Creative Writing: week 3

Week three of a ten week course – where does the time go?

My haiku, which I mentioned a few weeks ago, had mixed feedback. Firstly, I’d got confused with the way they should be written (can I blame my ME/CFS for the confusion – probably not): syllable-wise, they should be 5 -7 – 5. Mine weren’t: mine were 7 – 5 – 7. I’d either created a new format or made a mistake. The first went down ok, but the second (and the one I liked most) was picked to bits. Better luck next time.

This week was ‘Childhood Memories’, and I enjoyed this. I’ll post it and let you judge it for yourself. Surprisingly, it had no bad feedback… It’s called ‘The Club Trip’.

“Trip day! Trip day,” my little sister whispered, as she sneaked in to my bedroom. She jumped on to the bed, narrowly missing my feet, and shook my leg, as if to wake me. “Trip day,” she repeated, urgently, but quietly, knowing that we were not supposed to get out of bed until called. At five years old, Lyndsey was as cute as a puppy and twice as eager for attention.

Downstairs, sea-side sandwiches were being quickly and efficiently constructed: they were egg, salad cream and tomato, but as we only ever ate them on the trip, we knew them as sea-side sandwiches. There was one essential ingredient, but this would only materialise once we had arrived at the coast. Flasks were filled with piping hot tea and coffee, and juice cartons were packed in to sturdy navy-blue shopping bags.

Similar scenes would have played out at our grandparents’ house and at those of our cousins. The Club Trip, as it was more formally known, was a rare chance for extended families to enjoy a day together. Throughout the year, our parents contributed to a trip fund, culminating in a day-long excursion to the coast: this year’s exotic location was Cullercoats.

Dressed in matching blue towelling playsuits, hair in identical ponytails, my sister and I placed our buckets and spades beside the bags at the door. Our other grandparents had given us a fifty pence piece, with a request that we didn’t waste it. We tucked them in to our pockets, and our parents exchanged a look, knowing that the coin would burn a hole in those pockets. Clock-watching, we waited for the inevitable words from my mother…

“Right, girls, go to the toilet one last time before we leave!”

When we got to the social club, the coaches were lined up: their drivers leaned against the sides, cigarette smoke wafting around them. People greeted our parents, and my sister and I strained at mam’s hands, trying to free ourselves so we could find our cousins. Mam’s grip was firm. So was her voice, “We’re by a main road. You don’t want to get knocked over before the trip.” I never wanted to get knocked over, but especially not before the trip. To distract us, my mam would reach in to her bag and pull out some ‘sucky-sweets’ – mine were usually Murray Mints, and despite pleading for chocolate, my sister would have something fruity. I was sensible and always chose mints, but my little sister often asked for chewing gum or chocolate. I knew better because I was older: you could not have chewing gum because if you swallowed it, it would stick your insides together. That’s what mam said. My mam was like a wise owl: she was all-knowing and seeing.

We were ushered to a battered blue bus. My stomach churned, as various odours filled my nostrils: a vain attempt to mask months’ worth of stale tobacco, body odour and general mustiness with very strong disinfectant. Fortunately, the day was still young and the bus still cool or my travel sickness would have been an issue. On family summer holidays, many a hat, bucket or shopping bag had witnessed my kinetosis, and none of these were better for it. I slipped a buttery Murray Mint in to my mouth and sucked, noisily.

The coach whined, as did the excitable, impatient children within. Not Lyndsey and I: we had been promised 5p if we were the first to see the sea. We had never won, for my dad always knew where to look.

When we disembarked, in the car park, the mothers would head over the dunes, trying to restrain their brood, while the fathers would head for deckchairs and windbreaks. Families would be reunited, as they sought the best spot on the beach. We ran to my grandparents, our cousins already surrounding them.

My grandfather was teddy bear-like: he was cuddly, warm and comforting. He smelled of Old Spice, and Bryl-Crème, with a hint of whisky. Although he was losing his hair, it added to his character and we, the grandchildren, all fought for his attention. He told us stories and rhymes which never had an ending – we would beg him, laughing, to finish them, but he would just recite another. Tired as he was, he never tired of us.

The day seemed endless. Hot and bright in the sun, we wiggled our toes in the sand and played chicken with the waves. We beckoned to our parents and they would hitch up their skirts, roll up their trouser-legs and join us. At lunchtime, picnics would materialise on tartan blankets: pies, crisps, sausage rolls and our beloved sea-side sandwiches. We’d tuck in, our teeth grinding against the secret ingredient: sand. Grit-like, it always seemed to get in to the filling between the bread. Our juice was warm by now, but no less welcome.

To end the day, we’d head to the shops and the arcade. I was mesmerised by the flashing lights; loud, throbbing music, the aroma of candy floss and the noise of slot machines, paying out: chink, chink, chink. It excited my senses. We would hold our fifty pence pieces, in clammy little hands, torn between playing on a machine and buying a souvenir. I was eight and I was sensible, so I’d buy a souvenir and go on the slot machine next year.

Back to the coach, we’d sleep throughout the long journey home, dreaming of blue skies, yellow beaches and the gaudy flashing lights of the arcade.

Cullercoats is only a forty minute journey from Crawcrook, but as a child, it felt many, many miles away. I never try to recapture the trip and never make sea-side sandwiches, but if I see a slot machine, I like to have a go. I’m still sensible, but now I’m older, I realise that memories are the best souvenirs.

Feedback, good and bad, welcome. I’m really hoping that this will get me writing again.