Recently a mate asked how many times I had been to Britain and/or Europe, and when I answered ’20’, he said I should write a book.
I’m not in the mood for that, and for those who follow this website, you will be aware that I regularly post stories from those travels.
But with time on my hands, with this ‘Chinese flu’ keeping my wife and I largely housebound, I thought I would file a 20-part series on those trips, under sub-headings.
PURPOSE OF TRIP
To lead my fourth ‘Kangaroo Supporters’ Tour’ to the Northern Hemisphere, followed by a UK holiday, for my wife, Marie and I. There was no full scale ‘Roo tour to follow, but I maintained the title, as a tribute to those glory days of 1990 and ’94, when my group attended Test matches and club games played by the Mal Meninga led Australian side.
Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, England, Wales.
The green, forested countryside of Slovenia.
Betws-y-Coed and surrounds in Snowdonia National Park, Wales. Betws-y-Coed means chapel in the woods, and the resort town nestles among the hills of the Gwyder Forest, in a valley where three rivers meet. In other words, it is pretty as a picture.
Postdam and San Souci, Germany, scene of the Potsdam Conference, the last of the World War II meetings held by the big three heads of state, Harry S Truman (USA), Winston Churchill (Britain) and Joseph Stalin (Soviet Union). The leaders arrived at various agreements on the German economy, punishment for war criminals, land boundaries and reparations. Sans Souci, near Potsdam, was the summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. It was his sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of Berlin.
Royal Crescent, Bath. A majestic sweep of 30 houses, a reminder of the lifestyles of upper-class residents, at the end of the 18thC.
FIRST MEAL THAT I CAN RECALL
Fresh fish (plaice) at our hotel in Volendam, Netherlands.
Fish and chips, Brighton.
MOST MEMORABLE MEAL
Home cooked Danish extravaganza at the home of Morton and Helle Esperson, at their country residence near Copenhagen. Morton was once the director of coaching for rowing in Queensland. Naturally, the meal included herring. Special mention also to the fresh (Dutch) oysters, which I bought at a market in Vienna, Austria. A long way from the sea, I know, but they had just been shucked and were a delight.
Cumberland sausages at Horse and Farrier Inn, Threlkeld, Cumbria.
FIRST PUB/BAR STOP
Waterfront Cafe de Havengat, Volendam, Netherlands.
Jenny Lind Pub in the Old Town, Hastings, East Sussex. Named after famous opera singer.
BEST PUB/BAR STOP
Back street local in Prague. It wasn’t flash. In fact, the walk, up the laneway to the bar, was a bit scary. But we (fellow tour group members, Don Munro and Dennis Power) were treated royally by locals, most of them mechanics and others working in the motor trade. One of them, Jan Paul Frevova, acted as our interpreter.
Driftwood Spars Pub, St Agnes, Cornwall. The pork spare ribs were pretty good too.
ONE SPORTING EVENT
None in Europe. But in Britain, my wife and I attended a Rugby League Test, at McAlpine Stadium, Huddersfield, Yorkshire. Final score: Great Britain 14 New Zealand 14. Britain were captained by Andy Farrell, New Zealand by Stacey Jones.
EVENT OTHER THAN SPORT
Last Post ceremony at Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium. This moving ceremony takes place every night at 8 o’clock and pays tribute to those who gave their lives in World War 1.
Dachau Concentration Camp, Germany. Built in 1933, it was the first of Adolf Hitler’s ‘extermination factories.
Portmeirion, Wales. In the 1920s, architect, Clough Williams-Ellis became captivated by Portofino in Italy. The result is Portmeirion, a Mediterranean style village, on the coast, below the mountains of Snowdonia. I had always wanted to go there, because one of my favorite television series, ‘The Prisoner’, starring Patrick McGoohan, was filmed there, way back in the 1960s.
MOST UNUSUAL EXPERIENCE
This should state, ‘Most Frightening Experience’. I stumbled across a Neo-Nazi rally in Munich, Germany, after enjoying a Schneiders’ beer, at a beer hall. The Nazis, chanting slogans I couldn’t understand, looked like apes. Their chants were countered by peaceful protesters, with their own chants, drowning out the primitives.
Being a guest at the British Rugby League Media Dinner in Manchester, where Liverpool football (soccer) legend, Emlyn Hughes was guest speaker. His father, Fred, toured Australia and New Zealand with the 1946 Great Britain rugby league side, captained by fellow Welshman, Gus Risman. Emlyn, born at Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, played rugby league at school, and represented Lancashire. Marie and I were staying with noted sports writer, Martin Richards and his wife, Barbara at their home at Standish in Greater Manchester.
2 Tasting Dutch oysters at a market in Vienna, Austria
3 St Agnes, Cornwall
4 Horse and Farrier Inn, Threlkeld, Cumbria
5 Steve and Marie Ricketts (left) with Ray and Val Ebert.