Monday, July 28, 2008


It's with great sadness (ahem) that I have to note that Weston Super Mare Grand Pier has been *engulfed by flames* as the tabloids would have it.

GMTV this morning encouraged viewers to send in their "memories" of the pier. I mean - who the fuck has memories of a seaside pier? They're much of a muchness and you'd have to be really easily pleased to think of them with any fondness.

I do have (not particularly fond) memories of Weston though, because we used to take our annual week's holiday there during my childhood.

As I've said before, if you grew up in the 1960's or '70's, and you were of 'umble origin, chances were that you went to the same holiday destination every bloody year. No one ever questioned why they had to go to the same place year in year out - they just did. One of my uncles and his family went all the way to Swanage in Dorset, which was a bloody long way from Staffordshire. They didn't moan about the long journey or the dreariness of the caravan park they stayed in - they just rolled up their sleeves and got on with it.

Holidays weren't to be enjoyed really, once you'd got past the age of about five. They were an endurance test from which you emerged tired, depressed and malnourished, but eager to get back to home comforts.

When I was eight, my parents took a controversial decision - THEY DECIDED TO CHANGE THEIR HOLIDAY DESTINATION.

In previous years, we'd gone to Colwyn Bay in North Wales ... but the landlady of the guesthouse we always stayed in had decided to retire.

My dad decided that we were going to a place he had fond memories of ("????") It was the place where he convalesced after breaking his leg in a mining accident.

I just put that bit in so that I can score a few salt of the earth prole points over you middle class ponces.

Anyway, that place was Weston Super Mare.

Here are some happy memories of Weston. Do you think I should e-mail them to GMTV, and would the lovely Kate Garroway read them out tomorrow morning?

1. I can remember us finding a nice, quiet spot on the beach which was warmer, more sheltered and less blustery than anywhere else on the seafront. We put down our deckchairs and relaxed. About two minutes later, a donkey being ridden by a small child walked past, stopped and dropped a stinking heap of dung a few feet away from us, so we had to move.

2. Once we went on a coach mystery tour around Chew Valley Lake, stopping off at a few pubs on the way. The journey back around The Mendip Hills was particularly memorable. As the coach screeched around winding hidden bends are great speed, and veered bumpily across the country lanes, it became apparent that the driver had partaken of a lot of beer in each of the pubs. "The driver is completely drunk," my mum whispered "but don't say anything about it because his bloody wife is sitting in front of us".

3. On another coach tour, this time to Bath, in 1974, I time travelled back to 1971. That's all I'm going to say. It wasn't a very pleasant experience, I felt very nauseous afterwards and it involved people in tank tops.

4. The dodgy guesthouse we stayed at was run by one of those women in their fifties who has a very dark suntan, long, dyed black hair and always wears carmen red lipstick. The sort of woman who says "people always say to me that I look a bit Italian or Spanish and a man who chatted me up once told me that I look like Gina Lollobrigida". When we were sat down for breakfast once she leaned over my dad and said "you've got lovely eyes".

5. One year, in a Fawlty Towersesque way, a bloke died during the first night in the room next to us.

6. On another night it was raining heavily and I awoke to find that my bed was soaked from water that had leaked through the ceiling. We weren't even on the top floor.

7. Once I dry heaved all the way through the dinner. The salad was covered in living, moving aphids.

8. I was nearly run over by a motor bike in the town centre.

9. We used to go to the Golden Egg eaterie in Weston once every holiday for an omelette and chips. The seats were big, puffy, mustard coloured things and the backs of your legs used to stick to them so that when you stood up you had wheals all over your thighs.

10. Most of the West Midlands population decided to take their annual holiday in Weston the same week as us, for reasons unknown. We bumped into one bloke who my dad knew and his family. Later, my dad informed me that this bloke was the real dad of one of my friends, and she was the result of a one night stand.

11. For many years afterwards, I used to have regular dreams about drowning at Weston, even though the sea was usually about twenty miles out at any given time.

Will that do?

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I'm waiting for Sid James and Barbara Windsor to run past you, kicking sand in your face.
Ah, Weston Super Mud, erstwhile home of John Cleese and Jeffrey Archer.

The entire working population of British cities used to decamp to the seaside for two weeks in the Summer. Two weeks of hectoring from harridan landladies and a compulsory tinned tomato like a blood clot with your cooked breakfast every day.

Then were the days.

Kiss me quick.
By coincidence, I refer to the Weston donkeys myself today.
But your memories of Weston are so chillingly similar to my own that I may also need to blog about them simply as a form of therapy.
Number 3 made me laugh so much my glasses fell off.
Go ahead Betty.
And give a very vivid account of the vomiting - that smug git Kate Garroway needs the smile removing from her face.
Dear GMTV,

I once threw a burger off the end of Weston Pier. It was from McDonalds I think. It made a dull thud as it hit the sand. I was 14.


MJ - only problem being that you don't get sand at Weston Super Mare - just mud. I seem to remember Bernard Bresslaw dressed as a charlady sat in a deckchair near me once though.

Garfer - two weeks? Two weeks? As far as my parents were concerned, two week holidays were for "posh" people with too much money! That rogue plum tomato though, and the mushy fried bread, and the gooey, grease coated sausage ... eeek.

Willie - ah, those donkeys, still going about their business after all these years. Weston Super Mare casts a dark shadow over everyone.

Tim - schadenfreude. One day, you'll time travel and find out how unpleasant it is. You'll see!

Kaz - Kate Garroway seems to be competing with Cristiano Ronaldo in the sun tan stakes. Her capped teeth, by contrast, are now glowing. Nothing can remove the smile from her face.

Billy - did you realise it was against the law? Bloody surly teenagers. I bet you were going through the "I hate holidays - everyone going around pretending to have fun" phase, weren't you? And you were right, too.
I wonder if your Dad was convalescing at the same time as my mom was taking the rest cure at Weston in her younger days? She had TB though and wasn't talking much.
For us it was Great Yarmouth, then the school governers promoted my dad and we went for very middle class, very dull holidays in Somerset or the Yorkshire Dales. We eventually went abroad to the Adriatic coast when I was 11. It rained all week. That's what you get for trying to climb the social ladder.

Never seen the point of Weston - a riverbank full of Brummies.
Great post Betty.

9. Am I right in thinking you're suggesting there is (or was) an egg-themed restaurant in Weston? If so, then that makes the charmingly odd Mr Egg in Birmingham (with its fried egg hanging from the ceiling and "Eat like a king for £2.50"/"Eat like a queen for £3.50 - it's in the gay area) less unique than I'd always imagined...

My childhood holidays involved Scotland pretty much every year (apart from one blip in 1988 when my parents had the bizarre idea that it would be good to travel all the way to Somerset from Northumberland and stay in a hotel with a ten month old baby).

Then, in 1990, they realised that middle-class families were supposed to holiday in France - so that's what we did from then on. Cue befriending multilingual 11-year-old Belgians, sneaking underage beers and snogging pimply girls with braces so extensive it was like being savaged by Jaws from off of a James Bond film.
Blimey you 'ad it 'ard in those days Betty. are you sure you're not from Liverpool?

I used to thing Weston Super Mare referred to French Cowboy films.
When i spent time in Briz I used to go to Weston super "Mire" with my colleagues. We mucked about on the pier like a bunch of kids. I'm very sad yet another pier has burnt down (One of Brighton piers was burnt and so was Southend pier - I remeber the old amusements on the latter)
Arabella - you never know. I think my dad was in Weston for about six months. These days he would've been expected to be back at work after a couple of days.

Malc - a good job that my dad didn't get promoted at work. Perish the thought that we might have had to go on middle class holidays. Anyway, the Adriatic Coast was almost my dad's stomping ground. I went to visit the old home country once and won't be going back.

Ben - the Golden Egg was part of a chain (well, I think it was a chain, because I can remember a branch being in Stafford). The big novelty was that they specialised in OMELETTES which were considered to be an exotic foodstuff in 1970's Britain. Just goes to show how far we've evolved since then! I think I would've been terrified of holidaying in France when I was a kid. Going abroad was never on the agenda, and even when I was about 18 I was always convinced that I'd never be able to travel abroad. Those French exchange pupils at school always seemed like such twats though, so that put me off visiting anyway.

Murph - I'm not from Liverpool. I'm a coalminer's daughter and there weren't any coalmines in Liverpool! We Midlanders have our own poverty sob stories y'know. Have you seen Slade In Flame?

Llewtrah - I suppose that wooden structures are likely to burn pretty easily. I'm surprised they haven't all been shut down because of fire regulations (you know the way things are nowadays). Apparently Weston Pier will be up and running again ASAP.
"Just goes to show how far we've evolved since then!"

Devolved you mean, Betty, surely? How can it be evolution when you can no longer go to a town or city knowing where you're guaranteed to find a good omelette?

Off on a tangent a bit, but exotic foodstuffs of my childhood included lasagne and Wall's Viennetta. To this day my parents remain very suspicious of curry, but eager to at least make the appearance of keeping with the times my mum has developed one of her own, which by the taste of it may well have no curry or chilli powder in it at all. The only clue that it's definitely "curry" rather than stew is that it's served on a bed of rice rather than with cabbage and mash.
I thought mild sexual abuse was a staple of british holidaymaking in the 70s? No? I stayed on my first ever campsite recently and was very disappointed to discover no one tried to pinch my companion's bottom. Although I was reassured to find rampant xenophobia alive and well. Carry On Camping indeed.
Phew, glad I'm middle class - that all sounds simply ghastly!
Ben - a few years ago, I can remember the not-that-good comedian Jeremy Hardy saying that all mums' curries are distinguished from real curries by the fact that they contain bits of fruit - chopped apple or raisins being the most common ingredients. Our house actually didn't have a fridge until the early 1970's, and my mother couldn't get over the novelty of fridge ownership for a couple of years. We used to have home made packet ice cream every day for dessert for ages! It was horrible.

Boz - not sure if I can remember mild sexual abuse on holiday in the 1970's, which is quite disappointing. Not like my visit to Santa's grotto (see my comment a couple of posts back). Rampant xenophobia on a campsite? It's not full of people from Welling, is it?

Tom - au contraire old chap, as we proles say. Horrible working class holidays were character building, and prepared you for a life of awful, tedious factory work or low grade office jobs.
Betty, I've just done a really wimpy paragraph about 'the seaside'. Now I feel humbled and a little embarrassed.

We moved around a bit for our holidays, but it was always Butlins, so the change wasn't really noticable.
A friend of mine worked in the Vesta curry factory one summer. He stank of the stuff and no amount of showering could get rid of the stale curry aura that surrounded him.

Almost as popular with the ladies as working as a sewer inspector.

Incidentally, John Lennon's favourite dinner in the mid 1960's was Vesta beef curry with chopped banana on top.
Beth - on the contrary, your post is short and concise, and mine is long, rambling and unfocussed. I never got to go to Butlins - my mum disapproved of holiday camps, for some reason. Not that our holidays were any sort of improvement.

Garfer - Vesta curries were barely food at all, were they? Bits of cardboard, packet soup powder, talc and salt were the main ingredients. As for John Lennon - was that his favourite dinner before or after he'd visited the Maharishi?
ah yes, but on the other hand yours is funny!

my dad disapproved of holiday camps, my mum had been with a gang of girls in the 50's & was desperate to go again. She always had it that I 'talked him round', but given how I shrank from human contact from an early age it seems unlikely. The Hawaiian (sp?) Bar was great though.
Beth - The Hawaiian Bar sounds as if it would've been great. Sounds dead 1950's. As far as I remember, I got a postcard from a friend who was at Butlins and my mother said "they're horrible - like prison camps". So, the boarding houses we stayed in where you had a horrible breakfast at seven in the morning and there was no access to a private bathroom were an improvement on that then?
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