Sunday September 13th
On Friday evening, not long after five, I was passing the dining-hall building when Eleanor and Annette came out and seized upon me, pressing me, for
ten shillings, to take a station at the evening meal in place of another girl who was “away to Glasgow”. I agreed, and Eleanor helped me to set
out the tables, in putting out rolls, filling milk jugs, etc. I took my tea-pots from the window when everybody else did, one for each table. Only six
of the seven tables were occupied in each sitting. The routine was to get the two jugs filled with soup when people started sitting down at my tables
and go to fill their dishes; then take a rack of hot dinners from the Jackson and take them round, supplementing them with dinners from the Jackson of
children’s meals; finally putting a block of icecream on each of the tables. There was always somebody who wanted soup or meat later than the
others. One man in the first sitting wanted cold meat instead of chicken. So eventually I had to go to the kitchen and find out where to get it. In
the next sitting I had to get seven of them, over two tables. Only one person wanted coffee. Clearing the plates using the rack or after people left
was not difficult, and I stood up to that job very well. I answered a request, at one point, with a simple “Yes, I will”, and the man turned to
his wife and said “This lad here’s from south of t’Ribble”. I was more puzzled by the suggestion that I would “go back to Ireland” when
the camp closed.
After a quick change I went to the area final of the talent contest, where naturally all the acts were very good. Next I went up to the Stuart and
found Toni and her family again. She was at her most affectionate that night, calling me her boyfriend all the time. She told her father that she
would put her arms around me if I was the one she was engaged to. After we exchanged ages (she was six), she said that if a sixteen year-old girl came
up to me and asked me to dance, and I refused, the girl would go back crying. Her big sister Avril would go crackers. Big sister Avril was sitting
next to her but made no comment. I refused to race her across the ballroom floor, but in compensation I danced what she called “an ordinary pop
dance” with her. She said I was the nicest of all the boys she knew. For some time, and when we walked downstairs, she was holding my hand- or
rather my thumb, to start with. When the Stuart closed, we all went down to the Beachcomber for some coffee, and then I accompanied them back to the
When we parted, at twelve o’clock, I found Charlie down in ZN34 again, with four or five others, drinking and singing. We were joined by others,
including Annette, and later transferred two doors down to Eleanor’s chalet. I was lucky in getting in fairly early and finding a seat on one of the
beds. Charlie told me later that he counted thirty-two at one stage. They were taking their drink from a bowl on the floor. I could only have one and
a half glasses, because I was not actually in possession of a glass. The singing came to an unfortunate end at about half past one, because little
Harry and another boy began trying to fight. The efforts to keep them apart, and then get them outside, caused more commotion, and there was much
argument outside the chalet. One boy came back and sat on the bed, saying repeatedly that another boy had punched him in the face and he was going to
kill him. At Charlie’s prompting we left and got to bed at about two o’clock.
We had to be up earlier in the morning than usual to prepare for early breakfasts. I was sent down to the main kitchens to see about the rolls and
returned in the van which was bringing up the bacon etc. Charlie did not have to work that shift, because he had done extra table-setting after tea
the previous day, but the work was not difficult. The top section was clear by ten, apart from a few occupied tables. Everything, once cleared, had to
be taken outside and put into a great trailer, together with the sauce, vinegar, sugar, etc. from the tables. Not long after eleven we were free, and
able to start saying farewells.
Some of these had begun earlier. There was Toni’s family, of course. I promised to pass on her goodbyes to Charlie. I had a copy of the photograph
her mother took, and Avril popped back to give me Charlie’s copy of his own photograph. There was a younger girl whom her father teased for being in
love with me, who would smile and giggle and flutter her eyelids when I collected the plates, or sometimes follow me through the tables. I got my
clearance form from Mr. Mason in Margaret’s office, then went down to my chalet for a rapid change and pack, saying good-bye to Charlie who was just
leaving. Next I walked down with Mrs. Quail to say goodbye to Eleanor, who was sniffling and gave me a kiss on the cheek.
I handed in my uniform at the store, went down to reception and waited for the minibus which took us right up the hill to the hostel at the top.
Inside there was a long queue calling at several posts. The first was the chalet key department. I could not hand mine in, because I lost it somewhere
around ZN34 on Wednesday night. We handed in staff card, received insurance card (and staff magazine), and finally, at the very end, received our
wages. Another minibus took us to Ayr station. After Inquiries, I took the Glasgow train. I found my way from Glasgow Central to Glasgow Queen Street
after more Inquiries, involving an unnecessarily truculent clerk.
“How do I get to Queen Street station?”, I asked her.
“Have you got legs? Can you walk?”
(Yes I can. But only if someone tells me the way, which is why I’m asking)
From there to Edinburgh, where I changed to the four o’clock train to London, and bought a bar of chocolate. I managed to close my eyes a little
during the early part of the journey. We passed along what must have been the northern coast of Lothian, but by the time I was fully conscious again
we were inland. A family got into my carriage at Newcastle, including a woman and her little daughter opposite, and they were having trouble getting
her to sleep. I bought a Pepsi-cola and some sandwiches. The family seemed to find it very obvious that I was tired. They were encouraging me to close
my eyes and drop off, in the hope that this would help the little girl to do the same, but I was afraid of missing my stop. I arrived at Peterborough
at 9.30 and then had to sit in the waiting room until 11.10, with nothing much to do except read through Paradise Lost.
I arrived in Ely at twelve minutes past midnight, walked to the telephone box at the top of Back Hill, and then phoned home to be picked up….
[P.S. Anyone who knows Ely may wonder why I did not phone from the station. The answer is that there was
no telephone at the station in those
days. So every return home ended with a long trek up Back Hill, with a heavy case, to the red phone box which was still there at the top the last time
edit on 13-9-2020 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)