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Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Great Yarmouth, June 1960

Early nights, top entertainment and lots of healthy fresh air: that’s what you got with seaside holidays in the nineteen-fifties.

As it’s the holiday season (so I might go quiet for a while), here is a posthumous post from a guest contributor – my dad – written shortly after a week’s holiday exactly fifty-nine years ago in a boarding house at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.

We were taken by car on the Sunday morning (he would have been working on the Saturday) and returned by train the following Saturday. Below, I am t–, my mother is M– and my brother who was then aged 4 is mj.
Great Yarmouth circa 1960

Notes On a Seaside Holiday.
YARMOUTH June 19th to June 25th 1960

Sunday: Mr. Mapplebeck of Rawcliffe took us by car. We were away from the front door by 7.55 a.m., a pleasant but fast ride; mj was sick twice on the journey. We were ready for lunch in the digs when the dinner gong went at 1 p.m. Beach in the afternoon, then a walk round a fun fair in the evening. Bed 8 o’clock.

Monday morning; lovely walk and bus to town, sea trip from the River Yare. Beach in the afternoon, show (Charlie Drake) in the evening. Later drink by myself in the pub, reflected on the atmosphere of seaside pubs.

Great Yarmouth: Norwich Belle 1960
mj, dad, M- and t- on board the Norwich Belle at Great Yarmouth.
Date and time on the back: Monday 20th June 1960, 10.15 a.m. 

Tuesday: all down to the station for details of the return journey, followed by lovely Broads cruise to Reedham. Afternoon on beach, evening shopgazing with M– and boys. Reflected we do not often have an opportunity for a family loiter. Returned 8 p.m. continued reading Richard Church’s “Golden Sovereign”, bed 10 p.m.

Wednesday: mj slept while 10 a.m. t– rowing by himself on the boating pool, I enjoying reading the Daily Telegraph, later t–, mj and I sea trip in Filey type cobble. Beach in the afternoon, open air type theatre entertainment in the evening very mediocre, took mj back to digs and he was ready for bed before the finish, all in bed by 10 p.m.

Great Yarmouth boating lake

Thursday: t– on the rowing pool, mj in a pedal car, then all into town for a little present shopping. Once again I thought how privileged we were being able to stroll about together. Beach in the afternoon, in the evening M– took t– to the Charlie Chester show. I strolled mj round the front, he had an ice cream cornet, we walked round the pin table alleys and I considered the tastes of the contemporary world, but then everybody can’t go abroad. Then mj had another ride in a pedal car, mj a little boy of 4 years old going round and round, I’ll keep that memory, they soon grow from one stage to another. The different phases are very short. We went back to the boarding house and I put mj to bed.

Great Yarmouth 1950s tourism video
One of several 1950/60s Yarmouth videos on YouTube - click to play

Friday, we all went for a walk in the morning, children went in the fun fair cars. I was a little apprehensive the cash was getting a bit short by now. Beach in the afternoon, both the boys playing and digging well, I bought a packet of paper flags. In the evening M– took the children for a walk, I gave them 4/6d. to spend while I went to the pictures.

Saturday. The taxi picked us up as arranged, we left Yarmouth at 10.10 a.m. a little disconcerted to find there was no restaurant or buffet car on the train. M– dashed off the train at March station and procured three sandwiches, two small packets of biscuits and a couple of cartons of orange juice for the noble sum of 8/-. Anyhow after that mj fell asleep, we had to awaken him to change trains at Doncaster, we arrived in Goole about 4.45 p.m. and were fortunate in getting a taxi home. Lovely. We had a very good week for weather and the following week it broke, so we were very lucky.

Thursday afternoon July 7th 1960

Norwich Belle, Great Yarmouth, around 1960
The Norwich Belle sailed out of Great Yarmouth until around 1981

The above images are so widespread on the internet one can only assume they are now free of copyright restrictions.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Grandad Dunham’s Flight Simulator (reposted by Smorgasbord Blog Magazine)

Sally Cronin’s second selection from my archives to share in her Smorgasbord Blog Magazine is Grandad Dunham’s Flight Simulator which like the first is from November 2015.

The Smorgasbord repost invitation is here

The reposted post is here

Grandad Dunham's Flight Simulator

Grandad Dunham's Chair - Flight Simulator

Like something from the future, it was the most amazing colour graphics workstation we had ever seen. I had got a job in a university where it was being used to understand complex proteins by constructing and manipulating computer-generated images of the kind of ball and stick molecular models photographed with Watson and Crick in the nineteen-fifties.

It came with a set of demonstration programs, among them a flight simulator called SGI Dogfight, which was well in advance of anything any of us had seen before. You may wish to speculate about the relative amounts of time we spent flying aeroplanes and modelling proteins.

Yet my brother had a flight simulator twenty years earlier in the early nineteen-sixties. How could that be possible?

Read original post (~750 words)

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Rather a studious kind of boy

A few years ago I contributed to a book about the firm where my father used to work. Recounting people and incidents over the phone I was told: “I remember you as being rather a studious kind of boy”.

I suppose that’s right. I was too timid to join football, rugby or cricket teams and rarely participated in any other sports. I read a lot, played and listed to music and spent possibly too much time on my own.

It occurs to me that, as they age, those sporty people who played highly physical team games can no longer do so. Some manage to keep up club and racquet games for a while, and others take up the likes of bowls and walking football, etc., but eventually even these can become too much. Readers, writers, musicians and creative people, on the other hand, can keep going until they lose their marbles, or even longer.

I’m glad to have been rather a studious kind of boy.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Gram Motherem (reposted by Smorgasbord Blog Magazine)

I responded a few weeks ago to an invitation from Sally Cronin who runs the wonderful Smorgasbord Blog Magazine allowing her to look through my archives and select four posts to share.

I am delighted to see the first she has selected is Gram Motherem from November 2015.

The original invitation is here

The Smorgasbord repost is here

Gram Motherem: how early are our earliest memories?

“I’ve made up a new game to play,” I told Peter Abson in the school playground. “It’s called Gram Motherem.”

It was a bit like tig. If you were ‘it’ you had to chase others and catch them. When you caught someone you hugged them tight and rubbed the front of your body firmly up and down against them while repeating the words “Gram Motherem, Gram Motherem” over and over again. I showed him but he didn’t seem too keen on the idea. Wendy Godley wouldn’t let me show her at all. In fact, she hardly ever spoke to me again after I tried.

I tell you this at risk of being branded some kind of rampant six year-old pervert because I believe it tells us something about our earliest memories.

Read original post (~1850 words)

Monday, 3 June 2019

Review - Keith Waterhouse: Mondays, Thursdays

Keith Waterhouse: Mondays, Thursdays
Keith Waterhouse
Mondays, Thursdays. (2*)

I didn’t like this. I got it on the back of the thoroughly enjoyable Billy Liar (see review) because Waterhouse fans say it is just as good, but gave up dissatisfied about three-quarters of the way through.

Mondays, Thursdays is a collection of over a hundred of Keith Waterhouse’s Daily Mirror columns from the first half of the nineteen-seventies. In length they range from half to two book pages and could easily today be imagined as a blog. He writes about the same kinds of nostalgia as me, such as toys, cigarette cards and being converted to natural gas. Much of it remembers his Yorkshire childhood. The pieces are full of the wit and inventiveness you would expect from someone once described as one of Britain’s funniest writers. And yet, I didn’t like it.

Perhaps the problem is in the style: too chatty, too light-hearted, too much about the author with too many ‘I’s on the page. There is a sense of always looking for the humour rather than genuinely caring about the topics he writes about. He didn’t make me care about them either.

There are exceptions. A wonderful piece tells of the author’s ninety-five year-old granddad who lived alone in a remote village and liked to send and receive letters even though he could neither read nor write. In order to keep in touch, Waterhouse’s mother posted him an envelope every Monday containing nothing but another stamped-addressed envelope for a reply. Grandad always opened it immediately and popped the empty reply straight back in the letter box, usually to arrive on Wednesday. They then knew he was safe and well. One week there was no reply. Waterhouse’s mother caught the bus to where he’d lived, and buried him.

As an unfinished book it should get only one star, but the odd pearl raises it to 2.

Key to star ratings: 5* would read over and over again, 4* enjoyed it a lot and would recommend, 3* enjoyable/interesting, 2* didn't enjoy, 1* gave up.  

Previous book reviews 

Monday, 27 May 2019

Half Length and Mrs. Rat Poison

Do you make up names for people you see often but don’t know?

We’ve so named our neighbours for years, during which we’ve known Action Man who simply looked the part and drove a Land Rover, and Mrs. Washing who lived at the back and possessed some kind of meteorological sixth-sense that told her when she could hang out the washing without getting it rained on. The rest of us used her as a guide to when we could put ours out. Nearby was Mrs. Rat Poison who once knocked on the door to complain that our bird feeder and compost heap were attracting rodents into the gardens, and her husband, the Pyromaniac, who was always setting off fireworks, lighting fires and burning food on a barbecue. Another was Cloth Legs who covered the table and chair legs of her new dining suite to stop them being scratched.

It is always tempting to identify people by their animals, like Mrs. Slow Dog who used to stroll past with her elderly dog. The dog died but we still see her out and about on her ancient horse – Mrs. Slow Horse. Others have been named after someone better-known to whom they had a vague resemblance, such as Debbie McGee and Judi Dench. Then there was Toby Jug who looked, well, like a toby jug.

There are lots at the local swimming pool, such as Mr. Poser and Mr. Pigtail. Named after their swimming behaviours are Half Length, Bath Toy and Mrs. Bow Wave. Never, ever, swim behind Half Length because he’ll suddenly turn and start swimming back at you. You also learn to keep away from Bath Toy who bobs up and down and zig-zags so erratically you never know where he’s going next. And you’ll be swamped by Mrs. Bow Wave if you’re anywhere in the vicinity when she turns at the end of the pool.

The Walrus splashes and snorts a lot. Turtle Girl moves along large-eyed and smiley in a shiny swim-hat without so much as a ripple, imperceptibly propelled by the tiniest of arm and leg movements. Mr. and Mrs. Crocodile glide slowly up and down, invariably him behind her in line, with interesting repercussions when they line up behind Half Length. Mrs. Exercise does not swim but dances up and down one side of the pool using a variety of weights and floats.

Others are named because of their changing-room conversation, such as the Scotsman and the Wood Turner. The three Flyers go to the pool more for the conversation than the exercise, wallowing at the shallow end of the slow lane like bathing Romans, exchanging tales about the aeroplanes they own. 

I could mention more, but I’m probably already in trouble for having said this much.

Neighbours …
Just a friendly wave each morning
Helps to make a better day

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Checked Out

A wet day at the Eden Project

Among the parking machine tickets of the last post was a small sticker from The Eden Project in Cornwall – a horticultural attraction near St. Austell in which plants from diverse climates and environments are housed in enormous transparent bio-domes. It reminded me.

It was a wet day with over an inch and a half of rain forecast (4cm), so along with thousands of other holidaymakers we drove to the Eden Project where we would be under cover. We were thankful of the bus from the car park. The bio-domes were packed and the rain on the roofs deafening.

Inside is like walking around abundant outdoor gardens: a tropical rain forest garden in one dome, a Mediterranean garden in the other.

I had been walking along with my ten-year-old daughter some distance behind my wife and son for some time. She was taking lots of photographs of flowers and plants; there were over a hundred in the camera.

We entered a bushy side channel off the main path to look at a coffee plant. Immediately an officious-looking woman came up behind and said, quite unexpectedly, “Sorry we haven’t any red ones for you at the moment”. There ensued one of those polite but unwanted conversations with an intrusive stranger about there not having been enough sun to turn the pods red, there being two beans in each pod and it taking about thirty pods to make a cup of coffee, and how busy it was today because the rain brings in the visitors, which was a pity because they then miss the 75% of the project outside.

It was a while before I noticed she was wearing a small Eden Project badge. All the other staff were in Eden Project polo shirts. She strode off purposefully through the crowd without talking to anyone else.

Is this what it comes to? After a certain age when your brown beard is turning grey and your hair is falling out and you look a bit like a seedy Harold Shipman, and you are innocently enjoying a day out with your daughter, they pick you up on CCTV and send someone to check you out as a suspected paedophile.

I understand the concerns but still felt pretty indignant. It’s equivalent to being stopped on sus just because of your appearance.