For the first time in ages, an entirely satisfactory day. It even started out in great style, on my 2 o’clock watch. I’ve been following a serialisation of a Stan Barstow novel on Radio NZ for the past couple of nights, + that took up a quarter of an hour. There was also a wonderful Joyce Grenfell sketch, +, best of all, listening to “Round the Horne” with a glorious cup of tea. My two hours just flew by.
By this time we were turned back towards Tauranga, + tho’ the wind died at about 4 or 5, we started motoring from there on in. We even had the help of some wind from the right direction for most of the day, which made a pleasant change, + really had us bombing along. We caught sight of White Island as we slipped past in the grey mist – it was really pretty horrible weather today, grey + rainy, + visibility was well down. However, that suddenly cleared up at about 4 pm, + there was a fabulous sunset. All sorts of confusion around the chart table at twilight tho’, when Doug was suddenly stricken by doubts as to where we were. We steamed on for a while longer, hoping to pick up some lights, but all we could see was the loom over Tauranga, so the decision was made to lay up for the rest of the night, + then try to get in tomorrow. We really should be able to make it comfortably. Being so close now, the more or less unwritten rules of food conservation have been abandoned, + we pigged ourselves on 3 giant meals. So, all being well, New Zealand tomorrow, country no. 14 of the trip.
And now, having disposed of Oct 16th, + being in a rather more mellow mood than last night, here is no. 2 in the APPI (A Perfectly Pleasant Interlude) series. This quite a long + involved one, but soonest started, soonest done, + it certainly rates high on the Richter scale of Nice Memories, so I should write it down. It happened in the November of 76, during my first term as a teacher at Launceston. My nephew Geoffrey was being christened in Portsmouth on a Sunday, so I left early on the Saturday so as to be there at a good hour. I picked up a hitch-hiker, a girl alone, unusual enough in England. She was South African, called Barbi, I think – actually I think I’m sure. We talked, + she seemed nice. She was making her way to a Youth Hostel – which one I can’t recall, but it would be easy enough to look up – so I drove her down to it; it wasn’t any distance off the main road, + hence out of my way. She dropped off her rucksack there, + on an impulse I asked her if she would like to carry on to Dorchester, just a few miles further on, with me, + then after looking round I would drive her back. I’d decided there was no particular rush to get to Portsmouth. Barbi agreed – she had time to kill before being allowed in to the hostel. I managed to make a fool of myself by expounding at length about what a wonderful abbey there was supposed to be in Dorchester. Despite a diligent search all day, we were unable to locate it. Of course, I’d got the wrong Dorchester in mind, the Oxford and not the Dorset one. Nevertheless, we had a great time, even despite grey weather, wandering round the town, looking in shops, museums, etc, + the day flew by. I rang Bob’s to say I’d been delayed, so hadn’t left yet. They were all a bit puzzled, but I couldn’t see that I could offer a more honest explanation.
I drove Barbi back to the hostel at about 6, so that she could check in properly, + then we headed off to the pub, where we sat + steamed in front of the fire – we were very wet. It was a perfect evening, sitting + talking + laughing + ignoring everyone in the place. We played old songs on the juke box, + somehow found ourselves holding hands. I can’t even remember what we talked about, except she did say that if she’d written one book, she would have liked it to be “Cat’s Cradle”. So what more can you say? We got a bit drunk, which helped, + the time shot by to where she had to go back to her hostel. Barbi refused to write to me, because she says travellers use letters as a prop, + she was doing without (it’s true – I grab that prop every time), but she did write down her sister’s phone no. in London on the back of a London bus ticket – I carried it for ages. Outside the hostel, we missed goodbye, passionately but very briefly, + I climbed back in my yellow Escort + drove fast on to Portsmouth, feeling incredibly excited, the most incredible thundery storm raging all around me. Just as a PS, I phoned that number a month or two later, + found that Barbi had gone to work in a Buddhist monastery in Scotland. Ah well.
Ah, the joy of radio, to transport one to another world, especially important when the current circumstances – ie on the boat – were so monotonous. More classic British radio comedy, though I expect Round the Horne is terribly dated now.
And then we come on the extraordinary little tale. I was minded at one time to leave it out, but since I have made myself a promise to transcribe the diaries unedited, here it is. It pre-dates Val, so is hardly a story of infidelity, but even so, knowing that Val would be reading it, it does seem a strange choice. Still.
All true, by the way, and this time no post-script – we never met again. Just as well, probably.
And it is becoming tedious searching for old post cards and the like to use as accompanying photos, which does seem like something to fill space, rather than seeking out pictures which illustrate the content. Still, it is probably better to have something at the top than nothing at all, and there are no more of our photos for this phase.