I have finally arrived in Blighty. What a great feeling to be back in my native country. My brother Mark who I’ve called Jock since he was 11(because he had a horse) picked me up from Gatwick Airport and we had a trouble-free drive to Westcliff on Sea on a lovely sunny, spring day. Westcliff on Sea is about 80 miles east of London and is near Southend on Sea which is the closest major sea side town to London.
The first thing I noticed is the beautiful smooth roads, the orderly courteous drivers and the huge number of speed cameras.
I was in England two years ago with my wife Alana. I hadn’t been back in twenty-five years and I couldn’t believe how clean it was then. It still is.
Jock and I arrived at Westcliff, it was great seeing my sister-in-law Bev, their son Paul who is eight years old and Bev’s Dad, Roger. I will be staying with them while I’m in England.
In the evening I was invited out with them to a 40th birthday party at a local pub. I had Cod and chips and a couple of pints of Abbots ale. I can’t tell you how good that was after my time in India and Pakistan, shear bliss.
Relaxed and caught up on some well needed sleep.
Day 238 Monday 27th April 2015
Winston is flying with Turkish Airlines cargo and is supposed to arrive at Heathrow today. I’ve been on their website to track the Air Way Bill. It shows it left Tehran and Istanbul but has not arrived in England yet. I had asked that my international phone number be placed on the air way bill so they can contact me when it arrives.
Day 239 Tuesday 28th April 2015
I received an email today from Jack Lilley Motorcycles saying that my bike has arrived in the country and the shipping agent requires them to pay 1000 pounds to get the bike. They gave me the contact at Unicorn shipping who are the people who contacted them.
I rang Unicorn shipping to find out what was going on. It seems they have no idea what needs to be done to clear the bike as they normally deal with cell phones. Yes, nothing is straight forward. I can see this will become costly and time consuming.
Day 240 Wednesday 29th April 2015
I was up early this morning to pick Emma my youngest daughter up from the airport. She flies from New Zealand via Bangkok to Heathrow Airport in London to spend three weeks with me. To say I’m happy to see here is an understatement. She’s a brave thing travelling from New Zealand at the age of 17 on her own.
To get to Heathrow airport I caught the train from Westcliff at 4:30 am, made my way to Fenchurch Street station in London, walked to Tower Hill tube station, took the underground to Kensington south, then another train to Heathrow Terminal 2.
I stood in anticipation waiting only to find out the flight had been delayed by 40 minutes. What a letdown. The minutes seem to tick by slowly, it was worse than watching paint dry.
Then through the doors she appeared, sporting different colour hair and a new hairdo. It was magic to give her a great big hug after 5 months apart.
We headed off to pick up a rental car and then drove to Jack Lilley Motorcycles to drop the bike key off. While we were in the area, we called into Unicorn Shipping Limited to give them copy of my carnet so they can arrange for Winston to be sent to Jack Lilley’s.
Day 241 Thursday 30th April 2015
We drove all the way back to London to Unicorn Shipping to pick up Visahal the agent and go to Customs house to get the bike released. No one at customs knew what needed to be done to release the bike. A young woman behind the counter gave me a number to ring. When I rang the number, it was constantly engaged. I went back to the counter after10 minutes and spoke to another woman and explained that the number was constantly engaged and if there was another number I could call. She went and got me another number. When I phoned that number, it didn’t exist. I went back to the counter and I explained the number didn’t exist. The two women I had dealt with were totally disinterested in my problem so I asked them if I could speak with their manager. The manager came and I told him I couldn’t get through to any one on the phone numbers I had been given. I asked him if he and his team where the customs people wouldn’t it be in their best interest to at least have an understanding of what was required when a motorcycle or car comes into the country. He agreed and said he would see what he could do.
15 minutes later he sent the first woman out to see me with all the information I required. She gave me a number and address and told me I had to get a temporary admission for my bike while I am here and to make sure I discharge it before I leave. She was extremely helpful then. It was a stark contrast to earlier on.
We then dropped Visahal back at Unicorn shipping where he gets copies my passport and carnet.
As Emma and I are only 10 miles from Windsor we decided to spend the rest of the day there.
We wanted to see Windsor castle so headed to the entry to find out most of it was closed as the Queen was in residence and there was a function for the Welsh Guards.
We went around the back of the castle to watch the guests go in to the function. They were all dressed in their finest.
We then strolled around the corner and watched the royals arrive by Police escort in their Limousines. We spotted Charles and Camilla who were only feet away from us.
The Welsh guards complete with brass band marched past us and then into the castle.
Em was impressed with the beauty of England and the pomp and ceremony which England is so good at.
We then spent time by the river watching the huge white swans chase bread people were tossing into the river.
I chased up Vishal about the bike being sent to the bike shop. He forwarded me an email from customs saying the bike has been given a temporary admission.
I have chased the bike since I was made aware it was in the country, the airline charges 85 pounds a day and I have been pushing vigorously to get the bike moved.
Emma and I went to Colchester Castle and gardens. It was a nice day out.
English gardens are I visual symphony of colour. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much colour in a garden.
Jock, Emma and I had a day trip to Battlesbridge which is about ¾ hour drive. The village mainly consists of antique shops and a couple of cafés. If you’re into antiques this is the place for you. If not, it’s nice just to walk around and feel nostalgic looking at all the old wares.
Emma and I went to visit Old Leigh which is an old fishing village. As we walked to the village, we saw a car on its roof. Somehow the old guy driving had managed to role it. He was lying on the road waiting for an ambulance with someone comforting him. Not a good way to start the day.
In the village there are many shops that sell all kinds of seafood. It’s a busy place with lots of tourists. There are a couple of nice pubs. I did sample a beer and a bag of chips while we were there.
We left Old Leigh and headed to Hadleigh Castle. It’s in ruins now and was built in the 1300’s. It was built on unstable clay and not many years after it was built it started to subside and later started to collapse. It was built to guard the coastline. It’s an ideal place for a picnic and you get a great view of the surrounding countryside.
We headed west? From Westcliff to Tilbury Fort. Tilbury fort was a major fortification to protect the Thames and London from foreign invasion. It was built under Henry the 8ths reign and remained a significant deterrent until the Second World War. The significance diminished as an attack from sea was unlikely as the main threat came from the air.
After a good look around, we headed off to Southend Pier. Southend Pier is the longest pleasure pier in the world. We caught the train to the end. The sea was like a mill bond and there was not a breath of wind. It was a nice way to finish the day.
It was a cruisy day today just driving around and checking out lots of old historical villages.
Day 247 Wednesday 6th May 2015
Emma had always wanted to see London so today we headed off on the train to hit the big smoke. It was cold, rainy and very windy but it didn’t dampen our spirits
Our first stop was Tower Bridge, then the replica of the Marie Rose, Southwark church where we sheltered from the rain.
We had booked a tour around the London Dungeons so had a bit of time to kill so we checked out the Shard and then walked to where the London Dungeons were. When we arrived, we discovered it had relocated across the Thames just behind the London eye. It was a mad rush to the tube. We exited at Westminster and managed to get to the Dungeons with minutes to spare.
The dungeons were interesting as you also learnt the history of London as you went through. It’s worth a visit as it is very interactive.
From there we headed to the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, down Pall Mall to Piccadilly Circus, Leicester square and finally to Trafalgar square to check out Nelsons column and the Lions beneath.
Em loved the day seeing all the famous sights, many of them in music videos and films. It certainly is a cool place to visit.
After being charged 85 pounds a day for storage and a total bill of 800 pounds, yes 800 POUNDS my bike was finally delivered to Jack Lilly motorcycles.
Emma has watched all the Harry potter films so was really keen to visit the Warner Brothers film studio near Watford where all the Harry potter films were shot. So that’s what we did. She really enjoyed it. The sets were very well done along and the sheer number of props. It was interesting to find out how much CGI was used on set.
I had a call from Jack Lilly motorcycles confirming what the problem with the bike was. It appears it was bad fuel and possible intermittent spark from the plugs. The plugs were replaced along with the fuel and Winston was all go. I checked the fuel I was given by the military in Iran and it was definitely not diesel and it was clean. It will remain a mystery. The good news is Winston is fine and ready for the Americas. The other positive is I am back on schedule with my trip, Emma is here and I have a month with my brother and family. The downside is I have to be so frugal with the money in the next half of the adventure.
I spent the afternoon getting prices to air freight Winston and my gear to Toronto, Canada
Day 250 Saturday 9th May 2015
We went to Lavenham today which is north east of Westcliff. It is a beautiful unspoilt Tudor town. It is the place where John Constable the famous English landscape artist was schooled.
We had a guided walking tour of the village and learnt all about the history of the place.
It was Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) today and there were lots of displays and celebrations. To celebrate I had a pint in the swan, well its only fare!!.
A toast to all those that gave their lives for our freedom.
A day trip to Biggin Hill which was a famous airbase in the Second World War. There really is only the chapel and a couple of planes to view there.
We then headed off to Chislehurst caves near Bromley Kent. There is over 60 miles of tunnels beneath the chorkey ground. We went on a tour which lasted about an hour and heard how the tunnels were made and what they have been used for over the ages
Went to Southend pier and had fish and chips at the old chippie.
Day 253 Tuesday 12th May 2015
I booked my flight to Canada and arranged freight for Winston. . Air Canada had a special deal and I can fly my bike with all the gear un-crated for 650 pounds. I booked my flight with Transat a charter company for 289 pounds. That’s half the price Air Canada was asking.
With my bike fixed and the transport to Canada sorted I can now enjoy the rest of my time in England.
Tomorrow Em and I head off to do a small loop of England. I want to show her as much as I can before she leaves.
Day 254 Wednesday 13th May 2015
We headed to Great Yarmouth in Norfolk on the East coast. There are long expanses of golden beach and of course the standard issue pier and amusement arcades that line the streets that run adjacent to the beach. I was surprised how few people were there.
Em and I spent some of the afternoon playing mini golf. On the way back we stopped in at one of the photo booths ant took some mad snaps.
In the evening I went to Kings Lynn to watch the motorbike speedway. It was an Elite League meeting with Kings Lynn riding against the Wolverhampton wolves. It was a close fought battle and at the half way point both teams were level on points. The second half saw Kings Lynn pull away and win quite convincingly.
We stayed in a bed and breakfast which will be more luxurious than the tent we will be sleeping in tomorrow.
York was the destination today. York has a 2000-year history and it is literally like walking through a history book. We explored the narrow streets, checked out the cathedral which was repaired after a fire caused by a lightning strike in the late 80’s, walked through the shambles. The shambles is a street that was lined with butchers' shops in the Middle Ages. The street ran with blood offal and sewerage, a right filthy place. I’ve often said to the kids tidy your room it’s a real shambles. Now one of them has actually seen the street.
In the evening we went on a ghost tour. The guide wore a cape and a top hat and told some gruesome tales
We set up the tent in a campground and spent the night a bit cold and miserable. All my gear is on my bike so we have borrowed my brother’s tent along with a couple of air beds and duvets. We need a couple more duvets as the cold came right through the airbeds. We will get one tomorrow.
We went back into York and visited the Jorvic Viking Museum. They have a ride that goes through what would have been a typical Viking village. It is very well done.
Emma is a Coronation Street fan. Coronation Street is the world’s longest running soap opera. We visited the studios in Manchester, pulled a pint in the Rovers return and walked along the famous cobbled street.
We headed off to visit my uncle Ted. Ted is my mother’s brother and is 93. He has had a lucky life. He was in the Navy in the second world war and has had a couple of lucky escapes the most notable being when his ship he was on which was transporting 5000 tons of TNT was hit above the waterline by a missile that failed to explode. It was great to catch up with him again. I hadn’t seen him since 1987.
From there we headed off to Warwick castle and then Stratford, William Shakespear’s birthplace.
From Stratford it was a short drive into the Cotswolds. This is a lovely area filled with quaint little villages made from golden coloured stone. One of the most picturesque ones is Bourton on the water. We sat by the river watching the ducks do their thing while the sun warmed our faces. I visited a small motor museum and then we had lunch outside just watching the world go by.
My uncle and Aunty live in Stow on the Wold. I haven’t seen Alison and Tony since 1987. It was nice to catch up with them. It seemed as if we had only met yesterday. They were so welcoming.
The day started wet and cold and I had to pack the tent up in the driving rain. After a hot shower we were off to Stonehenge. When we got there the wind was blowing a gale. This did finally blow the clouds away and the blue sky appeared.
They have put in a visitor centre in since the last time I was here and now you have to take a short bus ride to get to the stones. The visitor centre is full of all sorts of information about the people, and how they transported the stones and finally built the monument. We walked around the henge and I could imagine what it would have been like to have lived in this baron place all those years ago. We then drove to Salisbury and visited Salisbury Cathedral which has the tallest spire in the UK.
The best kept Magna carta was on display here. There are four in total, one in Lincoln Cathedral and the other two in the British Museum. The Magna cart is a important document as it was the declaration that allowed all Britons to be free.
It was a privilege to see this special piece of British history. We headed to Brighton where we stayed the night.
We decided to see some natural beauty today something that is very British. We went to the Seven sisters at Birling Gap. These are the whitest of white chalk cliffs. They stay white because they are allowed to erode. The white cliffs of Dover are not that white anymore because they have been protected from erosion and are now dull due to the vegetation on them.
We did visit the Dover castle and cliffs and the seven sisters were far more impressive.
That was the last time a foreign power ruled Briton.
I picked the bike up from Jack Lilley Motorcycles. I had the broken plastic chainguard replaced with an aluminium one and grabbed a new set of spark plugs and innertubes.
It was a return trip to London for Em and I. It was to see some of the things we didn’t have time for the first time. We visited the British museum which is free. The exhibits are so well kept you would think many of them are brand new. The buildings which the exhibits are housed are beautiful land beautifully kept. You could easily spend a day if not two wondering around.
We then headed to Covent Garden. I don’t know why, but I was expecting to see old Victorian women selling flowers instead it was a hustling bustling area full of café’s upmarket shops and buskers.
It was Emma’s last day in England today. That inevitability was in the air so Emma Jock and I went into Southend for lunch. After lunch it was then time to drop the hire car off at the airport and make our way to terminal 2 so Em could catch here flight back home.
I stayed with here as long as I could until the inevitable time came to say goodbye. I gave her a great big hug, Em shed a tear and off she went never looking back.
I have had some pretty miserable times over the last few months but this was the saddest of all. Good will always overcome bad. If I hadn’t of had the bike issues in Iran, I would never have had the opportunity to be in England for a month. I wouldn’t have been able to visit my relatives and I wouldn’t have been able to spend the quality time and shared experiences that Emma and I will hold dear to us for the rest of our days.
Yes, the cup is always half full.
Day 264 Saturday 23rd May 2015
It is Bank holiday weekend so I decided to visit the National Motorcycle Museum in Solihull. I couldn’t put Emma through this so I decided to do it once she had gone. It was a good opportunity to give the bike a run before shipping it off to Canada. It has over 800 British motorcycles dating from 1894 to present day. The exhibits are housed in 5 halls. Many of the exhibits are prototypes that never made it to production including 4-cylinderer Triumphs. The conditions of the bikes were impeccable, most looked new.
I ended up staying the night in Walsall at the Holiday Inn express.
I rode back from Walsall in the rain and heavy traffic.
Day 266 Monday 25th May 2015
I dropped Winston off at Air Canada cargo. The guys there were so helpful. One of the stores guys, Tony dropped me off at the nearest tube so that i didn’t have to catch a taxi there. I have had so many people do kind things for me. It does prove that 99.9999% of people are good no matter what the media tell you.
Day 267 Tuesday 26th May 2015
I spent my final day in England with my brother having lunch and a couple of beers in Southend. The day was sunny and pleasant.
Day 268 Wednesday 27th May 2015
The day had finally arrived to leave England and head to Canada to start the Americas leg of the trip. I am now at the half way point of my journey.
I’m looking forward to good roads and the new scenery and wildlife I will see.
I’ll be camping most of the time and this will give me the ability to keep costs down just as I did in Australia.
I was up at 3:15am to catch the train from Westcliff on sea and head to Fenchurch Street, Victoria Station and finally catch the Gatwick flyer which was delayed 15 minutes to get to the airport for my 10am flight to Toronto on a Transat flight.