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An intermission of rural England

An intermission of rural England

Rural England is a small place. All of England to start with is smaller than most US states, and can fit into Scandinavia many times over. Take out the cities, take out the airports, the motorways and main roads, the growing suburbs and industrial sites, and you aren’t left with a huge amount of area. Set your mind to it and in a few days you could walk across its width; in a few weeks, its length.

But, what there is still greatly varied in tone, color, views, flora and fauna. And it is a country to be walked in, not driven through or flown over. Rabbits and pheasants burst from their secluded places as they hear you coming, and leap or flap away. Herons move slowly from tree to riverbank. In the gloom of dusk, foxes trot quickly, sharply, on their routes across fields. Meadows filled with a million buttercups invite crossing. And there are thousands upon thousands of those fields, rolling and curving over hills; and hedgerows, and woods and copses and spinneys.

Yes. The trees.

So many trees.

It’s a safe place; there is little that can or will kill you. And it’s a gentle place, in weather and inhabitant. Everyone, no exception, I’ve passed this last few weeks on country lanes has nodded, given some variation of passing greeting, or observation on the current or coming weather. The invisibility cloak you are seemingly given on entering the city is not worn here.

But also, this is a visibly historical place, as you are reminded over and over. The way the country lanes either ramble off in dead straight lines (Roman), or zig zag around fields (Enclosure act), or make no logical sense at all (just … English). The buildings, almhouses and stately homes and passing a cottage called “The New House” with a date of 1573 above the front door, and the remnants of medieval or older settlements. The many churches, stone and bell; the place names, and the dialects.

And the, thankfully enduring, traditions and customs. Stumble into a pub of several centuries, parched after rambling across fields and through woods and over brooks and streams; pat the owners dog on the head, buy a drink and some pork scratchings then notice Morris Dancers preparing to shake their bells and clash sticks outside. Or wander past a village fete, decide to check out just one stand, and a few minutes late you wonder why you’ve just bought three cakes made by a 90+ year old, but you are glad you have as it’s probably made her day and you’ve contributed to some village restoration project.

Rural England is a seductive place. It’s better if you have the money, and the time, to enjoy and explore it (then again, so is everywhere). But above all, it’s a quiet place where nature has, at least partially, reclaimed the sounds. Sure, there is often the distant hum of traffic, or a nearby tractor, or a plane going overhead (and … so many planes, in recent years). But there are farm animals, and birds, and church bells near and distant, the sounds of water, morris dancers and cricket matches, and psithurism (look it up, then go outside somewhere and listen to it).

Though I was born in this rural land, and spent the first 20 years here and kept coming back, and I’m here again, wandering the lanes and fields, this isn’t home. That thing means something different now, and it’s a long way, physically and literally, from here. But I’m finding that it’s deeply satisfying, for a short while anyway, to wander down lanes, through woods and across meadows, again.

The Long Autumn

The Long Autumn

The summer fruits, the Victoria plums and Cambridge strawberries, are the sweetest and juiciest, filled with the rains of spring. But it’s the autumn fruits, those slow-growing crops such as Marjorie’s Seedling, Russet and Cox’s Orange Pippin, where the flavors are strongest and the colors deepest.

It’s strange. There’s a party going on downstairs, but I feel flat today, unsociable. Not grumpy, just tired, withdrawn, wanting to move on in several ways. So while the party goes on, and I hear the distant shrieking of people (nice people at that) who, for the most part I won’t see again, I’m blogging.

Summer feels nearly over, the last week here. The actual season of summer, and a more metaphorical one. The literal one, with long days and warm nights; cricket and hopes of winning trophies, contesting the Ashes; sitting in a garden and being thankful that winter is still some way in the distance.

Sunset

And it’s been, unexpectedly, my best summer in England. I’ve enjoyed culture; albums from Amiina, Boards of Canada. Various books, finally read. Classic and favorite films, rewatched. The rediscovery of radio. Parental ashes finally being scattered. The satisfaction of playing the first really good, worthwhile, fulfilling digital game in years, in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Getting gradually, annoyingly slowly but still gradually, ‘better’. Figuring out unfigurable things. Finding an online clip of an overhead museum-based movie I watched in April 2007. Resolving, one by one, bad issues from years past. The rediscovery of the positive attributes of living somewhere quiet (even though oddly less than two miles from the centre of a major city), with clouds and sky and rain oddly reminding of a previous ‘life’ in the Outer Hebrides. My favourite cat recognising me after several months of non-contact. Seeing the new Library of Birmingham being completed and turning out to be pretty damned good. The delight of a Brummie turning out to be a brilliant Daily Show host, and the riposte to Daft Punk by Stephen Colbert (arguably the satirist of our generation).

And (finally) figuring out what I want to do and can do in the long term, though with the significant caveat of being less sure of who I want to work for and with. My growing disillusionment with academia – the mechanics of contemporary universities in particular – and seeing it, with experience and good reason, as an increasingly insecure, uncertain and unethical source of income. As do the many colleagues who lost their jobs, in organisations such as UKOLN and CETIS, this summer. Shifting focus and taking the silver coin of the commercial sector, while still adding to the sum of human knowledge, is increasingly the long-term sustainable way, probably the only way, a fact confirmed for me today. The bitter and unsatisfied lives of most academics, either as employed or self-employed by universities which increasingly resemble dysfunctional fly-by-night traders, is not for me. It probably never was.

Contrail

But the nights are drawing in rapidly. I couldn’t light miniature candles in the hidden oasis because of the weather this evening, for the first time in weeks, if not months; the late evenings of sitting outside are, like the late evenings of natural light, drawing to an end. The (cricket) Ashes have been retained, and the Pears have beaten the Bears. Still-unresolved situations need fixing before they become more toxic. Cooler weather and cooler heads abound as the summer turns. What feels like a long autumn, that favorite season of brilliant colors, harvesting the fruits of seeds long planted, working against the clock to bring in what one can, and delivering on the potential and hopes of seasons previous, is almost here.

It’s time.

Blue Highways

Blue Highways

My favourite non-fiction book. And the answer to the “What one possession would you take with you if your house was on fire?” question. The author is also the person, if I could pick one, I want to be.

I’ve been fascinated, obsessed, delirious, about America since I could speak and read, possibly before. My earliest memory was of watching man – an American – land on the moon, being too young to understand the excitement of a packed room of people watching a tiny, flickering television.

rural road

Every influence, from Coca Cola bottles to West Side Story, the speeches of JFK (who my parents named me after), the Stars and Stripes and the Star Spangled Banner, the movies of the Coen brothers and the journalism of the Washington Post, Seinfeld and The Wire, the optimism and a thousand influences in between, flow through me. That growing realisation that I’m an American, born in the wrong country.

I’ve had a few adventures, briefly, in America. But the adventure, the journey – and it is always the journey, not the destination – that William Least Heat-Moon describes in this book, is over four hundred pages of often transcendental observation and reflection, of America and the author, the writer, within America.

In Blue Highways, William found his life changing drastically in his late thirties, his ties gone, and took the opportunity to make a move, setting off with the bare minimum and copies of Leaves of Grass and Black Elk Speaks. He stuck to the back roads, the two lane tracks, and the small towns, people who’d never been interviewed, traveled, seen beyond their horizon but were content. Several thousand miles of traveling, and he repeatedly finds places and people he didn’t know existed; but perhaps more importantly he “learnt what he didn’t know he needed to know”.

Life as a back road in Iowa

The journey. It’s always about the journey. And there’s possibly no better place, physically and spiritually, to undertake the journey than America.

It’s a beautiful book I’ve read many times, and it smells and feels like a well-read and loved book.

Lines from a Navajo wind chant which close the book, and reminds of why we write:

Then he was told:
Remember what you have seen,
because everything forgotten,
returns to the circling winds.

Hay-on-Wye: Beyond the long tail

Hay-on-Wye: Beyond the long tail

(Pictures from this trip are on Flickr, and there’s a Flickr group with pictures by other people)

I’m sitting in The Granary in Hay-on-Wye. It’s mid morning. Outside it’s a little damp but in here there’s a crackling log fire. Every table is taken. Everyone is either reading, writing, or murmuring quietly to whoever they are with. Hops hang from the uncovered joists of the ceiling.

At the next table an earnest man (pointy beard) is reading Sylvia Plaths “The Bell Jar”. On the other side – and by coincidence as I bought a copy yesterday – a 20-something lady with dreadlocks and a multicoloured sweater that looks hand-knitted is reading “The Catcher in the Rye”. The couple at the table beyond nod back; previously they’d commented on the “O The President” decal on Samantha, in a positive way. Someone I can’t place but know – think he is a BBC reporter – is eating scrambled eggs on toast at the corner table and throwing little bits to an appreciative spaniel.

Bookshop

I check Twitter. My pot of tea arrives and I respond to the waitress in Welsh, constantly surprised at remembering words unused in decades.

Hay-on-Wye has the extremely justified title of the “Town of Books”. It’s not a big place; you can walk across downtown (as American colleagues would say) in less than ten minutes. The streets are narrow, but the place isn’t choked with traffic; there’s nowhere to drive to within 20 miles of here, perhaps why.

Wall of books

The bookshops and the festival are why people visit Hay. This tiny town, straddling the border of England and Wales, claims to have “more books” (easily many million) “per square mile” (one?) then anywhere else. And it would be a brave town, even other book towns, which challenged this. I wonder; does this place have the largest concentration of non-digital knowledge in the world? Possibly.

The bookshops differ, from the small and specialist, to several buildings joined together with seemingly endless corridors of books. Shelving differs, from neat and orderly, to books taking up every conceivable space on walls and floor, in some places meaning you have to jump over piles of books to move onwards. In some places, the books are precariously placed. On day one, I pulled one off a high shelf. The shelf came down with it. And the shelves below. And the cabinet. It was raining books – unfortunately hardbacks. The irony of being killed by an avalanche of books (which some librarian colleagues would have found very funny) wasn’t lost on me.

Booth's

It’s apparently quiet at this time of year, but even so the bookshops were busy with browsers and purchasers. This isn’t a place where books come to die; it’s a place where books are given another opportunity of being refound and reowned. Hay-on-Wye is the global convergence point for used books; container loads from around the world go into the bookshops; purchasers (including me) wait patiently in line at the Post Office to send books back around the world.

Useful though amazon.com is, where it fails, Hay-on-Wye fills the gap. Obscure book? Book published in 1933 that Amazon says is “Unavailable”? That collection of Ladybird books that taught you, simply, about things and which you believed unswervingly in at age six? They’re probably sitting on a shelf in Hay-on-Wye. Somewhere. And here’s the thing – there’s no instant look-up online of where that book is on the shelf. You have to go hunt, and that is part of the fun. In some stores, the staff can help. In others they have a vague idea. In some you are on your own (literally, as some shops are unmanned with just an honesty box for payment).

The problem (is it a problem?) in my case is that, in the hunt for one book, I found and bought more than 30 others on the way. Which lead to several more trips to the post office for despatch, as a swathe of my American colleagues will discover next week.

And it’s not just the bookstores. There are books for sales in cabinets bolted onto walls, in gardens, on tables outside, under a marquee next to the converted cinema (converted, inevitably, into a bookstore), on cabinets in the grounds of the castle:

Cabinets of books

So that book you remembered about from your youth is here. If it isn’t, it isn’t likely to be anywhere else. J. R. Hartley wasted his time wandering around the local bookshops of his small town; he should have taken the bus across the Golden Valley to Hay-on-Wye and tracked it down here.

The Globe at Hay, a converted chapel, was a revelation and my base for several days. Entering takes you into the most relaxed cafe possible. Sofas, cushions to sit and lie down own, various tables. Free wifi and a formidable menu of excellent and well-priced food, tea and coffee. People tap away on laptops. More of them ask about the decal on Samantha.

Downstairs, the basement is used for classes, keep fit, and as a makeshift cinema where I rewatched “Mulholland Drive” one evening on a comfy sofa while drinking good tea in a proper cup. The Odeon this was not.

Comfy seating

The residents are noticeably affluent, in how they dress and shop. This is, to use the increasingly dodgy British classification, an upper middle class town. I suspect the newspaper demographic is about 80 percent Guardian, 15 percent Independent and 5 percent the rest. But whilst people who (tediously) revel in the “grittiness” of “working class” living will automatically assume that means snobbiness, it’s exactly the opposite. I don’t think I’ve visited a more relentlessly friendly, approachable and relaxed place in Britain.

It’s probably helped by the range of shops. As well as over 30 bookshops, there are many foodie shops, from delicatessans to cafes to restaurants to (several) grocers. Many of them selling high quality, organic, and varied, fruit and vegetables. And not at extortionate prices, so it’s not just for those affluent people. Hay-on-Wye isn’t near anywhere significant; Hereford is the local city, nearly an hour away by bus. It’s on the edge of the Brecon Beacons, a wild and empty place I distantly remember from childhood. The town is proof that, with effort and a positive attitude, a relatively ‘remote’ place can have a wide range of goods and services.

Indexing

It’s no surprise that the annual Hay Festival is a big success. Accommodation is booked up for (many) miles around; the B&B I stay in is booked for the festival week for the next two years. I went to an early festival and remember it being little more than a marquee in the town square. Now it’s a big thing, with speakers such as Bill Clinton proclaiming the festival as “The Woodstock of the mind”.

I wonder what other book towns are like? I visited one a decade ago in Mundal in Norway without realising it, but remember noticing lots of places selling second-hand books. I’m overdue for another visit to Norway and a stay in my favourite hotel there to date. And perhaps an exploration of other booktowns; there are 22 in Europe, ranging from Votikvere in Estonia to Valladolid in Spain. This could become a new hobby (glint in eye) if I can work out how to fund it.

But if you are serious about books and knowledge, you have to visit Hay-on-Wye at least once in your life. Go there. Buy a book for yourself. Buy one for someone else, and post it to them.

Trip summary

Trip summary

Days of trip: 36
Miles travelled: 19,763
Travelling companion: Samantha
Countries visited: Scotland, England, USA, Mexico.
Countries viewed from ground: Canada
US states visited or passed through: 18
Conferences presented at: #GLLS2008, #IL2008
Key words used at conferences: “Internet” (#IL2008), “Tool” (#GLLS2008).
Favourite American accent: Tennessee
Favourite place: Shortlist: New Orleans, Memphis, Chicago, Whitefish. Winner: Memphis.
Highest altitude attained: 6,900 feet.
Best moment: 10pm, 4th November.
Worst moments: Noon, 5th November. Sometime in night of 9th November
Best meal ever: 6am, 7th November, a diner in Memphis Tennessee.
Most surprising outcome: Somehow, despite often unhealthy food, losing 11 pounds in weight.

Dollar

Important lessons learnt:

  • Don’t think that because you are floating in a Californian swimming pool that you are not getting sunburnt.
  • Seattle has the best washing machines in the USA.
  • The Cheesecake Factory does not sell just cheesecake.
  • Elvis’s crib is surprisingly small.
  • You really wouldn’t want to be lost in the Texan outback.
  • Flu victims can survive on little more than hotel cookies for several days.
  • I am hot at Wii bowling on a big screen.
  • Count the number of pick-up trucks with dogs in the back outside rural diners. Three or more: the food is good.
  • A pile of dollar bills guarantees a good day of service.
  • People will tip just about anyone for anything.
  • Earplugs are essential when a hockey team and their families are staying in the same hotel.
  • West coast women are Laguna Beach, east coast women are Kima Greggs (The Wire) / Starbuck (new BSG).
  • East coast women are much better at dealing with taxi drivers than exhausted Brits.
  • Money buys an audience.
  • People can have varying reactions to the bite of a black widow spider.
  • The Mississippi is the awesome-ist river ever.

Downtown church

  • Rhinestone boots are “in” for librarians.
  • In New Orleans you can (probably) get anything, legal or not.
  • Do not take someone sensitive/unworldly on a late night walk through New Orleans unless you want to be answering awkward questions about “Free lube”.
  • 40 year olds can survive surprisingly well on 3 or 4 hours of sleep a night for two weeks. But no longer.
  • It is difficult to find someone more determined to overcome misfortune than a resident of New Orleans.
  • Really, don’t get me started on the tea…
  • But if you want to start an argument between two Americans, the easiest way is to say “So, that Sarah Palin, eh?”
  • Bear poo. Once smelt, never forgotten.
  • Everyone has the steak on Amtrak trains.
  • By day three of being on the same train hygiene tends to (literally) go out of the window.
  • A third of electricity in California is used just to move water around the state.
  • Hotels provide free Wifi as standard (British hotels, are you listening?).
  • Everything is cheaper than Britain, except house prices in cities and Amtrak baggage storage.
  • American’s who think 2 dollars for a cup of coffee is outrageously expensive are in for a big shock when they visit Britain.
  • Oprah Winfrey is royalty.

…and the most bizarre one of all:

The American Dream

The American Dream

This particular adventure draws to a close; in a few minutes Pablo the limo driver (cheaper than a taxi) will return, hopefully with my luggage, and we’ll be off to LAX. The pictures on this page I took earlier today around the Getty Center. There are two American dreams. It’s ironic that I’m typing this while in Los Angeles, the magnet for people looking for the first one:

Dream 1. The shortcut to wealth. Be discovered, become a star; quickly build up a business empire and make millions. Protect your wealth through whatever means, be they economic or political.

Sycamore tree

Dream 2: Find someone special. Afford a house with a white picket fence. Raise a family. Grow old together, enjoy each others company. Stay healthy, stay out of debt. Read. Be optimistic. Live modestly.

I met plenty of people who were after dream 2. Some, like the couple at the last meal I had on an Amtrak train, had found it. Others were looking. Those two dreams; they partially but don’t totally fit the political scene. Many Republican voters would prefer dream 2; some Democrats have achieved dream 1.

Open plaza

What connects them both is opportunity and education. Learn how to find the opportunities. Give yourself the skills to take advantage of them. Whatever American dream you follow, unless you get extremely lucky or are born into money, you’ve got to go for the opportunities. And they’re there. If you want them and go for them. And you have a large slice of luck with things such as health. So Americans seem quietly determined; at least the ones I met. Perhaps this is a manifestation of their ancestry, with people determined to leave behind poverty and repression and make a better life. Maybe it’s a desire to get on in life. Connect with like-minded people. Move on, and build what is still a new country, make it better.

And maybe this is why the US has what I call The Hive. It’s an extremely intense network and community of self-driven digital library researchers and practitioners. They each make considerable use of Web 2.0 and other net technologies to what some may think are extreme degrees. They don’t *have* to do any of this; they just do. I met some of The Hive at #IL2008 and #GLLS2008; others online, through Twitter and Flickr and Facebook and email.

Roses

This doesn’t exist in Britain to the extent it does in the US, and I’m not sure it could. Work conditions, negatively, count against it. Americans would say “Just do it.”; Brits would say “Why on Earth are you doing it?” in that ever-cynical way I’ve gotten tired of over the last decade. Cynicism is not the same as intelligence, which is why Britain would never elect someone like Barack with a message of “Hope” and “Change”. By coincidence I had a late night twitter exchange with someone senior from the UK academic digital education scene, who made pretty much the same point about a lack of any substantial UK “Hive”. This needs investigating properly (RB: we need to talk).

What is America? It’s being in wonder at something without looking for fault or cynicism in it. It’s strangers saying hello. It’s trying at something. It’s having conversations that are never dull or predictable. It’s having an opinion. It’s making a cause, and voting, and elections, and not giving up when a hurricane washes away your house but going back and rebuilding it and making a home and starting again. It’s an utter diversity of landscapes, communities and people. It’s being awake, it’s realising what’s outside and what you want to do, and who you are. Smell is the strongest sense, and to me America smells of Amtrak diesel, pomegramates and lemons, strong coffee in a Memphis diner, badly made tea, gumbo, the dollar bill, hotel cookies, peanut butter at Graceland, Louisiana swampwater, Seattle breakfast fruit, rooftop swimming pools, bear poo, the sweat of a nervous taxi driver, the breakfast buffet at #glls2008, hot dogs on Santa Monica pier, fish feed at Monterey aquarium, Pike Place in Seattle, cheesecake, the Mississippi at sunset, deep Chicago pizza, the edginess of El Paso, hotel conference room carpets, the hair of someone hugging you who was a stranger yesterday and will be a friend for life today, a library in Montana, the tangiable excitement of a crowd counting down the seconds to their president-elect…

Walkway

But there’s only one colour for me and that colour is blue. Blue for the sky over the Getty Center in Los Angeles as I type this, of the sky over the Canadian rockies, of the Mississippi at dawn, of the sky over a Swedish-style house with a white picket fence I glimpsed in Minnesota and can’t forget, of the eyes of Brooke and Holly, of the winning party. “Soak it up – be inspired – let yourself be open – you don’t know what might come in.”

I did, and found America, and home.

Thank you.

Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee

Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee

After wandering around Graceland for a few hours, I’m still not sure what to make of it. The house itself is surprisingly small, and you can only follow the (planned) downstairs route, through rooms and outbuildings.

Outside Graceland

Some of the inside rooms I quite liked and thought were tasteful and restrained enough.

Piano room

Others, perhaps less so. Though I do like his use and choice of lampshades:

Pool room

The whole experience is very efficient; seeing the house, and doing the four additional mini-exhibitions took around two hours. Today was apparently a quiet day, but it seemed crowded to me, so in August especially when major events happen the place must be mobbed. Inevitably, much of the display area in Graceland (in the back) is focused on Elvis’s achievements. The visitor is left in no doubt that he sold a lot of records:

He sold a few records

The side exhibitions held varying interest for me. You could go inside Elvis’s private jet, which was quick and not that interesting. Better was the car collection, including a Sheila’s Wheels type pink Cadillac:

Pink Cadillac

The place is a huge money generator; doing the maths on the number of people and thro-rate, it’s racking up a lot of income quickly. Plus the restaurant, gift shop et al. Ah, the gift shop was the one part of the Graceland experience I thought was tacky, with some dubious items for sale not out of place in a Father Ted spoof. But overall it seems a fitting tribute to a man who did sell over two billion records in his career. Though the experience, as Larry Mullen Jr. noted, is jarred somewhat by rounding the swimming pool outside to be confronted with the most photographed part of the complex – the family graveyard. Five graves (Elvis, parents, sibling, grandmother) next to the swimming pool and close to the house just seemed uncomfortably odd.

In America, academics knit

In America, academics knit

I’ve presented at two conferences on this trip, and knitting has become an unexpected thing to observe. The #IL2008 closed with a presentation by Liz Lawley. I’ve seen four of her presentations to date and she’s right – they’re always completely different. Plus entertaining, and useful in terms of knowing what leftfield technologies and gadgets are worth investigating.

Anyway, Liz mentioned that she knits … during academic board meetings. She carries on knitting, and staff know when she is going to say something because she puts down her knitting. Ooookaaay, I thought. A little extreme but nothing actually wrong with it. A few weeks later I was at #GLLS2008. While sitting at a 90 degree angle to the speaker, on the bloggers table, I observed this:

Librarians knitting

Yes, someone is … knitting a scarf(!). And, though it doesn’t show very well, the person in front of him is also … knitting. I turned to the person next to me and whispered (probably too loudly as other people heard me)

“That man is knitting!”

Shrugs all round. “Meh.” Scott the knitter (and newfound collaborator on exciting pan-Atlantic games stuff) responded to the Flickr picture with his justification thus:

I know I am a kinesthetic learner…which I’m sure, is why I like the physicality of board games. During conferences, I find that.. – If I sit there, my mind goes wandering into many dark alleys and I lose focus. – If I use a laptop, I go away, working on my own stuff and taking the occasional note. – If I knit, it keep my hands busy. I find that I focus more frequently on the speaker and come away remembering much more of the talk. And, if the talk wasn’t good, then I got something done! – The pottery wheel was just a little too messy.

So there you go. Present at an academic conference, or attend a university meeting, in the US of A and don’t be surprised if you see people knitting.

Whitefish, Montana

Whitefish, Montana

Standard mode of Montana transport

First full day here. Due to catching up on sleep, I missed breakfast in the hotel so sauntered along the sidewalk to check out the diners. Whitefish is a clash-culture town. Parts of it are obviously set up for the tourist season; the strip running south on I-93 is an endless reel of motels, fast food places, gas stations and malls. In the centre of town, about half the businesses are aimed at visitors who apparently pack the place in summer. So you see signs like this hyping up the western aspect:

Jewellery shop notice

But, there’s also quite a few genuine places for locals. Casinos, bars, hang-outs, diners; there’s enough to choose from. And there’s an easy rule of thumb here. Instead of a “genuinly local” star rating, just count the number of pick-up trucks with a dog in the back outside a particular place…

That seems to correlate to how “local” the place is, which is confirmed by looking at the prices. In a 4-pickup truck place, where I appeared to be the only person not wearing a check shirt, faded hat or moustache, I picked up breakfast for 8 dollars:

Diner breakfast

Underneath the poached eggs and layer of onions, I discovered a very thick slice of ham. Couldn’t finish it. Right, apart from the Buffalo steak I’m having one evening, it’s healthy food from now on in Montana, plus plenty of exercise. Of which, it’s time to do a little mountain exploration.