Life's A Buzz (2)


Katie and Rex first caught the travel bug in the 1970s; it bit hard, with one trip leading to many more.

In his travelogue memoir Life's a Buzz (2), Richard Plant humorously retraces the travel adventures of Katie and his alter-ego Rex as they embark on an unforgettable journey through the British Isles and mainland Europe, eventually landing back in Oxford, England, to live and work.

With a humorous, eclectic flair, Plant shares a collection ...

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Life's a Buzz (2)

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Katie and Rex first caught the travel bug in the 1970s; it bit hard, with one trip leading to many more.

In his travelogue memoir Life's a Buzz (2), Richard Plant humorously retraces the travel adventures of Katie and his alter-ego Rex as they embark on an unforgettable journey through the British Isles and mainland Europe, eventually landing back in Oxford, England, to live and work.

With a humorous, eclectic flair, Plant shares a collection of entertaining anecdotes based on slightly embellished real-life adventures that highlight the delightful buzz of international travel. Plant begins his narrative in London as Rex and Katie first hop on a tour bus and head for Plymouth and Bodmin Moor, where pirates once came inland to divvy up their booty, fight, and pinch each other's girls. As they journey from Wales to Ireland to Scotland and finally to mainland Europe, Rex and Katie are thoroughly entertained by a jovial guide while they tour ancient castles, savour local flavours, and take in the picturesque scenery.

Life's a Buzz (2) details a delightful adventure as two travelers experience the vitality of Jubilee London, the romance of Paris, and the gentle bustle of Bruges and Lille, all while realizing the joys of living a dream.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781462046379
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/8/2011
  • Pages: 276
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Life's a Buzz


iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2011 Richard Plant
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4620-4637-9

Chapter One

Like Sheep in a Bus

To Plymouth

The first day of a tour can be daunting. At breakfast a host of people spill out of the hotel foyer. How on earth could all that humanity fit into a tour coach? The answer – three were to leave that morning. Confusion seemed to reign until one sensible looking bloke told them all to shut up. Rex liked him immediately. "Hope he belongs to us," he whispered to Katie who was still a little jaded from the long flight and her first foray into London. He did. He organised the hotel staff to take 'his' luggage first. Katie checked the pile to be sure theirs was present. It was. A bloody great coach pulled up out front with a hiss of air brake. The collected luggage disappeared into its bowel.

"All aboard for England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, Tour # whatever it was!" called their man, whose name turned out to be Alan.

"I'll have fun with Alan later" whispered Rex into Katie's ear as they boarded.

It was Alan's first tour of the season, but he was obviously a seasoned performer. He explained seat rotation, he established nationalities, and he used the usual ice-breakers most had become accustomed to in their various fields of endeavour. They would become accustomed to morning stops, lunch stops, free time, afternoon stops, optional (additional cost) side tours and to a variety of hotel, the standard of which we would be warned in advance, promised Alan. He didn't tell us in advance about the rain though. The further the coach went, the heavier it got. Stonehenge, drizzle. Salisbury, showers. Katie and Rex had a disagreement here. She wanted to go through the cathedral. He wanted fish 'n chips.

She went through. He had the cone. Both did so alone. They met in a small bar opposite the cathedral when a young mother with a baby basket walked in. She sat with some girl friends. She picked up the baby, sniffed its backside and put it back in the basket. Next came an impressive explosion from the baby's rear, and it giggled with glee. The mother had to take the baby back to the car through the rain to change it. She returned, her temper as damp as her outfit.

By Plymouth, it was hissing down. Alan had told the story of Drake's bowls, and how they shanghaied sailors by putting a coin in their drinking mugs. Apparently that meant the unfortunate drinker had drunk with the King/Queen and thus was purloined into Navy duty. "That's why they made mugs with glass bottoms, so the mugs could see if there was a coin there or not," concluded Alan. Plymouth was the two-night base for day travelling

Lands End was nearly frozen off the mainland. Rex's Nan in Sandringham used to talk about the length of Britain being from John o'Groats to Lands End. Rex reckoned to Alan that if they've visited the arse end of the world, they might as well have done it in the Rsole weather that was given them. "I hope it's better in St. Ives," shivered Rex. He also told Alan how his Nan liked to trick the kids with her little conundrum about St Ives:

"When I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives,"

"Pity the poor bastard!" said 'ole Dick.

"Ssh Pop," continued Nan, "when I was going to St Ives, I met a man with seven wives; and every wife had a sack, and in each sack was seven cats. Are you concentrating kiddies? Every cat had seven kits. How many people were going to St Ives?" she grinned.

The first answer was usually, "9 Nan!"

"Try again," she'd say.

"It's still nine Nan, one plus one plus the seven wives."

"No. The answer is one." She laughed. "I was going to St Ives. I met the others on the way!"

"Ohh! OK Nan."

"Hang on hang on," chimed in 'ole Dick, "how do you know the poor old bastard with the seven wives wasn't goin' in the same direction?"

"Don't confuse them, Pop," said Nan.

"He might have been goin' the opposite way to rid himself of the seven wives and all those bloody cats! He could have put the wives in the sack with the cats and drowned the whole bloody lot! Good thing if he did, I reckon, so the answer could be one or two or nine, get it!?"

The coach was too big to drive down into St Ives. The descent was too steep. The roads too narrow, and the town authorities had pedestrianised as much of it as was practical.

Great spot for a Cornish pasty, and fresh fish n' chips and on-the-beach pub hospitality.

They got down and back by shuttle bus.

Bodmin Moor next. It was Hound of the Baskervilles and Lorna Doon country; home of the Jamaica Inn, where pirates came inland to divvy up their booty, and fight each other, and slip each other Mickey-Finns, and pinch each other's goods and girls. It was a brilliant old pub, burning peat and old salted wood from a pulled-down pier. Manfred, the driver entered the bar: "Rain's stopped. Sun's out!" he announced. And just as the tourists were mingling more freely, they were driven back for their last night in Plymouth.

Katie and Rex were allocated a former attic in their olde worlde hotel. The bath was set against the wall under a steep slanted roof. The shower was a rose on the end of a hose that sat like a telephone over the taps at the plug end of said bath.

"I can't shower sitting in a bath!" moaned Rex as he bent over to examine the equipment.

"Where did you put my small case?" asked Katie. Rex didn't hear her clearly. As he stood to turn and ask what she'd said, his head bounced off the slanted roof with a lump bearing thud that might have been heard at Reception two floors down. Silence reigned. "Bother!" whispered Rex quietly. Katie began to giggle. "Did your head dent the roof?"

"I saw stars," he replied, "Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Mickey Mouse ..."

"If you see Pluto I'll know you're barking mad!" commented Katie.

"Modern" pommie plumbing under the bath raised it to a height Katie couldn't negotiate. Her legs were too short to step over the edge. Rex, who was now drying himself after bathing first to soothe his thumping head tried to negotiate Katie's bare hips and legs over and into the steaming bath. His towel unwrapped itself from his naked person as he bent over unceremoniously in his manful endeavour to settle Katie safely in the bathwater.

What a sight it must have been – especially for the maid who entered the room unannounced or unheard by the pair!

The following morning they swapped a boat trip around the naval base for a head-clearing walk through the Barbican where they opened a coffee bar and watched a group of school girls training in canoes in the cold morning dew. As Katie was walking back alongside the water, one rugged-up tweenie waved her frozen finger and admonished Katie for walking so close to the water without wearing floatiest! Even Rex couldn't keep her speechless for so long!

Still down on the water, they noticed the chiselled names of the drowned – the fishermen, the migrants, the ships that came and went – the cobblestones, sheer living history.

Up top, the sea views were quite incredible as the weather cleared, revealing that an armada could not sail anywhere near the place without being seen – perhaps even from the lawns that look an awful lot like Bowling Greens.

"Clippers under full sail must have been a spectacular sight as they moved out of the harbour heading to the edge of the world!" Rex marvelled at the thought.

"What, on the one day of the year the sun shines?" replied a shivering but grinning Katie.


"It's much steeper then I recall," said a female British voice which belonged to a once relocated child during WWII. Rex recalled he was told that child evacuees from main bomb target areas were sent away to 'safer' havens like Clovelly which were regarded as very low risk of bombardment or invasion. As the coach pulled in, so did a contingent of those relocated children who attended a reunion some 55 years after the event. A fleet of Land Rovers was available for rides up and down the cliff face. At the top, Clovelly just appeared. There was no pre-sight. A cliff edge, a cobbled descent, and what was then an arts and crafts village simply dropped away beneath them. The descent into the old village was steeper than St Ives; the cobbles were older, smaller and slippery in places. Straight ahead was the ocean. Down the steep incline cottages faced the street on both sides. So did a Post Office where Katie fluked a set of Diana remembrance stamps, a pub/restaurant, art and craft shops, a supermarket and way, way down on the small sand cove was the sea and a Red Lion pub. Katie was hesitant about proceeding further. Not so much about getting down, but getting up again. The return trip looked fearsome. Rex hoped he was right when he reminded her that the Land Rover would get them back. In any case, a breather was essential. Although it could be argued that such a small village could not support two pubs, the location of each was a strong argument for the positive. Co-incidentally Rex was wearing a XXXX shirt. (That's the Queensland Beer, not the preventative measure!) The publican at the half-way-down pub produced a XXXX bar runner and placed it on their table. "I used to serve it, but since Carlsberg became available in draught, they put the pressure on to swap," he apologised, "however, I might be able to find you one to help you on the way back," he offered. "Thanks for the thought," replied Rex, "but I think the Land Rover might help us more!" He then told the publican that the Southern breweries in Australia reckoned the beer was called XXXX because they couldn't spell BEER in Queensland! Onwards, downwards they continued until nearly exhausted, they sat at the Red Lion where the guv'nor covered a pool table to make more bar room for the coach visitors. Many others joined them. Katie and Rex got into conversation with a Canadian/American couple for the first time, and tears filled his eyes as Rex mentioned something about a 'shout'. "I haven't heard the word 'shout' in years, since I trained with some Aussies in the RAF early in the war," he said with a lump in his throat. "Bejesus, they could fly! Let me shout you both one," he grinned. He told them how he'd remained in the services and was posted mostly in America, and now carried dual passports. "We took out USA citizenship so we could vote that Bill Clinton out of office, but it didn't work! Not enough of us did it!" he said quietly. Katie caught one Land Rover, Rex another. He arrived first and noticed a pheasant standing near the cliff top. On closer inspection, he saw it was standing guard as mother pheasant was feeding two baby pheasant. He was so exhausted, he started laughing, giggling in fact, because the pheasant plucking song somehow got into his head:

    "I'm not the pheasant plucker,
    I'm the pheasant plucker's wife,
    And when we pluck together,
    It's a pheasant plucking life!"

"Bastard! I can't get the plucking thing out of my peasant head!" he laughed and giggled all the way on to that night's stopover.


Katie discovered Marks and Spencer in Barnstaple. Or Marks 'n Sparks as she would come to call the retail giant. She bought everything she reckoned she was short of!

Their hotel was being renovated. One of the rooms did not have a shower curtain in the bathroom. Thus the shower splashed somewhat. One of the occupants was showering before dinner. Their room phone rang, and the one not taking the shower was asked to tell the one that was, to desist, because their shower water was running into someone else's room below. "Hope your plumbing's not mixed up with the toilet" he responded.

There was a wedding in progress, and some student guests were staying there as well. A nightclub was in action behind the hotel. Girls being girls had told some boys they'd leave a window open and the boys could climb the scaffolding to their room. The boys did. Wrong room. The lady occupant of a certain age thought all her Christmases had come at once as a troop of local lads marched through her room looking for the girls at the wedding. As a guest herself, she offered to take them, and she took great pride in making the grand entrance followed by her troop of toy boys, and announced as the favourite aunt of the bride that she had trumped her niece as the star of the wedding.

Hilarious for everyone, except for the red faced security team at the hotel.

The following morning early, Katie and Rex went for a quick see-it walk round town before the coach left. They were bailed up by an elderly man with a walking stick whose children were in Perth and did they know them? He was a former fighter pilot, and Katie and Rex had to be rescued by one of the sheep, as it appeared the coach would leave without them. He was a delightful gentleman who had remained in the service and spent quite some time on assignment in Australia. "Greatest place on earth," he said, "but I came home to die, and didn't. That were 20 year ago! Bastard mustn't want me!"

His handshake was like steel as they turned away, and he waved his stick as the coach passed him by.

To Wales

Rex and Katie looked around. They might as well have been in the sexsational sixties. After a walk through Devon, Exmoor and Somerset – a roadside stop where the three counties met – they entered the time warp that is Glastonbury. Hippies still ruled. Astrology shops, marihuana seeds for sale – buy one send one free to a friend. Bare feet were brave on that chilly morning. So were the bare bellies, nose rings, armlets, baubles, bangles, beads and bicycles. Babies in back and front carry slings – more than one lone lady had one of each! It took at least three tries to find a smoke-free coffee shop they could hide in until the coach left for Bath.

Busy, bustling Bath on a Friday. Street performers abound. There were bands, mimes, musos, singers – at times they seemed more of a crowd in themselves than the number of tourists and visitors to the Abbey, the Abbey square and the pedestrianised streets.

Katie found an historical post office with an hysterical old codger trying to man it. She eventually made him understand and tell her where the real post office was in Bath.

There was not enough time to appreciate the Georgian architecture, Royal Crescent, Jane Austen, the whole Bath experience. They'd have to return to do that. Meantime, they enjoyed the company of an Irish publican at "the Rummer" until the coach found its way back to the pick-up point.

Spring blooms and the manicured gardens of Bath looked quite startling compared to the dry drought conditions they'd left behind in Australia.

"I hope Cardiff has more than a football stadium with an old-man choir," said Katie.

"O ye of little faith," replied Rex.

"We weren't long enough in Bath to see its good bits," complained Katie.

"As the archbishop said to the actress, or the other way around!" said Rex to himself.

Wales is a vastly different country to England. Its English has an always upward inflection, "what's occurin?" Its own language is incomprehensible to the sheep's ear.

It was here that Rex realised that if the tour accommodation were in hotels somewhat closer to the main towns and villages in which they stayed overnight or longer, the sheep may get better value from being able to walk downtown and/or to tourist areas before the late setting of the sun.

Cardiff Castle was a working one, administered by the city. It hosted gracious dinners in the time honoured silver service tradition to any organisation of repute which cared to book it. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II had hosted dinners there. A state occasion in planning was to honour Nelson Mandela to the country. Rex and Katie saw the castle contained originals and accurate representations of armours, books, city records, art impressions and the furniture and furnishings belonging to the nobility of a time far gone.

Parts of an early Roman wall remained uncovered in the bowels of the castle, and a latterly added mural depicts Roman village life. It is dominated at one end by a three dimensional driver and chariot. It is unique and hidden from regular view, a real insight into the history of this ancient land. "It's almost alive!" exclaimed a fascinated Rex.


Excerpted from Life's a Buzz by RICHARD PLANT Copyright © 2011 by Richard Plant. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Part 1: Like Sheep in a Bus....................1
To Plymouth....................2
To Wales....................11
To Ireland....................14
Clear as Crystal....................16
Blarney & Ring of Kerry....................18
Back to Blighty....................29
Glasgow to London....................38
London before Europe....................45
On the Road Again....................50
Rome and Beyond....................53
Hong Kong....................68
Part 2: Life Afar....................71
Work and Play the UK way....................72
Rex went hunting....................76
Which local?....................78
Portsmouth plus....................83
Amy visit....................86
Inside Westminster & the Derby....................88
Cameron visits....................96
September 11th 2001, Oxford, UK....................107
Jubilee year....................114
The 'A' Team Disbanded....................137
A Divisive Gulf....................153
Will they find it? Can they fix it?....................174
Problems again....................176
Farewell & G'Day....................179
The pome what Rex rote post trip....................182
Part 3: Welcome Home....................185
Hello, hullo!....................186
Welcome Home....................188
Settling in again....................191
Return to Work....................200
A Bribie Pub....................202
Cricket Final....................207
The Tweed....................211
Surfers Paradise....................220
On The Wagon....................225
Part 4: Girt by Sea....................229
A Cruise in two halves....................230
A Passenger Laundry....................232
Ship to shore....................248
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