We were easily pleased.
A little thing could change a whole day. A Crunchie bar on a car journey, a glass of lemonade in a pub garden, a bag of chips from a waterside hut, a game on the beach, flying a kite from the windy dunes, pennies to spend in the amusement arcade: it did not take much to make a summer’s day a happy one.
Living in a community set between the Dorset coast of the English Channel and the Somerset coast of the Bristol Channel, it was not necessary to stay away from home to enjoy the seaside, it wasn’t even necessary to be away for a whole day. We could have our tea and get into the car full of excitement and be at the Cobb in Lyme Regis or on the downs at Brean in an hour or less.
The happiest times were those when the extended family went out together, uncles and aunts and cousins as well as our own family. It would always mean a longer evening our cousins were never subject to a strict a regime as we were. There would be no thought of leaving the coast before it was dark and we would be heavy with sleep before we arrived back at High Ham.
Most of the time, we did very little. Money did not extend further than the simple treats. Going out after tea meant there was no need to buy a meal. If we went out in the daytime, we would take sandwiches and a flask. Greasy chips, served in a cone shaped from old newspaper, and covered with salt and vinegar, were a culinary delight.
In pre-teenage years, I do not remember ever having more than a couple of coins in my pocket, and they might be copper. Being sent away to school by the county council, because of my asthma, when I was fourteen, meant regular pocket money for the first time in my life: forty-five pence a week. I felt I was rich.
Being easily pleased, we did not need to buy things, so we did not need money. The simple treats were pointers to the enjoyment of the moment, they were to be enjoyed together because it was being together that brought us happiness.
When my Dad died in March, the only place I wanted to be was sitting on the harbour wall in Lyme Regis. I could watch Dad watching the fishermen and the boats at their moorings. I could listen to the voices and the laughter, catch on the breeze the voice of Uncle Bill telling a story. There would be glimpses of those who will no longer share a bag of chips.
I’m easily pleased.