All genuine knowledge originates in direct experience. – Mao Zedong.
On September 3rd, 1988, my girlfriend Linda and I set off overseas. We intended to be away for two years. As it turned out, by the time we returned home for the final time, six years had passed by. In that time we had visited 35 countries on five continents, taken thousands of photographs and written home dozens of times. We had also found time to become engaged in Vienna and get married in New Zealand.
These are my diaries from those years. They chronicle our journey from a couple of naive country kids from the South Island of New Zealand to hardened world travellers and adventurers. They also chart my emergence as a writer, beginning with farmer-style notes in a 1988 New Zealand Farmer’s Diary, to long, descriptive entries as our adventures unfolded out in the world.
There will be occasional gaps in the narrative: times when we were settled somewhere and I didn’t keep up with my entries. There will also be letters we wrote home, letters we received on the road, photographs, maps and other bits and pieces.
Where it is necessary, I will add relevant explanations in the form of annotations at the bottom of each entry. And although I will reproduce these diaries as they were written, occasionally, I may omit details that are too personal or sensitive. But rest assured, all swearing and offensive material will be left intact and included for your delectation!
I spent most of the day at home writing letters and watching TV. When Linda finished work at 4:30 we set off and drove up to Swindon to see John and Sally. It took us about 1 1/4 hours and the little car went very well. Daylight saving ended last night which meant it was dark by 6 pm and the clearing, stormy weather left the sky glowing like a furnace amongst the heaps of clouds on the western horizon.
We spent a very pleasant evening with John and Sally talking over a leisurely supper and later watching the bizarre and sexually explicit movie The Green Man starring Albert Finney. We drove home via the back roads and Linda, tired after a long day, slept in the back seat most of the way.
“Mao seemed to sum up the essay [ON PRACTICE] when he wrote, “all genuine knowledge originates in direct experience.” It was a struggler’s motto, and rather a good one I thought. Action was everything. It was also a good motto for travellers.” 1
I woke up at 7:30 am with a cunt of a hangover, so I got up and watched TV for a couple of hours. After I dropped Linda off at work I went into Warminster and did some shopping. As well as groceries I bought a new number plate light for the car (£6.30) and some flowers for Tina. I also filled in half an hour browsing in the bookshop.
After Linda finished work we drove in to see Ann and Bet but they were there so we went out to the spewing Pac man (Happy Eater motorway restaurant) for a burger then went back to Betty’s place for afternoon tea.
On Thursday Ann gave us two old family bibles. They are quite old and each has an inscription inside the front cover. The first volume, which is Genesis to Psalms, has the inscription: “Lucy Blakiston from her attached sister Sofia Noel Mackintosh, Sandybrooke, October 1868.”
The second volume, Proverbs to Revelation, has the same message but also, on a separate sheet of paper, the inscription “transferred to Horace Mann Blakiston by his beloved mother‘s wish as her death December 29, 1871. First used by him in the pulpit on January 28, 1872. Two Peter 1:15.”
Two Peter Chapter 1, Verse 15 reads: “moreover I will endeavour that he may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance”. Very deep!!
1 This quote, from The Little Red Book, Chairman Mao Tse Tung’s most famous collection of writings, has become the motto for all of my subsequent travels and writings. You can find it on the heading page of this blog and also the heading page of my other blog: https://travelwriterlife.com/
TUESDAY 23/10 – FRIDAY 26/10 It was a quite profitable week as I did three nights cleaning racking up 13 hours of overtime in the process. On Friday night we took part in a Mediaeval Night at the Dove and I managed to get quite pissed!
”In this darkness, huddled groups of people waited in the empty streets for buses. That seemed a grim pastime, a long wait at the Harbin bus stop in winter. And by the way, the buses were not heated. In his aggrieved account of his Chinese residence, the journalist Tiziano Terjanii, writing about Heilongjiang in his book The Kingdom of the Rats, he quotes a French traveller who said “although it is uncertain where God placed paradise, we can be sure he chose some other place then this.” (Excerpt from Riding the Iron Rooster)1
Linda and I went for tea at the Agra Indian restaurant in Warminster.
1 The writing of Paul Theroux was one of the main inspirations for me becoming a travel writer.
PERTWOOD DOG TRIALS Late morning, and I drove up to Pertwood, on the Downs near Warminster, where a local dog trial1 was being held. It was a grey, stormy day and a cold buffeting wind was streaming over the hills and roaring down the small valley where the trials were running.
The trial consisted of pulling 6 sheep down off the hill at high-speed, then driving them with the dog through a series of hurdles then finally penning them, by slapping a stick and shoving them into the pen while the dog more or less sits watching!
It was an interesting afternoon though and I yarned to a Kiwi bloke who was there about lambing. He said it is very hard work but he charges £4.30 per hour.
1As a shepherd, I had competed in many dog trials back in New Zealand so I was keen to see how a British dog trial was run.
SATURDAY 20/10 – A NEW CAR. It was a cold foggy morning as I biked into town for the last time. I went straight around to the house of the guy who had the car for sale and bought it, paying £100 in cash and £255 in cheques.
We had to go over to Westbury to register it then, bingo!..we had a car. I did some shopping in town, bought Betty some get-well flowers (she was recovering from an operation) and had a beer with Simon in the Anchor pub. After I had visited Betty I went home and dropped off the groceries then went up to the Dove to show Linda our new car. When she finished work we set off on a Tiki tour to try it out. We drove up to the village of Wylye then back down to Codford St Mary where we visited a tiny ANZAC graveyard and a small church.
Instead of going straight home we drove into Warminster and got some fish and chips and ate them out on the road between Heytesbury and Corton. Linda went back to work at 7 pm and I spent the evening writing letters and listening to tapes.
MONDAY 15/10-FRIDAY 19/10 I had to bike to work every morning this week as Albert has changed shifts. A car wasn’t needed!
On Friday, Tony rang a mate of his and found out about a Ford Escort he had for sale and after work he took me around to have a look at it. It was a 1976 1300 4-door, a bit rusty but when I took it for a test drive it seemed to go alright and I said I would go back tomorrow and buy it. I gave Linda a huge bunch of flowers which made her day.
The girls and I went for a walk around Corton after Linda had gone to work and we stopped to play on the swings and the seesaw in the playground. Back at the Manor House we packed some food then drove up to the Village Green where we sat and waited for another one of their friends, Sarah Latta, to turn up. When she arrived we drove in a convoy over to Bradford-upon-Avon. We ate our picnic lunch in the park then set off to explore the town.
Situated at the foot of a steep escarpment on the bank of the river Avon, Bradford has many fine old stone buildings and narrow streets and with the backdrop of autumn colours is a very picturesque place. We explored the streets, visited the church and the ancient tythe barn, the girls lay on the railway tracks for photos and we pretended we were a bunch of farmyard animals!
We finished off our food and played touch rugby with an empty Coke bottle then Sarah left to go home and we went back to Corton. In the evening Ann and Betty came for dinner with Diana and us.
JENNIE, LYD AND FRIENDS. I borrowed Ann’s car in the morning and drove into Warminster to do our shopping. As well as buying our groceries and a bulk supply of cheap meat, I also bought myself a pair of gumboots to wear to work.
After I had stashed all our food at the flat, I went up to Ann’s house and met Linda then we waited on the Village Green for Lyd and Jen to arrive. They turned up an hour later with two friends, Juliet and Vivian, and we spent the afternoon yarning over drinks and Hobnobs at the flat.
In the evening Linda had to work so the girls and I went first to the Dove for a drink then into Warminster for a drink at the Rose and Crown. Then we got fish and chips and went back to the flat. We spent the rest of the evening watching TV and when Linda got home, the giggling became loud indeed!
MONDAY 8/10-FRIDAY 12/10 The monotony of the pig heads was broken only by putting in three hours of overtime on Wednesday night to clean out the factory, and by payday on Friday when I was paid £85 for last week.