Welcome Map

In 1972, during our 4th year of secondary school, our year were let loose on/in Guildford.

Part of our Geography O-level course involved studying Ordnance Survey maps and knowing the difference between a Roman Tumulus and a motorway (you can’t drive a chariot on a motorway).

We were bussed from our school in Tooting and dropped, ostensibly, in the middle of nowhere (if you’d rarely ventured outside SW17, then the outskirts of Guildford were the middle of nowhere).

Armed only with a 1937 O/S map of the South Downs, a compass and a year’s supply of chicken paste sandwiches (no one had said it was just an afternoon, so I’d come prepared).

The more astute, but geographically-challenged, had brought a French phrasebook – they assumed, like our day trips to France, that Guildford was the place to procure flick-knives and lighters with flames so high they scorched most of your fringe.  The coach journey was so long, and so far south, many of my fellow pupils thought we’d travelled to Senegal (where the phrasebook certainly would have come in handy).

We were left, with our map, to find our way back to the city centre, remembering everything we’d been taught about contours and railways (disused).  Having not paid too much attention during the class we did ask, in very broken (and slow) French, the way to the Centre Ville – ironic given this was nearer Dorking than Dakar – we’d have been better off talking in Cockney rhyming slang.

We arrived safely but disappointed the tourist shops had nothing in with which you could start a fire, but we did get lots of very small bottles of marmalade and enough Kendal Mint Cake to make us feel nauseous before we’d got to Leatherhead.

3 thoughts on “Welcome Map

  1. Armed with a French Phrase book and a compass, i thought i found my way to Tooting but somehow ended up in Streatham, watching Ursula Undress at the Odeon. One day I dream of reading the football results but my French is très mauvais.

    thanks for your wonderful writing, you made our whole house laugh today. we live in Dordogne……maybe?

    Simon Holland. (bbc Tv talent scout )


    1. Simon, I’m so thrilled to hear that, thank you so much. You saw Ursula Andressiere, my mum took me there to see the Supremes and to keep up the French, sans Diana Ross). If you’re in France, you possibly know my sister in law as she’s in Bordeaux 🙂


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