Sunday, 13 October 2013


I felt very lucky as a child to have three holidays a year. We always went to the south coast -Bournemouth, Poole, Swanage, Sandbanks, Highcliff. Two trips were organsied by the church, one for any child or family in the village and one just for the choir. Then there would be one more involving my relatives, either travelling by coach, like the church trips, or in a posse of cars, each packed to the roof with beach paraphernalia sticking out of the windows, children sitting on laps and bags strapped to the roofs. A small saloon car in those days could accommodate at least four adults and three or four children, depending on their age. We didn't expect comfort - the journey simply had to be endured. The coach trips were more fun as there was always singing, One man went to mow, and Ten green bottles were standards. On the home journey one time an auntie asked me to sing something my dad had taught me, so I sang


I'm Popeye the sailor man

I live in a caravan

Ther's a hole in the middle

Where I do my piddle

I'm Popeye the sailor man

Toot Toot.


"Your bleddy father" said his sister.


For me the holidays inspired excitement and dread. The dread was of being sick on the journey and ruining the holiday. I have always suffered from motion sickness and as the holidays were each one day long, I feared every minute of feeling rotten, or having vomit cleaned off me by an adult who would rather not.


The convention for the arduous journey from Oxfordshire to Dorset was to stop at a large roadside facility near Winchester, stretch the legs, have a wee and the adults get a cup of tea. We children would be given lemonade and crisps, rare treats that were remembered long after. In my family all the grown ups smoked but I would beg them not to do it in my car as it would guarantee to make me throw up. They would say "Hasn't she grown out of that yet?" "Have you took her to The Doctor?" and to me "If you stop thinking about it you wont be sick. Read a book"


So once we arrived at the halfway stop they would pile out of the cars and all light up in a great blue noxious cloud.


On the beach children were expected to leave the adults alone to natter and pour hot drinks from flasks. We would just luxuriate in the sand and paddle in the sea, endlessly fascinated by the rhythym, constantly surprised and delighted when again and again the waves broke into hissing foam and edged further up the beach. Sandcastles with moats, collections of shellls, mounds of seaweed to be poked with sticks.


For lunch there would be cheese and tomato sandwiches or ham rolls, hard boild eggs and sausage rolls, tepid orange squash. Cakes and biscuits would be saved for later so as not to tempt wasps. Before going home we would go to the shops and buy sticks of rock for those left behind and look at the saucy postcards where men were red faced and ladies had big bosoms. Kids with more money would buy little ornaments made from shells or water pistols. Some of the adults would get plaques for their house, with the number picked out in shells or coloured rock, others would search for just the right ashtray as their souvenir.


All too soon we were packing up, getting dry and hiding our bums from the world as we coaxed damp sandy skin back into our clothes. However hard we tried we couldn't go fast enough for those impatient and punctual adults, who, by now windswept and harried, were looking forward to going home for a proper cup of tea.



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