David Graham caught the travel bug as a child and even though he’s trotting round the globe these days, he fondly remembers Northern holidays as a child, Blackpool and the Isle of Man, with sing songs on the bus.
Times and places change, but some things do stay the same, like a life-long enthusiasm for travelling, which has never waned over the years. It was brought home to me when I was sorting through some old files and unearthed an article I must have hammered out on an old portable typewriter, long before the internet, when a website was just spider’s favourite corner of the bathroom. It underlined what a joy it is to travel, and hopefully, it stands the test of time to strike a chord with other travellers of a certain age.
It could well be my second childhood. Or maybe I’m just going crackers – but either way, I’m thoroughly enjoying it. There’s just nothing like the huge flush of childish excitement that fills me with a fizz like champagne at the thought of even a short trip away from home, let alone a proper holiday.
I must admit, I’ve been hooked on travel of any sort ever since the fast-receding time when one of the biggest treats of my young life was a day out to Blackpool.
I don’t think I’m getting old and decrepit yet (this was written some years ago!) but I still remember well the thrilling and always sun-filled days when huge, snake-like trains uncoiled their way north from Manchester into my village railway station at the start of our local holiday fortnight.
Virtually all the factories and mills in Rossendale closed down for the two-week break, and whole departments stuck together, 30s-style, to go on the ‘trip trains’ to the coast with their families.
Slightly less exotic was a slower, pre-motorway journey to breathe the ozone on board a Yelloway coach, but it was still quite an adventure to drive from an almost-empty Valley through rarely-seen parts of rural Lancashire.
Then another travel treat awaited – a ride on a tram, with the angular, red-and-white Fleetwood vehicles rating somewhat below the still rattling, but rather more streamlined-looking variety from Blackpool. Cleveleys and Bispham have never looked quite the same from the windows of a car.
And coast-bought fish and chips have never seemed to have quite the same taste as when chomped between choruses of Ten Green Bottles – although I’m talking about the mid-to-late-1950s before sing-songs on the weary way home became thought of as embarrassing and down-market.
I must admit, though, that I would be mortified at the very idea of standing up in the aisle to do a party piece now, wearing short pants or not. I also know that my (then) teenage daughters would disown me in milliseconds if I displayed any tendencies even to hum along. In some ways, it’s a little sad that they have largely missed out on the simple pleasure of travel for travel’s sake and have become quite blasé about just how easy it is to move about the world, whether to look for a job between college courses or just to have fun in the sun for a week or two.
Going overseas used to mean a romance and adventure-filled voyage to the Isle of Man, only to be experienced after a series of testing, Arctic convoy-style training runs to Knott End and back.
Then we took to the air – ten-minute pleasure hops which led up to marathon Dakota flights across the Irish Sea, watching the rivets on the engine cowlings dancing like a metallic chorus line, and hoping they would hold the plane together long enough to make it to Ronaldsway airport.
Ironically, the once-insular Rossendale Valley is striving to become a tourist area itself (and still is) and is (was!) the home of holiday giant Airtours.
A holiday in Europe, the Middle East, America or the Caribbean now hardly merits a raised eyebrow among local families brought up on school exchanges on the Continent and with the world on their doorstep.
But although I may be growing just a little bit older (this was before my Silver Coyote days), I’m damned if I’m going to grow up. And I’m not going to grow out of getting one heck of a thrill from spreading my wings, even though it is so much easier to do these days.
Now I can book a holiday just down the road, zoom down the motorway to Ringway (now Manchester International Airport) and head for the wide blue yonder inside a matter of hours – but I still go clutching my imagination along with my Joe Cool shades and Somerset Maugham straw hat with the turned-down brim.