The clock is ticking it’s 01.18
That and the cats purring is the only sound in the cottage.
My body seems to have dealt with the jet-lag remarkably well.
I didn’t take my lap-top with me and writing on my smart phone is nightmare. I did, however, take a monumental suitcase that if it weren’t for three American boys, the BA crew and the delicious Olly Smith, I would be broke of back and weak of arm.
The journey started with a surreal twist.
I had been picked up by a taxi, a man who smoked and talked. I learnt all about his marriage break up – after 48 years – I took him the back way since he liked LOCAL KNOWLEDGE. We got onto the M25 via Godstone. He must have been thinking about his estranged wife because he slammed the breaks on and I whacked my knee on the seat in front of me.
‘If you want to report me,’ he said ‘Go ahead.’
I didn’t report him. Went to baggage drop, since my boarding pass had been printed up for me, I stood quietly as my heavy bag passed the test.
‘Are you the mother of BB.James?’ asked the nice lady.
‘Yeah.’ I was nonplussed.
‘She’s got big hair and an amazing voice?’
‘Yeah ‘ I said again nonplussedx2.
The nice lady told me how she had worked with dawter at Choice Radio and blah blah.
I went through security delighted that BB.James had made an impression.
I bought some nuts, went through to the boarding Gate and met up with Ollie.
‘Who do I have to sleep with here to get an upgrade.’ I quipped.
And bugger me if the two men at the checkout didn’t upgrade us to Club Class. Surprised both Olly and myself. The journey to LAX had started, we were treated to linen napkins, constant attention and a chair that turned into a bed.
I watched the Tina Fey film – Admissions – and cried like a baby, took my homeopathic jet-lag remedy, slept a bit and before you could say ‘No More Champagne thanks.’ we were through security.
Given that I was born in the last century I got preferential treatment, although I still had to take off my boots, belt and and bangles.
In and out. And off to Alaska Airlines where we boarded a little aeroplane to fly to Portland, Oregon. We arrived at 9.00 p.m.
So having left England on Tuesday morning, we arrived at our destination 13hours later with an 8 hour time difference.
Is lovely. Trees on the turn, ‘KEEP PORTLAND WIERD’ the unofficial slogan. We checked into THE HEATHMAN HOTEL, a five star jobby. Olly bought me chips in Ruby’s diner at the airport so we weren’t hungry so it was up in the elevator to the 7th floor. Room 711.
My room had a little hall way – sorry lobby – with free nuts and chocolate and sewing kits.
Two two-seater settees.
Two mile wide bed.
Two sinks in one room
Two ways to shower in the other.
I hit the pillow and was spark out immediately.
Up at 7.00 to iron my clobber – Olly went for a run – which he did most mornings. That’s what twenty years difference does…
Then it was to LE PIGEON. Our first stop to talk to the best chef in the North West Mr.GABRIEL RUCKER. He cooked me chicken in mustard sauce, which I ate at his counter. We wanted him to cook squab or rabbit with foigras profiteroles but The Travel Channel thought it might be too off-putting.
Olly filmed vineyards.
We filmed everything separately then came together for meals and pieces to camera.
Day two’s filming took us to REDHILLS. An extraordinary building that JODY THE WINE GROWER had built single handedly. It has become the hub of the community filled with local cheeses, fruit, drinks, meat, wines and regular customers.
We all ate together and remarked on how fantabulous the creamy cheese was. I had tiny, little shoes on, that the mistress of the tourist board had had to buy for me, given what I’d packed the most important element – me little black pumps – had been left at home in the kitchen by the heater. My feet hurt so much we had to take mid-shots so that nobody could see my poor squished up toes.
At 5.00 a.m I realised we were out of Portland that night so I had to pack my ridiculously monumental suitcase then head off to THE NOBLE ROT, with the best views of Portland, to meet the chef and owner LEATHER….
He has a roof garden, grows everything himself, the food is then cooked and served alongside the biggest hamburgers you have ever seen.
Then a forty minute drive to a vineyard.
The most stunning place BLACK WALNUT INN. I was in the master suite in THE WILLAMETTE VALLEY, pronounced to rhyme with DAMMIT…..
Two settees with a faux fur throw.
Two bathrooms with a shower for 42 and a jacuzzi bath.
Two mile wide bed with four massive pillows.
Two windows that stretched round the room.
I thought I’d better sample the bath, so I emptied in a bottle of complimentary soap, opened the taps but couldn’t find the controls, sat in despair until I pressed something. The noise sounded like the turbine engines on the plane, the bubbles started to multiply. The jacuzzi jets turned me into a 1950’s starlet hiding behind a blanket of foam. Needless to say I turned it off.
Olly and I met for breakfast. Home made omelette with home made scones, two dogs, an open fire and sunshine outside.
The mornings were freezing, the days hot, the evenings cold.
We had to leave after breakfast, me driving an open topped Mini, the camera man filming from a truck. I wanted to stay there for another fourteen nights….
Producer Eddie – from East London. Young woman. Worried for all of us.
Director Mr. O’Leary – From North London young man who made notes all the time.
Sound man Jeff – from the Black Country and West London who runs a ukulele night in Hanwell.
Cameraman Steve – from South Africa and North London, who knows how to make real South African braai.
Director Kate: from Balham. Young woman. Just got married.
Cameraman Chris: from Tottenham an Arsenal supporter. Grrrrr.
Runner and driver Tyson: Portland. Ex basket ball player, with two dachshunds and a big grin.
Runner and driver Seth: 23-year-old film student, who looked the father and son of my best friend, he sported a small wiry beard.
Runner and driver Tim: San Francisco. He sported a better wiry beard. He had cancer, as a kid, the I/V tube got infected – hospital error. They had to amputate his left arm. A devout Christian, with a terrific sense of humour who could do more with his one arm than most people can do with two.
He took us to his favourite pub. TV playing baseball. Long bar. My salad was so big and full of rubbish I couldn’t eat it. The starter, of potato croquettes, shared – were so greasy I had to abandon them. The water smells so bad that ice-cubes in my diet coke had to be discarded before I could drink it. All in all a true Oregonian culinary experience.
THE LONG DRIVE.
After another days shoot, that was at least 16 hours long, we had a four hour drive. Tim kept us going, and us him with sweeties – sorry candy – from a vending machine. Olly in the front me squashed in the back of the little white and black Mini.
We arrived at 2.00 a.m.
Three dead skunks had permeated the night with THE most disgusting of smells. We arrived at our log cabins, numbers 22 & 32, the stink of skunk still hanging in the air.
The location, WEASKU CABINS, was where Clark Gable and Dorothy L’Amour had conducted their love affair.
I just hope their cabin was warmer than mine. I slept wearing a bath robe, pj’s and thick socks.
Breakfast – in the clubhouse – was eaten in front of a huge log fire. I had packed my big red case and handed over the key. Only to be told by the ever-so-friendly woman with a country and western hair do and overly large shirt that we were there another night.
We froze our nuts off, pretending to be warm, under the trees eating a breakfast of home made scones and Camomile tea, prounced CamoMILL….Then it was off filming the views around the top of the APPLEGATE VALLEY in our little white and black Mini.
I think we’ve arrived at Friday.
The prettiest of towns. NEIL CLOONEY accompanied me around the Saturday farmers market. Brilliant veg. Massive turnips . Huge bags of greens, onions as big as your head. Two elderly women, married five times to get legal in the States, sold us pork from their ranch. They kill two pigs a week. The curly headed boy in the next stall, gave us free apple juice and Granny Smith’s for Neil’s sauce.
SMITHFIELD’S is Neil’s restaurant. His wife Clare and delicious baby Isla, hung around as DEE, Neil’s ex-wife did front of house. She used to run Ransoms Dock five minutes from my flat in Battersea. Ridiculous.
Neil, originally from Hemel Hempstead, has settled in Ashland where they have Shakespearean festivals, delicious views, a superb restaurant 10 miles from the Californian border and a loyal clientele.
He made flame seared pork chops ( Mr. Cameraman complained when the chops were put in the oven. ‘Thets not real braai cooking’ he said in his South African accent). The pork chops were placed on a bed of pan-braised kale and radishes and a sauce of apples and raw cheese. Gawd Blimey but it felt like old times. Eating unusual food in front of the camera.
I HAD COME HOME.
We knocked off and ate in JACKSON. Olly made us laugh so much I hardly managed the stuffed potato and salad.
Tim then drove us back to the cabin, only I hadn’t got the key. We tried the clubhouse. Locked. Went back to No. 32 locked. Tim called the contact number. They would be arriving in fifteen minutes. It was freezing and the skunks had been careless crossing the road again.
We walked through our movements; he had put my red case back in my room when I realised that I was staying one more night. He had the key firmly lodged in his jeans pocket. We cancelled the rescue party.
I was in. On with my pj’s, bath robe and socks. The walls too thin and I could hear the man next door snoring. No it was not Olly…. There’s something horribly intimate about sleeping next to a snoring man that you don’t know. I put the radio on, changed stations endlessly, finally fell asleep with my own headphones in my own phone playing Charlie Haydon in my own ears.
Up with the lark, repacked that perishing suitcase, a banana and yoghurt in front of the fire, then off we went in the little white and black mini, the roof down. Chris and Steve filmed us as I drove on the roads, fast, in and out of lanes, my fingers falling off with the icy wind.
Olly went numb and dumb it was sooooo cold.
We finally got to a tiny airport where we all hugged each other and went our separate ways. Olly and I boarded a 33 seater which flew us to San Francisco. We both slept waking only to drink apple juice.
We had been up graded to first class as Olly had work on Monday, so we sat in the first class lounge for four hours. We both ate:
And then we were off. Through the first class lounge, straight onto the plane. Me in seat 4 him, behind me, in seat 5.
Handed blue in-flight pyjamas, the air-stewardess put down my bed, gave me a duvet and bottom sheet. Offered to hang up my coat. Then served me salad and miso salmon on real plates with real knives and forks.
Nodded off to Robert Redford film, dull actually, put on my eye mask, plumped my pillows, and before you could say
‘Yoghurt or Smoothie dear?’ It was time for breakfast. Into the tiny lavatory to use my first class creams, complimentary don’t ya know, and I was refreshed, dressed and ready for the dismount.
11.19. Olly off to his meeting and I me to my taxi-man who was hidden the other end of the airport.
Jim passed me on the way out of Tunbridge Wells, really frustrating that I couldn’t get to hug him, I was home by 1.47, which is precisely what the Sat Nav predicted.
Stayed up till half-past-ten then collapsed into my own bed. Woke at 5.00 but stayed put until I fell back to sleep. I was awoken by the telephone at 10.00. Finally ambling downstairs only to find my lovely cleaner working around me.
Put everything in the wash, did all me ironing, ready for the second leg in a couple of weeks. I shall take a much smaller case and pray that the snow doesn’t disrupt us. Jim has said that November is going to be awful. We’ll wait and see.
So the first part of the ‘Western Wine Trail’ is in the can, it’ll be transmitted on The Travel Channel next March, and if Olly and I have done good maybe they’ll send us off somewhere else.