“Saw much of character of Malta with all of its arid countryside, cactus, etc. Prehistoric ruins that were among the oldest ever discovered.
Difficult to understand lunch – nearly drank the olive oil!”
According to Mark Twain in The Innocents Abroad: ”If you wish to inflict a heartless and malignant punishment upon a young person, pledge him to keep a journal a year.”
I totally get this.
My very first blog post covered how a tween-aged me bought a diary, made precious few entries over five months, then never wrote in it again. Was I too busy at age 11? Did I lose track of it in my always messy room? Or did it just feel too much like homework? Probably all of the above.
Keeping a journal can be no picnic for grown-ups either. My most faithful efforts at it though have been while traveling – and if I had only moments to escape my home in an emergency, these precious trip time capsules are what I’d risk it all to save:
Not only are these my journals. Some are my dad’s from his travels to places like Alaska, Europe, China and Scandinavia – with his intrepid partner, my Mummy (“Nita”), of course! The quote at the top is actually from his journal of a Mediterranean adventure I got to share with them!
Dad called his writings “logs”, terming them “unembellished chronicling” rather than “poetic waxing” about his world roamings. I haven’t made my way through all of them yet – but I hope Dad wouldn’t mind (despite not being able to write the final polish) if I share some of what I’ve been tickled to discover so far.
Why did Dad undertake this “heartless and malignant punishment” while he was off on vacations? I wondered if I could figure that out.
Some of his logs definitely showcase the data driven, practical side of my scientist father. They include careful lists of expenses (right down to coffees and doughnuts), and notation of miles driven each day. There’s even a whole log labeled “Gas Book”:
Have to admit I find these portions a little less compelling – but there’s evidence that eventually Dad did too:
Dad the Plant Pathology Professor also logged landscape features that might have escaped others’ notice:
“St. John, NB, 10341 (256 mi.) Drive was very similar to yore, flat to rolling topo, hardwood forests with white pine admixture, car great, roads good to atrocious.”
But plenty of entries show that Dad was a man of many interests – and they clearly included coming up with singular turns of phrase for sights and experiences! Like he recorded feeling good after an 11 hour flight to England with the note: ”Beating lag is in the bag.” And could Dad just “start out” on a trip to retrace the Oregon Trail? Nope. He and Mum “sallied forth in fine fettle”, thank you very much!
Wish I knew Dad’s jet lag secret. And I don’t think I’ve ever had a grasp on the form or function of fettles – but glad the folks were in some fine ones on the day.
Dad seems also to have taken his logging as an opportunity to record random – but always well-considered – observations:
“Would have to say that Maggie Smith is the best thing I’ve ever seen on the stage.”
“A problem with B&B’s is squeaky floors – most places are old; trying to sneak off to the loo at 2:00am is like walking in the dark thru a house full of bicycle horns.”
“Today I learned that (1) if the scenery is better on one side of the highway, they will put the power lines on that side; and (2) the best spot to photograph a feature will be the one just beyond where you stop to take pictures.”
“For our entire stay in Ireland and Britain, a duvet has graced every bed – never a blanket and I think maybe once an additional sheet. The duvet leaves only two options: too hot or too cold. They might be suitable for mid-winter. Or perhaps Greenland.”
“Arles [France] breakfast was a farcical experience. There was a big bowl of eggs and a pot of boiling water in which one egg was boiling. I took the boiling egg and Nita took an egg from what looked like the bowl of hardboils. Well, when Nita cracked the egg into her plate, it was raw. Then I realized that the egg I’d taken was put in the boiler by another customer. So I had a stolen egg, Nita a raw egg, and we both had a learning experience.”
In reading some logs, I have the added joy of having been along on the original adventure – which I now get to view through Dad’s inimitable lens! Some notes are terse, but still call the moment to mind:
“Easy drive to Joensuu [Finland]. Big church. Still no peanut butter.”
Some provide delightful detail:
“Another glorious day. Roads all good, just lost a couple of times. Saw two old castles (one a reasonably complete one, the other a ruined fragment), then the Rock, a hilltop church, fortress and likely a hill fort back in prehistoric times. Lunch too big! Dinner too big! Waist too big!”
And even for an ”unembellished log” that Dad was writing on the fly, some are just lovely:
“This morn began with a rooftop breakfast in the shadow of the Acropolis. We dined al fresco at a table finely situated to allow frequent photos as varying shafts of sunlight broke through the cloud cover to illumen the ancient Parthenon. Truly a breakfast to remember.”
Yup – an unforgettable first breakfast in Athens! Dad may have had trouble hard-boiling an oeuf in France – but I think his joie de vivre really comes through in entries like this one about touring Scotland and getting in touch with his Clan Gunn roots:
“What a day, mostly sunny in Scotland, inspiring vistas, glimpses of snow, easy driving, fought the Battle of Culloden, looked at the 3 varieties of Gunn tartans. Castle Urquhart is a truly noble ruin – saw circa 10 miles of Loch Ness, but no monster – Inverness is another city I could happily live in. From the window, I’ve been watching a fisherman on the Ness River – worst casting I’ve ever seen – what I could do with my Fenwick and a bucktail coachman! The austere, rugged, remote highlands just beg for a backpack – this is my part of Britain.”
So what was behind Dad’s keeping his logs? Whatever the reasons, I’m grateful he did! Perhaps it was an “all of the above” thing. But just maybe too Dad put down his thoughts on the chance that one day his daughter’s eye might light upon entries like this one:
“Summing up the trip: The cruise, especially the history involved, was outstanding, especially the ancient ruins. Any trip involving Amy is an outstanding and delightful trip. Hope the cruise meant as much to her as it did our just being with her.”
It sure did, Duddy – and all the feelings are mutual! It’s true that this last opinion of Dad’s might be slightly biased. But fettle-wise? It still makes me feel quite fine!
(**Apologies for any technical difficulties – still not sure I’m jumping the right way through new hoops…)