It is August and prime holiday time down here in Devon so we tend to keep away from the coast until the end of the school holidays when it quietens down again. But yesterday, I had some business near Torquay and I walked past a family about to go onto the beach and a distinctive scent transported me instantly back to my own childhood summer holidays – the smell of Ambre Solaire suntan cream! I absolutely love that smell but now, as a confirmed non-sunbather, I hadn’t smelt it for years. Goodness, how it brought the memories flooding back…
Seaside holidays were such wonderful things when I was a child. What I call ‘traditional’ holidays – well to my generation that’s what they seemed. We had sticks of rock, donkey rides and Punch and Judy shows – although I was personally terrified of Mr Punch! It all seemed so innocent then, your parents organised one or two weeks in a guesthouse somewhere in the UK. You had the meal that was served every evening (no choices from the a la carte!) and we’d never heard of ‘ensuite’, so bathroom sharing was the norm. I can remember my Mother packing our preferred brand of tea and biscuits – goodness knows why we couldn’t have bought some locally, but it was all part of the tradition, the excitement of being somewhere different and slightly exotic even if it was still in the UK. Does anyone still do that now that we have a Tesco and Sainsbury’s in every town in every county?
And what about ice creams and saucy postcards? This was in the days before Magnums so if I was lucky I might get a choc ice that always melted and dribbled up my arm before I was even half way through it. Or I might have had a 99 with that soft whipped ice cream piped into cornets that tasted exactly like cardboard. As for the naughty postcards, I can remember gazing saucer-eyed at the revolving racks of cards outside the beach shops and, while not understanding what was going on in those gaudy images, feeling deliciously guilty and daring!
Sadly, well sadly for my era, it is all changing. When did you last receive a postcard? I can’t remember when I did. But I’ve seen lots of people’s holiday snaps on Facebook. Today’s holidaymakers no longer have to weigh themselves down with a suitcase stuffed with paperbacks, technology has saved the day again with the invention of the Kindle. But it’s not the same. One of the joys of holiday paperbacks was reading them and leaving them behind for someone else to enjoy. I discovered all sorts of interesting reads by ‘inheriting’ other holidaymakers’ castoffs, but there, times change…
Of course, many changes are for the better. Largely gone are the in–car arguments over wayward map reading by one parent or the other, for now we have the sat nav. If we don’t like our holiday, we can tell everyone on Trip Advisor and hope it brings some improvement and perhaps provides a little salve for our disappointment.
But oh, do the modern generation know what they are missing? Will they ever know the thrill of brewing tea on a primus stove in a tiny beach hut while shivering with cold? Wrestling with deckchairs that want to nip your fingers and swallow you whole or – joy of joys – walking to the end of the pier in a gale force 8 and getting soaked? I think not and somehow, perhaps, we are all a little the poorer for those losses.
What are your most enduring summer holiday memories…? Do tell!