Holidays 7

[A propos of electrician charging a lot] But there – he had much enjoyed his trip to the Continent and a brief stay of ten days in UK two years ago (during which he and his wife had managed to visit both the Lowlands and the West Country, taking in the Lakes on the way) and who is to blame him if he is determined to go again later this year, and do the thing properly with a camper van for six weeks!

The journey from Heathrow to Tokyo was formidable, 16 hours I think – the man at the porthole of my row of seats kept saying this is such an interesting route, when I could see damn all sitting on the aisle. We went over Greenland and Iceland and called in at Anchorage Alaska ( have you ever heard of it? I hadn’t). As we stayed in the brand new and large airport, I saw nothing of the town which was out of sight, as was everything else, but a Canadian woman who was doing research on what people thought of their new airport was very chatty and said there were 200,000-odd in the area of the town. She had lived there since 1965 and didn’t look like moving. Then on to Tokyo, where we arrived at 3.45 p.m. and after usual procedures went to the town by bus in the pouring rain. On arrival at TCAT I duly caught a taxi and went to the hotel JAL had said they’d booked for me, only to be told they’d had no booking and were full. As I hadn’t felt like having a second large lunch within some 5 hours – the 2nd lunch was at 1 a.m. – (and a snack between) I was both starving and exhausted, so held my ground until in desperation they phoned JAL and had obviously been through to umpteen places and came back and said JAL had made a mistake and booked me into London – a likely story – however they booked me into a sister hotel some 10 minutes away and charged the taxi up to JAL as I assured them I wasn’t going to pay! After that things looked up and I was given a good double room and by the time I’d had a bath and some dinner it was just on ten, and of course the tour I’d wanted was fully booked – and none of the other tour offices were open. The ‘desk’ went to endless trouble to no avail, and eventually showed me how I could do it by myself. This was fortunate as when I eventually got to sleep I woke at 9.30! I duly ‘did’ Nicco alone – 4 underground trains, 2 railway trains from a different station, which took 2 hours each way, and then a bus to and fro. By which time I felt I had to eat tho’ reluctant to waste the time and chose a revolting plastic copy of what was available, and got something else, which was delicious, but I tried not to think what it was, not fried fish as I thought, certainly, but it could have been veal! I DID the Shrine in a big way, some 3 hours of it, all very beautiful and well kept, but now I am going to put up a notice to say I have DONE shrines and temples, never again. I regret I didn’t stay on my bus which went to the top of the mountain with the lake and waterfall, and had the zigzag drive back, but when they announced we’d got to the temple I thought I’d do it in the order of the tour but alas there wasn’t time, and by then it was misty and I wouldn’t see a thing. However an American on a tour told me when enquiring how long it would take, ‘if you’ve been up some hills, and seen a lake, I wouldn’t bother’! I’d just told her at the bottom of a flight of enormous stone steps when she’d asked if they were worth going up that I didn’t think so, so this was her offering back!! Anyway I met so many nice Japanese on the day, and was pressed to have what my neighbour on the train was eating, I think it was raw pig rinds coloured rainbow wise, and very peppery; and coming back I had a very chatty man who spoke very little English, who conversed in a series of questions, ‘was I alone?’ and which hotel was I staying at. When I hedged at this he was obviously a bit offended and produced his card to show he was a doctor, as he had told me! I had chocolate fed me this time. Altho’ it was such a long journey I felt I’d probably met more of the locals and seen more of the countryside than I would have on a tour, and spent over £30 less as well! On the way back I was directed to the wrong train by the ticket collector and had to change so asked an executive type who are the ones who seem to have some English, and he not only understood me but took me up and down two escalators and saw me onto the right train, which I thought more than civil. The same happened when lost in Ginz and I asked a young university type who left his 3 companions and took me across a very busy crossing and down two streets until I could see my hotel! It has its advantages being old and dim, or perhaps you’d call it being a good manipulator!!

[and apropos]

You will have heard from X of her adventures in Tokyo, which she seems to have managed in exemplary fashion. She is full of praise for the Japanese and their good service and politeness.

When we got to the village where the cottage is we had a little difficulty in deciding for sure which was the house we were aiming for, and spent some time trying the keys we had been given on the wrong one before finding a lock that fitted! But once we were in, it was very comfortable and equipped with all the oddments we would have provided, kept in the sort of places we looked for them. We dug out the telephone, the radio and TV from where they were locked away, and were soon safely ensconced. We did various expeditions to some nice touristy shops, including one gorgeous one called Country Craft with lots of Liberty things. Another day to a village on the north coast of the lake where we looked at the possibility of buying a holiday cottage just twenty years ago when the whole place was brand new. I’m thoroughly glad we didn’t. It had been built up a lot, and all the trees had grown, but half the houses seemed to be for sale, and it still had the cold wind off the lake which was one of the things that put us off originally.

It was great fun to get your big packet of prints, and long letter as well. … The Court House looks much as it did: but the Post Office seems to have disappeared from its old site. And I was interested see that the church roof no longer has the old corrugated iron down which the John Crows used to slip with such horrid screeching of their claws!… That was a very good snap you got of X and Y. They don’t change. And the picture of the fruits at once produced the sort of dry feeling in my mouth that one got from that small green one with the skin like a wall of stones set in mortar. I can’t remember its name, but I used to eat it under protest as an example to you children! But the paw-paw looked good!

The screech of claws on corrugated iron

You mentioned in your letter the craft fair at Finchcocks ‘where we went to a concert’ – but the only concert I could recall was the organ one in Amsterdam at which I went to sleep. I even got out my Travel Log book and looked through it without finding it – though I greatly enjoyed remembering a number of other places and occasions instead!

You had remarked on the back of one photo how shallow the water was there – but it was always like that inside the reef [I had just doubled in height between visits], apart from the deep pool by the one break in the reef, where the baby barracuda used to lurk, and the yellow and black stripy fish and the blue ones darted in and out. It was being so shallow that kept it over 80 degrees, I suppose: and has stopped me ever bathing here!

So far so good! Only felt queasy once! Sea has been calm and weather warm enough to sit on deck. Enjoying the good food and excellent pampering service. Also plenty of talks and activities to keep us busy!

We decided to celebrate by going to Cyprus for 2 weeks. It’s a great time to go – still warm and the sea is lovely to swim in, but there aren’t as many tourists. We have been eating out, swimming, reading and doing some sightseeing – a good mixture.

X is off to Russia – I am so pleased – can hardly believe it until it happens. He is going to see the museums. Maybe he’ll turn himself around as I told him he will be 50 and he should start to live!!

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