Thoughts at Random 2006

Updated Thursday, 21 December 2006

This is a web version of the Newsletter sent out with our Christmas cards. 




2006 has been a year for ridding bogies (those evil or mischievous spirits; devils, awkward things or circumstances and the like).
My father would never speak of Bergen-Belsen.
I now know why!

Archive pictures in the Belsen visitor centre

At the end of World War II he stayed behind and helped to clear the camp. Unlike Auschwitz the other complex of concentration camps that we visited in southern Poland, there is nothing left of the Belsen camp apart from a memorial and plaques where the various buildings stood. Father was a driver / motor mechanic. Sadly I don’t know for sure whether he drove one of the lorries used to move the decaying and emaciated bodies to the mass graves or trained a rifle on the SS guards whose task it was to load or unload the naked human cargo. Although the camp buildings were burnt to the grounds because, it is suggested, of the disease, the film of the exercise left little to the imagination, except for the stench which must have permeated every where.

Tyne Cot Cemetery

Whilst in Belgium we visited the museum at Ypres, Flanders fields, the countryside of Passiondale, and Tyne Cot, the largest military cemetery in the war. There are nearly 12,000 graves. The unidentified ones are simply inscribed “A soldier of the Great War, known unto God”.

In early November we had a few days staying at the Caravan Club site at Brighton. It is years since we have been there. I was distressed to see the wreck of the west pier. Back in the 1950s-60s father worked for Hooper and Ashby and each year there was the annual coach outing for families to the seaside, a tremendous treat when few of the work force had cars or could afford a week’s holiday in a caravan let alone a holiday camp or hotel. Several years we went to Brighton and each year we visited one of the piers or had a trip on the Volks Electric railway. As the inset picture (which is a blow-up on a billboard with the twisted wreck behind) shows how magnificent the West pier was in its hey-day.


We set off on our trip on Sunday 4th June spending a week driving through France to our first rally at Las Dunas in northern Spain. On the way down we visited Taizé, in the south of Burgundy. It is the home of an international, ecumenical community, founded there in 1940 by Brother Roger. The brothers are committed for their whole life to material and spiritual sharing, to celibacy, and to a great simplicity of life. Today, the community is made up of over a hundred brothers, Catholics and from various Protestant backgrounds, from more than twenty-five nations.

At the heart of daily life in Taizé are three times of prayer together. Because it was hot we couldn’t leave the dogs in the car so only one of us could go to the lunchtime service. Charmian very kindly let me go. The picture shows inside the church after the service. The 100 or so stools on the floor were used by the brothers for kneeling. Only the very elderly and the accompanist who played for the Taizé chants were allowed chairs to sit on. The building itself is expandable with various “automatic” partitions used to adjust the floor area according to the number of worshippers. It was a Friday and there had been a fresh influx of youngsters spending a week there under canvas so the building was expanded to maximum.

Another “highlight” was the way our dogs were accommodated, even welcomed, all over continental Europe. If only they were so welcome at home. The picture shows a pleasant French dog exercise area with free loo bags. We came across similar ones in Spain, Germany and Poland.

“Route Barrée” was a sign we saw frequently and diversions of several kilometres were common. Tom-Tom (sat. nav. system) to the rescue yet again!

The view from the campsite overlooking the Rhine south of Koblenz.

Poland was an eye-opener. The lady selling fruit and veg in a small town outside Wroclaw is competing with a giant out-of-city Tesco. Below are some of our fellow ralliers on the FICC (Federation of International Caravan Clubs) rally.

It was strange being away for so long (13 weeks), living in a confined space and staying at 17 locations in six different countries (Spain, France, Germany, Poland, Holland and Belgium). Sometimes we were on rallies; otherwise on sites on our own. Altogether, we travelled over 7,000 miles moving from place to place towing the caravan and on sight-seeing trips.

We don’t think that we will do so long a trip again, probably six-eight weeks max. Having satellite TV/radio, a laptop with Wi-Fi and mobile ‘phones meant we could keep in touch (given a little patience and persistence) with people and happenings back home. Setting up the satellite dish was a little challenging although we did manage to pick-up “The Archers” in Poland! And we did eat at quite a few Mcdonalds because they seemed have the most reliable “hot-spots” for sending and receiving E-mails and checking bank balances.

The dogs, Charlie and Cara, seemed to enjoy it too!

WE wish You a
Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Year




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