Blackpool or the French Riviera? It's the same old sun
British Passions On Film BBC4
"HOLIDAYS," noted British Passions On Film, "have always had a special place in the British imagination." And, indeed, in no other country do families quite so look forward to bickering in a different place.
British Passions On Film took a look at holiday footage, right from the first mass Wakes holidays of the 30s. "People had these collective holidays," said historian Dominic Sandbrook, "so you went on holiday with the people from your factory or your street." What's now termed wife-swapping back then was a holiday fling.
"The Mecca for these people," said fellow historian Kathryn Ferry, "was Blackpool." It reminded them that work wasn't so bad after all.
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Originally, said Ferry, the Victorians visited Blackpool "for its curative air" (this was before Windscale opened up the road). "But soon," she added, "other attractions emerged, like the pier. It enabled you to walk on water." Or, in Blackpool's case, sewage.
Other pier-based attractions included the Bearded Lady. Although what happened when Ann Widdecombe wasn't there, I'm unsure.
However, soon many Britons started to look further afield. Cruise ships crossed the Channel to the French Riviera. "If you'd got a tan," noted Sandbrook, "it meant you'd got money." Whereas now it means you've been hosed down with gravy granules at a salon.
"On the beach," noted a Pathé report from the time, "it's the same old sun that shines down at Blackpool. But there's something you can't quite put your finger on that's a little bit different. Maybe it's the wine you had with lunch."
"You couldn't imagine anything more exotic," said Joan Bakewell. "The French? They ate on the street." Straight off the tarmac.
Of course, not everyone went abroad. Some had discovered the 'joys' of the great outdoors. "There's a romance to camping," said Sandbrook, a man who's clearly never helped a toddler relieve themselves into an empty lemonade bottle at three in the morning. "Going off on your own, the freedom of the open road." Waking up with a badger two inches from your face.
Others found a new pleasure in motoring. "The landscape began to impress itself on people," we heard. "There was nothing better than to have your own car and drive around – it was just thrilling." I still feel the same when I crest the A500 and get a first glimpse of the incinerator at Sideway.
Alternatively, there was the holiday camp, with their theme bars. "Here at Clacton," said one advert, "the Western saloon atmosphere has been recreated."
The clue was the mass brawl and the brothel upstairs.