Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Holiday Camp - Part 3

These three badges appeared in the early 1970s. You'll notice there's one with me on it saying "I'M A NON SMOKER". Well, I was representin' Esso Blue, the product - an' really I was sayin' IT didn't smoke. Me personally - I smoked like a trooper. A lot of us did back then. Nowadays, of course, people start creatin' if you so much as puff one o' them electronic ciggie thingies. People love 'avin' a reason to moan at other people. I stopped smokin' in 1998 coz me chest and me wallet weren't up to it any more.

Splat! Auntie Doreen chucked her bitter lemon in my face.

Well, I'd been sittin' there at the table in the Silver Sands Holiday Camp club room, fag on, chin cupped in my 'and, thinkin' back on the first day at the camp.

It 'adn't been good.

Firstly, I was troubled by the Missus.

She'd stayed at 'ome, if you remember rightly, coz her sister were ill.

But it seemed, accordin' to Auntie Doreen, that Florrie wasn't ill at all really. She'd seen 'er comin' out of the Washer Rama, right as ninepence.

So, the Missus 'ad lied to me to get out of comin' to Caister.

Leavin' me to cope with Auntie Doreen alone. And my singing spots at the Silver Sands club room.

Me and the Missus 'ave never 'ad the most excitin' of marriages - she sometimes sez it lacks "glamour" and wants sun loungers and stuff like that, but we've always been close. Never lied to one another.

Until now.

I felt a bit shattered by it.

I 'adn't 'ad time to tell the Missus I knew what her little game was before I left home, coz the neighbours 'ad organised a little send-off - all out on the pavement - singin' "He'll be comin' round the mountain when he comes", as me and Auntie got in the shop van and set off.

It were nice of 'em, but a bit odd coz Norfolk's not got anythin' like a mountain.

It was a long journey. Auntie kept wantin' a cup of tea. So we'd stopped an' she'd 'ave one. Then we'd start off again and she'd want the toilet. It were like that all the way.

The camp were nice - 'ad a shop, off-licence, the club room. Right near the beach - just over the dunes. The caravan were OK, too. Well, Auntie didn't like the fact that the seating, which was black plastic covering yellow foam, was showing signs of wear (that's 'ow we knew about the yellow foam, coz the plastic had flaked off or ripped in places and the foam was bulgin out).

The first thing Auntie did was to fish 'er Michelin Man ashtray out of 'er 'andbag. "I couldn't settle anywhere wi'out it," she said, lighting a Senior Service.

The beach were lovely. Beautifully sandy. The sea was a bit brass monkeys, but OK for short paddles. If you didn't mind yer feet goin' blue.

Auntie Doreen struck up a bit of a friendship with a bloke called Percy on the beach on our first mornin' at Silver Sands.

He was stayin' in a caravan on the site with his daughter and son-in-law and their two kids, Tracy and Gary.

"They all take me for granted," he moaned to Auntie. "Do this, do that! Change your trousers! Put that pipe out! Take that vest off, it wants washing!'"

The one he was wearin' that mornin' certainly did. It looked ready to walk off  'is back.

"Well, when I were a lass, we respected our elders," said Auntie. "My old grandad used to stink to 'igh 'eaven at times after me grandma died, but we'd never've dared tell 'im to change 'is kecks."

Well, Auntie took Percy under 'er wing.

"We're about the same age, lad. And I always think us old 'uns should stick together. Young people nowadays are too full of themselves by half. Fancy them bossin' you about! Now, go and change that vest and you can buy me a cup of tea."

I was dreadin' doing me turn at the club room, but the time soon came round.

It's always the same, time flies - when you don't want it to.

As I stood there on the stage, knees-a-knockin', I 'eard a woman in the front row say: "Look at that! An' I always thought 'e was a cartoon character!"

"Well, you didn't often see men as ugly as that in real life, Shirley!" said the woman next to 'er. "Poor little beggar!"

The camp comic and presenter bounded on to the stage. He was called Happy Harold Henson, and was a little man with an 'airpiece an' a gold lamé suit. I looked out into the audience through the fag smoke. I could see Tracy and Gary, pickin' their noses, Percy having a doze, and Auntie Doreen - looking more sour than the bitter lemon she were drinkin'.


"Here you are then!" he sort of cooed at me. "Just down from the land of whippets, hairnets and corner shops! Bit of a culture shock, civilisation, eh, my friend?"

I frowned. This view of the North is not summat I've ever liked, and it falls far from the mark. All right, I ran a corner shop, several women in my neighbourhood wore hairnets and two blokes in my street kept whippets, but it wasn't the whole story, not by a long chalk. I wanted to come back at him strong, but I could only manage: "Eh?"

"Going to entertain us with a few homely little ditties, are you?" Happy Harold went on.

Well, patronising wasn't the word for it! I gathered myself together and let rip: "Eh?"

Auntie Doreen came to my rescue. She stood up and let Happy Harold have it good and proper.

"Shut yer trap, lad. Yer nowt more than a cut-price Hughie Green. Let Joe get on with it. 'e may not be up ter much, but at least 'e's a trier."

The audience was on Auntie's side, because they applauded 'er. They obviously found Happy Harold hard to stomach as well.

After that, things didn't go too bad. I'd bought me grandad's ukele and gave them Mr Wu's A Winder Cleaner Now, and then, accompanied by the camp pianist Anthony, I belted out Tears for Souvenirs, the Esso Blue version of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Bimbo, How Much Is That Doggy In The Window? and Paint It Black.

The audience seemed to be on my side and I got a bit of applause as I left the stage and joined Auntie. A young woman in a very small blouse was the next turn and she started singin' I Never Promised You A Rose Garden. She bobbed about on stage as she sang, and Auntie said: "She'll be fallin' right out of that top if she's not careful. Disgustin' little 'ussy!"

I drank three pints and 'ad a couple of fags. I'd  'ad a short before I did my turn, and the beer made me feel a bit woozy.

I felt right down.

I puffed on me fag. cupped me chin in me 'and, and thought of the terrible time I was 'avin' and of the Missus.

'Ow could she? 'Ow could she?

I suddenly smelt an appetising smell. I realised I was starvin'. Alcohol always gives me the munchies.

"Is somebody doin' toast?" I asked.

Auntie looked at me - and splat! - chucked her bitter lemon in my face.

"No, yer crate egg! Yer 'air's smoulderin'! You were setting it alight with yer fag!"

Not a good idea, cuppin' your chin in yer 'and when you're 'oldin' a fag.

I sat there, spluttering and drippin'.

And this was only the first day.

Off out to the allotment now. See yer soon.

JOE x 
An old Esso Blue receipt. A non-smoker! If only I 'ad been! Lookin' back, I don't quite understand why the non-smokin' bit was so important when it came to Esso Blue paraffin. You could've kippered yerself on the fag smoke in most people's 'ouses anyway - a bit of paraffin smoke would've probably gone unnoticed!

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