Dad's Diary

Dark , Desolate and Depressing – My first time in the UK

By  | 

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.

Dad & Mike

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.

 

mauritian family diary mauritius blog

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!)

 

London underground

 

 

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.

 

MAURITIUS DAD DIARY vic

 

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…..

 

FREE GUIDE: GET CHEAP FLIGHTS TO MAURITIUS

I was born in Mauritius and then moved to the UK when I was 21. Been here for the last 40 years working in the NHS. Hope you found this article useful.

4 Comments

  1. kteelanah@yahoo.co.uk'

    Kishore Teelanah

    August 31, 2019 at 11:31 pm

    I just came across this article. My situation was different although I came like many in January 1974 to do Nursing in Banstead Hospital in Sutton, Surrey. I had a sister who came to pick me up from Heathrow and later took me straight to the Nurses Home.

    I was very pleased to be here, despite the cold and prejudiced by the English. I had one thing on my mind: to make progress. With the unemployment and poverty of the late 1960’s and 1970s, I could never have fulfilled my ambition in Mauritius at that time. The UK gave me the freedom to be self-made and achieve my goals. Many Mauritians did so too compared to many immigrants who came here and could hardly even speak English. We were lucky to have a good command of the language and could get on with almost anybody. Although many Mauritian diaspora are in their 60’s with grandchildren, they made good progress. They have made good savings and invested well in UK and/or Mauritius and other countries where their associations took them. The second and even third generation Mauritian ancestry are mostly well placed – a culture of education, respect and tolerance that was drilled in us by our parents. Many of them are in UK universities and taking highly respectable jobs and training compared to their parents and grandparents who came from 1960s.

    Mauritians were generally friendly, intelligent with great sense of humour and adaptable despite what others say. If they lived a life of poverty before coming here, there was a real chance of earning a salary and even helping parents and relatives in Mauritius. Many Mauritians worked hard and also progressed in academic fields after their Nursing careers. We are also lucky that Mauritius has freedom and affluence to travel back and forth from UK and EU countries. Those who are retired tend to spend several months in Mauritius if not every year, every other year. We take it for granted that we have dual nationalities, unlike other countries.

    I would like to add that UK is the place for those hard-working people, like many Indians, Chinese and some Europeans who have made headlines over the years. In contrast, there are also communities who live in large extended families in inner cities and hardly speak English. Most of their female relatives are also unemployed, unlike the Mauritian females who will try hard to support their families and even study to improve their chance of success. This is what many British politicians also encouraged and up to now this is still repeated.

    Kishore Teelanah

  2. gkhedoo@gmail.com'

    Gool Khedoo

    August 4, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Hi There
    Well done..we share a similar life story and we were definitely the unfortunate generation of the 60`s and 70`s which forced a lot of us coming to mother land(UK London) searching for work..I recalled my first day in london Victoria(as you mentione dark,cold,desolate and depressing) i slept in St Georges Square on a bench for three days waiting for a friend who lived at number 8 to arrive….My story is too long maybe i will write my memoir one day.
    Gool

    • Veena V

      January 19, 2017 at 11:03 am

      We would love to hear your story. Its just inspiring and also heart breaking to hear of stories like yours and my fathers. I will pass this on to Dad. Thank you so much for stopping by. How did you find us?

  3. precious.mcgeorge@googlemail.com'

    busco mujeres

    September 3, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    Keep on writing, great job!

Ask a question or leave a comment - we read them all :)