July means seaside holidays – or at least it always did to me when I tipped out of school for the summer, behung like a travelling donkey with battered papier mâché fruit bowls and dog-eared art work. We always went to North Wales, bypassing the slot-machine rattle and gaudy Suncentre of Rhyl (“But they’ve got a wave machine!”) for the faded Victorian elegance of Llandudno. We stayed in a house on the Great Orme, overlooking the bay, and every year without fail, as dusk fell, a parent or grandparent would always comment that the lights reflecting in the water were, “better than Naples.” Years later, I visited Naples, and decided that Llandudno could definitely compete, as Naples doesn’t have a wrought iron pier with go-karts and a wavy slide.
In fact, it doesn’t have a lot of things I enjoyed as a child – Galaxian arcade machines, (they were like space invaders, but with giant birds), Mr Whippy ice creams with nuclear raspberry sauce, or the opportunity to poke about in rock pools looking for shrimps with a badly made green net from the newsagents. Even when I got older, I wasn’t bored by the seaside. I still liked wandering about on the Great Orme, dragging friends on holiday so we could hang about on the pier looking at boys, and drifting in and out of the bargain shops on Mostyn Street, buying rock shaped liked fried eggs and cheap make-up.
There’s a lot to be said for childhood holidays not being too exotic. I loved Llandudno (and I still do). And though I’ve travelled all over as an adult, like a harassed Phileas Fogg, it will always have a place in my heart. That’s why in July Candis, our “Looking back” section focuses on childhood holidays. It’s only in the past few years, it seems, that taking your kids abroad every year has become normal. But back then, our reminiscing holidaymakers went to County Meath to visit relatives, Butlins with the family, Skegness, caravanning in Pembrokeshire and New Brighton on the Wirral for a day out, and the photos are full of joy and fun. I don’t want to sound like a grumpy old-timer (oh alright, I do), but back then, a beach, a bucket and fish and chips for tea was enough to make you write a postcard home saying, “Having a wonderful time.”
Actually, thinking about it – maybe it still is.