He was one of those men that paced the promenade, an imitation caged lion, looking out for us unsuspecting young families, and once he’d spotted us… he’d pounce. Sometimes he had a teddy bear, sometimes a monkey – once he even had a real monkey that chattered and gnashed his teeth and made my sister Caroline cry. That's her with the pudding basin hair cut and the dress made from kitchen curtains - no really.
A family holiday. Just look at us.
“Photograph of your lovely family mister? Only five bob.”
Five bob, twenty-five pence, back then you could work for half a morning to earn that much money. You could buy a Sunday joint, two gallons of petrol, forty fags, do the pools for a month, five pints of beer…
I watched my Dad hesitate before saying; “Okay,” as he reached into his pocket and counted out his hard saved holiday shillings into the hand of the greasy haired, striped blazered, light-grey-flannel trousered scavenger.
“Say Cheese!” He slimed through his high hyena laugh.
And just look at how we did; my Mum, my Dad, my Gran, my sisters Della and Caroline, Auntie Muriel, my Uncle Charlie’s daughter Gina, me, and of course... that bloody monkey. Did you ever see such smiley smiles?
“I’ll post it to you.” He said over his shoulder - as he walked away from the kill, still hyena laughing and already looking out for his next feed of unsuspecting meat.
And surprisingly… he did.
So here we all are on a summer’s afternoon, having our photograph taken at a price that hurt us all for weeks afterwards; but look, look deeper, see us all so simple and happy and able to keep the memory. We were all so close back then - aunties, cousins, Gran - we just spent our lives together, a family, no expectations of each other. People.
And as for the five bob stolen by that hyena? Well, maybe we had the last laugh after all.