This forms an extract from The Reso by Ambrose Conway (Copyright: JLB Learning 2007)
Easters in general scared me. Good Friday probably scared me most. First, because we would have to get dressed up and go to church when it was not even Sunday. Second because we always had to have fish and parsley sauce for dinner and fish scared me. Thirdly because I was always worried that at three o’clock the world might end because it always went really dark in the epic biblical films when Christ was crucified, and there was a particular hint of menace about them. All that hymn singing about green hills without city walls and how wicked we all were always made me gloomy, and old people dominated the congregation like ghosts.
The Good Friday service always rotated around the churches and when it was in Holy Trinity, the oldest church in the Parish, I always freaked. The other churches were light and airy or large and imposing, but Holy Trinity was squat and oppressive with wooden seats worn by excessive use, to an unnaturally dark colour. The rose window above the altar did inject some colour into the building, but only managed to highlight the dust and decay in the air.
Once, the sunlight bursting through the window was obscured by clouds and the light suddenly dimmed. I was convinced the end of the world had come and that I would die there horribly, wearing shorts, knee length socks and a tie with an elasticated loop round the neck. Even if I was miraculously spared this fate, I had haddock and parsley sauce awaiting me. The Apocalypse seemed preferable.
The other reason I hated Good Friday was that it set the tone for a miserable weekend waiting for the action to begin on Easter Monday.
Easter Saturday was just another Saturday with more visitors to the town than normal. This meant that the family would have all the more reason not to venture out as the roads would be full of coaches and caravans. It always seemed to be sunny and windy on Easter Saturday and we always ended up flying kites which was OK. Easter Sunday started promisingly with the doling out of Easter Eggs but we were not allowed to eat them until the evening, so that was another day wasted. Songs of Praise and that Sing Something Simple, where harmonious people would murder songs from the old days, really put a crimp in Easter Sunday. It was all too much, hanging around for Monday.
But Monday, when it came, was always worth the wait. For on Easter Monday, come Hell or high water, my Nain would insist that the whole family, all thirty of us, go for the afternoon to the Marine Lake and Ocean Beach Fun Fairs.
Being a seaside resort, Rhyl had two permanent fun fairs which were open from May to September. They would always open on Easter Monday to ‘test the rides’ – with human guinea pigs, my Dad would always say. We were allowed two shillings each (10p) and this would secure eight rides at 3d each or a combination of rides and slot machines.
One ride was obligatory – the miniature steam train around the lake – a mile and a half journey during which the engine either condensed steam in oily droplets over your face or deposited black sooty smuts on your clothes. The track meandered through the rides before heading out around the lake in which people boated or drove speedboats sedately around a fenced track. The ten-minute journey gave you time to savour the impending excitement and make a final decision on which rides to patronise – the old favourites or the new attractions.
Most of my cousins would scurry from the train to the roller coaster whilst I would feign more interest in the dodgems. The truth was that the rickety old wooden coaster petrified me. One year the little voice in my head became somewhat distracted in the hullabaloo and I ended up pushed into the queue and onto the ride. My cousins – some of them girls and younger than me – were genuinely excited as the ride climbed up the chain fed incline, but I was frozen with fear. The slope felt endless, and the whole creaking structure seemed to sway in the light breeze. On the way up, although my muscles seemed so tight as to prevent me actually turning my head, my eyes could flicker from side to side and note the incredible gradients of the dives and whooshes ahead of me.
Whilst they screamed in delight as we endlessly accelerated and gyrated, lockjaw prevented me from even changing facial expression, and the little voice in my head panted, ‘Almost finished, almost finished, just one more dip, then almost finished.’ in a strangulated little echo which I never wanted to hear again. I could hardly release my grip as the ride clattered to a halt and I had a horrible feeling that something tremendously unwelcome had happened in my trousers on the way round. This was doubly worrying as in fact I was wearing shorts. I quickly concocted a story,
‘Did anyone else have manure thrown at them on that ride – there’ll be trouble if I catch who did it. Look at my shorts – ruined! I’ll not be going on that ride again.’
It was implausible even by my standards, and luckily the scenario was avoided by the discovery that cousin Jane had dropped her candy floss over my legs in her excitement. I never did ride the coaster again.
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