in which I discover a childhood haunt and a turf war ...
Every Christmas, summer and Easter for our family holidays we went to my aunt and uncle's "private hotel" in Cleveleys on the Lancashire coast. I think this was because at the time my dad worked for a firm of builders' merchants and had done Uncle Bert some kind of favour on the cost of the bathroom fittings which was being steadily repaid in free accommodation ...
I went back recently. It's derelict.
There came a point in the 60's when my mother tired of repeated visits to the same place, plus we'd moved to Yorkshire and my dad got a Ford Zephyr 6 with his new job so we were somewhat more mobile. Which is how there was a dramatic sea-change in our holidaymaking the summer I was eight or nine and we went to Cornwall.
Quite why we chose a holiday complex which had been developed for use by Welsh miners and their families, I don't know, unless it's because my Aunty Dorothy - who accompanied us - lived in Gloucestershire and possibly knew some Welsh people who'd been there.
I hadn't really thought about this much in the intervening period until last Friday while plotting a driving course to the Port Eliot Literary Festival when I spotted the name of a beach on the map and realised it was barely five miles from our 1962 holiday destination.
Which is how, on a wet afternoon, I returned to Millendreath for the first time in 47 years.
It was derelict.
Do we see a pattern forming here?
What did surprise me was how easily I managed to drive there down a series of Cornish country lanes (mostly with high-sided hedges and no view of the countryside) without hesitation, deviation or repetition - using the same kind of instinctive radar as guided Luath the labrador in Disney's 'The Incredible Journey' which I think was filmed more or less the same year.
Channelling the second Mrs de Winter in 'Rebecca' and noting without irony how close this was to Daphne du Maurier territory, I remembered the shape of the high-sided thickly wooded valley, recognised the rocks to the right hand side of the beach where I'd played, and the layout of the valley floor with its scattering of cottages, cabins and lodges each in its own secluded clearing, which even then I recognised as cleverer than - say - Butlins rows of standardised chalets.
Then I sat on the sea wall, shed a few nostalgic tears, and the memories started to flood.
I remember we stayed in a log cabin called 'The Curlew's Call', surprisingly since they're northern birds and there are none in Cornwall. The one next door was "Gitche Gumee" which I think is what the Iroquois called the lake in 'Hiawatha' so clearly the naming was both fanciful, and random.
I remember waking in the top bunk of my bedroom and overhearing my parents and aunt having some conversation in which they were discussing how, in the future and I got to be 18, I'd leave home and probably not want to return. This idea so dismayed me that I burst into tears, and had to be comforted with reassurances and chocolate digestives.
I remember playing 'Telstar' endlessly on the jukebox, learning to dance - with girls - and even on one occasion on a billiard table.
I remember the Club House, to which we repaired each evening after tea, being run by a trim and spinsterish woman who would ring a bell and announce at about 9pm "I have some Cornish Pasties, sandwiches, and soup" as if the news had taken her completely by surprise. I also remember that one night the pasties didn't arrive and there was a near-riot.
I remember the soup of the day was almost always 'Stock Pot' which I tried to replicate when I got home by diluting the minced beef my mother had made for a shepherd's pie.
I remember my father being the life and soul of the party, at least when half-cut, and him teaching the rest of the happy campers to do the Twist. And knowing, from Juke Box Jury, that it had already been supplanted by the Mashed Potato.
I remembered going mackerel fishing and being so disgusted with the gaffing and gutting that when everyone else was having them freshly pan-fried with oatmeal, I had a cornish pasty instead.
Anyway, back to the contemporary dereliction. It really was sad to see how one side of the valley was now covered with those shabby flat-roofed prefab-looking bungalows which have fallen into disrepair in dozens of forgotten British seaside towns.
The valley floor where we stayed had been cleared of the original buildings to make a sizeable car park, in the far corner of which stood an Aston Martin DB9. Quite a new one.
Not far from it was a smartly-dressed man with Hunter wellies and a dictaphone who retreated into the trees every time I got near him with the camera.
With little else to do, I wandered about and came across the village notice board. Alongside the usual parish notices was a vituperative but unsigned 'open letter' criticising the actions of a developer company in shredding some of the vegetation on the less occupied side of the valley, and referring to the landowner as 'the self-appointed new God of Millendreath'.
Scenting sabotage, class wars and possibly the plot of a Cornish murder mystery, I spent an hour on the internet trying to find out what was planned for this once-beautiful but now shabby beachfront. It involves the usual nonsense of different vested interests vying to influence the planning authority in a distant town hall, but the proposals appear to be a clever re-interpretation of the resort which flourished in the 60's.
I guess they'll wait for some more of the inhabitants of the cheap chalets to die off, and the bulldozers can move in.