David’s Bookshelf – Issue One – Cup of Tea Tales
- 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.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Labs and all Manner of Magic, Misery and Mayhem. What Must have been the Worst job for a New Teacher, Chemistry with Boys with only one Aim, to Make Your Life Hell!
After reminiscing about the Fairs at Roundhay Park and Woodhouse Moor Feast, it brought to mind the attractions of the Yorkshire Coast. It is true that the East Coast has some of the most spectacular cliffs, bays, sea-stacks and beaches that the United Kingdom has to offer, but often when we visited, it also had some fairly miserable weather. A sea fret could shroud Scarborough even when just beyond its border, the skies were clear, and it was a beautiful sunny day. The damp mist could hang all day and it was cold and could soak you through to the skin. This meant that apart from a brief attempt to dig a sandcastle, maybe venturing for a token paddle in the sea, a scramble across the rocks searching for fossils, delving into rock pools hunting for crabs and urchins, or a visit to Flamborough Lighthouse, or the lifeboat station at South Landing, the day eventually moved on to two other alternatives.
The first of these would be having fish and chips. If my parents were feeling fairly affluent, we might visit a restaurant and enjoy a more civilised meal with silver tea service, bread and butter and fish knives, but more often it meant sitting in the car with steamed-up windows, eating fish, chips and scraps from out of the paper, whilst staring out across a grey vista, listening to the crashing surf and singing, ‘We Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside’. The steamy atmosphere was laced with the smell of warm newspaper, lard, salt and vinegar and it has come back to me completely as I am writing this. My brothers and I didn’t really mind the weather, it just changed the experience, and the funny thing is that we had exactly the same experiences, years later, with my oldest son, and I still loved it then.
The other alternative activity would be a visit to the amusement arcades. It didn’t matter which resort or town you were in, there were always amusement arcades. I can’t remember all the names, but Corrigans was one of the biggest. The arcades were often wooden buildings in the smaller places, but more substantial in Scarborough and Bridlington. You could see them a mile off. Gaudy, brightly lit, with more bulbs and neon signs than you could imagine, music blaring so there was not a hope of ignoring them as they cried, ‘Come Inside and See the Wonders We Have on Offer!’ They shared many features of the Fairs in Leeds: loud music, bright flashing lights, the sound of cascading coins, and a smell from the electrics. I assume it was from the electrics producing ozone, but I could be wrong. Prizes were on display and when you were little, they were mesmerising. There were the fluffy toys in the crane gripper machines, large teddies for the rifle range, and other prizes arranged across the walls. Some had small bingo games and when happening, the cries of the caller as the numbers were selected rang out with their accomplished patter.
Before we entered, we were issued with our allowance of coins. These were mainly the large pennies, but if mum and dad didn’t have enough change, then they would change florins or half-crowns at the change desk. We would have a handful, and usually, mum and dad would have some to spend. There was no shortage of machines to have a go on. The most common was the ‘one-armed bandit’ where three or four cherries was the lowest payout, but when you got them, there was the satisfying sound of coins coming out of the machine. I loved scooping out the coins and was eager to win more. Sometimes you just put one coin in after another, had no winnings and saw your money vanish. This was an unpleasant feeling and probably explains why I have never been one to gamble away the money it took so long to earn.
We would always look for a machine that someone had been playing for a long time without a win. We had this belief that it was likely to have a win if it hadn’t paid out for a long time. I am not sure this actually worked. It was very rare that any of us would come out with any money, but it passed the time on a wet day. If we lost all our money, we would go and ask mum and dad for more, but it was rare that any was forthcoming and then I would wander over to whichever brother still had money left and watch them. Another machine I loved to play was the one which has now become a game show called tipping point. You played a penny into it and the coin would cascade down onto a level with coins already on it. The shelf moved in and out and if you got a coin behind a pile, several coins could fall onto the next level. The idea was to get them to cascade down and if they pushed some coins off the bottom, they would fall out of the machine and you collected them from the drawer.
I am not sure what the games with the claw-like ends on a crane were called, but they were a bit of a mystery to me and, I feel, a bit of a con. You paid your fee and there were two small wheels with handles that turned to control the position of the crane. The machine was full of interesting prizes and you hoped, above all hope, that you could be successful and win one. I am not sure how much control you actually had, but the crane would move suddenly and then stop and the claw would fall into the pile of prizes. The fingers would close and it made a breathtaking grab at one or two fluffy toys or other gifts, raised them out of the pile and started to transport them to the chute that would release them to you. Every single time, one, then another prize would agonisingly get near to the chute, but then the prize would slip and fall. Disappointment filled my heart as the claw moved over the chute, and opened to release nothing. This happened every time, and I soon learnt either I didn’t have the skill or the machine was programmed to fail.
As I have said, I have never succumbed to gambling. I can see the attraction and how everything is set to make you spend more and more, and the lights, near misses and adrenalin high, encourage you to keep spending. This hasn’t stopped me giving my own children the same experiences and they seem to have learnt the same lessons.
When my oldest son was a young lad, we spent a week in Bridlington and it rained the whole time. We did all the same things that I had done with my parents. We drove to Flamborough Head and went into the lighthouse, which we enjoyed. Then we went to the cinema one afternoon, and later we went to a small lake in Scarborough where there were motorboats to hire. For some reason, I didn’t go on the boat, but I have a photograph of them in the boat in the pouring rain. Another excursion was to Hunmanby Gap and there we bought plastic raincoats. Even they couldn’t keep out the water, but we still managed a game of cricket on the beach. There is a wide expanse of flat sandy beach and, at the time, it was used for land-yachting. Another excursion was to Sewerby Hall and a tour of the house and the Amy Johnson Museum. Amy was a female aviator, famous for her achievements, but she disappeared in 1941. She was the first woman to fly solo from London to Australia. Whilst we were there, we saw posters for a circus at Bridlington. It was so wet, we decided to go.
The next day, we arrived and saw the big top. There was the main tent, a caravan selling tickets and assorted caravans and vehicles that belonged to the circus performers and workers. The car park was quite busy, and we queued to get our tickets. There was a young woman selling the tickets and then we walked into the tent to take our seats. It was only a small circus, and the seats were near to the front. The circus started, and it was the usual with a ringmaster, clowns, jugglers, and a trapeze artist. There weren’t many animals involved as times were changing, but I remember some trained poodles, and there were some ponies with acrobats on their backs. The aerial performer hung on long, thick ribbons and was amazing. It took a little while to realise she was the lady who had sold the tickets. I also noticed that men and women who had been selling refreshments and ice creams were also performers. I suppose it was a small business where everyone had to take multiple roles to make ends meet. We all loved it.
Years later, I saw Cirque Du Soleil with my family twice. They had long and very successful runs here in Perth, Western Australia. The first time I bought tickets for Christmas and we all sat in the second row. This was for the show Dralion 1999. It was a much grander affair and the Grand Chapiteau was a series of joined tents and had bars, restaurants and merchandise areas. The show was quite a spectacle, and we were so near you could see everything close up, but possibly missed the whole spectacle. We had performers climb over us as they connected safety nets to the fittings just behind. The second time, in 2009, it was just my wife and me and we sat further back. The performance was Ovo and it was brilliant. The only thing apart from the skill of the performers, the costumes and the settings, was that a fire performer seemed to burn himself several times during his performance. This was the only time I saw any imperfection, but at the end of the show, they mentioned the performer and explained that he had become a father the night before, and everyone gave him a round of applause. He had been up all night and probably it showed how even the slightest lapse of concentration can have serious consequences.
The Yorkshire coast was a great place, and I am sure still is. I suppose, due to the changeable weather, they had to provide alternative entertainment other than just the beach. When I was little, there were always donkeys, Punch and Judy Shows, and amusement arcades, but then there were the theatres. Many seaside resorts hosted shows with stars of the days performing for a season. Comics, dancers, singers and variety performers played to appreciative crowds, and the bigger the venues, the bigger the stars. Morecambe and Wise, Frank Ifield, Max Bygraves and hosts of others made their fortunes when not on television by appearing at seaside resorts. Scarborough was a big centre and hosted the major stars, but the smaller resorts had their own shows with lesser, or fading stars.
Fashions come and go, but there is much about the Yorkshire resorts that remains the same, and who could forget the rock and the naughty postcards?