#WOMBATSDOAMERICA, Day 7
Blogging our recent US trip day by day, four weeks after the event.
Monday 11th August – Fish Poo and Flags
The previous evening, as well as handing over to Kim her copy of ‘Murder at Wombat Towers’ (a private novel that I wrote for her and Janine – and The Wombat Gang – as thanks for their hospitality) we had given Viv a pinny, or what she might call an apron. She will look so classy, like a sweary Mary Poppins. She left for home this morning. We dropped her off, tearful, at the airport. I’m going to miss that woman.
Kim took us down to the Environmental Centre which, as well as a bunch of information about Presque Isle itself, boasted an extensive display of automata. They were housed in Perspex towers, and activated by the simple press of a button. Fascinating things, which it was nigh on impossible to photograph successfully, given that their whole raison d’etre was motion.
We were given a behind-the-scenes tour by one of the volunteers to whom we got talking, again by dint of our accent. He used his pass to access the laboratory and research area, where water quality is tested (to keep the beaches safe for swimmers), the environment is monitored, and life on the peninsula is examined for any signs of invasive species. Ron, for such was his name, was both informative and entertaining. We saw plants that were living on fish poo, and various creatures, including goldfish and turtles, that had been collected from the Lake, many of them non-native. A huge skeleton jaw depended from the ceiling; from what creature I cannot remember.
Afterwards we had a saunter around the exhibits, learning about how Presque Isle ‘grew’, as well as much about its flora and fauna. A ride up to the top of the observation tower gave us views of mostly just treetops, with the occasional small glimpse of distant water or rollercoaster peeping above them. Our view of the car park below, however, was unparalleled. Thousands of tiny white mosquitoes were plastered to the metal and glass of the tower.
We ate lunch at Shackalay’s, which looked to me exactly how I’d imagined a US diner – neon signs, stars & stripes, bright colours. We had gyros: sliced lamb and salad rolled in flatbread and sloshed with ranch dressing. A real burst of flavour and very good eating. Also, of course, a bottle of Landshark.
Our next port of call was, imagine my excitement, a fabric shop. Well, I say ‘shop’, but for this place the word ‘store’ is far more apt, since it was HUGE. It was like an Aladdin’s cave of cloth and cloth-related products. I did enjoy stroking the multifarious textures, I have to say. Mary was pleased to see that for two days teachers could get a discount of 25% off. Nice to see teaching being respected rather than the constant running down it gets in the UK.
Going back to the house, knowing my liking for such places, Kim took us through a cemetery. The stones seemed to me to be more ostentatious than ours, and the names carved in a much bigger font. As I’ve touched on previously, there were US flags everywhere. We saw workers putting in a new gravestone, not a job I’d ever considered before. I wonder how they managed before they had mechanical diggers and lifters? Perhaps the stones were smaller then.
In the evening Twitter informed us that Robin Williams was dead, and checking the news we found it was true. This prompted us to watch, via Netflix, a film of his that I had never seen – ‘The Birdcage’. It was a good watch, funny and sensitive, and how pleasant it was to simply enjoy a normal everyday experience like watching telly. Lauren Bacall died this day too, at 89. Such an admirable woman, in many ways. Perhaps we should have watched ‘To Have and Have Not’ as well.
Way to end the entry on a down note, Wombie.
“I miss Viv.” – Mary