CHAPTER THREE – LOST AND FOUND
My next memory is opening my eyes to bright sunshine. The ice cream van was gone! I pushed myself up onto my elbows, but that’s as far as I dare move for a while. I felt like I had just woken up. I didn’t have any ice cream but, next to me, on the sand was a half-crown. Back in those days you still had a silver coin called a half-crown. It was two shillings and sixpence, and enough to buy two very good ice creams. I scooped it up, and tried to pull myself together. I wasn’t sure what had happened to me, but I was really glad to see I was back on Blackpool beach. The sun was shining and people were happily playing in the sand and in the water. I could hear the bells jingling around the necks of the donkeys as they walked along by the water’s edge. I sat there a little longer trying to gather my thoughts and try to figure out what had happened.
I could see the ice cream van a little further along the beach, an ice cream sounded even more tempting now than it did the first time. I looked up at the sky, the plane was still droning overhead! I could see Blackpool tower and Blackpool Pier. The pleasure beach was set back from the beach, but I could see it. I could even hear screams of excitement as people rode the ‘big dipper’ roller coaster. I could hear the crazy clown laughing outside the house of fun. I got up and walked a little shakily along to where the ice cream van was parked now. I didn’t really know how long I had been in my little nightmare, but it couldn’t have been long as the ice cream van had not moved too far along the beach. There was a much longer queue this time, so I got up and joined the end of it. I felt like I had waited forever before I finally got to the front. I put my half-crown on the counter and said “please can I have a lime split and a ninety-nine?” I looked up at the ice cream man, the same little Italian man, but this time he had a quizzical look in his eyes. “You sure? Or are you gonna run and disappear before I turn around again?” and he swept my half-crown off the counter, making sure he got paid this time. I really wanted to ask him what had happened, and how long ago it was since he last saw me, but I daren’t. I was just a kid and he probably wouldn’t have answered me anyway. He gave me my change before he gave me the ice creams. I got a shilling change. I hoped my mum would let me keep it. I could do a lot with a shilling. I clutched it in the hand I was carrying the lime split in, and started walking back along the beach, licking my soft ice cream and munching on the chocolate flake as I went. I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to the people around me until I realized I had reached the pier and still not come across my mum. I turned my back to the pier and looked back along the crowded beach, trying to pick out my mum among the crowds. Without thinking I finished my ice cream, mostly because it was melting and dripping up my arm. When I had finished eating it I retraced my steps along the beach, walking slowly and looking from side to side as I did so. I kept looking up to see the ice cream van, and keeping myself lined up with it. It had moved further along the beach now, and had a new line of people waiting to be served. That ice cream van must be like the Tardis from Dr. Who, bigger on the inside than it looked on the outside, because it was selling an awful lot of ice cream for a very small van. I walked all the way back along to it and still didn’t see my mum, or Tim, or Maurice. I felt something cold and sticky running up my arm. It was my mum’s lime split. I wasn’t a huge lime split fan…but I decided rather than waste it I should eat that too, so I did. I stood with my back to the ice cream van until it moved on again. I ate the ice lolly and thought about what had happened and what I should do.
What if my nightmare had interfered with time, and I was in a different year, or a different month. I didn’t know anyone on the beach so how did I know these were the same people who were here before? I was scared now, not terrified, but I was scared. I stood and looked around. No one took any notice of me! I looked long and hard to see if I could see my mum in her pretty pink dress with the black trim. She was nowhere in sight. I was suddenly aware that someone was standing in front of me. It was a small girl and she did look familiar. She had blonde hair, which fell on her shoulders in soft curls, tied back off her face with a pretty pink ribbon. She was very young, probably about three or four and she was looking up at me with big blue eyes. I felt a chill run down my spine, was this little girl from my nightmare? Was it still happening? I was really confused now. Of course the little girl I had held in my arms was dirty and disheveled, and this little girl certainly was not. She was like a little angel. I had a serious sense of déjà vu, when she reached her arms up to me. I was a little scared to pick her up as my hands were covered in sticky melted ice cream and sand, but I really didn’t have a choice, she launched herself into my arms. She looked directly into my eyes and put her arms around my neck and gave me a hug and then she pointed along the beach. I didn’t have any idea why, but I walked in the direction she was pointing. I walked slowly, still looking for my mum. The little girl was soft, and warm, not like the child from my dream, she had been cold and still. We hadn’t gone far when a young woman came running towards me, she was talking frantically in a foreign, but very pretty language. Was it French? The little girl started bouncing up and down in my arms and reached out to the woman who folded her into her arms and hugged her and kissed her all over her chubby pink cheeks. I stood there feeling helpless and a little silly. The young woman hugged me and said “merci mon petit, merci” and then walked away with the child in her arms. The little girl was looking over her mother’s shoulder as she walked away. She was smiling at me and gave me a little wave, opening and closing her little chubby hand, the way small children do. I got the déjà vu thing all over again, but I was glad I made someone happy. I still couldn’t find my mum. I watched as mother and child walked away from me, still feeling a little troubled, but my nightmare (daymare?) was starting to fade away in my mind, as I was now more worried about where my mum was. I stood for a long time just looking around, I didn’t cry, but I really wanted to. I wanted to sit down, but if my mum was looking for me, she wouldn’t see me if I was sitting down.
“Are you lost?” I heard someone say so I turned around in the direction the voice came from. A lady was sitting in a deck chair behind me, holding a book over her face to stop the sun from shining in her eyes. I didn’t trust myself to answer her because I knew I was very close to tears. I nodded my head! She stood up, and looked around, not knowing what she was looking for, but she looked anyway. “Who were you with?” she asked. “My mum, she was wearing a pink dress” I told her. The lady looked around again. “OK, stand right here for a while, so I can make sure nobody tries to hurt you. If you don’t see your mum by the time my Alfie comes out of the water, I will take you up there to the green van, it where everyone goes to find their lost kids” I looked in the direction she was pointing, and sure enough, there was a green van parked on the promenade. I could see kids faces pressed up against the window, were they lost kids? I didn’t want to be one of them! I felt a lot like crying now. I must have stood there for another five minutes before ‘Alfie’ returned. He was a very funny looking man. He was dripping wet, but his hair was still perfectly swept back from his face, making him look like a wet waxworks figure. His big handlebar mustache was dripping with water too, but still fit perfectly between his nose and mouth, with no hair out-of-place. “Alfie” the woman said, “this little girl has lost her mummy, I am going to take her up to the green van so she can be found again”. He looked at me and smiled, he could see I was ready to cry. He bent down and reached into a bag which was on the deck chair next to his wife and pulled out a clean white handkerchief, which he handed to me. I clutched it in my sticky sandy hand and thanked him. My voice was very small and tired now. He looked over to his wife “go on my pet, do your good deed and take this little girl to the van” He handed her some money and said “bring me an ice cream on the way back”. I felt like this whole day revolved around ice creams. The lady (Doris her name was) walked up the beach with me, she reached down and took hold of my hand, that’s when I realized I had lost the shilling change from the ice cream. It really wasn’t a good day. A shilling was a lot of money.
We walked across the hot sand and then climbed up the steps to the promenade, where the green van was parked. As we approached I realized that the faces I had seen pressed up against the window were painted. There were no kids in the van. Doris stepped onto the van with me and it lurched heavily to one side with her weight. It felt like we were on a boat. She sat me down in the front seat and spoke to the lady sitting in the driving seat. I heard the lady say that the van would park here for another fifteen minutes, and then move further up the beach and park there for an hour. She said no one had been here asking for me yet. Doris gave the lady her name and address and then she came over and sat down next to me. She told me she was sure my mum would come and find me, but if she didn’t the driver would let her know, and she would come and take me home with her and Alfie, so I wouldn’t have to spend the night with strangers. They would be strangers too, but they looked kind. Doris gave me a hug and then went off to get Alfie’s ice cream. The lady van driver told me that no one was ever lost for long, and Blackpool beach got very crowded at this time of the year, so it was easy to get lost. It didn’t make me feel any better. Not only was I lost but, I had had a nightmare on the beach, had eaten my mum’s lime split, and lost her shilling change. I sat there on the verge of tears for what seemed hours, but I know it wasn’t that long. The lady started up the engine on the little van. She looked back at me and said, “We have to move along the beach now, don’t worry love, we will find your mum” I wasn’t so sure. We lurched forward a little way, and then stopped again.
I saw my mum’s face as she climbed onto the first step in front of me, she looked like she had been crying, but she smiled when she saw me. I did cry then, big heaving sobs that shook my whole body. My mum sat down next to me and put her arms around. She hugged me so tight it was hard to breathe, but it was nice. Between sobs I told her I had eaten her lime split and lost the shilling change. She didn’t seem to mind, she just hugged me even more tightly. I did stop crying eventually and my mum thanked the lady and gave her a pound note. That was a lot of money, so I knew how happy she was to see me. She took my hand and held it tight and we climbed down onto the seafront. The Lost Children Van pulled away as the lady went off on her quest to reunite more kids with their worried parents. Maurice and Tim were sitting on a wooden bench by the railings with their backs to us. Tim was smoking and Maurice was whistling ‘Oh I do like to be beside the seaside’. It made me feel very happy, like the trials and tribulations of the last couple of hours were behind me and I was ready to have some fun again. I giggled for no reason. Maurice heard me and stood up. His hat was pushed back on this head and his hair was a little ruffled but, he was the best thing I had seen in while (apart from my mum). I let go of my mum’s hand, jumped onto the wooden bench and gave him a huge hug. Tim stood up and stamped on his cigarette to put it out. He actually gave me a hug too, which was surprising as he had never paid me too much attention. He was nice enough to me, just didn’t appear that interested. Not like he was in my mum, he watched her all of the time. We all sat on the bench for a while. Tim and my mum talked about what to do that evening while I told Maurice about my little adventure. I started telling him about my funny old dream, which was a little fuzzy now, and he laughed and told me I had probably got a bout of sunstroke. I didn’t really know what sunstroke was, but he said my face was very red and so were my arms and back, so I had been in the sun too long. It was decided we would all go back to our Bed and Breakfast and get bathed and changed and go and get some nice supper together. That sounded good. It was five o clock now so by the time we got cleaned up, and dressed up, it would be after six and I would be hungry, despite the two ice creams I had already eaten.
We all walked along the seafront together, it was still hot, but there was a breeze now. ‘The Blackpool Breeze’ Maurice called it. My mum was walking behind with Tim, I think they were holding hands. I walked in front with Maurice. I hopped and skipped and sang, and made him laugh. The day was ending well, my nightmare on the beach almost forgotten. We got back to the little B&B and went our separate ways. Maurice and Tim had rooms on the top floor, and my mum and I were on the second floor. I was glad we weren’t too far up because my legs were tired. My mum went and had a bath, while I gave myself a good wash in the wash basin that was in our room. My face was were red, and felt hot. I really had been in the sun too long. I brushed and brushed at my hair to get all of the sand out. My mum came back in the room and smelled so good. It was that perfume she always wore. I have no idea what it was called, but it smelled like roses. She had put her curlers in before getting a bath which she did often because the steam from the bath worked with the curlers to make her hair curl more quickly. She sat there on the edge of the bed and put on ‘her face’. It was hard putting a face on. You had to first put a layer of colored cream all over your face. Then you drew on your eyebrows with a pencil. Next you put paint on your eyelids. Then you spit in a little container of black stuff, and rubbed a brush in it. You used the brush and blackened your eyelashes. I hoped I never had to do all of that. It looked hard. My mum padded powder all over her face, and then put a very pink lipstick on. She did look pretty. She put on a black dress with shiny beads all around the neck. I had only seen it once before when she went to a fancy party in the village hall. She put on her pearls and her stiletto shoes, and then she took out her curlers. She looked so pretty, I just stood and looked at her, frightened to touch her incase I spoiled something. She looked down and me and gave me a hug. “Come on then, let’s get your pretty dress out of the wardrobe” she said. I was going to be wearing the beautiful dress she made me when the village hall opened. It was heavy yellow brocade. I had worn it on the stage when I presented a big bouquet of flowers to Lady Davinia Vain at the opening ceremony. I am sure that wasn’t her name, but that’s how it sounded. I had to curtsey and give her the flowers. She wore white gloves and a big hat, and had smiled at me and told me how pretty my dress was. I remember standing up when she said this and telling her my mum made it. That made her laugh, I said it loud enough that the whole village hall laughed and clapped. My mum helped me put the dress on, I felt very posh. I wore little yellow sandals with it and I felt very nice, but not as pretty as my mum.
My mum looked at her wrist watch, it was just after six thirty. “Come on, time to go, Maurice and Tim will be waiting” We left the room, as my mum locked the door I looked over the banister and saw Maurice and Tim waiting for us downstairs, so I ran down to them. Maurice picked me up and held me out in front of him. “Don’t you look a toff” he said. I giggled, I felt very happy. He put me down and looked up at the stairs. Tim was watching my mum come down, smiling at her as she did. She looked like a film star. I had never seen her look like that before and I was very glad she was my mum. Even her eyes looked different, shiny and happy. We walked out of the B&B and down the stairs onto the street. It was still light, and warm, but not too warm. I felt very grown up, going out at this time of night. “Where are we going?” I asked to anyone who would listen to me. Tim spoke up. “I made reservations at Bella, our reservations are for seven o clock” I had no idea what ‘Bella’ was so I looked up at Maurice, who looked down at me and said “Good Italian” “Will I be able to get Ice Cream?” I asked “Oh, you will get ice cream like you never tasted before” he said. I knew it was going to be a good night!