I was there... almost
In 1973, I was only two years old, so my memories of anything from that era are… well, utterly non-existent.
My earliest recollection is of hearing ABBA on the radio, singing Waterloo, but that didn’t come out until 1974, when Sweden won the Eurovision Song Contest with it, and probably explains why I have a penchant for Volvos and Saabs these days.
The Gunn family lived on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent until 1975, before moving to Bournemouth in Dorset. From both places, though, a favourite summer holiday destination was St Ives in Cornwall, which meant an interminably long trip for the young me trying to find a cool area of vinyl seating in the back of a hot Vauxhall Viva HB or Austin Maxi.
Our usual route was the A35 to Honiton, then connecting with the A30 all the way to Penzance. I recall the A30 as being especially treacherous one Christmas, when snow resulted in the family Maxi getting stuck halfway up a hill in a blizzard. At least the vinyl had cooled down by then.
However, if I was especially persistent, we would occasionally use the A38 instead, which went via Plymouth. My reason for preferring this route was because the boredom of a desperately long journey was briefly alleviated by Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Royal Albert Bridge at Saltash.
This was the high point – almost literally – of the whole 200-mile trip. If I was particularly lucky, from 1976 onwards, there was always the possibility of spotting one of British Rail’s new InterCity 125s crossing Brunel’s magnificent 1859 structure. It was enough to make me momentarily forget I was trapped in the back of a Maxi or Viva for another 100 miles or so.