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Seaside fun but watch the donkey!

Byline: Hazel Ettienne

SUMMERS of bygone years have come under much discussion in past weeks. The summer storm which threatened to ruin my "end of term/birthday barbecue" drenched the garden and patio and ensured that guests had to pack into every nook and cranny of the Ettienne house rather than enjoy my well-stocked hanging baskets, planters and neatly manicured lawns.

Weatherman Paul Stevens had earlier promised thunderclouds and rain for the big day, but I am sure that even he was not expecting the heavens to quite literally open over the Holme Valley.

"We used to play out all day long during the six week holidays, when I was younger," said the retail assistant as she handed me my purchase and we mused over yet another day of rainfall.

The hot spell of weeks ago is long forgotten and this summer has literally been a wash-out so far. Neighbours Dave and Julie were off to Great Yarmouth for the week which prompted further reflection about summers of the 1970s. The Norfolk seaside town was a favourite haunt of my family when I was a child.

I didn't tell Dave and Julie but we revisited a couple of years ago and were a bit disappointed. It seemed a bit tired and rundown, nothing like the holiday hot spot I had enjoyed as a child.

The journey in itself had been something of an adventure all packed in with mountains of luggage, myself, younger brother and Gran all packed into the back seat of the car.

But the return home took on something of a comical quality as we stopped at stalls set up at the side of the road every few miles to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. We were packed like sardines but there were also plenty of cabbages, marrows, swedes and bunches of flowers alongside.

We were considered a bit "posh" among my schoolfriends as we stayed in a hotel for a fortnight. It was used by many of the celebrities who toured with the shows during the summer and I have autograph books full of star signatures from that era.

Days on the beach were followed by tours around the shops and there seemed to be endless sunshine.

I do remember one wet day in Great Yarmouth and myself and my Gran watched Mary Poppins about three times at the local cinema on the end of the promenade during the afternoon.

There were holiday disasters of course like the day when a holiday donkey took a shine to a button on my summer frock and bit it and my plump tummy into the bargain.

I was more upset by the thrashing which the donkey received from the owner than the nip on my tummy. Other holiday horrors included a horrendous rash on my legs caused by my blood overheating from eating too many fresh plums (!) or so my mum said and my brother, then a baby forgetting his comfort blanket and having to sleep in his cot with one of my silky dresses all holiday.

There was also the day we set off on holiday and I was stung on the arm by a wasp before we set off (see below!) Holidaying with your own children several decades on is a different ball game altogether. If venturing abroad careful planning is needed to ensure you have all the essentials. Our first overseas holiday with the oldest Ettienne was to Minorca and he had an amazing time being spoiled by all the hotel staff, but didn't eat for two days because of the heat and spent most of his time on the beach asleep under a large hat.

And the sun shone all day, every day, but that wasn't Britain!

CAPTION(S):

* RIDING HIGH: Holiday fun for Hazel appropriately dressed in matching seaside blazer and shoes!
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Aug 1, 2009
Words:638
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