30 July 2018

Hindsight

"Swinside Inn" courtesy of Google Streetview
With a dreaded "For Sale/To Let" sign attached
Over at "Kitchen Connection", Lee has composed many nostalgic blogposts that take readers right back - allowing us to share vividly some of her remembered times. Lee is very good at conjuring up the past. This morning, partly inspired by Lee, I have set myself the task of delving into my own library of memories in order to come up with a fresh blogpost.

Now where shall we go? Back to the East Yorkshire village where I grew up? Holidaying with my family? University days? The island of Rotuma? Marriage? Early years as a teacher? Fatherhood? Thailand? Ohio? Even though this blog is in its thirteenth year, there are still so many avenues to travel along. Let's go to Braithwaite...
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As my father was a village headmaster, his holidays corresponded exactly with his four sons' school holidays. Every Whitsuntide for ten years we would hitch up our old caravan and travel to the other side of the country - to a beautiful, mountainous area known as The Lake District. And every year our exact destination was Scott's Farm in the village of Braithwaite just north of Keswick.

Getting to The Lake District in those days wasn't particularly easy. There weren't many dual carriageways in the entire country and the motorway network was in its infancy. It was always a relief when we reached Scotch Corner on the Great North Road. We knew we were halfway to Braithwaite but with the legendary A66 still to travel - over the top of England via Bowes, Brough and Appleby to Penrith.

Dad's old car would strain to pull our fully-laden Lynton Triumph caravan over those bleak hills with four sons squabbling in the back and Mum sometimes yelling over her shoulder, "Stop it right now or we'll stop the car so I can smack you all!" We soon settled down as the palm of her right hand was capable of delivering cruel blows that left your backside or bare legs stinging for ages.

Then the familiar mountains of The Lake District would appear in the front windscreen - mountains with evocative names like Skiddaw, Scafell Pike, Great Gable, Helvellyn and Catbells. It was a landscape so raw and different from our starting point - the tamed green fields of The Plain of Holderness on Yorkshire's east coast.
Entering Braithwaite - courtesy of Google Streetview
With Scott's Farm (now Scotgate) caravan site on the left
The jacks would be lowered and Mum would get on with preparing our tea while my brothers and I reacquainted ourselves with the Scott's Farm caravan site and its surrounds. One of our favourite places was a nearby hollow oak tree that must have died years before. You could get right inside it or climb above on still sturdy branches.

Then Mum would call us back for the first evening meal that she had magically conjured up on the caravan's Calor Gas stove. All six of us squeezed around the table and cleared our plates - never complaining about anything that was placed in front of us. Whining and being picky about food is characteristic of many modern day families but back then it was unthinkable. You ate what you were given and you said "thank you" too. Then you said, "Please may I leave the table?" before going back outside to play football or cricket on the big green space in the middle of the caravan site.

Beyond the hollow tree there was a mountain stream. You can imagine how cold that water would have been at the end of May in north west England and yet every year my brothers and I would swim in it at a point where a rocky dam had been built to deepen the pool behind it.

During those Lake District holidays we would always climb a mountain or two. During the second world war my father had climbed in The Himalayas and he loved the sense of space and freedom that mountain walking can give you. There was one smaller mountain that we climbed every year and you could easily reach it from the caravan. It was and is called Barrow - a great lump of a hill with many false summits but when you finally reached the top and saw the view you felt a real sense of achievement.
Rowing boats by Derwentwater
© Copyright Chris Allen (geograph.org.uk) 2017
On Derwentwater it was a pleasure to hire an old rowing boat and travel out to an island in the middle of the lake - just like being in Arthur Ransome's "Swallows and Amazons". And in the quaint town of Keswick itself there was a wonderful sweet shop that sold woody sticks of  liquorice and sugary treats in the shape of babies' dummies or bananas or pebbles. In my mind's eye I can still see the tempting jars of barley sugar sticks, aniseed balls, pineapple chunks and spearmint chews sparkling in the window.

On these caravan holidays we never once went out to eat in a pub or restaurant but sometimes on nice evenings we walked down a nearby lane to "The Swinside Inn". I remember shiny black slugs on the tarmac, sliding to the opposite grassy verge. I never saw slugs like that in East Yorkshire.

At the isolated "Swinside Inn", my brothers and I would sit on the pub wall because children were not allowed inside. Dad would bring out potato crisps and bottles of pop in different shades. My preference was always black dandelion and burdock. Then we would pass a pleasant hour or so waiting for our parents to re-emerge. There would be other children to play with - also excluded from the pub itself.

Mum and Dad were never great drinkers or frequenters of pubs but they enjoyed those walks to "The Swinside Inn" with their boys and always came out a little merrier than when they went in. We would all walk back to the caravan in the gathering gloom of night-time, trying to avoid stepping on black slugs. The beds would be made up with sleeping bags, blankets and pillows and we would sleep soundly till  morning light seeped through the floral curtains.

It was a time of innocence and magic. Our little family all together. Days that we thought might never end but all too soon the A66 would be calling us back over The Pennine Chain till the next Whitsuntide came around and we would once more chime in unison, "Are we nearly there yet?"

29 comments:

  1. Children not allowed in pubs- those were the days. A bottle of Hooper Struve and a packet of cheese and onion crisps, not an adult in sight.

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    1. I must admit Sue that until you mentioned the brand, I had never heard of Hooper Struve. Must have lived a more sheltered childhood than I thought.

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  2. What a most wonderful tale you tell. See, it's not bad this side of the pennines, is it?

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    1. Cough-cough. That was Cumberland Christina, not Lancashire! By the way Cumberland Christina sounds like a lady wrestler. Ha-ha!

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  3. It must have been fun, growing up in a family with three siblings. I wish I had had brothers (or even a sister).

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    1. I didn't know any different my friend. Those brothers were always there though Paul, bless him, is now playing his fiddle in the sky.

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  4. Ahh. A beautiful story of your youth. You are right! That water had to be frighteningly cold! It would be hard to imagine parents leaving four boys on their own outside a pub these days. And, that is a shame. However, if you want to have stories from long ago be as good as Lee's, you must include recipes.

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    1. If I did that, Lee might sue me for pinching her format.

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  5. Your caravan holidays must have been similar to the ones Steve told me about, although years later (he was born in 1968). When he was little - the youngest of four - their parents plus grandparents took their caravan to Skegness. Apparently, his Nana always took sacks of spuds along in order to provide cheap, filling meals for the whole group, and one year, something happened on the road that caused his father to break hard; somehow, the back door of the caravan swung open and spuds, pans and pots were rolling around on the road, much to everyone's amusement.

    Four boys in the back of the car - that sounds like a snuggly ride :-) Of course there were no seatbelts yet in the backs of cars, and no regulations about children's seats.

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    1. You are right Meike. If Dad took a corner too hard the centrifugal force squashed us all together, "Mum! Mum! Neil's squashing me again!"

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  6. I so enjoyed your well told story of childhood holidays. Life was much simpler then and I believe enjoyed more. We have too much of everything today and it prevents us from appreciating those things that truly matter. Thank you for a wonderful trip back.

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    1. You are right Bonnie. Life was indeed much simpler then. Glad you enjoyed this tale from the past.

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  7. What great memories. I totally agree with you about food -- it mystifies me how so many children these days are allowed to "call the shots" with regard to what they eat. My mom used to put food in front of us, and by golly, we ate it! If we ever complained, she used to say, "Eat or starve."

    The slugs is an interesting memory. It's funny what makes an impression! I wonder if black dandelion and burdock sodas are still available? I've never seen them but I'd try them if I did.

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    1. The word "black" was just to describe the colour of this drink Steve. Dandelion and burdock is still available either as cans of Ben Shaws "soda" or as a cordial. Nice to hear that your mother also stood for no nonsense when it came to mealtimes. Can you imagine a Moroccan child saying to his/her family "I don't like couscous! I want french fries!"?

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  8. I enjoyed your memory post, YP. It's always interesting to me to hear of others' childhoods, especially from other countries. "Caravans" are what we call travel trailers here, and only the well-to-do could own one when I was growing up. But then, only the well-to-do took a travelling vacation at that time. Even then, tenting was more common. There was a provincial camping park near our home and we got to observe these things as we enjoyed our stay-at-home holidays :) From reading other European blogs, I would guess that your experience was not as atypical as it would have been here.

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    1. Back in the late fifties/early sixties owning a caravan was pretty unusual in England. Ours was made in the 1940's and my father bought it for a song. When rain lashed down you were glad to be in a caravan and not in a tent.

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    2. I must have misinterpreted the data :)

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  9. What great memories! I was reminiscing the other day about my not too dissimilar holidays in the 1970s - interminably long drives warring in the back seat with my brother and a short-tempered parent or two in the front. Ancient amenities blocks in the caravan parks; dogs & kids & fishing gear everywhere; taking turns to host little drinks parties with your neighbours; all meals served on plastic or anodised campgear; folding furniture & bunkbeds. A step up from camping yet still so basic. But so different to home, the novelty never wore off!

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    1. Did you also have crockery made from "melamine"?

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    2. Yes! It all lived in the caravan & was sold as “contents” when the caravan was eventually sold.

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  10. A heart-warming tale of days gone by, Yorkie. Cherished memories of happy times spent.

    You're are fortunate, too, that you have children of your own to whom you can pass on your stories, and then, they, in turn, will be able to pass them onto their children when such children come along.

    Thanks for sharing. :)

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    1. I know that I am not the only blog visitor who has appreciated your tender stories of the past Lee. I guess we are like your children...

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  11. Family outings are always seen as the best ever. I remember the few trips our family tak and we went to places that were very different from where we lived.

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    1. Being somewhere different makes one's senses really come alive.

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    2. Looks like some of my comment went missing.

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  12. I enjoyed your post and it brought back memories. I am the youngest of three siblings and my father wanted me to always sit in the middle when we three squeezed into the back seat of a Fiat 500, so he could see better through the rear view mirror. We had to sit in silence there in the back because father had to listen to the car engine but, I think it was an excuse to keep us from squabbling.
    Greetings Maria x

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    1. That was a clever trick your papa played!

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  13. I loved going back in time with you. My parents never bothered to take us anywhere, which is one reason why I travelled for 20 years once I left my mother's house, but I remember seeing families like yours in England in the 1970s and from the outside (my point of view), it looked wonderful. I'm glad to know that it really was.

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    1. To travel one needs an adventurous spirit and some people do not possess this. I am pleased you made up for lost time Vivian.

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