Long way back to the heyday, high days and holidays set in a world drawn and painted by Donald McGill.
Well; my stick of rock was.
The Cornish artists Peter Lanyon and Alfred Wallis portrayed it too but I didn’t know about them back then.
I’m talking of one of my favourite parts of Britain and indeed of what I’ve seen of the world in my travels. The northern coasts of Devon and Cornwall.
Specifically for the purposes of this piece; Hayle and St Ives Bay in Cornwall.
I first visited there in the late 1950’s with my parents on summer holidays.
Luckily I have a good memory and have always been able to recall those times quite vividly.
Indeed, they’ve informed a lot of my songs over the years.
However, they were brought into sharp relief recently when I discovered this short piece of film via YouTube.
I also loved it that they chose Frank Sinatra’s ’Summer Wind’ as the soundtrack.
Roskear E19 is the little chalet that we stayed in many times.
I was amazed and excited in equal measure to see it.
Apart from the microwave it seems to be the same as it was in the 50’s.
The passage of time between then and now vanished in an instant.
I was born into and brought up in a council house on Norcot Estate, on the edge of Tilehurst and Kentwood in Reading, Berkshire.
My mother was of Berkshire/Hampshire descent while my father hailed from Sligo on the west coast of Ireland.
When I was a small child he was employed by the Great Western Railway as a labourer/carpenter’s mate.
One of his workmates was a man called Joe Chilvers, he married Audrey from the Truen family that are mentioned in the film has having owned Roskear.
As far as I’m aware it was never a ‘Holiday Let’, only for friends and family.
In those days GWR staff and workers were entitled to free rail travel for their families.
We wouldn’t have been able to afford to travel down there from Reading if it hadn’t been for that perk. And my dad would never have called it a perk. He would have named it ‘buckshee’.
The actual journey, by steam train was an unforgettable adventure.
Sometimes we’d travel by day and sometimes overnight.
The nighttime departures seem to stay in my mind more.
For a child who had strict bedtimes being out in the world in the dark night was almost narcotic.
Everything was different; the custard yellow glow of the station platform lamps, the scents/smells of sulphur, nicotine, sometimes fresh paint, cheap perfume of travellers, the steam itself seemed to have a signature in the air, also the fresh fish being transported had their say too.
Sometimes there were stands of wicker baskets full of homing pigeons, waiting to be transported somewhere to be released to wing their way home, softly cooing their nocturnal version of doo wop.
One of our neighbours; a Mr Norgate, a Canadian serviceman who’d married a local girl,
kept homing pigeons at the bottom of his garden which backed onto ours, I grew up with their songs.
Years later, one of my songs contained the line ’The fish train and the coal train sang the South Wales blues’.
Some of the wonders of the clickety clackety, jumping over sleepers were the Permian red sandstone cliffs of Dawlish.
Didn’t have that term in my pocket then though.
It was like looking through the carriage window into a cowboy film, set in the bluffs of Utah.
In the Royal Navy dockyards at Devonport were giant versions of my Dinky Toys battleships.
Crossing the River Tamar at Saltash over the Isambard Kingdom Brunel Royal Albert Bridge
was like a scene from my Eagle comic come alive.
Waking up from a nighttime journey and seeing the china clay deposits rising up as if they were weird pyramids stays with me to this day. Pearlescent ghosts in the early morning light.
Pulling into Redruth station was always a thrill because it meant we were nearly there - Hayle and Roskear E19.
The sandy trails, the sand dunes and Marram grass, Godrevy Lighthouse, Gwithian Sands, The Bucket of Blood pub, the electricity pylons humming, Copperhouse, Phillack, all play in my mind.
Butterfly nets to scour the rock pools for marine treasure.
Hayle viaduct; with it’s huge arches and shadows always fascinated me.Taking the train from Hayle with a change at St Erth for a day at St Ives.
Penzance and Land’s End were fish ’n’ chip excursion days.
Roskear’s front door was a stable door design, the top half was fastened back all day long.
Sometimes local fishermen would knock and offer their days booty for sale, fresh mackerel were often on offer.
A while ago in our local TKMaxx store I found a stash of Cornish Fairings, a lovely crispy ginger flavoured biscuit stacked in a tall, slim round tin.
My Mum loved them and always bought some to take back home to Reading.
I bought some and posted them to her where she lives now in Scotland.
A taste of a time that was perfect and I’m sure that Donald McGill could twist a biscuit into a bikini or at least a more modest bathing costume on a buxom matron, accompanied by a saucy comment.
I’ll now put on my ‘Lionel Bart hat’ and muse upon that thought.
Lionel did mange to turn Jellied Eels, a song he wrote for Joe Brown, into a work of art.