Dave Smith looks back with inexplicable fondness at Smith family treats such as a trip to the breaker's yard, Arctic Roll, and midge-infested family holidays in Scotland...
Anyone you ever speak to will always have a handful of things they can remember from their childhood which fell into the ‘special treat’ category. They tend to be fond memories, which still make your mouth water or cause dewy-eyed reverie. And if you have children, you naturally want them to experience the same things you did. However, there’s one boyhood treat I think I’ll resist inflicting on my daughter. You see, somehow, I don’t think a trip to the breakers yard is really suitable for a two-year-old whose current favourite things are kittens and anything pink.
When my brother and I were still in shorts, we could think of no more exciting way to start a weekend than my Dad clapping his hands together with a, "Right, who fancies a trip to the breakers yard then?" This would be followed by my brother and I running around excitedly like the Keystone Kops, repeatedly running into eachother and generally getting ourselves into a bit of a lather. Of course to my Dad, the trip wasn’t pure ‘treat’. It had a practical purpose – we were on a mission to find a part for his car.
"Right then boys" he’d say, as we were being eyed up by the greasy junk-yard Alsations, licking their lips thinking, ‘Mmmm, elevenses’, "What we’re after, is a Vauxhall Victor offside-wing mounting-bracket. Off you go." We were then left to our own devices to roam amongst, and climb up the teetering skyscrapers of rusting Cortinas, Vivas, and Austin 1100s. But I secretly know now it wasn’t really a treat, it was just something my Dad wanted to do, and we were cleverly ‘sold’ it as a something you got if you were good.
The one thing in our house that was held up as the last word in decadence was reserved for birthdays and Christmas only. So long as it was someone’s birthday, you’d been good for the last month, my mum’s biorhythms were all in alignment, and there was a full moon, there was an outside chance that you might be getting Arctic Roll for your tea.
Breaking it down to it’s basic components it was just sponge, ice-cream and jam, on a plate. But it was more than that – it was confirmation that life’s extra special moments can be bought, and are available in all good shops near you.
But the real ‘treat of treats’ I’d look forward to all year, would be our annual family holiday. My Dad being the ‘outdoorsy’ type, meant they were always taken in some remote crofter’s cottage on the side of a midge-infested mountain in Scotland. Once there, the coming days would be planned out meticulously the night before, using an OS map and a compass, selecting which mountain was to be conquered next by the ‘Swiss Family Smith’.
Until I started to look at friends holiday snaps, I seriously thought everyone had holidays like Territorial Army manoeuvres. There would be my friends, sat grinning on a scorching beach, with a ‘99’ ice cream running down their forearm, a whole seafront of lovely tacky amusements in the background. Most of our photos, on the other hand, showed all four of us, in ill-fitting wet weather gear, leaning slightly into the teeth of a gale, on top of our latest Scottish conquest. Because of the drizzle it’s difficult to see in the picture whether we’re grinning or wincing. But I seem to remember them as fun – I didn’t know any different.
All these were treats because I was told that’s what they were, but the real treats were the ones which just happened and stuck in my mind: - having celery and Dairylea cheese for tea on Sundays, staying up late to watch The Sweeney, being taken for rides on the back of my Dad’s motorbike or being really small and sitting in front of a coal fire after a bath. All fantastic.
I wonder if my daughter’s enduring memory of ‘a treat’ will be of me clapping my hands together and saying, "Right then, who fancies a trip to the Red Lion, so I can sit in the pub garden and read the Sunday papers?" Hope so.