In a second picture I am posing on a bench at one end of the garden with my mother, our dog, Dinky, and our cat, Chippy. Again the weather looks good, but once again I have a shirt, a tie and a pullover. Dinky, who was a lovely dog, was given that name because when we took him home he was at first a little shy, and the first time he made any significant movement was when he put his paw out to stop a toy car one of my brother’s was playing with, the toy car was manufactured by the company Dinky, and so that became his name.
I don’t remember how Chippy got her name, but I do have a clear picture of her death in my mind. I had been to the cinema with my parents and we arrived home at night to find her dead, lying on the settee in the living room, curled up on a red cardigan belonging to my mother. There are so many things that have happened during my life which I don’t remember, or that the memories are extremely foggy, but that image of her on the sofa is as clear now as it was then.
So where is all this nostalgia taking us? Well there is another picture on the wall of me on a beach, I think it’s either Lavernock or Cold Knap, but I’m not sure, however, it reminds me of the trips we used to take to a sandy beach not far from Cardiff, and just around the coast from Lavernock called Barry Island.
Barry Island or Ynys y Barri as it is known in Welsh, ceased to be an Island in the 1880’s mainly due to the construction and opening of the docks when it became linked to the mainland town of Barry. The town is named after Saint Baruc, a sixth century Saint.
I remember Barry Island as a really fun place for a young kid to go. We would go for the day, either by train or by car, and pack a picnic to have on the beach, with a flask of tea, maybe some pop, which has now changed its name to a soft drink or soda, sandwiches which - as if by magic - invariably attracted sand and thus became extremely gritty, and possibly Welsh cakes, sausage rolls, rock cakes or bara brith.
The picnic things were accompanied by a bucket and spade, towels, bathing costume and sun block. As I remember, Barry Island had a typical British seaside feel to it, with shops on the promenade selling kiss me quick hats, saucy postcards and all the beach paraphernalia any young child could hope for, such as buckets and spades of all sizes, colours and shapes, inflatable rings, boats and beach balls, and various games deemed suitable for the beach, but invariably with a bat and ball of some shape and size.
Without fail I would amuse myself for some time building sand castles with walls, battlements and turrets with flags, bought from the shops, stuck on the top. The castles also had moats and channels leading to the sea so the incoming tide would gradually fill the moat. The incoming tide not only filled the moat but invariably destroyed the entire castle, but it was fun being creative. Barry Island actually has the second highest tidal range in the world at 15 metres.
I don’t remember doing it, but partially burying people under the sand used to be, and probably still is a common sight on beaches, as is playing with the large inflatable beach balls which very rarely go exactly in the direction intended due to their light weight and the sea breeze, but that unpredictability makes it even more fun.
There used to be a Butlins holiday camp on the cliffs at one end of the bay, which was a place where parents could take their kids for an all inclusive holiday, and where the children were kept entertained by the Butlin’s staff, imaginatively called Redcoats, because of the red coats they wore. As far as I can remember there were programmed events to keep the adults out of mischief too, especially in the evenings once the youngsters were asleep and the adults could let their hair down.
I went to a Butlins Holiday camp at least once with my mother for one or possibly two weeks. I don’t remember much about it though, which suggests I wasn’t that enthralled with the experience, though one memory I do have is that it was at a Butlins that I first rode, and fell off a horse.
I remember the fun fair at Barry Island, which still exists, though I’m sure has changed a lot since I was a child. Of the funfair I remember, the coconut shies, the little metal yellow ducks that passed along a track and which you had to try and shoot with a pellet rifle, the various games using darts, the carousels with their ponies, the dodgems where you drove a car and tried to dodge the other cars or more often than not, smash into as many other cars as possible. Then there were the penny arcades which would quite easily rid you of all your lose change, as you would sometimes win but over time invariably lose. To eat there was always candy floss, and delicious toffee apples, both sold on wooden sticks.
There was also a ride called the Log Flume which I believe is still there and consists of boats in the shape of logs which are dragged up to the top of the ride and then let lose in a current of water which weaves its way around a circuit and then finally goes over the edge and hurtles down to a small pond at the bottom sending water splashing into the faces of the passengers.
I remember there was a ride my father used to go on which relied on centrifugal force. The participants would all stand against a wooden circular wall, then it would start to spin, faster and faster, and then the floor would drop down and everybody would be stuck to the wall. Those watching were above the wall and could look down inside, which is where I preferred to be.
When I look back, those days out always seemed so carefree and endless, but invariably ended in some part of the body being sunburnt, pink and painful the next day.
Barry Island has obviously changed since those days but it’s still a popular beach resort and I’m sure the visitors still have as much fun these days as I did then.
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