Tripping through time

So I’m off to Britain again. As I prepare for my annual pilgrimage, I find myself thinking about my first trip. This fabled journey took place back in the mists of time, when the world was young, Stonehenge was rising on Salisbury Plain, and a tree-squirrel could run from England to Scotland without touching the ground, though he’d be knackered by the time he got to Glasgow.

All right. It was 1973 and I was 25, whereas today I’m – oh, you can do the math. Anyway, let’s compare the two trips, shall we?

Dollars & pence

My first Mini

1973: I’d spent two years saving $1800. It bought me a car (a 10-year-old Mini for £95) and lasted for 10 months, four months longer than the Mini did.

2010: I’ve budgeted $3000 for one month. Should be okay as long as I stay out of the shops.

Why the big difference there?

Bed & breakfast 1973: £2.50, tops. I slept in the Mini in Cobham, Surrey, because I couldn’t find anything under £2.75.

Bed & breakfast 2010: No more than £60. Well, okay, £90 in Kirkwall, but I’ll have a view of the harbor.

Petrol 1973: About 35 p. a gallon.

Petrol 2010: I’ll find out when I get there. Say, what are “litres”?

Any changes in the bed & breakfast scene since ’73?

I’m glad you asked.

1973: Strong possibility of nylon sheets. Bathroom down the hall and/or a flight of stairs. Shower? “Can’t be done, I’m afraid. Our gravity’s not strong enough.” Breakfast: cornflakes, Mother’s Pride toast, marmalade, fried egg & bacon, tea. Coffee? “Can’t be done, I’m afraid, much too dear [expensive].”

2010: Egyptian cotton sheets, “ensuite,” power-shower. Breakfast: choice of fruit juice, choice of cereals, choice of egg-cookage, choice of breadage, choice of tea or coffee. Choice all around, basically.


1973: Big blue suitcase made out of what looked like denim. Everything stuffed into suitcase. No carry-on.

2010: Big expandable black suitcase and a carry-on suitcase for laptop/power supply/plug converter/thumb drive.

Clothes in the luggage

One happy hippie

1973: Three pairs of size-6 bell-bottoms (magenta, lavender, and navy blue); assorted blouses/tops; two pairs of shoes (burgundy moccasins and blue ballet flats); a blue and lavender dress that ended halfway up my thighs; my grandmother’s floor-length blue wool bathrobe; a cape made by my Aunt Catherine in a “tartan” of magenta, blue, and raspberry pink; ankh; love beads. No raincoat, no umbrella. (What, does it rain in Britain?)

2010: Four pairs of identical never-mind-the-size jeans;  three pairs of shoes; assorted T-shirts; several jackets; one cashmere turtleneck sweater; one skirt that ends halfway down my calves; raincoat (still to be purchased – what, does it rain in California?); umbrella; pajamas. All black except the T-shirts.

Medicine in the luggage

1973: I was 25.

2010: Multi-vitamins, anti-allergy pills, Ibuprofen, Tylenol for Colds Daytime, Tylenol for Colds Nighttime, Tylenol for Flu ditto, cough syrup. I still don’t get ill very often, but when I do, it’s usually in Britain.

Food for the plane

1973: I ate what they gave me and liked it.

2010: My own trail mix (nuts, raisins, chocolate chips). I don’t eat anything else on planes and think United should discount my tickets accordingly. On the other hand, I do drink a lot of their water.

In-flight reading material

Included Scotland

1973: Frommer’s England on $5 and $10 a Day and an anthology of mystery stories.

2010: Manuscript of my own mystery novel, Fall Crush, and an editorial pen.

Preparing to get there

1973: It’s cool, man. It’ll just, like, happen, you know?

2010: Eight B&Bs researched and booked. Reservations made on four car ferries. Rental car arranged. British Rail pass purchased. Oyster card topped up before I left last time. Mobile waiting for me at a friend’s house. Damn, I am such a freaking grownup.

Getting there

1973: Red-eye from San Francisco to LA, sat up all night in LAX, charter flight to Rotterdam (with a stop in Pennsylvania), train and bus to Hook of Holland, ferry to Harwich, train to Cambridge via Manningtree and Ipswich. By the time I went to bed in Cambridge, I’d been awake for 52 hours.

2010: Nonstop from SFO to Heathrow. But I still won’t be able to sleep on the plane.

Friends to visit when I get there

1973: None.

2010: In Axminster, Wallasey, Teesside, Norwich, Cambridge, and London.

My hair color

1973: Brown with lots of red in it.

2010: White with bits of brown in it.


1973: Oh wow! It’s almost time! I’m finally getting to go! I can’t believe it! This is amazing! Only one week/six days/five days (etc.) left! Oh wow!

2010: I’m tired. But I’ll have a good time when I get there.

Note to burglars

It’s risky these days to announce your travel plans online. If any burglars are reading this and have figured out where I live: builders will be working in my house while I’m gone. Also, I have vigilant neighbors and large barbed-wire dogs.

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8 thoughts on “Tripping through time

  1. We are sisters under the skin. I could have written this. I don’t mean that I am as good as you writing-wise, but just that in all other ways, we have evolved identically. But I am shocked that you aren’t taking an ANTIBIOTIC. All the bases have not been covered! Have a wonderful time. I so envy you. LOVELOVELOVE molly

  2. Dear Molly, sister-under-the-skin, I love your writing and think it’s every bit as good as mine. But then I would, because we’ve got a similar sense of humor and take on life. But, antibiotics? Hmm. I’ll just hope they won’t be necessary (some remnants remain of my 25-year-old self. Oh wow!).

  3. Thanks, Nora! Though I think I stole the barbed-wire dogs from Frederic Raphael and his “Glittering Prizes.” I should have attributed, and hereby do so.

  4. No worries, Maggie, I’ll be blogging about the trip here as Internet access permits. I checked out your great informational website, Classroom Talk. It reminded me of my mom (a librarian) and my Aunt Catherine (a teacher and school librarian, and maker of the plaid cape). Thanks for your comment and those memories.

  5. I enjoyed reading this immensely! I’ve never really cared much about traveling but love to read about others’ adventures so I’m looking forward to your travel diaries. Godspeed and have a wonderful & safe time!

    Although a few years your junior, my Hippy Days seem like they were a zillion years ago. Funny how that happens. “Such a freaking grownup.” LOL. 😀

  6. Thanks, Lelisa13P (I know that’s not your real name, any more than @calbion is mine!). My hippie days feel awfully far away too, and the distance between me and the girl in that photo above gets greater all the time. But I trust we are growing in wisdom as well as in years.

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