As the countdown to my fortieth birthday rapidly (and regrettably) continues, my yearning for nostalgia continues.
As a family, we try to spend as much time outdoors as the English weather will allow (and even when it doesn’t) as many of my childhood memories are of going on mini adventures with my Dad.
Sundays were especially exciting. My dad would take my brother and I out for the day and, more often than not, we’d end up doing something that would horrify my much more sensible Mum.
One of my favourite adventures was going on Dad’s speedboat. At the age of 6, the same age as my youngest son is now, it was one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done.
The speedboat was red. The paint was flaking off in several places but we didn’t mind. Its top speed was about 100mph. As long as the rope didn’t snap.
Let me explain. This wasn’t your average speedboat. It didn’t have a speedometer, or a steering wheel. It didn’t have a galley and the only seats on it were two planks of wood nailed to the floor. In fact, it didn’t even have an engine. In fact, it was just a very small, old, leaky rowing boat. With no oars. What made it special, however, was that it had a rope tied to a loop at the front of the boat, the other end being attached to the back of Dad’s lorry.
Dad would drive the lorry to the edge of the water and my brother, being five years older than me, would paddle the boat out as far as the rope would allow (although I’m not quite sure how he managed this with no oars!) Next came the best bit! My dad would slam the lorry into first gear and race as fast as he could up the sloped, shingle beach.
I remember our two greyhounds being there (that’s a whole different story), jumping around, generally just getting in the way. They would pine for Dad as he drove the lorry up the beach but wouldn’t be able to resist the lure of the murky, cold water.
We probably hit about 5mph at top speed. The wheels invariably got stuck in the shingle, the lorry had definitely seen better days and there were normally a dozen breeze blocks in the back weighing it down. The blocks, however, were essential as they doubled up as our seat for the journey back – the dogs always got to drive up front with Dad.
I’m sure Mum was oblivious to a lot of the things that we got up to with Dad. Mum never tagged along, unless we were going to the ‘proper’ beach at Camber Sands. Then, after dishing out the egg and salad cream sandwiches, she could always be found playing rounders with the rest of us. But she was the sort of woman who, when she went swimming, would try her best to have her head, neck and shoulders out of the water because she didn’t want to get her hair wet. Suffice to say, she wasn’t a great fan of water.
It did mean though that she was always there when we got home. Two slightly soggy, incredibly windswept, but very happy children.
I haven’t been back to Sharps Green since. It’s been 34 years now and part of me is worried that if I go back I’ll spoil the memory I have but maybe, going back with my own children, it might just be better than I ever remember.