Monday, 5 September 2011

When life wasn't digital.

I got an e-mail message from my sister today, it made me smile:

"I came across a box of old letters from you, you know remember no skype / email!! Anyway I opened one, March 1988, it said:

'by the time you read this I will have left Phuket and you may have to wait a couple of months before I have another address'...

I had to laugh...!"

The fact is I never left Phuket and 24 years later I am still here!

Do you remember when there was a place called 
the 'Post Office'?

Monday, 30 November 2009

Harrow to Heathrow

I suppose all journeys have to start somewhere, I'm not sure when or where mine started or when and where it will end, but I know deep down life doesn't stand still and, for me anyway, the journey still continues.

Maybe it began with family outings to the beach, often in the rain, stuck inside the car with a picnic box or take away fish and chips. Or perhaps walks on the pier, amusement arcades and fun fairs.

One little bit at a time the journey began to develop, in those early days it was a trip back into England's past, a study of English culture and history that would eventually cross the English Channel into the unknown territory of foreign languages, continental lifestyle and the wonders of international cuisine.

But first the United Kingdom had to be conquered before the rest of the journey could start. A trip that would stretch between the White Cliffs of Dover to the Isle of Skye and the mountains and coastline of Wales.

My love of the past grew with my journey, the United Kingdom has much to offer, castles and cottages, stately homes and palaces, but there was nothing better than the feeling you get when you are all alone in a vast open countryside, the wind blowing gently on your face and through your hair, knowing that nothing has changed in hundreds or maybe thousands of years.

But like I said, this was only the beginning, a humble train journey around my own country, but there were so many other places yet to be explored!

And so I conquered England with all it's National Trust Castles and Stately Homes.

A fascination for architecture began to develop, it was not only the old pretty cottages and residences, nor the Art Deco and Art Nouveau buildings still to be found in London, but the newer high tech structures that had started to appear in all their glory.

The LLoyd's of London buliding by Richard Rogers and the TV AM building by Terry Farrell (no relation!) were the most talked about at the time.


A love of architecture wouldn't be complete without a trip to Egypt, sadly hidden behind the remains of the former glory are scenes of poverty.

Gorringes, Kent

The story behind the picture.....

Some friends of mine rented the 'maid's quarters of this house in Kent. If I remember rightly the house was, at that time, owned by an ex policeman who drove a red sports car with a personalised number plate, and from time to time I would stay there. I was on my own there one day and sat in the garden with a scotch on the rocks, a drawing pad and a pencil and started to draw the house, sadly it was never finished.

I remember a party we held there once, lots of Bob Marley music played using 'records' you remember those funny round black things?????? Some neighbours got fed up of the music (or us 'yuppies') and although the memory is a bit mixed up I think they used sticks with coke cans on the end to smash the windows - or maybe it was a rock....... kind of dampened things to say the least! I was seventeen and can vaguely remember wearing black jeans a thin gold belt and probably a black cap sleeved t-shirt.............

All journeys require transport!

All journeys require transport, and my first attempts started off with a tricycle that later progressed to a pedal car.

I spent my Sunday afternoons helping Dad wash his car along with mine. I loved cars and had a collection of toy cars instead of dolls, spending most of my time crashing them together, a habit which I tried to leave behind when I eventually progressed to 'real' cars!

A holiday treat was of course a donkey ride on the beach, but due to my allergy to animals this usually ended up with puffy red eyes and itchy red lumps on my legs. I would have loved to have gone on to horse riding and show jumping but all I could manage was feeding lumps of sugar to the horses in the farm behind our back garden. This saved my parents a lot of money of which they were no doubt relieved!

As life progressed I had the chance to take flying lessons at Biggin Hill airport, I remember that first flight well, a shaky take off that felt like the plane was going to fall apart! More disconcerting was the fact that you had to look up, down as well as left and right before making a turn, which I felt left rather a lot to chance when, even in those days much more technological forms of monitoring were available. I would love to have continued, but I could barely afford the basic lessons and had little hope of paying my way through to a pilots license. So that was that!

So down from the clouds and into the water it was! I suddenly found myself with a whole new life to experience when I started to live on a 21' yacht moored in St. Katherine's Dock. Sundays were spent sailing down the Thames accompanied by plenty of red wine and feta cheese, salads and maybe some mackerel if we were lucky enough to catch any! I loved the feeling of freedom that came with floating away from the city life, all problems left ashore and forgotten. Of course many adventures came along in the form of storms and over shallow moorings, but nothing that could be compared to sailing in the open sea. Before I was to leave the UK on a 'World Trip' I took a sailing course in Dartmouth for a Day Skipper certificate. This gave me the chance to learn about general navigation and chart reading as well as the chance to skipper the school boat. It was a great experience in a beautiful area.

And then, as if it was back to the beginning again, I had to learn to ride a bike again, for some reason this was the hardest thing of all! Never did seem to get to grips with it.

Even now, here in Phuket, in a place full of motorbikes, I still keep to four wheels!

A Journey through Europe

And so it was time to venture away from the banks of the River Thames to discover new worlds.

Foreign travel for the average English citizen has to start with day trips across the English Channel. At that time there was no Channel Tunnel so the journey was made by ferry, usually from Dover or Folkestone. There was also the 'new' and exciting Hovercraft to experience and so the boat trip was one of the highlights of the journey for many.


The thing I liked most about Amsterdam was of course the waterways lined by historic buildings, the town has an atmosphere like nowhere else in Europe.


Trips to France were about cheap wine and French bread, what more could you expect when there was just a few hours before the return boat journey. It was a lot later that I actually got to see more of the country with weekends in Paris by train and Christmas at a friends cottage, travelling by car. But I still saw very little.

Travelling started to become an obsession, preferring to travel alone with little luggage and a camera, I headed off with no hotel bookings and virtually no itinerary. Plans often changed at the last minute or when my money had run out.

Travelling by train was a good way of meeting the locals and seeing the passing countryside. So that was the way I went. Passing through or stopping off.

Don't expect to see people in my photos, travelling then was about buildings and countryside. People only came in to the view finder when there was something special to say.


But it was not always the typical tourist buildings that interested me, but often something behind the scenes that made a statement about the country and it's way of life.

Cote d'Or Factory, Brussels

Having missed the first ferry home, and with only enough money for a bottle of water and a loaf of bread, I survived until the next ferry was due to depart several hours later!


Perhaps due to the size of this country, it tends to be overlooked by travellers who like me pass through on the way to somewhere else. I was surprised by the beauty of the place.

A short diary entry of mine noted that ' an amazing valley runs through the south of town, to the north of it the land climbs almost unnoticeably until you reach a point where you can look out over another valley of old houses and beyond to a tall modern building. From this high point a maize of narrow cobbled streets run their way back down to the shops.'

Russia (Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev)
The land of snow and spies!

Alexander Column,Palace Square.
St. Petersburgh

War Memorial, Kiev


Off to Gum Department Store

The Queue to Lenin


The land of fairytale beauty, all snow and icicles.

But all these places were just part of the journey to a country I would fall in love with and revisit over and over again. Italy.

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