September 30th 1981

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Chris and Rob sight-seeing at the Father Pandosy Mission

Today was the day we were supposed to resume work, but, well…  Up respectably early, had breakfast, + then went out to find out if anything was going on.  It was raining, and fairly unpleasant, so we suspected work might not be going on.  We were right.  Mr K was his usual confusing self, talking about this apple, and that, but we were able to discover that we weren’t working.  We wandered over to Rob’s hut, and made him get up, which was a bit mean, since there was no work to do, but he was pretty good about it.  He came back to our place, + we had some toast together, then Val + I walked… yes, walked!… down to the store to buy a few groceries, leaving Rob to his sewing – he was sewing a patch on his jeans.  We only bought a couple of things, yet it still cost us $8 – it never ceases to amaze us how much money we are able to spend, then lugged it back up.  A nice walk, tho’.

After lunch, we drove to see the Father Pandosy Mission, Kelowna’s historical site, but it wasn’t very exciting.  It was supposed to be the site of the earliest buildings in the area, but it seemed to be a collection of other buildings moved to the place, together with a fairly extensive collection of old farm implements in various stages of disrepair.  This, of course, interested Rob considerably more than it did us, but eventually we were able to drag him away, mainly by the promise of a cup of tea.  We went to Dairy Queen at the Mission Shopping Centre to have a drink, + this proved to be something of a mistake, since they also sold ice-creams, + Rob’s resistance, low at any time, wasn’t up to it.  Went home, after a couple of tubs, to hot dogs, cooked by yours truly.  Very nice, except that I didn’t cook enough onions.  In the evening, we first played 10,000, a dice game which Val won comfortably – she has done every time so far.  Then we played hearts, which Rob won, after being behind all the way thro’.  It’s very pleasant in our cabin, to play games, drink tea, relax.  However, just about ready to get back to work now.

I don’t think I have explained that Rob is from a farming background, coming from a farm in Norfolk, hence his interest in things agricultural.  Also a most splendid companion, of course, who seemed to like the same things as us – eating, drinking, drinking tea, playing cards.

I note that I didn’t win again; although I enjoy most games, I don’t think I am as competitive as I might be (nor, probably, as good.)

September 29th 1981

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Once again a late arising – this time it was Val’s turn to pop out into the cold + make me breakfast in bed.  Eventually roused ourselves, + popped over to see Rob, to collect a couple of films he wanted developing in town.  He’d told us he was working today, but only in the afternoon, it seemed, he was just sitting down writing a letter.  We took that + the films from him + drove into town (it was now near 12 o’clock.)  First stop was the Mission Shopping Centre to pick up a bit of shopping, yet again.  We seem to be able to spend small fortunes any time we venture out.  Then, into town proper, dropping off Rob’s films + popping round to the Bargain Barn, a rip-off second-hand shop.  I wanted to use my Leon Russell tape, which we’d discovered was rubbish, to part-exchange for another.  The woman there wasn’t keen, the guy didn’t mind, + offered me a dollar for it.  I glanced at their collection of 8-tracks, + immediately grabbed “A New World Record” by ELO, an album I’ve been wanting for years.  It cost $2 – I was pleased.

The floating bridge

It was a nice day, so we drove to the park to take some pictures, first of a nice statue called “Sails”, then the famous bridge.  Able to laugh + joke with Val.  Stopped off next at the information centre, then drove out to Mission Hill winery, to go on a tour, which was dullish, followed by a tasting, which wasn’t.  In fact, they were very generous, + gave us a good measure of about 6 or 7 wines, plus a couple of ciders – we bought a bottle of wine for any future celebration.  Then, somewhat pissed, + listening to ELO blaring out, we drove back to town, stopping at the library to discover that West Ham had drawn 1-1 with Liverpool at home, + had slipped to 2nd place.

Lazed around for a while, then Rob came in… he’d only worked 3 hrs or so, picking up props.  He cooked an excellent meal: soup, a sort of cheesy stew, then we had fresh fruit salad Val had made.  Played dice in the evening.

Am not going to apologise for my liking for ELO, one of the great pop bands, with some classic songs, even if they were used, on this occasion, to accompany some more driving under the influence.  Heaven knows what would have happened had we run into our policeman friend. And even though I can only apologise for the irresponsibility, I do still recall the excitement of driving away from the vineyard with the music blaring.

Interesting that I should feel the need to comment on being able to laugh and joke with Val, which somehow indicates that this was rare enough to be worthy of comment.  Hm.

September 28th 1981

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Our cabin

Not a particularly exciting day – more just a rather pleasant collection of little chores.  We lazed around in bed for quite a while, tho’ I did venture out to make breakfast, then leapt back in again.  There’s an old-fashioned toaster here, so we were able, yet again, to have toast + honey.  Rob appeared eventually, prompting us to actually get up properly – Val went to collect a cheque from Mrs K, + then, after some dallying, we finally organised ourselves enough to drive into town.  We split up when we got there to deal with various jobs, Rob disappearing to do what he had to, all agreeing to meet in the library.  We bought some stamps, paid our cheque in, bought a couple of knives + a quilt (to cover the torn front seat of the car) from the Sally Army, then made our way to the library.  We sat around for some time, drinking coffee, eating cinnamon buns, + writing postcards, then headed back.  We stopped off at the shopping centre on the way – to cash in some bottles, get some shopping, + for Rob to ring home – $9 it cost him.  Then home sweet home.

Lazed around a while, before lighting the stove, heating up as much water as we could manage, in order to do some washing.  Had a few problems with the machine, almost flooded the place in fact, but were able to cope using saucepans etc, until the magnificent Rob appeared, + was able to fix the pump.  In the evening we had curry … I don’t think Meher would have been overly impressed, but it seemed pretty good to me.  Val just boiled up various veg, plus some hot peppers Mrs K had given us, + a couple of spoons of curry powder we’d inherited from Tony + Jenny, + we had it with rice.  In the evening, we played some dice games that Rob knew – they were fun.  He’d first had to fashion the dice themselves, cutting up a couple of pencils + carving Roman numerals on them.  Then, finally, bed.

I should comment on the postcard reference (and indeed on plenty of similar in previous posts.)  I don’t think I have mentioned before, that each of us wrote a postcard home to our mothers each week while we were away, whenever it was feasible.  Both our mothers kept these cards, but we only looked at them again recently.

Incidentally, each of the two piles was headed by a card home which told of our safe arrival in America… and these both had written “FORWARDED BY  MRS LAPORE, 192 BLEEKER ST” – we had lost both of them in the street.  Only now have we learnt of this person’s kindness, so here’s a big belated thank you to her.  But postcards, like much of the postal service, are another of those things which have now more or less disappeared.

In case you were puzzled, the games were Yum and 10,000 and the pencils were hexagonal in section, with each one providing three dice.

September 27th 1981

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Celebrating Rob’s birthday

Today was Rob’s birthday, so we serenaded him with the traditional chorus from the warmth of our sleeping bags.  Then, when we finally crawled out, we lit a fire, partly to use up some surplus wood + cones – we still had a mountain of the latter left – + partly to be able to have tea + toast, + so have a decent final breakfast.  Great, it was, especially since Rob was able to produce some honey.  (No, he’s not a bee.)  Charlotte appeared then with the tractor + trailer, so we were able to load our belongings onto that, + take it down to the cabin – a big help. 

The cabin was really excellent, better in fact than our cursory inspection had indicated.  There were sheets + blankets for the bed, the fridge (modern) + the washing machine (antiquated) both worked, there was a terrific little wood stove, a nice big table, chairs, plates, cutlery, pots + pans.  We had great fun playing house, unloading our food into the cupboards, our clothes into drawers.  We then drove down to the store to buy some more food.  We were planning a special meal for Rob, so we bought some steak.  However, we also went a bit mad on other things, + somehow managed to spend a small fortune – it was crazy really, because as we commented, we already had more food than we had at Grange Road.  We lit the fire upon return, but it proved very difficult to get the stove hot enough, so we really had to stoke the stove up, + load it up with wood.  That worked, eventually, but also had the effect of making the cabin really hot.  Rob, proving increasingly useful, fixed the 8-track in the car – terrific.

A great evening – we listened to our radio, had a few beers, ate a great meal.  Just as we had hoped, it was a big pleasant surprise for Rob, especially the big bottle of wine.  We played cards before the meal – that was fun – + managed to get pretty drunk, especially since we also had cocoa with a large measure of rum.  Rob had a small piece of cake with a candle in it, sent over by Mrs K when she discovered it was Rob’s birthday.  We then played the briefest possible game of Blind Man’s Buff.  A real good birthday party.

All in all, a most positive change, with the ability to play house.  Grange Road, by the way, was the street we lived in in Plaistow, East London, for the nine months or so before we left.

Made all the better, of course, by the presence of Rob, a most cheery companion.  We have, I regret to say, lost touch since.  We saw him and his (then) new wife, Annie, twice on our return, to the best of my knowledge: once in their farm in Norfolk, and once when they turned up pretty much out of the blue.  But nothing for many years.  I did try to track him down recently, to let him know about this blog, but with no success.

September 26th 1981

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Charlotte picking apples

A later morning than usual – we just found it difficult to get out of bed + get moving.  However, eventually we breakfasted + struggled down to work, managing to find ourselves the only ones there.  When we saw Mr K, he told us we’d be finished that day with the Mac apples and then have a couple of days off.  Terrific news so far as I’m concerned – I’ve become pretty pissed off with constant picking, + a couple of days off will really go down well.  We also met Mr K’s brother, Ralph, + his wife, + they seemed both very nice + entirely sane + reasonable, especially in comparison with our Kuypers, who are at the very least dotty.  Then we finished off the orchard we were working on, + moved to a small one near the K’s house.  We’d all centred on that, it seemed, to finish off the Macs: Val + me, the kids, Rob, + 3 kids Mr K had hired for the weekend.  We weren’t working very fast tho’, + even by the time we finished had only cleared 4 bins.  It was better picking today, tho’, with bigger apples for the most part.  At the end, it was just us 3 Britishers left, so we filled the final half bin between us, before going back to the tent for our last outdoor meal – it had been arranged that we move into the cabin tomorrow.

Ralph Kuyper had showed it to us, it looked most excellent.  Rob had been going to move in to a cabin 20 mins walk away, but fortunately for him (and us too) another guy had quit in mysterious circumstances, so he was able to stay in the fruit stand.  We cooked up some corn, followed by soup, followed by sardines on toast – yet another feast.  Then, it being Sat. night, we drove into town.  The intention had been to go to the pictures – unfortunately, there was nothing on that we wanted to see.  We then attempted to get into a bar with a rock band.  First they wouldn’t let Rob in, because he had torn jeans.  So he changed them for my old brown trousers.  Then they refused us because of no ID for Val.  We were pissed off, wandered around, finally ended up in Luigi’s pub – it was OK.

Ah, welcome back, all; I must say I did miss posting the blog.  (Though all is pushing it a bit; if you are reading this, you are part of a very small band.)

A real, and most welcome change, to move to indoor living in prospect, though we had enjoyed camping in the field… apart from the cold.

September 23rd/24th/25th 1981

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Rob and Val at the campfire

Yes, I’m afraid I am now going to break with tradition + count 3 days as 1.  Especially necessary at the moment – not only am I 3 days behind time, it now being the early morning of Saturday the 26th, but also the 3 days are very much the same.  In addition, it is very important that I get up to date, because there is so little time that is light after we finish work for me to be able to do anything.

Anyway – the similarities – we get up, eat a breakfast of cereal + banana, followed by jam sandwiches, (mine with peanut butter.)  Then to work, where we pick apples all day, more or less without a break.  On the 3 days in question, we filled 4, 5 + 6 bins, but this is not a sign of our improvement, such things being left very much to chance, whim + the weather.  We finish somewhere between 5.30 + 7, back to the tent, light a fire, cook a meal, + sit around it till about 8.30, then bed.  We usually read by torchlight – it’s dark at 7.30 – for 10 mins or so.

The differences?  Chiefly the meal of course, the highlight of the day.  On Wednesday it was sausage, egg, tomato + beans, Thursday spaghetti with tomato sauce, + Friday a vegetable stew.  Each of them was magnificent, tho’ they all benefitted from those 2 sauces, the open air + a hearty appetite.  There were other differences between the days.  On the last 2 Rob shared the meal with us – we’re pretty much a group now, + shall miss him when he goes – he leaves about Oct 11th.  Also, on Thursday lunchtime, I took an hour off to drive to the local shopping centre, to cash a travellers’ cheque + buy some goodies.  Most notable among these were a half-bottle of rum, which massively improved our evening chocolate, + some marshmallows, which I’d never tried toasted, but which turned out to be excellent.  The nights have become very cold indeed, so the evenings would see us huddled over as big a fire as we could manage – once the cooking was done, cupping our hands round a rapidly cooling hot rum + chocolate, + toasting a marshmallow on a stick.  Still, there is promise of a cabin, so we must enjoy such outdoor pleasures while we may.

Apologies for the three-day compendium, not something that I revert to very often, I promise.  Interestingly, I was determined to keep up to date, which presumably suggests I had managed it so far (a situation which was to slip in times to come.)

It really was becoming very cold, and making camping an increasingly uncomfortable way of life.

September 22nd 1981

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Rob showing off his new purchase

An eventful day, relative to other picking days.  Once again, it was wet in the morning – after breakfast we decided to go into town to allow things to dry off, + to buy a few things that we needed.  Rob didn’t take much persuading to join us.  The first thing we discovered was that 2 of the places we wanted to visit were shut (the SA + the bank), so we got some batteries in Woolworth’s, + then Val went off to get some wellies, while Rob + I strolled around the thrift shops.  He did very well, buying some socks, a plate, a fork, some scarlet long-johns + a woolly hat.  I then opened a savings account with the cheque Mrs Kuypers had given me, + all 3 of us met at the library, (where I discovered West Ham were top of the first!) + then had coffee, before returning to work.

Discovered that there had been a right old kerfuffle while we’d been away.  Mr K + Tony had had a bad argument, as a result of which Tony had quit/had been fired.  Mr K spent a great deal of time elaborating on why he thought Tony was insane, and got very heated about it.  Later on, Mrs K, who had just had an argument with them, came up with the further theory that they were on drugs.  Ho hum.  Inbetween these occasions, Tony hade come down to the orchard to ask for a ride into town that evening.  Naturally I agreed, + then when Mr + Mrs K variously discussed calling the police, getting the boys on ‘em, + sticking a knife in ‘im, I thought I’d better skip off a little early + take them in.  I drove the car up, + we loaded it + went into town.  They were planning to go into Vancouver, + didn’t seem especially insane or drug-crazed to me.  Stopped off first at Greyhound, which they’d planned to take, until they remembered they didn’t have enough cash, so they put their tent on it, + I took them to the other side of the bridge, so they could hitch, + said goodbye.  Drove back, + found they’d left us a mountain of food, as well as various other odds + sods.  Then we 3 went out for a meal – a fish ‘n chip restaurant in town was offering all-you-can-eat.  I made the mistake of eating clam chowder – felt immediately ill + had to stop.  Still, we shared a litre of wine, + had a fine evening.

First mention (of many to come) of West Ham, my/our football team from London.  Does date it to hear they were top of the first; at the time, that was the top of the league, but since then 2 other tournaments have been introduced, so it is the third tier.  Yet another of the many changes in the world since then, though comparatively trivial, I suppose.

Mr + Mrs were revealing a side we had not expected.  I believe the initial row had been over Mr K’s insistence that every tree be completely cleared, including various individual apples at the very top of the tree, requiring time and effort (and, therefore, money) and Tony had protested.

The clam chowder refers back to an earlier illness brought on by consuming a dodgy bowl, and since it was unlikely this one too was “off”, I could only assume I had developed a nasty allergy (as has subsequently proved to be the case.)  A bit foolish to tempt fate in that way, with unlimited fish and chips on offer, but there you go.

September 21st 1981

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Mac apples (I think), and Lake Okanagan

Very heavy rain during the early morning – at about 4 or so – but because of the magnificent job we’d done of staking out the fly-sheet to maximum capacity + then tying down the middle of the tent to stop it touching there, we stayed dry all night.  And of course our storage extension was dry – that always has worked (touch wood.)  However, we decided that the weather was too wet for immediate work, so, along with Rob, who seems a sucker for easy temptation, we drove into town to buy our shopping early rather than late.  To be fair, we did try to work, but it was so cold that our hands just about dropped off, so we grabbed a couple of bagfuls each, + then quit.  We must have looked a sorry pair, because as we went past the Kuipers, they offered to lend me a pair of short rubber boots for the season, while Mrs K told Val to buy a new pair of wellies – she’s buy them off her.  Both offers gratefully received.

Then into Mission Park Shopping Plaza.  We drank a couple of cups of coffee, did as much shopping as we had cash for (not much), then back to work.  However, we didn’t work a very long day – it really looked as tho’ it was about to pour, + Val in particular was very cold.  My welliettes made a big difference, but she hadn’t been able to buy her boots yet, + her bare feet in a pair of cold wet trainers didn’t help matters.  As it turned out, it just drizzled for a bit + then turned into a beautiful evening, but it made a nice change to have time to not only do the necessary jobs but also sit + read.  I was finally able to get the fire right… the fireplace, I mean.  In a striving for perfection I’d dug + changed + modified, so that it ended up much worse than it had been in the first place.  The final solution (if you’ll forgive the term) was a biggish shallow pit, surrounded by stones, with two firebricks resting in the middle with a grill across them.  Fabulous meal – bangers, mash + peas, followed by fried bread + jam + cocoa.

Definitely going through changes in the weather, one day being bakingly hot, the next cold and wet.  Quite important to get the fireplace right, for, despite the rain, the field was very dry, and any carelessness could have set the whole thing alight.

September 20th 1981

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And, in contrast, a dull day.  Today being Sunday, + especially seeing as we’d gone out last night, we agreed to get up + start work an hour later.  Which was just as well, since I was suffering from a dreadful hangover.  (Incidentally, when I went across to Rob’s tent to wake him, he sounded, if anything, worse.)  As a consequence of my condition, I was not able to work to my best capacity for some time, since all that I wanted to cure me was tea, toast + sleep in large quantities.  However, in time I was able to work my way back to health + normality, and by the afternoon was working quite fast, so that we managed to fill 5 bins again.  Not that my contribution is all that important, since Val is far faster than I am.  When I work absolutely at full stretch, really concentrating hard + forcing my fingers to fly over the apples, she’s much faster than me.  When I’m feeling sluggish, it’s embarrassing.  Still, I am definitely getting better.  At first, going up a ladder was a very slow business, and I could only work very slowly when I got up there, having to hang on for dear life.  Even then, on my very first day, I managed to fall off.  The ladder toppled, and I jumped.  It wasn’t all that bad actually (tho’ it did worry Val… momentarily.)  Now I’m able to position the ladder straight away, observing the golden rule (either straight up or straight down the hill) + then nip up it in a rather slow flash.

Anyway, our evening meal, to which we’d both been looking forward all day, was a sort of Spanish omelette, with courgettes, onions, mushroom, tomato, + cheese.  Yet another fabulous meal.  I think we’ll have to write a recipe book of campfire cookery.  Then Rob used our fire to cook some soup, before an early night.

Obviously feeling quite sorry for myself, and my limited picking skills, a trade-off for my capacity to day-dream.  The ladders were tricky, a ladder section on one-side, but only counter-balanced by a single strut.  This made it easier to find a gap in the branches, and obviously had a three-legged stool quality, so was less rocky.  But, unless pretty firmly wedged, it did have a tendency to tip.

September 19th 1981

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Quite an eventful day, one way + another.  During the night it rained – that was the first thing – and my sleeping bag(s) got wet – that was the second.  When I informed Val of the fact, she just said “oh” and went back to sleep.  Great.  However, being double-bagged, I didn’t get cold at all, but I didn’t get any more sleep either.  No work, at least for the morning, so decided to get up + dry bags + wash clothes.  I fetched the car up from its new home by the farmer’s fruit stand to Frost Road, (where the field is), to pick up Val + all the clothes, then down to the launderette.  While that was doing its stuff of getting our clothes clean + dry, we sat + sorted out the photos + other things to send home, then into the PO with them.  Then, into town, for the other jobs we had to do – buying some things to hold my glasses on, some more jars, some post-cards, + topped it off with coffee + hot cinnamon buns.  Fabulous.  

Back to the farm, by 12.30 or so, + immediately (more or less) started work.  It went really well, for me at any rate, + we picked 3 bins.  In the evening, after a frugal meal of spaghetti, toast + eggs, we decided to go into town – after all, it was Saturday night.  The French pair had told us about a club called North 40 which had rock bands, so we thought we’d try that.  We asked Rob to come along, + he agreed.  When we got there, I was a bit uncertain as to whether he’d enjoy it very much – I wouldn’t have said he was a rock fan – but it turned out he knew + liked rock a lot, had even played in a band himself.  We’d left quite late, but the place had only just opened when we got there.  That was good really, because it enabled us to get a good seat, + to talk for a while.  The band were called Damien, + were very good.  They were sort of heavy metal, tho’ in appearance + style about ten years out of date.  Rob + I shared 2 pitchers of beer + by the end of the evening were very drunk.  We were all able to cut loose on the dance floor, since it wasn’t very crowded.  I managed to drive us home at about 12 – Rob was really funny, he kept on, during the walk back to the tents from the car, lobbing a packet of Frosties that he’d bought.  A really good, drunken evening.

To start at the end: yes, of course it was irresponsible, if not downright dangerous, to other people as well as us, to be driving when drunk.  And it is no defence to say that we all did it then, that times have changed. (But we did, some of us anyway, and they have, and not necessarily for the better.)

As for waking Val up to tell her I was soaking, I’m not sure, even now, what I was expecting her to do.  Wake up and join me in misery, I suppose.  Though, notably, I don’t seem to have had any awareness of my own selfishness, even though it is blindingly obvious to any reader.  Ho hum, as I might have said back then.