Told in the collective first person, jointly from Stu and Janell Clarke's perspective.
Narrated Audio Blog
It was a big decision to take a break from travelling and to work in the UK. To this day we debate whether it was a good idea or not. Janell felt she needed some stability, to know where she was going to sleep every night, buy food for more than a few days and have some routine in our daily life. It could also be an opportunity to make some money for Africa and money to spend enjoying ourselves exploring the UK. Stu wasn't so sure about this plan, by his calculations we had enough money for Africa and wasn't keen to be sticking around in England through the cold months. It would give him time to work on the Pillion Pooch design and run a kickstarter campaign, an idea he'd been playing with in the US but just never had the time to really sit down and work on.
It was agreed, we'd spend 6 months living and working in England. Janell was happy to get a job, she knew she'd enjoy the social aspect of work as well as the routine and exercising parts of her brain that hadn't been used in a while. We had a place to stay thanks to our new friends Tony and Lynda who we'd met on the Queen Mary 2 cruise line sailing across the Atlantic Ocean. All we wanted then was a cheap car because it was cold and we wanted to do road trips on the weekend and not worry about riding in the cold and dark.
As much as Janell would have liked a challenging job in her line of work, she really wanted a fairly stress-free job that didn't eat into our own time. She registered with a temping firm, Cameo Consulting, and within two weeks had accepted a position as a Product Managers Assistant working at FPS Distribution. The pay wasn't great but would definitely cover our expenses and put a little away for Africa. The position was a 6 month maternity cover which was perfect, she didn't have to lie about continuing our travel and they got a very competent worker. The only perk of the job was a 40% discount on the wholesale price of tools, oils, parts and other automotive accessories. This discount would often result in purchases being 75% off the eBay price for the equivalent item.
Meanwhile, Stu was working hard sourcing suppliers and chasing quotes to make the various components of the Pillion Pooch. We had about 600 GBP we could throw at the project so that's what we spent. If the campaign was successful then we would have the capital raised through pre-orders to pay for the manufacturing and delivery of the product. Oh, and hopefully we'd make a profit to contribute to further travel.
The UK is full of history, it's just rolling in it and we Australians are so desperate to see the estates and towns that are hundreds of years old because we just don't have that sort of history. The most economical way to visit many of the old mansion homes and their grounds is to buy a National Trust pass. When we joined it was 99GBP for two people and was valid for a year. This pass allowed us to visit hundreds and hundreds of sites all over England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. We didn't make it to Ireland or Scotland but we certainly made a dent in the England and Wales properties. Every weekend we wrapped ourselves and the girls up in our woolies and headed to a new place. We started close to home then went further afield. The landscape was picture perfect, walking the dogs through muddy paddocks with endless views of green fields, hedges and scattered trees. A lot of the big houses have a cafe or restaurant so after your long walk in the mud, over bridges and through forests you can sit down and warm up with a hot cup of tea and scones or cakes or sandwiches. We really enjoyed these outings and saw a lot of the countryside because of the National Trust pass.
We watched the seasons change from Winter to Spring to Summer. Tony and Lynda's farm transformed, it simply blossomed over this period. The days became longer and one very memorable night, a Thursday night, we were having dinner and a few drinks in the backyard with Lynda. We were having such a good time talking, laughing and drinking that before we knew it was nearly midnight. The sun had set so late we completely lost track of time and Janell had to go to work the next day, thank God it was a Friday because it was to be a struggle on so little sleep.
Not wanting to entirely disconnect with our World Trip, we decided to attend the Horizons Unlimited event in Wales. We hadn't met up with travellers for a while and we were eager to share the story of our adventures with our dogs in North and South America. We signed up as presenters and gave talks entitled "Biker Bitches" and "Salty Sea Dogs". We hoped the catchy names would draw attention and hopefully an audience. Unfortunately we were either scheduled at 9am or the same time as someone super famous in the overlander community. Of course the message we wanted to convey was pet travel, there were enough people there presenting pictures and stories of difficult roads to ride around the world and scary border crossings. We consoled our poor attendance with plenty of beer and used the rest of our time to get information on travelling overland in Africa where we were shortly headed. It was a fun weekend, the HUBB event is always worthwhile both as a presenter and as a listener.
The stability of being in one place easily allowed us a trip home to Australia. Janell's grandmother, Winifred, was turning 100 and we just couldn't miss such a remarkable event. Lynda's daughter, Georgina, very graciously looked after Weeti and Shadow in her home for us. They were not only in safe hands but they would absolutely be spoiled rotten with Georgina so we could enjoy our trip and not worry about them. Winifred had a lovely party and we cherished every moment with her. We didn't know it at the time but it was to be the last time we'd see her. A month before her next birthday she passed away, we were in Africa. Winifred always supported our travel, she'd done a lot of her own travel and knew the value of seeing the world. She was always telling Janell she had to live her own life.
We did the occasional normal activity like doing a fun run but mostly we were looking for new experiences. We saw a womens FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium. Tony and Lynda had spare tickets to an airshow in Lincolnshire and we saw real life Spitfires flying. There were loads of car and motorcycle events for both classic and new vehicles. Even our local pub, The Norman Knight, had a monthly car and bike event on a Thursday night that attracted huge crowds. We went every time, really what's better than sipping a beer (or ale) as you wander around looking at motorbikes. A lot of the cars caught our eyes too and every month a guy with the world's fastest shed came along.
It's fair to say we made the most of our 8 month break and when we left the Farm we were very sad to say goodbye. Once Janell had finished working at FPS we got ourselves organised and finished with a quick tour on the motorbikes around England and Wales. We had arrived by sea and we were to leave by sea, sailing on a Brittany Ferry from England to Spain.
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