Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My First Visit To London - August 1973

This was my first trip abroad, first time ever to leave Irish soil and first time to set foot inside an aeroplane! Life would never be the same again.

My fiance (future hubby) and I set off on a wet Sunday evening bound for Dublin Airport. He of course had been to foreign parts many times before so he wouldn't have shared my excitement at the prospect of flying thirty odd thousand feet in the air. Only the astronauts on their first moon landing wold have come anyway close to experiencing the exhilaration I felt at that moment. That said the flight was uneventful and over all too soon.

On landing at Heathrow we were greeted with a whoosh of warm air even though it was a couple of hours off midnight. Having just come from a somewhat wet, coolish Dublin this warmth was very welcome indeed. What was amazing though was that when I stepped off the plane a very strange feeling came over me. It somehow seemed that I'd come home, that's the only way I can describe it. It was like the environment was very familiar I'd been here before, not in the actual airport of course but just in this part of the world. I'm sure those who understand these phenomena will know what I mean.

So, into a taxi we popped and headed off to Kidbrooke where we were to spend the next two weeks with fiance's granny who wasn't really his granny but a friend of his family who was known to all as just "granny". On arrival we were met by a neighbour who informed us that poor granny had been taken to hospital so we would have the place to ourselves. We had of course to inform fiance's family back home of the situation and needless to say their anguish came not from their worry for the poor old lady but rather the fact that fiance and I would be living together, unmarried, under the same roof for the next two weeks! Later when writing the postcards I purposely decided not to use the phrase "having a good time" for fear of it being misinterpreted.

Each day we visited granny Browne in hospital which was conveniently situated on Shooters Hill Road within walking distance from the house. She was a nice lady who enjoyed listening to the snippets of news from home (Dublin) relayed daily to her by fiance. We also reassured her that her cat, Terry Roo, who we were minding during her absence was safe and well and blissfully living feline life to the full. There were the odd occasions when his life may have come into real danger and that was on the mornings when he crept under the bedclothes and nibbled my toes! Shredded feet apart, Terry Roo and I enjoyed every minute of our all too short holiday together.

Despite the intense heat in the city centre most days we headed in there via bus and tube. From memory we got the bus to Blackheath then the tube to Charing Cross. I'm so glad we didn't have a car as those almost daily journeys became cherished memories. Travelling in the tube also somewhat helped me overcome my fear of tunnels (breaking down in one would be the absolute death of me!) but I've still a long way to go.

Looking back now I wish I'd kept a diary of the visit but as time has net yet quite dimmed my power of recall I still remember my first view of the main attractions.

For instance, Trafalger Square with it famous fountain and sociable pigeons and of course one cannot forget to mention Buckingham Palace which I did photograph but it turned out too dark. (Back then I was still using the good old Instamatic with the glass flash cube which unfortunately didn't have the option to delete a bad photo!). Then there was Westminster Abbey which I also made a kibosh of photographing as I managed to cut off the top of the clock tower.

One place I used to love walking along was Carnaby Street with its psychedelic footpath and shops that sold all the wonderful hippy clothes I had a passion for then and still do. While I was browsing through a clothes rail I turned around to see a guy with one of those old cine cameras filming me, he just smiled and walked off. I wonder where that piece of footage ended up? Perhaps I'm owed royalties, hmmm!

While in Lewisham one afternoon we decided to go to the flicks where "That'll Be The Day" with David Essex and Ringo Starr was showing. What drew me to the film was not only the chance to ogle at the very handsome Mr Essex but to hear the fabulous music of the sixties in splended cinematic sound.

Finally, I can't close without mentioning once again my feline friend, Terry Roo who used to meet us each night as we returned from the pub. One night we decided to return using another route. After a while we realized that pussy was nowhere to be found until fiance remembered he'd be waiting for us at his usual spot. Like a thing possessed he took off and returned with poor Terry Roo who had been still waiting patiently for us. He took full advantage of our remorseful situation as we apologised profusely and cuddled him to death. You could almost see the smug look on his beautiful little face. I still remember him fondly.

Over the years we've returned to London and other UK parts several times and indeed to many other world locations but for me, whatever the reasoning behind it England will always feel like my second home.

Granny Browne sadly passed away during the mid 1970's.

Above Holiday Images:
Fiance and Terry Roo, Kidbrooke, London.
View from Granny Browne's house, Kidbrooke, London.
Me reading "The News of the World", New Cross Railway Station.
On train to Charing Cross, fiance's feet also in shot.
Trafalgar Square, London.
Oxford Street, London.



  1. Hi Ann, as I've said before your stories are worth waiting for, and this one is no exception.
    Cheers for now.

  2. Thanks Donald, it was fun remembering that lovely holiday. I imagine Terry Roo is in Moggy Heaven licking his whiskers and nibbling a few saintly toes! Cheers, Ann

  3. Thank you for your nice comment. I have enjoyed reading your very special and informative blog also. Cheers, Ann