You know how we talk about the “holiday of a lifetime”? Well, sometimes it’s not the one you think it’s going to be.
This week I unearthed yet another diary retrieved from the Lofty Treasures. As soon as I saw the front cover, decorated with a postcard of a Welsh dragon and with the inscription “Cymru am Byth” my mind (and my heart) flew back to the summer
of 1977 and our joint family holiday in Wales with my Little Sister, her fella and her brood. I couldn’t wait to pay a return visit, albeit from my living room.
The diary is divided into four sections. The main section is titled “Jaqui’s Story” while each of the stories in the following three sections was written by one of the three Darling Daughters. There is no story from My Boy who was
only four years old at the time - but he does appear in several of the photographs which complete the book. I had forgotten just what poor quality photographs from Way Back Then were; I so wish they could be enhanced so that I could obtain a clearer image
of the smiles on the children’s faces on the beach, on the visit to the leisure park, on the rocks leading to Lydstep Caverns.
The Eldest of the Darling
Daughters has written a very comprehensive report, her title page artistically decorated with pictures of boats, dinghies, a passable representation of a caravan, children building sand castles and a cricket scene with stumps, bat and ball. “I agree
with Mummy, I think this has been one of the most lovely holidays ever,” her story begins. The Middle of the Darling Daughters agrees: “Our holiday was the best holiday that we had ever been on” she declares, breathlessly, before going on
to describe in detail her own personal holiday highlight. That was her first ever ride on a horse - a liver chestnut named Merrylegs. Apparently it was a dull day “but that didn’t worry me..” She has drawn a picture of a rather chunky looking
Merrylegs on her title page, along with an approximate map of Caldey Island and the obligatory bucket and spade drawing.
The Youngest of the Darling Daughters
hasn’t decorated her title page but has listed in great detail the purchases she chose from various gift shops and camp stores. These included a badge of Caldey Island and one with two parrots on it, plus a little shell man and a Welsh doll. Her father
apparently bought her small brother a fisherman (called Peter) for his hat which he promptly lost. Hat and fisherman both. I cannot remember the drama but I am sure it was intense.
It’s so good to read my own entries and to realise just how much I have remembered of that holiday - far more than of many more far-flung and exotic holiday destinations. There was the day the menfolk went fishing leaving my Little Sister and
I with all seven children to amuse. Up on the hills above the town we came across a photographer called Otto who was taking pictures to illustrate a book he was writing on how to play chess. Lots of local children had been roped in to play the parts of the
various chess pieces - and before you could say “check-mate” first the Y of the DD and then my sister’s daughter, Debbie, had been called into action.
I am chuckling with the memory of how Debs, like Clive Dunn in Dad’s Army, was always a couple of seconds behind all the other children when instructed to move from one square to another - so in the end Otto had to tell the youngsters to count
to two before jumping in order to synchronise the action. My sister and I have tried unsuccessfully for years to find the book on chess in which our daughters took centre stage.
On every page, another memory. The Caverns at Lydstep Head, only accessible when the tide was out (someone didn’t read her guide book properly so we had to pay a second visit.) The special day out at Manor House Leisure Park (it cost us a total
of £4.65 for the whole day, I had noted, gratefully.) The day trip to the mysterious-looking Caldey Island, home to a Cistercian order of monks - “Caldey Island was very interesting with one or two views of a monk,” my eldest daughter recorded
in her story. Stackpole Quay and beautiful Barafundle Bay, owned by the National Trust and therefore unspoiled.
My Little Sister wants me to read excerpts
to her when we have our next FaceTime session. That will be my pleasure - and will almost certainly lead to many more happy “I remember that!” moments.
As the Eldest of the Darling Daughters wrote, prophetically: “This book will always make us remember our holiday to Wales in 1977.”
so it has...