Friday, 25 May 2018

Scattered Black and Whites...

Nearly two years after their deaths, I am still going through my parents' many photographs. Dad was a keen amateur photographer and did his own black and white processing, so there are hundreds of images to sort through. Today I found a couple of a family holiday in the late 1960's. They say every picture tells a story... 

The cute little moppet in the ill-fitting bathing costume, sunhat and cardigan(!) is me, seen here with mum and our (t)rusty old Austin A35 van. You'll notice the CalorGaz bottle and cooker on the grass, along with a 1 gallon water carrier and assorted items lying around the place. This was the morning after the night before.

We had been staying in Devon for a couple of days and then broke camp and headed for a campsite near Looe, in Cornwall. As we took the tent down it began spitting with rain.

By the time we reached Cornwall it was raining very hard and getting dark, so dad pitched the tent in the only space he could find available and mum tried to organise some food for two small, tired, hungry girls. The rain kept on coming and when the gas bottle floated out from behind the cooker, dad realised that a) pitching the tent at the bottom of a field was probably not the best idea and b) that it was time to evacuate!

My sister and I were put in the van to try and keep dry, along with two bowls of tinned spaghetti, our makeshift tea. Mum and dad tried to salvage our luggage and bedding and get it back into the van. The rain carried on into the night, until it looked as if the van was going to get bogged down in the mud. At this stage, a family with a caravan pitched higher up the site came over to offer assistance. The teenage sons were offering help to stranded campers and their parents asked if my sister and I wanted to come and sleep in the dry in the caravan - I said yes, but my sister wanted to stay with mum. I repaid this kindness by keeping them awake all night telling them that yetis are really very shy creatures and not at all like the nasty ones on Doctor Who!

Eventually, dad decided that he had to move the car to higher ground - by this time his clothes were soaked and he was dressed only in a towel round his waist. He got in the car and went to put his foot on the clutch, but instead put it into a bowl of cold spaghetti which one of us had failed to eat.

The next morning the rain had passed and the day dawned bright and breezy; amazingly, by mid-day, everything was dry and ordered and dad finally lay down in the tent to get some rest. Just as he dozed off, he was aware of some movement and opened his eyes to see the van rolling downhill towards him...

I had got into the van to get my colouring book and crayons and in doing so had trodden on the handbrake, thus releasing it. Fortunately there was a 5 gallon water carrier lying on the ground and the van rolled into this and to a stop. This is me shortly thereafter, with said colouring book and not a care in the world, least of all having 
nearly killed my father.

I'm guessing from the position of the van parked safely next to the tent in the earlier picture that it was taken after this event. The L-plate was for mum. She was a fine driver - dad used to sit quite happily in the passenger seat while she negotiated the winding Cornish country lanes. Sadly, this competence deserted her in test conditions and she never did get a full licence.

I don't remember what we did for the rest of that holiday. A lot of people would never have gone camping again, but mum and dad continued to do it for another 25 years. Eventually they stopped dividing the holiday between Devon and Cornwall and settled on the tiny but lovely village of Strete, near Dartmouth, where we spent many happy childhood holidays, including the long, hot Summer of 1976, when the campsite threw up dust whenever a car drove in or out and the skyline was dotted with hillfires.

Me in '76: my propensity for stupid hats remained undiminished

And it is here that their ashes are scattered, in a place that meant the world to them - "Who needs foreign holidays" my dad would say, "when you have views like this?"

[It should be noted that they never went abroad, so really didn't have anything to compare "this" to, but I take his point - it's a lovely bit of the country.]

Mindful of these events, though, when we go on holiday we hire a cottage!

Post Script:

The bowls with the cold spaghetti in them? These!

 I found them while clearing the house and brought them home with me to use for gardening. I couldn't just throw them out, could I?


  1. I just lost my father on May 7. I'm currently sorting through endless photos and have yet to dig into the thousands of slides our family amassed over the years. I've found this excellent therapy for my grief as wonderful memories come to mind over and over again. My only obstacle is in trying to identify some of the people in the older images. The only person left to ask is my mom and she's having a difficult time (some grief, naturally, though she and Dad divorced 30 years ago, plus health issues) so I end up feeling a bit of a vulture, waiting for the most opportune time to pounce on her fading memories.

    Your posts here have struck a deep chord for me and I'm grateful to have found you via a link on Twitter.

    Here's hoping we both continue to resurrect beautiful memories and feelings of peace as we sort through the remnants of lives lived many years ago.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I find it blogging about these memories really helps - once the initial grief fades there are just so many good things to recall and getting them down in writing feels like a bit of a recognition for the ordinary people who don't get into the history books.