We are all different, but for me as I get older, I worry less about the future, not because there is less of it, week by week, day by day, but for some reason that old saying “What will be, will be” seems to have taken over my life. Well that is how the future relates to me anyway. Maybe it would be different if Barb was still around – I am sure that it would be – but she isn’t, so I am following a pattern that has evolved since our kids and I lost her back in December 2006. And that new pattern initially gave me two separate and distinct lives each year, But then,more recently, a third life has arisen.
The end of my first life was in the new nest she and I built for ourselves for our retirement at Ocean Grove but in which she barely had a year before that devastating cancer claimed. My second life, was on the road in the Northern Hemisphere with my new love Phe – that dark grey Italian/French bird that came out of the Fiat womb in Italy in 1993, lived in France for most of her life and then happened to be in the car yard of the Left Hand Drive Place in England just when I was there looking for a solid, unpretentious, reliable, and cheap car with the steering wheel on the left. Looking back, I realise my life changed completely from that day. Not so much with the actual journeys I have undertaken, but more-so in the way in which those journeys were managed. The car is the sole reason for the change. Phe. My Phe.
I love driving. I have always loved driving from way back when I was a kid. The car is my cocoon. When I am inside the car I am in MY world. I am in a comfortable and extremely familiar place regardless of the surroundings. I am secure. I am insulated from the outside world. Silly isn’t it, but I think we are all the same in this regard. Consider in your own mind, a particularly sleazy street in your own home town and ask yourself if you would be comfortable walking down that street at dusk, alone. Then ask yourself if you would drive your old car down that same street at the same time of the evening. And especially if you had, like I have, already driven down the same sleazy street in countless towns and in countless countries. All without incident. So you see it is easy – just so simple if you are in control of your own car.
The same goes for countries. Phe and I have driven in many different countries and in many different situations so foreign to the conditions I am used to in my own home town. In 2007, just after losing Barbara, I found myself in Istanbul with an organised tour group. At first I was a pedestrian and then a passenger in a small bus, but the traffic terrified me. It was chaotic. Jam-packed with cars, buses, trams and pedestrians. And the noise. The drivers of Istanbul are an aggressive bunch using their horn constantly and some even with a police siren beneath the bonnet as an aid to get through the congestion. Scary stuff! Then just a year later, in 2008, I drove Phe into this self same city of 10 million people. I was heading for Saltanahmet – the old town – in the dark, without a map, going by foreign street signs and instinct. Of course it was doomed to failure and I finished up having to pay a taxi driver an arm and a leg to lead us to the Saltanahmet address, but that is another story. The point I am making is that on the first occasion I had lobbed straight into this huge city on a flight from Australia. It was a cultural and mental shock. The second time I had crept up on that culture after driving from the north of Europe and down through Romania and its Bucharest, and then Bulgaria and its Sophia, to get to Turkey and its Istanbul. I think the word is incremental. The changes had been tiny, day by day, to the point where driving in Istanbul was a breeze. Had I had flown in to Istanbul directly from Australia in 2008 and got into Phe at the airport, I reckon I would have frozen at the wheel! Probably would never have got out of the car-park! Still be there!
I hope you can understand what it is I am trying to say. With yourself in your own (or hired) vehicle you need not have any detailed forward plan for your holiday, so that gives you the flexibility to chase down any back road, or desert trail, or forest track, or city sight, or historic building, or to stop for a coffee and a pastry sitting at a small table in the shade of a big old tree in the main street of a village just to watch, enjoy and be a tiny part of the life in that village. Once you get over the initial shock of driving in a strange country with unpronounceable road signs and whose locals don’t speak your language, then you will find yourself in a comfort zone not a lot different to that of your home town. It’s easy – and it’s beautiful. Just the best!
I don’t know of anything that could be better than being able to travel.
Is there a THIRD life for this old codger?
Since getting home from the last journey – the drive across Russia in November 2011 – I have been talking on a pretty regular basis to social groups. Sometimes it has been the meeting of a car club, or a dinner for older girl guide leaders, or maybe the Association of returned servicemen, or maybe war widows, but mostly it has been to groups of retirees in the Probus Club network. I talk about some of my experiences, incidents, and impressions from those five years of travel. Sometimes there are only 30 people and other times upward from 120. So of course I have been meeting a lot of people week in week out and as I listen to their opinions, their concerns and their gripes, I cannot avoid coming away with the sense of disquiet. People don’t like what is happening around us, be it our local town or Melbourne as a city, Australia or indeed what is happening in the world at large. We look back over our lives and almost without exception we agree that our children and grandchildren will have a far rougher ride than we ever had. And it boils down to the constant increase in the number of people around us. We are being crowded out of our street – no matter where that street happens to be. The immense social pressures arise as a direct result, more congestion, more discontent, more violence. And we are losing our identity. No one cares about us as a person any more. We have become just another number in the ever increasing sea of humanity.
And we don’t like it!
But it is happening and no one is doing anything about it!
The Australian Bureau of Statistics Life Tables reckon that a 78 year old male living in Victoria (that’s me) has another 10 years. Another 10 years to beat the living daylights out of the ears of anyone willing enough to listen to this story. There can be no doubt about the facts. They are compelling and confronting. The population of the world MUST stop growing at some point. The scientists may be able to produce more food or water – maybe even more energy for a constantly growing population, but they cannot produce more space. Our planet is finite in size. It will never grow any bigger than it is right now. So the world’s population MUST stop growing at some time.
There are a growing number of people around the world telling this story as it is. I am just one of them. It is only through growing our numbers that the message will eventually get through.
And get through it will. Eventually. For sure!
So I have put this little book together. IS THE WORLD FULL YET?
Can it possibly help to make a difference? A herculean task but who knows.