Her “Big Bold Move”
It is November 1969. An under-confident but excited country bumpkin aged 23 is sailing to England on a mail ship, the Pendennis Castle. She doesn’t have any close friends or relatives living over there. So, to enable her to find her feet and settle in a bit, her Dad (who used to have a very good job in Barclays Bank) has arranged for her to stay with his high up London banking friend and his wife for a short while. They live in Esher in Surrey. The wife has kindly offered to meet her off the boat train at Waterloo.
Her “Big Worry” and her “Big Lie”
She is dreading going through customs in Southampton. To supplement her savings, she wants to work as a radiographer, but South Africans aren’t allowed to work in their professions. She lies badly and blushes easily. “Are you going to be working?” “No.” They aren’t fooled. Only three of all the passengers on the boat are being retained for further questioning and cannot go on the Boat Train to Waterloo; her and the two girls she’d shared a cabin with – what is it about them that has aroused such suspicion? They are taken to a hotel somewhere. She goes into panic mode – her Dad’s big-wig friend’s wife is going to be searching for her as the boat-train arrives. Thankfully, after a while the customs people decide none of them are a threat and they are allowed to go. But now she has to find her own way to Waterloo.
Her “Blundering and Blushing”
Did she walk, or get a taxi from the hotel to the station? Her heart sinks into her new winter boots when she arrives at Waterloo as, of course, there is no-one there to welcome her. She struggles off the train with her far too big and far too impractical old fashioned suitcase – no wheelie ones in 1969. Why on earth did she think this was a better idea than a backpack? All the people hurrying to and fro, totally overwhelm her. She feels that she is the only one seeming to be bumbling around stupidly.
She wishes there was someone to watch her case as she has to find a call box and get change to make a call to Esher. No mobile phones in those days. But there isn’t, so she has to lug her case with her and keep and eye on it – too big to bring into the call box – while she makes the call. No answer – of course. She imagines an irritated woman – whom she doesn’t know well at all – hanging around for ages on the platform and finally giving up and going home. Feeling terribly guilty, she squirms with embarrassment at this thought.
Her “Big Relief”
She decides she should get herself to Esher rather than have the poor woman come back to look for her. There is the little triumph of buying her ticket and getting herself to Esher station and she feels pathetically proud of herself for managing this. She makes another call and the woman has arrived home and comes to fetch her. Then she hears that the police were alerted and she was reported as ‘missing’. CRINGE!
So ended her first horrible, hugely stressful travel experience. Maybe it seems pathetic to have stressed so much over something like this, but remember, she was a country bumpkin through and through!
Read more about how the plan to travel finally came together here: https://footeloosefancyfree.com/about/