Here Come The Brochures

There is a phrase I like to see on web sites.

Its not on many sites but it usually appears right at the bottom of the Contact page, underneath that bit where they give you a link to download a PDF advertising leaflet, or their email address to write to, then an online form to complete and send to them, maybe sometimes it even has already-filled-in options so that you don’t even have to think about what to write before clicking “Send”, then after that there will be a freephone number just in case you want to speak to a real human and maybe even a fax number (although I note that telex numbers aren’t much in vogue these days).

Then, right after all of those options comes the bit that I like, the bit that says “Send For Our Free Brochure!” although reluctantly, and they could have added “do you neanderthals realise how much these brochures cost to get printed AND we have to pay for the bloody postage too, whats wrong with a PDF ?”

SEND FOR OUR FREE BROCHURE!  used to be plastered all over the classified adverts in the Sunday papers around this time of year for it was around this time of year, back in the olden days of my childhood, that the BBC decided that this was the time of year when everyone should be booking their summer holidays for it was the BBC that always kicked off the New Year with ski-jumping and David Vine on New Years Day followed by the first of that years episodes of “HOLIDAY 19xx” presented by Cliff Michelmore and that other bloke who you know when you see him but can’t quite get his name and you confuse him with the other bloke who does Tomorrows World, no not Raymond Baxter, the other one who looked like the bloke off Holiday 19xx but wasn’t, and when it wasn’t him it was a “specialist” holiday trip presented by that nice man from Grandstand, Frank Bough and his wife Nester, their segment of the show should have been much longer but lots of their “specialist” advice on which “bars” to visit ended up on the cutting room floor, unfortunately.

And then after the BBC had kicked off the holiday booking season the following weeks Sunday newspapers would be ram-packed full of holiday adverts and almost every one of them beseeched you to “SEND FOR OUR FREE BROCHURE!” and some of them even went so far as to beseech “SEND FOR OUR FREE COLOUR BROCHURE!”, how extravagant, a free colour brochure, free, in the post, who could resist ?

Me and our Ned would circle the ones that we wanted to send for, hundreds of them we’d circle from places as far away as Cornwall, yes Cornwall, how decadent, we’d grab our dads Sunday People before he got to it on a Sunday morning and circle every holiday advert that sounded alright “Just yards from the beach!”  would always be a draw, “Brand new caravans last year, or was it the year before!” would be a definite as would “All mod cons!” which we took to mean that they’d have a toilet within a five minute walk.

But never the Butlins or Pontins adverts for we’d been told on many an occasion that Butlins and Pontins “Weren’t for the likes of us” and in saying that our dad didn’t mean that those places were too posh for us, he meant that they weren’t posh enough, I recall that one summer holiday he knew someone who was incarcerated for a week in Butlins at Filey and as we were staying in a round tin box just up the road at Cayton Bay we took a visit to see them, our dad never stopped taking the piss all day long, taking every opportunity to point out to his friend that this Butlins had been an army training camp during the war and still bloody looked like one and (pointing over the eight foot high barbled-wire fence) did his friend know that just yards away over there was Primrose Valley, a caravan camp where, by some strange fluke of fortune or fate,  Ralph actually owned a caravan and there they didn’t have to wake up at Reveille or have to listen to toothpaste adverts broadcast through the camp PA, or indeed all troop to the dining hall at 7am on their holidays to have the Butlins standard breakfast fare while a redcoat guard watched and made sure they ate it all up.

So no Butlins, or Pontins.

A strange thing though, until I was 11 years old we ALWAYS went to Cayton Bay, booked a pre-war caravan, pissed in a bucket under the bed, slept on caravan benches with hard cushions that smelled like a million arses had already sat on them (they had), we did all of this every year and yet Ralph, who was otherwise joined to our dads right arm for most of his life, by some strange fluke of fate or fortune actually owned his own caravan at Primrose Valley, a mere few miles down the coast, and yet we never visited him there nor did we ever book a holiday there, I never once questioned that of my father but as Ralph is the only one of that generation still to be what we could loosely say was “alive” then I must ask him why the next time I see him, I like meeting up with Ralph again, he’s a very funny octogenarian although every time we do meet up (not often enough) we have to go through the elephants graveyard conversation again.

So we’d circle all of these adverts in the Sunday people in the full knowledge that our dad would ignore them, for here was the catch, in order to get the FREE COLOUR BROCHURE! you had to cut out the advert, write your name and address down on a piece of paper and then post it to the place that was going to send you the FREE COLOUR BROCHURE!, so it wasn’t really free after all, not to our dad anyway, “Do think I’m made of money” he’d explain, “do you know how much bloody postage stamps cost these days?”

But, having said all of that, it was when I was eleven years of age that he circled an advert in the Sunday People for himself and then when he was at work the next day he posted off the advert to the address using the company piece of paper, envelope and stamp (well he did have a point, have you seen the cost of postage), and lo and behold, after ten years of going to Cayton Bay on our holidays we were off to Great Yarmouth and we’re back to Ralph again for every time Ned and I meet up with Ralph he always asks if we remember the Great Yarmouth holiday and how we used his beachfront caravan as a changing cubicle for a fortnight, banging on his door at 6am every morning because the tide was in and he was teaching us to swim, “Yes” we always say, of course we remember the Great Yarmouth holiday when he, a sailor of the second world war, taught us all to swim in the manner of all mariners, throw you in and then explain what to do while you’re drowning.

Of course the BBC didn’t have it all their own way for it wasn’t too long before a woman in a red crimpolene blazer and a permanent and extremely annoying fixed smile appeared on ITV to present a holiday program called “Wish You Were Here” to which I replied every week, “No Judith, actually I don’t wish I was there, or at least not if you are there at the same time”.

Judith Chalmers wore the same red crimpolene blazer everywhere she went, and she went everywhere, and everywhere she went she extolled the virtues of the place she had gone to for of course this was ITV and its very likely that the place she was visiting in her role as presenter of a holiday program was actually paying for her to be there, not once did the red blazered Judith ever face the ITV camera and say “They sent me to Weston-Super-Mare this week just so that you don’t ever have to come here, believe me, its crap”.

The red-blazered Judith had another annoying habit, two in fact, in fact she just bloody annoyed me full stop, but each and every time she went anywhere she’d have to show you the toilet and its a tradition that the SKy Holiday channel does to this day, every time the red blazered Judith visited a hotel she and a camerman would walk into a room, show you the view out of the window, show you the bed, and then go into the bathroom and point the camera down the toilet as if to prove that they had one, “All mod cons” would cover it Judith, we don;t actually need to see the bloody toilet you know.

Her second annoying habit ?

She laughed at the end of every sentence.

“…and welcome this week to Weston-Super-Mare ha-ha” she’d say, walking along the promenade in her red crimpolene blazer and orange self-tan face while holidaymakers scurried past on their way to a cheap cafe or amusement arcade to keep out of the rain, plastic pac-a-macs held above their heads while snotty faced kids ran along behind crying because they were covered in sand and it chafes so when you’re running in the rain, “Welcome to sunny Weston-Super-Mare , Somerset’s finest resort where families skip and jump with joy ha-ha”.

Even when they sent her abroad to review the newly built Spanish resorts she still had to close focus on the toilet bowls, “All the rooms have toilets ha-ha”  she’d say, “and balconies with sea views ha-ha”, and cut to an indoor market that could be in Dewsbury, “and at the weekly indoor market you can buy sombrero’s and stuffed straw donkeys, ha-ha”.

The likes of specialist travel shows, Judith Chalmers and the bloke off the BBC’s “Holiday 19xx” program who looks like the bloke off “Tomorrows World” but isn’t, they’ve all been replaced these days by specialist travel shows such as “Ibiza Uncovered” and “What Happens In Kavos” which in turn extol the virtues of those pleasant enough family holiday resorts where drinking neat alcohol from an unknown source until your brain stops working is turned into an art form, where each night you can marvel at the intricate patterns on bar room floors as the vomit spatters, where the majority of holidaymakers find themselves evicted from their hotel rooms after two nights into a fourteen night holiday and they’re ringing home asking their mums for more money to buy an early flight home – if only we still had Judith and her red crimpolene blazer to guide these poor young drunkards to the toilet bowl in their rooms then none of this nonsense would occur.

“…and all the rooms have indoor plumbing, with toilets, ha-ha”


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