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TX: 09.01.09 - Holidays from Home

PRESENTER: PETER WHITE
Downloaded from www.bbc.co.uk/radio4

THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY.

WHITE
Now even allowing for the current arctic conditions, holidays abroad can be a mixed blessing. Yes, of course there's the sun, if that's what you like; the exotic food; the broadening of your horizons. There is also airport hell, financial overstretch and the strain, and perhaps this is worst of all, of having to enjoy yourself when you've spent so much money. But what if you could have your holiday cake and eat it? All of the former and none of the latter. Well, driven by necessity, Clare Wade thinks she's found an answer and Bob Carter has been to visit her on holiday at home in Norfolk.

CARTER
The sun is beginning to dip low in the sky and you see a group of people walking along some wooden boardwalks. You follow them on to the boardwalks, feeling the wood creak beneath you. The boardwalks stretch through the dunes until you reach sands, overlooking a floodlit beach. This is Summerland Beach.

WADE
Holidays Online, it's free to access, and so this is the Australia virtual holiday. You've got Day 1 - they end up in Melbourne. And then Day 2 - they're going to go to the set for Neighbours and Ramsay Street.

CARTER
Clare Wade's taking me on holiday without leaving her sofa. She's behind Holidays From Home, its intention is to give people who can't travel a taste of foreign climes. Supported by the National Lottery it aims to bring the travel experience to you.

WADE
We've got two holidays at the moment - one to New York and one to Australia. And basically the holiday allows them to virtually experience a different destination. It's a specially written guide which describes the holiday as if they're really there, so what it is like to get on the plane, how it feels to arrive at the different destinations and look round, so we've got things that they can on the internet like online museums and we've got web cameras, so you can actually watch things in real time and you can see things that are happening in a different place. It's the nice best thing to travel.

CARTER
I've taken a real rather than virtual trip to meet Clare at home in a village near Norwich because she doesn't get out much. She's had ME since the age of 10, she's now 25. When she was 18 came the spur to imagine herself taking the travellers' trail. While the rest of the family went abroad on holiday she and her mum were left behind.

WADE
I was so upset when I found out, I didn't know how I was going to get through a week with them being away enjoying a fantastic holiday and me being stuck in a bed in a darkened room. I was just going to give up but something wouldn't let me and I thought well if I can't take a normal holiday then maybe I could bring a holiday to me. I got some books out from the library and mum put pictures up round the room and we had food like Greek yoghurt and honey and feta and olives. We've got some friends who've been to Greece to lend us some of the things they brought back - so we've got cups and plates and things like that - and we paddled our feet in a foot spa and pretended it was the sea and we threw white paper plates pretending that they were china plates that they do for the Greek tradition. And at times it was completely surreal, we just had the most amazing week and created some fantastic memories.

I decided then that I would like to start doing virtual holidays and I wrote the Australia one for some friends with ME and then I went on to do the New York one for a friend's 21st birthday because she was bed bound with ME, she couldn't go. And so I decided that I would then use those holidays to help other people.

CARTER
There's now a Norfolk wide trial of Holidays From Home, funded by the National Lottery. Among the travellers fellow ME patient Hazel Schofield, who lives in the north of the county.

SCHOFIELD
Before I became ill I used to travel quite a lot and I've been to Ethiopia and America, so all of a sudden I'm somebody who needs help to get out of the house. It's quite frustrating because you have all this spare time on your hands but you can't use it to your advantage. So having something like this it sort of takes away all that extra stress and all the access issues and everything else and it's something that you can dip into when it suits you, you can plan it around your day, your own care needs don't need to suffer because of it.

CARTER
Now you say you've been to Australia, does it actually feel that way?

SCHOFIELD
Actually it did, it was quite interesting. When I was looking through the brochure again recently, just to refresh my memory, it brought back lots of smiles.

CARTER
It's free to join Holidays From Home, for all those who need it and it comes in three forms - in an illustrated book, on a CD or best of all online complete pictures, links to other sites and travel sounds, including on the aeroplane and on the street. So let's rejoin our Australian trip with Hazel using the book and Clare online.

WADE
You can do as much or as little of the holiday as you want at one go, so you can sit and you can read through the whole day or you can just do a couple of paragraphs and look at a couple of the websites. And for Melbourne for Day 1 it describes you being picked up by a limo.

SCHOFIELD
The way it's written you really imagine that you're in the limo, stretched out on leather seats with a mini bar to hand if you want it.

WADE
And taken to the airport.

SCHOFIELD
You're looking through the lovely big glass windows at all the aeroplanes and you're looking spot the one that you're going on. When I used to travel that's exactly what I did.

WADE
And then you can actually listen to the sound of the plane taking off. And we've got a link here to the Melbourne Airport where you can actually track your flight. We end the day by going to see the penguin parade.

SCHOFIELD
My favourite has to be the trip to a beach at dusk to see the fairy penguins, penguins that live on the beach but when it's dark they come out of the sea and it's what they call penguin parade. And there's a boardwalk that you can walk along and watch the penguins.

WADE
You've got the sound of the chicks as well and that's just Day 1 of the holiday.

It takes me about six months to a year to do each holiday, there is so much involved and I'm basically putting in all the hard work and they're getting to reap the rewards. I want the holidays to be accessible to anybody who can't travel for health reasons but I would also want them for people that maybe during a lunch hour they're bored, they want something to escape and they're board of seeing the same four walls and talking to the same people or possibly for people who can't travel for money problems at the moment or who are worried about the climate and global warming.

CARTER
So I've done Australia, I've been to New York, now where do I fancy? How about a trip down to South America - virtual South America.

WHITE
I think I might join Rory Cellan-Jones in Las Vegas but there you are you can do what you like. There are links on our website to Clare's website where you can find out more about that scheme.

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