Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bowen Island Spring Sail

I often only book patients for the morning on Friday.  When I’ve worked Friday afternoon’s it’s been impossible to get out of the city until late because of rush hour. Many nights I’ve been in the office to 7 or even 9 pm when my last patient was booked at 4 pm.  When there’s an emergency on Friday afternoon all the government services seem to have wound down, family physicians are hard to reach and the emergencies are filling.  I don’t do beaurocratic work Fridays anymore because I feel quite burnt out on all the paper work that has multiplied hundreds of fold since I began practice.
If I could see patients weekly or have a slot for a patient who needed to be seen in a week or two then it would all work easily. The trouble is I’ve slowly been booking people at 1 to 2 month follow up and have patients who come in every 3 to 6 months. If you’re going to see someone in a week or even two you don’t have to worry. What does ’t get done can be continued then.  But lives change dramatically in a matter of months.  Besides the complexity and severity of illness has risen exponentially with counsellors and psychologists and even family physicians with an interest in psychiatry taking what was called the ‘cream’.  Increasingly patients insurance companies and lawyers have all manner of paper work demands and just assume you have nothing to do but fill in forms ad infinitum and pass the payment onto the patient who is normally out of work.  Patients are generally more desperate or have less resources than they did 25 years ago when I began.  There’s simply no available hospital beds except on an emergency basis. When I began working as a physician I could always count on hospital back up. But now the hospitals seem to be a separate fiefdom. Indeed the mass influx of administration personnel communication between the major players in the health care system has never been worse.
I feel guilty when I leave the office. I feel guilty often that I don’t work more.  But I’ve always worked in the areas of ‘greatest need’ in the most under serviced and often most dangerous  complex areas.  I miss procedural medicine and acute care where there was a sense of completion.  Today everything is chronic care and multi system problems.  .  People complain daily I’m not there for them.  People complain weekly they can’t get into see me more.  Everyone complains they can’t see their family physician enough and are often very angry at the factory line experience in walk in clinics and the horrible hours upon hours of waiting at emergencies.  Everyone, including me, seems that much older, too.
I figure I’ll go crazy if I don’t get out to sea or to the country. I spend my weekends preparing emotionally and spiritually for the following week.  And I’m often answering calls, handing emergencies taking emails and phone calls and not at all minding it, indeed thankful to be of help. I’ve been on call 24/7 most of my life, whether it was to northern communities by radio phone or to doctors office and emergencies.  I only object when people abuse phones, like the advertisers who use up the paper in my fax machines.  Then there’s the really sick patients who use up the answering machine time ‘filling the machines’ with their lengthy stories and daunting tales.  My assistants spend hours wading through these messages I rarely hear.
All this is to say that I absolutely love when the universe comes together and I do get away on a Friday afternoon before the rush hour.  And that’s just what happened this week.  I saw my last patient, cleared up the administrative concerns, answered pressing phone calls and was in my car on my way to pick up Laura.  We were supposed to go to the Ballet on Friday night but it was sunny.  I so wanted to get out on the water. I needed to get away.
“What about going out in the GIRI instead of going to  the Ballet?” I asked when I saw her.
“I’d love that,” she said.
20 minutes later Gilbert Laura and I were headed to the boat, still ahead of rush hour.  I almost didn’t cast off.  Normally I like to leave first thing in the morning because I’m so exhausted by Friday I’m afraid my brain won’t work if there’s any problems.  But it was only 4 pm and sunny still. I’d not had the boat out since the fall.  Some winters  I do sail but often winter is the time that boat work get done.
Oh what the heck!!
I filled the water tank, unhooked the electricity, fired up  the new glorious Volvo D 40 diesel engine then cast off.
What a joy!
We chugged across Coal Harbour to the float fuel dock.   I had to fill the fuel tanks .  Tom had scoured the main tank and put in an inspection window this winter.    There was a wait while other boats fueled.  But 6 pm we were finished  headed through First Narrows for Bowen Island.  2 hours to Snug Cove.  I also got to enjoy the new Standard Horizon GPS Chart Plotter Tom had installed. Delightful tech.  Great to watch the little boat travelling along the electronic map.  Also nice to have gps speed and lat and long in one location.  I used to have to go below to get the gps speed off the downstairs gps.    Lovely evening too. So exciting to be out in English Bay on a Friday night with a whole weekend ahead.
I was even able to anchor in the light.  Usually I’m anchoring in the dark trying not to bash boats and buoys around me.   Everything is so much easier in the light.  I loved being anchored and going below for the evening.  We’d not taken the time to provision but found some pumpernickel bread, a can of pork and beans and a can of Irish Stew.  I mixed the two cans and heated up a mariner feast fit for King Neptune.  Laura was delighted with comfort food and Gilbert glad to lick the plates.
Rocking at anchor we read.  George gave me B.J. Novak’s One More Thing, Stories and Other Stories. It’s brilliant.  Thoroughly entertaining and very funny. He’s a modern day Vonnegut.
We didn’t stay up too late.  I had a bit of anchor watch happening with the wind and rain that came up.
It’s a tight fit in the Mannion Bay with all the scows, derelicts, crab traps and buoys.  I eventually let out enough anchor I stopped worrying.  Laura and Gilbert made the bed warm beneath the comforter.  It’s finally warm enough to be in the boat without the heater on.
In the morning we slept in a bit. I’d thrown the dinghy over and lugged the Yamaha 4 hp out board into it the night before.  In the morning I tried to fire it up without success. It was sunny and pleasant. I took the engine apart. I’d had it in the shop last month.   I’d get it started but it would only run for a few minutes before sputtering out.  Well, that was a disappointment.  I threw the outboard back up onto the sailboat deck.
The dinghy has oars.  I got Laura and Gilbertt on board and manly rowed us across the bay and into Snug Cove.  I know I’ve been talking with God about my need for more exercise. I have the waist of a desk jockey rather than those hard abs advertised on late night tv.  Well here I was getting what I prayed for.  Gilbert and Laura enjoyed the ride.
Ashore Gilbert immediately dumped on the green grass.  Thankfully we had poop bags.  Bowen is lovely destination.  Vancouver’s island suburb.  I remember visiting Kirk when he lived here.  It’s a great destination though anchoring has got worse each year so I’m often going to Spanish Banks then dinghying into the Granville Market or going further to Plumper Cove and crossing to Gibson ashore for breakfast and shopping when I only have a weekend for boating. When I have three days I can cross the straight.  Bowen Island will have to do something about Mannion Bay anchoring.  I've been coming several times a year for over 25 years and spending hundreds of dollars each weekend, ashore  for breakfast, dinner or shopping.  The profusion of private anchor buoys and derelicts and scows has made it really difficult to anchor even off season.  I love the marina but it's difficult for a big boat to get into just to overnight.
Bennies on Bowen with lattes was sweet. That was followed by a stop at the grocery store.  Then I saw Eagle Creek bags at the Safari store and had a lovely visit with the delightful Carole Peterson,  owner, photographer, adventure guide. Eagle Creek bags are the best world travel luggage.  Now Laura and I have matching sets for our trip to Ireland. When we motorcycle camp she gets her one saddlebag.  In the Miata we each have room in the trunk for our knapsack’s.  The boat and RV are like moveable apartments so have most everything especially in the way of tools.  I hate being places where I can’t find a wrench or screw driver.  I could kill terrorists since they’ve made it impossible for me to carry swiss army knives or multi tools. I’ve lost a half dozen so far forgetting them on my belt till I set off an alarm or they show up in a pocket of my luggage.
Somehow I found the strength to row us all back to the boat.  More reading and napping and throwing a red tennis ball constantly for Gilbert.  If one of us petered out then he swapped over to the other. He wouldn’t want either of us to feel he playing favourites.   When he caught me napping at one point and not participating in the ball throw game, he jumped right up on my chest and licked my face.
Laura cooked up the pork chops and potatoes I’d bought in the afternoon. We had it with the packaged cesar salad kit and followed up the meal with chocolate bars.  All the while we watched the comedy MacGrubber and Jackie Chan’s Zodiac on DVD.  Saturday night in harbour at the movies.  More rain and waves but Snug in the boat.
This morning I made coffee and porridge. Gilbert had his Little Cesar.  I began reading Juan de Fuca’s Strait by Barry Gough,  Phillips gift to me.  I really am enjoying the history very much.
Then it was gearing up with rain pants and rain floater jacket, putting the motor on the railing and hauling in the Achiles dinghy.  It’s the lightest dinghy available and I’m pretty good at getting it on board alone. The Yamaha 4 hp has to go though. It just about kills me to lift it in and out of the dinghy up to the deck of th sailboat. I have seen the Honda 2.5 hp which is half the weight so I’m going to get that next. It’s hard to believe that as a younger man I was lifting a 15 hp in and out of the dinghy onto the GIRI then went to a 9.9, then a 6 then this 4 hp.  I’m definitely getting weaker over the last quarter century or maybe smarter.
Weighing anchor, thankful it came up without a glyph, I got underway.  It was raining heavy and fog reduced visibility to half a mile .  I couldn’t see half across Howe Strait.  When I got out in the strait I was surprised at all the sailboats and little power boats. Several of us were making our way to First Narrows for the turn.  A couple of sailboat were actually sailing with crews of 6 or 8  oblivious to the inclement weather.  Laura Gilbert and I enjoyed the protected interior of the canvas dodger.  I just wished my wipers worked.  One more thing to get working again.  A boat is always a work in progress but mine is offshore ready in the big picture.  Not that I plan to go offshore this year but I love the feeling of having this amazing boat capable of sailing around the world underway.
We didn’t hoist sails but enjoyed the new Volvo engine chugging along taking us through First Narrows and up Coal Harbour. Despite the difficulty with docking in the incredibly tight space I did it like a pro.  What a relief.
Now we’re in the cabin. Laura is making bacon sandwiches. The electric heater is drying everything out and making the cabin cozy. Gilbert is sleeping with his chin on my leg.  Life is Good.  Thank you SV GIRI for a fabulous weekend on the water.  Thank you God!

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

St Patricks Day Reminiscences

On lunch break from working at the Doc-Side methadone clinic I took Gilbert for a walk in nearby Gastown.  A couple of Irish girls at the Irish pub were selling hats and tiaras. I bought one for myself and some for the staff.  The Filopinas  looked great in Irish.
I enjoyed the music and celebration on the streets.  I have tickets to visiting U2.   I’ve always loved St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer.  Christ above me, Christ behind me.... I only wish I’d had a green jacket for Gilbert to celebrate the day.  He’s definitely my personal leprechaun.
I’d just read the history of Irish Slavery. In many cases it was worse than the slavery of blacks but history excludes it's mention regardless of the horrible treatment and high death rates.  Partly it's because the 'brand' of 'slavery ' is racist and the rampant slavery that continues today by blacks of blacks and the fundamental slavery in the moslem worlds doesn't fit the 'racist' narratives of modern media.  Even the 'black Irish' those whose blood was heavily influenced by Spanish don't count.  The forgotten masses that followed the potato famines are of no account.  In the US they've had a Kennedy and an Obama so perhaps this era is finally behind us.  Today's main slavery is 'sex slaves' and it will be some time before the great armchair debaters of historic issues will let the light shine on the darkness that threatens girls and young boys from all over the world.
Laura and I are planning on visiting in Ireland in June. There’s a conference in Trinity I want to attend for a day.  We watched the great movie, Michael Collins starring Liam Neilsen and Julia Roberts.  Theres the whole history of Irish independence from England and the later Troubles to consider.
When I was working in England the IRA were bombing.  Baiba, my wife at the time, was working across from a building the IRA bombed.  Glass hit her face.  It was a frightening time. Working at the television studio I was evacuating weekly because of bomb threats.
Grand dad was from northern ireland, an Orange Man.  Protestant.  My brother Ron found his grave when he travelled there a few years back with his lovely wife. Mom was fond of her Irish roots.
I early followed more my father’s father’s Scottish roots, the Aberdeen connection and my Glasgow grandmother with the aunts and uncles and cousins we all learned to love.
 I think  Ireland seemed more a foreign country to me because being protestant, once the Catholics took over, it seemed the IRA had one.
Laura’s Catholic and her great grandparents married in St. Patrick Cathedral.
In a way I think I thought of St.  Patrick’s Day  as more a Catholic victory celebration than a day of celebration of Ireland and St. Patrick.  This St. Patrick’s Day, for the first time I thought of Ireland as Ireland, beyond all division, a place of people.  My desire to finally go to Ireland is a decision to own my roots.  I don't so much think of Christians as divided either coming back from Istanbul where the 21st century confronts not the Moslems but the 15th century jihadists . In Istanbul I met moderates and secularists and Christians and Buddhists and enjoyed the spiritual movement which puts division secondary to inclusion.
I think too that the alcoholics I befriended once in my youth were Irish Catholics and I got a skewed view of Irish as drunken stupid louts who’d betray their grandmother for a tot. Now I know that alcohol and drugs reduce any human to the beast and reptile so I’ve separated Irish from their downfall with drink.  Ireland today is a land of monasteries and literature, the arts and industry, not a place of breweries and strife.
Indeed I’d argue that so much of the Irish ‘troubles’ and fighting had as much to do with booze as it did with politics. By comparison more sober  Canada and Australia gained home rule and independence from England without the use of the very jihadist tactics which we condemn as ‘terrorism’ today. Admittedly America,  India and Ireland  paved the way for us younger sons and daughters indeed.
It’s been difficult for us all to accept the mutual unravelling of civilization that occurred with the Irish, Prods and the British military.  I enjoyed the movie Michael Collins as it captured the highs and lows of this struggle, the guerrilla wars and the internal betrayals.
In the end Michael Collins wasn’t killed by the British or the protestants but by fellow IRA’s.  Jesus himself was betrayed by his disciple Judas.  In the same way, personally I find that the enemy is me as often as it is you or them.
Today we know that war is only profitable for the war machine at the cost of the men in the front.  Further, the chance of being honourably killed by the enemy is slim because a third of those killed are killed by ‘friendly’ fire while another third are killed by rank stupidity of the leadership like Hitler sending his troops into Russia without proper winter clothing.  Only a third of those killed can even hope to be killed by the enemy.  In days gone by it was more likely you’d die from cholera or other diseases including syphilis, a great scourge of soldiers.
Obtaining my master in divinity I’ve been following the ecumenical study of Christianity and comparative religions.  Embracing the Orthodox in Moscow and Istanbul I was ready to study the Celtic Christian tradition with it’s Scottish Iona connection.  The mysticism of the Sufi’s and the mysticism of Hinduism and Buddhism connected with that celtic ‘fay’ nature that is celebrated in the monastic traditions of Ireland.
St. Patrick advanced Christianity in Ireland mostly by developing the monasteries with their Abbott rule and the importance of the Christian school.  St. Patrick had been influenced by Ambrose and Origen and the Dessert Fathers.  Meditation was central to the teaching of the saints of Egypt.  In Cappadocia I visited one of the famous monasteries and schools of the day similarly influenced.  Now I look forward to visiting the monasteries that kept ancient education alive and celebrated learning.  The church has been always so central to education and medicine.
In contrast to the modern media misinformation the church kept the light of learning burning through the dark ages.  The great book, How the Irish Saved Civilization records how the monks of Ireland taught the political bullies who had taken over Europe.  Politics and war not religion reduced Europe to the Dark ages.  ISIS today is not Moslem but more a bunch of killers and very creepy people who want to have sex with underage girls and cloak it in the respectability of religion.  ISIS has killed more real Moslems than Christians or Jews.
The Celtic monks continued to reproduce the writings of old, passing on the learning and being the photocopiers of their day as well as recording the ongoing teaching.  I so look forward to seeing the famous Book of Kells.
In the Bible the celts are the Gallatians.
The Danish Vikings though brought freckles and red hair to Ireland.  My mother and brother are red headed and I was actually entered into a freckle contest as a child.  I suspect my nautical ways have something to do with the piratical genes I came by honestly this way.
We just watched the movie Calvary about the sacrifice of an Irish priest.  I’m reading a study of Celtic Christianity and was thoroughly annoyed at the Pelagius and Augustine Debate.  Pelagius of the so called “Pelagian Heresy” was from Scotland and believed children were innocent at birth and celebrated women as equal. This offended the Roman African Augustine who literally attacked and hounded Pelagius in a horrible way giving us ‘original sin’ and “infant baptism’ instead.
John Smyth centuries later would break from the Anglicans and stop infant baptism insisting only adults could make the conscious decision to renounce sin. The Baptist Church now is a hundred million and in the United States is the largest protestant communion against the Catholics. I was raised Baptist, became United, then Anglican and am in my own way looking back through my own personal religious journey.  Ireland is definitely a stop on that journey.
Now it’s time to get to work.
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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hannah and Caleb Wedding, Faith Fellowship Baptist Church, Vancouver

Aim became my assistant a number of years ago while she was completing her PhD.  Her friend Joanne worked with me too. Joanne was completing her Masters Program.  Aim met Marc, married and moved to Sydney Australia.  Joanne met her beau and we’re still waiting.  She might be the next.  Joanne was friends with Hannah’s sister so when Joanne moved on to bigger and better things with completion of her degree, Hannah came to work with me.  Consequently I met Caleb.  Hannah is a true jewel.  I’ve been really blessed with assistants.  Aim, hearing happily that Hannah was getting married, said that my office was the ‘office of love’. We all think it’s Gilbert’s influence. Gilbert, my cockapoo is the real boss at the office and he brings out the maternal in women.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting all the Pagarigans, one of the finest families I’ve ever been privileged to know. The only thing I have to do is keep an eye on Mr. Pagarigan when I’ve left my Harley at his house because Mida, his wife says, he’d love to ride off on it.  Mida, a nurse who cares for the sickest of babies is a sweetheart of the first order.  All of them would argue that it’s their relationship with Jesus that has made their family and lives what they are.  Hannah was the music director of her church when she worked for me.  Now she’s working in Genetics Research.  Mida is just hopeful she’ll have grandchildren finally .
Caleb is a very lucky man and knows it. He’s intelligent, caring and respectful with a great sense of humour.  Laura and I loved attending their wedding. Faith Fellowship Baptist Church was a wonderful experience.  I didn’t bring Gilbert only because I was afraid he’d leap into Hannah’s lap taking no notice of her gorgeous wedding dress.  
The decorations of the church were beautiful.  The gowns were exquisite. I loved the music.  Later we loved the food most of which was a labour of love and brought by friends and family.  The service was centering. The pastor was very special.  The shoe game was a lark.  The people we met were all so friendly and welcoming. I loved seeing the love of Hannah and Caleb celebrated in marriage before Christ and community.
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