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Carolyn Sparey-Gillies  

musician, composer, reviewer, U.K.

Book Review, The Seven Year Hitch - A family Odessy
Reviewed by Carolyn Sparey-Gillies, U.K.

In an age where travel is associated with holidays in the sun, cheap flights to Disneyland, and for the more adventurous, organised hikes through the Himalayas, "The Seven Year Hitch" proves that the human spirit is still occasionally driven by a sense of adventure and the unknown.

This book is the story of some of the adventures which befell us during our seven years travelling around the world with our horses and caravan, the author, David Grant, begins his preface; he goes on to explain that the primary purpose of the trip was to give his children a wide look at the world they will inherit, in the hope that experience of different places, peoples and cultures will enable them to become more understanding, caring, tolerant and wiser citizens of it than if they had simply slogged through the National Curriculum.

The children, being 10, 9 and 6 respectively when the adventure began in 1990, fill the pages of this book with their extraordinary achievements and their ability to be responsible in situations which most of us will never even dream of. Their resilience is matched by the horse, Traceur, who managed to pull the caravan more than half way across the world, despite various mishaps and several bouts of ill-health; his unspoken story threads its way through most of the book, until the reader is thoroughly captivated by his enormous spirit and individual personality. David Grant carries his reader, day by day, mile by mile, through the beautiful highways and bye-ways of our planet, moving ever eastwards across Holland, France, Italy, Austria, Hungary and the Ukrain, towards Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China, and the great Pacific beyond. At times joined by his wife, Kate, who was unable to accompany her family for the entire seven year trip, David not only saw to the day to day business of keeping his family fed, washed and warm, but also found himself, at times, bureaucracy which only superhuman patience and a stream of local heroes helped him through.

It was while passing through Mongolia in 1995 that David met some Bahá´ís and made the decision to become a Bahá´í himself; My best memories of Mongolia, he writes, were and remain the warmth, simple sincerity and decency of most Mongolians, in one of the most beautiful countries I have ever seen. Personally, the highpoint of our eleven months there was my acceptance of the Bahá´í Faith. A recognition rather than a conversion...

Here, then, is a travel book with a difference; adventure, intrigue and suspense fill the pages alongside poetic descriptions of the landscape, and the every-day problems of simply staying alive. David Grant's panoramic view of the world, experienced from grass-root level, is readable, fascinating,and often humorous; in his own words, we discovered that the world is full of a truly remarkable number of kind, warm-hearted and decent people. Yet nearly all of them ... not excluding ourselves ... come equipped with a baggage of in-built preconceptions, misconceptions and frequently prejudices. In dedicating thisbook to my family, our three gallant horses and the three dogs, I hope that in a small way, which is the only way possible for most people, we did something towards breaking down those barriers and increasing understanding and harmony.

Excerpts from Arts Dialogue, December 1999, Page 9

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