Caravans and Second Homes

There is, rightly, concern for the loss of land to spec and council building. In the 30’s, in any industrial town, like |Newcastle on Tyne, the Black Country, Belfast, et al, you would have found street after street of ‘two up two down’ houses, bulging at the seams with people and children, at 75 to the acre, the legacy of the Industrial Revolution. In ’46 people were being housed in caravan parks and prefabs.From the 50’s great swathes of older dwellings were replaced by motorways, more modern and more comfortable housing and those not accommodated in the immediate renewal were housed on green field sites, Since the 60’s housing has been mainly built at 12 to 15 to the acre and those wealthy enough have purchased second or holiday homes, having the same effect as the renewal system. With all this expansion the infrastructure has been over stretched, and the services put under pressure. I believe nothing but an inspired, overall rethink is essential if our heritage for the future is not to be totally mismanaged.

Portnoo, Caravans And Caravanning
The desire to get away ‘from it all’, is, I believe, in the genes, the ancient urge to find pastures new. Round all our coasts are caravan parks great, and small, hideous and acceptable. We were persuaded to try it. We started going to Portnoo at the behest of our friends, who had been going for generations. The attraction, apart from the fabulous beach, the fishing, the golf, the security of children without tight supervision, was the free atmosphere, the way everyone mucked in. The girls made friends and Portnoo was immediately established for all time for us. At night there was drinking until nearly dawn in the pubs and it was a regular thing to give a turn, play silly games and get sozzled. Willy Long and his version of Piddling Pete, was a regular request.

The fishing in the sea, the lakes and rivers was good. I would bring both sea fish and trout for others to enjoy as I hated fish even then. Years later, fishing on Doon Fort lake above Narin, the sun setting with an extraordinary sunset, I hooked a salmon trout. Holding it in my hand in that light, in those surroundings, knowing I would never be the one to eat the fish, with the sun bringing out all sorts of colour and resonances from the fishes’ scales, I wondered why the hell I was killing something so beautiful for sport, and have never fished since.

It was during that holiday I developed Menier’s disease of the middle ear so virulently that I actually fell over just sitting on the side of the bed. When I went into the bar in a terribly unbalanced state, no one would believe I was sober. It was also on that holiday that one dentist managed to hook his doctor friend in the ear with a salmon fly, and we were entertained with some ad hoc surgery in the bar.

Talking of dentists, my mate Ernie, a dentist in Belfast and an habitue of Portnoo, hated to meet his clients when he was on holiday and we did all we could to fend him from them. I have seen him almost hide when he thought he spied one on the horizon. On yet another wet day he, his son and wife, along with Sophie and I, were having coffee in the lounge. I was pushing a toy car across the floor to his young son who was likewise returning it when unfortunately it became bent through hitting a chair leg too hard. Repairs were effected, by the son straightening the car with his teeth. Sophie, witnessing the engineering feat said, ‘It’s a good thing your father’s a dentist.’, upon which a woman, who had been sitting behind us and who had mistaken me for the boy’s father approached me and said, ‘Oh! Are you a dentist?’ Without waiting for confirmation she went into a long detailed description of her daughter’s teeth, what she believed was wrong with them, and what she reckoned her dentist should have done to the child.. At suitable intervals I smiled, I dared not explain the mistake as not only would Ernie’s day be ruined, ours most probably would in consequence. However, my bluff was called when she said she wanted to bring her daughter for me to examine and I was forced to explain that the boy I was playing with was the son of a friend, unspecified, and she had made a mistake. I’m afraid she took it all very badly, but it brought home to me why so many doctors register as Mr on holiday.

Categorized as General

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