Hawaii, Germany

I was almost 10 years old and due to celebrate the achievement of reaching double figures in a little place called Speyer in West Germany (as it was then), surrounded by my family.


It wasn’t the Costa del Sol and I’m glad. Visiting my aunt and uncle over there was far more memorable and decidedly less British than Spain (if that makes sense).


We were staying in wooden lodges on a pretty, little campsite on the banks of the Rhine. The sun shone every day and I even met a German girl who stole my heart, but that story can wait for another time.


There was a small cafe on the edge of the site; being taken there was a real treat. Like most kids of that age I was a fussy eater. Schnitzel, bratwurst and sauerkraut held little appeal and even the paprika flavoured crisps weren’t great.


My challenges with the local food all faded away in the cafe one day when I was introduced to Hawaiian toast. It was basically cheese on toast with ham and pineapple, but over 30 years later I can still remember the magical flavours of my first bite. The melted German cheese, the salty ham and tropical pineapple combined to perfection and were washed down with a drink known as Kalter Kaffee - a fizzy mix of Coke and Fanta in the same glass. Sitting there with my aunt, uncle and brother made this modest meal all the more memorable.


We visited the cafe a few more times before heading home and I always ordered Hawaiian toast and never left disappointed. Another thing that stayed with me from that trip was the sight of a young girl on a swing. The swing was on a barge meandering down the Rhine on another glorious day. I had stood mesmerised at this unusual sight for about five minutes, stopping to wave to the girl and smile as she responded, thankfully not falling from her plastic perch.


After turning 10 a few days later, I no longer felt like a small child and remember listening to Tears for Fears on my Walkman in the car. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” was my favourite song in 1985.


Looking back, there were no colourful shirts, garlands or palm trees in Speyer, but that place will always live in my heart for my first taste of Hawaii and a magical holiday where anything seemed possible.