Archive for Jan, 2018

A retrospective series of a trip to the UK in 1975, recreated from travel journal, letters to friends, and photos.  The photos were slides that I finally had scanned in 2009.  Place names from my journals and slide captions might be wrong.

From a tourist brochure of the time:

In the interest of full travel journal exposure, I am including this lousy day with few photos.

from my scrapbook

Monday, 23 June 1975

2 PM [Having left The Isle of Skye] Now on the train pulling out of Mallaig Station.  There were sheep and lambs standing and lying under a stopped train next to us.  Even though I mourn leaving Skye, the most beautiful place ever, it is good to be on a train.   [I had a Britrail pass, and because I was trying to save my money, I tried only to travel to where the trains went.] I enjoy the trains immensely—that lovely clacking of the wheels and the whistle calling.

Cheese for lunch—delicious cheese from the Orkney Islands that was only about $1 a pound on Skye!  I am going to skip the Lake District [now I regret that so much!] and will take two days less in Wales so that I can go tomorrow to Lochranza, on the Isle of Arran, from which I can take the ferry to Claonaig, on the Kintyre Peninsula, from which it is ten miles to W. Tarbert, from which I can take a ferry to the Isle of Islay. [This was more Donovan inspiration because of his song by that name.]

I like the little black and white sheep dogs here.  Two befriended me on Skye, one in Waternish and one in Broadford.  They are sweet, loving dogs—now my favourite kind.  They abound in the highlands and islands.

At the hostel in Broadford on Skye, at first I thought the warden was friendly and jolly, but we later came to believe his humour was really sarcasm! He seemed to not really like young people.  He told me, “Their attempts to cook are pathetic!” and that they seemed ‘helpless”.

Saturday night, a young woman asked him if he could recommend a church.  He said he did not go to church because 11:00 AM is when his real work begins.  (Hostels close from 11-5 for cleaning.)  He added that besides, he’d have to be a Christian, wouldn’t he, and that anyone who believes in an afterlife is naive, because there is only one life.  She got pushy about him going to church and he got rude and she went upstairs.

[On this day, I took the train back to Larbert, stayed overnight with at the parental home of my Scottish penpal, J___, and picked up my heavier luggage that I had left for the Skye trip.  Mary had left Skye earlier than me, had spent the night in Edinburgh, and had already been through Larbert to pick up her luggage and her case of books from her time in Israel.]

Wednesday, 25 June 1975

Yesterday was awful.  I had bought a beautiful Scottish blanket [woven, soft wool and dark red; I still have it] and it cost me £2.50 to mail it.  I am so worried about running out of money.  Then, because I had stupidly left my hostel card in Skye, I had to telegram the warden to ask him to mail it to Wales—another £1.06.  But I did work out with a travel agent that I could afford to go to Islay—about £5 for ferries but only £1.50 for a bed and breakfast. Cheaper than the £2 London YWCA!  So after almost missing my train from Larbert….

J seeing me off as the train leaves the Larbert station.

….I took British Rail to the coast, to Ardrossan, and got a £1.75 return ticket to Brodick, Isle of Arran.  I felt lonely and kind of scared traveling alone without Mary. Arran was a lush and flowery green place, quite touristy, and the scenery looked overstuffed after Skye’s simple lines.  Then when I got to Arran, I would have to go 15 miles to Lochranza, a town at the tip, to take the ferry to a town on Kintyre, then 15 more miles to another town, then take a two hour steamer to Islay.  I was planning to take great photos and make some Christmas present books illustrating Donovan’s song.

How high the gulls fly
O’er Islam
How sad the farm lad
deep in play
Felt like a grain on your sand

How  well the sheep’s bell
music makes
Roving the cliff
when fancy takes
Felt like a tide left me here

How blessed the forest
with birdsong
How neat the cut peat
laid so long
Felt like a seed on your land

approaching the Isle of Arran with high hopes

on the Isle of Arran

When I got to Brodick on Arran, I planned to hitchhike at the cars from the ferry and if no luck, take the bus.  A ride instead of the bus could save me £2.50.  I had no luck hitching so I went to take the bus.  The driver said it would be only 35p, but then he said I and I alone had to put my backpack in the boot.  The door was very heavy and I would have to lift the door over my head with one hand and lift my big frame back pack up way over my head with the other.  I simply could not do it and the driver just left me there. [Looking back, this is so strange.  I think it is quite probable that the driver just did not like “hippies”.] I tried to hitchhike, praying I would get to Lochranza in time because the ferry left in just one hour.  I got a ride for seven miles but not all the way and I missed the last ferry.  I had to give up and hitchhike back and I got a lot of “dirty hippie” looks  and 50 cars passed me and I was afraid I would not even get back to the last Brodick ferry, and if I missed it, where would I stay?  The buses, I had been told, would not stop between towns. The people on Skye were so friendly, maybe because it was less touristy? that I got spoiled.
Finally, after considerable walking, I got a ride for the last of the seven miles back to Brodick and caught the last ferry back to Ardrossan and caught the train to Glasgow.
When I got back to Glasgow, it was evening and the city seemed rough and scary.  I was afraid to find the hostel, so I called J in Larbert and asked if I could stay one more night.  My cold had come back and I had to sit in the smoking car.  In Larbert, a kind man helped me get my pack from a pile of suitcases that had been put around it.  I walked to J’s house and I had only had 4 hours of sleep and J watched a documentary on television till one AM and because I got there so late, I was hungry but had not bought myself a can of food because of the shops being closed. No snack was offered. It was clear that I was no longer welcome. This morning, J did not see me off at the station.  I could tell when she saw me off from the house that she was well sick of me.  [This is no exaggeration.  Both Mary and I have spoken many times since of how neither sister ever wrote back to us again, even though I wrote to them apologizing for any bad guest behavior. Maybe they did not appreciate me coming to their house with a cold! I wonder now if I ever thought to offer them any money for meals.  I do know we helped with the dishes… I learned for sure that houseguests and fish stink after three days!]
  I barely made the train from Glasgow to Crewe and the bridie I bought for breakfast was half raw. I can’t find the Vicks inhaler that I bought for my cold. I feel that the young men across the aisle, who are not speaking English, are looking at me with laughing comments that I cannot understand. I hope my luck improves!  At least I am feeling cheerful about finally going to Wales.

A map of the no good horrible very bad day. Larbert was very close to Stirling. Map from Google, 2018

 Later: my luck has improved.  In a bakery, I got a big egg cucumber and tomato sandwich in a bun with lettuce, and a big apple tart and two bridies for later, all for 41p.

from my scrapbook

 Next: better days in Wales

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a retrospective of a 1975 trip with my friend Mary, at age 20, recreated with travel journals, letters, and photos (slides taken with a Mamiya-Sekor SLR and scanned in 2008).

The Isle of Skye

Thursday, 19 June, 1975

From a letter to a friend:

We arrived in Skye last night. Skye is the most beautiful place I have ever been.  It has everything: Mountains, bleak moors, gentle treed countryside, streams, peat, ferns, wild fuchsias, yellow irises, lochs, rivers, bays, ocean, wind, lots of gulls, thatched cottages, crofts, churches with Gaelic services, and the friendliest youth hostel.  It also has Donovan, who has two houses here.  We would never be pests, but we would like to see from a distance where he lives!

near the ferry and Kyleakin

From the ferry, we hitchhiked to the town of Broadford, right on the bay, and checked into a very relaxed and friendly youth hostel with an amusing host.


I took a walk through Broadford and looked in a phone booth at the book for “Highlands and Islands”.  Found an address and phone number under “D.P. Leitch!” [Have I mentioned we were Donovan fans?]

Mary’s photo recreates the moment

[I often wished I had taken a lighter jacket than that big, expensive down one from REI.  I had chosen it because it would stuff—with difficulty—into a tiny little bag, but it was almost always too warm on this trip. Why did I expect the whole trip to be cold in June and July is a mystery to me now.]

Broadford pier

church with services in Gaelic

I walked down to the bay where the clear water showed all the little rocks and shells. [I still have some powdery-coated seashells in a little box.]

Broadford beach

Friday, 20 June, 1975

We hitchhiked toward Uig, up at the north end of Skye. We had tried to get to a hostel there last night, but no luck, so we hoped to go for the day.

on the way, near Sligachen

The road near Sligachen

bridge near Sligachen

We got a ride as far as Portree, with its beautiful harbour.




We went to a woolens factory, and to Edinbane Pottery, and fed seagulls…..

The path by Edinbane Pottery

[Sometime after getting these photos scanned in 2008, having not seen the photos since at least 1980, I had a dream about this place…an island, and a pottery shop, and a green, green path, and happiness.]

near Edinbane Pottery

….and we then walked half a mile, hitching, with two people behind us doing the same.  To let them get ahead, I found a phone booth and showed Mary Donovan’s address in the phone book.  Part of the address said Waternish, and the front of the phone book said Waternish was in Portree.  We walked back to the village. A map at the tourist office there showed us that Waternish was a peninsula way off on the other side of the island.  Decided might not make it there, roads too poor, no bus, might not get a ride back.

The weather was clearing up from rain. We got a ride in the direction of Dunvegan, past the branch to Uig, in the direction of Waternish.  We were dropped off by another pottery shop and looked at the crafts inside.

somewhere on Skye

somewhere along the way

We hitched again and got picked up by two men who said they were going to Waternish.  They repaired houses all over Skye and lived in Portree.  One was a former schoolteacher but “hated that job.”

somewhere along the way

We turned down a Waternish road, called Ferrybridge road, and one of them said, “This is Donovan country, a singer who lives down here, he’s bought three of the islands off shore; have you heard of him?”

“Why yes, we’ve heard of him,” I said, real cool.  The man said, “He’s not here right now, but he owns two houses, and bought some more and sold them at half price.”

on the road in Waternish

Road to Stein. We had found out that was where Donovan lived. We had been big fans in our early teens, and even though we were all grown up now, we couldn’t resist going to have a look.

They kindly drove as all over the peninsula.  Along the way, we passed a badly injured seagull with its wing almost shot off.  The driver rummaged up a box, got out a sack, and caught the bird. They would take it home and fix it so it can fly again.  They said seagulls are easy to tame.  I got to hold its head until it calmed down.  I looked into its beautiful golden eyes.  Its beak was yellow and its head feathers were short like fur.

The driver, Ian, had such calloused fingers that he could let the gull (“my friend,” he called it) bite them.

We saw three beautiful children come onto the road from a patch of woods.  We slowed, and the other man, Alistair, talked with them. “Who are they?” asked Ian.  “Donovan’s brother-in-law’s children,” said Alistair.

We stopped on the other side of the peninsula while Ian did some business, then back to Stein, where they drove us right up to one of Donovan’s houses, and showed us that he also had a tea room.

driving up to Donovan’s house

the tea house

They drove us back to Portree and we hitched back to Broadford.

Mary is leaving tomorrow for home.  She’s been away from home for well over a year.  I am sad to be here alone, but I will be leaving on Monday for Wales.  I just hope I can tear myself away.  I am afraid I might stay here and not see Wales at all! Tomorrow I will take a long walk in the hills.

Saturday, 21 June 1975

This morning, Mary left for London and then home.  I felt bereft as I watched her walk away.

If you look very closely, you can see Mary on the road in this photo that I took from my hostel window.

When I went up the road to hitchhike, Mary was still waiting for the bus and so we had another farewell.  Eight couples from the hostel were also hitchhiking. I walked for awhile and finally I  got lucky; after an hour of no rides, I was picked up by a Swedish couple who only had room for one extra passenger in their car. They took me Dunvegan Castle, and I toured through it for 40p.  It’s the oldest occupied castle in Scotland and home to the McCleod clan.  Flora McCleod, now 97, is clan chief.  The castle had a silk fairy flag, with an interesting legend that it was given to the clan by the fairies and, if waved, would protect them in dire times.  It can only be waved three times and has been already been waved twice and is now in a glass case, very tattered and fragile.  In WWII, McCleod soldiers carried photos of it for protection.

Dunvegan Castle

Dunvegan view

I then got a ride from the same Swedish couple, who took me to Stein on Waternish, where I had tea in that tea room run by Donovan’s friends.

Stein is on the peninsula of Waternish. The bigger peninsula to the right is called Trotternish, and I did not manage to explore it.

Stein, in Waternish

The tearoom hosts were lovely people and it was a lovely place, decorated with fish nets and driftwood and an old wooden loom and things from the sea and flowers and paintings.  At one end, there was a stage set quite high up, accessible only by a ladder, and on the other side of the room was another loft with a piano and a big geometric painting and painted windows. I was told that the tea room used to be a school house and that the school children painted the windows for decoration.

painted windows


The tearoom had tea and a home baked scone with butter for only 11p.  As I was leaving, a woman with long brown hair, rather plain, but with that sort of shine that some people have, came in from the private part of the building and sat down to read a long letter.  Was it from Donovan, I wondered, by now having heard he was in the States (how ironic!). The two other people there were a short, bearded man in baggy clothes and a woman with frizzly brown-red hair.

The house had a view of the bay.  I walked around on the beach for awhile.

the view

on the beach

teahouse from the beach

thatched roof in Stein

the Peninsula of Waternish near Loch Snizort

Loch Snizort

On the way back, I got a ride from a pipe-smoking banker from the Lake District, who took me round the Glen Brittle side of the Cuillin Hills and back to Sligachen.  The banker was a very nice man with good conversation.  [It is possible that some of the random “along the way” photos were from that part of the day.]

Evening: I feel sad because I only have one more day on Skye and there is so much to see and do.  I am due back in Larbert on Monday night to pick up my luggage.  Sad because I found out that a boat ride that I want to take to Loch Coriusk does not run on Sundays.  Sad because Mary left to go home.  I am also left with a feeling that my life is empty and barren compared to the lives of the tea room people in the tiny village of Stein.

Sunday, 22 June 1975

Today, I went to Elgol on the southwest part of Skye.  Walked for an hour with no rides and then got a ride all the way there (15 miles).  It was a beautiful inlet with a view of the Cuillins, interesting beach rocks, tiny waterfall stream, sailing boats.  If only the cruise down the inlet ran on Sundays.  Nothing runs on Sundays and all stores and cafés are closed.  The same people brought me back partway.  I got out about four miles from Broadford to visit an old ruined chapel and old graveyard and climbed through a lovely birch wood with streams, cattle trails (sheep and cattle run loose here, it seems).  When I went to change my film, I was shattered to see that I had not hooked on the last roll right and had lost all 20 photos I thought I had taken in Elgol.  I had taken such care with them [as each photo counted so much more than modern days when we can take hundreds digitally]. I had taken photos of the beautiful erosion patterns on the overhanging cliffs of Elgol.  I am desolate.

on a walk in the woods

A couple had set out from Broadford for Elgol on bikes today.  They passed me while I was walking.  I passed them in a car.  On the way back, I saw them collapsed a few miles from the hostel, taking a rest.  They did make it all the way and had the energy to go walking tonight, which was more than I did.

I have come down with a cold, I think because we are not allowed to wear shoes in the hostel and the floors are so cold.  I sat on the beach in a cleft of rocks out of the wind in the late afternoon, with violent sneezing spells, waiting for the hostel to open for the evening.

I am so SAAAAD. I don’t want to go to Wales; I just want to stay here for the rest of my life.  The sea around here and the lochs look like the Mediterranean, I am told, with a warm current touching part of the island.  I was also told I was lucky it was not raining.

Later: Last night I was terribly embarrassed because I could not get a little can opener to puncture my can of beans.   I finally asked the warden’s wife, and she did it for me rather sarcastically.  I must be pretty weak.  Tonight, I was trying to open my can of veggie soup in the corner of the busy kitchen and managed to do it.  Later, a big strong man from Germany came up to me holding the same opener and asked me if I knew where there was a sharper one!  He said, “Will you try it?” and I punctured the can as easy as vegetable pie!

I heated the soup and also made a curry rice from a packet.  I’ve been eating cold food out of cans to avoid the scrum in the hostel kitchens, but I think I am getting run down and need a hot meal.  Except for at our friends’ house in Larbert, where we sat around too much with too much with comfort and good food, I am have been on the go from sunrise to sundown every day.

I learned that from Broadford to Glen Brittle over the Black Cuillins—only 14 miles—takes experienced mountain climbers two and a half days, with two nights of camping out!  The Black Cuillins are the challenging mountains that I saw at Elgol (the lost photos!) that people travel from all over the climb; the Red Cuillins are the soft, round hills near Sligachen.

I like this hostel.  My bed has a view of the bay and is a little partial room off the main dorm.  The warden is letting me stay 4 nights instead of the permitted 3.

I will not have time to visit the peninsula of Trotternish.  I have already cut down on my Wales time.

There is a full moon tonight, seen from my window.  I have never seen darkness in Scotland.  It just appears and quickly disappears while I sleep.

 Monday, 23 June 1975

Noon. I am waiting for the ferry from Armadale to Mallaig to begin my journey to Wales.  [Originally, because of my love for Lloyd Alexander’s book based on Welsh legends (The Prydain Chronicles), Wales had been my ultimate destination.]




Fog settled over the island as I left.  I watched till the “misty isle” disappeared. How I love that island.  I want to live there.  I want my children to grow up there.  My love for unseen Wales does not compare.  Next time I come to Britain, I am going straight to Skye! [Next time did not happen for over 20 years and revolved around my then-spouse’s family in the north of England.  On that trip, I did find another place that I adored: Whitby.]

from my scrapbook

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a retrospective of a 1975 trip with my friend Mary, at age 20, recreated with travel journals, letters, and photos. Somewhere while writing these posts, I got the dates mixed up.  It was June, not May, when we started out!

Wednesday, 18 June 1975

Today we took the train up to Thurso—near the north tip of Scotland—and back.  Before catching the train, we picked out a cake at one of the wonderful Scottish Bakeries.

[When I shared this photo with Mary a few years ago, she wrote, “Oh, I remember this day! And the bakery. That’s where we picked out a plain sponge cake, about 8 inches round, and the bakery lady cut in half and FILLED it with cream for us. I couldn’t believe her generosity.” I replied that back at home I could never find a cake like that again, and she replied, “There never was such a cake again!”

This, from British Railways, probably was our route:

The Far North Line takes the right fork, north into Ross and Cromarty, bound for Sutherland and Caithness beyond.

As the carriage sweeps up the shore of the Cromarty Firth you’ll see Foulis Castle and the town of Invergordon, which has an intriguing series of murals commissioned by the local communities – from the lifeboats to the Anglers’ association.

This stretch of the coast has plenty of whisky distilleries: you’ll pass Teaninich, Dalmore and Whyte & Mackay’s Invergordon site, as well as Glenmorangie in Tain, and Balblair.

The line swings inland, but returns to the coast for a stop at Dunrobin Castle station, just a short distance from the impressive castle itself.

You’ll travel onwards past Helmsdale to Altnabreac – where things really begin to feel remote. From there it’s not far to Georgemas Junction where the train heads north first to Thurso, and then returns east to Wick.]

The train journey’s views  [four hours each way] got progressively bleaker, in a beautiful way, the further north we went.  Fewer trees and hills, then no hills—just flat land with sheep on it, with a few rolling swells in the earth.

Photos taken from the train:

wild rhododendrons

as the landscape got interestingly bleak

Wildlife seen: a herd of brown deer, some with antlers,  assorted different kinds of gulls, swans, a heron flying past trees over a loch on the way back, lots of rabbits!—just like Watership Down with their little burrows in the pasture banks.  I saw a beautiful old woman standing in the doorway of an pretty and very old cottage, looking out over her farm.  Wish I could grow old like that.  Lots of sheep with long shaggy coats, some shorn just around the middle like poodles.

[Looking at the map now, I wondered why we had not gone around the coast to John O’ Groats, then remembered that with our Britrail passes, we were reliant on any route the train took.]

We waved to people from the train.  Two young men, one blond and one brunette, waved to us from a river bank and we blew kisses at each other.  Four scrubby boys about 16 got on the train and walked through our car.  Of course, one said “How!” because of my headband.  Then they all broke into laughter and walked on.  Later, they sat down across the aisle from us and asked how we liked Scotland.  I said better than England, and they cheered.  I told them we were sisters.  They did not believe me so I said half sisters.  I couldn’t understand their accents as they talked among themselves except for the words, “Too fat.”  I could have remarked that they had a mangy, unwashed look.

About halfway up, we passed through a village called Helmsdale.   We had known it had a cottage-like hostel, but we had not known it was right on the ocean.  I wish we had stayed there.  It looked like the perfect place, the epitome of everything a coastal village should be.  (It looked 1/2″ from the shore on the map.) As it turned out, we should have gotten off there and not gone the two more hours to Thurso, because when we got to Thurso it was pouring rain and the shore was too far to walk to in the time that we had.  (It looked right on the shore on the map!) [Because of the eight hour round trip, it would have been a lot smarter to stay in Thurso and thus have time to explore, but perhaps there was no youth hostel, and we could not afford other accommodations.]

For lunch, I had white pudding and chips for 40p (20 p in Inverness) and Mary had coffee (20 instead of 10p). [Now that I live in a remote place, I know that it’s normal for groceries to cost more!]  I bought some pineapple crush to put in my bottle and, pouring without a funnel, managed to spill it on the counter.  The proprietor was very sweet and brought a towel and told me the counter had seen much worse than that.  In Thurso, we bought a sponge cake to eat on the way home (only 16p).  It tasted like a twinkie.  All the other treats we bought from Scottish bakeries were delicious.

Thurso buses

We arrived at the Inverness hostel at 10:50 PM.  You’re locked out if you get there later than 11!  We had wanted to catch the 6:15 AM train to Thurso in order to get back earlier, but the hostels won’t let you out before 7:00 and sometimes 8:00 AM.  Everyone in the hostel has to do a chore before we get our cards back and can leave.  Today, I had swept a corridor and a flight of stairs—murder on legs sore from all that climbing in Aviemore.  I had envied Mary’s chore of folding four blankets!

Thursday, 19 June 1975

On the train to the Kyle of Lochalsh to go to the Isle of Skye.

Mary checked on her ticket today.  She’ll be flying out of London on Tuesday, so we will part on Sunday or Monday.  I’ll feel mighty lonesome with no one to share pretty sights with.  We’ve had such fun.  I plan to stay on another four weeks after she leaves, and I am kind of scared because I have never traveled alone.  I won’t be likely to be able to afford plane tickets again for a long time, so I must make the most of this trip.

For today’s train trip, we bought some canned veggie salad, two apples, two oranges, veggie soup, and shortbread, and we each had a bridie for breakfast (pastry filled with meat and onions). Yesterday, we each bought a yogurt (9p for 6 oz, pretty good).  It was liquid like kefir and just delicious.  I had pear.  Yummers! Real fruit! And Mary had peach.  Mmm, good.  I wish I had remembered to get some today.  My mouth is still raw from eating too many pickled onions.

We just waved to two men wearing handsome tartan vests.

Now the train is going through the highlands—lochs, heather, gorse, tough grass, rushing rivers, rough hills, and very few houses. Only one poor road for cars along this part.  Today’s route: Inverness, Dingwall, Garve, Lochluichart, Achanalt, Stromeferry, Plockton, Duirinish, Kyle of Lochalsh, Kyleakin (Skye).

photos taken from the train between Inverness and Skye:


I am throwing in this photo. The caption says Lake Marieth, but I cannot find anything about it via Google.  It seems to be in the sequence of this train trip.


Kyle of Lochalsh

Kyle of Lochalsh ferry

Kyle of Lochalsh from the ferry, on the way to Isle of Skye…no bridge back then!

a page from my scrapbook of the trip

Next: The Isle of Skye


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a retrospective of a 1975 trip with my friend Mary, at age 20, recreated with travel journals, letters, and photos

Monday, 16 June, 1975

from my journal:  Aviemore hostel is modern looking, all on one floor (unimpressive).  The man at the desk had long reddish hair and small eyes.  He kept laughing at us, but we convinced him that we did not need a sheet blanket and that we would not need pillows.  The hostels require one to rent a sheet blanket even if one is carrying a sleeping bag.  [I often wished that I was not carrying a sleeping bag; I only needed it during the last week in London.]

We went for a walk by a river and over a bridge.  Big fish were jumping in the river.  While walking a little path through the woods, I got stung on the thumb by nettles.  We then came to a road and walked by the Aviemore Pottery shop.  We decided to go tomorrow and look in it (and we did).  Mary said she felt lazy so she waited by a fence while I walked on up the road, where I saw, in a pasture, a herd of red deer with white rumps.  They bounced away up over a hill.

Aviemore Pottery

[A memory about food: I well remember sitting on a bench many a night and eating a can of cold beans or cold soup.  I carried a tiny can opener that I found terribly hard to use.  It would have been smarter to carry a bigger, easier one.  A cold can of beans or soup was a typical dinner. A week later, I discovered a packet of curry rice that could be cooked up in a hostel kitchen.

Our blog reader from Steveston wrote a comment on the first of this series, about how it brought of memories of “Leaving notes on hostel billboards in hopes of catching up with friends old and new, and listening and heeding travel recommendations from other travellers in the years well before internet. Living off that jar of peanut butter and dried fruit, as the financial choice usually came down to a good meal or beers in the local.”

We were too shy to go for beers in the local, and I was counting every penny.  When I returned for a winter visit to northern England at the end of the 90s, pubs were an essential part of my enjoyment.]

Tuesday, 17 June, 1975

We went walking on a trail in the Craigenllachie. I should explain that the Craigenllachie is a nature reserve consisting of highland moors and high hills (really high hills!) surrounded below by birch tree forests.

First, the path went over a stile, and then through a stile, and then it disappeared.  It had been recommended to us by a hotel man (not the one with the red hair, who was today wearing pink trousers and who had said “How!” to me this morning, because of my headband, and had thought he was really funny).  As the path had disappeared, we found another uphill path.  It wound up and up and up.  I don’t think they’ve heard of switchbacks here!

When we reached a high hill top all covered with heather, we thought we were at the top, but after we had collapsed on a rock I pointed to a much steeper hill.  Up we went.

After it had climbed for awhile, Mary pointed out that we could see only more hills after every rise.  Despite feeling discouraged, I went on to what seemed like the very top.  It was steep and I kept worrying about how I was going to get down.  Not only am I afraid of heights [a fear I kept battling for the sake of good scenic photos throughout the whole trip] but I kept remembering a poster at the hotel about how many people get killed on the hills and mountains.  At the top, I could see three lochs and the whole countryside.

Mary joined me.  We saw a little path heading off yonder; I said maybe it went back to Aviemore.  Mary protested, and her protests increased as we followed it and more hills appeared in front.  [Mary, I know you are reading this and that there are two sides to every story; maybe I was the one who was protesting. ]  But hallelujah!, it did go back to Aviemore.  It was so steep that I slid partway down on my bum, to Mary’s great amusement.  The trail petered out about 100 yards above the path that we had originally given up on.


When we were on the cliff over the hostel, we saw Pink Trousers coming up.  We sat down so he could not see us.  He took another fork up, and I know he did not see us because he took a pee!

We had left our stuff on the hostel porch, because if you leave that day, you must remove it from the hostel by 10:30 AM.  On the way to the train, we detoured to see “Santa Claus Land”—very touristy, I reckon, but we only saw the car track with lots of car frames [go karts?] and people in crash helmets racing around and around.  We detoured to a pasture with about ten beautiful long-maned white horses.  Four of them came up to nuzzle us.

Then we took the train to Inverness.

Inverness is a lovely city with the river Ness flowing right through the middle and a castle a block away from the hostel.  The castle’s stones are pinkish and clean, so it is either new or has been washed! [I just read that it was built in 1836 of red sandstone.]

Inverness Castle

Flora MacDonald at Inverness Castle

We searched diligently for a fish and chip shop and finally found one about an hour later.  It did not have haggis, which we had first tried in Aviemore—liver and meal and onions chopped up in a pig’s stomach; even though I don’t like liver, I had liked it very much.  So we had a white pudding (meal and onions in a hard-to-bite skin).  It was good!  I bought a pickled onion and it was so good that I went back for three more.

I have been finding out that some folks here seem to have a stereotype of Native Americans.  All due to my blue and white cloth headband, which I wear to keep my hair from blowing into my eyes, I get many greetings of “How!” and “Hiawatha!”, followed by peals of laughter.  Just to be contrary, I stuck a feather in it that I found on the moors.

Mary went back to the hostel while I took a long walk through a park on an island in the river, with sections connected by swing bridges.  Despite signs saying “No Cycling”, I saw 10 cycles and 3 horses.  On the way back, a group of boys in school blazers yelled, “Hippie! Hippie!”  [Despite minor annoyances, I never felt threatened in any way while out walking along in the evenings.]

in the island park along the river

on our evening walk

These photos may have been taken as we were leaving Inverness the next day.

near Inverness

From my scrap book:

Tomorrow: to Thurso and back


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continuing a travel journal memoir

Wednesday, 11 June 1975 from my travel journal

This morning, we caught the 11 AM train from Edinburgh to Larbert.  We both felt apprehensive about meeting our pen pals, two sisters about our age.  Neither J___ (the older sister)  nor M___ (a year or two younger) are regular writers, and neither of us were sure whether or not they really wanted us to stay with them.  We had decided not to mention the possibility of staying the night—but we would gladly accept any invitation.

on the train

Larbert station

The Larbert station is only a small platform with an office and restroom and a few benches.  Leaving the train, quite burdened with our heavy packs, sleeping bags, and Mary’s suitcase of books which she had brought from university in Israel, we asked a young man if he could direct us to the address, and mentioned J___’s name.  “Ah, J___, I go to school with her,” he exclaimed, and proceeded to give us a set of confusing set of directions, which we remembered long enough to walk a short distance up the road and over the tracks by a bridge with railings painted a pleasant shade of blue.  We turned in what we hoped was the right direction but, after ten minutes of walking, decided we must ask someone else.  With some trepidation, not sure how the inhabitants would react to two raggedy young women with back packs [Mary was surely not raggedy!], we approached a modest looking house and timidly knocked.  While waiting, I examined the wall by the door to see what made the bright sun reflect from it so boldly.  It was covered with what looked like a layer of crushed sea shells.

The woman who came to the door spoke with an accent we would hardly understand.  She cheerfully repeated herself until we were sure how to get to our friends’ parents’ house.  We’d missed the turning and had to recross several streets.  By now, our stomachs were fluttering with nervousness, our backs were aching from our packs and we were gasping in the heat.  We received a good many curious looks.

Most of the houses in Larbert looked alike, square and one storied and on the drab side of pink.  Our friends’ house followed this pattern.  We paused outside the gate, wishing we had been able to call and warn them of our arrival time.  “We can’t very well turn back now,” Mary said bravely and opened the gate, marched up to the door and knocked.  We waited.  I knocked.  “Maybe they’ve gone away on vacation,” Mary lamented.

At that moment, the door opened.  There stood the younger sister, M___; Mary recognized her from a picture.  “You must be our pen pals!”, M___ said with enthusiasm, and added,  “We were out back sunbathing!” Indeed, she wore a bathing suit and her skin had burned a light pink.  We entered and gladly divested ourselves of our luggage.  M___ led us through the tiny dining room and kitchen to the back yard, where J___ and a friend were sunbathing.  No one seemed surprised or dismayed to see us.  (We had written with the approximate date of our arrival.)

We sat down on the blanket and were immediately asked to tell all about the United States.  We thought that was a pretty big order, but we could say that this part of Scotland reminded us of Washington State, except that Scotland is greener—and that life here seems more relaxed than back home.

Before long, Mrs. F___ came home.  She seemed pleased to see us, and we have been invited to spend the rest of the week.  J__ propped up a ladder to the edge of a trap door in the ceiling and climbed to a storage loft to get the “lilos”, or air mattresses.  We’ll sleep on the living room floor.

After high tea, an enormous meal consisting of bits of everything—potato chips (like our French fries, but bigger and indescribably better), different kinds of salads, potato crisps (known to us as chips), toasted egg and tomato sandwiches and other delicacies, and of course, tea, we watched a bit of television.  Mr. F____ sat with us with his glass of whiskey.  Jean had gone to Glasgow for a party.

Mrs. F___ then guided us on a walk around Larbert.  We walked down two streets of pinkish houses, past two telephone booths of different heights, on a path beside a cow pasture and over a swing (suspension) bridge.  The old bridge was full of small boys who delighted in swaying it madly as we crossed.  I paused at the other side and asked Mary to go back on the bridge so I could take a photo.  As Mary climbed the steps, Mrs F___ called to the boys, “Be still now, while this young lady from America crosses!”  I think Mary was embarrassed.

on the swing bridge

As we walked away, the boys called after us, “We love your accents!” and I called back, “And we love yours!”

The rest of our walk took us out to a main road, under an old stone bridge, and back over the bridge by the railroad tracks.  We learned that we had earlier missed a cut through a dirt road that would have taken us right to the house.

Mrs. F___ with M___ drove us to nearby Stirling and Stirling Castle, after which Stirlingshire is named.  The castle was closed, but from the hill on which it is built we had a good view of the rolling green land roundabout.  This is supposed to be the most industrial part of Scotland, but it looks like farm land.  Beef, dairy, and sheep farming.  The countryside is incredibly green, more so than even Washington—bright technicolor green with red cows and white sheep.   Evergreen forests and  castles.

near Larbert

We were shown the university campus outside Stirling, where the elder sister, J__, goes to college.  It is a modern complex on attractive grounds with woods and ponds.  We drove to a nearby mansion, or so we thought, which M___ said is really the small Airthrey Castle.  In the grey evening, we heard someone inside playing a piano.  M___ told us the castle is used for music and science classes.  When we returned to Larbert at 10 o’clock, it was still before sunset.

Tomorrow, Maureen might drive us to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and some other towns.

Our hosts are a warm and happy family and make us feel quite at home.  Their hospitality is natural and generous.

 Thursday, 12 June 1975, from a letter to my parents

We met our pen pals and are staying with them till Sunday, when we will go north to Inverness.  We’ll leave some of our luggage here and pick it up on the way to Wales.  They and their parents are incredibly hospitable, making us feel at home.  Today, J___ had to work but M___ drove us all around the area, Stirling, Callender, Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, Doune Castle.


Stirling, from the castle

a bridge in Stirling

Old Stirling Bridge

Callender, perhaps

near Callender, says my photo caption from back then

Doune Castle

by Doune Castle

[This photo of boys wading in the river, with their shoes in the foreground, is one of my favourites from the trip.]

People really do say “Cheerio”, “Aye”, and “Smashing”.  High tea is like dinner but with more small helpings of different dishes.

It does not get dark here till about 11:30 at night; the sun sets at 10:45.  The town of Larbert is not commercial or industrial except for a couple of foundries outside the town.

from a letter to my boyfriend, from Larbert

Last night we went pub crawling—6 of them!  Mary drank ginger beer and lime.  I tried out half pints of different Scottish and Irish drinks.  I did not feel affected, but later, at the house, J’s boyfriend passed out on the floor and did not leave till 8 in the morning.  M’s friend Martin was in quite the same condition.  Another lad named David went outside and sat on a wall before walking his girlfriend home and passing out into the rosebushes.

Drinking seems to be the main occupation here. The pubs were mostly standing room only, especially the noisier ones.  To my surprise, I enjoyed the evening and so did Mary.  We learned a lot about Scottish culture!  [I was surprised because I didn’t get out much at home and was still too young to go to bars in Seattle.]

The first pub was folky and not so crowded.  The second was packed and had a DJ and music to shout over.  In the third, a quiet nightclubby place, I had to go to the loo, where I found a tall woman appearing to be strangling a smaller woman who was wearing a light blue pantsuit.  I stepped into one of the stalls and wondered what to do.  The toilet seat and floor were covered with vomit.  Out again I went to find the blue-suited woman lying on the floor in a pile of sick.  Her acquaintance was washing her hands in the sink and looking unconcerned.  I hurried to the bar and told a bar man, “There’s a woman lying on the floor in the loo who seems very sick, can you do something?”  Three bouncers were sent in and the woman dragged outside.  The tall woman followed.  As we left, I saw them and two others sitting on a wall, with the “blue” one bent over and the others supporting her.  I guess the strangling had been a friendly gesture to stop her from yorking.  I hoped the fresh air would do her good.  I think her friends would have let her lie there rather than suffer the ignominy of being dragged outside.

The fourth pub was very loud with a green spotlight on the DJ.  The fifth was loud and crowded with a small dance floor with what seemed like 500 people on it.  J was dismayed to realize that I wasn’t going to flirt with boys.  She’d already told me she didn’t believe in “women’s lib” because she “likes to be protected”, and that all feminists are “unattractive bra burners who don’t want boyfriends”.  Her boyfriend, Chris, describes himself as a left wing socialist while J describes herself as conservative who doesn’t think women should have equal rights.  I had brushed off a man who kept grabbing my arm in a demanding way.  J said I should have just laughed and chatted with him, while Chris said I had every right to assert myself.  J said, “In Scotland, any boy who fancies a girl will come up and put his arm around her and grin and say ‘How are ye?'”.  I asked what if a woman put her arm around a man in the same fashion, and J said “He’d try to take her outside!”

The next stop was a quiet place with few people.  I’d had a lager and lime before, had found Guiness too bitter, and this time I had a ginger beer and lime (non alcoholic and delicious). The pubs close at ten.  J said everyone drinks as much as they can before then, and then drinks more at home.  Chris said the rushed drinking because of early closing time is why there are so many alcoholics. In the corridor, a short young man with long, limp straight hair, told Mary he liked her “pleets” (plaits, or braids) and that he was almost “kilt” (killed) and that “me bum’s out the window!”

Later, in a café, two men sat down with us while J and Chris were ordering and asked us if we had hash.  We told them we were from Kansas and they believed us.

We took a taxi home.

Friday, we went to Edinburgh again to visit the castle. A military fellow kept showing us out of the building even though we had paid admission. On the bus, the conductor recited the Robert Louis Stevenson poem about the lamplighter.  It was thrilling to hear it in a Scottish accent.

Comparing London to Edinburgh: London has more parks and more free toilets! More of the Edinburgh parks seem to be private. In general, I miss plain fruit juice, public drinking fountains, and ice water in cafés.

[I have a sad memory of our social faux pas from that part of the trip.  While in Edinburgh, we wanted to get a present for our hosts in Larbert, so, of course, we bought a book, our favourite thing.  For some reason, we thought that a big picture book of Scotland would be the perfect gift. That evening, when we presented to to the family, one of them looked askance at it and said to us, “Why did not you get us something useful, like a cutting board? Why do we need a book of pictures, when we live here?”  We were mortified, and if we had been a little smarter, we might have realized we were wearing out our welcome.]

Saturday, we climbed the Wallace monument, miles up a spiral staircase, on a hill, open on top, strong wind, terrifying to me.  Wind in the arrow slots made scary noises.  On the third level was an empty display stand with the inscription, “The sword that seemed fit for an archangel to wield was light in his terrible hand.”  Wallace was a Scottish nationalist who fought the English in the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1267.  The sword had been stolen and had since been recovered and was in the police station.

Wallace Monument

in the Wallace Monument

Sunday, Chris and J took us to Glasgow, to the barrows, an indoor junk and antique market and outdoor goods market with an auctioneer.

Glasgow (because of the Donovan song, I took photos of #12 buses everywhere I could)

It is beyond me why I took no photos of the market in Glasgow! Economizing on film…saving it for Skye and Wales, I suppose.

In the evening, Mary and I took a long walk, and on Monday we will leave on a train to Aviemore.

[Mary and I took a lot of walks.  I was smitten with the gates and the stiles that gave access over fences, because public footpaths are so well protected in the UK.  I think that the stiles below were on paths around Larbert.]

From my scrapbook:




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It had long been a dream of mine to go to the UK, ever since I had first seen The Avengers with Emma Peel. In 1975, at twenty years old, I was able to go there to meet my friend Mary, who was arriving from Israel, where she had been studying. We had known each other since age 12 in Seattle.

This story will be mostly taken from a travel journal I kept and from letters that I wrote and mailed home to Seattle to friends and to my boyfriend at the time.  I carried carbon paper and made carbon copies on thin airmail paper, to keep a complete record of my journey.  I finally re-read all of it last year. I will illustrate the journey with photos taken on the trip.  I have done almost no editing of the journals and letters, and I am sure there are mistakes in place names and locations.  (The photos were slides taken with a Mamiya-Sekor SLR camera; I had them scanned about ten years ago.)

Here we go:


On the plane:  I did not think this was happening to me till just now.  Read in a magazine on the plane: A book should serve as an axe for the frozen sea within us.–Franz Kafka.

On the bus from the airport into London:  Two friendly English men, Brian and Jack, gave me helpful advice about railroads and travel.  Said not to ride on the top of double decker buses or I would get carsick. I won’t follow that advice.  If all English people are that friendly, I will have a lovely trip.  When I said I was going to Wales, as well, Jack said “The Welsh are lovely people.”

7:30 AM  I can see London out the window.  ENGLAND. [I remember all the terraced houses with long narrow gardens that we passed on the way in.]

10:10 AM  Here I am in the London underground which is like a funhouse ride.  The escalators are wooden and rickety.  The train seems to go 200 miles per hour and make an enormous racket. A cold wind precedes the train onto the platform. The train door slams shut almost before you get in, and there are no rails to protect you from falling on the track.  The trains and escalators and halls are a maze!  [Being from Seattle, I had never been on a subway before.]

on the tube

In London, 12:45 PM.  Went to three YWCA hostels before I found one where Mary had checked in.  Hot! Heavy pack!  Will be staying tonight in Hyde Park Hostel in Marylebone and Bulmore Street near Wigmore.  Am going on a two hour tour of London.  This is an enormous city, hot and crowded.  I look forward to getting into the country.

There is a dog cemetery in Hyde Park, hundreds of little gravestones.

Kensington Palace is right in the middle of London.

I saw a poster for a  Fairport Convention concert at Royal Albert Hall!

There are short telephone booths for short people.

Sign: “We regret any inconvenience caused while building work is carried out.”

Big Ben, I was told, is the name of the clock inside the tower.

Victoria Memorial and Buckingham Palace

After having checked into Hyde Park House (hostel) and having gone on the tour, I returned and found that Mary was not there! They had mixed her up with another Mary. I did some calling (the phones are really different here) and found that instead, she was at a hostel 5 blocks from Victoria Station where the airport bus had left me.  I made a telephone reservation and was told I must be there in two hours or the bed would be gone.  I went to Oxford Street to look for a bus and there, walking down Oxford street in opposite directions, Mary and I encountered each other!   She had been out walking all day.  We were so astonished that we just stared at each other.  She is so much browner from the Israeli sun!

Oxford Street

an odd scene at a window of an Oxford street store

near Carnaby Street, perhaps

With her help, I was able to get to the hostel on time. In the evening, we took a #2 Golders Green bus out to Golden Hills Park, a lovely huge park better than the Seattle arboretum, with a zoo of peacocks and chickens and other birds, and sheep.  The weather is hot, bright, and cloudless.  The clothes I packed are too warm!  We were going to St John’s Wood but missed the stop and went much further.  On the way back from Golder’s Green, we passed a sign for St John’s Wood and then later we passed a sign pointing in another direction saying St John’s Wood.  I am confused.  This city seems to have no straight streets in it.

For dinner, we went to a seafood restaurant [fish and chips place] and had rock salmon, wrapped in white paper to take out.  Cost 33p and a pepsi cost 10p. Before bed, we went back out to get a double order of chips for the hostel receptionist, who had had no dinner.

I am worried about how long my money will last.

A friend’s mother told me I would have a good time here because everyone speaks the same language.  But they don’t!  It is a different English and sometimes very hard to understand clerks and restaurant folks.  Mary and I can’t make ourselves understood sometimes and neither can the English folk.

view from the Warwick Street YWCA, where I did get a bed


6:30 AM  One must get up very early here for breakfast, which Mary says will be beans on toast.  Last night I meant to catch up on my sleep, but we and the woman who is in our room were talking politics instead.

Everything seems expensive here.  Today we will see if I can get discount tickets for the “Green Line” country buses.  I would like to take a bus to Elephant and Tooting just because of the name.

I bought a big bottle of orange drink, thinking it was fruit juice.  It was so sweet! I later realized it was supposed to be diluted with water.

Later: Today I went to Hampstead and Hampstead Heath, Woodgreen, Hammersmith, on an all day bus pass.  [I think that Mary was exhausted and wanted to rest for the day.] I saw some of the northern suburbs and villages and some of London city.  Met a nice man, a pensioner, on the bus, and he gave me more information about old London than the tour guide yesterday.  The Bank of England, he said, used to be called The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street.  I met a friendly conductor on the #12 bus who gave me his stepfather’s number to call if we’re in London on Friday, to reserve a place on a Sunday tour to the coast—only 40p!  Big Ben just chimed two o clock…Good night.

from the scrap book of my trip


Today we went to St Albans and Hitchen and Hatfield on a Golden Rover bus pass which permitted us to ride the country coaches for only 95p.  We saw churches and cathedrals and forgot to go to Petticoat Lane for the street market.

[So many options:]

[I am pretty sure we went north of London to visit a junior high school friend who had moved from Seattle to England, some years before.  Perhaps Mary will remember if my recollection of sitting in a green garden is a true one.]


On the train to Edinburgh!  This morning, Mary got her hostel card  and we left London.  The heater is broken in this train car—stuck on HOT!  When the train conductor came through saying something about “No ‘eat”, I thought he meant we couldn’t eat our lunch here!  Two nice Scottish women shared their barley sugar candy and crackers with us.

Our destination was the Larbet, Scotland, home of our pen pals Maureen and Jean and their parents.  We don’t think we will get there today—will probably stay in Edinburgh.

The English countryside viewed from the train is all different shades of green.  Lovely houses, lots of pastures with horses, cows, and shaggy sheep, many patches of woods.  In northern England, we went through some industrial areas, not very attractive—rows of lookalike houses, smokestacks, smog.

The men in Northern England seem to have longer hair than those in London.  In London, the young men and women wear fashionable clothes and platform heels.

Just now, the conductor walked through the car, calling “Serving afternoon tea and high tea now, please! Serving afternoon tea and high tea!”  It’s 4 PM.

[When Mary and I saw the sign, below, in a Scotland train station, all of a sudden I became “Inter City Kitty” and she became “Ursula”. We decided that we were the traveling Van Heuton sisters, Ursula and Kitty. To this day, she sometimes calls me Sister Kitty.]

A Scottish train station


9 PM: We still have not made it to Larbert.  We were tired when we arrived in Edinburgh so decided to stay two nights.  Our hostel room is a beautiful bedroom on the top floor of a townhouse overlooking parks, houses, cathedrals or churches with towers, and in the distance, high hills and water (The Firth of Forth).

in Edinburgh

Incredible sunset tonight.  And the back gardens between our row of houses and the next row are tidy and colourful.  [I was not a gardener then and so my photos rarely capture the beautiful gardens.] The morning I got up at 6:30!  and watched the world awake, and I think I heard a cuckoo bird.

Our hostel was on this street.

our view

another view from our hostel

I had a thing for “Number 12 buses” because of a Donovan song that went “I saw you today, on a number 12 bus, you were going my way.”

Today, we took a bus for 40p, through Edinburgh’s New Town and along the Firth of Forth.  Then Mary went shopping while I went to Holyrood Park and climbed to King Arthur’s Seat—825 feet.  I was terrified but am very proud of myself for doing it.  I don’t think it was really dangerous—but there was a sign saying DANGER and that the park department would not hold themselves responsible for accidents.

somewhere on the way

from the Salisbury Crags

from Salisbury Castle

Holyrood Park

The sheep looked shorn.

A photo that I cannot quite place, probably Edinburgh:

In the evening, Mary and I walked on Portobello Beach till 8:30 PM.

It was beautiful.  Lots of little snails crawling around and areas with smooth pinkish grey rocks.

[I know that the next day we walked the Royal Mile and went to an excellent Children’s Museum, but sadly I have no more photos of that day. I had a limited amount of film, and I think I was trying to conserve money by not buying more.]


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reading in 2017

for a retrospective of 35 years of reading, 1982-2016, start here.

reading in 2017

Some of the books are more or less rated with the one to five stars offered on Goodreads.  I retrofitted this post after I had written the 35 years of reading series.

Below: Waking Up White is essential reading for white folks.  Behind the Kitchen Door is a must read for restaurant patrons, along with Forked,  by the same author, which was one of the last books I read in 2016.  F

South Wind Through the Kitchen was recommended by David Kynaston in his British History series (Austerity Britain, Family Britain, etc) that I read in autumn 2016.  Five stars for all the above!

Above, left to right: How very sad I continue to be about Carrie Fisher.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities was oft cited by Kynaston and proved to be an interesting read, if a little dry at times.  Four stars.

I am always thrilled to get a new mystery by Elizabeth George.  Five, of course.

London War Notes is by an author often quoted in the David Kynaston British history series.  I wish so much that I could read more of her letters, which appeared in the New Yorker for years after the war.   Ten stars if I could!

A Square Meal is a history of the depression that stuck with me and inspired my Dust Bowl reading 11 months later.  Five stars.

Below:  A reference to Swallows and Amazons on the  Tootlepedal blog inspired me to read the first book in a long series.  Allan has been reading through the entire series.

Four stars for On the Edge of Gone, a apocalyptic novel (comet about to hit) with the good twist of having an autistic teenager as the protagonist.  I also wanted to like Thirst, more apocalyptic drying up of water.  Only three stars, though, which is a vague sort of “like”.

Four stars for the mystery Game of Secrets.  Scrabble is involved.

Ten for The Shock Doctrine’, deeply fascinating ideas about how we are manipulated by trauma.

Radium Girls, recommended by Karla of Time Enough Books was another would be ten star.  (Goodreads need a better rating system.)  In non fiction, Sundown Towns is a must read.  Bad Feminist and Evicted also got my highest rating.  

Above: Inspired by reading, in late 2016,  the Kynaston-recommended diaries of  Nella Last, I had gone on with WWII reading, including rereading two novels that I own, Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  The whole reading trend started, I believe, when Karla, owner of Time Enough Books, had recommended the telly series Home Fires, leading me to the history book it was based on (Jam Busters by Julie Summer) and then to more and more.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians… was picked out by Allan at the library and got four stars.  I reread Crazy for God (fundamentalist childhood memoir) because I forgot I had already read it.  A good solid three for Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, a memoir.

Four Stars for Wrapped in the Flag about the radical right, and For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood got three for being a little dry for me, a non teacher.  I loved Luvvie Ajayi’s I’m Judging You, a funny memoir and essays.

Below, in no particular order: Four stars for How to Make White People Laugh, memoir of an Iranian American growing up post 9-11.

I want more diaries from Mass Observation. Seven Lives… just had excerpts.  I’d like a deep dive into someone’s life, like I had with the Nella Last diaries in 2016.

The Kingdom By the Sea, a tour of England, filled me with joy.  I was pleased to learn all about author Betty MacDonald (The Egg and I, Onions in the Stew.)  Deep South and Strangers in Their Own Land are must reads.  Five stars all.

I don’t read many novels these days.  Prep was absorbing. Nicola Moriarty was not up to the suspense excellence of her sister, Liane. Two stars.

Like One of the Family is a recently rediscovered novel about domestic workers in the 1950s.  I adored it.  Ten!

Dan Pearson’s garden books are always pleasing to me.

Three stars for Thank You for Being Late about how fast paced modern life is.

Deep Survival…who survives accidents and so on…did not like it, just two stars, boring.


Below, in no particular order:

This was a great batch!  Cutting Back is a perfect gardening memoir.  I became fascinated with the Rural Studio after seeing a local property for sale that referenced Samuel Mockbee in the listing. Proceed and Be Bold is more about Samuel Mockbee and his architecture in the American South.  I’m pretty sure he is mentioned in the book Deep South.

The Deepest Roots was such a good memoir of life on Bainbridge Island that I gave a copy as a gift at Christmas time.  Dear Bill Bryson was such a perfect homage to Notes from a Small Island that I had to reread the original.  I’d give A Paradise Built in Hell 20 stars out of 5! Ethel and Ernest is a gorgeous WWII era memoir that has been turned into a movie, which will finally release here on DVD in March.  As the friend who recommended it to me wrote, it features some gardening.  She  wrote about it here.  Don’t miss reading The Hate U Give, one of the most memorable novels of 2017.

I wanted more diary entries and less analysis out of Nine Wartime Lives.

Any novel by Julia Glass is sure to be great, along with two other favourite authors represented here, Lee Smith (her autobiography) and Ian McEwan.

Hope in the Dark might make you feel better about the way things are now.

Rustic Homes is a pretty picture book that a friend gave me.  Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple was an adequately entertaining novel. (Three stars.)

Below: A Spark Joy almost but not quite inspired me to clean out my drawers.  I’ll let you know if I ever do.  It won me over to the charm of the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up author despite her weird ideas about socks. I loved the Sedaris diaries.  My Dunkirk obsession continues.  Shiny Objects: I tried to understand why people are big spenders (on things other than plants and soil).  Into the Water was unmemorable.  As you can see, I read one Black Cat Bookshop mystery after another.  It’s a relief to be cozy sometimes.

Elizabeth Warren is a hero of mine. A Colony In a Nation debunks the idea of a post-racial world and Small Great Things does the same in novel form.


Below: It breaks my heart to see the last Sue Grafton alphabet mystery…and then she died and there will be no Z.  My tiny bucket list included living long enough to read Z, which would have coincided with living long enough to see Donald Trump and, I hope, right wingers in general, out of office.

I noticed the title The Worst Hard Time when attending a reading at Time Enough Books.  I thought it would be about the Great Depression.  It turned out to be about the Dust Bowl; I had had no idea how bad that was, and a spate of reading books about it followed, including On the Dirty Plate Trail. That inspired me to  finally begin to read John Steinbeck.  The books whose covers are hard to read are Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle.  Also read Of Mice and Men and Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday.

Goodbye, Dear Friend, is the book I recommend to anyone whose companion animal has died.  I am still missing my Smoky so much that I am not yet up to creating my memorial photo posts about him.

Ian Whitcomb’s memoir, Resident Alien, started my obsession with reading all his books, except for maybe the one about ukelele players.

Above: Ruth Reichl is brilliant about all things food; I was pleased to have a new book by her.  Five stars for It’s Not Yet Dark, a memoir about the dread disease, ALS.

I adore all books by Margaret Drabble, one of my top five favourite writers.


Above: The Books that Changed My Life gave me a whole list of books to read, including the one I blogged about yesterday.

I read a series of disaster books, including two called Storm of the Century.  (The second storm book I read in 2018, along with one about a railway disaster.)  Dark Tide, about a molasses flood, recommended by Our Kathleen, started the disaster trend.  Broke USA and Not Working are about the personal disaster of trying to live in this country while poor.

I liked the bakery memoir.

I’m always happy to get a new Seaside Knitters mystery.  The Westing Game, one of the books that changed someone’s life, was not my cup of tea.

I was sorry that the Black Cat Bookshop mystery series ended because of an unappreciative publisher.

This Side of Sand Island, a memoir about Ilwaco, made me so wish its author still lived a half block away.  I continued my Dust Bowl reading with an insightful book  On Reading the Grapes of Wrath, and with Whose Names are Unknown, Out of the Dust and Dust Bowl Diary. I think I have exhausted the reading material about that now.

Whether or not you have chickens, Minnie Rose Lovgreen’s Recipe for Raising Chickens might charm you.  It makes a great gift for any friend who raises chooks.

By the way, after a long series of blog posts written on my iPad in my comfy chair, I am finally back at my desk, and am taking a break from reading to catch up on some retrospective blog posts like this one.


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Monday, 22 January 2018

I had begun an enormous book, set from the 1920s through WWII. The protagonist, Joshua Bland, an insecure, sarcastic, depressed, self-absorbed, lonely, unhappy man cannot be described as sympathetic. I cared for him.

As usual, my own self-absorbed qualities meant that Joshua’s experiences brought up some memories of my own. Here are my favourite passages out of 558 pages and a few of the thoughts and memories that the book inspired.

About his dog, Ab, and animals:


 Joshua’s small town childhood home, while much bigger, reminds me of living in a Seattle house and later a tiny Ilwaco house with all but one room blocked off to save heat.

I used to think, “I could be living outside,” and never thought of a cave.

As is true for many lucky readers, a good librarian was one of Joshua’s mentors.

Two teachers, of whom his mother disapproved:

I was fortunate to have a warm and wonderful second grade teacher, Miss Ruth Gregory. Already in at least her late fifties if not older, Ruth Gregory lived in a small University District apartment with Miss Larson. Because my cousin George was gay and lived with his partner Bob, my family never displayed prejudice against obviously gay couples. My mother and grandmother and I would go into the apartment building door with the green awning to visit my beloved teacher, for several years after elementary school.

Years later, a friend lived in that same building with that same view to the south. I wondered if by some chance she might even have lived in the same apartment.

A  passage describing a depression era farm foreclosure made me wonder, why can’t people behave so generously and kindly in modern day foreclosures?

My focus on reading is not as powerful as it was before distractions of online news and social media, so I did not quite make it halfway through the book by Monday evening telly time. (We are watching an old British show called Fresh Fields.  I did not like it at first and then it grew on me .)

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

We had slept through a tsunami watch associated with a 7+ Alaskan earthquake. While some friends were up till 4 Am waiting to see if it would turn into an actual warning, others drove inland, and others prepared for possible evacuation of the critters in the animal shelter. I went to sleep at two, as usual, with my phone turned off and unaware of all the stress. I was inspired today to refresh the contents of my go bag, also known as a bug out bag, and to put it close to hand at the foot of my bed. It is also suggested that we have a pair of sturdy shoes by our beds with socks already tucked into them.

When I moved here 25 years ago, potential tsunamis were not much spoken off, research had not yet shown the danger, and tsunami evacuation signs did not dot our roadsides. If they had, I might not have moved here,  might not have become a jobbing gardener, and…a different path would have awaited me in Seattle. (My little Seattle house is now worth about $600k, so I’d very likely be wealthier in assets but perhaps poorer in job satisfaction.)

The weather was stormy, with 60 mph wind gusts at nearby Cape Disappointment.

The cats had no interest in going outside.

Here I will throw in a decorating tip: Hooks and a string and some tiny wooden clothes pins make for postcard display. The ones by my bed all represent sleep and dreams.

The cards in the kitchen represent cats, gardening, and tea time.

The card to the left, below, is titled Noodle Takes a Nap. In the eighties, I named a grey cat after that card.

Allan’s Medicare card arrived, well over two months since he carefully applied for it. (My insurance card finally came at the end of last week, good news which I forgot to relay in this blog.)

I continued with my book, managing to focus better by putting my internet devices out of reach.

As often happens when I read a book about someone with social difficulties, I found words that spoke to me. Advice from a college teacher and mentor:

I was reminded, below, of some of the bad behavior I see on social media:

The author grew up in a small town and well knows the power of small town gossip.  I once said a thing, not even a bad thing, in the foyer of a local pub in Seaview.  By the next day, the thing had been repeated by a pub patron, via email, to a client of mine who lived part time in New York, and was repeated back to me by a friend who lived in Long Beach.  In the fictional small town, in the 1930s, gossip was as fast moving as it is today.

I once, so long ago, was part of a small social group in which I indulged in gossip about one particular (now former) citizen who had caused pain and irritation to most of us. I got uncomfortable when the group became exclusive of others besides that one person. And I soon learned that expressing that discomfort was a quick route to being one of the shunned. It was a powerful and life changing lesson in more than just the speed of gossip.

I’ve had many thoughts about the power of gossip over the years. Here is a good book I read about it in the 80s.

I thought then, and still do, that there is a big difference between what I called sweet gossip (kindly topics) and malicious gossip.  And there’s this:

Back to A Gay and Melancholy Sound. While I do not feel that “They”, meaning me, is (are?) out to destroy my own happiness (well, not since my 30s), the following passage perfectly describes hypochondria. (And Joshua did not even have Dr Google to scare him.)

Advice from the college professor and mentor about the delicious meal of happiness:

By now, the story has moved on to WWII. Here is we could strive to be like, if it’s not too late:

I am not sure I know anyone like that. Anger (often justifiable) disqualifies most people.   I will have to think on it.

A footnote:

On a trivial note, I smiled in recognition at Joshua’s inability to tell his left hand from his right and his failure at good package wrapping.  Allan wraps our packages now. I have indeed had one rejected by the postmaster.

And on another trivial note…Oh, how carefully I learned, when attending the symphony on a grade school field trip, to not clap in the wrong place.  It still makes me anxious.

Skooter continued to avoid the bad weather.

In the evening, we watched This is Us, a now favourite show that I had avoided because it looked too tear-jerking to me. Its scenes of a house fire, combined with the Alaska earthquake and local social media freaking out about the “ring of fire”, made me decide that I had to finish my book before sleeping, in case disaster overtook us by morning.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

So I read into the night, finishing at 3:30 AM and thereupon letting out an involuntary sob so loud that it woke the cats.

In email today came some photos from The Anchorage Cottages.

Could these be reseeded sweet peas?  They look more like Cerinthe to me except for the tips. (I have decided on cerinthe.)

I replied with a request that Beth clip off the two ugly hellebore leaves, below, so that I don’t feel compelled to make the trip up there to do so:

A sweet small cupped narcissus:

The weather continues to be good reading time, and will probably be that way for at least another week. I still have shingles…not as painful now…so rest is good.  None of the big garden projects, and especially not the mulching with eight yards of Soil Energy, will happen this winter. I need to be philosophical and relaxed about that.

We had a new washing machine delivered today.  Our old one broke down hours after last week’s delivery of a new refrigerator. I am feeling as though we should start economizing because of all our recent expenses (appliances, vet bills).  What I am really hoping is that we get back an old garden that I love, thus making a bit more money, having maybe six hours a week less free time, and not having to economize on our main non gardening indulgence, our garden club restaurant meals.

Speaking of which, tonight we had our first North Beach Garden Gang dinner this year. We chose burger night at The Depot Restaurant.

Talking about gardening with Dave and Melissa felt a lot like getting back to normal.

Next: I have every intention of getting out of my comfy chair and over to my desk to write those retrospective blog posts.

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Thursday, 18 January 2018

Allan took our recycling to the big dumpsters just east of the port and brought back these photos.

The tide was just falling from its peak of 8.3 feet.

I know just what happened here: CoHo charters cleaned some of the old bergenia out of their garden bed:

Those bergenia are not from the curbside garden, to which I plan to add some more plants this year.

A rain gauge at the port:

Meanwhile, I’ve just been reading. I recommend the book Katrina After the Flood, an excellent story about the rebuilding of New Orleans. It kept me engrossed for two days.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Skooter sometimes sat on my lap, briefly, a new and welcome habit of his. Otherwise, he slept in a nearby chair or prowled the house, chasing  Frosty and Calvin and looking for trouble like a bored child on a rainy day.

He looks so angelic when asleep, as mothers say.

Here he is during a brief visit to my lap.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

On Saturday, I felt disgruntled that the local resistance group had decided to have an indoor preaching-to-the-choir event rather than a march. I read about the marches all over the country. I’d have somehow gotten out of my comfy chair of convalescence to attend a march near here.

On the same day, the local beach clean up had taken place, an event that was too hard to for me (because walking in sand is tough on the old knee). Here are a few photos from the Grassroots Garbage Gang.

Photos by Wendy Murry:

The dune grass needed careful cleaning after this week’s huge waves.

Photos by Philip Torchio:

I miss going to the beach clean up and hope to make the one in April.

We’d had monstrous wave action the previous two days, so strong that waves had knocked down photographers and washed away camera equipment at Cape D. Look at the power of the waves here and here. I guarantee you will enjoy the still photos posted here.

Meanwhile, in my comfy chair: After finishing Katrina, I turned to a short book recommended by Montana Mary, my copy editor and writer friend of 50 years. (You can blame or credit Mary with my new decision to stop deleting the more personal passages that I write in this blog.)

As I read, a candle burned in the background, in spiritual support of a neighbor–who was having a baby today!

I was in communication with Maddy of Pink Poppy Bakery fame, who told me about friends lighting candles for the baby’s arrival.

Because I hope the new little girl will grow up next door to me, and that  I can be the old neighbor lady with the cool garden, a memory returned to me and I wrote about it to Maddy:

I still remember an old woman at the top of my grandma’s hill. I’d walk by her garden on the way to elementary school and I just called her “the nice lady”. I knew her for years, and I did a little gardening and cleaning for her as a young adult, and I have a mirror I got at an estate sale when she died. It’s the mirror behind the white lamp in the candle photo [below]. I did learn her name but have forgotten it. So she’s always “the nice lady”.

Behind the white lamp is the nice lady’s mirror.

I tired to find her name on tax sifter to no avail. I did find two photos of her house. It is still the same!

I do not have grandchildren, from sad circumstance rather than oversight, so I hope I can be the nice lady who helps create flowery garden memories. I have already had one small child visit and run through the garden saying, “Flowers, flowers, flowers!” and others who were entranced with the fairy doors.

From November 1st, Flynn of Salt Hotel finds a fairy door (Allan’s photo)

Here are my favourite parts of Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog, which I loved even though I did not enjoy diagramming sentences in school.

My favourite of the interesting sentences she chose to diagram.

I don’t much like commas, either. I went through a time of not using many in this blog, until I thought it might make people think I was ignorant.

Great description of Henry James:

As I waited for news of the baby, I read this:

….which would not apply to a child born on this stormy, windy night. After I had a miscarriage in 1992, I read a pile of sad books on the subject and ever since I have wished fervently for the best for anyone I know expecting a baby.

I went on reading and was intrigued and excited when the author recommended the books of Dawn Powell, who wrote diaries, including this passage from high school.

I found and ordered her novels from the library and did an interlibrary loan for her diaries.

Because I recently so much enjoyed the Letters from Lotusland diaries of Ian Whitcomb, I looked forward to reading another diarist. I have found a treasure trove of more recent Whitcomb letters here,  where the site navigation is difficult. If you backspace, you will find ways to get to all the letters.

Back to Sister Bernadette and her dog. I feel that this is the way I learned grammar:

When Mary recommended the book, she sent me this passage:

With more education, I would have liked to be both copy editor and gardener.

By 9:25, I had finished the book and we were watching a telly series that had been recommended to me by my friend Lynn of Cinefile Comics.  (Allan and I had given up on Peaky Blinders after giving it the three episode test. Boring and I hated the modern music soundtrack.) Lynn knows just what I like.  This series is perfect for us:

9:25 is the significant moment when I got a message that my new little neighbor girl has been born!

Sunday, 21 January 2018

At 1 AM, I had begun a new book, recommended in Books that Changed My Life.  

Just a few pages in, I was enthralled. In the forward, Nancy Pearl describes the protagonist as someone who “throughout his life systematically destroyed whatever happiness could be his, knowing exactly what he was doing as he did it but unable to stop himself.  His behavior, which perhaps will be inexplicable to some readers, was all too understandable to me.  It still is.”  That’s pretty much what I did from age 21 through 36.  I’d like to talk to Nancy Pearl about why she understands his behavior so well.

The writing is gorgeous.

And because it is over 500 some pages long, it is going to prevent me from doing my planned blog posts at the computer for three more days.

Steve of The Bayside Garden stopped by to bring us a grevillea, a plant I have wanted for quite some time. I gave him a pot of hellebore seedlings.

My grevillea. (Allan’s photo)

Allan’s photo

One more thing before I go. We cleaned out an old trunk (once upon a time my toy box) to use as a step for getting up to my bed, which has gotten ridiculously tall with the addition of a four-inch box spring. In it, I found, along with some old sewing supplies of my grandma’s, something so special. You can read about it here.

Edited to add the photo in case that link doesn’t work. Short version: I found one of the poems my grandma used to write when she gave home made gifts. I had remembered about these poems but had not seen one since before my grandma died.

I hope to return with some retrospective blog posts written from my computer chair.  It will be a relief to compose on the computer rather than the much more difficult and time consuming iPad.

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Monday, 16 January 2018
Something from yesterday: While Allan was up at the top of the crab pot tree removing lights and garlands, Premera Blue Cross actually called him. They are finally taking my case seriously. Later, when not perched on stacked crab pots, he had a long talk with them and they promised I will have my insurance card in five to seven days. Yes, the card that should have arrived by the end of December might be here by the 22nd of January. If I had been on the phone, I would have told the person that their $250 emergency room co pay (which was $100 three years ago) is a price that could kill people by making them put off a hospital visit till the regular clinic is open.

Today, I woke after a mere six hours of sleep to a beautiful, spring like day.

I could not resist the garden.

Bright Acanthus ‘Hollard’s Gold’ greeted me (lower left).

Surely I could do a few tasks in the garden? I set myself a goal of doing four things.

One and two: cut down a variegated miscanthus and a tall yellow yarrow and chopped the debris small into the compost bins.



Now I will have a better view when the crocuses emerge.

Three: Cut down another miscanthus in  the west bed.



I added another thing (four) and transplanted a small clerodendrum tree.  You can read a charming article and see good photos of the “peanut butter tree” here. Mine had  been along the west edge and is now in the big west bed. Looking from my south window, I love the shiny green leaves along the west edge and have realized I want glossy green evergreen leaves in a continuous line, not broken by a deciduous tree. I now have some kind of osmanthus, a eucryphia, an empty space, and some Escallonia ‘Pink Princess’ mixed with some pernettya. I’d like an ultra cool shiny rather fast growing seven to nine foot foot tall evergreen shrub in the empty space, and soon. If I get lazy (because pickings of the unusual are slim around here), I’ll just get a white escallonia (Escallonia iveyi).

Osmanthus (?), empty space, escallonias and pernettya:

Oh, a Rhodendron loderi would be nice, shiny, and fragrant. But not available around here. And I’d like a shrub clothed in green all the way to the base.

Skooter was playing captain on the good ship Ann Lovejoy.

I turned to the fifth thing, cutting back three clumps of epimedium so that the yellow flowers will show later on. Clump one: Not perfect but good enough.

Better than it was a few days ago:

Near the last patch of epimedium, a hamamelis was aglow.

Three narcissi were blooming … here’s one:

and one of the first clumps of crocus:

I was listening to my body with the intention of stopping at the first sign of tiredness.  I still had the energy to walk to the edge of the bogsy woods to look for special hellebores. I can only find magenta, pink, and white singles and doubles. None of the fancy ones I’ve bought are blooming yet.

I found new pulmonaria leaves:

And a small disaster where my new Metrapanax delavayi  (extra special from Xera Plants via Pam Fleming) had blown over.

I was running low on steam so called Allan on the phone. He came to the rescue with some rope with which we tied the little tree to the big stump of Danger Tree.

While I waited, I sat by the fire circle and admired my contorted filbert.

That was all I could manage. It did not cause any sort of relapse, as far as I can tell as I write this the next day. I came indoors with lungs full of fresh air and wrote yesterday’s blog post and finished reading The White Cascade.

When Steve came to pick up his soup container, I gave him two of the narcissi (the third was snail-chomped), a branch of winter honeysuckle, and rooted starts of epimedium and Jasminum nudiforum.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

I am still blogging from my comfy chair rather than from my computer desk. We are in for a couple of weeks of wild and wet weather which I hope will be conducive to the retrospective blog posts that I want to do. For those, I need to sit and my desk. I’m of the opinion that my five year old MacBook will last longer if I don’t make it teeter and shift around on my lap.

I woke after only six hours of sleep to the sound of drilling, as Allan removed the front door.

Skooter did not want me to get up.

While Skooter weighed me down, Chef Allan was pleased to take delivery (hours earlier than scheduled) of a gleaming white new refrigerator, and the old one, which tended to turn on much too often and to ice up every other month, was carted away.

No wheels here. There is a wide strap under the 205 lb. fridge cinched onto their shoulder harnesses. Very clever. 

Within two hours of the refrigerator installation, our washing machine (probably circa 1979) broke down. One of the resolutions I made in my mid-20s was to never again go to a laundrette, so a new machine is on order to be delivered next Wednesday. Allan spent part of his afternoon bailing out the old one. How well I remember the not so long ago days when this would have been a terrible financial crisis. I am thankful that it is just a setback.

I noticed something interesting. From the same trunk, the Solanum crispum ‘Glasnevin’ outside the south window is leafless…

….and is still fully leafed out the west window.

Suddenly, after mildly-manneredly putting up with it for seven years, I was consumed with desire to see out of my “blown” south window. I started to explore possibilities of a rebate program for window replacement, from the local electric company. I want to see the whole view!  I also want to be able to take photos out of a clear unscreened window.

The weather is perfect for resting…..
…and promises to be so for some time. The winds were strong. I can see Cape D from my window.

A friend took this photo at the port in the afternoon:

High tide at the Ilwaco marina, photo by Jackie Sheldon

The next two weeks should be perfect for resting, reading, blog writing, and then…the prospect of returning to work will begin to loom. Meanwhile…

I may take a few days off blogging to read my latest batch of books, starting with this one:

…and moving on to these:

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