Jeremy Clarke spends a week with his son in a caravan in Cornwall and meets some first time holidaymakersby Jeremy Clarke / August 20, 1996 / Leave a comment
After I returned from Los Angeles, my six-year-old son and I spent a week together in a caravan at Polzeath, on the north Cornwall coast. It has become a fixture in our lives to spend the second week in June there. As we do not live together but would like to, it is a time of unaccustomed completeness. We look forward to our unclouded longest day with a yearning. At incon- gruous moments on wet winter weekends we turn to each other and say: “I wish we were in the caravan.”
As my son is a creature of habit, we tend to do the same things every year. We hire the same bikes from the same man (who used to keep goal for Plymouth Argyle) and cycle the Camel trail. We go for a ride on a speedboat called Jaws 2 and sit at the back. We catch the same unfortunate crab from the same grotto in the same rockpool. We go to the Sea Life Centre at Newquay and stroke the friendly rays. And if we see a policeman anywhere, we hurry to buy an ice cream, for it is a criminal offence in Cornwall to be seen in public without one.
This year, we made friends with three children-James, 9; Melanie, 14; and Martin, 15-who were staying in an adjacent caravan with their mother. Their holiday had been organised jointly between Torquay’s social services department and the local church; they had come at a moment’s notice. It was their first ever. We met them in the road as we were about to set off for our speedboat ride and, recklessly, I suggested that they come with us. Melanie ran to their caravan to tell their mum, then the five of us set off for Padstow across the hallucinatory sand flats of Daymer Bay.
Our new friends were inappropriately dressed and turned out to be penniless, hungry and surprisingly ignorant about almost everything. (Martin, a big, credulous, incoherent lad, was convinced that the green fields on the far side of the Camel estuary were in Wales.) But they were polite, unassuming companions, and Mark and I relished our roles as old Polzeath hands condescending to show the newcomers the ropes. On the way, Melanie collected cockle shells to send to their father in prison. We passed the tiny church hidden among the sand dunes where John Betjeman is…