The ramblings and ruminations of romance author, Lynette Rees
Sunday, May 26, 2013
* Picture: Me circa 1970 Porthcawl [I was about 9 or 10]
I've been thinking about summer/bank holiday outings as a child to
places like Barry Island and Porthcawl in South Wales. There were often
outings run by the local Sunday School or places like The Merthyr Labour
Club. Your mother would save up for months for the outing, paying a
little every week, usually a couple of shillings.
usually a fleet of coaches put on for such an occasion. It seemed a big
adventure at the time, yet those seaside towns weren't that far away,
you'd swear we were all off to Florida or something the fuss that was
made. Often you'd hardly sleep the night before, from the excitement of
Usually you'd take some sort of picnic along with you,
maybe cheese and tomato sandwiches, crisps and fruit, possibly a bottle
of Corona pop [which was warm by the time you got there!]. The grown ups
would buy a pot of tea from a nearby stall/cafe to drink on the sands
or maybe bring a flask. There was something about eating your food
outside, we didn't do it that often but for some reason when going to
the seaside it was positively mandatory!
The first thing you'd
want to do as a kid was run towards the sea, no matter how far the tide
was out and dip your toes in it. Also quite difficult later on, when
you changed under a towel into your bathing costume and actually went
in the sea, was to find your family in amongst a sea of faces! I think I
got lost several times when the beach was packed!
always a visit to the fun fair. The Big Dipper [which I seem to remember
had a sign on it in Barry Island saying something like, "If all the
components of this Big Dipper were laid end to end, they would stretch
all the way to New York!"] I also loved the Caterpillar, which was a
sort of wagon on rails which started going, got faster and faster as
the green hood slowly covered everyone, making it look like its name to
spectators. People seemed to scream underneath that cover or maybe that
was just me!
The Water Chute in Porthcawl was another I used to enjoy, day trippers stood at the bottom and got splashed.
At the promenade in Barry Island I remember there was a "What the
Butler Saw" machine. I used to get a penny and queue up to watch it as
black and white photographs flipped as slow or as fast as you liked as
you turned the handle. I seem to remember something about a maid but
nothing ever really happened, she didn't even get laid. I think the
butler kept his beady eye on her though!
There were Donkey
rides on the sands and sometimes competitions to dig to find lucky
treasure. I remember my brother winning tickets for the fairground at
Porthcawl and he chose to go on a real dangerous looking ride. It was
like two rocket capsules either end of a connecting pole that spun
upside down. I think he was only nine, don't know how he was allowed on
Then there was the Hall of Mirrors, where you could see
yourself thin or fat, distorted and blob like. There was also a maze
made of glass that used to really frustrate me when I tried to get out
as I'd often bump into the clear glass.
I also loved the Ghost
Train and would scream as a cobweb hit me in the face as the train
careered through the darkness, often some sort of ghoul would pop up or
scare the hell out of you or there'd be a earth shattering screech from
the bowels of the abyss. It's a wonder we didn't need a change of
underwear after going in there.
Walking around the fairground
there were certain things that were mandatory like a large stick of
candy floss that would begin to melt in your mouth but stick on your
teeth! Or a stripy stick of seaside rock with a photograph of that
particular resort stuck inside the wrapper, equally bad for your teeth!
There was also nothing like eating fish and chips at the seaside that
were wrapped in newspaper. Even to this day, I still think they taste
best eaten outside either on a bench over looking the sea or on the
beach itself, if you can avoid any sand getting into the wrapper that
By the time we'd go back to the fleet of buses, we'd be
worn out and sleepy with sand between our toes and usually some sort of
mementos: shells we'd collected, buckets and spades, those little cute
badges with our names on, rock or candy floss.
The buses would
be lined up and you'd have to search for ages to find which one you'd
arrived on. They'd take an age to pull away as usually there were so
many from all over the country and beyond. Then darkness would begin to
descend as shapes became silhouettes against the night sky as we
Back then the sun always seemed to shine and we seemed quite content with what we had. Or was that just me?