I made one other very good friend, Pedro, a medical man from Argentina. We had breakfast and lunch together every day. We both had a natural gift for hypnosis. We shared the same interests so we never stopped talking about Spanish literature and history, philosophy and psychology. We spoke in Spanish all the time. I was pleased that, twenty years having lapsed since I left Venezuela, I had no difficulty in speaking Spanish and understanding him. I had read the news of the political problems that dogged his country. I asked him how he managed to lead his life under such circumstances and how he was affected by it. He merely shrugged his shoulders and said “Es normal”, meaning it was the same as usual.
I wish I had stayed in touch with him. We exchanged a few letters when I went back to England but we didn’t keep it up. These conversations gave both of us great pleasure. Alas, I have had very few friendships so enjoyable. We had very similar fundamental principles by which we lived. He was very tolerant, humourous and knowledgeable. We both liked watching people to see what we could find out about them. Like the Americans he could not abide poor service in restaurants. He would roar out a complaint that brought the waiter to him instantly; “I asked for my toast to be burnt! Take this away and fetch what I want at once!” One of the things that I was aware of in America was that you never saw dirty plates on the tables. The minute we had finished, the plates and cutlery were removed at once.
We could do with more of this straightforwardness in England.
On Sunday, Paul and I explored some of the pleasures of this wonderful city. We visited the zoo, the sea world, the museum of ships and a nearby village called La Jolla. We walked everywhere. Nothing was very far away. In the zoo we were astonished to see there was not one but several kiosks selling snacks in cardboard cups of enormous size. Most people seemed to have one. I had never seen so many grossly fat people in one place. At that time it was quite rare in England. It is often said that we copy what the Americans do some ten to twenty years later. Why don’t we leave the bad habits alone and focus on the good ones? One of our government’s biggest mistakes was to try to get everyone to university. The result was exactly what has happened: a severe drop in the quality of the degrees with a few exceptions of a very small number of top-quality universities in both countries.
The Sea World was entrancing. We had never seen killer whales performing tricks. Trust the Americans to go to extremes! We could hardly believe how big they were as we watched them jumping high out of the water. An incredible sight! All the animals and fishes were very well kept. After lunch we went to the village of La Jolla (pronounced La Hoya) that was close by. The shops were full of beautiful things well displayed: paintings, jewellery, glassware, clothes , furniture, everything you could think of. Everywhere there were blazes of colour.
It was a pleasure just to walk round the streets which were nearly all bordered by trees and flowers of many kinds that we had never seen before. When we walked along the road next to the sea we saw many different kinds of birds from very small to very big. The pelicans were proliferate and much bigger than I thought they were. They came very close to us, obviously looking at us to see if we would toss them a fish or two. Much the same as we feed bread to birds in parks.
We were quite tired after our long walk and made our way back to the hotel. Many of our friends were gathered around the swimming pool making the most of the sunshine to get a bit of a tan and the others were in the water moving around in a languish sort of way. Paul and I retired early to get a good night’s sleep to be prepared for our second weeks work.
What a beautiful place and how clean everywhere was!