While I sit here on the empty beach, with the surf and the birds as my orchestra, I am struck by the fortune of fate. On a beach located on the opposite side of the planet, a chance meeting introduced me to the people who are providing the most gracious, gentle, and recuperative hospitality I have ever known. Combined with a few medicinal pints, the trials of recent weeks are melting away and I am regaining my strength to explore a new continent.
These past few days, I have been acclimatising to Western life. I have learned that laundry doesn't take all day, scrubbing out each item of clothing in the shower with a bar of soap. I just dump the contents of my knapsack into the washer, add some soap, shut the lid, turn a dial and walk away. What a marvel of ingenuity, this invention of modern convenience!! When the washer stops in half an hour, I just have to move it next door to the dryer and push another button. An hour later, I have clean, fresh smelling clothes. Pauline laughs at my compulsion to hug my laundry as it exits the dryer, but I can't help myself. The thought of having a knapsack full of clean clothes makes me happier than a kid with a new toy.
The first few shop keepers I met all gave me odd, concerned looks. In one store, I took a silver pendant to the cashier, who rang up the price on the register. When she held out her hand to accept my money, I made an offer for half the amount she asked for. Confused, she called over her manager. I made the manager the same offer. He shot me a peculiar look and sternly demanded the full price. What a strange store this is, I thought, to be so firm on their prices. I left the pendant and walked out of the store. How do these shops expect to sell anything when they won't barter? It takes another two shops to realize, this is England. They don't do the bartering thing here. Oops.
I can drink water straight from the tap. That's a thrill all unto itself.
I mostly enjoy the solitude of having endless miles of beach to myself. The chilly, spring breeze, the sound of the surf and the solitude is comforting. There are several trails that lead away from the beach to different parts of town. The one I explored yesterday took me to the shopping district. Today's choice brought me near the central area of town and across the street from the "Voted World's Best" fish and chip shop. In England, of all places. Yes, I'll definitely want some of that. Still licking the malt vinegar off my fingers, I have already decided what I'm having for lunch tomorrow.
I offered to make dinner last night and although I had to get creative with a few ingredients, I was happy with the tuna casserole that emerged from my efforts. Pauline had never had it before. I know Ben liked it because he ate the leftovers this morning for breakfast.
My days here have been pleasant and therapeutically monotonous. Tomorrow night, I'll be on the ferry from Poole to St. Malo, France, to start exploring Europe. Today, I am quite happy to sit right here, on this empty beach. In fact, serve me up a second helping; I may never feel this content with boredom again.
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"What do I think of Western civilization? I think it would be a very good idea."