This week, as the weather holds, I’ve been watching the daily pilgrimage down to the beach. I see the parents, laden with chairs, cool boxes, wind shields, bucket bbqs. Their kids skip ahead already dressed for business in the sea – the lucky ones sporting wet suits against North Sea frostbite. At lunchtime I smell barbecues being fired up and the savoury aroma of bacon and sausage frying. Later, I see them all straggling back up the hill, tired and bedraggled.
As I watch,for a few precious seconds time slips and I’m five years old again and just starting out to explore life.
Filey was always our family’s holiday destination and Mrs Patten’s Boarding House where a yappy Scottie dog kept guard in a narrow hallway that always had a tinge of eau de cabbage about it. She wasn’t a battleaxe though and despite being a Scot she had bent to the ways of Yorkshire. She served dinner (always kicked off by Heinz tomato soup)at dinner time and by that I mean at noon sharp, because, as good Yorkshire stock, we had no truck with that fancy dinner in the evenings stuff. It was dinner at lunchtime and high tea at dinner time (or a bit earlier).
We hit the beach just as soon as we had whined long enough for mum and dad to yield; two deck chairs for them and a huge blown-up inner tube from a lorry tyre for we three kids to “share” aka fight over. The inner tube was really for mum who was scared of water and couldn’t swim but dad was convinced she would if she were supported by this huge rubber donut. We laughed at her and splashed her but she had her revenge. She bundled my sister and me into yellow and white stripey swimsuits knitted, yes knitted, by her own fair hand from hairy four-ply wool. They scratched and itched and attracted sand like iron filings to a magnet and when, blue and shivering we emerged from the sea, they bagged and sagged about our knees.
Returning to our rooms at Mrs Patten’s we would unload our rock pool finds onto a little table in the bay window, leave a slug trail of silvery sand from our shoes on the bare lino and whimper as mum rubbed Ponds cold cream onto our hot, sore sunburnt shoulders – no-one mentioned Factor 30 in those days.
High tea was nearly always a salad; cooked ham, boiled egg, tomato, lettuce with or without additional wildlife, spring onions, cucumber and radish (“not for me Kath”, Dad’s daily reminder to mum as though a twenty-four hour interval would wipe her memory clean of his not inconsiderable number of “won’t eats”) and salad cream – Heinz of course. All this was washed down with hot strong tea and followed up with jelly or anaemic blancmange.
Bed time was early and sleep was sweet and deep except the night I fell out of bed and for some reason couldn’t find my way back – so set up a huge howling until mum came to pick me up, give me a cuddle and tuck me in again – I was only five at the time.
As I recall them those holidays in Filey were always swathed in sunshine but I’m sure that’s a memory filter at work. Even when the era of package holidays arrived and, en famille (except for my brother who was far too old and superior for such things) we ventured to Ibiza arriving via mainland Spain in a tatty little plane held together with rubber bands we never completely abandoned Filey – it became our day trip and weekend destination of choice.