In the cafe in Point Arena I saw a headline in a local paper, “Only 11 shopping days to Halloween to find your perfect costume.” As we know Halloween in England is a pale relation of the American version but it still came as a surprise to see every cafe, every small shop and boutique illuminated by airborne skulls and high banks of pumpkins outside all the supermarkets. A lot of the pumpkins are smooth and round and as large as dog kennels, and some of them are covered in lumps and warts.

Halloween must be the only way to dispose of these giant vegetables. I planted four courgette plants in my garden at home and in early summer got a small crop of shiny green zuccini. But then I turned my back on them for a couple of days by which time they’d blown up into heavy unfashionable marrows that no-one seemed to want. I thought of the pumpkin fields in California full of fast swelling unstoppable gourds, their orange flesh becoming blander by the day, and I wondered what came first, the pumpkin or Halloween.  When yet another noisy truck whooshed past me on Highway 1 I had the whimsical notion that it would be nice if they all turned into horse-drawn carriages.

Yesterday I surpassed myself by cycling and surviving the stretch of infamous road between Stewart Point and Jenner. I have to point out that this 15 mile stretch of road consists of steep switch backs and precipitously high cliffs overhanging the ocean. Also the weather was bad, with thick fog and drizzle. I no longer puff like a steam train but have mastered the slow-motion pumping in top gear, keeping the top half of my body relaxed, as Ned has taught me. I arrived triumphant in Bodega Dunes only to run my front wheel into a pile of sand and promptly topple over. This is the third time I have fallen off my bike and have had to lie turtle up waiting for Ned or Charlotte to come and release me.

But that was nothing in comparison the the sense of achievement I felt and now I have more important things to worry about since there are only eight shopping days left to Halloween in which to find the perfect costume. Well my cycling helmet looks like a gargoyle and we sport hideous orange vests. We won’t need much to be able to hold our own at any Halloween party we happen to come across.

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