In June 1963, we left our home in Amington, Staffordshire and set off to Grandma’s bungalow in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. Dad stayed a couple of days with his mum and brother before flying to Trinidad to start his new job on an oil refinery and left me, mum and baby sister Sandra, then just 2 years old, in a B and B in Westcliff-on-Sea close to Gran and Uncle Syd.
Most days mum would take me and Sandra to buy new clothes as dad’s company had paid him an allowance to kit us out in new summer clothes. Exciting times as at 11 years old I was just beginning to take an interest in my appearance. There was the bright yellow striped dress I nicknamed “the deckchair.” Then the one that got away, brown and orange floral as instead I chose the “post office” dress which was white with black and red stamps dotted around. We shopped for good quality in Hamlet Court Road and cheap and cheerful in Southend High Street. I remember it raining a lot.
Dinner in the B&B was a lot of fun. My sister was popular with the elderly guests, shouting “You’re a right wreck” from her highchair to anyone who would listen.
Mum didn’t feel she could cope with the journey on the train to Heathrow, having two young children in tow, so we got a taxi to The Mount Royal Hotel as it was then known in Bryanston Street, Marble Arch, London. I don’t remember much about it, but it was my first time in a big London hotel and it was such an exciting time.
The following morning we took a cab to Heathrow airport. I had never been to an airport before and was impressed by the escalators of all things. We boarded a BWIA flight and I sat by the window, beginning my great love of travel and airplanes. The first stop was Bermuda. The pilot circled over the pristine white beaches and blue ocean. We were allowed to enter the airport for a drink and when
we left the plane it was like stepping into an oven with a hairdryer blowing at the same time. Young people nowadays are more likely to have flown since being a toddler but to me, back then, it was like stepping into another planet!
I had a Coca Cola and all too soon it was time to board the plane, but not without starting a collection of napkins from Bermuda and BWIA.
A couple of hours later we landed in Antigua where we had time for another drink but mine tasted like calamine lotion, not that I have ever licked calamine but it certainly smelt like it!
About one and a half hours later we landed in Bridgetown, Barbados. My sister was asleep so mum decided to stay on the plane. However I felt unwell so the cabin crew took me off the plane and put me in an air conditioned room in the terminal with a fan. Walking back to the plane I was aware of a very warm breeze.
A short while after take off we hit a storm and the pilot decided to return to Saint John’s in Bridgetown. Eventually we took off for our destination of Piarco airport in Port of Spain, Trinidad, arriving after dark. Dad was there to meet us in the arrivals hall and we headed to the upside down hotel, http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/trinidad-and-tobago/hilton-trinidad-and-conference-centre-POSHIHH/index.html
I enjoyed my first prawn cocktail in the restaurant and squealed when I realised I was sharing the shower with a praying mantis. It was also my first proper shower as we had a bath at home.
I don’t remember anything about breakfast but we got in a cab to drive to San Fernando and it was thrilling to see banana trees for the first time (there was no colour TV back then). I saw so many amazing things, roadside stalls selling exotic fruit and coconuts, little naked children cooling down under outdoor showers. Eventually we arrived at Todd’s Hotel in San Fernando where we stayed for 3 weeks to look for rental accommodation close to dad’s job at the oil refinery. Time passed very pleasantly at Todd’s and occasionally mum and dad let me stay up late for an hour after dinner to listen to the steel band. I remember the early evening sunsets. One minute it would be light and within 5 minutes it would be jet black, the palm trees black against a bright orange sky.
Most of the refinery employees lived on the Texaco estate in lovely properties but dad fancied something up the hill for more independent living and less clicky!