Travels Without Charley

People: The Driver

I spotted this car parked near a Farmers Market - I walked on, wondering about the owner and what their story was.

The Driver

Returning a few hours later, I saw a couple of cars stopped at a junction. They weren’t moving and as I got closer saw an elderly man using his feet to propel him and his wheelchair backwards across this small, pot hole riven junction … up a small incline.

I walked over and asked him if he needed any help.

“No thanks. I’m fine.

Are you sure?

“No really. I’m ok … Thankyou.

Pushing harder with his feet for the final assault on the slope.

I waved to him ... ok then ... and kept going. He shouted out.

“Thankyou. Thankyou very much. I’m ok ... really."

I turned around to wav to see him by his car, wrestling with the door to get in, carefully watched by his lady friend, sitting patiently to one side of the road in her wheelchair.

I still don’t know the story of the car, nor it’s owner - but clearly, despite what the car might say to a passer by ... he was a proud, well mannered, graceful man. I really wish I knew his story.

Travels Without Charley

People: Will

I got my skills very early in life and never looked back. A lot of people in my line of work are ex-military, but I was trained and worked as a civilian all of my life. It's funny when I was at school all the advice I got was about getting a ‘good’ job with a ‘reputable company’. What they meant was ‘large’.

Travels Without Charley

People: Sylvester

“They come for three months - they stay for four years - and I welcome that. That’s how we learn. They see us up close and personal and we see them. A lot of countries that they come from have very different governments, with different rules. We get to learn about each without the filter of what they are told. I wouldn’t say that when they leave we fully understand each other’s cultures, but we are surely better off than we would have been if we hadn't.”

“We bring people in from all over the world, staff and customers. So, why would we treat anyone differently? Them, Us, Staff, Customers, Family … each one of us is part of another’s world. And I mean all of us.”

“I don’t know much about those large companies you hear about in the news. You could fit our entire community into one of their office blocks. They have their ways. We have ours. So we’re different. Except we’re not. None of us are. They just haven’t worked that out yet.”

“Turns out, we have more in common with ‘foreigners’ - like you” (he smiles and points his finger at me) “than some of the people from our own country. Turns out that the ones that are just here to 'party' are the odd ones out. That’s why we came up with the 'Silly Bugger' rule.”

“It goes like this. When you come here, you can work and you can party. But that’s on your time. If you play 'silly bugger', there is no second chance. You are out on the next boat. That’s how we build and strengthen our community. Everybody is welcome until they make themselves unwelcome.”

“Maybe that’s something else those big companies could learn from us. If they did, we wouldn’t charge. That’s another thing - we don’t charge to learn - learning makes us all better.”

“There is no harm in our criticizing foreigners, if only we would also criticize ourselves. In other words, the world might need even less of its new charity, if it had a little more of the old humility.”

G.K. Chesterton
Travels Without Charley

People: Jeffrey

In a recent newsletter, I referenced a book; Everything I Know About Business I Learned from the Grateful Dead which unbeknownst to me was written by a friend of a friend. Turns out the two friends used to swap Grateful Dead stories and on reading my post this story came to mind. When I read the story, it seemed a perfect addition to my Travels Without Charley series - so please read on and enjoy the first 'guest post' in the series.

One favourite was about a concerned father and his 16 year old son.

Travels Without Charley

People: Kevin

"Me? I'm from England ... you’ve heard of the 'Garden of England'?“

“I have - Kent right?”

“That’s the one - and every garden needs a compost heap - that’s the town I'm from, so my girlfriend and I sold everything we had, bought a couple of tickets and here we are.”

Travels Without Charley
Tags , ,

People: Leo

"In Italy I was a photographer. In Rome."

“A pretty place to photograph.”

"Well, not so much, my job was a police photographer. When someone died, I took the photographs. I was very busy. Ten years .. every day … click click click … more death. Depressing. Soul ‘killing’’. I couldn’t make a life out of death."

So different city, different country, different job?

"Yes. But same girl!"

"She said to me one day that she is coming here. To England. It seemed a good idea. Time for change."

You didn’t want to do something in photography? Maybe scenery, weddings, commercial … put your skills to a different use?


"My girl friend she is always changing. Me too. I wanted change. But Only one change. Change. Stop."

So you have been here for ten years.

"Yes. And will be for another ten. My girlfriend she has had 15 jobs in the same time. Sometimes working 50 miles away. Always changing. Always chasing. But never arriving."

"Me? I’ve arrived."

Any journey is a series of events and one of those events is the destination. [efn_note] I was reminded of this story when I was sharing a bottle of wine with a friend recently. The wine was 'own label' - and on that label was a line ... that he assured me was his, I haven't found it anywhere else so let me attribute accordingly. [/efn_note]

Travels Without Charley
Tags , ,

People: Alfie

How about you? I asked.

"Me? More brothers and sisters than most and none of them talk to me and the missus."

That must be hard.

Not really. It runs in the family. My parents hardly ever talked.

"You can't choose your family, but you sure can choose your friends".

My Dad [efn_note]A long time ago[/efn_note]

Travels Without Charley
Tags , , ,

People: Semera

He looked at me. Eyes piercing my skull.

“Yes - I have heard of it I replied. An African nation … right?”

African yes.

"I’m sorry, I can’t place exactly where in Africa - but, my memory tells me in the North .. near Ethiopia?”

You do indeed know my country. He gave me the biggest smile.

And then this young man from Eritrea launched into the story of his journey from Africa to San Francisco. Not harrowing … though if you know anything of that region, that is more surprising than if it was.

I won a scholarship to America. I am a musician. I came here ten years ago.

Travels Without Charley

People: Benjamin

Stood to the side of the road, walking stick supporting him. Well kept. Elegant even. Just standing. The traffic constantly passing him by. No slowing down, but then no attempt by him to get them to either.

I slowed down to let him cross. No movement.

I opened the window.

“Would you like a lift?”

"Thankyou." he said. "Thankyou very much."

Slowly walking towards the car, he gets in.

"Much appreciated." he said. "I’m going to 4th street ... is that ok?"

"No problem. Which cross street?"

"It doesn’t matter. Anywhere on 4th. I’m going to the bank."

Travels Without Charley
Tags , , , , , ,

People: Jan

Jan knows the UK and lives in Texas now, but the journey from one to the other allowed her to see the rest of the world.

She lived in Mildenhall. I’d heard of it. Used to live near there myself.

She joined the USAF to get trained, qualified and see a world ‘outside of the 50’. She left after just three years because she met and fell in love with the man who became her husband (best-laid plans and all that!). Training and Qualifications put on hold, but still traveled and saw the world. After all - her husband was still in the forces.

Now she is an antique dealer and her husband works at the nearby USAF facility. Well not just the USAF, turns out it is the only joint USAF and NATO training facility in the world.

Who knew?