"During the war .... "
Once upon a very long time ago when I was much much younger, I spent several months in the USA, driving from the West coast to the East coast, down to the Keys in the South, then heading north to Minnesota before making my way back to JFK to come home again.
That was back in late 1990 when I was a young and foolish 21 year old with a penchant for late nights and American beer (as opposed to now of course, as a foolish 40 year old with a penchant for early nights and English ale).
Anyways, I met some fantastic people along the way, mostly a huge group of students whom I met up with in Vero Beach, Florida who were studying agriculture and were working at a fruit packing factory to make ends meet. Having spent pretty much all of my 3 months worth of money in a little over 4 weeks, I needed - and managed - to blag a job (which paid surprisingly well) and from which it was possible to save enough for the remainder of my stay, thanks mostly to the tough 12 hour days we worked.
As is often the case in life, you either stay in touch for good or you slowly lose contact and unfortunately I lost contact with pretty much everyone I had met. They came from all over the world; South Africa, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Austria, Finland and so on but that is no excuse for losing touch with them. Life kinda moved on, promised letters never got written - from me or them - and one day, nothing.
Of course, when you can no longer get in touch or the address you have produces no results, it is suddenly more important to try to get in touch. Part of me wants to track some of those faces and personalities down but another part of me - a bigger part of me - thinks it better to leave it be.
Life has moved on.
I have, however, managed to stay in touch with one family (whom I met through one of the South African students), when we arrived in possibly the coldest place I have ever been to in my life.
Oh boy, I can't describe how cold it was "up" there.
Temperature aside, I was introduced to a smashing couple - him, endearingly bonkers; her, patient and lovely - who ran a small bar in the town and lo and behold, over the years we have managed to fall in and out of touch with erratic, random correspondence here and there. We eventually got e-mail addresses to each other and recently they contacted me asking me for my home address as they wanted to post me something (so quaint).
They sent me a very thoughtful T-shirt (which is probably to replace the original one they gave me back in early 1991) but nothing will ever replace that T-shirt (I'll post a picture of the original one soon).
Thank you to my friends Mary and Butch. It has been a pleasure staying in touch with you all these years.