La Côte Basque

So, James and I set off in the truck to watch birds. We go through California, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada. On the first day we end up in a small town, Alturas, close to the Oregon border. We check into the Hacienda Motel. Both James and I have a strong sense of deja vu, mainly because the owner plus wife are perfectly weird.


Check the Sand Hill Crane motif.

We realize that we have stayed in this  motel before.

How strange is that, ending up in exactly the same motel in  the same tiny town with no planning nor malice aforethought ?

Anyway we go out to eat and happen upon one of the best restaurants in the world. Yes, we are talking about ‘The Brass Rail’ here.


The exterior is, um,  unprepossessing

Inside it is a western family restaurant run by Basque descendants. Lots of Basques came to California to herd sheep.  There is only one thing on the menu, which is a meal. The meal is homemade soup in big tureen with lots of homebaked bread, salad, a great dish of chick peas and pork and you do get to choose what kind of steak you want before you wade into ice cream and coffee.  You also get a carafe of red wine. It is wonderful, just simple food really well cooked and served up by nice folks.







$26 all in.

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So the Last Shall Be First, and the First Last: for Many Be Called, but Few Chosen.

So today, the last day of my vacation, I go down to SLAC to lunch with Melinda.


Melinda always has the best shoes.

It is a wonderful visit. We bump into all kinds of nostalgia.


Roger sensei joins us for lunch.

Melinda is a woman who has every attribute, a constant drive to have a good time being one of the most admirable.  She is the best company. Roger Blandford is one of the world’s most amusing men. We have such fun.


Patrick joins the fun


One of these people is the Director of SLAC.

Yesterday I had lunch with Bebo.


Bebo eats lunch.


Apple store Palo Alto

I love California!

There will be more posts about the rest of the trip but I thought I would do some start at the end literary cleverness.

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The Longest Day

So I wake up on Wednesday morning and walk down to the sea. I swim out to the Scaffie through  beautifully warm, still water. I rig a third anchor on the boat and then swim slowly back as the sun rises. I get ready and then go down to Naha airport to take a plane to Kansai. I wait 3 hours in Kansai in a totally empty lounge before getting on a flight to San Francisco.


Alone in Osaka

I then have one of the worst flights ever. I am in the very back row of the airplane in low, low cattle. There is then 9 hours of turbulence, which always seems worse at the back of the plane. I hate turbulence and am very miserable. However we finally reach SF and James picks me up in the mighty truck.


It is 10:30 on Wednesday morning.

We go for a long walk along the beach to Fort Funston to look at beach art. It is a tough walk as we have to go up and down cliffs and hills and stuff. I am blowing like a walrus.


Early afternoon by the Pacific, but not the Pacific I am used to.

We go shopping for camping stuff, an occupation which reaches it zenith in the US. Outdoor shops here are bliss. We then meet up with Ben and Courtney and play with Ben’s new motorbike.


Great bike!

We then go for a delicious Iraqi dinner, lots of lamb and mint and yoghourt and humus and stuff.

We are home by 10:00 and it is still Wednesday. Long day.

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So, today I hand in my application dossier for permanent resident status in Japan. The process is ridiculously easy.  All the documents needed are less than 15. All are easily come by. My U.S. Green Card application took 6 months of work with an attorney resulting in a file 4 inches thick.

A couple of days ago, I went to the Onna village office to get some documents related to paying local taxation. Such visits are always a joy.


So clean

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Lots of grinning ladies help me.

A man whom I revere, Yamada Shinman sensei, agrees to sponsor me.

Anyway, I get all my papers together and head on down to the Immigration Office in Kadena.


This is my entire dossier.


My Green Card dossier, which miraculously is hanging around in Okinawa. Compare and contrast.

If I succeed in this application, I will be able to live in Japan for the rest of my life. An outcome dearly to be wished.

I cannot really think of many reasons as to why they would accept my application as it confers the world’s best health care for life and free walking sticks. I suppose we just wait and see.


It will take a couple of months to process

Wish me luck.

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After unwellness and a week of Board of Governors I finally get back out to sea on Saturday. I go for a long, long reach straight out in front of the house into the shipping lanes. Big boats thunder by. It is exciting.


High traveller at start of trip.

There is enough wind to drive the Scaffie at a very satisfying speed. Her viking lines allow her to swoop over the swells without a care.


The weather is not great. In fact it rains quite a lot but I am feeling vikingy

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Interesting how many terms have Norse origin


My segl and new siglura

Anyway it is getting dark as I elegantly pick up the mooring. The boat is bucking about a bit as I lower sail. I slip somehow and go crashing into the bottom of the boat, bashing my head on the thwart on the way down.  This opens up a very nice gash on my scalp and the blood pours down my face.

I feel wonderful. I am a real viking! My genes tremble as I wade ashore after long sea voyage, covered in blood, getting ready for a bit of rape and pillage. Well, pillage.


Odin owns you all!

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Wandering through a pharmacy looking for goose grease to rub on the boils, I have a very strong madeleine moment.

My mother had a beautiful dressing table. It had a large mirror and a glass surface on which were her silver backed brushes and hand mirror, her jewelry box, and always a beautiful round tin of Nivea cream.

I had not seen one of these tins for decades. I had seen various Nivea products, indeed I bought a big plastic bottle of what I took to be Nivea cream but after rubbing it into my skin for a couple of weeks I was told it was shower lotion.

Anyway there in the pharmacy in Yomitan, Okinawa were tins of the original Nivea cream.


Ageless graphic design.

It made me think of my Mummy.

A Swiss photographer whom I had apparently employed 25 years ago turns up in Okinawa. He takes the usual selfie with his Iphone.


This is what he sends to me. I understand why he is a successful photographer.

This is fun.

It is the start of the plumeria season.


Pink ones


Yellow ones

I will go and dab Nivea cream on the end of my nose.

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Now You See Me

I was always very bad at those ‘spot the difference’ games. You know, two pictures that look the same but have lots of subtle difference, like the cow in one picture is black and in the other it is white. I could rarely spot these things and the games made me even more surly and bad tempered.


looks the same to me.

I was thus particularly pleased to notice that the dead tree in front of my house had been lumberjacked.


Notice dead tree

Old buddies of mine came on Wednesday to cut it down.


I have spent a lot of time with  these guys exchanging chain saw stories.


Don’t you love chains, hawsers and winches.

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New garden


Boat safe and well.


Rescued orchids

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