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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The way we "holidayed"

There is a piece on the BBC website today about the art of attracting UK holiday makers.

It's interesting how our taste in holidays has changed and indeed what we did. Before the emergence of the car and the cheap air package holidays you went to a "destination resort", its why the likes of Blackpool, Great Yarmouth and Eastbourne grew up. Go to Eastbourne today and you see the number of large and rather grand hotels.

You went to the seaside stayed in an appalling b&b, you were kicked out of your room and were only allowed back for meals. It seems bizarre now but Bill Bryson's description of Mrs Smegma in Notes from a Small Island was true even in the 1970's.

The thing was you spent all of your week in the town, wandering along the promenade, listening to band concerts at the band stand. You would hire a deck chair for the day. Some people still do it today.

The other thing you did was go to a holiday camp.

Of course the emergence of the car and especially the package holiday destroyed many of these resorts and few (if any?) are thriving today. Some are incredibly tatty (newquay) others have a sort of gentility (Eastbourne). Today the holiday camps seem to be places to go to get drunk, some like Warners have reinvented themselves as ADULT ONLY. Not adult content just no kids.

The other thing that destroyed some resorts were the Beeching Act (reform of the railways) of the 1960's - for instance many Devon & Cornwall seaside towns lost their station and many tourists.

I have done a few of these holidays when I was a lad. I've stayed in some tatty guest houses where the food was truly awful, and I've been to Warners at Corton (when it was a proper holiday camp) and Pontins Camber Sands.

We went to Corton quite a lot when I was very young. I remember it with affection (because it had loads of US comics) but when I returned I thought it was a dump.

Another mainstay of the British Seaside holiday was the end of the pier show or the seaside theatre. Some very famous TV acts did the seaside circuit. When I was about 6 we saw Mike & Bernie Winters (who at the time were huge) and I got their autograph.

The shows still go on but I guess the stars are less stellar these days.

I'm not certain when we stopped going to these types of holiday. I guess we became better off and did other things.

You will notice I seldom stay in seaside towns but I do like the odd trip to the likes of Eastbourne for the nostalgia

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