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Watching The Earth's Tilt

Let's talk......Posted by Carol Chalk Wed, January 23, 2019 18:55:49

Week 25: 10 July to 16 July

10 July - In Phoenix now awaiting my next bus, have spotted the English lady across the way so must avoid her. The rest rooms are disgusting, so typical of Greyhound. Had an uncomfortable night, not now looking forward to my 3 night haul across country, could do with some pills to knock me out. Had a horrid breakfast, full of additives, yeuk!

Was still tired on the next bus, but was in one of those continual drowsy states only, did miss some good scenery. When I came to we were in the wilderness, but it was so lovely, I knew I must be near the Canyon. Flat shrubbed desert that suddenly disappeared from under your nose, undulating hills o'er miles and miles of endless horizon. I did notice the difference in the heat though, but Arizona does look like a good state to live in. Very laid back, beautiful and friendly. So amazing how a part of the country can change from that just a few hours away, in such a vast way too. I think some of these large countries should create countries within in preference to calling them states or provinces. Just like staring out to sea, the desert type areas mesmerise me into a state of peace and enlightenment.

We reached Flagstaff soon enough and actually found a good clean depot, from which I was collected by a guy from the hostel. The Motel Dubeau is a typical hostel type place, seems to be full of English or rather British persons, either running or staying. Had a well needed shower before hitting the town, but not before I had met each female in our dorm, Niki, Fiona and now Mary, all really nice people and all from U.K. We all seem to be going on the Canyon tour tomorrow, no 2/3 day ones however. I may go up to Lake Powell for a while, the area takes in other National Parks. No problem with me working here if I want to.

Did a round trip of Flagstaff, through the university grounds to the mall and back to Safeway for some goodies. Had dinner from the café, was too tired to cook, no room anyway. This hostel seems so much better than Huntington, more normal types of all ages, I really like it and get on with everyone. Will like vegging out here for a while, a good recommendation. Watching some slides on the Canyon later.

11 July - Some were bothered with the trains last night, but I had a pretty good sleep, all ready for our trek today.

What can I say about today, it was pretty amazing. We had a small group and we all got on well and really enjoyed ourselves. These tours all include stop offs at souvenir stores, but we mainly needed food supplies. I bought a hat to look touristy. I did not want to get stuck in a sun trap anywhere unprepared. Our first stop was at the visitor centre to see a slide show, it was basically an advertising campaign for tourists, our slide show last night was better. The Canyon is in a national park so have fees to pay to get in. It seems that in early 1800's the wonderful pioneers and explorers tried to excavate the minerals etc that they discovered, however, because of the sheer depth and severity of the Canyon, nearly one mile deep, they had to abandon any such ideas. Thankfully so, because now all is protected to its natural state and only trails intrude. The human activity in the Canyon itself provides minimal concern, but I would say that only self-respecting human beings attempt to go down very far. The Canyon is 270 odd miles long and we only touched the tip of the ice berg along the south rim. In fact most of what we saw was the same thing only at different angles. Could and would keep going back, if I had a car I would travel further along to see other parts. They say that out of the 4/5 million visitors each year the average person only stays twenty minutes, crazy unimpressive people. I was pleased with the lack of touristiness about the area, I guess further along would be less so than at this access point. You do not need to hype up this 1/7 wonder of the world. I wish we had taken our group photo at the beginning, we were all dumb struck at our first sighting of the Canyon, mouths open. You cannot describe what it is you are witnessing, it is like looking at a backdrop or a painting, it just isn’t real. Awesome is a good word to describe it. I have seen a lot of great things and it would be unfair to pick out one as the best because everything is beautiful in its own way, however, the Grand Canyon is just gobsmacking. You can spend hours staring at different bits, and making things out of them. One view is like an ancient city of stone, turrets, pyramids, caves, step like structures, simply brilliant. One thing I noticed were the layers of rock, so perfectly evident, it was like looking into the centre of the earth and seeing every age of the earth unfurled to its present day, rather like counting the rings on a tree. Sandstone, shale and limestone form the basis today, so very soft flaky rocks, pretty scary too. Very wary, hairy, scary, in fact. We stood in awe looking out but were advised not to take a lot of piccies at this stage as better views were to come in better lighting. I think we must have been at Yaki point or very close. Next was the lunch stop, we hit a trail down to about 2 tenths of a mile to a secluded rock under a tree and munched on our picnic, hounded by bugs. So, so peaceful, nobody around except us. You do not need to talk, the Canyon speaks for itself, you just sit and look out and think your own private thoughts. I kept having recurring thoughts of jumping off the edge, just like my dream of a few years back. I know if I got too close to the edge for a photo, I would topple over. I was a little scared to be honest, our trail down was a bit hairy in parts, the loose rocks underfoot could take you at any time. My thigh muscles ached so by the time we had descended, was told I needed water. Did not help tremendously. We lunched for nearly an hour so a good rest. The legs did not hurt on the way back up, but the altitude got both myself and Miriam. We both had to stop on several occasions to rest, she was worse than me with dizzy spells. I would dearly love to go right to the bottom but I would never get out again successfully and I certainly would not go on one of those mule trips down, too risky. I will send Frank the brochures and he can make up his own mind. It really can knock you for six, even fit people who hike a lot. Miriam wants to white water raft for three days, she must have some money to spend. It would be such a shame to think that today may be the only day I get to see the Canyon. After making sure we were all fit we drove along to the Tusayan Ruins and museum, site of an ancient Indian Camp, little known about the civilisation so most facts are speculation. The Navajo also dwelt in this area. And so to the furthest point, our guide’s favourite spot, away from the masses, think it was a desert view because we could see the Cedar Mountain. The sun was going down by now and gave a different perception on the Canyon and some brilliant views, this was our main photo opportunity. Went closer to the edge this time. Just incredible how the Canyon meanders along the Colorado River route. Miles and miles of turrets, red close up and black as they fade in to the distance. The photos could never do the area justice. We stayed here for about an hour absorbing the atmosphere, looking, chatting, admiring, none of us could take it in. We stopped off at a few points on the way back, a lot of what we saw was the same just from a different angle, so did get a bit tiresome after a while. It is just the vastness of the whole thing that captures you.

Had a good meal back at the hostel. I had to get out of the smoky atmosphere after a while, was going back but got trapped in my diary, was midnight before I knew it.

12 July – Writing this on the 13th, I desperately need a rest day. My legs feel awful from the hike yesterday and we hardly did any. I think the tension from walking so close to the edge did not help.

We had a small group again today for Sedona. Peter, a German, was our tour guide. A very quiet guy and not so informative as Jody yesterday. When this guy says hike, you hike, and he does not hang around. Had the usual food supply stop before driving to Oak Creek view point. The area was hotter than at the Canyon, we went south today and they say it is always hotter further down. The view was nice, a canyon covered with pine trees and mountain oak and cactus, with a little windy road running through it, very pretty but not worthy of a picture. We had a brief resume of the area and what to expect, but I cannot remember too much. Next was a view looking down over Sedona, the place where a lot of stars live, very exclusive town out here in rattle snake country. Some spectacular views of part canyon/mountain type structures, all red rock. Sugar Loaf Mountain was most prominent and many other mountains that have been turned into various objects. Elephant, coffee pot, snoopy. Lunch, a nice spot, in the blazing heat, so hard to find any desperately needed shade. We plonked ourselves, Miriram, Nicki and I, under a small tree, forgetting the warning of snakes and scorpions. I would hope I was immune from scorpions due to our connection. We desperately needed our swim, so off we hiked into Oak Creek to slide rock. I am sure there must have been an easier way down, but Peter insisted on us rock climbing and dirtying our clothes and bodies. They should issue a health warning with the trip, or at least life insurance cover. We couldn’t get our clothes off fast enough. Some were straight in but I did a bit of basking first. The rocks in the river are covered in algae and so provide a perfect slide, just like a water slide at a pool. You lie back and let the current take you, it took me a little too quick and I turned over and I went sailing, legs and arms flagging every which way, until I corrected myself and I glided swiftly down to the creek, where Peter was waiting to give me a hand up. Good fun. I did it once, some two or three and some none. Quite happy to lounge around after that and just lie in a side stream. On the way back we stopped at another point for a swim. To get there we had a shorter hike, but was still horrendous. More shady at the water. I could not be fagged to get wet again for the sake of 10 minutes. Miriam slipped up on the way back, not hurt, but I think it made Peter sit up and take notice that not all are like him.

I was so knackered by the time I got back, ate at Macey’s with Miriam. Yesterday’s guide, Jody, was there, so he and his lady joined us. In the evening, Nicki, Miriam and I went up to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. They give a little talk about the current planet of interest, tonight it was Jupiter and the M5 Cluster. Too above me to all sink in. However, did learn something about shooting stars, they are only the size of a thumb-nail and are fragments of stars that have reached the earth’s atmosphere. The light given off is the disintegration of them, how you get that much light beats me, but there you go. Our next treat was to take a look through the 24 inch Clark Refracting Telescope, 98 years old, so I guess we were honoured. We just missed getting to see Jupiter, the girl spent ages readjusting the 7 ton telescope to the M5 Cluster, wish she had left it, the Cluster was so small it was hardly worth it. Something different anyway and a first. Flagstaff does look good at night.

13 July – Miriam and I set off with good intentions of doing a round trip. Walnut Canyon, Jerome, Montazeuma’s Castle and Wupatki. Walnut Canyon was only a few miles away. The Sinagna tribes inhabited this canyon, they lived in caves formed in the canyon side and eventually developed them in to walled houses. How they managed to successfully ascend and descend beats me, maybe the paths were more defined then, AD600, or people were not so wimpish. Average age 20 to 30 years of life, I would be an old lady now. Not such a trawl, but very hot so equally exhausting. My legs are still killing me. I need to take a rest, I look like shit, the past few days have been a rush in my itinerary, should have eased myself in to it gently. The Oak Creek runs dry now so guess that is why they moved on. The trail around was 185 down, paved, stepped and railed. Could walk around the house, or rather stoop around them, some were being repaired. Interesting little area, I think Arizona must have some of the most extensive historical sites of pre-pioneer times in the whole of America. Saw a beautiful Humming Bird, my first of the wild. I admire anyone who can take a decent photo of one in flight, they are so swift, if you blink you miss them. The Park Rangers advised us on how long it would take to do the round trip so it seemed then that it would be unlikely we could do it all. So we selected Jerome, because it would be good to see a ghost town. Getting there was horrendous, it was so hot you would not believe, all we had was window air conditioning. Miriam is not the best of drivers and she drives fast so I was sweating even more. Miles and miles of open desert land took its toll on the car and it overheated on the upward hill, we were only ten miles away. A guy stopped to check all was ok and gave his manly advice. The remainder of the trip was downhill so soon cooled the car down. The road in to Jerome is very windy, but provides the most brilliant views, would not have missed this. We got there near closing time and no trace of a ghost town. Nice exclusive shops and very quiet peaceful town, where everyone knows everyone else. An artist’s dwelling area. Most of the houses have been restored and are lived in now, some buildings left alone and deserted, but was disappointing. Gave the impression though of not being a hustle bustle place. There is a tour of the mine, which they indicate has a ghost town area, but we never got on it. Everyone really hippy here and very laid back. We walked up to the church, a Catholic one by the look of things. A little OTT ornate wise, gaudy colours and too many Virgin Mary and Christ statues. Paper flowers and wax-work priests. A once thriving copper mining town was wiped out when fires swept the mines and the land shifted, bringing houses down. It was pretty deserted until 20 years ago, is now a national historic landmark. The journey home was less traumatic, we were tired so quiet, well I was anyway, daydreaming.

Did not do much this evening. Fairly good day, if a little hectic and tiring. Will start work tomorrow and veg out for a few days to get the sparkle back.

14 July – A semi-quiet day. Started work at 11am, got the room cleaning job with Ruth and Ben. I did the bathrooms, nice one. My new room is a pit, not sure it is a good move, still an hour and a quarter‘s work for free breakfast and board is worth it I suppose.

Wandered in to town, bought my postcards and had a drink, so hot. Even a short walk has tired me out, legs are better today. Sorted the toga out after helping blow up the balloons for the party. Was 7pm before I knew it and Miriam was here. We went to Perkins, a nice non-fast-food place. Our waitress was very apologetic at keeping us waiting, she gave us our dessert for free, nice of her, but not really necessary. Wish I had stayed out longer talking with Miriam, or at least invited her in to the party. I did not enjoy as much as I wanted. I couldn’t stand the smoke, so I retired. Some people in our room, so talked to them for a while and they disappeared. Mary was nowhere to be seen. Will do my work and potter around here and there instead of hanging around all day. Everyone is nice, but to know people sober is one thing, drunk is another. Tried to write to people about the Canyon today, but how do you describe the indescribable. A strange day, feel as though I made a back-slide in my social progress. Decided I like my own people to party with or at least those on a similar level as me.

Miriam went to Montazeuma today and to Sedona, would have been nice to go. Work was over so soon, but too late to venture anywhere. Not certain how I will get on from now on.

15 July – A lot of heavy heads this morning and gossip in our room, I ignored it, but did amuse me. Had a wander around the old town before work at 11am. Got a shit job today, a full three hours’ worth. I had to do a good spring clean job in the T.V. room, both common bathrooms and the laundry room. Gave me a blister so must be out of practice, was glad to have finished by 2pm.

To my surprise, Miriam was still around. About 2 miles out she had car trouble so came back. Some trouble, $600’s worth, made her literally cry. So after work we sat through her laundry and then set off in a mended car to Wupatki, it was too late for her to drive to Salt Lake. Wupatki is in the wilderness and consists of a series of ruins on Pueblo Indians, around 12th Century. Saw Nalakihu, Citadel, Lonaki and Wupatki. Wupatki being the largest complex. Each building seemed to be set in prominent places, plenty of farming land around them. The brickwork was very neat, some houses two storey with many rooms. Whole families stuck together so many houses grew out. They looked so good against the setting sun. Brilliant red brick against shadow and the green shrubbery. Had a good view of the painted desert in the background, quite stunning as the sun disappeared behind the hills. Greens and reds turned to purple and blues, very pretty. We went at a good time of day. However, it gets dark quickly out here so wanted to get back on the main road before then. Just made it. Got supper and hit the decks once back.

Randall was not around so I had nothing to stay up for. We were the only ones out at Wupatki today, eerie in a way but so very peaceful and beautiful.

16 July – Another shit day work wise, however, in a good mood. Wandered the old town and bought some nick-nacks and some feathers, in case I go tonight. Continued to the shopping centre for an ice cream and to check out the cinema.

Seems that there will be a better bunch at the cowboy party, so will go. Glad I did, was a rave, although not as much as the toga’s. John Wayne was here, an amazing look-alike, facial as well as build. He models his life on him too. Sad but a good gag. He was keen to have his photo taken with most people, squaws in particular, and dishing out Bourbon from his large bottle. Met some good people tonight, more my sort and had a good dance most of the time. Everyone was so much more mellow, which was probably why I had a better time. Was wary of Peter ‘I can’t keep my hands to myself’ tour guide. Was talking most of the night to a guy from Melbourne, very interesting, doesn’t drink due to medical reasons. Bit of a dare devil. Swam with piranhas, been stalked by cobra type snakes – wild man. Was nice to be able to have a decent conversation for a change. By about 1am most people were dead, I turned in at 1.30am. Looking forward to the cleaning tomorrow!

Current day thoughts

I think this section really highlights social interaction and how I see others and how I see me. I find social interaction very difficult, most people do if they are honest with themselves. I worry about how I come across to others and whether or not I will fit in. I said I like ‘those on a similar level as me’ and was referring to the mind-set of a person. I like to think now that I can hold myself in any situation and get on with a diverse range of people and opinions, however I do like to suss people out first before I throw myself into the ring. A big downfall for me, especially at parties, has always been alcohol. I am not a big drinker (yeah right I hear some of you say) but when I do drink I tend to have more than I can cope with if you know what I mean, but not as much nowadays as back in the day. I realise that getting older has its downfalls in this respect. I am a cheap date now with one drink being enough for the evening. Anyway, once the mouth gets going there can be no stopping and often gives the wrong impression. I spend hours, days sometimes analysing what or why I said certain things. I believe it comes down to nerves, especially when in the company of strangers. I referred to ‘more normal types’, when perhaps I should just have said, more my type. Normal is whatever is right for you. In hostels the crowds change daily, so you may get on with people one day and then find yourself amongst very different people the next. We are all different and on the whole I was able to mix in well. I just stay away from situations I don’t feel comfortable in.

Working for my keep at The Motel Dubeau was great for a while, saved me a bit. Not nice to clean the rooms though, especially in an independently run hostel with lower standards than say the YHA. I did get moved into the main building though with better accommodation because of it.

I cannot recommend more a trip to see the Grand Canyon, it is phenominal. Put it on your bucket lists. The area has so much to offer in terms of historical sites. Just make sure if you drive around you have decent transport and go out prepared because it really is a desert out there. Glad to have had Miriam to tag along with as I wouldn’t have seen half as much as I did, and it was cheaper than a guided tour.

The railroad runs through the centre of Flagstaff with the Santa Fe Southern Railway passing through regularly and they do sound their horn loudly to warn people they are coming.

The John Wayne look alike was a great addition to the cowboys and Indians party and he loved the attention, I guess that was what he was there for.

Two weeks is a long time to spend in one place when you are a backpacker on the move. So much more of Flagstaff to come

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23 January 2019

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the date I set out on my first backpacking adventure and I thought it might be fun to share with you some of my diary entries from then coupled with my current day thoughts. I’ll do this by creating a summary of each week rather than giving a blow by blow daily account of what I got up to. I may even throw in a few photos on the way. My journey was 10 months in total and took me to Australia, Canada, United States of America, (London) and India, in that order. It might seem strange to have visited India last of all as my direction of travel would have taken in India first, but believe me it was a good decision. Having built up the confidence in the preceding months this allowed me to cope with a country that was so different to any which I had experienced before. 10 months that helped to shape the person I am today.

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Week 1

23 January 1994 - 21:09hrs - London Heathrow.

Well, this is me, departure lounge at Heathrow. Can’t really believe I am here. Salisbury has been on flood alert all of this past week, I never knew I had so much inside of me waiting to come out. I have a feeling of deja vu at the moment; it has been with me for the past few days. I am on a journey with a goal in mind, but as it gets closer I realise that I do not know why I am doing it at all. I have been searching for myself forever and looking for love. I have love now, so I guess I am still looking for me. I ride through a tunnel, it is dark and there is no atmosphere, just blankness. My mind has disappeared, I simply have no thoughts about what it is I am doing here, and then suddenly I come close to reaching my destination and I come through the tunnel. I guess I am very apprehensive and quite simply lonely. This is something I should be sharing.

The flight is ok so far and, yes, I knew they would do this, a full meal, they call it supper, at 12:00 midnight, yeuk! I will eat it anyway as I have paid for it. And so to bed, for a few hours at least.

24 January

Did not sleep well, may have had half an hour shut eye. Breakfast at 6am (2pm Singapore time).

The first leg of the journey over. It is 7pm here in Singapore, looks like it may rain. I looked out of the window on the plane, we were floating on fluffy cotton buds, twixt earth and heaven. A bit like my life at the moment, all up in the air. Flight from Singapore to Perth, smaller plane, only 4 hrs trip, but did not enjoy so much. Fewer tourists on board, mainly locals. Still more food. More calm now and looking forward to touch down. Although having said that, I feel secure up in the air, once down I am on my own for real, despite being met by Ron and Celia.

25 January - 0:30hrs

Arrived half an hour early. A little rainy, but still warm. I recognised Ron and Celia straight away, but they did not remember me, I looked a right mess anyway so I don’t think they would have stood a chance. Celia thought it was cold, but it isn’t, even with the wind blowing.

I feel strange being in another person's house. I think I would prefer to be on my own in a hostel or something. It was suggested that I ring home tonight (morning), but I will wait until the evening of the 25th as I do not think I could cope with it right away. 2:45am, so signing off now, I shall sleep forever.

Did not rise until 12 noon. House seems strange, more like a holiday villa, will get used to it soon. Went around Armadale this afternoon, everything seems so spread out. I guess because not much is built at two storey, all on one level, there is certainly plenty of room to spread out here. Not too big a place, shopping malls all under cover, a few businesses dotted around. Mainly a residential area. Much the size of Wilton probably. I do not feel able to dash off and do my own thing whilst here, feel obliged to wait until taken to places. It may be too secure a start, home from home type thing.

26 January - Wednesday, Australia Day! A bank holiday.

The flag was flying in Herriard Road. They all go on about how proud they are to be Australian. The Brits do take quite a battering, don’t know why. I would not want to live here though, despite the laid back life-style. It is too hot and the openness and extrovert nature of the younger generation would be too much to handle. Maybe the east side is different. Tonight on the train back from Perth, the carriages were packed with young people (teenagers) who all seemed to be drunk, stoned, whatever, and they were loud mouthing it and dancing to music. I thought I was on a par with young people but this is a bit above me and so loud. I must be getting old. Celia told me that a lot of kids don’t stand a chance of getting jobs now, so they just blow their dole money on having a wild time and saying sod the rest of the world, it’s going to end soon anyway. Around 6-8 years ago jobs were ok and most 20/22 year olds bought their own houses and most have already finished paying off their mortgages at 30yrs old, it’s unreal. They have two/3 cars, everything. Even Ron and Celia have two houses. We are going down to the beach house for the weekend. There is more opportunity to make something of yourself through schooling. Because a lot of places (towns, cities) are so isolated or 1000's of miles from the next, like everywhere in Western Australia, (Perth is the most isolated city in the world), they tend to have everything you can think of on their doorstep. 3 universities for W.A. alone. If it is there and you don’t have to travel far, you make the most of facilities and work hard. I hate myself for not being more aware or more alive when younger. Almost forgot to say that we went to the annual light show in Perth tonight, always held on Australia Day. Quite a big fireworks display, had some really good ones go off. All the city's traffic came to a standstill, it was like a mass protest marching through. We stopped off for a coffee to let the masses die down. Still catching up with myself and the time differences.

27 January - The earliest I have been up this morning, 09:00hrs.

Celia took me around Perth centre, for shopping and to see some sights. Experienced a slice of Princess Cake, full of calories and messy, but we enjoyed it. Walked around an art gallery, quite contrasting exhibits on show. One sector was all Aboriginal paintings, they are quite samey to look at, but very colourful and all tell a story. Wacky contemporary and modern art and quite decent fine art by Ozzie artists. All buildings seem quite new in the city centre, very big and modern and everything seems to link into another. Shopping much the same as in England, except more food outlets. Actually did the washing up at tea, which makes me feel pretty good. Have now got some times and prices for coach travel between major cities, so will map out a route soon. I will stay for another week and half or two.

Why is it a lot of countries dislike the original natives of their lands. With Americans it was Indians, South Africans the blacks and Australia the Aborigines. A little ancestry still showing through perhaps, after all most Australians are immigrants themselves.

28 January - Up early today, 08:30hrs

Busied about getting ready for the weekend. Beach house not too far away. Stopped off at a couple's house for refreshment. It would seem that most of them think that the world looks down on Australians and try to defend themselves constantly. They think that Britain should adopt the same way of life as Oz, mainly on the economic side. Why should Britain have dollars and cents, do the rest of Europe, no, but does that bother them, does it heck. Australia is a continent and Europe is a continent, wouldn't it be boring if everyone was the same. I think UK is unique and should stay that way. The beach house is much the same as their town house. Went to the beach with Ron. My first dip in the Indian Ocean. The beach was virtually deserted, just us and one other family to start with. The sand seemed to go on for miles either side and the sea was beautiful. Bit choppy to swim, but had fun dodging the waves. Had Celia told me about the sea snakes much further up the coast, I may not have gone in. Have got a little sunburn and I hardly stayed in the sun. Must make sure I use some lotion next time. By the way, we are now at a place called Singleton. The sea breezes are quite strong and almost constant, deceivingly so.

29 January –

I am coping with the heat quite well, wore my hat for the first time today down to the beach. The breeze is refreshing but still very hot in the sun. Slapped on the sun lotion today. Sea was much calmer. Ron came down to do a rescue mission in case I had frazzled without realising it. He drove down and it is only a five minute walk. I came back on foot, I am missing out so much on exercise. Went around Mandurah this morning, very seasidey type of place. Just off of the centre is a residential area built around man made canals. All gardens go down to the water so that they can hop straight into their boats. Very exclusive and very tasteful as well. Not as many swimming pools as you might imagine in the suburb areas. Everything reminds me of holiday villages with chalets. So peaceful strolling along the water front under a star lit sky. We all sat and set the world to right before bed.

Current day thoughts

I’ve had to cut out quite a lot of my entries, some too personal and some not very PC. We have to be PC these days. Diaries can be a dangerous thing in the wrong hands. Should mention that Ron and Celia Penny were very good friends of my parents, dad grew up with Ron. They emigrated to Australia in 1969 with their two children. I had seen them once in that time when they came back to visit in UK some years later. Seems that employment issues are the same worldwide and the young no different. We don’t always see it on others’ doorsteps. Three universities in Western Australia, it seemed a lot. There are 5 now. I suppose not so surprising when you consider the size of the area and the growing population. I think more logically these days. There appeared to be a lot of problems between the Aborigines and Australians, I am sure there still it but I think in general indigenous cultures are given more of a voice these days. I still wish I had pushed myself harder when younger. Interesting to know my thoughts on UK back then (I knew nothing about the EU and what they did). I don’t think that way now; I think we should become more like Australia in that they use more of their own resources to keep the economy stable. I know nothing about the economy but it seems that way anyway. I still don’t cope with heat well and I still burn in the sun.

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Week 2

30 January - It’s hot today. Still very tired. I don’t want to get out of bed but I drag myself out before 09:00hrs. Adrian and Shae rolled up mid-morning. Shea is 2½ years old and she still looks like a baby, but she is a fun thing and lively. We all went down to the beach for an hour or two. The sea seemed quite calm but the wind picked up and the waves rolled in. I had quite a frightening experience at one point. A wave broke over me and completely swept me off my feet. I thought I was going to drown. I think my eyes were open, all I could see was swirling water all around me and I somersaulted from the force. I couldn’t get out of the water quick enough. My whole head was filled with water. I can’t imagine how surfers manage to survive some of the big waves. After Adrian had gone, in his 22 year old banger, we packed up and sped off home, stopping a Reg and Elsie’s to say goodbye. Came home via the country roads. Every so often we came across areas where bush fires had taken hold. They can happen at any time, anywhere and if the wind is blowing you've had it. Most are kept under control before spreading to houses. Even as we drove there was some in the distance, probably Rockingham area. I think 20 years ago the whole area of W.A. was mainly vegetation, now housing areas are going up everywhere. Overpopulation will make its way to Oz sooner or later.

Tea on the veranda, I thought lunch was the main meal, oh well, its only calories piling on. No sea breezes in Armadale, the fan is a definite must this evening. Starting to work out some routes now. With all that Ron and Celia have planned for me, it will be a 3 weeks stay. I will never be able to thank them enough. Ron rang my mum and dad tonight, I did not realise he was going to, we all had a little chat.

31 January - One week nearly over already, certainly the most mixed January I have ever had, weather wise. Kevin must have been sad yesterday, I can imagine how sad and lonely he is, I hope he manages to occupy his time ok. Have to admit that I have not been missing him as much as I should. There has been so much to do and see even in this short week and planning my next move as well.

Today was definitely the hottest it has been, but that didn’t stop us going out. First the weekly shopping was done, there seems to be much more choice available especially in the fruit and veg line. After lunch a leisurely drive down to the Serpentine Dam. It is very pretty driving through the vast woodland, so many shades of green with the odd touch of greyish blue. Certainly a wildlife day. The Dam is massive and supplies most of the area with water. However the water was very low, makes you realise how precious the stuff is here. Stopped off at a Bar-B-Q area and fed the wild parrots with bread. They come and land all over you, arms, legs, head, for a feed. Scratched my arms to pieces and ruined what little hair style I had. They were so lovely and tame. Saw my first Kookaburra, he wanted his share of the bread, only at a distance. Also saw an electric blue coloured wren. On the way home passed a dead kangaroo on the roadside. Nobody moves them, the crows will have a picking or two and other small creatures. Can’t wait to see one alive and kicking in the wild, love to see a koala too. Lots of Black Boy trees around, pictures do not depict them very well, you have to see one to understand their given name. Along the woodland areas you come across burnt patches, which is known as controlled burning. If the trees are already burned the natural fires should peter out at these points as there is no more in their path to burn. Golly I've learned a lot today. Near to the Serpentine Dame is a garden of Aboriginal design. It is of a snake weaving through areas of water in the hope that its presence will bring much water. This comes from the Aboriginal period known as 'Dream Time', from which most of their art work drives. Met Celia's parents later on. Dick is in his 80's and likes to wear loud clothes, he was all in bright red today. Her mum makes you feel at home straight away. Nice down to earth house with granny type furnishings. Supper outside again and a very calming spout on the hammock.

1 February - Paid the price of sitting out last night, covered in mossie bites. A stark contrast in the weather, 40's yesterday, only 25 today. Went to King Park in Perth had a fantastic view of the city, it really is a massive place. Everywhere you turn in this state you will see a barbecue, no need to go hungry or have to spend out a fortune. The barbecue is a national pass-time. Next, to Freemantle, via Cottesloe, where we had a spot of lunch. Freemantle is a seafaring town. The shipping docks are along this part of the coast line. The next biggest place down from Perth I guess. The older buildings have remained intact which gives the place more of an atmosphere. Lots of good shopping, I will have to watch my step. Most people would probably stick to the town centres, but there can be lots to see on the outskirts. The Round House for instance, not a wonderful sight, but a piece of Freemantle history nonetheless. It is an old prison where the naughty sailors were banged up. Conditions looked extremely basic, probably only a foot square window in the top left of cramped cells.

Some points to think about are rail crossings, it is so easy to get carried away with everything around you that you do not concentrate on the lines. The crossings are not well protected. Some lines run through the middle of towns. Driving - would probably not cost a lot to buy an old banger (cars last for years over here). Roads and freeways are very straight and long, no banks to hide view. In Western Australia there is hardly any traffic on roads so driving can be erratic, no stopping at junctions or when turning corners. Again, rail crossings spring up from nowhere, no barriers or anything, maybe a few flashing lights. It is only in the cities that you get a build-up of traffic. On the whole people amble about and do not look where they are going.

I can imagine some people had houses in very secluded parts with nice settings. Now highways run close by and housing estates pop up everywhere and the whole atmosphere is ruined. Seems every spare bit of land is being built on. I know that there is plenty of space here but it is a shame. And being mainly one storey the area of land taken by one house is quite a lot.

Forgot to mention the pioneering village yesterday. A look at Victorian life. There is a school, which we did not get to see, where the children etc all dress up in authentic gear. Also gold panning and olde worlde shoppes. A shame that they had to stick an amusement arcade in one of the buildings.

Something else I learned today, which annoyed me slightly. Ex-Pats who have not taken Australian citizenship still get a British pension. Mind you, the amount remains static from the time you leave the UK. Plus they get full Ozzie pension as well. No wonder pensions in the future are jeopardised. I know a lot of the people paid taxes etc. but that is not the point.

2 February - Thought to myself if the shower this morning, could have used a shower gel that does for hair as well. Would have cut down on weight in the rucksack. Glad I did not bring any dressy clothes, we haven’t gone out much in the evenings and nobody dresses up here anyway. Casual all the way. Just one smart skirt that folds up small will suffice. Started to think about the format for my book. Got some good advice from Shirley Conran's book, 'Down with superwoman'. Looking around I see a lot of second-hand bookshops with plenty bargains. So, if it’s too hot and you fancy sitting quietly in the shade somewhere, pick up a book and read, you may improve your mind.

Taking a short interlude from diary type things to remark on some useful hints. Do join the YHA, you can get a 10 per cent discount on certain things, which is handy from travel tickets point of view. I gave bus company two routes to work on and asked them to calculate the cheapest way to get from A to B. Give the actual travel dates and days you wish to start at each point. 7 day passes can be used for any 7 days (non-consecutive) in a one month period. With YHA discount = $170.00. Before you start out, calculate and average amount per day for travel, accommodation and food. You will find that through searching out information you probably will not spend your total quota each day, so do treat yourself to the odd excursion every so often. By the end of your stay you could buy a nice souvenir for yourself. Souvenirs - the most stupid tradition ever invented. A trip like this should be purely for your self-indulgence. Unless you are a reckless youth who has just decided to up-anchor, you will have spent months, even years, like me, saving every penny. Travel light with a rucksack, that way you are restricted with space. Use the YHA to stay in, they are cheap and are not that uncomfortable for a night’s sleep. During the day you will be out. If you find that there is no room at a hostel, YMCA, YWCA are in most cities. The hostel may tell you where a cheap hotel is. Sometimes I wish I could head off and take things as they come, but where travel and accommodation is concerned I like to be organised. If you can book all bus routes up and pay at the start, you know how much money is left to spend and you don’t have to worry. Forward booking accommodation means you have somewhere direct to head for. Travel in Australia can take a day or two and at unsociable hours. If you are a woman travelling on her own you do not want to be wandering around bewildered once at your destination. There is danger all around. People will also know to expect you. Every other aspect of your trip can then be taken at leisure. Plan to spend the first day forward planning and finding your way around a city. The rest of the time is yours.

Back to today - a very overcast dull day, but pleasantly warm. Spending most of the day deep in thought. Finished one roll of film yesterday, good idea of Kevin's to use masking tape to record what is on the roll for future developing. (Post cards - if a lot in one area send in one envelope, mark 'card only', the rate is cheaper and you save on postage). Apologise if I waffle, my mind is all a buzz at present.

Paid a visit to Daphne, one of Celia's yoga friends. She is part Indian and lives up in the hills on the outskirts of Armadale.

(I have some James Galway classical music on in the background. I can concentrate more with classical music in the background, I have found that with writing poetry, it inspires me with feeling.)

Daphne and Celia gabbled on and Ron and I sat back and ate cake. Delicious at that, banana buns and shortcake. Nothing really to write, about the day. A reflective, organising day. Some of the houses in the hills look very exclusive, it gets colder in that area due to the higher altitude. Spoke to Bridget on the phone, wasn’t sure what to say, so didn’t hang around long. I hate talking on phones.

3 February - Learnt a helpful tip today, always carry a spare beer in your bag. You can easily bribe an Ozzie with a beer. Walked around Armadale Museum this morning. Apparently Ron and Celia have never taken a visitor there before, I am the only intelligent one that has stayed with them. The oldest exhibits are aboriginal. It is interesting to see how technology has come on, in the past 100 years, quite sad too. Next to the History House Museum are two buildings: Armadale's first church and Primary School. They originally stood in 'Third Road', but were moved to Minnawarra Parks historic precinct. Not taken in pieces either, but as a whole, quite a haul. There are an enormous amount of parks in each town/city, very shady, very peaceful. Drove up into the hills again to Kalamunda. An orchard/horticultural type area. Had a nice afternoon tea. Some of these small towns are very nicely situated, but can be all shops and cafes. I would like more to see. But as Ron pointed out, buildings are not the thing here, wildlife is. Some of the larger cities have some fantastic modern buildings. Made our way to Churchman's Brook reservoir, the water is out of bounds but did look inviting. A nice picnic spot under shade, with a stream trickling through. I could lose myself in places like that. Good old fish and chips in paper for tea, no messy washing up tonight. Decided to test some of my poetry out on Celia for an opinion.

4 February – Today’s tip, (for women only), one that I poached. If washing a limited supply of undies is a pain every other day, wear a panty shield. Dispose of at end of the day and your undies are fresh for another day.

Managing to keep up my exercises before breakfast, all the calorific food I am eating, I need to.

Into Perth to book my bus ticket, glad that is all sorted. Took a detour through the Royal Perth Hospital. A massive 13 storey building. It seems to me that a lot of countries have a similar code in the design of the hospitals. Charity shops, refreshment area, cashier etc. Had lunch in one of the malls. Shopped ‘til we dropped, (not really). Stayed around the house for the rest of day. Walked under an amazing fig tree in Perth. It grows on the sidewalk, or rather, the sidewalk grows around it and it spans the entire road in a kind of umbrella shape.

5 February - It rained today, very hard, but only for 5 minutes, been a mixed day weather wise. Cold to an Oz, but pleasantly warm to me. The chores were done this morning. Felt tired over lunch so rested before we went to visit Celia's mum in Armadale hospital.

Popped to Wongan Dam. Quite spectacular piece of architecture surrounded by forest. Afternoon tea was at the Elizabethan Village pub, a home from home English pub. They have Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Shakespeare’s house, his birth place.

Sat through a plate of hot chilli con carne, a Ron special. The ice cream went down well. Got lost in my music earlier on, like a dreamer in my late teens. Jean and Malcolm came round for the evening. From Coventry, moved here 9 years ago. She would prefer to go back and live Coronation Street style.

Current day thoughts

Not much editing this week. Staying with the natives is a very good way to see the best things and get to know how things really are. I really started to get into jotting down travel tips to make life easier so sorry for rambling on. Celia was a good source for these too. It really was lovely to be so immersed in the wildlife that I had only read about in books before and the kookaburra took me back to my Girl Guide days when we sang the song about the 'kookaburra sitting in the old gum tree...' I feel warm thinking about the weather which is great as it is cold in London today. Nothing this week to compare to now.

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Week 3

6 February - You can tell that I have had a dreary few days, I am writing a load of drivel, maybe it’s time to move on. Feels like a two week package holiday, you eventually have enough of the same kind of living and want a change. The coming week will be a refreshing break. Much cooler today, 24 degrees. It was a Shae day, picked her up at Adrian's. He has a nice house, but could do so much more inside. Adrian wanted to snooze so would not have been much fun hanging around the house. Spent the afternoon trying to keep Shae amused.

Tired today so glad for a rest. Finished the famous Chilli for tea. My music still makes me cry a little. I associate each record with different things. I really feel in the need of a cuddle tonight.

A tip for the bachelor pad. Keep one fridge by the bed so that you can stretch over for a beer and the other under the TV, so you don’t have to move far for beer whilst a movie is on.

7 February - It definitely rained today. We got up early and headed off for Albany, approx 545kms from home on the highway. Four hours going along a straight road, it did have the odd bend in it, but we did not have to turn off once. Stopped off at Kojonup for lunch. I could quite easily have nodded off, the scenery was so boring and samey. The weather turned nice once we arrived, however, the two olds donned trousers and sweat tops, it was fairly cool, yes, but cold, no way. Saw a bunch of pelicans by the shore. It would have been good to have seen just one, but ten, it was wonderful. Had a look at the Amity, replica of a ship landed in 1826, by Major Edmund Lockyer, really quite a small and flimsy, considering the strength of the sea, the Residency Museum, depicting sea life, wildlife and the history of the area and the Old Gasle Museum, again very nautical. Middleton beach - beautiful soft sand with calm waters to bathe in, a well-adapted seaside town. Would not get too hot in this part of WA. An old town on the whole unspoiled. Dog Rock - bit of a let-down tourist attraction. At one angle the rock resembles the shape of a dogs head. It just rests along the street side, if you did not know it was there you would miss it. Hoping for some spectacular scenery tomorrow. I remember likening the houses to holiday villas, well the place we are staying in is definitely how I remember some of the chalets we used to stay in, very 60's.

8 February - Two weeks, and a hectic two weeks at that. Seems like I have been away for ages, can’t imagine how the next 7½ months will go. Maybe once I am out on my own it will go quicker. R & C have crammed a lot in, although up to now distances travelled have been minimal. Feel very tired, I will never have the strength to work again, I must try to keep my mind active. Off to the rugged coast line to the tourist attractions. First, Mount Clarence, not too much of a trawl to the top. You have an all-round view of Albany town, the Southern Ocean, the highway leading to the town and the main of the coastline. Situated on the mount is a bronze statue of the Desert Corps Memorial, shipped from Port Said, Egypt. This is only a replica, the original can be found in one of Albany's museums. Commemorates the War 1916-18. The coast line forms part of a national park to protect its natural beauty. With the main of attractions you will never find them swamped with visitors, thus enabling you to have a leisurely look. The Gap, a massive recess in the cliff side. On a fierce day waves can thunder up over the sides. Spectacular rock formations, but also extremely dangerous. Safety barriers are there for protection. The Bridge, a horizontal column of rock that forms a bridge across one section of the cliffs. Again, a stupid thing to want to climb down too close, the waves swell up so far, one freak wash and you go into the water. Just as magnificent from a distance. Observe the rules and a happy holiday is had by all. Blow holes - was not sure quite what to expect. These are fissures in the rocks which form holes into the caves underneath. The sea rushes into the caves with such a force that the pressure forces a blast of air up through the cracks and equally sucks air back through by force. Occasionally the sea splashes up through, today we could only see some spray. The sea in this area is made up of the most pretty blues and dazzling surf. The Whale Station, now thankfully dormant, is a museum, $5 to look around, only worth looking around if you are interested in yet more nautical history. The whaling stopped here in the 1970's, not so long ago. Easy to imagine the boats bringing in their catch to be butchered for oil. A barbaric way to earn a living. Sharks used to swim the waters, for a tit bit or two, the blood drew them. The waters of Albany have seen many wars. The ships that carried soldiers to war set sail from the port. How peaceful they seem now. Albany is potentially a good spot for a large port, but has little in the way of industry, agricultural exports only, tourism is now the main source of income. So many beauty spots to stop and take in. We could drive the car along the sand to Emu Point, time for a nice rest watching the pelicans on the water. Pub grub for dinner, very nice, but I hate eating late. How pretty the lights of Albany look at night, set into the hillside. Am managing money ok so far, must remember to hold back $20 tax. Have to admit it was a little chilly tonight. Tip - Out on the town, hungry, can’t drive home. Go order a home delivery meal and ask the driver to take you home as well.

9 February - Mixed bag sort of day, rain, sun, chill. It is about 21 degrees and to see R & C you would think it was the middle of winter. Even now C has put the fan heater on. You can certainly pick out the tourists - shorts, t-shirts. Arrived in Pemberton mid-afternoon, via Denmark and Warpole. Stopped off at Williams Bay, a beautiful shoreline set in national park territory. A barrier of rock provides a tranquil area to bathe, the water is clearer than clear. We walked along the massive rock formations to some spectacular surf crashing in on them, did I spot Stonehenge on the horizon? A lot of shrub areas are out of bounds to replenish the foliage. Could have brought my cossie down and stayed for a while, but for C, who was freezing and doesn’t like sand anyway, or water come to think of it. The journey to Pemberton covered immense areas of forest, sections of which housed many dead trees, a bunch together look quite stunning. Some of the settlements we pass through are quite self- contained as they are miles from the next village/town. Easy to see how you can lose touch with reality. Our unit in Pemberton is a bit more upmarket than Albany. We have towels provided and soap. Went to see the Gloucester Tree, 200 feet high, used as a look out many years ago. It still is today and many more trees surround it. Pemberton has a timber industry that dates back years. Today members of the public can climb the tree to the watch tower at the top, where a little man waits for you. Wooden slats and metal rungs provide a spiral ladder up the tree side. If it were not for the metal rungs I would have gone up, possible to the top. The wooden slats were solid, but the metal was rounded and you could easily slip, with no safety net, I would not risk it, did the first ten for the camera’s sake. Ron climbed to the top six years ago, the view must be fantastic. Judging by the visitors’ book, only macho idiots have made the ascent. Bar meal again tonight, nowhere to go for an evening stroll so back to the shack. Have to admit, the Gloucester Tree is a challenge but I thought it would look more spectacular. A lot of the trees are very tall, but spindly. I thought I might see some humongously thick ones. Have to wait until Canada for that.

10 February - We found paradise today. Followed the coast back up the west to Bussleton, much warmer day, via, Nannup, Augusta, Cape Leeuwin and Margaret River. Never seem to stay long in these places. I could quite easily have stayed in some of the places all afternoon, sitting in the sun and watching the waves roll in. If I hadn’t known different I would have said we were driving through English countryside. Walked up to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. At this point the Southern and Indian Oceans meet, how cold one side seems to the other. Some high rollers coming in today. This is timber trade country, small towns who survive on trade and tourism. You need hotels in these little places because it is such a long drive to reach anywhere. We drove for miles without seeing another vehicle. New highways being constructed everywhere, seems that roads and small towns have really expanded over the last 24 years. Real estate is big business. The Jewel Cave - Ron and I went on a tour of the cave, I am glad that we did. I have never seen such wonderful stalactites and stalagmites before, doubt I shall again. Some of the formations resembled clumps of trees, in certain light you can see a whole forest. A lot of formations were 1000's of years old and no one was allowed to touch anything, so as not to disturb any progress the tites and mites might be at. The cave has a natural skylight, which is covered with a door now, so that dust etc from outside does not spoil inside. Even people breathing and particles from the clothes we wear can affect the colour, formation etc, of the calcite columns. A very worthwhile tour that I shall never forget with stalactites, mites, straws, corals, cauliflower formations, calcite flow rocks. Margaret River for lunch, a very tranquil spot in the sun. Saw the Blackwood River, which is big news at the moment. An Algae bloom is forming and polluting the river. An awful lot of wine is produced around the Margaret River area. At the mouth of the river, at Margaret River, is a fantastic bay, a spot where championship surfing is done. I doubt the wind ever stops blowing here, the surf is an amazing sight. Today the water was full of windsurfers, very skilled ones. I could have watched them for hours, it was quite fascinating. Nothing else but sand and sea, no tea rooms, souvenirs, nothing. The Ozzies don’t seem to need any accessories to enjoy themselves. And so the Bussleton, quite a big town, and very seasidey. Walked along to the 700m pier, part of which was blown away a few years ago by a cyclone, now rebuilt with conrete and reinforced all along. A section right at the end is still to be treated, it looked very wonky, makes a nice stroll on a summer day. Very breezy today, wouldn’t trust it on a gale force day, it is not very wide and only has a safety rail on one side. Dirty stop outs that we are, stayed out until eight o’clock, nice dinner though. If it is warm first thing tomorrow, I might take a dip in the motel pool. By the way it is the 'Paradise Motel'.

11 February - Back on the trail home today and never gladder, it has been so hot, and in a car, just couldn’t handle it. Came via Bunbury, Harvey and Mandurah. No time for a dip anywhere except Singleton, too tired and drawn by then. Too late to see the dolphins in the bay at Bunbury, they come in at certain times each day, those who are fortunate enough to see them, feed them. The Greenpeace people are up in arms about it as they say that the dolphins will get too used to it and could damage their survival in the ocean. A complex is being built, so soon the place will simply become a money making venture, as per usual. Next stop was a large construction area at Dawesville. A massive estuary is being dug through from the sea to the Harvey Estuary. There has been a massive growth of Algae in the existing estuary and it is felt that a rush from the sea may clear the area and solve the problem. However, there is one problem that I can see. The surrounding area is being developed into housing, hotel, golf course, quite a complex. Don’t they realise that by clearing one sort of pollution another strain is being created......by human greed.

Australia is a relatively undeveloped country (well W.A. at least) and there has been a sudden rush to build everywhere. Soon overpopulation will come. And it isn’t just Australia, it is all over the world. Anywhere that we head for on vacation suddenly booms and the whole culture of a country is swamped. Not that white Australians have any real culture of their own, it is all imported and thus the same as any other western developed country. The Aborigines have culture, but the white man has made sure that he has taken the best parts for himself and left the natives to struggle. Celia said to me, after I tried to defend the Aborigines, by saying, that this was originally their land that has been taken from them, -

"but before them the land belonged to the animals." I found that comment very sad, not a very strong argument at all. There is plenty of land here, but the only real habitable areas are around the edges and before long there will be no natural vegetation left, because of the people who wave 1000's of dollars in the air and say, "I want this so I'm going to have it", regardless. The Aborigines have more respect for the land than any race I know. They build their lives around nature and understand it, unlike today’s white man who simply expect nature to live around them. The Aborigines are expected to abide by government rules and fit into the community, but how can they when the racists don’t want them and why should they when they know what is best. I was told that I would return home a different person and already my attitude has changed over a lot of things.

Visited a National Trust house in Wannerup, 150 years old. The Layman family lived here. A lovely house built of wood with a veranda all around. Made to last and not in a perfect way, the erraticness of the veranda was quite charming. Two buildings in all, one for general living/eating/sleeping and one for domestic purposes, cooking/laundry etc. Blacksmith, stables, barn. A self contained family life. Implements that were used as recently as 1940/50, just around the corner. Furnishings were beautifully made and made to last. Oh, to live again! how cruel time can be, and how sad for our children. The lady who works there was very interesting and a clever historian. I had a chuckle at one point. On one of the walls in the house was a picture of Salisbury Cathedral.

I am a day behind with writing this so may miss a few details. Went to Sizzlers for evening meal, it’s an American import. We spent too long travelling and I just wanted to flake out.

12 February - Hot, hot day, went to Toodjay to see some people. My patience with these ex pat, WA's has hit boiling point today. I want to move on and meet some real Ozzies. I am never impressed with people who try to impress, whilst at the same time try to degrade all that it is I am. I never came away to see how well ex pats have managed, I came to see the sights, to see some culture and in WA, unless you travel northwards, you will not get it. The majority of immigrants were given W.A. to live in, it the forgotten state. I wonder why! They get around it by saying that it is the best kept secret in the world, well I don’t want to share your secret and I certainly will not spread it. What a difference my opinion has taken on since the start of my trip. Judy and Allan have bought a small holding and it is quite a project to take on, however, Allan does not know the land, his veggies, fruit trees etc never came to be. They have moved around a lot and have now possibly settled for good. Tried to spot some kangaroos in the hills, there were two or three, but could only see through binoculars. Still, my first sighting of live ones.

Desperately wanted to catch up with my writing last night, but Celia interrupted and it was eleven o’clock before we knew it.

Current day thoughts

If I never mentioned it before, Adrian is Ron and Celia’s son and Shae is his daughter, she was 2 at the time.

I guess we are all hypocrites to a certain point. Life evolves and becomes about the survival of the fittest, it always has been that way. Plant life evolved to animals, animals to humans and everything on this earth was given so as to adapt and survive. We all live in homes that were once fields or woodland. We are all concerned about the future of wildlife but to what cost to humankind, we have to survive too, but the more we are given the more we take without any thought as to how it came to be. When I visit a country for the first time I always have a romantic picture of that country in my head of how I want it to be, derived from movies or historical cultural reference, but when I get there I find a mismatch of culture that doesn’t quite hit the mark, and the reason is partly because of the likes of me visiting the country in the first place. Every country tries to accommodate the tourists and once they do that the whole beauty of the place is destroyed. Old cultural practices are found either in museums, or specially laid on shows because the natives don’t really live that way anymore, they live in the society that has evolved around them in order to survive. Greed is everywhere. Greed is creating a world that one day may destroy us.


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Week 4

13 February - Sunday - day of rest. I have calmed down a bit now. Was up at 9am but didn’t show my face until 12 noon. Finished off yesterday’s diary in peace and quiet. Managed to pack most of my stuff into the rucksack, think I have it well balanced out. Just want to be left alone today. Had breakfast for lunch. It is cooler today, but I feel restless. Walked into Armadale this afternoon, thought I would never reach it. I wanted to check out opening times for banks in case I couldn’t get any change for tomorrow. Bought an Ice cream and drink and settled in the park. Hardly anyone around except this weird looking guy with a bull terrier. He parked himself quite near to me so I walked back home. Adrian and Shae were there so that was the end of my quiet day. They stayed for tea an soon went, Shae was getting moody. I will probably never see her again.

An evening of sitting in front of the TV, which, of course, the Ozzies never do, but which everyone seems to be doing tonight. Ask anyone outside of this continent to name an entertainer, or even better, a handful of Ozzie entertainers and I bet only a couple will come out. Why, because the Ozzies want to keep what they have and not share with the rest of the world. They are getting a bit paranoid about losing anything of their own, they could freeze themselves out. Somebody wrote in to a TV station and said, 'I came out to Australia 30 yrs ago and returned to Britain in 1980 and was shocked to know that it was not the same England’ that she once knew. ‘If Australia was not careful it could be heading the same way by letting foreigners in.' Was she not a foreigner herself? Where do these people come from. Enough whinging, I want to enjoy my last day.

14 February - A day for getting sorted. I knew R & C would not want any money for my stay, swines, will have to buy something extra to put with the frame. Went into Perth to sort some things out. Booked into the hostel in Adelaide, paid on credit card. Wandered and wandered around the arcades, I find them all a bit too much and I couldn’t find what I wanted. Did have a rest for lunch. Finally found what I wanted in a shop that I had passed a thousand times and didn’t think to go in. Glad that it wasn’t too hot. Felt bad about not going around to see Celia's mum and dad, I did want to but the time just went. She did phone me tonight though, what a nice lady, she can’t see any wrong in anyone. Not feeling sad about moving on, not sure how I really feel, a touch excited, nervous, who knows. I feel more confident after going into town on my own. Try to blend in that’s the trick, you will not get noticed. Popped over to Muriel and Colin’s to say goodbye. Had a trial run with the rucksack, hanging a bit on the bum but guess I'll get used to it. I will have to do some more exercises to keep my strength up. The presents can wait until tomorrow. To bed early tonight.

15 February - On the road for real now, can’t believe it. I didn’t sleep too well, maybe a little anxious. Up at 04:45hrs, stocked up with a good breakfast. Nearly cried at the thought of having to say goodbye again, feels like leaving family. After a little confusion and a less traumatic farewell than I imagined, the coach was away.

Travelled the early part of the morning through Northam to Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. The small settlements seem like ghost towns, but always with a hotel to rest the weary traveller before Nullabor. We put down ourselves to water, much of the journey takes us through scrub land until we reach Kalgoorlie, for miles it seems. A film kills a couple of hours. My companion on this journey is a pleasant lady from Holland. She decided in her retirement to make the most of her time left, and travel. She always travels alone. I guess her husband has passed on or something. She has children back home. It seems that her travels have taken her far - Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Venezuela, Australia, (her brother lives here), and Europe. Two or so months at a time. It goes to show that you are never too young to travel. Many friends can be met on the way and it would appear that the female will no longer be trodden on. However, one can still never be too careful. I notice that the youth hostels check to see if you are travelling alone and at what time you intend to reach the hostel. With so many on the same journey it makes you feel reassured. Kalgoorlie, a much larger town....(stop press - I have just seen my first live kangaroo hopping over the road).....than I imagined. Twinned with a once fending town, it is now called Kalgoorlie Boulder. Together with Coolgardie, the region is known as the Eastern Goldfields of W.A. There is still a lot of gold lost in them thar hills (or flats) of Australia. Mining is still the employer of this town. Many fabulous buildings built around the turn of the century. First pioneered in the 1890's, the town thrives and many mining attractions would make this a worthwhile stopover. Alas, we only dropped a few off and we were on our way.

I almost forgot to mention just out of Perth we made an unscheduled stop, at the police' request. An undesirable character was frog-marched off the bus, donned in his disguise and whisked away. Seems he decided to take a break instead of attending his own court appearance.

If this is the start of the Nullabor, then I can’t understand why people say that there is nothing to see. The erratic wooded area is one of the most beautiful I have seen. Small Red Gums with floret tops and shrubs and bushes of all proportions mingle together in a festival of greens. The slightest of blue grey hints every so often. This long and winding road is the only vulgar thing passing through. Aside from the Aboriginals this is one of the only natural things left in Oz. A film is put on to distract. Next is Norseman, at 16:30hrs, had a most disgusting meal that I am sure I shall regret. Also on our coach are a few would be hippies who literally love to feel the earth beneath their feet. Judging from their attire I guess they are the sort who are out to experience a non-claustrophobic environment, one where freedom can conquer the system for just a little while. I may have a back pack but I realise that I am not a true backpacker of today’s standards. Maybe it is my age catching me out, I like comfort, not slumming and sitting on the ground. Nightfall came quickly, it is only 20:20hrs now and seems like midnight. We are embarking on the longest stretch of road in Australia, 90 miles of Nullabor. I can barely see the surrounding area but make out that it is roughly still the same. Next stop is probably breakfast at Ceduna.

16 February - I lied, we did stop briefly for drinks before bed. Not sure if I slept last night or not, couldn’t get comfy and there was hardly any room. I think we must have travelled across the barren areas during the night although not as sparse as I thought it would be. Breakfast in Ceduna. Had some foul muesli. There are hardly any residents in these villages or whatever they are called. Sat with a couple of girls at brekkie, one an Oz and the other English. The Oz was working in Perth but got homesick and is going home to Melbourne. She is known as the 'Bad Bird', she complains about everything. Hates people who spend their lives whinging, she could probably look after herself though. The girl from England lives in Sussex (west) and has been travelling around Oz on her own. She has to go back home for a wedding, otherwise she was going on to New Zealand. She sussed me out because of my espadrilles, which are very scarce over here and expensive. I think the older people are much more interesting to talk to, they have a lot to contribute. The younger travellers, who are nice to meet, seem to walk around with heads down, there is little eye contact and conversations are a bit samey. Where you from? Where you been/going to? What do you think of? There are a lot of lonely people wandering around the place with a purpose of their own. I am glad I stayed in someone’s home, I got more of political incite of how Australia is becoming. If I stayed on my own I would have looked at the sights, and be none the wiser, just awe struck. 10 hours to Adelaide. I haven’t used the coach loo today, it is dangerous place. You need strapping down for safety. If I were to do this journey again I would stop off overnight, despite the cost, I hate not sleeping at night. The public loos along the way provide good facilities to freshen up after a long stretch, makes you feel better and ready to face another long drive. Still scrub land, not so much now, a little more sparse but not how it was described to me. I see the odd farmstead here and there, the land must be useable, but so isolated. I am still very tired so not taking much in. Following the long, long road to Port Augusta for a 20 min break, had lunch 2 hrs before at Southern Cross. Areas of mining at various points. Thought we might stay a while at Port Augusta, quite disappointed. And so the final leg to Adelaide, we are all feeling a little irritable and some have to travel further. Braved the loo, even worse today, splash city. Got to Adelaide 8pm, a little early, it seems older in character than Perth and bigger. The City of Churches.

I put my sweatshirt on, but it was warmer than I thought. A guy pointed me in the right direction to the hostel and I started the 1/2 mile trudge. Checked in ok although did not take much in. The room was full. One quite sweet Japanese student who has been studying English in Brisbane for 15 weeks, she checks out tomorrow. An English lady below me who I do not know much about, 2 Germans I think, they check out tomorrow, and 3 others who I know nothing about. Feeling a bit disorientated so maybe sort myself out tomorrow and get some kip.

17 February - Bed was amazingly comfortable, well anything would be compared to the coach. The showers etc are quite clean, not bad for a 2 star hostel. A new recruit has just walked in, she sounds a bit butch. The sleeping sheets they give are a bit hit and miss, like mummified shrouds.

Got myself together by 09:30 hrs (ish) and decided to get breakfast on the way in to town. Had toast and a banana for only 70/80p, not bad. Why do they always put hostels so far out of town. Eventually found my way to the tourist bureau after stopping off at the post office and post card shop. Glad all of these things run down the central street. Spent a while sifting through the various tours on offer and whittled it down to a few possibles, so came away with a fistful of leaflets and unfortunately had to come back to the hostel. Must remember to take everything I need out with me during the day. It does take it out of you having to walk so far, it wastes time too. I did notice today how much my left hip hurts when I walk. In fact I ache all over tonight. Was tempted to look around the shops, but determined to get my bearings and my itinerary sorted first. Once I have done that I can see about enjoying myself. I have been to so many places and wasted time looking around shops I am determined to devote a short time to look. Having said that the shopping malls are quite something here, you need at least a day to get around them.

Decided on the excursion I want to go on after a lot of humming and haaing. I know I am on budget but feel that I can treat myself. It is never a good idea to continually keep a tally of all that you spend. A mental note each day will suffice. You end up saving here and there anyway so there is always a little left over.

Off to find lunch. Wanted something substantial as I do not intend eating again today. There are a lot of reasonable places to eat if you look, most can be found just off of the city centre. Stopped at Freddie's Bar in Pultney Street, they had some Chinese specials for $4.00. Only one choice left though, Chicken Curry. Oh what the hell, it’s cheap and you always get plenty with Chinese.

Donned some leggings for the rest of the day, so it turned warm again. Have to find the bus station to book my trip, the day is going by so quick. Because I have my bus pass I got the trip at a discount, not bad eh! Now do I have time to walk to the Cathedral. I am in no hurry so what the hell. I could have planned my days so much better. Glad I went, despite my lack of religion, it was worth it just for the statue of Mary in the Lady Chapel. Wandered back through Elder Park via the Adelaide Oval. Never seen an international cricket ground before, an all-seater stadium . The outfield looks small. Think the tennis courts are along the top of the park, this must be the sporting area, lots of activity on the water. Walked through the festival building grounds, a very modern style building, with colourful sculptures surrounding it. This looks like the business area of town. Came back to the hostel via the Rundle Mall, this is a pedestrian shopping area, sorry had to have a peek. I will tackle the shops tomorrow. Carried on past the mall down the rest of Rundle Street, lots more shops and eating places. Quite a buzz going on in this part of town, a lot of young people staying here. Nearly walked off the map in my excitement, lucky the streets are on a grid pattern, soon found myself back on track.

Spent part of the evening writing cards and letters, got tired early so went to bed 21:15hrs.

18 February - Slept really well again. Still tired this morning, planning on a more easy going day.

Got the mail off. Hit the shopping centre to get it over with, the Myer Centre was by far the best. Seven levels in all. Because of the festival starting soon, there are a lot of street performers and a show was put on in the Myer Centre, not for long though. All of the security, you’d have thought someone special was coming. Made my way to the top level and glad I did, this was the fun level. Watched as a train rode the roller coaster and before you knew it I was on the thing. You could see everyone shopping in the mall, this was my excitement for the day. The food level was amazing as they always are. There is no going hungry, whatever your nationality. Promised myself I would be done looking by 14:00hrs, so found lunch. I always look to see what servings are dished up before buying, I know when I am getting a bargain. Made the mistake of doing some grocery shopping, have to carry it for rest of day.

Found the Botanical Gardens, they would not look after my bags whilst I wandered. It was hot today. I am not one for noting what plants are, but the pleasure of just seeing them will do me. Palms, giant water lilies, orchids, rare exotics, you name it, it was there. My leg was playing up a bit today but I had a most pleasurable afternoon. Could have rested a bit more, but just kept going, I don’t know why. Missed out on the Bicentennial Conservatory , I think I may be being a bit tight with my money. I might treat myself again with an excursion, perhaps the beach.

One of the women is here for the festival. She said a lot of people were going to see the parade of arty farty's tonight, but think I will give it a miss. Some of the girls looked really tarted up, I don’t know what they are here for, but could do with some packing advice. Just about to get started on this and this guy sat down with his tea. He was interesting, likes to travel and often cycles around places. Comes from London and is away for a few months like me, covering Oz, New Zealand, Hawaii, Canada, and has already done Thailand and Hong Kong, but not for any great length of time. He shares a lot of my views of Australia. We talked for ages about all sorts of things, he liked my poetry very much. Got out whilst the going was good so I could write my diary. A few chores to do tomorrow before going out, I am looking forward to it. Almost forgot, I did my good deed for the day, gave the sweatshirt to charity.

19 February - Started the day off well, did a couple of chores after breakfast. My duty to hoover the stairs, quite an easy one. Got the washing in. Will book for Alice today. Mooched around most of the morning forward planning and checking time tables out. Thought I had better eat a snack before going out.

Took my picnic to the south parklands, this is more of a local sports area, quite pleasant though. Saw movement in the bushes so walked back. I hate waiting around for things. I notice that the Melbourne hostel offers a courtesy bus to pick you up. Backpacking doesn’t have to be so bad, the hostels do like to take care of you. I would recommend anyone to join, you are assured that it is a legit organisation. The bus was late, plenty of space, only a 20 seater. I was the first on and hoped I would not be the only one. Eight more got on at various points, a mixed bunch to say the least, Barbara Cartland down to muck and brass. Got an informative tour through town, so many areas I shall miss. Drove along part of the Grand Prix circuit, passed the race course. Takes 3 months to set the G. Prix up, one month to dismantle. The Adelaide Hills provide a most scenic route. First stop, Mount Lofty, the highest point. Spectacular views across Adelaide city. The whole city is massive, with suburbs sprawling each way as far as the eye can see. There are walks to take through the hills at this point if you have the time, sadly ours was a short stop. Next to Cleland Wildlife Park in the conservation area. The guide lied, it said 2 1/2 hrs but we only had 2 hrs. Saw my first Tasmanian Devil, cute little thing would not keep still for a photo. Wasted time at the Dingo's. Now for my treat, the Koalas, they have a lot here to share around, just had to have my photo taken with one. As one gets tired of the camera another replaces it. My pleasure was Keegan, a 3 year old girl koala, I could cuddle her forever, such soft contented animals. Could be something to do with the eucalyptus leaves being fed. It is a shame that the camera lights left a shadow, would have been nicer to have some scenery behind us. This photo is definitely a good memory. Would really like to see some in the real wild. The animals are fenced in here but have acres of natural ground to live in. It was wonderful to be able to walk amongst the geese and other wild fowl, kangaroos, wallabies, emus etc and feed them from the hand. Rod Hull does justice to his emu, a lovely bird, but a greedy one, glad to still have a hand. Dear kangaroos, you need glasses, they cannot focus that well, so the food you feed them has to be right under their noses. How gently the animals and birds (except emus), eat from your hand. One kangaroo did not like the choice in my hand, so decided to take a look in the bag, sorry mate it’s all the same. He turned his nose up a hopped away. Sadly ran out of time and made it back to the coach with seconds to spare. Came back through more scenic routes, via Piccadilly Valley and the orchard areas, some breath-taking views. Got dropped off outside my hostel, nice man.

Ate out tonight, a rare treat, again Pultney Street, Italian Linguine Marinara, not bad, very filling with complementary bread - only $3.00. Would like to walk along the coast tomorrow, I will see how it goes.

Quite boring tonight, no one to talk to, put my contribution in the visitors’ book, wish I could read Japanese. Some people never look further than the city centre and night life, they never see any simplistic beauty in anything. Settled down to crosswords and Daniel came along, so didn’t get to bed until after 23:00hrs.

Current day thoughts

I now understand the self-centred, self-sufficient nature of Australia. Apart from Australia growing as a country and the fact they have the climate and space to produce so much more for themselves than smaller countries such as the UK, if you rely less on other countries you prosper and sustain a standard of living.

It may have seemed a crazy idea to travel across Australia via coach, and it truly was a bean can of a coach, but I feel I saw so much more than if I had whizzed across on a train and would certainly have missed it all on a plane. I would still recommend travelling alone as it encourages you to talk to other people, and you get to make your own decisions about things. True freedom. I inspired at least one person to travel alone to Australia, a colleague who I worked with in a GP surgery in Cornwall, she said she would never have done anything like that, but hearing my tales gave her the courage to go. She visited the Gloucester Tree in Pemberton that I talked about previously, and she climbed to the top too. If you can make a positive change to at least one person’s life then it makes life worthwhile.


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Week 5

20 February - A still, warm day, the city seems quiet. Decided to go to the beach, have no idea what sort of place I am going to, pot luck I guess. Adelaide has a slightly different ticket system to Perth. Getting the ticket from the machine is the same, but as you get on the train the ticket has to go through a machine to validate it. Didn’t realise it until half way through the journey, luckily the inspector didn’t get on. Ended up at the end of the line in a place called Grange, a quiet seaside town, very select in parts. Found the beach and walked for a while hoping for the loos, there never are any loos by the beaches, so downed tools put the cossie on and had a swim in the sea, so clear and calm. Lots more people on the beaches in this part of Oz, but the beach goes on for miles so all quite spread out. Laid in the sun for half an hour, put the lotion on a best as I could. Set off for another walk along the beach to see if I could reach the harbour. After an hour I got a bit hot and bothered and it was still nowhere in sight. Had to pop back in water during that hour for another pee, still no loos. Found some when it was too late. Sat for a while to take in the view, lots of boats out today, not a cloud in the sky. Went back to the loos to change, I was almost dry, no doors on the loos or paper. Took a chance, good job too, I am getting worried about my urination habits. Must have walked miles, took ages to get back to the train stop. Had no idea what time it would come along, luckily only 10 minutes to wait. Back in the city, seems it doesn’t sleep on Sundays, shops open all day, maybe because of the festival, lots of street shows on. Had the chefs special for lunch, followed by a hot fudge sundae, Mmmmmmmm! Found out back at the hostel that I burned in places on my back, will hold back on the sunning for a while. Quiet evening writing and listening to music. The regular gang have gone. Got myself ready for tomorrow.

21 February - This has been a long day, had to give my bed up first thing, so have just been playing for time. Managed to do all of the important bits in good time, the exchange rate is up slightly, but still poor. Got the souvenirs thank god. There are a lack of good souvenir shops in Adelaide.

Walked around the S.A. Museum this afternoon and also the Art Gallery. The good thing about Australia is the fact that most things are free, and I could drop my bags at the reception to save lugging them around. One or two good modern paintings in the gallery, rest were quite boring, although some very well done. A lot of British/Ozzie artists around. The museum was not what I expected, more worldwide things, animals, culture and stuff. One of the better parts was a working bee hive they have set up inside. The bees have an exit to outside, they looked very busy today, my sun burn is playing up.

Spent the last part of the afternoon in the Youth Hostel, my things are safe in storage. Chatted with a couple of women, seems the Grimsby lass is concerned about going home to no job. She was made redundant a while ago. I think like me she has come away to muse over her future, as well as having a good time. The last thing on my mind is what will happen when I get home. I feel free and more confident about life now. Turns out that she leaves today, may be on the same coach, one of the guys to. Can’t even imagine how hot it will be at Alice.

The coach is late leaving. More comfy than the last one, just. Tried to sleep to Port Augusta as had done the journey before.

22 February - It was a beautiful star lit night, makes me think of the Aboriginals 'Dream Time'. I learned a bit more yesterday, how rocks and river and stars etc became their myths and legends. It is 06:00hrs now and we are dropping people off at Coober Peedy, looks like I have a seat to myself now. Glad for the seat to myself now.

Didn’t plan my trip stay in Alice Springs that well, because it was an overnight trip (17 hours), I would get there on the Tuesday and leave on the Wednesday, so arranged an extra night in Alice Springs, thus leaving on the Thursday. However, I decided on the way up that I just had to go and see Ayres Rock as I was so close (just 6 hours from Alice). I could not find a tour that would fit in with my times up there, so left it in the hands of my bus operators. I had one day left to use on my Aussie Pass, so after one afternoon/evening in Alice (not that good a place), I left Alice the following morning for Ayres Rock.

23 February - The afternoon we went to see the Olgas, a mountain range nearby and in the evening stood and watched the sun go down on Ayres Rock, however a cloud got in the way so it was not very good. I was just amazed that I was standing there looking at the rock, it is quite spectacular, more impressive from a distance.

24 February - Spent the night at the Ayres Rock resort and got up for 7am the next day to climb the rock. I got so far and lost my bottle, my shoes did not have enough grip and the surface is quite smooth, so sat with many others to wait for those heroes to come back down. Takes approximately 1 hour up, 1 hour down. So many have died from accidents. The climb was followed by a tour around the base of the rock. At 2pm the same day I caught my bus back to Adelaide. I am so glad that I saw Ayres Rock, never forget it as long as I live.

25 February - Did some washing today, so hope it dries in time for my trip to Melbourne tomorrow (7.30am). Quite enjoying travelling around, you meet people in one place and catch them up again in another. By the way, I did not have to pay any extra for the Ayres Rock tour, only overnight accommodation. I have some leaflets and things that I may send home to save space. The weather up north was unbearable, it was pointless showering because the sweat would not go away. Much cooler here today, only 24 centigrade, bliss. Will not bother going anywhere, I will stay at the hostel and rearrange my rucksack for tomorrow. Australia is not a bad place, feel quite at ease here and everyone is very protective of tourists. Am looking forward to Canada more I think. I do not get much time to really relax from dashing around seeing it all. By the time I have written up my diary it is bedtime. Having a good time but do get lonely sometimes and doing a lot of thinking. Feels like time is flying by but it is only five weeks.

26 February - Trip to Melbourne approximately 12 hours, so would have arrived in Melbourne around 7.00pm. Because of time difference, Melbourne is 30 minutes ahead of Adelaide. Don’t remember a lot about the journey but was much hillier than other journeys.

Guess I reached the YHA on Finders Street ok and looked forward to a good night’s sleep.

Current day thoughts

The same ticket system on public transport is adopted worldwide now. Coming from the wilds of Wiltshire I can’t say we were that advanced, but who knows what went on then in the big cities of the UK. Was Australia ahead ahead of time. I used the phrase Oz or Ozzie a lot, suppose it should be Aussie, either way, I don’t really like the term any more. I think my bladder habits have improved quite a lot, although the menopausal years have been a challenge. I remember developing a system on the beaches for when toilets were not available. I would don a large t-shirt, did a hole in the sand, kneel over it with my t-shirt covering everything, go and then fill the hole in. Will never learn when it comes to the sun, but have learnt that a tan is not an essential part of life. I was blown away by the art that I found in Australia. My trip cured me of buying souvenirs for other people forever more. Back then the hostels were really good for storing luggage if you were going on a trip for a couple of nights. I’m not sure of the facilities now especially when it comes to security.

Sadly I lost some of my diaries, covering the period from 22 February to 4 June. I posted a lot of leaflets with the diaries back to the UK when I was in USA, just to save carrying them around. The envelope I posted them in made it back to the UK minus the information I had put inside, replaced by some correspondence addressed to a person in Wales, which I assume the arsehole who destroyed my material wanted me to pass on. I won’t go into the details of what the letter contained but it was not nice and I destroyed it. So, the above entry, from 22 February to 25, as will be the next few entries, is taken from letters/postcards that I wrote to people whilst I was away.

The main attraction for Alice Springs is the springs themselves. I walked out to the site around 5pm, as it is less hot then, by myself, which in hindsight was a really stupid thing to do as unfortunately a lot of the Aborigines there get very drunk and who knows who is watching you. I took an off-beat track out in the wilds. Thankfully I arrived safely but there was nobody else around. The springs were very tranquil and beautiful and I was glad to have gone. I read all the information available and made my way back before dark. I signed the book to say I was going, so someone would have known if I hadn’t come back as you have to sign back in on return.

Backpacking is fun but you still have chores to do – washing, grocery shopping – it’s not all play. I still remember washing some clothes out at Ayres Rock. The soil at Ayres Rock is red, all red, and the clothes I washed were full of red dust. They didn’t take long to dry but as soon as you put them on again the red dust returned – a losing battle. It was very cold at night though. As I mentioned I didn’t go well prepared, mainly because I didn’t know what to expect or that I would be going to Ayres Rock. I didn’t have a sleeping bag and managed to not end up with a sleeping sack like everyone else, so covered myself with whatever clothing, towels I had with me whilst in my bunk. It may have been a massive temperature drop or the air-conditioning that was on but either way I was freezing all night. I still loved the experience.

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Week 6

27 February – 5 March

Was getting fed up with cities by the time I got to Melbourne.

Did not like Melbourne much – too crowded and I had to scrape the smog from my face at the end of each day.

I went to Philip Island on one of the days to see the Fairy Penguins parade in the evening. The penguins are only a foot tall and hundreds of them come out of the sea at night and waddle up across the beach to their burrows.

4 March – Left Melbourne – 12 hours overnight trip.

5 March – Arrived in Sydney. Unfortunately due to a little confusion David and I missed each other at the coach station, but we eventually met up at the house. Crows Nest is a nice area to live and their house is very nice too. They are renovating right through and hope to finish next year.

Current day thoughts

I don’t remember disliking Melbourne that much, I did quite a lot whilst there and had a good time. The city has a tram system which I used on occasion to get to places. I visited Philip Island as I mentioned in a letter home above. As well as seeing the penguins, which we had to wait until dark to see, I saw koalas in the wild just chilling in the trees, zonked out from all the eucalyptus leaves. Back on mainland I took a boat along the Yarra River in Melbourne to get a different perspective of the city and to learn a bit more about it. I always find it peaceful out on the water. I went on a trip out to the suburbs to the Dandenong Ranges, driving past the street where Neighbours is filmed and stopping for a spot of afternoon tea with eucalyptus tea, which the guide brewed himself, and vegemite on crackers. I visited the botanical gardens to immerse myself amongst more nature. Melbourne really wasn’t that bad. I remember it did rain very hard on one day, which gave me an excuse to try out my wet weather gear. Think I may have been the only person outside but my cagoule and waterproof trousers, together with my hiking boots, kept me dry.

David is married to Bridget, who is Celia and Ron’s daughter. They moved to Sydney from Western Australia to pursue their careers. I don’t remember specifically asking to be picked up from the coach station, just casually mentioned the time I would arrive, so didn’t expect there to be someone to be waiting. I waited for a while and then decided to get a taxi out to their house and then had to wait on the doorstep until David returned. He did go out the coach station but arrived too late to see me. Of course we had no mobile phones then to keep in contact. I feel a bit bad that he made a wasted journey but he’s a laid back guy and was ok about it.

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Week 7

6 to 12 March

7 March – Had a tour of the opera house.

10 March – Went to see an opera, ‘The Pearl Fishers’, was brilliant so will be making more of an effort to go from now on, it is more accessible to the common man nowadays.

11 March – Got in contact with a friend I used to work with as Friends Provident, he works for the same company here and has lived in Australia for about four years now. We had lunch to catch up on the gossip.

12 March – Sydney does not seem so crowded, may be because it is so big. The harbour areas are really beautiful, especially on a sunny day, I could spend all day just sitting and watching the boats to by. Weather is mixed but not stopping me from going anywhere.

Off to the Blue Mountains today, really nice, lots of waterfalls and stuff. Stopped off at Wentworth Falls for lunch, travelled onto Katoomba shortly after.

Will hopefully get to Bondi Beach and Botany Bay later in the week, the weather is supposed to pick up by Tuesday. The clocks went back last Saturday so winter is now on its way.

It is a shame Bridget and David are working all of the time, it would be nice to spend more time with them. They get home late in the evening so we don’t eat until 8.30 most nights, the day is gone by then. I’m not missing home too much, I am so busy rushing around everywhere. I do not get to hear much news of what is happening in the UK. I am meeting all sorts of people as I go about, very difficult to actually find an Australian though. Sometimes you can meet up with people at hostels that you met somewhere else, everyone has their own routes worked out.

Current day thoughts

So not much to go on for this week, but I can remember more and more as I read back on the letters I sent home. The internet is a brilliant tool for jogging my memory too, so many things I had forgotten I had done and seen.

I loved the first time I travelled across Sydney Harbour Bridge and I never stopped enjoying trip back and forth each day, it was just so stunningly beautiful. I would pick an area to visit each day and endeavour to spend the whole day in that area, getting as much as I could out of the visit.

Darling Harbour as a hive of activity, so much going on. I walked around the Chinese Garden of Friendship, a beautiful, peaceful garden which shuts out so much of the city. I feel sure I took a cruise of the harbour and would have taken it from Darling Harbour, though may be not on the same day that I first visited the area.

The Opera House was quite a source of entertainment throughout my stay in Sydney. I booked onto a tour of the Opera House, which was very interesting, it is quite a building. Often there were free lunchtime concerts by musicians, outside of the building, which I took advantage of. A nice way to fill an hour or two. On one evening I booked to see an opera. I’m not sure if this is still the case, but back then on the final night of an opera you can queue up early on the morning of the final night and get ‘standing tickets’ at a knockdown price. I got mine for $20, which I thought was pretty good. You have to wait until everyone is seated for the performance and then once the doors are closed you can either stay standing at the back or sit yourself in any vacant seats you see. I chose a seat, which was a couple of rows back from where Michael Parkinson and his wife were sitting. He didn’t recognise me though.

The Blue Mountains provided an opportunity to get out into the wilds for a day. I took the train out. I don’t remember Wentworth Falls or Katoomba but I do remember going out to Echo Point where we could see the Three Sisters rock formation. It was around this are that walked down to the base of the rain forest, so not for the faint hearted, of course it meant we had to walk back out again, but I remember how much darker it was in the rain forest with all of the vegetation blocking out the light. I didn’t think about any poisonous creatures that I may come across down there but I guess they must have been around.

An exciting week really.

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Week 8

13 to 19 March

14 March – Lunched with my friend again

15 March - Went to Bondi Beach today and yes my nose did go red, but it has calmed down now.

17 March – I had a walk around the famous King’s Cross area today being informed that it is an ok place to go during the day, (it is the red light district). Don’t you believe I a word of it, I was propositioned from a doorway of a naughty establishment, must have been the stilettos that did it.

Can’t believe I am nearly leaving Australia. One minute I couldn’t wait and now I think I shall miss it a bit. Sydney is a very lively place.

Money is going pretty well, although I have just been very extravagant. I am treating Bridget and David to a meal tomorrow night. They have expensive tastes so shall probably spend a fortune. Will work out how well I have done tonight.

Weather is mixed here, not so warm now as winter has set in. You can’t compare the weather this side to Western Australia, this is an entire continent so regions do vary a lot.

Current day thoughts

Bondi Beach, the only beach in Australia I had ever heard of, so had to go there. It wasn’t as big as I imagined but the sand was very deep, almost as if some had been shipped in to build it up a bit. There were few people on the beach and not much activity around. Was nice to just sit for a while to say I had been there.

Botany Bay was a very peaceful place, with a simple memorial marking the spot where James Cook first landed, surrounded by parkland away from built up areas. A visitor centre provided historical information.

One thing I can say about Australia, back then at least, is that the historical sites away from the hub of town and city are not dressed up. The landmarks speak for themselves, set in beautiful natural surroundings.

There is something quite pacifying in listening to the lap of water against the shore and looking out to sea.

As I only had two days left in Australia and Bridget and David had been brilliant in putting up with me, a relative stranger, for two weeks I wanted to treat them to a meal out. We went to a Thai restaurant and then to a different place for pudding. I got to see the Sydney skyline at night which was beautiful.

Other places I visited in Sydney included The Rocks area near to the harbour bridge, which was a mix of markets and street entertainment. I think it may have been here that I visited The Museum of Contemporary Art, which featured lots of artwork from students in Sydney, a magnificent array of colour and talent, art that I have never seen before, the botanical gardens, as I love to escape to a garden when I get the opportunity and I also caught a ferry across from Sydney Harbour to Manly, which I don’t remember being too interesting. I had lunch and came back quite quickly.

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Weeks 9 and 10

20 March to 2 April

20 March – Flew to Canada

Vancouver - 20 to 26 March

Had some lovely weather in Vancouver, the cherry blossoms and daffodils were all out and it was very spring like.

26 March – Went up a mountain, ticket was good value, it included a film show and a horse drawn sleigh ride. It was really pretty amongst the snow, plenty of skiing going on too.

27 – 28 March - I came to Vancouver Island, which is as big as England. I will never think twice about travel in Britain again. I would do Scotland in a day and back again no sweat. Stayed in Nanaimo for a couple of nights, small hostel and a s**!t place. One of the guys there, a South African, took me out to a coffee bar one evening, which was fun and made a nice change from staying in. A lot of people I meet think I am Australian. I didn’t think that much of the country rubbed off on me.

29 March – After Nanaimo I went down to Victoria and stayed one night. Victoria is the capital of British Columbia. I dived into a library and read up on how the Indians accepted the Europeans into the country. It is very interesting finding out how different people look towards the natives nowadays, not a lot different to the Aborigines.

30 March – I got a lift up from Victoria to a place called Chemainus froma guy at the hostel. He does relief work at the hostel. He was taking two other girls to a ferry as well. We had a good tour around with him. Chemainus is a beautiful town. Had a chocolate bunnie bought for me for Easter, but had to eat it cause it was melting. Travelling to Banff on Sunday so will buy a huge egg for myself to pig on. From there I caught a bus to Duncan. I phoned my friend Anne from Victoria and stayed at her home in Duncan. I wish I had stayed there the whole time, the area is really nice. They are having a new house built a few miles away, so we went to clamber over the timbers.

31 March – Today I went with Anne to an Indian heritage centre and had a private guided tour, it was very interesting. Unfortunately had to leave for my ferry and she had to go for a hair appointment, but it was nice to see her and to get a good night’s sleep. The ferry is running late due to the Easter weekend, but moving off now, a 1½ hour trip to the mainland. From the ferry we are passing close to islands that are in the States. Saw an orca swimming in the sea. A lot of Canadians travel to Seattle for a holiday.

I think this time travel is starting to catch up with me. I have been so tired this week, rushing to here and there, going to bed later than normal and getting up early. I have been to a lot of places but have done little in the way of touristy things. The weather has also been hot but I am told the further inland I go it will get colder. Have talked to a lot of actual Canadians lately, even been offered a job later in the year. I think Canada will provide a lot of places to simply rest and refuel myself and just look at the scenery. I am told the hostel in Edmonton is not so nice, full of wino’s or something, so may check in for a night to see if I like it and move to a hotel if not. Some of the hostels on route will be closed or have shut down so alternate means will have to be found. Would have loved to have gone whale watching but it is mainly a seasonal thing and you have to travel along way to get to the main areas.

I lost my combination lock somewhere between Sydney and Vancouver, thought I had just not put it on properly but if you look at the zipper bits on the end it looks like somebody has cut them to remove the padlock. There was nothing in there to take but that is not the point. Failing that all I can think is that the rucksack got handled roughly at the airport – (I did have three planes to board).

Being tired like I am now doesn’t make me wish I was home, but I wish I had someone to cuddle for a while. When you have loads of things see you don’t have time to think about things like that.

It is already 1st April in England, few more hours to go for us. I wonder how may jokes will be played at the hostel. I will occupy my time with hot cross buns, had some at Anne’s last night, really yummy.

May be go to Stanley Park tomorrow. Sunday my bus leaves at 6pm so I will leave the rucksack at the hostel and go to a museum close by. It is cheaper to travel by night, you save a night’s accommodation, but you miss all of the scenery. I will get to Banff at 7.30am on Monday, may have to buy some gloves and a scarf there. Hope there is snow.

1 April – Managed to buy some hot cross buns and get an Easter egg.

2 April – Stanley Park

Current day thoughts

Bridget and David took me to the airport on the 20 March to wave me off to Canada. It saddened me that Bridget really didn’t remember me or her time in the UK. She was only 5 when she left I suppose, whereas I remember her and I distinctly remember the day she left for Australia, 24 December 1969 and exchanging Christmas presents and the kiss goodbye. My best friend gone. Somebody did say to me that whilst my life carried on the same, Bridget’s changed significantly, so many new things for her to explore, so perhaps she wouldn’t remember things in the UK so much. A bit like my travelling in a way, so I understand now.

It was a bit odd going from autumn in Australia (still warm) to the spring in Canada. I crossed the International Date Line, leaving Australia at sometime late afternoon on the 20th and arriving in Canada early in the morning on the same day, so effectively I got to do real time travel and live the same day twice.

I got a taxi to my hostel, which was at Jericho Beach. It was a little ways out of town, the air just felt fresh and mountains provide the backdrop. The hostel was a little older than ones I had been used to in Australia but it was comfortable with all the facilities required.

I covered two weeks this time as I was a little short on information for week 9. Thank goodness we have the internet now to remind me of some of the things I got up to, which included:

Gastown, one of the oldest parts of Vancouver and has a steam clock, which I don't remember steaming at the time, the Capilano Suspension Bridge, out in the beautiful wilds, which can only be crossed by people and really only safely with one person at a time as it is narrow and wobbles all over the place if too many people at one time. There were some native indian totem poles and other exhibits and trails. Horseshoe Bay is where I caught the ferry to Vancouver Island, but I did spend a bit of time looking around. It really is a beautiful little town in an amazing setting. Seeing the orca in the wild was truly a sight to see. I know there is wildlife in the UK but it really isn't as spectacular as Canadian wildlife. Perhaps we just don't see enough of it or appreciate it. Grouse Mountain is where I had my sleigh ride, the closest I have gotten to Santa so far, and apart from checking downtown Vancouver out for shopping etc I escaped to Stanley Park with its beautiful gardens and nature trails. Whilst on one of my treks downtown I happened upon Leslie Neilsen doing a photo shoot in a shiny red sports car

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Week 11

3 April to 9 April

3 April to 8 April - I moved on to Lake Louise in the Rockies and was up to my neck in snow, which was great fun. Stayed there for five days and had a nice rest. I do not ski so apart from gong on walks there was little else to do, Lake Louise village is very small. The lake itself was covered in ice and snow, so I walked part of the way across, some were cross country skiing.

9 April – Went to Banff for three days after Lake Louise, the scenery in this part of Canada is so beautiful, nice to have some fresh mountain air in my lungs. The hostel in Banff if about a mile or so out of town so had to lug my backpack up the steep mountain road. Stopped halfway to catch my breath. The accommodation in this area is really quite luxurious, even the hostels.

Current day thoughts

Don’t know why I put in a letter home that I would be going to Banff after Vancouver. Maybe I changed my mind or something, but I definitely stopped off a Lake Louise before Banff as it followed the more logical route.

On Easter Sunday a kind person went around all of the beds in our hostel room and placed a small chocolate egg on each pillow. A lovely gesture I thought, but nobody was going to get their hands on my big egg, which I reserved for my onward journey.

What a difference travelling from Vancouver to Lake Louise, I went from beautiful spring back to winter in one day. There was thick snow on the ground. It was still ski season in these parts and most of the people staying in the hostel were there for just that, I was the odd one out. I have never fancied the experience of skiing and still don’t.

My hostel was Swiss chalet style with a warm log fire, quite fancy for a hostel really, set amongst fir trees and the mountains, just like the movies. It was nice every so often just to chill for a while as backpacking involves propelling yourself forwards all the time.

Each evening every guest would congregate in the kitchen to cook and so many people asked me how my day had gone on the slopes. It was a conversation stopper to say I wasn’t skiing and I think some thought it odd for me to be there for anything else. It didn’t stop me talking to people though. I remember having a conversation with one man who had been to the UK and found it amusing how fast people drive cars in the UK. He said, ‘where have they got to get to in such a hurry’, in reference to there only being very short distances between everywhere when compared to distances in Canada.

I rarely ate out and bought provisions to cook each day, it was cheaper that way. I have a vague recollection of the store in Lake Louise being very small with basic provisions.

The lake is the main attraction but, as I said previously, it was iced over. I was a bit apprehensive to walk on the ice, but did it anyway for the experience. The Chateau Lake Louise was the place to stay if you could afford it, looking very impressive from the outside. I did go and have a nosey inside and used the toilets. I don’t think I looked out of place in my casual clothing as people were wearing all sorts of things; they didn’t kick me out anyway. I became quite good at sneaking into posh hotels to use the toilets.

Five days seems quite a long time to have spent at Lake Louise but I must have filled them, as I did most places I went to.

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Week 12

10 – 16 April

Dedicated to the memory of Margaret Spicer

10 – 11 April - Banff

11 April - Had to get to Lethbridge via Calgary, but did not stay long; it just looked like another city to me. Went past the Calgary army base on the coach, so guess that is where Stephen would have stayed. Alberta, (the south anyway) is ranching land, so very flat and full of wheat fields. A lot of different religious communities in the area, Mormons, Hederites, Menonites, all kinds.

Most of the things in Margaret’s house are years old, she has some modern equipment but doesn’t bother much about things. If it still works it is good enough. She is retired from work; she was a nursing aide in a psychiatric unit. Her sister lives nearby and they now have the house in East Knoyle that their brother lived in before he died. The most interesting piece of machinery is the washing machine, which I have to use to do my clothes, must date back to the 1950s. It is one of those agitator contraptions with the wringing section over the top. I have a photo to prove it. It does the job but I did find it amusing.

We had a women’s luncheon to go to (very religious ladies). I won a prize; the theme of the evening was travel.

12 April – Went golfing with a couple of ladies, I was the caddy. There was a pot luck supper at the club house, every lady bakes a dish and brings it along. We had tons of food.

13 April – Five pin bowling and a tour of the hospital which was interesting.

14 April – Fairly quiet, although we went over to Margaret’s sister’s for supper. Their maiden name was Chubb, the Mayor of Salisbury is related, he is, or was if not mayor now, a Chubb.

15 April – Shopping day. I did manage to get out in the afternoon for a walk to a local lake.

16 April – We went to a flea market and watched some dressage competitions; Margaret used to be a keen horsewoman.

We sat is a shopping mall and sold raffle tickets for the Diabetic Association; Margaret is a diabetic herself.

We watched a local amateur dramatic play, so have not been a tourist yet, more of a community participant.

Current day thoughts

I would have lumped 2x weeks together again as lacking any material for Banff, but I have quite a lot for Lethbridge so decided to just stick to the week.

Banff was just beautiful in its mountainous setting. Again, they had a luxurious hotel, the Banff Springs Hotel. I just happened to be desperate for a wee as I was going by so had to pop in to use the facilities. I may have looked a little out of place here but who cares, clearly the desk staff did not.

I remember specifically two places I visited in Banff, one was the library where I went into archive section to read up on the Native American Indian treaties, and the second was a mouth-watering chocolate shop that I visited a few times to stock up on one of their delicious offerings. From my photographs I can see I visited the Banff hot springs themselves and there was a lot of historical information and displays on the Native Canadian Indian tribes of the area.

Another place I visited was the Bow River Falls. Not spectacular in themselves but on showing my photographs to family when I got home, Stephen produced a photograph that he had taken of the Bow Falls a few years before stood in the exact same spot that I had been standing in when I took mine. Must have been a popular tourist spot for photo opportunity.

Who is Margaret I hear you asking. Margaret was a good friend from childhood to the mother of my then boyfriend. She emigrated to Canada; I’m not sure when, and so did her sister, Joan. I had never Margaret before so it was very generous of her to let me stay in her home, and for so long. Sadly Margaret has since passed away. Her ashes were returned to the UK to be scattered at a spot in East Knoyle where she grew up.

Lethbridge was quite a busy town; it has everything as it is so far from the next big city of Calgary, which is about 140 miles away. Not a place a tourist would necessarily visit unless there was something specific to see, so it had a very close community spirit, or it seemed to, may be because Margaret was a part of so much going on, and she immersed me into so much as well. It made a nice change from my usual routine when visiting a place. Margaret and Joan had put together quite an itinerary for me.

The day of golfing was the windiest day I have experienced, not the best weather for playing golf, but the ladies persevered anyway. I did notice at the pot luck supper that one or two had cheated by buying dishes to bring – KFC being one of them.

The visit to the hospital where Margaret used to work was fascinating. It was a secure psychiatric unit, for people with both physical and mental health disabilities, but Margaret just breezed in with me as easy as anything. I don’t remember being signed in or anything. The patients we stopped off to see were happy to see Margaret. There were quite a mix of disabilities from dementia type illness to those who have suffered brain trauma and need 24 hour care. I can still see the face of one patient who had tried to take her life but was found before it was too late, however she had been starved of oxygen for too long and now is unable to walk or do anything for herself. She could have limited conversation with people and did recognise Margaret, but I do wonder at what she must have thought of life then, it certainly wasn't better for her. I hope she is at peace now.

Escaping from the house to discover more of Lethbridge by myself was a much needed thing to do, I went to places that Margaret wouldn't have taken me to and was able to gage the town a lot easier. You wouldn't believe there could be so much to see in this out of the way place and I still had more days to fill.

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Week 13

17 – 23 April

17 April – Been here in Lethbridge for nearly a week now, have one more to go. Will take time this morning to write to Ron and Celia and Bridget and David and anyone else I have stayed with along the way. Only been three months but seems longer.

Have found everything very educational so far, I find all of the cultures interesting. Sometimes I will dive into a library to find out any information I need on a particular subject. I have an address of a magazine, ‘She Travels’, which I shall write to at some stage, they want travellers to contribute to it, however I need a computer as you have to send a disc with everything on.

Being treated to all kinds of different experiences by Margaret. Weather is so mixed here, we have had in the past week, gales, snow and temperatures up in the 20s, so not sure what to put on in the morning. Today and the coming week I have some touristy things to see in the area. Margaret’s sister works in a jail so having a tour of the jail on Tuesday evening, hope they don’t keep me there. Going to a nature reserve this afternoon and to a concert tonight. The group are a young family called, ‘The Rankin Family’, can only imagine they are like Clannad so should be good. Will buy a tape if I like them.

19 April – Local prison in Lethbridge. Had to wander amongst the inmates at some points, it was really quite enlightening. Some of Joan’s co-workers remarked at how calm and collected I was, apparently some people that visit the place are nervous wrecks.

Current day thoughts

With so much to do in and around Lethbridge I am a bit confused as to the chronological order of things in the second week but I have tried to make some order via my photographs, (hopefully soon I can post some of those for you to see).

There was a nature reserve, which I don’t remember anything about, but it may have contained the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, which is an open plain area where the Native Indians used to drive the buffalo over the cliff, which would kill them, and subsequently they could eat the meat and use the hides.

The bridge, which Lethbridge is named after, is a railway bridge which is the longest and tallest railway bridge of its type in the world. It crosses the Oldman River but I don’t recall whether I saw the river or not, just a really long bridge covering lots of plain.

Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden provided a peaceful sanctuary to wander around, not that Lethbridge is a noisy place; in fact Canadian towns and cities are all quite laid back. Again I have vague memories of it.

We went to Fort Whoop-Up to take in a bit of culture. A once trading post in both legal and illegal goods, (whisky being one of them, buffalo hides another).

Joan took me to the Waterton Lakes National Park close to the Canada/USA border, which was so beautiful and took in the Rocky Mountains. We had a lovely day walking amongst the deer and goats and taking in the fresh air and scenery. It was just coming into spring and I always think the air is at its freshest in the spring. It is my favourite season.

Margaret did get me to do some chores though. Apart from helping her to sell raffle tickets in the shopping mall she got me to use a contraption which held week killer, which I had to administer to all, and there were a lot, of the dandelions on the lawn. I guess I had to earn my keep somehow.

I never did contact ‘She Travels’, but I still have a burning ambition to be a travel writer. Watch this space as they say.

How technology has progressed. Computers were not as common as they are now and floppy discs were the thing back then.

The Rankin Family were really good, more like The Corrs than Clannad and I did indeed purchase a tape of their music, a cassette tape, not a CD. I remember being disappointed that the music on it was not the same as they did at the concert, but I still enjoyed listening to it.

The prison was a great place to visit. It was an open prison so security a bit more relaxed. At one point a prisoner offered for us to go through a door before him, but Joan made him go first and he respected her authority. I can only imagine the danger you can put yourself into if not careful. I wasn’t too happy with all the male attention I got but I guess not too many young ladies happen their way. We sat in a secure office for a while, where the prison officers could observe the prisoners around them in a communal area. On an upper level there were cubicles but I can’t remember whether they were toilets or showers, either way a prisoner’s feet would always be showing, so not total privacy. The water fountain had a notice attached to it asking that nobody should spit into fountain. I don’t know why I remember that, but it has stayed with me and I am a bit wary of water fountains now. A female had been detained for disorderly behaviour; I think she had been drinking. I was allowed to look through a peep hole in the door to the room she was being held and she was giving the prison officers some lip. I was glad not to have been on the other side of the door. Each prison officer was allocated a pepper spray to use when required but before they were allowed to have one the officer had to experience the pepper spray in his or her eyes, so as they know the kind of reaction to expect from another person.

I think the prison had quite an impact on me as I can remember so much detail of the visit. Not something you get to do every day is it, and it wouldn’t be the last prison I encountered on my journey.

With Margaret and Joan’s help I pretty much squeezed everything out of Lethbridge. And to think I had never heard of the place, so thank you to my ex for suggesting I stay with Margaret.

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Week 14

24 – 30 April

25 April - I will always be thankful to Margaret for the time I spent in Lethbridge, it is such a friendly town, but glad to be on the road again. The days leading up to my departure were really nice and hot but the day I left it snowed. It is a very confusing country weather wise.

Edmonton was six hours away and it was sunny by the time I got there.

Was not impressed with Edmonton to start with but as the days went on I found some nice spots to visit. Because of the severe weather they get in the prairie regions, everything closes down and does not open up again until May, normally the bank holiday weekend at the end of May, so a lot of things that I wanted to see were not possible.

Current day thoughts

So, I didn’t have that much to say about Edmonton in my letters home, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it in the end.

I think it was in Edmonton that I managed to break one of the window panes at the hostel. They had a system of opening and closing windows that I never quite got used to in Canada, anyway I put too much pressure on the glass and it cracked. No injuries sustained.

I remember one morning stepping out for the day, in my newly washed fleece jacket that I dried in the tumble dryer, and my hair just standing up on end like when you put your hands on one of those plasma balls. It was a combination of the atmosphere with the tumble dried synthetic material of my jacket. I did start to wonder about Edmonton after that.

So what did I get up to in Edmonton. Well, the main attraction was the West Edmonton Mall, which is one of the largest in the world. It had everything in terms of shopping and entertainment. I guess during the winter months, when you can’t do much outside, it provides activities for everyone. They had a miniature golf course, a waterpark with submarines and replica of a Galleon ship, dolphins performing tricks, an ice rink, rollercoaster, which of course I went on, carousel, and of course some shops and eateries. I believe now there is much more to see and do in the mall.

I hiked around for what seemed like miles to get to things around Edmonton. I decided one day to make my way out to a swimming pool, again I am sure it was Edmonton but can’t be certain, anyway it looked pretty close on the map so I donned my hiking boots and set off. May be I didn’t have much concept with regards to distance, but I decided that a mile in Canada was much longer than in the UK. I walked well off the beaten track to get to the pool and it took forever, I didn’t see one bus go by, so it wasn’t a well serviced area for those without cars. I enjoyed the pool though. On another occasion I was keen to see some bison, that had not been under the hands of a taxidermist, and managed to locate an area just out of town. I took the bus out as close as I could and ended up hiking through a housing estate to see them. They were on enclosed farmland so not really in the wild but they were still beautiful animals to see. They were at a distance and I felt like I was intruding on people’s private property. If anyone saw me they must have wondered who the waif and stray was, wandering around in the neighbourhood. A man did stop in his car and offered me a lift back, but I wasn’t sure of his intentions so declined. I then had to try to find my way back to a bus route to get back into town. I know I stuck out like a sore thumb because people rarely walk anywhere in North America.

I also went to the Muttart Conservatory, the Peace Dove sculpture, neither of which I have memories of despite the photographic evidence.

There was quite a distance as you can imagine in traveling from one place to another in Canada. I used the Greyhound bus service and often listened to music on my Walkman and also to the local radio stations, which had some very interesting talks going on about the political state of the country. It was by far the best way to get to know about Canada and what was really going on behind the scenes.

I haven’t given any time really to what I think of Canada so far. It’s not as if I haven’t spent time with any Canadians in their homes. Perhaps because we have always seen so much about North American life on the television or because I had been to the USA before and the lifestyle is similar if a little more laid back. Everything seemed so familiar. It may be because the ‘locals’ were not constantly comparing the lifestyle to mine in England. I do know that I wasn’t compelled to express my views, although I did take a lot in. I was simply mesmerised by the beauty of Canada and its people.

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Week 15

1 May to 7 May

I did an amazing thing in Edmonton. I had a pair of knickers go holey on me so I threw them out and bought a new pair.

3 May - Things are picking up now.

Saskatoon is a nice place, friendly and a much slower pace than the bit cities. The hostel accommodation is in a hotel, it is comfortable but not as good as being in a proper hostel. I have a spring loaded toilet seat in my bathroom, can be interesting at times. Also have a nightclub beneath my room, so no getting to sleep before dawn. They do have a TV in the foyer with some good programmes on.

Am doing a lot more reading, nearly finished my third book in 3½ months.

They have a good restaurant attached to the hotel called Kars Kafe, done out like a garage. The food is served in hub caps. They have the closest to fish and chips shop chips that I have found.

Moving onto Winnipeg on Thursday evening, will get there on Friday morning. May be not able to hostel at Thunder Bay but will check it out in a few days. Luckily I have enough cash-in-hand to pay out on some more expensive accommodation if necessary. Come to think of it I have to do the same for Sudbury.

Am trying to keep up with world news. Ayrton Senna was killed. Haven’t heard any British political scandal lately so guess there is not much going on. I am learning a lot about the native culture, finding it very fascinating visiting heritage centres, diving into libraries. Would be good to get back into some sort of education again.

6 May – Did not get much sleep on the coach journey last night to Winnipeg. I really wish I could hire a car, a lot of the national parks and wildlife are hundreds of miles out of town, so I cannot get to them. Not planning on racing about the place whilst here. I have seen enough museums and galleries for the time being. Have some planning to sort out for the next week or two, a few of the hostels are not open yet. Will be by the Great Lakes come Tuesday.

Current day thoughts

Oh, the knicker reference. I have always been bad at chucking out old underwear, especially knickers. I wear them to the bitter end and, if holey, usually just at the weekends when I don’t go out much. At the beginning of this year I threw away 17 pairs of knickers, most of which were the wrong size and some that had seen better days. The more you wear a pair the more comfortable they are, perhaps that’s why we keep them so long. In keeping them though I do feel that I am doing my bit for the planet in saving resources.

I so remember the pounding of the music coming from the nightclub below my room in Saskatoon. Lucky I never had to get up in the mornings to go to work. My neighbours nowadays play their music just as loud, sometimes way into the night, without a thought to who they might be disturbing.

I was never a great reader as a child and that never improved into my early adulthood. For some reason I just couldn’t get to grips with them. It wasn’t until I saw a TV adaptation of a book I was then reading, (which took me two years to finish), that things just clicked. I was able to put visual images from the TV to the characters in the book and it was all plain sailing from there. So, to have read that much in such a short space of time was quite something for me. I really enjoy reading now.

Nobody makes proper fish and chip shop chips anymore, not even the fish and chip shops in this country; sadly it’s all about being health conscious these days.

When you are on the road, doing a ‘pay as you go’ kind of thing, as opposed to a package holiday already paid for, you really have to think ahead of the moment you are in, so a little research into wherever you intend to travel is a good idea before travel. I knew where I wanted to go and that I was going to hostel, but didn’t delve deeper into the finer details. I found talking to other travellers and the tourist information places a great resource when the way forward was looking bleak.

I did get back into education again, studying with The Open University and enrolling on other home study courses and evening courses at local colleges. I’m still keen to keep on learning new things to keep the brain ticking over.

Saskatoon was very prairie. Small town with lots of open space, but not without its cultural aspects. The Western Development Museum, which as its name suggests, provided information and exhibits dedicated to the development of Saskatoon, including a mock up town that I can only describe as being like a set that would be used to film a western, but a bit more modern. There was also the Wanuskewin Heritage Park which is dedicated to the history of the Native Indian tribes and bison that used to inhabit the plain. It was very peaceful just standing in the looking out across the open plain, imaging the bison roaming free.

Moving onto Winnipeg I got to see my first Mountie, or Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman, to give him his official title. I think he may have been planted for a picture opportunity for tourists, but may be that’s the sceptic in me.

Winnipeg was a lot more built up than Saskatoon, but still not a hugely intimidating city. Winnipeg is home to the Manitoba Legislative Building, where all the political stuff of the region goes on. I didn’t go for a tour, I think I had got to the stage where once you’ve seen one historic building you’ve seen them all. Unfortunately visiting the capital cities/towns of a region, they all have the same stuff to see with similar information. St Boniface Cathedral was quite an interesting building to visit though. Unfortunately throughout its history the cathedral has suffered damage through fire and has had to be rebuilt on more than one occasion because of that. The current building was built in 1972, with the only remaining part of the previous one being that of the façade, which stands before it. The new cathedral is more modern but still very beautiful inside.

My hostel accommodation was much better than the last one; I had company for one thing. It was set out in the suburbs in an adapted house. No noisy neighbours.

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Week 16

8 May to 14 May

9 May – Thunder Bay is in Ontario and at the start of the Great Lakes, from the west side it rests on Lake Superior. Ontario is just full of lakes and is the last province that I shall see whilst in Canada.

10 May – I managed to catch a glimpse of the eclipse of the sun.

Current day thoughts

Moving on from Winnipeg, I was now out of the prairies.

I wasn’t able to hostel in Thunder Bay. I managed to get a room in the university there. Most universities rent rooms out in the holidays. I don’t remember too much about it, but it was comfortable.

Thunder Bay is most famous for, apart from Lake Superior, Terry Fox and the Sleeping Giant. Terry Fox was a young man with cancer, who decided to embark on a run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. He ran 3,339 miles before worsening health forced him to stop, close to Thunder Bay. Sadly he passed away not long after that in 1981, aged 22. There is a monument dedicated to him in Thunder Bay, which overlooks Lake Superior. It is coming across things like that that inspires you to make the most of life and challenge yourself.

The Sleeping Giant is a rock formation which resembles a giant lying on its back. I couldn’t see the resemblance from where I was stood, which was far away, but it has its significance in Native Indian legend.

Fort William was also a large attraction. It dates back to the early 19th century and was set up as a trading post. It is now ‘devoted to re-creating the days of the North West Company and the Canadian fur trade.’

There is also a pagoda, built in 1909 on the waterfront, which is now a tourist information booth.

I remember it being sunny most of the time whilst in Thunder Bay, which made for great escapes into the fresh air and stunning views across Lake Superior.

I so wish I had my diary to refer to, with such limited information to hand. Only a few more weeks until things get back on track.


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Week 17 - 15 – 21 May

15 May to 21 May

16 May – Saulte-Ste-Marie is interesting. Between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, it hosts part of the St Lawrence Seaway, something we were taught in our geography lessons at school. You can also see across to the United States, but unable to cross the link bridge unless in a motorised vehicle.

17 May – The weather at the moment is sunny, if a little windy. Still some snow on the ground and part frozen lakes. Imagine how cold it must get in winter.

When you see the Lake you could be forgiven for thinking that is was an ocean in its own right. Lake Superior has many beaches around it and many enviable properties dotted along the shores. (Even Lake Winnipeg has its own beach resort, in the middle of Canada).

19 May - Am staying at the university in Sudbury as there is no hostel here. Most people at the university speak French, it is also a catholic run joint, so plenty of crosses about the place. Not much to do in Sudbury, I only intended staying for three days but was cheaper to make a week’s booking at the uni, so spending a couple more days. It is nice to have my own room but can’t wait to get back to the hostels.

I was glad to get here so that I can catch up on my laundry, I am running out of stuff to wear.

20 May - The further east I go the more laid back it gets.

I have a cross hung above my bed. Feel I should be going to confession every day.

Today is really hot, so taking it easy. Have a huge amount of tourist info to plough through. Surrounded by drunks in the park here, sleeping it off. I am sticking to mineral water

21 Saturday – Went to the Science North Centre, a brilliant place. Spent five hours messing around with the experiments and technology. They have one of those huge floor pianos which was great fun. Also got to touch a live python.

Current day thoughts

So, I left Thunder Bay feeling enlightened and moved onto the next town of Sault-Ste-Marie, which, although it was quite small, did hold some interesting things. My geography lessons came rushing back to me when I discovered the St Lawrence Seaway link. I guess something must have sunk in at school, so not all wasted. Across the bridge in USA is also Saulte Ste Marie, which used to make up the same town as on the Canadian side, but the introduction of the USA border eventually separated them. I’m sure I must have read that somewhere in the history museum in Saulte Ste Marie, but had forgotten, (thank you Google). In fact the St Lawrence Seaway was on the USA side of the water and not the Canadian side. It was great walking alongside the canals and Soo locks and diving into the visitors centre and museums to learn all about it.

I also wandered around some beautiful parks which overlook the water and visited the Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site, home to Charles Oakes Ermatinger who was a businessman and trader in the area. Another interesting place was the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre, exhibiting a lot of bushplanes through the ages, which were used to drop water on any bushfires in the area. The tour guide was quite persuasive in getting a donation out of me for the cause, gaining me a bushplane pin badge which I still have today.

The size of each Great Lake is quite daunting when you compare them to the lakes here in the UK. It really is hard to see them as lakes and not seas or oceans.

Such a nice little town. I left part of my heart in Saulte Ste Marie.

Next came Sudbury, and what can I say about Sudbury. Well most of it I would rather put behind me but I guess all that we experience in life shapes us as people and can make us a little wiser. The science centre was fun and there was a nice walk out to a nature reserve, but that’s about it. The priest at the uni was a nice man who looked after us all and gave me some of the food he was taking on a camping trip when the shops were shut. Not quite sure how I managed to survive 5 days in Sudbury but I did.

It isn’t until you start to explore a country that you realise just how diverse each place is and that is what makes the World tick the way it does. Not always a good thing but wisdom allows you to select in which environment you want to surround yourself, and what to look out for in those you don’t.

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Week 18 - 22 – 28 May

23 May – It has been a bank holiday weekend here, Victoria Day today, and the weather has been beautiful over the past few days, brought the people out in hoards. Most tourist attractions across Canada open fully now, the winter season is over for the time being.

The porter in my residence is also a Jesuit priest and today is a special day in his religious calendar, so he invited myself and two other girls for lunch in one of the buildings here, saved me having to buy any.

Have had a few problems with my feet of late. My heels have developed some nasty blisters, they keep appearing one on top of the other. I think it is a combination of the shoes rubbing and the heat. I am hoping I can control them without medical assistance. They seem to be on the mend quite well now. Aside from that no other problems.

So many famous people have died lately; John Smith, Jackie Onassis, John Candy, can’t keep up with it all. Can get the BBC World News on one of the TV channels, also on the radio, so staying in tune with it all.

Guess the UK bracing itself for the start of the World Cup. I may get to see some but they all watch ice hockey here, so doubt I shall get a look in.

My hair is starting to get quite long now, doesn’t look too bad either. I may have something done to it soon.

Less than a month left in Canada, it’s going by so quickly.

24 May - Glad to get to Ottawa, the capital of Canada. You can see most things in one day, everything is situated in the city centre close to the parliament buildings.

The hostel is spooky, it used to be a jail up until 1972 when it was closed due to the unsanitary conditions. The floor that holds death row is not rented out to travellers anymore because it is haunted.

Current day thoughts

I suffered a lot with my feet and blisters. I think a lot them happened where the seams on the insides of my socks pressed against the skin. The boots I wore were quite comfortable. So much walking did take its toll on my feet, more of which I shall talk about at a later date.

I have never been a girly girl, fussing with my appearance all the time. I am a ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of girl, and I was too busy with more interesting things anyway, so I never really noticed that my appearance was changing. It never crossed my mind to get a haircut at any point, I just got up every day put a comb through my hair and that was that. It wasn’t until I got to Ottawa that I realised just how long my hair had grown, and it was bleached blonde by the sun beating down on it most days. I was never allowed to keep long hair when I was young, was always told it looked like rats tails, and I thought it was too fine to grow long, so never bothered. How wrong could I be. I first had my hair permed when I was 15, it was the thing to do, and had it permed regularly for the 15 years following. I have not had it permed since and now embrace the natural straightness of my hair, how it is meant to be.

So Ottawa was a very refreshing change to Sudbury. Being the capital of Canada it is a much busier, more happening place, as you would imagine. The parliament buildings look very similar to ours in London. I went up one of the towers to capture the beautiful views across Ottawa. If you walked across one of the many bridges over the Ottawa River, which I did, you were in Quebec. I went into a town called Hull, just for a peek. Quite a pretty place with nice canals and locks to see. Again it was the water that drew a lot of attention for me and the Rideau Falls proved no exception. However, not wanting to neglect the pursuit of cultural education, the National Gallery of Canada was on my agenda, which doesn’t stand out in my memory as having anything that spectacular. Australia is winning in that respect so far.

As I said in my letter home, the hostel was a prison. I had always been rumoured that conditions in the prison were not good, so a journalist got himself arrested on purpose, not sure what for, so he would be sent to jail and could then see for himself what it was like. The rumours were true and he wrote up quite a piece about his experience inside. Following this the prison was closed after a new modern one had been built. The hostelling old prison was turned into a hostel. Guests stay in the cells, from memory I think two to a cell, which were quite cosy. Shower facilities were quite open, just as the prisoners used, no private cubicles and no being shy. If you were feeling brave you could stay on death row in the cell used by the last person in Canada to be executed. The experience was just for one night and you could only take a sleeping bag in with you, no other personal effects. If you managed to last the night you didn’t have to pay for the night. I didn’t try it, but did go inside the cell, which was really small and dark. I went on a tour of the prison and got to see the gallows where execution took place. The guide demonstrated how it all worked, with the trap doors opening and a noose falling through. I can still remember the snapping of the noose as it fell.

I had to seek out the emergency room of a hospital to check out a swelling I developed. It was a French speaking hospital but managed to cope ok. Thankfully I only had an infection, which was dealt with by antibiotics. I had my insurance to cover it – never forget insurance because you never know.

Although I am not a religious person I did go visit a lot of churches as most of them have great architecture and artefacts to see. The Notre Dame Basilica was lovely and very peaceful inside. I needed some reflection time so just sat for a while, filling me with a sense of calm. It is important to stop every so often to take stock of things.

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Week 19 - 29 May to 4 June

30 May - Orillia, absolutely nothing to do but good to be able to relax for a few days.

4 June - Had an exhausting day, but it was enjoyable. Mr Frenchman went this morning, cannot remember his name, felt a bit piggish eating my huge breakfast whilst he ate cookies.

Nice day again. To hire a bike if $15, a little steep so I walked to my destination, they said only an hour. I left Orillia centre just after 10:00hrs and got to the Rama Reserve at 13:00hrs. Must have been 7 or 8 miles to get there, my feet will tell you how far. However, the scenery was wonderful and the sun was shining so it was a nice stroll, wish I had worn my boots though. A pleasantly low residential area exists on the Rama road, so nice to see a place that is a proper village. Everything was lush green and peaceful, aside from the busy traffic. Should have hired the bike though, I got a little sunburned from walking. I drank on a regular basis but it went straight through me, so by the time I got anywhere I was desperate for a piss. Thankfully the lady in the Rama Moccasin and Craft Shop let me use her loo. I would have been stuck otherwise.

I bought me a dream catcher, dreams are an important thing to hold on to, they can give your life a purpose or serve as an escapism. I daydream more than at night. I have in the past and do now. They say if you dream about a person dying it’s because you want them out of your life. Psychologically it could be said that these people have become so close to you that you are afraid of their rejection or that one day they will leave you all alone. Feelings brought on by past experiences embedded in the subconscious. Lately I have thought about my own passing on. Maybe I am still trying to rid the old me, which is evidently still present, and become somebody new. I certainly am not ready to go yet. I am passing through an uncertain time of my life, I need redemption.

(There has been talk lately about the wearing of turbans in the Royal Canadian Legion. Much argument to ban and lots for. Those for it make reference to the freedom fought for in the wars and the abolition of future wars. One man, an East Indian himself, was against it, he made an important statement, 'When in Rome'.)

Once I had gotten back to town, well knackered, I decided to sit back and rest at the cinema, ‘The Flinstones’ was showing. Very well put together, so like the cartoon. Wilma is excellent as is Fred. The effects could have been tacky but these were well researched and studied. A big thumbs up to a pleasant 1½ hours escapism. Never been so pleased to get to a cool house, the heat is awful. The fire has finally gone out. Think I will sleep well tonight.

Current day thoughts

From 4 June I am able to get back to entries from my diary, which is a relief. Glad to have had my letters home to refer to though in the interim and photos to remind me of all the great things I have seen and done. The photos – these will appear by the end of June when I have access to a scanner.

Ottawa was a nice user friendly city but it was nice to get to the peace and quiet of Orillia, which isn’t on any of the Great Lakes, but between the smaller Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe. I wasn’t sure what I would find to do, however found some interesting sites. hostels are generally situated in or near places of interest.

The hostel itself was disappointing to say the least and I sincerely hope it has been closed down by now under the health and safety act. In fact I cannot see it listed anywhere on the internet now. The accommodation was in a basement flat of a small block. It was dingy and damp and I don’t think anyone came to clean it and I certainly wasn’t going to. The only things to sleep on were mattresses, literally just the mattress, no bedding or pillows. There were cooking facilities but not good ones and from memory I recall an open fireplace. Thankfully it was summer so no need to burn the place down. It was an all-in affair, no separate rooms. There were other people staying at the same time as me and only for a short time. I could have been murdered down there and nobody would know, it was a horrid unsafe place.

In contrast, Orillia itself was quite pleasant. One little gem is the Stephen Leacock Museum. Stephen Leacock was a writer who had the house built in 1928 and, as was his intention, it is has a feel of England about it, both in style and the garden. It was a beautiful place and I really enjoyed have a look around.

My walk out to the Indian Rama Reserve was quite a day. It was a long trek and was a bit of a disappointment at the end. Not sure what I really expected to be honest. I bought a dream catcher from the gift shop, which I still have today. As for the rest of it all I could see were some wooden shack type houses being lived in, surrounded by fields with something growing in them, not sure what but could have been corn as the plants were quite high. It was quite an open area that didn’t appear to go anywhere. One of the residents spotted me and I felt conspicuous and vulnerable. I didn’t know if I was trespassing or not so turned around and headed back to Orillia.

I was desperate for a pee on the way back too and luckily held on until I reached a gas station. By the time I got back to town my feet were done in. I don’t know if you would call them blisters but the base of my heels were filled with liquid and very sore.

Not sure why I put a reference to the wearing of turbans in, must have heard it on the radio whilst walking along. However, I believe nowadays it is permissible for turbans to be worn on religious ground. There are always arguments for and against with most things and I think the gentleman who said, ‘When in Rome’, has his point, but globalisation is the norm now and if we want peace and harmony we have to allow different cultural practices to exist alongside each other. As long as nobody gets hurt where is the harm. The globalisation of commerce though needs to be addressed if we are to save our own industries and economy.

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Week 20 – 5 June to 11 June

5 June - A much more relaxing day. I was not aching this morning as I imagined I would be. No definite plans so no rush to get out of the house. I only know that I do not want too much sun today.

Took my book with me down to Couchching Park. Sounds like something going on and there was, a charity fun run or something to that effect. A local radio station was there. T-shirts for sale, much picnicking and jovialities. The water looked so inviting, however, dogs were swimming as well and I hate that. I have developed an aversion to the sea and lakes over the years. This is the place where all the dudes hang out and the well-off drift in their boats or show off on jet skis. Sat for a while in the shade, reading. As well as very informative, the book is entertaining. Got tired of reading and went for a walk down the Main Street of town. Blew my last $4 on food, not good food either, chocolate and Danish pastry. Came back home via the park again for my pig-out, felt sick so I didn’t finish it all.

Read some more before being interrupted by company. Two people, girl and guy, I can never remember people’s names. She is English , he Australian. Definite drifters searching for a corner of the world, at least he is, she does not talk much. They went out to discover Orillia, so I went back out too. The weather was much cooler, went to the park again, was easier to find a shady seat. Sat and read for an hour and continued along the boardwalk. People sat enjoying a drink on their boats. Sat for yet another hour in the now overcast sky, before coming home.

I settled down to an evening of music, reading and writing. It is more like waffle today just to fill a page. Funny how lack of a TV can make you find things to do. I was asked how I could bear to spend five days here. I need places like this to wind down, can you imagine a whole year spent rushing around cities as a tourist, would wear me out in no time. I need to feel the comparison of life in a small town so as to have an objective opinion. I am more inspired to thought in a quiet place.

6 June - Rain this morning, typical. Had an interesting two hour journey to Toronto. An old guy, 86yrs old, attached himself to me. Likes to think he is still in with the young scene, is too chivalrous for that one. Claims he is engaged to be married to a twenty nine year old, sounds like a weird set up to me, if it is true. I let him do all the talking whilst I looked out of the window pretending to listen. Haven’t spoken to such an awful person in a long time.

Was thankfully dry in Toronto, if a little warm. The hostel was close to the bus station, however had to wind my way through a variety of persons to get there. Bodies lying in the street being ignored by everyone, weirdo's staring, hoards of workers and road work men. Not such a good area again, but nice hostel. Lockers are pay again, so nowhere to put clothing and stuff without paying out. Looks like a lot of attractions are out of town, think I will have to adopt my USA budget for Canada and vice versa, will still be over budget, must check on the balance of account.

Went to the nearest mall for a bite to eat, managed to get souvenirs and cards in one place. Spent rest of afternoon writing cards, reading information and sorting out my G.S.T refund.

Have a few mean bites on my leg, must be the sleeping bag.

Half go out, half stay in, so will have a choice each night I guess.

7 June - An overcast but humid day, set off to check the city out. Walked down to the harbour and was fairly disappointed, should maybe hang left next time and see what is along there. The ferries are only $3 to the islands so will take advantage of that. Followed the boardwalk past a marina, theatre and entertainment centre, not very exciting. Toronto is a shit city and smoggy, not too keen on the hostellers either. They are a bunch of dossers, many looking for work and they all want to go out and get pissed. Spongers too, my milk was all but gone this morning. Drop outs and beggars on the streets, I crave the slow lane away from it all.

One of the Ozzie girls in our dorm, thinks she's something special, told me there is nothing to do in Niagara. She was definitely not inspired by the falls, sad person.

The C.N. Tower and Skydome were close by, so off I went. There are tours of the Dome so will choose either a tour or a game, depending on my finances, I think I know which one it will be. The C.N. Tower also offers a combination of entertainment, is $12, I could get in for $6.00, but have decided it is only a tower after all and I will simply have extensive views of a city, maybe into the States also. Will think on it. Next thing to check out was the Casa Loma, only took an hour to walk it. Passed through China town along Spandia Avenue. Could have been in China, the streets were crowded with vehicles and side-walks with people and stalls. Music drowned every other sound out. Suddenly I was out of the crowds and in the clear. Took a few wrong turns but got to the castle eventually. My bite has quadrupled in size and is giving me hassle in the humidity. Was desperate for a pee, but begrudged having to spend $8.00 to get in. The inside is as decorative as the outer, however, well restored and in the process of, the rooms lacked the original stuff, most of them anyway. This was due to the selling off of items in the 1920's because of financial ruin of Sir Henry Mill Pellatt, owner. The tours are self-guiding with audio tapes and headphones. Loved the conservatory and Sir Henry's suite. Strolled in the gardens and generally spent a pleasant couple of hours there. Do get the impression that Toronto is a rip-off city. Finally went down into the basement, wine cellar, swimming pool and the stables. To get to the stables, which appear to be the other side of the street and further, you have to go via a tunnel. The tunnel is narrow, creepy and very long and, after seeing the stables and garage you have to come back along the tunnel again. Walking back was quicker but the heat not so. Bought my tea and the rest is history.

The Ozzies and I put washing in together to save money. The attitude one has gone out to get drunk, she leaves tomorrow to work at a summer camp in the States, poor kids. Will try to get a free breakfast in the morning.

8 June - Much cooler today but still warm. No real plans of what to do, however, I do want to get out of the down town area. I started to walk Queen Street East towards the eastern beaches. The first part went through some very undesirable areas, crossed the road at one point as I could see eyes staring on the opposite corner. Gave in eventually and took the bus, $2.00, the most expensive yet for a one way journey.

The Woodbine Park Beach was surprisingly larger and cleaner than I expected. Spent a leisurely three hours strolling along the boardwalk, or sat watching the lake, keep wanting to call it the ocean. Quite a lengthy walk if you go to the farthest most point of the area. A popular area for mothers and babies, some push chairs being trolleyed along by roller-bladed women. Made sure I took the bus back into town, could not face that road again.

Have had a shit day from the diet point of view, will try to put it back on the right tracks soon. My bite is a lot better today. One of the girls I met in Ottawa is back here in Toronto for a couple of days, so nice to see a friendly face and have a chat.

Am very tempted to test the theory of some of the jet setters I have come across. Instead of sticking to a small corner of the U.S., depending on bus routes/flights and costs, I may get a pass and race around various parts of the country, taking in some major sights but only staying for a couple of days at a time, whilst making sure I still get to see Maine, Vermont etc and I will stay out of the cities as best I can, so as to avoid the trouble. Would love to see the Grand Canyon and go to Disneyland.

Have discovered some of the baseball tickets are fairly cheap, cheaper than a tour (the tour does not sound so wonderful), so maybe check it out tomorrow. Left a message on the answerphone in connection with the writers’ workshop, so if she does not get back to me here I shall have to forget it.

Am learning the value of taking transport too and from places in these cities. Apart from having to walk miles to get anywhere I could have gotten into trouble at times. However, showing your fear is often worse than simply putting your head down and walking confidently through an area. Fortunately I have developed a quick pace so do not look as though I am asking for trouble.

9 June - Really did not do anything today, it was nonetheless a thought provoking day in the worst sense. The workshop lady did ring back yesterday, I was here so have no idea why I was not located. Does not appear to be a tannoy system in operation. Have tried ringing today, but get the answer machine. Jenny has gone today, she starts work in San Diego on Saturday at summer camp.

I went to the Skydome to check out the ticket situation for Saturday and Sunday, sold out, so they say. Can turn up on the day to see what is available, if anything. Plenty of touts outside selling though, prices higher than the normal. If I cannot get a ticket I will go Monday for a grand tour. Found the Metro Library on Yonge Street, massive place, five storeys high and very modern. Had nothing else to do so I filled my brain with knowledge, satisfied a few nagging questions.

A lot of things I read recently are so current to me, they make me realise all that it is I have been, the way I am seen. I hate it all. This is a time when I should not be worrying about things, it should be only joyous. It has not only been a visual growth and mental growth experience but also of personal growth. Maybe I am tired of Canada, I hope the USA will stir the excitement up.

10 June - Giving up on workshop tomorrow, will keep trying though. Feeling a lot better today, had something to do to occupy my mind.

Went over to the islands just ten minutes off of the mainland. Was sunny but cool with the breeze from the lake. The centre island is the main focal point. Fun park, gardens, beach, bicycle hire, stuff like that. The main activity of the day, which most people enjoyed, was how to get passed the jets of water, wetting the grass. The general opinion, old or young, was too hell with it, let’s get wet. A free tram ride was available to the furthest point west of the island, Hanlans point, so took advantage, could have gotten off along the way but I did the round trip. Not so much to see but could have made a pleasant walk along the shore, the island is only about 5km from end to end. Decided to walk to the east side, glad I did, it was the better. Houseboats, marina and the cutest little village you ever saw. The streets just a couple of strides wide, a cluster of pretty little houses in one corner of the island. Country gardens, all protected in a leafy glade. No cars evident, no need. A perfect retirement haven. On the way back I crossed a bridge by the marina and was on a smaller island, Algonquin. Again, another group of houses, larger but on a similar basis. No way off except boat or bridge. Have the best views of the city skyline from the islands, through the haze. Strolled back to Centreville and sat for a while, not so much to do on the island, nice to laze on the beach type of place. We all piled on to the next ferry, no head count, just a surge all at once.

Was hungry when I got back to the city so went for a bite and came back to the hostel. At least I can say I have been across to the island, this is such a dull place unless you have money to throw away. Jenny said she was glad to be starting work, she was bored and needed to be doing something. I only get bored of some places I am in, not of being away or not working. I feel as though I am working, from all of the things I learn. I like to think being away from distraction helps. Sometimes I do let my imagination get out of hand, I can understand how some people can drive themselves mad through blind panic, worry, diminished responsibility. There is a maniac in all of us waiting to come out, we just have to learn how to control it, not always to advantage. I am doing the self psycho bit at the moment. I know all of the problems within me and I can say that I am fairly sure of how and why, however, I do not know how to deal with them effectively so as not to let them rule me.

11 June - Forget the workshop, $95, can’t afford that much, shame really, but I can manage to wait until I am home.

So, to the Skydome. Went prepared for snow. They said it may rain later. The queue was small so could be in with a chance. The guy in front was not so lucky, no more room wheelchairs. Took a $13 ticket, with partially obstructed view, turned out to be not a bad spot, despite being right at the back. Two kids kept edging their way along my row as ticket holders claimed their seats, not sure they were officially allowed in. Eventually they disappeared never to return. The crowd drifted in, some halfway through the game, most sped out before the end when it was evident the Blue Jays were not going to win, the decider game is tomorrow, will probably be more exciting as well. Not that I really understand much about the game, but not a lot of outstanding play. I did concentrate more on this game than the one in Shea Stadium, so can say that I do know a little more on the run of play. The crowd just eat and drink the whole time and make a hell of a mess, without any conscience. The atmosphere is good though and all of the commentary, no waves got going today. The game is a bit long and can get boring if not exciting enough. Over 3 hrs I was there, glad I took the lotion with me. Was quick in getting out, the crowd just milled along, would have been a different story if the Jays had won. Will try to get a glimpse from the tower tomorrow, if I go up. Watching the roof go back was interesting, it all folds neatly into a bunch at one end, very clever mechanism. Was tired by the end of it all, thankfully stayed dry until I was almost back.

Had an evening of chatting to a girl from South Africa, she told me her name but I can’t remember. Sounds like she has the same ideas as me on the USA and on life in general, could travel around the US with her if we could meet somewhere. Have a really dry throat today.

Current day thoughts

I have edited quite a lot out of my diary for this week. You never know who’s reading and I don’t want to give too much of myself away. A diary can be quite a good place to let off steam and get inner thoughts out, but not always good if other people get to read them. If I had shared everything I wrote with you, you might want to have me locked away for my own protection. Guess that’s just me but I don’t have to work on it anymore, so let’s move on.

When I wrote, ‘I have developed an aversion to the sea and lakes over the years’, I was referring to swimming in them as I really do love to sit an look out across water or sail in a boat. May be I have watched too many movies, I just don’t enjoy being in water as much as I used to.

I really ripped into Toronto. The area the hostel was situated in was not the best area, it really showed the downside of how those less fortunate than us get to live. The hostel was clearly open to anyone who could afford to stay there, so there was quite a mix between tourists and others who just wanted a roof over their head. It’s the same the world over. I guess I will never understand why some people give up and stop trying to improve their situation. I hope I never get to that stage. I am a lot more sympathetic now than back then, perhaps due to more awareness in society. I grew up in a nice cosy situation, not exposed to that sort of thing. I knew about tramps but the word carried a different meaning to today We don’t call even use it anymore. We were taught to stay away from tramps, they were not nice people, so I guess I was a little frightened being smack bang in the middle of so many. Being in London I see homelessness every day and I still feel vulnerable. The rest of Toronto was not so bad really, it had the usual stuff to see and I was able to escape the city on occasion. Tourists the world over are ripped off, so nothing new.

I went on a bit about the workshop. I have no recollection of what that was about. Again, so many things I got my teeth stuck into but cannot remember doing. And the people I met, forget it.

I went to a baseball game in New York’s Shea Stadium in 1985. I never concentrated on the game, it was the atmosphere that grabbed me and it was the same in Toronto. I have just learned that Shea Stadium was demolished in 2009.

How could I ever get tired of Canada.

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Week 21 – 12 June to 18 June

12 June - Apparently the game was not so good today, but the Blue Jays won.

The library was closed so had to shelve that idea, so hot again.

My armpits have come out in some kind of rash so really freaking out at the moment, could not say that the glands are swollen though, throat still dry.

Hung around the C.N. Tower until after the game had started. Finally homed in on a group who did not want to pay the full $12 fee, one of them came up with me on the 2 for 1 coupon. Was a waste of time really, the weather was busy so the views were limited; Toronto is not an exciting city to look at, all buildings and cars. Could not even catch a look at the game, the dome was over the pitch. My new friends are all Irish and work in Boston, been over in the States for a year now. Neither of us were impressed so we did not stay out that long but at least we can say we have done it.

Came back to the hostel, even hotter inside, rain outside. Had a chat with an English couple from Preston, they are brother and sister. He went to the ball game today. They travel together but seem to do their own thing. He has travelled extensively, wants to be a geography teacher, she a social worker, but does not want to have to get a job yet. Nice pair of people. Stupid film on tonight but we are all stuck in front of the box. Glad to be leaving tomorrow.

13 June - No breakfast this morning, had to actually buy some, made a change to see people walk about with blank expressions instead of muffins and pastries. Got caught by Larry so decided to leave early, on the 12 o'clock bus.

Got to Niagara at 14:30 hrs, not a very scenic route. Hard to believe you are about to embark upon one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The hostel was easy to find, but could not check in until 19:00 hrs, so walked off to the Falls, took about 20/30 mins or so, was disappointed with amount of buildings and stuff close by. They say it is nicer on the USA side, will find out sooner or later. Have to do the 'Maid of the Mist' tour, got my plastic mac. Bumped into Cath and her brother, we chatted for ages, he went off; don’t think he likes hanging around people. Walked back to the bus station with her, glad I did cause it pissed down with rain shortly after, will take a longer hike tomorrow and really take the Falls in, don’t know how they can say that one day is enough here.

Had a bit of hassle in the grocers, but soon sorted, had to use my last traveller’s cheque up in the process. The rooms etc. in the hostel are really nice, using a sheet tonight to see if I cope better with the heat. Good crowd here tonight, most moving out tomorrow, quite a mixed bunch of nationalities. Think we may have all gone out if it had not been raining outside. It is nicer with a small bunch of people, everyone gets to know each other, even the girl that works here joins in. There was a guy from Stevenage here as well, out here for a month.

14 June - Have a guitar serenade whilst writing this, a Japanese guy is strumming away, pretty good too.

Had a good look at the Falls today, tried to imagine the area as it would have been before the builders took over, just natural vegetation. Would be so much more amazing I think. They should have declared the area a national park conservation spot and built the towns, on both sides, about half a mile away. A few pathways for people to walk or cycle down, no cars. Wouldn’t kill people to have to walk. They could still run the boat trips and stuff, only on a more tasteful basis. First thing I did was to get in line for the 'Maid of the Mist' boat trip. Should have waited for the next one and got a better spot. They just pile loads on, some people just get wet without seeing anything. A standard issue blue plastic raincoat in handed out before embarking, sufficient to serve its purpose but not worth keeping, more worthwhile to re-cycle. It is a wonder the boats mange to stay afloat, they take you right in to the Horseshoe Falls and the swell of the water is terrific. Looking up at the water surging over the top, it doesn’t look real, it is just a totally unreal experience. Luckily I managed to get some piccies. Continued to walk along to the Horseshoes and got a view of the water from the top down, could almost stand on top of them. The Niagara river quite a ways back is rapidy, no chance once you get caught up in them. Nice parkland if you follow the road along. Went around Dufferin Islands, think this is where I may have gotten my next mega bite. Just standing and looking at the Falls was enough for me for the remainder of the afternoon. I want the memory forever, still can’t take them in. Got some pressies and headed back home. Went back down to see them in the dark. Tinsel town was ablaze. All they do to light the Falls up is to shine different coloured lights on to them to get an effect on the 170 ft drop of water. Just another gimmick really. So hot again tonight, my legs look like a battle ground.

15 June - Lounged around until just after 12 o'clock, it was closer to 13:00 hrs. Wrote my letters and tried to stay cool, difficult. Not looking forward to my trek across the bridge. Tried to stick to the shade where I could and took a couple of breaks, not that I sat for long, did not take as long as I imagined. Was 25 cents to go across, flaming cheek. The guy that was at the immigration was friendly and did not give me any hassle, just wanted to get the back pack off, absolutely sweltering underneath it. Took a little walk to get to the hostel through, which is apparently, not a desirable part of town. Looks like most of the town is the same. Surprised there was anything left of me, my clothes were dripping wet with sweat. Had to wait a couple of hours to get in, was so glad to have a shower. Hostel is better this side than on the other, very strict, but well fun.

Phoned the Trek-America number, gave them a few places I wanted to go and, hey presto a brilliant schedule came to light, very cheap as well. So all I have to do is sort out how to get to L.A. and we are all square.

Heike gave me some tablets and gel for my bite, they zonk you out so, despite the heat, I was out like a light. Hated having anything on, was so sticky out. Two girls from South Africa were telling me of the trip they are doing, so many places, so I assumed they were away for ages. Two weeks that’s all, they must be knackered.

16 June - Will not be doing much today, its sooo hot. The 09:30 hrs chuck out in the morning is a bit much, 6½ hrs before we can get back in. My bite is going now as are my other ills, so feeling a lot better about myself, not so frantic, my mind is clearing.

Popped into the Greyhound Station, the woman was so matter of fact, not so helpful. You have to know exactly where you are going as no schedules available to view. Anyways, I have to check my hostel book out before I decide, the trip goes off in 16 days, so have a while to sort it out.

Went down to the Falls to see them from this side, too hot to stay out of the shade for long. Not really that interested in the Falls today so found a shady spot to sit under for an hour, spent the rest of the time diving in and out of air conditioned places. I think the pill I took today made me drowsy, could not concentrate on anything.

Eventually got into the hostel and had a wonderful shower, was not long before I needed another.

Worked out a hostel route to L.A. not many accessible ones in the upper States, will still only cost me $179. Phoned the Trek America again booked my place, will be able to fill out a booking form in Chicago and sort everything out, pretty good stuff. Looking forward to it, so much more that I would like to see, however, I figure I am going to see more than I was intending to, plus I get to go to Disney.

Was nice sitting by the water today, could have fallen asleep, was mesmerising. The rushing water so cleansing rushing through me, makes you feel good. Could be hectic for a few days but have to click in, wake up and go with the flow.

Not so much to write about today, too hot to think.

17 June - Just knew today was not going to go as smooth as a baby's bum. Left the hostel at 09:30 hrs with Heike and went to the station. Only 89 degrees today compared to 102 yesterday. Was still good to be in an air conditioned place. I laid my plans down, my ticket was drawn out, I paid my $179 to L.A. with stopovers. Caught the early bus to Buffalo, said my goodbye to Heike, everything was hunky dory. I went to the ticket place to reserve a space on the bus and this is where my problems started. She re-did my ticket by computer, however, and I am glad I checked it, I now had a direct route, continuous, to L.A. no stopovers. Queried it, told them had made a mistake, was ushered to the customer services office, really mad by now. I would have to purchase tickets separately if I wanted to stopover, would cost double $179 plus. No way I am doing that. So we worked out various routes and they still came out expensive. If I cancelled my original ticket in favour of a new one I would lose 15% against it, all because the Greyhound company made an error. I would be penalised. Settled for just Salt Lake City and L.A., only another $52 dollars on top. However, and I was fed up with arguing by now, what they did was to issue another ticket to Salt Lake City and I have to purchase another to L.A. when there, $72, so I lose out totally. Maybe somebody at the hostel there is going to L.A., I can share petrol, I refuse to give Greyhound any more if I can help it. They have obviously never heard of the 'taken in faith' policy or the 'customer is always right'. I hope they sack the Niagara lady, don’t need no more shit. Got through Oz and Canada, no hassle, been here less than a week and I get this. Now going, Buffalo, Chicago, Salt Lake City, L.A. Cannot cancel my reservation in Detroit so guess they will just let the room go, lucky no deposit paid. I will wait until I get to Salt Lake City in the morning to book there, maybe too late. I also have to phone Trek America to re-sort my booking, hope they have a fax at the hostel, such a pain in the butt.

In Ohio now, looks like they had rain, cleared the air a bit. A low mist all around the countryside. Not impressed with USA yet. Just hope my pack is on the coach, what are my chances based on today. Had some company up to Cleveland, an 18 year old girl from Croydon. Doing west and east Canada, going to Calgary Stampede, being met by friends in Cleveland to stay a few days. Wish I was her right now. Seems more expensive here than Canada. If I had known what I was going to do in USA I would have bought a bus pass at home. I think it may have expired by now though, at least I can warn others back home with my new found wisdom. (Now writing this 3 days later due to horrendous journey). Reached Chicago in good time.

18 June - Today was just the icing on the cake. No driver to take us to Cheyenne, actually it was Omaha first. So 1½ hrs late leaving. The bus was calm at this stage. Tried to sleep, but hardly did. So we get to Des Moines and, surprise, surprise, delayed again. So hot and muggy. Can’t even remember if I am writing this correctly, so much hassle. To Omaha now, new driver. Moved seats due to families getting on board. Not much of a journey to comment on, a few stops to refresh, hate trips like this, don’t eat or drink properly and have to keep the same clothes on for days. The time differences do not help. Got to Omaha early evening, no driver to carry us off, all banging our heads against each other as well as the wall, reckon we are about 2¼ hrs late, nobody tells us anything though, we just get left to wait. Those who have connecting buses in Salt Lake City are never going to get them. Had a little better night’s sleep, Rajiv and I used each other as pillows, we thought we knew each other well enough by now. The few stops interrupted the sleep so was annoying. Morning was quick in coming, breakfast was shit. Much farming land, however, a little more picturesque than Canada's prairies, some quite cute farms dotted around. Maybe we will have better luck in Cheyenne. We have the cutest baby on board, she hardly cries, so happy and content, everybody wants to hold her for a while and she loves it. Cheyenne was no better, the bus: actually Cheyenne happened before morning, you see I am so confused about it all: well the bus was taken away for a wash and brush up and the driver, what driver, they had no driver for us, we didn’t expect one. Once all was sorted we had an express bus all the way to Salt Lake City.

Current day thoughts

‘the weather was busy’ – It must have been a mixed day with sunshine and showers or something, lots of weather going on.

It was a shock to get to Niagara in Canada and find the town so tacky, blame us tourists I guess. The USA side was much nicer around the Falls, with park land, much more tasteful. I can still remember the roaring sound of the water, from both the Falls and from the river running down towards them at such a terrific speed. There didn’t appear to be any secure barriers to prevent anyone from either jumping into the river or going over the Falls, very open. Bit scary to be honest.

I am a bit of a magnet for mosquitos and midges but have never suffered just raging bites as the ones I got in Niagara. Thankfully my friend Heike was there to offer advice. Heike was a German lady and we got on well, in fact we corresponded for many years after I returned home and then just stopped. Anyway, it was great to find some greenery to walk amongst on the Canadian side.

Once I was across the border into the USA, the walk to the hostel was interesting. I took the most direct route according to the map; it was literally as the crow flies. The route was in a rundown part of town, through a residential area. I got a little way along the route and some people acknowledged me from their veranda, and a little further along a guy on a bicycle (looked like a chopper from the 70s) circled twice around me and then rode off. I didn’t stop or flinch, but kept walking. I realised then that I was not in a good part of town and perhaps he served as a warning to stay away or get out as soon as I could. When I checked in at the hostel I was given a map of the area and was told which the safest places were, suffice to say the route I took was not on that list.

There are so many travellers out there who cram a lot of places into a small amount of time. I am so glad to have had a much more leisurely trip.

I really wanted to get to Detroit to see the Motown Museum. I remember the lady at the Greyhound station asking why I wanted to go to Detroit, she seemed quite concerned that I should want to, so maybe it was a good thing I missed it. I don’t have the craving to visit anymore. I was really hacked of at having my scheduled plans disrupted though.

Two days cramped onto a bus, seemed like forever. Thankfully everyone was nice. I feel that going Greyhound you get to experience the real America. So much more to come.

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Week 22 – 19 June to 25 June

19 June - Never made up the time though. Came through the Rockies, the scenery was so pretty, still a little snow on the mountain tops. Salt Lake City sucked up to everyone, they could not have been more apologetic. Coffee, sarnies laid on, those who missed their buses would have had to wait at the depot for 10 hrs until the next one, so hotel rooms were laid on as well. Managed to get one too, I would get a free night’s accommodation. Chauffeur driven to the Ramada Inn, we all settled in for a shower and sleep. Salt Lake City has some beautiful scenery round about it, no sign of the Lake yet. The city is huge, but the actual buildings not so built up, the roads are huge. I like towns like this, they have character, very quiet on the streets, too hot I guess. Went out for a meal at the Olive Garden, an Italian joint. Due to the past few days my appetite has been suppressed so never ate very much except salad, took some home for breakfast tomorrow, yeuky! Still very hot sun late in the evening. So knackered just want to sleep tonight, nice bed, air conditioning, shower, television.

20 June - Still tired this morning, don’t have to be out until noon. Got the hotel van to the Greyhound station, have to sort my ticket out. It seems that I should only have been charged $68 dollars for the trip so a refund was offered of $111. However I told them that all I wanted was a ticket to L.A., so I got a complementary one to use when I like. I am happy now, the Buffalo crowd are going to be sorted out.

Walked a ways in the heat to the hostel, not so far out of the town. Walked to the post office and got the stamps n stuff. There was nearly a brawl in the queue, some people, no patience.

The Trek America have an agent in the city which is good. Made the long, long walk to reach it, would have taken a bus if I had known. So many poor people in the city. Now I really do not know what I am doing over here, not impressed with USA at all. The 6 week trip is $1780 plus, knew it was too good to be true. What to do now, simply cannot afford that amount of money. To think I could be in Buffalo with Bob now. Filtered through the brochure, but could not find anything better, came away very dissatisfied and with the brochure.

Got some groceries and came back to the hostel. I do not feel like eating but have to, the heat is awful and I have a rash on my legs from it. Just spent tonight thinking about what I do now, I do not want to waste my time here in the USA. Think I can do it cheaper on my own. See a few things this side and go straight back across to New York City and do something over there. If they have trips out to the Canyon I will get on one, do Disneyland and make that do. What a bastard.

21 June - Wanted to get an early start, however, our sweetie manager was late getting is act together, so had to hang around a while. Got me a seat on a tour out to the Salt Lake tomorrow at 14:00 hrs and sent my package back to UK. Those little jobs done I was ready for my day, it was much cooler as well. Hunted the malls for my souvenirs and then went to the Temple Square.

Today was one of those thought provoking times, when conscience stirs. Tours of the square got going every 10 minutes, they are conducted by missionaries. I now have an understanding of what it is Christian Stoker is doing. The girl was very knowledgeable and, I think, would make a perfect match for Christian. The guys go on a mission, anywhere in the world, for 2 years and the girls for 18 months. Everything in the square is very compacted, so difficult to take any decent photos. We had a brief history of the Temple, seems that only members of the faith can get in, very strict on that one. The Mormons are actually of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Old Testament. Then you walk through the Tabernacle where the famous Tabernacle Choir perform, hopefully I can get to see them on Thursday night before I leave. It also holds a magnificent organ, tried to think of a better way to put it, just my mind working overtime. It is the 7th largest in the world, and has over 1500 pipes, quite spectacular. Our tour ends in the North Visitors Centre. A statue of Jesus Christ is on the top floor and the walls and domed ceiling are all painted with the sky and clouds and stars and planets, very beautiful. We sat for a while and listened to a teaching of Jesus. They say that the room is a very peaceful place, but I never got anything from it. I can sit in a church and feel the calm, but not here. Down stairs we had a short video presentation of the meaning of life, kind of makes you think. They have touch screen videos to answer any questions you have on religion or life. I tried one on families but the voice over is very loud, so everyone knows what it is you are listening to. I guess being open is one of the things they teach you. I was the only one of our group to fill out a visitor card, the rest were just tourists looking around, not really interested in a contribution. You have the opportunity to have the book of Mormons sent to you, but I declined and they are cool about that. It would be interesting to read but I have learned enough for the moment. I think if every person were to learn just a little of other religions, then they could understand and respect and not be afraid of something different and then the wars would cease. The church is the main instigator of war, funny, seeing as how god teaches us peace and understanding. I was given a ticket to see a movie, 'Legacy', in another building, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Joseph Smith was the original prophet of the Mormons. Had a little while to kill before the showing, so had a snack and watched a world cup game in a mall. The film was good, just told the story of the Mormon struggle to find their land in the USA, not too spectacular. All the things I did today are free, the Mormons love to share. Everything I saw today was very plush, I think the inside of the Temple is as well. Also sat through a selection of organ recitals, the acoustics are said to be magnificent. Had a horrible supper, meat pit and chilli and spent the evening writing up on this epic. The summer solstice today.

22 June - A few hours to kill before the tour out to the Lake. Got up late and ate breakfast late. Just moseyed around the town in the heat, the Disney store got me stirred for L.A. the Lion King is being plugged at the moment. Wandered back to the Temple Square to see inside the Assembly Hall, yet another organ. Sat for a while outside soaking up the atmosphere, was bugged again for a book of the Mormons. There is actually one here at the hostel, looks very time consuming.

Got to the Shils Inn fairly early so as not to be all hot and bothered for the trip. Only six of us so good number, we got away on time as well. Bit of a clever bus driver, can communicate in a few languages, even Japanese. First went to the Kennecott open pit copper mine, made sure we stopped at the souvenir shop first. The mine is the largest man made excavation and only produces 15% of USA copper. I viewed the centre of the mine through binoculars, just amazing how big the whole thing is. Reminded me of the Flinstones. Good to see the lorries, loaded from the centre, travel around and up to the crushing system, where it comes out as powder to be piped to the process area. We were given a sample of the copper ore. The area is set in the Bingham Canyon, I think it could be said, part of the tail end of the Rocky Mountains. We only had 20 minutes there, so not nearly enough time. On to the great Salt Lake, we stopped off at the Saltair resort, which has taken three attempts to establish. Spoils it a lot, very tacky with amusements, camel rides and the pavilion is not much good either. The smell in the air is dreadful but you get used to it. Again hard to believe it is a lake. Could have spent a whole day here just gazing out on to the horizon, it was so beautiful. Just touched the water, would have gone for a swim if we had longer. Hundreds of millions of tiny flies swarmed at the lake edge, apparently they only eat the shrimp so no worries. Hated leaving, I was captured by the view. Another world famous I have seen. Another girl from the hostel was in our group so we got chatting, as did one of the guys, from Louisiana. He gave each of us his address should we be in that area. He wanted to take us for a cool drink after, think he fancied his chances. We politely declined and came back home via the supermarket. The tour ended an hour short, a real rip off when you think about it.

There are credit card phones in Salt Lake City somewhere according to the operator, so that is one of my tasks tomorrow.

23 June - This has probably been one of the longest days so far. I managed to make my time at the hostel stretch until 10:00 hrs. Over a huge breakfast I met Don, Don is a mine of information when it came to travelling, he likes to help young people out whenever he can. I came away with some useful information and someone to carry one of my bags to the Greyhound station. My stomach was playing up first thing, probably what I had yesterday and my left armpit is giving me cause for concern. Been sneezing all day too, so hope I am not going through a bad stage again. So I have twelve hours to kill before my departure.

Managed to find a payphone that would charge to my Mastercard, at a discount, so was able to make my reservation for L.A. Was hoping that it would take longer than this to sort out. I never planned on drinking much or buying food today, I had a huge breakfast after all and some sarnies packed away. However, when you are bored it is surprising how much you buy in order to while away the hours and to make yourself look not so vacant and bewildered.

Hit the shopping malls for a while, becoming quite a regular, the workers must have wondered at the amount of times they saw me today. Braved the heat and walked up the hill to the Capitol Building, plays the most beautiful 12 o'clock chimes I have ever heard. Not sure of whether you could go in or not so sat in the gardens for a rest. Found a shady tree to sit under for lunch. I wasn’t even hungry, but now it is gone. The Pioneer Memorial Museum was just next door so decided to kill a couple of hours there, it was free. It is run by daughters of the first pioneers and contains artefacts from families dating right back to 1800's. Nothing too interesting to look at, except for the doll collection, handmade of all nations and some of the wagons and carriages. The most amazing thing was the huge number of photographs everywhere, 2000 or more I should say, everywhere. Back into town again, only seven hours to go. Sat in the shade, wandered the malls again, eventually had something to eat, crazy person. The thing I like about the city is the number of drinks fountains everywhere, never need to buy a drink. The fountain in the office building square is the perfect setting for wedding photos, some going on today.

Waiting now in Temple Square for the start of the choir practice.

So I have now seen the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, they sang so beautifully. So many people coming and going through, it was sometimes difficult to hear. The lower area was packed out, glad I started to queue when I did.

Had to leave at 21:00 hrs for the bus depot, doesn’t look like many people here for the L.A. run, maybe get a whole seat to myself. Surprise! The bus was an hour late going out.

24 June - Not a brilliant night, but not bad. Didn’t even bother getting out for the 30 minutes stop. Got to Las Vegas around 06:30 hrs, pretty warm, lots of people up working already to beat the heat. Glad I am not staying here, looks really trashy, not quite what I expected. Supposed to be cheap to stay though.

The scenery in the Nevada Desert is brilliant. Just sand and hills relatively untouched landscape. It oozes tranquillity. A little further along the road and more than once, we come across small complexes. Couple of hotels and gas station, they look like toy town palaces stuck in the middle of nowhere. All with casinos of course. Will reach L.A. around 14:30 hrs. A scenic journey, but too tired to take it all in, had a creep sitting next to me at one stage. I have never come across a company so rude and unhelpful, get the feeling I am not the only one. The information man lacked it and the customer services not there. Have visions of being here all night. Managed after a long wait to get a ticket to Long Beach, hopefully there is a bus to take me the rest of the way. Very bitty area. There are a lot of nice house settings amongst the hills, but the freeways and factories spoil it. Could barely see the mountains in the near distance due to smog, just covers an immense area, face masks out. I will work out tonight my next move and get tickets from Long Beach.

Took a long time, but finally managed to make it to the hostel, escorted by a bevy of local girls going my way. This is definitely a young person’s hostel, not me at all. Seems like they all get pissed or stoned every day, think I will hang out for one week only. Can’t stand the pace, showers are very open, no door, loos are nearly as bad with no curtains. Sharing with a couple of New Zealand girls, twins, have one week to spend with them, bad news. May check into another listed hostel after this.

25 June - Got up early so as to catch the shower, can’t imagine anyone else rising before 10:00 hrs. First move was the Greyhound station in Long Beach, buses were fairly swift so not much hanging around, had time for a lovely breakfast from Taco Line. The guy behind the counter was a bit vague, so only booked my tickets to San Diego and then to Flagstaff in a week and two respectively. Should kill some time before heading east, can go directly to Lake George. Will prepare better for the 3 night trip.

Once finished in Long Beach I came back here, managed to get the grocery shop done in between. Not much activity at the hostel, those around seemed dead, probably preparing for the night life. Only one person, so far, who seems human. Not sure if he is sure about this place either, he is just hanging around until he starts work as an au pair. The money is not going too badly, managing to cope. Going to Disneyland on Monday, early. Hit the beach tomorrow.

Walked down main street, felt very old and frumpy. Full of young healthy men and women in short shorts and bikini tops. This must be the only street in Huntington. Had an amazing ice cream, thickest chocolate covered in nuts, resisted the chocolate covered bananas with nuts all over it. The pier makes a nice refreshing walk in to the sea breeze. Did not look like much surf rising itself for the surfers. Gazing out on to the ocean blue and the golden beach you see the surf, boats, palm trees, bronzed bodies, oil rigs and smog, the horizon completely disappears, can imagine I am walking through it constantly. On the way back along the pier a guy went by with his pet python around his neck, such an outrageous place.

Dinner was a little hot, too much seasoning, have to get used to it though for India. Stephanie was telling me I should go up to the Hollywood area and look around, would be good to have someone to go with. The beaches are supposed to be good, but there is a lot of pollution around. Glad I didn’t go to Venice Beach, not such a good hostel or area, good advice there. Feel a lot more organised today. Will hang around tonight and see what is going down.

Current day thoughts

I finally made it to one of the places I promised myself I would go to when I was a child, Salt Lake City. I was first made aware of Salt Lake City through The Osmonds back in the 70s. Like most young girls I was a fan and learned as much as I could about them. My mum bought me The Osmonds magazine every month. They came from nearby Salt Lake City and were Mormons, so I was very excited to be there and take it all in. The family I stayed with on Vancouver Island, Canada, are Mormons and their son Christian was away, can’t remember where, on his mission to spread the word about his faith. Pretty much everything in the centre of Salt Lake City is Mormon related and I loved every second of everything I witnessed, however, despite always being happy to learn about other faiths, I have no intention of taking one up. I ditched the faith I was baptised into as a child by my parents and that is where I leave it.

The post office is where I sent my package back home containing my diaries. I waited ages in the queue, behind a man who had about a thousand letters to send. He stood at the counter putting things in envelopes. Nobody was impressed, but he became quite aggressive towards a man who complained, so we all let him get on with it.

The salt lake was magnificent as I mentioned. I suppose in order to get as many people to visit such an attraction there has to be something else to entertain, but does it always have to be so tacky. Saltair Resort just didn’t look right in such a beautiful setting.

Moving from Salt Lake City towards LA proved no exception in the form of Las Vegas. Surrounded by the desert, it is like a blot on the landscape. I only made it into the toilets at the Greyhound station and that was enough. What a disgusting place.

I misread the details of the Trek America trip, which was disappointing as it took in a lot of great places, which I can’t remember now. I quickly forgot about it and made new plans, which would still ensure I got to see a lot of places, even if for a brief moment passing through on the bus.

The Huntington Beach hostel was very much a laid back place but well run despite everything. I remember sitting on the loo for a pee and someone was sitting directly outside the window, thankfully with their back to me, hopefully not peeking. When you gotta go you gotta go, no time for shyness. It was nice to be amongst friendly people happy to accept you into the crowd. One thing I can say about hostels is that everyone has something to share. I felt very hip.

The town was very much like you would see in the movies, I was near to Hollywood after all, with the feeling of a rich kid’s paradise. More of the town to come next time……

It is interesting to go from the intenseness of a big city to the relaxed atmosphere of a small seaside town and see how different people can be.

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Week 23 – 26 June to 2 July

26 June - Will get some post cards tomorrow when I go to Disneyland. Yeah! I'm going to Disneyland.

A very hot, lazy day so not a great deal to report. Feeling a bit more comfortable around the guys hanging out here and the gals, some of them anyway. Had my back well plastered with lotion and hit the beach, pretty early so not crowded. Did a half hour each side and walked around for another. Fascinating watching the surfers, rather them than me, the water did not look healthy. Would love to drive up to Maxwell's down by the beach, they have valet parking. Some real old grannies turning up who think they still have it. Thousands of bronzed bodies down main street, I strolled by in cossie and shorts so felt well cool.

Nobody doing much at the hostel, just hanging. The whole area is such a wild place, the atmosphere is alive, hard to believe that just up the road is L.A. city.

Went out for another walk to check out the bus stop for tomorrow, too hot to sit and read so came back. Still hoards of people heading for the beach. The USA lost their game in the world cup, but they do get through to the next round, flook, big flook. Could have stayed on the beach for longer but didn't want to frazzle. Been reading a book about Michael Landon, only two days and nearly finished it. Do not like the format of the literature but it makes interesting reading, he really had a shit life.

Watched a movie tonight and that was Sunday. Did not know anybody's name in the crowd but felt good to be in the bunch. Nothing to do here but veg, unless you can travel out. Seem to be a lot of amusement parks about, and Hollywood, would like to visit there just to say I did it.

27 June - (writing this on the 28th) - Well, what can I say about the day, a dream come true. Was up at the crack of dawn to catch the 07:20 hrs bus. After a little disorientation I was on the monorail, day passport in hand, for the journey into Disneyland. Would loved to have been able to purchase a three day pass, could easily go back, so hope I win the 40th anniversary celebration invitation for next year. A complimentary guidebook enabled me to plan the day successfully. The drop off point was 'Tomorrowland' . Got straight into an already long queue to ' Space Mountain', had no idea what to expect. The heat was increasing. Launched into outer-space I was glad not to be able to see the inner construction of the ride. The interwoven track was amazing, zig zagging us through the stars at exhilarating speed. Quite a mind blowing start to the day. I still have some bottle left. The Autopia car drive was unexciting, driving around a circuit to nowhere. Decided a couple of attractions at each site would enable me to get around it all. Purchased a much needed sun visor, my hat was inappropriate. Took the sky ride through the Matterhorn Bob Sleigh ride into 'Fantasy Land', one of my favourite spots. Here you meet, Snow White, Pinnochio, Alice in Wonderland, Dumbo, all magical things. Flew with Dumbo and spun on the tea cups. Turrets and castles framed the area. At this point I was hungry and hot so dived into the pizza place for lunch. Glad for the many water fountains available around the park. Everything consumable was so expensive, but the Americans just shovel it in like there is no tomorrow. Will visit to Fantasy Land later on as well. Made it to Toon Town at 12:45 hrs according to the, 'It’s a Small, Small World', ornamental clock. Toon Town was probably my favourite place of all, so wacky. The Jolly Trolley wobbled along the streets flagged by the cartoon houses. A colourful, fun image town. Joined the Queue to the latest Disney attraction, Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin. Once inside these attractions and out of the heat, the queue is always so long as it was outside. A brilliant ride all the way from the queue to the end. You walk through a Roger Rabbit set with voice overs and eventually hop into a car. The car spins around the set, especially in spin street. A zany ride with excellent effects, I just laughed the whole time as things flashed before my eyes, right out of the exit hole, (a clever invention). The Disney characters were out in force in their home town, Goofey (being goofey), Pluto, Roger, Chip and Dale, Donald. So sweet to see some of the tiny tots reactions as they came face to face. The characters are all fun loving, hugs and kisses. Would hate to wear all of that in this heat. Minnie was not in so went next door to Mickey's house. Such a big place he has got, very tidy too. All objects are so animated it makes you feel like you are in a cartoon strip. He was out the back in his filming studio dressing room. A small group at a time are ushered in to meet him, so silly, you become partially dumbstruck at being in the presence of Mickey Mouse. You really have to believe that it is real and not make believe. The only way to have fun here is to join in with the rest of them, be a big kid. Hung around for a while for Minnie's arrival, I was in the queue by then. She greeted her guests in the front room, just time for a photo call, just for Amy. Things to play around with in this house, not as big as Mickey's. Walked past Daisy's Diner, Goofey's house, back through Fantasy to Frontier Land, Pioneer Days, ranches and rafting. Sailed around the Rivers of America on Mark Twain's paddle steamer, which takes you through various aspects of early American life and wildlife. Catch the bear scratching itself against a tree. The port overlooks New Orleans Square, a totally different world. Beautiful houses and unique stores and exclusive restaurants, my kind of place. The shade in this area is much needed. Would love to have had the cash to buy a decent souvenir, settled for my thimble and patch and my memories. Headed back to the Runaway Train, nearly lost my hat here. Such speed through the hills and caves. So many of these high speed coaster rides, you get tired of them after a while. 'Critter Land' next, hillbilly bears. They have the log ride here, but have decided I don’t like these anymore. Saw a theatre presentation of the bears that live here. Loved the talking trophy heads on the wall. Adventure land was not so interesting to me, bazaars and tree houses. Sadly the Indiana Jones ride is not open until next year. Had a snack and a rest, decided to hang around for the parade and fireworks. You forget how much that Disney has done, I would have been happy to stay with the better known characters all day; that is Disney to me. Bought my healthy chocolate bar supper and found a good spot for the parade eventually. But not before I have travelled through Pinnochio's world and rode through Toon Town on the Jolly Trolley. Did not want to risk having to queue for anything else. Had a prime spot for the parade, on the floor but at least I was in the front. At 21:00 hrs the extravaganza began, amazingly I was still alert after twelve hours. A half hour parade of glittering lights of character, plus Mickey and the gang too amongst them. Alice in Wonderland, Snow White, Pete's Dragon, the cutest little bugs. A magical display, you have to be there to get the atmosphere. Running out of time I wondered whether I would get to see the fireworks. Thankfully I saw most of them, to the tune of 'When you wish upon a star', behind the Sleeping Beauty castle. Camera film finished I made the dash to the monorail, still with the music all around me, quite dramatic. Made each bus just in time and got home earlier than expected, got in without hassle. Will never, ever forget the day. I spent the whole time with a smile on my face, laughing openly, loving every minute of the magical land. One of my best days to date. Please let the photos come out.

28 June - (Now to today) - Not much to do today, Had a lie in until 08:30 hrs. Sat outside and wrote the postcards, would love to see my brother's face when he gets it, should have phoned him yesterday. Wandered to the post office to get them off, the cards that is, and went to the pier to finish reading my book; Was not in the mood for sand everywhere. Whilst enjoying the sun a couple of girls came up with a questionnaire, so I invited them to question me. We started off with sport, soccer to be exact. How the conversation got on to religion I will never know, but this is what they were about. A crusading sect from Colorado, very cunning approach. Don’t know what it is about me, but I always attract these people. I am beginning to think that my trip has been a crusade of my own, to convert me into a born again Christian. They wanted me to sit and say a prayer with them to let god in to my life or rather Jesus. I declined and came away with a booklet instead. If I want religion I will do it in my own time not by pressurisation on the spot. Read some more and came back before I burned too much. I am finding that I tend to come out in a rash from the heat at the moment. Finished the book, very touching, very sad. Should have had lotion on today. Lazy evening, think a lot of people are going to an opening of some bar, can’t afford it though, after yesterday. They will only get rat arsed anyway. Should read the bible tonight.

29 June - One of my lets walk and get nowhere fast days. Decided on Newport, glad I took the bus, long walk otherwise in the heat. Sunburn is playing up. Got off at Fashion Island, an extravagant, quite exclusive shopping complex. The Hard Rock Café is in the area, somehow managed to miss it on the way back. Indulged in a slice of chocolate cake and fresh juice, a contrasting lunch. Wanted to find the beach so walked, the wrong way. After winding my way down through some very nice houses I happened upon Balboa Island, wasted more time than I intended. Still I did mean to go there. Mainly a marina on the north side, very pretty houses and holiday homes, reminds me of Devon or Cornwall. All of this stretch south of L.A. is resortish and flash, no poor people evident here. Took the ferry over to Balboa, again quite quaint little place. What greets you is a promenade of amusements and cruises, whilst the south side is all beach. Weather was overcast so able to have a pleasant half hour sitting and watching the world go by. Not a very eventful day but I felt happy and free, must be the sea air.

People seem to be having their navels pierced around the hostel, would annoy me no end. Another T.V. night no doubt. Apparently there was a demonstration of dog owners on the beach yesterday, complaining that they are banned from walking their dogs on the beach. So they all did their business, sad people, what do they expect. How would they like it if I went and crapped on their front lawns. What I would do is designate a patch of beach and let them run wild with the dogs and not bother to have the sand cleaned at all, the crap would pile sky high and the owners would soon understand. San Diego looks nice.

30 June - What was the point of today. I walked north on main to see what was abound. Came across a small shopping centre, not a nice place, so had a doughnut and brought a Muffin for tomorrow’s breakfast and came back. Really would have loved to have seen Hollywood, but too risky on the buses. Still overcast first thing. Went back to the hostel, mooched around and went out again. This time purchased a book, a classic, 'Emma', by Jane Austin. Sat on the pier reading until the sun came out, my shoulders are still too painful to sit out.

Very weary from the heat, so took a half hour rest. Our room looks empty now that Stephanie is gone. Read some more, sorted my gear for tomorrow, ate tea and packed my bags. The book is so written that it is fairly hard to take it all in. Will be glad to get going tomorrow, so boring here unless you surf or are able to sit in the sun. Martina is in to the final, surprise, surprise. Put away my other book this morning, my passion is not so great. I was thinking today that Kevin will be mad at me for going to India, but I fear that he will never have the courage to go away for any length of time to dash around a country, let alone afford to. I want this for myself, selfish maybe, but I have the energy to do it now, I may be too busy with my career in the future. Now is most important to me at present, hmmm. Think about that one.

1 July - Left Huntington without incident. Somebody puked last night down our landing to the bog, wonderful stench to greet me. Linda, if it was her in the bunk below, kept me awake with her constant snoring, I really get mad when I want to sleep and can’t. Buses got me to the Greyhound Station early so had to stick around, no comforts there to depend upon. Journey was uneventful. Some nice hilly areas coming in to San Diego, gets much more Mexican like the further down you go.

San Diego itself looks ok, nothing special in the bus depot area. Walked the wrong way so had double the journey necessary. I was almost up to the door of the hostel when this guy jumped me. I imagined he was touting for business for the Y.M.C.A., not knowing at that time the hostel was in the same building. However, turns out he was on the bus from L.A. but did not talk to me because I looked tired. Do I look tired? He was just gushing and gushing, planning my next few hours and being a total jerk. I kept walking, think he got the message, some people like to catch you unawares. Forgot to do the Flagstaff ticket.

First thing I did was to get all of my washing out of the way. The laundry is part of the complex of the building and fairly cheap. The lobby here is very nice, reception desks for the Y.M.C.A. and hostel, barbers shop, café. Hostel is ok, mattresses a different story, at least we have our own showers and loo. A key operates the elevator to our floor, very security conscious. The Y.M.C.A. looks very military, however, we are well situated. I am tired tonight so may be an early night. 'Emma' is coming along nicely. Only problem in the kitchen, no hobs, microwave is the best they could come up with.

2 July - Had a wonderful time at the Greyhound Station this morning, the ticket queue was already out of the door when I got there so resisted taking my purse out of my bag until I was inside. Don’t know why, there is just as much chance of crime inside as out. Once inside the entertainment began. One coloured guy grabbed another, from behind, around the neck, in what seemed to be a playful banter. However, the victim was soon knocked to the ground and the attacker was joined by another, whence they proceeded to kick the shit out of the victim. The crowd remained calm, apart from a stupid Mexican in front of me, after all the fight had nothing to do with us. A security guard turned up minutes later to break the brawl and that was it, exciting stuff. Tempers were now beginning to rise is the queue, there only appeared to be one window open, very Greyhound America. Eventually got to the window, my ticket, I thought, was not as urgent as some but I refused to get out of line. Looks like 20 days advance was not enough. Right up until 27/7 the buses from Flagstaff, east, are booked solid on the cheap deals. No way was I paying another $179 to go back. So I have a wonderful 2½ weeks to kill in Flagstaff. Think I will take advantage of the work for my board deal.

Stopped off at the hostel and headed for the water’s edge. Strolled pass the 'Star of India' tall ship, now a museum, the harbour cruise booths and ended up on the boardwalk. This is a very naval based area. Stopped off for a snack, not necessary really, and stumbled into Sea port Village. Glad I did, such a nice place, full of atmosphere with live music. Reminded me of Disneyland, so quaint with exclusive shops and eateries. Quite a Covent Garden with the street entertainers. On the way down to the Enbarcadero Marina Park I was distracted by a guy getting a crowd together for this magic show. Craig Stone was his name and he was such a funny guy, even before his show started. Quick witted and very visual, eat your heart out Paul Daniels, this guy deserves the big time. There was yet more to the village, so after visiting some rather sad toilets I wandered around the rest and sat to read for a while. The hostel does not appear to be doing anything for 4th July, so really stuck now, not bothered about the daytime, just the evening. A bit better evening than last. Have learned that it doesn’t take much to spark tempers around this city, have heard a lot of mouthing off today. Martina did not win Wimbledon, but I guess she must have gone out on a high. I feel on a high at the moment despite my travel problems, the sun does us all good.


Current day thoughts

So I felt frumpy in the town of Huntington Beach but hip in the hostel. It was like two worlds colliding. I clearly remedied that by wearing my swimming costume into the town so as not to stick out like a sore thumb. I’m sure nobody noticed me anyway. With the exception of Disney I had little choice but to chill most of the time. My brain was very active which can make chilling difficult because you just want to be out doing something and not just sitting around. The sunny weather got me out and about, but there is only so much sun a person can take. My skin was tanning (burning) and my hair was bleached out by the sun. I was glad to have caught the reading bug, I never did so much reading in my life. I am not really much of a shopper, I buy if I need and that is that, not really a materialistic person, but it was nice to look around, and there was so much to look around, and see what could be if I were wealthy. Note: The wealth of a person in not measured by how much money they have.

Disneyland – can’t really say much more than I did already. Loved it, loved it, loved it. A tick off the bucket list.

I didn’t appear to be eating a very healthy diet - doughnuts and muffins for breakfast! Was I becoming too American and letting my standards drop? Whatever, I still had pulling power, even if some of the guys were not up to my standard. Perhaps all that sugar was making me look tired.

I got to witness my first every fist fight, and in the wonderful setting of a Greyhound bus station too. I remember the poor victim already had some kind of bandage on, so was obviously a glutton for punishment. I also still hear the Mexican woman shouting her mouth off at them for fighting. The rest of us just watched and did nothing, perhaps out of fear. I’m not sure what I could have done anyway, except for run away and I wasn’t about to lose my place in the line.

San Diego was starting to look like a better place than the Greyhound station might have suggested. You just can’t say Y.M.C.A without singing it, can you, and with actions too.

Craig Stone still seems to be going strong and good for him.

I was living in the present, which is a good thing, but I still look to things in the future, always have a goal to aim for, something to live for. It is not selfish to want to experience life, we are here for such a short time and should squeeze as much out as we can. Take advantage of opportunities that come your way.

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Week 24: 3 July to 9 July

3 July - Got the hair up out of the way, did not realise how long it has gotten.

Managed to get to Balboa Park, via Jack In The Box, after I had watched Pete Sampras win Wimbledon, easily. Not quite how I expected the park to be. Museums adorn the south west corner, not the type to lure me, aviation and motor. It is not a park with grassy areas, but more of pathways to wander and buildings to happen upon. Found the Spreckels Organ, a quintet were playing a spot there, not such a good place in the heat, all open unless you can get to sit around the edge. Will come back later when the organ recital is on. The house of hospitality provided shady cloisters to walk, alongside a courtyard. From my map looks like a fair bit of the park I missed. Not really in the mood for going into museums, prefer the visual/outdoor side to touristing at the moment. Down the pedestrian mall, past street acts and, I noticed, palm readings and tarots, very tempting. Lots of palm trees and botanicals to make a tropical atmosphere and a photogenic one. Just across the road, over a bridge were the formal (and only noticeable) gardens. Beautiful roses at one end and a cactus desert at the other.

I had so many things I wanted to do in a short space of time, but I gave in and went to the tarot lady, haggled her down to $5, she fancied her talents to be worth more. She was very accurate; or rather I was in card selection. I was predicted as new job, new move, home building, marriage soon, good health. (the most encouraging part though did not push it), she said to go ahead with a check-up. Food for thought - no meat, bump up on vitamins and B's. There is also a back stabber in the midst, not sure who, could be back home, but it is they who will have the last laugh. My knight is helping me to proceed, for us both I think. Good omens good decision.

The zoo was on a cheapy $6 from 3 to 11pm. Got me a big drink and went to the Spreckels Organ. Not forgetting the Spanish village art centre and cool jazz band. Had to dive in to the shade for the final ½ hour. A few jolly tunes that’s all, nothing special. Couldn’t bring myself to stand for the Star Spangled Banner, no reason to.

Walked back, not so far. The scroungers about town these days have a new technique in their objective to obtain money. They try to strike up conversation and get you to like them, to make you feel good about giving cash, however, I nipped him in the bud and he walked on. I have to spend my money on replacement milk. My dorm mate was cream cheeseless also this morning.

It is Tom Cruise's birthday today, celebrated by Tom Cruise movies on T.V. You just have to see these adverts, so funny, especially the one on plastic. Struck me that I haven’t been writing anything too deep and meaningful of late, must get back into that instead of just plain facts.

4 July - Just like a bank holiday at home, except there will be fireworks tonight. Had a later start than anticipated, due to our strange Australian psychologist messing around, as usual. She gave me a book to read, Byron, Shelley and a host of other poets, should read more poetry but preferring straight literature at the moment.

Wore a short sleeved blouse, big mistake, and headed for Sea Port Village. Got bored very quickly as nothing going on until afternoon, so, decided to stroll along to the Old Town part of San Diego. Surprise, surprise, I took the wrong road and ended up walking miles along the harbour-side, past the airport to Harbour Island. All I wanted to do was find a café to have a drink but all there seemed to be were hotels, posh restaurants and nothing else. Eventually came to a dead end, this isn’t how it was supposed to be today. I was going to sit and listen to music and read my book. Took another road, which I thought would go back in to town, fortunately there was a café along here, however, another dead end. So had to walk all the way back again, a waste of time and my arms were burned up again, I am so stupid at times. T shirts from now on until I am certain it has cleared up, who cares about a tan, I think I will try to preserve my good complexion instead. Tired from walking I still continued back to the village, but got bored again, besides my arms were hurting. They have a left handed shop here, which basically takes the piss out of us, I hate people who are ignorant of a good thing. It also annoys me that people make such a big deal of it all, what the hell would right handed people know about it.

Came back to nurse my wounds, the sun burn that is, and change before going out tonight. Was very chilly tonight, may have had something to do with my sunburn. Got some French fries and took a place along the water’s edge, pretty big crowd about. As coincidence would have it a girl, Lorraine, from the hostel was alongside me so had a conversationalist whilst waiting. She is very intelligent on political issues, bit of an activist if you ask me. The fireworks were ok, nothing spectacular, source of a major disappointment of the whole day for me. I imagined everywhere in America to be all street parades, flags and ticker tape. They do have that in some places, but San Diego not. I was really looking forward to today as well. There were a second lot of explosions, which were better, but by then had moved from the water’s edge so missed some of them. We went to the Upstart Crow for a coffee, at least I had one. Makes a change to have somebody intelligent to talk to, even if I cannot return it in the same capacity. We are going down to Mexico on Wednesday, so should be good fun. Not so sleepy tonight, not sure of what to do tomorrow, must write to Kevin.

5 July - Not much of a day. Got some cream for my sunburn, has come out in blisters today. Ouch! Spent most part of the morning wandering the Horton Plaza mall, quite nicely planned out. Had a mega lunch, cheap too and wrote to Kevin to let him know what was going on. Trying desperately to keep out of the sun, hope I do not get paranoid about it. Could have taken in a movie, maybe later in the week, so many to choose from. The day was young so I opened my map and thought I would go to the Old Town, walking, naturally. Got to a point on the map and was totally confused, can’t be that far away. Stopped off at a garage and was told it was another five miles away, so shelved the idea until another day.

Came back to the hostel and stayed here, had the tiny tots jumping all over me, not good for the arms, so bailed out quick. Lots of us gathered for a movie downstairs, The fugitive, so took up most of the evening. Full dorm today, hope our sleepless friend stays put, she is a real pain, feel sorry for Zoe. Not sure about tomorrow, a little apprehensive, am sure we will be Ok. No deep thoughts.

6 July - A mega, more interesting day. Caught the trolley down to Mexico with Lorraine. Weather cool and not too many people around. Had no hassle getting in to Mexico, nobody there to check us in. Have no idea why the city of Tijuana is the most visited in the world, it is hardly an-interesting place to see, just shops and restaurants and men trying to get you in to their taxis and street vendors showing their wares up your nose. Walked the length of the main shopping street, stopping to do the window shopping. Found a bar for a drink, Lorraine was on the Margaritas, whilst I stuck to juice. She paid as well, said it was her treat for me going with he. I was coming down anyway. Discovered she is 42 years old, has 2 kids, one 20 years old, one 14 years old, I thought she was only in her 20's herself, well shocked. We went for a little walk to the tourist centre and got a better map, even if it was in Spanish. Across the road was about the only attraction in Tijuana, no parks or anything, a wax museum, few statues and sports arenas. The cultural centre held some interesting pictures and artefacts which take you through the history leading to Mexican independence. After that we were hungry so wandered back to the Hard Rock Café, my first, Lorraine's many timeth. Had burger and fries and to my embarrassment, was Lorraine's treat again, she has some money to burn. A guy there told us of a place to see not far away, called the Mexitlan, so off we went. Not sure of what to expect we went in and up to the roof, looks more like an entertainment centre. However, it was like a model village, only the exhibits were of significant buildings in various parts of Mexico. Some beautiful architecture too of Aztec right through to modern day. Makes you want to take off and see the country. My favourite was of the World Cup Soccer Stadium, brilliant stuff. We spent nearly two hours walking around, it was very interesting. Time to go after that, walking back across to the border was a different case this time, the beggars were out in force, tiny kids with plastic cups expecting money from the rich tourists. I gave once, it was all I could afford. However, Lorraine came armed with change, she gave to almost everyone, very generous lady, very wised up on things. The only problem with giving in to them is that they grow up with the impression that they have to beg for things and does not encourage improvement in their lives. The parents exploit their children so much they can have no hope for their future. Very sad.

Moved in to Lorraine's room tonight, will be able to get some sleep and not suffer interruptions throughout the night from the psychologist.

7 July - Got going by midday, just. We went to La Jolla on the bus. Doubt I shall spend any more time than today in Lorraine's company. She is a nice lady but our attitudes clash sometimes, so not sure that we could get on long term, maybe moving in was a mistake. La Jolla is a very exclusive beach resort, but the beaches are more secluded and the water clear as crystal, lots of snorkelling going on. The pelicans are strange here, if in fact they are pelicans, they are brownish in colour with much smaller heads and bills. Some seals basking on the rocks, quite a change of scenery. We looked around some very nice shops and Lorraine spent a lot of money, mainly on other people. We ate lunch in the Hard Rock Café again, not so good as the food yesterday, but had desert today. Was very tired by the end of the afternoon so glad to get on the bus home. Will just slouch as usual tonight. My shoulders are improving, the blistering has dried up and looks good underneath.

8 July - Got my act together early this morning. Decided on the zoo, but wanted to wait until 17:00 hrs to get in on the cheap rate. However, took the bus to Balboa Park by noon, so had a few hours to kill. The weather was not so hot and it was fairly overcast making it pleasant. I read a few chapters of my book in various parts of the park, looked at buildings I had not seen previously and ate lunch very slowly so as to kill time. Surprisingly it went quickly and in no time I was at the Zoo.

I guess the zoo is well laid out and, in some cases, they have done good things with the endangered species, but I could not help but look at the sad faces of the animals and birds and feel sorry for them. Nothing to do except loll about all day, in confined space. They all looked tired and drawn and meaningless. The brown bear did a brain washed dance, up and down his pen, the polar bear must surely be too hot. The only ones who it does not matter so much to are the koalas, they do nothing anyway. The older ones of each species had that captivated look about them, whereas the babies brought happiness, they know no different, if only they could be freed. They would not survive on their own because they do not know how to feed themselves. There are some animals that you like to see up close because you will probably never see them in the wild, but you cannot get the true benefit from seeing them caged up like this. It is not how the animals really are; their behaviour is adapted and not natural. I did not spend long looking at each animal. I could not, it was too depressing. Do not know why I went, I do not like zoos anymore, I find them uninteresting. It is said that the zoo is world famous, I had not heard of it before, perhaps the treatment and research on animals is one of the reasons. Spent nearly three hours walking around, that was enough for me, did not see it all. Wanted to get back before dark. Must phone the motel tomorrow, will want to pack in the morning. Long live wild life, in the wild.

9 July - My last day in San Diego, left my luggage in the room so no hassles there. One of my main objectives today was to get my thimble. Had a rummage through those at the Holiday Inn, again, but they were not very good quality. Glad I did leave them because I found a nice one in the nautical gift shop at Seaport Village. This is where I spent most of the day, not such a warm one as it has been of late. I packed my lunch, prepared over breakfast in the kitchen, hounded by a much nauseating English lady, who likes travelling Greyhound. Was glad when she finally adopted our Australian friend, you could sense his despair, most amusing. My arms are peeling quite rapidly now, however, still very sore.

Lots of side shows on at the village, the most charming being at the bandstand. Whilst the jazz tones of Sweet Georgia Brown filled the air, a group of tasselled Charleston ladies danced along. An elderly group, however, charmingly elegant in their attire, with parasols. I felt it necessary to treat myself to ice cream after that.

Hanging around for 22:00 hrs was a bit of a chore, especially as Lorraine went out at 17:00 hrs for a couple of hours. Brazil v Holland was on, in Spanish. Brazil won. This followed by endless mind boggling drivel was my entertainment. Finally at 20:30 hrs I walked to the station and the bus was ½ hour off schedule, it broke down, so we off loaded to another. I had to make sure that I beat my horrible co passenger, Tom, to the window seat, I hope he has a really bad night.

There is something about the sea that draws. You can sit and ponder, or do just about anything whilst by the water’s edge and feel the tranquillity. Nobody wonders about you when looking out to sea, it is one of those acceptable pastimes.

Current day thoughts

I know I said that there would be photos soon, but my plan went a bit pear shaped. No scanners available to do the job. Soon though, promise.

Jack In The Box is a fast food chain. I really can’t have had a care in the world.

I do like to have my cards or my palm read every so often just to make sure everything is tickety-boo. She was good value at $5.

I do enjoy a good advert, sometimes more than the programmes, although these days I find the advertisers can spoil a song forever. It is a good advertising ploy. Have you ever listened to a popular song on the radio but find you can no longer concentrate on the song because it has appeared in an advert and you now only think about the product being advertised.

I had great expectations for the 4th July, which never came to fruition, very low key to what I imagined. I did however get to meet a nice fellow hosteller, and got to stay in a better room for no extra cost. It was great to have someone to visit places with.

I cannot begin to tell you how bad the sunburn was on my shoulders, blisters coming out on top of blisters bad, probably second degree. I went to the pharmacy and asked the chap for something for my sunburn and couldn’t quite believe it when he saw how bad it was. He sold me a cooling gel that had an anaesthetic element to it to help with the pain. Great stuff that I have never seen since. I had to dress my burns every day and whilst it was a painful experience I just got on with things and they did heal well. I have to say though that nowadays these are the spots that always gets burned up the quickest and I have never learned my lesson in this respect. I need to keep telling myself that it just isn’t worth it for a tan.

I am left handed and if anyone has a problem with that, tough.

It was nice on the occasions when everyone in the hostels got together to do something, even if only to watch a movie, it created a bond and a belonging.

I went to Mexico, just for the day, which is a bit sad because I really would like to see more of Mexico, and it was so easy to get across the border. I understand it is less easy going from Mexico back into the USA, but I never experienced any of it. An American tourist obviously doesn’t attract as much attention as a desperate Mexican trying to get into the USA. It was fun but I can’t say I felt like I was in Mexico, perhaps because Tijuana is so close to the border it has built up quickly and looks like an ordinary town. I don’t know how it should feel to be in Mexico. I watch too many movies and have a romantic image of how I want it to be.

A different type of poverty experienced here, so easy for me to judge and I shouldn’t, because I don’t know what it is like to be in their shoes or what is going on in their country. I tend to hold back a bit with regards to overseas charity giving because of this.

I don’t remember La Jolla at all; I think my memories intermingle with those in Tijuana so I haven’t got the full picture.

I appreciate that the larger zoos do a lot in terms of conservation work and sometimes are able to release animals born in captivity back to the wild, but I am still not a fan.

So that was San Diego, quite a jolly city with plenty of entertainment. I appeared to have lost my map reading skills in San Diego right from the start. I did at least strengthen my legs from all the walking.

Tom was a creepy man who wanted to sit by the window on the bus. I was by the window and I wasn’t moving. I met a lot of weird people on the Greyhound buses.

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In the lap of the gods

Let's talk......Posted by Carol Chalk Fri, September 02, 2016 22:08:05

Wednesday 31st August 2016, a day of luck and misfortune.

I had the week off work and decided to head down country to give my second home a spring clean, having recently evicted my tenants. I rose early in the morning ready to leave by 8.30ish and head to the coach station, which would be my mode of transport for the main of my journey. Coach due to leave at 10.00am. At 8.45am my beloved drove me to the bus stop where I would be able to catch the one bus needed to get me to the coach station. Heading into town at any time of day is a bit of a nightmare, but at that time of the morning more so, even with the main of the rush hour behind me. (Should have left at 8.30am). Three buses went by, any of which I could have caught had I not been on an economy drive by only wanting to pay the one bus fare, before my bus arrived. I boarded the bus just after 9.00am and prayed. Progress was slow but steady and my confidence in reaching the coach station on time intact. By 9.30am we hadn't yet passed familiar landmarks that would indicate we were close, so my patience was beginning to thin. There was a point when the traffic came to a stand-still and I found myself getting up and moving towards the front of the bus to see what the hold-up was. I saw nothing but more traffic and started to think of a contingency plan just in case. The nearest rail or tube network was ahead of me so running as fast as I could with a suitcase was all I could come up with. I sat back down prayed some more and prepared myself for missing the coach. However, slowly but surely we progressed. I cursed every time a request to stop was made and cheered at every stop we passed by. At 9.50am we reached touchdown. I readied myself for the mad dash across the rail station to the coach station. After skilfully dodging people whilst running and huffing and puffing with my suitcase, I made it to the coach station with a minute to spare. I realised I would have no time to collect my ticket as planned so whilst on the bus I opened my email ticket confirmation and hoped the driver would accept it. (Why did I think he wouldn't in this day and age). To my horror I could not see the coach in its usual place or a notice advertising it, (note to self: always have spectacles to hand), so panicked. I walked further along the line of coaches to no avail. I was about to ask a nice young forecourt attendant if my coach had already left when as if by magic it rolled into line. He was however able to confirm my e-ticket confirmation as a suitable boarding pass. Hooray for the coach running late and hooray for modern technology. Heart rate returned to normal I sat back to enjoy the journey. And this was just the beginning of my day.

Deposited safely from the coach in timely fashion I headed to find the stop where I would catch a bus to my final destination. Not totally au fait of the bus timetable I was delighted to see said bus waiting at the stop. I bounded towards it and asked the driver what time he was leaving. 'In one minute', he said. Having told him I needed to get some cash from the nearby cashpoint, unless he took contactless, (they do where I live), he told me he would wait for one minute and then go if I was not back by then. Further bounding to the cashpoint and back again I made it onto the bus. (Note to self: not as fit as you think you are, try harder). The gods were with me thus far.

I walked leisurely towards my flat, time in hand, and all was well with the world. It wasn't long before the gods turned. I put the key into the front door lock but unfortunately it would not turn. I tried the two other identical keys on the fob with the same result. Had the lock been changed without my knowledge? Sadly not, I came with the wrong set of keys, if in fact I have a key at all. My trip was being done on the quiet, no family who live nearby aware of my intended visit. This now was unavoidable. I contacted my niece first since she was the last tenant and I knew she had a key, plus her new home was close by. Unfortunately she was out to lunch, in the town where I had caught the bus out. She wasn't due back for a while and was intending to drop in on her grandparents (my parents) on the way back, and suggested I contact them. I did just this and, after apologising for bothering them and explaining the situation, my dad (and part-time caretaker) came to the rescue with a key to let me in. By this time it was raining. An offer of a lift was made to the shops to buy provisions, which was gratefully accepted. With the rain and drop in temperature a jacket was required, which was in my suitcase. Now, when I put the padlock on that morning the combination was the same as it has been for the last couple of years. Somehow, between homes, this had mysteriously changed and the padlock remained just so. Out into the cold we went, first stop to buy tools to break the padlock. A selection of saws and a pair of cutters were selected, which would subsequently boost my dad's already over-flowing tool box. Next stop the supermarket. I took my provisions to the cash desk, paid for them and walked towards the exit, closing my purse as I went. On trying to put my purse away I realised I had left my handbag at the checkout. Not too sure where my head had been all day, not secured tight enough that's for sure. The padlock was successfully sawed through and my dad returned to his home. The rest of the day unfolded uneventfully and I retired to bed.

I have to just mention this one thing the following day. Thursday was a good day, busy and going to plan, until that is I started to prepare my evening meal which included a tin of soup and bread rolls. Not complicated I hear you cry, except I purchased a can of soup that required a can opener, which I did not have. Could have persevered with a pair of scissors or a screwdriver, but figured that could all end in bloodshed, so mad dash to the nearest shop to buy a can opener. Have to admit I was tempted to get a takeaway, but resisted and enjoyed my soup eventually.

Seems the gods like to keep a balance between good and bad.







The Talko

Let's talk......Posted by Carol Chalk Mon, June 20, 2016 21:59:20
Very excited today to have made my first contribution to the online magazine 'The Talko'. A little light entertainment to help build my portfolio. Hope you enjoy.


http://www.thetalko.com/15-times-you-have-a-right-to-be-jealous/

Hopefully the first of more to come.

smiley







When the claxon goes

Let's talk......Posted by Carol Chalk Wed, February 17, 2016 15:04:49

We are well into February already, and good riddance to January. January was truly one of the saddest I have known in terms of those the entertainment world has lost. It hits home just how short life can be, which is why I never understand why some people fear retirement. I appreciate that some careers can go on far beyond that, but for the common or garden nine to fiver it baffles me. Once I looked forward to retireing at 60, so when the claxon goes to mark my state pension age, now 67, I'll be off in a shot. For me retirement marks the beginning of my life not the end.

For a past generation, the retirement age, 60 for women, 65 for men, when state pension could be drawn, was something people worked towards, something employers worked by. It was put into place for a reason, aside from giving us a rest to enjoy what time we have left, it made way for the younger generation so they could have jobs and enjoy a regular life too. As it is the current state of affairs is not promising. The Government has staggered the state pension age, and discrimination against age makes it difficult for employers to enforce retirement. To counterbalance this, youths now have to stay on in education or training for longer. Now I am not against education, it is a good thing, but overall the situation must have a negative knock on effect. You can rob Peter to pay Paul, but Peter still needs to be paid. There are swings and roundabouts and catch 22s all at the same time.

Most of us will factor in our state pensions when calculating the right time to retire and for many there will never be a right time financially. But how many older people look down on youths who roam the streets or sit on their backsides enjoying the wealth of benefits because they don't have jobs. My guess is that some of those people are the ones who refuse to retire unless pushed. It could be said that staying on in employment after state pension age provides the opportunity to defer state pension, thus boosting the Government's coffers for longer, but to whose benefit.

Is there a solution? There is, but without dragging to the depths of other political and social issues (living wage, immigration, benefits etc), I cannot conclude here. However, there are ways that we as individuals can contribute to our own wellbeing towards and in retirement and perhaps quash the fear and thus help restore the balance in society

There is no shame in being old. If you worry about not being in control anymore then that is down to your own insecurity. If you feel you have nothing left to live for it is your own fault for not filling your life with anything other than work. You are not on the scrap heap. Look at retirement as a new chapter in life, you have earned it. Stop for a moment and look around, you might just see there is more to offer than you thought. The key is in planning. Always look to the future, don't dwell on the past, it is gone.

Save some money, if for nothing else, to pay your own funeral expenses when the time comes (and it will). Downzise your accommodation or release the equity. Economise. Keep busy. Pursue further those hobbies and interests or find some more - make a list of what those are. Make use of your freedom bus pass and go places. Finish those projects around the house, visit friends, make new ones, tidy up that paperwork and loose ends in your life. De-clutter. So many things to concentrate on. Look forward to having a lie in every day, in being able to forget that it is Monday tomorrow, in being able to decide what you want to do today.

Employers can do their bit too by rethinking staff deployment in creating mentoring positions for any employee who has reached state pension age, ready to train up new employees in the form of an apprenticeship.

And here is one for the Government - Once upon a time every young man had to do national service. How about a retirement national service coming into play, where a person who reaches state pension age has to serve 2 years working in a nursing/retirement home (those well enough to). I hope it would make some realise just how lucky they are and then decide to make the most of what time they have left.

Finally, if you absolutely have to work then volunteer. There are plenty of worthwhile and rewarding volunteering jobs out there. So go to it.

Catch me in 15 years to see if I need to eat my words.





Happy New Year

Let's talk......Posted by Carol Chalk Fri, January 01, 2016 12:21:53
The other Queen's new year speech....

Two of my colleagues (one late 20s the other 50+) were discussing the kettle in the staff room about how much scale had built up. The younger of the two said it must be time to get another kettle, whilst the other suggested descaling. It made me wonder if this is the way the next generation thinks; If it isn't perfect ditch it and start again. Please tell me I am wrong. I may not be the modern day MacGyver or indeed Mrs Beaton but I did pay attention as I was growing up and learnt a lot of life skills and tips in the process. When I make a major purchase I like to buy something that will last. It may be that you have to put some effort into maintenance in order to keep it going, but throwing things away just because it is easier doesn't make sense. Now, my life is far from being perfect. The phrase 'do as I say, not what I do' seems quite appropriate, when I think of all the things I've thrown away.

What I really want to say is, not everything in life comes with jam on it. We live in a world of great expectations. If you want perfection don't just expect it to happen -work at it and you will find your equilibrium. I wish you all a happy and balanced new year. X

Sweets for my sweets

Let's talk......Posted by Carol Chalk Mon, November 09, 2015 22:47:04

It has been four months since I purchased a regular chocolate bar or packet of sweets. This is nothing short of a miracle and a record in my adult life. I haven't cheated by eating other people's sweets either. And do you know what, I don't crave or miss them. 100% chocolate is tempting, but too expensive to buy on a regular basis for the amount you get. With recent publicity about the amount of hidden sugar in our food I felt it was time to start reducing my intake. If I had the time to dedicate to food preparation it wouldn't be so difficult to eliminate refined sugar at all. Of course I still consume other naturally found sugars such as those found in milk, fruit and honey, which, according to my estimation, provides me with a daily intake that still exceeds the recommended daily intake of sugars, so it's a bit of a mine field. In cutting out too much food containing sugar, one runs the risk of missing out on other essential nutrients needed for the body, and sugar isn't all bad for you.

I recently had a birthday. During the week that followed I comsumed more cake than I would normally eat combined from the remaining 51 weeks of the year. It has become something of a tradition at my work place to eat cake when someone has a birthday. I could say no thank you, but feel that would be rude since someone has gone to the effort of providing it. The same dilemma occurs on visiting people in their home or eating out. Is it too rude to ask your host or the chef how much sugar has been used in the cooking? What does that say about me to other people, too picky, too awkward? I don't want other people to go to any trouble just for me. It brings to mind the phrase, 'a little of what you fancy does you good'. (Note to self: Not everything in cake is bad for you).

So, what about the alternatives? I admit to going over the top at bit at the beginning and found myself going out of my way to replace the chocolate. I’ve calmed down now. I purchased a book on going sugar free, and trawled the internet for sugar free recipes. There are a lot of good things out there, and not just the naughty treats. Fresh fruits blitzed with yoghurt and frozen into ice lollies are great. Look out for fruit loops and fruit and nut bars that contain no added sugar, found in all good supermarkets and health food stores (more fruit I'm afraid). Eat nuts for desert, and fruit of course. Change to unleavened bread which does not contain sugar. (I recently bought a bread maker, so will be experimenting with non-sugar recipe loaves of bread). Eat foods that leave you feeling fuller for longer to lessen your craving for those snacking foods we reach for. Look at the ingredients before buying a product. It's not all bad, some foods you think might have added sugar in don't. Stop buying those ready-made pasta sauces and make your own, even down to making your own baked beans. All of you die-hard cooks out there may be laughing and saying, 'I already make my own sauces, what's the big deal'. Well, it's just not that easy for everyone. And if you truly do treat your body like a temple, then I’m proud of you. Discipline and dedication are key.

For me at least I think this much is true, everything in moderation. I don't have an especially sweet tooth but cannot eliminate refined sugar completely from my diet, at least for now.

Remember, If you must snack, snack responsibly.









A fresh start

Let's talk......Posted by Carol Chalk Mon, November 02, 2015 22:20:22

You know when you walk into a room and you forgot why you went in there? That's what happened to me when i finally sat down to write my blog. For months I have stored an array of topics in my mind to write about, but no, just as I am ready to off-load I suddenly develop writers block. So I thought I would talk to you about my first day back to work after annual leave. Only a week, 6 days to be precise, a 10 day break if you count the weekends. Not long, but enough to relax and start afresh. The broom stick is away and the cobwebs gone.

I saw a penny on the ground at the bus stop this morning so I picked it up, and you know what they say about that. A good omen for the day. The buses, I catch two, run the gauntet of road works efficiently and deposit me successfully at my destination and, after popping into Sainsbury's to purchase necessary provisions to see me through the day, I arrive at my work place with time to spare. Not wanting to give free time to my employer, and determined to put into practice my new work resolutions, work to rule, life/work balance, that sort of thing, I walked up the four flights of stairs to the office to waste some time, made good by reminding myself that exercise is beneficial.

It was a good start to the day, Christmas meal menu choices sorted, no problems reported and everyone in good spirit. In fact it was a rather disappointing morning to be truthful. Of course there is a backlog of work to catch up on, but I could detect no skullduggery having gone on in my absence. One expects to be missed a little and to discover the usual foray of activity has taken place. What oh then. So, it seems to be a relaxing day to look forward to. My lady is away and we are entertained by the radio and the dulcet tones of a fog horn. After deleting most of my emails, one in particular comes to mind asking us to submit votes for our line manager for the annual staff awards - the cheek of it, and setting the order for the day, I set about my tasks. Before long lunch-time arrives.

I have vowed never to work through lunch again, so remove myself from the office to a much less savoury room to enjoy my lunch, which is a mix of whatever we had left in the fridge at home since I never went grocery shopping at the weekend. Our staff, come meeting, room is grubby, smells nasty and has no windows but it is quiet, deserted and provides a place to put ones feet up for half an hour and ease oneself of a little (a lot) flatus.

I inform my supervisor that my afternoon will be spent envelope stuffing. Best not to overload myself too early in the week with achieving targets. The fruits of my labour were enough to prove my not having been idle all day. A diary date comes through informing me of our monthly meeting coming up next week and can we think of some new things to discuss as we keep going round in circles with our agendas. I think that pretty much sums it up .

Tools were downed ready for departure on time at 4pm. I decided to risk our nearest exit lift and hold my breath, hoping not to plummet to the ground, as it decends the four levels. Safely exited in the light of day, I gaily skip to the bus for the journey home.

As a means of passing the time on the first of the evening's three buses, since I was standing, I did some buttock clenching between stops, keeping the exercise regime going. Bus number three delivers me safely home. It is dark now and foggy, the same as when I first set out this morning, but all in all it has been a good first day back. A fresh start.