November 11th 1981

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Liz and Brent (who is either shielding his eyes from the sun, or attempting to remain incognito.)

Somehow, Brent managed to respond to the alarm at the proper hour + wake everyone else – today was a work day for L + B, up at some luxury condominiums they were insulating, north of Vancouver at a ski resort called Whistler.  Breakfast, bye-bye to Bruce – he too had stayed the night – + off.  Surprised that the roads were empty, till we remembered the date – Remembrance Day, + a national holiday.  First stop was at Brent’s sister’s, Shelley.  She worked with them, so we transferred to her car, + kept on going.  The plan was (I keep writing that phrase) for us to walk around Whistler while the others were working, but it soon became obvious that that notion, like so many others, would have to disappear, since the weather was disgusting, + got worse the further north we went.  The highway was nerve-wracking too – just a couple of weeks before, a mud slide had swept away a bridge here, + several cars had plunged into the river, providing a messy end for their occupants.  We broke the journey for a very pleasant breakfast, then pushed on.  The other 3 had done most of the insulating there was to do already, + just had a few more hours to do… the crawlspaces.  While they were working, Shelley lent her car to us, + we used it to drive into Whistler village.  Car was nice, except we couldn’t get it into 1st or 2nd gear – it seems Shelley is the only one who can.  Still.  Village was impressive, tho’ only half-finished, + obviously a super luxury resort of the future.  However, still pissing down, so we didn’t stay long (tho’ we did have to reverse Shelley’s car up a hill when it couldn’t manage it in 3rd.)  Sat around till they’d finished, then, once they’d changed, the long drive back to Shelley’s.  The horrific thing – Shelley’s + B’s sister’s parents-in-law – a really dreadful pair – were still there… well, it was their house, tho’ they were away most of the time.  We avoided them, sitting in S’s room, watching TV, drinking beer, eating (some delicious Italian food.)  Drove home, late.

Reversing the car up a hill would have been interesting to see – can’t say I remember it.

Apologies for the lack of relevance of the photo – I really am struggling to find enough photos, so this is somewhat scraping the barrel.

November 10th 1981

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The laziest of days today.  The intention had been to go + take a look at Vancouver itself – we really had barely seen anything when we’d come through before.  However… first of all, L + B got a phone call asking them to go out to do a job.  That in itself did not cause any too terrible problems, since they reckoned they’d be back in next to no time… well, an hour or so.  So, we just sat around in the kitchen.  It was there + then that the phone rang.  It was Brent’s parents, asking us to pass on the information that Brent’s granny was ill, + had been taken to hospital.  Of course, they were late getting back, + then Brent wasn’t able to get thro’ to anyone to find out any more information, so we sat around for a while longer.  When Brent was eventually able to discover the situation (she wasn’t as bad as had first been feared) it was getting quite late in the day, but we still weren’t abandoning hopes of seeing Vancouver.  The next plan was to drive in + look around, + then meet up with a friend of theirs, Bruce, at a restaurant in town.  A phone call – + away with Plan B.  Apparently, for some reason we were unable to fathom, Bruce couldn’t meet us in town, but could come out to the house in the evening.  We gave up, + abandoned Vancouver to its fate.

Instead, we adopted domesticity.  I don’t remember what I did (I should explain… I am over a week behind in my diary-keeping) but Val + Liz attempted to mend our rucksack, while Brent got on with double-glazing his greenhouse.  Then off to the shops, for booze, some food, + a penny whistle for Liz.  This latter sparked off a musical hour when we got back, Liz + Val both being flautists, + also utilising penny whistle + recorder.  Bruce turned up early, so we sat around drinking retsina + talking, before trekking off to the Greek restaurant.  More retsina, some good food, + Bruce desperately trying to chat up the young waitress.  He seemed OK – perhaps a bit of a prat, but then I don’t know him.  It was to be our treat, but proved expensive, so others helped.  Then back for cards for a while, then bed.

How today can be the laziest of days when all of the others have been just the same does puzzle me… anyway. Another of those examples of things just not working out as intended; one of the things we are discovering is how little you can actually control events, and how much you just have to go with the flow.

November 9th 1981

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The girls’ team

I managed to crawl out of bed respectably early today, giving Brent + Robbie a shock.  Robbie left shortly afterwards – he was going back to Campbell River.  It had been good having him around.  As Liz said, he thought about what he said, + didn’t try to bullshit, which certainly makes a refreshing change from many people that one meets.  On the debit side, he can be fussy about things, + so be rather annoying.  After he’d gone + we finished breakfast, we looked around a thrift shore down by the beach.  It was a good one too, packed with all sorts of stuff, tho’ not all of the best quality, eg leaky teapots, pine cones.  However, Val + I didn’t find anything that was of use to us – L + B bought some clothes, + I persuaded Brent to buy a bottle-cutter – it was something that fascinated me, + it turned out he felt the same way.

The boys’ team

Next job was some exercise – they needed a good-sized chopping block to split logs on, so we strolled up + down the washed-up logs on the beach until we found a decent specimen – then set to work with the cross-saw.  It was quite hard work, but we divided into two teams (male + female) + really it was good fun.  We rewarded ourselves with fish + chips, but unfortunately the good shop was shut, + the café we made do with served greasy food.  Ho hum.

Back to the house, where Val + I sawed logs for Brent to split on his new chopping block.  In the evening, we played cards, but for once we didn’t drink – we must’ve ended up drunk virtually every night for the past two weeks.  First of all we played euchre, which Brent didn’t like (tho’ partly I would think because Val + I beat Liz + him pretty comfortably.)  Then we switched to contract whist, which just about took us to bed-time.  Somewhere along the way we ate a sort of macaroni cheese concoction that Brent made – it was good.

Robbie first – I am pleased that the final comment about Robbie was positive, (and provided by Liz), as I don’t think I have done him justice, for he really was a gentle, kind man. This was to be the last time we met him; though we have continued our relationship with Brent and Liz, they lost touch – or ended the relationship – with Robbie, shortly after this point.

The bottle-cutter was interestinglike Brent, I was intrigued by the adverts I had seen on TV (my memory suggests K-Tel or Ronco as the purveyors of such gadgets) and the possibilities it provided of unlimited glassware. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a very dubious product, mostly providing unusable glasses that would cut your mouth open.

November 8th 1981

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Chris with Seamus

Late, again.  Val + I were last up, thus affording a degree of entertainment to the gathered assembly.  Those left were the original Famous Five, plus Annie, Andrew, Shelley (Brent’s sister), + Rita, her friend, tho’ the last 2 left almost immediately.  From that point on, it was just about typical post-party party – sitting around, soporifically.  We played cards – Nap – for a while, + somehow I managed to win again.  (Question – why am I recording my every victory?)  Some time, we started drinking again – rather surprisingly, no-one was too ill from the night before.  Perhaps we were just immune by this time.  Poor old Annie was blackmailed into giving up the rest of the bottle of Khalua she’d bought, + was planning to take home.  We started a game of hearts, at which both Annie + Andrew were fairly useless, + then they left.  Brent took them to the bus stop.  Oh, I forgot; immediately after getting up, we all went down to a café to buy some breakfast – it was fairly expensive + not very nice – + on the way back we stopped off at a yard sale, where Robbie bought a cross-saw.  Anyway, while Brent was out taxi-ing, Robbie + I set to work, + with the aid of his new implement, we were able to fill up the woodstore in about half an hour.  And then, the card game + drinking re-commenced.  We all got pretty drunk + had quite a good laugh while we were playing.  We’ve enjoyed our time here, but I must say I’m ready to move on now.  Liz reminds me of Michelle Loader, the girl I shared the flat with in Oxford, in that she’s rather temperamental, + one never really knows where one is, whether one is really welcome.  In some ways, tho, Brent is outwardly more abrupt + rude, in a joking sort of way, I feel far more secure + comfortable with him.  Tho’ I do very much admire the way they’re trying to live, eschewing the capitalist life, being as self-sufficient as possible, doing jobs for others when necessary.  And not just spouting about it, but really doing it.  Admittedly they have the advantage of having secured rent-free property with plenty of land, but that’s the sort of opportunity you have to grab, + they’re making the most of it, chopping their own wood, brewing their own beer, growing their own veg, baking bread.

I suppose I ought to address my comments about Liz.  As I have said before, I have a tendency to jump in feet first with my assessments of other people.  I know Liz much better now, and can find no trace of the unpredictability I complain of… quite the reverse.  Though I do temper my criticism with some slightly patronising comments upon their life-style.  All the weaker for the way they have truly embraced a more sustainable way of life throughout their lives, and we see the mess that ordinary, everyday life has wreaked upon the planet.  

November 7th 1981

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As usual – it seems to be par for the course in this house, at least while we’ve been here – got up late, + sat around over breakfast for a while.  This time it was the women who got things going on the trench, Liz, then Val, getting busy with spade + pickaxe, but Robbie + I were soon out there to join them.  It took very little time to finish things off, partly because there were 4 of us working now, partly because we were onto a much easier section.  Soon done, + Brent, returning from shopping with Annie, slapped in the pipe, + we got busy shovelling everything in again.  A bit of a break then, sitting around – the usual pre-party things.  Brent, he being the master baker of the establishment, got busy baking perskis – they’re sort of open rolls, filled with cottage cheese.  I sat + wrote this for a while, + then volunteered to go out + chop wood.  I really get into that, tho’ I don’t think I could claim to be efficient.  I was sawing off odd branches into serviceable lengths, then splitting it, if necessary.  Val came out + talked for a while – she wasn’t too happy, + needed some attention, something I’d been remiss in not giving her. 

I came in after it was dark + started to drink.  Slowly, slowly, the party started to come to life.  First off was eating – the perskis were delicious, + there were 2 great salads.  And then people drifted in, tho’ maybe drifted is the wrong word, since each arrival was greeted with a great cheer from the gathered assembly.  There were never many there, tho’ it turned out to be a good party.  We played a game for a while, passing round an object, + using it as different objects.  It was really funny, mainly because everybody was good, especially 2 of B’s friends, Phil + Diane, + rather surprisingly, Robbie.  I also chatted for a time with B’s garrulous friend, Andrew, who is basically fairly intelligent + fairly crazy.  Then the fireworks of course – + I forgot, there was a great Guy for burning that we’d made.

Guy burning!

  Some dancing, some smoking, a lot of drinking.  For a while we sat around the fire making up limericks, till Phil collapsed.  Eventually, bed.

Bonfire parties – they seem to punctuate our life.  Last night (in real, 2021 time) we enjoyed the most recent version – no guy, because of laziness, and just one short burst of fireworks, because of the climate.  Note the introduction of a drama favourite – pass the object – and apologies, once again, for the sly dig against Robbie.

November 6th 1981

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A really late start.  By the time we all got up, had breakfast + finished chatting, it was about 12.30.  Then, of course, it was time to get busy.  Val drove Liz + about 5 bags of washing into the launderette in L + B’s Cortina.  Brent got busy fiddling with their home-made solar panel system, while Robbie and I got busy at being navvies.  Up till now, the water supply to the house had been a hose pipe.  With winter coming on, obviously this was susceptible to freezing, so the job was to dig a ditch + put in a proper pipe.  It didn’t have to be very deep, but it was about 20 yards, + there were distinct problems.  There were some hefty tree-roots, a fair few rocks, + an old garbage dump.  It wasn’t really that bad, tho’ we both still managed to get pretty blistered.  Managed to get over half-way, before  bad light stopped play.  Big mistake of the evening came when we started on Brent’s home-brew.  It was bloody strong, + I have to confess that I got pretty pissed (tho’ I think I wasn’t the only one.)  A friend of L + B’s, Annie, turned up – she seemed to be quite fun.  I got into Cat Stevens, + we ate a sort of bean burger.  No, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. In fact, it was pretty nice.

Then we all drove over to Brent’s parents – we were going to be treated to a slide-show of their trip to Australia + NZ.  Annie is going there in March, so she had requested it.  Understandably, it was fairly dull, tho’ Mr Howieson did his best, + zapped thro’ things as fast as possible.  And there were some pluses – some nice snacks, a long hot shower, + beer.  The last did serve to top up my inebriation, + Val told me later that I’d been rather rude in some of the comments I’d made.  Anyway, Mr Howieson didn’t seem to be too frosty with me when I left, so maybe he was drunk too.  Drove back, drank some more, + then hit the sack.  Oh yes, we sat + listened to Steeleye Span for a while, + sang along with John Barleycorn.

Not sure that I needed to record the late start, as that has been the norm throughout our stay. Nice to see me absolutely contributing some labour. And my comment about the bean burger just reflects the way most vegetarian food was trerated in those days, ie with deep suspicion. Nowadays, beanburgers are one of my favourite dishes.

Steeleye Span were a folk band from the sixties/seventies; John Barleycorn a traditional English song (about the brewing of beer!)

November 5th 1981

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Brent trying to avoid being photographed

Today was the day of our return to civilisation – well, to Brent + Liz’s place, anyway.  Despite this, we didn’t make an early start, and this proved to be something of a mistake, since by the time we got everything loaded, had breakfast, + got ourselves dressed + up (in reverse order), we checked the clock + then the ferry schedule, + discovered we wouldn’t have enough time to drive to Nanaimo in order to catch the 12.30 ferry, + the next one didn’t leave till 2.30, so there was nothing for it but to sit down round the table + play cards – contract whist this time.  (Don’t remember who won, but I lost.)  Just finished the game in time to leap into the car + roar off.  I read some of Kool Aid Acid Test, but I must confess I’m finding it heavy-going.  I find spaced-out writing difficult to handle, but I guess that’s my weakness rather than the book’s.  Also a swift round of Botticelli – Bob Dylan, John McEnroe, Dustin Hoffman, Yogi Bear + Bilbo Baggins made a nice variety.  Perfect timing this time – arrived just before they let people on the ferry.  Once on, we immediately bagged ourselves some chairs, improvised a table out of a litter bin, and settled down to our second card game of the day, hearts.  I won! (for the first time.)  Broke halfway for lunch.  L + B are vegetarians, + we shocked them… tho’ not much… by eating hamburgers.  At Horseshoe Bay, stopped off to phone Driveaway… tho’ nothing going… + then, biding our time while the Vancouver rush-hour traffic died away, we went up to Simon Fraser uni bar + had a couple of beers.  It was just like any other college bar I’ve ever been in. 

Drove home, + spent quite a while listening to the radio trying to find out the time.  Finally succeeded, to discover that Liz was near as dammit late for her yoga class.  Brent rushed her in – the rest of us just lazed around for a while, + we ate cheese sandwiches late on when everyone was back.

Quick explanation of Botticelli – one person chooses a character, fact or fiction, and the others have to guess who it is by using a series of yes/no questions.

More general laziness and lack of purpose, it would seem.

November 4th 1981

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Elk Falls

Decision day.  Since the combination of late start + our own lack of purpose meant we weren’t out on an island somewhere, we had to allot to ourselves a purpose.  Brent decided we were in need of a variety of drug, so we set out to find Guy Sharkey, a friend of Robbie’s who would probably be able to supply some grass.  (First, tho’ breakfast – Liz cooked some terrific cheese omelettes.)  The search was fruitless tho’, since he was neither at his home nor at work.  So we drove out to Elk Falls, quite an impressive waterfall near Campbell River.  We parked the car + took a short walk to a lookout point, + took a couple of obligatory photos.  Brent is excessively camera shy, so it’s good fun snapping him when he’s not expecting it.

Next stop was at a salmon hatchery.  It was really quite a horrible place.  Normally, salmon return from the sea to spawn + die.  These ones had been fished out + thrown into  tank, hundreds of them, packed in, dying, rotting, yet still trying to jump out.  Thoroughly sickening.

In the afternoon, after a Spartan-ish lunch, Brent + Robbie went off to a wrecked Cortina to try + salvage a few parts, while the other 3 of us just sat around.  I wrote this thing, we watched the soaps for a while, chatted, switched on the radio.  When B + R came back, we watched ice hockey for a while.  The Vancouver Canucks beat some other team pretty easily.  Brent made a pizza, which was pretty good, + then we went out to celebrate our last night in Campbell River.  Not a good start tho’, because Liz and Val didn’t have any ID, + the second one we tried was shut – I don’t know why.  Finally hit lucky tho’, in a redneck bar.  It was a nice enough place though; it seems to me that the Canadian bars are generally better than US ones.  There was a country singer there too, who was pretty good.  Left after a couple of beers to return + play cards – the story of the last few days.  I taught them Nap, + got thrashed.  Val won easily.

First off, I really do want to comment on the omelette, which is still memorable, and possibly the best I have ever eaten. Only rivalled by another, many years later, also cooked by Liz.

We really do seem to be having the laziest of times: getting up late, a long slow breakfast, then some gentle, self-appointed task for the day, then intoxicants, cards, bed.

November 3rd 1981

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Robbie sinking

Today we set off to look at another of the islands, Quadra.  The plan was to catch the ferry across, pitch the tent, + stay the night there, + then visit Cortez, another island, the next day.   Anyway…a good start.  Robbie told us all to get up at 8.30, to catch the 9.00 ferry.  We ignored him, + slept on, eventually arising to fix a leisurely breakfast – fried eggs + toast.  So, by the time we were ready to go, it was getting on for 12.  The ferry ride was unexciting, + then on the island Robbie drove us out to a beach out there.  It was a nice place, and for just about the first time we had some sun.  Found a couple of small home-made rafts, + Robbie was doing quite well punting it… till he fell off.  Fortunately, Val got a picture.

We’d planned to camp there, but the camping site was shut, + Robbie didn’t fancy an illegal camp.  So, we drove off to another part of the island that Robbie thought would be good.  En route, the silencer dropped off Robbie’s car, so our resident mechanic, Brent, got out to fix it, while Val, Liz and I passed time with a Frisbee.  Out at the place we were heading for, it was really nice, an old deserted wharf.  We spent some time exploring around there, speculating wildly about buying land there + farming.  Again, tho’, no place to camp, so we decided to scrub plan A, + return to the motel, after going to a bar for a drink first.  Had one (Robbie and I played pool) then another, then discovered we had an hour to wait for ferry, so one more for the road.  On the way out, Liz slipped off a log + bashed her head, then a mile down the road, a flat tyre.  By the time we changed it, missed another ferry, so back to the pub for another pint.  Finally, made the next ferry – all pretty pissed + singing our heads off.  When we got back, Liz made some mushroom tea, then crashed out, swiftly followed by Val, and, later, Brent.  Robbie and I watched telly + played crib.  Finished the night watching a film, “Fuzz”.  Mushroom tea basically useless, + I drank loads.

Interesting to hear a mention of Cortez, and also early, idealistic plans to acquire some land and start farming. Unlike so many dreams (mine especially, but then it is my diary) this one was to come true. In a couple of years, Brent and Liz became part of a communal farm on Cortez, called Linnaea, and they have been there ever since. Brent has become an expert on permaculture, and for many years they ran residential courses there. Meanwhile, Liz became the island’s paramedic, and despite their relatively hippy-ish lifestyle, had to keep a freshly-ironed white shirt ready, in case she was called away in a helicopter, and had to present a professional appearance!

November 2nd 1981

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Our 3rd day in the Great Mushroom Hunt.  Robbie must have got up early + gone out,  because he re-appeared at about 8.30, + told us he’d called a friend of his, who seemed to know where there were some, + arranged for us to go there at 10.  This provoked a certain amount of movement in the rest of us, + we managed to get ourselves moving.  Robbie’s friend was a nurse –  I forget her name – + she was there with her year old son + her sister.  Very friendly tho’ – she gave us all a cup of coffee, + told us about some places she’d heard of, tho’ she hadn’t been picking herself.  Her kid was great – very sociable.  Left after a while to check out the places she’d mentioned – it’s a tricky situation in BC at the moment, because they’re really tightening up on the trespass laws, purely because of shrooms.  We couldn’t find any unfenced fields, so spent a little while searching along the sides of the road.  Fruitless tho’, so tried another of Robbie’s friends, Jim – he wasn’t as friendly, but then he had just got up.  He didn’t have any suggestions to make, so we drove first to a vegetarian shop – which was shut – + then drove down to the beach.  A nice stroll – Seamus the cat is really good, he follows along just like a dog.  Then back to the general store near there, a small one with a café department, + had lunch – cheese sandwiches.  I don’t think the place could handle us very well.  When we left, we had another little look around.  We parked down a country lane, walked down there a bit, but gave up when we came upon a farmhouse.  Last try – Liz stayed with the car, while the rest of us jumped the fence into UBC farmland – in fact, we had to jump the fence twice, because the first time we were cut off by a creek.  A useless trip tho’ – about 8 shrooms.  When we got back to the jolly motel room, Brent got into a real mood – I think because Liz turned the telly off on him – I know how he feels since I often go the same way.  Played cards – contract whist, then hearts.

Another day of more or less fruitless searching, such being the wages of illegal activity!