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Stephen Clements' quirky memoir recalled happy childhood and summer holidays spent by the seaside

A young Stephen Clements on holiday in Portrush
A young Stephen Clements on holiday in Portrush

In 2017 Stephen Clements published a fun memoir called Back In Our Day: Caravanning In Portrush, slippery-dipping in Newcastle and other stuff we did growing up in Northern Ireland. It's a whimsical look back at childhood holidays in Portrush and Newcastle and his first 'forn' holiday with a friend in Corfu. Colin Murray, who wrote the foreword, said: "It's a brisk ramble through childhood and coming of age in Northern Ireland that will make any working-class person from our neck of the woods smile. A lot." Here is an extract...

Summer holidays were always brilliant. As I recall, through the rose-tinters, the weather was always amazing. Always. Thirty degrees for the full two months that we were off.

So off to Portrush we'd go. First thing, it was 'a drive' - a few hours up the coastal route in the back of my dad's Ford Capri from Carrickfergus.

It was cramped back there, and roasting, and we were made to listen to the current Top of the Pops tape, which featured the most sexist album covers ever seen, and a Rolling Stones album that had been taped from the vinyl.

I still sing Start Me Up with a hint of warp from where the tape had been damaged, and I still know every word to Rod Stewart's Maggie May.

So we arrive at the caravan and the first thing we do is scream "BARRY'S", to which mum and dad in unison say: "NO. In the morning. Go and explore." The promise of the beach in the morning and Barry's in the afternoon was almost too exciting.

"Barry's, Barry's, Barry's!" was the chant. It was actually happening.

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We were in the Capri, music blaring, looking for a parking space.

You see Barry's WAS Disneyland to us back in the day. Disney didn't even bother advertising on TV here because nobody could afford it.

Actually, there may have been one advert that went out once, but it was met with "Ahhhh, for God's sake! Sure, that would cost more than our house" by parents across the land.

Disneyland was some sort of distant dream. This was the reality! The Disney slot was handed to Spar, I believe, who got a free 'Fred, there's no bread' ad in its place.

"Okay. You've got £2 each to last you all day. Don't come asking for more."

It was all about strategy.

Get some of the money changed into 2ps and look around for the one-armed bandits or - even better - those wee slider machines. On many occasions we accidentally 'bumped' into them hoping for a quick win.

The machines weighed the guts of three-and-a-half tonnes. It was rare that that approach would work, although on the odd occasion you'd be casually walking past and a few 2ps would drop from nowhere. Win. So off we went.

The big rides were out. Mum and dad paid for those and we could choose one to go on before we left. They didn't come from the £2. It was all about the melons. Looking back, not a whole lot changed between the Portrush holiday and the Kavos lads' vacation later on.

Back in our Day
Back in our Day

The eternal - and often futile - search for melons, but at Barry's we were looking for three in a row.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, contact the Samaritans on 084 5790 9090, or Lifeline 080 8808 800

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