Sunday, 10 July 2011

A slap of sea and a tickle of sand

Threads of the previous day's 'charabanc' outing were picked up and re-wound through the next day's session at Chester Lane Library. Lois, Joan and I were joined by George, Monica and Sid and one 'anon' lady. During the Wednesday coach journey we'd passed around 'saucy' postcards for people to customise with their own brand of sauce. These had led to a great deal of Sid James style guffawing to punctuate the drive. (Val, Paul and Nicky, I'm looking at you.)

one weeks holiday in the year

This time we reused the postcards, adding a layer of more ambiguous material - little patchworks of memory. Some of the most moving were the crystal-sharp descriptions of people's dads, baking hot on the beach, but unwilling to remove their suits and hats. George recalled his besuited father struggling for what felt like hours to open a deckchair on Blackpool beach, with a crowd of onlookers yelling gleeful encouragement, his face awash with sweat.

meat paste and spam

Sid pointed out that as many of the dads were miners, they were often ashamed to show their bodies, because they couldn't wash away the engrained coaldust, or the scars. Some of these memories too found their way onto the cards. Joan's father, in her mind's eye, would come home from the pit with a back covered in welts, "It was as if he'd been whipped."

mostly Blackpool

This layering of experiences made the cards a multilayered evocation of the seaside holidays that disappear under nostalgia cliches. The saucy postcards were given an extra humour dollop from George with his engagingly daft double entendres. Then playing against this came the sketchier little moments, kids sitting on a beach eating meat paste sandwiches amongst "More flat caps than you'd ever seen."

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