Summer used to be such an exciting time. As a child in the north east of England, it meant day trips by steam train to ‘the coast’. This was usually South Shields where the sand dunes seemed to go on forever. In my memory it was often raining there but my wonderful dad would ameliorate the conditions by explaining that it was just ‘sea mist’. So, we would sit huddled under umbrellas on the sands eating soggy, sandy sandwiches. But if, by chance the weather was good, these days out were glorious.
On very special days, when my mum and dad had some extra money, we would take the steam train to Whitley Bay. That was a real treat. There was the exotic Spanish City, which was a fairground paradise. here you could be scared witless on the ghost train, or, transported by joy on the magical carousel.
If you were very lucky you could throw balls at coconuts and win a goldfish. This involved buying a bowl and fish-food, then carrying the poor fish around all day. But, if it survived, and they usually did, they would live happily on our dining table for years.
Leaving the Spanish City was a wrench but we would then walk along the sands to Tynemouth to play on the ruins of the ancient castle and priory. Or, if the tide was out we would walk to St Mary’s lighthouse and watch the cormorants sunning themselves, with outstretched wings, on the rocks.
As a child I would often look longingly across the beach road in Tynemouth (literally where the magnificent river Tyne goes out into the North Sea), to the fish and chip cafe on the other side. This was a take-away downstairs with an eat-in cafe upstairs. It had large windows so that diners could enjoy the fabulous views. But as a little child those windows served to show me how rich people lived! Looking longingly at them I determined that when I grew up I would work very hard and earn enough money so that I could sit upstairs in that cafe and enjoy fish n chips with bread n butter and a nice cup of tea. Such ambition!
I have to say over the years I moved far away from the north east. But, I did get a good job in education and one day I went back to the north sea coast and I visited the same fish and chip cafe. It was a surreal experience walking up those stairs. I sat at the big window table and I ate my fish and chips with bread and butter and a nice cup of tea. It was absolutely mouth-wateringly good and fully justified the half-century wait. But the best bit was looking out of that window to the spectacular view and seeing other children who no doubt had their own dreams.
I hope they all achieve them.