Today I was wondering whether to pack sun block cream for our short holiday, when it reminded me of another holiday with my mother.
As usual we had gone to Folkestone and were staying with my grandparents. We went down to the beach, me to swim, and my mother to read. As she caught the sun readily she always made a paper beak for herself and somehow stuck it on her nose to prevent sunburn.
I do not know how long I was swimming, but my mother used to call me from time to time to see if I had gone blue, and when I had, it was time to come out and get dressed and for me to have a hot Horlicks drink to get warm again. We used to go to a fisherman's cafe, and at the time they kept playing Ghost Riders in the Sky, on the juke box, sung by Frankie Laine; I loved it.
My mother thought it would be a good idea to go to the cinema and see The Cruel Sea, so we did. For once we sat in the seats to which we had been ushered. Usually we had to move several times before my mother thought the view was good enough which always involved a lot of grumbling from other people, and made me want to be invisible.
The film was absorbing and dramatic. When it finished, my mother remained sitting as the others left. She was in an isle seat, so they had to clamber over her. When they had gone she said in a horse voice to help her stand up. I tried, but she could not straighten her legs because sunburn had tightened her skin into a sitting position.
We staggered and lurched out of the cinema, with her walking in crab fashion, now reminiscent of Toulouse Lautrec, holding on to me desperately. It took a long time, but we reached my grandparent's house, and when they opened the door they were shocked, and then angry that she would be so foolish.
The next day she had to stay in bed covered in calamine lotion, and when she eventually got up she had to walk with my grandfather's walking sticks. For all following holidays like that, not only did she wear a white beak on the beach, but she wrapped herself up like The Mummy
with towels while she read.
Years later I found out that Nicholas Montserrat, who wrote The Cruel Sea, lived in Guernsey. His house was beside the view I painted called The Shortcut. (On my website)