A Scarborough holiday camp. 1976
The grueling journey came to an end. Finally, his Father’s olive green Consul swept up the gravel road the passengers thrown around inside by potholes outside.
A brightly brushpainted edifice bounced into vision, with an entrance that looked like the hungry jaws of bad taste, and ‘making do’. The trusty Ford, inched and crunched, along a winding avenue lined with pendant flags, denoting absolutely nothing of any significance, apart from the realization that the Langford family, were about to enter the world of “the best that money can buy” in modern self- contained, self- sufficient and ‘self-survival’ holidays.
Sheridan screwed his face up like he was served up a meal of rat snot when he had a enough on his plate. He gaped in utter revulsion.
A gaudy ghetto on stilts, that throbbed with the ‘great unwashed.’ Dregsof society, incubating all kinds of communicable and incurable diseases. Amotley colony, of uneducated cretins huddled together, once a year in a realodyssey of discomfort, amongst the sort of architecture and living conditionsone might experience in Bangladesh after a decade of floods, earthquakes and famine.
He saw a priest, with sideburns, on a pink bicycle coming the otherway. Sheridan mused, ‘What would man of the cloth be doing at the edge of hell? This, this… sheep in wolveclothing, handing out balloons to kids in cars. If anywhere, needed the hand of God this place did.’
A chapel sat right in between a swimming pool and a launderette, to make sure you were washed clean of more than your sins if only to avoid cholera?
Families of pond-life strewn across a wide area, and able to do with each other, whatever it is ‘those types do’ without fear of social services intervening, or a cold bucket of water wouldn’t cure.
“Look, here comes another party of waifs and strays in that horrid green car, let’s turn the other way and hope they don’t frighten the horses” He muttered, just low enough in volume, so his parents could not hear.
“Look they have a boating lake too!” his mother pointed, with the other hand shading her eyes.
(“Yeh…bomb crater with bilge, more like..” he mouthed, with Oscar winning moroseness.)
Sheridan, sat with his head inside his shoulders in a defiant slouch, with one arm folded and a sandwich in his hand. Jostled by the lumps and bumps in the road, he made a point tstick his tongue out at a passing boy. The lad, standing with muddy feet, and muddier swimming trunks, returned the greeting with a well aimed middle finger. Their eyes burnt into eachothers sockets like they too had nothing to lose except, their very soul.
‘Christ’, he thought, ‘we Brits really know how to have a good time, don’t, we?’ Sheridan sniffed to himself, proud of his roots and bourgeois in his thinking. He smugly rose above, the not so privileged. His upbringing was all about ‘being different’. He loved and hated the shizophrenia of ‘standing out’ and
He was supposed to hate all those who were not of his background and that he was better than most. All menials begged and crawled at his feet. They were dross. He was told by his religious peers that he was chosen by God, and to avoid contact with all ‘worldlings’. A tall order, when you are thrown together in an enclosure of cold concrete and rotting sheds, for accommodation jammed with them.
He would have to spend the next week, yes, several lifetimes, in the company of pagan savages. He would be detained in this ghastly resort that reminded him, of a cartoon version of Alcatraz.
Sheridan shuddered with horror at the thought of going back to school. But anything was better than the last week at the holiday at the “Silver Waves” holiday resort. A converted army barracks with red-leaded sniper posts, straddling a blistered sign with bunting pinned to the frame. “The Unforgettable Holiday of a Lifetime for All the Family”, it read, complete with a 10p meter, black tarmac for a beach, and Spag Bog (wet string and brown Windsor soup!) for supper .
It was the last gasp of a sixties, Butlins camp, or self-catering holiday, that had all mystic charm of an improvised ‘death camp’. At least in death camps there was some form of heating and prisoners had a shred of hope to be liberated at the end of the incarceration. The disgruntled boy stood, rubbing his eyes in disbelief, when his parents suggested, to head for the boating lake, as a treat on their last day.
He cast his mind back to when they arrived what seemed an eternity ago but was in fact just one week of mind-numbing nothingness.
It was a matter of time before he soon found himself, shoulder to shoulder, inside a chain linked area, with three hundred or more, travel weary holiday makers, all to be
‘processed’ for their allocated chalet accommodation. Sheridan, knew of only one other thing, that was ‘processed’. It was the Spam sandwich looking at him.
Hammered, into curly white bread, sweating and sneering like a toothless pair of gums with gingivitis. He felt like this stubby sandwich, squashed in his hand. He too, had been through the grinder, more than once, and then compressed without any mercy, into a confined space, only ever to see the light of day again, out of sheer desperation.
The crowd were impatient and irritated. If this was leisure then cryogenics must be one of the organized activities. They were a mixed array. The families who scrimped and saved all year doing jobs they hated, to arrive at this dreary backdrop more appropriate for the postwar NAAFI. This queue shuffled off with the enthusiasm of deserters for the firing squad, to their prefabricated bomb shelters with a list of ‘do’s and don’ts’ slapped in their hands, from the purple blazers wielding clipboards and jabbing their fingers in the air, randomly. These were a special breed of chameleon species, who would be providing our entertainment in the coming holiday schedule. They would sing and dance and arrange competitions until ‘lights out’.
Most of these individuals were underachievers at school and were quite happy to enter their adulthood, continuing to make a fool of themselves on a daily basis, dressing in silly costumes and making those in their custody perform like seals like we actually signed up for it. Then when you are fed up with flat beer and listening to people who have the talent and personality of a paper cup, you are driven back to your shed complete with pre-stained mildew mattress, over-starched sheets and threadbare cottage suite, to cheese and biscuits and Bovril for supper.
With the dawn of your new day Sheridan was awoken after listening to a family of seagulls tap dancing across the corrugated roof squawking like their lives depending on it. His slumber was as satisfying as a being hit by a truck, and a rude blurt from a Tannoy that sputters and squeals, with some chirpy address, promising more of the same torture.
Sheridan expected to be given a slop bucket, and be relieved of his buckled belt, and any sharp instruments.
He imagined arrows to be stitched onto his pajamas. Shot at dawn and thrown intoa mass grave. To add insult to injury he had his sister for a ball and chain that he would have to drag around like some diseased part of his body.
“A complex of the most modern facilities to cater for every family’s dream holiday” it read in the brochure. A shiny pamphlet, picturing an aerial shot, of a disused airfield. A 25ft high
concrete sea defense was the only thing to separate you from civilizatio, sticky mudflats and advanced hyperthermia.
His father had sent away for this ‘cut-price bargain break’ in the Daily Mail, after winning a ‘write in’ competition. He had to think up a slogan for this new resort, to qualify for the holiday discount.
It had to start with, “Silver Waves for….” So, his fathers winning entry read, “Silver Waves For An Ocean of Fun” was the slogan and to Sheridan, clearly contravening the trades description act.” Sheridan, could think of far better and more appropriate catchphrases for a spell in Hades.
“Silver Waves For Difficult Sewage Disposal”
“Silver Waves For Acts of Diminished Responsibility”
“Silver Waves For A Place Lose the Will to live”
“Silver Waves For An absence of Adequate Pest Control”
“Silver Waves For…For…For… Christ’s Sake……
In fact, the flyer was hard evidence in a court of law, when he had saved up enough pocket money to sue. His more accurate brochure would read a little differently.
“Shared canteen, serving boiled to buggery food. Thrown at you, at
intervals, in metal trays, with the consistency of anemic gloop.”
Another true description would be,
“Accommodation smelling of piss,
and a crap reception on the pocketsize T.V, for the whole family”.
“Entertainment, each and every evening, listening, to some mad bint,
butchering a Shirley Bassey classic, to microphone feedback.”
He may not come from wealth or blue-blooded stock, but at least he was not one of these poor, condemned, and lost creatures. He hated ordinary people. They were not the same as he. They certainly seemed to make him feel different to. In the shape, of periodic bullying. He was aware of the gulf between him and the other teenagers. He just wished the other kids did not look down on him, because he was different. He dare not tell his parents how he really felt.