Francesca and Elaine think back to cherished childhood memories.
Francesca: Some of my most enduring memories as a child are from my three holidays in Wales, staying with cousins Doris and Gwilym in Merthyr Tydfil. They loved nothing more than taking us around the countryside in their car, picnic chairs and basket at the ready if they fancied a roadside stop.
In the days before seatbelts, I would sit up the front between them on the bench seat. Despite suffering from travel sickness, I loved those magical trips out, over mountains, into valleys, mini waterfalls dribbling down the hillsides. The fact my parents didn’t have a car made it all the more thrilling.
From the mellow golden light of an October afternoon at Mumbles and Bracelet Bay, to the resplendent Victorian arcades in Cardiff, I loved it all. The aroma of Welsh cakes cooking still reminds me of Cardiff market, where my mum bought a griddle. My cousins had a predilection for ‘reservoys’ as Doris called them (reservoirs), and we visited at least three! Devil’s Bridge, recently featured on Welsh crime series Hinterland, was another favourite, with its sheer drops and dramatic waterfalls.
As a fifteen-year-old I visited St Fagans museum and was fascinated by the reconstructions of old Welsh houses. I went again a couple of years back, forty years on from my original visit, which was kind of strange. It’s a wonderful place for social research.
I decided recently to set my next novel in Wales. The holidays there were the only ones I had until my late teens, apart from school trips. Despite visiting other places in the world since, these simple holidays will always hold a special place in my heart.
Elaine: When Francesca and I talked about our happiest childhood memories it was difficult to decide where to begin.
I was a very shy child but I have some lovely family memories, particularly with my Nan on my father’s side. As a child my mother’s side of the family were lovely, but a little scarier, because I was so shy and they were a very large family. Often it is only when you look back at things that you realise how cherished those memories are. I unexpectedly lost my father eighteen years ago so I now feel that every moment is to be cherished.
My father was a military man, so a large chunk of my childhood was spent living in Cyprus and you can probably guess, spending time on the beaches. As a child, the best thing of all was only having to go to school until lunch time and then we were meant to have a siesta, which we did sometimes, but often we got to go swimming in the lovely clear blue sea. The touch of the warm sand in between my toes, sometimes too hot to walk on in bare feet. I remember sitting on my father’s back as he swam, riding on him like you would a horse at a rodeo. The screams of laughter, as he splashed about and pretended to go underwater, it felt like we were swimming like fishes, but of course we weren’t. Some of the best childhood memories I have of my father involve living in Cyprus.
One day I will share some very precious adult memories of him, but not today.