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Travel Update September 2007 PDF Printable Version E-mail


Reflections at the Autumnal Equinox

On a Summer of Change 

Barry and Margaret Williamson

Cheltenham Racecourse

22 September 2007

Greetings from a grey, damp racecourse. No Gold Cups today, just a little drizzle.

Lots of news from our place in the human race, all of it mixed going, good and bad. Here's a snapshot; not yet a photo finish.

Our Motorhome: The bad news is that our beloved Four Winds motorhome, Rosie, nearing its thirteenth birthday, has reached that stage where repair and reinstatement would cost more than could ever be recouped from its sale. The stage where money is better invested in a sounder motorhome. After nearly 100,000 miles; after 10 years of providing bed, board, office, travel and entertainment; after visiting every European country; after helping us meet dozens of fellow-travellers and fellow-Europeans; after countless adventures, it's time to move on, albeit she and us in opposite directions.

The good news is that Motorhome Medics, in the persons of specialists Doctors Darren and Martin, have helped us through the necessary transplant. These are men with a Flair for such occasions: just the right motorhome in their yard, especially imported from the USA and lovingly adapted to British needs. Darren checked out the list of symptoms we shared with him, corrected each one and helped us move everything over, including the beds. What a smooth and successful operation.

Another few days are being spent in Rehabilitation at the Cheltenham Racecourse, finding a home for all our travelling possessions, as well as for ourselves. Motorhome Medics have worked out a Care Package to ensure that we will be fully fit to return to a normal life of travel and adventure. If we lived in Scotland, all this might have been free. As it is, we have had to seek private treatment.

House in Huddersfield: The bad news is that our house and former home in Huddersfield has been giving us problems right through the summer. Its condition has deteriorated noticeably over the last year. It's sad to see a fit and healthy home struggling to survive the wear and tear of the years.

The good news is that we have consulted a new managing agent, willing to take it over and get it back on its feet again. We have also enlisted the help of the current tenants in nursing it back to life. Some changes will be purely cosmetic; others require further diagnosis of cause before engaging in serious and expensive treatment. When mould and damp strike, who knows where the rot may end?

Sadly, the existing managing agents seem to belong to a powerful professional body that closes ranks against complaints, but we continue to seek compensation.

Margaret's Mother: The bad news is that 92-year-old Ethel has just been admitted to hospital for the second time this summer. The first hospitalisation was followed by a prolonged period of rehabilitation until she returned home with a full care package.

The good news is that this second rush to hospital has resulted in fast and efficient repair and we await the longer-term prognosis. Having reached her tenth decade with ease, Ethel sees no reason not to continue.

Travel Plans: The bad news is that all the above has placed our own travel plans on hold. It's now too late for a round-the-world cycling tour: too hot in Australia and too cold later on in the USA.

The good news is that the time to go will be next spring, when the Australian autumn is cooling into winter. That will give us another spring in New Zealand, summer in South America and spring again in the USA.

More good news is that we now have 2 splendid new bicycles, many thanks to the profound skill of Paul Hewitt in Leyland. These are excellent machines, which easily and smoothly transform our flickering energy into movement and travel. How stable they are! How eagerly they carry us and our baggage! We look forward to using them for their true purpose: trans-continental journeys!

We have also renewed most of our kit, again thanks to Paul and to Cotswold Outdoor in (where else?) the Cotswolds. With the new bicycles and the new kit, it's been good to regain our flagging fitness, thanks to nearly a thousand mountainous miles over a summer in the Welsh Border Country. We enjoyed those rides so much that we are writing a guide to cycling the Ceiriog Valley, so that other cyclists can share our pleasure.

Finally, and with the help of old friend and work colleague Peter Frankland and of Rebecca Watts up in Queensland's tropical rain forest, we have created another website. This one is devoted to the memory of the college where Barry worked, at which Margaret studied and through which many thousands of students emerged to teach in further and higher education throughout the UK and the world. Even now, many years after early retirement, the college is still gratefully remembered each and every pension day.

More on this project when we establish our domain.

So, overall, an interesting and for us a very different summer!

What Next? When our new motorhome is ready for the road, when the problems with our house are laid to rest and when Margaret's Mother settles back into medical stability, we will gather all our newfound resources and head south. Italy calls to the motorhome and Tunisia calls to the bicycles. We are listening.

We hope that you are finding fulfilment on your particular journey through life: perhaps we will be able to share thoughts, opinions and experiences, as the year progresses. We look forward to that possibility.

With our best wishes for your summer or winter travels, depending on your hemisphere.

Barry and Margaret


 Taking delivery of our two new Hewitt touring bicycles from Paul Hewitt at his excellent cycle shop in Leyland, Lancashire.


 Our 2 new Hewitt touring bicycles pose in the Welsh sunshine at Angela James's Slate Mine in Glyn Ceiriog.


 Greece: Finikunda, the nearest village during our winter stay in Greece, had all we needed: shops, tavernas, friends and a small active fishing harbour.


Greece: For nearly two months, we enjoyed the peace and the emptiness of Finikes campground by the beach. 


 Macedonia: Margaret hesitates to enter the no-man's land at the border with Albania on the shore of Lake Ohrid.


Albania: The roads are often bad and this is one of the worst, in Shkoder near the Montenegrin border. Yes! We are supposed to be on the right!


 Montenegro: The steep limestone mountains and deep blue lakes are heartbreakingly beautiful.


 Bosnia-Hercegovina: Mostar and Sarajevo were cruelly damaged in years of war, while Europe idly watched, but their linking road is pristinely majestic.


 Switzerland: While the St Gottard pass is still closed by snow higher up, the valley below remains warm and enticing.



Belgium: The end of a journey: on the edge of the North Sea in the typical seaside resort of Westende, near Ostende.