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Family life

Readers' favourite photographs, songs and recipes

Snapshot: Our beach hut on the south coast

"What's a beach hut, Granny?" The question tugged me back to childhood holidays in the 50s, rekindling memories of a world that has changed beyond recognition, apart from rows of little wooden chalets marshaled along the promenade from Southbourne all the way to the west of Bournemouth. Our family took two days in Dad's pride and joy, an old Austin Seven, to travel from Wolverhampton to the south coast.

Our landlady laid down many rules: "No dinner for late arrivals" was one. There was no menu; you had what was on offer. You had to be out of the house by 9.30am and you weren't allowed back until 5.30pm. Smells of Ajax and rancid fat assaulted our nostrils when we breezed in from the fresh sea air. Those were the days. Well-behaved children could take it in turns to ring the gong for mealtimes.

"Try not to spill the potty when you get out in the night," was Dad's last command of the day. Four families of four competed for the bathroom. We once had the room at the front with a bay window; it had its own washbasin and crusty soap – luxury.

Each day started with the 8.30am non-negotiable breakfast of cornflakes followed by bacon, fried egg and baked beans. I loathe baked beans. Come rain or shine, we would trail down the cliff path to our beach hut, No 2,378, with a plastic beach bag stuffed with sliced white bread, margarine, meat paste, a couple of Lyons individual fruit pies and, on the last day, a pack of Kunzle cakes. My tastebuds tingle at the thought.

Once news got round our digs that we had a hut, other guests would often "just happen" to pass by. "Could we just dry our Jenny out of the wind?" A tricky one to refuse, so a cuppa would be offered, which generally extended into lunch. By the end of the week, our four-seater hut was accommodating a dozen interlopers most days.

"Look at the time!" my father would say each day at precisely 5.10pm, followed by a mad dash up the path to the digs, seconds after the hallowed 5.30pm unbolting of the front door.

After dinner, still hungry, we would stroll out to our favourite Forte's cafe and tuck into vanilla slices and mugs of Horlicks, waiting for the late August sky to darken before the Austin chugged along the seafront between Boscombe and Bournemouth piers, as we oohhed and aahed at fairy lights on lampposts and the moon shimmering on the sea.

Fifty years on, to celebrate my 60th birthday this spring, our children organised a short break in Southbourne. Huge bedrooms, two en suites, a kitchen with every luxury imaginable. At the end of our stay, the three grandchildren were asked what they had most enjoyed. Their answer? The beach hut. We had been nowhere else, done nothing else – no one had wanted to. Watching the little ones charging about on the beach while I brewed tea and made squashy sandwiches gave me a feeling of happiness and warmth beyond measure. Some things don't change to satisfy our 21st-century cravings – they don't need to. Trina Beckett

Playlist: When you no longer stood by me

Stand By Me by John Lennon

"If the sky that we look upon / Should tumble and fall / And the mountain should crumble to the sea …"

We were a joyous gang of four couples when we got together in Thames Ditton and sang along to this version of Stand By Me. It always followed an evening of lots of eating and, more pertinently, lots of drinking. Groups such as ours standing in the kitchen singing at the tops of our voices at midnight on a Saturday would not have been unusual, I'm sure, but we thought we were the best gang in town, if not beyond.

The gang's membership changed over time with divorces and remarriages, but I always felt that you and I could sing along to Lennon in the firm knowledge that we would indeed stand by each other.

That comfortable feeling was shaken when you announced that you didn't love me any more. With hindsight, it was rather astonishing that, for a few painful months, I held on to the belief that we could sort things out. Then the hope of standing by each other was shattered when you announced you had been having an affair for months.

The sky I looked upon did indeed tumble and fall as I fought to maintain some semblance of order – to no avail. In retrospect, you had always had a hard edge beneath the gentle surface. Your ability to move on to a new life despite the upheaval involved was as cold-hearted from where I was standing, as your lack of interest in developing any relationship with my children.

You didn't stand by me, but I'm now sure it was for the best. My new wife is a truly gentle soul and we are much better suited. Similarly, you are probably better off in your new relationship. Let's hope we are now all better able to stand by each other. Roger

We love to eat: Miss Bigwood's favourite


1 thick slice of white bread per person (do not be tempted to use the pre-sliced "plastic" variety)

1 rasher of bacon per round of bread, preferably back bacon

1-2 slices of red leicester or cheddar

Vegetable oil for frying

Worcestershire sauce for garnish

Place one or two slices of cheese, depending on thickness, on each slice of bread and press down hard – the cheese should cover the bread as far as possible. Cut the rasher of bacon in half and place on top of the cheese, ensuring the cheese is covered by the bacon, and again press down hard. Heat a small amount of vegetable oil in a frying pan and, when it is sizzling, invert the slice of bread into the pan, bacon side down.

Press hard with a spatula on to the back of the slice. Fry until the cheese has melted into the bacon and the bacon is cooked. Turn out on to a plate, sprinkle with Worcestershire sauce and tuck in to the succulent mix of crispy bacon, cheese and fried bread.

Miss Bigwood was a schoolfriend of my grandmother; she worked until she was 80 in a mill in Leeds and lived in a real one-up, one-down, back-to-back house in Leeds until the late 50s. When my grandmother died, my mother stayed in touch with Miss Bigwood and every year she would spend a week with us in Northamptonshire for her annual holiday. This was the only time she left Leeds and her job.

To us she was something of a curiosity, an old lady still working and still attached to the niceties and conventions of a life firmly rooted in the late-19th, early 20th century. I still have no idea of her first name; to us she was, and always will be, Miss Bigwood.

On one visit she showed me how to make what we now call Miss Bigwood's favourite. I do not recall her name for the dish, but I do remember that it was a special treat when her budget would allow. My mother told me that on occasions she had seen her prepare an evening meal consisting of flour mixed with a little milk and fried to make a fritter. Bacon and cheese were reserved for pay day.

The result, to my young palate, was delicious, and the dish immediately entered our household repertoire. It is still a special Saturday lunchtime treat for my two sons, now both in their 20s. They never had the pleasure of meeting Miss Bigwood, but have often asked who she was, and they both make her favourite.

As a postscript, on my first visit to France in the 60s I was introduced to a traditional French snack by my new pen friend. It was called Croque Monsieur, an upmarket ham and cheese sandwich, but – being French – supposedly far superior to anything we might have in England. Not so, I thought, this isn't a patch on Miss Bigwood's favourite, but how does one translate that into O-level French? Prue Huddleston

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