Because I see Ollie more than my other grandchildren I will say we have bonded the best. And though my wife is his primary babysitter I take him for bike rides whenever she needs a break.
This afternoon, while I pedalled and Ollie relaxed in his bike trailer, I caught myself saying, “It doesn’t get much better than this, Gordie.”
[“Say ‘sneeze burgers’, Ollie’.” And he did.]
[“You get in the back seat, Grandpa, and I’ll drive.”]
[Ollie likes the cannons at the Fork of the Thames]
[At Thames Park Ollie spotted pieces of quartz]
I’m hoping our good relationship will last through his teen years (maybe he’ll take to me to see ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Captain Jack Retires at 65’] and he’ll willingly volunteer to bike me to the local coffee shop (in an adult trailer with a/c) when I’m in my 90s.
Financial and economic matters look grim in the U.S. (and Europe and developing countries like China and India). The future, however, could look grimmer if the U.S. tries to loosen the grip of growing debt by taking on more debt, i.e., stimulus spending.
My recommendations: Reduce your anxiety and unease related to economic recovery.
Reduce spending, pay down debt, save money for the future, learn to adjust to the smaller economy and lifestyle we can actually afford.
Recently, upon my new Miele 21-speed bicycle (with a trailer attached bearing some of my worldly goods, incl. beans and spare socks), I journeyed 80 - 90 kilometers (not as the crow flies) from London to Springwater Conservation Area, on mostly paved roads through some of Ontario’s finest landscape.
I share the following photos in the hopes that you’ll consider a bicycle vacation as well in the future and that you’ll let me know about it, or share some photos of your own. Perhaps you’ll come across the red squirrel that stole my rye bread and discover a way to deal with the little beggar. Let me know!
Photo 1: Heading out of London
I stopped to admire the bike lane on White Oaks Rd. I wish there were more like it, for safety’s sake.
Photo 2: A lovely laneway
Jennifer and Luc win first prize in the “Long and Lovely Laneway” category. Don’t ask me where the lane is located; I didn't write it down. Maybe Edgeware Rd.?
Photo 3: My trusty Kelly kettle
I travelled to Thunder Bay and back (3,300 km.) in 2007, taking only a Kelly kettle to heat water for meals and tea. Sure, I ate a lot of instant oatmeal and Mr. Noodle, but Canada is the land of twigs after all, so I saved a fortune in fuel costs. Oh, a fortune to be sure.
Photo 4: My tiny ‘pocket rocket’ stove
Even though I could easily use a Kelly kettle (w special attachment) to heat my stew, I depended on my propane stove. Stir the stew, drop twigs into the kettle for tea. Stir, drop, stir, drop. Two things at once. Easy kap-easy.
Photo 5: Once upon a time
Behind my can of Crazy Canuck beer sits my bag of rye bread. I ate 1.5 slices for supper. Later in the evening the rest was stolen by a ferocious wild animal. Photo to follow.
Photo 6: Ferocious beast
Though outweighed by the many grey and black squirrels in the area, the wild red squirrel (as of yet, no one can claim to have definitively tamed one) is a master at defending his territory, i.e., all of Springwater Cons. Area. And this one can cart off a loaf of bread in the blink of an eye.
Photo 7: Big appetite
Though I searched the grounds thoroughly around my campsite after the theft, I found not one crumb of bread or piece of leftover plastic bag. All I found was the hole to a hideout. A red squirrel’s home? I don’t know! I wasn’t about to stick my nose in there!
On Thursday I bicycled from my home in London to the Springwater Conservation Area (to the south-east, toward Aylmer) with camping gear, groceries (including an expensive loaf of rye bread that was perfect for toast and sandwiches. Oh, perfect, I say), bathing suit and spare socks in a small trailer behind me.
On Saturday I arrived back home safe and sound, as fit as a fiddle, and now give the trip - a significant piece in my journey to discover the world in a fun-filled but frugal fashion - an overall score of 9.5 out of 10.
I’m pretty darn sure, had a red squirrel - devious little critter - not stolen my rye bread, the trip would have scored even higher.
The journey covered 80 - 90 kilometers (not as the crow flies) on mostly paved roads through some of Ontario’s finest landscape. I went up hills and down hills and am glad I rode a bicycle with 21 gears. I used seven of them on a regular basis.
I came home thinking the following:
- The only better way to see the same countryside would be by walking through it at an easy pace with a few supplies in a backpack.
(Note to self: Make plans to do so before you’re 85-years old).
As the second-best way to go, cycling is superb. (Admittedly, my hinder parts have a second opinion.) A cyclist, not rushed for time, sees his surroundings quite fully. His mind can absorb the sights, sounds and smells in a very appreciative manner.
["Watch out for the kid with the ball!"]
The trip cost very little. The rewards were very high.
The rewards fell under various headings: Emotional. Intellectual. Fiscal. Spiritual. Recreational. Physical.
And photographical. (Even if there isn’t such a word, I still have some pictures to show you.)
If you were to go on a wee vacation by bicycle, where would you go?
As an old economist (and highly qualified - I have a university degree and a valid library card) I often say some brilliant things. To be precise, I said three brilliant things yesterday in Pt 1.
One. “We’re all in this pea soup together, so as Europe's economy falters North America's declines as well, and here in Canada, citizens will have to re-adjust the Canadian Dream downward - if they haven’t done so already.”
No matter how good “our fundamentals” are, i.e., according to Line Dance Minister Jim Flaherty, Canada is up to his arm pits in the mire of the global economy and many of our big export customers aren’t doing so well right now and may never return to their former glory. Canadians who believe bigger is better and that consumer goods are the way to happiness may need to re-adjust their dreams downward - more than a titch - in the near future. (And ‘right now’ would be a good idea, in my opinion).
Two. “I propose we quickly reduce personal and household spending, pay down debts and save money for tough times ahead (just like ants, who put away supplies for the winter).”
I believe those three bits of sound financial advice form the basis of a world economy that fits the planet’s ability to feed, clothe and shelter us in a sustainable manner. Not that many will listen or adhere to advice so simple (while rain forests are cleared to make room for cattle feed), but I give it anyway (i.e., to humans. Ants already know how to handle tough times).
Three. “Living with less now will produce many positive benefits in the future.”
Most of the resources required to feed, clothe and shelter 7 billion humans today are used in excess, especially in countries considered the wealthiest 10 per cent. In 10 years, when the population will be 8 billion and rising, global shortages of food, water, building materials, etc. will raise many concerns, but those who voluntarily practice conservation methods today will be better prepared for the thin times.
Reduce spending and enjoy the following benefits:
you’ll spend less time and money shopping
you’ll have more time for family and friends
you’ll have more money to pay down debt
you’ll spend less time in the car
you’ll save money on gasoline
In ‘A Short History of Progress’ by R. Wright we read “when guano deposits and other natural fertilizers were exhausted, commercial farming became almost entirely dependent on chemical fertilizers made from oil and gas. Fossil energy not only powers but feeds the modern world. We are literally eating oil.” pg. 115
by reducing spending you’ll eat less oil
you’ll have more money for your savings account
you’ll have more time for inexpensive hobbies, e.g., gardening, bicycling
you’ll save more money by gardening, bicycling
you’ll develop new muscles by exercising
your body will look healthier
you’ll feel healthier
In ‘A Short History of Progress’ by R. Wright we read “ecological markers suggest that in the early 1960s, humans were using about 70 per cent of nature’s yearly output; by the early 1980s, we’d reached 100 per cent; and in 1999, we were at 125 per cent. Such numbers may be imprecise, but their trend is clear - they mark the road to bankruptcy.” (pg. 129)
by reducing spending you’ll feel you’re not bankrupting yourself or the planet
you’ll develop peace of mind by reducing CO2 emissions, slowing the trend toward higher temperatures and saving the planet
you’ll become less of a slave to things, material goods, and unsustainable consumption
your life will become simpler
you’ll smile more often
you’ll put your feet up more often and like it
Reduce your debts and enjoy the following benefits:
you’ll feel peace of mind and less weight on your shoulders
you’ll receive fewer bills or threats in the mail
you’ll be able to do less juggling of chainsaws (i.e., personal finances)
you’ll sleep easier
you’ll rejoice when the MINIMUM PAYMENT is zero
you’ll be free from vexing mathematical dilemmas associated with credit cards, e.g., “what is 19.5 per cent of the price of a big screen TV, charged monthly for 4.6 years?”
as debt declines you’ll realize that one day you’ll be paying yourself and not a faceless, excessively rich corporation
you’ll feel that you’re finally occupying your own house, not the bank’s house
you’ll smile more often
you’ll hear unusual but satisfying questions, e.g., “why is Dad or Mom smiling more often?”
Save money for tough times and enjoy the following benefits:
you’ll grow tougher along with the times
you’ll have cash as prices increase
credit card companies cannot charge you 19.5 per cent interest rate on your cash
you’ll have money or a cushion in case of an emergency
you’ll develop a feeling of self-confidence, self-reliance
you’ll develop a healthier attitude about life on earth
you’ll become wiser and more selective about consumption
Yesterday, after seeing Mr. C on a nearby tree, I assumed everything (re his nest and mate) was AOK. Later I posted day-old pictures of Mrs. C. sitting on her nest. Things may have changed.
This morning, shortly after quietly closing the front door (I didn’t want to frighten Mrs. C if she was sitting upon her nest in my front yard apricot tree), I noticed a scattering of twigs upon my walkway, steps from the porch, and directly under the cardinal’s nest.
I wondered if a squirrel or cat had done a dirty deed.
I looked toward the nest and saw no movement, and since then I’ve not seen or heard Mr. or Mrs. C in the neighbourhood.
We’re all in this pea soup together, so as Europe's economy falters North America's declines as well, and here in Canada, citizens will have to re-adjust the Canadian Dream downward - if they haven’t done so already.
(FYI - The Canadian Dream is much like the American Dream, but our cold hard cash is colder)
A newspaper article, ‘Europe woes hit home’ (July 12, London Free Press), shares details about Canada’s struggling trade deficit (i.e., we import much more than we export): “(It) unexpectedly rose in May, pushed up by record imports while exporters struggled to make any progress in the face of the European economic crisis.”
‘Unexpectedly?’ Somebody didn’t see that coming? I'm very surprised. European debt has been deep for a long time and few countries can afford to buy our Made in Canada products. (We may be seeing the end result of driving the economy, consumerism and easy debt too hard for too many years).
I was also surprised when the writer quoted Statistics Canada as saying that “the May deficit edged up to $793 million from $623 million in April.” In my mind, the deficit (that grew more than 27% in one month) did more than ‘edge up’. Stats Can knows exports are an extremely vital part of the Canadian economy, and should have reported that the deficit ‘jumped up’, and that we should ‘wake up’.
Admittedly, the term ‘edged up’ was better used in a later sentence in the article: “Exports to the United States... edged up by 0.2% (in May) after four consecutive month-on-month falls.” It wasn’t much of an edge, but it was something. (That’s what ‘edged up’ means, right?)
After examining our sticky situation I came to the conclusion that the best way to put a positive spin on interconnected and multiplying global economic woes is to get ahead of the curve. I propose we quickly reduce personal and household spending, pay down debts and save money for tough times ahead (just like ants, who put away supplies for the winter).
Living with less now will produce many positive benefits in the future.
Mrs. C gives me the ‘eagle eye’ every time she spots me near her nest in my front yard apricot tree. I assume it’s because she is sitting on eggs or very young chicks.
Mr. C ‘cheeps’ from a safe distance when I come outdoors with my camera and a few days ago I saw him standing on the edge of the nest and either feeding his young or straightening his CD collection. The movements are somewhat similar, in my mind at least.
This morning Grandson Ollie spent less time than usual scanning the apricot tree to locate bird activity because he wanted to show me his collection of Play Doh angry birds.