Friday, 19 August 2011

A trip down Memory Lane

Here's a mini-movie of our holiday house in St Bees in 1979. It's the last one in the terrace. I remember the steps and, I think, peeling the potatoes at the bottom of them as well as the view over towards the golf course. My (frighteningly nerdy) holidiary came in handy for finding the location. Reading through it (as Jenni did in a mocking voice down the pub on the first night) I reckon that St Bees was the last holiday we went on as a complete family. Beck joined us via train a few days in. It was also the holiday when we came home to find the freezer had switched off. Mum and Beck buried the stinking food in the garden.

St Bees is a peculiar village. It still has that depressed air of a former mining settlement and, despite its fabulous beach, seems reluctant to be considered a seaside destination. Most people come only to leave – on the Coast to Coast Walk (which was only six years old when we visited so probably wasn’t such a big thing). The kids dipped their boots in the water (below) as you’re supposed to mark the start of the walk – but we only went along the first few miles of the route around St Bees Head. The path continued inland and we proceeded to Whitehaven – exactly as we did in 1979.

The first sign of the town was what’s called The Candlestick (right) which was an air vent for the mine that’s design was thought to have been inspired by the favourite candlestick of the chap who owned most of the town. The last mine closed six years after our previous visit and Whitehaven has much improved since. I enjoyed the architecture trail (it has the greatest concentration of Georgian buildings in the UK, Beck) and we all walked around the harbour. The waterfront has been tastefully regenerated with a fancy wave sculpture, for instance, but the ‘gold for cash’ stores (a couple of bar stools at a counter in an otherwise empty former shop) on the High Street seem better to meet the needs of the locals.

Curiously and fittingly (considering where the rest of you lot were) Whitehaven has three connections with the US: George Washington’s granddad is buried there; the expansion of New York City was modelled on Whitehaven’s street grid layout and the town was the site of the only attack by the US on the UK (by a seaman trained in the town, pictured left, in 1778).
We planned to catch the train back to St Bees but went in the wrong direction. I had a tizzy, we got off at the first station and took a taxi from Whitehaven home, a slightly unsettling experience given the reputation of taxi drivers in these parts. We’d spotted the infamous taxi rank earlier.

Finally, here’s another mini-movie memory: showing the railway line near our holiday cottage where we used to place coins then return in the morning to see them flattened. When we weren’t doing that we were finding lost balls on the golf course. Happy days.

(By the way, you can view all the pics at full size by clicking on them).