By the early 1970s, holiday tour operators were offering package holidays abroad for the masses at affordable prices. Flights, transfers and accommodation were being sold at prices which made a holiday abroad more desirable than a wet fortnight by the English seaside. I had accompanied my grandparents on holidays to places like Bournemouth, Poole and Llandudno and, for the most part, the weather was despicable. I remember one year we went on holiday somewhere and it rained every single day we were away. I think for the week we were away we had one afternoon when we could venture outside the confines of the car.
My grandmother had had enough and, because everyone else was doing it, she wanted to go on one of these new-fangled package holidays. As determined as my grandmother was to fly to the sun, my grandfather was just as determined that no one was getting him inside an aeroplane. A number of disagreements ensued, the result of which was the plan that I accompany my grandmother on holiday and my grandfather remained at home.
I think to begin with my grandmother thought my grandfather would change his mind. I remember her bringing home holiday brochures and she would sit with me purring over some of the holiday destinations in a fashion designed to pique the interest of my grandfather. He, however, was having none of it. Probably the thought of two weeks out from under the thumb of my grandmother was the best holiday that he could imagine and he wasn’t being cheated out of it by the promise of sun, sea and sand.
Eventually my grandmother and I booked a holiday to Majorca to stay in a hotel called the Coral Playa in Magaluf which is still there to this day. Furthermore, judging by some of the photographs on the Trip Advisor website nothing much has changed at the Coral Playa; including the bed covers.
I was dragged around the shops for clothes befitting a youth going on his first package holiday and, of course, my grandmother had to supervise the booting and suiting. I was even forced to purchase a hat to keep the sun from frying my head. Luckily, I found one that looked like a John Wayne cowboy hat so that was me in my element.
Soon the day came and off we went to the airport. It was quite emotional saying goodbye to my grandfather at Manchester Airport but this was overshadowed by the excitement of my first time flying. Although, funnily enough, I can’t remember a single thing about the flight.
The hotel was great. I had a lift all to myself to play in whenever I wanted – or so I thought – much to the annoyance of most of the other holiday makers. I remember buying a snorkel and that was me preparing to join Jacque Cousteau’s next expedition. After practising around the pool, staying partially submerged pretending not to hear my grandmother calling me in for lunch, I was ready for open seas. In no time at all I was in the sea snorkelling and enjoying every minute of it.
Having a mother and grandmother who were very traditional in their cooking, this was my first time eating foreign food and I was determined I was going to dive in head first. I had to try everything on the menu and many an evening was spent with me racing around the buffet looking for more exciting food. Curries, kebabs, paellas – you name it and I was enjoying it. Needless to say, in no time at all I was down with food poisoning and spent the next two days in bed. Once I was recovered that was it, my grandmother curtailed all foreign foods and I was back on an English only diet.
Looking back I can remember some of the entertainment that was put on in the evenings for the guests. It was so 1970s I can still cringe for it now. If you have ever seen The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club on television then you will gain an idea of some of the acts which were on. Although, because this was Spain, they had to throw in a fire-eater every night and so the whole hotel smelt of petrol and paraffin by bed time.
Soon it was time to return home and my grandfather was there waiting for us at the airport. It was nice to see him again but he had done something which, looking back today, shows how people back then thought of foreign countries. While we were away my Grandmother had bought the Daily Express every day to keep up with news from home – just as she did when she was at home. However, my grandfather thought Spain was the other side of the world and so had saved all the fortnights newspapers for her to read upon her return. He didn’t imagine you could actually read the English papers out in Spain.
By today’s standards the hotel and food was pretty poor but I still look back on that holiday with a great deal of affection. It was the only one I had with my grandmother because the following year – after my grandmother had survived her flights – my grandfather decided perhaps flying wasn’t as scary as he first thought and he took my place on their future holidays.