The Holidays Of My Youth

Of all the holidays of my childhood I can’t ever remember it raining.

Now obviously that is a trick of the memory for I am in no doubt at all that it MUST have rained, at least once, on all of the holidays at Cayton Bay from the ages of 1 to 10, the holiday in Great Yarmouth probably not, for phew, that holiday was a scorcher and  I burned a charcoal death during it, lost a lot of my 11 year old skin off my back that year I did.

And the Newquay holidays of my early teens, they didn’t seem to get rained on much either, in fact I can’t remember it ever raining in Cornwall – I do remember being left in a sand dune at PerranPorth every lunchtime by our parents while they went to a nearby pub for vittles, returning hours later with a bottle of coke and a Mars Bar each for me and Ned, and it was hot, so hot in the sand dune without any protection from the sun that I got sunstroke one day and suffered the pounding headache and puking-all-afternoon that only a decent dose of sunstroke can bring, not even coke and Mars bar helped that lunchtime.

It never rained at all during those two camping holiday in France either, and now we’re up to my 16th year and all of those holidays have been taken with ne’er a drop of rain, not one drop, burned skin a-plenty, but no rainy days, quite amazing.

And then in 1978 we, that is I and a whole football team of lads, went on a lads holiday to Paignton, in Devon, for seven days, and during each one of those seven days we had a years worth of rain on each day, a years worth of rain from a tropical rainforest, every day for seven days, in fact it wasn’t seven rainy days it was just one long continuous downpour for it rained right through all seven nights too, by the time it came to leave and go home the family in the next chalet to ours, the Noahs, had built a large boat from gopher wood and were talking of popping down to Paignton zoo to collect all of the animals there – when I say it rained hard for seven days I mean it fookin bounced it down, lashed it down, for seven days and seven nights, that year, 1978, the Indian sub-continent did not have a monsoon for the monsoon that year came to Paignton for its holidays and all over India and Bangladesh crops failed and Asian people gazed at a cloudless sky and told each other “This would be fine and dandy if we were on the English Riviera but we need it to lash down any day soon or we won’t eat next year”.

I’ve never seen rain like it, before or since, it was like rain inside of rain, like double rain, like as if it were raining hard on a normal rainy day but also someone was following you around with your own personal bucket of water and tipping it over your head every two minutes, just in case you thought it wasn’t raining hard enough yet.

The Devon Coast Country Club, for that was where we holidayed, was a family holiday camp in the grand tradition of English holiday camps, in fact when I watch Dirty Dancing I am reminded of Devon Coast Country Club for it had a central entertainment building with a huge dining hall where they fed you three times a day, and then announced to you all EXACTLY what sports you would be playing today, in the rain.

I swear this is true, on the day that they announced to everyone that today was the day when we would all be playing water polo in the outside pool, they hurriedly had to re-organise because the camp commandant sports entertainment manager, had to cancel the outdoor water polo competition because it was too wet, it was raining so hard that they had to cancel the water polo, partly because there was too much water in the outdoor pool now but mainly because with all the rain in the air there was barely any air left to breathe – during that holiday we all had to learn how to breath in air that was saturated with 90% water, we grew gills in our cheeks and wandered outside gulping like goldfish.

After two days we forgot what it was like to be dry, after two days we had gone through all of the dry clothes in our suitcases and just started putting wet clothes back on and in the huge dancehall/bar area every night we all steamed gently in the heat and slowly a smog descended from the roof until, late at night, you couldn’t see anything anymore and they had to ring last orders because of health and safety fears and we all had to form a long conga-like chain and be escorted back to our chalets by the guards entertainment staff, in the rain.

And then, and this is the most incredulous part of the whole tale, when we returned to Leeds and it finally stopped raining and I finally managed to dry out all of my clothes, I met up with Richard one night and he mentioned that he hadn’t been on holiday yet this year and I mentioned that I still had one weeks holiday to take, and he mentioned that he’d heard that the Torbay area was nice and rather than tell him that I’d just spent seven days under water there I agreed and ten days later we went for a week in Torquay – and when I got there it was still raining, it was the same downpour from the Devon Coast Country Club holiday that hadn’t finished yet, and it lasted for ANOTHER seven days.

My stupidity knew no bounds when I was younger, and THAT’s how I found myself owning a kagoule in the summer of ’78.


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