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Thursday, 14 July 2011



Self-discipline. Even at my age I struggle with it from time to time. I realised yesterday that it was a week or so since I’d done the thing I most like to do: go for a hike. I mean more than just a stroll up to the top to watch the clouds, or the sunset, or to make a phone call. A combination of factors have kept me from it. I have been to Chadron – twice. I am still adjusting to being alone. It’s been hot. The insects are more and more of a nuisance. And I’ve been getting plain lazy, as people do in July and august – although not so much in England, I should add, where the temperature rarely gets much above 70 and we have a long history of keeping busy lest we freeze to death – or the Devil find work for our idle hands.

But yesterday was pleasantly cool, and breezy; and I’d run out of excuses. I put on my boots, shoved a drink into the back-pack – remembered at the last minute my trusty bottle of OFF! Deep Woods Repellent VII – and set off down Champagne Creek, to which I am claiming naming rights: see my entry of 22 June. In fact, I may well plant a British flag along its headwaters and set up a small republic. I’ve never seen anybody else down there, so who’s going to complain?

The whole place has been scoured by the run-off from the rains, with deep gouges leading to the start of the creek. I have to say I felt a little uneasy walking between three- and four-foot high embankments, with the grasses and soapweeds brushing my sides, but the fact is I’ve not set eyes on a snake since I bought those boots, apart from the one on the door-step the other day.

Just as everywhere else, this place was swarming with dragon-flies, and I couldn’t resist trying to snap a picture. If you’re impressed by the results, bear in mind that I erased a couple of dozen failed shots when I got home. But that’s the joy of modern photographic technology.



Talking of failures, I also took several pictures of the grapevines down there, a few of which have bunches of fruit starting to swell. Nothing. Not a single one that was even in focus.

I worked my way slowly downstream. The bed has changed in character, being broader than it was a month ago, flatter and full of sand. Where it disgorges into the river there was a low, rippled mound of the stuff forming, with tiny rocks being washed down all the time. I amused myself for some time by digging out handfuls and diverting the flow. I soon got carried away and was halfway through building a dam of fallen timber, with visions of an island, a flag and a small fortified dwelling… when I realised it was two-thirty and I’d promised A. I’d be in position to receive a call at three.

Now that I’m reasonably familiar with the lie of the land down there I can get back up to where I park the car in twenty minutes or so, always providing that I remember to stay on the east side of the creek. And I did remember - when I was halfway up the west side, scrambling through the long grass under the pine trees. With five minutes to go till my call was due – I cannot send out to the U.K. on this phone, only receive – I emerged within sight of the car. There it was, just a few hundred yards away, the other side of a deep draw.



It’s slap-bang in the centre, just below the sky-line and to the right of the pale scar.

I was, unsurprisingly, hot and bothered when I arrived to find that my phone wasn’t where it should’ve been, between the two front seats. Had I put it in my pocket and lost it? I drove home in record time, found it on the kitchen table, and drove back up to the top.

A., of course, is due to become a grandmother any day now. In fact the child is due today. I wonder whether it’ll happen. Whenever he or she does arrive, it’s going to make July a busy month for celebrations. My son Jack was due on Independence Day, 22 years ago, but failed to show up. My birthday came and went, on the 10th, but no baby. Just when I was thinking he would arrive on Bastille Day, he made his entrance, 0138h on the 13th.

After A. and I had talked, I drove back down. For fun I took a short video recording through the windscreen. And then, because I rather liked the light, I drove back up and recorded that too. If it turns out that yesterday’s video posting has succeeded I’ll put this next one up. It’s a bit of fun.

Some time today I ought to be heading east to Valentine and/or Ainsworth. But until I pick up my emails I won’t be sure what’s happening. The weather looks fabulous, and a second flower has opened on the zucchini squash, with several more lining up. On a botanical/culinary note, we call these courgettes back home. It’s a French word and means, I have always believed, little marrows. With luck, this time next week I’ll slicing them, frying them in olive oil and serving with a nice omelette.

A final thought. It may be a little late in the day, but I ought to mention my daughter Eva. On Friday – or is it Saturday? – she and three friends set off on a charity walk. Sixty miles (yes, 60) in thirty hours. When she first mentioned it I told her it was dangerous, but she’s like me: won’t be told. Her team have now been training for six months and they’re fairly confident. Go and check them out at http://www.serious-chafing.com/