Bettina Selby - My Life
I was born in London and as a very young child at the outbreak
of World War 11 was evacuated to a coal mining village in
South Wales where I came early to the grief of separation and
the loss of my parents. It was at that time I found consolation
and excitement in making up stories, I used to call them 'having
an adventure.' Teachers began to say I was a born writer. I left
school at fifteen and after a variety of casual jobs I joined
the Womens Royal Army Corps. After leaving the army at nineteen
I married and raised three children while working as a freelance
photographer. Later I studied for a degree in world religions at
London University .By the age of 47, with the children off my
hands, I decided it was at last time to see something more of
the world. I had no hesitation at all in deciding that a bicycle
was the ideal transport for my purpose. I also decided to travel
alone and so far I have seen no reason to change the format.
My first project was to ride from Karachi to Kathmandhu along the
line of the Indus River and the Himalayas, and five months and
five thousand miles later I achieved my goal. Back home I wrote
up the account of my journey, calling it Riding the Mountains Down,after
a poem by e.e.cummings.
With the book published and selling well (it is still selling in
German and Japanese translations unde rthe title `Himalaya)
I set out to ride from London to Jerusalem following the paths
of the Crusaders and early Christian pilgrims.
The main attraction of the route was that it took me through all
the wonderful sites of antiquity that I had so long yearned to visit.
It was another five thousand mile saga, challenging in quite a
different way from the Himalayan venture, but equally rewarding
and with highlights all the way.
Probably my most dangerous undertaking was following the
course of the Nile from the Mediterranean to the Mountains
of the Moon in Uganda. It was a journey that presented
great contrasts - the most stunning African landscapes
wonderful and diverse peoples, poverty,refugees, and
always the problem of survival, of staying alive in the
deserts, of finding food and clean water and of
steering a way through the skirmishes of the Sudanese civil war
and the aftermath of the Ugandan massacres.(published as 'Riding
the Desert Trail', it is available in German as 'Ah Agala' and
Japanese as `something quite unpronounceable)
A second Africa book centred on yet another of that
continent's great and fascinating rivers, this time the Niger
in West Africa. My travels there took me through the
remote desert lands of the Sahel, through Niger
and Mali to Timbuktu. Again beauty and hardship were the
two poles of the experience. The terrible beauty of an
inimical desert terrain permeated by the ghosts of a past
steeped in gold and the slave trade.`Frail Dream of
Timbuktu' is also available in is German translation as
I have also written two books about my own country.
Riding North One Summer was intended as a celebration
of the English landscape seen through the web of its
history. And I saw it as only a cyclist with the freedom of
a tent and all the time in the world can see it.
The other, 'The Fragile Islands', was about the Outer Hebrides,
a string of small and jewel-like islands off the North West
coast of Scotland with which I had long been in love.
More recently I explored Eastern Turkey, going by
way of the little explored Black Sea Coast before
heading into the mountainous lands of Kurdistan
and Armenia to Moun tArarat and ancient Van -
the central melting pot of history. (`Beyond Ararat'
is also available in German translation as `Ararat' )
A quite different journey followed. This time I rode the
well-beaten track of a thousand years of pilgrimage to the
shrine of Santiago de Compostela in a remote corner of
Galicia in Western Spain. A richly rewarding journey, it was
also surprising in the sense of the unexpected demands it
made on me and the insights it afforded into my own motives
and feelings. It also gave me a tremendous sense of rubbing
shoulders withother pilgrims past and present.
My most recent travel book is also something of a
departure. `Like Water in a Dry Land' is about present
day Palestine, a book in which I set out to discover what
at that time,the peace moves in the Middle East were really
adding up to. I was reluctant to take it on so political a
theme, but decided eventually to do it because I felt
I could make use of my knowledge of the area, its history and
its involved politics in order to understand something of the
present anguished situation. In the event it proved as much
a surprise as all real journeys should be. This title ist
only available directly from ourselves, Bettina_selby@compuserve.com.
Now I am living high up in the Brecon Beacons with my two cats
Sappho and Dido. They are two cats with decided literary pretensions
and living in a house where computers are all around are themselves
computer literate. To find out more click on:-
Two Cats Walking