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Traveling.

Here is a story of a man who had an terrible holiday: The first thing
that went wrong was that the country we were going to decided to have a
war a few days before we were going there. So that was the end of that.
But the plane we were going on was stopping off at Rome. So rather than
not having a holiday at all, we thought we’d go to Italy. Very nice. See
the sights. Go to the beaches and get fat with pasta. We were at the
airport waiting for the plane and a friend of mine who lived near the
airport had come to see us off. So we were having a few drinks in the
bar and joking with this friend of mine, Peter, saying ‘Poor old you in
cold rainy England. This time tomorrow we’ll be in Italy on the beach.’
And I went down to see if the flight had been called and discovered it
had gone. It was a terribly stupid mistake. We hadn’t checked the time
of departure. I was sure it was going 9 something but it was going at 19
something which of course is 7 o’clock. So we were actually there in the
bar when it went without us. We were determined to have our holiday.
The irony was that Peter was now going back to his comfortable home and
we were stuck in the cold and the rain at 10 o’clock at night. You see,
it was a charter flight so we couldn’t book another one. We lost our
money and all the other flights were booked up. Well, we got a train to
the South Coast and caught the midnight boat across the Channel, froze
to death all night, it was a terrible crossing with people being sick
everywhere. And eventually we got to I think it was Dieppe and then a
train to Paris. We got to Paris very early in the morning and I thought
we’d be all right. You see, we now had to hitch hike because a lot of
our money had gone on the boat and the train, but I thought ‘Well, it’s
very early in the morning, we’ll get a good place to start hitching and
we’ll soon be well on our way.’ We got to the start of the motorway and
I just couldn’t believe it. I’ve never seen so many people trying to
hitch a lift in all my life. Well, it was then it suddenly dawned on
me. It was August the first wasn’t it? and on August the first in France
the whole population goes on holiday and there were hundreds of people,
stopping the traffic, banging on drivers’ windows trying to persuade
them to stop and give them a lift. It was chaos, disastrous. Well, we
got moving eventually. A lorry driver gave us a lift. And then things
started to get better, as we got further south and it got warmer, you
know, and we thought ‘At last, the holiday’s beginning.’ Well, we camped
that night and we then set off again the next day. We got some lifts,
and met a great chap who owned a vineyard. He took us back to his farm
and we tasted all this wine -Burgundy, my favorite — and we had a great
time. Now the holiday really was starting. Well, he took us back to the
motorway, and there we were by the side of the road, the sun was
shining, we were a bit merry, sang a few songs — you know, life was
great. And we got another lift from … well he was a maniac, complete
maniac. He seemed nice enough, but within a few minutes he was driving
at about a hundred miles an hour, overtaking on the inside on the
motorway, with his stereo at full volume, one hand on the wheel and well
the other hand on various parts of Susan’s body. What! So what did you
do? I don’t know why I’m laughing I’ve never been so frightened in all
my life. We were absolutely -helpless. Susan tried to say that she had
to go to the toilet, but he wouldn’t stop then she pretended to be sick
in his car, and he stopped in seconds. He had this really flash
expensive car, and as soon as he stopped we just jumped out and ran. The
worst thing was this tremendous drop from feeling so good to thinking
that we were going to get killed. We eventually got down to the south of
France and began to have a good time, and then down to Italy. We ran
out of money, of course, but apart from that, it was good. I’ve never
had such a tiring holiday. When we got back, I was exhausted. At the end
of the holiday, I needed a holiday! And this is a story of an old woman.
She has traveled all over the world in her tiny van. It’s a nice way of
having holiday. Now at this moment, somewhere on the other side of the
Atlantic, Olive Gibbs is probably chugging along the road, in the early
morning in her tiny camping van. The travel bug came to Mrs. Gibbs
rather late in life. About 14 years ago, to help her get over the death
of her husband she went on an overland bus trip to Katmandu. This fired
her with the enthusiasm to travel more, but as she couldn’t afford to go
on extensive organized tours, she bought a camper and took to the road
alone. Now at the age of 72, she’s clocked up about 75,000 miles on
trips that have taken her to America, Australia and South Africa. Ann
Catchpole met her at her home on the Sussex coast just before she was
setting out on her current venture another wander around America, Canada
and Mexico, that’ll take about a year, and she’d been very busy that
afternoon packing up the van, mainly, as she told Ann, with stocks of
food. Of all the meals that I have during the day, my breakfast is the
one that I like. It’s not that I have a large breakfast but I do like
my toast and marmalade. I’ve got quite a few pounds of marmalade in my
van at the moment, I should think I have about 10 pounds, and when that
run out and if I’m down in California by then I shall make some
marmalade. I take English things like Marmite which not many other
countries of the world seem to appreciate. I’m also taking crisp breads
to the United States because I don’t care for their bread very much. And
I take biscuits because I don’t care for their biscuits very much. But
otherwise I can buy everything I need in the United States. But I don’t
like wasting my time shopping, so I carry as much as I can and visit a
supermarket only when I’m forced to. Well, I know vaguely which way I’m
going to go, but I do change my direction if there’s something I hear
about which I think I would like to see, or I don’t like the road I’ll
go a completely different way. And at the beginning of the day I don’t
know quite where I’m going to sleep at night. I wait until I feel tired
or I wait until I see somewhere that attracts me and then I stop. The
first thing I do, and I do this deliberately, I make myself a cup of
tea, and I sit outside my van because I think it, it pleases the
Americans to see an English lady having afternoon tea. But as soon as I
really … as soon as I arrive, especially in the United States or
Canada, the men all want to talk to me about places they’ve been to when
they were in the army during the war over here. Other people want to
know and tell me about where their ancestors came from, and nearly
always I have been to the places, or at least know something about them,
because I do travel quite a bit in my own country as well as going
abroad. In fact when I’m trying to unpack at the end of a day’s journey
and get a meal in the evening, life becomes very difficult because
people gather round and want to know all about me and it’s almost dark
before I can get on with my unpacking and getting a meal ready. But I do
try to get my cup of tea in first. In Zimbabwe, at that time called
Rhodesia, and I was actually camping in Zimbabwe by the Zimbabwe ruins.
And during the night someone went by with a torch. It woke me up, and I
just thought it was somebody going to a toilet, and I took no notice.
But when I woke up in the morning I found that a lot of my papers had
been taken, and the wallet in which I kept them. And of course I didn’t
realize at the time what was going on. It must have been the noise of
the door closing which woke me up. I suppose I’m very foolish but often
I don’t lock myself in my van at night. Sometimes I do if I feel at all
nervous or if I’m in a camp site on my own, then I do lock myself in.
Each country has something special about it. But I think the beauty of
South Africa is something that I shall never forget. I used to stand
sometimes when I was there and say to myself, ‘Just look and look as
much as you can in case you don’t come this way again.

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