Well just a nightcap then, just the one…

Wallis’s Holiday Camp, Cayton Bay nr Scarborough was the accepted replacement phrase for the word “Holiday” when I was very young, mainly due to the fact that it was the only place that we ever went to when I was very young, for the first ten years of my life I thought that it was against the law to go anywhere else but Wallis’s for your holidays.

It all started with some rented farmers fields on a clifftop, some cheaply assembled and random second hand caravans, and a hastily built clubhouse for camp entertainment – thats entertainment for the campers not camp entertainment in the style of Charles Hawtry or Kenneth Williams – and thats as good as it got for my childhood years, if you needed to use a toilet through the night you went in the bucket by the caravan door then in the morning you’d walk to the top of the hill to the one drain that served the whole camp and you’d tip the piss bucket down the open drain while someone else was filling up a water bucket from the one fresh water tap which was rather handily located right next to the same drain – in fact if you planned your day right you could empty the piss bucket while simultaneously filling up the water bucket and heaven forbid if you got the two mixed up – and we never caught typhoid, not even once, well ok maybe the once.

And then my father discovered other holiday camps in exotic places like Great Yarmouth and Newquay, bloody Newquay in Cornwall, it took us literally the whole of one day to get there from Leeds in his old Morris Oxford, we travelled right through the night and slept in the car for a couple of hours in the market place in Banbury, it was like we’d travelled to the very ends of the earth when we finally arrived in Newquay, people fly to Australia quicker these days.

And then I was a teenager and it was holidays with your mates and then I passed my driving test and blagged an ancient Austin car off my dad and I took it to the ends of the earth on camping holidays in The Lake District and The Yorkshire Dales and it never let me down once, never went above 30mph its true, but still.

And finally, in 1978 our dad decided to return to Wallis’s Cayton Bay for old times sake, truth was he’d been beaten in a talent contest in Newquay the year before by a young kid with a guitar and a passable impression of Bob Dylan, what was a Frank Sinatra-a-like to do against such competition ?

So he booked a week in the motel at Wallis’s, the motel was new to Wallis’s, it was new and it was posh and our mother and father treated themselves, shunning the caravans for a touch of luxury, and you didn’t have to piss iin a bucket either, although my father still did, just for old times sake, some habits never leave you.

And when they got there they discovered that the motel rooms had two bedrooms and they had a spare bedroom with a bunkbed in and a sofa in the living room that you could convert into a bed too, so not wanting to waste such a facility he got on the phone to our Ned and recommended that he get on the bus and come to Wallis’s for a free holiday with Tank and Needham his two mates, so he did.

And in an act of outrageous generosity he got on the phone to me and suggested that seeing as our Ned and his mates were going to be spending the week with them then I may as well bring my mates too and doss on the floor of their wonderful motel room, and so me and Burty went for the week too.

Truth was my father couldn’t bear the thought of having to spend a week at Wallis’s with our mother, not that he disliked her or anything, quite the contrary actually, but our dad was a sort of “bloke’s bloke”, he preferred the company of hale and hearty men who liked a good drink, a joke and a song and the idea of sitting at a small table in a club with only my mother to talk to would be the holiday from hell, so he invited his two sons and all their mates.

I think me and Burty spent four or five days there, I say that I think we spent four or five days there because only brief snippets of memory have ever existed of that holiday at Wallis’s motel, the grown-up Wallis’s holiday, the Wallis’s holiday where we all seemed to be very drunk, all of the time, ALL of the time.

Our mother and father had the main double bedroom, leaving us five lads to share a childs bunkbed and a sofa in the lounge and I just can’t imagine a hotel organisation today not realising pretty quickly that room 15 seemed to have seven adults staying in it, but Wallis’s didn’t seem to mind, not even when Needham fell out of the top bunk EVERY SINGLE night for a week.

Needham never could hold his beer, two pints was usually enough for him, two pints and he’d be off pogo’ing across the dance floor, it being the era of punk rock and all, such a shame that the band were trying to play The Anniversary Waltz for all the old fogeys at the time, still, it was always such fun to see Needham escorted off the dancefloor by the bar manager, again, and again, and again.

One snippet that comes to mind often is the little routine that we all had at the end of the night, our dad would rise from the table, swaying ever so slightly and command his merry bunch of very drunk teenagers to accompany him to the upstairs lounge for a nightcap and leaving our mother behind with a fresh Babycham we’d all troop upstairs for a rum and black with him.

Most nights it didn’t stop with one, for being at least six in number we all then had to repay the compliment and so there would be six rum and blacks to knock back, and then our dad would buy another and the rounds would have to go around again, all the time our mother sat downstairs clutching her Babycham and waiting for us, I’m getting a headache just thinking about those rum and blacks.

But eventually we’d decamp back to the motel room and flop down on sofa’s and chairs, and then open up a few cans of beer from the fridge and laugh at Needham who by this time would be unconscious, not asleep but actually unconscious, we would have had to carry him from the club as a deadweight, feet trailing in the dust behind.

And eventually it would be time for sleep, way, way into the early hours of the morning, you always knew when it was time for sleep because a small trapdoor in your brain would open and a voice would start to call “Look at the state of you, you are going to regret this in the morning” and you’d reply back “I know, I am such a fool”.

Every night we’d put Needham on the top bunk, not because he’d asked to be put on the top bunk, in fact every night before we went out he’d specifically ask not to be put on the top bunk when later he would be unconscious and unable to choose, but we did it anyway because it was funny to wait for him to fall out during the night.

Our mother made us promise every night not to put Needham on the top bunk for she felt protective towards him, she knew his mother and dreaded the taking of him back home and handing him back across the threshhold with “Very sorry Mrs Needham but your Needham has several broken bones after his holiday with us”, so we promised every night and then when our mother had gone to bed we’d put Needham in the top bunk again.

And every morning we’d awaken in various states of hangover to find Needham laying on the hard tiled floor beneath his bunk, usually face down on the hard tiled floor still laying where he’d fallen from the top bunk through the night and usually there was a fresh pool of blood on the floor from a cut lip or a busted nose or a huge egg shaped lump on his head in multi-coloured hues of blue and black, oh how we would laugh, the only thing that made you enjoy waking up with the hangover to beat all hangovers was the fact that Needham was usually badly injured as well as having a hangover of his own.

“Did you put him in the top bunk again ?” our dad would ask, feigning annoyance for the sake of our mother.
“No” we’d all reply, “we put him on the sofa, he must have climbed up onto the top bunk in his sleep”
“There’ll not be anything left except bruises to take home to his mother soon” our dad would mutter “and why is he naked “?

And that was one thing that was always a puzzle, we knew why he always ended up on the top bunk but cross our hearts and hope to die we never went as far as undressing him completely naked every night, maybe he did that himself, maybe that was why he fell off the bunk every night, we never found out, and Needham certainly didn’t remember, in fact when you ask him now he can’t remember ever going there at all at any time in his life.

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