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A Reply to Uncle Doug, 2008

Hi, Venerable Uncle! Not necessarily interesting to others, but since I’m asked;

At eighteen (1956), I was caught in the latter stages of the national-service era. There was a national ‘intake’ of eighteen-year-old youths quite frequently. In my own intake, I came top of the preliminary tests/exams and was given a free choice of services. I opted for the Army and also, because conditions were less slave-like, took the alternative of a three-year term (instead of two). My intention was to ride out time in an office job but I was posted to Cyprus where a renegade Greek colonel (Grivas) ran a terrorist-army to drive out the British and unite Cyprus with Greece. This meant I couldn’t avoid some military duties (street-patrols, road-blocks etc.) but, as I was dark-coloured, I could pass as a Greek on appearance and travel around in casual clothes (even in emergency periods). On duty, I was in charge of an armed squad, but was never shot at and most of the time was ‘calm-waters’. I was a reluctant soldier until I was twenty-one, but I mostly enjoyed myself. Still, not something I would ever have volunteered for and I tried to take the easy route.

I did, though, volunteer to be a wanderer for about twenty years, so the question of where I’d been made me think a bit.

In England, apart from Tyneside, I spent periods living in Romford (Essex), London, Coventry and Leamington Spa.

I migrated to Australia at age 28 and spent the first two years (and subsequently most time) in Sydney, but I’ve also lived in Perth and Darwin. I holidayed in New Zealand. Other holiday-periods were spent in Lebanon and America. With a mate, I drove completely round Australia over a leisurely three months and also went on long drives to Cairns and Alice Springs with other itchy-feet friends.

Apart from Australia, England and Cyprus, I’ve lived in India and South Africa, and hopped around those countries and also Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) plus black-kingdoms Lesotho and Swaziland (where they have casinos).

I may have picked up a travel-bug at thirty, when four of us drove a Land Rover from Sydney to London. We shipped the vehicle from Freemantle to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and did air-hops to spend time in Singapore and Malaysia, plus Thailand. Then we drove all around Ceylon, followed by India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Austria, Germany and France. On other travels, I spent time in Greece, Spain, Italy, Malta, Gibraltar, Nepal, Japan, Taiwan, Hong-Kong and Singapore. I did road-trips from London to Delhi and back, using any vehicle going in the required direction. I visited India five times, spending most time around Bangalore, Bombay, Madras and Delhi, but usually living in tiny-village environments.

This is a bit sketchy, and my scribble is probably a challenge, so you’re probably sorry you asked. In recent years, I’ve only been popping over there to visit, but I think travel is out of my system now.

Best regards, Bob

PS I hope I haven’t bored you into a trance, but Joanie passed on your query, and I could only condense my travelogue into a letter-sized sketch. You probably nodded off half-way anyway and I don’t blame you, but at least I could say hello.


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