Neville John William Day 7 March 1922 - 26 November 1990
Dad and THE holiday
I have painted a picture, a very accurate picture, in various chapters of this account, of the hardships we endured on our rented Fenland smallholding.
For those not wishing to read on I stress right now that this was in no way a negative reflection upon my late Stepfather, Neville Day. He strove continuously to improve our lot and our lives, and he achieved all of that.
I was witness to Neville Day, my stepfather, working hours that would have been way beyond either the stamina or the willpower of most men. Also working with skill and competence. Working hard solely for the welfare and security of his family. Dad was purely a victim of a rapidly changing, and frankly not much improving set of economic circumstances. Then as now, the product of a succession of inept, along with all too often, corrupt, government policy decisions.
Thus only once in twelve years of living in the Fens did we as a family ever get to have a holiday, and that only for a single week in Brighton. In a guest house with cold running water. Running down the walls that is. No one complained though. We were all grateful and happy for our rare good fortune.
I was eight years old and the time was well spent with Dad teaching me to swim next the since burned out Brighton pier.
Then collecting cuttlefish shells from the beach by the dozen to take back home for the delight of Dad's chickens.
None of us had ever seen cuttlefish shells before as they weren't a native of East Anglia. Dad explained what they were and why they were good for chickens.
To improve the quality of their egg shells and also polish their beaks. Or their teeth as Dad would joke. Anyway, Dad's chickens knew what he was talking about.
We took a ride to see spectacular Devil's Dyke in the Sussex Downs and which my then three year old half sister, Suzanne, amusingly thereafter referring to as Neville's Dyke. Half a sister was quite sufficient for me in those days. Due to her habit of counting my Rice Krispies in my bowl every morning and screaming the house down if I had three more than her. Besides which at just three she wasn't yet all that sharp at counting.
Apart from that one holiday, and despite the heavy workload then if he got even half a chance Dad needed little excuse to take us on long road trips. These inevitably included a picnic sat on an old tartan rug, usually placed under the shade of a tree in a field entrance or somesuch. I now realise because there was no way could we ever afford the alternative of eating in a restaurant or a pub. I still have our battered family wicker picnic basket along with the little china pots Mother used to fill with home made chocolate puddings. Oh what joy!
Long trips were though usually in response to some either celebration, calamity or tragedy within the family, on either side, Mother's or Dad's. My Mother's being the most widely distributed across the country. From far west in Wales up to Derbyshire, Yorkshire and closer to home in neighbouring High Norfolk.
Ford Consul. After that, on 26 August 1965 we left the smallholding and moved up to North West Norfolk, for a new vocation and life.
Despite other various and unavoidable deprivations, Dad's trips were sheer delight. With the benefit of few motorways, town after town we negotiated were each described in intricate detail by Dad and his seemingly inexhaustible fountain of knowledge. Mainly history of course but also geographical features or oddities. The best parts were where upon approaching a house or passing a street, sometimes even hundreds of miles from home, Dad would suddenly gleefully announce something like "Great Aunt Nelly was born here." Followed ten minutes later and five miles further on by "Great Aunt Nelly's Father lived here." Leaving all of us to ponder why Father and daughter didn't occupy the same property but thinking maybe it was perhaps best not to ask.
I have since figured that prior to the Internet, Dad's boundless knowledge of UK geography and social history was probably enhanced by his acquiring an annually released 'Book of the Road' published by the AA (Automobile Association), along with its competing similar book published by the RAC (Royal Automobile Club). Extravagant expenditure? On the contrary. In those days it would have been madness to venture further than fifty miles from home without the security of either the AA or the RAC, or preferably both. And few did or would argue with that rule. I swear Dad's proudly polished chromium and enamel AA and RAC car badges were actually responsible for holding key parts of our early rust buckets together! I still have his RAC one. It brings tears to my eyes to handle it!
Chris Latham-Smith 2022.
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