April 5th 1983

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 1

Fortunately, the weather remained fine, so with the coming of the sun a freezing night turned quickly into a warm morning.  So we did what one should do with a warm morning… we lazed.  And looked at the scenery.  And chatted.  Mostly, I don’t remember how the conversation began, we talked about education.  And as is the way with such conversations, each of us dug a trench + became buried in it.  Andy’s trench was mildly reactionary, ours mildly socialist, + there we stayed.  Which doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable + usefu

Eventually we packed up + left, but again we weren’t able to move far or fast, with shopping, petrol, etc, + then a flat tyre, all of which took time.  But finally the road again, the weather clear, the mountains beautiful, + getting bigger all the time as we came closer.  We finally arrived at the Hermitage, the main centre for Mt Cook, at about 4, + then drove out to a small camping area a short way out, where we pitched tent, donned many clothes, + set to make dinner.  The new theory is that my stomach upset is attributable to the cold, so I was allowed to sit in the car + write this, while the others prepared the meal.  They made a magnificent job of it, it must be said – bangers, mash, peas, eggs, + fried onions – which we all wolfed down in record time, topped it off with warm milk + honey, + dived into our bags.  Luckily for me, I was already snuggled deep within mine when the wind struck, suddenly, without warning, + with huge force.  2 guy ropes surrendered immediately, a few pegs leapt out of the ground, + the fly sheet very nearly disappeared.  Val + Andy set to to make temporary repairs, + since I was assured my assistance was not required, with no reluctance at all I remained put.  The repairs effected, Val joined me, tho’ not for very long.  For most of the time, the wind was ferocious, but occasionally there was a lull, + complete stillness, like the silence before the doodlebug dropped during the war, that was the time to worry.  You could hear it starting, way up in the mountains, and as the big wind came closer, it grew louder.  Then louder.  And then struck.  With a blow something like a steamhammer.  We could only lie there, + wait, + pray.  And by some miracle, most times the tent stayed up, I’ve no idea how.  Twice more, I think, Val went out to make instant repairs or load the pegs with stones,  but the last time the big wind hit, that was it, + with 2 huge rips the fly-sheet gave up the unequal struggle, the inner tent decided not to carry on alone, + down came our home around our ears.  Being intelligent people, we took the hint, bundled the tent into the car + ourselves off to the nearby shelter.  It was an open one, but the wind was howling from the right direction, so we were really very pleasantly snug for the remainder of the night.

If you are of the opinion, the more this goes on, that Val is the true hero of the story, and me a sort of whingeing Dr Boswell to her Samuel Johnson, then don’t think that hasn’t occurred to me too. Of course, she does drop out of sight from time to time, because it’s me that does the writing (and, to be fair, without me there wouldn’t be a blog at all) but even so…

Like the night described here, in which she is the one who ventures into the storm, again and again – something of which I was only half-aware, it seems – while I remained swaddled. Still, there you go – it is what it is.

  1. Pamela Blair

    Funny you should mention the heroine Val. I’ve had that thought, too. Lucky you!

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