Jim and Paula's Vichy Trip Log

Friday 13 November 2009


Merry Ole England seems much as I left it over 45 years ago. The women look like Jane Marple, as Jim says. The houses look old, even the new ones. They have lovely gardens. Everything is green and some flowers are blooming. It is raining. The houses are all jammed together, talk about infill! Tea is wonderful! The people are charming and friendly. Love it!

The people love to share their lives with you: the best way to ride the bus, the best fish and chips, the best tea shop, the bazaar at the church. We rode the double-decker bus back to the base from the little town of Mildenhall last night with the middle school-aged kids who were going home from school, at the top of course! One girl offered me her seat so I didn't have to sit crowded with Jim. They helped us find our stop since it was dark, and we didn't know where we were. The kids were much like Amanda and Chessa fighting, teasing, singing, talking on their phones, shrieking at the top of their voices. The girls had braces and styled hair. What fun!

The food on-base is awful. I feel sorry for our men and women in uniform. Boiled veggies with all the nutrition left in the water; dry micro-waved roasts, sliced; fried everything. The best were the mashed savoury potatoes and fresh green salad.

The food off-base is great so far. We had a nice tea with a savoury cheese biscuit and carrot cake. For lunch today we had fish and chips. Fish and chips fried in real grease! Ummmmm Goood.

It's lovely walking on and off base. The cars do go the wrong way and they go fast. Just about every intersection is a round-about, at least here in the country side. During our 15 minute bus ride I saw one gas station, one stop light, one cross-walk and lots of little cars that don't seem to emit much pollution and are VERY quiet. There are lots of lorrys, especially "removal vans," some vans, and NO pickups. Lots of taxies too.

The only read down side has been this beastly cold. I can't get the drugs I want. In town all the cough medicine has alcohol in it, even the stuff for kids. We can't shop at the BX or the Commissary because we are not residents. They don't have what I want anyway. I think I can get something at the hotel desk. It will just have to do. I hope it does something. It will be a long ride under the English Channel tomorrow if not. I am somewhat better. We have slept very well with little jet lag.

I hope you enjoy the pictures. Till later.

Love, Paula


Friday, Nov 13, 2009

Yesterday was the unlucky day. Paula's hot water was way too hot and while burning her hand she spilled water on the laptop keyboard. It took about 30 hours to realize that the keyboard was truly not going to work again and go to Mildenhall to buy another one. So our laptop has more or less turned into a desktop, now that it has an external keyboard and an external mouse. But we are back in business, for not much money. Electronics are not expensive here. AA batteries are out of sight, but keyboards are no more expensive here than at home, and readily available at the smallest Sussex village. It is, however, a UK keyboard, which means that all the keys are in different locations. Linux can handle that with ease, but can I? After thought, we decided that the keys would work as marked on the keyboard, and we would get used to the new arrangement, rather than trying to force the American arrangement onto the English keyboard and having the keys all mis-labeled.

So we are back to updating. We stay at RAF Mildenhall until Saturday morning, trying to get get Paula in a little better shape, then we go to France, stopping for a day or so at Calais on our way to Vichy.

We rode home from the village of Mildenhall yesterday, making the mistake of riding after dark. It was an old double decker bus and the top deck is taken, by gentleman's agreement, by twenty or so middle schoolers returning home from school. They were very nice and helped us with our stop as only middle schoolers can. One young lad's finger hovered over the stop button while about three others watched for the correct stop, discussing how far, and how soon, and whether this was it or not. We thanked them and got home safely. English children seem just as excited and full of energy as American kids, but they don't seem nearly as abusive towards each other. Paula and I were the only two "grown-ups" on the top of the bus, but I wasn't going to miss my only chance ever of riding that way. One girl instantly relinquished her seat to Paula so that Paula and I could sit together, middle-school style. When we got off the bus we complimented the children to the bus driver, who commented laconically, "makes a change." He has no idea of how much of a change it actually made for us.

The bus drivers are very polite, and take time to help you with whatever you need. They help with bags as well as information.

The bus station in Mildenhall is in the center of town, where the large maps are telling you where every shop and place of interest is. There is a central information kioske with an attendant. The rest rooms are clean and there is no graffiti, no homeless, no beggars, no hoodlums, no mentals. The bus to London stops at the same stop as the local buses.