Sunday, December 27, 2015

59. Alan then ponders his situation...

Alan knew he needed to continue making sketches depicting places on New Island for the Tourism Office. That meant he needed to plot out another route to find more of the places on The List.  He looked at it and then decided maybe later.

Just for fun, he laid out the pictures he had made so far. He thought they were basically OK, and hoped the Tourism Office will feel the same about them. 

Then he put the pictures away and looked out the window at Putney Bay. For a long minute his mind just sort of wandered off. 

He thought about Michelle, back in Michigan City. He half-expected a letter from her would be waiting for him, but she didn't have his address. She may have written to his employer, the Tourism Office, but then he wasn't sure her letter would even make it to the island, much less to him. She was the only person he might expect to hear from.

He suddenly wished, with an intense longing, that he had made more friends in his life. He thinks he learned this isolationism from his mom, who, he later realized, was a bit of a recluse. When he graduated from Oceanside High, in California, she made it clear she wanted her own space, mostly by telling him, "I need my own space." She paid for his college room and board at Cal State Long Beach, and he was excited to be there, so he didn't feel too rejected. he saw her rarely during college, and then not at all since he moved to Indiana.

In the years since, his only real friends were his ex-wife Barbara, and then Michelle. 

But here on this island, he's been meeting people. He thought about Chloe, and wondered where she was now, and he remembered Amelia the gossip-journalist surfer, and Carla on the boat, and that he would like to see them again, especially Chloe. Even Jeremy on the train would have been a friend if Alan had been more patient with him. And he likes his neighbor Adrian - they seem to have a lot to talk about. None of this occurred back in Indiana. 

What's going on? Are the people different here?  Am I different? They do seem far more relaxed than anyone I've met back home. I feel like I'm far way from everything I knew in the States, but I feel that the islanders want to know me, or they are simply more outgoing, or I'm more open...who knows?

People are pretty good here, at least so far. Can I trust that?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

58. Alan ponders strange forces while drawing the train at Sixes

Once back at his place above Adrian's gallery, Alan took some time to settle in.  After all, he had only been there a couple of days before taking this first excursion to make pictures for The List. It seemed like he had been away for ages, and when he dropped his backpack, he suddenly felt very tired. Without another thought, he shed his clothes, climbed into his warm bed (flooded by the late afternoon sun), and slept until the next morning!

At about 7 he woke up quite hungry so he borrowed Adrian's bike and bought some groceries in Hazel. Finally satisfied after downing several eggs, a bowl of cereal, and coffee, he looked around his apartment and thought about how this place is going to be his home for a while. He decided to move his dining table in front of the best window and then laid out his drawing and watercolor supplies. He sat down and pulled out the rough pencil sketch he did of the train stopping at the Sixes station. From that he made a finished drawing, in watercolor, which took him most of the day.

Alan captured the landscape here pretty well, except for some houses. 
Sixes has a population of about 200.

While working on the drawing, he wondered about that weird energy that buzzed through him up on the Wart. What WAS that?  He began to think that there were undercurrents of other forces on this island, and why not? The place has felt a bit strange from the beginning, starting with that whole scene of trying to find the Rudyard Shipping Lines office in Fremantle - why couldn't the cabbie see it? And the quietness of this place, and how there appear to be so few people here; the roads and cafes are nearly empty. He noticed only a few fellow riders on the trains. No one seems to rush to work in the mornings. He also noticed that everything seems old here. The houses and shops in the small towns all seem to huddle in tight clusters - like medieval villages in Tuscany! Ruins thousands of years old seem to be everywhere; even the land itself has a worn-down, ancient look to it.

Life on this island appears to change very slowly here. Is this okay? Is there something going on that keeps it this way?

Late in the afternoon, Alan went downstairs and said hello to Adrian, who surprised Alan with a hug and a cheery "How did it go?" 
"Well, do  you want the short version or the long?"
"Oh, the long of course! Have a seat and I'll pour us a glass of wine."
"Sure, thanks!"  Alan felt better already.

Once settled, Alan told Adrian about The Hook, getting lost out near Paddy, stopping at the inns along the way, the strange rocks at Hoodoo Beach, meeting Chloe and the time they spent together. He mentioned stopping at Hobart and sketching Hobb's Wart but didn't elaborate on his little hike up to its summit, or allude to his recent questioning. Not yet.

Alan wanted to tell Adrian more, but he was tired and just couldn't describe his feelings. Adrian sensed that something was a little off, but he didn't say anything. After they finished the bottle, Alan said goodnight.


 Note: Sixes was somehow left off the road map. 
Here is where it is, if you want to amend your copy.
If you need a map, please click HERE to order one.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Roger's Dreamland

At the end of Twentymile Beach (above), is a large rock where one can stand and imagine yet another level of existence on this island of other levels of existence... 

The large rock, at the beginning of the cliffs in the distance,
is the entry place called Three Rocks.

Around 1871, Roger Putney discovered this place bearing his name during his two-years of solitary wandering. Most of New Island's northern half was unexplored then, and Roger reported back that he found many strange things, including the "Land of Dreams" as he called it.

He remembered that, many years before, the Sacred Otter described a magical land, and how to get into it. Roger found the large rock the Otter had described, and discovered carved within it a narrow platform overlooking the ocean.  "Here," the Otter had instructed, "Close your eyes and dream of another place that is pleasant to explore, where you are cared for, and where you can simply be."  While walking on the island's northern coast, Roger spotted the large rock the Otter described, and then found the carved-out platform! He meditated briefly on the existence of this "dream land", and sure enough, before him appeared an entirely new landscape, with a pinkish cast in the light, and emanating an inviting, yet haunting feeling. He decided to trust his instincts, stepped off the rock, and indeed found the place to be "quite agreeable" in his words.

Ever since, many "dreamers" have ventured into Roger's Dreamland, and most have come out. Many keep their experience there to themselves; some complain that it was boring or creepy, and others simply show a satisfied grin. It is all up to the beholder.

A favorite Dreamland spot is West Beach,
here recorded in a watercolor by a dreamer who returned...
Mapping Rogers Dreamland has been challenging. 
The orange-tinted landmass shown here is derived from information and sketches provided by
those who have been there. However, individual experiences tend to vary.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

57. Alan Returns to Hazel

Alan finally arrived back at his lodgings above Adrian's gallery.
Up on the Wart, Alan almost tried out the hollowed-out form, but stopped short...this thing looks plain creepy!  And then he felt a strange and violent surge of energy through his body, something like an electric shock. Oooh...this does NOT feel good...maybe this place really is haunted, and maybe its trying to tell me something...

He backed off, and the chilling vibration receded as he moved away from that form-thing. He retraced his route back down as quickly as he could, noticing that it was getting dark way too fast! He was shivering, though it was a warm evening. Once off the stone steps and on the lower slope, however, he could still see the path, and he felt much better. As he walked back toward Hobart's main street, Alan, still agitated by the weird energy up there, decided to return to the Highbrow just to talk to anyone there for a while. He wanted to decompress, before trying to sleep this off. 

A fellow on the next stool, a guy named Stan, seemed willing to talk about the Wart when Alan brought it up (as casually as he could). Stan told him that the Wart has been, as long as he can remember, the source of many stories: People disappearing, strange lights, odd jarring sounds more felt than heard, People returning but in a wide-eyed, zombie-like state that lasted for days. Alan didn't offer that he'd just been up there, but his questions began to trouble Stan. He leveled a look at Alan, and said that no one in Hobart likes to talk about that Wart, and that He, Alan, shouldn't mention any of this once he leaves here.


Alan left Hobart early the next morning. He walked the three or so miles to the train stop at Sixes, to catch the Victoria-Putney train to Hazel. He had a while to wait, so he began to sketch the tiny Sixes station, and hoped he could capture the train moving into it! This would complete the first leg of his assignment -- he still needed a picture of a New Island train. 

Alan is waiting for a train like this one.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Island Mail and Postage


Until 1992, New Islanders were obliged to use Russian postage stamps. However, in 1985, Gordon Slant etched the Roger Putney 10 pence (top) on a copper plate, and printed hundreds of these in his shed near Wigsthorp. New Islanders were already talking about gaining independence from Russia, so these "spirit of Roger" stamps were only used on hand-delivered mail. Only about fifteen are known to exist today.

Gordon Slant also designed the New Island Railways $1 stamp in 1992 but it was never issued. The "dollar" monetary unit was being considered at the time, but was soon changed to the "roger".

Soon after Independence, the Bellingshausen 25-pence was issued by the Ministry of Trade. Ironically, this first stamp honored the man who had claimed the island for Russia, and it is still used today.

Our favorite stamp issue is this set of triangles honoring four of New Island's indigenous creatures...

Saturday, November 21, 2015

56. Alan climbs the Wart

Vitruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci's "Proportions of Man" drawing.
--courtesy Wikipedia

Alan couldn't help but climb up Hobb's Wart after supper. He was a little nervous after hearing that the top of it was haunted. Other people in the cafe said they saw weird lights up there at night, yet no one claimed they'd ever been up there. Was it perhaps a landing site for UFOs? 

Alan wanted to find out. 

Hobart's one major street eventually turned into a faint footpath that took a zig-zag route up the slope toward the great rock. His curiosity pushed him up this path as it then skirted the base of the massive Wart. It does kind of look like a giant wart, he mused. After some distance, the path abruptly turned into a narrow cleft in the rock wall, and a series of steep steps led Alan up to the top. Wow, someone had carved all this... He climbed a while, then stopped to listen. It was completely quiet except the sharp chirps of numerous swallows he saw swirling and circling over the brush and trees below. 

Finally, a bit winded, he arrived at the broad top of the massive rock. Toward its center, he spotted a large rectangular flat area, like a floor, carved into the rock. He also noticed a raised platform in the middle, apparently carved out of the same rock as the floor. The platform's slightly slanted top faced west toward the now-setting sun, and on this was a carved-out vaguely human form, a bit under six feet tall, with legs and arms slightly spread, similar to the pose in da Vinci's Vitruvian Man. The thing looked inviting, like one was supposed to lie down in it! 

He reached in and touched the stone surface inside the thing, and ran his fingers along the arm to the finely detailed hollow fingers. The surface had been finished or worn very smooth, like fine marble, and the rock was warm from its exposure to the sun all day. Also, there seemed to be a silky feel to the inside, maybe from traces of oil or something. Elsewhere the stone had a much more pitted and weathered look to it. There seemed to be no other carving on the platform, or anywhere else.

Alan didn't know what to think of this, but he began to pick up a definitely weird feeling here, like it was a secret and very private place. Part of him wanted to see if he would fit in the form, and the rest of him felt he should get away from!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

New Island Currency

The Original one-roger, in brass, has been in circulation since 2003. 
Designs for future roger coins, such as the 10-roger with surfer,
are being considered.

New Island continued to use Russian currency for several years after independence in 1992. Finally, the new government enlisted the skills of medalist Virginia Jansen to create the nation's first issue, the one-roger. The "roger" denomination originates from Roger Putney, our charismatic spiritual leader during the first years of islander settlement. "We are One" and "Joy" are New Island mottoes.  

Until other denominations of ten-pence,100 pence, half-roger, ten-, fifty- and 100-roger coins are introduced, Russian (mostly Soviet) rubles will still be used to make change.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Rumors about the Volcano

View of Mt. Hayes from Deep Creek, in the Highlands near the Inland Traverse Path
Someone in Skegness sent in a "scientific article" to the Putney Times last week claiming that massive Mount Hayes may explode "just like Tambora" within the next few weeks. 

The geology departments at Putney University and at the School of Oceanography in Victoria Harbor have looked into the situation, mostly by checking the two tiltmeters that were installed on the mountain's upper slopes in 2012. Tiltmeters measure the slightest variation in ground movement or swelling, that may preclude a volcanic eruption. These have been used to some advantage on the Kilauea volcano on the island of Hawaii.

The gases and steam output at the 8,500-foot-high crater have also been carefully analyzed in the last six months, as have the geothermal spring water at two locations on the mountain's lower slope. 

Since 2012, Mt. Hayes has indeed risen a little over 2 centimeters, according to one of the tiltmeters. However, there has been no noticeable change of gas and steam output or chemistry, nor any changes in chemistry or geothermal temperature of mountainside springs.

Our Skegness resident wishes to remain anonymous, probably for good reason. She allegedly heard a message coming from the mountain while she bathed one night at Blair Hot Springs. "I heard a deep voice," she said. "It told me to beware and prepare - the volcano will soon change everything!" The "voice" then gave a detailed account of the kind of eruption, which included a big explosion at the summit, lava flowing all the way to the ocean, a huge ash cloud darkening the sky, and a "volcanic winter" on New Island. 

The small port-town of Skegness rests at the base of Mt. Hayes, on Putney Bay, and would be especially vulnerable.

The official response from our resident volcanologists: "We see no immediate threat from the volcano. Remain calm and carry on."

Another view of Mt. Hayes during the wildflower season - early spring. This is from Lake Riga, near Bunbay.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

55. Where is Alan Now?

He's in Hobart.

After Alan and Chloe (sadly) went their separate ways back in Beastey, Alan continued by train, and then on foot, to the tiny settlement of Hobart, where he stayed a night. There was absolutely not much going on in Hobart, so he walked into the Highbrow Tavern, and fell into a conversation with two locals, a young man and woman, which continued past midnight. The next morning, he vaguely remembered that they talked about Donald Trump, American consumerism, guns and shootings (in the US) and the most popular evening pastimes on New Island. The rest was a blur. The company and a few vodka tonics made the evening pleasant enough to keep his mind off of Chloe...

By noon, he felt alert enough to get out there and make a color sketch of Hobb's Wart (scenic feature no. 9 on The List). The Wart, as it was lovingly called in Hobart, loomed about a mile west of the town center. The more Alan sketched the thing, the more curious he became about what one might discover on the summit, so he thought he might try to hike up there after supper. He figures he'll stay another night in this exciting town, and then head back to his lodgings the next day.

Alan's sketch of Hobart and Hobb's Wart

At suppertime, he stopped in the Burnt Rose Cafe, ordered the meatloaf with potatoes, and then asked the server if she knew of a way up to the top of The Wart. With a look of surprise she said, "No way! You don't want to go up there -  it's haunted. We've lost too many of our lads fooling around on that rock."


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Overnight Accommodations

The Hotel Plakaford, in Victoria Harbor

As you travel around New Island, you'll find a variety of comfortable lodgings, but they are quite different than, say, the Hyatt or Marriott. 

In Putney, Victoria Harbor and a few other large towns, you can find hotels that appear out of the 1930s or '40s - up to four stories tall, with thirty to forty rooms, a small restaurant and bar, a check-in desk with pigeonholes for the keys, and sometimes a swimming pool. More common here and in the smaller towns are the many rooming houses, usually in the older neighborhoods near downtown. These have two to six rooms to let, and usually include supper and breakfast. They are run by the families that live in the houses, most likely.

For example, on Victoria Harbor's Garden Island, the Lee Villa on Coldwater Lane seems most promising. The six-stool bar adjoines a cozy dining room, and a tiny elevator carries you to your room as high as the fourth, and top, floor. The Plakaford Hotel, around the corner, has a lovely outdoor dining area. At both places the fish-and-chips with a bottle of Runcorn white wine are a good combination. (Runcorn has the memorable dancing maiden on the label.)

In the back-country, accommodations vary greatly. The tribe settlements almost always have a room or two to let, and include breakfast in the common dining room. Rates are negotiable, and often include work-trade arrangements. Along the Path System, settlements and tribes provide indoor lodgings or outdoor campsites, all with kitchens available and some with meals included. These travelers' inns almost always have a common room for walkers and wanderers to meet and visit one another. Along the northeastern coast, the Japanese villages accommodate travelers in traditional inns, unchanged from 18th Century Japan. The elegant wood-and-tatami rooms have no furniture except a small table placed beside the futon on the floor. Meals are served in the room, and guests are welcome to use the communal furo bath.  

If you are walking, you will find some kind of lodging every 8 to 15 miles along the paths and back roads, except in the Sheffield Desert - so you don't have to pack a lot of gear. Being adaptable is the key here.

Happy travels!

Friday, October 23, 2015

New Island News - The Old People

It is time to take a break from Alan Faramond's travels and catch up with a few happenings around the island...  

The Old People left ruins all over New Island, such as these structures at Beatty Point.
So far, we haven't found any written records!
The Old People are mentioned in passing on page 29 in the New Island Guidebook

There is more to their story! Apparently this was a long-lasting culture that began 40,000 years ago, and mysteriously ended about 800 years ago, or around 1200 AD. 

So far, the Antiquities Department at Putney University has not been able to determine what happened to them, or, for that  matter, where they came from. Archaeologist Sheila Rankin stated in a recent interview, "We know they must have developed writing and art, given the sophistication of all the ruins on this island. They built ports, towns, roads and ceremonial sites, so there was commerce, government and religion. They had to have a written language!" 

We do know that, beginning about 5,000 years ago, they learned how to build in stone, using lintels and multi-floor construction. They developed a singular style of stone-fitting that rivals that of the Inca culture in South America. The stone platform at Wave Point, now used for the Wave Festivals, was likely built around 1000 AD and is in good shape today, despite centuries of occasional hammering by ocean surf at high tides. 

We think these people may have left some of the earlier sites due to climate and sea-level changes. The harbor at the Old Port ruins just west of Twentymile Beach (northern coast) tells us that the shore has risen above the waves about fifteen feet. Either the land rose or the sea level dropped enough to dry up the port!  Also, this area is all desert now, and could have once been much wetter, and more productive agriculturally.

"What we hope to find in the near future," Sheila went on, "are the writing, the art and other secrets of these Old People. We will keep looking and digging!"

Saturday, October 17, 2015

54. Hike to the ferry, a hot breakfast, then a bus to the train station

At the Stonebill station, Alan got on the train (instead of walking to Pendleton).
Chloe decided to followed a back-country path further south.

The rain had stopped by first light, but the tents were wet!

Since they didn't know the ferry schedule, Chloe had to tell Alan several times, "Just relax - it'll all work out!" They made some coffee and a couple of packets of hot oatmeal for breakfast. Alan said, "I hope we have time to get a proper breakfast in town - I'd looove some eggs and bacon right now."

Chloe smiled at him, "Me too!"

They managed to get their gear in order (the tents can dry out later) and then marched directly through the ruins and down a gentle slope toward two small settlements, part of the co-operative tribal group called the Beastey Bay Tribes. These were compact villages surrounded by white stone walls (to keep out the sheep), with about 150 souls residing in each one. The houses were mostly white also, quite small, and many were built against those outside walls. Since many walkers came through here every day, no one paid much attention to Chloe or Alan as they walked through the first village, called Sturgis.

As they approached the next village, called Bayview, they could see the ferry dock in the distance, and the ferry was on the bay approaching it! They walked quickly through Bayview, again without much notice. Once at the ferry landing, which was quite crowded with horsecarts, handcarts, and quite a few walking passengers, Chloe bought tickets.

"They told me where to catch the bus to the train station," she said. Once on the ferry, Alan was finally able to relax. They had only walked for about an hour, but for some reason it seemed like a much longer distance on the map.

The ride across the bay took about fifteen minutes, and then they were walking into Beastey, a sizable market town. This area began to look familiar, as Alan had seen it once before from the train, which seemed like ages ago!  By the time they reached Beastey's town center and the bus terminal, it was only about 9:30. The posted schedule told them a city bus would take them up to the railway station at 10 and 11 am, plenty of time to meet the train.

Time for second breakfast!

On Castle Road, the main thoroughfare, they found a cafe that specialized in English and Scottish breakfasts, so Chloe led Alan inside by the arm and said, "You'll love this!"

After a fabulous hot breakfast of eggs, bangers and mash, with fresh orange juice and coffee, they caught the bus to the Stonebill station. They sat on a bench out on the platform, in the late-morning sun. 

Behind them through the station windows, one could see Beastey Bay and the ocean, and from across the platform, where they were sitting, they could look upon massive hills, green and empty, beyond the low buildings of Stonebill. The broad slopes led the eye up to Spy Hill, about ten miles distant. White dots of sheep were scattered here and there, and the smaller scurrying dots must be spring lambs, Alan thought. 

Then he said, "This is a lovely day to walk, Chloe." 

"Yes, it is."

A few minutes passed. Birds chirped, and a breeze ruffled the hanging geraniums.

Then he asked, "Uh, when do you think we'll meet up again?"

"I dunno," Chloe said. "That's the thing with this Long Walk, there's no plan - but I'll call you. Or I'll call that gallery."

"Yes, call the gallery and Adrian will get me or leave me a note. Or, you can write me a letter!" 

"Okay. How about in a couple of weeks?" 

Just then, an Irian-Southwestern Railway two-car train glided silently to a stop in front of them. They stood up and Alan smiled at Chloe,


And Chloe grinned back, "Hey - see you again soon." And she gave him a smooch to remember.

He boarded the train, found a seat and saw Chloe already walking into Stoneville.  

Saturday, October 10, 2015

53. Tower Head

Alan got this one done pretty quickly.

Later that morning they arrived at Tower head, and found a spot on the beach with a good view of the old tower. Alan got curious...

"Say Chloe, what is this tower all about?"

"Well, it was built by the Old People about 1500 years ago, I think. The stone work is incredibly tight, so it's held up against the weather and all. It's one of many stone ruins left by these people."

"Oh, like Hazelhurst? That was my first assignment, and it's only a mile or so from where I'm staying."

"Yep. They left ruins all over the island." 

Alan set up his watercolor set once again, and proceeded to sketch the bluffs and the tower.

Their food supplies were low, and Chloe thought she might try casting a line in the surf to see what might bite. She rigged a sinker with a lure on a long line that she laid loosely on the sand, its other end tied to a stake. She could then literally throw the leader out into the surf, and then pull it in again hand over hand. The waves threatened to tangle it but she managed to hurl a few casts. She was lucky - a pilch (an Australian yellow eye mullet) bit on it and she was able to pull him in after a spell. Her hands were red in places where the line had bit in, but it was worth it! She cooked it over a fire on the beach and they had a nice main course. (Alan was once again amazed at Chloe's resourcefulness.)

It was growing cooler today, with clouds gathering, so after lunch Alan quickly finished up his sketch. Luckily the sun was still out when he started it. After he finished, they decided they would keep walking for a few miles before setting up camp. 

The path followed the bluff-tops over well-cropped grazing land, with some sheep visible in the distance. There were no fences, and Alan noticed nothing man-made except a shepherd's wagon. At Cape Fury, they passed another of New Island's few lighthouses, a squat metal structure accompanied by a low stone keeper's house. They were both built by the Soviet Navy in the 1930s, and maintained by New Island's own Coast Guard, says Chloe. Soon they were crossing a broad grassy slope overlooking Beastey Bay.

As the daylight began to fade, they arrived at the Bailey Ruins, another Old People site that looked quite like a ruined castle. "Indeed," said Chloe, "the place looks a bit like London's Old Bailey, hence the name..." 

Once they had set up their camp, Alan studied the map that Adrian had marked up for him, and then got out his train schedule. "I think I'm through walking for a while, so I'll catch the train in Stonebill, here, just across the bay. I see there is a ferry at this place called Bayview, so we'll have to get up early to catch it!"

Chloe looked over his shoulder. "Yeah, I think you're right. And maybe we can catch a bus from Beastey to the Stonebill station. I'll come with you!"

"On the train?" 

"No, silly. I'll come with you to the train, and then I think I'll take this path out of Stonebill to the south. I want to see Roaring Cape!"

They had pitched both tents, and after a dinner of packaged dried soup and hard crackers, they stored their packs into one of them. They then huddled into the other one, just as a wind-whipped drizzle began. They both fell asleep almost instantly, to the intermittent splattering of light rain and mist.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

52. Afterward

The clouds can get pretty wild sometimes on moonlit nights around here.
Could the fiery stars have been a trick of nature? Who knows?

Bathing in that nebulaeic light last night may have had some effect on the girl by his side, and let's just say it had quite an effect on Alan! 

He woke up in a tent not the familiar color of his own. The sun had been up for a while now and it was hot in there! He also realized that he was not only naked (and he wasn't dreaming it this time) but Chloe was sleeping right next to him and his arm was draped over her midsection.  Oh, my... 

But before he could start obsessing about it, she slowly rolled over and said, "Hi."

", I guess we...had a good time..."

Chloe reminded him what had been good about it, and then she finally said, "I think I like you."

He grinned at her as he remembered that fiery sky, and how it began to swirl and undulate up there, and then he felt that everything was swirling, and how Chloe must have felt it too and then they seemed to be moving in some kind of very slow dance that was all part of the magical energy of all those stars. After that it was all a blur.

The heat in that hyper-stuffy tent was finally too much so they both climbed out sweating profusely. Chloe bolted toward the surf, yelling, "Beat ya!"  and Alan took up the challenge (he lost). The bracing seawater was the perfect cool-down.  

They noticed they were not alone when they came out of the ocean, and this time neither Alan nor Chloe bothered to fetch any clothes, and simply started fixing their breakfast. (Chloe took the lead here, saying that this is The Way of the Beach here among the locals.) The two other walkers waved as they passed by; Alan nodded to them, and they maintained their pace on their way south.

Only after eating and having the last of the coffee did these two decide to get some clothes on and begin packing up. They then worked methodically and in silence. Alan could feel the end of their time together coming up soon, probably tomorrow. According to his list and Adrian's notes, he is to make a sketch of Tower Head, about five miles south, and then get to the train station at Beastey to go on to his next "scenic viewpoint". 

Just before hoisting their backpacks, they paused to drink some water, and Alan was about to say something before Chloe broke in, "I know what's coming...we'll be taking different routes pretty soon. And you know I have a long spell of walking in front of me if I carry it all the way...and I fully intend to do that."

"Yeah, and I have quite a long assignment myself - almost 100 more pictures to paint of this island. But, Hey! If we keep up with each other, maybe we can hook up again for another spell. I'd sure like that!" 

'Yup, me too," she said with a smooch on his cheek.

So they finally left Hoodoo Beach for Tower Head.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

51. A Night Above Hoodoo Beach

On New Island, the night sky can be quite different!

After lunch it stayed warm on the beach. Chloe had been snoozing in her tent, with instructions for Alan to wake her up if she slept too long. Alan sat reading a while and then finally said, "Hey Chloe...wanna get up now? I'm ready for a walk and maybe a swim if you're up for another one!"

She stirred and said, "Go away." Then, "Oh...yeah, I'm supposed to get up now." She crawled out and sat up, blinking. "Off to the Hoodoos?"


Alan pulled out his towel and they set off to where Chloe had gone swimming earlier. When they arrived at the cove, Chloe said, "How 'bout you swim and I'll sit and watch?"
Alan, a bit relieved, said, "That's fine, but don't watch too close, okay?" Chloe grinned and said, "Don't worry!" (Alan was getting a little more accustomed to the swimming naked thing, and especially to that wonderful feeling of freedom!)

Later in the afternoon, Chloe showed Alan how to dig up Holyoke clams in the shallow surf. That evening, after a delicious supper of steamed clams with butter, they cleaned up, said goodnight, and Alan finally crawled into his tent, fully spent after a long day on Hoodoo Beach. 

He had been sleeping a while when he began dreaming that no-clothes-on dream again. He's dreamed this one before, and, as usual, he is walking through a very American suburban neighborhood, among people he kind of knows are his neighbors, and then he discovers he's naked - again! It's as if he simply forgot to put his clothes on that morning. He's very embarrassed, and frustrated, (it's happened again!) but what can he do except run and dodge his way behind bushes and fences until he can get back home. No one seems to ever pay any attention to him, and he's never challenged. Maybe they've seen it before so often they're used to it now...  

Then, Chloe woke him up, calling, "Alan, Alan...come out and see this."

Shaken from his dream, Alan was disoriented at first. Then he noticed an orange glow through his tent roof, and when he climbed out he was completely overwhelmed by the swirling patterns of thousands of stars and huge glowing clouds, all lit up by some very bright star clusters near the center.  "What is this?" he asked.  

"It's part of the Small Magellanic Cloud, Alan, a galaxy near our own. Sometimes we get a close-up view, like it's just beyond the sun, but actually this thing is 210 thousand light-years away. I've never seen it this clear down on the shore, it's a real treat!" 

Alan stood gawking. "So it just appears every now and then?"

"Well, yes. And it's usually this bright only up in the Highlands, and barely visible at sea level. No one has been able to determine or predict a cycle, like we can with the moon. It puts on this show whenever it seems to feel like it!"

Alan was in disbelief. "Sooo, this just appears here now and then? Then why have I never heard of it happening elsewhere?"

"No one on this island knows, Alan. The Astronomy departments at both Putney University and the School of Oceanography have studied this intensely, with help from the USA's Hubble Space Telescope. As yet, we have no answer to the riddle. Some think it's a mirage, others think this and other distant star groups are projected here somehow - put up in the sky for a few hours, then gone at daybreak. 

"Also, see how this is shining from the southeast? That is the general direction of the SMC, as we call it here. Up on your northern hemisphere, the SMC isn't visible at all; and on other nights we see only a tiny cloud-like shape among the regular stars in our sky. The Small Magellanic Cloud is a neighbor galaxy to our own Milky Way, you know."


They sat down and stared at this slowly-turning fiery wonder, leaning into each others shoulders. They both could almost feel the heat.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

50. Camping at Hoodoo Beach

That afternoon Alan had enough time to sketch the beach and the Hoodoos beyond it.
This beach was just south of Ghost Heads.

The Southwest Path looped closely around Ghost Heads, then cut behind some bluffs for a couple of miles before coming near the shore again. Alan was struck by how white and rounded the "heads" were. "Must be coated with bird poop." Chloe mused aloud. Beyond Ghost Heads Alan could see the tops of steeper, sharper rocks mostly hidden by the distant bluff. When they finally saw a branch path leading back to the shore, they came upon a pleasant beach adjoining a grassy hillside. A thin afternoon fog shrouded the place, and made the tall rocks even more enchanting.

"This must be Hoodoo Beach", Alan said, and Chloe concurred, adding, "Yep, I believe there are hoodoos out there..."

It was late morning as they pitched their tents, and Chloe went about gathering some firewood as Alan sat down to sketch the beach and the hoodoos, still diffused by the fog.

Chloe loved being the wanderer-gatherer. She left a pile of wood nearby, and then walked up on the bluff toward the hoodoos that Alan was sketching. She found coves with hidden beaches, and the misty hoodoos looming beyond. A couple of them were still emerging from the eroding bluff. The sun was quite warm as it burned through the fog, and Chloe, getting hot, had the sudden urge to throw off her clothes and jump into the surf. The water was bracing, but the waves were tamed by all the offshore rocks, so Chloe could wade in and simply float among the swells surrounded by these strange rock formations, whose tops were white and dotted with seabirds.

She figured she'd invite Alan for a swim like this soon, but she wasn't sure how he'd take the invitation. He was quiet about any opinions on decorum, but she sensed he came from a culture that had a lot of hangups about just being natural!

About two hours later, Chloe returned to find Alan right where she left him, still working on his sketch. "How is it going?" she asked. 

"Almost done."

"I just had a great walk, and a swim in the waves by the hoodoos!"

He looked up, "All by yourself? Isn't that risky?"

"Oh, I took a good look at the water first - it was quite calm in this cove I found. No sharks! Plus, I only stayed in for a few minutes." She felt she had to explain it all, and actually felt a bit guilty that she didn't invite him along. "Maybe later we can have a swim together, as buddies!"

Alan hesitated a moment, Hm, another chance to get used to this no-clothes thing if that's how she swims. "Okay, you're on!"

He finished up the sketch, and they had a mid-afternoon lunch.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

49. Lizard to Hoodoo Beach

Alan and Chloe haven't walked very far since they met several days before, near Lizard Point.
Alan's next picture assignment: Hoodoo Beach.  

The Lizard Inn was still there and easy to find, even in the dusky end of the day. The front of the building was entirely made up of old windows, arranged in a mosaic of different shapes and sizes, all under a long sign saying "The Lizard Inn and Bath". The proprietor, a tall white-haired woman with a regal bearing, got up from her supper when they rang the bell. Alan apologized for the interruption but she just smiled and then related the options: camp sites, a communal bunk room or a private room with four bunks, all including use of the shower room and a tiny Japanese-style furo (the Bath, Alan assumed). A full kitchen was also available. They decided on the private room this time, instead of the bunk-room. At the Lizard Sundries Shop they bought some milk, fruit, and some red wine, and then made up bowls of cereal with chopped dates for a late supper. There were apparently no other guests tonight. They carried their bowls and wine out to a lovely garden-patio in back of the Inn and had their supper. The wine was good - just right to follow a bowl of cereal!

While working on his second glass, Alan said, "You know, when I saw you guys yesterday morning, I immediately assumed he was a long-lost boyfriend and that was that...between you and I. It really shook me. I mean, I guess I've been getting used to being with you these last few days." Alan took a breath. "So, ah, what I'm asking is, do you have someone? I mean, since Dennis?"

Chloe paused and then looked at him. "Well, I have friends who are guys in Putney and a couple of other places, but I don't consider any of them 'boyfriends'. Don't worry, I have no plans to marry any of them!"

She went on, "And I like being with you too. I feel that you are a wee bit aloof, though, and maybe that's because you're not confident that we can be friends...? I'm sort of guessing here." 

"Um," he muttered, feeling a familiar twinge of frustration: I wonder if I'll ever be confident enough to mean something to someone... 

"You're probably right about the aloofness thing. I think I use it to cover the confidence thing. I hide a lot, and that's probably why I'm not happily with anyone. My ex-wife Barbara told me once that I was 'flat', meaning I had no personality, or something. I lost my confidence in teaching, and I think my willingness to teach went with it. And just before I was offered this assignment, I wasn't doing anything but drawing dreams. My friend Michelle basically told me to take this assignment just to get out of my head!"

Chloe regarded him while taking another sip of wine. "You probably did the right thing by coming here, by taking the assignment. I think there is more inside you than you give yourself credit for, and I'm really glad we're sitting here now - together. People tend to be warm and friendly here, but you have to be open to who they really are. I liked it when you 'befriended' me on the path back there, and I appreciate it that you're letting me be as I need to be."

Alan smiled, "Well, I like who you are. More wine?" 
And they finished off the bottle.

When Alan awoke the next morning he looked over at Chloe still asleep in the next bunk. She seems so at-peace with herself, and so much like an old soul. Alan had read a little about the theory of soul migration, and how souls become wiser as they get older, over the course of many lifetimes. He figures he is somewhere in the younger-soul category.

With that thought, and before more physically-driven thoughts could enter his head, he walked out into the early morning.  He heard a rooster nearby, and followed the sound with fresh eggs on his mind. By luck, the owner of the rooster was out by a chicken coop, and sold Alan four eggs she had just gathered. "Mind you," she said, "these are fertile eggs, so there might be a surprise inside!" 

Alan made some Irish-cut oatmeal with milk and then woke up Chloe to ask what kind of eggs she wanted. She twitched, stretched languorously and finally squinted at him, "What?" 
I bought four fresh eggs across the street. How would you like yours? 
"Poached, on toast." she grinned.
"Ooh, I'll see what I can do. If I can't make toast, how about poached with porridge?"
"Okay, but I want my eggs runny in the middle!"

By the time she walked into the kitchen, Alan had everything served up including some coffee. They sat at a long table. "You're gonna spoil me if you keep this up," she said.

They cleaned up, then packed up, and got an early start for the next leg of their walk. The town of Lizard was only about four blocks wide, and was coming awake as they walked on to Alan's next assignment, Hoodoo Beach. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

48. Alan and Josh

Alan finished his Womby sketch around mid-afternoon and then walked back to Sueville.

He didn't expect to find Chloe, assuming she was out somewhere having fun with Josh. He found a note on his bunk, though, and it said, "Josh and I are at Strong's, having fish or something. Come join us?  -C."

Well, she's still around...

Alan was relieved though still troubled, but most of all he was hungry, so he walked over to the tavern. Chloe saw him right away and waved him over to their table. At least it's not the one we sat at last night... Alan pulled up a chair and sat.

"How was the sketching?" asked Chloe. "You must have found my note."

"It went well enough." Alan said briskly to both of them, "And Now I'm ready to eat something." Apparently they hadn't eaten for a while, so he went ahead and ordered fish and chips for the three of them. Alan couldn't help but wonder what they had been up to all day, but he definitely wasn't going to ask.

They chatted on as if everything was fine; mostly it was Josh going on about how sare-an-dipitus it was to meet up with Chloe out here of all places. Josh's expansive grin, slightly slurred words, the three empty glasses at his elbow, plus Chloe looking a bit annoyed, gave Alan an idea of the situation here. 

By the time the food arrived, Josh was becoming more incoherent. He then stopped talking altogether and simply fixed his gaze on Alan, which was quite unsettling. Alan sat there looking back at Josh, and then a little switch went off. "So Josh, what are your plans? Where are you headed?"

"Uhhh, dunno mate. I was just gonna ask Chloe here the same question. (Chloe was busily eating.)

"Well," said Alan, "Chloe and I are heading south, to Hoodoo Beach, then on to Tower Head, in case you want to join us."

Josh to Chloe, "So, yer goin' on with this American?"

Chloe, "Yes I am, Josh, and like Alan says, you can come along if you'd like."

"Aw crap. I was hopin' you'd come-a with me up to the Hook. We could, uh, have a great time hangin' out there..."

"Well, Josh, I was just up there and now I'm headed south, and (with a quick look to Alan) we need to get going soon if we're going to get anywhere before dark!"

Josh looked balefully at Chloe as she went to pay the cashier, and Alan gathered his pack. "The fish is on us, Josh," said Alan, and left him sitting there. As they went out the door Josh raised his glass in what Alan thought was a salute, but it was only to flag the server for another drink.

They silently walked back to the bunkhouse and packed their gear. Once they were on their way, Chloe finally let out a long breath and said, "It all came back to me as we chatted on for the while you were gone. We did play together as kids, but only during the visits of our mums, and he and I were never really close. I hadn't seen him since my university days in Putney, and he was a pill then; good at football and always full of himself. Now he's a drunken lush. He spent most of our conversation talking about the fun he had in his years at school, and then all his plans to go to Australia and make some real money, though by what means he didn't explain. I'm glad you spoke up back there." 

She was walking fast, her face flushed.

Alan then led them up to the same dune-top (it was actually a short-cut) from which he painted his sketch, and stopped when they came upon the view of Womby. "This is where I was all day." 

Chloe nodded, and said, "Nice. You probably had a more pleasant day than I did." 

Alan looked at her and said, "Well, not really. I worried all day that you wouldn't be there when I came back..."

She gave him a quick smile, and said, "Come on, let's get moving, because it really will be dark soon. We can probably make it to Lizard, and I remember a friend of mine telling me about a place there called the Lizard Inn.

Lizard, near the point called Ghost Heads, was about two miles away.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

47. View of Womby

Alan's view of Womby is quite different, but it hadn't changed much
in 20 years; the abandoned lighthouse tower was still there.
Alan drew in the Southwestern Path as it passes Womby on its way to Lizard.
He also inked in more people than usually pass through here...

Alan got up early the next morning, dressed, glanced over the low wall at Chloe in the next bunk (still asleep), and quietly walked out to see what Womby looked like. 

He wasn't sure what to think about Chloe. She seems to like him, and he likes her companionship, especially her easy-going manner and willingness to help out with their rather simple meals. He knows he could easily get all rattled about "having a relationship" with her, since he's gotten rattled a few times before. In the last year or so, however, he hadn't put much thought into being with anyone at all. Should he worry about this? He remembers that Michelle came over almost by habit, and he never offered any kind of commitment. She didn't seem to mind, but now he thinks she probably did. 

After climbing the same sand dune as he and Chloe did last night, Alan had a good bright-morning view of Womby and the coast toward Lizard. From this spot he could include both towns! He felt he could probably complete a watercolor of it all in a day, but he wanted breakfast first. 

He walked back down to the Sueville bunkhouse and found Chloe's bunk empty, but heard her voice in the kitchen. When he walked in, she was making a pot of coffee while talking to a younger guy who must have come in later that night. The chap was quite handsome, tan, muscular, dressed just right for a long walk, and all that. Alan felt an immediate wave of jealousy.

"Oh, Hi," Chloe said to Alan. 


"Umm, this is Josh," said Chloe brightly, "And Josh, this is Alan, the guy I told you about who's doing the pictures. Josh is an old friend of my family, Alan. My mum would visit his mum and bring me along. So we kind of grew up together, and, wow, he just showed up here..."

Alan took one look at Josh and was not impressed. Oh crap...I should have known there would be an old boyfriend or a new boyfriend somewhere. So now what? Just leave?

So he quickly said,"Hi Josh. Say, Chloe, I was just up on the dune to look at Womby, and I need to go back there and do a painting of it now, 'cause of the light. So I'll see you later today, okay?"

"Um, Okay. Don't you want to have some breakfast first?"

"Nah, I can grab a Paleo Bar or two. Nice meeting you Josh."  And he was off before Chloe could say anything, and before he could think anything more about it!

Surprisingly, after that jolt, and once he was set up with his painting supplies back on the dune, he was able to concentrate quite well on his assignment for the day. He spent about six hours painting Womby, the beaches, the path, Ghost heads in the distance, and a whole lot of tiny people who weren't really there. 

He dreaded going back...