Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Holiday Camp - Part 1

In 1971, my flexi-disc record for the Esso Blue campaign was released. The Great Blue Singer!

They asked me how I knew it was Esso Blue

I of course replies

With lower grades one buys

Smoke gets in your eyes

The flexi-disc ended with the "Boom Boom Boom Boom - Esso Blue!" jingle, which I'd grown right fond of, and was always featured at the end of the ads.

I was as pleased as punch with the record. And I thought I sounded quite good.

Wilf, my manager, thought it might lead to more singin' work. I was keen and started to plan my debut single in my own right.

One day, Wilf phoned the shop and said: "Get down 'ere, lad, I've got summat for yer!"

"A record deal?" I asked, heart pattering away ten to the dozen.

"No, live singin'," said Wilf. "Come over an' I'll fill yer in!"

I went to 'is office, in the "better part of Salford", as my Missus called it, and he puffed on a Slim Panatella and said:

"I've got yer a week's work, lad, at the Silver Sands Caravan Camp in Caister."

"Where's Caister?" sez I.

"Norfolk," sez Wilf.

"Oooh, 'eck, that's miles away."

"Want fame, must travel," said Wilf. "Now, yer get a three berth caravan with black and white telly thrown in, there's a laundrette on site, and you'll be doin' a nightly spot at the clubhouse. Bit of singin', few jokes, that sort of thing."

"I were thinkin' of doin' Crying In The Chapel - the Elvis number for my first single," I said. "I reckon I could make a right good job of that live on stage."

"No, wi' your looks and voice you'd be better off doin' George Formby, that sort of thing," said Wilf - which I thought was a damn cheek coz I wasn't that bad looking back then and he was a little baldy weasle of a bloke with no shoulders to speak of.

When I got 'ome, I told the Missus. "Well... Norfolk..." she said. "I've always wanted to travel, of course, but I don't fancy a caravan camp. You know I like a nice little guest 'ouse or 'otel. You get a lot of condensation in caravans."

She wasn't keen. Wasn't keen at all, particularly when she found out it clashed with the opening of the new Astoria Bingo Hall in Victoria Street.

"I were so lookin' forward to it. Everybody who's anybody round 'ere's goin'. Oh, Joe, what a nuisance!"

"I'm sorry, love," I said - feeling a bit crestfallen, truth to tell. "Will your Florrie look after't shop?"

"Oh aye," said the Missus, with a sigh. "We can't afford to close for a week, that's a fact. If our regulars get used to walkin' to the Pick-A-Snip or Fine Fair they'll not be back coz both are cheaper than us."

Well, word got out in the family. They all reckoned I was a lucky blighter, and when I went to see Auntie Doreen, she was sat there as usual with her Senior Service an' her Michelin Man ashtray. "I've 'eard yer news," she croaked. "Eee, y'are a lucky lad. I've been that poorly. Doctor says a touch of sea air'd do me the power of good, but I can't run to that. Eee, our Joe, you should be right thankful them Esso people were daft enough to take you on. Some folk are lucky, some aren't..."

Well, I'm not daft - I knew she were 'intin', but I wasn't keen. It's true the caravan could sleep three, but I didn't want Auntie there.

I went to my Missus and she sighed and said: "It's no good, Joe. You'll 'ave to ask 'er. We'll never 'ear the last of it if you don't!"

"BUT..." I started.

"No, go on, lad," said my Missus. "Get back round there and get the deed done. It's the only decent thing to do."

Well, I thought this were right big of my Missus - she wasn't keen on the idea of a caravan site anyway, and with Auntie Doreen on top of that... well, I thought my Missus was a little marvel.

I went back to Auntie's. She weren't on't settee.

I 'eard 'er voice, floating down the staiirs, all weak-like.

"Is that you, our Joe? Come up, lad, come up."

I went up and she was in bed, curtains drawn though it was daylight, one hand laying all weak looking on the candlewick, the other stubbing out 'er Senior Service in 'er Michelin Man ashtray.

"Eee, our Joe, I do feel terrible," she said. "I wish our Beryl were here."

Beryl was Auntie's daughter. She'd run off to Australia and married a sheep farmer.

"Well, I 'ave good news for you, Auntie," said I.

"What is it, lad?" asked Auntie, her eyelids fluttering weakly open.

"You're to come to't seaside with us," I said. "It's all sorted out..."

Auntie stopped dying and started being Action Woman. It were amazin'. She sprang out of that bed, and at first I thought she was having some sort of convulsion, but no, she grabbed her jotter and ripped off the first sheet of paper. "That's a note for Sylvie to tell 'er I won't be able to make bingo next Wednesday," she said. "Pop it through 'er door on your way past, there's a good lad. And don't tell your Auntie Gladys I'm comin' with yer - I want the pleasure of seein' the look on 'er face meself! This'll sicken 'er chops!"

Although Auntie Doreen and Auntie Gladys were sisters, they never got on.

I went down the stairs, leaving Auntie packing. Now, you might think I'm daft, but it hadn't escaped my notice that Auntie had her note for Sylvie all ready before I told her she could come to Caister with us. But I didn't say anythin'. Not that I was scared of Auntie, of course.

But sometimes, in fact quite often with Auntie Doreen, it was best to keep your lip buttoned.

When I got 'ome, the Missus had just finished packing my suitcase.

"Not done yours yet?" I asked.

"I'll do it in't mornin'," she said. "I'm tired tonight. Now, eat yer tea and we'll have an hour in the Foundryman's before bed."

And a miserable hour it was for me.

"Eee, lad, a free 'oliday and gettin' paid for it?" said my pal Bert Pickering. "You're a luck devil!"

"Yeah, I know," I sighed.

The Missus was putting on a bright face - in fact she seemed quite cheerful.

But I was convinced we were in for a week steeped in grot.

I felt a real sense of forebodin'...

More soon,


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