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My First Holiday
My then husband and I had struggled to get our mortgage and furniture plus wedding expenses, so couldn’t really afford a honeymoon, but had managed a caravan in Porthcawl, Wales. We took a food hamper we had been given with our new cooker, just as well as we had very little money!
The weekend of our wedding in June 1970 was glorious so we set off in our little Mini to Wales in high spirits. On the way there we noticed people supposedly waving to us, very friendly we thought, actually the exhaust was issuing thick smoke! So when we arrived at the caravan site we didn’t dare use the car at all, as we had to get home. We had no money for repairs so we were just hoping it would get us back, as in those days neither of our families possessed a phone, so we couldn’t ask anyone to help us out.
The whole week was a washout, it rained every day. We were in that blessed caravan with very little money for five days. We did nothing but bicker all week.
On the Saturday we managed to limp home taking it very slowly. When we stopped at the traffic lights in St. Johns in Warwick it just refused to start again. I had to get out and push the car to the side of the road, in the shortest mini skirt I possessed. What a sight I must of looked. The road was full of traffic. It could have been worse – what we would have done if the car had refused to start for the return journey I dread to think! The car never went again. We were car-less for a good while.
Despite our disastrous start we managed to have 10 happy years together, produce three wonderful children, and have many happy holidays in Wales before we finally divorced in 1983.
It rained every day for a fortnight, and rain ran out of all our supposedly waterproof anoraks and into our wellies. We had the coldest wettest picnic in living memory on Arthur’s Seat.
The sun came out as we packed the car to come home, and beat down all the way back to Leamington.
The Rushtons are slow learners. We went back lots of times, and luckily we did have some warm, sunny, but always midge-bitten, stays in wonderful locations, developing a liking for haggis, and mutton pies.
When I was five I stayed with Gran, alone. In Bristol and in the bombing. I slept under the stairs to the wail of air raid sirens and distant crumping sounds. My mother arrived after two weeks or so, with a pram and a baby. I still slept under stairs but to the sound of a new sort of wailing. We went to the British Restaurant in Bristol and had a sort of grey watery soup with lumps of fat floating in it. I can still remember the smell. “Eat it up,” said Gran. “Whale meat is very good for you.”
After the war we visited relatives in the summer. Mainly ‘Aunty Portsmouth,’ Gran’s sister. I remember trips to the sea in Southsea and going on a beach for the first time. I didn’t know until a few years ago that we had relatives in the next street. Gran’s half brothers and sisters, with whom she had fallen out years before. They never spoke. Sometimes my brother and I would be suddenly sent out into the garden to play. Perhaps they were talked about then.
It was very different when we visited our father’s family in Lincolnshire. Both Grandma and Grandfather had brothers and sisters and they all lived in and around the same area near Brigg. “Never,” said Grandma, “talk about one of your cousins when we are in the shop. A relative is bound to be listening.” Both families would come together one Sunday to see us, bringing an offering for the High Tea. These were noisy, busy and happy gatherings.
And this year we’re in Margate! The Dreamland fun arcade with cranes that never grabbed the toy, pennies that ran down a shoot but never landed in the middle of a square. And Dodgems and ice cream sodas! And butter for breakfast toast – the week’s ration all on the first day, ready to be divided up into tiny cubes so that it lasted the week. And draughty shelters on the sea front where we hid from the rain, waiting for 5 o’clock and the unlocked front door at the boarding house.
And running, running on the beach before breakfast, with no adults to shout “Be careful!”
When we returned our lunch was ready, and afterwards the whole of the family went to the sea again and played in it. All of us were exhausted after dinner and went to bed early. I couldn’t sleep because I was badly sun burnt and the straw palliasse irritated my back. Next day Dad took us out on the boating lake where he taught us to row. My sun burn calmed down thanks to my mother’s care and medical kit. Severn Beach had a number of areas to keep holiday makers amused including ice-cream vendors which we all used regularly.
After a few days it was time to go back and none of us wanted to go as you can imagine because we had all enjoyed ourselves so much. Mum and Dad bought sticks of rock for us all to suck on the way home. Grandad pulled our legs when we got back home as we didn’t leave any for him. It`s true to say not many people in the early post war years were lucky enough to go away on holiday.
Gower, South Wales
My Dad only had a Mini, but he would take my Gran (who also lived with us), my Mum, myself and two young children plus Jason the Yorkshire Terrier for a wonderful week away. How we all got in that Mini beggars belief now, but we did. There was a roof rack with cases on the top. Other clothes were not allowed in a suitcase, so they would be dotted around the many compartments of this wonderful Mini.
Obviously, this was before seat belts were compulsory. I will always remember those holidays and the kindness of Mum and Dad for making sure we never missed out.
Littleham, South Devon
We were going on our first camping holiday to Sandy Bay near Littleham in South Devon.
To get a family of four into that small car required drastic measures. Back seats to be stripped out so that my brother and I could sit on the bedding of blankets and sheets.
Dad made a plywood box, painted black, to go on the rear luggage rack. I’ve only recently passed the box on. We also had a roof rack. We loaded up with minimal clothes, an ex-army camouflage bell tent and the cooking gear.
We set off from Southampton, carefully. Remember the brakes in those days were barely adequate. Two extra vital items for our little beast of burden, a large can of Castrol engine oil and a large container of water.
A pre-requisite of those times was the AA route map and typed instructions for how to get there. If we encountered Roddy, the AA road scout on his motor bike and side car coming the other way he was required to give a salute and a smile to members that he saw displaying the AA badge on the radiator grille. Complaints were made if he did not acknowledge you on the road.
We would grind our way along those old ‘A’ roads, the A31, A35, and A30 to Honiton, passing modern cars that could not cope with the demands of the route. A left turn onto the B3177 through Ottery Saint Mary and the B3178 would take us to our destination.
The oily fumes did not worry us unduly as Dad could be seen to be physically ‘pushing’ the car up the hills whilst sitting in the driving seat. We needed several stops on route in lay-bys to let the engine cool down, but also for picnics and a dash behind the hedge. The nearest we had to service areas in those days.
The campsite at Sandy Bay was on the cliff top. Just a field, an office and a small shop, basic washroom, cold water stand pipes and chemical toilets placed around the perimeter. What more did you need?
A postcard would be dashed off to Gran to let her know that we had arrived safely and then we would eagerly await her reply to be collected from the office. We would do this several times over the fortnight.
The way down to the beach was by a multi-landing wooden stairway. The beach was of course sandy, the sea was blue as was the sky and the sun shone for ever. I learnt to swim there at the ripe old age of 8 years.
Coming back off the beach there was a chippy in the form of a caravan at the top of the stairway. An occasional treat.
We would dine out at the tent using a Primus stove. Always a problem to get going, needed clear jets and enough pressure to vaporise the paraffin and enable it to be lit by the methylated spirits in the collar beneath the burner. My favourite one-pot meal was a tin of oxtail soup to which was added tinned potatoes and tinned peas. Very tasty with a slice of bread to mop up the soup.
To follow, Birds Instant Whip or Ambrosia rice pudding and tinned pears.
To prepare for the holiday, mum would buy an extra item in the groceries each week and put it aside. These tins and packets would then be stashed in every remaining nook and cranny of the car for the journey.
In the evenings we might sit outside and play our favourite card games, Snap or Whot. If there was a little wind we would fly the kite, made of wrapping paper and thin bamboo sticks, to which was attached a long tail for stability.
Otherwise, a long walk up over the cliffs towards Budleigh Salterton wore us out before bedtime, when we would crawl through the tunnel entrance into the tent, with us boys on one side and mum and dad on t’other. The Lilo airbeds were very comfortable if you inflated them correctly.
We would have to wait another 20 years until 1976 before we had another glorious summer, when incidentally our beloved Southampton FC won the FA Cup beating Manchester United 1 – 0.
Sunny Days on the Beach
The first family holiday that I have memories of was to Newquay in Cornwall in June 1959 when I was 4¾.
My parents, my brother and I travelled to Newquay by train as my father didn’t learn to drive and buy his first car, a Morris Minor, until the mid-1960’s.
We stayed at a bed and breakfast in Newquay and were luckily blessed with good weather so spent a lot of time on the beach. My memories are rather sketchy but, according to the black and white photos that were taken during the holiday and which my mother very diligently annotated on the back, we must have visited a number of places in the locality, on foot or by bus.
While staying at the B&B we met a young married couple who sat at the next table to us in the breakfast room. Pat and Tom had travelled to Newquay from Wolverhampton, with their dog, in a motorcycle and sidecar. Our family became friends with the couple during the holiday, kept in touch after we all returned home and our families have remained good friends to this day.
How Did She Do It?
Our daughter Karen was only two years old when we had our first family seaside holiday at Shaldon, near Teignmouth in Devon. The Hotel “Bairnscroft” where we stayed offered facilities for children, including a supervised playgroup and listening service.
Two days after we arrived we left Karen playing happily with other children in the hotel playgroup. We went to our room on the first floor and it could have only been ten minutes later that several loud slaps on the door startled us!
We rushed to open the door, and to our amazement saw Karen, an enormous smile on her face, proudly dragging into the room a pushchair, with a few specially chosen dolls she had brought from the playgroup. “Look mum I got a pushchair!” She was obviously so pleased with herself.?
To this day we still don’t know how she managed to find her way out of the playgroup, along the corridors and then up the stairs to our room!