Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Oh, I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside

Littlehampton. To my junior mind, this was a magical fun palace, a distant seaside Xanadu* whose delights were many and bountiful. In reality, of course, it's a fairly small seafront with an amusement arcade and a mini-funfair but, to the Bro and me, it was many an hour of unselfconscious entertainment.

Nana and Grandad (on the Pa's side) were traditional in their choices of day out for a working class London born and bred family. They didn't have much in the way of money so day trips and holidays were always cheap and cheerful - a day at the beach, an outing for a bit of a flutter on the dogs or the gees-gees** or a week away at a holiday camp. The Bro and I always looked forward to any of these - partly because we loved spending time with Nana and Grandad but also because they enjoyed themselves so we enjoyed themselves.

Memories of Littlehampton:- are-we-there-yetting our way through the entire journey in the back of Grandad's car (driven by said grandparent as if he were still behind the wheel of a 16-wheeler articulated lorry and everyone could see him coming); sliding down one of those long bumpy slides in either a burlap-sack-type-thing or something resembling a welcome mat with a pocket at the end for you to stick your feet in (which would always have to be thrown back on the pile at the end for the people going up to take on their way) and initially going down them with Nana or Grandad until I got a bit older and was left to take Bro on there on my own; sitting on the round swivelly stools at the bingo game with Nana (you dropped in your coin to make the board in front of you light up for play), sliding across all the numbers as the bingo calling man shouted them out with the traditional patter ("All the ones - legs eleven! Two little ducks - quack quack - twenty two! Clicketty click - sixty six! Two fat ladies - eighty eight!"); riding the Mini Mouse rollercoaster which, while containing no loops or rolls, from a structural point of view was probably far more unsafe than any later rollercoasters we went on; being fascinated and unnerved by the Laughing Policeman machine and not being entirely convinced that it wasn't just a man in a suit; getting a friction burn on my elbow from Bro deciding he didn't like the Helter Skelter and trying to get off halfway through; and being obsessed by the Hall Of Mirrors and pretending that I didn't know the way out to make it last longer.

Of course, Littlehampton wasn't the only seaside town we visited with Nana and Grandad. Hastings, Broadstairs and naturally Margate (home of the legendary but now sadly defunct Bembom Brothers Amusement Park) were all popular destinations. You name it and we'd been sat there cheerfully in the drizzle on the stony beach, happily munching away at a Strawberry Mivvi.

Sadly, the thrill of the small town amusement park is something that has faded for me somewhat in recent years, wowed by the glitz and glamour of the big budget theme parks. But I still fondly remember those days, coming back with arms full of cuddly toys won by Nana on the bingo and Grandad on the grab machines and nursing a stomach ache caused by too many sweets and toffee apples. I may not appreciate them so much now but I definitely loved them back then.

* The stately pleasure dome as opposed to the Olivia Newton John film.

** That's horses for you non-South London types.


cerebus660 said...

They actually WON on the grabber machines? Wow! In my experience those grabbers just sort of fondle the toys, which are obviously super-glued to the base, and then retreat, giving the punters the grabber-claw version of the finger. Much respect...

That Baldy Fella said...

Oh, he used to have ninja-like reflexes, did Grandad. He used to regularly catch hold of flies and not always kill them either. Like a Deptford-born Mr Miyagi.