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Viv and Dave Boardman's Adventures in Retirement

Wednesday, 26 October 2022

Here I am sitting in my brother in law's house in Fairfield, Connecticut, home of Mark Twain, 50 miles North East of New York City.

What am I doing here…?

We both left school 50 years ago and have retired. We married young and had our kids in 1979 and 1980 – some of you know them; Cathy and Daisy who is the event manager on the Handmade Parade and this year's Happy Valley Pride day in the park.

All those years ago, many of our friends and family were travelling about and some have settled in various parts of the world – we are off to meet a few of them and have our own well-deserved adventures.

We are able to do this because Viv's much loved and respected mum Val died last year, her flat on the Marina was sold and we have the money to do it. Val and Bill, Viv's dad had planned to travel when they retired, but Bill died and it never happened. So, we are spending Val's money on a trip Val wanted to take. She was a splendid woman, one to be proud of.

Our trip can be heard on our Podcast Adventures in Retirement on Podbean, Apple, Spotify and various other platforms and at our website.

We started with the unadventurous, though pleasant, trip to the Isle of Wight and Southsea to visit a few old friends who now live there. From there, we went to Caen and Paris meet a former student of mine Clara who is working in the events industry in her home city. Since then we have been to Lille, Dusseldorf, Bremen and Berlin before flying to Boston via Iceland.

We have seen some of the rough end of European living – cheap hotels are often in areas where poverty, addiction and desperation are in evidence. It reminded us that our first trip abroad – to Paris in the mid '70s – was the first time either of us had seen begging in the streets, even though our home town, Liverpool, was and is one of the poorest cities in Europe. Unfortunately, the UK has now joined Europe in the homelessness/ poverty league tables (thank you Mrs Thatcher, that's your legacy).

It has been noticeable that war and conflict has affected Europe immensely and makes us realise that whatever happens in Ukraine, the effects will be there for generations to come.

We landed by ferry (not P&O) near the D Day beaches where, as many of you will know the war memorials are awash with the names of civilians killed by guns and bombs of both sides in WW2. We saw new reconstruction buildings in each German town to fill in the bomb sites, which reminded me of playing in bomb sites in Liverpool.

Germany has many issues it is still coming to terms with – there are several museums and memorials and the leaflet "Hitler: how could that have happened" is on display in many places. We stayed in a hotel next to East Wall Gallery – a section of the Berlin wall that is now a piece of art and a memorial to those who died trying to get over it.

Right: Dave at the Berlin wall with a Trabant crashing through

We also stayed at a hotel near Templehof, a former airport, constructed in the Nazi architectural style and the base for the Berlin Airlift which got supplies into West Berlin when the Soviets cut it off. Poignant, as my Dad was involved in the logistics of the airlift, the last time any of my immediate relatives had been to Berlin.

They don't hide away form the ills of fascism; the Berlin Jewish museum is amazing and the building is designed to disorient the senses not just show the evils of racism.

Berlin had to deal with both Nazism and Stalinism, and there is a lot of anti capitalist graffiti and art. They have an interesting history and it makes them both tough and ready to enjoy life. It is great to see that young people still see it as a party place, perhaps more Techno that Cabaret these days but entertainment of all kinds can be found.

Flag waving has always been evident in France, but is rare in Germany.

The USA though is heaven for flag shaggers. Bill, who we are staying with, attended a local authority planning meeting and they all pledged allegiance to the flag and constitution before the meeting as a matter of course. In Boston we saw lots of Stars and Stripes and Irish tricolours (they spell it without the U of course). Both sets of people are pleased with themselves for getting rid of English monarchy, and good for them.

Our costs have gone up as the arse has fallen out of the UK economy and the pound has plummeted against the Euro and the Dollar. It has made everything more expensive as we are spending euros and dollars. It has also been interesting watching the chaos that is the UK government from afar: three prime ministers and heaven knows how many cabinet members since our adventures began. People in France and Germany shrugged and said collectively "what did you expect when voting for Brexit".

Obviously, we didn't vote for Brexit or any of the Tories who seem determined to destroy the British economy. People abroad are amazed and astonished at the incompetence of Liz Trus– "how could she get an important job, never mind head of government". And this is from people who elected Trump…

One Canadian in a jazz café in Boston summed it up: "The English seem to think they still have an empire. They don't even have a Commonwealth, they voted to have no friends in Europe and soon Ireland will be united, Scotland will have left, the Welsh don't want the English to foist a Prince of Wales on them. When will they realise they haven't even got friends on the British Isles?"

Still we are thoroughly enjoying ourselves. We met up with Viv's cousin Adam in Bremen who was one of the heroes who saved those boys from flooded caves in Thailand - see photo on the left. We have caught up with friends in England, France and the USA.

We have made new friends in France, Germany and Boston. One woman we met in a bar next to the Berlin Wall has invited us to meet her in Melbourne when we get there.

We are looking forward to meeting up with Sally in New York and Viv's siblings in Saskatchewan and British Columbia before going on to Australia to meet long standing friends there. We have an outline plan but are only booking accommodation and trips a week or so ahead. This allows flexibility and we have decided to stop off in Toronto next week where we know no one. We have discovered Homestay.com which appears to be based on the original couch surfing and what Airbnb was before it became a monster, seriously damaging access to local housing. With Homestay you stay in people's homes with them and it has worked really well for us so far.

Dave Boardman
Fairfield Connecticut
25 October 2022

Viv at Beatlesplatz, Reeperbahn, Hamburg

Viv at the wall - now a work of art