Bright eyed and bushy-tailed I awake to the new day. Clearly Bournemouth hasn’t received the message that it is Summer. We have been told of hot, steamy and balmy days in the sun here recently, but there is no evidence of it. Perhaps the world’s weather is changing. When I was a boy I remember long hot summers. They were almost guaranteed. Now it seems to be a bit of a lotto. During the breaks from my incarceration at school I would help my “honorary” uncle Donald with the boats on Bournemouth beach. He had a site almost level with the East Cliff Zig Zag near the cliff lifts. The lifts are closed now due to land slippage, but they hope to open next year. Don lived next door with his younger brother James and their parents auntie Alice and uncle Max. Salt of the earth people who were Canadians. Everything about them was big. They were big, their fridge was big and Max was loud. In fact Max was very loud. One of the loudest things he did every day as he came through the back gate towards the front gate was to reach into the depths of his respiratory passage making a noise like an elephant and then spit the large piece of phlegm from his mouth as if in an olympic event. A real character who rode a motorbike. Unfortunately he was involved in a very bad accident which gave him a permanent limp, but also with the compensation allowed him to buy a brand new Austin 1100 that he drove as if fueled by kangaroo petrol. I can’t remember much about Max other than his political incorrectness and that fact on one occasion he had to go to hospital to get a cylindrical Hoover delicately removed from his manhood.
The house smelt of staleness and cooked fish. Dear auntie Alice didn’t have cleaning as her top priority. My sister Kim wouldn’t even go into the house. They had an open coal fire and the ceilings were black. As large and unkempt as Alice was, she was also the sweetest person on earth. In her largeness she was delicate as an artist and her speciality was still life. Flowers in vases … that sort of thing. I would go up to the shops for her to earn a few pence commission. Mostly to the fish shop on Wimborne Road in Winton to buy giblets for her cats. Those were the days when the fish monger was part of the social network, before the supermarkets started to take over.
I remember that her fridge was stacked with big colourful bottles of Corona, a fizzy drink that was popular in the UK. So much was consumed at the time that it would be delivered by the crate. The Corona man would drive around in a big flatbed truck going from house to house. Much like the milkman. It was a sense of summer.
So where was I? Don. Well Don had a huge shed at the back of the garden where he built rowing boats. He built them for a funny little man called Mr Bennett who rode around on a moped. Don would spend the winter with his electric saw screeching and then in the summer he would operate a boat hire business down on the beach. This included fibreglass floats which he also built in his shed.
Throughout the summer I would get up bright and early. Don would load up his old Bedford van which didn’t have a front passenger seat, so I sat on a plank that kept sliding every time he braked or turned a corner. Once at the beach the first job was to untie the boats and floats that had been neatly arranged and covered the evening before. We would line them up ready for customers. The highlight of the day was then breakfast. Out came the little Campus stove. Eggs, bacon and a mug of tea. Combined with the fresh sea air and the morning sand they were the best breakfasts ever. Looking back it is a reminder that these small things are the treasures of life and pale into insignificance the distorted amount of money I have spent on vogue restaurant meals since those days. God bless you Don!
Anyway, I spent the day pushing boats out and pulling them back onto the sandy shore once the tourists had their fun. Don had another little helper who I think was a relative of Mr Bennet. He wasn’t much older than me, maybe 1 year older or something. He could handle a boat though despite the fact he looked like an overgrown ant. We often got young couples hiring the boats. The girls all dramatic and squealing as they attempted to step into the rocking boat. The boys would be all bravado as they muscled into the oars like Lord Nelson on a campaign. But the current along the Bournemouth shore is quite strong. One time it took hold and clearly one of the guys was struggling. The current was taking him further and further away. Eventually Don sent his little helper to rescue Mr Muscles and his fair lady. It was funny to see them at the back of the boat being rowed be this tiny little boy.
Today is a day of conflicting activity. I have to go to Moss Bros to hire a suit for a wedding and then attend my aunts funeral. This could be an idea for a movie! My nephew Richard is getting married at the end of June and it is a top hat and tails affair … without the top hat on good advice from Guy, my brother-in-law. The basis for this decision is that it is rarely worn and will save having to carry the thing around with us. I suspect though, I will be thinking there is something missing. After a few drinks I will probably be searching for the top hat I never had, wondering where I left it.
I thought that I may need an appointment for a fitting so when in Spain I emailed Head office to ask if I needed to. They sent back a reply with the opening hours so I just turned up. But the young lady was flustered because I did have to make an appointment and I was irritated because I now had to return tomorrow. I wasn’t happy about that. Not good enough and made a bit of a fuss. But later, just out of curiosity I looked back on my emails to reinforce my argument only to discover that in fact they did recommend I phone to make an appointment. Bugger! I clearly had a junior moment!
Until next time 🌏