A QUINTESSENTIAL ENGLISH SUMMER HOLIDAY
Someone asked me the other day what I would describe as a quintessential summer holiday in England. Being a travel writer, I usually travel abroad for my holidays and work, but Covid has forced me to rediscover my home country of England. Part of me had forgotten what a typical English summer holiday looked like until I came across these two scenes and, of course, the photographer in me just had to take out my camera and capture it.
Last year, I took a trip to Scarborough and found this couple sitting on the South Sands. It was a relatively chilly day and the beach was mostly empty other than for a few swimmers braving the icy North Sea waters. It did not, however, stop the couple from enjoying the sands, sea air and vista. They had brought their deckchairs to the beach and, of course, their packed lunches. The man is wearing an England football shirt, a mandatory fashion accessory for any trip to the English seaside and, being typically hard northerners immune to cold weather (much like myself in years gone by), they can tolerate the weather just in short sleeves.
I spent most of my childhood summer holidays in Scarborough. It was a magical place with long sandy beaches, brisk sea air, the infamous sea fret that would hover for days just above the waterline as the rest of the country basked in sunshine, and the enchanting Peasholm Park. In the middle of the park, there was a boating lake and a Japanese themed island lit up by fairy lights. Mum and Dad would take my sister and me at dusk, and we would climb the steps, circumnavigating the small island whilst dreaming of fairies and pixies and faraway lands.
As a family, we rarely went to South Sands but kept to the quieter North Sands where the beach was cleaner, and there were no arcades or amusement rides or stalls selling rock that would rot our teeth.
We would spend hours exploring them, filling our buckets with crabs and starfish, until we would release them back into the ocean like some great eco-explorers
My sister and I were always there with our buckets and spades, making sandcastles, burying our father up to the neck in sand or screaming as the cold waves would break over our little bodies. The tide would go out over a quarter of a mile, and it would seem to take forever for our small feet to make it to the rock pools the sea would leave behind. We would spend hours exploring them, filling our buckets with crabs and starfish, until we would release them back into the ocean like some great eco-explorers. Just like the island in Peasholm Park, I would stare out across the waters towards the horizon, wondering what faraway lands existed so that when I grew up I could go and explore.
Looking back, certain things that happened or behaviours I exhibited in my childhood were a telling sign of what I would become and how travel and my fascination with the natural world would become a large part of my adult life.
This second photo is of Robin Hood’s Bay which I took a few weeks ago. Like Scarborough, it lies on the East Coast of Yorkshire, except the Bay is within the beautiful North Yorkshire Moors National Park.
This photo is so very evocative of childhood holidays in England which would not be the same without an ice cream van, even in beautiful Robin Hood’s Bay!
My family were not wealthy so it was always a treat to be allowed an ice cream. Our holidays were a time of adventure and fun, spending time on the beach, exploring the nearby countryside and eating ice cream.
I always felt guilty about asking for a 99 flake outside of our trips to the seaside. It was an expensive addition back in the 1970s
My mum was a choc ice fan (a rectangular slab of vanilla ice-cream covered in a thin layer of chocolate that cracked like a fault line when you bit into it). My dad was an ice cream cone type of man, whereas my sister and I loved the cone with a 99 flake. Having a sweet tooth, I would go one step further and ask the ice cream seller to cover it thick with raspberry sauce which in those days were free. They would always smile when I would say, “Please, can I have more?” like some modern-day Oliver Twist. I always felt guilty about asking for a 99 flake outside of our trips to the seaside. It was an expensive addition back in the 1970s.
I went to Robin Hood’s Bay when I was little with my family. I do not remember much except going fossil hunting beneath the cliffs and performing a very acrobatic banana slip on the rocks covered in green slime and algae. And, of course, eating ice cream. It is probably one of the reasons why these ice cream vans exist: to appease every little kid when they bruise their bum slipping on the rocks.
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