Talking to friends about holidays we had when we were young we all agreed that they were too short, that the sun always shone in the summer and there was masses of snow in the winter.
However that is just our memories and lovely though they are the reality is entirely different. Just as it is when you revisit a house you used to live in or a shop you used to frequent – they all seem so small!
Holidays away from home with all the family were overseen by our father who used to be in the army. This meant that he always planned our trips with military precision. Each summer we used to load up the car. This was a major effort as we were a family comprising of four children and our parents. It was a suitcase for each of us, buckets and spades, towels, rubber rings and windbreakers. Do you remember those?
We would then set off for the drive to Burnham On Sea. A long, and quite honestly a horrible trip. Playing I Spy was boring after 5 minutes and I can’t remember what else we played but each one was short lived and the cries of “Are we there yet?”went on and on.
Then came the game of who could see the sea first. How my parents put up with the noise, the breaks to go to the loo and the squabble over sandwiches I don’t know. They must have had the patience of saints.
We used to stay in a hotel although I think that it was really a B&B. I don’t think my father could afford to pay for his family in a proper hotel. All the same it was truly exciting when we arrived, unpacked and hurried down to the beach.
Well of course we couldn’t hurry as we had to find our swimming costumes, the bucket and spades, the towels and the wind breaker. Our swimming cosies were truly awful, we girls had ruched little numbers and the poor boys had trunks that would make Tom Daley fall off his diving board laughing out loud!
I seem to remember that the beach was all sand but speaking to my siblings we had to agree that it was mostly pebbles and a bit tricky to make a castle of any sort until the tide went out.
My mother used to sit in the wind breaker rubbing down her children as we returned soaking wet, only to watch us scamper back to the sea as soon as possible. However she remained as elegant as ever in her boned swim suit (which must have been a bit uncomfortable) and sunbathed as often as she could .We often ran back to her only to find her stretched out on a towel socking up the rays!
My father on the other hand was determined to teach us all to swim. We only found out many, many years later that in fact he couldn’t swim and never mastered this particular skill. But the lessons he gave us all were quite effective, there was a small pier with water underneath it. He would hold us so that our heads didn’t go under the water and then ever so gently let us go. We had to swim then. Doubtless he would have saved us if we seemed to be in any sort of trouble, luckily that wasn’t necessary.
Then when we went home there were a lot more days to fill and our Mother used to make jam sandwiches and wave goodbye as we mounted our bicycles and set off for the day. The only rule was that we had to be back by teatime.
I don’t think any of us remembering those days wouldn’t shudder just thinking about what might have happened to us. It is such a pity that children nowadays can’t enjoy the freedom that we had. We came to no harm apart from a couple of punctures and the wasps attacking our sandwiches. We always returned safely home glowing and fearsomely hungry.
At about the age of eight our parents thought it a good idea that we all had holidays on our own. My first one saw my flying to Paris to stay with some friends of my parents. The fact that they had no children didn’t seem to matter or even that they couldn’t speak English.
My French was terrible – it was a long week. I now have a terrible fear of heights after they took me to the Eiffle Tower and made me walk down the stairs. My knuckles were white with the effort of clinging onto the handrail. I don’t know how many steps there were but it seemed like thousands.
My sister went to Russia for a week with her school and really did not enjoy the trip at all! After that as we were both pony mad we were sent on riding holidays which were blissful for us. We used to have a week on our own. One of would arrive just as the other was leaving. Apart from the horses there were lots of other animals for us to play with, it was heavenly.
Unfortunately one year when we went to the railway station to collect my sister we saw her descent the steps with a large brown box containing six of the scruffiest chickens you ever saw. My brothers and I fell about laughing but one look at our mother’s grim face shut us up quickly. She was definitely not amused! I can’t remember exactly what happened to them but I am quite sure that we did not roast them for Sunday lunch, they were far too scrawny.
My brothers went to Ireland to stay with an aunt and once to Austria to visit another relative, but I don’t remember anything adventures they had on their holidays. I am sure they had some, but wouldn’t dare tell in case they were ticked off.
I don’t remember any more holidays, there must have been lots but it is amazing to me that nowadays parents are more likely take their children to Barbados than Bognor. But I bet the kids don’t have nearly as much fun as we did. They are missing out on the joy of a sand filled sandwich, donkey rides and sticks of rock.