David’s Bookshelf Issue 2 – Cup of Tea Tales
- David’s Bookshelf Issue 2
- David’s Bookshelf – Issue One
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – A Lifetime of Global Successes, Disasters and Wonders! Space the Final Frontier.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Hetchell Woods (Bardsey) and Crags – A Special Piece of God’s Own Country or County! One of my Favourite Places to Visit.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – The Wonderful Yorkshire Dales. Trollers Gill, a Place with a Mysterious Legend and the Hell Hole where I Diced with Death.
My very first memory of a trip to the seaside was before we had got our first car. We were still living in Lawrence Avenue, off Easterley Road, and it is the only time we went by train. I can’t remember a lot, but at this point, I think I only had one brother. My younger brother was yet to arrive and I remember the journey as it was the days of compartments on trains and a corridor that ran the length of the carriage. I believe we went to Scarborough, and it was the first of many visits there.
Scarborough train station was a fair walk from the beach and it was particularly long for young legs, and even more so on the way back, as we had a very steep climb back up through the town to the station and none of the excitement. Visits became a regular ritual when we were children and later followed a similar pattern with my own children. It became easier when my parents got our first car. It was the Austin Ruby and was started by a starting handle (as shown in the photograph above). We knew it as ‘The Fridge’, as it had no form of heating. What it did have was a single windscreen wiper that was pivoted from above the windscreen.
Anyway, whatever the type, the car was exciting! Just starting it up was a feat. My Dad would push the steel handle into the front of the engine and then wind it. When it started, there was danger of the handle kicking back and breaking a wrist. The handle was then stowed in the car and with great noise, considerable smoke and a lot of bravado, we would set off. Many were the times we broke down and I don’t think it was long before it was replaced with a Ford Prefect. Both cars were black and would have fitted well into gangster movies. The Prefect didn’t have a nickname, but it had a heater and my brothers and I were discussing it the other day and we believe the number plate began KTF, but we can’t remember the rest. The Prefect was much more reliable, but that wasn’t saying much, and many a trip was spoilt waiting for the radiator to cool down, so extra water could be added and the journey continued. This was particularly a problem on the way to the East Coast. The Yorkshire Wolds and the climb out of the Vale of York up Garrowby Hill were certainly a test of the car’s stamina, and on the way down, the brakes.
Another challenge was my older brother’s travel sickness. We usually made it as far as York, but by then he was definitely queasy. My father had many lovely qualities, but the ability to be prepared to stop was not one of them. No amount of asking him to find a place to stop ever resulted in him doing so. I remember vividly circling the roundabout outside the castle walls at York, the roundabout full of dancing vivid yellow daffodils, and my brother vomiting out of the window. Goodness only knows what onlookers would have been thinking. The cure for travel sickness from my wife’s family was to sit on sheets of newspaper and somehow this was supposed to prevent it. They are not from God’s Own Country (or county), so maybe that explains it. Anyway, if we didn’t go via York, then we went by Tadcaster and that was never any better. There were no bypasses in those days, but less traffic, but still traffic jams were common, which spoiled our day trips.
Sitting in the car, we played a range of games. There was I Spy, still a firm favourite with my children, The Parson’s Cat and songs such as Ten Green Bottles, Molly Malone, and The Mermaid song:
‘On Friday morn when we set sail on a ship not far from land, I there did espy a pretty, pretty maid with a comb and glass in her hand, her hand, her hand and a comb and a glass in her hand!’
We would all sing at the top of our voices, much to the annoyance of my father. When we approached the coast, we would have a competition and the first to glimpse the North Sea would sing out, ‘I see the sea, the sea sees me!’ and keep repeating it. What fun!
When we finally arrived at Scarborough, Bridlington, or Filey, the routine was the same. We would find somewhere to park the car and then walk towards the beach. Depending on the weather, we would buy maybe a plastic rain mac, bucket and spade, plastic sandals and maybe some paper flags for the sandcastles. We would then head down to the beach, whether it was raining or not. We would find a suitable place to set up and deck chairs were hired for mum and dad and my brother and I would strip down to bathers. If it wasn’t too cold, which wasn’t very often, we would stay there all day, making castles, digging moats, burying one of us, or paddling. You never swam in the North Sea, whatever the weather, as the water was far too cold. Your legs and feet would turn blue within seconds and the cold hurt. On the very rare hot, sunny day, we would get sunburn, as we had no sunscreen and pink, very sore skin would result, followed a day or two later by itchy, peeling agony. Oh, the joys of youth!
If the weather was not good, the day would also consist of walking on the front, maybe a donkey ride and, at those times, Punch and Judy shows were common. The themes of domestic violence, murder, public executions and cannibalism were suitable entertainment for families before political correctness stamped it all out. The policeman would eventually catch Punch, ‘That’s the Way to Do It!’ and he would be hanged, only to return as a ghost. We loved it!
By mid-afternoon my dad would start to get restless, worried about the traffic, the jams were just the same in reverse, and so we would pack up, traipse back to the car and my brothers and I would usually sleep most of the way home. As there we no seat belts in the cars, we could just lie down along the back seat and drift off. Of course, my older brother could be building towards another bout of queasiness on the way home, just to round off a perfect day. One thing about Leeds was its central position, and it was possible to get to either coast in about an hour and a half, but it was Scarborough, Filey and Bridlington that were our main ports of call and where we had most of our adventures.
For most of my early life, my parents took us to the seaside on either day trips or to stay in cottages they would hire. The most common places to visit were Bridlington, Filey, Hornsea or Scarborough and it is Scarborough that I want to remember today. The journey time by car was about an hour and a half. As an adult, this seems a short trip, but as a child, it seemed to last a lifetime. There was little to amuse us in the car unless we played our own games and, as discussed, these involved I-spy and a range of songs. My mum and dad were probably getting pretty desperate by the time we arrived. Three young boys would have challenged the sanity of any parent and when the sweets ran out, barley sugar to help my elder brother not suffer car sickness, Mintoes, my dad’s favourite, and Murray mints, mine, there was nothing left but to squabble.
Scarborough was the largest of the Yorkshire seaside resorts and it had two bays. One was full of amusement arcades, donkeys on the beach, Punch and Judy shows and the like, whereas the other was much quieter and more genteel. A large ruin, Scarborough Castle, stood partially collapsing into the sea, built to repel invaders and those from north of the border. Scarborough used to suffer an annual invasion from the Scots when their factories closed for works’ weeks and the masses descended onto the town. Scarborough was thriving in the late 1950s and early 60s as continental travel had not really started and holiday camps, such as Butlins, were booming with organised holidays with a service to keep children busy and allow adults a bit of peace.
Apart from the sea and sand and front amusements, Scarborough offered other forms of entertainment. Peasholm Park had been opened in 1912 and it had ornamental gardens, which were of no interest to young boys, but it had something that was. The lake was the scene of naval battles. The battle of the River Plate was re-enacted daily and large replica battleships moved across the lake, cannons fired with real smoke and I believe it was narrated. I loved it! I heard that the largest of the ships had someone inside controlling them, but I do not know if that was true. It was a real spectacle to watch, and the lake was also a place where we could sail the new yachts that we had just bought. The yachts were wooden boats, brightly painted, and had real canvas sails and little strings to pull and trim the sails. We mainly sailed them in small pools so that we wouldn’t lose them if they took off with the wind. They were great fun and returned with us home to float in the bath.
One other attraction at the park I loved was a night visit to the illuminated island. Peasholm Park was arranged as an oriental garden and at night you could pay to cross the arched bridge and enter a world of fantasy. Well, it seemed so. On the island were characters from Walt Disney and these were lit from inside and it was magical seeing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs standing in the foliage illuminated from withinAnother place we would visit was Oliver’s Mount, where the motorcycle racing took place. We would drive around the course and imagine what it would be like to drive it in a race. We would then go to The Mere. The Mere is a large ornamental lake with delightful walks and a café. Why would this interest young boys, you might ask? Well, when we went there was a pirate galleon, the Hispaniola, and if we were good, we would set sail and land on an island in the lake. Here we were set loose to hunt for buried treasure. The pirate crew were a very motley bunch and, dressed the part, they would ham up the acting, check their maps and encourage us to scavenge for gold coins. I never found one, despite several visits, but many years later, I took my oldest son back when he was about four or five, and on this occasion he was successful and I still have the coins. I hope Long John Silver doesn’t want them back! The Hispaniola has sailed off into the sunset, which is a shame. I am sure that many youngsters would still get a thrill from searching for lost treasure on a desert island.
Our final change of venue was the outdoor swimming pool. In the days when we went, the water was icy. The pool is now geo-thermally heated and I am sure a much more pleasant temperature than it was. The weather on the Yorkshire coast is rarely hot and even when the rest of the area was bathed in sunshine, it wasn’t unusual for Scarborough to be blanketed in a sea fret. The damp mist had a chill that would have prevented anyone daring to take a plunge. Most visits to Scarborough were spent either fully jumpered-up on the sand, digging our way to China, or sitting in the car with the windows steamed up with a constant drizzle preventing us from venturing out. This was often accompanied by the smell of vinegar, as we would eat fish and chips from the newspaper. I can taste them as I write this. This was followed by a 99 ice cream for dessert. However, on the one occasion we went to the outdoor pool, the day was glorious. In these times shortly after the war, no one was aware of sun damage and having a tan was the way of showing that you had been on a holiday and had a great time. When lotions were used, only by my mother, they tended to be coconut oil and I think the purpose was to assist in the frying. My mother would tan, but my brothers and I took after our dad, who was from Scotland, near Oban, and the Viking heritage offered no protection from the sun’s rays. The chill of the water disguised some of the burning and by the end of a day spent in the pool, we were all like lobsters. I believe this was just a day trip and so we had a very uncomfortable ride back to Leeds. The shirts, so soft on the way, were now like ragged sandpaper and every movement brought groans.
When we arrived home, we were liberally padded down with calamine lotion on cotton wool, and I can still smell the pink flowery scent. The cool touch was wonderful, but was short-lived. We were put to bed and, despite the pain, all three of us slept. The worse was yet to come! The next day, the soreness was less, but by the evening, it was replaced by the itching. Again, more calamine lotion was added, providing brief relief, but within moments, the itching returned with a vengeance. We were told not to scratch it, but I challenge anyone to not scratch even a mild itch, yet alone an all-encompassing, mind numbing itch that would not go away. We scratched and scratched ourselves until the following day, when the inflammation finally subsided, but small white blisters appeared. The next day, the skin peeled. At least two further days of the itching had to be endured before our skin was replaced and we were in peace. Of course, I now understand the dangers of the sun, living in the skin cancer capital of the world, but times were different. The English rarely had the weather to worry them until package tours to Europe and the guarantee of sunny holidays.