Over the weekend, I was talking to my friend about childhood holidays and it brought back a million memories. Throughout my childhood until I was about 13 or so, we always went to a Pontin’s holiday camp. We generally went to one of three places: North Wales, Somerset or just up the road in Sussex. I have vivid and strong memories of all of those places and the journeys to get there.
I wanted to capture some of those memories before they slide off back into the quagmire of my mind again so here is a non-exhaustive list.
- I used to get car sick. I still shudder at the flavour of Strawberry Chewits because I remember clearly that they taste much worse coming back up. To a degree, the same with the smell of freshly cut grass (not that I ate it, you understand: just the smell of it triggers memories of car sickness). I remember taking ‘Quells’ before each trip with varying degrees of success. To this day, I am a terrible passenger.
- Mum’s packed lunches that we’d eat sitting in a layby somewhere.
- Milk that came in bags and the blue jugs you used to put them in! I’d forgotten about these until recently when the hospital Costa Coffee had bags of milk and the memory surfaced like a wallowing hippo.
- Embassy (even number chalets) vs Castella (odd number chalets). We always invariably ended up in Castella and I still remember the one time we were in Embassy being like some kind of rare treat. Naturally, we were mortal enemies.
- The Dragon Club song to the tune of Glory, Glory, Hallelujah . (‘We’re all in the Dragon Club, our best we try to do… some of us are Embassy and there’s Castella too… we have a secret password of which we’re very proud but we won’t shout it out loud… fishfingers is our password, that’s the Dragon Club’s own password… fishfingers is our password, but we won’t shout it out loud!’) Note: ‘fishfingers’ should be whispered at each occurrence, because it’s secret. How the heck I remember that song the better part of 40 years later is anybody’s guess.
- My mum winning the jackpot on a fruit machine in 10p pieces and having to carry them back to the chalet in her handbag. I can remember sitting there counting it all up. It was like £100 or something, which at the time was a HUGE pile of cash. Still is, really. Note: £100 in 10p pieces is heavy.
- The ‘spot the new car registrations’ game.
- All the kids getting kicked out of the ballroom (which I can remember reeking of stale tobacco and beer in the way that pubs used to when you’d walk past them in the morning) at x o’clock so the adults could do adult things, whatever boring stuff that was. What could possibly be better than a group of pre-teen kids charging at top speed around the floor?
- Prize Bingo! Oh my god, that was so much fun.
- The year my mum, dad and brother left the camp site to go do a Thing (I think it was go to Cheddar Caves) and I stayed behind. I was 11 years old. Can you imagine leaving an 11 year old alone for a whole day now? I randomly entered a talent contest and came second. I still have the trophy somewhere.
- Making friends with a boy called Peter whose birthday was the same day as mine and us being friends all week. I still sometimes wonder if he remembers me too.
- The only time we had a two week holiday being the ultimate in excitement. If I recall correctly, the first week was sports week (and there were various sports celebrities of the time on-site – I became firm friends with Tony Gubba’s daughters) and the second week was arts and crafts.
- Locking everyone out of the car at Stonehenge.
They were simple holidays, but they were so special. My mum never travelled well and the idea of an overseas holiday just never came up. (I didn’t even go on a plane until I was 18 years old). My dad worked hard to make sure we were all looked after and these holidays, the kind of thing that people today turn their noses up at, were so wonderful. I still remember the many times I cried when we left on a Saturday to go home, wanting desperately to stay in this magical wonderland where nobody knew me. To this day, I will stoically defend those holidays against the snobbish reaction it seems to draw from people.
That’s it, really. I just wanted to get some of these memories down. My brother doubtless has many others he could add to this list!