Picture the scene: I was up in my elderly parent's loft, looking for a suitcase among the spiders and Christmas decorations when I found a box of old photos. Without thinking I sat down in the dust and started to look through them. Well, you have to, don't you?
They were all from our family holidays. There was I at 13, with a hideous haircut (I was aiming for trendy but ended up with a mullet) and tombstone teeth too big for my face, playing Swingball next to a caravan. Suddenly all the memories came flooding back. The caravan was in Kent and belonged to my aunt. We’d often go there and I’d lust – in my awkward and gawky way – after the boy, two caravans along.
The caravan was dilapidated and old, on a site with no facilities, and the toilet block was the other side of the field. There was one tiny shop that sold bread, milk and my favourite Fab lollies. But, somehow, those holidays felt magical. I’m sure the summers were warmer and lasted longer, even the sea was bluer.
We always went on holiday at least once a year and the whole family came along: aunts, uncles, cousins and grand parents. We never went abroad, we didn’t have the money, and we stayed in some really scabby holiday camps and caravans, but why go anywhere else when Britain was perfect?
Now I'd started on the photos I couldn't stop. Further down was a picture of me at six dressed in my mum’s cardigan after I fell in a pond. Mum was cooking sausages on a tiny primus stove and we were all waving to the camera. We looked like a bunch of down and outs, but the sun was shining and it was beautiful. I think it was then that I fell in love with the British countryside in all its variations. That's the great thing about Britain, there's so much variety. The high cliffs at Dover, the splendour of the Yorkshire Moors, sandy beaches, stony ones, Snake Pass in the Peak District, the rolling hills of the South Downs.
Another photo showed an older me, burying my dad in the sand, somewhere in Devon. Okay, so we had our coats on in June, but it was a gorgeous beach with sand that went on for what seemed like miles.
Next came a photo of a very sulky teenage me. Oh I must have been murder to live with; I was far too cool to walk the cliff path in Dorset with the family! But even now, I can remember the view was stunning and the air clean, with a tang of the sea.
As I got older we started going abroad but there’s something special about the ones in Britain. We've visited steam trains, mines, theme parks, caves and castles. Yes, it rains a lot but that’s part of the fun. Don’t we all pack umbrellas and welly boots, as well sun cream and swimsuits for a holiday here?
We’ve eaten our soggy sandwiches in the car as the rain poured down the windows, walked over the moors when it was so cold I thought my head was going to fall off. But we’ve also spent hours in the sunshine, having fun with an old blow up boat on rivers I've forgotten the name of, sweltering as we plodded up a Welsh mountain or playing our version of non-stop cricket until it got too dark to see. That's the UK for you and you have to love it.