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Life can be unpredictable

July 10, 2018

Yes, yes, I know. I said normal service would be resumed, then it wasn’t. What can I say? Life can be unpredictable.

For example, one day you might have no plans for the foreseeable other than writing something every day and working out of doors, then you suddenly get a phone call that results in having visitors for five days.

As I mentioned on Canada Day, this is what happened to me last Sunday week. There I was, reading the paper in bed. The phone rang. I answered it. On the other end was Simon, an old mate from Greenpeace Vancouver. He left Canada a couple of decades ago, spent some time in Cameroon, then returned home to London, where he’s been for a number of years. (I reconnected with him completely by chance when I was back there.)

Simon wanted to know if I might be able to put him and his daughter Felix up that night. Of course I could. Of course it meant tackling all that housework I’d put off and dealing with the fact that I hadn’t washed the guest towels and bedding since Mark was here in May.

So I ran around like a mad thing, doing laundry, cleaning and baking a cake, as Simon had mentioned it was his birthday the next day. I’d been planning to make an asparagus risotto for dinner. There were some BC prawns in the freezer. All I needed was some salad stuff to stretch the risotto to dinner for three. Drove down to the village to get some rocket (why I wasn’t just fetching some from my garden will be the subject on another day) and a bottle of prosecco.

Simon and Felix arrived. Dinner was served, compliments on same bestowed. Conversation was lively. I’m not sure why I found myself saying at one point that they were welcome to stay for as long as they wanted. After all, it was my understanding that the next day they would be moving on to stay with John and his family at his sister’s place. Simon said that would be lovely and that was that. (Only later did I realise there must have been some breakdown in communication, as there clearly was not enough room at John’s sister’s house for two extra guests. Perhaps Simon had suggested he and Felix could sleep in the tent outside.)

I had already warned them that the guest accommodation offered only a double bed. As neither he nor Felix wanted to share said bed, Simon said he would either sleep on an air mattress (which he had with him) downstairs or pitch his tent outside. It got dark. Too late to pitch a tent. I pointed out that there was a lot more free floor space in my front room than there was downstairs and suggested it might be easier for Simon to kip up here. Imagine 16-year-old Felix’s delight that she was going to have her very own room.

A slow start Monday playing phone tag with John and his wife Penny, trying to arrange a rendezvous. Eventually I lost patience and left a message with John’s sister that we would be at the Drumbeg picnic benches at 2pm. They arrived moments after we did.

Now, as for John: He is a former anti-nukes campaigner whom I first met him in 2000, when we shared this Greenpeace disarmament adventure onboard the Arctic Sunrise. The last time I saw him was in October the following year, shortly after I’d blotted my copy book with the Greenpeace UK office. (Another story for another day.) I’d never met his wife Penny nor, obviously, his 16-year-old daughter Nina (Sparky), who is one of Felix’s best friends.

I’ve always liked John and that feeling quickly spread to his family. So much so that I was soon inviting them all over for a birthday dinner for Simon.

After our picnic lunch, the girls went swimming first, then sunbathing.

Felix and Nina

Meanwhile, the rest of us went for a walk. I showed them my favourite trees.


This is an older photo of the dancing Arbutus trees. Sadly the one at the back is now dead.

Then I led them to one of my favourite views.

John and Penny

Dinner that night (lasagna, my old fallback, ’cos who doesn’t love it?) was a great deal of fun. My chocolate cake went down so well, Penny immediately demanded the recipe. Arrangements were made to meet up again the next day.

Tuesday was a funny old day.

Part one involved meeting John and Penny at the Roxy, a local music venue. Music was not the point. The youth footie association had arranged to show all the World Cup matches on a big screen and that morning it was England versus Columbia.

I’ll be honest. After decades of England getting tossed early on because the team was made up of overpaid prima donnas who wouldn’t pass the bloody ball, I’d rather lost interest in England’s World Cup shenanigans. Friends on the island who follow footie tried to tell me this year was different, that the young players really were a team, but I couldn’t really believe it.

I was wrong. England played well against the thuggish Colombians. (I swear they were taking turns getting their six yellow cards so none of them would actually be sent off.) Then it came down to that worst scenario: penalty kicks. I honestly cannot remember the last time England actually won a game on penalties. And so there was a sense of resignation. They’d done well, but this was it. OH MY GOD, IT WASN’T! England won!

Time for Part Two. Simon had told me he and John were trying to connect with an old mate whose name I didn’t recognise and who was also on Gabriola. Fair enough. As we turned to leave the Roxy, there was John Mate. Oh, except he hasn’t been John for a while. Several years ago he ditched the Anglicised version of his name and went back to his Hungarian name: Janos. I knew this, but had forgotten, thus not recognising the name.

Janos was the first campaigner with whom I worked closely when I started at Greenpeace in 1990. In January 1991, he, Simon and I (along with dozens of others) were involved in this action at the nuclear test site in Nevada.

test site

And there was Janos, with another former anti-nukes campaigner, David, in tow.

Fuck me, we were going to have a Nuclear Free Seas campaign reunion picnic on Gabriola. Which we did. Whilst Felix and Sparky swan and sunbathed, we sat around a picnic table catching up and reminiscing. Oh, the good old days when the organisation remembered there were two syllables in its name.

It was really quite surreal. And lovely.

Oh, crap. Hampered by my slow-as-molasses computer, it’s taken hours to get this much written and I have to get to the shops.

So, to round things off…

Simon and Felix Gabriola Sands

Simon and Felix at Gabriola Sands.

Orlebar sunset

Simon and Felix enjoying a Gabriola sunset.

From → Blog

  1. Caroline Raderecht permalink

    I love this.

  2. krysross permalink

    how great to have old friends drop in. how often does that happen on Gabriola?

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