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During my travels newspaper columns were published weekly in the Dutch daily newspaper
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Netherlands: Paping Buitensport, ODLO, IPtower.nl, AVRO Dutch Broadcasting Org., Travelcare, TunaFish, Book A Tour, StadsRadio Rotterdam; UK: Lazystudent, KissFM, The Sunday Times, The Guardian; Isle of Man: SteamPacket/SeaCat; Ireland: BikeTheBurren; Belgium: Le Temps Perdu, Majer & Partners; Austria: OhmTV.com; Norway: Scanrail Pass, Hurtigruten, Best Western Hotels; South Africa: eTravel, British Airways Comair, CapeTalk, BazBus; Spain: Inter Rail, Train company Renfe; Australia: Channel 9 Television, Bridgeclimb, Harbourjet, SeaFM Central Coast, Moonshadow Cruises, Australian Zoo, Fraser Island Excursions, Hamilton Island Resort, FantaSea Cruises, Greyhound/McCafferty's Express Coaches, Aussie Overlanders, TravelAbout.com.au, Travelworld, Unlimited Internet, Kangaroo Island SeaLink, Acacia Apartments; Malaysia: Aircoast; Canada: VIA rail, Cedar Springs Lodge, BCTV/GlobalTV, St. George Hotel, VICKI GABEREAU talkshow, Ziptrek Ecotours, Whitler Blackcomb Ski Resort, Summit Ski & Snowboard Rental, High Mountain BrewHouse, Cougar Mountain Snowmobiling, Whistler Question Newspaper, Snowshoe Inn, First Air, Nunanet.com, Canadian North Accommodations by the Sea, DRL Coachlines Newfoundland, The National Post and Air North.
ReportsDuring my travels, my compensation for free accommodation for one night, was for me to write a daily travel diary. Of how I got to my next location, the people who would host me, the food I was offered and everything else. Below you find the archives of the highly extensive reports. Know that English is not my native language and most reports were written at high speed around midnight. Enjoy.
Tuesday, 24 July 2001
Daer, Scotland --> Cleadon Village, England (UK) Today I hitchhiked from the remote Daer Valley, via west coast Carlisle, all the way to the east coast of England, where I stayed with Dr. Geoff Lawson, his wife Dr. Anne Lawson and his family.
Sorry for spilling that orange juice!
And hey - is that a toothache coming up?
When Douglas woke me up for breakfast around 10am, I felt I had splitting headache. I couldn't understand why I would have that. I didn't even had alcohol last night, so I could not be a hangover!
Because the house had no running water, Douglas warmed up some water for me to have a quick rinse and I skipped a shower today.
Douglas had to do some shopping in Carlisle, the first big city going south and that was just right on my route to my next hosts, who lives all the way on the east coast of England.
So I got in the back of the van again and Douglas drove me down to Carlisle in about 45 minutes. He dropped me off at the junction where his route was going right and I had to go left.
I thanked him gratefully for my staying at his place and I hoped he had enjoyed it to.
So there I was again, ready to get a lift from a total stranger.
And the first came after I waited over half an hour, from a young guy who is used to hitchhiking himself. He told me how he travelled to Amsterdam, bought enough pot to get around for a while and hitchhiked his way down south to Spain to spend his summer vacation. That's what I call living a high life!
He dropped me off at another junction, which would be much better for me to get to the east coast city Newcastle. And he was right, after 15 minutes a car pulled over with three guys in it. Newcastle? "Yep, that's where we are going, hop in!"
Of course I had to tell them about where I was from (they guessed America) and I told them about my way of travelling. "All without any money?! Jeez man, you are totally crazy!", while another guy said "Just tell the Dutch guy you are so fecking jealous!". "No, I am not... I just want to go on Holiday for free too!"
The journey took about two hours and in the car they shared their drinks with me and I could even do a little nap.
When we arrived in Newcastle, I told them where I was supposed to meet my next host and they were so friendly that they wanted take me all the way up to that spot.
At 3pm I arrived in Newcastle, on the E184 road towards Sunderland and I gave my host for tonight a call. He works as a consultant paediatrician at the Newcastle hospital and had to work 'till 3.30pm and would collect me pretty soon.
Dr. Geoff Lawson was his name and he is for me the prototype for the English working man. He lives with his wife Dr. Anne Lawson and their three children George, Harry and little Elizabeth in Cleadon Village. And that is just outside of the rough city areas, even a very peaceful village.
When we arrived at their home I met the children and Louise, the child minder. After a little chat, Geoff allowed me friendly to have a little afternoon nap, as my headache was still very present and I was still a bit tired after all the information I received and processed of yesterday. I mean, the gold panner in Daer was a long talker, that is sure.
Around 6.30 I had a quick shower and met Geoff's wife Anne, who is a peaditrician at the city of Sunderland hospital and she just came home.
We settled in the garden as Geoff had prepared to have a barbeque today. The fun thing with the English is that as soon as they have a good sunny day, almost everybody has BBQ's. While in the Netherlands the Dutch would always look up to the sky for a few days, deciding if they would do a barbeque or not. The English are just very happy with a sun shiny day!
For Cleadon Village today even had a heatwave!
The kids were very active and very enthusiastic to meet me. They were real football/soccer fanatics and wanted to know which football team I supported. So I just named a Dutch team but they had never heard of it. Like I had never heard of the Newcastle FC and Sunderland FC teams. "But they are famous! The best in the world!" they said.
Of course I had to show them my Dutch football skills and I had to stop their balls. They were pretty good, meaning I am just a poor bad keeper. The last ball I did kick off, landed on the dinner table and pushed over a full pot of fizzy orange juice, spilling it all on the grass. Oops...
But it wasn't that big of a problem for the Lawsons. We just cleaned the seats and removed the whole dinner set a few metres and settled for dinner.
Grandmother Lawson and Louise had also joined for dinner and we really enjoyed Geoff's hamburgers and spicy chicken. After dinner I passed them The Gift I carried with me from Douglas in Daer. It were two little boxes, one with a rare raw saphire stone and one with a tiny Scottish gold flake in it. The kids were pretty amazed by the gold and thought it must be worth a million!
After dinner I played on with the kids in the garden, pushing lovely Elizabeth on the swing and playing ball (very secure now) with the boys.
When the kids got to bed, I had a nice talk with Geoff. And of course about his profession.
Lately a lot of public pressure had been put on hospitals and doctors after the heart babies scandal in Bristol, last month.
Geoff told me on how much pressure a doctor or surgeon is on these days.
Imagine this surgeon who has to do a very important task, like an heart transplant, and the operations is succesful but the child dies on the table.
The man can't leave work, go home and think about life. No, he rinses his hands, takes a little break and starts on the next 4-hour heart transplant.
And everytime it's just unknown if a patient survives. A doctor has to be a very strong and confident person.
Only a bad report about a hospital gets the shit to reach the fan, especialy if the tabloids jump on it and a parents activists group joins in. The parents are angry because they lost their children and can now conclude it was the fault of the hospital. People become less trustfull when it comes to health.
While you don't hear the parents whose children survived an important operation and is still happily alive.
So Geoff really disagreed with the bad publicity English hospitals are getting by this event and hopes people will get some more awareness on the doctors who actually work in the hospitals. Life is hard, especially when you have to save others.
The parents left me working on the Internet for a while as they went to bed. They had to wake up early in the morning tomorrow, so I wouldn't see them again. I thanked them for their hospitality and they really appreciated my stay. "You really got on quite well with the children, they will remember you for that," said Geoff.
Tomorrow I could sleep out and I noticed a toothache coming up. Yeah, the problem was found. My headache had started of because of a disturbed nerve in my mouth. Oops, dentist time for me!
Aarrrghh! Good night Cleadon Village!
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