It’s the summer holiday in Corona times and many Brits are making do with a staycation. Luckily, I have a sister in Scarborough. So, I persuade Grunting Teen to accompany me on a road trip. It’s been four months since I’ve ventured outside Sheffield and the thought of motorway driving is making me nervous. But although the traffic has increased as restrictions have eased, there seems a lot less than in previous years.
Our visit’s been long overdue because I’ve been put off by the media coverage of hordes of tourists packing out the beaches down south. I needn’t have worried as this is Scarbs and I choose the weekend when it’s 13C and raining! But we are made of Yorkshire grit and are immune to the weather. No sun, sea, and sand for us. We have traded in these exotic items for showers, shells and shopping. No skimpy beachwear, sun hats and Factor 30 in our suitcases, just warm jumpers, waterproof macs and cough medicine. We enjoy our sky fifty shades of grey, our seas muddied, and our sand an honest dirty brown.
Still this is not a ‘normal’ visit. I’ve hardly been inside another person’s home since lockdown so it feels strange to step foot inside my sister’s house. And stranger still not to hug her but to keep an appropriate distance. But it’s all worth it to have someone else on chef duty. No corned beef surprises here!
In fact, no real surprises on this staycation. Scarborough is as delightful as ever and, on the surface, life has changed little. The beach is dotted with deck chairs, picnic rugs and windbreaks. Small children splash blue-legged in the waves as cagouled parents watch on. The donkeys still plod patiently along the sands but now they’re pulled along by men in masks, bringing a cowboy feel to the beach.
But we are here for the crazy golf, which even brings a smile to the teenager’s face. For what’s not to like about hitting a ball into a whale’s mouth or through the base of a light house? The green may be a little rain-drenched and worse for wear, but it helps to while away the long hours of a damp day and it’s less soggy than sitting in the dragon boats on the lake.
No raucous behaviour in the seaside cafes either. Screens protect the staff, and masked waitresses bring beverages to the table. Maybe the weather helps our sobriety as, although alcohol is on offer, what we need most is a hot reviving tea to warm our bones.
‘Can we go to the Arcades, mum?’ asks the teenager who’s partial to the bright lights and loud music which lure us in with the promise of a good time. I hesitate. Those ‘Two penny slots’ are my down-fall. Ever since I was a small child, I’ve been drawn to these machines like a moth to a flame, and the outcome is never pretty. I get fixated with winning a small plastic pig or key ring of dubious taste, and I physically cannot leave until ‘the Precious’ is mine. But this is a staycation and we have yet to see that elusive golden orb in the sky, so we head off to the South Bay.
As we round the corner the sun comes out and with it the crowds magically emerge from souvenir stalls and chip shops. Suddenly the promenade fills up. Suddenly we are surrounded by people. People in carefree holiday mode. People with no face coverings. People heading straight towards us. People. We’re no longer used to people. We’ve avoided people for the last four months. We’re not sure how we feel about people. Certainly not so many of them.
Grunting Teen pulls me urgently towards the railings, ‘Mum, can I have my face mask, please?’ he asks. I nod as I put my own mask on too. It’s a surprise to feel like this. It’s a surprise to be in a familiar situation that suddenly feels so unfamiliar.
‘Shall we just go back now?’ he says. I nod again. For now, I’ll stick within my comfort zone, which may well be different from those around me. I can still enjoy the bracing sea air. I can still buy rock and candyfloss when there’s no queuing to be done. But, at least, until I get comfortable with the crowds, I’ve saved myself a fortune on the slots. Maybe this is the ‘new normal’ staycation?