Hallowe’en. Ho hum. Breakfast was a scrambled egg cum omelette. Needless to say, after the exploits of the night before, we didn’t get off to a very early start. But finally, after much lounging about, + then a leisurely, even sluggish, clearing-up, we were on our way. I should mention first though, that last night we went to the pub – it was actually quite a good place, except for the PA system for food. But the combination of shrooms + booze did not seem to do me any good. After a while I began to feel faint, + collapsed in the pub as Val was helping me out to get some fresh air. I then collapsed again immediately outside, but 5 minutes of night air revived me wonderfully, sufficient to return + finish my beer.
Anyway… we stopped off to lay in provisions, then drove north. We were heading towards the north of the island, to visit a place that Brent had heard was good for mushrooms. It was quite a drive tho’ – Robbie estimated it at 100 miles, + it turned out to be more. Still, we managed to keep ourselves amused, mainly by playing Botticelli. Brent is a strange guy – he’s very quiet most of the time, but for the last day, while on holiday, he really becomes loud, extremely so at times, + Liz says this is normal. He really gives Robbie a hard time, is nasty, I think, especially when Robbie doesn’t have the capacity for hitting back – not intellectually anyway, physically he’s very big. We arrived at the Nimpkish campsite in good time, + set up the tent, a big 6-man belonging to Brent. Then we set up a fire – Brent did really – there was plenty of wood around. And then we got on with the great mushroom hunt. We did find a few before it got dark, tho’ I didn’t get any benefit from the ones I ate. Had a good meal tho’, of baked potatoes followed by sweet potatoes, then sat around drinking beer. We had plenty. And then crawled into a cosy tent.
Know Brent much better now, and there is no trace of what I call “Nasty”, but I can only suppose I wrote down what I saw. Interesting to see Botticelli – a guessing game – making another appearance, last used while crossing the desert to Las Vegas.
The “collapses” sounded frightening, but clearly had only the most temporary of effects.
Up early since today was a travel day – we were all going over to Vancouver Island for a few days. We had to get to the ferry by 9.15, but naturally, packing everything together meant we were pretty much late. However, despite having to stop off for petrol, we made it… just. We were the last ones on before they shut the gates behind us. Seamus, L + B’s Manx cat, had come along with us, but unfortunately he wasn’t allowed off the car deck, so had to be left in the car. The 4 of us went up to the restaurant to have an infamous BC ferry breakfast – it really was pretty awful, but we managed to fill ourselves up.
We drove off the ferry into pretty poor weather, and then we had a 3 hour or so drive up to see Robbie, a friend of theirs in Campbell River. I spent most of the journey reading the paper – something of a luxury for me. At about 3 tho’, we arrived at Campbell River, + then had to find Robbie. Brent knew that Robbie was living in a motel, but he didn’t know in which one, so we had to drive to Tourist Information, + phone Robbie’s parents. That information in hand, we drove out there, only to find that Robbie wasn’t in. Just driving away to get some food, when Robbie drove past us, the other way. Quick turn around. Robbie seemed a nice guy, tho’ a bit slow. He was very friendly, + gave Val + I 5 mushrooms each. Doesn’t sound much, but they must have been strong, + we had empty stomachs. In any case, we both got smashed. We played the matchsticks on a beer bottle game for a while, + then moved on to Hearts, a game which Liz + Brent seem to be very fond of. There was a short break on when I braved the elements – there was a terrific wind + rain – to phone for a pizza. (Why can’t they have such things in England?) Finally finished the game at about 4 – Val won, so Brent, previously undefeated, had to sign the score card.
Latest episode in our ongoing saga to sample whatever mind-altering substances were available. In England, we have, by now, caught up with the pizza delivery service… just about everything you could ever want to eat service nowadays, of course, and no need to venture out into the night to track down a phone box.
And so, a new beginning. Yesterday, we’d been driving ourselves, maybe calling in to see Liz + Brent for a day or two. Now? Well…
A late-ish start, so that by the time we’d got up, Brent had already got up + lit the stove, so things were set up for a long and pleasant breakfast. There was Earl Grey tea, fresh fruit salad, toast + honey. And most important, just sitting + talking. Then we drove into town, to do some chores. The Post Office, then the Liquor Store, then the supermarket, then a small store which sold fireworks. L + B are having a party to celebrate Guy Fawkes on Nov 7th, + as fireworks are on sale at the moment for Hallowe’en, + not after, we bought some today. Spent a hell of a lot of money on next to nothing. Then some wire to fix the lights on the car, then home.
Lunch next – once again, a leisurely affair, of toasted cheese sandwiches + plenty of conversation. Liz is really very easy to talk to + easily entertained – a definite plus in terms of character. In the afternoon, we finally dragged ourselves out into the garden. Brent fixed the car, Liz did some gardening, + Val + I painted a cold frame. First of all tho’ we had to scrape all the mould + dirt off the wood. I’m not a very practical person, + lack the patience to do a proper job, especially when it comes to things like scraping round a window frame – fiddly + awkward. Still, we finished off the inside, which was all that was asked of us. We were happy to do it, since in some way we were paying for our stay, it stopped us from getting bored, + anyway we would have felt guilty sitting around while the others worked.
In the evening, again we sat around talking + listening to music – they’re both interested in folk music. I thought for a while that we were going to be missing out on an evening meal, but late-ish we sat down to a terrific vegetable salad, + loads of it.
Hm. I’m not a practical person, apparently… though it getting hard to work out what I am good at. And I come across as all high and mighty at deigning to do a bit of painting.
A big day, fraught with changes. It was Val’s turn to make breakfast for me. A real feast, since yesterday we’d bought half a dozen real English crumpets, so we ate 3 each. Took some time for final domestic things – the last bit of clearing up, packing, loading the car, and while it was absolutely pissing down. We walked over to say goodbye to Mr K (I’d said goodbye to the others the night before.) He was just as crazy as ever, still talking about “discing the mice!” And so, farewell. Into Kelowna, to cash a cheque, change a tape (Wings for Joni Mitchell) + celebrate our departure with coffee + a hot cinnamon bun. Then down to Osoyoos to get our visas extended – that didn’t prove too difficult, though it did take quite a while – that’s bureaucracy for you. We asked for a month, he gave us 2, so that was OK. Val finally managed to get thro’ to Liz – we said we’d see her soon. In fact, it turned out that Vancouver was still 250 miles, so quite a bit of driving to go.
We were listening to our tapes going along – they were great, especially Mr Gabriel. It started to get dark, + the weather really closed in, really foggy + unpleasant, as we were driving thro’ the mountain pass from Princeton to Hope. Then we hit some roadworks, really rocky. Then… disaster. Driving along, the road suddenly dropped 6 inches. Terrific bang. So I stopped, thinking I’d blown a tyre. Got out, + it was worse, the whole wheel had caved in. I hitched back, in the back of an open pick-up (freezing) to a service station, + the owner there came straight out with a pick-up. When he lifted the car up, we could see the wheel had virtually fallen off – a very expensive repair, so we sold it to the guy for the cost of the tow. He was good tho’ – gave us a lift to the bus station.
We rang Liz again, + got instructions for buses, then managed to load all our bags + boxes on the Greyhound for Vancouver. At Langley tho’, Liz came on the bus + dragged us off – she + Brent came out. Took us home, sat around, drank.
I think, before moving on to Oct 29th, I should deal a little more fully with the events of the 28th – it was, after all, quite a momentous day. When the moment came, when we slammed over the drop in the road, I knew as soon as I looked at the wheel that it was time to say goodbye to our trusty Pontiac – well, it was a bit obvious. It didn’t really come as a surprise. When we first bought the car + got it checked over, the guy there warned us about it, + didn’t recommend it even for the drive to Seattle, + we managed near as dammit 5000 miles, so that we can’t complain. But still, we weren’t in any doubt as to whether we should get rid of it. The garage guy was quite nice, tho’ he didn’t give us much money for the car, just the cost of towing us from where we broke down into Hope. However, he did give me a cup of coffee when I hitched out there, + he gave us both a ride to the Greyhound station. From then on, it was just like a movie.
All of a sudden we were left in the middle of a dark car park, surrounded by bags + boxes. Somehow, we managed to get the boxes onto the bus, one under the seat, one on each of our laps, the bags put away in the luggage compartment. We were sat there loaded up, peering out over the top into the night as we zapped towards Vancouver. Val’s phone call to Liz had been rushed + confused, so it looked as though we would have to catch a bus from the bus station out to their place – Brent didn’t have any lights on the back of his car. However, at Langley, Liz trotted on to the bus + pulled us off it. A very nice surprise.
Their place is good – a rent-free house (so that has to be good) small + cosy. We had a nice friendly evening – talking, talking, drinking home-brew + wine. Brent was very quiet, the same as he’d been the time we’d seen him before.
And so, in one day, we lose both our cosy cabin and our bed on wheels. As you will be aware, it had not proved the most reliable of machines, and had been in various repair shops ever since we had had it, along with numerous tows (some my fault, some not) so it was fitting that its final journey was on the back of a tow truck. Those of you who remember us buying it will recall the garage telling us the front bar was suspect… and so it proved. But it had provided us with a certain amount of security, knowing we had somewhere to sleep, and (probably) a way to continue our journey.
The irony of breaking down just outside Hope was not lost on us, and led to quite a few jokes.
But now, most definitely on to another stage of our trip, but with the comfort and companionship of old friends from Cornwall.
Work again. When I trotted out, filled with a distinct lack of enthusiasm, Mr K had already started work, so I joined in. All morning we finished off the lower orchard, +then again home for an hour lunch break. Quite a luxury – it almost feels like a proper job. And then a short afternoon, finishing things off. Much easier for me, since in this section the trees with props underneath were few + far between, so for much of the time I was able to ride on the back of the tractor. Anyway, finished at 3 – great stuff. Just about time for a quick cup of tea, + then into town. A number of chores to perform – first off a stop at the butcher’s to buy some hamburgers, + then the bank. Just in time to buy our travellers’ cheques – $1200 worth – before the place shut. Then to the Bargain Barn, your friendly rip-off second-hand store, where we bought 3 8-tracks for $8 – Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run”, “Band On The Run”, + “Peter Gabriel II”. (Only later, when the store had closed, did we discover the Wings tape was fucked.) On to Safeway for a few little purchases, checked in the library for West Ham’s result – they drew again – then home.
Our last night in the cabin, + a cosy one with an excellent meal – hamburgers, onions, mushy peas, + mashed potatoes, followed by yogurt + brown sugar. Then a sort of card tourney, in which for once I generally thrashed Val, + then to bed. Amazing to think of leaving, after 6 weeks, and all the things + people we would say goodbye to after getting used to them – the Krazy Kuipers; Roland + Lee, otherwise known as brown dog + black dog; the wood stove; the smelly fridge; our pile of wood + trusty chopper; the khazi. 2 things about the day I nearly forgot: 1 – we bought 6 ciders, + drank 5 of them; 2 – we got a letter from Dave, + apparently he received our letter 2 or 3 weeks ago. He’s bad. The others we wrote to are worse.
And so, at last, the end has arrived! (If not quite, echoing Sinatra, the final curtain.) But quite a wrench, it would seem, abandoning our cosy home and all of its attendant comforts… even our very own khazi (or outhouse.) We shall be discovering again the hold that everyday objects can have when you have so little else… but that’s for later in the trip.
On reflection, I can be more generous to Dave (Val’s brother), who did actually reply, after a reasonably short gap. It was just that we were desperate for contact with home… something today’s travellers do not have to contend with, I guess, since they have the technology to remain connected all the time.
I had arranged with Mr K that I should work today, picking up props. I’d no idea how long it would take, but managed to crawl out of bed at a vaguely appropriate hour – about 8 or so. To all intents + purposes, Val was dead to the world, so I revived her with breakfast in bed. Just about as we were finishing eating, Mr K turned up outside on his tractor, so I said I’d see him up at the house as soon as I finished my toast. When I got there, he was on the phone – he was selling some land, apparently a practice he indulges in every so often. So Mr K turns out to be just another beastly speculator. We started work then, which wasn’t too difficult – he would drive the tractor up one row, down the next, stopping wherever there was a pile of props under a tree, in order for me to pick them up + put them on the trailer. Then, when he had a full load, he would take it to his prop stack, + we would unload them all. After 3 such trips, he decided it was time for lunch, so we broke for an hour. I went back to the cabin to discover Val clearing up (virtuous) + that she’d got up at 11.30 (not so.) We had some soup, then tea, then back to work for another few loads before stopping for another break. This time tho’, no time for tea. Annoying, because I could have done with it – the trees were very wet in any case, but we’d just been treated to a real downpour. However, to work again, till 5, when it was almost dark. We had only banked on one day’s work at most, but we were in no real hurry, so I offered my services for the following day too – Mr K accepted, seemed pleased.
Val didn’t seem to be too good when I got in, so she slept while I cooked tea – a cheesy stew a la Rob. To be fair, she had already done the hard part, prepare the veg. We then went down to Luuigi’s bar to have a couple of drinks to prepare us for the evening – another Kuiper slide show. And it turned out to be worse than the first one – no beer, (tea + cake instead) + then, tho’ the slides weren’t too bad, a Mr K monologue, which just went on + on. I’m glad I didn’t have a small machine gun handy, or I’m sure I would have used it.
Magic! The first day that we didn’t have to get up for work (for quite a while, anyway) so we celebrated by stubbornly staying in bed. At least, I stayed in bed till 12 – Val got up a little earlier and made me breakfast. I’m sorry, I’ve just been corrected – I made breakfast, + then leapt back into bed, + read a little… I’ve started “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid test”. (I should explain – usually when I write this I ask Val for her recollections, especially when I’m a day or two behind – + she is able to correct me.) Then we drove into Mission Park area, as a local secondary school there was having a flea market. Unfortunately, we arrived there a bit late, + there wasn’t all that much left. However, bought John Fowles “The Collector”. Tried again to ring Liz, again no reply then came home.
A domestic afternoon – Val sewed, while I first wrote the diary, then read, temporarily abandoning Tom Wolfe for John Fowles. In the evening, we cooked bangers + mash, with carrots + mushy peas, followed by fresh fruit salad. And then, finally, we made it to the cinema. We’d finally found a film on in which we were vaguely interested, tho’ that was only because it starred Sissy Spacek, not because we knew anything about it. It was called “Raggedy Man”, + tho’ the plot was both predictable + melodramatic, the acting was of a very high standard, + it evoked the mood of war-time Texas effectively. It also has Sam Shepard, the US playwright, in it, which lent a curious touch.
No excitement like the night before on the way home. I think that Kelowna is quite well-equipped for things to do, with a fair few cinemas, discos, etc, but we’ve been without the necessary time, inclination, + energy to take advantage of them all. By the way, I forgot to mention that yesterday, while doing the washing, Val decided to put her hand thro’ the wringer – very pink. She was relatively calm about it – it was me that panicked. Ho hum.
Demob happy already, I see… though you must be too, having endured six weeks of apple talk. Liz was the same one we had tried to contact on our first pass through Vancouver, and – we hoped – our next host.
Not sure why the appearance of Sam Shepard, an actor of note, as well as a playwright, should have “lent a curious note”, and no way of interrogating the past, so we’ll never know. Just me being clever (or trying to.)
The last day today surely! And so it was. Up at 8, out at 9, back by 10. And a good part of that hour we weren’t working, just chatting with Eddie or Mr K. Felt pretty delighted with ourselves after that, believe me. We drove straight to Mission Market – I’d heard there was a jumble sale on at a church there, + I was right, tho’ it didn’t start till 11. So, we spent the time doing a little shopping at Overwaitea, + then I trotted out to buy some postcards while Val complained to the manager there about some photos we’d had developed there. Naturally, it did no good – he passed the buck on to the developing company. Ah well. On to the jumble sale. We’d thought it wouldn’t be like an East Ham one, with a queue outside, but really there wasn’t much difference – except they didn’t queue properly (damn foreigners!) A good jumble sale, tho’, with quite a bit of stuff. We bought a Pinter play, a piece of material to replace a piece we’d lost from the cabin, + best of all, a really ace T-shirt for Val – like a short-sleeved rugby shirt, with navy blue + yellow stripes, + a white collar, for 25c. Bought a couple of buns outside, then I rang Myrna. It seemed as tho’ it would be difficult to visit so that was ruled out. She didn’t know about Dad tho’, so I had to tell her. Then home + domesticity.
Fire lit, water on, as much as the stove would hold. Val washed virtually everything we had, + then we both took ourselves a bath… in the sink! Oh, before that, I shaved off my beard, one half at a time, + then I left a little clump below my lower lip. Ate hot lunch for the second time running – scrambled eggs + tomatoes on toast – + then when work was done, I tucked Val up in bed for a little while. We ate spaghetti Bolognese in the evening, but first I wasn’t hungry + second I didn’t like it, so I didn’t eat much. Went to North 40 – the band, Tyro, weren’t very special – the lead singer thought he was Mick Jagger (he wasn’t.) So left 12-ish, + drove to eat a hamburger. Got confused in Burger King car park, bumped over a kerb – stuck, one wheel spinning. Called a tow co – very efficient, lifted us out with no fuss. $15 tho’, + no hamburger!
Overwaitea sounds ominous; I don’t suppose obesity was on their mind when they came up with the name. Have always enjoyed jumble sales, and Val’s shirt was an obvious bargain.
Myrna was a lady who used to work in Dad’s toy shop in Stevenage, who had emigrated to Alberta.
And so, up and out, for the last day? Let’s say 10 bins. Well, Val + I could manage 5 or 6, + with Eddie + Mr K picking, surely that would be enough to finish things off. Anyway, we got going, our hopes high. The apples were pretty awful tho’, with short stems +, more often than not, would come off the trees with their spurs on. (The spur is a little piece of twig, joining the stem to the tree. When this comes off with the apple, it has to be broken off + thrown away. Though it has been known for the thoughtless picker – this one anyway – to keep the spur + discard the apple.) Eddie deflated our hopes somewhat by doubting whether we would finish the trees today, + throughout the afternoon we were alternately hopeful + despondent, depending on how it looked things were going. However, it was getting late, + we thought we might just make it when Val spotted an extra 2 trees. That did it, + so it proved – when it became too dark to carry on, there were still 2 unstarted trees. Rats! (to put it mildly.) We plodded home, feeling rather fed up with ourselves, + being disappointed 3 nights running was taking it a bit far. Still, never mind, as my mother would say on such occasions.
We cooked a tasty tea, of bacon, eggs, beans, and Spanish rice. There was a little too much of the latter, but nice all the same. And then off to the theatre – I’d seen that a local amateur group was putting on “Hedda Gabler” in the local college, so we went along there – tho’ we thought at first that we’d got the wrong night – there were very few cars, and, as it turned out, the audience was small. Ultimately, a moderately enjoyable production, tho’ mainly because of the qualities of the play itself, plus 2 good actors. It was played in the round, for, so far as I could see, no very good reason, + most of the cast were very stilted, unsure of their lines, unnatural really. The 2 exceptions were Hedda herself (thank God!) + Lovborg, an intense performance, full of nervous energy. Jorgen had some good moments too. Glad we went!
Our desperation to get to the end of the picking season is palpable; only too likely, therefore, that it should be protracted. A rare foray into (relatively) high culture, even when delivered by an amateur company.
We arose with great expectations – a good chance we would be able to finish things off today. Another icy morning – it had dropped to minus 4 overnight, + left a sharp frost. It takes a good deal of willpower to force one out of bed on such a morning… + fortunately Val is possessed of sufficient for both of us. There were just a few trees left up in the top corner of the orchard, + between us – Eddie, John the other regular, Val, + I – we soon polished them off. Val + I then treated ourselves to the luxury of a hot lunch, since Mr K wasn’t around to transport our bin down to a few odd trees in another part of the orchard. We heated up the curry that was left over from the night before – very nice it was too. Then down to work again, on a few trees down by the adjoining gravel company – made for a noisy environment. It was now mid-afternoon, so we came back to finish off a couple of scrawny trees… and maybe that was it! Unfortunately, Mr K was able to deal our hopes a pretty savage blow, by telling us there were some more trees to do tomorrow – the wine saps, which usually required from 8 to 12 bins. Rum ti tum.
Anyway, had a cup of tea to revive a couple of flagging spirits, finished off where we were working, + went home, earlier than usual. And this evening it was that we had the cauliflower cheese, an island of cauliflower in an ocean of cheese sauce – Val is rather fond of the stuff, so tends to over-do it. In the evening, we had thought of going into town, to go to a bridge club, but eventually decided against it – we thought it was a bit of a cheek, being just beginners, to attend just one meeting. So instead we organised our own little card tourney. We were able to think of 8 games for 2 people, + in the end it worked out at 4 games each, which I suppose is fair enough. Val won Beat Your Neighbour, Contract Whist, Crib and Piquet – I won Pairs, KO Whist, Hokus Pokus, and Rummy. By which time, as usual, we were knackered, so climbed into bed.
The account of our work is getting a bit “Are we there yet?” since clearly we (and, I am sure, you too) had had enough. You are used, by now, to detailed descriptions of every meal; the same approach to the minutiae of card games is a stretch too far. But, as I never tire of saying, the diary is as it is; all I am doing is transcribing it (and, it must be said) curling up with regular bursts of embarrassment.