fast as the liars lawyers can get the paper drawn up and with any luck that will get us moved in before the snow flies.  Since the place comes furnished we won’t have to arrive with much more than our suitcases.  The only pressing renovation prior to move-in is to rip the damn carpet out of the kitchen and lay some ceramic tile.  What the hell is wrong with people anyway?  Who puts carpet in their kitchen????

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

These are not nice guys

Don’t get too caught up in the chattering class cheerleading for the release of these two guys. 


Do your own research.  Personally I hope the Eqyptians keep the bastards. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Found boats


That’s the view out my hotel window as the sun rises over Oulu, Finland.  I’m taking the weekend off.  The project is going relatively well, normal clusterfuckery aside.  I expect to wrap up the end of next week and be back in Saskatoon on Westjet’s last flight from Calgary Friday night. 

I think I did very well choosing a hotel for my weekend excursion.  As always my choice was primarily based on price – I just can’t help myself.  However I did manage to land myself on water which connects fairly directly to the ocean.


I’ve heard about the European navaids being backwards c/w North America and yesterday I was able to confirm it within walking distance from my hotel.  The photo above looks out toward the ocean so, as the tide returns, that red marker is on the left.  In North America it is “red right returning” – over here it is clearly backwards.


That’s a fairly “shippy” looking boat tied to what appears to be transient moorage close to the central market here in Oulu.  I walked over close to it but didn’t bother taking any more pictures.  It looks to be a workboat conversion, probably 55 feet or so (OK – 16 metres), wooden planked and not in particularly good repair.  Kind of like any number of boats we might see tied up in Cow Bay – not as bad as the ones we typically see anchored in the Bay.  Actually this whole region kind of reminds me of an upscale version of Pender Harbour.  It has a bunch of interconnected bays and harbours with roads, bridges and walking paths traversing the various bays. 

The bike/walking paths is the big difference I notice everywhere here.  On the research facility where I am staying they have numerous older bikes scattered about for free use.  If you need to go somewhere you are just as likely to hop on a bike as to drive.  The difference I see here is that bikes are simply transportation.  On Vancouver Island bicycles are a lifestyle statement – they have to cost 1000’s of dollars and their riders have to wear high priced spandex outfits, and designer helmets of course.  Over here I see young workers and grannies alike riding to work or to buy groceries on utilitarian bicycles.  Many of them appear to be the bike that I learned to ride on – 26 inch balloon tires, single speed with coaster brakes.  I’ve ridden a couple of bikes at the farm – one had a pretty decent coaster brake – the other not so much – but both of them were otherwise in really good repair despite likely being probably more than half as old as me and possibly close to my age.  As I recall my first bicycle the coaster brake was the least reliable portion of it too.


Other than the abundance of bicycle paths and bicyclists the scenery could easily be northern Saskatchewan.  My host told me that the forests were all pine but I’m not 100% sure he knew what he was talking about.  There certainly appear to be pines but I think they also have fir and spruce.  There’s more birch than you would see in northern SK but from a distance its hard to tell the birch here from what would be predominantly poplar at home.  As I told my host, if I blindfolded and dropped him 20 miles north of  Prince Albert I’m not sure he’d know he wasn’t at home when we first took the blindfold off.

Last night I treated myself to a very expensive meal in the hotel restaurant.  My supper however may interfere with Santa Claus’s travel arrangements – I believe I ate Rudolph.  He was very tasty.  As soon as I saw reindeer wrapped in puff pastry on the menu I knew I had to try it. 

This morning I went down for the included breakfast.  Unlike the typical stale Cheerios and Special K that I would expect in North America I got treated to a buffet that would rival most hotel’s Sunday brunch menus – bacon and eggs, sausages, ham, baby spuds, salad bar, fruit bar, dessert bar, bread & sweets bar plus an amazing assortment of smoked/pickled fish and cheeses.  I was able to select a huge platter of protein which is always my breakfast goal.  They also make excellent coffee and tea. 

Right now I’m enjoying a leisurely morning in a comfortable (albeit very small) hotel room.  There’s not much selection on the TV menu and even less English language selection but its great to hear English news again.  I’ve been listening to CBC Regina over the internet at the farm but its just not the same as TV news.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The people who say neigh

…. or perhaps its “nay”. 

As I told the woman in the grocery store the other day, I’m a stranger in a strange land.  So far I have figured out two things.  The first is that these people say “neigh” (or possibly “nay”) a lot.  I have no idea what it means but it is the only sound I can reliably identify in the babble that passes for conversation around me.  Fortunately I have internet access which lets me play CBC and BBC.  Otherwise my ears might forget how to understand English.

The other thing I have learned is how to use the bizarre produce scale system they use in the grocery stores.  First you have to find the number on the price tag on the store shelf.  Then you take whatever it is that you plan to buy to the scale and pick that number off a large board beside the scale.  The scale will then spit out a price tag which you can put on your bag of fruit or vegetables.  Or, as it turns out, you can put the tag on your plastic wrapped English cucumber which inexplicably also requires this treatment.  I thought I had it all figured out tonight when I got a sticker for my oranges but it never occurred to me that my barcoded cucumber would also require a little paper sticky.