The gas meter was not working. “Uncle Pat could help you,” my mother suggested. He probably would, were it not for the fact that it is fifteen or twenty years since he retired.
Uncle Pat started out as a gas fitter and worked his way up to a management position, but it is not for his work that I most remember him, it is for the fact that he and my Auntie Pearl took me for my first holiday.
It was August 1968. My aunt is only twelve years older than me, so was nineteen at the time, but she was my aunt and was always grown up.
We left Yeovil in Somerset on a Saturday morning in my uncle’s little blue Simca to travel to Perranporth on the north coast of Cornwall. The journey was maybe a hundred and twenty miles, but there was no motorway and the entire population of the country seemed to be heading westwards.
All went well until we were crossing Bodmin Moor in a constant line of traffic. The heavily laden car broke down. My uncle was always very organized and an AA patrolman on a bright yellow motorcycle came along and fixed it, though the delay seemed almost unendurable for a small boy.
We reached the campsite by teatime, to join another uncle and aunt and five of my cousins. Unpacking the car brought laughter: the Simca was rear engined and my other uncle, mug of tea in hand, walked over to look into the boot at the front of the car, where all the bags were stowed, “Pat,” he called,”it’s no wonder you broke down. The car has no bloody engine in it!”
The sun shone brilliantly the next day and we descended the cliffs to the huge sandy beach with the Atlantic waves bringing brilliant white surf. Rowntree’s Fruit Gums from a yellow box were passed around. Monday came damp and misty and there was no chance of the beach; we went to Penzance and sat in the car and ate Cornish pasties looking out at the rain. By Tuesday, the sunshine had returned, the sky was vivid blue and the whole day was spent doing whatever a seven year old did for a day on the beach.
My next memory was Wednesday morning, the wind had blown down our tent and heavy rain was falling. I had continued sleeping, even with no tent over me. We packed and headed for home.
Pat and Pearl have remained happily remembered ever since.