Being blind no object for Welling globe-trotter Marjorie, 84
PUBLISHED: 09:17 15 October 2013 | UPDATED: 09:17 15 October 2013
When partially sighted Marjorie Carpenter set foot in what was then Yugoslavia with her family in 1973, she declared: "I'm finally on foreign soil."
Now 84 and living in Welling, her eyesight may have completely deteriorated since then, but her appetite for travel shows no sign of declining.
Marjorie is supporting the charity Action for Blind People in the hope that she can be a role model for others with partial or complete blindness.
As a child her holiday consisted of one day a year.
Her railway worker father, George Earl Willson, would take them to Margate by steam train.
“It was always August bank holiday, and it always rained,” she recalls.
Marjorie was born blind in one eye and in 1986 was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease. She is now registered as blind.
It was only after her eyesight forced her into early retirement that her globetrotting began.
After that first trip to Dubrovnik 40 years ago she developed a passion for travelling and took her husband Derek, who is wheelchair-bound due to Parkinson’s disease, around the world.
“I used to say that he was my eyes and I was his legs,” she says.
“After that first trip we went everywhere. Majorca, Menorca, Corsica, Cyprus, Holland with the tulips, Bulgaria, Slovenia, east and west Caribbean – that was an eye-opener.”
Marjorie can still vividly picture the sight of Caribbean women cutting sugar cane with babies wrapped up on their backs.
The couple raised extra funds for their trips through her husband’s work as a bandmaster and trumpeter; she joined in on the maracas.
Her husband’s death seven years ago didn’t dampen her travelling spirit, and she managed to recruit a friend to accompany her to one of her regular haunts, Gran Canaria.
They were a “couple of giddy old birds”, and loved everywhere they went.
Marjorie has been to the island five times and is a bit of a favourite there.
She says: “I do have some fun out there. They all know me; the staff and the waiters, and they’re all lovely to me.”
Of all the places the grandmother of four has ventured, Italy remains her favourite.
Standing on the edge of the Colosseum and thinking about the enormous history of what happened there, is a memory she holds close.
“Everything is larger than life,” she adds.
Marjorie has lived in her house for 50 years, which is a stone’s throw from where she grew up.
With her 85th birthday in December, she doesn’t plan to stop travelling, having managed with one eye her whole life.
“I’m still full of beans,” she declares.
Marjorie’s son recently took her to a Vision hotel in Bognor Regis, west Sussex, which caters for blind customers.
Despite the wonderful staff, Marjorie couldn’t help but feel a bit bored and isolated in the hotel lounge for a week.
Her highlight was a walk along the coast with a lady she met there.
The topic of conversation? All the reasons why the two of them should go to Gran Canaria. They hope to go next year.
For more go to www.actionforblindpeople.org.uk.