Past Pleasures

The fag end of winter seems to go on forever, so I’ve been consoling myself by making plans for the summer holidays. My older son says that he wants to go to America, but I’m not a fan of long-haul flights these days, so I will try to entice him with something closer to home.

I hear that Pontins is still going:


This is an aerial view of Pontins in Southport. It looks as if there should be a sign at the entrance saying Arbeit Macht Frei and I’m not encouraged by a report in the Liverpool Echo about a “mass brawl” and allegations of “drug use, health and safety concerns and death tragedy”.

I can imagine that a weekend there would be entertaining, but not in a good way.

My ideal holiday would require a time machine, as I would love to travel around Britain and Europe in the days when motor cars were a luxury and retail chains were something that hung in doorways during the summer months, to keep the flies out.

I’ve been partly inspired by a batch of photos that I found recently – all taken during the 1920s and 30s. Here are some of my favourites:


These people wouldn’t have a punch-up in Pontins. They are enjoying their bucolic idyll without compromising any sartorial standards and for them, tattoos were things that one visited.


Of course, there are occasions when one should hang up one’s jacket and prepare to pull up one’s sleeves, very slightly.


I particularly like this photo, taken at a child’s level, which gives us a tantalising glimpse of the shop window, with what looks like cakes or pies.

Also, notice that the dogs aren’t trying to eat her, as this is the pre-Rotweiler era.


I remember my parents letting me take a float like this out to sea when I was 10. I couldn’t swim, but that didn’t seem to bother them. My father would often complain about ‘health and safety nonsense’ which was ironic, as he worked for the Health and Safety Executive.

A friend saw this photo and said that the woman is a ‘Double Barker’. I am waiting for an explanation.


This would almost be a good photo, if someone hadn’t committed the common error of chopping off the subject’s feet and placing them dead centre. However, it’s still worth posting for the pleasure of seeing someone enjoying the outdoors in an immaculate, three-piece suit.


This photo is of a great grandmother and is dated 1924. She looks like a ghost from the Victorian age, rather than someone who has spent 24 years in the new century.


There’s no name or date on the back of this photo, but with her tie and utilitarian hairstyle, she may have taken her holidays at Radclyffe Hall. She looks like someone who would be a fun travelling companion, although I might have to hide the whisky bottle.


Another appealing facet of this era is the preference for high-waisted trousers, which enabled gentlemen to churn butter without exposing anything unsightly as they bent down to turn the handle.

I will rejoice when these trousers reappear in the shops.


This formidable-looking group of women remind me of my great-aunts, who were born in the 1890s and refused to make any concessions to postwar fashions. Some of them even eschewed the 1920s, preferring the long skirts and brooches of their youth.

This photo is typical of the time, where the holiday was often an occasion to dress up rather than down.


It’s rare to find an old photo where the subjects aren’t standing still. This appears to be an impromptu shot and the gentlemens’ faces betray their slight discomfort.


Finally, if you’re not happy with the 1920s or 30s, this portal will take you to a different time zone. This man’s about to travel to the year 2016, where people will probably live on the moon and war will be a thing of the past.

Sadly, I have no time portal, so I will have to make do with the present. Perhaps, now that my wife and I have discovered some mysterious Irish ancestry in our DNA profiles, it’s time for a trip to the Emerald Isle.


  1. richmonde

    “I will rejoice when these trousers reappear in the shops” – and so will I! That is actually where a person’s waist is. Amazingly, if you belt trousers round your waist, they don’t fall down. Lovely set of photos! Have fun in Ireland.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. dazedconfused2016

    A friend once asked if he could take the extra room on our summer holiday let. He was great fun but had not quit discovered the twentieth century and it was nearly over. There is a photo somewhere taken of us walking side by side in some botanic garden, me barefoot and in skimpy bathing costume, him in three piece tweed suit, collar and tie and brogues. Hope it amuses someone when found in some future as yet undreamed of…

    The charm of old photographs, priceless.


  3. bailaolan

    Each of these pictures is charming in its own way.
    Am I the only one feeling there’s something vaguely uncanny in the fifth one (the “almost good photo”)?


  4. Joan Kyler

    I’m about halfway through the fifth book of The Cazalet Chronicles and the photo of the women you suspect might vacation at Radclyffe Hall looks very like I imagine Sid, Rachel’s ‘friend’ in the Chronicles, to look.
    I love that people used to dress up for so many occasions. I hate dressing up, but I refuse to stoop to wearing track suits or sweat pants outside of my house. My late mother, by the way, who was born in 1916, NEVER wore trousers in her life, never ever.


    • Steerforth

      I know someone who reminds me very much of the woman in the photo. She used to be an alcoholic, particularly after her partner left her, but after an unfortunate event at a horticultural display, when she fell into someone’s bush and flattened it, she decided to go to a clinic and sort herself out. I miss her outrageous, Beryl Reid persona, but she’s more contented, which is what matters.


  5. Sandra Morris

    What a lovely selection. My favourite is the one with the dogs outside the pie/cake shop. I assume they’re being so well behaved because they’ve already mugged the adorable moppet for her pastry treat and are hanging around the scene of the crime in the hope that she still has some crumbs clenched in her fist.


    • Steerforth

      I find the photo tantalising – I’d like to see who the adult is at the right hand edge and would also like to see more of the shop window. Also, where is it? With that steep hill in the background, it reminds me of so many places.


  6. George

    I think that picture by the lake looks odd because the sky is tinted, but nothing else–why not the man’s skin? It gives the impression of having been shot in front of a backdrop, though I don’t suppose it was. The freighter in sharp focus, and the hills apparently in clearer focus than the peninsula on the right look strange, too.


  7. Dale

    I think with photos taken just after the first World War, older women often reached for their “good black dress” from the previous era, as they were in mourning for lost loved ones, but dress materials were unavailable. Hence some of the older fashions bobbing back up.
    With the cake shop, they appeared to have sold the day’s baking from the bottom trays, and all that’s left are the heavy fruit cakes baked in their paper casing, on the shelves above. But what’s that lying across the bottom trays? Has their curtain rod fallen down? A mystery.


    • Steerforth

      I think you’re right about the mourning wear. Even today, we tend to get our money’s worth of of these outfits, don’t we? I have a suit that has seen more deaths than Quincy, but I’ve just learned that for a funeral next week, I will be expected to dress like a Breton sailor.


  8. Allen

    I don’t go on holiday to find drug use, health and safety concerns and death tragedy. I can get those at home, as the old saying goes.
    A “Double Barker” is a woman with a beautiful body but not such a fine face – a Sue and Ronnie combination.


    • Steerforth

      I’m not sure if that poor woman deserves the Double Barker label, but one of my near neighbours certainly does – she must be around 55 and has the head of a 63-year-old postman with the body of an 18-year-old girl, which she proudly shows off by wearing a crop-top. It’s a striking contrast.


  9. Kid

    I assumed a ‘double barker’ meant that the speaker was implying that he thought the subject was a total ‘dog’. Not that it’s the sort of thing you’d say to any woman’s face of course.


    • Steerforth

      That was my first assumption. I wonder where either of those expressions came from? I don’t remember the phrase ‘bit of a dog’ before the 1990s. When I was growing up, it wasn’t the done thing to be rude about a girl in that way – not in my social circle, at least.


  10. Lucille

    The car in the second picture was on the North Circular yesterday. It was driven by a man sitting bolt upright and very close to the steering wheel. I feared for his survival but also wanted to be his passenger.
    The ambulatory men were probably caught by a street photographer.
    There’s a Pontins at Camber Sands if you’d like to try one nearer to home.
    I will be booking a trip to the Pacific Islands to seek out the 2% of my family DNA that originated there.


      • dazedconfused2016

        I have never been so sick as I was during a stay at Pontins, thought my innards were going to explode but it was just the whole contents which … The food was disgusting, the accommodation was like a prison camp and colder than a fridge, just happy to have survived.


      • Lucille

        But first I have to go to South East Asia, to meet up with the 27% of those, then Scandinavia for the 23% of them, 17% from the Irish, and 16% for the Iberian Peninsula folks. Dear old Blighty contributed a measly 9%. I’m feeling conflicted.
        I’ve gone Pontinental.


  11. leeparis

    Your comment about compromised sartorial standards brought immediately to mind an observation made by David Sedaris about a man in the check-in counter queue who looked like he had just come to the airport after wrestling a pig in his back yard.


    • Steerforth

      That’s a wonderful description – I can see him now. I used to be very dismissive of my father’s obsession with being well-groomed, but I now appreciate the fact that he would have always changed out of his pig-wrestling clothes before going out.


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