Photo brings back memories of a schoolgirl's trip to Mexico that changed her life

Tired, jet-lagged and jaded, Pat Jones and her friends stepped off the plane at Mexico City airport.

Tired, jet-lagged but feeling like film stars, the guides arrive at Mexico City airport
Tired, jet-lagged but feeling like film stars, the guides arrive at Mexico City airport

"We are startled by the bright lights, it was the flash lights from cameras," she recalls.

"The Mexican press were there to greet us and the Mexican guides. It was the closest I've ever been to feeling like a star."

On the steps of the Sun Pyramid in Teotihuacan

Pat, who now lives in Shrewsbury, was one of eight Girl Guides who won the trip of a lifetime in a competition held in 1972, which featured on the children's television series Magpie.

The 17-day trip, which included a trip to the then party capital of Acapulco, gave Pat a taste of the jet-set lifestyle she would never forget. And those memories came back all-the-more vividly when she saw herself and her fellow guides being invited to tea with the parish council on the return from their trip, in a Shropshire Star archive photo.

The picture which featured on our letters page last month: Mr G W Jeffreys, chairman of the parish council, poured tea to the eight guides of Swallow patrol from Llandysilio, Four Crosses, near Oswestry, in April, 1972, after they had won a fortnight's holiday in Mexico. From left, Pauline May, Heather Ellis, Pat Jones, Amanda Lloyd, Heather Passant, Gail Griffin, Christine May, and Pam Walker. They were given tea by the council on their return from the trip.

"None of us had been abroad before, never mind somewhere as exotic as Mexico," she says.

Pat was 14 years old and living in Newbridge, near Llanymynech when she and seven other guides took part in the competition in 1972.

She recalls the competition, sponsored by Calor Gas, took place in a nunnery in London, where the sisters wore purple habits. The patrol, based in Llandysilio, just over the Welsh border from Oswestry, was led by Glenys Lloyd, an aunt of Pat's.

Winning the competition: representatives from the British Overseas Airways Corporation and Calor Gas, guides Gail Griffin, Pat Jones, Pauline MayPam Walker, with Magpie presenter Tony Bastable behind, and the chief guide in front

"We were tasked to create a celebratory meal for four," says Pat, who now lives in Ellesmere Road, Shrewsbury.

"A golden wedding was our choice, our table a vista of golds.

"It was a very on-trend 70s menu of prawn cocktail, duck a l'orange, lemon souffle, with Mateus rose wine and a board of cheeses from the local creamery of Four Crosses."

Pat had a minor mishap preparing the gravy for the duck a l'orange.

"I burnt the giblets. I'm a nervous cook," she says.

One of the judges of the competition was Tony Bastable, presenter of the children's television series Magpie, which was essentially ITV's answer to Blue Peter with a bit more attitude. One of the rewards for winning was an appearance on the show, but in the days before portable filming equipment was commonplace, it was much more of a logistical challenge.

"We were staying at the Baden Powell scout house hotel," Pat recalls.

"We had to recook the meal in their kitchens to take to the studio.

"We were fascinated with the process of filming, nervous but excited. We got all the presenters' autographs."

Visiting Cuernavaca

Pat, who is now 64, says the party saw a lot of sights in Mexico City, and were hosted by the British ambassador where they were treated to cucumber sandwiches.

"We went to large banquets put on by local dignitaries and guide groups. There were loads of courses of unfamiliar food which were hot and spicy."

Pat was mesmerised by Acapulco

The group was shown the pyramids of Teotihuacan and the statues of the Toltec warriors at Tula, as well as the lush city of Cuernavaca, with its elegant parks and gardens. But it was the trendy celebrity haunt of Acapulco which left a real impression on the youngster.

"Acapulco was the resort to be in in the 1970s, it was where the stars and jet-set headed," says Pat.

"We saw the famous swimmers diving off the cliffs and the beautiful beaches, we were so lucky to be there."

Seeing the pyramids of Teotihuacan

Pat was given her first camera for the trip, a Kodak Instamatic, and it marked the beginning of a life-long interest in photography.

"I also enjoyed having fun with it and taking informal photos of the group," she says. Pat briefly left the camera unattended, and got a surprise when one of her fellow guides borrowed the camera to catch her unawares with a close-up shot.

Pat Jones caught on camera by surprise on her own camera

It was a trip that would change Pat's life, encouraging her to take up a career as an artist and photographer, and giving her thirst for travel that would see return to Mexico on four separate occasions.

"People did not travel as much as they do now, and the contrast between a small Welsh village and the exotic and dangerous sprawl of Mexico City was intoxicating.

Visiting the Toltec Warriors at Tula

"Mexico's culture and art has had a massive influence on me. I have been back four times and also now have friends out there. I have studied at university and worked in Royal Mail for over 20 years, but that trip gave me a desire for adventure and I have travelled to different places ever since.

"The rich complex culture, the vibrant colours and warmth of our hosts has never left me."

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