Understanding things and passing ideas onto others gave me a buzz. Teaching became an obvious next step. I qualified and taught in Leeds, Cheshire and London in primary schools, secondary schools and colleges.
During the years of 1975 and 76 I worked in a Nassau high school in the Bahamas teaching A-level art. The Christmas vacation came and I was undecided what to do.
I was taken with the idea of challenging myself. I settled on climbing a 17,802 feet ice-capped volcano called Popocatepetl 40 miles south east of Mexico City. I blithely took off, unable to speak Spanish and with no idea about altitude or the sickness and death it can cause if you don’t acclimatize. I’d work out what was needed as I went along.
a Mexican pot I brought back
Old postcard showing Popocatepetl in the background
Rudimentary Spanish was needed. I bought an ice axe, crampons and some warm clothing. With food for a few days, I caught the bus south and added myself to those who were on the mountain trail. Going from sea level to the glacial ice in just four days made me very sick. As I descended below the snow line, I threw up and passed out.
When I eventually woke up I realised, with growing awareness, that my rucksack my travel documents and plane tickets were all gone. I was alone on the side of the mountain with only what I was wearing. Panic gripped me until I discovered some cash in my shirt pocket.
Hours later and seven thousand feet lower I trudged into Amecameca and boarded a bus back to Mexico City.
My vocabulary of poor Spanish grew.
I got money wired out, secured a replacement passport and then spent a week getting an exit visa. The authorities made it difficult... where was my entry visa? It took me two weeks to get out of Mexico.
On a gloomy New Year’s eve I flew to Miami en route to Nassau.
Changing flights was a problem because I didn’t have a US visa in my new Passport. They put a Sheriff on me. I couldn’t move without him accompanying me, even to the toilet. After too many hours of waiting, he sent me on my way with a halfhearted nod as I boarded a Bahamas Air flight for home.
Back in Nassau it was a fresh start. I had to get ready for school. I washed my clothes and hung them out to dry. That night they were stolen from the back garden. I felt a momentary urge to throw the few books I had left into the street and shout “You can have these as well”.
Today Popocatepetl is off limits as it is constantly erupting and the glaciers of 1973 have vanished.