Saturday 29 January 2011


I'm sorry, I just can't help bragging about my wonderful grandchildren. Check this out

That first photograph is my grandson Vinnie. He was The Times Chalet Chef of the Year. Isn't he handsome? The article is mainly about the company that he works for, but it just goes to show what a wonderful chef he is. I am so proud.

During the week I met Jay who writes The Depp Effect blog. We have known each other for some time on line and when we realised that we actually lived quite close to each other arranged a rendevous in a local bookshop cafe. It's very interesting to be able to put a face to someone and I'm glad to report that we got along famously. Thankfully she is totally bonkers too! I'm the one on the left. Don't you just hate seeing yourself in a photograph? Where's that 19 year old cow girls gone to? Ah well!

Wednesday 19 January 2011


A fellow adventurer has unearthed this video of life aboard the Trans-Mongolian Express. Our itinerary is that we board the train in Moscow on 12th April. This is to be our home for four nights straight. We leave the train in Iskutsk on 16th April and spend one night in a hostel and three nights in private homes at Lake Baikal/Olkhon Island, return to Isrkutsk, back on board the train again for a couple of nights, then another side trip to Terlj NP where we stay overnight in a Ger/Yurt. We pick up the train again at Ulan Bator on 24th April, arriving in Beijing on 25th April. To summarise, we spend a total of 7 nights on the train broken up by two side trips. I think this might be the most gruelling section of our journey, but probably the most memorable for many reasons!

Regarding my Marie Curie fundraising, I was asked if donations can be made from overseas. The answer is, yes they can. Anyone in the world can donate on JustGiving - the only requirement is a credit, debit card or a Paypal account. This is what the JustGiving website says about it:-

"Donations are made in pounds sterling (£ GBP), so it might be useful to use a currency convertor before donating. There are absolutely loads to choose from on the internet, but one that we often use is XE –

Once you know how much you would like to donate in GBP, you just enter this into the box under Enter an amount (for example, to donate £10, enter 10.00) and follow the donation process as normal.

When the donation appears on your bank statement, it will show the equivalent in your own currency. It's also worth remembering that your bank/credit card company may charge extra fees for international transactions, so you may wish to contact them before donating to find out."

I set myself a target of raising £1000 for this good cause and I'm now 38% toward my goal. I think perhaps I wasn't being confident enough when I set this target and, hopefully may need to up the ante.

Tuesday 18 January 2011


This morning there was an item on our local news relating to several incidents which appear to be linked including two ice cream vans that had been vandalised. That got me thinking and I googled "ice cream van wars" and was amazed at the violence surrounding this charming and seemingly innocuous occupation. What is it about ice cream that brings out the devil in the vendors?

As you probably know, on 27th March I am going on an amazing trip overland from London to New York. I have a blog dedicated to this. The best way to access it is to click on the logo on the right side bar. This takes you to Travelpod, a blog site dedicated to travel logs. The reason I write on this site is that it has a pin map which will show where exactly I am in the world.

You may also know that I'm touting for sponsorship which will go direct to Marie Curie. Why Marie Curie? Well, when Davy was so ill in the last two weeks of his life these beautiful people came to the house to help nurse him. They were highly skilled, kind, supportive and reassuring. And do you know what the best thing was? They weren't hampered by PC b......t. If Davy needed lifting, they pitched in and lifted him. I can't tell you what a relief it was to me to know that he was in good and caring hands. Without them I couldn't have respected his wishes of staying at home.

The way to donate is get your credit card, click on the "Just Giving" link on the side bar and it will take you through the process. I am hoping to raise £1000 so please dig deep, it's a very good cause.

Sunday 16 January 2011


We received our pre-departure information by email on Friday which I printed out and then carefully saved to my Outlook "OzBus" folder. I went to check something out this morning and couldn't find it in my folder list. Help! Then I remembered that I had been using my netbook at the time and when I checked there it was - on the mini computer. How does that work? I thought Outlook information stayed the same whatever computer I was on. No doubt someone in the office will take delight in patiently explaining my dumb ignorance! Anyway, I emailed it to myself, so now I have it saved in two places. Are computers are a blessing or a CURSE?

Sorry, I digress. The Oz-Bus team also set up a facebook group for us get to know each other before the trip and immediately the lines were buzzing. There are 15 fellow travellers and I have had contact with 7 of them, 3 of whom are ladies of a similar (although younger) age. I have asked if it's OK to record their names, ages and a few personal details in this blog, so I'm waiting word back on that.

One lady, Pat, read my dilema with the luggage and being a seasoned Oz-Bus traveller was able to offer this advice.

Hi Ann, I saw you were unsure of which bag to bring!

Well I have attached a photo of my Swiss Army backpack on wheels. I got it in Sydney. Its about 22" in height and has a detachable day bag. I left the day bag attached and used another one on my back. I NEVER put the big one on my back! Way too heavy! It can be a little difficult on rough terrain - just make sure you get the best you can afford so the wheels will last. Mine cost about 200 euro but was well worth it!

We can vow to help each other up and down stairs - as this I found the hardest part!

Now there's a gal after my own heart! She reinforced my original thinking, which was to buy wheelable luggage. So, I think the little pink rucksack number is going to be returned to sender. Unfortunately the rucksack Pat recommends doesn't appear to be on sale in the UK and I can't find anything similar, so I've contacted the makers for their advice on how to buy it direct.

Thursday 13 January 2011


I must confess that I'm a saddo who frequently watches the BBC World Business Report between 0530 and 0600. I know, I need to get out more don't I? This morning I saw an astonishing interview with Alpesh Patel which made me sit bolt upright. See what you make of it. I should say that I believe these BBC iplayer links are only active for about 2 weeks so time is of the essence if you want to be amazed. Warning, don't watch if you are of a delicate nature!

PS: Eva has alerted me to the fact that this video can't be viewed outside of the UK so for those who can't see it amoung the things he talks about is that the natural disasters of the last 12 months have an "end of the world" feel about them and are almost biblical in scale. He said "read your bible it's all there". One of his predictions is that the 3rd world countries are now getting richer and as a result their demand for food is going up, but because of these disasters the supply is declining. He predicts that food prices will rise by 50% in the West this year. Wow! Time to stock up on provisions!!


I asked an experienced backpacker friend to give me some tips, which I will now share.

•Take a sink plug. Some hostels don't have one

•Take a padlock because in some hostels daysacs are stored in lockers in the hall

•Take a small LED head torch (recommended by the Oz-Bus too) - invaluable for reading in bed or navigating in a dark room so that you don't disturbe the population

•Roll clothes up for packing. It uses less room

•Don't take a dressing gown. She assured me that no-one wears one. They are bulky to carry and totally unnecessary. This makes me feel very uncomfortable and goes against a lifetime of "covering up" in front of strangers!

•Sleep with passport and money tucked into the pillow

Any more tips from the travelling fraternity would be appreciated.

My next challenge is to arrange the best 'phone/data package for good, cheap coverage in the areas we pass through. My BlackBerry has been set up to receive, repond and delete private/business emails and has the facility to blog and tweet in realtime, which is fun. I find this facility invaluable but I don't want to break the bank. Does anyone agree with me when I say that talking to "communication" companies is one of the most stressful things to do. It must be right up there alongside moving house

Read more:

Monday 10 January 2011


I am now beginning to panic. Less than 3 months to go to my 87 day Oz-Bus overland London to New York trip and I still haven't resolved what sort of luggage to take. The guidelines are that we take:
"one backpack and one day bag. Old style, external framed rucksacks are out: the new style backpack-cum-carry bags very much in. These backpacks with conventional padded straps that can be zipped away if necessary giving the appearance of a soft suitcase. They also have a zip around the entire perimeter of the bag so access is not restricted to the top, enabling greater speed with packing/unpacking plus they can fit into spaces where rigid suitcases would not. Being restricted by the amount of luggage stowage space, we can't accommodate people brining more than one back pack and you will most likely buy a lot along the way as well. If you bring too much to departure you may be asked to make your bag smaller, so don't bring more than is needed."

You would think that these very specifice guidelines would help me make my selection wouldn't you? Wrong! I sourced what I thought was the ideal thing on-line - a Berghaus Women's Jalan 65+15 Convertible Travel Rucksack on wheels with detachable daysac. Sorted. However, when it arrived I found that the wheels made it very heavy. I could wheel it easily, but it would have been too heavy for me to carry on my back. I gave that one to my grandson.

My thinking then was "would any loaded rucsac be too heavy for me, would I be better to buy a light weight holdall on wheels?". So I went on-line again. My next purchase was the Berghaus Mule 100 and a Berghaus Twentyfourseven 15 Litre Womens Backpack.

Then to "hedge my bets" I also ordered A Gelert RUC643 Global Jet Set 60+15L Rucksack. I liked the colour it also has a detachable Daysac and I thought "I'll keep one and return the other"

This is where I am now. The holdall on wheels is ideal, but a tad HUGE. How would I cope over rough terrain? And, if need be, is it too big and unwealdy to carry comfortably up steps etc. More important, would I look like an CLUELESS IDIOT in front on my new friends? The Gelert is a beautiful colour. I love it, but is it too small? The daysac certainly is.

I did make one decision, the 15 litre Berghaus daysac was not big enough. That went back. But what to do about the others? I sought the advice of my colleagues in the office. Tanya said there was a Mountain Warehouse outlet a about 4 miles away. Kimberley said that she had bought Taylor's camping gear there and the prices are good. Now they tell me!

So I haul myself down there. I was so obviously overwhelmed by choice that a charming young man came over and asked if he could help me. I explained what I needed and why and he didn't laugh. That was good. He showed me a 60 litre rucksac with a zip around the whole perimeter and detachable 20 litre daysac. It seemed ideal, but I didn't like the colour, was completely unsure of my mental state and totally unable to make a decision so I said I would think about it.

Back at the office they suggested I buy it, compare it with what I have and then make a decision. Easier said than done.

Sunday 9 January 2011


I had the most perfect day yesterday. One of my Christmas presents was a trip to the Prince Edward Theatre in London to see Jersey Boys.

So at 1100 we climbed onto the train with the intention of starting the day off with a bottle of wine. Unfortunately alcohol was banned because there were a couple of big football games on and the fans can sometimes get over enthusiastic when drunk. So we had to behave ourselves too. Drat!

Fortuitously the theatre is right next door to one of my favourite restaurants in Soho, Kettners where we were joined by my grandson and his girlfriend. We immediately made up drinking time by downing strawberry bellinis.

The meal was delicious, the company was second to none and the characters in the restaurant fascinating.

Then on to the show which was absolutely mind blowing. Thank you all - I loved the day.

Monday 3 January 2011


Since we arrived home a week ago I have been vacilating between being busy and/or lethargic. Coming back to grey skies and cold weather again was quite a shock after enjoying blue skies and temperatures of 25C for 10 days over Christmas.

My reaction was to wrap the warmth of the house around me for comfort and veg out in front of the TV, venturing out only to enjoy a traditional Christmas Lunch with my grandaughter and her family with the odd foray out to take my greatgranddaughters to the cinema and fetch more provisions, mainly desperately needed chocolate. Proving, once again, that if you want to get a job done ask a busy man. You certainly shouldn't expect a lazy woman to write a blog!!

When I mentioned all this to my good friend DogLover this is what he replied "As for laziness, I have an idea that everyone thinks himself lazy and has a conscience about it. Some are very lazy (like me) while others are 99% energetic. I think you're the latter!" Isn't that cute? Wrong, but cute.

But tomorrow things get back to "normal" and I have to get my ass into gear again (thank goodness for that).

So what will the new year bring you all? Excitement? New beginnings? Fulfilment? Heartache? Whatever, I hope you all rise to the mixed experiences and challenges with joy, fortitude and courage. And to begin the year with a laugh, this was sent to me by my good friend DogLover. It has a certain ring of scary truth, don't you think?