The road home

The road home

We’ve checked out Belize, Costa Rica, Mexico and Florida and none seem to suit retirement. So now we’re thinking of going “home” to the UK.

For several years we’ve spent at least a month in the warmth of Central America, the Caribbean or Florida, during Canada’s long and horrible winters. We’ve met so many ex-pat snowbirds who now live there year-round, that we started seriously looking for a new home in the south. But wherever we went, and no matter how charming the locale, there was always some serious reason for NOT moving there. During our last visit to England it suddenly dawned on us that perhaps we should look to our roots instead. The nay-sayers insist too much has changed.

The differences between Canada, where I’ve made my home for 50 years, married twice, had kids and am now thinking of abandoning, and England, where I was born and may return to live, are numerous. But it is not until one comes back with an ex-pat’s viewpoint that the differences really begin to stand out. Everywhere I go and everywhere I turn, the changes in me are pointed out. In turn, I note the changes in my home land, some for the better, more for the worse.

Here are some of the events of the sixties through eighties I missed in the UK. See how many of these you remember.

1966: the “M” motorway network grows as the existing M1, M4 and M6 are expanded.

1967: the first North Sea gas is pumped ashore in Yorkshire; tanker Torrey Canyon runs aground in Cornwall and is later bombed and sunk by the RAF; Francis Chichester arrives in Plymouth after completing his single-handed sailing voyage around the world in his yacht, Gipsy Moth IV, and is knighted; The Beatles release Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; BBC2 broadcasts colour television; the British steel industry is nationalised.

1968: London Bridge sells to an American entrepreneur, who rebuilds it in Arizona, mistakenly thinking he’d bought the far more iconic Tower Bridge; five and 10 pence coins arrive; legal abortion comes into effect; British Rail’s last steam train runs from Liverpool to Carlisle; Enoch Powell warns that immigrants “may change the character” of England.

1969: Australian media baron Rupert Murdoch purchases The News of the World; The Beatles give their last public performance, on the roof of Apple Records; the colour television documentary The Royal Family, attracts more than 30 million viewers, a record; The Beatles release Abbey Road; BBC airs the first episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus; the 50p coin is introduced; regular colour television broadcasts begin on BBC1 and ITV.

1970: British Leyland launches the luxury Range Rover, as a more upmarket alternative to the utilitarian Land Rover, in production since 1948; Edward Heath’s Conservative Party comes to power with a majority of 30 seats, a major surprise as most of the opinion polls had shown that Harold Wilson’s Labour were likely to stay in power; Richard Branson starts the Virgin Group with discounted mail-order sales of popular records.

1971: Rolls-Royce goes bankrupt and is nationalised; Ireland and the UK switch to decimal currency; The Daily Sketch, Britain’s oldest tabloid newspaper, is absorbed by the Daily Mail, after 62 years.

1972: coal miners begin a strike which lasts for seven weeks; unemployment exceeds 1 million, for the first time since the 1930s; the UK’s last trolleybus system, in Bradford, closes; Queen Elizabeth meets her uncle, Edward, Duke of Windsor, at his Paris home; 10 days later, he dies; a strike by thousands of dock workers leads to a state of emergency;  Idi Amin, dictator of Uganda, announces that 50,000 Asians with British passports, who are  “sabotaging the Ugandan economy” are to be expelled from Uganda to Britain; Honda begins importing Civic hatchbacks.

1973: UK joins the European Union; two IRA bombs explode in London, killing one person and injuring 250 others; VAT comes into effect; IRA bombs at King’s Cross and Euston railway stations in London injure 13 people; London Broadcasting Company, Britain’s first legal commercial Independent Local Radio station, begins broadcasting.

1974: Three-Day Week, two General Elections, one change of national government, a state of emergency in Northern Ireland, extensive Provisional Irish Republican Army bombing of the British mainland, several large company collapses and major local government reorganization.

1975: Margaret Thatcher defeats Edward Heath in the Conservative Party leadership election to become the party’s first female leader; British and Icelandic ships clash, marking the beginning of the third Cod War; Ross McWhirter, co-founder with his twin of the Guinness Book of Records, is shot dead by the Provisional Irish Republican Army for offering reward money to informers.

1976: hurricane-force winds, prolonged drought and subsequent heat wave mark the weather; Anita Roddick opens the first branch of The Body Shop in Brighton; James Callaghan becomes Prime Minister on Harold Wilson’s retirement.

1977: third G7 summit held in London; Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau does a pirouette behind the back of Elizabeth II; Jubilee celebrations are held to celebrate 25 years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign; Queen’s power ballad We Are the Champions is released.

1978: opposition leader Margaret Thatcher says that many Britons fear being “swamped by people with a different culture;” Chrysler sells its European operations, including the former Rootes Group factories in Britain, to French carmaker Peugeot.

1979: thousands of public-workers strike in the “Winter of Discontent;” Conservatives win the General Election by a 43-seat majority and Margaret Thatcher becomes UK’s first female Prime Minister; dozens of yachts are lost and 15 drown during the Fastnet yacht race; Lord Mountbatten of Burma, his nephew and a boat boy are assassinated by the IRA in the Republic of Ireland, the Dowager Lady Brabourne dying the following day; the Housing Bill gives council house tenants the right to buy their homes.

1980: Margaret Thatcher makes her famous “The lady’s not for turning” speech to the Conservative Party conference after party MP’s warn that her economic policy was responsible for the current recession and rising unemployment.

1981: inner-city rioting in many parts of England; The Times and The Sunday Times are bought from Canadian Lord Thomson by Rupert Murdoch; unemployment passes the 2,500,000 mark for the first time in nearly 50 years; Ken Livingstone heads the Greater London Council; British Telecom separates from the Royal Mail; Charles, Prince of Wales, marries Lady Diana Spencer at St Paul’s Cathedral; British Telecom discontinues the telegram after 139 years; the first case of AIDS is diagnosed.

1982: the Canada Act sets the stage for the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution; the Falklands War lasts almost three months; Nigel Lawson announces that no industry should remain in state ownership unless there is an “overwhelming” case; Henry VIII’s flagship The Mary Rose is raised from the seabed.

1983: seatbelts become mandatory; CDs go on sale; £1 coin introduced; wheel clamps are first used in London; Margaret Thatcher wins a landslide victory; an IRA car bomb kills six and injures 90 outside Harrods.

1984: the Thames Barrier opens; unemployment reaches 3,260,000; London Transport is removed from Greater London Council control; dog licences are abolished; Robert Maxwell buys the Daily Mirror; British Telecom is privatised.


Phased out

1985: mobile phones arrive; British Telecom announces it is going to phase out red telephone boxes; the miners’ strike ends after one year; Mohammed Al Fayed buys Harrods.

1986: deregulation of financial markets; BSE is confirmed; the Greater London Council is abolished; Austin Rover is renamed the Rover Group four years after the name change from British Leyland; Prince Andrew, Duke of York, marries Sarah Ferguson at Westminster Abbey; GCSE examination courses replace GCE ‘O’ Levels; The Independent is published; bus deregulation, except Greater London and Northern Ireland; Margaret Thatcher opens the completed M25 London Orbital Motorway, the first section of which opened in 1975.

1987: Golliwogs are banned from Enid Blyton books by their publisher and replaced by politically correct gnomes following complaints that golliwogs were offensive to black people; British Airways is privatised; Margaret Thatcher wins her third term in office; 25 years after the first James Bond film was released, the 15th Bond film premieres in London, starring Timothy Dalton; Ford takes over Aston Martin; hurricane force winds batter much of south-east England, killing 23 people; London City Airport opens.

1988: Margaret Thatcher becomes the longest serving British prime minister this century, having been in power for eight years and 244 days; Great Britain and Northern Ireland compete at the Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada, but do not win any medals; Eddie the Eagle is nominated as the “worst” Olympian in downhill ski jumping; plans for Canary Warf are unveiled by Canadian developers Olympia and York; the last shipbuilder on Wearside, once the largest shipbuilding area in the world, closes; Pan Am Flight 103 explodes over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.

1989: Muslims demonstrate in Bradford against The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie, burning copies of the book in the city streets; Nigel Mansell wins the Brazilian Grand Prix; 94 fans are killed in a crush during the FA Cup semi-final at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield; unemployment sinks below 2,000,000 for the first time since 1980; Ford takes over Jaguar; The Beer Orders restrict the number of tied pubs that can be owned by large brewery groups to 2,000 and require large brewer landlords to allow a guest ale to be sourced by tenants from someone other than their landlord.

Next: the nineties and the noughties.

3 replies »

  1. I’ll have to post a more thoughtful response if we make it over the pond, but for now these four points will have to suffice. Belize: too third world; Mexico: too crime riddled; Costa Rica: too third world and crime riddled; Florida: why would we move there when we have lovely friends to stay with?


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