Why did I want to tell the story of the part of the life of Vera Chugg, my Mother, which took place during the early 1970s?
Mainly I suppose as a lasting tangible memory of her. She did not have an easy life as can be seen from the background information, but she enjoyed what she had and was very much a people person.
Family and friends were very important to Vera, born and bred in Bristol. Her caring parents ensured that Vera and her younger siblings Eileen and Kenneth had a loving childhood. When Vera embarked on her first marriage in the 1930s it did not go according to plan, and she returned home to her parents in a somewhat distressed state. She subsequently embarked on another challenging, although often enjoyable, relationship with my Father. Although she encountered many problems during her life she survived these two uneasy marriages, brought up five children and worked very hard to keep her family above the breadline. Due to no small part to Vera’s efforts the family were able to cope with all the moves and changes as well as bankruptcy during the 1950s.
This is the story of just two years of Vera’s life during the 1970s. She had intended to produce a book from her memories of these days. In fact Daphne Hubbard, from the Bristol Evening Post was interested in helping her with this project. However, this never happened as subsequent unforeseen events took over.
In 1972 Vera Chugg, a widow and 65 years old, has to retire from her much loved job. Her children are grown up and have fled the nest, so there is no one at home to spend her envisaged lonely future days. What can she do?
Depression looms as her birthday approaches but then her family provide a solution. They suggest a two year self-funding voyage around the world, staying with family and friends. The experiences gained should enable her to enjoy her life back in Bristol afterwards?
July 1972 – Seven of Vera’s family see her off at Southampton Docks. She stays on the deck of the Arcadia until they disappear in the distance. Then realism kicks in. She knows no one on board. The liner is huge, and she now has to endure last six weeks on it. After that she is going to be away for nearly two years often staying with people she has never met before. She feels totally out of her comfort zone.
Furthermore, she has been tasked to deliver a large gift to a total stranger in Durban, South Africa in whose home she is expected to stay the night. How can she identify her among the huge crowds awaiting the arrival of the liner?
As the voyages progresses Vera is introduced by new-found friends to unusual or hidden secret places normally missed by the regular tourist and starts to enjoy herself.
In Australia, she fends off a dangerous spider and copes with a six-hour Christmas lunch Italian style. She goes camping American style in Mexico. She becomes a special guest in a luxurious penthouse flat overlooking the Bay of San Francisco.
She encounters problems in Toronto, Canada at the end of her journey when she tries to find a liner or a flight to return to England. She tells her diary that she may have to swim the Atlantic! Communication is still a challenge in the 1970s before emails and mobile phones really kick in.
Sadly soon after her return to Bristol her Uncle Cecil dies and Vera attends his funeral in Southampton. A man that she has not seen for many years is there, and he suggests that they rekindle their 1930s relationship. Vera is not at all sure. What should she do? The answer is quite unexpected!
The e-book Around the World in 80 Years:Retirement can be Fun! was published in July 2014 and is available through Amazon.
Veronica Bowerman is a freelance writer. She began writing in the 1980s after knocking on doors of interesting historical properties in Henleaze to ask the owners if she could write about their homes. These articles were then submitted to The Henleaze Society for their Newsletters.