ArtWork of Ken Simm
ArtWork of Ken Simm

Plank Lane Working Men's Club Trip to Southport.

It was Lancashire United Tramways originally except this was a red double decker bus and we sat upstairs at the back to show how tough we were.


It was Mary Wells and My Guy that we heard every where on our tinny little trannies. Strange how words change meaning.


It was a packet of crisps and a bottle of Vimto on the way there together with half a crown to spend. You could buy 50 tickets for rides with half a crown.

A stick of seaside rock and another bottle of pop on the way back.


Lunch was the Star cafe down a side street with pie chips and mushy peas. Except it wasn't a pie it was some grey amorphous mess with a small floor tile of pastry. Or what purported to be pastry but was really something of interest to an archaeologist. The little one's were sick and Mothers said “bless” a lot.

My father swore at me, hit me several times and told me not get too excited and spoil it for everyone. I wonder what it was? He also told me he would give me something to cry about. As if he'd noticed I was lacking in that department.

Then it was the fun fair and more Mary Wells, brylcreemed lads on the dodgems and kiss, command, promise, or show us your knickers on the ghost train. But only if you had been on the back seat upstairs on the bus.

It was toffee apples that always, always fell off the sticks and were always black inside. It was sticky candy floss, pink and disgusting. It was getting ripped off by all and sundry when all you wanted the large teddy bear that no one ever won or the real, plastic, historically accurate, genuine suit of armour as worn by King Arthur and his Knights. Or even the genuine Lone Star Sharpshooter rifle with white plastic stock and a solid metal telescopic sight. It was caps to go with it and a cowboy hat with tassels.

It was winning six toy soldiers with surplus plastic from strange moulds. It was scabs on knees and elbows from the big slide and dust and dirt from the fun house.

It was always stopping at a pub on the way to allow the committee to get a brown and bitter split, allow for the removal of flat caps and the placing of braces over vests. Technically it was a toilet stop for the kiddies, you know. Aye we knew and we didn't want to go, but they did. A small barrel was loaded onto the bus.

 It was when she came that year. She joined the bus at the pub. She came upstairs to the strains of My Guy and she shone.

She was my stupid cousin's cousin and she sat next to him. She had two ten shilling notes and beautiful blond hair and she shone. My cousin kept poking her in the side, really hard so I hit him and still she shone. She eclipsed the bus. Bright light that came from her smile shone through the windows and there was a silent roar in my ears.

I offered her my crisps because she had been late. She refused but she did take my spare straw for her drink because hers had sealed through too much sucking. I kept that straw for a year afterwards. Twelve months of stale Vimto really stinks.

She had lunch with the adults and they got proper pie, in a dish. I threw my Roman tile at my cousin and his father hit him for throwing it back.

I followed her on all the rides until my tickets ran out and then I just followed her.

I was mortified because she went home on another bus. But I extracted, with suitable force, a promise from my cousin that he would require the regular use of a baby sitter on Saturday nights in future.

We sat on the back step of the club late into the evening when we returned as our parents got drunk. I wrote her a poem in ball point pen, on the photograph of Southport I got from my stick of rock. We practiced the ancient art of transfering Vimto by mouth and the bubbles got up our nose. She kissed me although she was a year older than me and I never saw her again.

© 2008 Ken Simm.



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