Friday 19 May 2017

Beavers and wolves and bears, alas

It's the dentist pose, isn't it? Lying on your back with your hands clasped over your stomach. When else do you adopt that position? Other than in your coffin, I suppose. Hmm, that's a cheery connection that I didn't make today when having a couple of fillings replaced. Instead, I was listening to my nice dentist and her assistant chatting away randomly as they worked - about turning appliances off at the wall every night, about the new steriliser sounding like a harp, about television, shopping, books... "You're lucky," said Sonika. "Sometimes we talk about laundry."
But then they got on to bucket-list item Alaska (by way of a book of that name, though Georgia was unable to remember the writer, which made me frown. So unfair. A propos of that, have you ever noticed what small and fleeting billing the writer gets when their book is made into a movie? Without whom there would be no movie? Tch.) Anyway, as a distraction technique, I wondered what - if my mouth hadn't been full of clamps, wedges, cotton wool, sucker, drill, mirror and fingers - I might have contributed to that conversation.
There's the frontier feel of the place, the scenery, naturally (in both senses) - the mountains, the glaciers, the woods - and of course the wildlife. Bears, whales, sea otters... it was a thrill to see them all, going about their daily business. The one nugget I think I would have shared though, was what happens to them when man gets his hands on them - literally. 
I have never, before or since, seen so much fur. In Anchorage, Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, the shops selling pelts were absolutely standard. Beaver, fox, reindeer, rabbit, wolf, lynx, ermine, mink, musk ox... all on hangers and in piles, begging to be stroked. PETA wouldn't stand a chance in Alaska. I did wonder what the demand was for skins until I overheard a woman dithering between two beaver pelts that she wanted to make into moccasins. Boy, that fur is so thick and rich, I can only imagine how it feels to have it cosseting your feet. Not that I wouldn't so much rather see it on the original owner, mind.
Plus there were coats and boots and slippers and gloves and mittens and hats - including Dan'l Boone classics - and all displayed under what it was hard not to interpret as the condemnatory gaze of mounted heads: wolf, fox,, deer, reindeer, even a complete polar bear. 
Having once attended a Hunt Ball at Cheltenham Town Hall in the '70s where everyone had to run the gauntlet of vociferous antis outside the entrance, who actually spat at the woman near me wearing a fur coat, it was all kind of confronting. But there you go. We travel to see things, and customs, that are different.

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