Wednesday, January 24, 2007


What was supposed to be a short respite before the onslaught of the tour proper, has turned somewhat calamitous.

It started, I suppose, the night before we left. A dull ache in a back tooth. It responded painfully to pressure. No time to go to the dentist. A train to catch, then a plane. I thought maybe it was caused by the stress of travelling and might recede.

It didn't.

Gradually, day by day, it got worse, until by the weekend I could barely eat, the pain was so bad. Susie phoned her dentist and he called in a prescription of antibiotic to the local pharmacy. Three days of taking the pills and the pain had started to wane. But I went this morning to see the dentist in person, and an x-ray confirmed worst fears - an abscess. So I spent the next hour in the chair of a charming man - Stanley Armbruster, who had treated me once before, eight years ago - and submitted myself to a serious piece of root canal treatment.

What fun! Not.

The only consolation as I sit here clutching my sore jaw is the sunshine spilling through large windows, and sunlight coruscating across the stainless steel waters of the Pacific. Pain in paradise.

On a lighter note, we went yesterday morning to buy a beach bike as a gift for our host, Susie, so she could accompany us on our ten mile jaunts along the boardwalk to Huntington Beach. We picked out a perfect Newport Beach bike - pink and green, with white trim and a white saddle. She says she's going to have to buy a new outfit to match it.

The guy who sold us the bike was patenting a new way of riding these self-balancing segway machines that turn ordinary mortals into impossible pedestrians on wheels. I'd seen a few folk riding around on them and always wondered how they never fell over. Well, he insisted I find out.

With great trepidation, I climbed on to the footboard of the thing and he strapped my knees to a central pole. It was completely hands-free. Nothing to hold on to. "Normally, it takes me fifteen minutes to train someone on one of these," he said. 'But with this model you just mount and ride." Well, I'd mounted, but I wasn't riding yet. I was waving my hands around like a demented tightrope walker. He sighed patiently. 'Put your arms down."

I did as I was told.

"You lean forward to go forward, lean back to stop. Use your knees to turn left or right."

I managed to turn straight into a wall.

"Have you never been ski-ing?" he asked.


"Snow-boarding? Surfing?"


As I found myself going round in a circle on the same spot I heard the exasperation in his voice. He turned to La Patronne. "He's the only person I've ever come across who has no control of his knees." He looked at me as I swivelled my torso left and right to no effect. "Man, I'd hate to see you on a dance floor."

As the laughter of the watching hordes - La Patronne and Le Beau Frere - subsided, he unstrapped me and showed me how it should be done - whizzing backwards and forwards along the pavement with the greatest of ease. It looked great fun. But somehow I didn't think I would ever master it. Brain-hand coordination doesn't extend beyond the computer keyboard in my case.

Having finally controlled the urge to burst out laughing every five seconds at the memory of my hopeless gyrations, La Patronne confessed, "We might be laughing, but really it's just in relief that we didn't have to do it."

We'll see about that!!

Tomorrow it's off whale-spotting.

The Newport Beach Bike...

Sunset over Catalina...

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