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Storm over the tea cups

True to our new regime, Claudia and I got up early, and went down to breakfast at about 7 am-opening time. We wanted to be out of the door by 8 am. On Martha and Alfie's recommendation, we ordered the supplementary ham and eggs. Half an hour went by and they still hadn't arrived. First there was no cook, then there was no electricity. Alf and Martha appeared, and ordered the same thing. I was getting edgy, some might say even a little pissed off. What was the point of getting up so early, if we then had to wait an hour for breakfast to arrive?

Finally Martha could contain herself no longer, and launched into a tirade about my behavior. The crux of the matter was that I had been a miserable son-of-a-bitch, unable to relax for a lot of the time, and this was unpleasant for everyone else. I agreed, apologized, made excuses, apologized some more, and generally tried to get all the grievances out on the table. There were a lot of them, from my not doing my share of the organization, to my not talking enough. It was true, I had been worrying about anything and everything. But it was also true that I had already resolved to stop worrying about Claudia in particular. More importantly, some of the "problems" were caused through misunderstandings, and I felt quite strongly that it takes two to have a misunderstanding, and therefore I was only half the problem, not all of it. For example, everything I had ever read, seen, or heard about hiking had made one thing absolutely clear: the party sticks together, and walks at the pace of the slowest, no matter how slow that is. Therefore one could share such things as pills and plans. I was stunned that neither Alf nor Martha had heard of the concept of walking as a team-and Alf had even been to outward-bound school. I already had maps, so when Alf bought the new series of detailed maps (which were infinitely better than the ones I had), it never occurred to me to buy a second set-we would only need two sets if we had to get half the party off the mountain, and my maps were perfectly acceptable for this. Thus, it never occurred to me that I was "hogging" the maps. I was carrying them, and Alf and Martha, electing to walk at a faster pace, and confident enough about the route to leave the "main" party, did their own thing around us. Needless to say this was not their interpretation of the game plan. It was valuing differences at its best.

The other cultural difference that came out was that as an Englishman I had been taught to bottle up my anxieties and fears-they are a private problem, and you deal with them in private. This becomes a subconscious process in many cases. I simply did not know that it was the Cirque de la Solitude that was making me sick, so how could I talk it out even if I wanted to?

In any case, from my point of view, their unwillingness to walk at Claudia's pace had already proved that I could not rely on them for support in my hour of need, which was not encouraging me to open up. But I guess these are just details. There was more, much more, and we spent a very useful hour airing the problems.

Finally we were done. My spirits could hardly be described as high, but either through temperament or upbringing, I was used to blue skies after a storm had burst, and I consequently felt much more relaxed now the cards had been laid out and scrutinized. But a lot of the accusations were true, and my fault, and I was concerned that although the sky was blue again for me, it was going to take them a lot longer to get over it. Indeed, I don't think they ever did. It is my opinion that it flavored the rest of the trip: certainly no attempt was made to pander to my desire to stick together, indeed if anything our walking habits became more independent, and now it was Martha's turn to carry the maps.

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