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About A Week: Hurrah For Hols!

Peter Hinchliffe recalls the intense delight experienced on the first day of the summer holidays. No more school for six weeks!

The best part of the year. The school holidays. Six weeks of bliss stretching ahead.

Forget about reading, writing and arithmetic. Escape with glee from algebra, geometry and English essays.

No shouts of “Don’t run in the school corridor boy!’’ No threats of detention.

Six weeks of bliss in which to run wild, dam streams, climb trees, race down quiet lanes on rusty bikes.

All the time in the world in which to play cricket with a broken bat and an oil drum for a wicket, or three-goals-in with a five-barred gate as goal.

Lads and lasses in our village looked forwards to July and August. Prisoners released from Wakefield goal could have no greater sense of freedom than we did on being turned loose from school at the start of the summer hols.

During those blissful six weeks, the ultimate delight. A week at the sea-side.

We always went to Whitby. My dad loved the place, and so did I. The smell of fresh-caught fish being auctioned on the quayside at 6 am. The jubilant cries of soaring seagulls who use the harbour as a stadium for their never-ending Olympics. The appetising aroma of kippers being cured over smouldering oak.

So many memories of Whitby holidays. Such rich delight.

* Building mammoth sand castles, busy until an advancing tide started to attack the outer ramparts.

* Rowing on the magical willow-fringed River Esk at Ruswarp, then eating cream cakes on the river bank at Sleights.

* Fishing day-long from the lower deck of a pier extension, the fresh sea air making simple cheese sandwiches taste like the finest gourmet food.

* Playing the penny slot machines in the amusement arcades and riding the dodgem cars, relishing that electricity-mixed-with-burning-rubber smell.

Those were innocent days. A car journey from Yorkshire's West Riding to Whitby, Scarborough or Bridlington required thought, planning and months of eager anticipation.

Now holidays involve a quick trip to the nearest airport and a flight to the Spanish Costas, Majorca, Ibiza, Lanzarote…the world.

A posh Sunday newspaper invited some of its journalists to recall their best family holiday.

“My favourite family fortnights have been spent at a manor house in Burgundy miles from anywhere,’’ said one. “In the evenings we’d watch the bats fly out from under the shutters and into the woods before putting the little ones to bed. Then we’d settle outside with a bottle of wine or two and look out for shooting stars.’’

“We went to Australia for six weeks via Tokyo and returned via Bali and it was fantastic,’’ said another.

Glamorous stuff.

Now that my wife and I are in the year-long “summer hols’’ of retirement we do our own good share of travelling. Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Australia, Canada, United States… Been there, done that.

We relish the excitement of jetting off to some place which we have never visited before. We even enjoy in a masochistic way braving the hassle of airports. Standing in a line which never seems to move faster than the laziest snail at a check-in desk. Waiting anxiously at the luggage carousel, convinced that this is the one time when our luggage has been put on the wrong plane…

So far this year, Majorca, Germany, and Thailand still to come.

But a part of me still longs for Whitby. No place has ever seemed quite so magical.


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