Over the next few years, while other sad things were happening in my life – coming to terms with the illness and death of my father two years earlier, the illness and death of my mother, redundancy, the struggle to find work, family disputes, and physical/ psychological problems due to my weight creeping up – Mollie always kept me going.
I hunted around for background information while slowly working my way through the book, translating it into Spanish. Ramón patiently vetted my work – making “suggestions for alternatives” as he tactfully and euphemistically called it, which also meant helping me re-learn and strengthen the aspects of the language where I was weak. Thank goodness for e-mail.
Thank goodness too for employment legislation, which gave me a small nest-egg when I was made redundant in October 2007. A saver by nature, these funds were nevertheless used for the two best things I ever did: more recently the lapband which has changed my life, and in April 2008 a trip to Patagonia in Argentina, specifically to see the places where Mollie had lived.
It was a marvellous experience - I met two of my three penfriends, Luis and Ramón and their families (Marcelo was in Nepal and unable to get away), saw both estancias where Mollie had lived, the old houses still (just about) standing, and met a lot of wonderful people.
This picture shows the first farmhouse where Mollie and her parents lived towards the end of World War I, Talcahuala. The tilt has nothing to do with the picture - the horizon is perfectly straight! There would have been a verandah originally running along the right side of the house. (Ignore the curious wall half constructed two feet away from the house on the right - very puzzling...)
These houses were in fact British, and exported to Argentina flat-packed for erection and use by British landowners. The walls are corrugated tin outside, and wood inside - steaming hot in summer, ice-cold in winter, and the tin cracked like a pistol shot every time it expanded or contracted with the heat or cold.
Her second home, Huanuluán, is visible in the picture shown in my post dated Friday 7th August, under the guanaco.
One of the very good people I met was Raúl, a poet, writer, and the editor of a Patagonian literary magazine, in Viedma, provincial capital of Río Negro, who asked me to write an article for his magazine about Mollie, her background, and my role in the translation. Once the copyright issues were sorted out, it was hoped that it might be possible to publish the translation one day, since the book was considered to be a valuable social record of the time.
My dream is to publish a quality edition in Spanish with explanatory footnotes, prologue and epilogue by me, an introduction by Ramón explaining the background to the British presence in Patagonia, and as many pictures as I can get away with. The original English book has wonderful pen and ink drawings, and if I could get the permission of the copyright owner, it would be wonderful to include them as well.
I had exchanged a few friendly e-mails with Carlos, a writer and presenter of a radio programme on Radio Nativa, in Viedma, and in February this year he asked me if he could tell the story on his daily programme. I was thrilled to bits about this, and even more so when the following week he dedicated another half hour to interviewing Ramón about his role in the story. It generated some interest locally, and he was able to send me the audio files by e-mail so I could listen to the programmes. (Blogger Dawn of Scrummybits and her husband kindly tried to record the programme on the internet for me, but the technology at the radio station, we learned later, wasn’t up to it and the connection kept dropping.) Carlos later summarised the story in a local Sunday paper.
(Double-click to enlarge. Note - caption under picture of Huanuluán sign is incorrect)
I recently finished the translation – it felt so flat no longer to come home and switch on my computer, check my e-mails and blog, and have my friend Mollie to turn to. My study is at the other end of the house from the kitchen, so after banding last December it was very helpful for my ‘rehabilitation’ to be further away from food and headfirst into a project which prevented me from thinking about whether I was hungry or not.
Recession has hit Argentina as everywhere else; it is also a world where who you know is critical to getting anything done. I had many opportunities to reflect that it could take a long time to realise my dream, if ever. However I hadn’t really appreciated to what extent Carlos liked the project. He moves in the same literary circles as Raúl and Ramón, and it has been humbling to follow their attempts to help. They have written many e-mails to their contacts, although there has been no response as yet, and they warn me not to expect it. Carlos has now come up with the idea, which he is coordinating with them, of us giving a series of lectures in chosen towns throughout northern Patagonia, to raise the profile of the story, and see if there might be any organisation out there who might take it on.
Marcelo - the one penfriend I haven't met - is visiting Argentina from Nepal and tells me he is hoping to still be around on my visit, and I may at last meet him. It would be wonderful if I could post in my blog a photo of all those mentioned in white bold print in these two posts, for they have been essential to the development of the project thus far.
Over a 24-hour period last week I realised that I really wanted to do this, and that I had enough holiday left from my hospital admin job for a 3-week visit. I checked with my friends as to dates in November (it has to be within the April-November cultural year), and to our mutual surprise – it’s so easy on the internet – I just sat at my desk with mouse working busily, and bought a ticket for Thursday 29th October, returning Saturday 22nd November. They all seem happy with my rather hasty decision, the timing seems to suit them all, John is supportive as always, and who needs food to live anyway?
Apprehensive is hardly the word – I have a PowerPoint presentation to prepare, and the prospect of talking to several audiences in Spanish. Have I mentioned before that as a child I had a pronounced stutter, probably the result of the bullying at the boarding school I was sent to when I was 5? (Strange to relate, I lost most of it following my divorce when I went through a very angry and man-hating phase!! Let psychiatrists work that one out…) Living in England I’ve often come across people with speech impediments, but I never observed it anywhere in Argentina and was the only person in my world who stuttered. Although I’ve sort of grown out of 80% of it, lack of confidence tends to made it reappear.
So, what do we overweight people feel compelled to do when we need to summon all the confidence we can get? Yup, the Great Push is on. John wonders what difference a few kilos will make, and I reply that it won’t matter to the people listening to me, but it will to ME. I need to feel I’m doing the best I possibly can, so that it will give me the confidence I need to do this. I who detest the words “diet” and “target” am having to call a temporary ceasefire on their use till after I return from Argentina.
My last monthly weigh-in for this blog shows 97kg, I’m now 95kg, and I’m going to do my level best to get down to 84kg, so that it will be a total of 30kg lost since pre-op weight last November. And I’ve got 65 days in which to do it…
Sorry, can’t hang about writing to you, I’ve got a gym and a swimming pool to go to. Aaargh!