Dark , Desolate and Depressing – My first time in the UK
It is exactly 40 years since I left for the U.K
I departed for the airport, in Mauritius one early morning in January 1974, I was 21 years old. I bade farewell to my family and that was the last time I saw my Dad – he died in 1977, aged 60.
Looking back now that was the most painful memory of my life.
In those days we used to write and send some money home almost every month. None of this instant emailing or facebook, my Mum and Dad could only know what I was getting up to in a letter, one every 30 days.
Mauritius was still a very agricultural island (mainly sugar cane) and most families struggling to make ends meet. Today we take means of communications for granted but this was nearly non existent for us . That was the stark reality – the only time you will see your mum and dad, hear their voices, was when you are able to get back home and that was not easy in the early days as money was so tight.
Me aged 9 in Mauritius with my big brother – 1962
If you read ‘my first ever flight to the UK’ you will know that I was stuck in Rome; hungry, tired and with little money. So lets continue…
I was still waiting for a connecting flight to Heathrow from Rome and it was now 24 hrs since I left Mauritius! By now I was truly exhausted, hungry and feeling somewhat lost to say the least.
I left home with fifty pounds (this to last me for the full month of February) and had to be so careful how to manage the little money I had. I think it was some time in the afternoon of the 28th January 1974 that we finally took off and safely landed at Heathrow a couple of hours later.
I have very little recollections of my passage through Heathrow. I can only remember arriving at Euston Station that afternoon. To this day I do not know how I ended up at Euston!! The information I got from a travel agent in Mauritius was to head for Euston, where I should be able to catch a train for Lincoln. Little did I know this piece of information was not exactly right!
At Euston I waited and was just looking around to try and ask someone for some information and direction. I spotted someone who looked like a railway worker ( he had some sort of uniform on, I think it was the good old British Rail uniform ). He said I was at the wrong station – I should have been at King’s Cross!!
Obviously I did not have the faintest idea how to get there. He then asked me if I had just arrived in the U.K. This gentleman was indeed very helpful – he said I was going to get lost and confused if he was to ask me to take the underground (I did not had a clue what an the underground was!)
He asked me to follow him to this road which will take me straight to King’s Cross. I gave him a 50 pence piece to which he replied , in amazement, ‘are you sure’ and nodded my head and started the long walk to Kings Cross with my suitcase
I was not sure of the distance or whether it was the right destination at all!! I did stop at some point and sat down in a cafe but I am not sure what I did have to quench my thirst and hunger.
I did finally board a train to Lincoln .
It was dark , desolate and depressing and I still had a long way to go.
It felt really strange – my first journey on a train and it seemed such a long way to my destination . At some point I was approached by a lady who asked me if I was on my way to St John’s Hospital in Lincoln. She re-assured me she was going to get me on the right bus to the hospital when we arrived in Lincoln . I now felt a little bit more relaxed and relieved to know I was going to get to my final destination safely without much hassle !
True to her words , when we finally reached Lincoln (it must have been about 9 o’clock at night), she helped me to get on the right bus. She advised me to take a front seat and she even asked the bus driver to drop me at the hospital which was about 3 miles from the City Centre . How did this lady knew I was on my way to St Johns Hospital?
Such human kindness. It was only many years later I realised that she most probably noticed my destination address stuck to my suitcase!
48 hours later from my tiny island of Mauritius I was now in another world, the United Kingdom. I had finally made it. Now the real hard work was to begin…..