Saturday, 21 March 2009

Friendship is...

If love is never having to say you're sorry (which I actually don't believe), then perhaps friendship is not having to say anything at all. I think of this because one of my favourite ways to spend time with friends and loved ones is in companionable silence.

The day we left America, Our Gracious Hostess and I sat at her dining room table drinking herbal tea, she looking up scrapbooking websites and me writing my diary. We hadn't seen each other for a long time and didn't know when we would see each other next - it could be years - but there was no need to babble on.

It reminded me of those times during our childhood when we sat quietly for hours flipping through magazines, painting our nails, drawing pictures, reading books... Occasionally we would look up and share a snippet of information, but most of the time we just worked quietly together.

There is a type of person who you know so well that there is no need for words. A look, a smile, a sigh or a gesture says it all. When I was a child I would often take a book into my brother or sisters' room and just sit on the floor or propped on the bed reading while they did their homework or listened to their records. It wasn't that I wanted to say anything, but I did want company. My cat is really good at this. He comes and sits near me, flicking an ear every now and then to let me know he's aware of my presence, but he doesn't say a lot. I like it.

Often we fill this silence with empty chatter - almost overcome by a need to say something, to prove our wit or our existence. We are almost afraid of silence as though it is somehow impolitie to be with someone and not talk to them. But when you have grown up with someone or shared so many experiences, there is no need for phatic communication.

I'm not good at small talk and I hate 'networking' or going to parties where I don't know anyone (this picture is not typical of what happens to me at such events) and I have to pretend I'm interested in what they've got to say. Sometimes I am, but often (especially it involves their children - which it invariably does with women over the age of 30 - or their salary to mortgage ratio) I'm not, and I can't bear the whole 'smile, nod, interject' routine.

This becomes even harder as I get older, and I fear I don't make new friends as well as I might. I miss being around my old friends and family - people who know where I went to school and what's my favourite colour and the terrible relationship mistakes I made. They know all that and accept it, so we don't have to go over it all again.

We can talk about things we really want to talk about, have pointless conversations, such as the definition of a sit-com; why religion and politics mix in America but not Britain; how easy is it to live without seasons; or we can simply say nothing at all.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

My Newest Favourtie Thing: Bliss Super Minty Soap n' Scrub

It’s been a while since I’ve had a new favourite thing. That’s not strictly true, but it’s been a while since I’ve written about one. So, my newest favourite thing – discovered while visiting Our Gracious Host & Hostess – is Bliss super minty soap n’ scrub energizing exfoliator for the body.

Wow! This stuff knocks your socks off – that is, if you are wearing socks in the shower, which would be a little odd. It zings (but not stings), taking your breath away and leaving you feel ‘clean to the extreme’. The website suggests it is good for a post-workout wash, and while I can attest to this, it is also fabulous simply for getting up in the morning if, like me, early mornings are not your best time.

It’s a jet-lag beater and you just feel fresh and ready to cope with anything once you’ve bathed with the ‘jojoba bead packed and peppermint cooling soap scrub paste’. Breathing in the fumes is like standing on the side of the coolest glacier – you feel pristine and glowing once you step out of the shower. The pale blue and white tubes carry a warning to use sparingly around ‘intimate areas’, which is advice worth noting.

The website ( has a range of other enticingly named products including lemon and sage soapy sap, blood orange and white pepper body butter, and vanilla and bergamot bubbling bath and shower gel. There’s a cute ‘tried and blue travel kit’ and a handy ‘sinkside six-pack’. Incidentally, why are all miniature things considered cute? That’s just a random aside.

You may well feel this is going a bit over the top for what is effectively soap, but try it! I had to bring some back with me in my already over-stuffed suitcase as I didn’t know if it was available in New Zealand. It’s not. I’ve been looking for a new favourite bath product since The Body Shop sold out to L’Oreal
and I may just have found one. Now I just have to find people to go to the US, Canada, UK and Ireland to bring me the stuff!

Monday, 16 March 2009

Under a Big Sky

This is almost the final instalment in the Great Tour of America and Italy from last year - I just thought I'd capitalise that to make it look Big and Important - a trick learned from A.A. Milne. I'm going to need to go on another trip to get some more adventures about which to blog. In the meantime...

Lone Pine apparently used to have an iconic pine tree which has since blown down, so the town should really be renamed No Pine.

We have missed their 19th film festival by a day. This festival celebrates Westerns and famous actors such as Gary Cooper, Hop-along Cassidy, Kirk Douglas and the bloke who played the Lone Ranger. The surrounding mountains have been used as scenery for many a film.

John Wayne stayed in the very same hotel as we do. Our room is old-fashioned with a Wild West feel – there are stencilled images printed on the wooden furniture, a green and purple flowery carpet, and a friendly receptionist.

Dinner at the Merry-Go-Round restaurant is delicious. In keeping with the area, I have pea soup and then filet steak with beans and twice-baked potato. We share a bottle of Pepper Grove cabernet sauvignon which is a Californian wine imported from Napa. The restaurant is in a building like a tent or an octagonal big top and the food is excellent. I enjoy the atmosphere and it is the perfect end to a great day.

The next morning we wake up to the most amazing scenery. Wow, what a view! We’re flanked by real cowboy mountains; jagged peaks haunted with boulders and topped with snow. Him Outdoors discovers the trail up Mt Whitney is one that can be walked in a couple of days and he is itching to get up there.

Unfortunately we haven’t got a couple of days so we quickly explore the town (which sells crystals, rocks, wood carvings, pottery, moccasins, cowboy boots, belts, fringed jackets, cowboy hats and crockery) and have breakfast at a diner where the owner collects butter churns. Her admission of this fact leads to an unsolicited conversation with a punter who collects random antiques from radios to roller-skates.

We drive on again through towns such as Big Pine and Independence, the administrative centre of Inyo County complete with a courthouse and, according to its brochure, ‘a patriotic flag-waving Fourth of July celebration, featuring an early-morning flag-raising, pancake breakfast, a 4km/10km run/walk, a nice small-town parade, delicious home-made ice cream and pie social, kids’ activities (including a frog jumping contest), an arts and crafts show, deep-pit barbecue and, to complete an exciting day, a sunset fireworks show.’

Bishop is less dramatic. As well as the usual Denny’s, Burger King, MacDonald’s, Taco Bell, KFC and Karl Jnr, the town boasts such gems as Spellbinder Books and Coffee, Brock’s Flyfishing Specialists, Anne Marie’s Wedding Register, El Dorado Saving’s Bank, Giggle Springs Gasoline Market, Jumpin Juice and Java, Erick Schatt’s Bakery, and The Meat House.

This is an outdoor paradise with its clean air and bright light. We are in the High Sierras where people come to fish, hunt, shoot, trek, cycle, hike, and generally revel in the bluest skies I’ve seen outside Queenstown. We approach Sherwin Summit (7,000ft) where the steep sides of the archetypal American mountains are clad with pine trees and a sprinkling of snow.

Road signs promise twisting roads and bounding deer for the next umpteen miles. There are signs to Tom’s Place and an exhortation to report drunk drivers to the police. The landscape of boulders and trees is dotted with wilderness lodges, and paths wind through the scenery, beckoning runners to follow. Him Outdoors says, ‘This is my sort of stuff. I like this.’