The news that a home in Looe, Cornwall had been struck by a landslide was a shock. Karen and I have spent several happy holidays in Looe, including Owen’s very first vacation. But it was the photo on the BBC news website that stopped me in my tracks. I recognised it instantly: it was our 1970s holiday home in Sandplace Road.
We spent many happy hours there, including a fortnight in the glorious heatwave summer of 1976 after my sister’s wedding. That’s where we watched the BBC Sailor fly-on-the-wall series about HMS Ark Royal, Britain’s last ‘proper’ aircraft carrier. (And, if memory isn’t playing tricks, ITV’s Bill Brand drama about a Labour MP.) We went fishing for mackerel in Looe Bay, leaving Mum to gut the fish in the small kitchen in the flat. We loved the view over the East Looe River towards the Mill Pool. And, as a 1970s school boy, I made Airfix kits there: HMS Victory, the RAF emergency, refuelling and recovery sets (still being sold almost four decades later) and (again, this was the 1970s!) the Austin Maxi.
We first stayed in Sandplace Road 40 years ago in the spring of1973. The flats were run by Mrs Pearce. I wasn’t pleased as I wanted to go to Newquay, which looked much more interesting than Looe. (Thanks to a more impressive brochure.) But I came to love Looe, with its fascinating history, its small streets, beautiful rivers and compact beach. Our first visits were in the rooftop flat (with the distinctive windows), but later on we stayed in the main floor flat. I remember a very steep set of steps up the hill to St Martin’s Road.
When Karen and I stayed in Looe years later, we stayed at Barclay House on St Martin’s Road, run by the wonderful Nick and Kelli Barclay, who now run Blue Plate Restaurant in Downderry. (Another place with 1976 memories: I spend endless hours that summer paddling my rubber dinghy on the river at Seaton, which was then dammed to make a pool.)
This weekend, Looe is mourning Susan Norman, who died in the landslip at her home – our 1970s holiday home. A sad story to mingle with all those happy memories.