My teenage sweetheart's front door...45 years too late...
A VERY big Thankyou to everyone for welcoming me home so warmly - and sympathetically. I suspect that there are a lot of truckshunters who know that empty, deflated feeling (to say the very least) that sweeps over you when a great adventure comes to an end. Although I’ve already been back for a week, it’s going to take some considerable time for me to 'plug myself back in to real life', as it were.
Or perhaps I just won’t bother. Perhaps I’ll take Sid’s advice and relieve what has already become a kind of mawkish nostalgia by planning my next journey. (He was quite right, by the way; I really do wish I could have taken you with me.)
And it’s good to hear from Natasha, isn’t it? Natasha was one of the Blue Bus programme’s producers and the architect of some of our most memorable moments. And - although she probably doesn’t realise it - she provided some of the strongest motivation and inspiration for my journey. More of that in a later blog...
I can only apologise for being so silent for so long. What on Earth have I been up to?
Where in the world have I been…
I’d be the first to admit that there are lots of things I didn’t get round to doing while I made my way - ‘stately as a galleon’ - around the world. I didn’t, for example:
- bungee-jump (on medical advice from an optician, of all people)
- bodysurf (on my own advice)
- sailboard (ditto)
- mountaineer (although driving out of Wellington on State Highway One felt like mountaineering)
- whale- and dolphin-watch (seasickness and a general absence of whales - and all other cetaceans - who seem to have decamped to other oceans for the duration)
- scuba-dive (what’s the point?)
- hang-glide (unimaginably unlikely)
- bobsleigh (who wants to travel that fast that far lying on their back - feet first?)
- hurl myself from a broadcasting tower in Auckland with only a piece of reinforced string to prevent my inevitable destruction (although I watched, struck dumb with genuine horror, as others did it)
- slog doggedly over the arches of gigantic cantilever bridges (think Sydney Harbour here) with nothing but an inch of unreinforced steel beneath my feet separating me from oblivion (3 hours uphill at my age? yeah, right)
- jet-boat (see ‘scuba-dive, above)
- jet-ski (ditto)
- eat chocolate-covered millipedes or tree-bark boiled in sago water (culturally and gastronomically unnecessary)
- get a Maori tattoo (I couldn’t make my mind up about the design)
- pay a small fortune to sail languidly through oily water looking at docks (I can do that in Middlesbrough)….
On the other hand, I…
- travelled by tram, bus, ferry, aeroplane, street-car, cable-car and train
- walked and walked and walked for mile after blissful mile through towns and cities and villages and wildlife reserves and country parks and botanical gardens and clifftops
- slept in a decommissioned whorehouse in Singapore
- slept in a decommissioned Opera House (the same building as the whorehouse, curiously)
- won $70 on the Boston City Lottery
- discovered a completely - and extremely delicious - way of brewing coffee in New York City
- drank my first, second and third mugs of bubble tea
- consorted with more honeymooners - and in a shorter time - than ever before (Hello Feung and Cheung, Marine and Guillaume -and several others)
- lived through an earthquake (truth be told, I actually slept through it)
- saw - and heard - the only steam-clock I am ever likely to see - or hear
- got chatted up by a Peruvian weightlifter called Gomez
- saw a Newcastle-built Wearside paddle-tug moored up in San Francisco (it got there under its own steam, too)
- met two deeply unsettling Mormons from Seattle
- got completely and utterly lost seven times
- discovered the Sweet Mystery of Life by consuming far too much California-style French toast
- watched the sun go down over junks on the South China Sea
- fed kangaroos from my hand and
- became acquainted with
- a New Zealander who lived in New York City
- a deck-hand from Bristol who lived in Fremantle
- a couple from the Home Counties who lived in San Francisco (Hello, Mark and Liz)
- two Belgian pensioners on an art gallery roof (Hello, Kaief and Frida)
- the man who could easily claim to have the most widely-dispersed family on Earth (his mother lives in Ontario, his father in Buenos Aires, his grandparents in Spain, his brother in Delhi, his other brother in Cairo, his sister in Glasgow; he has cousins in Ecuador, Estonia and London; his wife’s family are from South Africa and his two children live in Australia and Argentina. I was so astonished that I wrote it all down, as you can see)
- a blue-eyed penguin called Walter
- several anonymous seals
- a gracious Vancouver airport baggage-handler and totem-pole enthusiast called Brad
- a retired Canadian judge whose ancestors emigrated from Shildon (who wouldn’t?) and
- two improbably cute and captivating quokkas...
I met my cousin and her family AND my nephews and sister-in-law on their home territories in Perth and Boston for the first time in my life.
I left very special and very tangible memories of my Mam everywhere I went (and thereby hangs a tale that’s not finished yet).
And, after fully 45 years, I knocked at my teenage sweetheart’s front door.
And that’s not even the merest morsel of my adventures.
So - not entirely a waste of time then.
Hey - you aint heard nuthin’ yet!
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