When I was a kid, we didn’t have holidays. There was no car, no money, and my father had long since disappeared with his debts and booze.
What we did have was a once-a-year day trip to one of the nearest seaside towns. In our case this would invariably be either Scarborough or Bridlington on the Yorkshire coast. These trips would be organised by the local Working Men’s Club where my aunt and uncle were members. Working Men’s Clubs were (and probably still are for all I know) strange places. It was very rare we went but what I remember was the ‘turn’ (usually a middle-aged man with brushed drums and a middle-aged woman on a keyboard). They’d play a few pieces that loosely had some kind of melody, and then it would all stop for bingo. And, weirdly, at the end of the night a man would appear with a pallet on his shoulder and offer people fish. So the night would end with the smell of beer, cigarettes and haddock. But this was the price to be paid for the ‘club trip’.
Bundled onto a coach with the aroma of disinfectant, we’d hit the road to the coast, invariably stopping on the way for someone who needed the toilet or to vomit
Looking back, these trips were terrible, but along with Christmas and birthdays, they were the highlight of the year.
I still go to these towns today. In many ways these places have changed very little. Parents and children still amble from one end of the seafront to the other, stopping at the amusements, ice cream stalls and cafes (the ‘pensioners’ special still seems to be fish, chips, mushy peas, a slice of bread and a cup of tea).
The photographs I take in these towns now are very similar to those I took when I first started in photography. Perhaps that’s the appeal, the familiarity, the nostalgia. Of course, these towns are no longer the once-a-year treat, just a quick trip in the car to the same cafes with their pensioner specials and the same amusement arcades.
Familiarity breeds contempt, and these places have largely lost their ‘special’ attraction and have seen a similar decline to the former industrial towns.
That’s the thing with nostalgia, though. It’s not a longing for better days. It’s more a fond remembrance of when we had less but needed less.