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"No, just mice!" An English boy in Scotland

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posted on Sep, 9 2020 @ 11:54 AM
Wednesday September 9th

Last night the grand staff dance was held in the upstairs dining-room. There was a large spread of food down one side, but it went very quickly after the announcement that the buffet was open. Drinks were obtained using the books of tickets, and Charlie got some extra books from Mr. Mason. Dancing on the floor, to an electric organ and drummer, came later.

The people I was helping this afternoon were putting out tea-pots at the beginning of the meal, filling plates with pudding and custard later and putting them out, and finally collecting in the tea-pots. I also helped Charlie bring in the trolleys. As we were doing so, he was telling me about the tips he received in the morning, and added significantly that I would never guess what he had just been asked.
“My imagination’s running wild”, I said.
“I’ll bet it is”, he replied, but left it there for a while.
Later on, he told me that we had been invited to a party in the Regency tonight, if I was interested, “guaranteed to get the Christmas in”. The immediate arrangements were being made by the Regency waitress Teresa, who was desperate for it, he said, while he was trying to get me fixed up with Rosemary.

posted on Sep, 10 2020 @ 11:39 AM
Thursday September 10th

Last night Charlie, Tom, and I spent most of the evening in the staff bar (apart from twenty minutes for a look-in at the same old Redcoat show). We were joined by several other people, including Margaret, and eventually a sing-song developed. At one point I was sent to the Stuart to buy three different kinds of cigarettes. At about twelve, Charlie and I went over to the Regency, but found the party had been cancelled. We went down to Teresa’s chalet so that Charlie could demand an explanation, but when he knocked it was a deep voice that grunted. So Charlie wrote off that particular arrangement.

When we got back to the chalet, John Hamilton told us we had been invited to drinks down in another chalet, ZN34, so we went there instead. We found two other boys there, with a large glass container of drink. Charlie wanted to send me back to fetch some of our cheese and biscuits. This proved to be difficult, though, because the door had been accidentally closed, and apparently that door cannot be opened from the inside. At twenty to one they began singing as loud as they could in the hope of attracting someone’s attention to kick the door in for them, which is what happened.

There was a lot of clearing to be done this morning, because Charlie had been taken away early, leaving me alone on the floor. John Heywood was in charge at the time, and after twelve o’clock I remarked to him that wasn’t it about time we went down to the dining-hall? “Bollocks to the dining-hall”. I didn’t think that was the kind of remark that went with a position of responsibility, so it wasn’t to be taken as a guide. “Bollocks to John Heywood” (I thought to myself) “I’m having my dinner.” So I walked out and went back down. John and Tommie, at least, were doing no work when I left. After a quick dinner, I was put to help Charlie on the sweet. I was in the position of “instructor”, here, because apart from my direct experience yesterday, I had the useful fruits of a fortnight’s observation, seeing what was happening behind me as I served the teas. Many people seemed to want pineapple alone instead of pineapple together with rice, and I can’t blame them. They are all right on their own but make a sickening combination.

posted on Sep, 11 2020 @ 11:05 AM
Friday September 11th

Last night Charlie and I had a rendezvous in the staff bar because there was expected to be some kind of show, but nothing was happening. We walked some way into Ayr and got a lift from an approaching staff bus. We went into the Beer Kellar and had two pints of very strong Lowenbrau, needing the rest of the night to recover from it. We went to see a film, found the next bus was at ten to twelve, had some fish and chips, and walked past the roundabout before getting a lift from another staff bus. Charlie had a message from Margaret through John Hamilton, saying that he was to go to work in the dining-hall at half past six this morning, which turned out to be the job of setting up tables.

One by one the rest of us turned up at the door of the Regency this morning, only to find that the door was locked. We had to wait until Mr. Reynolds turned up, and then went back for the key. So we had three people on the floor and perhaps fewer customers than usual, so we got on well with the clearing, had time for breakfast at ten, and still cleared the tables comfortably shortly after eleven. There was a very important party of Butlins people, including Archie, having a meal at the time, on tables which had been reserved, so that also reduced the clearing.

I was told to use the hoover. As soon as I started a smell of burning arose. The manageress told me to stop and see if there was anything jamming it, a piece of paper or a spoon. Two men came in, took off the bottom, and began a process of diagnosis. It was the rubber band that was burning; it was burning because it was jammed; it was jammed because a roller in the front was not going round; the roller in the front was probably not going round because of a broken bearing. They said they could not repair it, it would have to be left to the electricians, and they left me to put it back together again. After clearing the tables left by the committee, we could make a leisurely way back to the dining-hall.

I helped another boy with the sweet, which was plums and custard- though the plums ran out and it had to be mostly pineapple for the second sitting. The floor was dangerous. While I was putting some custard on, once, I slipped and went down with a bump. When I was bringing over some coffee I skidded, though doing nothing worse than spilling coffee in a few plates of pineapple. After the second sitting, Margaret came in and rooted out all the Grosvenor-regency staff, getting us to set some stations on both sides of the clearing area. I put out side-plates, soup plates, and had put out a lot of knives before I remembered there were supposed to be two of them.

posted on Sep, 13 2020 @ 11:04 AM
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 chalet lines.

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 I looked.]

edit on 13-9-2020 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

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