Hol­i­day mem­o­ries

This England - - Post Box - Richard Holdsworth, Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia

Mem­o­ries of Hast­ings came flood­ing back as I read the rem­i­nis­cences told so well by Gwyneth Arnold in “This Eng­land”, Au­tumn is­sue 2018, and my own rec­ol­lec­tions of hol­i­days in the south-coast town in the im­me­di­ate post-war years.

I had been evac­u­ated with my mother and older sis­ter to Berk­shire from South Lon­don, and my fa­ther suc­ceeded in get­ting a trans­fer from his city bank to join us to be­come vil­lage bank man­ager. But when hos­til­i­ties ceased, we once again headed for Hast­ings as our hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion just as other south Lon­don­ers had done be­fore the war.

In the 1950s, Hast­ings was packed. My fa­ther booked months in ad­vance to get a ho­tel room. We stayed in a War­rior Square ho­tel as all the sea-front ac­com­mo­da­tion was booked (and I sus­pect we couldn’t af­ford sea-front premium!) And as a lad, my train ride from Read­ing was spent sit­ting on a suitcase in the cor­ri­dor of the South­ern Rail­way sec­ond-class com­part­ment.

As soon as we ar­rived and had put a quick un­pack­ing be­hind us, it was off to the prom and any one of the many at­trac­tions that for a lit­tle boy were ab­so­lute magic.

Hast­ings Pier was, of course, cen­tral to that magic. World-fa­mous brass bands played on the band­stand each day, and long be­fore the train ar­rived at War­rior Square Sta­tion, Dad would an­nounce, “It’s the Cold­stream Guards this year.” And they would en­ter­tain us ev­ery day for the next two weeks.

Af­ter a hur­ried break­fast we set off to se­cure deckchairs as close to the band­stand as we could. Was it six­pence for a morn­ing ses­sion and a whole shilling for the whole day?

When the band­mas­ter laid down his ba­ton, it was off to the ar­cade – much of my pocket money was spent on the slot ma­chines. No juke-boxes on the pier in those days!

As Gwyneth did, we had to visit the cas­tle and St Cle­ments caves – we went year in, year out, but they never lost their magic. The caves had been used as shel­ters from the bombs (Hast­ings got quite a pound­ing as Ger­man planes emp­tied their bomb-bays be­fore flee­ing back across the Chan­nel), but the tales of smug­glers still held sway for this lit­tle boy.

But even the caves paled into in­signif­i­cance com­pared with a ride on the nar­row-gauge steam rail­way – still run­ning, I am pleased to say. Is it any won­der I ended up a train spot­ter and great fan of the Great Western Rail­way?

I even saved one of the last lo­cos built at Swin­don – a diesel-hy­draulic, D1013 Western Ranger. My love af­fair with rail­ways all started in Hast­ings!

In later years I took my own hol­i­days down at Hast­ings and had my first kiss on the ghost train! Even later, hol­i­day­ing with my Aus­tralian wife and daugh­ter, we made Hast­ings our first des­ti­na­tion.

Like Gwyneth Arnold, I had learned to swim in the White Rock baths – now I taught our daugh­ter to swim in the Sum­mer­fields Leisure Com­plex up on the hill be­hind the town.

Yes, Hast­ings holds many won­der­ful mem­o­ries for me, brought back so vividly in “This Eng­land”.

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