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My First Solo Trip: England, 1960

Writing this blog brings to mind my first experience at solo travel. I certainly wasn’t a senior at that time. I was in grade 10, and my grandparents bought me a ticket to visit them in England for eight weeks. The only problem was that my departure was going to be during final exam week, and so I desperately needed to get good grades in all my courses to warrant an exemption from all my final exams.

I was a pretty good student, but I wasn’t doing terribly well and geography. We had an absolutely awful teacher, and every country we studied Mr. McQuaid drew a circular squiggle on the board, and then used both hands to scribble lines here and there for wheat, rice, oil, grain, mountains, valleys, rivers and so on. By the time I actually copied a map out of my atlas, he had finished describing everything that he wanted on the map – and started to erase it.

One advantage I had was that he was Irish, and so was was I. As a matter fact, you could get extra marks on his exams with shamrocks and green ink. I think he knew what a terrible teacher he was. In Ontario at that time we wrote departmental finals in Grade 13, and so he never taught senior classes, because his lack of teaching might be brought to light. One year the Department of Education decided to have a Grade 10 provincial exam in Geography, to survey the ability of the students across the entire province. Mr. McQuaid was in a state all term, getting his classes ready.

Another advantage was that my sister and I were editor and co-editor of his beloved school newspaper club. Sponsoring that may have been the best thing he did for the school.

The long and the short of it was that I needed 65 to get an exemption, and I would get 66 if he was in a good mood and 64 if he was in a bad mood. So it was was a bit of trepidation that I looked at the papers that he handed out with our grades, prior to the final exams. I breathed a large sigh of relief when I saw that I had exceeded the required 65 marks – by 20. He had given me 85.

So off I flew to England, on a brand-new turbo prop, and spent six weeks exploring museums, art galleries, castles, all the major tourist sites – and all the other requirements of a visit to London. I was very fortunate that my grandparents lived quite near London, on the Underground line, and so I could get into the heart of the city very easily.

Following that we spent two weeks in Yorkshire, where I visited more castles, several monasteries, and York Cathedral which was celebrating it’s 600 anniversary that year.

I had a marvelous bellows-type Zeiss lkon camera which took black-and-white pictures. But I think the photos I took during that trip were much better than the dozens I took when I first got a video camera that took JPEG pictures.

I have thousands of the JPEG pictures which are really too low resolution to do much with, and a few dozen wonderful black-and-white pictures of my trip to England.

I will post more about that trip, when I rummage through my photo albums and am able to find the pictures so that I can post some of them as I tell you about the trip. After 54 years, a couple of weeks won’t make much of a difference!

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