Holidays 6

I’ve booked the early ferry (7.20) on 2nd Jan. (we have to report at 6.20 I’m afraid!) and the evening (6ish) on the 19th. What I reckon is that we go down to Greymouth on the 2nd via Blenheim and the inland road and stay Greymouth in a guest house B&B (get some fish and chips or something en route) – go to Lake Moeraki on the 3rd which should give us enough time to have a bit of a look at the Fox Glacier and other points of interest. There’s a motel at Lake M. that we stayed at before – bit sandfly-y but otherwise OK – and then over Haast Pass the next day and down to Cromwell. If we leave on the 18th, stay in Christchurch and come on up to Picton on the 19th.

Of course I have been frustrated by the number of shop windows which enchant X (and I fear she is equally frustrated that she doesn’t have long enough to look). We went into a big covered market near San Lorenzo this morning to buy our picnic, and that was fun to see. But the high spot was visiting San Gimignano yesterday – although fraught with misfortunes: (a) we went by train, not having enquired about the bus which was 50% cheaper – we returned that way; (b) we were late so got on without tickets and were charged nearly as much as the fare as a penalty – a minimum, our charming conductor appeared to be saying; and (c) most catastrophic of all, in the hurry I forgot my camera – I could have used a whole film on such a place. Some postcards and a sketch we did will have to suffice for the record.

The Jamaica trip sounds very exciting and I’m green with envy, and if souls can change colour I expect X would be too!

Green with envy

We are here on the Salmon River drinking our white wine and watching the locals celebrating our loss of the colonies. This is no doubt a wonderful continent – the country, the wildlife, the space – we love it. BUT, it is difficult to define why, we would never live here. Wonderful BUT.

They had double booked my seat – a large lady was ensconced in 16F. So – alas [!] they had to put me in CLUB ha ha – a window seat too – end of the saga.

Still the same as ever here – buildings have deteriorated a bit more but the people still as nice – the island still unspoiled. Grenada is off the main tourist tract – cruise ships come and go quickly so are of no real benefit. Yachts and a few private houses who rent out and a few hotels and that is about it. We are enjoying the peace.

She suggests that I go for a short coach tour in Switzerland next spring – given I can sell the house and feel less broke and more energetic, I’d rather fancy going with her.

We can put a bit of the money from the house aside in the hopes of a trip next year. Of course X wants to go via Mexico, the Russian Georgia and Crete – you know her sublime indifference to the dull facts of geography!

He has recently ‘put into the water’ a 33ft motor launch. He bought the hull and finished all the top works himself. It has a $15,000 diesel engine in it and does 27 mph. He described how he had taken it across to the Sounds for Easter, and I must say it sounded a hair-raising trip with ten foot waves and visibility down to a kilometre or two. And he has never learnt any navigation, and only had a little hand compass somewhere tucked away in a cupboard. Apparently he dug it out, screwed it to the woodwork in front of the wheel, and he had a chart from which he managed to get a rough bearing from the north entrance of the sounds to the island and in due course, there was the island in front of him. ‘Good fun,’ said he – which reminded me of the head man of the Air Force who was talking on the radio the other day, and described flying Tornado aircraft at low levels as good fun – by which I gathered that he meant good for the flow of adrenalin!

Time is moving at a rate of knots and we sink weary and sleep 8 hours plus a night (praise be) however noisy the traffic. We did Ostia yesterday and I kept a close eye on your steps – X couldn’t believe we’d covered the whole city. We were there rising 4 hours when our feet and empty tums gave out and we missed out on a lot. I was disappointed X wasn’t as enthusiastic as we were – I must have talked about it too much. It was v. sad how much of the reconstruction was crumbling again and half the gorgeous mosaics covered in sand and even being broken up by weeds – tho’ people are still working on it. One of the joys was having less tourists than in the more accessible places. We had a bottle of vino and water with us which helped on the way and went to find lunch at 3 p.m. The nearest place wouldn’t serve any more and the second was wildly expensive and all fish dishes. We had the cheapest pasta speciality which had – we think – prawns, snails and other unmentionables – but we were so hungry we enjoyed it! We ordered a carafe of wine but they only served whole bottles – the cover charge seemed wasted if we didn’t eat something else so we had a piece of the most gorgeous gateau – and left a trifle light-headed at 4 p.m.! When we got there there was an American couple at the next table who’d also got involved in a whole bottle of wine and he was a riot. He kept telling us he’d never got drunk before and giggling and she kept assuring us she’d never seen him like this – but was sweet and amused about it.

We had a rather queer meal in a takeaway place and ended up for the night in the Railway Tavern – rather surprisingly! – and all the more since there doesn’t appear to have been a railway there for decades. Their drinking habits were very orderly and quiet (and we were in the Residents’ Lounge anyway) – in fact we were more disturbed by someone who seemed to be leaving at 4 in the morning and was insisting loudly on his companion bringing the b. teapot so that it could be rinsed out. An odd conversation in the still of the night.

We had been warned that the sandflies there had been crossed with moas before the latter became extinct so we were glad that another shower absolved us from taking an evening stroll and we slept with the windows tight shut.

We’ve collected quantities of stone from various beaches (on Friday afternoon my trousers got soaked to the knees by one wave I was too busy to notice but I hung them out of the window the last 25 miles which got them nearly dry again – well, the 25 all but the 1/2 mile I needed to get them on again to face the motel office!)

Hong Kong was interesting for two days, but I’d not want to go again, we went on a 3 1/2 hour bus tour, their expensive houses on the hills overlooking the harbour were super luxurious and the usual comparative squalor down by the harbour. The remains of the disastrous tornado of 2 weeks before (of which we’d had no knowledge) had left a trail of rubble behind it, uprooted trees etc. it must have been ghastly for the people who live in boats. They seemed a very light-hearted people and happy, apart from the few aged bag of bones one saw sitting in corners, I wondered just how old they were, I fear the life must age them young, if you see what I mean.

Travel hazards 2

I have thought of coming to England next year, but am beginning to wonder if I really have the strength. It’s not the actual flights, it’s the awful airport nonsense, and getting to the airports from here.

It was a bit off-putting at the hotel too – notices about double locking your door at night and putting the chain on and a security guard on each floor. We left there at 6.30 p.m. yesterday and stayed in the plane right through to here, stopping to fuel at New Delhi but not allowed off and arrived 5.30 a.m. and had in fact been flying 17ish hours. Vast Air Italia, 400 passengers – full. The staff couldn’t have been less interested – unlike the other lines – and the last straw in small mindedness they showed the Return of the Pink Panther but we hadn’t enough change again – I only saw one man who’d paid up $2.50 and got the headphones for sound. It looked utter rubbish in the odd moments I woke up so I didn’t mind.

We have just had a traumatic lunch. X gave me a new stove and dry/solid fuel and we were all set with picnic bits for lunches, tea, coffee etc. We started by buying cheese which turned out to be Roquefort and 250g and cost equivalent to £1 which shook us (and reminded me of the 3/6d banana!) so we only bought rolls to go with it- as we go to Crete on Monday and just can’t have butter running around, and then started up the stove which gave more heat under than on top and looked as tho’ it was going to catch the wallpaper – awful moment as we got it all onto the balcony – with soot all over the marble and my clean white shirt. However after washing the balcony and removing – I hope – all signs of our efforts we did better at the 2nd attempt and hope we’ve got it taped!

Soot on the balcony

We came on the weekend when 40,000 Alpini were expected for their annual blessing by the Pope. It gave a festive and noisy (or noisier) air to Rome – every time you moved you got one of their foot long feathers in their green hats in your eye. We’re setting forth to ‘do’ the Vatican today. We’ve got into a pensione (Select Hotel my foot!) with an elusive plumbing system. We have archaic shower in room and bidet with occasional cold water – and loo and bathroom on landing. I asked if I could have a bath any time and the proprietor say. ‘Why not?’ Now I know why not – there’s no plug and no hot water!! but it’s clean and pleasant and only 5 minutes from the termini.

What is this ‘ball lightning’ which been providing you with amusement? I don’t remember hearing of it and suspect the little green men, or the Russians (playing a double bluff on themselves)! As also with the Challenger-launched satellite which is (according to our radio) either in pieces, or following in orbit on their tail where they can’t get at it.

It sounds as though X’s having quite a time over there – I hope she gets back in one piece. Did she tell you that when she left, she left her hand-luggage at checkout, a glove on the ground, arrived after boarding-call, and didn’t know which plane she was supposed to be on!

When I was young 2

Trains are not what they were. When I think of the breakfast I used to get around 1947 which lasted all the way from Waterloo to Basingstoke where I used to go to audit a steam-roller manufacturer’s business! And some notes I am putting into publishable shape have a description of the restaurant car on the mainline here around 1910. In those days the manager of the car did his own buying at the various stops – trout, whitebait, lamb, strawberries etc. according to season. There were various places where the suppliers used to wait in which case the train was stopped for the bargains to be completed! Nowadays one has to rush out to the refreshment room at the halfway stop to acquire tepid tea in plastic cups and equally tepid and plastic sandwiches.

Trackside goodies

Hope you remembered all your lunch when you went to Whipsnade, unlike your 21st! What a change from 4 shillings to £2.50. [And in 2019 quoted at £21.30!]

I went into the local garage who kindly lent me their hydraulic jack which saved a great deal of fiddling about, and winding, to get the offending wheel off the ground. I couldn’t see anything wrong with the shock absorbers, but the new bearing I had fitted a month or two ago seemed distinctly loose, and the man adjusted it for me in about two minutes flat with his clever cruciform spanner for the wheel nuts, and his special pliers for pulling off the cover to the bearing. Would have taken me all of half an hour. But it didn’t cure the rattle! However, the next service is coming up, so I shall have the shock absorbers given a special examination. I remember reading not long ago that they aren’t made to last more than 40,000 or so (which surprised me as they are the sort of thing one expects to last as long as the car).

Your bike sounds super – it brought back memories of my biking in those parts in the war – I can remember my delight as I struggled up the Finchley Road if the admiral passed me in his large car and pushed his bosun out to ride my bike up and gave me a lift. We were in the big block of flats at the top of the hill and the wrennery was in the enormous nurses’ hostel.

 

Holidays 5

I am temporarily browsing with the dear old aunt – now 85 and as perky as ever. Her memory is so marvellous we both have the urge to strip her brain of any bits of past-family news before she departs this life. She came to the wedding in a borrowed hat (rather too big and stuffed with paper) and thoroughly enjoyed it – everyone always so pleased to see her. It turned out to be such a pretty wedding (fraught with drama to the end!) I gathered up the 18 frozen corpses, banging together like rocks [could they be pheasants I wonder??] , a mountain of branches, buckets, wire, flowers, jam jars, my fur coat and the aunt on the previous Thursday evening and delivered things at the various houses as I went along.

Our trip to X was marvellous. Good times started as soon as we got on the train. There were a nice bunch of people travelling with us. All of us united by ‘third-class coach conditions’ (sleeping curled on the hard seats, three-day picnics because train food is so expensive, suffering discrimination and rude behaviour from train guards and conductors on account of being the lowest economic class on the train). Anyway we had a lot of fun and it was even quite hard to part from a few of them – living with people for three days and nights it seems as if you’ve known them for years. Travelling across Canada is an amazing experience. It is such a vast country and you remember that the railway runs along the southernmost part, and that all the major cities and towns follow the railway – which leaves about 80% of the country sparsely populated, remote and wild: ‘The North’, in fact, – ‘The North’ being also a very romantic almost legendary country, deeply embedded in the collective Canadian conscious, a semi-myth that I can feel somewhere inside me too. As a matter of fact it’s pretty incredible to see how little of Canada is populated even when you travel the main route. You can go for a whole day and night in Ontario just passing the occasional Indian village and for the people who live in those villages the train is often the only means of transport. The train passes once a day. Of course the whole country was deep in winter and snow when we were travelling: the Rockies, days of flat, flat prairies where the sun goes down on a sea of snow like it does on the flat ocean, the vast frozen lakes and forests of Ontario – and then you’re in Montreal one night after days of spaciousness and nature, wham right into Montreal main station and crowds of people milling around and bright lights and noise and speed.

As long as it was fine it really was a gorgeous place for lazing or boating – but the walking was a bit too energetic to be really attractive in spite of the wonderful views to be gained by fighting up through the bush. It really needed a sailing dinghy to be complete! But the old launch with its African Queen chugging diesel engine was useful in a leisurely way – the only trouble being that its throttle-fixing catch was broken so that, if you didn’t keep your hand on it, it gradually slid back to an almost-closed position, and the boat went very slowly indeed – but that meant standing down in the well of the boat, under a rather low roof, and getting the smell of the engine – whereas if the throttle had been alright, one could have stood up on the seat and looked over the top the whole time – and steered with one foot.

Al fresco shower

The holiday home is minute and my heart sank – it’s really rather scruffy but once here 24 hours I feel it’s my ‘scruf’ and don’t mind so much! It’s got all mod cons in quite its own style – the frig is in an outside shed with the loo and the shower is in the garden – lovely hot water – and basin too.

We have an electric fry pan, jug and single ring cooker, radiator that’s left on low all year round to keep it aired and a party line phone for the whole Bay regulated by a form of Morse. We’re one short and one long!!!

 

Having good time in glorious USSR. Still have our noses, but X’s feet keep threatening to fall off!!

Travel hazards

X has leeches galore I gather – nothing seems to faze her – she loves it all, people and country.

Last stop in view of the volcano who’s been blowing his/her top in a big way and the ski fields are closed and everyone round is losing millions. We came past when it was first starting – mild puffs and black clouds – but later rocks the size of cars and lava streaming down have caused a great mess and the acid from the ash that was thrown up 10,000m has blown far and wide.

We have amazing letters from X. Being a vegetarian must have made her though – the miles she goes through forest and crossing rivers so rough she had to have a man each side to hold her up – and spends all her days covered in mud and sopping and loves it all – up at 3.30 a.m. and in bed by 2.30 p.m. – she’s a wonder at never missing an opportunity.

I arrived with the realisation that I had left the letter with the name of our motel on my desk at home. So I put Avis (‘we try harder’) to the test and they certainly came up trumps. At the fifth telephone call the girl on the desk established where I was booked in, and when I looked helpless and asked how to get there first produced a map and then the offer of a lift when she went to lunch. In fact she got held up and got her boss to take me!

I am housebound. I left asking for a driving test too late – they stopped 18th December and can’t take me until 16th January. As I’m booked in I don’t think the police would mind but I was afraid of the insurance – ‘they’ said if I had an accident and passed my d. test they’d pay up but not if I failed – fair enough but I’d be so jittery I decided not to risk it.

I’m fed up with the travel agency woman who has a horrible nasal voice, and treats me like an imbecile, which annoys me even if I am one.

Please excuse my writing and any mistakes as I am writing in a very dim light, sitting on the floor of a large room, off a typical Persian hotel courtyard. We have broken down yet again, about our 25th breakdown. We have hit 4 cars, 2 lorries and 1 bus so far, it has been a rough trip but adventurous.

The Crash Tally

We broke down for 5 days at Xmas and we had a really swinging time in a small hotel in Turkey. The Turkish hospitality was really overwhelming.

We then took off across the desert, along a camel track. We were warned not to go, and to take a guide – X just laughed! Result, we got bogged down about 12 times and had to dig ourselves out. We got lost many times. We tore off our rear bumper and rear lights and had to tie them on with rope and the lights with sticky tape. We are now 24 days behind schedule because of all the breakdowns..

Without a car of my own it has been a bit restricted as they have quite forbidden me to use the country buses. It is quite a relief really as they are the most crammed vehicles that I have seen and just trucks with sides of boards and board seats inside. There is no gap down the middle for the conductor so he hangs on to the outside on a kind of running board and gets the fares from there and looks in imminent danger of death at every corner.

X is quite terrified of your new motor bike and keeps saying how potty you are, but it must cut own on transport costs tremendously – as long as replacement parts for the pinched bits isn’t more! Did I tell you about our car? Because a part which cost about 40 cents broke and I didn’t take it in the same day another part costing $124.21 broke = total bill $272.50.

If you get a machine do spend a lot on the accompanying ‘gear’. They say that leather is best at avoid painful abrasions if you do have a fall. Don’t ride on ice; it upsets one incredibly quickly once you start sliding – very difficult to correct! Do have your bike fitted with the bars across the front which protect your leg if it falls with you still on it. [Countermanded by instructors as likely to trap your leg and/or break it!!!] Before I had a m/c I spent a lot of my lunch hours reading m/c mags. Their advice was ‘Imagine what might happen and work out what you would do. What, for instance, would you do if your throttle stuck open?’ And when I had a bike it did happen once and with all my forethought I managed not to panic – took the clutch out and turned off the ignition before the engine blew up – and then nearly fell off when I let the clutch in again while still doing about 40, as of course it almost locked the back wheel!

The quote for going to SA or USA en route was staggering, and for both astronomical, so I’ve cut my cloth to the size of my pocket. My only extra frivolity is to book to come back via Tokyo where, if I have any funds left I hope to stay a couple of days. I’ll let you know flight etc. later when I receive the tickets from the Travel Agency. I got so cross, everything they quoted and gave me brochures for, after I’d agonised over them for a day and made up my mind, on going back was told all those prices were now out of date and in one case it was currently 3 times as much.

Holidays 4

We had a lovely but exhausting time. I’m afraid I opted out altogether one day and read at home(!) for the sake of being sociable on the others. We went to the beach and for a day to a well-done hot pools area and went to see a Bond film among other things. Good fun. The hot pools area was very good. They had 12 different pools of varying heat from sauna (which I could hardly put a toe into but saw one boy swim underwater in!) to fairly tepid ones for the end of some slides. We went down that several times, the 3 kids trying standing up. X got really good, Y could do it to half way down and Z seemed somehow to keep stopping and sort of hopped half way down before finally sitting down, much to the amusement of those waiting!

[Postcard from Ibiza] The old city is really lovely, up on a hill behind great fortifications of a lovely pinky-yellow rock. But the part down by the bay where all the hotels are is being terribly ‘developed’ and will soon be solid concrete! Our hotel is so nice with its own swimming pool (I haven’t been in yet but today is very warm and tempting). Tomorrow we are taking a coach tour all over the island and then we plan to hire bicycles!

I had a long letter here when we got back 2 days ago ago. I’ve written re dates and said to make all arrangements as I don’t mind what I do or when. I’m getting so used to making no decisions and just going around where I’m told and loving it! X and I had a marvellous car trip together and stayed in some wonderful places. I think I really enjoyed the little self-contained lodges in National Park where you looked after yourself re feeding but fires lit and place cleaned by the boy and washing up done! We cooked on a wood stove – made a gorgeous milk pudding as the fire slowly went out after supper and the oven lasted warm for a long time. On the way to the mountains we are staying again in a little lodge on a great lake with X and daughter who is my god-daughter. After all this grand living I shall be quite happy to sit for a bit. It has been extremely interesting and I’ve met some very nice people. Anyway I’m so glad I came and it’s all so easy now. Gosh how I fussed!

X and I left last Saturday from Salisbury and stayed 2 nights with her eldest son and family in their married quarters. Chaotic family – various relatives there too as there was a big dance in the mess that night. Then on to Bulawayo. Very comfortable and Bulawayo biggish pleasant town. Went to a drive-in cinema to see film about Ahmed the Largest African Elephant and masses of other game. Hadn’t been to a drive-in since Jamaica. Then on to the Ruins near Kyle Lake where we are staying in a little round thatched chalet. Communal lavs and bathrooms with wonderful hot water. We do all our cooking on a wood stove that is lit for us by an African and he does all washing up. Luxury camping. The ruins are quite extensive and consist of walls made entirely of granite ‘bricks’ – some still 20 feet high and about 15 ft wide. Also on top of nearby hill more ruins like the others – stiff climb up but magnificent views from the top – the whole thing is set in the middle of bush and no one knows why or when they were built but as it must have been done by primitive people it’s an incredible feat. These camp sites are all in National Parks and very well maintained – you can also have cottages or lodges with more accommodation – the chalet we have costs about £1 per night inclusive of sheets, cooking equipment, light, wood and baths – very comfortable and snug. Going on tomorrow to a hotel at Hot Springs where you can swim in the baths and drive through the nearby mountains. We’ve another 2 stops after than and back to Salisbury.

Lap of Luxury – Am certainly living it up and shall have to live on bread and water when I leave X both for the sake of my purse and my figure. Never mind it is all enormous fun. We have had 2 nights in a very pretty hotel looking out over Kariba Lake which is vast and one looks across the lake to a lovely mountain range. Visited the dam, crocodile farm and a delightful quiet trip on the Ark which was a ship from which Operation Noah was organised when they rescued so many animals when the valley was being flooded. A middle-aged couple bought it and turned it into cabin cruiser and live there all the time. We anchored in a quiet backwater and watched birds and natives fishing – all v. peaceful and pleasant.

Operation Noah

We flew up here to the National Game Park – over 5000 acres and have been out in little buses seeing the game. That has been very exciting and we’ve seen masses and some gorgeous birds – lovely bright colours, very decorative. Lots of baby elephants and zebra. We saw the perfect picture of a young leopard sitting in a tree – just looking straight at us but too far to get a photograph with my camera I thought but very clear with the binoculars – and even without. There is a water hole just in front of the hotel and about 3 lots of elephants came down at lunchtime and were so funny chasing the wart hogs off. Lots of ear flapping and trumpeting and showing off – only a ditch between us and them so it looked as if they were right in the garden. This is an interesting new hotel only built in 1972 – central main area with 2 large bedroom wings – 2 floors only. The central area has a dome open to the sky with a fountain and plants growing up. The walls are covered with large pieces of local stones all varnished. We’ve seen loads of game and even get up in the freezing cold at 5.30 a.m. to go out and see them. Soon gets warm when the sun gets up.

Have had a very extravagant tour last week with X – such gracious living as I’ve never known but it’s been marvellous. It’s been a wonderful holiday – I got quite brown at the Victoria Falls but it’s colder here out of the sun. I freeze until the sun gets really hot. I never want to be really cold again it is so marvellous to have sun.

 

On Wednesday we went to Orakei Korako which is a thermal reserve. The reserve itself was most impressive. It was mostly around several acres of large flat ground with numerous bubbly ponds breaking through the crusty surface and having a long wall of very white silica as backdrop. The whole thing was made more effective by the vivid orangy greeny algae that live on the rocks over which the hot streams pass. On Thursday we spent the morning in the hot pools in Taupo. They’re fantastic. At 98 F they reduced my desire to swim to nil in about half a length and thereafter I just lay, occasionally opening one eye to make sure the kids hadn’t drowned – exhausted by my morning exertions, I slept all afternoon.

 

Coming through Belgium, Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, it was thick snow, just like fairyland. With all the Christmas tree forests shimmering in the sun. Greece was a bit warmer and we camped by the sea and the pine forests. Istanbul was a great place, really interesting, the Bazaars were a sprawling honeycomb of dimly lit passages laden with merchandise. We went to the Blue Mosque and explored the waterfront and ate fish steaks down by the Bosphorus.

 

We spent three days in Toronto, staying with some kids we’d met on the train. It was grey and snowy and cold, but we had fun. Went to Niagara Falls one day. Then we went up to Montreal and stayed a few days there. I loved it there. Such a change to be in an old city again, with winding, cobbly streets (in the old quarters), and the whole city has got such a good spirit. Can’t really define it, but it’s a great place. We were staying with some kids in the French district, and although the whole city was under hundreds of feet of snow, it was all lovely.

 

We drove through the pine forests to Troy and explored the ruins, then we went on to see the ancient city of Ephesus. We drove along the coast and we saw the Dardanelles and Greek islands. The scenery was very beautiful.

 

After we left Denizli we drove high up into the mountains over 8,000 ft, and it was thick snow and freezing cold. We saw wolves, eagles, and tribesmen galloping on horseback across the snowy plains. On the Russian border, near Mount Ararat, we saw a bear. The country was really wild. When we drove across the border into Iran it was snowing. The roads were really bad. Tehran was fun, Isfahan was beautiful, the mosques are wonderful, all green, gold and blues mosaic work. There was a very old palace there, and some fabulous wall paintings, still being restored. The Shah Abbas hotel was wonderful, all the best craftsmen in Iran have contributed their skills, it is a national showpiece. The ceilings and walls have lovely paintings and mosaic work. They did beautiful engravings and jewelry, and the carpet factories are very interesting. They make the most intricate patterns and lovely colours. We went on to see the ancient city of Persepolis which was very interesting.

 

The desert was a wonderful place – so peaceful and still. Great plains of stony ground covered with little silvery and yellow bushes. We climbed up and down mountain ranges, saw mirages, and eagles. Once we came out upon a high plateau and saw before a great blue lake in the middle of a plain, surrounded by shimmering salt flats and there was a little mud village beside it. In the mornings and evenings it was really freezing cold, we used to burn the bushes for camp fires and cook potatoes in the ashes. We used to come across the odd primitive mud village and a couple of shepherds and flock of goats, and little donkeys laden with firewood.

Holidays 2

In April X and I went to the Hong Kong Sevens and really enjoyed the excitement and ‘foreign-ness’ of H.K. X travelled home from there but I went on to Sydney and had 10 days with Y. It was a wonderful holiday and has definitely given me ‘itchy feet’.

X has been on her travels nearly a year now – current trekking in Nepal area – I think – having seen a lot of India and worked with Mother T. in Calcutta. Her money is holding out as she’s been living so cheaply.

I went the real tourist route, and X took me to see Niagara Falls. I was overwhelmed with the immense power and volume of the thing – and it wasn’t over commercialised with hotdog stands and all that – a pleasant surprise.

aching posterior

I finally made a short trip to Lesotho in March, and even then it was quite cold. I went about on a pony for a few days, except when I just had to get down and use my legs to ease the aching posterior…I later went to Madagascar again and met up with my friend who is still living with his Tandroy family in the south… I caught up on the complicated family tree and visited the old man who sacrifices zebu at ceremonies who is now over 100. My Mozambique travels were only in the south… animals sighted included several baboon troops along the road from Chimoio to Tete, and a hippopotamus not much below eye level in the Buzi estuary whilst travelling along it in an overloaded boat.

I have never been to Durham so a friend and I are going to look at the Cathedral and have lunch! In April I’m going back to Skye for a week – before the midges arrive.

Transport

Her ‘new’ Mini seems a success; pity she left her old one (before it was sold) uphill from the new one, with the brake off! Fortunately it didn’t do much harm to the grid on the front.

I am so glad that you have got the car, and hope that it will serve you well. Admittedly, there is something about the swoop of a motorcycle, on a nice dry road, and on a sunny day, which you would need £50,000’s worth of car to equal, but it will be a joy to be rid of the business of dressing specially to go anywhere, and even more of arriving wet and cold.

He spends a large part of his time at the gym and out with friends. [The other son] seems to be out much of the time also so many a night we are sitting at home car-less while our sons are out doing the social rounds.

I was most surprised to see that a city sophisticate such as your good self had reverted to being a peasant, even if you still make a daily pilgrimage to town. There is no doubt a reason. You will know that your commuter line is shortly to be electrified. This might improve things travel-wise.

the commuter

Holiday treats

We had a lovely week in a fairly isolated bay in Corfu – looking over the sea and high on a hillside. Our main exercise was walking to the bay and taverna – up and down a 1 in 5 rough hillside. Glow worms twinkling when we staggered home in the evenings.

A couple of weeks ago I had a deep dive (40m) and saw many large barrel sponges, lots of whip coral and some red and purple sea cucumbers. … On the way back to shore, the pilot of the boat saw a whale shark under about 6m of water, so we got close then went in with mask, fins and snorkel and tried to swim with it. It was about 6m long (they said) which is small for a whale shark, but by lazily sweeping its huge tail from side to side it went too quick for me to keep up for long. It was great to see it.

We’ve been going swimming yesterday and will be going swimming at the park today when X’s woken up in a rain kind of thing, which wets people but not the people on the other equipment at the park. [!]

We did do some short ‘walks’ in the Drakensburgs. They are marked paths which supposedly anyone can do. One was a 4 hour walk, and it took us that long, virtually to the minute. However we didn’t realize that we would be doing some rock climbing on it, and probably wouldn’t have done it had we been warned. Once we’d got to the top of the ridge it was very windy, freezing cold, but with a superb view.

She is back after 10 weeks in the Solomon Islands. Her dreams of a tropical island paradise were rather shattered there: beautiful blue sea which she couldn’t swim in because of the coral and various sorts of sea creatures (hostile sorts), lovely white sand which turned out on closer inspection to be gritty pieces of coral only to be walked on with thick-soled sandals and a sun which doesn’t just burn, it frazzles.

There are a few celebrations now planned… The team are going on a boat trip up the Hawkesbury River. The boat is the last ‘mail boat’ in Australia and provides a mail service to people living on the Hawkesbury. I think it is more of a tourist attraction these days but it should be a really relaxing day.

Prague is wonderful – even considering we never saw any sunshine – cloudy and rainy and cold. … We ate at the local cafes – went to lots of music concerts in different churches 5 p.m. or 7 p.m. You can dash to two if you like – went to the theatre. Had 5 days in Prague and then went to a Baroque old town in the South. Sun came out … Bohemia was beautiful countryside and old country towns.

… such a nice letter from X this a.m. She suggests that I go for a short coach tour in Switzerland next spring. Given I can sell the house and feel less broke and more energetic I’d rather fancy going with her.

whale watching

In April we went on a Caribbean cruise on the Norway which used to be the SS France when she was a Trans-Atlantic liner. It was a wonderful holiday with great weather and very relaxing. In September my friends came to visit and we had a lovely time including going whale watching in the Bay of Fundy – what a fantastic experience to see them so close up – the whales I mean!!!

Foreign parts

We are not far from the Limpopo physically, but centuries away from Kipling’s (?) description (in a manner of speaking). That’s what is so disappointing after my other trips and stays in Africa.

You seem set to come to Portugal but I wonder if you realise it’s gloomier here in winter than at home. Although it’s a bit warmer, people don’t have heating in their homes, and this high-rise flat in the suburbs is obviously built with the heat of summer in mind (i.e. lots of outside walls, no carpets). It rains lots too and is very windy. If you think you don’t mind all that, do bring umbrella, waterproof shoes and a couple of sweaters, but most of all don’t forget a sleeping bag. [This did not prove – with further off-putting remarks – to be an irresistible invitation!]

Last weekend our class hired a car and went to Sesimbra and then to Evora. It’s there that they have the Chapel of Bones that X talked about. My friends couldn’t understand why I was so keen to see this gruesome room with walls made of thigh bones and skulls.

There was a gale blowing and high waves, so, with coral reefs on each side of the entrance and the most vicious sharks to be found anywhere, we decided to head up north and try to land on the lee side of Madagascar.

The two other people who’ve arrived came from Zamboanga on one of the regular boats which nearly sank because it was overloaded. (One sank a couple of weeks ago and 100 people were drowned or eaten by sharks.) After that our journey seems safe by comparison. 

pet parrot

 

 

I do have a separated ‘room’ to myself in the house at the moment which is very nice. The pet parrot is demolishing the straw divide little by little.