Summer Love-In: Vintage Summertime

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Remember when my mum wrote my first ever guest post, and it was brilliant? Well, I am delighted and proud to have her back again today to tell us what summer was like in olden times when she was young. Once again, it is brilliant. Thanks mum. Here's to many more summers to come.

Now, where did I put that knitted bikini...?

I have no idea where all you guys who read Kirsty's blog live, but hopefully somewhere that the notion of “summer” is much more realistic than here in Scotland. We seem to have bypassed summer this year, going straight from spring into autumn without the donning of a sunhat or capri pants. (Who am I kidding? At 60 am I likely to wear capri pants? And I only wear a sunhat because I am post-chemo follically challenged.) No wonder all my pals are busy buying tickets for sunnier climes. This change in our weather has made me reflect on what summers were like in my childhood and at the risk of sounding like an old bore, I really do think they were better.

I was brought up in the West of Scotland – home of the pale skin, the ginger hair, freckles, vicious midges (nasty mosquito type beasties if you are from abroad) and a lot of rain. And I mean, a lot of rain. It is ironic that with these conditions there is a very high incidence of skin cancer, but I guess that is because the locals now go to ridiculously hot spots for a fortnight of 12-hours-a-day sunbathing. They cover themselves in factor 4 or local olive oil-type stuff, or worse, nothing at all, and lie on a lounger from dawn till dusk. Then they turn red, their skin peels, they fall over with sunstroke and have to stay inside for the rest of the holiday, drinking cheap brandy. However, I didn't go abroad until I was nearly 18 (where I lay in the sun for 12 hours, covered myself in olive oil and got burnt. Didn't like brandy, but got a taste for Bacardi). Nowadays, some kids are better travelled than I was at 21 by the time they are 5!

So if we didn't go to sunny hot spots or even cross the border, where did the Sinclair family go? Why, North Berwick, which has featured a lot in this blog. I am pretty sure I was first brought as a baby and certainly kept coming every year until I was at least 10. In the 50s there were no motorways, so it was an epic journey from West to East – the Morris Minor packed to the limit, cases on the roof rack, hurtling along at a racy 40 miles an hour. We stayed at the same boarding house on the sea front for the same two weeks each year – along with other families who came to the same house at the same time! We spent hours on the beach across the road from the house, but it was “full board”, so we came back over for lunch every day. Even now, when I slice a cucumber, the smell always reminds me of the salads we had – piece of lettuce, couple slices of tomato, cucumber and hard boiled egg. But what's more important about these memories is that I am sure the sun shone!!

There are old black and white photos of us digging furiously on the beach, brown as berries in funny old 50s swimsuits (my Dad actually had maroon knitted swimming trunks – wow). My parents sitting on deckchairs always look tanned, though Mum was often wearing a tweed skirt and twinset, so maybe it wasn't that warm..... And of course, as Kirsty has mentioned before, we had the outdoor swimming pool. For someone living in the middle of the countryside in a wee village surrounded by hills, the idea of a pool nestling in the rocks, filled with sea water was idyllic. But of course, it was FREEZING. We didn't give a damn and shivered for hours. I find it comforting that almost 40 years later,when we moved to North Berwick, my kids enjoyed that same pool as much as I did.

So holidays were simple pleasures in those days and summers were proper summers. We went putting, we ate ice creams, we went to the swing park (dangerous wooden swings, precarious roundabouts etc.. all condemned by modern Health and Safety (damn)). The local dance hall had dances which my parents went to, presumably leaving me and the other kids alone in the boarding house (unless my big sis was still coming on holidays with us). Note: child protection issues abound. The highlight of the fortnight for the kids was a “Pyjama Parade” round the garden of the boarding house. This exciting event involved going outside in our pyjamas, in the evening and marching round the lawn! We kids in the 50s knew how to have fun.... And I am not even sure if there was a prize – just the joy of being outside in one's p.j.s

So that is really a slice of what life was like for those of us born in the 50s in Scotland. Nothing exotic, no foreign holidays, no fancy salads (didn't even see a green pepper until I was about 16!), no Disney Word, no piri piri, no barbeques, nothing fancy at all really. But the sun did shine, so we did have something to be happy with. Maybe as this summer goes by, a little bit of the 50s sunshine will return to North Berwick...

P.S. One night I sat at the bay window of the boarding house looking out for my parents return from “the dancing” only to see my Mum sitting on the roof rack of our Morris Minor, accompanied by some young chap, car driven by my Dad (no doubt, in a very non-PC way having quoffed a few pints). Now you know where Kirsty and I get our occasional bad behaviour from...

7 boats moored

  1. I love this, I love love love. It reminds me so much of the tales my mother told of her growing up as a kid in Cornwall (the entire opposite end of the country to you!). When I have kids I want to take them to the British coast, I want to take them camping, I want them to learn to love their country rather than teaching them that summer is only something to be had "abroad".

  2. Awesome post! I think Kirsty should start running a weekly or bi-weekly mum column. You're posts are too fab.

  3. Love this. my gran tells similar stories of dunoon. although it all sounds very similar to my 1980s holidays to nairn, so maybe scotland doesn't change that much? so sad so many outdoor pools have closed. i would have loved to have taught my own blue-lipped children how to swim whilst shivering violently...

  4. Dear Sis, not only were you there every summer till you were ten but also the summer before you were born!In the group photo the girl behind me eating the ice cream was Joyce's that after 62 yrs! The rest of the group I have no idea.
    You are so right in saying the summers were better then we maybe only had one wet day during the two weeks and often we just played on the beach regardless....Happy Days xx

  5. Fabulous post. We live in Shropshire, and North Berwick is our favourite seaside town. xx

  6. Lovely post. I live in the US, but visited North Berwick for a portion of one day in 2010 with a group of readers of the author D. E. Stevenson, who set one of her books, The Young Mrs. Savage, in a thinly disguised North Berwick. You sound like your holidays there were much like those of the Savage's. (And of D. E. Stevenson herself, who spent summers there with others of her Stevenson cousins. They were the family involved in the building of so many lighthouses, including the one on Bass Rock.)

  7. Hi: I came across your page while reminiscing about rock pools and holidays in North Berwick. I too spend childhood summers in the swimming and paddling pools. I remember not being able to get into the pool while the tide was out and they changed the water, at which time I went hunting in the rock pools, diving [jumping] from the spring board and the first freezing plunge into the water. We stayed in the Tantalon Caravan Park which I see on Google is still there even if the pool has gone.
    I remember many days of rain and wind but, like you said, we played on the beach anyway, only going indoors when the rain was really heavy. I think your right summers were better then, but only because we had few expectations and were happy with the small extras which we saw as treats. I know my children were the same as I could not afford to take them abroad, and my 7 year old grand daughter is the same today. To her the different activities and time spent with her family are the adventures and treats.


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