August 31st 1981

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0
Park ranger giving a talk

A terrific night’s sleep.  We were nice ‘n cosy inside our “frame” tent + didn’t surface till 10, by which time the other 3 had gone.  Packed up + walked into town, the first stop being the railway where, as we suspected, the train to Whitehorse was too expensive.  Next came the bank – we were broke – then the supermarket to buy breakfast, which we ate, sat in a cold wind on a bench in the main street.  I also bought a pocket can-opener, a new knife (we’d buckled the other getting potatoes out of the fire), + a pot grab-handle.  By now, it was time for the 2 o’clock walking tour of the town, so we took that.  It was excellent, really very informative and interesting, + gave a real outlook into the history of the town.  However, it did start to rain quite heavily while the tour was going on, so as soon as it was over, we retired to the Red Onion saloon, the bar we’d been in the night before.  A very good place – good atmosphere, friendly, + we ordered one coffee + sat there, reading + writing.  We also played a couple of games of pool, and later on the guy of the trio we’d camped with came in – he’d been to Lake Bennett + back on the train.  We named him Tom II, not knowing his real name, and seeing as he was very similar to the original Tom (a bighead.)    Fortunately, with a good measure of luck, (him being much better than me), I was able to beat him 3-0 at pool.  In the evening, Val + I wandered out to take some pictures, to correspond with some old postcards we’d bought.

“New” Skagway
And Skagway then

We checked out an old deserted building to spend the night in, the ground being too wet for camping out, talked with Tom II a bit more, then returned to the Red Onion.  We ordered a beer for me, a Yukon Jack for Val, and sat at a table + played crib.  We nursed our drinks + played 3 games – Val won 2-1, each game being a total walk-over.  Then, since it was getting dark, we made our way to our house, picked our way across the debris inside, found a space + laid down to sleep.  We had both been very impressed by Skagway, + thought that it was definitely the sort of place to which we should like to return.  We would also like to have a go at the Chilkoot Trail, the miners’ trail to Lake Bennet – it was beyond our capabilities on this occasion.

The normal sort of snap judgment on the people we met.  Tom I, in case you have forgotten (or never knew) was the guy we took from San Francisco to Seattle, but I daresay that, had we got to know Tom II better, we would have turned into the best of friends.

Sleeping among the debris in an abandoned building was certainly a new low.  Alongside this came the growing realisation that we were not equipped to cope with the conditions this far north, and had nothing like the budget to live comfortably.

August 30th 1981

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 1

Woke up wet.  We’d seriously overestimated the capabilities of our tent, and it had rained during the night, and was continuing to do so.  Needless to say, we were getting pretty wet, so after a bit of tossing + turning, we were up + shifted ourselves + our gear to a wooden shelter on the site.  We sat there, mildly miserable.  In front of us was a kids’ play tent, bulging at the sides – whoever was in there was even wetter than us.  Pretty soon, the bad language started again – it was our friends of the night before.  Eventually, the guy in there got angry (the other guy was in the pick-up) + burst out, nearly busting the tent in the process, and stormed off.  Then, to our disgust, first one, + then a second kid crawled out, with a kitten!  Ah well.

We packed up our gear again, + wandered into town again.  The ferry didn’t leave till 4.30 or so, so the problem was what to do in Haines on a wet Sunday morning.  Val very nearly went to church (!) but luckily we ran into Graham, our English companion.  He’d been in the US for 7 months, cycling, + had got stuck in Haines 2 weeks before when a horse had danced on his bike.  He was trying to get some money thro’ the small claims court, so was stuck.  Which was bad for him, but good for us, since he was able to show us a good cheap coffee shop.  We stayed there till 12, swapping experiences etc, then moved on to buy some food, then browse in a camping shop.  We bought some gear for our rucksack, which had broken again, then Graham walked with us to the museum, helped with the repair, shared a joint with us, + then left – a nice bloke.  The museum was excellent.  It cost $1 each, though we did get some free Russian tea, + the proprietress gave a detailed + very interesting tour. 

Then a couple of girls + a guy who had been at the campsite were able to get a lift for all 5 of us out to the ferry terminal – very good news.  The ferry trip was short this time, just an hour – long enough for me to have a shower – + then we were in Skagway.  It was great, not very different at all from what it must have been like in the Gold Rush – still original wooden buildings, wooden boardwalks, unpaved street.  We shared a tent space with the three others, this time using the picnic table as a base with the plastic over it.  Then into town.  Saw a good free dramatic presentation at the visitor centre, had a couple of drinks.  Then back, to a pretty poor fire, + some uncooked baked spuds.

A day bookended by camping in Alaska with just  a sheet of plastic and a pair of picnic tables – not very sensible.  Otherwise, a pretty typical day of travel experience: finding somewhere warm, dry, cheap; talking with other travellers; eating some pretty terrible food.  Romance of the road, eh?

August 29th 1981

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 2

Right – first the video game.  Mr Hoare had brought it over from England (tho’ it’s not readily available there – he’d acquired it from someone.)  It was not much bigger than  a credit card, and in it the player controlled a pair of ambulancemen who had to bounce men escaping from a burning building into a waiting ambulance.  Not as tricky as it sounds – there are only 3 positions for the ambulancemen to stand, and the bouncing bodies always followed the same pattern, the only difficulty coming when the game progressed, since the men would come faster, + you might have to juggle 2, 3 or 4 at a time.  Steve, his dad, and myself had been playing it a lot during the past 2 weeks (occasionally his ma, rarer Val, never Chickie) and there’d been a competition to set the highest score, which Steve had set as 280 in the slow game, 123 in the fast.  For the last few days I’d been getting really close (272 + 122 resp.) but somehow couldn’t break it – very annoying.  However, I was determined to do so, and late last night + early this morning I made it!    277 again on the first attempt (I got annoyed with Val when she interrupted me when I was on 272, and then, finally, I did it.  Really nervous at about 240, heart pounding away, and then, as soon as I crossed the magic no., I relaxed + made 351.  Far out, nein?

Anyway… on the morning of Aug 29th, Steve woke us up early, at 7, + we were up immediately + breakfasted.  We packed up, said goodbye to Mr + Mrs Hoare, and Steve drove us in, first to see Chickie + the baby.  Chickie didn’t appear too bad, especially since she’d had a pretty bad time of it yesterday, ending with a Caesarean.  And the baby looked pretty good too, tho’ you couldn’t say she looked exactly like either of them.  Big, dark + hairy pretty much sums her up.

Then Steve took us out to the ferry – we were in plenty of time, in fact, had to hang around for quite a while on the dock.  But then the time came, and we said goodbye + boarded.  The journey was fairly uneventful, tho’ we did decide to stop off at Haines, + catch the ferry coming thro’ tomorrow.  We disembarked, only to discover, once again, that the ferry terminal was well out of town – five and a half miles, in fact.  Terrific. 

We tried hitching, and had just about given up when it seemed as tho’ all the vehicles were off the ferry.  We were lucky tho’, + a last truck came out, + gave us a ride into town.  It was called the city of Haines, but it was the smallest city I’d ever seen, a real one-horse town.  It seemed to be virtually deserted, + lots of the buildings were boarded up.  We walked out to Fort Seward, an Army fort which had been sold off, and now served a variety of functions.  There was a hotel there, an Arts Centre of sorts, a few private homes, a few touristy efforts.  However, there was nothing going on while we were there, so we strolled further out of town, and, by chance, came upon a free camp.  It was small, but there were just a couple of people there, so we set to and made ourselves a tent by draping a large sheet of polythene that I had from the end of a picnic table, + weighting it down with rocks.  We ate some dinner, + washed it down with a beer.  (Someone seemed to have abandoned a 6-pack on the boat, so we grabbed ‘em.)  Then we walked into town to see where the action was – there wasn’t any.  It was still deserted, even on a Saturday night, so after ascertaining that the bars weren’t worth visiting, we walked out again.  Val went to see some Chilkoot dancing in the Arts Centre, but I didn’t think it would be worth $4, so gave it a miss, and walked back to the camp-site and lit a really good fire, drank beer, and watched the flames.  A Dutchman called Josh came by + joined me, then 2 more guys – an American + an Englishman, called Graham.  We sat + talked – oh yes, Val was back by now.  The show had been so-so, worth seeing but rather amateurish.  Then bed.

I don’t know what time it was, but a pick-up drove in later, c + w music blaring, pulled up right next to our table, + proceeded to have a party/argument at loud volume.  Eventually, I couldn’t stand it any longer, got out of bed + went round to ask them to be quiet.  They did, for a few minutes, then drove a few yards away + turned up the volume again.  They argued terribly, 2 men + a woman – appalling music, appalling language, but thankfully sleep overtook us eventually.

Have to apologise profusely for the first paragraph; why I thought the finer details of a hand-held video game would be of interest I have no idea.  I suppose it reflects my obsession at the time.  And is another one of those things which are no more to add to the list.  While at the time it seemed like the most amazing technology.

And I ought to comment on our stay with the Petershoares.  We had only been away for about three months, but already we were missing the comforts of home, so to stay with good friends, all the more so since lots of their culture was distinctly English, was a real treat.  And that they should have been prepared to put up with us at such a time was remarkable.  So thanks to them for everything.  We are still in touch, though there have been long periods when we have drifted out of contact, and met up for the first time in years just a few years ago, when we walked the Dingle Way, in the south of Ireland, together.  Thjeir daughter is, gulp, forty now, and has a younger brother, (despite Steve’s protestations at the time that he would never put Lilian through an experience like that again.)  It’s a good job that people forget, eh?

August 28th 1981

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0
Showing the wonderful fireplace

This time when we arose there was a mystery awaiting us – the car had gone.  Had Chickie gone off to hospital.  Yes, it transpired she had  – Steve called us.  They’d shot off at 3.30 in the morning.  As soon as breakfast was over, Val + I got busy doing different things.  Val did the washing, and then got busy doing some baking, while I did some taping, wrote the diary, and popped out to the supermarket on the bike.  Then lunch, after which I was just about to cycle to the Motor Vehicle Dept to see about our documents when it occurred to us that we could deal with it by phone.  So we did, + I gave them Rick’s address to forward things to.  Then we set off for town, mainly to buy our ferry tickets + some presents for S + C.  We bought them a tea canister + had it filled up with Irish breakfast tea – it smelt like the best they had – as well as a glass that Chickie had admired in a bar the previous night, + which we had come across by chance.  It was getting late, so Val shot off to buy the tickets while I bought these, + we met again at the bus-stop, in good time to catch the bus back.

We bought some potatoes, + once again had turkey, mash + veg, tho’ this time cooked by Mrs Hoare, while Val + I wrapped the presents.  After dinner (oh yes, we also had blueberry pie, cooked by Val) I suggested cards, and as soon as Val finished her book, the 4 of us sat down to canasta.  Oh, I forgot  – while we were in town Steve had returned – they had a brand new member of the family.   He was back at the hospital now, but as soon as we started playing, he called, wanting a lift.  Mr + Mrs went to get him, + while they were away we brought down the presents.  Steve seemed very pleased with them, + despite being very tired, took over from his ma at cards.  Val + I were getting a real pasting, but managed to turn it round by something of a fluke, + beat them.

A funny thing – Val took off her sweater, + her shirt was unbuttoned to the waist (we’d been fooling around some.)  We both got the giggles about it, tho’ she covered up pretty well, + I don’t think anyone saw.  Then bed, tho’ I played “the game” for a while (of which more tomorrow.)

First of all, I am enormously embarrassed that I should have given far greater importance to the game of canasta than the arrival of the baby (especially since it is preceded by an “I almost forgot”.)

And other potential embarrassment (viz Val’s shirt) pretty much avoided… though who knows?

August 27th 1981

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0
Chris and Steve playing ball

When we arose the next morning, Steve had gone out for a walk, + Chickie was doing some shopping.  She called to ask if Steve was home to go out + pick her up, but he wasn’t, so we trotted out there to act as porters.  He called a little later to see if someone could go to pick him up, so I drove Chickie out.  Apparently he had a bad headache, and had also had a row with her.  The baby + troubles with it had certainly made him edgy, so that sometimes we felt uncomfortable.  Later, Val + I went out to buy the teapot we’d seen – a good buy at $12.25.  We also saw a cup + saucer in another shop, which virtually matched, but that cost $15, so we forgot it.  We were all going to a beach picnic that afternoon, to celebrate Chickie’s sister-in-law’s birthday, so when we returned we helped Chickie prepare some food to take with us.

We were an hour late when we got there, out on Douglas Island, but still managed to be first, so we gathered some wood and, eventually, got a fire lit.  At which point everyone else turned up, + immediately the food started… flowing(?)  And there was so much of it!  Hot dogs, chops, beans, salad, boiled chicken, fried chicken, hamburgers, salmon, crisps, soda/pop, fruit salad, marshmallows – amazing.  Our group seemed to be full before everyone else, so Steve + I worked off some of our meal by throwing a softball, + then a football – he was much better than me at both – + then Val + I had a game of horseshoes – she just beat me.  Then she thrashed Steve.  And then we had to go – there was cake in the oven.  Gastronomically, the picnic was a huge success, but socially it seemed very cliquey + a bit dull.  On the way back we picked up Larry’s car – He’d driven his boat there + was trapped by the tide – and I drove it to Auke Bay for him (he could get there) then he dropped us back. 

In the evening, after relaxing for a while, we went out on the town, despite the fact that the weather had broken + it was very grey + was soon chucking it down.  The 1st bar we tried was too crowded, so we went to the Red Dog – that was great, real spit ‘n sawdust, then a much smoother place on the waterfront, + finally the Latchstring, more of a disco, where we met up with some of the picnic party.  They had a live band playing disco music, incredibly loud, but we drank cocktails + had fun.  A really good evening.

Hope that the final ringing endorsement cancels out the couple of expressions of negative feeling.  It was hardly surprising that Steve should not be at his best, what with everything on his mind, and as for the picnic, well it’s hardly surprising that we should feel a little on the outside.  And the food, indeed the opportunity to be even on the sidelines of such an event, was amazing.

As for the apparently raucous night out, I can only hope that Chickie laid off the booze, but I do recall her saying that the loud music may have had something to do with what was to come…

August 26th 1981

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 1

My first decent night’s sleep.  Were able to have something more approaching a decent breakfast, because of the unexpected bonus of a meal the night before, which hadn’t depleted our resources.  Before we went we strolled along the beach for a final look.  Beautiful weather  – again – and once again a beautiful view, tho’ totally different from how it had been the first day or the night before. 

And then, finally, we walked back.  It took quite a while, being rather longer than we had thought, but we made it.  On our second day out, I had switched my right boot for a plimsoll, because the boot was too small, and was agony for my big toe.  The plimsoll had stayed pretty dry all the time, most mud patches being crossable with one foot for the wet patches, my plimsoll for helpful rocks, roots, etc.  But on this last day, I didn’t seem to be able to find the dry patches, + it became increasingly wet + muddy so that by the end I didn’t really care any more.  With about a third of a mile left to the end of the trail, the pack strap broke, making it difficult to carry – we were just thankful it hadn’t happened earlier.

And so our little adventure was over.  We were both quite tired, and in need of a long hot shower, Val had slipped on her arse 3 times, me once, but it had certainly been different, and the previous day we’d picked a whole stack of blueberries.  However, I decided I’m not a “trail person”.  I’m always pleased with the achievement, but don’t enjoy it at the time.  Val says that that applies to all sorts of activities, like saunas, or sport, but I don’t think that’s right, partly because of the scale of the thing – you don’t take a 3-day sauna – partly because I derive little actual pleasure in the actual walk, all in the achievement.  Anyway, back at the trailhead, we tidied ourselves up as best we could, fixed a sandwich, then started to walk to town.  Not very far tho’, because the first car past gave us a lift to the bus-stop.  Amazed – it was 4.25.

When we got back, nobody else there, but they soon all arrived, + then departed for dinner, so we had the run of the place.  Made a great meal of cold turkey, mash + veg, + then I bought some beer, + 2 bottles of liqueur, I for Val, I for Steve’s dad – it was his birthday.  I then made him a card, copying a Tlingit design Steve had – he seemed pleased with it.

I’m not at all sure about all that stuff about whether I enjoy walking or not.  If I don’t, then it is a curious thing, for I am still doing it – currently tackling, a short bit at a time, the Thames Path, for example.  But it remains true, then as now, that Val is a major stimulus to that sort of activity.  And I certainly have a habit of staring at my feet as I walk, rather than appreciating the journey as we go.

August 25th 1981

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0

I woke up early with, yet again, the sun streaming in thro’ a sort of window in the tent.  I hadn’t slept well again – my back was troubling me.  Val grunted a bit, but soon slipped back into sleep, so I passed the time by reading, and had almost finished the book by the time she awoke again.  We arose, + once again ate scantily, then packed the tent away.  It was then that The Mystery of the Missing Tent Pegs occurred.  I dismantled everything + carefully placed the tent pegs on a tree stump so that I would know where they were, but when it came to packing everything away, they’d disappeared.  Naturally, Val blamed me, accusing me, without actually saying so, of simply misplacing them.  Eventually, they were found a few yards away.  One of us (I choose my words carefully) had obviously kicked them there by accident.  Val still blamed me.

We then said goodbye to our camp-site and our bench (left for posterity), and began to retrace our steps.  Val tells me the journey took longer than she had anticipated, but in any case we were able to return to the cabin without notable incident.  We ate lunch (if that’s not too grand a word for it) then Val went out + sprawled on a rock + read, while I did likewise in the cabin.  After a while I got bored, so went out + threw a few stones in the sea + generally annoyed Val.  I then went back + lit the fire, + then washed some plates + cutlery – I didn‘t think of using the sea, and instead took them up to the stream, quite a way away.  Among the foodstuffs in the cabin, we discovered a batter mix for making pancakes, just adding water, and there was some maple syrup too, so we decided to make our meal upon that.  And they were good too, even tho’ they stuck to the bottom of the pan, – we chopped them up getting them out.  I did manage to toss one of Val’s pretty well, but then blotted my copybook by dropping half the next one on the floor.  We played cards in the evening, + let the fire go out, so there wouldn’t be the same trouble with smoke.  I won the card game (hocus-pocus), then we went to bed.  No sign of the mice – maybe they moved out for the winter.

Or more likely were frightened of my block of wood!  The story about the tent-pegs, while pretty insignificant in itself, does illustrate the sort of tensions that would build up between us from time to time.  And nothing too unusual about me irritating Val out of sheer boredom.  Our chosen sites for reading were also significant – I needed a chair to be comfortable (to an even greater extent now.)

August 24th 1981

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0
Val overseeing supper and reading!

I didn’t sleep too well – mainly because of the bed rather than rodental interruptions.  However, we made a meagre breakfast – we had already discovered that we hadn’t brought enough bread with us – packed up our belongings and set off.  The weather was still holding, so we had quite a pleasant time of it.  At one point where the path ran close to the sea we were able to shed the pack in what seemed a nice grassy spot, and then scrambled down to the beach to have our lunch there.  It was only when we returned that we discovered that the grassy spot contained some shit, and, of course, that I’d dumped the pack right in it.  However, we cleaned it off as best we could, and, since I’d previously offered to carry the pack at this point, I stuck to my word – as well, I suppose, to the pack.  In any case, before very long we arrived at a signpost saying 8 miles to Thane Road, the place we’d started from, and just a few yards from that was where the trail seemed to end.  Again, we dropped the backpack (tho’ far more carefully this time) and went down to the beach.  This was much more difficult, since it seemed to be guarded by a rank of fierce pine trees, but we fought our way through, + took a look around.  There was another cabin there, a very sturdily-built log affair, but, I’m afraid, in very poor repair, with holes in the roof and walls, + totally empty, tho’ there was an impressive stone fireplace.  We decided, however, to utilise the tent that we’d borrowed from Steve + Chickie (our own was with the car in Terrace) so back thro’ the pines + up a slope to our chosen site. 

We erected the tent, which was quite a big one – a 4-man – but very light, and, to our mild disquiet, only held down by 4 pegs.  Ho hum.  The next stage was to collect wood for the fire – there was already a ring of stones, + signs of a previous mini- conflagration.  This entailed another battle with the pines, + then Val loaded me up with as much wood as I could carry, + then grabbed a couple of hefty pieces herself.  We then picked our way perilously back over the washed-up logs + rocks, somehow struggled thro’ the bleeding pines for the last time, and just about made it up the slope before my arms dropped off.  Too much like work for my liking.  We didn’t have much paper, but managed to light the fire quite efficiently, then fashioned a bench out of some of the driftwood we’d dragged up, ate our dinner sitting there in front of the fire like babes in the wood, + then read.  Very peaceful, very nice.

What seems to have been, despite, or even because of, the various challenges, a most pleasant day… not counting the shit, I suppose. But of course we ran out of bread!  All the more so since it had provided both lunch and dinner the day before!.  

August 23rd 1981

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 1
Val and Chris with the forgotten raincoats

We’d packed the night before, so as soon as we’d finished breakfast, the whole gang of us piled into the car again, tho’ this time I was stuck with the pack as well.  We dropped Chickie at church, then Steve took the rest of us to take a look at his office.  The place was certainly packed with plenty of expensive + complicated equipment, which Steve did his best to explain to us – I managed to understand some of it.  Then into the car, + Steve had to get some gas before dropping us off at the beginning of the trail.  However, we couldn’t find one open, so had to drive back down the valley.  While we were going that way already, we managed to persuade him to return home to pick up our forgotten raincoats, then return to town.  We picked up Chickie again – she was somewhat surprised to see us still there – then finally drove the 6 miles or so south of the city to where the road ends, and we were ready to start.

I’d forgotten to mention – for the first time, today was gloriously sunny + bright – God was certainly smiling down on us.  We planned to walk out to a place called Point Bishop, tho’ we weren’t sure how long it would take us.  The trail was quite narrow, + still very wet, but we both had borrowed rubber boots, so that caused no real problem.  After about an hour we arrived at a cove called Dupont – very nice – + already we were hungry, so that was where we decided to have lunch – a cheese sandwich, some bread + jam, chatted with an old guy who lived in Juneau but knew a good deal about Britain, for some time, then tried to find the path again – big problem.  Instead of re-tracing our steps, we thought it would be easy to make our way to it thro’ the woods.  We did, eventually, but it meant fighting thro’ thick undergrowth, full of a vicious plant called devil’s club, covered in prickles, stems + leaves too, fording streams, + struggling up steep banks, all with a heavy pack.  However, found it eventually, much to my relief, and continued onwards.

It was a beautiful day still, gorgeous sunlight shining + reflecting off the ocean.  However, our path was blocked by trees further on, which had fallen in bunches of 3 or so together.  They’d obviously been disturbed by the clearances just above us, a strip to let some pylons thro’.  They caused real obstacles, mainly, of course, because we had to manhandle the pack over, under, or round them.  However, we coped, and eventually the path led us down to a cabin at the edge of a beautiful cove.  The cabin was unlocked, and, tho’ rather musty-smelling, well-equipped, with a couple of plank beds, a chair, an old oil-can stove, various kitchen implements, even some food.  Also, as we soon discovered, some mice.  Ho hum.  It was only 4 or 5, sol Val took her book down to the beach and lay there for a while.  I lit a fire in the stove, but unfortunately the stove was rusty + leaked smoke, so the cabin was soon full, tho’ fortunately, only above a certain level.  If you sat down, you could survive.

When Val came in, we ate our dinner – a meat sandwich + half an apple, with some cocoa, + then after reading for a while (Val – “The Magus”, me, “Strange Meeting”, Susan Hill) bed.  I was very nervous of the mice, who seemed to display no similar diffidence with us.  We tried to shut the door, but the smoke choked us, so we had to leave it open for a while – then sleep (tho’ I kept a lump of wood next to me in case the mice got too bold.)

Steve worked  – apologies for the vagueness – as the IT manager for… someone or other.  Which means the equipment he showed us were computers.  Or, to be fair, what looked like a room full of large fridges, such being the state of computer technology at the time.  When now, presumably, the same power is in most people’s phone.  

Displayed our usual incompetence about sorting ourselves out and getting started with everything we needed, and our regular tendency to get lost.  Nor do I exactly cover myself in glory with my mousey fears; never been too great with animals, even small ones.  (People too, for that matter, of any size.)

August 22nd 1981

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 1
The view from Steve and Chickie’s house

Steve managed to wake the household by playing c + w music thro’ the house intercom system – enough to get everyone up… to switch it off.  Then down to a huge breakfast – cereal, boiled eggs, sausages,  melon, toasted muffins, doughnuts, and lots of proper tea.  The plan for the morning was for us all to go to some garage sales, where one household sells off surplus furniture, books, clothes, toys, etc.  All piled in the car, and we were off, getting round, I should think, to about 6.  Unfortunately, none of them were very special, so all we managed to acquire between the bunch of us was a couple of books + an ashtray.  Still, it was interesting.  We had a cup of tea (of course) when we got back, and I set about the task of catching up on the diary while Val read.  Then lunch, and in the afternoon Val + I went out to do some shopping, partly food for the big hike we were planning to start the next day, and partly for a present for Steve + Chickie.  We were looking especially for an English tea-set for them, but it seemed that such a thing wasn’t available, just the occasional very expensive tea-pot.  We did buy a small black teddy-bear for the baby – it seemed appropriate.  Finally, out of desperation almost, we tried a furniture + hardware store, + found some very cheap teapots, so we decided that we would return + buy one of them.  Then we stocked ourselves up with food – bread, cheese, processed meats, apples, chocolate bars… that seemed enough, tho’ we had to be careful since we barely had enough money.

For the rest of the afternoon we lazed around, reading + writing, then we fed ourselves on the usual splendid repast.  Steve lit a fire again in the evening, + once again the main activity was enjoying that.  I played Steve at backgammon, and lost 2-1, tho’ each time the difference was one piece.  On my own, I haven’t managed to win a single game of anything we’ve played here – just the canasta with Val.  I still very much enjoy playing games, of almost any sort, tho’ in another sense I’m by no means a competitive person.  Ah well.

One or two issues of note – I have no idea either why we thought a black bear particularly appropriate – there could be all sorts of psychological explanations – but I will assume that none are nefarious.  And this whole thing about me being competitive or not… the evidence here suggests that I am (or was), for not winning clearly affected me.  On the other hand, I never like to win by too much, and will ease up when in a winning position… and then sometimes lose.  The same things applies to golf now; I want to win, but not by too much, and would actually rather play well and lose.  At least, I think so.

Surprised at my enthusiasm for “proper tea”, for, as Karl Marx said, Proper tea is theft.