There was another report this week about the rise in the traditional British holiday. Part of this is down to economics – ever since the financial melt down of 2008 people have had less money to spend on overseas holidays – but, apparently, a larger part is down to nostalgia for our old childhood holiday haunts. We’ve done Europe. We’ve done the Far East. We’ve done the Caribbean. Now we want to re-create those magical childhood memories.
As someone who grew up in a British seaside resort in the 60s, this is a subject I know quite a bit about. Bournemouth was one of the Big Two holiday destinations for post-war Britain. As soon as the schools broke up in late July, the town would fill with holidaymakers. To get a good spot on the beach, you’d have to arrive before 8am – or be prepared to walk a mile or two down the beach away from the hotels and bus stops.
And families tended to visit the same resort – often the same B&B – year after year. It was an institution.
Then, in the late sixties, along came the package holiday to Spain and, suddenly, foreign holidays became affordable. The weather was hotter, more reliable and the whole holiday was different. It was an adventure.
In the following years more destinations were added and the prices continued to fall. British resorts declined. Some, like Bournemouth and Brighton, looked abroad to make up the short fall and set up language schools for foreign students to learn English. I did a tourism survey in Bournemouth in 1974 and found the majority of the 16-19 year olds on the beach were foreign students.
Now things are shifting back. A growing number of adults want to recapture the holidays they remember from their youth. Some want to see if everything is still as they remembered, some want to recreate their childhood family experience for their own children. I can see the appeal.
One vivid holiday memory I have is from a week spent in Butlins holiday camp in Minehead when I was nine. There was a place there called the Hawaiian Bar and it had a volcano that erupted every hour on the hour. I’d never seen anything like it. An indoor volcano! That erupts to order!
This was in the mid-sixties so you can imagine the technology would have been pretty basic. But to a nine year-old, who’d never seen anything like it, this was the height of sophistication. In fact everything about the Hawaiian bar was different. It had an indoor stream, a rock pool, and a bar with a thatched roof. And it was always dark. It was like an enormous magical cave. Outside there were clouds and spots of rain; inside there was magic and erupting volcanoes.
Given the choice I think I’d have moved in and would still be there today.
While on the subject of heights of sophistication and nostalgia, I wonder if it’s time to buy shares in Berni Inns? The Berni Inn was the place to go in the late sixties, and seventies. If a working class lad, like me, wanted to really impress a girl, we’d go for a meal at the nearest Berni Inn. They had starters! And not just any starter – it was prawn cocktail! And if you ordered a gammon steak, they’d put a pineapple ring on it! This was beyond the height of sophistication. This was living the dream. And there was Black Forest gateau for afters and you’d be expected to order wine with the meal. You could even have Blue Nun – the wine of choice for all seventies sophisticates – a sweet, fruity liebfraumilch.
Those were the days, my friend.
Chris Dolley is a NY Times bestselling author living in France with a frightening number of animals. His novelette, What Ho, Automaton! was a finalist for the 2012 WSFA Small Press Award for short fiction. More information about his other work can be found on his BVC bookshelf . An Unsafe Pair of Hands – a quirky murder mystery set in rural England charting the descent and rise of a detective on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Which will break first? The case, or DCI Shand? Medium Dead – a fun urban fantasy chronicling the crime fighting adventures of Brenda – a reluctant medium – and Brian – a Vigilante Demon with an impish sense of humour. Think Stephanie Plum with magic and a dash of Carl Hiaasen. What Ho, Automaton! – Wodehouse Steampunk. Follow the adventures of Reggie Worcester, consulting detective, and his gentleman’s personal gentle-automaton, Reeves. It’s set in an alternative 1903 where an augmented Queen Victoria is still on the throne and automata are a common sight below stairs. Humour, Mystery, Aunts and Zeppelins! French Fried – the international bestseller – true crime, animals behaving badly and other people’s misfortunes. Imagine A Year in Provence with Miss Marple and Gerald Durrell. International Kittens of Mystery. If you like a laugh and looking at cute kitten pictures this is the book for you. It’s a glance inside the International Kittens of Mystery – the only organisation on the planet with a plan to deal with a giant ball of wool on a collision course with Earth? Resonance – “This is one of the most original new science fiction books I have ever read. If it is as big a hit as it deserves, it may well be this book which becomes the standard by which SF stories about … are judged.”