here we are again and, believe me, I am probably more surprised than you. “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated “ to quote or possibly misquote Mark Twain although my sudden departure from this blog may have seemed as though that unfortunate event had occurred. Trust me it has not although there have been times during my hiatus when I Thought the Grim Reaper was stalking me and, frankly, times when I would not have been overly annoyed if he was.
I should explain that the apparently random images that appear here and which I have hopefully managed to annotate are of my current trip which, frankly, I was not sure would ever happen. Hopefully, they indicate why I love travelling and writing about it. There will be full explanations in due course as to what they represent.
I promised at the outset of this blog that I was going to be completely, even brutally honest, and that has not changed so the next few entries are perhaps not going to be a “jolly holiday” but I would rather write in that manner than blow smoke. Please believe me, my sudden and unannounced disappearance was absolutely no reflection on my small but wonderful band of followers to whom I apologise unreservedly for going MIA.
I know it is over eight months since I even checked my notices here and that is unforgivable. I shall attempt to explain my absence now and my possibly unexpected return, if there is anyone still here to read it!
After enforced house arrest, in the Autumn of last year, 2021, my physical health was deteriorating rapidly to the point where the 50 yard walk to the little supermarket directly across the road from me would require me to stop halfway by the time I had walked down the one flight of stairs from my flat. Not so very long ago the security man in the supermarket had to get me a seat to recover. Can you imagine it? Me, who only a couple of years previously, was walking decent distances for a sexagenarian and that is an official term, sex is not a feature of this blog! Will I ever be a septuagenarian, I doubt it but who knows? I had walked about 50 yards, was carrying a basket with maybe half a dozen items in it and I could not walk another step.
Experience had taught me that trying to push through it, as I had learned in the Forces, was not a good manoeuvre in these circumstances. Last time I tried it I blacked out, smacked my head and ended up in hospital overnight but that is a story we shall have to come back to later. Which brings me to another point.
What do I now do with this blog? I was far enough behind as it was and obviously that situation has become worse. Do I go back to where I left off, which was a fair bit behind real life or do I just start afresh from my current trip and that comment tells it’s own story? It is the story of how I have returned here. Again, I am evaluating matters in my own mind and, as usual I am still undecided. I’ll just let things take their course but, as this blog is designed to be something of an epitaph when I am gone and the internet is just getting bigger and more powerful, anything might happen.
I do not want a neglected headstone over where my ashes are buried wherever it is I die. This will do much better even if the information dates but think about it. People still refer to Pevsner for architecture, Mrs. Beeton for cookery and so on. Perhaps in 100 years people will look at this as an historical document and perhaps even derive some value from it as such. I doubt it but you never know.
I could easily just restart the story with where I am now (the excellent Electrical Wizard pub in Morpeth if you are interested) but that would be to miss out a lot even if most of the last two years of my life have been spent under effective house arrest or in hospital and physically unable to go anywhere. I realise that so many people all over the world have suffered so much more than me so I am not complaining. The very fact that I am 300 miles from home and walked maybe half a mile to get here without having to sit down is quite sufficient for me now.
I am coming to terms with the fact that flying and very long-haul travel are probably not viable for me any more. Having suffered an embolism / DVT, nobody will offer me travel insurance at a price I can afford which rules out travel to places like my beloved Sri Lanka where I was supposed to be going for Xmas three years ago. In truth, the problems in that country now mean that it would be unwise to travel even if I could. My dearest friend Treshi (another old Virtual Tourist hand) sends me e-mails which are horrifying of power cuts, riots, the collapse of hospitals due to lack of medication and even oxygen and so on. It is so sad as the country seemed to be doing so well last time I was there and recovering well from their extended civil war. I am, as they say, cutting my clothes to suit my cloth and whilst it appears that I shall probably and regrettably never return to that lovely place and all my friends there, I am going to try to keep travelling as best I can.
The truth is that I can now travel halfway round the world without setting foot on an aeroplane. I read recently about a new rail link opened in the section of Lao (never Laos, that is a French colonial term and the locals don’t like it but are far too polite to say so) which means that it is possible for me to travel to Singapore from London purely by train. I have been dreaming of that trip for a long time and I might just try it although it will be seriously hard work in my current condition and require far more forward planning than I am used to.
Sadly, the ability to travel extensively over Asia does not assist me with my great desire to return to Sri Lanka as there is still no sea crossing for the very few miles between it and India. TheoreticaIly I can get all the way to Southern India on trains and trains are not going to tax my rather ravaged old body too much but the ferry from India to Jaffna was pulled a few years ago, not for commercial reasons but political (it was ever thus) as India and Sri Lanka do not get on. Even travelling to India would still mean having to go through the Middle East and I am not sure how good an idea that is at present. We shall have to see.
The Indians are worried that their great nuclear rivals, China, basically own Sri Lanka now with the deep-water port at Hambantota and another one under construction in Colombo. Still, London to Singapore sounds a bit Phileas Fogg / Michael Palin to me and I would love to give it a shot.
Of course all this is purely dependent upon the Chinese virus regulations in various countries. I have no intention of self-isolating every time I enter a new country because having spent far too long looking at my own four walls the concept of staying in a hotel, eating room service (usually microwaved garbage) and looking out at a place I would love to explore but cannot, really does not appeal.
If you want to know about China’s non-military takeover of the world then I strongly recommend a book called “The New Silk Roads”, by Cambridge professor Peter Frankopan, it is a fascinating read.
I could go on about China’s mostly successful imperial ambitions which rival Putin’s but this is neither the place nor the time. It is my confident prediction that China will rule the world within 30 years. They will struggle to oppose “Uncle Sam” militarily but wars are really a thing of the past now in terms of geopolitics. To a great extent they already control the world, both legally and otherwise, through technology, their well disguised “benevolent” BRI and so on, so do not expect them to stop any time soon. This however is all a discussion for another time and place.
Back to the present and my situation, what has brought me back to my own blog and a desire to actually do something other than lie in bed all day (yes, I know that is a classic sign of depression but I have known about that for years)? The answer is simple and it lies in the wonderful Virtual Tourist website which I cannot believe has been eradicated by the utterly appalling and criminal (look it up) Trip Advisor and it hardly seems credible to think that it was over five years ago.
Kaufer (Trip Advisor CEO) could kill a website but he could not kill a community spirit which VT had in abundance. I know that the majority of my small band of readers were VT members but a quick word of explanation for those that have landed here via some other route and, incidentally, you are equally welcome.
VT was very much a global outfit, we had members just about everywhere and it went far beyond the online world. There were meetings ranging from just someone travelling somewhere and hooking up with another member to full scale global meets. I remember with great fondness the Philippines meet of 2012 (was that really ten years ago?) down to local meets in London where myself and three lovely ladies, namely Sarah, Lesley and Jo used to organise small meetings for visiting members. In VT parlance all these informal groups named themselves and Sarah, who started it all in London, named us “London Calling” after the Clash song which I love.
It was an amazing scene which makes Kaufer’s back-stabbing the more lamentable. One step up from the local informal meetings was the Euromeet, which took place in a different location somewhere in Europe every year, usually in late May / early June. There were also meetings in Asia (see above), Australasia and North America, we really were a global concept and it was a thing of such beauty.
As I say, the website has been killed but the spirit has not ans Sarah (look her up here, she is a brilliant writer and photographer, not to mention massively travelled) had planned, some years ago, a Euromeet for Newcastle (England) which is not her home. Sarah is a London girl born and bred, but Newcastle is the home of her lovely husband Chris, a great bloke, and she has adopted it as a second home. I think it would be fair to say she probably knows the city and environs better than most natives!
Sarah had the meet organised to the last detail, people were making plans to come from all over the world and then the virus was unleashed upon the world. The rest, as they say, is history and the Euromeet in Newcastle was put on hold for however long it took. How long it took was an interminably long time and most certainly not the happiest time of my life. My health, both physical and mental was falling to pieces. At various points I was under risk of arrest for going out of my house without a “valid reason”, it was not a good time.
Yes, I mention my mental health and this is an aspect of the Chinese virus that really concerns me. It shall be interesting to see the figures for suicide and self-harm during house arrest. I have no problem now talking about my mental health. I know I have suffered with depression, possibly PTSD (I certainly have enough reason for that) although I have never had it officially diagnosed. I do not trust head doctors, as they basically removed my teenage years from me by making me a zombie on tranx because they could not think of anything else.
Back to the meet, and I do apologise for rambling but that is what my site is called and done so for a reason. Whilst my physical ramblings have been seriously curtailed, my verbal ramblings most certainly have not as several poor citizens of Carlisle can attest. Yes, I began writing this in Morpeth and that seems like a very long time ago. I am now in Carlisle, barely mobile and with no itinerary and no plans to go home. I am enjoying this! After all that I have personally been through and we, as a planet, have endured I think I deserve it. This could well turn into another “Leiden trip” from 2017 where I went to meet a friend for four days in Southern Netherlands and flew home five months and eight countries later from Rome where I had stayed a month. If you are slightly interested in this particular nonsense then you can read about it here.
The only reason I flew home was that I was booked to play at my favourite Broadstairs Folk Week as I have been doing for well over 30 years now, otherwise I could have been in Mongolia by now!
Right, that is quite enough for one post so I shall leave it here as I still have not decided which way to go with the blog but I shall do so eventually and let you all know. There are some cracking stories between my last entry and now and I’d like to share them with you but that route will inevitably leave me so far behind. As always, I have no idea what I am doing so you, dear reader, have no hope. You’ll just have to take your chances, not on the Wall of Death as so wonderfully immortalised by the wonderful Richard Thompson, but in the Circus of Idiocy that constitutes Fergysrambles.
I’m back and I shall be back again soon, I promise. This trip, even under difficult travelling circumstances, is proving to be a beauty and I cannot wait to tell you all about it.