c/- Box 1556, Carmel, California. July 12th.
It's happened - we're here, we've met Virginia, (that fairy-story being ever since I heard the name), Pennie is entirely thrilled with Keith, and after seeing some of Virginia's dress making is quite awed at her expertise. We are getting right royal treatment, from being met at Pier 80, San Francisco, by Keith and Aileen Drury, to our very own cottage just next door but one to Keith and Virginia themselves. It belongs to Mr McCloud, whose name attaches to a very big dress shop in town.
We've scotched a lot of baseless assumptions or impressions for ourselves - such as the on that Keith and Virginia live in a post box, that they were tea total, health food fiends, that Virginia was the immaculately accoutred queen of local society. It's been really exciting to discover their house, on the southern end of town, quite near the flats of the frequently dry Carmel River, and over looking a very historic Spanish Mission building dating from early 19th Century. Keith has a big 4 wheel drive Ford Utility, like a 50% larger land rover, and Virginia has a Falcon, which we are able to use most of the time, as she only uses it about once a fortnight.
Virginia's sister Liz and husband live next door, the street being Franciscan Way, incidentally and Mrs Drury about 3 - 4 blocks away, towards the main beach at the centre of town. Also 3-4 blocks away, but nearer the water, are a family called Bell, who own a Tabitha Taxi - exactly the same as ours, about 3-4 months older, being registered VLC, ours is VYN. I met Mrs Bell driving it in town, spoke to her, and heard all about how they got it - they paid £400, rather typical charge-the-yanks-double price, for a car in very much the same condition as ours, except for a rusted front mudguard. They also got a meter, same as ours, and also won a set of 'Keep your feet off and sit well back" notices, on the base of the fold-away seats, also ads for handicapped children's charity, int he same position.
Carmel is very reminiscent of Palm Beach - same sort of vegetation (including gum trees), same sort of housing - same old shacks from the earliest days, other new pretentious mansions from recent big development, even a nearby supermarket, etc complex like the Warringah Mall. The supermarket even carries Australian (Swan) beer as well as a mass of others, Dutch, Danish, English, German, Norwegian etc etc. which is great because U.S. beer is so weak and tasteless- rather like sweetened mineral water.
Virginia and Pennie get on terrifically, she is a very good cook and a superb dressmaker, tailor in fact, and is going to make Pennie something when they find a pattern. She does all her work on an ancient Singer, miniature electric model, but the rest of the house if very much up to date - automatic washing machine/drying machine, electric can opener, built in vacuum cleaner system, with outlets in each room, beautiful furniture, mainly in natural woods, to go with the house which is all wood, finished by painting straight onto completely un-planed, rough-from-the -sawmill, planks they rubbing over with another bit of wood to leave the high spots bare. The floor is rough-sawn planks, smoothed, but not leveled, so it' a bit undulating, but the whole is beautiful. We bought a Japanese tier of baskets, in a little town we visited there, and though it could perhaps have fitted into one of their cottages, but Virginia was thrilled with it and wants to put it in the dining room. So that was fortuitous bit of souvenir buying. We also bought 2 pineapples, fresh from the plantation in Hawaii, and only just ripening, which Keith loved.
We've had some fascinating chats about family skeletons, stories of doings long ago, learned a lot about D.S. Evans and his life, also Amphletts. Keith by the way thinks he is a very conscientious correspondent, considering the number of people he is expected to write to, nine he says, and Virginia thinks we are stupendous letter - writers, having had four postcards form us since we left U.K. By the way, did you get all yours, viz. one from each of Copenhagen, Warsaw, Leningrad, Khabarousk, Japan and Honolulu?
I am already established as local fix-it, Virginia's auto-record changer yesterday, with Aileen's radio-operated garage door to come (it squeaks), but chances of a paying job appear slim in the Carmel area. However Keith is being as generous as could be possible, and talks of settling a lump sum on us, to see us through travels in the U.S., with some for spending on duty-free goods in Fiji left over if we budget right. so we may just buy a $99 Greyhound ticket, and go travelling in the Western States for a month, trusting to Youth Hostels and Y.M. / Y.W. C.A.'s
Keith took us to Monterey the other day, it is full of devotedly restored historic buildings from the Spanish, Independent and early American eras, all with informative plaques on the footpath outside. We lunched on Fisherman's Wharf, overlooking the water, today he's taking us driving up the Carmel River Valley. Yesterday he went down to the Big Sur Cottage, Virginia wouldn't let him take us, because she wanted to be there to see our reactions when we see it! She also told Keith and Aileen not to pump us about our U.K. to U.S.A. trip on the drive from San Francisco - she wanted to hear it first - hand. Well thank for all the mail (3 of yours awaited us here - dated May 24th, June 2nd, June 30th) despatch of OBU, SPER, and BELT noted, but not yet received. On that subject, DO TELL if my destination roll has reached me from SPER - if not I must blast them because I sent $10, early enough to be sure of one (one of the original early Sydney Tram ones, with all those coloured Geometrical symbols as well as place names). I'll set your mind at rest when the belt, etc. parcel arrives here. Haven't actually heard , except for a cryptic cable received on the ship just out of Yokohama, whether Tabitha Taxi is fully through Customs and into 5 Calvert Parade - the cable just said 'arrived safely', referring perhaps to the storm Orcades ran into, and Tabitha's physical, if not customs, well being.
Well, loving Carmel (went to the 'Village Theatre', i.e. cinema, for a very way out new generation movie, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice), the rest of America a big gaudy and unlovely, but more of that when we've been around a bit.
Love Dave, also Pen.