Lyme memories

Sep 4th, 2008 | By | Category: Personal Columns

Lyme Regis has got much closer than it was forty years ago.

My dad and I went there for breakfast in Lyme Regis on 16th August – eggs, sausages, rashers – the full works, along with tea in big mugs.

I was eight in 1969 when I first remember going to Lyme Regis. It was a wet day in August, (there seem to have been a lot of wet days in my memory), an uncle and aunt took me out for the day. Wrapped up against the wind and the rain we walked the Cobb and visited the aquarium and sat in the car park and ate Cornish pasties.

Lyme Regis was always a place apart when I was young. It was only an evening’s drive from our house, but to me it was a different world.

Visits to Lyme were confined to day trips until 1971, our first family holiday. We rented a caravan for the week, it cost us £15. I don’t remember really doing very much during that holiday. There were lots of walks down around the harbour; watching the solitary trawler coming in each evening (was she called ‘Barbarella’, or is that a fanciful piece of imagination?); and I read a book called ‘The Otterbury Incident’. Thirty years later I tried to interest my son in the same book, he looked at it with disdain, it hadn’t the sophistication of our contemporary writers.

I was almost a teenager in September 1973 when we moved upmarket and rented a chalet close to the bowling green for a week. It was £20, a big hike from the £15 paid for a caravan. It had full en suite facilities and was much closer to the town. I remember the precise location because we had a dog that was unruly in its behaviour, which was fine at home, but it escaped from our clutches and did a few circuits of the billiard table-like surface of the bowling green before being recaptured.

Memories of that week remain vivid. James Bond’s ‘Live and Let Die’ was on at the cinema – I still think of Lyme Regis when I see the scene with the double decker bus going under the low bridge. The pocket money ran to a couple of trips out on the mackerel boats, trolling for whatever one could catch with hand lines. Was it 25p for a 45 minute trip in those days? Most of the holiday was spent doing simple things. I fished with a friend in the harbour, using limpets on lines to catch crabs that we threw back into the water and casting spinners into deeper water in the hope of something bigger.

I was allowed to go to the amusement arcade each day, but only as long as my pennies lasted. There was a horse racing game in the arcade on which you could bet pennies; it was mechanical and not very sophisticated, even a young boy could work out how often particular horses won and prolong his stay in the arcade until mid-morning. There was even a moment that I have never had a chance to repeat anywhere of playing a few ends of bowls at the green. The man in charge closely inspected our shoes to ensure that our rubber soled basketball boots would have no detrimental effect upon his turf.

Lyme Regis was a special place for me, but it would never have impressed school friends who went off to much more exotic destinations. It held a place in my heart because it went with days when memories and impressions and life itself was much more vivid.

Perhaps that’s why I wanted to go there with my dad on the morning of his Golden Wedding anniversary.

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  1. Aww, lovely memories “Barbarella”? You think? We used to have annual holidays in Anglesea or Oxwych Bay in Wales . .same thing bobbing boats and my father insisting that we buy ‘hook lines and sinkers’ but we never caught anything! Then my mother surrounded by a canvas windbreak on the beach brewing cups of tea! I can’t imagine drinking hot tea on an Aussie beach! Now we crouch under umbrellas to avoid the sun and lather ourselves in SPF 50!

  2. Barbarella is right, with the usual streaks of rust of a hard worked boat, The Cobb end of Lyme, because of it’s location, has escaped the developers, thank goodness, and yes it was a great breakfast, Thank you again

  3. Ian, We are so lucky to still have Lyme Regis unspoilt by ugly developement, I experience Lyme Regis in all its seasons as my dentist is there.I can remember as a boy visiting Sidmouth on one of the Village coach outings, I am now lucky enough to live 3 miles away from Sidmouth, The sea tonight was stained red, with 5′ waves crashing onto the beach. Exhilarating and something the holiday makers miss out on.

  4. Ian, This post has made me re-think some criticism of my parents that i had recently. My Step-Dad retired last month after 40 years in the same job and there was talk about how we would ‘treat’ Dad for his retirement present, I was in favour of a trip away, perhaps a cruise or a safari or even a once-in-a-lifetime trip to relatives in New Zealand. Instead, my parents opted for a week in a caravan in Sussex, in a small town called Winchelsea near the medieval town of Rye. This was where we had holidayed when I was a child and actually where my Dad had spent his summers as a child “hop-picking”. I couldn’t believe they would want to go THERE! After reading your post yesterday I texted Mum and Dad to ask how they were getting on, what I received was a text positively beaming about the great time they were having, a trip to bodium castle one day, another day spend in the ‘van’ as it was lashing rain and another driving around the old haunts. I guess I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe when you’re 50 years married or just-retired trips to far-flung places don’t interest you as much as returning to the places that gave the best of memories. I’ll try not to be so harsh in my criticism in the future!

  5. I think the places dearest to our heart are the places in which we have invested our emotions – be they near or far. I worked in Newtownards, Co Down in my late twenties and had a friend there who declared that his favourite place on Earth was Portaferry, a little town no more than twenty miles away. I don’t think he ever changed in that opinion.

  6. Maria, Winchelsea, Romney, Hythe and many like places have a charm of their own, sadly today so much emphasis is put on how far you can go for a holiday amd how much you spend that the real pleasures in life tend to take second place. Happily Ian knows his Dad’s likes and dislikes

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