First Person: Carol Williams - A new lease of life for me and my motorhome
When I retired three years ago at the age of 64, I didn't know where my life would go. Having always enjoyed travel and the outdoors, I wasn't going to be talking to four walls. Suddenly, and on a fleeting whim, I decided to buy myself a camper van – well, a motorhome to be precise.
It was a drastic drain on my savings and even driving it home I wasn't sure if I was doing the right thing.
However, the world – or at least the UK for now – was my oyster. A chance to go wherever.
My travels began in September 2011. Not too far. Derbyshire was nice enough to explore. Bicycle on the back, bus pass in my pocket and off and away.
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Then Mablethorpe (torrential rain and gales did not deter), followed by Sandringham, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, Kidderminster, Keswick, Whitby, the Cotswolds, Tewkesbury and the Malverns.
The only problem was I found that it was getting somewhat lonely. Couples don't mix well – the exception being one kindly gentleman who mended a puncture in my bike while his wife made me a cuppa.
Then, during a spell at home, I got chatting to a couple in my watercolour painting class.
They had met through a singles camping group called The New Companions. I joined.
It's lovely meeting new people in lovely country settings. One sweet lady tows a caravan and brings her cat. She is 88.
It is all organised and works well. A member decides to "host" a meet. It goes into the monthly magazine. You let the host know you are coming.
We all meet up at 10am for a chat and to see who's doing what for the day. Some might want to go walking or cycling or use their bus pass and travel. Or maybe just chill out by their van with a book.
In the evenings, we play Scrabble, cards or just to have a glass of wine and chat. Someone may put on a barbecue for £2 or so for a light supper.
These meets go on for most of the year. Sometime there's only half a dozen. At the AGM at Stratford we had 120 "vans".
We had a silly sports day. A daft dog show. Whatever we do there is always fun.
It's amazing, there's a new world out there for the retired and single which hardly anyone knows about.
I would never have known about it except for a chance comment at my art class.
Being in the right place at the right time is probably the best way to put it!
The New Companions has nearly 600 members living all over the country and meets through most of the year, except January and February.
Contact secretary Joyce Laird on 01224 782242 or via e-mail:
Carol Williams, a member of the New Companions, on a spontaneous decision and chance comment which changed her life