Although I have very vague recollections of visiting my maternal Grandparents under one roof, they have been divorced for the majority of my life. My Grandmother was known for cheating on my Grandfather, and I understand that (possibly as a result of her cheating, or maybe it was the cause?) he would regularly beat her. This behaviour resulted in my Mother, when she was still very young together with her even younger sister, being taken into care by the Salvation Army. We always put money in their collection boxes whenever we see them as a result and Sarah often becomes emotional at the thought. My Mother has false teeth and has ever since she was in her teens as a result of malnourishment when she was young. My Grandfather is, as I’ve mentioned, deceased and although I carried his coffin at the funeral with three of my male cousins, I did so for my Mother, who of course in spite of everything still loved her Father. I shed no tears for him (although I haven’t mentioned that we share the same Birthday and like him, I have a fascination with timepieces and footwear) and my Father has always disliked him for taking such poor care of my Mother. As a result of the divorce however, actions were put in motion which would not too many years later ultimately benefit me immensely.
My Grandfather began dating again and eventually settled down with a new partner. She claimed to be employed in the hospitality industry and “knew all there was to know about running hotels.” This was later proved to be a complete fabrication but I’ll continue. An idea was floated and eventually sold to my parents that they, my Grandfather, his partner and my Sister & I would relocate to a coastal town for a fresh start, where we’d buy, live in and run a hotel. This was during 1987 when holidays to UK seaside destinations were still very popular, unlike today where it’s often cheaper or a comparable price to go abroad to mediterranean destinations with superior weather. I’m unsure of how many destinations were initially considered, but the final shortlist was just two; Skegness and Scarborough. We’d holidayed in Great Yarmouth the year before (the only family holiday we ever took during our youth) but I don’t recall it being considered.
Reconnaissance trips were planned to both destinations and, for whatever reason, Scarborough was selected as the final choice. By March 1988 we’d packed up our lives and moved to our new home, a 5 storey Hotel on Albemarle Crescent in the town’s centre complete with our dog Tyga, a brindle-striped boxer who was about 18 months old. I remember being desperately unhappy at the time – we had of course had to leave our friends, school and extended families behind in the hope that this new life would be better than a future in Mansfield, which was feeling the bitter pinch of losing it’s coal mining industry at that time. Of course, very quickly we settled and I made new friends, one being another recent import to the town, Richard who had moved from Leeds with his family. Although we did make a few trips back to Mansfield in the ensuing years, I would never see my friends Robert or Wayne, nor my best school friend, Sandy, again.
There wasn’t much for a young boy to do in Scarborough for little or no money at the time and not as many green spaces to play in as there was in Mansfield, especially in the centre of town. I spent a great deal of my first year in Scarborough reading and as a result, my reading level was that of a 13 year old at age 8. My schooling also improved considerably (later in Secondary School I was in the top class for all subjects save for mathematics). Richard lived above his Aunt & Uncle’s dancewear shop (now long closed), which was immediately next door to one of the few local video rental shops, named Movieland. Richard had older siblings who were able to rent films for us we had absolutely no business seeing, such as Predator, Aliens and Robocop. They had a stellar back catalogue of older films which could be rented for 50p – I spent much of my years between 8 and 16 renting films and watching them with Richard and our small pool of friends which expanded during our school years. Richard chose not to pursue education after school however and as such, eventually we fell out of touch as I continued on. We’ve reconnected through social media some years later after my return to Scarborough, but I haven’t seen him face to face in perhaps more than 20 years as he moved to Leeds whilst I was reading Law in Huddersfield and more recently Lytham St Annes. A few years ago, an important piece of my childhood was forever lost when Movieland closed, a victim of the ever advancing march of technology and streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. A sad but grateful message was left in the window by the owners – I myself hadn’t rented a film from them in likely more than 10 years when they closed, choosing to buy my own copies of films for my collection instead following the explosion in DVD sales and of course enjoying staff discount at the music, film & games retailer I worked for. That, and not having owned a VHS player since 2003. Although I now use those aforementioned streaming services, I feel it’s a poor substitute for the joy of finding a title amongst the expansive racks of VHS & DVD boxes; the joy of the hunt has been lost.
Let me back-track a little however, because the Hotel venture didn’t last long; in fact I believe it was a little less than a year. Although the business seemed to be doing well, money would regularly go unaccounted for and my Grandfather would be generally unpleasant to both me & my Sister. I didn’t like his partner at all and even though my Father would work a full-time job during the day, he would also work the bar at the Hotel on an evening in high-season during the summer which would leave him exhausted. My mother would handle the day-to-day running of the Hotel when it became clear my Grandfather’s partner had spun an elaborate fiction about her expertise, including cooking meals for guests and cleaning the rooms etc. My Sister and I were generally confined to the top floor of the building, where we each had a room across from our parents. Tempers frayed, and one day after an argument following my Grandfather shouting at my Sister and I for something petty, he found himself lifted off his feet with his back against a wall, my Father’s hands grasping his throat. My Father was in his early 30s at this point and was a much bigger man than my Grandfather. Very shortly after that incident, we moved out and after temporarily renting a flat for 6 months just a few doors down from the Hotel, my parents bought a large 5 bedroom house not far from the town centre and cut their losses with the business. After being fleeced by his partner in the early 2000s, my Grandfather returned to Mansfield having sold the Hotel, which like many other multi-storey large properties, has since been converted to flats. In 2003, with my Sister having moved to Leeds and completed her training as a nurse, married and had the first of her 3 girls, my Parents again moved, this time to Leeds too, to be near to and help my Sister and also owing to the fact that at that time I too lived in Leeds, attending University to obtain my Diploma in Legal Practice. They still live in Leeds in that same house they bought (where I also lived until April 2005) and are helping to deal with the fallout from my Sister’s divorce. It’s taking quite a toll on them who, now in their early to mid 60s, should be taking things easier. My Mother retired from paid work a year or two ago, although she still looks after my nieces almost daily. My father works just 16 hours a week which is enough to meet their outgoings, having finally repaid their mortgage with inheritance from my Grandparents’ estates. I hope he’ll be able to retire fully very soon, sometime within the next 2 years. He’s counting down the days until he can stay in his shed full-time and concentrate on his hobby of woodworking and refurbishing old tools.
I mentioned in my first post on my blog a friend who put me in touch with the man who would eventually become my employer & mentor to complete my legal training – that friend has played a pivotal part in my life and I’ll write more about him in the third and final installment of this trilogy of posts.