Saturday, January 24, 2009

There's no place I'd rather be!

On January 3, I talked about our family's move to the little fishing village of Flamborough. My father was working as a photographer at Butlin's Holiday Camp in Filey and life was good.

I began to attend the local school, and, to my parent's horror, gained a Yorkshire accent. The kids in my school loved to make fun of my 'posh' London accent, so I quickly learned how to drop h's and pick up the local slang.... "Aye ad a guid diy -- went on't beach wi me friends." (Translation: I had a good day -- went on the beach with my friends).

But when financial disaster struck Billy Butlin in the Bahamas, what had seemed to be a certainty of a job for my father for the next five years quickly came to an end.
This led to him taking over the management of a derelict Golf Club, and in mid-1952 we moved a mile and a half down the road from Flamborough Village, all the way to the end of that promontory sticking out into the North Sea -- Flamborough Head. You'll see, 2/3 of the way up the middle of the photo, a black arrow pointing to a tiny building with a black roof -- that was our new home. Perpendicular to that there is another slightly larger building, also with a black roof -- that's the Flamborough Head Golf Club, and you can see the golf course ranging back across from the cliffs.

Way off to the left of our house you can see the 'new' white lighthouse, and up and slightly to the right of that you can see the 'old' lighthouse, which was actually a beacon.

At the end of the path leading from the lighthouse down to the cliffs is the foghorn station.

Flamborough Head was always a nightmare for mariners, and its cliffs and rocks turned the sea onto a graveyard for many a ship caught in the horrific storms that batter the Headland. There are hundreds of wrecks at the bottom of the North Sea, up and down the east coast of Yorkshire..This is the Rosa, which wrecked on the rocks at Flamborough Head in the early 1900's. But Flamborough's claim to fame (well, there are so many, but this is a famous one) is the Battle of Flamborough Head, which took place on September 23, 1779. John Paul Jones lost his ship, the Bon Homme Richard, in that fierce battle. It sank to the bottom of the North Sea, just off the Headland and, in spite of even Clive Cussler's efforts to find it, its whereabouts still remain a mystery.

When we first moved there, we had no idea of Flamborough Head's (FH from now on) attractions and history. It turned out to be the most amazing place to live! For my sister and me, at least, it was a little bit of heaven on earth! I am not sure I have the stamina to record all we learned and all we experienced, but I'll do my best. First here is a close-up of our house and the Golf Club:The cars are lined up in front of the old golf club, and our new little home, the "Dormy House" is the one with the chimney. Apparently, the Dormy House was where travelling golfers would stay when they came for tournaments at one time. (I can't believe I am old enough to have been living in the era of these 'old fashioned' cars -- one of them there is ours!)This is me, sitting on top of the big water tank outside our front door. My sister's bedroom virtually overlooked the bay.

Here's a black and white photo with a great picture of the Dormy House on top of the cliff, with the club house beside it. And here is a more recent photo. You can just see the footpath leading up the cliff in the distance (under the 'm' in Flamborough). The Dormy House and Club house were at the top of the footpath, although they are no longer there in this photo. Quite some time after we had moved away from the Headland, the two old buildings were torn down because of the eroding cliffs -- you can see the new club house just a little further up the hill.

Both of these old buildings had been used, we think, by the military during the war. FH was a strategic military location, and, even when we were living there, spread out at intervals over the cliffs, were round, concrete 'pill boxes" with just an open doorway and tiny slits for lookout windows. Soldiers would be stationed at the windows with binoculars, watching for the enemy's approach by air or sea. There was one on the cliff just below our house -- it made a great hideout for us as kids -- we played many a game in and on top of it!

Our Dormy House was an awesome place to live, especially in a storm. It was reinforced all around with corrugated iron to protect it from the elements. The gale force winds would whip up the waves, and our little house would vibrate with the ferocity with which they were pounding the cliffs - 400 hundred feet below us! Even the windows were coated with the salty spray.

At night the lighthouse would go into action, its revolving light reflecting through our windows. And the foghorn would sound, warning the ships to steer clear of the rocks, with its mournful, loud moaning. I loved it! I would curl up snug and warm in bed, under my thick comforter, and think that there was no place I would rather be!

Next time: Smugglers, birds, donkeys and fish and chips!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Where's Elmo?

For those who don't know, Elmo is a Sesame Street muppet who apparently has a habit of hiding himself. Kids can have great fun trying to find him hidden in the pages of his books. Well, since most of my readers are a little too old for Elmo mysteries, I thought I would present you with one of my own:

Where's Doth's (Daughter Of The House) and my cars?
Give up?
Doth's is on the middle left, and mine is middle right, hiding behind the five-foot high snow banks.

Where's the candy-cane Christmas decoration?
Yep, that's it, in the middle of the three objects. It's 3.5 feet high, by the way . The object to its right is (was?) a pretty Christmas basket (sitting on a rock) with sprigs of fir, pine cones, Pointsettias, and other pretty Christmas decorations. We've not been able to get them out and put away, since Christmas. The snow just doesn't stop!

Where's the bird-bath? You're right! That's it, bottom left, with at least a foot and a half of snow on it. The object top right is the composter!

What's this?It's actually the view from our second-floor bathroom window. That mound of snow on the left? It's on top of the canopy that hangs over the back-yard patio -- virtually impossible to get the snow off it, and it's beginning to buckle under the weight.

What's this?
Believe it or not, it's the backyard bird feeder.

Who's this?
This is our good neighbour, Mr 'L', whom we've hired to bring his trusty snowblower by after a heavy snow storm and dig us out.

And this... Mr 'L' clearing our driveway at the same time as Mr ? in his BIG snow-plow truck is clearing our neighbour's driveway. We are not able to "keep up with the Joneses" so we use the 'little man'-- he's cheaper and just as efficient, although a little slower!
And anyway, the 'big guy' can't drive his truck down the sidewalk, so he has to still pull out his little snowblower (BIG penalties for not clearing your sidewalks, in this city).

This is the view from our living room window, looking down the street -- do you wonder why I was unable to get to church today??
'kay -- so I'm not complaining (I promised not to, remember, at the end of summer?), but just wanted you readers of my blog, who are living right now in 70-80 degree weather, to be very grateful.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Journeying Towards a Little Bit of Heaven

The festivities are over. Winter is in full swing. It's a great time to get off the detour and back to blogging about my childhood.

It's hard to believe my last post was on October 7th, at which time I talked about my father's new job with Butlin's Holiday Camp in Filey, Yorkshire, as a photographer.

A steady job meant that we could buy a house, and my father found the perfect location within driving distance of Filey.

On the north-east coast of Yorkshire, there is a promontory shaped like an arrow-head, reaching far out into the North Sea:
If you follow the coastline along the promontory towards the point, you will see Bridlington, Sewerby, Flamborough, and then Flamborough Head.

My dad found a lovely home for us in Flamborough (spelled Flamboro for short) and in 1947 we moved into 15 Woodcock Road. Ours is the semi-detached, two-storey home marked with the x above the window.

Last year, my sister, her husband and I visited the UK and found our old home. This is what it looks like today: I'm amazed that it still looks the same!

Behind the house were miles and miles of fields. This is me, hanging over the fence at the bottom of our garden: It was an ideal location for my brother and sister and I, with no shortage of playmates and fun things to do. And even though we arrived with our 'posh' London accents, we settled in remarkably well.

My brother went to Bridlington Grammar School, my sister attended the last year of the local public school and I, for some reason I never discovered, travelled to a Catholic Convent in Filey, for my kindergarten year. Then I, too, eventually went to the Flamboro School. When we weren't in school, we were playing outdoors, coming home only for meal-times it seems.

Flamboro was a tiny fishing village where weather-beaten, weather-wise fishermen and their families lived. I say 'was' because sadly the North Sea can no longer provide the amount of fish needed to support them. But for decades Flamboro's small population lived off the lucrative provisions of its environment. I'll be posting more about that later.

But first, here are some photos of the village, taken from old post-cards -- but really very little has changed over the years:
This is Croft's Hill -- the road into the village
This is the centre of the village: the post office on the left, and the news-agents (we would call it a convenience store today) on the right
This is the old High Street, which has always had at least one Fish and Chips shop on it. We would buy fresh fish straight from the sea, deep fried in a crisp batter (lovely and greasy!) along with fat chips (french fries) all wrapped in newspaper.

On the other side of the street, just a little further back from this photo, was Mrs. Sunley's sweet shop -- which was always a favourite stop, on our way to or from school. Dolly Mixtures, Pontefract Cakes, Gobstoppers and Sherbert Fountains were the best!

Now -- since I have actually posted this three times so far (every time I save it, it seems to disappear) I am going to stop while the going is good.

More to come!