Don’t just stand there… (reasons to be cheerful!)

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Friends, friends, friends, friends… Probably the overall happiest people I’ve seen in my travels in this world are the Goans in India, closely followed by communities I’ve seen in (the UK’s) West Country, Ireland, Thailand and Spain. The connection I think is that at the top of the list of priorities in these places is friends and family – where it should be. Conversely the saddest, most frustrated and haunted people I’ve seen are in many of the world’s big cities, where true friendship and family is often replaced by fake flash and chasing cash.

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So here we are travelling around in our lovely Swift Escape motorhome (aka the fun bus!) seeing our friends and donating to charity for every one we see – and on the dawn of my birthday as I write here now in Spain where we arrived yesterday I want to urge everyone to see a friend and also give a couple of quid to this cause. It’s my birthday gift to myself to make this suggestion because I have a warmth inside from knowing the joy you’ll get from seeing a friend. Pick up your phone and arrange it now, and you’ll also immediately know that warmth. That you can give to charity as well as giving to your friend (and remember, this is giving to yourself too, so the gift of giving in three wonderful ways!) is the icing on the cake.
Our own journey as we raise money for Cancer Research UK, for ourselves and that we hope will inspire others to visit friends and family for charity, continues now in wonderful Spain.
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Debs grew up in Spain and I have several great friends who’ve moved to this fantastic life-loving country. And it’s one that’s warmer than the UK, especially in November… (our Swift Escape 696 can handle the cold, maintaining 20 degrees inside at up to minus 15 outside, but it’s far more wonderful to be able to fling the doors open and sit outside in the sunshine before we head inside to eat and sleep).
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Back in England last week, we caught up with our parents and my brother, then from our beautiful and peaceful campsite in the Chiltern Hills I met up with Dane, a best mate from 1978, but we’d not seen each other for 30 years. Well, every picture tells a story…
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Likewise when Debs met her cousin Dave and his great bunch of boys who played brilliantly in our motorhome with our two boys.
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Then after a night in another lovely campsite – this in Chichester – booked by our friends at The Camping And Caravanning Club (who from one phone call have also booked our entire roster of campsites in Spain as well as given sterling advice on travel and campsites in France, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands), we headed for Portsmouth to excitedly board the Brittany Ferries impressive Pont-Aven ship for Santander, Spain.
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From our Spanish motorhome holiday in March we know this will be one of the favourite parts of the trip for us all, especially the boys who love the ship (amazed from the word go that the motorhome can actually fit inside it!) and being on the sea, plus its soft play and children’s area!
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They love watching out for dolphins and pirates and mermaids, and we saw all of those many times…
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The English Channel and the Bay of Biscay were a little choppy, hence this photograph that was supposed to be of the boys playing on the soft play…

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But we loved watching the horizon and wondering what more fun was over there. The food on board was delicious (and with awesome views when eating it!) and Daniel delighted in ordering for the first time in French – a glass of apple juice!
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The staff were all wonderful too, including when at 3am Debs needed a doctor. No fuss, on-board doctor arrived, problem fixed.
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We also sailed away the 24-hour trip with a bout of bingo, and some more eating, horizon-gazing, mermaid-spotting and playing. Then there was our checks on and walkies of Mr Colin Dog, for yes, he is on his first foreign trip!
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He had the company of about 15 other dogs in the kennels area on the top deck and so walkies were a friendly affair! We’re delighted that Colin can take part in this leg of our Project adventure. 🙂
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The Pont-Aven ship really is like a floating hotel – and a much better and more civilised way of travelling than flying. No queues, delays or being cramped. No sudden bump into a new culture, instead a slow arrival in which you watch scenery change. The excitement of waking up to see the bluer seas and the Spanish mainland in sight is second to none.
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Oh Spain, Spain how we love you! What a fantastic country! It always strikes me that the people live for life not live to work (hello swathes of England!). Sure, we all need to pay our way, but why work all hours to pay for the big house when it means the people you love who you share that house with hardly ever see you…?!! Why justify all those hours away at work by saying you’re doing it for your children… when your children just want you there?!!
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Anyway, the next thing that struck me in Spain was that the roads are infinitely better than British roads. Less crowded of course as the country is bigger with a smaller population, but also better kept and with much better facilities – such as lay-bys with playgrounds (that met all the boys’ approval!) and picnic benches, and these lay-bys are a fair enough distance from the main road that you don’t feel like your ear has been whipped off every time a vehicle zooms past…
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This is also green Spain – España Verde – and green as the grass of home it is.
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Then a couple of hours from Santander (after my Spanish favourite of bocadillos and a café bonbón or three en route, and thank goodness for Debs’ fluent Spanish. Mine is okay, a smattering of enough words and phrases, although in March I did order a coffee, proficiently I thought, in one place – and was served up a ham sandwich. Wouldn’t have been so bad except I don’t eat meat…) – and we arrived in Gijon on the northern coast.
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It looked so clean and sleek, lots of sculptures, and with a sweeping big beach too!
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And to our campsite to be greeted by Enrique and his chickens and dog. He even took Debs to the supermercado for some supplies.
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And what a setting, what a view! We watched in wonder as the sun set on the city and seas.
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We woke up to this beautiful view and pinched ourselves. Today on my birthday, in a couple of hours from now as I write, we’re seeing a friend from many years ago – but I’ve not seen Jane in 15 years. And I’ve never seen Jane in Spain: what a priceless birthday gift!
Seeing Jane, as with seeing all our friends, was magical and beautiful and just wonderful. We are creating new happy memories. We feel heartened and uplifted, full of love – and quite simply: it’s outstanding!
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Give yourself that gift. You have the communication to arrange it in your hands right now  – so, go see your people… GO FOR IT! Then touch noses with them, post it in sepia or black & white on your Facebook Timeline or Twitter, and donate a little to charity. You’ll get so much back from this giving and be giving so much. It’s the best reason to be cheerful. 🙂
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