I suppose I have been travelling to various places since I was a child, but not worldwide oh no, only 60 miles away from home at the most. We had relations in Otley, England, and travel was by train, the old steam engines. From the very start travelling always gave me a thrill whether it was near or far, just the fact I was going somewhere was good enough.
Once we arrived in Leeds, it was a trek across the city to catch the bus, which still had the same thrill, not so for my dad carrying the cases I don’t think. We would go away for a week or 2 and I was in a different world. We lived in a small, tidy and clean, terraced house with no bathroom, an outside toilet, facing other similar houses, and then in a day I was transported to a house with bathroom, inside and outside toilets and opposite acres of fields.
This was the 1950’s a time when the summers always seemed glorious, which had its problems for Otley. Its in a valley and so rainfall during the summer was sometimes sparse, which meant that sometimes when we arrived water rationing was in place and my auntie’s house was full of pans and other receptacles full to the brim of precious water. Not every year, but some really hot summers caused a lot of problems that we never had at home.
But Otley was different, the dialect for a start and my home city drawl was immediately noticeable with the locals, especially the kids. But besides the usual mickey taking I think I was accepted by the majority as we use to visit nearly every year, and at the same time as dad’s holidays were fixed, last week in July, 1st week in August. So began a love affair with Otley which lasted until only a couple of years ago, the last time I was there in fact.
That occasion was for a funeral of one of my remaining relatives and Otley would never be the same again. Oh the buildings and surroundings were familiar, but a lot has changed, and as seems the way these days, not for the better. To me it is now a suburb of Leeds, when at one time if was a separate town with character. The fields that use to be opposite my aunties are now filled with houses, so much of the local fabric of the place I use to take for granted has gone, for good by the look of it, its a place for Leeds commuters.
But although Otley was a regular destination as a child it wasn’t the only one, the seaside wasn’t far away and Bridlington on the east coast of England was another place we went too. Now I found out something at a very early age, I am not a beach person so Bridlington holds no great memories for me especially when I was bitten by a dog in the boarding house we stayed in when the owner had insisted it was a tame pet, not on that occasion it wasn’t.
So holidays to the seaside were not something I was overawed about, until I was 16 and my first holiday away from my parents. In those days there was a holiday camp operator by the name of Butlins, in fact I think there is still the odd establishment still operating. But this was one was at a huge complex not far from Bridlington at a place called Filey. Oh its not there now, it was flattened years ago but back then it was quite popular.
I went with 3 friends, we had paid some money each week into a bank account until we had paid for the holiday, and a bit of petrol money for one of the dad’s who was going to take us. A holiday, free to do what I wanted instead of what parents had planned, not that Otley was restrictive, within certain rules I mixed with the locals there and became one of them, but this was different.
The rooms we had were primitive to say the least, army huts with a bit of paint by the look of it, but meals were ok and entertainment was what you wanted to make it and that meant a bar. This particular bar was called The Sportsmans and as the name implies sport was the main attraction, mainly football, or soccer if any or our American friends are reading this (hope they are).
Now in this bar were supporters of various teams, Hull, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Glasgow, quite a mix. The nights started off quite pleasant, the usual banter between the various supports, insult along the way, I’m sure various sports teams throughout the world have their supporters trying to out do their opponents. But soon things started to get a little heated and alcohol had a bearing on this.
You see the Glasgow fans were divided, Rangers and Celtic, Liverpool had Liverpool and Everton, and of course Manchester had both United and City. Sheffield had City and Wednesday, so quite a mixture all round and it got out of hand. Not only were different supporters hurling abuse at each other but supporters from the same city were also hurling abuse at each other and the artist on the stage was losing the battle.
This was a family friendly place, well was suppose to be, but on this night it was anything but friendly. My friends and I made a hasty retreat when bottles starting flying through the air in all directions, cowards? you bet we were. Maybe this was a one off, but we don’t know as we chose a different bar, don’t think this would have happened in Otley with mum and dad there.
But the whole holiday away from parents experience was something new, not least as girls were in my life. But I was not prepared for one particular girl who took a shine to me, and wouldn’t let go. We were only there for a week but she was already talking about a long term commitment, but ironically she lived in Leeds and I had told her about my trips to Otley. The next time I went she said, she would meet me off the train, gee whiz girl I only met you 2 days ago.
Inevitably it all had to end in tears, I just hope she went on to find someone closer to home, but I was certainly wary after this episode. We came back from Butlins and the world looked a different place as football/soccer was a big part of my life and I was starting work so had money to be able to get away to see my team, and that meant travelling.