Guernsey 1950 to 1959

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Quick Facts

Guernsey, a British Crown dependency in the English Channel, is one of the Channel Islands. It’s known for beach resorts like Cobo Bay and the scenery of its coastal cliffs. Castle Cornet, a 13th-century harbor fortification in the capital of St. Peter Port, now contains history and military museums. Hauteville House is the lavish former home of French writer Victor Hugo.
 
Its a small island some 3 miles wide and 9 miles long. The capital is St Peter Port where my grandparents lived.
 
 When I was a baby (1949) and up until the age of about four we flew to Guernsey I have the memory of a twin engine plane and having to climb up the central isle which was steep. Once over Guernsey I would break out in hives, they disappeared after a couple of days. I remember bits and pieces but it is mainly from 5 upwards I remember. The house where I lived in the Harrow Road was three story and in it lived my mother and her two sisters, we were one on each floor. The school holidays were 6 weeks, I would spend all of it in Guernsey and the three sisters would take two weeks each because of their husbands jobs, to look after us at my grandparents house.
 
So when flying became too expensive we used to take the boat train. My memory is a bit shaky of course it was a steam train and about a 3 hour (?) train ride from London to Weymouth. The train would stop at the dock and we would walk to the ferry. Then we had a 8 hour (?) boat trip that was fun.
 

My grand parents lived at 48 Mount Durand, St Peter Port where my mother and her brothers (6 I think) and sisters (5) grew up. The house was nearly on top of a hill and it was a steep climb up it. There was a window at the top of the house that I could sit in, read a book and just see the harbor and sea. I used to smoke the odd cigarette there and get dizzy. Magic place.

Living there were :

 
Grandmother : Edith Winterflood Roe 4ft 11 and the boss, called her Nan. I was with her close to the time she died. Dear Nan. The lads used to wind her up something awful. But she would beat them even Uncle Terry who loomed over her.
Grandfather : called him Gogo as I couldn’t say grand dad. Big man too but badly crippled from The Somme up to his chest in water for days. He could still walk but not so well. A good man. He had a back garden that grew loads of vegetables potatoes peas ( I can remember shelling them and how sweet they were), broad beans, tomatoes and lettuce. Digging in the garden was fun. Name of Toms originally from Devon. He was a band leader and we used to go to hear him at old time dances. My mother and father were excellent dancers as were all the family and could float around a dance floor.
One of my earliest memories is the night the white bait came in. I was down on the beach picking up handful’s of these little fish. However following the white bait was a huge shoal of mackerel. People were lowering baskets in the harbor and coming up full of mackerel. They gave me one as long as my arm and I tied a piece of string around its tail and dragged it across town to the dance hall where my Nan was to show her this big fish I caught.
 
My mother needs a whole chapter. She had a wild streak too having once put a rowing boat, her and her friends put this rowing boat in the middle of the High St. They were all a bit wild.
My Dad I’ll talk about him in a separate piece. He was a good cricketer and once took four wickets in four successive bowls. I have the press clippings.
Aunty Daisy and Uncle Stan. Aunty Daisy was a steady person and Uncle Stan worked as an accountant / manager in an office.
Aunty Pat and Uncle George. Uncle George taught me to swear. He would give me a penny for a bad word. “Biddy shit arsehole” was a favourite of mine when I was about 4. Uncle George was a conscientious objector for the second world war which set him apart a bit. He worked in a mattress factory. He had emphesemia and took about ten years to die, getting ahead of myself. Sad.
Uncle Peter bit mad and a risk taker. Peter, Dave and Nigel (adopted Uncle) were all scuba divers. One early morning dive they caught a huge conger eel must have been 8ft long. What they did was drape it over the drying lines in the kitchen. When Nan opened the door she was met with two staring eyes and she screamed. We cracked up. When she was cutting it up that afternoon it moved and freaked both of us out.
Uncle Dave cool guy mad but not as much as Uncle Peter. Dave and Peter both had motorbikes. Uncle Dave wouldn’t take me on the back, said it was too dangerous. Uncle Peter said hop on Phil and I swear we did 90 around the island. WOOT!
Uncle Roy not the brightest spark in the bunch, bit slow.
Uncle Terry was huge like my grandfather 6ft 4ins and broad shouldered had a twinkle in his eye.
Uncle Percy and Aunty Maud didn’t live with us but out in St Samsons. Uncle Percy was a major in the army and was known as “The Major”. Aunty Maud was a gas, a real memsahib. She told one story when the Queen visited Ghana and she rushed to the front shouting “Guernsey Press move round”. She was a beach comber too. Great lady.When Uncle Percy died he had no children so left his money to us kids. I got just over £500. I bought a Kashmir silk carpet.

Aunty Margaret and Uncle Tom were a bit odd. It turned out Uncle Tom was also her brother by marriage was a bit weird.

That was the household. It was a riot sometimes.  They once bounced me from every bedroom in the house from bottom to top. I had hysterics. Guernsey was and probably still is a paradise. We practically lived on the beach. The one closest to us was First Beach but known as “Gabbers” as all the women would go down there to chat. It was stony which was a bit of a turn off but It was handy. The great thing about Guernsey is that where ever a breeze was coming from you could always find a sheltered beach. I remember the bus station where you could get a bus anywhere on the island. The bus driver would often go off route to pick someone up or drop people off at their houses. We had our favourites. Petit Bot was always protected by its high cliffs and you had to walk down hundreds of steps to get to it. At the bottom was a lovely sandy beach but the tide came in very quickly and I had to be rescued once when I was climbing around the rock pools looking for crabs and the tide came in and left me stranded. My mother was a very strong swimmer and had swam to Herm 3 miles away in her youth. Herm was a grand place just a short boat trip away. It had a shell beach and my mother told stories of how beautiful the beach was in her youth.
One of our favourite beaches was Vazon with its shallow sandy beach. When the tide was out they used to hold car races on the sand. I can remember the sea being so clear and the perfect weather, sigh.
 
One of the highlights was loganberry forays we would come home with bags full of them and jam and tarts would be made.
 
Another snippet I remember was the time I was in the house alone and there was a knock at the door. I was in the kitchen and the milk man let himself in put the milk in the fridge went to my Nan’s purse and took out what she owed him said good morning and left. I guess it was a village thing. No one locked their doors in those days. Guernsey cows are famous for their dairy and the full fat milk needed a knife to scrape off the cream.
Occasionally I would get burnt by the sun but generally lived without sunscreen and I had my mothers skin she only had to look at the sun and she would go brown. 
Some of my happiest childhood days were spent in Guernsey. I was blessed…..My relatives there are mostly deceased now. The price of ageing. But we had a good time and fond memories.

1965 Lloret De Mar, Spain

Lloret De Mar
Thanks to Roy for the photo

We were 16 and for all of us it was the first holiday on our own Me, Martin Jennings, Roy Clayton and Keith Taylor, all working class boys, well Keith was a bit middle class. (All grammar school boys so we were quite bright). We decided to go to Lloret De Mar just north of Barcelona. Can’t remember how we decided, one of us must have heard about it. Google maps  just about shows our route.

google maps London to Lloret De Mar
London to Lloret De Mar

Spain in August 1965, it was the year before it was discovered by tourists, virgin territory! We were all practically broke I had a few quid saved up so we thought we would hitchhike how difficult would it be? I had £30 I had saved from my  job as a delivery boy and we planned to stay for a month. (School summer holidays were 6 weeks). We would camp. We had a couple of tents. So we all piled into my dads estate car and he drove us to Dover to get the ferry to Calais. I hate Calais 😆 . We decided to split up into twos as four hitchhiking would be daft. I went with Roy and Keith and Martin went separately. We planned our route avoiding Paris and took reasonably good  A roads avoiding motorways (couldn’t hitch on them)

Getting out of Calais was a nightmare. We tried and tried and ended up walking out of town. We were off the main road. I remember it was a dark and stormy night and we hitched for nearly 8 hours without a lift. BUT we wouldn’t give up and return home, failures, we would bloody well walk there if we had to. Then we got a few lifts and made it to  Rouen, not too far but it was a start….. We lived on bread and cheese from local patisseries

A few names linger in my memory Clement Ferrand, Limoges, Toulouse, Carcassonne the walled city,  we glimpsed them but didn’t linger. Our school boy French worked surprisingly well. We made it to Perpignan and got a bit stuck but just outside we got a lift from a Spanish priest who was going to Portbou just across the border. He had an old 2CV van full of apples he was taking home. Portbou was on the coast and out of our way but ” Senors you must come it is fiesta” so we went for the night of partying and I had my first taste of paella. We slept for a bit and then someone gave us a lift to Gerona the following morning. OMG we were nearly there…But lifts were a bit hard to come by, dribs and drabs on side roads until we were a few miles from Lloret. F**k it we would walk, so we did. I can remember arriving at the campsite and there were Martin and Keith waiting for us, they had had a much easier time. It had taken Roy and me 3 days to travel over a thousand miles!

Lloret De Mar

This was the time before the tourist invasion and the beach was practically empty…..sometimes there were 10 people. No hotels had been built, it was unspoilt.

Lloret De Mar beach
Lloret beach

It was absolutely brilliant. The camp site , which was on the beach practically, the bar served us alcohol and we drank……a lot. A Coubralibre rum and coke cost a shilling, we were a bit drunk most of the time and whooped it up in the practically deserted camp site. We could afford to eat out, Spain in those days was dirt cheap,  but we did a bit of cooking. Hot dogs and stuff. The Med was gorgeous. We stayed for three weeks. Aww but I fell in love three days before we were due to leave with Marcella De Geode a sixteen year old Dutch girl. Blonde blue eyed a drop dead gorgeous figure . *Sigh* . She was camping too and the excitement was intents!

Marcella
Thanks again to Roy

Home

I left in tears and Marcella waved us off. It was decided we would change partners I went home with Keith. I was totally broke. Keith still had some money. We did ok hitching but found ourselves stuck just out side Paris. We were pretty exhausted so Keith suggested we go into Paris and get a train to Calais ( we all had return tickets for the ferry) . Keith would pay and I would pay him back once I got home. One of the dads picked us up from Dover from what I remember. We had been gone a month.

What an adventure! We returned to school heroes!

The following year I went back to Lloret, Mum Dad and girlfriend. The beach was so packed you could barely move.

To come  later:  my tour of Italy when I was 11 and Malta when I was 12 but these involved the Rev Millins of Kensal Green who sexually abused me when I was 10. I’ll blog about that one day. It still hurts. But I’m a survivor!! I hitchhiked to Spain when I was 16!!!!

Here’s a hit from 1965. I can rememberr most of the top ten in 1965 when I looked them up. Here is a tune close to my heart,

 

Coming soon to a blog near you ” 1971 six months in Torremolinos coz I bought a land rover instead of a boat “

If you liked this or your name is Roy Clayton please leave a comment.