Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The people who MADE my holiday

Margaret alone in London on the EYE.
Travelling alone can be really lonely.  I remember this well from 1974 when I planned a two week return trip to Norway, a country that made a great impression on me whilst on a three week Protea camping trip for under 35s.  I booked my transport and accommodation prior to leaving London and so much wish I hadn't, since I met other young people looking for travelling partners and couldn't change my plans.

I've learned from that, so apart from key cities like London -  where I know I can cancel a booking with 24 hours notice - I've left my travels fairly flexible.  This meant I was able to stay with Alex and Viv - who I hardly knew - when they invited me to Kent, halfway through my stay.

And I'm so pleased I did.

I already knew most of the cousins and friends I stayed with this time, having met my young American cousins three years ago in Panama City, and I'd met most of my English cousins - Ray, Linda and Ange whilst on our motor home holiday in 2008, and stayed with them the following year.  I'd also introduced Carole to John in 2008, after having not seen her since the 70s. This time I was also able to meet other distant cousins - Sarah (nee Tucker), Hannah and her parents (Rose cousins), Moira (also a Rose cousin), and Claire, who is no relation at all, but we share cousins.

Some of these new cousins and I have been communicating on Facebook for what seems like years now, so meeting them was just like continuing a conversation!

Elizabeth with Isabella and Carolina in Irvine, Orange County
Caroline in San Francisco

In California, I caught up with two of my second cousin Shirley's grand-daughters, Elizabeth and Caroline.  Elizabeth advised me on accommodation, took me to Hollywood and to the Ellen Degeneres show at Warner Bros, then invited me down to Orange County to spend a day with the family.

I stayed four nights with Caroline and Kent in Menlo Park, and Caroline took me sightseeing in San Francisco and down the coast to Monterey, Salinas and to see the coast.

I love both these girls dearly.  They both lead such interesting lives, so committed to family life and their own career goals. Caroline is supporting her husband as he studies for a new career whilst totally involved in her own, and Elizabeth putting her career goals on hold whilst she commits herself to her young family.

Shirley - matriarch of my American cousins
In London, I was thrilled to be able to catch up with their grandmother Shirley, her three daughters Donna, Cheryl and Kathryn, and her sister-in-law Johnnie who had flown over from Florida and Tennessee for a 10 day holiday.  Shirley was born in London but left England to marry Nolan Ball, an American serviceman in 1951. At Cheryl's invitation, I had met the whole family in Florida in 2009 after "discovering" Shirley just a few months earlier.

Tracey, Donna, Cheryl and Trish at back, Johnnie, Shirley, Ray,
Margaret and Kathryn at front - in Banbury

We were able to travel together by rail to Banbury in Oxfordshire to meet our mutual second cousin Ray and his family.  It was so good to unite after nearly 70 years of Shirley being "lost" to the family through her mother's early passing in 1942.

Shirley, Ray and I are descended from three Reed sisters born in Southampton between 1881 and 1884.

Linda and Peter on our day trip to Chichester

After London, I travelled to Angmering in Sussex, to stay with Linda and Peter.  Linda was a Tucker, my second cousin on my dad's side.  We've become more like sisters than distant cousins since I first discovered her in 2006.  I stayed with them at the beginning and towards the end of my holiday.  They spoiled me rotten. Both times.

Linda meets Ange for the first time.

They also insisted on driving me down to Southampton - twice.  I think they just wanted to meet Ange and Paul, who they'd been hearing about for four years.

Ange and I met about five years ago through Genes Reunited (a family history site) when we discovered that we shared great great great grandparents, making us 4th cousins.

Enid, Margaret, Bette, Angela, Robert and Paul

Ange has become a dear friend, and we have plenty in common.  She encouraged me to make Southampton my base, which I gladly accepted, it was a real home away from home.  I wanted to really get to know Southampton on this trip anyway - there is so much to see relating to my family history research in the old town and in the New Forest where my Tuckers lived for at least two centuries.

John and Sue

From Southampton, I took an overnight trip to the Isle of Wight, where I met Sue and John Moxon, active members of the Moxon Society.

Back in Southampton, Ange and Paul drove me down to Branksome near Poole, where I met a Facebook friend and fourth cousin Hannah and her parents.  I don't have any photos of them unfortunately.

Sharn, April, CarolAnn, Eve and Carole

I left Ange on Wednesday 6th June, to travel to Coventry to reunite with my friend Carole who I first met in Sydney in 1972.  She was spending two years in Australia doing what I did not long after in 1973-75.  We shared a room in Strathfield for a few months.  She is now a grandmother to Eve, who is a very friendly 10 year old.  I also met Carole's three daughters, Sharn, CarolAnn and April.  Aren't they a photogenic family?

Margaret and Claire

From Coventry I caught four trains to Barnsley in Yorkshire.  This was a long way north, but I'd promised John to check out the villages and streets where his great great grandparents lived.  My Facebook friend Claire, who also lives in Yorkshire offered to drive me around.  I'd never met Claire, who I'd discovered on Genes Reunited when we were researching a test cricketer who was related to both our families.  We had a great day together.

From Barnsley it was back to Banbury where I stayed overnight with Ray and Trish.  Ray was still recovering from his big heart operation.  The next morning, our mutual cousin Alex arrived from Kent.  We'd never met Alex, and he was keen to find out about his newly discovered family.

Alex and Viv
Alex and his wife Viv drove me back to their place in a small village in Kent, and I had a lovely time getting to know them and going through his family photos.

Strangely, their surname is the same as my mother's mother's family who came from a neighbouring village - Ightham, but the families are not related.  But because of my interest in Ightham, Alex and Viv spent a great deal of time showing me places of interest to me in the village.

I also met their son and daughter and their two grandsons, at a pleasant night out at the St Julian's club at Seven Oaks.

Margaret, Sarah and Linda - all with maiden names Tucker
Alex and Viv drove me down to Sussex, where once again I'd arranged to stay with Linda and Peter.  We'd arranged to meet another Tucker cousin - this time it was Sarah in Surrey.  Linda and I had phoned her and been in touch by email and Facebook since about 2008, but this was the first time we'd managed to arrange a "date".  And what a fun night we had.

From there I returned to Southampton, once again being driven down by Linda and Peter.  I stayed a further five days with Ange and Paul, and we continued to explore Southampton, Winchester and the New Forest.

John and Moira

Ray reading the John Rose story
I also took the opportunity to meet another fourth cousin, Moira and her husband John who live near Bude in Cornwall.  Moira is also a descendant of John Rose, the subject of the book I distributed to cousins on that side of the family wherever I travelled.  (I had taken 13 copies with me).

So you can see why I enjoyed my trip - wonderful times with some great cousins and friends.

Still it was lovely to come home after more than five weeks away.  It was good to be able to talk to John almost every day via Skype, but nothing like the real thing!

Thank you dear friends on four continents who followed my blog - my brother Jim was touring Thailand at the time.  I think the French views were from our friends Stewart and Lesley who are touring the canals of Europe in their wheelchair accessible narrow-boat.

Here are the statistics, which include multiple dip-ins, apart from your author.

United Kingdom
United States
New Zealand

Goodbye for now. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, hosts and blog followers.  Happy travels, all of you, and may we meet again!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Just where did that five and a half weeks go?

Enjoying a coffee with John and friends near the Parramatta River
I've actually been home three weeks now, and am just about back to the grindstone called "retirement". Not back to computer training yet, but committee work yes, website and newsletter editing yes.  Also I am three weeks into a four week online training course called Your Military Ancestors , so that's keeping me busy.

I shouldn't have gone away.  In my absence the Computer Club scheduled me to train Facebook beginners on my birthday!

St Pancras station
But back to my travels.  My last day in London was very pleasant.  I had picked up an all day travel card from the Underground the day before (yes, you can pay ahead), so I caught a bus and train into Kings Cross/ St Pancras to look at the architecture.  I've been there before of course, but usually rushing around to catch a train. It's a fascinating place.

My friend Julie in Sydney wanted me particularly to see the interior of the hotel - a magnificent building, but I couldn't find the public access - I'd approached it from the wrong side.

I saw a sign to the British Library, and since it had been 37 years since I'd been there, I thought I'd take a look.  I was so pleased I did.  It's not only a brand new building (well, since I'd last visited), but there was an exhibition on, called Writing Britain.  This exhibition highlighted the places that authors wrote about - industrial, rural landscapes, the river and the sea.  It included manuscripts of famous books.  I spent almost two hours there.

Then it was time to go back to Clapham to pick up my luggage, which the hotel manager had kindly stored for me.

My Qantas flight was not until 10.30pm, but I wanted to avoid the rush hour, so left Clapham around 3.30pm.  I caught a bus across country to Knightsbridge.  The Piccadilly line was the easiest way to reach Heathrow without paying a premium, but you wouldn't do it when the office workers were travelling home.  Not with a rucksack and two other bags.  (I travelled light to California and England with only two bags, but purchased another because I was taking home at least a dozen books on local history).

With this being the third overseas trip in five years, I've learned how to pack now.  For the first time, I wore every item of clothing I'd taken with me.

I'm pleased that I took both a laptop and my iPad though.  I had thought of just taking the iPad, but whilst great for reading the Sydney Morning Herald and planning my travels with various apps, it was not easy to use for updating my blog or editing photos which I then uploaded to Facebook.

I watched virtually no television whilst away - apart from the Jubilee concert - and didn't miss it.  I decided to keep up with Australian news via the SMH.  The English were immersed in the European Cup and the Leveson Inquiry  so I just let it all wash right over me.

I spent no more than 10 nights in hotels, but when I did, I didn't turn the TV on once.  Instead, I used the time to edit the day's photos, catch up with Facebook friends and write my blog.

And at Southampton, Ange and I would sit contentedly at the dining room table, each with our laptop.  She'd be looking up museum opening times or finding a train timetable for me whilst I'd be editing my photos. Or we'd be swapping family history tips.

The less said about the flight home the better.  It's always a chore, unless of course you go first class.  The flight was slightly delayed reaching Singapore, and we Sydney travellers had to change to a BA flight and there was not even time for a comfort stop. I still like Qantas better than BA though.

We reached Sydney on schedule at 5.05am, and having missed the announcement mentioning my name on the flight, I waited and waited for my second bag to appear on the carousel. I finally found that I was one of four passengers whose luggage had been left behind in transit.  I'd last seen my suitcase in London, but at least it was in Singapore, and flights from there were more frequent.  The luggage arrived home by courier within 10 hours, and at least it was one less bag to carry to the taxi.

With very little traffic heading out to Parramatta at that time of the morning, I was home in a flash - well 45 minutes anyway, and surprised both John and his support worker who was busy vacuuming the lounge room.

I suggested to the support worker that he take an early mark.  It suited everyone!

I tried to stay awake for the day to adjust my body clock to Sydney time, but I found it impossible.  It took me almost a week before I stopped falling asleep at 7pm.

But the downsides of travel are few compared with the wonderful holiday I'd had - almost entirely due to the folk I shall mention in my next and last posting.