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' Mum, I need the toilet... now!'
'Are we nearly there yet?'
"It's within walking distance," replied a knowledgeable local after we had slowed down to ask directions. Now that's one of those subtle phrases which troubles me; being in the same league as: "You can't miss it," and: "It'll be along in a minute."
We weren't quite certain what exactly we were trying to find but we thought it was a site of antiquity; something the kids would find educational. Round and round the somnolent seaside village we drove, for the umpteenth time in quick succession. The mallards on the pond, an ancient coaching Inn and the quaint little thatched cottages, adorned with colourful hanging baskets and window boxes became all too familiar sights. The kids were soon decidedly bored.
Our helpful local had since disappeared (into the Inn, no doubt) so we began to search for the dreaded ordinance survey map which I always secretly hope has been left at home on family outings such as these. But no, there it was in the glove compartment. I hate map-reading and my husband has never deemed me quite capable anyway.
"Are we nearly there yet?" chirped a small voice in the back. That's another statement which bothers me and it was shortly followed by yet another: "I need the toilet... now."
"Okay. All right, hang on a minute."
We parked the car by the picturesque duck pond, found the nearest public convenience and then had a mini-picnic.
"The moral for today," I began to tell the kids as I handed out bacon sandwiches, "is this: if you can't find where you're going then at least try to enjoy yourself along the way."
They were pacified for a while at least, until they spied the buckets and spades in the boot and remembered we were supposed to be having a day at the seaside - not beside a duck pond in some obscure village en route.
"Want big water." wailed Sam, my youngest.
"Good Lord! Hubby moaned, 'He doesn't want the toilet again does he?"
"No, he means the sea, silly," I laughed as I studied the map.
"Got it the right way up, have we?" Hubby said sarcastically, getting his own back.
Oh...oh. Here we go. "I did do Geography at school you know," I retaliated.
"Yes, but you had a Jewish Grandfather and they all got lost for forty years in the wilderness once, didn't they?" He said smugly.
The place we were looking for was called John Bull Rock; we thought it would be a good idea to stop there on the way to Bridlington, on the North Yorkshire coast. Everyone we asked seemed to know where it was but still we couldn't find it. Up and down the road we drove, past some brightly painted warehouse units but still no John Bull Rock. Perhaps it would rise up suddenly from the surrounding landscape just like the famous Ayers Rock in Australia.
I studied the map again. Surely such a site of historic interest would be mentioned somewhere? The kids were getting restless now as thoughts of donkey rides on the sands and fishing in sun-kissed, sandy rock pools drove them into a near frenzy of excitement. About to give up, I consulted the map one final time before flinging it out of the window.
"Hey! You can't do that!" Hubby protested.
Stopping the car to get out and retrieve the offending map, which was now blowing merrily along the pavement like a clump of tumbleweed in one of those old 'spaghetti westerns', hubby happened to glance up. There was a sign in big, bold lettering above one of the brightly-painted warehouse units we had passed at least a dozen times:
JOHN BULL ROCK
Enlightenment suddenly dawned as hubby spotted the sign "It's a sweet factory! You told me it was an ancient monument - no wonder we couldn't find it!" He puffed, out of breath from chasing the map.
One irate hubby, a torn and tattered map and a car full of impatient kids - not a good recipe for a family day at the coast.
A shrill voice piped up from the back of the vehicle, "It's a what?"
"A SWEET FACTORY!" The other kids cried in unison... "Wow! Can we go? Can we? Pleeeease!"
"Oh, all right then." Hubby conceded.
Scrambling to get out of the car the kids did further damage to the map which now looked as if it had been on some ill-fated expedition to the depths of a remote rain forest."Hurray! Hurray!" they screamed as if Christmas had arrived in July.
And in some ways it had. That morning we saw rock, fudge and toffee being hand made by traditional methods and were able to sample it too. Afterwards we purchased bags and bags of sweet sticky goodies from the factory shop to munch our way through on the beach later that day.
And now every time we visit Bridlington we make a point of stopping at the sweet factory Willie Wonka himself would have been proud of... a place we had discovered quite by chance.
John Bull Rock
- John Bull Confectioners | John Bull Confectioners, manufacturers of chocolate, biscuits, nougat and
Buy your sweets online at John Bull Confectioners, manufacturers of chocolate, biscuits, nougat and our world famous rock as well as the best retro sweets in a fun, nostalgic, online sweetshop.
© 2015 Stella Kaye