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A caravan adventure from the UK to the Ukraine 2006

  • Submitted by: Ivan Andrusiak, United Kingdom
  • Submission Date: 18th Sep 2006

This is the beginning of the journal of Anne and John’s travels into the vast unknown, which happens to be a trip across Europe and into the Ukraine. Ukraine being a fledgling autonomous country and a European aspirant. The unknown aspect being the fact that although we have caravanned in the past , on this occasion we are taking a caravan that is the size of a small house and towing it with an enormous 4x4 which is our Kia Sorento. We have no idea what awaits a timid yet not so naïve couple in Poland and the Ukraine. We have been to both Holland and Germany before but this is a novel experience.

I will have to start the tale, with what was a bit of a retirement dream for us both. I was to retire from the Police and Anne would pack in work and we would sell our house, put the money in the bank, buy a caravan and we would wander the Mediterranean until such time that we fell in love with a place and settle there. We had met in Corfu and were both of a cosmopolitan inclination. I would say that we are reasonably adventurous and so when my retirement was on the horizon we bought ‘the caravan’, November 2004, but didn’t pick it up until September 2005. The house went up for sale in April 2005 and by May we had a buyer. I then purchased a laptop and mobile phone, believing that we would be soon on our way. I was due to retire in August so we even arranged rental accommodation just to tide us over until we departed. By the end of May the house sale had fallen through so we were back where we started plus we had a mobile phone and a lap top which were then unnecessary, not to mention the caravan. Still retirement loomed and the house did not look as though it would sell.

Anne was very happy at work and I got to thinking that we might just stay put and I would be a house husband. In September at Annes insistence I took my dad to the Ukraine, had a fantastic time in the ‘Old Man’s’ village Parisch. I got quite taken by it and ended up buying a small farm, which really would be no more than a small holding. It has a number of features, a house a barn and a bakery, all of which are on the verge of falling down. You will have to read the journal of Dad and John’s visit to get the full picture, or wait until Anne and me arrive there and I describe Anne’s reaction to the place.

Any way, needless to say the purchase of the farm put a kibosh on the original plan as I paid a deposit on the farm of $1000 and have to pay a further $1000 by May 2006. So any ideas of travelling the Med are on hold.

The purchase of our home in Stourport has also made a little change to the original plan; still we are nothing, if not adaptable.

During our final preparations, we took the caravan and car to the local weigh bridge in Kidderminster, where after finding that the caravan was slightly overloaded and the car was well under weight. I rushed the hitching up procedure and ended up setting off with the caravan only falling off the tow ball with enough momentum to slam into the back of the car, which made a mighty crashing noise and caused the colour to drain from Anne’s face and as if by magic to make my face glow bright red. The damage looked horrendous but ended up being superficial, will still cost a small fortune and I will lose a year of no claims premium. Still no one was injured, just my pride.

The big day finally arrived.

Sunday 23rd April 2006,
Having had a hearty lunch with Anne’s sister Mary and her husband Ray we returned home to make the final preparations. We had been a little concerned that the jockey wheel on our caravan was too low when hitched, causing it to snag the ground when going over humps and the like. So when our lovely neighbours came out to wish us well, we had actually blocked them in and they were patiently waiting for us to get out of their way, they had given us a St Christopher and a small container of holy water from Lourdes, we were struggling with the bloody jockey wheel, eventually having to do some unorthodox lifting of the caravan to get the wheel stashed into its place under the ‘A’ frame. We eventually got under way, with more than a little interest from our new friends on ‘The Ridgeway’.

Now that I have again undertaken this hobby of ‘Caravanning’, I am remembering with more than a little trepidation after setting off, feeling both knackered and stressed, but trying to put something of a brave face on the whole situation. Still Anne is very happy and off we go to Harwich.

Thankfully an uneventful journey, arriving at Harwich having completed over 200 miles in just over 5 hours with a couple of stops on the way. The lady at the Stenna reception is most helpful, we are booked on the morning sailing (0845 hrs), although we are 12 hours or so early that does not phase us, as we intend to get our heads down on the ferry car park. The caravan is very cold and the ferry traffic very noisy, although I have ear plugs in, Anne’s constant movements keep me awake most of the night. Neither of us have what can be called adequate sleep, we both put on our brave faces and in the morning warm ourselves with hot tea.

Monday 24th April 2006
We carry out some modifications to the jockey wheel as I am sure it will cause us problems getting on and off the ferry, so we take it off completely and stash it in the back of the car. A chap who has parked his motor home near to us, takes the time to have a chat and it turns out he is from Stourport and knows one of our neighbours, small world?

We get on the ferry without any problems, although at one point I convince myself that one of our gas bottles was leaking (lack of sleep causes paranoia). We leave the car and caravan and get up to some washrooms on the ship and freshen up. Breakfast and lunch are included in the price which is a nice surprise and we eat heartily.

The ferry is like the Marie Celleste, there is virtually no one on board. That said when we do go for lunch, the ‘chef’ gives our new acquaintance from Stourport a hard time because he takes more than one choice of meat. Not very hospitable of the Chef, I can tell you they will have thrown more away than was eaten.

We arrive in Holland at 1615 hrs their time, they are one hour ahead of us. The weather is gorgeous, it is like the middle of summer. With the assistance of the Sat Nav and Anne’s map reading prowess, we find the camp site at Gouda. The only negative on the way is the wind screen gets cracked from a loose stone thrown up by a lorry on the motorway. When we get on site we master the refitting of the jockey wheel, without a hitch (oh the puns!). We then find that the caravan security alarm will not set, I find this irksome as it is yet another problem with this very expensive bit of kit.
We get talking to a bloke from Belfast who is a fitter turner and has lived in Holland for the past 10 years, He can speak Dutch. He lives in a really small caravan, which he is very proud of. I think he’s a little strange. I say to him that on occasion he must take great pleasure in going to a hotel and enjoying a few luxuries. Absolutely not, he says. Anne seems to think that he has spent a long time in prison and that he probably is used to a small space.
The campsite is not brilliant, but we aren’t that bothered, the place is very nice and we have a fantastic walk in a nature reserve stopping at a bar restaurant where we can watch the wild life on the lake. We also bump into our ‘H’ block friend who by now is v inebriated. It is a beautiful evening and we walk back to the caravan. On arriving back at the camp site, I get to practice my Basil Fawlty German with a couple of itinerant German tillers. One of them takes more than a drunken interest in Anne. We shoo them off!

We are in bed for 10 p.m. as we are v tired. I haven’t slept so well for ages. We awake about 8 a.m. to another beautiful day. No problems hitching or getting out of a tight spot, we are a pretty formidable team, when we are on song. We snag a ramp at the exit to a bridge from the campsite, which would have been nigh impossible to get by, had we left the jockey wheel on. We might come back to the site again, there again we might not.

Anne has the navigation business completely sowed up, she knows exactly where we are going. When we do put information in the Sat Nav, it tends to send us in the wrong direction, I am sure that the Sat Nav, is fine for finding locations in strange towns. It will probably come into it’s own in Poland.

We leave Holland and enter Germany, I have never seen, so many HGV’s, we are trundling on the A12, A1, then the A30, at a sedate 50 mph or 80 kph, never any faster as, apart from the fact that they are the speed limits for a car and caravan, it is probably more economical and safer to travel at those speeds. On some of the roads (autobahns) in Germany there are no limits, it is strange to see a warning sign over the autobahn saying there’s a restriction of 140 kph, which is 87.5 mph. I intend to stop every 2 hours or so, which is what we do, the first stop being for lunch which we take in the caravan. The temperature is in the eighties. I text Mark at Phantom (tracker device fitted to the caravan), he is to check our progress, not least to see how far east the tracking device will work. So far so good, he knows where we are. The second stop is for a wee break and the impression I am getting of the German rest places, is that they all smell of urine, Anne reckons that the lorry drivers probably throw out the contents of whatever container they have in their cabs, which they use for their overnight waste, onto the lay by’s there by contributing to the smell.

We had intended to get to Magdeburgh, but we are settling for a place East of Hannover called Haneler Wald, Camping Waldsee. We have done 248 miles which as far as we are concerned is enough, we are in no hurry and there are no prizes for getting anywhere quickly.

This campsite is around a lake within a forest, which has static caravans that are done up as independent woodland lodges. They all seem to have gardens containing picnic tables and wooden harbours, if you eventually come to visit us in Stourport you will see where we got the garden design idea from.

We got set up very quickly and were in the campsite bar and restaurant before you could say I’ll have a Jaeger schnitzel and a curry wurst, which surprise, surprise is what we had, washed down with lashings of German beer. Wake me up I think I’m in heaven.
It was so hot, we went for a walk and then got back to the caravan, where a quiet night was had reading and writing.
The caravan did not cool down during the night it was boiling; we had also changed our sleeping arrangements. For a change Anne made me sleep next to the wall, which is terribly claustrophobic. I had such a bad night that Anne promised me that I would never ever have to go near the wall again. We might have to contemplate single beds in the next van. In the early hours it poured with rain, so I had to close windows and bring things in from outside.

Wednesday 26th April 2006

Getting up not having had a great nights sleep, and having to contemplate a big drive ahead, is not the best way to start the day. Still, we both loaded the car and caravan with our kit and ourselves with porridge and off we went, in the rain to Poland.

The drive was as uneventful, as driving can be on the fastest roads in Europe, especially when you are trundling on at a sedate 50 mph. Cars rocket past, lorries stay with you for miles slip streaming you. It rained for a while, then cleared up and the temperature rose to a respectable 23 C. We got caught up in a traffic jam at Leipzig which knocked down our average mph. We took a wrong turning as we approached the Polish boarder and had to get back onto the autobahn.

We were very soon through the German Polish boarder at Gorlitz, the queues were pretty impressive which I am sure is a fore taste of thing to come at the Polish Ukrainian boarder.

Our first destination within Poland is a small town called Jelenia Gora. Anne whose spatial awareness will never ever be called into question, well not by me at any rate, found every where we were supposed to find without any trouble at all. We drove on roads, that to be fair were every bit as adequate as ones you might find in rural locations within the UK. Some were even recently laid and signs let you know the benefit that Polands infrastructure has had from being a member of the EU.

We arrived in Jelenia Gora a little after 7.p.m. The camp site is a town centre location, called ‘Auto Camping (no 130), romantic sounding, don’t you think? We had completed 313 miles. We were knackered and hungry, not a good combination for either of us, still we hugged and made up and off we went into the town.

Anne imagined every sort of danger lurking around every corner, ‘Those two lads have passed us twice!’.
Jelina Gora as far as we could make out in the dusk is a very pretty place, with a cobbled promenade meandering through its main street. The town appeared full of young people dressed in very western fashions, the boys sporting natty haircuts, the girls very smart, laughing and joking walking in groups. The difference I suppose from the UK, based on a first impression, is the youth here in Poland all appear to be sober and having a good time?

This walk through the town was with a view to forage for food, and we spotted a restaurant which to be fair looked a bit pricey, the menu was in English and the prices v expensive, especially if in euros. We went in and were delighted to find the price was in Polish zlots. 1/5th the value of a pound. ‘Bargain!’

I had, what my mum and dad would called a flintsy sandwhich, which is a potato pancacke sandwiching medallions of beef, in an Hungarian goulash sauce, served with a fantastic mix of salad and veg. Anne had Medallions of pork with fenugreek and dill mashed potatoes, broccoli and a café crème sauce. With 2 beers it came to £11.

On the way back to the site, we popped in to the Police station as I wanted to see a Police ID card, we had been told of bogus Police officers in Poland robbing people, so I just wanted to be sure. No one in the station could speak English, not a problem, they seemed to understand my Ukrainian.Although I have to call the consulate in the morning to arrange Anne’s release. ‘Only joking’. They were more than helpful, we showed each other our warrant cards (mine of a retired police officer) and off we went.

We appear to be the only people on the site, but the reception has personnel there 24/7.

We settle to down to do a bit of reading and writing, Anne goes to bed and I am left on the lap top with a beer. I pick up a map as I am writing up the journal and ‘Ooops! I knock the beer over the lap-top key board. I am horrorfied and not just at the waste of beer. The screen froze and for a second so did I. In such circumstances, after years of Police and Army training, I know precisely what to do. Panic and shout ‘ANNE!’

We did all sorts of things; turned it up side down, used the hair dryer, prayed, but it just remained in a shut down state. I imagined the worst, everything was lost, Oh woe is me!

Anne was very cool, I thought it was a disaster on the scale of Armageddon. We went to bed and Anne soothed my furrowed brow.

Thursday 27th April 2006.

I tentatively approached the lap top, with more than a little apprehension and thankfully it burst into life. Even the file I was working on worked.

We intend to take it a little easier today, set off a little later and stop some where near Krakow.
Thursday 27th April 2006. Continued.

The morning is great, we air the bedding in the sunshine and set off for the town centre. We find the internet café, we spied the night before. An elderly woman who is meticulously cleaning the hallway, lets us pass and we ascend some stairs to a room full of computers and a coffee machine, which I suppose ticks all the boxes for an internet café. It didn’t take us long to get into our hotmail account and upload the photos also the text that we had downloaded onto a CD, with more than a little help from our Polish internet café supervisor.

We leave, again passing the lady, who is now washing the windows.

Back into the sunshine we find a shop, that sells all manner of catholic paraphernalia, with a view to buying our soon to be god daughter, ‘Olga’, something appropriate for her christening. We settle for a rosary, the baby clothes are all a bit grubby. We are as happy as can be, having accomplished everything that we had set out to achieve. We marvel at the beauty of this never heard of town, the cobbled streets, the multi coloured facades of the cafes and restaurants, that spill out there tables and parasol’s into the town square, its just charming.

We buy some pastries and head off back to the van, where we have tea and buns in the glorious sunshine, isn’t life perfect?

About 12 ish we set off for Krakow.

As we are turning into a garage, for diesel there is a bumping sound coming from the transmission. I put this down to surface noise. We fill up with diesel and get onto the main road. I notice a whining noise from the transmission, looking down I see, that the low ratio, is engaged. This can be disastrous if you drive for any length of time on any smooth flat surface, which is what we are doing. I pull over and try to disengage the low ratio, but the KIA is having none of it. I try reversing it, driving forward, I jack up the front wheel, the rear wheel. I read the manual, front cover to the number for the RAC. Then I came across a paragraph, under transmission, that advises that should any problems be encountered disengaging low ratio then the Auto box selector should be put into neutral. This is what I did and thank goodness it worked! We were both relieved as we envisaged having to call out the Polish RAC.

Our late casual start turns into an angst fest, the next port of call is a Osweicim which sounded somewhat familiar when Anne read it to me. The roads seem to deteriorate the further we went, but were still of a reasonable standard. We passed may road works where the euro was being spent with a vengeance, it’s as if they are doing things quickly in the belief that this golden goose has a limited life. After 70 or so slow miles we arrive on the Polish motor way, where there is a massive traffic jam, caused by a broken down truck. Once we past the hold up we managed to crack on and get some miles under our belt, we see, for the first time a GB plated vehicle and we honk our horns and flash lights. We finally arrive at Krakow, where we are in amongst some serious town traffic and some very strangely tarmac-ed roads. The phenomenon of a road having melted and then being driven on producing ruts where your tyres nicely fit, thereby rendering the steering wheel useless, was new to me.

We eventually, found the signs for Osweicim. As we neared the site, Anne gave me more detailed information, ‘It’s on the car park of a Dialogue and prayer centre’. ‘Near to the Osweicim museum’. It gradually dawned on me where we were. We were at the site of Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi concentration camp.

By the time we arrived there we had completed 200 miles, it was 7.p.m. Not a lot covered in the way of distance, but we were again knackered. There was a small GB plated motor home, with a retired Australian couple inside. He is a retired engineer and they have had the motor home for a number of years, which they store in England. They spend a number of months every year touring Europe and they are currently working their way east.

The GB plated vehicle we had seen on the motorway some 130 miles previously was also on the car park. This contained Ralph and Henry, who were taking a sabbatical from work and touring Europe. They had made a special effort to leave Germany and travel down to Auschwitz, they couldn’t believe that we had fallen, on this place, quite by accident. We became quite chummy, and spent an evening drinking and chatting in the van. They were from Henley on Thames, where our niece Sarah lives and Andrew her husband works. They were either very gracious or appeared quite impressed with my tales of coincidences. We showed them the pictures of the farm. Anne, recruited Henry, for public health work, and I suggested to Ralph an ex RAF pilot, that he should contemplate a career in government service. We were quite inebriated!

Friday 28th April 2006.

We awoke to yet another beautiful day, cloudless azure skies and temperatures already in the mid sixties.

We quickly sorted out the van and by 9 a.m. we had said our farewells and were on our way, to Przemysl, on the Polish side of the boarder with Ukraine. The roads did not get any better, the road which is the arterial route from west to east, is a single track road, that on occasions has places to pass, and upon which 42 tonne monstrosities travel at 60 mph minimum vying for space with horses and carts.

We are held up in a slow moving traffic jam which we find has been caused by a vehicle having overturned. We didn’t hold out much hope for the occupants as the fire brigade used a crane to right the vehicle. We were soon on our way and arrived at a reasonable hour at Przemysl. This is a large town, which appears run down, however the ubiquitous McDonalds, Ikea and would you believe Tesco’s are all in evidence.

We cannot find the camp site so we decide to ask directions at a petrol station, all the staff, shake their heads, having never heard of the place. A chap in the service station uniform gestures to follow him and he points at a man in a car. The man acknowledges him and calls me over. This chap is sat in his black VW golf, eating a burger and looks the sort of person you would (as a policeman) give a roadside check to and be un-surprised to find a body in the boot. He’s about 25, scar faced, wearing a black ‘t’ shirt and combat trousers. This reminds me of a scene from a Woody Allan film where you are introduced to your mugger before you attend the cash machine. Anne is busily writing down registration numbers as we follow this chap around the unpronounceable town to god knows where. After a short time we arrive at Camping Zamek. Relieved and more than a little embarrassed at our paranoia, we offer this chap a couple of euros, which he declines, saying in broken English, ‘my pleasure’.

Humbled, we book into the camp site which looks a little like a ‘prison of war camp’. The photographs bare testimony to the fact that this is a seriously bleak place. Although there are Polish people holidaying here, in little wooden chalets, as well as some more modern looking ones. They have to use the shared facilities which is a toilet block, the outside of which is bleak enough, the inside of which is frankly bizarre. There are iron bars secured with padlocks at the entrance to the shower, which is a communal affair, about 6 shower heads are hung on a metal coat rack. The place has been given a fresh lick of paint, but the colour is dark blue which rather than brightening the place up, makes it even more foreboding. Anne witnesses a woman throwing grey coloured water over the washroom floor, as if in some strange way was an attempt at hygiene. We have no option but to stay here for the one night. The staff, are all friendly, although I find the way they jangle their keys, like gaolers, very disconcerting.

We speak to Sid (the skid), who is one of our hosts in the Ukraine, he is intending to meet us on the Ukrainian side of the boarder. He wants to know where we are, I try to say ‘Przemysl’ and he says ‘Where?’, I repeat ‘Przemysl’, this goes on for three repeats, and I am convinced he thinks I have a bad cold.

We decide to contact dad at home, to relay our message and to confirm arrangements. My sister Katarina answers the phone and explains that dad had gone for their Fish and Chips, I have to ring back later.

Later arrives and I try to explain to dad what we want to do, he finds the place equally hard to pronounce, even though he had mentioned it previously. Katarina takes the details of camp Zamek and sounds under stress. She says that ‘their’ Fish and Chips are getting cold. Any empathy for cold fish and chips fail me, as I believe our predicament trumps cold fish and chips. Anyway dad and Joyce’s priority is their tea (dinner). So I wait ½ an hour, before being contacted by Kath, that Sid knows that we will set off by 9 a.m. the next morning if we haven’t heard anything.

We have completed 200 miles today.

Again we are knackered, should you just take it as read, that we are knackered at the end of each day?

We quickly get washed and changed and seek to forage for food in the town with the unpronounceable name. We quickly find a restaurant. We are enticed in by an accordion player and the smell of garlic, basil and oregano. We think he probably had a bouquet garnet in his pocket, but in fact it is a pizzeria, which turns out to be very good. Two medium sized pizzas; two beers, a glass of wine and a cup of coffee for the accordionist came to just short of £10.

A supermarket is given our attention, so that we have some food in case of emergencies in the Ukraine, then to bed by 9.30 p.m.

I do not sleep so good, perhaps thinking about the possible pitfalls of the following day’s journey.

Saturday 29th April 2006

I am awake, much too early, for Anne to cope with the days journey, so attempt another hour in bed. We eventually arise at 6.30 a.m. and are under way by 7.30. a.m.
Having spoken to Sid, who is by now at the boarder with his brother Bas (out of hell).

The boarder is a ‘mettle and tarmac version’ of the ‘bamboo and dirt road version’ of a boarder that we saw between Thailand and Burma. The queues of commercial traffic were many miles long. In amongst the HGV’s were cars pulling trailers with cars or tyres loaded on them. We saw a number of British registered vehicles, but many displayed no registration number at all. You got the impression that the vehicles origins were dubious. On each side of the road were makeshift kiosks selling ‘fags and booze’. The roads were littered with debris that had fallen from vehicles including vehicle parts.

We decided to overtake the queues, and take our chances at the front, pleading innocence if there were a problem, and there wasn’t. We followed a tax free queue, and pulled in behind a German car, whose occupant hadn’t a clue, they cost us about a 2 hour wait. We got through the boarder control after about 4 hours. We didn’t have to pay anything, the Poles were only concerned that the vehicle was not stolen and the Ukrainians after a great deal of posturing, copied all our documents eventually letting us through. I was delighted, I thought I might have to pay a bounty. There were times we felt a little intimidated by the groups of ruffians who stood and peered into the caravan, but they were harmlessly curious.

We rang Sid, who asked us where we were and what we looked like, I explained and I could hear him say in Ukrainian, ‘I can see you, I can see you!’

We found Sid and Bas at the side of the road, they couldn’t hide their expressions of curiosity and surprise at seeing the combination of caravan and car. Sid was all hugs whilst Bas was more self conscious. I explained that we could do no more than 80 kph and then only if the roads were good. They seemed to understand. We then proceeded at a snails pace, which was ok, but I think they were taking the proverbial, so at an opportune moment I overtook them and a slower moving vehicle. We then settled down to a more reasonable pace. This quickened as the miles passed. We were now experiencing seriously dilapidated roads, especially as we approached Ivan Frankivsk, we did go down some deep pot holes, and Anne was pretty anxious and told me in no uncertain terms to slow down, which we did. Sid and Bas also slowed down. To be fair to them they drove pretty well.

We stopped for a bite to eat about 1 ½ hours from our destination. They looked out of place in the back of the van, but seemed to like ham with English mustard sandwiches. We asked how every body was and they said ‘Well’, but when we asked about our farm, eyes looked down at feet and nothing was said. We sensed that there might be a problem.

We eventually arrived at Parisch about 4 p.m. Anna was there to greet us, she mad e us both feel welcome. They indicated that we could put the caravan on their drive. I said that I wanted to put the caravan on our land. Anna explained that there was a problem and so she had not signed any papers, as Nicolai, who had sold us the house now wanted more money. I told Anna that she did right and that I was not prepared to give him one Kopek more. Because of this no work had been done to accommodate the caravan on ‘our’ farm. We resigned ourselves to the problem and put the van on their drive. This excites much interest as we use the motor mover and manoeuvre the caravan effortlessly into its final position. We are now for all intents and purposes in a farm yard surrounded by turkeys and chickens, any fears of bird flu have to be set aside. The more immediate problem, is the noise that they make and I know what sort of an effect these noisy creatures can have on any attempt at a decent nights sleep. I am worried!

We are invited in to Sid and Ludar’s little house where there new born Olga, is laid, she is a bonny little thing. It is clear that they have already had the christening and we are not to be the god parents. We, through dad have got the wrong end of the stick (yet again), not to worry, we give the child, through Ludar, our christening gift which is the rosary we bought in Poland and ask that it be blessed.

I am much too tired to negotiate with Nicolai so do not seek him out today. When we have settled the caravan in some semblance of order, Anna provides us with some food, potato pancakes (flintsy), smitana (cream) and some cold pork, which we eat in her small kitchen. She offers us chicken soup, which neither of us can face.

The Pork is from the rather large pig I was introduced to, on the visit I made with dad, I only manage one piece.

We familiarise ourselves with the layout of the farm and buildings. I take Anne on her first visit to ‘our’ farm. She immediately declares, the buildings will have to go, I agree and must say, they have not wintered very well. She is well impressed by the views down to the river and the forest, the sun is in just the right position to show off the land at its best. The neighbours are all smiling and waving, seems a shame we might not be buying the place.
We get back to the Fedora farm and our caravan, it isn’t too late perhaps 9.p.m. but we go to bed. I am disappointed that my expectations have not been met; we haven’t got the farm, we are parked on Fedora’s drive, we are surrounded by very noisy turkeys, hens and a dog. Neither of us have a good nights sleep.

We have completed 197 miles today, but it feels like 400.

Sunday 30th April 2006

We arise around 8.a.m. with the intention of attending the church and then visiting the cemetery, we are ready for 8.30.p.m. which is just as well as that is the time the service starts, so off we trot. It is yet another beautiful day, and as we walk through the village you can’t help but be captured by its charm, the houses each have a garden with cherry or apple blossom in the garden surrounded by flowers that you might find in and English spring garden, it’s all quite lovely, but for the rather murky grey green liquid, bubbling away in the gutter at the side of the road. Anne has by now experienced the lack of sanitation, it’s the old joke of ‘I will show you the way to the toilet’ and the reply’ don’t bother, I’ll let my nose be my guide’.

We arrive at the small church, there are two, a much larger one is kept apparently for special occasions. The service has already started, but we are made to feel welcome. My aunty is stood close to the door and she gives us both a hug and a kiss.

The service is rather long but we are still in the Easter period and many references are made to the crucifixion.

At the end of the service, we ask if we can light candles for our family under the icon of Mother Mary and a lady who I recognise from my last visit sorts out the candles. We both give prayers of thanks for getting us so far safely.

We have a chat outside with my aunty, she invites us to her house that evening. Although my Ukrainian is improving, I am not good with numbers and time, so we gesticulate that we will be there when the sun goes down. I put this ability to gesticulate and talk in broken English and make my self understood, down to years of watching the Lone Ranger and Tomto.

We pay the cemetery a visit where both my grand parents are buried. Then back to the Fedoras. Where we have a hearty breakfast, that comprises off ‘all bran’ and tea in the van. I have taken to calling the van ‘nasha belli hatta’ ‘our white house’.

Its turned out nice again and so it’s on with shorts and sun hat, and we get down to some serious cleaning, in the army we used to call it a ‘dobey day’, we cleaned every thing, I set up a big plastic drum in the shower where I washed the bedding, also all the clothes we have sweated in over the past week. We had washing lines strewn all over the place. The Fedoras must have thought we were to celebrate our arrival by putting out bunting in the form of our underwear.

A group of men including Bas the host, were sat under a tree enjoying the sunshine, they called me over and we talked. They offered me some of the horivka (Ukrainian vodka) that they were enjoying with beer, bread and pickle. I declined their invitation to join them in a drink explaining that it was much too early in the day for me. One of the more elderly of the group, said that I must think that they are all alcoholics. Not wanting to offend, I explained that in England they would be so labelled, but this was the Ukraine! He said we drink to work, work to drink and when we are not working we are drinking except when we are sleeping, then, we are dreaming of drink.

Bas the host commands a great deal of respect from his neighbours, and is always at the centre of any discussions. Nicolai, the chap who is selling us the farm joins us for a drink, he is almost 2 parts cut. I am not going to broach the subject of the farm just yet. After sitting in the sun for a while I leave ‘the lads’ to continue putting the world to rights.

We are treated to holopshei (cabbage cases containing rice and minced meat), with smitana. Anna gives us these on a plate so we can enjoy them in the van, which is as well as we have to warm them up, the microwave comes in handy!

Nicolai surfaces and is obviously now much the worse for drink, and asks Anne and me to accompany him to the farm. Anne by now is making a fuss of the children, Young Basil and his bigger brother Ian (the thief) are having their faces painted. Much to the delight of the other children.

We eventually join Nicolai and visit the farm. He takes us into the house which smells terribly of damp. If Anne had any doubts, she says categorically that the house will have to be demolished. We are shown the barn and pig sty, both of which smell better than the house. Walking toward the first stream, Nicolai says that he needs more money for the house and land, the papers and plan that he had to have ordered from Moscow, cost $300 to sort out, and he requires this as additional payment. I say we will not pay any more. He then says that we only agreed to buy the land and house up to the first stream, I say that that is complete nonsense, he says that to have the field between the stream and the river will cost more money. By now I am doing my best to imitate an irate Ukrainian farmer who is being fleeced by an alcoholic Ukrainian, which in the circumstances is not so hard to do. I walk off in a huff, leaving Nicolai to contemplate the cigarette that he is having difficulty lighting as he just can’t quite reach the tip with a lit match. Anne follows me surrounded by her brood of fascinated children.

Anne and me eventually discuss the predicament and decide that if it’s a case of paying him more money we will pull out, but if we can get away with the original price for the lot we will go for it.

We spend an afternoon in the caravan, with the brood of children and together with Bas out of hell and Nadia, we watch videos of our previous visit and a part of an Elvis film, ‘Love me tender’. At some point Bas gets bored and leaves. I take Bas the host out in the car, leaving Anne learning Ukrainian with Nadia and the children. Bas takes off his shoes before getting in the car and off we go around the village. I ask if he has any money to go for a pint, he says he has, and in to a grubby pub we go. We shake hands with every body and Bas gets into a drinking mood, downing glass after glass of horvki. I am a little concerned that I have left Anne and she does not know where we are, and there seems to be no shifting Bas from the bar.

My agitation must have been noticed by Bas and after an hour passes we leave.

Thankfully Anne is still with Nadia and the children, I get the ‘look’ from Anne, but I have had no more than a pint, Bas is well drunk. A short while later, a man comes to the door of the caravan. He is very drunk, he is well dresses and has a continental style leather bag slung over his shoulder. Nadia says he is the next door neighbour but does not live there?
He asks where is Bas the host?

We point to the house.

A short while later, Ian the thief, and his younger brother Bas, are excitedly running from window to window at the front of the caravan. I look out and see Bas the host, striking some deft blows with his fists to the head of his neighbour. I quickly close all the blinds so the kids can’t see their grandfather knocking several shades out of this chap. Bas knocks him to the floor, he is swearing and ‘carrying on alarming’. He grabs him by the throat and is strangling him, his head being shaken back and forth. I am about to leap into action, as Nadia drags her father in law away from the hapless chap, but not before Bas clocks him one again on the ear. The chap gets up and staggers off, not looking too much the worse for wear, over the episode.

To me this is just a typical drunken fracas. I have no doubt that had both gentlemen not had a drink they would have sorted out their differences.

The story continues ‘The Fourth instalment’:-

Their argument is over engine oil that the neighbour had provided Bas, for his tractor. The neighbour wanting more than the price that Bas agreed to pay!
‘Me thinks’ Nicolai had better watch out!

Anne and me get changed, whilst Nadia is supervising her two boys and a couple of girls, who are content, just watching, Ian playing pinball on the laptop.

We are ready to go out and in order to do so we have to prise our guests out of the caravan. We take the car, against the advice of Bas (the host) as he says the roads are terribly rutted.

We eventually find the home of dad’s youngest sister, who together with her husband Mikilo, treat us to beer and biscuits, they are visited by their daughter in law, who is married to their son and our host Anna’s brother Bas (the joiner). Hope you are keeping up?

The daughter in law, whose name escapes me, was referred to in the Journal of Dad and John as ‘The mad woman’, as she appeared out of no where, screaming and crying, hugging me and calling me ‘Romchick’ ‘Romchick’, which happens to be the name of her son.

She asks that we call round to her house later and I agree.

We now visit my dad’s other sister, who we had met earlier at the church, she is older than Mikilo’s wife, we are pleasantly surprised to find that they are having a birthday party for Bogdans wife. Bogdan is a great nephew of my dads, but I am not sure how he is connected. Anyway, she is nineteen and has all her friends enjoying a buffet meal. It’s a girl boy, girl boy seating arrangement, until we join the table when ‘couple of old farts’ become part of the seating plan. Still we join in. Bogdan is clearly quite pissed, and believes he has a better chance of being understood, if he speaks German, for which he has no gift. He speaks German very badly and very loudly, much to the amusement of everyone present. My aunty, comes into the room and insists that everyone sings a song, so that I can record it, on the phone. (She was mightily impressed when on my first visit I recorded the women singing in Anna’s kitchen.) Every one sings a song, which, with the boys singing along, frankly was appalling. I played it back and they were suitably embarrassed. After the boys leave the room for a smoke, the girls sing another song, this was much better.

We then go visit the home of my cousin Bas (the joiner), they have all mod cons, including a flushing toilet, the waste however just sits in a pile outside the house.
Bas, has a problem with his eyes, similar to the blephoritis/conjunctivitus I occasionally suffer, we explain how to treat it and he agrees to visit us at the van for further instruction. Bas’s son Roman, agrees to literally navigate us through a river, to get back to the village across roads not as badly rutted as those that we arrived on, just got to cross a river without a bridge, that’s all!

The wind was blowing the trees almost horizontal as the rain lashed the windshield as the lightning lit up the black torrent, laced with white foam. It was not the time to be unsure of the English for liva (left) pravda (right) and prosto (straight on).

Actually, it was dead easy, nothing more than crossing a large puddle. We dropped Roman off at the social club they have for the teenagers and we went on our way home.

We bade the Fedora family goodnight and we settled down ourselves. Anna, asks what we would like to eat, but I refuse any offering of food, but I do say that if they were to make perogi some time I would greatly appreciate it.

Anne had not slept very well for all the farm yard noises throughout the previous night. So I am making an effort for her to accommodate the foam type ear plugs I regularly wear. She complains that she finds it difficult to breathe with ear plugs in her ears? Much the same way that I find it difficult to hear when I’ve got my sun glasses on. Anyway I hope she will persevere with the earplugs, as the world is a happier place when we both have a good nights sleep.

We are a little worried today, as try as we might, we cannot contact our family in England to let them know we are safe and well, the phones will not work for either text or phone calls. We promise ourselves to go to town (Nadvirna) tomorrow.

Monday 1st May 2006.

We wake up early (for us) about 8.a.m. but the farm has been in full swing for a couple of hours. I get out of the van and wish Anna the best for the day, she offers me perogi she has made. I decline thanking her, but she says how many do I want for my breakfast, so I say ‘a few’. I get back and tell Anne, that she has made us perogi. Anne tells me off for being a hopeless guest. I return to Anna and appologise saying that I am not a good guest, and will accept as many perogi they are able to throw at us. We get a pile of the little darlings and have them with a fried egg each. Fantastic!

I get my self ready and head off to the field where I intend helping with the potato planting, but by the time I get there 10 a.m., they have finished, so I walk back to the farm, a little indignant.

We get ready to get off to the town, Sid is not happy about us getting off on our own, but as he has work to do he has no option but to let us go.

We get into Nadvirna and have our first taste of supermarket shopping, we buy the equivalent shop, that we might pay in the region of £50 and pay £15. We then walk around the centre and attend a telephone shop where a lady tries to ring our family in England using all manner of code combinations. She fails, but then takes us across the town to a larger telephone shop where a chap again does his utmost to break the telephone call to England code. There is nothing we can do but phone from the Post Office.

We attend the Post Office which is a very soviet affair (meaning stark and austere, lacking in humour). I explain what I want to do, and the lady cashier takes the number and gives it a code 815+44, she takes £3 in hrivni for a 3 minute call and sends me to kiosk 3, to make the call. There’s a lot of talking in Ukrainian, when the lady cashier comes on the phone and says that no one is answering. As the number we were calling is Anne’s sister Mary, we are a little surprised as we understood she is at home ill. We then give my dad’s number a ring, again the lady cashier says no one is answering. She gives us our money back and sceptically, we walk away. Believing the codes had again got in the way.

2 minutes later, my phone bursts into life, and a Ukrainian voice is heard on the other end. I think it’s one of the Fedora’s so I try to ascertain who it is, the voice answers ‘yes’ ‘yes’ in Ukrainian (tak, tak), I say my name. ‘Ivan Andrusiak’, the voice says ‘Tak, Tak’. The voice says something incomprehensible in Ukrainian. I begin to suspect that the caller may be dad, so I say. ‘Dad, if that’s you speak English!’

Joyce can now be heard saying ‘We heard the phone ring, dad was in the garden and it rang off before he could get to it.’

We give Joyce, Mary’s telephone number, and the message that all is well and that is the end of the call.

Anne feels much better now that the outside world knows we are OK!

We pop in to a baker and buy some bread. On the way home we go to a classy little bar that is a little too far to go to, from the farm, especially, but handy enough to go to on the way home. We have a small beer each. We speak to a police man who is in plain clothes and is either married to one of the bar girls or going out with her. If he’s CID no doubt his wife will actually be at home?

We let Sid and Anna know that we have contacted Dad and they know we are all right. Sid says, why wouldn’t they think you are all right, they know you are with me?

We meet Sid’s father in law, who is a Sam Carris (friend of Johns in the police) character and look alike, he owns a brick making business.

During the course of the evening there is steady procession of people coming to have a nosey, we end up with Sid, his father in law, a neighbour and Bas the joiners son, sat in the caravan. Each has a beer and look very much at home. The caravan begins to smell of feet (everyone removes their shoes before coming in) and farm yards. Sid is rather sad but putting a brave face on the fact that today he has had the news that he is to leave for Moscow, on the very next Saturday for 3 months. Most of the village men go to work there as builders for three months at a time. They earn $500 a month, which is five times as much as they can earn here. All the same, Sid is not happy at the prospect of leaving his new wife and young family. He is getting drunk. His father in law arranges for Sid to take us all to the mountains, to a tourist spot, where there is skiing and snow boarding. Sid agrees to arrange this trip for Wednesday. Meanwhile Anna our host, realises that we are a little top heavy where the number of guests in our caravan is concerned, so she makes every one leave and we are left to our own devices.

Tuesday 2nd May 2006

The next morning we awake to another marvellous day, we are not really sure whether we are supposed to be going with Sid to the Carpathian Mountains. We are visited by my cousin Basil (the police man), he is retired from the police and did rather well for himself becoming the mayor of Nadvirna. He is a tall old bloke, the last time I saw him he seemed a bit stand offish, but today he is all hugs and quite emotional. He promises to take us out for the day.
I find Sid who is busy working, I ask him if we are going to the mountains and he doesn’t seem to know what I am on about. We say that we intend to visit our cousin Ian at Ivan Frankivsk. He says wait, and he will come. Clearly he has thing to do so we say that it will be fine for us to go on our own and we will find him. Anna shows us where the Andrusiak family live on the map, it seems pretty straight forward so off we go.

It’s nice to be able to motor off and without the caravan in tow. The road from Parisch to the main road between Nadvirna and Ivan Frankivsk, is not very good in places, but if you want to keep from making an indentation with your head, in the vehicle roof, its best to travel at a moderate speed. However the road between Nadvirna and Ivan Frankivsk is great and you can get up to UK limits quite easily.

We get to Ian’s village in about 40 minutes and ask a local chap if he knows where the Andrusiaks live. Typically, he hasn’t a clue, but he knows an attractive young woman who might. She happens to be walking past. The name rings a bell, I say that one of his sons plays football and she immediately knows who we are on about. Without further ado she leaps into the car and directs us to his door. There’s no one home!

Neighbours start shouting, there’s something of a hullabaloo, then Ian appears, with a big golden smile. We hug and kiss. Eventually most of Ian’s family arrive, with the exception of Ian’s eldest son who is, as far as I can make out a police man in Ivan Frankivsk. They are very welcoming. You have to remember that most of Ian’s family have stayed with Anne and me in Denholme, this, we are surprised to work out, was 16 years ago.
Ian’s sister Maria, lives in the house that back’s directly onto Ian’s land. They are separated by their small holdings which are immaculately kept. The chickens are kept in pens, so they do not soil around the entrance to their homes. They are all dressed very tidily and although Ian has been working in the fields, he quickly changes from his work clothes and washes. This is something we have not been accustomed to in Parisch. We meet Ian’s mother who is keen to show us her room in Ian’s house. She says, she only has one room and the rest of the family have the rest of the house, I say ‘How much room do you want?’
Everyone falls about laughing.
They are all impressed that we found the house, I explain that we saw a big finger pointing at it from the sky. They laugh. I tell them the truth, that a young lady, who knew of their son, who plays football, showed us the way. They all give sighs of approval at our resourcefulness. I then gesticulate that the girl was pregnant and look at the lad and wink. They all roll about in fits of laughter.

We leave Ian’s house and walk over to Maria’s and have juice and cakes, they even open a bottle of champagne in honour of our visit. We suss, that Maria’s sister has a stomach complaint. Maria’s husband has a heart complaint. Ian’s mother who must be 80 odd also takes medication for her heart. Anna, Maria’s daughter looks really well, she was 18 when we last saw her, she is now 35, but looks much younger. She has two children now, to her husband, a strapping chap who drives HGV’s across Europe. She is involved in importing Polish sausages into the Ukraine from Poland. Anna’s husband gets our phones working, by putting in the code +44 explaining that for a cheaper rate during weekdays you add 815 then 44. What he said made sense and we rang my dad and everyone around the table said ‘HELLO!’

After promising that we would spend the day with them a week on Saturday we left.

Retracing our steps back to Parisch, we stopped for diesel, 60 litres, which came to the equivalent of £28. We stopped at the bar and eventually found our way home.

Anna tells me that she had been over to Nicolai’s and spoke to his wife. She has ascertained that Nicolai’s sister will be here in Parisch on Wednesday of next week. This is when we will know what is happening with the purchase of the farm.

The evening draws on and we spend an uneventful evening in, watching a film on the laptop.

We do close ourselves off from every one on an evening; we shut down the blinds and get on with reading and writing or watching films. This may seem a little ignorant, however, Anne has no Ukrainian and mine is limited. There is a constant stream of people visiting the Fedora house hold and we sometimes feel we are in a gold fish bowl. We feel that sometimes it’s impolite not to wave and sometimes we feel waving is inappropriate, so the easiest thing is to shut the blinds and let the world get on with whatever. Anne says she has smiled quite literally for England.

Wednesday 3rd May 2006

We are awoken by the turkeys who have had a restless night, its times like these you wish it was Christmas.
In a way I’m glad we are up early, it’s another glorious morning and I suggest we go for a walk around the village, which we haven’t seen properly yet.
Sid’s father in law pops round and asks why we haven’t gone to the mountains? We look blankly at him as no one has said anything to us. He gets off.
Although it is sunny there’s a little nip in the air. We cross ‘our’ farm to the river and follow this round to where you can see some new houses have been built. We intend to look more closely and as we approach a road to where the houses are, a white van/mini bus appears driven by Bas out of hell. We chat and he invites us to visit his home tonight at 6 p.m. I ask if he thinks it’s OK to take a closer look at the house that is being built, he says ‘sure’.
As Bas leaves in a cloud of dust, we walk towards this huge house which although not finished yet, I see by the date ‘1996’ set in a mosaic at the doorway, has been under construction for some time. We look through windows and see that the place is like a warehouse for building materials. A chap in a house not far from where we are standing calls us and walks over. He lives next door to the house we are looking at. We immediately get on with him. We are struck by a couple of things about him. He is sober and intelligent. He says because there is little money the houses get built slowly, I say that I can see that by the date in the mosaic, he says that the house was started much longer ago than that date. We talk for some time about the problems of the village. The dirty well water, which he understands is from the sewerage being thrown on the land, contaminating the water. He takes us to his land and shows us his well, which is discoloured with a yellow tinge. He says that it is OK to bathe and wash clothes in; this is a probable explanation of why he and most everybody wear black. He has been told that he could cure the problem by sinking another well, but he says that there’s always a chance that a new well could be just as dirty. He drinks the well water, after boiling it as he has no other choice. He tells us he is to travel with Sid to Moscow shortly.
We leave him waving us off and continue on our way, south of the village, much of which is inaccessible by car, unless it is hired of course.
We attract a fair bit of curiosity, from the villagers who are working hard, or should we say the village women are out working hard, we see a few chaps, but there are more women then men in the fields. The men in general, have work in factories in the towns or at the nearby petro-chemical plant. The men will do a day’s work for a meagre wage then a further day’s work on their land at the end of the day.
We follow a meandering path through the village until we are back in the village centre by the school. We meet one of the deputy head masters outside, who says that we are supposed to have gone on a trip up to the mountains today. Anne and me look at each other and wonder if we have got the wrong end of the stick. It is now mid day and we hurriedly get back to the farm and the van. We again see Sid, who assures us nothing has been arranged. Nadia who is to be our host this evening is in the kitchen cutting Anna’s hair, I cheekily ask Nadia, if she will be providing us with any food, she says she will, but blushes like I have said something outrageous, which I probably have. The problem that Anne and I have, is we turn up at peoples houses having eaten and when we are offered food are unable to eat it as we are already full. So! We make ourselves lunch, Aldi’s fish, chipped potatoes and peas, marvellous.

We decide to continue our walk from where we left off, at the school, and so off we go, determined to get to the house of our ‘really poor relatives’, for whom we have some gifts.

We get as far as the village pub and have a drink with Bas out of hell, he is well into a bottle of Horivka, we have a beer and are about to get off when he says don’t be late for the visit to his house. I look at the clock its 5.30.p.m.
We only have time for a short walk, and then we buy some chocolates for Nadia and some beer for Bas (me).
We get to Bas and Nadia’s house on time, Anne is treated to the tour and we sit and have a beautiful creamy potato and cabbage soup, platki (flintzy) and smitana, also a salad concoction with kielbasa.
We don’t stay too late, Ian shows us a short cut and we get ourselves home.

I have a chat in the kitchen with Sid and Anna, Sid’s father in law joins us and they, not I, enjoy a drink of Horivka. An argument starts, apparently the other night, Sid agreed to organise Anne and me to get off for a trip with Bas the Policeman to the mountains. Sid appears to have got too drunk and forgot to do anything about it. Everyone gets upset and Sid’s wife Ludar, who is already very hormonal bursts into tears. Feeling like ‘Malcolm in the middle’ I slide off.

Bas the host, asks if I could move my car as they are to commence building work on an extension tomorrow. I manoeuvre the car in a position tight against the caravan, Bas gives his approval.

We watch a film on the computer and have an early night.

Thursday 4th May 2006

Today at 6.30 a.m. I am awoken by many men, who are working within 20 feet of where we are sleeping. They are busy mixing what can best be described as clay. The night before Sid’s father in law spread a membrane, together with tar on a concrete foundation, which even with my limited knowledge of building practice, I deduce is the damp proof course. The men are loud, there is a great deal of laughter. I am amazed that Anne, can sleep through the rumpus. I get out and see what is going on, Ludar is placing coins into the mortar that has been laid and where the first coarse of bricks are being placed. They are being laid by an old bloke, who is the ‘Myster’. I give Ludar the change in my pockets, she explains, this is to ensure that the house hold is prosperous.

I stand around for a good ½ hour, and realise I could give mixing the mortar a go, so I get changed, put on my wellies, take over a rake and drag this to and fro mixing the clay, water, wood shavings and what looks like fine straw, which might have been removed from the chicken coop, as it has bits of feather and other chicken detritus into a mixture consistent with conventional cement based mortar. No cement is evident and they take a great deal of pride in the fact they use no cement. I soon begin to work up a sweat. There are approximately a maximum of 10 men working at any one time. Some are relatives, many are neighbours and friends. They all work very hard. Those skilled at brick laying, carry out that task, whilst those who are not service the brickies.

I work for 3 hours solid and then have to stop, as we have an appointment to go visit the school in Parisch.

The last time I was here with Dad, we visited the school, they made a bit of a fuss of him, as he is a patron of the school. Whilst there he had a call of nature, and what he saw of the toilet facilities upset him greatly. He asked Anne and me if we could have a look to see what could be done. Prior to our visit we had contacted UNICEF, in Kiev. Part of UNICEF’s policy statement, is that all primary schools in the world, should have adequate toilet facilities together with clean water. The disconcerting thing, is that on the UNICEF web site for the Ukraine, it states that 99% of schools here are up to an adequate standard, which I can’t see as being true.

So off we trot, together with Nadia, Bas out of hell’s wife, she works at the school as a Ukrainian language teacher and she is our escort. We meet the ubiquitous deputy head, who I keep bumping into and who I am sure enjoys our company. The English teacher isn’t around today. There are three deputies to the ‘Director’ who is the head. Each deputy has a separate responsibility. Our friend, he looks after the teaching side, a lady deputy looks after extra curriculum school activities, such as plays, concerts, parades, etc, the other deputy, is responsible for the administration and maintenance of the school resources.

The Director, is a nice bloke and very approachable, we give a demonstration of Anne’s teaching pack, ‘How to prevent food poisoning in the home’. Any scepticism, they may have had, seems to melt away, as Anne and me work our way through a number of lessons, translation is easy as the cartoons on each page of the flip chart, really speaks volumes. The teachers present agree that this would be an ideal teaching aid for both the teaching of English and hygiene.

Anne presents the teaching pack to the ‘Director’ and I record the moment, with a photo.

We are then taken on a grand tour of the school, visiting the computer room, for which they have my Dad to thank. My new buddy the Deputy, shows me the video footage that I sent of our previous visit.

After the tour we eventually witness for ourselves the toilet facilities for the school, or rather the lack of them. The toilet block, is a white building with a corrugated roof, it’s about 15 metres long and 10 metres wide, it is split down the middle, one side is for boys and one for girls. The children access their particular side through an open doorway. The girls side has 5 or 6 cubicles, running along the length of the building adjoining the dividing wall. The cubicles are three sided there is no door to provide any means of privacy. Within each cubicle is a hole in the crumbling concrete floor, over which the child must squat. Girls between the ages of 5 and 18 use this facility, there is evidence of menstruation. There is an appalling lack of hygiene and the smell is rank.

The boys side is much worse, there are no cubicles at all, just a wooden plinth at floor level, running along the dividing wall, which has holes cut into it. The wood is rotten in places and around the hole nearest the door, excrement has been left, where a child has missed the hole.

On both sides of the toilet the level of the waste is only a matter of inches below the holes in the floor.

Within the toilet block, there are no hand washing facilities, no water, there is no paper.

The teachers fair only marginally better, in that they have a room to themselves on each end of the block, so they are afforded some privacy.

There are 300 children who attend this school. The toilet block is situated 30 to 40 metres away from the school building, remember that it is open to the elements. The children have to make the trip to this toilet in the winter in temperatures of -30 degrees.

The only hand washing facility in the school, is a container of water, at the entrance of a hallway leading to the dining room, there is no soap.

There is no running water to the school, any water in the school has to be taken from a well 50 metres away and carried into the school.

The Director is aware of the problem and he has spoken to my dad about it, unfortunately there is no easy fix. However if there was a will we believe something can be done. We ask the director to write to UNICEF, explaining the situation and emphasise there being no clean water or adequate toilet facilities, he agrees that he will write the letter. I also ask that he sketch a plan of the school buildings and the proximity of the school to the river which flows about 300 metres away at the bottom of a hill, below the school. He agrees to do this. I sketch a quick drawing of what I believe to be possible. I draw a toilet block containing; toilets, cisterns and sinks. Water tanks above the block, providing water. Pipes are shown leading from the block to two septic water tanks, then pipes to a reed bed and finally a river. His scepticism again comes to the fore, as he says that an engineer will have to be employed and this would be expensive. I say UNICEF!

We are invited to a concert, where a fairy tale is enacted by the children for our benefit. The children’s ability to over act is only equalled by their ability to forget the words, bless ‘em. Nadia’s son Ian makes an appearance as a gnome, she bristles with pride. Ian can’t stop smiling.

We leave and walk back to the building site, in the sunshine, feeling or rather hoping, that we may have achieved something today.

The building work has progressed well, they obviously mean business, and intend to finish the building today. I get changed and again help. I think I am promoted, from mixing mortar, to passing bricks. I tell the boys that if they have to work in the morning they have to make less noise, so the wife, can have a lay in. I tell them how noisy the turkies have been. A bright chap says that if it had been down to him, he would have paid Bas the host to cut the turkeys’ throat. Do you know it had never occurred to me to do that. It suddenly dawns on me that the turkey’s haven’t been evident for a few days.

There is an unexpected visitor, it’s a homing pigeon. It’s obviously lost and hungry it eats the chicken feed. It seems very comfortable around the caravan. I wonder if it is from the UK and it’s owner is a caravaner.
We work until 7 p.m., well I do, they run out of bricks and I am shattered, they are going to beg, steal, borrow some more and finish off the interior. I bid them farewell, and I have a shower.

Still we have had an interesting day. The boys finish work about 8.30 p.m. and retire to the barn where they in the tradition of Parisch, get blotto on horivka and eat like a plague of lotus.

I stay in with Anne and watch a film. They (the boys) eventually make their way home about 10 p.m.

Friday 5th May 2006

36 years ago today I joined the army, just thought I’d throw that in.

We have a lay in, there are no disturbances, we notice that the turkeys have mysteriously disappeared.

The pigeon is still with us. I wonder if we will be able to read the ring on its leg.

The plans for today are to go to the small town of Nadvirna, to change some money, do some shopping and find an internet café. Later in the day we intend to visit the Health Centre in Parisch so that Anne can evaluate their health care provision in the village.

We offer to take Anna with us who has some potatoes to sell at the market, but she decides not to come. Probably as well, we have a lot to do.

Anne drives us into the town and we park up at the ‘555’ supermarket, which we have adopted as our favourite place to buy provisions, with the exception of bread, which we buy at a corner shop opposite the post office in the town. We want to make our hosts a bolognaise tonight, so we look at their mince pork which is full of fat, so I collect two packs of pork loin chops and ask if they could possibly mince them for me. The Tomto school of gesticulations, again comes in handy. We leave the car with shopping, on the supermarket car park and head off into the town, in search an internet café.

We are directed to a large building at the centre of the market and told that it is on the other side of that building. We negotiate market stalls and narrow paths, until we eventually arrive at the back of the building. There’s a bunch of blokes, talking at the back of a motor car, in a rather rough looking car park. There’s rubbish every where. One of the blokes has a massive injury to his face covered with a plaster. Anne wonders if we are at an entrance to a male hostel. Against our better judgement, I walk into an unwelcoming concrete hall way, Anne hangs back, I can see a young woman sat at a reception, I think that at worst I can ask her where the internet café is. On walking into the gloom, I can now see that I am in a room full of young men playing games on computers. There’s probably 10 computers 5 on each side of the room.

I ask a chap if I can get on the internet as I have photographs and writing to upload. He sits me down at a computer, I give him the disc and he disappears into an office marked ‘Director’. He returns a short time later and hands me the disc. We are able to get on our Hotmail account, cut and paste text, but unable to upload any photographs. The computer is not as fast as the one we used in Poland. Still the story ‘so far’ gets put on in two instalments. After logging off I am asked to pay the princely price of 3 hrivni, which is the equivalent of 36 pence for the pleasure, I leave 5.

Mission accomplished we get back to the caravan for about 11 a.m..

We see that on the top of the newly built extension, there is a large vase containing flowers, which we think is a nice touch. Ludar says this is so that the house will blossom. I wonder if it might be some fertility rite, which for Ludar, who has 2 kids and is only 22 (today), is wasted.

Sid is working like a Trojan, he is trying to get as much done as he possibly can before he goes to Moscow tomorrow.

I write down the UNICEF address in Kiev, then Anne and me go to the school, where we are introduced to the ‘English’ teacher, by our new friend the deputy head. We give the address to her with the instructions we gave the Director the day before. We are then invited to visit her English class, where in front of about 30 children aged about 12, we take questions, after I break the ice, by introducing us. We both enjoy the experience, although there’s one lad called Bogdan (Bob), who hogs the show. No one else really gets a look in. His quick fire questions, such as ‘Do you snow in England?’ ‘Why you Parisch have coming you?’

After the children say, ‘Sank you very much’.

Anne corrects Bogdan’s garmmer, after he says, ‘I am very glad to be meeting you’

‘I am happy to meet you!’ Anne says

I think she’s being a bit picky. The likelihood of these children seeing any one else from England for a few years is remote

We leave the school with the Deputy Head, who takes us to the Health Centre

The story continues; instalment number 6.

Or rather we take him in the Kia. We are seen off from the school by a strange looking man, who has stood at the entrance to the school, gurning (pulling faces), at the children and us. I remark that he would be on the Sex Offenders Register at home. He is known by our new friend, and as he gets in the car, the man pulls yet another extraordinary face as he sees our friend getting into, what he thinks is the drivers side and drive off in reverse without using a steering wheel. His expression of puzzlement is priceless.

The health centre is built in the Soviet tradition, soulless and humourless, stark and austere. An uninviting concrete hallway, leads to an equally uninviting concrete stairwell which has a metal banister, its dark and cold. We eventually arrive at a corridor which has a window at each end and many anonymous doors on each side. You could imagine an unruly patient being dragged kicking and screaming, then being thrown into one of the rooms, where he would receive his ‘treatment’.

We enter a room at one end of the corridor, this would appear to be the reception. We are introduced to the paramedic, he is distinguishable, by the fact that he wears a white overall with blue flashes, also he is the only bloke here. He used to have a vehicle, but they couldn’t afford to run it, so now they no longer have anything that resembles an ambulance. There is a jolly looking dark haired lady, who is the head of the centre. She is very open and answers all Anne’s questions very honestly. There is a tall thin woman with mousey hair, I got the feeling that once her curiosity was sated, she just wanted us to get on our way, she is the expert on injections and . There are two elderly lady’s here who I presume are the orderlies, who follow us on our tour.

They take us to rooms where the infirm are treated. There are a couple of small wards, a gynaecological room, with some archaic, looking contraption for strapping a woman into, so that intimate examinations can be conducted. Anne tells me that women would also give birth on the thing. Anne is totally impressed that the equipment she sees is so old that it’s like being in a living museum. Anne has been a nurse for 35 years, and there is equipment here that pre dates her. We photograph everything. There is a laboratory, which has a microscope and various centrifuges. There is no clean water with which to wash your hands, the only water is from a well, which we already know is contaminated. The head nurse tells me there is an intention to have clean water brought to the centre by water-bowser, but this has not yet got off the ground. Anne asks if it would be ok, for her to write an article about her visit when she gets back home, and the head nurse says that this would be fine.

At the end of the tour we take a group photograph, all smiles, shaking of hands and off we go. We would really like to help to make thing a little more tolerable, but what can we do?

We say good bye to our friend the Deputy Head and get back to the caravan. Where I enjoy a well deserved beer.

The weather looks set to change, clouds are bubbling up, we haven’t seen any rain since Germany, so things are bound to change, especially as I water the cabbages which look as if they are about to expire. This does the trick, as I have had to carry two buckets of water 50 yards, it starts to pour down.

We sit in the van and are comforted by the drumming sound as the rain pelts down.

Anna, Ludar and Sid are hurriedly, siding equipment and livestock as the rain falls and the wind picks up.

The pigeon flies from pillar to post, looking for an haven, finally settling on the barn door.

Anne makes a fantastic bolognaise sauce, which we then present to Anna, together with a packet of pasta. I tell Anna what needs to be done and leave them to it.

Having had a massive dinner of spaghetti bolognaise ourselves, we are about to settle down to a film on the lap top, when Ludar comes to the door and invites us to her house that she shares with Sid to celebrate her 22nd birthday. We graciously accept and follow her into the house. Here are sat 3 girls Ludars’ age and 2 boys one of whom is thirty and the other 24, a driver and an electrician, respectively . They are sat around a table that is buckling under the weight of the food that is laid out. We have yet again managed to fill ourselves and then non too graciously had to decline food offered to us.

We get along very well with Ludar’s guests, some of whom I recognise from their wedding, some 6 months ago. It turns out that one of her friends can speak a little English, so Anne enjoys herself talking to a delightful girl who is a photographic assistant.

The boys aren’t drinking because they are driving, the guests live in Nadvirna and on a dreadful night like this and with the roads as they are, they are very wise not to drink. Sid on the other hand, is hitting the horivka, when his father in law joins the party; he does so with even more gusto. I get roped into drinking the stuff as well.

The guests appear genteel, compared to the Parisch people. We notice the other guests, do not go to the toilet once whilst visiting Ludar, we think this is because they would not cope with the basic rural toilet arrangements.

The party goes on until about when a power cut brings the proceedings to an end. Until the inevitable candle is found and lit, it is preceded by the eerie glow of 6 mobile phones, around the table. Anne and me make our apologies and make our way to the van a distance of about 30 feet. This is, after all, the last night that Sid will see Ludar for 3 months.

Saturday, 6th May 2006.

It has rained throughout the night and we have probably one of the best nights sleep ever. Thinking the chickens and cocks must have sought shelter elsewhere, we discover they have been quietly brooding directly beneath the caravan.

We are due to attend the wedding of Oksana and Andrae today. On the invitation, the stated time is 2 p.m. I ask Anna, what time we should be ready. She says 7 p.m. I say that the time on the invite is 2 p.m. and she says if you want to go to the church and see the whole wedding, we can go at that time, but they prefer to go to the evening do. The wedding celebrations continue over a three day period.

We stay in sheltering from the rain the whole day, we watch Sophie’s Choice, starring Merrill Streep, do a bit of reading and writing.

The pigeon is still very much a prominent guest in the farm yard, being fed on chicken feed. I mention to Anne that it would be nice if we could get the identification number from the ring on it’s leg. Without further ado, it flew onto the telescopic washing line at the front of the caravan. It was in full and perfect view, I could see clearly the letters PL followed by 094. We or one of our friends back home might be able to research where the pigeon is from.

We are showered washed and changed by 7 p.m. We see that Anna and Bas are still very much in their work clothes and busy working. I ask what time we will be going and they say another hour.

Sid knocks on our caravan door, he says that he is leaving shortly for Moscow, I thought he would be coming with us to the wedding for a drink before he went, but that is obviously not the case. I wish him every success and a safe journey. There are many hugs and slaps on the back, Anne sheds a tear and he eventually leaves the caravan.

At 8.30 p.m. we at last set off in our car, down some really boggy roads, you wouldn’t take a chieftain tank down. We eventually drive into the courtyard of a large house, which my family in Bradford would know as the Merton Road family. It is the wedding of one of my Dads former best friends’ (Basil, who sadly passed away) brothers daughter, Oksana.

There is a band to greet us comprising of a drummer, an accordionist, and a saxophonist. We park the car, which excites much interest from boys and men alike.
We enter a house where we are invited to have an horivka and a piece of bread with the hosts, the mother and father of the bride. We are then ushered through the house across a courtyard where the car is parked and into a large and ornately decorated hall. This has been built especially for the wedding and has been decorated around the walls and on much of the ceiling with richly coloured rugs. Streamers have been made out of fax paper and hang off the roof joists and supports for the ceiling. There are lines of tables the length of which must be 15 to 20 meters, leading up to a head table. The tables are covered in food and drink, for every imaginable taste. The impression I got from the scene, was that it resembled the ‘great hall’ of a nomadic tribe. There are enough place settings for 300 or more people.

I am dressed for a summer evening, we have had rain all day, now it’s showery. The sun has gone down to twilight and its blooming freezing. I normally wear arctic underwear in the most temperate of climates, but tonight it’s freezing and I am not wearing a vest. I notice people who are used to temperatures of -30 are wearing heavy quilted coats and fur hats, it’s so cold the vodka bottles have a thin sheath of ice covering them.

Anne and me are invited to sit in the house with some other wimps, until the bride and groom arrives.

We are eventually ushered into the great hall and sat amongst our family and a group of ‘young professionals’ from Ivan Frankivsk.

The bride and groom make their entrance and a very hurried affair it is, they practically sprint down the side of one of the rows of tables. I just manage to capture a picture of them both, before they become a blur. She is very tall and pretty, he is much smaller then she. She is intelligent and he is both intelligent and rich. So there you go.

The proceedings begin with Oksana’s younger brother sitting between ‘the groom’ and his sister ‘the bride’. In typical Carpathian tradition, the groom has to negotiate with the younger brother a cost for him to get out of the way and allow ‘the groom’ to get to ‘the bride’. A great deal of money is passed to the young brother, much to the glee of all the women, who call out ‘More! More!’

I personally would have given the cheeky young bugger, a clip round the ear hole!

With the fraternal fledgling walking off with a wheel barrow full of Hrivni the celebrations get under way. We all stand and prayers are said, we then begin the food and drink. It just keeps coming, for three hours food just kept coming.
Anne got on well with the ‘best man’ who was a handsome young mod from Kiev, called Max, he together with the ‘young proffesionals’ from Ivan Frankivsk could speak English, which they all delighted in practicing on Anne.
When eventually the kitchen closed, tables were reorganised and the dancing began. We left with Anna, Bas and a neighbour about 4 in the morning, when the celebrations were in full swing. We were told by our hosts to be sure to be there later in the day, when the celebrations will continue. We said we would.

Sunday 8th May 2006.

I get up at 10.30 a.m. The rain persists and rather then the chicken and cow muck around the caravan, being washed away, its as if it has been de hydrated then re hydrated, giving off a much more pungent and rancid smell. Oh the joy of living in the country side. At least I can get away with bad breath and flatulence here.

We do not do a great deal today, instead write up the diary and read, partly to recover from such a late night, but also to prepare for the night to come.

I should, I suppose tell you about the day to day running of the van. As you might expect there is a bit of fetching and carrying. I would say that we get through a 42 litre barrel of water a day, for normal use. On a dobey day, when the laundry is done we get through double that amount. The water has to be brought from a well, which isn’t so far away, maybe 20 feet. The water barrel, takes about 10 buckets, which I will fill in about 5 minutes, which is quicker then on some campsites using a tap. The waste water, is empted daily into a gulley where all grey water from the farm goes. The toilet cassette is emptied once every three days or so, this is done onto a pile of compost at the back of the stables. Anne keeps the place as clean and tidy as she can under the circumstances. We wash in the well water, which we sterilise, but we cook with water that we buy from the supermarket. We shower perhaps once a day, I sometimes more, as I have done some labouring. So far we haven’t used a complete 6kg gas bottle since we started out.

We have an earlier start today and manage to get everyone to the ‘great hall’ where we are sat on one side of the head table. We are treated to yet another generous feast, which I eat heartily and which Anne picks at.

The dancing starts and Anne is roped into a handkerchief dance, where a handkerchief is passed to someone who you fancy, then you invite them and dance in the centre of a circle of people, finishing off by kneeling on the handkerchief together and having a kiss. Then the invited person goes off to find someone else to ‘collar’. Well Anne came to me, but for a laugh I suggested that she take an old chap, he must have been 90, who had a walking stick to aid him, well, you had never seen such a sprightly old chap, he certainly didn’t need a walking stick to throw Anne about on the dance floor. You will have to see the photos!

Anne got on with a group of children, whilst I sat with the men in an alcove and watched them play a form of 3 card brag.

Another night at the wedding passed and we left earlier than the night before, about midnight, it was a great do! We were again invited to attend the third and final night of the celebrations, we graciously accepted.

Monday 9th May 2006.

In the Ukraine the 8th and 9th of May are bank holidays, although the banks are shut, all the shops are open, so we take the opportunity of having nothing better to do, than to go to the town of Ivan Frankivsk.

After a massive breakfast of platky (flintsy) and fresh eggs, we set off for the town. A journey that takes about half an hour, a distance of just over 30 k. It looks a little run down on the edges, but the centre is quite nice with well maintained promenades. The walk ways are tree lined. Vehicular traffic, is kept away from the heart of the town and we enjoy looking for eentrnyet café.

There is access to the internet in the post office, but the lady in charge says we will have to wait 3 to 4 hours to get on. We eventually find a place, but still have to wait. The boy in charge, let’s me use his machine. This is a little faster than the one in Nadvirna, but is no where near as fast as the one in Poland. Still, I manage to post two instalments together with two photos, at a cost of 25 pence.

We have soft drinks and ice cream in a café, and are intrigued by a bloke who in his ankle length black leather coat, shaved head and sun glasses looks like a character from an American gangster movie. The fact that a fair few people acknowledge him and either kiss or shake his hand, makes you think that perhaps he is not just parodying a gangster.

We arrive in what must be the town square and there is a free concert, with a male voice choir and a band, they sound and look great. Anne is disappointed as we have just missed the folk dancing. We watch and listen as the men sing their way through their repertoire. They are replaced by some women, who are beautifully dressed in traditional costumes, but sing like cats in the night, we leave.

On our way home we stop at an enormous supermarket and spend a great deal of time browsing. We eventually by a liquid soap dispenser and a huge tub of liquid soap, this is for the school. Other provisions are also bought and after a snack we get on our way.

We get ready to attend the wedding celebrations for the third and final night. Anne has something to eat as she is unsure of many of the offerings at the wedding and we get there rather late about 8.30 p.m. There’s s warm welcome and tonight the bride and groom serve all the guests with food. She is wearing a head scarf tied in the fashion of married women in the village. The food is fantastic. We are promised perogi, which we wait all night for, but when they come we are so full of the many other courses we have no appetite.

By 11 p.m. we are running out of steam, we make our apologies thank our hosts and go. It has been one heck of an experience.

The story continues, the 7th instalment.

Tuesday 10th May 2006.

We have nothing planned other than to have a dobey day today. It is just a fantastic morning, the sun is shining and there is a slight breeze. Washing lines are erected and the large plastic bucket we have for doing the laundry is installed in the shower cubicle. Anne vacuums the caravan and gets it ship shape, whilst I pummel, the clothes and bed linen in to some semblance of cleanliness. We manage to sit outside for a while on our deck chairs, amongst the chickens, Funtzer the dog and the washing drying in the sun and the breeze.

We have not seen the friendly pigeon for a few days, I reckon that he must have quite literally got fed up and gone. Just a little bit of a coincidence, the pigeons identification number 094, is the same as my dads bus driver number?

The afternoon arrives and having completed our chores, we are made aware that Nicolai’s sisters have arrived in the village and are in their ‘old house’, sorting out photographs and papers. We mean to have it out with the sisters in the hope that they have more about them then their ner’ do well brother, Nicolai.

We enter the house. You could cut the smell of damp wood with a saw; the two old girls were stood or sat around a wooden table, with a pile of photographs laid on top. We greeted each other formerly and I got to the point.
Have I bought the house or not?
Not until, you have paid 2300 dollars!
The price we agreed with Nicolai was 2000 dollars!
But that was without ‘Chui! Chui!
Chui! Chui! Is the little extra, it is the tradition to pay, to make things go smoothly.
I am not prepared to pay 300 dollars extra!
How much are you prepared to pay?
Not a kopek more!
We will accept 100 dollars Chui! Chui!
We, Anna, Anne and I, then go for a discussion. Anne asks what is 100 dollars worth, I reply £60. We agree, that this is not a phenomenal amount, so I go back to the sisters and say, if it makes the sale go smoothly we will pay this additional 100 dollars. It’s all golden smiles and kisses, we extricate ourselves from the smell of damp wood and old Ukrainian women and leave the house. We are back on course to buy the house, or are we?

We have a walk around our farm and enjoy the views across the plain towards the Carpathian Mountains. I feel Anne is warming to the village, but I wonder how long her patience will hold, in the dealings with this strange family of Nicolai.

Basil (the policeman) pays us a visit with two of his daughters, he hears of the negotiations, and he is furious that we have paid 100 dollars more for Chui! Chui! Saying, 1 dollar would have been too much.
He promises to visit the notary with us tomorrow morning, we all agree to be ready by 7 to be at the notary’s office by 8 a.m.

Apart from a bottle of beer with Basil, I have virtually an alcohol free day.

We watch an unusual film in the evening, ‘Like water to chocolate’.

I am laid on the sofa, which if you are aware of the caravan lay out, is on the side of the kitchen, when I’m lounging my head rests conveniently on a cushion directly under where the electric kettle is plugged in. Like some modern day ‘sword of Damocles’.
Well the inevitable happened, I reached above my head to turn off the central heating switch, as I pulled my hand away, I caught the kettle lead and dragged the kettle and boiling contents over my head. I was only aware of the kettle hitting the bridge of my nose, which made me leap up off the sofa. The contents of the kettle spilled out all over the sofa and cushions. Remarkably I did not get scalded apart from being told off by Anne, blood poured from my nose as we hurriedly tried to mop up the water. I spent the rest of the night with a plaster on my nose, doing a pretty good impression of a pugilist.

We have an early restless night, neither of us slept well. The central heating came on in the night making it unbearably hot to sleep.

Wednesday 10th May 2006.

I had set the alarm for 6.30 a.m. but are awoken by Anna knocking on the door at 6.10 a.m. We are late! Basil (the policeman) has arrived and will head off into town under his own steam. We now realise that we have not set our clocks to local time, remember we are in our second week in the Ukraine, duh! Time hasn’t really been that important to us, although it has now made us realise how late the Fedora’s were when we were attending the wedding celebrations.

We get washed and are ready very quickly, dressed in our very best. There is Anna, Anne and me. We pick up Nicolai and one of his sisters and get of to Nadvirna.

A queue has formed outside the notary’s office and we are 6th in line after an hour of waiting about we are told that we could be waiting for another 5 hours. Basil the policeman says he knows another notary office where we will be seen much quickly.

We climb the stairs of a pine panelled stairway instead of being greeted by a Swedish masseuse, we enter a rather modern looking office, where a skinny young chap is working on a computer. He greets us and leads us to another office, where a much older plumper, grey haired chap, sporting a white moustache, greets Basil, like an old lost friend. He is the notary.
He asks Nicolai for the documents, he looks at the papers he as brought in a plastic carrier bag. He then asks for the papers for the land. Nicolai, says that the house has papers and it is sat on the land. The notary says that he has to have the papers for the land or else I cannot buy the farm. Clearly he has not got all the papers ready as he said he would. The papers that he does have for the house are incomplete, there is a further place he has to go in the town to have the papers for the house validated.

The notary says that I need to be placed on the Ukrainian National Computer, so that I can be given an Identity Code, known as the ‘Index’, I will then be eligible to own the house. Although the notary says the process of obtaining an ‘Index’ can take a number of weeks, Basil is confident he can sort me out in a couple of days. We arrange to go to Ivan Frankivsk the following day to do this. He promises to see me at 8 a.m. the following day. He bids us all goodbye and off he goes.
There is a little complication to the process, which is that the land has to be registered as ‘private land’ with their land registry office. As all land was sequestrated by the Soviet authorities and then given back to the people after Independence, no one has gone to the trouble of registering land. Ownership by a family is never disputed, because it has been in the families name for hundreds of years. As far as I can make out, it has to be registered, then put into my name. The total cost for the notary is $200 that includes the land registration.

I then head off with Nicolai to this other office in the town, where he hands over his papers and I hand over 120 hrivni (£14), he is told to come back at 2 p.m. We have a few hours to kill in Nadvirna after which we return to the office where we have left the papers for the house, they now say he has to come back Friday to collect the completed document.

We, with the exception of Nicolai’s sister who has gone back to Parisch on the bus, go back to home. We pick up the female deputy head teacher and her friend at a bus stop on the way home. We see a man laid on the grass verge, believing him to be dead we offer assistance; he’s drunk and sleeping, then annoyed that we woke him up.

We drop off Anna and we continue with Nicolai and the teacher, who with her friend we drop off at the school. We then go to the village administration office, which happens to be in the same building as the health centre, but on the ground floor. I realise that Nicolai is hoping that they might have the necessary land registration documents or even a plan of the land and buildings. They do not. Nicolai, tries to hurry us out of the office, instead I sit and talk to the staff there. There is a bloke who I recognise from being at a wedding with Basil the policeman on my visit here with dad. This is very handy as he is a mate of Basil. There is a short large lady, dressed in a green suit, who seems to be in charge. They both say I must not buy the house without first having papers for the land and the land registered. They say that this is Nicolai’s responsibility.

We leave and Nicolai is obviously upset as it is looking like he is not going to get his money, remember his sisters have travelled a long way, not to mention Anne and me.

We eventually get back to the van, and Nicolai is all nervous smiles and waves goodbye.

It is early evening, it’s a nice night so we decide to go for a walk, to see how the flowers are doing on my grand mothers grave. We also think we might try to get to the poor relations family house at the far end of the village.

We bump into Nicolai’s sisters and have a civilised chat with them in the middle of the road. I mention that it’s a shame Nicolai has not done the papers for the land. They insist that I should pay them and then get the papers sorted once I have bought the house. They are clearly mad.

We bump in to the short large lady wearing the green suit, who insists we don’t buy the house without having the papers sorted for the land.

We eventually arrive at the home of the poor relations. The father, who I have not previously met, meets us at the door and from a look of suspicion, after the mention of the name Andrusiak from England, he turns into a Uriah Heap character, ‘ho come in’ he says wringing his hands.
There are two other blokes sat in the gloom of a dirty room, which has decaying nets at the window. He invites us through this room into a tidier gloomier room, where a little girl is laid in a makeshift bed on a sofa. He attempts to put on a television and asks us to sit. I tell him to forget the TV, I sit down and Anne remains standing. He asks us to wait while he gets his wife who has taken the cows to pasture.

We try to participate in an awkward conversation with the little girl, she says she is unwell, she looks like she has a temperature, from the little bit of light in the room she has a glow of perspiration. She tells us she is 14 years of age, but looks 2 years younger. Neither Anne nor I, are happy with the prospect of staying in the squalor for any longer than we have to, we make our apologies and leave.

On the way back to the caravan, we visit Nadia and Bas (out of hell). We are shown the newly born rabbits and a baby piglet. I am shown the work Bas is undertaking to extend the house into the roof, by himself, I am impressed.

He then gives us a lift home, Bas true to form drives much too fast and having been sat so high up in the Kia, we are unused to flying along by the seats of our pants. We get home in one piece.

Nicolai, turns up and asks that we copy his sisters passport, whilst we are in Ivan Frankivsk tomorrow.

Another quite night, we are beginning to wonder when we next might have a wedding to go to.

I lounge with one eye on the kettle, wondering if any more inanimate objects might be poised to attack me this evening.

Thursday 11th May 2006.

I am up early, and leave Anne dosing in bed. As we are going to Ivan Frankivsk I attempt to get the diary up to date and the photos sorted out, in the hope of getting onto the internet during our visit.
Basil the policeman turns up, but not as early as the day before, all the same, I decide that I am not going to bother with the internet today as we have enough to do.

We set off, Basil enjoys being driven and the novelty of being sat on the ‘wrong’ side of the car. He says that his natural instinct is to press for the brake and reach for the gears. Basil knows someone where ever we go. I learn the he was not actually a mayor in the English sense of the word. He had actually reached the rank of mayor (major), in the police and was responsible for the region of Nadvirna. He had visited probably every house in some of the villages on the way to Ivan Frankivsk.
Basil commands respect, which I am sure he enjoys. The fact that everyone and any one knows him and shakes his hand bares testimony to this. The affection he is held in is not begrudgingly given and as he was a police officer during the soviet era, he must have been a reasonable sort of character, during a particularly difficult time. Basil has been retired from the police for 16 years, he retired when he was 46 years of age, he is on a pension of 650 dollars a month, which around here is very good. He is a likeable chap, very tall a little over 6 feet, he has trouble walking as he has a problem with his right leg. He has a weak heart as all my family seem to have, he has not smoked for 3 years, when he was on three packs a day, he doesn’t drink a lot of beer, but drinks horivka, which he says his failing liver copes better with. His wife is a doctor, which is probably just as well.

We first visit a bank for which I got the address off the internet, where I understand I can exchange my travellers cheques for free. A stunning looking young woman happens to be my cashier, she looks as though she had just finished work in a lap dancing bar and hadn’t time to change before starting her day job in the bank. I am not that distracted, as I hear her mention 2% commission. I say that according to American Express, this bank is commission free. She says that is only if I accept the local currency, as I want dollars it is 2%. Basil says that there is nothing for nothing in the Ukraine. I cough up $22. I now have the $1100 cash to pay for the farm.

We arrive at a building which according to the mosaic in the hallway was built in 1967, but looks more modern. We eventually ushered into a bright room with the yellow and blue trizub, (Ukrainian emblem) on the wall. The humourless chap there asks me a few questions, then I am invited to fill in a computer form, asking for all my details in Ukrainian. Basil gets on with this as my written Ukrainian is slightly worse than my spoken Ukrainian. We are finished and the man says it will be ready by Monday. Off we go. Basil says that he will ring the following day to ensure that things go smoothly.

I copy Nicolai’s sisters passport and joke with the young lady assistant that she is not my wife an elderly lady who over hears says that it is not nice saying disparaging things about someone else’s wife, I am told off once again.

We have an uneventful drive back most of the way in silence, as we get to a bar, Basil recommended, I stop and I buy him a beer. I am impressed by the bar, it has a clean kitchen and a nicely presented restaurant. It also has a toilet with a cistern, I know Anne would like it here, so I book us in for 10 people, for between 7 and 8 p.m. on Sunday. The lady owner shows me around; in the cellar is a pool table, with those enormous continental balls. I make my predictable joke about Ukrainian balls being bigger then English balls, which is lost on my present company.

So far it has been a nice day.

Basil sets off in his yellow Ukrainian built car which has a police siren in it.

A little after 6 p.m. Nicolai, visits Anna, I think he has come to collect the passport copies I have made. I stick my head out of the van and he comes over. He is drunk, swearing and for some reason angry. He says that I must go with him tomorrow to Nadvirna in order to collect the papers he left at the offices there. I say that it is not necessary for me to be there and he gets really upset. He goes on about it not being his responsibility to sort out the papers for the land. Anna explains my side of the story, at which he vents his anger at her, I have to get out of the van and stand between he and her, I usher Anna into her house and push him away. At the same time a drunken smiling man appears with an empty bottle which he is waving about. My Anne is in the caravan and quite scared by this drunkenness. She sees the smiling man give the empty bottle to Ludar who returns a short while later from the house with the bottle full of horivka. They appear to have a bit of a business here, it suddenly dawns on us why there are more than a few drunken people who visit the Fedora’s with plastic bags containing bottles.

Anne’s patience has now reached its limit, she is unhappy at being in a farm yard surrounded by chickens and drunken Ukrainians. She wishes there was some way we could just leave. I placate her by saying we could be away by Monday, whether we buy the farm or not.

We spend the rest of the evening in the van listening to the shouts of the neighbours as they continue to drink themselves into oblivion, helped by the home brewed horivka, supplied by the Fedora household.

Friday 12th May 2006.

I again rise early, as I am expecting Nicolai to appear about 8 a.m. I leave Anne in bed as there is no need for us both to go to town, for which I am sure, will be a fools errand. Nicolai, doesn’t show, so I go to his house and get both his sister and he packed into the car and we go to Nadvirna. The first thing I do is bullock him for the way he behaved the day before, which was like water off a ducks back. He said that that is the way they are, they swear and shout, but nothing is intended.

In town we collect the document and take it to the notary, who isn’t there. His skinny assistant takes it and we say that we will return on Monday to complete the process. There was of course no need for me to be there.

I take the opportunity of being in town to post the 6th instalment on the internet. I also seek out Nadia the architect, who is a good friend of my dads. I invite her to the Sunday night bash with her husband. I m not sure if she can understand me. She gives me her telephone number on a piece of paper and asks that Anna ring her.

I buy bread and collect Nicolai and his sister and we go back to Parisch.

I wash the car, but leave the wheels for Ian (the thief), who earns a little over a pound for the privilege.

About 11 a.m. Basil the policeman calls, the index code is ready, he rang this morning and we can collect the paper today.

I ask Anna to tell Basil about the shenanigans of the previous evening, predictably he gets upset.

He says as much, had he known about our intention to buy a place in Parisch, he would not have let us get involved with such a character as Nicolai.

Anne and I quickly get ready for another trip to Ivan Frankivsk.

On the way we mention to Basil, we would like to go to the supermarket on the way home. He suggests we go before the visit to the Police station as the humourless one will be on his lunch till 2 p.m.

We buy enough liquid soap to last the school in Parisch about a year. We are to visit our family in a nearby village tomorrow, so we buy chocolates and alcohol for the two households there.

We have a quick bite to eat. Any offer of food is refused by our escort and we resume on our journey to the Police Station. Where we find we have missed the humourless one, who has had his lunch and gone on a conference. I am hoping that this does not mean he has disappeared for the weekend. After a wait of about two hours, the humourless one appears, takes mt passport, presses a few buttons, prints out an official document, which he stamps and signs. I ask how much it will cost and he says ‘nothing!’
He smiled and shook hands with Anne.
I say to Basil, you see there is something for nothing in the Ukraine. I walk away from the Police Station, feeling a little Ukrainian. (The little Ukrainian made a complaint and now I have to go to court on Monday!)

We have a quiet drive home, when we get to the Fedora’s house, Nicolai is there with the ‘old master’ builder, sitting and talking with Bas the host.

I am pleased as Basil the policeman has something he wishes to say to Nicolai. He gives Nicolai a right telling off! Nicolai, goes on about me being unable to own the land as I am not Ukrainian, he obviously hasn’t heard about my official identification code and having an ‘Index’ making me, well, just a little bit Ukrainian.

Basil shouts some more, then they all go in to Bas the hosts house and have a drink of horivka, I join them and have beer. After about an hour, they leave, Basil the policeman, shouts at Nicolai, some more and Nicolai, leaves.

Bas, Anna and me talk a little while, they both placate me, saying that everything will be alright, we will wait for Monday.

Peter Leach (Sam) an old school friend rings me. He lives in Karlovy Vary, in the Czech Republic, I was hoping to see him there, however he is leaving on Friday for the UK, which means although our paths may cross, we are unlikely to see him. I will call him on Tuesday to say what our situation is.

During the afternoon, Anne and me join what appears to be most of the village, to take the cows to pasture. Anne plays with the children, whilst I watch the boys and men drink themselves into a stupor. We leave them to get on with it, taking Nastia, who is Ludar’s daughter home with us. Anne then discovers she has been eaten alive by enormous blood sucking mosquitoes. Lumps appear everywhere on the upper side of her body. I on the other hand, do not get bitten once. I am full of pride at the prospect of being in my new home land where mosquitoes do not bother me, I think that this is utopia. But I am getting a bit too smug, a bit too soon.

Friday night and Anne and me treat ourselves to a roast joint of pork, carrots cabbage and roast potatoes, and not a bit of garlic any where in sight, luverly.

To bed

Saturday 13th May 2006.

Today we are to visit the rest of the Andrusiak family, in a village not far and west of Ivan Frankivsk. We were supposed to ring them and confirm the arrangements but some how this has not been done.

We get there for 10 a.m. Ian is there as is his mother, but all the girls are out shopping. Ian had intended to take us up to the hills for a BBQ, but it is such a beautiful day and their garden looks fantastic, it seems a shame to go any where else, so we decide to stay here for the day. Ian’s wife soon joins us and we take a short walk to the cemetery and the grave of his father and my Uncle Basil.

We return to the garden, Ian cuts up an old seasoned apple tree and produces a large wrought iron barbeque. The girls return from their shopping trip and together with their husbands join us in the garden. A table is produced and set. Makeshift benches are erected.

Ian has two sons, the eldest has been a Policeman in Ivan Frankivsk for the past 3 months. He is a former paratrooper and extraordinarily fit. In the garden Ian has placed metal parallel bars and a high single bar. We are treated to a show of this fit young lads gymnastic prowess as he leaps and spins about the garden. His finale is a manhood defying version of the splits.
The youngest son, is studying business and management, whilst working nights in a petrol station. He arrives having worked last night and then sat an exam this morning, he looks tired. He has played semi professional football for a local team.

The garden is alive with activity, children are playing, the families are eating salads and drinking horivka, whilst huge kebabs of pork of which each piece of meat is like a small joint, are turned on the BBQ. They have been marinated in spices, cream and onions.

We all have marvellous time. The food is fantastic, they do us proud.

We don’t leave until 8 p.m. It is a tearful farewell, the road is full of Andrusiaks waving goodbye. As I have had a drink, Anne has to negotiate the potholes and take us home.
We are home by 9 p.m. and we spend some time talking to Anna and Bas the host, they are concerned that we may lose the deposit on the house. I say what will be! Will be!

Sunday 14th May 2006.

I am determined to get the journal up to date. Anne wants to sort out the van in preparation of our (possibly) leaving tomorrow.

Anna invites us to join her in the small chapel, my dad paid to have constructed at the bottom of their garden, in memory of his mother. She gives Anne and I a candle each and we light them and say a few prayers for the families here and back home.

I spend all day writing, Anne having sorted out the van, has a rest listening to my MP3 phone.

Tonight we have invited a group of people for a meal in the taverna, which I have mentioned previously.

By 6.40 p.m. people are arriving and we aren’t quite ready. The couple who were the brides parents and our hosts for three nights turn up as they have heard we may be leaving. She gives Anne lilly of the valley and he gives me a momento of Ivan Frankivsk. I ask if they would like to join us at the tavern, they graciously refuse.

12 people head off in three cars to the taverna, which is about 5 km away. Its one straight road and very handy.

We are expecting a couple, Nadia and Michilo, from Nadvirna, they eventually show up a little after we have sat down. I am not sure what to do about drinks so I order a few bottles of wine and horivka and a beer for myself. Bottles of pop are put out together with water.

We have; various salads, doughnuts with borsch, kebabs with pork similar to the day before but today with a spicy tomato sauce, roast chicken, perogi. We are fit to burst.

Bas the host sings and gets every one else singing. Then the tables are rearranged and the ladies get up and dance. Anne does a fantastic Greek version of a Ukrainian dance.

There’s more singing and many toasts, I stay on beer all night with the exception of the final drink and toast when I have an horivka.

We leave about 10.45 p.m. To feed 14 people on the scale of a superb banquette cost me £70 and that included a great deal of drink.

The 9th instalment.

The story continues

I mentioned, that Anne had been eaten alive by mosquitoes, well I have not been let off the hook. They quite like me as well. I think whilst we were sat outside at Ian’s the previous day, they had a banquet of my legs and arms. One of the little buggers had my face as well. By the time we get back I’m going to look like I’ve done five rounds with Henry Cooper.

Monday 15th May 2006.

I wake early, to the sound of rain pouring on the van. I notice that the microwave light is not on, which means we have either blown a fuse or there is a power cut. I check the fuses and they are all sound. It is seven in the morning, through the fog, which the previous evening resembled a brain, I reckon I have to be away to the notary’s office by 8 a.m. I boil water on the gas and write up the journal. I bid good morning to Anna and Bas the host and ascertain that the whole village is affected by the power cut. I switch the fridge freezer to work on gas. If you were to live out here, having a house set up like a caravan wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Anna asks me why I am dressed so early when I don’t have to be at the notary’s office until 10 a.m. duh! I am going to have to learn how to tell the time in Ukrainian!

I write some more and at 9.20 a.m. Bas the policeman arrives, shortly followed by Nicolai. He says he has no papers for the land because of the power cut. The administration office has nothing to run its computers on. Bas the policeman goes home saying he’ll come back once the power returns. There’s nothing more to do but go back to bed. I blame the piriton (anti allergy) for making me drowsy, which I hope will stop me turning into John Merrick, through all the bites I’ve suffered.

It’s 1 p.m. and still no power, I take a run to the admin building and there is no one there. I am told that power will return in an hour.

It’s 2 p.m. and Nicolai turns up with a document, which he says is the paper for the land. We all rush around in order to get to the notary’s office, no one has Bas the policemans’ telephone number, so we have to drive to his house, a distance of 2 to 3 miles, but the roads are spectacularly bad, imagine the ‘no mans land’ between the trenches in the 1st world war and you might have an idea of how bad the roads are.

I am quickly shown around Bas’s house, and introduced to an older daughter, Maricia.
We are soon on our way, thankfully Bas takes his car, so I don’t have to make a return journey across the Somme. I tell Bas he should invest in a Tank.

We get to the notary’s office by 4 p.m. and he is not there, the office is locked. The notary’s secretary, the skinny chap, turns up. He examines the paper provided by Nicolai, everyone seems satisfied. There’s something of a debate about the notary’s costs, but I say $150 is fine (it later turns into $200). The Notary is rung up, it’s a bad line and the skinny chap shouts in a manner that is familiar to me, when people want you to know exactly what is being said, he repeats everything the notary says. He cannot return to the office until tomorrow morning. I am asked what time, and we agree on 8 a.m. I am a little peeved, as it means another visit to Nadvirna, I had hoped on an early start back to Poland. I am assured the process will not take long as all the papers are ready. I am asked if I have the money, I present the $1100 to Nicolai, it is counted with relish and handed over to his sister who promptly puts it into her hand bag, which is then pressed firmly, like the head of a spent lover, to her ample bosom.
We read the formal contract, again everyone seems satisfied, we promise to attend the following morning, when the formalities will be completed (I hope!).

We drive home to the van and Anna’s farm, my passengers are all in very good spirits, Nicolai and his sister, feel that they have done very well. Put it this way, they have all the money and I have a promise?
Basil the policeman assures me that everything is fine. I tell Nicolai that he had better turn up in the morning. Oh how we laughed.

We got back to the farm and the van, Anne has made a beef stew for our dinner, but there is a solemn ceremony yet to perform, which entails the vendor having a drink with the purchaser. The drink has to be accompanied by some food, so we serve beef stew, calling it English borsch and the remains of what we had at the restaurant the previous evening. This was consumed in our hosts barn. I disciplined myself to having only a few shots of horivka, which included a blast of Bas the hosts home made pothee’n. Bas the host has joined us fresh from working on the extension I helped to erect. He has been placing piles of mud on boards that form the ceiling and his covered from head to toe. Bas the police man is here and so are both Nicolai and his two sisters, who are now very friendly.

The ceremony is completed and we promise to get together for the final process at the
notary’s office the following morning.

Anne and I have a quiet night, the electricity by now has been on for a while, we decide to sit and just chat rather than watch a film. Our stay in the Ukraine is finally drawing to a close. We join our hosts in their kitchen. I apologise for all the stress we have caused her over the house and land. She tells us that the stress with Nicolai, was nothing compared to the fall out they had with the ‘neighbour’ who had lost the farm to our bid. She told us that the ‘neighbour’, had wished us all dead, when we outbid her, on Dad and my last visit. Anna had thought their relationship, with the ‘neighbour’, would never be reconciled. But with the passing of time and the fact that Anna is the god mother of their child, time has healed this rift.

We bid each other goodnight and have an early night.

Tuesday 16th May 2006.

I am up early and jolly up Anna and Bas the host, as he wants a lift into town. We are off to Nadvirna for what will be, I hope my final visit. We pick up Nicolai along the way and get to the notary’s office for 8.20 a.m. Everything is sorted and documents are signed. I will own the house. On paper Anna, for the time being will own the land as she is Ukrainian. I always new, that this would be the case. We could pay for the land to be privatised, but this is a time consuming process that can be carried out at a later date.

I leave the notary’s office on a quest to change $220 worth of travellers cheques, more than enough to cover the notary’s charges, the bank I was familiar with on my last visit is closed, so I go to another. I have to wait 20 minutes until someone recognises that the cheques I have are legal tender. I am told that commission is 2%, as I know that I can get 5 hrivni for a dollar, I am confident that I will have 1000 hrivni to pay the notary. I hand over the cheques and receive 997 hrivni and some small change. I am gob smacked as I thought I had worked it out. I ask the cashier to check and he goes over his paper work and he says that he has calculated everything and it is correct. I then draw a further 150 hrivni on my Barclaycard, which will cost me dear, but feel I have no option if I mean to pay the notary’s bill. Having walked away from the bank and bought some bread rolls, I just can’t get over the fact that I’ve been diddled. So I go back to the bank and write my sums in front of a cashier I first spoke to. He checks my calculations and looks at the cashier receipts and declares that there has been a mistake! Thank goodness! What had happened, the cashier calculated the 2% commission on the sum of the hrivni, over 1000 and charged me that in dollars, over $20. They wouldn’t cancel my cash advance on my Barclaycard though.

I rush to the notary and hand the money over to the skinny chap, no receipt, he says that will be given when Anna takes the original documents tomorrow.

I then seek out Anna and Bas the host who are selling smitana in the market and we get off back to their farm and to Anne in the caravan.

Anne has had a hectic morning herself, cleaning all the cow and chicken pooh off virtually everything. There is almost nothing to do but get changed, eat the bread rolls and reverse the caravan down the farm drive, with our motor mover. Which I must say is paying dividends. We connect the car up to the caravan and straighten everything up, under the ever watchful eye of Bas the host, who points out that I haven’t released the motor mover roller from the wheels. He is pretty switched on, I disengage the motor mover and he nods his head sagely.

We get the relatives who have shown up to wish us well, out of Anna’s kitchen. They stand outside the chapel my dad built, between the Kia and the caravan and we record a few messages for my dad and take some photo’s. My aunties say they will pray for our safe return home. We are given presents for Dad and Joyce, Anne is balling (crying). We leap into the car and we are off on our way to the Polish boarder. The time is 11 a.m.

We had intended to go back the way we had come as everyone agreed that this was the best way, however we took a bit of a detour and ended up on a road upon which, the Soviet Space programme needlessly trained its astronauts, how to walk on the moon.

We eventually ended up on the right road out of Lvov and in the direction of Przemysl. I filled up, with cheap diesel for the final time using 152 hrivni I had left and arrived at the boarder for about 3.30 p.m.
Here we joined a queue of Polish, Czech and German vehicles. I would say that the queue was approximately, 150 vehicles in length and after 2 hours I would say we moved three or four vehicle lengths. There were men walking the queue and touting, they could get you to the front but there was a cost. I spoke to a Polish man who was a vehicle or two in front of mine and he was very indifferent to the situation. All the while, cars with Ukrainian number plates were going to the front of the queue, as were drivers who paid the touts to sit in their vehicles.

I saw a young man standing at the side of the road, he seemed to me to be surveying the situation for his own amusement. The road was not very wide, with steep kerb stones on each side, there was probably enough room for a line of traffic each way. As we had formed a queue at the side of the road, this rendered two way traffic, to the side of us as virtually impossible, and yet somehow, two lines of heavy traffic including large buses and heavy goods vehicles, moved all be it slowly, climbing the impossibly high kerb and past where we were bemusedly looking on.

After three hours I approached the young chap who was still passing the day watching the comings and goings and I engaged in a conversation with him. He said that yesterday there was very little traffic but today it was busy, he said that we could be still in the same position in 10 hours, it all depended on how many people were prepared to pay to get to the front. I asked how much does it cost, he said $300! He explained that the men touting have a deal going with the military who run the boarder. He said that this was a busy boarder because of all the contraband that goes through. I thought great! We are going to be here all through the night and in to tomorrow at this rate.

I told Anne and we agreed I should try to ‘blag’ my way through, so I collected our documents together with my IPA (International Police Association) membership and walked to the front of the queue.

The first military person I came across, was bollocking a motorist, so I stood to one side and waited for him to finish his admonishment. I explained that I was a retired English police man and could I speak to his supervisor. He pointed me to the next soldier, who pointed me to a gate at the boarder crossing. I there spoke to an officer, I explained that my cousin is a retired Nadvirna Police major, I have a cousin whose son is in the Police in Ivan Frankivsk and I am a retired British Police officer, is there anyway my wife and I can get our car and caravan to the front of the queue. He asked to see my identification, so I showed him my retired police ID and passport. He told me to drive to the front and join the queue of motorists, pointing to two queues of vehicles crammed to the right of the approach to the boarder, just ahead of the soldier I saw bollocking the motorist.

I quickly ran as fast as I could in flip flops, and in danger of losing my shorts, the 150 cars back to where we were parked. Out of breath and running short of patience, I asked Anne to get into the passenger seat. Fortunately we were not too close to the vehicle in front and we manoeuvred our way out of the queue. In a few minutes we passed the equivalent of many hours of vehicles queuing haplessly at the boarder.

We approached the first soldier who directed us into a queue of buses, I pointed out to him, that the officer said we had to go in the queue of cars, which to be fair would have been almost impossible to do. This soldier probably thought he was having a day of argumentative sods! Anyway we joined the queue of three or four buses, which were at the boarder gate.

A couple more hours passed and we moved closer to the front, until we were the third in line. I noticed that the military were changing personnel as the shifts changed. I hoped the officer we had spoken to had briefed his replacement.

We were second in line, the time was 9.30 p.m. an officer approached the car, I wound my window down. ‘What are you doing in this queue for buses’, he asked angrily. I explained that the officer sent me here, my cousin was this, my other cousin’s son was that, I was a retired English police man.
‘Which, officer?’
I couldn’t for the life of me remember his name although I made a point of noting it. Instead I described him. This angry officer was all set to send us to the back of the queue, I could feel a bribe coming on.
He said let me see your ID. I gave him my passport, my IPA card and NARPO card. It seemed to do the trick, either that or he took pity on us both, as he could see the tears welling up in both Anne and my eyes, as we thought he was on the brink of sending us to the back of the queue.

He allowed us to proceed and we were directed to a queue within the immigration and customs posts. The formalities took another hour and perhaps a further ½ hour on the Polish side. We entered Poland at 11 p.m, but having crossed a boarder we also crossed a time line and the time was now 10 p.m we had spent over 7 hours getting over the boarder. If we are to do the journey again we have to find a suitable and less corrupt alternative, to enter and egress the Ukraine.

We returned to the camp site called Zamek, the one with the outrageous washrooms and showers, we had no alternative, as we were both tired and hungry. English borsch was heated and eaten, washed down with a beer. Then Bed. We had travelled 211 miles today.

Wednesday 17th May 2006.

We have a lay in, although it would have been 9 a.m. in the Ukraine its 8 a.m. in Poland. We need some provisions. I had not intended to spend any time in Przemysl but after attending a nearby shop, where they didn’t accept euros, we had no choice but to venture into the town and get some zlotys. This turned out to be really nice.
We had a bite to eat and walked around a precinct and into a beautiful old church, which had fantastically decorated stucco, figures on the walls, depicting the Stations of the Cross and the crucifixion. There was such a realistic image of Jesus on the Cross; you had to look twice as the figure looked so life like.
Anne lit some candles for our family. We returned to the shop, paid our dues and were on our way.
We left camp Zamek at 11 a.m. Not really sure where we would be this evening.
The weather took a turn for the worst; we hadn’t seen rain like it for quite some time. The going, through miles and miles of road works, was slow and laborious. We soon decided we could do with a break and so we curtailed our journey after 170 miles and stopped at a campsite on the outskirts of Krakow.

We missed the entry to the campsite and had to carry out two, really dangerous manoeuvres on a dual carriageway that had traffic, which although the speed limit was 50 km ph, drove as if competing in Le Mans. Some how, we got on the site. A bit of road noise from the race track, otherwise it is clean and convenient for Krakow. We will stay a few days.
It is 5 p.m.
I send a text to Peter Leach (Sam) explaining we wouldn’t make Prague by Thursday.

I also text Mark at Phantom, the satellite tracking people, who, by the way have not been able to trace us since we left Germany. We haven’t heard anything from him for quite some time, could be that he’s embarrassed?

We buy some provisions from a local shop, at this point I must recommend Hech beer, it really is very good.

The other caravanners on the site, and there are two others, when we arrive; German and Dutch. Extraordinarily and against my stereotype, the Dutch bloke was a hang em’ and flog em’, sort of a guy, whilst the German bloke was a bit of a hippy. The Dutch bloke loved Turkey and told us of having visited the Kurdish area in the North East of Turkey. He said that there was no crime to speak of; this was because of ‘the laws of Islam’. He told a tale about a German couple who had their radio stolen from their car; the Turkish Police turned up, rounded up the usual suspects from a village, recovered the radio and told the German couple the youth responsible would be hanged in the morning. The couple were beside themselves with grief for the poor unfortunate chap, they cried and pleaded with the police to spare the unfortunate youth, the police gave in, spared the lads life and broke the lads’ legs!

Whether the story is true or not, the Dutch bloke by the way he told the tale, wished that it were. Then there would be no crime, so he thought.

We have dinner at a local restaurant and then go to bed.

Thursday 18th May 2006.

We awake to another fantastic morning and decide to take advantage of the weather and have a ‘dobey day’. The only problem is the hot water provided at the camp facilities is an orange colour. So we have to fetch cold water to our caravan and heat it through our hot water system and wash it there, although I did then carry it back to the washrooms to rinse, as the cold water was fine. The washing lines went up and we soon looked like we were setting up a laundry business.

Whilst Anne did the ironing, I washed the car and caravan. The front of the caravan is covered in tar, from the numerous road works that we have travelled through. I am going to have to sort that out when we get home, Anne made the point, that if we have a new front section to the caravan (to repair the damage I caused before we set off!), then we might not have to clean the tar off the front. Every cloud has a silver lining.

It is not all work and no play, we have plenty of time to sit about and enjoy the sun, un-harassed by chickens and turkeys.

During the course of the evening, the weather takes a turn for the worse and it throws it down. We sit smugly in our caravan, having completed a successful ‘Dobey Day’.

Friday 19th May 2006.

After breakfast, we get our touristy thing together and head off to Krakow, where we intend to spend the day. It is a pretty bleak morning although it has stopped raining, it looks like it might. We wait for a bus at the side of the Le Mains track and eventually are seated in an overcrowded minibus, where it is very hot and steamy. We arrive in the city centre and pay 70p for the two of us, a journey of about 20 minutes.

We have street plans, rucksacks and a camera. We find ourselves in the market square in Krakow. A stunning place! Spoilt, by some building work, going on around the cloth hall, which is an enclosed market.

Horse drawn carriages convey the more affluent tourists around the square, the sun is now shining, we are impressed, I don’t remember seeing this on ‘Wish You were Here!’

We enter the cathedral that sits on the east of the square, this is called St Mary’s church and we are both awe struck as we walk into the church. There is a service in progress. Your eye is drawn to a huge stucco crucifix hanging over an arch at the centre of the church and at the entry to the Alter. The colours of the pillars and arches are ochre, royal blue and gold. The colours give a warm and womb like feel to the place.

I attempt to take a video of the inside; I am told off, first by Anne, who says that it is inappropriate, then secondly by a church orderly. So there you go.

Anne takes communion and after a short while we leave this magnificent church building and are again in the market square and the sunshine. A trumpeter is playing a melodic tune from one of the towers of the cathedral, this is done every hour and once a day is relayed on Polish national radio.

There is a carnival atmosphere in the square, the local University (where Pope John Paul was a student), are having an open day. There are many tents with students showing what particular area of expertise they are into. Anne and me are drawn to our areas of expertise, Anne to communicable disease control and I to vermin control.

We sit and have lunch in the square and are able to watch Polish folk dancing and singing on a stage set up as part of the University open day. We sit next to Larry and Rose who are both from Las Vegas, they travel regularly to the Czech Republic, where they visit a spa at Karlovy Vary, which happens to be where Peter Leach lives, funny old world innit?

Lunch comprises of two large spicy polish sausages and roast sauerkraut in honey and herbs for me, and pork steak in a creamy garlic sauce, with potatoes and salad for Anne, washed down with beer. This came to £6.

We then follow a recommended route around the town, which we found in a guide book. We ended up in a few more churches and found ourselves in a garden which is a tribute to Pope John Paul. Around the garden on placards were pictures and the story in a number of languages of his life. Anne and me read the placards and got to the last one. John Paul through his illness had the expression of Jesus suffering on the Cross. His last word before he died, ‘Amen!’
Well we both struggled to hold back the tears.

A short walk later, found ourselves on the river Wisla, where we joined a boat trip for an hour. This started off in the centre of Krakow, with views of the Royal Castle and ended up in the suburbs, with views of graffiti adorned bridges.

It was nice to sit have a beer and take stock.

Our day in Krakow was finished off, with a bit of shopping and a drink in a café. We caught the bus back to the camp site.

We were so full from lunch (and wind) that we didn’t bother with dinner.

A British VW camper van appeared on site, containing Edward Bogdanovich, a 55 year old retired computer type person. He is spending 6 months visiting friends and family across Europe. He had just travelled from Spain. We shared a few beers and yarns.

Saturday 20th May 2006.

We are both up early and ‘set to’, making the caravan ready for our last stop in Poland, before venturing into the Czech Republic. I have been a little anxious thinking about the manoeuvre to get out of the site and onto the road, then across the dual carriageway (Le Mans) and back towards Krakow. Thankfully, the traffic was greatly reduced from the last time we carried out the manoeuvre and we were soon on our way.

We travelled through an industrial landscape, with all manner of heavy industry and evidence of coal mining. Until eventually driving over vast plains of already lush green crops. The scenery soon changed and we began to climb through a hilly area and were in amongst a mountain range and suddenly arrived at our next destination, Polanica Zdroj.

Polanica Zdroj was just a location on a map to us, and a convenient place to stop before we entered the Czech republic. It is in actual fact a very popular spa town, with alpine qualities. The camp site was clean and well run, and provided sports facilities for the locals. The town was a short walk away and was beautiful; with a long paved promenade running through the centre, on each side café’s, restaurants and shops could be explored or savoured. On the walk back we went through a park, where we found a sanatorium, where hundreds of people were partaking in the waters and listening to classical music being played on a grand piano. It was quite delightful.

Anne made us dinner comprising of the last of Anna’s perogi, smitana, bacon and onions. We watched a film and had another early night.

It rained through the night and became very windy. We had completed 166 miles today.
Sunday 21st May 2006.

We didn’t manage an early start today. Well it is Sunday! We had a late breakfast and packed up quickly, this was helped as we didn’t have to un-hitch the caravan.

The site cost 44 zlotys, about £7

We were away by 11 a.m.

We soon crossed the boarder and were driving in a new land for both of us. Anne made the point that the landscape of both Poland and the Czech Rep were much softer than the Ukraine. We both agreed that we preferred Poland to the Ukraine, for many reasons.

The satellite navigation system burst back into life as we put in the address of the next camp site in Prague at Narodnich hrdinu, called Camping Sokol Praha. The dulcet tones of the familiar but almost forgotten female voice soon had us at our next port of call, on the outskirts of Prague.

Things seem expensive here, but it is because everything is in Czech Crowns and there are 40 (ish) to a pound. The campsite is a bit on the pricey side, for what we have become accustomed to and is £14 a night. The food on the campsite is fantastic and we had a good meal comprising of goulash and dumplings for me and pork cutlet for Anne, with chips and salad, washed down with beer and wine, that came to short of £10.

We found a Tesco, where we stocked up with provisions, I was disappointed when they didn’t accept our Tesco card. I will write and complain.

Anne does the laundry.

We watched a film and had an early night.

Today we have completed 95 miles.

Monday 22nd May 2006.

I get up very early, about 6 a.m. Put the washing out, that Anne had put through the launderette on the camp sight at a cost of £4 and took over 2 hours. I moan, that I can do it much cheaper and quicker by hand.

It’s a great morning and our German and Dutch neighbours tell us that it is expected to be a scorcher.

We have a slow start, I am able to get on the internet on the campsite computer, which is the fastest machine I’ve been on yet so I am able to upload a few photographs.

We leave the site for Prague about 10 a.m.

We have a 10 minute walk to a bus stop, a half hour bus ride to a tube station, then a 20 minute ride on the tube. This seems a right palaver. Well we eventually arrive in the centre of Prague and it is hot. Our first stop is the toilets in M&S, where we have a coffee and pastry. No I can’t believe it either, we would be in one of the most cosmopolitan and culturally diverse cities in Europe and have coffee in M&S, but credit to M&S, their toilets were immaculate.

We have a walk around the city and eventually arrive at a tour company, our intention is to have a guided city tour, from experience this is the most practical way in which to see a new large city. It is mid-day and the tour does not start until 2 p.m.

We sit in a square and watch the druggies and alcoholics rummage through bins, looking for KFC drinks cups, with which to beg for money to secure the next fix or bottle of vodka. There is a new begging method, which I have not come across before, where the beggar kneels with their forehead on the floor and arms outstretched along the floor and above the head, with the KFC cup held in hands. A totally helpless and subjugate pose.

In stark contrast to the above paragraph, we found a place to eat and I had what is called a Czech platter, this included 4 versions of dumpling, pork, gammon, duck, steak, two versions of sauerkraut, this for the equivalent of £2.50. It was a mammoth feast. Anne, more typically had a Greek salad, which was probably more suited to the temperatures which were in the eighties.

The time came for us to join the ‘City Tour’, which was for ‘English’ speakers; we had 3 and ½ hours in which we gloried in the city of Prague. We both fully enjoyed it. We shared the experience with a group of jet lagged Australians, who kept falling asleep on the bus (they may have even had a similar lunch to me), a couple of Swedish girls and couple from Las Angeles. One of the Australians, was actually born on Black Dyke Lane, Thornton, Bradford and emigrated as a babe in arms. Her surname was Stansfield and she is the great niece of Gracie Fields.

We entered the Castle and in the great church there, we saw the cloister commemorating St Wenceslas. The guide asked if people were familiar with the carol. The Americans being Jewish had not heard of the carol, so I gleefully sang them my Bradford version, which Anne says is in poor tastes, especially as we were in a church.

5.30 p.m. soon loomed and the end of the tour. We parted our separate ways and walked out of the ‘Old Square’, and eventually over the Charles Bridge. We meandered a course back to the underground and followed the route in reverse back to where the van was parked. My only regret was that I did not have a half litre of decent Czech beer whilst in the city. So we stopped at a place on the way back and had a decent glass of ‘Bud’.

During the course of this evening I get bitten on both ankles by mosquitoes which are vying for notoriety, with the North Dakota species. Anne typically does not get bitten at all. I take Piriton an anti histamine, which makes me both drowsy and cranky.

We discuss the journey into Prague, which, is such a pain, and the weather which has changed for the worse and decide to make tracks the following day and head for Germany.

Tuesday 23rd May 2006.

We have had bad nights sleep, my bites have been playing up, and because of my constant scratching Anne doesn’t sleep well. We don’t get up until 9.10 a.m. We have to be away by 11 a.m. so things are a bit rushed. We leave the site by 10.20 a.m.

The cost, £15 a night, is a tad expensive for these parts.

We are heading for a camp site south of Chemnitz, which has a great write up in our caravan book, and we fancy a quiet place to rest up and maybe do some walking.

After 107 miles we arrive at the site which is a very well run place, but because we arrive at 2.40 p.m. have to wait till three for the gates to be opened as the proprietors have a break between 12 and 3. Fair enough!

The location is spectacular, on a pine clad hill, with views beyond the trees to a patch work of fields down to river valleys below. The camp site is very clean and the facilities are modern and the best that we have come across so far.

A group of 4 motorcycles and a Jaguar motor car enter the site, they are on a sponsored ride to Prague and hope to raise £15000 for a Hospice somewhere in Suffolk.

As much as I would like to socialise, I am dosed up on Piriton and go to bed leaving Anne to read her book.

During the night my left ankle swells up to twice it’s normal size, the itching is incredible. I am sure that the mosquito has laid eggs in there! I have a temperature, so Anne tells me, and I am given aspirin.

Wednesday 24th May 2006.

I have slept on and off for 14 hours and get up a little after nine.

It’s a nice day, but not as warm as we are used to. The size of my ankle, put any plans of walking, ‘Sound of Music’ style, across the hills, on hold for the time being.

So instead we visit Chemnitz in the car. Chemnitz is a large, impersonal place. It hasn’t quite shaken off its veneer of concrete Socialism. An enormous head of Karl Marx adorns the street outside a block of flats which also houses the town souvenir shop. The place is pristine, the town hall is a monument to the past and is surrounded by modern glitzy buildings, which boarder a market square, where café’s and restaurants spill out onto the pavements.

Neither Anne nor I are feeling up to strolling round a city, we buy a few provisions from a stall in the market square. I pick up a bunch of carrots. The woman stall keeper, says something in German in an impolite way. I can see what she is getting at, I have taken the carrots from a display, the produce at the front of the stall is for self service, but goods at the back are display. But the way she says it, rankles me. So rather than put them back I keep hold of them and stand in the queue with Anne, who has her hands full of strawberries and apples. We eventually get to the front of the queue and the annoyed young lady, who is by now quite furious. I say ‘Nichs feshtain’, (I don’t understand) and hand her the carrots, which she weighs and says something to her female colleague about ‘the English’. She tells me the price and I hold out the cash and she counts it from my hand. I say ‘Fillen Danke’ and smile very sweetly.

We often come across rude people who have no patience with foreigners, but it is the same where ever you go.

We have a huge coffee each outside the Rathouse (town hall) and decide to go back to the caravan.

We make friends with an elderly German couple, who are from Nuremburg, he speaks English very well, having served as a civilian employee of the American forces. He is 63 and they are both retired. They have two caravans and a motor home. As well as the Toyota Land Cruiser, they have a smaller car. They haven’t any children but have a dog called Stella. He is a gadget freak, they invited us into their caravan, which is a large Tabbat (may not be the correct spelling). He has three satellite decoders and two flat screen tv’s. He has sufficient memory in his computer to store thousands of hours of movies. They obviously don’t think the weather is going to be all that great!

They have been to this site 3 years on the trot and stay for 3 months at a time.

They were a nice couple and gave us peachy schnapps each.

I am still under the effects of Piriton and have yet another early itchy night.

My swollen mosquito bitten ankles have put paid to any notion of walking any distances, and as the beautiful area we are in, is ideal for walking, eating and drinking, and very little else we decide that all in all we might as well travel the following day.

Thursday 25th May 2006.

A good nights sleep was had by us both and we are up reasonably early to pack up and move on out. The camp site costs a fair, 32 euros for 2 nights including electricity. They also gave me my money back for a map we didn’t use. We intend to return to this site in the future.

We are told by our new friends that today is a bank holiday as it is Ascension Day so the shops are closed.

We decide to travel up to Northern Germany where we will be on course for our return trip. We hope to get to somewhere near Kassel and we have researched a decent camp site at Naumburg.

225 miles later on surprisingly quite roads for a bank holiday, we have seen the landscape change from flat farmed plains, with wheat and rape seed, to the area we now are in; with pine clad hillsides and deep river valleys. Naumburg nestles in one such valley. The village houses are traditionally built and likened to Tudor houses in England, the oak beam facades and cladding all appear to have been freshly painted and in vibrant colours. The streets are clean and in good repair, there is neither litter nor graffiti. The camp site is a short distance from the village centre.

The camp site according to the Caravan Club book costs a reasonable 15 euros a night, but in reality, with electricity and showers, costs a whopping 23 euros a night! It is clean and well run. There are a number of rallies, involving both caravans and motor-homes. The way the site is set out, the caravans/motor-homes are parked in circles, giving the appearance of wagon trains parked in such a way as to afford protection from any impending Indian attack. I wonder whether my Tomto school of gesticulations may yet again be put to good use.

From the moment we set up, it rained incessantly. But this did not dampen our spirit; we went out, umbrella in joint hands, in search of some authentic German cuisine and ended up in a Greek restaurant. Well! This did give Anne the opportunity to speak a foreign language, although we did have a disappointing Greek meal, seemed to us that the owners had compromised Greek cooking for the tastes of the Germans, never mind. We enjoyed the experience.

Back to the caravan, a DVD, then bed.

Friday 26th May 2006.

We awoke to a cloudless sky and the not so familiar sight of the sun. A map was obtained from the camp site shop and we went for a walk around the surrounding country side. This was sublime, walking up past the wheat fields towards a forest, and then looking back in the distance to the village. We found; a large pond with fish and tadpoles, a field full of highland cattle, Anne fed some horses, we found a small pub where we had beer and tea. Then it started raining. In the middle of no where we found a place, where you could put ailing parts of your body in mineral water, in the hope of a cure. I stuck my elbows in, and Anne stuck her hands in. We shall have to wait to see if we are cured, I can tell you it was very cold, hence, my deciding to leave my piles, until the waters are much warmer.

We ended up back in the village where I had a beer Anne ordered wine, which she did not like, so I ended up drinking her wine. We then went to a café where I had another beer and Anne had a tea. There we had lunch, the prices, here are now more in keeping with the UK. We then bought a crate of beer which we took back to the caravan, through the driving rain, on one shoulder.

We got back about three in the afternoon and we both fell asleep till about 6.

We watched ‘Gangs of New York’ and went to bed. We both had probably our worst nights sleep on this trip, due to our having a nap in the afternoon.

Saturday 27th May 2006.

It rained throughout the night and we saw every hour go by. We get up and resolve to visit Kassel, which is about ten miles away. The rain stops for a while, we set off and quickly reach Kassel, I thought I would be able to go without lunch and build an appetite for this evenings culinary promise from Anne, but as soon as we walk out of the car park, I am confronted to a whole world of Imbis grilling delights, every size and shape of German sausage, ‘temptation beyond endurance’, I hear Tony Muranka say.

I have currywurst and Anne has a hot roast gammon sandwich with mustard, which I help to finish off.

Kassel is a very modern multi cultural city. It is the first time for a long time, that we have noticed people from countries south and east of the Mediterranean.

We find an internet café which is run by a Moroccan boy and manage to get up to date with our journal, but find it takes too much time to up load any photos, we are on the internet for 15 minutes and it costs just 40c (25p).

The rain stops for long enough, so that I can enjoy a coffee and Anne a milkshake at a pavement café. As I pay for the beverages it starts to rain.

We have done a bit of shopping, Anne has bought some perfume and I some sandals. I have my first UK newspaper for 5 weeks. The news is much the same as it was then, which I suppose is no surprise.

We make our way back to the van in some serious weather.

Anne makes a fantastic dinner of pork chops potatoes carrots and mushroom sauce, whilst I read the paper. This is the life.

We have a rainy evening in, where we play dominoes (I won), cribbage (Anne won).

We have had a nice day, topped off by a nice night in, who needs television.

Sunday 28th May 2006.

We have decided to take advantage of driving on a Sunday, on the continent, when the roads are always much quieter, so we pack up and head off west intending to get to the Netherlands. We have calculated that it is 270 ish miles to the Hooek Van Holland Ferry Terminal, which is manageable in one day, but we have still over a week to go before we are due back. We decide to get some miles under our belt, before we decide where we will land next. Anne is excited, she feels as though we are now on our way home. I consider the possibility of an earlier crossing; I must admit I am a little excited at the prospect of getting home, although I hide this emotion from Anne.

The drive west although windy, is not beset by the rain we have experienced of late. The traffic was reasonably quiet, although we did see traffic jams in the opposite direction due to road works on the autobahn. We stopped for a sandwich for Anne and a (guess what?) for me.

I finished my German sausage and eyed Anne’s egg and cress sandwich, which she ate.

We decided on a modest campsite at a place called Ede, in Holland. We got there a little after 4 p.m. and were warmly greeted by an elderly couple who shook our hands and referred to me as Mr Moonlight. They ran the site and mistook us for someone else, still, they were rather nice and gave us a lovely spot. We were immediately impressed by this camp site, every one walked about smiling and waving at each other. Anne was in her element as she returned waves and smiles, I wondered if they were either part of a religious cult or just stoned, well we are in Holland?
There was a litter of 2 week old kittens that Anne fawned over.

The first night at the site, we couldn’t be bothered cooking, so went out foraging for food. We found the ‘Amadeus’ Steak House, what a fantastic place! Though a tad expensive, the food was brilliant, Anne had steak I had spare ribs and the sauces were brilliant. The lager was pure nectar. Anne had warm cherries and ice cream, which we had to share. When it came to pay, I went to the cashier, and Anne went to the car. There was a problem with the Barclaycard, the cashier had to ring BC who said that I had to ring them. I ended up calling Anne from the car and Anne ended up paying.

The incident with the card apart from being embarrassing, caused me some concern as we had been away from home for a while and anyone could have been using my details.

We got back to the caravan and I called Barclaycard. It seemed that they considered my purchasing the garage from Crompton the builders, as an unusual transaction and cancelled all other usage. Bit of a pain, but my concern was the fact the garage I had hoped would have been ordered and ready for delivery, by the time we got back, had not yet been ordered. These things are sent to try us, not to worry!

We decide to ring the Caravan Club, tomorrow morning and see if we can get an earlier ferry home. A couple from Holmfirth set up a caravan next to us, and we get on famously with them.

We watch ‘Educating Rita’ and have an early night.

Monday 29th May 2006.

It’s a sunny morning but cold, we are keen to ring the club hotline, I am kept on hold and after 5 minutes am told to ring back later as the lines are busy. We try this 3 times, at what cost I haven’t a clue, but Anne’s phone is wiped out for credits. I ring the international help line number for emergencies out of hours and get through straight away. After 5 minutes the helpful lady says we can travel at 2.30 p.m. the next day. We’ll take it!

We then spend an enjoyable walk around Ede, doing a bit of shopping and just chilling in a pavement café, we’re so chilled (due to the cold) that we have to go sit inside. I am amazed that they are able to sell drugs so openly in the café, until I realise that the word ‘Pot’ which is the only word I can make out on the chalk boards, refers to ‘Pot’ of soup or ‘Pot’ of tea. On our return to the camp site we pay the steward 24 euros for our two night stay, he won’t be up for us to pay him in the morning.

We have invited our Holmfirth friends to dinner this evening so we get back to the caravan and prepare to entertain, which means I will be giving the laptop display of our trip to the Ukraine, which you will all have to endure eventually.

John who turns out to be Mr Moonlight, and Marcia are a great couple, they are a few years older than us, but have a very youthful outlook on life although both were worldly wise, they appeared rather bohemian to Anne and me. We actually thought that they were Dutch. Marcia was a Psychiatric Nurse and John, who had many strings to his bow, was in the main a photographer and film maker, who new a mutual friend and colleague of Anne’s, small world?

We cooked and ate a Lidle lasagne, salad and potatoes, followed by apple strudel and custard. Wine and brandy were consumed, although I remained typically on beer.

Our last evening on the continent came to an end and an early night was had, as we were to be away by 9 a.m. the next morning.

Tuesday 30th May 2006.

Everything goes like clockwork and we leave the campsite at 9 a.m. We had hugs and kisses goodbye from our new friends as we left.

The satellite navigation tells us that we have 125 km to get to the Port, although the sailing isn’t till 2.30 p.m. we don’t want to take any chances and would rather be there early. The lady in the navigation machine warns us of slow moving traffic ahead, would we prefer a detour, we say no! As she has lost her credibility with previous warnings of impending delays which came to nought. Thankfully we were right to ignore her and we arrived at the docks at 11.30 a.m. and are the first on the blocks. It looks rough out to sea and Anne, who is not the best sailor, has to take some precautionary medication.

We relax in our caravan and I get the opportunity to do a bit of writing.

Anne notices a caravan parked behind us, it just happens to be the couple from Stourport who we met on the boat coming out 5 weeks earlier. The world gets smaller all the time.

The check in opened early and we were caught of guard, still we get through and then have the inevitable wait to get on the ship. We are then put to one side as all the other vehicles pass us to get on. The steward says that he wants us on last so that we won’t damage our caravan as it is so big. Fair enough!

So far today we have completed just 75 miles.

We get on the boat and have an enormous dinner (my sisters partner John has commented that all we seem to do is drive and eat), we share a table with our Stourport neighbours.

We are soon underway and in the rocking and rolling sea. Anne does very well. Three hours into the journey and a man at a table near to us just throws up over the table. Anne gives him a plastic bag that we have. He looks shocking. Many other people are disappearing to the toilets looking un well. Anne seems to be holding her own. She sits up from a bit of a nap, talks a little while and then says that she doesn’t feel well and she also disappears to the toilets, where she is violently ill. Poor darling, what a waste of a schnitzel!

The sea is pretty rough all the way over to Blighty, I must say I did have a job eating the soup and roll they gave me an hour from Harwich.

We ring Anne’s brother Stuart, to ascertain, if we can drive down our road, with the caravan. He carries out a reconnaissance and rings us back, it’s clear. We decide to come straight home, an alternative would be to stay in a camp site at Harwich, but we are going for the home straight.

We set tyre on English soil at 8.30 p.m. and are out of the port by 9 p.m. I resolve to get back in one fowl swoop.

We finally get home at 1.30 a.m on Wednesday 31st May 2006, the mileage for the day including the 75 miles in Holland is 277 miles.

We are both shattered but find time to have a look at the garden and have some tea and toast.

The adventure is over.

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