30 May 2010


Wasn't it Paul Simon who wrote: "I have a photograph inscribed with memories" ?

My father loved dabbling in photography. He taught me how to develop film and then how to print pictures. In his improvised dark room there was a red light and there were big brown bottles of chemicals. One was a "fixer".

He took posed pictures of old men from our village smoking pipes or drinking pints of beer and he left behind a photo of Pentewan in Cornwall taken in 1958. Lovely Pentewan where we went for long summery holidays from 1957 to 1963 or 4. We had a Lynton Triumph caravan. A heavy, ugly pre-war beast but all six of us slept in her.
They were magical days. The sun shone. Me and my brothers - we spent hours on that beach. To the very left of the picture there was a stream that meandered from the nearby china clay works at St Austell bearing slippery white kaolin. How delightful it was to paddle in that smooth white clay or make temporary dams. And we would swim or splash in those pleasant Cornish waves.

There was "Kelly's" wonderful honey-coloured ice cream to relish in crispy wafer cones and warm Cornish pasties from the village - fist-sized traditional pastry parcels filled with seasoned minced lamb and chopped potato and carrot. You couldn't buy exotic foodstuffs like these in faraway Yorkshire.

There were excursions to Land's End, The Lizard, Fowey and Truro but mostly we loved just frittering time away around the beach and the caravan site. As a four and five year old I was well-known for wandering off - just walking away and becoming totally lost. For those summers, they often made me wear a label round my neck with my name and holiday location on the reverse side. It was a hard plastic label with a chain and on the front side, the legend "Castrol" was printed in red-white on a dark green background. Of all my brothers why was it me who wandered away? I like to think of this as a clue to who I would become.
Pentewan last year


  1. The idea of you wandering off with a label round your neck made me smile. Hugh was the one in our family for wandering off. Wish I'd thought a making him wear a label round his neck! It might have saved a few fraught searches. :)

  2. Did you wander off from curiosity or to get away from your brothers?? Sounds very much like something I would have done!

  3. Elizabeth9:45 am

    This is a really lovely post, YP.The photo obviously conjured up such wonderful childhood memories of those holidays. I have a lovely image in my mind's eye of you wandering around Paddington Bear like with your label attached. Although we didn't have holidays, I was always the one that ended up in the lost child office with my name being called over the tannoy, so I sympathise with that syndrome entirely. x

  4. JENNY Once a wanderer always a wanderer...
    SAM AS I recall it was just simple curiosity. I have a vague memory of finding myself completely lost and breaking down into tears of despair. Thank heavens for the label. Drunkards should be made to wear them too!
    ELIZABETH There's no way I ever looked like Paddington Bear! More like Toad of Toad Hall!
    KATHERINE How fraught and complicated the world has become since those halcyon days out of time.


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