In 1975 my parents announced that this year’s family holiday was to include a week
in Horning in a holiday chalet hired from one of my mum’s bosses. Being fifteen at
the time mum and dad said that I could bring someone along to keep me company. Plan
A was to ask my girlfriend, unfortunately her dad wasn’t too keen on the idea, probably
to my dad’s relief as it would have meant him sharing a room with me. So, plan B
was put into action – plan B was my best friend Adie.
So the big day of departure came, I think it was August, I know that it was incredibly
hot at the time. We all set off in two cars, mum, dad, nan and granddad in dad’s
Vauxhall Victor, Adie and I in his Dads Volvo 144 along with his mum and younger
sister who came along for the ride. When we arrived the older members of our party
(everyone else) and the more sensible (Adie’s sister) made tea, chatted and unpacked.
We, however, rushed around trying to find out what was there and what we could do
for the week. We were eventually called to order to bid farewell to Adie’s mum, dad
and sis, then unpack our stuff. Now, we were quite excited about the motor cruiser
we had found in the boat shed, but dad informed us that they hadn’t hired that. We
did however have use of a very small rowing boat and a small motor launch. Well I
say “we” …… “we” were allowed the use of the rowing boat and dad had use of the launch.
Apparently there was no way “we” were getting our hands on the keys to the launch
without dad being there.
We next turned our attention to the interior of our temporary home, an area largely
ignored thus far in our excitement. We were at first delighted to discover an ancient
valve radiogram which on examination appeared to work perfectly. We were less delighted
when, as two music mad teenagers, it gradually dawned on us that our record collections
were some thirty odd miles away!! Never mind, we at least had my dad’s brand new
FM radio cassette player to enable us to listen to the John Peel show during the
week. Only this was the weekend and he wouldn’t be on for a couple of days so we
decided to see what else could be found on FM. To our amazement ….. indeed still
to my amazement…. we were able to pick up Capitol Radio! Maybe it had something to
do with atmospheric conditions in the hot weather, but anyway it kept us amused frequently
during our stay.
The order of the following details have been lost to the mists of time, but at some
point early on we explored the village and discovered the amusement arcade. Video
games were beginning to appear so we attempted to master the complexities of “Tank
Battle” and a game called “Dogfight” or something similar which involved flying two
primitively represented bi-planes very slowly and shooting at one another. We were
hooked in no time and often returned for further battles, 10p’s permitting! We also
discovered a shop with a box of secondhand LP’s outside, they were mostly country
and western or classical but near the back of the box was a copy of K-Tels 20 Top
Hits Volume 2 – a bargain at 25p I remember. Great we thought, we can use the radiogram
now! Inside the same shop we found cans of Woodpecker cider for sale, so a couple
were purchased along with the record. Strangely, at only 15 we had no problem buying
alcohol, this may have had something to do with the fact that in our 4” heeled platform
shoes we were both somewhat over six feet tall. Certainly when wearing said footwear
the only time my age was questioned was when trying to take advantage of half price
under 16 train fares! Anyway, further trips to this shop were planned.
On our return to the chalet one further disappointment greeted us. When trying to
listen to the 5 tracks out of 20 that we wanted to hear on our newly purchased record,
we found the arm of the record player merely skipped merrily across the record and
then returned to its resting place. Odd, we thought! Close inspection showed that
no stylus was fitted, so we finally gave up on the radiogram. This was probably a
good thing as it forced us outside during the days. We experienced such outdoor delights
as playing our guitars in the sun, running through our repertoire of the three songs
we had learnt, probably why we were banned from playing indoors!
One day we noticed a girl, about our age, a couple of chalets down from us who frequently
sailed off in a small dinghy towards the river. I encouraged Adie to try and speak
to her since he had no girlfriend at the time. He would, on seeing her leaving, jump
into our dinghy, row furiously to catch her up, say hello then get completely tongue
tied and row back again. This happened on several occasions. The dinghy was a bit
of a problem, it was VERY small! We quickly realised that it wasn’t big enough for
both of us together, just one try had convinced us of that! So we had to take turns
in rowing up to the river and back. The river itself was a bit scary in such a tiny
boat given the amount of traffic out there. You really didn’t feel very conspicuous.
Being so close to water meant that my dad felt that he should spend every possible
moment, when he wasn’t needed to drive the family about, fishing. Dad loved fishing!
He wasn’t very good at it and never caught very much but he loved it anyway. On this
holiday however he did, whilst sitting by our moorings, catch many fish. Nothing
over 4” long mind you, but many none the less. It would seem that we were living
in a fish kindergarten. Eventually even dad tired of tiddlers and a more meaningful
fishing trip was suggested. We set off one morning in the launch and cruised a short
way out of Horning. Dad tied the launch to some trees on the bank of the river and
prepared to start fishing. Now it has to be said that since discovering girls I had
largely lost interest in fishing, and Adie had never been into it in the first place,
but we entered into the spirit and gave it our best shot. It started well enough,
in a short time I had caught my first (and only) Silver Bream. Dad as usual caught
a selection of small fish and even Adie caught a couple. However, after an hour or
so the river traffic built up and our floats were constantly being swamped by the
wash of passing boats. Fed up, I announced that I was going to have a go at ledgering
– things seemed to improve almost instantly.
“I’ve got a bite” I cried, and suggested that it must be a big one as it tugged on
my line more than anything I had experienced up to that point. It was eventually
wrestled into the landing net my dad had poised and ready for action.
“What have you caught” asked Adie, as I peered into the squirming net.
“Ugh! It’s an eel” was my somewhat disappointed reply.
“That’s OK” said dad, “we can eat them, your granddad will sort that one out”.
Grandad had worked as a fish monger before the First World War and had never lost
his love of preparing and eating fresh fish. Dad decided that he would also move
on to ledgering, Adie decided that he would give up fishing for life and, to the
best of my knowledge, stuck to it! Anyway, after a couple more eels I also gave up.
Dad, however, continued his eel fishing until he ran out of hooks. We then returned
to the chalet where dad passed the haul to granddad for his attention. A short time
later knives were heard being sharpened, Adie and I stayed out of the way as we had
already seen enough of eels for one holiday and didn’t want to witness granddad’s
skills in action! I don’t remember what we did next but I do remember that eels were
on the teatime menu. Adie and I did try a tentative nibble and then decided to revert
to our by now customary diet of Vesta curry. Well it may have been chow mein or chicken
supreme or indeed any of Vesta range as they were all thoroughly explored by us during
our holiday, firstly, because we could cook them ourselves and, secondly, because
they seemed so exotic!
There was a further memorable trip on the launch when the three of us went swimming
in Salhouse Broad. It was an especially hot day and the water was nice and cool.
I can’t imagine doing it nowadays, and to be honest it probably wasn’t a great idea
then, but plenty of people seemed to be doing it so we never gave it a second though.
Still, we all had a great time and we all survived the experience with nothing more
than a touch of sunburn.
We had a great time on our Broads holiday and talked about it for a long time afterwards
but it would be another five years before I would again experience the pleasures
of messing about on the waterways when another friend, who worked as an engineer
for Castle Craft at the time, got his hands on a motor cruiser for a lads weekend
….. but that’s another story!