When I was growing up in a small Yorkshire village in the early nineteen sixties you very rarely heard people talk about holidays. I knew that people had them, but they were never people who I met. What we had was day trips. These usually involved a coach and had special titles. “The Sunday School Trip.” “The School Trip.” “The WI trip.” “The Darby and Joan Trip.” “George Cox’s Trip.” Spread out over the summer months they did amount to a holiday of a kind, and it was a regular thing to gather with a group of smartly dressed villagers at the railway station, each woman clutching a large bag containing everything you could possibly need, to wait for the coach. This was a private coach and the cost of hiring it would be shared among all of those going. Not every trip managed to get off the ground if there were not enough people who wanted to sign up. Those which did all had certain things in common. Wherever you were going there would be fish and chips, singing, and a whip round for the driver and at some point you would cry and get told off. If it was George Cox’s trip you would also stop at a pub up on the moors and your dad would fetch you out a shandy and a packet of crisps to eat on the coach while the adults had a pint or three.
The destination was almost always the seaside, and I always made sure that my bucket and spade were ready the night before. This was important, unless I was planning to natter for a new set having let the old ones rust in my patch of the garden. Digging on the beach was one of my big passions. I made deep ponds, decorated castles with newly bought coloured flags and constructed long thin waterways across the sand. I made countless runs to the sea in order to fill my bucket and carry back water to fill my ponds- only to see it disappear into the sand each time. I was a tiny little engineer with my dress tucked into my knickers, wearing plastic sandals instead of work boots. Today’s children seem to have lost the appetite for digging. We used to work in groups back then, led by older children, and at the end of a busy summer day the excavations on Scarborough beach would look like a ruined city in the desert waiting to be swept away into eternity by the tide.
The donkeys were the most exciting thing on the sands of course. I remembered some of their names from their bridles (my favourite Scarborough one was called Champion) and in order to prevent me from driving the adults around me insane I had to be carefully told how many rides I was allowed the minute we sat down on the beach. If I used them all up within the first half hour “that was my lookout”. I never did. I liked looking forward to it too much. There were also tiny monkeys who you could hold while you had your photo taken, glass boxes with drunken men in them who would roll around and laugh hysterically when you put a penny in the slot and best of all a dark heavy box with a peep hole which your penny would light up to allow you to watch a hanging.
If it was Scarborough the fish and chips would come from Bamfords and we would sit down all together in the restaurant at teatime to eat them. There were proper tablecloths, waitresses, place settings and the other tables would be filled with our neighbours, all eager to tell us how they had spent their day and show us what they had won on the bingo. Going out to eat meals was something that we never did at home so just sitting there was enough to make me excited, even before any food arrived, and I would enjoy showing off that I could read the menus. Somebody would always say that Bamfords did the best fish and chips in Scarborough and we would glow with pride, knowing that we were the sort of people who only wanted the best and recognised it when we saw it.
It was on the way home that the singing would start, usually the old songs that everybody knew the words to. Someone would start one up and people would sit back in their seat and join in.
“Show me the way to go home. I’m tired and I want to go to bed. I had a little drink about an hour ago and it’s gone right to my head……………………”