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When I go a trip I start packing ahead of time, sometimes a week prior to departure. This gives me time to think about what to bring, lest I forget something. [1] Urs Truly doesn’t like to leave home on a trip without some ‘essential items’. I am not talking about toiletries or fresh undergarments, but other items one cannot do without – or items I can’t. Let’s have a look-see.

Backscratcher: I have the itchiest back there is and I am never far from a backscratcher. “Joy to itch in a minute!” I exclaim as I work away at my acnestis. [2] On the few times I have forgotten to pack one, my back seems to scream in woeful deprivation and I am seen rubbing up against things like Baloo the Bear. Oh the embarrassment.

Tea: Unless I am traveling to a country in the Commonwealth there is no chance of getting proper cup. Inns and resorts pride themselves on their coffee but what they pass off for tea is insipid generic orange pekoe. Oh the horror. Happily I am traveling with some fellow tea-fanciers. We bring our own and have ourselves some proper tea, no rubbish. [3]

Decks of cards: I’ve turned into my late mother who, when on family vacations, stayed by the pool, sipping drinks while playing cards, while we kids ran amok seeing the sights. I thought cards a terrible way to spend a holiday but as I approach sixty this sounds jolly good fun. I hope to play several types of games while in California. Spades is a favorite of mine as is whist (two and four handed types). Someone likes Euchre, a game I never can deduce how to play properly. Then there are the card games like Uno and Exploding Kittens which allows for more players which leads to savagery and sometimes violence. I will also bring along some of my favorite board games like Nine Men Morris and The Royal game of Ur. Sorry! is a sure to be along as well, which like Uno, often results in murders and suicide.

Books: I cannot imagine a vacation without a few books. I always bring a few, including one or two ‘proper’ books. These types of tomes also serve as a prop to make me look erudite and not just some pretty vacuous thing but a man of letters to be reading such. A book also allows one to view others at poolside without looking too obvious. “You’re not making much progress with it” Someone says about my book, “you might want to turn the page from time to time or appearance sake”.

GAMES magazine: I subscribe to this monthly magazine of puzzles but I seldom ever get to them, except on holiday. I do a Sudoku every morning as I sip my proper cup (sans sugar). The afternoon is for doing the cryptic crosswords. Do you ever do cryptic crosswords? [4] This reminds me to also pack a pencil. Have you ever tried finding one on vacation? No one seems to have them any more so bring your own.

Bum-bag: My traveling companions are hikers. Having a bum-bag or a small backpack is vital for carrying bottles of water and wallets and phones and whatever one needs to carry these days (masks and hand sanitizer comes to mind), A backpack looks better and more butch than a bum-bag, and both beat Prada purses which seem to be the carry-all cases in Palm Springs these days.

[1] My maternal grandmother took another approach to packing: she would do so at the last minute, and what was forgotten she lived without or bought a replacement as needed.

[2] When it comes to what makes a good scratch, a wooden backscratcher surpasses Someone by a country mile. He never digs in deep enough. But don’t think this a threat. It is more like Hamburger Helper for one’s well-being.

[3] One of my companions is quite selective about his types of tea. Good enough, but then he always put sugar in it. Can you imagine?

[4] Here are some examples of cryptic crossword:

Snake stopped on pavement. Answer: asphalt.

A mega star exploded as planned. Answer: stratagem.

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