William Cashmore recalls his family’s annual trip to the Lincolnshire coast
The end of an era this year for the Cashmore family. My mother sold her holiday house in Sutton on Sea, a small, unassuming seaside place (not resort) in Lincolnshire. From 1956 onwards we went there every year. Many of my contemporaries had their favourite holiday destination, but theirs always seemed smarter or trendier — Rock in Cornwall or Aldeburgh in Suffolk. We had Sutton. Not picturesque, not lively, but a sandy beach, bathing huts and, above all, glorious simplicity.
My father always made the same joke packing the car before the drive from Nottingham. ‘How many months are we going for?’ he used to say as my mother wobbled out with another duffel bag or famously, in 1973, a big bowl of beef dripping which she couldn’t bear to waste.
All six of us crammed into the Austin Cambridge which had a wonderful bench seat in the front. We were allowed Five Boys chocolate but had to listen to my younger sister saying, ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ for most of the journey. We often stopped for cheese cobs just over the Nottinghamshire–Lincolnshire border, but one year we were late setting off so had fish and chips in West Bridgford, less than two miles from our home.
The first evening we always took a stroll along the front, admired the beach and the flat North Sea and felt the health-inducing wind battering our faces, but really we were more interested in the ‘changes’: repairs to the sea defences, erected after the floods of 1953, or the appearance of the crazy golf next to the bowling green. In 1970, I actually wrote a postcard to my grandmother announcing the appearance of ‘garrish’ (sic) red chairs in the Corner Cafe (or ‘Cayfe’ as we pronounced it to make it sound more upmarket).
Sometimes we rented a huge house called Norbury and shared it with another family; the Tansleys or the Marwoods. I love that putting of the definite article in front of the family name. It reminds me of the story of the keen gallery attendant at Tate Britain who helpfully asked a lost-looking family, ‘Are you looking for the Turners?’ and they stared back in amazement and said, ‘But we are the Turners.’
We spent hours on the beach digging huge walls to ‘beat the tide’. No poncey sandcastles for us. Although the poncey factor went up when the Tansleys, egged on by my elder sister, arranged a beach wedding ceremony. I married Philippa Tansley 11 times one summer. At four o’clock we were called up from the beach for iced buns; bread rolls with a great dollop of icing sugar. My brother once got sent back for the spades and when he came back the buns had all gone. It was the last time I saw him cry.
Mind you, we strayed in 1975 when the Woodsends, a posher family, persuaded us to go to Robin Hood’s Bay. Exciting place, but not Sutton. Right at the end of those school summer holidays, my mother could bear it no longer and bundled us all into her Triumph Herald. We had milk shakes in the Corner Cafe, rented a council beach hut and paddled to our hearts’ content. The quintessence of absence making the heart grow fonder.
As we became grumpy teenagers we went less but my mother and father battled on, especially after 1983 when they bought a small terraced house near the beach front. I was up at Cambridge by then but, despite the allure of global escapades with more worldly-wise undergraduates, I usually gave Sutton the annual once-over.
But it was the beginning of the end. New in-laws couldn’t see Sutton’s attractions. Houses were being bought in France and grandchildren didn’t want ‘that sort of holiday’. My younger sister kept at it until a year or so ago but even she tired of her own daughter’s insistent, ‘Are we nearly there yet?’
Last year I made a brief, probably final visit. I can always stay in the Bacchus in Sutton or the more upmarket Grange and Links in Sandilands if I want to go again. But I guess it’s best to leave it alone and let the memories do the work. Prince Philip, after those floods in 1953, said, ‘I can’t understand why anyone would want to go on holiday there anyway.’ My father never forgave him for that. But he would forgive my mother for selling up. After all, ‘How many months are we going for?’ Not so many these days.