Convalescent Home

In 1958 (or thereabouts) our GP decided that what my chronic asthma needed was a spell in a convalescent home by the sea. So I spent nine weeks in prison in Scarborough in October, November and December. Or was it February, March and April? I honestly don’t remember whether it was spring or autumn, but it was perishingly cold to be frog marched* along the cliff tops or the beach – alternate days – for an hour and a half every day.

I remember a few things about that convalescent home. The wonderful climbing frame that we were allowed to use for half an hour once a week. The so-called food (school dinners were incomparably better). And the song all the boys (there were no girls – they had a separate establishment somewhere else in town, I never knew where, but we frog marched past them marching resolutely in the opposite direction occasionally) sang:

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside
But I don’t like this convalescent home
The sister is so rotten
And the nurses spank your bottom
Beside the seaside
Beside the sea.

One particular event during that nine week period – near the end, I think, but memory does not provide exact details on that point – that I do recall rather well was this.

My father had a job interview in Scarborough while I was there. The whole family came over in the Landrover for the day, and I was rescued from my prison for a while and we all spent the morning on the beach. I went paddling – going in fairly deep, with the water up around my knees. Then suddenly my foot disappeared into a hole, I did an involuntary head-over-heels, and ended up in the hole, with my head under water. Panic! I flailed, but couldn’t get out of the hole, or get my head up.

Luckily my father, in his interview suit and nicely polished shoes and sitting on a rock on the beach, saw me disappear (if that’s not a contradiction in terms) and charged into the sea and rescued me.

He did go for the interview. He didn’t get the job. He always claimed he didn’t really want it.

* Okay, not literally.

Approximately. I had even less concept of time then than I do now, I could easily be out by a factor of three either way. But the frog marches really were every day.