August can be a very wicked month

August can be a very wicked month

My goodness, we are already into August, but with the coronavirus it feels like the year has hardly got started. Six months seem to have simply disappeared and worse, I've got a year older with nothing to show for it but a few more wrinkles. I also have an uncomfortable feeling I will still be wearing a face mask next August.

As a kid I used to look forward to August with a mixture of excitement and just a little trepidation. As August coincided with the English school holidays, in the 1950s and early 60s the month witnessed a mass migration to the coast for a couple of weeks by the working and middle classes. Those that couldn't afford a fortnight away would take grueling day trips to the seaside, which often entailed three hours getting there, three hours getting back, and maybe an hour or so squeezed in at the resort.

The "toffs'' of course went further afield to what was known then as the "Continent", where people spoke in foreign tongues and ate strange food. When they returned they would flaunt their new-found tans and start dropping French phrases into their conversation to show how sophisticated they were.

Every August our family would head off to an English beach resort on the south coast in search of a fortnight of fun and sun, or more often than not, rain and pain. The two weeks was epitomized by the emergence of plastic macs as we sheltered in doorways from incessant drizzle or gales whipping up the trouser-legs. England is not called the "Land of Rain Stopped Play" for nothing.

One positive result of having to take refuge from the rain at the seaside was that we often ended up in a cinema. From what I recall, most were war films like Reach For the Sky, The Dam Busters and The Cockleshell Heroes. They don't make films like that these days.

Saved by soggy chips

Things changed a lot in the early 1960s with the advent of cheap package tours to Europe and the British began to head for Spain, Greece and Italy, seduced by the sun and warm waters of the Mediterranean, not to mention the cheap vino. But they still demanded English breakfasts and fish 'n chips.

As my dad didn't fancy "abroad", our family continued to frequent places like Bournemouth, Hastings and Weymouth until I was old enough to escape with school friends for serious sessions with the plonk in Italy and Spain. Our family stayed in guest houses. They were the sort of establishments which in promotional literature advertised a two-minute stroll to the seafront when it was more like a two-mile trudge. They were not dissimilar to the hostelry in Torquay depicted in the John Cleese TV series Fawlty Towers. In fact some of the landlords were disturbingly similar to Basil Fawlty.

One such place in Bournemouth had a particularly grumpy owner and the portions for our meals were so small we had to go to a nearby chip shop afterwards to fill ourselves up. When we entered the chippy we found half the people in there were from our same guest house and getting stuck into soggy chips for the very same reason.

Cold feet

Not so long ago on a trip to England, I happened to visit a number of traditional south coast holiday haunts including Brighton, Bognor Regis and Worthing. Nothing much had changed over the years apart from the prices. The deckchairs, sticks of rock, naughty postcards, jellied eels, silly hats, crazy golf and the ubiquitous chippies were still there in all their glory.

One difference was that, despite decent weather, there did not seem to be many people swimming or playing in the sea. It seems the English have been spoiled by vacations to warmer climes like Thailand. Understandably they no long consider dipping their toes in the uninviting waters of the English Channel or the North Sea when they can choose Samui, Krabi and Phuket without any danger of suffering frostbite.

A real buzz

Many thanks to readers for their comments on buzzwords featured in last week's PostScript. I particularly liked the anecdote from a reader who recalled inventing "Buzzword Bingo" in meetings when he would tick off a list of trendy words that he suspected would put in an appearance from assorted speakers. The inspirational vocabulary included "synergy", "quantum" and the wonderfully meaningless "cross-functional", all which no doubt prompted approving sage-like nods from those in attendance. Perhaps he could patent a board game.

For some wonderful comedic exchanges of doublespeak in committees, I can recommend the BBC "mockumentary" Twenty Twelve, a behind the scenes comedy mini-series on a fictional organizing committee for the 2012 London Olympics. It is very entertaining, helped by some terrific acting from a cast led by Hugh Bonneville.

Last word

Finally, in the unlikely event that you wish to learn more about Old Crutch there is a Q&A in the current online edition of Expat Life in Thailand magazine at expatlifeinthailand.com It includes observations on the important things in life including rattling taxis, singing noodle vendors, a loyal maid and of course a devoted dog. There is also a review of my book The Long and Winding Road to Nakhon Nowhere, by Leonard H Le Blanc III, in which the expression "a literary masterpiece" definitely does not appear.


Contact PostScript via email at oldcrutch@hotmail.com

Roger Crutchley

Bangkok Post columnist

A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.

Email : oldcrutch@gmail.com


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