Monday, 28 June 2010

Memories of sunny summers on the South Coast of England

Quality weather in the UK at the moment and it looks like continuing for a few more days yet. Needless to say it makes for good cycling: no coats and scarves, no gloves and, this weekend, no backpack either. I guess I was taking a risk assuming that I wouldn't be getting any punctures, but on Sunday I was only going to Woodmansterne Green (still a good six or seven miles from home) and most of the cycling surface was tarmac. As Jon and I commented, it's amazing how you can have a bike designed for rugged terrain (hefty frame, huge tractor-like tyres) and yet, the Achilles' heel, the tyres and the constant threat of punctures.

Felpham beach as I'll always remember it. Photo: Simon Carey .
Anyway, no punctures were experienced. On the Saturday we cycled the long way to Merstham, meeting Jon, who was a little bit late, at Hunger's End. Jon's pedal was still broken and Andy had bought his old pedals to the caff but couldn't fix them. I'd ambled off to the guitar shop to ogle at the bass guitars and then, on my return, we paid up and headed for home. Going down Gangers Hill, through Church Town, up the Enterdent, along Rabies Heath Road on on towards Merstham was fantastic in the early morning heat, but Sunday was promising to be what tabloids call a 'scorcher', 32 degrees. England was due to play Germany in a knock-out match later in the day and it was hard to ask for more.

Andy couldn't make Sunday so Jon and I ambled around at Woodmansterne Green reminiscing on our childhood holidays on the South Coast at Middleton and Felpham in the days when all summers were scorching hot and seemingly never-ending. We were very young when we first started going to a house called The Heron in Ancton Lodge Lane, Middleton-on-Sea. It wasn't on the beach as later houses would be, but only a short walk. Jon and I both remember the metal garden furniture and I'll always remember the woman who rented us the house, Mrs Turtle. She lived in another house next door. There was also a clock over the mantelpiece that reminded us of the Play School clock, but Jon doesn't remember that; I'm sure Criss, our sister will remember it.

Dad traded up to house on the beach after the Heron and we moved a mile up the road to Seafront, a house next door to the Southdown Holiday Camp, which I think has been knocked down. We had some good times there – apart from the time dad found a dead body, that of of young bloke who lived further up the coast and, apparently, had endured an epileptic fit while out on his sailing dinghy in rough seas. A week later dad,  Criss and mum (I wasn't there for some reason and I'm not sure if Jon was with them) were out looking for crabs in the rock pools at low tide and dad spotted what he thought was somebody dipping their head in the water to see what life was like under water, but it turned out to be the body of the guy with the dinghy. He'd gone missing about a week earlier. The whole thing was weird: that morning we saw a white horse galloping rider-less on the sand followed by a group of nuns and the sea went a funny colour too.

Dad had to attend an inquest and he got himself a mention in the Evening Argus, but the weird thing was that nobody wanted to help him drag the body from the water and bring it ashore. I remember him telling us about how the fish had been eating away at the guy's eyes. Not a pretty sight I'd imagine. I think the whole thing bugged dad for some time afterwards, but we were very young and it didn't spoil our holidays at Seafront, which continued for a couple more years before we traded up again, this time Merryweather on the Summerley Estate where, arguably, we had our defining south coast holidays. In fact, whenever I go down to the South Coast, it's always Felpham and I often go down and take a look at a couple of the houses we rented.

In the early nineties we went back en masse when Dad rented a huge house on the coast called Georgia in Limmer Lane but we were grown up with our own kids and while the magic was still there in a way, being grown up made it different, although I know that whenever I go to Felpham, that old magic is still there.

Jon and I were trying to remember dates because in between the joys of the Heron, Seafront and Merryweather, mum and dad, for some reason, decided to try a holiday in Hastings in a house called The Croft. It was one of those old, three-storey affairs but none of us liked the house and we came home early and then took a week at the Heron to compensate. I remember how dad bought our Action Men new outfits by way of compensation for a crap week. I said it was 1974, but Jon said it was earlier and so did dad when we called him from the Green to see if he remembered.

I remember how we used to count the days down as our holiday got nearer. I certainly recall sitting in the classroom at school when the lawnmowers were out on the playing fields and there was that lovely smell of cut grass. We used to walk around the block chatting about it over the weekends and I clearly recall the phrase, "when you come to think about it, 70 days isn't much really" referring to the amount of time to go before we went on holiday.

I'll stop there as there are so many memories I could write an entire blog on the subject.

No comments:

Post a Comment