I think of long hot summers and sand between my toes, and my happiest memories were when we used to go on holiday each year.
We are talking the early 50’s here. Mum and Dad weren’t well off – Dad was a draughtsman at the Daimler Co in Coventry, and mum stayed at home to look after my 2 brothers and me. They saved all year so that we could have a fortnight’s holiday by the sea, and it was always Bournemouth – well Parkwood Road, Southbourne to be exact.
We always stayed at the same B&B run by Mrs Sharpe. She was a lovely lady, if a bit scary at times, small and round, with powdery makeup and rouge pink cheeks, long pearl necklaces, and a twinkle in her eye. When she laughed, her stomach used to go up and down and wiggle – I was fascinated by it. She used to be on the stage, and although an ordinary house, she used to have big feathers and lace all around the place – and heaven help you if you walked on her white front door step! We always had to step over it when we first arrived, and after that we had to go in the back way, through a musty smelling garage.
Dad and I used to get up early every day and have a wash using the jug of hot water and bowl that was left outside our room every morning. Then we would walk up to the paper shop on Fisherman’s walk to get the morning paper – I used to feel so grown up. When we got back, breakfast was always ready, and it was always good. I will always remember her gravy that was served with the Sunday Roast. It was dark and thick and mmmmmmmmmm so tasty.
After breakfast we used to get our things together ready to spend the day on the beach. We walked up to Fisherman’s Walk, which was a woodland walkway that took you to the beach. There were always squirrels which I used to feed with nuts – their whiskers used to tickle my hand… We then went on the pool area. This was always full of big goldfish – I used to put my finger in the water, and they used to come up and suck them….
Then it was on the cliff lift – it used to judder down the cliff to the prom – I remember it had a wood slatted floor, which I used to walk along. The prom always had loads of people walking along it – couples hand in hand, families with children playing.
We had a beach hut every year, just a little way along from the lift. I used to love that beach hut – we could put everything in it, and we used to cook meals on little calor gas stoves. We made friends with the people in the next beach hut, and saw them same time same place every year. The men used to listen to the Ashes cricket on a little radio, and people walking past used to stop and listen as well. In the evening my Dad taught me to play Crib – I loved it, and can still make 15 from lots of numbers. We stayed there late every night till it got dark, before we made our way back to the B&B. It was the same every day – and I loved it – we all did. Sun, sea and sand. I wonder if the summers were longer then – they seemed to be.
On the last day of the holiday, I used to get so excited – it was the day of my treats! We went to the local bookshop, and Dad bought me the latest Famous 5 Book – I used to get 1 each year. Funnily enough I have only just got rid of them. They brought back such happy memories, I didn’t want to part with them, but when we moved a few months ago, I had to. Then it was on to Fortes Ice Cream bar – I used to have HUGE Knickerbocker Glory – my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Served in a tall glass with a long spoon, I had to stand up to eat it – I always took my time and relished every mouthful. Mum and Dad used to just sit and watch me smiling. I could never understand why my brothers always wanted other treats…
We were always sad to leave at the end of the fortnight, the tram riding, the shows, the shops and the sea. Onto the train - steam of course - and back to Coventry via Leamington Spa, to start saving and dreaming of next years holiday……