The third week of August saw my family pack up our suitcases and catch a train to our annual holiday destination. I remember counting down the days until we went away, excitedly asking how many sleeps we had to go. We would always go holiday clothes shopping before the big day and I loved picking out new outfits and making my holiday packing checklist. Hastings, Barry Island, Bournemouth or Phwelli were places that I remember going to as a child back in the 70's. We stayed at holiday camps and Butlin's was a favourite choice, where we'd stay in a chalet instead of in a caravan. It felt very posh to have our own bathroom and not have to use the communal toilet and shower block!
My fondest childhood holiday memories include riding fun fair dodgems with my dad, playing the penny falls in the arcades, shivering in the chilly outdoor pools, doing the Wiggle Wiggle Whoops at the family disco (although I was too shy to actually make it onto the dance floor), getting autographs of Red Coats after the shows, buying souvenirs from my travels to add to my collection and spending days at the beach exploring the rock pools and caves. Rock-pooling was without a doubt my favourite holiday activity. I could spend hours exploring the rocks and finding shell fish, crabs, jelly fish and little fishes that had been trapped in the pools as the tide went out. My dad was always very brave and would pick up the big crabs to scare us! I had a real love of nature and wildlife when I was a child, and loved seeing the creatures in their natural habitat.
Maybe it is because of this childhood love of animals that my most vivid and memorable childhood holiday memory continues to endure. There were signs hung on every lamppost in Hastings advertising an exhibition that was coming to town called 'Jonah's Whale', offering paying guests the chance to see a real whale! I was so excited at the prospect of seeing one of nature's biggest creatures and asked to go. I had seen the Blue Whale at the Natural History Museum and was mesmerised by its sheer size and majesty. To see a whale in the flesh would be a dream come true and beat anything we could have found in a rock pool! (These were the days before we were fully aware of animal welfare remember!) My parents agreed and on the day of the show we paid our entrance fee to see the whale. Unfortunately my image of a big, healthy, happy whale swimming in a giant tank of water was a million miles away from the reality. We went into a car park where there was an articulated lorry parked up with a very large, very dead whale laid unceremoniously on the trailer. It was covered in some sort of tar-like substance to help preserve it, blackening its skin and was a really sorry sight. Someone was clearly cashing in on finding a washed up whale, displaying its corpse to holidaymakers for cash before it decomposed. Funnily enough, no one else in my family remembers this event. My parents probably wrote it off as a rip off and just forgot about it. But it's something I have never, ever forgotten.
Holidays were an opportunity to get away as a family and to experience new things together in new and exciting places. Life was a lot more simple then, but some things never change. As a parent, nothing beats spending quality time with my children, seeing and doing new things and making memories that will last a lifetime.
Competition sponsored by Butlins Holiday Parks, helping your family make memories.