Podcast version

Anchored down in Anchorage

“Texas always seemed so big, but you know you’re in the largest state in the Union when you’re anchored down in Anchorage”

(song by Michelle Shocked, theme to this summer, sung by Mary McCarthy)

 

Lumpy air buffeted the plane as we coasted over a choppy looking sea and threaded between snowy peaks toward our landing. This was the land that Jack London had brought alive for generations of armchair adventurers; land that offered promise, a sanctuary, a new start for so many, and literally a dead-end for as many more.

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NOT Trainspotting, but a bit like it

Collecting STUFF. We all do it in some way or another but collecting passport stamps as a pursuit in itself, rather than incidentals that just happen from time to time always veers a bit close to braggadocio for me. Nevertheless just as train and car number plates fascinate some people, so do passport stamps. It takes all sorts ! (I have to admit my own peccadillo is collecting CAA airport significator codes – LHR, DEL, MCW etc).

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So, what’s it worth ?

The question of value, and of values, can often be highlighted by travel in countries with which we may only have a passing acquaintance. The commonest example of this disparity is when people part with money willingly. It stands to reason, I think, that when people dive out of a tour bus in a small town to get a few bits of fruit or whatever from the market; one, you’re a stranger to local prices; two,Europeans are usually unversed in haggling over prices; three, whatever you’re asked for a bunch of bananas e.g. will be still be trifling compared to what you pay at home; four, as a foreigner, you’re likely to be one of the richer people around and therefore fair game for what I like to call “skin tax”.

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Sahib ! It is my duty ! (The Bikaner Mail)

The early morning train left Old Delhi station soon after six in the morning, thankfully containing myself and all of my bleary-eyed charges, writes Bob Cranwell. Alarm call, then after a brisk coffee and bus ride, there followed the inevitable crocodile of rolling suitcases and imploring porters through the tumult of the station, heaving like a fractured termites nest.

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Svartisen 1

Svartisdal, for Bob Cranwell, imbued a sense of place.

I was so lucky to learn this little part of history at a time when so much of it was still open to my enquiry. I was on my first trip of many driving a 10 metre bus on camping tours in Scandinavia. I’d started in Oslo, driven North through Sweden and a limb of Finland into Norway’s Finnmark.

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Pondicherry 1

Some corner of a foreign field that will be forever. . . . France ?

I’m feeling a bit out of my depth here, it must be admitted. I came down to Pondicherry last night on a bus with a driver who knew nothing but full throttle, recalls Bob Cranwell, so my arse and brain are almost entirely numb. Also 18 extra passengers crammed in the aisles, and I jest not, under some seats.

 

 

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The Sanity Clause, (apologies to Groucho Marx)

I was entranced and delighted to hear chunks of a programme on Radio 4 one day, (link at end) which confirmed what I’d been telling folk for years – particularly those who travelled with me on camping trips in Scandinavia. I’ve since found that my mishmash of ideas is far from novel, but at the time I got a lot of strange looks from m’learned punters who clearly thought I’d lost the plot a bit (Okay, okay, evidence-based). I hope you’ll enjoy this exploration of the people from whom significant chunks of the Santa Claus story derive.

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Do you see what I mean ?

As an aside (before I’ve even started !), I’ve had an attack of synchronicity – today I got through the post a card from my opticians, reminding me of a sight test due (I have them every year,  sometimes more often as I have glaucoma in the family), and also later a brief conversation with a new guy working for Scottish Water who has taken on my old job and my old van, too.

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