What is your first memory? I think mine is my first holiday by the sea. I was 3 years old, there was a world war taking place and my father and most men of his generation were away “doing their bit”

My mother had been very ill the previous winter with pneumonia and, although we had all spent a month afterwards with my aunt in the country, she still hadn’t really returned to full health. Great Aunt Clara, who had taken on the role left by the death of her younger sister (my grandmother) decreed that we all needed sea air, so two small bungalows had been rented for a month at Mablethorpe on the East coast.

All our main luggage had been sent on ahead by carrier, (bedlinen, hoarded food, cricket bat, buckets and spades etc.) We travelled by train which was a great adventure to me anyway. Aunt Clara sat in one corner. She was a small very upright Victorian lady, with firm views on how children should be brought up, with a soft heart hidden under a stern exterior. She must have been at least 80 years old. She always carried an umbrella and a voluminous handbag which was like a treasure trove and contained everything you might need from sticky plasters to safety pins and she always (even in wartime) had a bag of mint imperials. She had “gone into black” when she was widowed many years before I was born and I don’t think I ever saw her  in any other colour or without her little black toque perched on her head.

Also in that carriage were my brother, mother, Aunty Annie, her husband Tom, cousin Joan who was about 17 and her friend Rosy.

The sandhills were mined and ringed with barbed  wire to keep everyone out, so access to the beach was via two entrance roads, but despite this we spent most of the days on the beach. Aunt Clara and her family lived in one of the bungalows and we were in the other and were joined,from time to time by other relatives and friends who came over from the Midlands for a few days at a time. I remember gazing at the sea in the hopes of seeing my father’s ship and would not believe it when they told me that it was the wrong side of Britain as he was on Atlantic Convoys. As far as I was concerned the sea was the sea and either my father or Hitler were likely to arrive!

When we were waiting at the station for our train home I became very agitated when I realised that my bucket had been left behind, as I was firmly convinced that Hitler would invade via Mablethorpe and he would steal my bucket!

Aunt Clara assured me that he would never dare to set foot in England and that he had his own bucket anyway!

For the next eight years we went to Mablethorpe on a family holiday, the family growing each year as first the service men managed to get leave for part of it and then were demobbed and with us permanently.

The mines and barbed wire were removed from the sandhills, which then became part of our playground and everything became easier. Those simple holidays were amongst the happiest memories I hold.

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