Pen pals and travels...
Valery, Sofiya and Sergey
Visiting a famous horse stud farm
Helen and Warren with Tiger
JAYMLYN SAITAMA'S GLORY
(NZ Ch Corydon Hot Rod -
Ch & Aust Ch Corydon Glory Hallelujah)
The obligatory koala pose
Essex, Heather and Erna
With Karen and Miranda in the Blue Mountains
I remember a day in 1983 when I came home from school and to my astonishment a letter was in the post addressed to me from Russia! I was really intrigued and it was a lovely letter from a fellow collie enthusiast named Vjacheslav Tokarev from Novosibirsk. Enclosed with the letter were some black and white photographs (which I still have) printed on some very different photo paper but they gave me a really good idea of the Collies in this part of Russia at the time and it was fascinating. Also, enclosed were their breeding, a lot of names I could not recognise although some were of Finnish descent. We exchanged photos and pedigrees for a long time.
It was many years later, in August 1990, that Miranda was invited to judge at a show in Russia and we travelled together on a BA flight bound for Moscow, two quite hesitant people I think, wondering what would await us! We need not have worried as what followed can only best be described as a truly amazing experience and one I will never forget. We were met at the airport with flowers and hugs by the most wonderful and warm hearted hosts anyone could wish for. This was Sofiya Fedotova and Valery Peschcov and Valery's sister Galina Peshcova who was a teacher and spoke excellent English. We were also introduced to Sergey Balalaev who was organising the show. The sleeper train journey from Moscow to Voronezh was an incredible experience in itself, something out of a film from the 1930s! We were booked into a hotel and our passports confiscated (which was a scary sight!) and our room was almost like an apartment and (from what we saw later) bigger than most people's flats. No Russians were allowed into our room... Shops existed but were virtually empty of goods and we learnt about the bartering and the queues for simple things like meat or bread. Most cars were Ladas and very ancient, I think our usual 'taxi' was around 30 years old and some of the drivers quite crazy - at one time crossing the central reservation to join the opposite carriageway in order for us to avoid a crater of a pot hole... I did a couple of times think I was not coming out of Russia alive! On the other end of the scale, we had the immense privilege to get to see all the amazing sites both in Moscow and St Petersburg - the latter one of the most beautiful places I have visited. Happy and much treasured memories! Our Russian hosts were unbelievably generous and our suitcases coming back were filled with artifacts, books, beautiful Russian gifts plus we were each given a beautiful samovar and a huge, also very beautiful, teapot - I still use mine and it's such a lovely reminder of our wonderful friends and the time spent in their company. I have never felt so humble in my life.
Unfortunately, I never got to meet my pen friend but I was lucky to visit again, with Miranda in 1992, and on the last occasion to judge a show in St Petersburgh in 1998.
The first adventure Miranda and I set out together on was to Australia and New Zealand in July 1989. It was an exciting schedule with a stopover in Singapore and on the way back through Los Angeles, also incorporating Disneyland and Pooh Bear. In Australia, we were lucky to stay with Helen and Warren Cake who lived an hour north of Sydney and had several Corydons including Ch Corydon Glory Hallelujah and Ch Corydon Tuck's Tiger. Helen and Warren also had a young bitch I really liked named Jaymlyn Saitama's Glory by NZ Ch Corydon Hot Rod and out of Ch & Aust Ch Corydon Glory Hallelujah. They were both so welcoming and showed us around everywhere. We got to visit all the famous sites and they also took us to an amazing fish restaurant in Sydney. One of my most enjoyable and memorable times was staying with Miranda's aunt and uncle (Lydia and Chris) and their 7 (incredibly lovely) children. On our way to Melbourne we stopped in Canberra were we also saw the sights and visited Miranda's grandparents plus aunt and uncle (Robyn and David). I specifically remember many hours on a coach journey listening to music and to this day, every time I hear 'I've had the time of my life' it takes me straight back to my seat on the coach! It truly was a great experience. Once we got to Melbourne we stayed with the lovely owner of Ch Corydon Gold Star, Erna Blachford. We also had the pleasure to visit well known Collie kennels Calstead and Carluke which was a very enjoyable experience and it was interesting to see so many Australian bred dogs, many of them being descendants from the Corydons that had been exported to Australia over the years. We flew in to Auckland in New Zealand and made our way by train to the south of the island where we stayed with Denise Grace of Jaymlyn fame and saw her many beautiful Collies, bred from mainly Rokeby and Corydon lines. We then travelled to Rotorua where our wonderful hosts Mr and Mrs Hodgson showed us around the area - it was all very interesting and memorable in so many different ways.
Miranda and I made a second trip 'down under' in 1994 and our friend Karen Bowser (who owned Corydon Bee Pretty) came with us - this time a straight flight to Perth (a really beautiful city) where we were met by Valerie Bond (Leanor) who looked after us so well. We were also lucky there was even a dog show to go to which was an experience. I was struck by the amount of running the dogs (and handlers) had to do and also how most dogs were extremely well presented and handled. Valerie took us to Miss Maud's in Perth were I had the most amazing crab salad! In Melbourne we were again invited to stay with the lovely Erna Blachford and Kate Baker (Carluke) was so kind and showed us around, even incorporating a very handsome Arabian horse named Zak! Our journey went on to Brisbane where we again stayed with Helen and Warren who made sure we were very comfortable and on to Cairns and the coral reefs where Miranda will always remember me trying to snorkel (and failing)! Another flight took us to Sydney (and my first Indian meal) where we stayed with Miranda's aunt and uncle (Christine and Alan) and saw the wonderful sights of the city again. An unforgettable trip to the Blue Mountains which are just breathtaking and visiting Miranda's lovely aunt Christine and her family. Our journey then went to Fiji and Mana Island which is one of the most wonderful and peaceful places I have ever visited - if there is a heaven on earth, this must be it!
I am forever grateful to Barbara, John and Miranda for the opportunity to travel to these wonderful places and meet these wonderful people - something which would never have happened had I not had Collies and been so fortunate as to live at Corydon. Fantastic experiences which I would never otherwise have had.