Card 54, Where Are You?

Today I wrote my fifty-fourth postcard from Tristan. I have written to everyone who has asked. The post office has posted signs all over the settlement stating that the deadline for mail to make it on the Agulhas is tomorrow (Wednesday) at 1 p.m. I have seen the enormous postal bags and the volume of mail going out on the next delivery. The first card I wrote as well as the fifty-fourth will all travel on the same trip back to Cape Town. I would like to know when you receive your cards, and am curious who receives his first. As when I travelled to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, I also mailed a postcard to myself. I’ll let you know when that one arrives too.

This morning I visited Mrs. Doreen Swain. Doreen and I had been chatting on the phone and we had already met but we wanted to spend more time to have a good long chat. Doreen is my friend Glenn Mosher’s pen pal from the 1970’s. Glenn had asked me to get in touch with her when I arrived. We shared stories about our lives and I drank in all the tales Doreen told me about growing up on Tristan. She is retired now (Tristanians use the term “pensioner”) and supplements her pension income by knitting scarves, gloves and other apparel for the tourist shop, as well as by taking special orders for jumpers ( = sweaters). All are made out of pure Tristan wool, and I had even seen some of her work in the shop today. Before I could even sit down she asked for Glenn’s address and then she asked for mine. She is a kindred spirit in the epistolary arts as Doreen loves to write letters. She promised to send me a Christmas card. I have a feeling that that card will be on the Agulhas along with me and all my postcards.

S. A. Agulhas II arrives from Gough Island tomorrow, bringing back last year’s team of researchers. I am sure there will be a party vibe on the trip back to Cape Town. Some people will be coming ashore tomorrow to stay a couple nights. I have been talking to the locals and some members of the Gough team as well as some of the helicopter pilots want to spend time on Tristan, so they will be here during our final days on the island.

The Agulhas stayed offshore for a couple days after it first arrived yet did not get a chance to offload all its cargo. Time constraints likely forced it to cut the job short. There are about twenty-one crates still waiting to be offloaded. I am hoping to see this being done down at Calshot Harbour, but might have other plans. Tomorrow, weather permitting, I might be on a climb either up to the Base (the mountainous cliff that is the towering backdrop to the settlement) or all the way up to Tristan’s peak. A return trip to the peak, which is not visible from the settlement, will take the entire day. If the weather is awful then I will give a brief talk during the assembly at St. Mary’s School. I will talk to the small student body, from ages five through fifteen, about Canada and compare our histories as societies founded by immigrants. I practised my speech during a late afternoon walk along Hottentot Beach looking for Tristan sea glass. I have collected quite a lot of it, and managed not to get my feet wet this time.

This afternoon I joined the Greens along with Jennie Bancroft (a worker who helped clean the oil off the rockhopper penguins when there was a horrific oil spill off Nightingale Island two years ago) in the potato Patches. Before I left on this trip I told everyone that I hoped my host family would put me to work by getting my hands dirty in the Patches. While Janice, Dylan, Dylan’s friend Ryan and family friend Jonathan all piled into the rear hatch, I rode along on my first drive in Tristan. The trip was only 3 km south of the settlement. Shaun dug the rows while Renee demonstrated what we were to do. Jennie and I planted the seed potatoes about 30 cm apart and Janice spread fertilizer over them. We only planted one plot because if a blight occurred, it would only affect the one. Also, if we staggered the planting times, then we wouldn’t have to harvest everything at the same time. While we worked Dylan and Ryan ran up and down the gulches, totally disappearing between the tall dirt walls.

There has been a change in plans and the Agulhas will be departing for Cape Town on Friday night and not on Saturday. The arrival time is set for 8 a.m. on October 10. The morning arrival time gives me an entire extra day in the city. Provided I don’t give myself a hangover after an all-night end-of-voyage party, I will probably spend that day walking around the city and checking out its bookshops. First though I’ll have to head to my hotel and drop off my luggage. I am not counting on being able to check into my room that early. I will have five full days in Cape Town before I fly back to Toronto on October 15.

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