July 31st 1981

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Chris and his sandcastle
Making sand-candles

After breakfast, we called up the Dept of Motor Vehicles to see what was required for registering the vehicle.  They said we needed a pink slip (tho’ we later found out we didn’t) and a smog control certificate.  Shit, we hadn’t thought of that.  Called up a couple of garages to find a reasonably priced one, then drove into town.  Stopped off first at Safeway, but that was no good, and then tried to find the garage.  It took quite a time, since we had inadvertently come out with the wrong map.  Even then, all we could do was book the car in for 1 o’clock, for a test, tho’ they were also going to put in some points (tho’ they wouldn’t put in ours, just their own.)  So we drove back for lunch, having spent a fruitless morning.  Decided over lunch with Meher that it might be as well to cancel the garage appointment, and get the car registered in another state, where perhaps the smog regulation would not apply.  In the afternoon, we all drove to Half-Moon Bay, a beach across the bay.  Unfortunately, we drove out of the sunshine into the fog, and it made for a cold afternoon, tho’ a very enjoyable one.  We had to scramble down to a nearly-deserted beach, and then did various things: walking, playing.  Aneema, Meher + Val made sand-candles, melting wax over a fire, and then pouring it into holes in the sand, with string arranged for a wick.  I made a sand-castle, despite the attentions of Salim, and Meher helped me to decorate it with sticks from dead rockets, which were littering the beach.  It was getting cold now, so as soon as the candles had set we dug them up and were back in the van and off home.  The evening was idled away peacefully with good food + conversation.

Notable for our relaxed attitude to registering the car, aided and abetted by Meher!  And not a mention of insurance, so remarkably antisocial all round.

Pleasant to enjoy a relaxed and low-key family activity; we had been very fortunate to have an introduction to Bill, Meher and family.

July 30th 1981

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Bill doing his exercises

As usual, not a very active day.  Up at a reasonable hour, breakfasted, then drove in to Hayward with Meher and Salim, first to the bank (another drive-in) and then to a garage to get our car checked over.  The first one we tried was able to do the job straight away, for $16.50, so we waited there.  Of course, at the end the mechanic did not come over and tell us we had a perfect car (that only happens in dreams) – the news was more or less as expected.  Some new points were needed – we had a set sitting on top of the dashboard; the front shocks were worn, and, most important, the rider bar at the front was broken right thro’, a big and expensive job to repair, yet leaving it was dangerous.  Ho hum.  Anyway, we drove M + S back to the house, then immediately set off for San Francisco to do things we needed to do there.  The journey in was easy, so we were able to do the four things we needed to do quite easily.  1). To Safeway to pick up some pictures that had been developed again after we had returned them as unsatisfactory – they were much better this time.  2). To Crown depot to collect our outstanding wages – took a little while, but we were soon $100 richer.  3). Down to the 1 hour developing shop on Fisherman’s Wharf to order some re-prints for Bill + Meher, and, while we were waiting, 4). On to the Cannery (a shopping area) to buy a book for Aneema – we’d wanted “The Hobbit” but had to settle for “British Folk Tales”.  Drove back to Hayward, just about avoiding the traffic, and just in time for dinner – a beautiful chicken dish, with pumpkin.  And then in the evening we watched “Modern Times”, the Chaplin film.  Bill had brought it, and a projector, back from college, but unfortunately they hadn’t provided him with a spare spool, so that took a long time to find.  By the time it started, it was very late, and even then we could only watch 3 of the 5 reels – 2 were messed up.  What we did see tho’ was superb, especially the first part.

Not the most exciting of days, or diary posts – sorry about that.  Notable that the news about the car did not seem to disturb us too much, despite the described danger, such being the nonchalance of youth, I suppose.  And remarkable that we should attempt to watch a movie on a reel to reel projector; even then it was almost ancient technology; now, it comes across like a wind-up gramophone.  But still a classic movie, whatever the format.

July 29th 1981

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Chris, Val and Aneema

The laziest of days today.  We awoke to an empty house, with the time gone 11, so we fixed ourselves breakfast, and it was Val’s turn to take herself a bath.  Aneema returned from swimming – she had been dropped back by a neighbour – but she disappeared outside to play almost immediately, so she didn’t disturb our solitude.  Bill came in at about 12, then he too went straight out, to pick up Meher, whose car had broken down when she was out shopping.  So we had the house to ourselves for a while, to do our own thing.  I wrote, and read, and Val made rope by plaiting string that we had collected the two days previously at work.  The rope was for threading round the tops of the sleeping bags, to draw them tight and keep out the cold.  Meher called at 1.30 or so to say she would be late, so to tell Aneema to feed herself – naturally Aneema ignored us.  Eventually, Bill + Meher re-appeared – they’d had all sorts of trouble with the car.  We ate some lunch, and then drove Meher in to Hayward – she wanted to pick up her car, and we had some errands to run, so we were able to kill a couple of birdies.  When we returned it was time for our evening meal – an Indian feast which we ate in their living-room sat around a beautiful low round table – and then Meher went out – she was attending the recording of an Indian programme – while Bill dealt with the children and we busied ourselves.  Val returned to her rope and I wrote a couple of letters – one to Mum and one to Pete – and a postcard to Steve + Chickie.  We were bemused by the fact that we couldn’t find any roads leading to Juneau, and were waiting for clarification of this.  Then bed.

Hardly surprising that we couldn’t find any roads to Juneau, as there aren’t any – you can only get there by plane or ferry.  Which shows the extent of our research.  Steve and Chickie, our friends there, I had met at college, Steve studying for his teacher’s certificate, and Chickie his girlfriend spending the year in London – she is a member of the Tlingit tribe, that Steve had met on a school exchange.  Chickie was her childhood nickname, and was her usual name back then; it  became a bit of a struggle to learn that she was now (and had always been, indeed) Lilian.

July 28th 1981

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And so, finally, the last day at work.  The usual beginning (see pages on the last 4 weeks or so) and the usual walk in.  Val was going to be working with Gerry on an easy + lucrative run – out near Meher’s, in fact, and I would have to take pot luck.  The prospect did not please me, especially since my feet were badly blistered from the work the day before.  My heels had a network of small blisters corresponding to the pattern in the heel of my new sneakers, but I packed them with newspaper and they seemed to be alright.  I was chosen for Billy’s van, and was surprised when a few minutes later Val joined me.  A regular of Gerry’s who had been injured had returned, so she had to make way.  We also had 2 total newcomers working with us – a rather dopey black girl, and a spaced-out Englishman.  We’d worked the route twice before and it seemed to go quite quickly, tho’ neither of us were really in the mood, + so we quickly got tired.  Stopped for lunch at about 1 – at McDonalds! – but were a little annoyed at the end of the day when once again we had to run out the papers once we’d finished the regular route.  However, were amazed to discover that the time was 5.20 by the time we finished, and considerably gone six by the time we returned, picked up our money, etc.  We had planned to do so much in the afternoon – shop, take a sauna, wash the sheets – but in fact only had time to pack up our belongings + clear out.  We were rather intrigued to find the shop full of branches of green foliage tho’ – curious.  We caught the bus + Bart out to Hayward, + Bill was good enough to come +pick us up – we were too tired to move ourselves.  There was a terrific meal waiting for us, and then we (Meher, Val + I) walked down to Pam’s (the owner of the car) and sorted out the money + documents.  We spent longer than we wanted there really, being so tired, but it was pleasant sitting + talking, the main topic being the English educational system.  Eventually, we got away, and I drove us back.  Val went to bed, where I joined her after taking myself a luxurious hot bath, very necessary for relaxing sore muscles.

Hm… a little self-obsessed, methinks, especially when going into details of my blisters – not of lasting interest.  Reflections on our job?  Positive, really, since it gave us a way of extending our stay in SF – we would never have been able to afford staying there as just tourists.  And in its own way, it gave us a chance to peek at the bit of the city that we would otherwise have missed: not so much the suburbs through which we walked as the company we kept, the lifestyle we glimpsed.  My most vivid memory was of Gerry explaining the route we were to be taking, just before we were dropped off, but pronouncing the word as though it were “rout”, and having to prevent myself from correcting him – we say it like “root”.  Fortunately, I managed it.

July 27th 1981

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The penultimate day at work!  We arose at the usual hour (after, of course, the usual breakfast – milk + marmalade sandwiches.)  For the third week running, we were doing the same run, all the way down to the ocean in the area just south of the park, and by now it was getting tedious.  The 4th member of the team this week was a guy who’d brought his dog along.  It seemed cruel to us, dragging a poor animal around for that distance, but then, it’s none of our business.  The work dragged a little, + at the end Gerry took us to another spot just to finish off, which was a bind, but again it wasn’t too late when we finished, and this time Gerry dropped us off at the shop.  Danny + Terry were both there, along with Lilith, Terry’s daughter.  We paid Terry $100 for the use of the shop, and bought Danny a copy of Duke for the use of his camera, then spent an hour or so chatting, playing with Lilith, taking pictures, drinking coffee at the corner café.  Then Val and I both receive complimentary haircuts (at least, we assumed they were complimentary), Val from Danny, me from Terry.  They did good jobs too.  I had bought the materials for our lunch, and so we made our excuses + left, to do some shopping in town.  We were quite hungry by now, so stopped once again at the statue on Dolores to eat a splendid meal – cheese, tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches, with 7-Up, followed by apple squares, a rich cake from a local bakery.  Terry passed just as we were finishing, + gave us a lift to town, then some shopping – a couple of 8-tracks for the car stereo, a pair of socks for Val, and a book for me.  We were looking for one for Aneema, but couldn’t find anything suitable.  However, did notice a good selection of hardback Vonneguts going cheap – I succumbed and bought “Jailbird”.  Left to myself, I probably would have bought the lot, but Val was annoyed at just one.  Walked back, and straight to bed, to read, watch telly etc.  Saw an old episode of “I Love Lucy” – haven’t seen one of those for so long.

I had long been a huge admirer of Kurt Vonnegut, with Cat’s Cradle one of my favourite books ever, but this probably was not the time to expand our library, especially with hardback books.  Interesting that I am referring regularly to taking lots of pictures, for I don’t know what has happened to them all.

I need to make a pretty major correction to previous posts – for some reason lots of the diary entries referred to Jim Crenna – his name in fact was Jim Cranna, and he was a pretty major player on the improv scene. Another movie reference; apparently, he was the barman in a memorable scene from “Mrs Doubtfire” (never having seen it, I can’t be more precise.) If you’re interested, see https://www.sfgate.com/art/article/Jim-Cranna-a-godfather-of-SF-improv-comedy-dies-11133347.php

July 26th 1981

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Val woke me up early, thinking someone had come into the shop – of course, nobody had, but by that time the damage was done.  I was sent off to purchase the materials for breakfast, was tempted, and fell, to the offer of a free Sprite with each sandwich, bought at our corner grocery.  Of course, they were rather too expensive, but what the hell.  We had contemplated going to the beach, but it was far too cold for that, so we settled on exploring the park instead.  We caught a bus right to the end of it, next to the ocean, and then started to walk back.  There seemed to be something to see every hundred yards or so.  First there was a windmill, tho’ it didn’t seem to be working.  The next attraction was a soccer game, in which, not surprisingly, all the players seemed to be Spanish-speaking.  They weren’t especially good, so it didn’t hold our attention for very long.  Next, attracted by some strange noises from the woods, we walked through, and came across a whip-cracking class.  Strange.  Next was a small herd (herdette?) of bison /buffaloes in a pen, then a lake with radio-controlled boat enthusiasts, then a big picnic (we considered trying to join it.)  Finally, we came upon a softball game which was just beginning, so we built up our strength to ask if I could play (Val was sandal-shod, so opted out.)  They were short of players, so I was drafted.  I quite enjoyed myself too.  I played right field, and barely had to catch the ball, which was just as well, since I couldn’t get the hang of the glove at all.  I tried to do without it, and hurt my fingers muffing a catch.  At bat, I was rather more successful, hitting it reasonably well just about every time.  And we won the game 7-6, after being behind for most of it.  Not so much fun for Val tho’, since there had been a cold wind blowing – she was frozen.  We walked for a while and bought some cherries, then boarded the bus for downtown for our free meal at Powell’s.  We got served more quickly this time, tho’ the meal was not quite as nice – a pasta dish with meat sauce + a sort of ratatouille.  Managed to catch the bus home on the transfer from the journey out, then to bed.  I watched some TV – including a biography of Prince Charles – while Val slept.

A most pleasant day, by all accounts, and, despite my extravagance with the morning sandwich, quite a cheap one, with plenty of walking and a free dinner.  Definitely with a sense that our time in SF is coming to an end.

July 25th 1981

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Woke up in something of a panic, thinking it was 12 o’clock.  Val rushed across the road to buy the materials for breakfast.  Discovered when she returned that it was just after 10.  Ate a marmalade butty, then up + in towards town.  Stopped off for coffee – I was suffering from a mild hangover – and 2 more big marmalade butties while sat on the plinth of a statue at Market + Dolores.  Caught the bus in, and looked around for a pair of sneakers for me – I’d left my boots in Hayward, and needed something for walking in.  Fortunately, happened to notice a shoe shop with a sale on, + got a good pair for $7.  Caught the good old 30 Stockton to Columbus, and it crawled thro’ the traffic, arriving there just about in time.  As usual, the class was very entertaining, tho’ both Val and I thought that we personally weren’t up to top form.  Finished off with some fun touching games + the usual group massage… a pleasant way to end our relationship with the Drama course.  Off to the bar afterwards, where I got mildly drunk + played crib + chatted.  (Val did all these too, except for the first.)  Then on for a meal.  The group split, which was a shame, but Val and I accompanied Jim and a girl to a Mexican restaurant.  The food was pretty so-so – we’re both indifferent to Mexican food – but Jim once again insisted on paying, so that was that.  We didn’t want to play gooseberry, so absented ourselves afterwards.  We walked down to the Little Fox Theatre, to see if there were any seats left for “Bleacher Bums”, a play that Bill Bonham, one of the class members, was in.  There were, for 10 o’clock, so we got them, and went off to kill 3 hours or so.  Were walking down to check out the library when we saw Arjan in a bar, but the music there was loud + brash, so we made our excuses + left.  Library was shut, so went across to the Tattoo Rose café, a place we’d visited before.  They were very good – we had coffee + cake, and read for about 2 hours, with coffee re-fills.  At about 9, Val played the piano for about 10 mins – a sort of payment.  The play was rather disappointing, tho’ there were some nice moments, + they threw free popcorn at the beginning.  Saw Bill after – he gave us a Seattle no.

Amazed to read that we weren’t keen on Mexican food, as it was to become our favourite for a while.  And it was good to part from Jim on a positive note.  Some six or seven years later, Val and I were in SF again, and I took the opportunity to call in on a class to say hello.  Without a beat to register surprise, he said “Hi Chris.  How’s Val?”  And a few years ago, our friends in California sent us a newspaper clipping from the SF newspaper, extolling Jim and his improv class, and all the people he had taught.  He can be seen (briefly) in a movie – Shoot The Moon with Diane Keaton and, I think, Albert Finney – in which he has a wonderful cameo as an affronted diner in a restaurant.

July 24th 1981

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Meher and Salim

Were awoken early by the junior van Groenou’s, as we were going shopping with Meher.  Breakfasted, then away.  Dropped off Aneema at school, and then back to the Bayfair shopping centre.  Unfortunately, the place wasn’t open yet, so we walked around for a bit before finding a way in.  Still, the stores themselves were still shut, so we killed time by having a cup of coffee.  The place was like a luxurious, carpeted, 2 level version of the Stratford shopping centre.  Eventually wandered over to Montgomery Ward – the sports dept., since we were looking for sleeping bags – but didn’t find anything to our taste, and left after Salim threw a softball at a cooker.  We were a lot more bothered than Meher was.  Then Meher suggested going to Fremont, where there was a good store.  In fact, it turned out to be excellent – Val bought a pair of jeans, and we found some cheap bags.  I drove back – Salim was being tetchy – and we had lunch with Bill, then they took us to the Bart at Fruitvale – they were going to Berkeley.  We went straight to the Crown depot to pick up our money, and were rather disconcerted to find nobody there.  However, no problem, so walked back to town.  Picked up some photos, but they were a little disappointing.  We managed to find a second-hand bookshop that we had seen before, and bought a couple of paperbacks and “Mill on the Floss” for Bill and Meher.  Then we went to see Arjan at the Western, and had a beer while we sat + chatted in the lobby and arranged to meet him at 10 that evening.  We shot back to the shop, and got some washing done (after having a not particularly inspiring Chinese meal in town), + then walked back in.  Saw Arjan in his room, then waited for some European friends of his to turn up.  Georges got in a flap about us being there late, but eventually they were there, so we walked to a bar on Polk + Pine.  On the way I chatted to a very attractive German girl – Hanne.  It was a good night – Elvis Costello-like band, few beers, nice friendly people.  However, were very sleepy, and it was a long walk home.

Apologies – again – for my comments on other people’s parenting.  Having subsequently had a go myself, I appreciate that it’s not always easy or straightforward.

July 23rd 1981

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Woke up when Meher returned from taking Aneema to school – Val shot up and went to have a shower, and then we ate breakfast.  Bill called, and returned from work at about 10.30, since today we were driving up to the Napa Valley.  We swiftly got together some lunch, packed the van, and were off.  It was a pleasant enough drive, apart from when we went past a disgusting-smelling refinery or chemical works or something, but after Yosemite the previous weekend, was rather undramatic.  We stoppe4d at Mondavi winery, and first of all pulled up in the car park to have lunch – it had been impossible to stop anywhere else; all the land was private, and taken up by vineyards.  We joined onto a tour, then, the whole thing lasting about an hour.  First we took a quick look at the vineyard, thro’ the factory part of the place, and then on to the tasting room.  The tour was pretty interesting, and the guide was entertaining enough, tho’ we got the feeling he didn’t know all that much about everything.  In the tasting we sampled 3 wines – a rose (so-so), a red (fairly nasty) and a Reisling (nice.)  Bill bought a box, for Aneema, and Val a post-card, and then back to the van.  We drove on to Calistoga, to take a look from the car at some more of the valley.  We bought some ice-creams, and then turned round and drove back to SF.  We had to pick up Aneema from school at 5, tho’ in fact we didn’t get back till 5.30 or so – tho’ in fact it didn’t matter.  Home for dinner – more food! – a nice meal of ham and pineapple, and then we went round to a friend of Meher’s.  Some English friends of hers had left a car there once they had finished with it, so we went to look it over.  According to Meher, originally they had wanted $200 for it, but had recently upped the price to $400.  It was a Pontiac, and really wasn’t in such a bad condition (and the price dropped to $300 while we were there.)  We said we’d think about it.  Back home we sat and drank tea, and talked for a long time with Meher – about our family, about Dad – nice.  Bed late.

Not sure about the quality of my wine-writing: so-so, fairly nasty, and nice seems a bit limited.  Though I do think they were a pretty cheap operation if they only offered us three wines – on a similar expedition four or five years later, we were offered samplings of the full range – nine bottles or so…. At three different wineries.  Fortunately, it was our friend Tom who drove us – somehow or other.

My dad had died very soon before we set off, and so I had  had very little time to deal with this – and Meher was a very good listener.

July 22nd 1981

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This time we managed to get ourselves up out of bed, a swift breakfast of a marmalade butty, banana + milk.  Off to work, but we were rather worried that the place seemed to be humming with a lot more people.  Our fears were semi-confirmed – Val got a job (with buddy Gerry) but I was left with about 20 other rejects.  I think I was overlooked by mistake, but that really didn’t help any.  A guy there had a list of other addresses to try, so we went round to one of them, only to discover it was Crown’s ex-premises.  So I walked home, more disconsolate than I would have imagined in that situation.  I stole a newspaper on the way home, then called another delivery company – no dice.  Was suddenly struck down with severe stomach pains, and spent half an hour in the toilet… nasty.  Back to bed after that, and finally sleep.  Woke up again about 9 – read the paper.  Up around 11, called Meher, then down to Safeway to collect film.  Over lunch, I went for a walk up to a small park I’d seen up on the hill behind the shop.  It was nice up there – I drank a coke and looked out over the city.  Came back down + read in the shop for a while, until Val got back at about 3.30.  She had had a very easy day, just dropping off bundles of papers, and throwing from the truck, and she’d still made $40.  We looked at the pictures, which were rather disappointing, so we decided to take at least some of them back and get them re-printed.  So, the first item on the agenda was some lunch for Val, then back to Safeway, then a swift return to the depot – Val had left her skirt behind – and then, finally, on to Bart and off to Hayward.  We caught the bus from Hayward Bart up to Calstate and then walked up to Bill + Meher’s from there.  We arrived hot and thirsty, so shared a Pepsi.  Ate our evening meal – delicious – then chatted, watched television for a while… a rare occurrence in the van Groenou household (I stayed up beyond everyone else and watched Bernard Cribbins in a series called After Benny – ugh) and then, finally, bed.

Not surprised that Val should have been selected ahead of me – I would choose her too – but not sure how she managed to leave her skirt behind!  And without Val – a pretty listless day.  Apologies for the comment on my stomach; important to me, but not necessarily worthy of comment.  And another outing for After Benny; despite my professed irritation at the name, it didn’t stop me from watching it!  Bernard Cribbins is a relatively obscure British comedian and actor (though I know Jim Crenna was a big fan), mildly famous for a couple of comedy records from the 60s, and a belated run in Dr Who more recently.