Weep, people of Nottingham - our spiritual homeland is been dealt a heavy blow. I wrote this for LeftLion #5 a couple of years ago. I throw it up here as my little tribute to the jewel of the Lincolnshire coast.
1. Your Mam buying you clothes months in advance
…that you can’t wear until you go on holiday, in order to convince other people that you’re not fleabags. How twisted was that? I remember when I was six, and I had to spend three whole months staring at an absolutely mint Kung Fu vest and pants set in the drawer that I was not allowed to wear. It was agonising. Naturally, as soon as you get to Skeg, every youth from Notts is wearing the same clothes, making it look like there’s only one shop in the whole of town.
Honestly, you tell people in the South about things like this and they’re convinced you’re taking the piss.
2. The journey there
…which was a yearly novelty in itself. Remember, in those days Dads never drove you to school, and Mams weren’t allowed to drive. Ever. Sadly, there were no Playstations and tellies attached to the seats, your Dad won’t let you open the window, he hasn’t got one of them things that hang off the back bumper to stop car sickness, you’re wedged up between a suitcase and your sister on the back seat, Dad’s put on his Elvis tape and you’re sitting there knowing he’s going to start roaring when Old Shep comes on (because he always does), and you’re starting to get that familiar catch down the back of your throat that means in about three minutes, you’re going to be puking your ring into a Co-Op bag while your Dad mutters “Fucking kids…you can stay at your bastard Nana’s next year”.
On the upside, there is nothing more cosmopolitan than hearing Radio Trent fade out and Radio Lincolnshire fade in. That’s when you know you’re on your holiday.
3. The caravan
This is how fucked up Nottingham Mams and Dads are; they spend the whole year moaning about ‘gyppos’ diddling them at Goose Fair and parking up on nearby wasteground, and how do they spend their time off work? Exactly – by living like them. I bet proper Romanies don’t decorate their caravans with mank won off the prize bingo, though. And I’m pretty convinced they have better sanitary facilities than a piss-bucket shared by three generations in the middle of the night, an’all.
4. Childrens rooms in pubs
This must be the best thing about Skeggy by far. Normally, going to the pub with your family meant sitting in the car for two hours with the occasional bag of crisps and a Coke with a straw in it, playing Mastermind with your sister, and seeing if there were any wank mags in your Dad’s toolbox. Not in Skeg, though – you had a whole room to yourself, which usually contained a bust Air Hockey table, some kind of animal ride with an ‘Out Of Order’ sign on it, and a Space Invader cabinet with some other game in it. That was broke.
Still, it was an invaluable introduction to pub etiquette, as you sat on your Dad’s knee while he said “Quick, while landlord’s not looking’ and tipped half a pint of Shippos down the front of your best shirt. Obviously, the spirit of the Children’s Room lives on in all inner-city Nottingham pubs, especially the ones in Bulwell.
5. Meeting people from Sheffield
This was a rather special thrill on its own. Skegness wasn’t only occupied by Nottinghamians during the summer (even though you were bound to see at least two kids from your school while you were there); Mansfield, Derby and Leicester also represented, but it seemed like every steel mill in Sheffield had decamped to the coast. You couldn’t understand a word they were saying, they all had basin cuts, they were built like brick shithouses, and they always wanted to give you bone-crushing handshakes. Even the women. Especially the women.
6. The beach
The innocent time when you were proud to say you got crabs while you were on holiday. Finding the spot where you buried 10p last year, only to find there’s a JCB digger there. Sitting on a manky donkey for a bit. Going in the sea. Once. Never doing it again. Your dog going mental and drinking gallons of seawater, only for him to piss it out his arse while you’re trying to chat some girl up.
7. Eating fish and chips twice a day for a week
I’m sorry, but I’ve been to Blackpool and the chips there were rubbish. Skegness has the best chippies in the world, and I’ll fight anyone who dares say otherwise*. That street in Skeg known as Chip Shop Alley – I could just stand there all day and inhale its delightfully pungent aromas. If you don’t put on at least two stone while you’re there, you’ve had a shit holiday.
*unless they come from Whitby
8. Amusement arcades
Once upon a time, before even the Atari 2600 came out and Nottingham didn’t have dens of iniquity where hard lads from The Meadows nicked your 10p that was on the glass – the kind of place where Zammo first got into scag, you’ll remember – Skeggy was the only place to get your low-tech interactive jollies. The absolute highlight of the week for me was legging it into an arcade and seeing what I was going to spunk the contents of my piggy bank on that year. I bet I still have my name on a Sheriff Nintendo cabinet in the storeroom of a chip shop near the prom. Your Mam would always moan about how you should be getting some fresh air, but seeing as she lived in the Prize Bingo next door ramming in 10p after 10p, she was talking out her arse.
9. Going to Butlins for the day
We went to Skeggy Butlins one year. It was bob. The only thing about it I can remember is being able to stick my hand through the hole in the wall under my bad and shake hands with the lad next door. Much better to go in for the day, have a go on everything (which you could do in a day, in any case), and piss off out again.
10. The Cockle Man
The bloke in the white coat who used to go round the pubs and clubs at night with a big basket of things in Mr Kipling trays, who used to get your grandparents all excited while they were watching someone who came in 4th during an episode of New Faces murdering the oeuvre of Neil Diamond. You look at these things now and think, fucking hell – 20 Chinese lads died for something that looks like a tumour and you have to put loads of vinegar on so you can eat ‘em without retching. Obviously, big respect to the Fish Man of Mansfield Road, who keeps the flame alive in a piscine style and fashion.
11. Finding some suitable tat for your Nana
Now it’s getting near the end of the week, you’ve got to make sure your Nana gets some return on the investment she rammed into your cakey little hand, or she’ll have a face like a smacked arse until Christmas. And what bounty there was! Hunks of rock artfully moulded to look like a full English breakfast! Coasters with photos of people in ‘Frankie Say’ T-Shirts playing crazy golf! Something with the Big Gay Fisherman on it! A tea tray of the clock, which was a bit like the one in Blackpool, but not quite! Postcards that gave you an erection even though you didn’t quite know why!
Sadly, the numerous tack shops in Skeg have moved with the times and the grandparent market has been completely marginalised. Last time I went, one could purchase a set of Rasta garden gnomes sucking on enormous spliffs, an indoor skull fountain, a garden ornament of two fists adorned with sovereign rings, giving the finger, and a dildo on sale for a quid. If I had bought any of those items, I would have been cut out of her will.
12. Going home
A bit like getting there, only with more vomiting.