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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Family Summer Holidays- Part 3

As I have mention in the earlier post, my father's yacht was the central reason for the holiday in Frinton-On-Sea. I think the sailing must have been particularly good along that stretch of the Essex coast. The boat he had which was called 'Amaranda' was a Jewel class yacht. It was clinker built, meaning it was made of overlapping lengths of timber made in the traditional manner. He had another yacht built of fibreglass of about the same size and later still a far larger yacht called 'Flashpoint' which was moored in the estuary at Brightlingsea and which was fitted out with a galley and sleeping accommodation , although it was quite cramped. I wasn't so keen on sleeping in that tiny space afore, as I got seasick with the motion of the boat and also some amount of claustrophobia in such a tiny space. This had a tender, a small rowing boat attached which was used to ferry us out to the mooring.  I remember that my Uncle Michael (my mother's brother, now, alas, dead.) was a very good sailor and would take command of "Flashpoint" because I think as Dad got older he found it quite difficult to manage. Dad had bought a small wooden rowing boat from somewhere in Colchester I seem to remember and took some duty as tender and was called 'Midge.' This was quite a basic sailing boat and could be sailed quite well by one person. Mum was good at sailing that alone and I think my brother James sailed that a few times. This was also sailed on the River Ouse near Cardington Mill, as we had a hut there which was used as a base for sailing and summer picnics, but, unfortunately, all of that had been swept aside when the business park was built.
The yacht would be taken down to be parked at the beach on arrival in Frinton. We had to go to the estate agent to get the keys for the house we had rented as well as the beach hut. I know that now it's quite fashionable to rent or own a beach hut at places such as Southwold, Frinton, Bournemouth and other seaside resorts, but when we went it made a very good base on the sea front. Frinton has an excellent beach, very fine sand between breakwaters or 'groynes' and the sea comes in right up to the level of the promenade and so washes the sand clean and makes an  excellent safe place for families with young children to have a holiday. Inside the hut (we had a different one each year, but I believe that they are all basically the same inside) there is an inner and outer area, the back area being lockable with double doors and which makes a good place to change when you go swimming. In that part of the hut there would be a Calor gas ring for boiling water for tea, a set of around six deckchairs, a picnic table and probably one or two other tables. In the front section of the hut there would be a benched area, so you could set up your table here and sit for meals or set up on the promenade at the front of the hut. 
There was a parking space on what was called the Greensward, a long stretch of grass which runs the whole length of the Frinton seafront. There is a slipway which runs down to the promenade and a further one which allows boats to be manhandled onto the beach and then launched. It was quite a strenuous task to haul the boat up and down these slipways, but I think at one point the car was used for this purpose.
As I said in the earlier post, it can't have been much of a holiday for my mother, because we stayed in a rented house in Frinton and this would mean there would still be meals to cook and we children would need to be looked after. Also, my mother and father sailed most days and knowing my father, who wasn't the most patient of men, it must have been quite stressful being a crew member for him. I can remember on several occasions being on board one of his yachts on the River Ouse and he wasn't patient, particularly if you hauled on the wrong sheet (rope) or moved at the wrong moment, as you had to if the boat was tacking into the wind, for example. If you didn't move fast enough you were very likely to be hit on the head very hard by the boom, the wooden 'stay' which kept the bottom of the mainsail fixed to the mast and moved about quite freely if not taken under control with whatever rope you happened to have in your hand and if not you'd get a lot of abuse from my father such as 'get out of the way, you idiot!' or words to that effect.
Quite a few family friends would congregate at the beach hut at Frinton. Not just my uncle Michael and his wife Gemma, but also a couple called Tim and Betty Smith.  They were a really nice couple, but they would argue with one another and would sit and bicker endlessly.  Can't have been much fun for my mother, inviting someone to tea and have to listen to them constantly bickering.
My brother Andrew appeared in 1961. I think after four boys my mother was keen to have a daughter. So it was a bit of a surprise when child number five was yet another boy. The Smiths, on the other hand, had been married for years and no baby appeared, but around a year after Andrew was born their one and only child appeared, called Ian. Funny little kid, bald, not very good looking, to say the least. In fact, possibly the inspiration for Yoda in the 'Star Wars' movies! I shouldn't make such comment, but never mind. Then there were the Boddy family, Ashely and Alison. Again, lovely people, but very noisy. I think Ashley bought my father's first boat, 'Amaranda.' He was another very good sailor. But as I say, whenever this family visited you needed to keep at arms length or wear earplugs as Ashley had/has a very loud laugh and the whole family makes a great deal of noise.
My Great Aunt Liz stayed at the Grand Hotel  which is on the seafront at Frinton and quite an imposing building.  She was one of my father's Scottish relatives, never married and was ancient even when I was a teenager.  She died at the grand old age of 95, in 1965, so almost 50 years ago. She makes me think of Lady Bracknell in "The Importance of Being Ernest." Blind as a bat and just as deaf and with a huge nose, which, thank goodness, I didn't inherit. Imperious, to say the least, and although she wore a hearing aid she never seemed to have it tuned properly so it made that unfortunate whistling noise that hearing aids are prone to. You would find yourself repeating things endlessly if you had a conversation with her, which could make life very difficult. Anyway, she would come down to the beach several afternoons when we were there, but it would mean her being ferried around in cars and taken down to the beach as she couldn't walk far.
Andrew, as I've said, was the youngest of my parent's children. I can't imagine what looking after no less than five children would be like, not just feeding, clothing, birthdays, Christmas and so on. So it's no wonder that my mother needed some sort of help. So Andrew had someone to look after him when he was a baby up until be was around 9-10 I suppose. This lady was Miss Fuller. To this very day I'm not sure of her Christian name. It's odd, but it's true. She had been a seamstress and very good too, and had gone to our neighbour's at Cardington, the Porter's and used to do mending. Somehow or other she was sort of 'head-hunted' by my mother and came to work for us., doing virtually the same thing. I know, it's odd to us today, but people did mend clothes. It's not something that is done now, I should imagine, even with the 'recycling' generation and the need to be 'environmentally friendly.' I imagine this would be a left-over from the days of the Second World War and what followed with Austerity. Anyway, she had one afternoon of mending socks, darning etc and then when Andrew was born she used to take him for walks in his pram. Eventually she came more or less permanently as a sort of nanny, but I don't suppose she would have wanted to be called that. So she came with us when we went on holiday to Frinton. I don't know what the arrangement as regards payment. I suppose she was given something, but I don't know. But I suppose she was getting, in effect, a free holiday. At least it meant my mother got some sort of time to herself as Miss Fuller took virtually complete control of son number five. Things went very well with this arrangement until my grandmother  Ferriman came to Frinton. I'm not sure for certain whether she came for a day or two or whether she stayed with us, but she was another body for my mother to look after.
One afternoon there was something of a cat-fight between Miss Fuller and my grandmother. Don't ask me what it was about. It was in front of everyone on the promenade near the beach hut. My grandmother was going on  about something like who was looking after my brother, and Miss Fuller, who was an extremely strongwilled lady, put her foot down and said that SHE was looking after him. It was like something out of one of those comedies, almost fists flying, fur and feather. 'He's my grandson and I'm in charge of him!' from granny Ferriman and then 'He's my responsibility' from Miss Fuller (or words to that effect.) I'm not sure how it ended, but it must have been very embarassing for my mother. I think it may have been about who could take him for a walk along the promenade or something equally trivial. I know it must have caused no end of entertainment for all and sundry!
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