Saturday, 9 August 2008

It's been a while.......

It has been a long time since I did an entry continuing the story of my life in the 1960s, but you can blame aol for that!

A while ago, the 'add entry' button suddenly disappeared and I was unable to continue with my Freda's diaries blog, so I started a new one chronicling my life since I retired from my job.  It was quite a while before I discovered that the 'add entry' button had just as mysteriously returned!

I have been really busy since I retired, but managing to add an entry now and again to the 'now I'm retired' blog.  If you read that journal, I hope you will understand why it has been so long since I did an entry in this one!

But in the meantime, I have been hearing from people who have obviously been googling for certain information and found themselves in my journal.  I heard from Cardrew Robinson's first wife, who remembered the parties at their house, which I had been reminiscing about.

A relative of the Mudlarks emailed me looking for info and photographs.

I was especially surprised to get a comment on one of my entries from Eric, who had been the subject of that particular entry.  He said that I appeared to know him better than he knew himself lol!  I would loved to have caught up with his life, but the contact email he left doesn't appear to work and he doesn't seem to have visited my blog since and discovered that I am unable to contact him - what a shame :-(

A young lady who is researching The Lilybank Hotel in Matlock where I used to work, also contacted me, and we have been exchanging information and photos, which has been very interesting.

My later diaries were written on loose leaf 'memo' books, so that I could add pages and write as much as I liked.  I obviously did not realise that one could buy large desk diaries - but then they would have been more difficult to hide..........;-)

And horror of horrors - the diary fell to the floor, loose pages scattering everywhere =:-O  I still haven't managed to sort out the pages and put them in order - a frustrating job because of the inept way I wrote it all up.  :-/  I am still trying to sort it all out and as soon as I do I will continue with my story.

Pleas add me to your alerts and I will be back soon :-)





Friday, 15 February 2008

Sad New & Good News

I tried to do this entry yesterday in my other blog - ‘Now that I’m retired’, but was unable to upload the photographs, so I decided to try it in my Freda’s Diaries Blog - and it worked - aol you really do try the patience of a saint!!

My intention was to show you photos of my new grand child, Kiska, but a few minutes ago I received a phone call from my niece, Susan, with very sad news. Susan was diagnosed with cancer last year, after lumps which kept appearing spontaneously on different parts of her body were diagnosed as cancerous. As each one was removed, others appeared somewhere else, she has now been told that the cancer has gone to her brain and she has only a few weeks left. Knowing her time might be limited, she and her long term partner had already decided to get married in May and have a big themed wedding, but now they have brought it forward to March and it will be a much more reserved affair, which is rather sad really, she was so looking forward to having a big ‘do’. She had just become an aunty for the first time, which she was delighted about, after being unsuccessful in having children herself.

The good news is that my son Keiron and his wife Yvonne, have now completed their family with a beautiful baby girl which they have named Kiska Jane Freya. She was born on January 16th and weighed in at 8lbs 9oz.

She is a darling little girl, but forever hungry! Her big brother Mason, who is now 21/2 years old is very proud of his baby sister and takes great care of her. Whenever she’s impatient for her feed, he finds her dummy and pops it into her mouth with a ‘open your mouth Kiska’ lol!

So that completes the ‘hat trick’, My neighbour’s daughter, my son and my nephew were all expecting to increase their families in January and now all have been safely delivered - 2 boys and one girl!



Sunday, 21 May 2006

A Couple of Shocks :-(


I was horrified - so he HAD seen me! Was there a bit of a cheeky twinkle in his eye or not? I decided the best thing was to pretend I didn’t know what he was talking about, he just grinned and didn’t pursue the matter, but from then on kept referring to my friend Gene.

Despite the inhospitable hours we work and a hectic lifestyle, we still like to keep fit, so I have joined a health club on Knightsbridge - and I walk there and back! My new friends at Ashley Court - Alison & Jackie have taken up ice skating, so a crowd of us go over to Queens whenever we can all get together. I’m not very good, never did have much balance, but it’s a lot of fun. One of the crowd is a young man called John, he’s not bad at skating and comes to my rescue and holds me up. I’d seen him in the bar a few times, but he was always so quiet and didn’t seem to want to join in with us mad lot. John shares a huge room just along the corridor from me, with Brian and David. The room has a very high ceiling with ornately decorated mouldings, I would love to have seen Ashley Court when it was a private house. Brian is one of those rare people who have a car, and he can park it right outside, no problems parking in those days! Some times we will all pile in and go off to the Ice rink at Richmond, just for a change.

I was at the health club one day when CBS came filming for American newsreel. This sort of thing happened a lot, there was always some sort of filming going on in the streets of London, and German and Japanese film crews were often at the 100 Jazz Club in Oxford Street - my second home lol! What fun it would be to see those films now :- )

Jackie and Alison are a fun pair of gals, and we tend to knock around with the same people - Rennie, Lionel, John, Brian, David and Neil, or whoever isn’t working, and we have decided to go on a pub crawl on Sunday morning. We started off at the famous Spaniard’s Inn at Hampstead, then the Bull & Bush. Went for a stroll on Hampstead Heath, playing hide & seek amongst the trees, unfortunately this resulted in our losing half the group, but some of us had to get to work for the late shift, so we hoped the others would make their own way back. It had been an hilarious morning!

Jenny rang, had long chat, she tells me that she would like to become an air hostess and has applied to Pan Am Airways, she says she would rather see the world that way - so ‘Big Plan 65' is off!Naturally I’m very upset, it has been so much fun planning it, but I can understand how Jenny feels, she wants me to apply too, but I am uncertain about my lack of language skills. You have to be able to converse in at least one other language and my meagre knowledge of Italian and German just would not suffice. Jenny has school girl French which she is brushing up on and a reasonable knowledge of Swedish, due to her having a Swedish pen pal and having been engaged to a Swedish boy, albeit for a very short time, but she had intended being able to converse with what she thought were going to be her in-laws. I should be tempted but I always like to do my own thing, I can’t follow other people’s desires, no matter how attractive they might seem.

No longer having something to plan and work towards has come as a big shock, but worse was to follow........

Emilio has been very up and down temperamentally lately, looking straight through me one minute then being very familiar with me the next, can’t say the same about his pal Andrew tho’ - he seems a totally different person, always friendly and smiling and saying ‘Hello Freda’ whenever he rings or comes in the hotel. Just can’t get over it!

Then all became clear......

I really was a complete ingenue - I had so much to learn.

I was on the late shift and Andrew had come round to see Emilio, Andrew popped his head round the door of the switchroom to say hello and ask me to let Emilio know that he’d arrived. On this occasion they were going elsewhere to have dinner, I got the impression they were meeting up with friends. Emilio was in good spirits, and I said I hoped they had a good evening.

Jack, the night porter came in the switchroom and was all for bad mouthing Emilio but I wasn’t having any of it. He raised his brows and said ‘Oh, well you would take that attitude, wouldn’t you.’ If he meant because I just happened to like Emilio, despite his temperament, then he was right, I hated the way everyone seemed to speak ill of him and treated him with such contempt. And I told Jack so. ‘ Well you used to live with a pair of ‘em, didn’t you?’ My heart began to beat very loudly in my chest. ‘What do you mean?’ I asked him, but not wanting to know the answer. ‘ They’re a pair of queers, aren’t they?’ he responded and I could hear the disgust in his voice as he said the word ‘queers’. I could feel my face going red and my silence must have spoken volumes. ‘Oh come on, you must have known’ he jeered. Well I hadn’t known, and I was still finding it hard to believe. Emilio and Andrew? In my eyes I couldn’t imagine two less likely people. Queers, Pansies, Poofs, as they were more commonly known then, where pretty obvious, weren’t they? I had seen the occasional one, usually in Soho, in their flamboyant clothes, coiffed hair and theatrical air, rather like Dickie when he was being silly. Although I have to admit that out in the big world, I doubt if the man in the street realised that Pat & Dickie where homosexuals - especially Pat with his wild curly hair and macho beard. I always thought that these sort of people stood out a mile, it was also an orientation that I simply could not understand. Both Emilio and Andrew were very attractive young men, I felt rather sad that they were lost to we females.

I did not understand how men could be attracted to men, and women being attracted to women - even less. I just could not get my head around it, it all seemed so pointless. I did feel dreadfully sorry though for the way people who were ‘different’ were treated. I understood now why Emilio did not get any respect and I vowed to be even nicer to him from now on. It eventually became clear to me that Andrew had gone through life distrusting everyone, and had erected an icy shield around himself for his own preservation. Once he’d realised that I was friendly with Emilio and not a threat - the ice melted. It was obvious that Emilio needed all the friends he could get, and to have someone like myself who didn’t treat him with derision was not to be sniffed at.

February 13th is Eugen’s birthday, so I’ve got a nice big card for him and asked everyone at Stratters to sign it. I rang him to wish him a happy birthday, he said he was going to go home for a couple of weeks and why didn’t I go too? As the ‘Big Plan’ is now off, I have a bit of spare cash, so I said yes, I thought it was a great idea.

Monday, 1 May 2006

It's a Busy Old Life!

Jenny told me that as I had spent part of the year working abroad I should be able to claim a tax rebate, so I rang the tax office, filled in some forms and today the tax rebate came through yay!!! It will be going into my savings account towards ‘The Big Plan’ as Jenny and I have called our plans to travel around the world.

Moved into Ashley Court, I’ve been told that the room has been newly decorated so I can’t put any posters on the wall - oh boo, and I have a lovely one of Switzerland. The wallpaper is horrendous, heaven only knows where they got it from. I can imagine that it must be extremely expensive to decorate all the rooms but wasn’t anaglypta available in the 60's?

Emilio asked how I liked my room at Ashley Court - I didn’t dare say that the wallpaper gave me nightmares, so told him how pleased I was that the room had a balcony - he seemed surprised to hear that and said he hoped Head Office were charging me double - and I hoped he was joking..........He said he’d seen how pally I was with Gene and asked if he’d asked me out yet, as if I’d tell the management that I was going out with a guest - not even Emilio!

Len Barry is also staying here - he had a couple of UK hits with 1-2-3 and Like a Baby. He’s a very funny guy and he and Gene together are a scary pair - you never know what sort of trick they are going to pull next. Most of the time Len goes around sucking a slice of lemon - ugh! He says it’s good for the throat.

Janet has returned from Paris and we are all meeting up at Bernies’. It’s good for the three of us to get together and have a girly natter. Later we went to The Gary Owen Club in Hammersmith, where I somehow managed to lose my keys to Ashley Court - had to wait outside until someone came along to let me in the main door, then I had to disturb Harry, the caretaker to let me into my room, oo-er, not a good start. He is also going to have to have more keys cut for me.

I knew that Benny Hill lived in the flat opposite Ashley Court, we had met many times in the street, but now I am on the front and on the second floor I can see right into his first floor flat! He never closes the curtains on the huge windows so he is easily seen. I often see him playing a guitar. I wonder if he can see into my room? =:-O I shall certainly make sure the net curtains on my French windows are always in place lol!

Working my favourite shift 3.0pm - 8.0pm, spent most of the evening chatting on the phone with Gene, he suggested that he, Len Barry, myself and a friend should make up a foursome, I rang Jenny to see if she would like to come over - she said she would. Despite it being against the hotel rules, I went up the back stairs to Gene’s room where we waited for Jenny to arrive. I told Gene that I couldn’t be seen openly going out of the hotel with him and we discussed various hilarious scenarios on how to smuggle me out! But then Jenny rang to say that she wouldn’t be able to make it after all. Gene has a penchant for Grand Marnier, a very potent liqueur. We got quite squiffy on it, Len went off to his own room and Gene and I got ‘cosy’, but before things got too comfortable, I told Gene I would have to go. He was absolutely fine about it, I told him I would have to sneak down the back stairs which unfortunately happened to be at the other end of the corridor. I had got part of the way there when I heard the lift arriving at this floor, so I raced back to Gene’s room tapping urgently on the door for him to let me in. As we heard the footsteps pass, I asked Gene to see who it had been - it turned out to be Emilio! The managers suite was on the same floor! Gene kept watch whilst I scurried down the corridor to the back stairs - phew, my heart was beating like the clappers. I collected my coat from off the peg by the switchroom door, hoping no one would ask why I hadn’t yet gone home, instead the porter quipped "What - going already!" It had been nice having a little smooch with Gene (and that’s all it was!) but the ignominy of getting caught in a guests room would have been just too much to bear - I wouldn’t be doing it again!

Gene likes me to give him a wake up call around 8.0am - he told me this morning that I had kept him awake last night - eh? But wouldn’t elaborate :-/

Maybe it was guilt - thinking about another woman when he is now dating Marianne Faithfull :-(   Kathy Seaton, who I got to know through her frequent phone calls to Gene, came round to the hotel in the hope of seeing Gene, I usually let her know when he is here and when he is likely to be available. We were standing chatting by the switchroom door when Gene came

downstairs hand in hand with Marianne, on seeing us he dropped her hand and came over to say hello. Kathy was thrilled to have a little chat with him, she turned to me after they had gone and uttered the immortal words -" Doesn’t Marianne Faithfull look like you" Ha ha ha - I’ve never forgotten them. Shouldn’t think Marianne would quite agree there ;-) Actually the only similarity between us was that we both had long blond hair (but then, didn’t everyone back in the 60's?) blue eyes, fair skin and roughly the same age, but there the resemblance ended. Marianne was a tiny waif of a thing, weighing about a stone less than me, and extremely pretty with a tiny elfin face - so I was immensely flattered by Kathy’s remark.

Just as I was leaving at 3.0pm, Emilio caught me by the glass doors -"I’d like a word with you, Miss B!" I thought he had a look of mock sterness on his face until I heard him say "...and what were you up to last night, hmmm.....?"

Sunday, 30 April 2006

Moving Back

Emilio and I had been laughing and giggling together - well, I had been laughing and Emilio giggling ; -) the guest’s blue eyes flickered uncertainly between myself and Emilio, the lips tried to twitch into a smile. Thankfully Emilio, eager to get on with his evening, turned to whisk his friend away with a brief " you two know each, don’t you? " I watched them as they went up the stairs to the managerial suite where they had decided to have room service instead of dining in the restaurant. Chalk and cheese, I thought, one tall, slender and fair - very English the other shorter, stockier, with a head of thick black hair and very Latin - fire and ice, how had two such different people become friends?

Later, Jack, the Head Porter came into the switch room and sat in the spare chair beside me, the floor waiter brought down a tray of coffee and biscuits and put it on the small cupboard beside him. Just to demonstrate the pecking order - Jack had his coffee first then myself and the other porters could have ours. I didn’t feel like chatting to him, I was still puzzling over this strange turn of events, but Jack raised his brows upwards, indicating upstairs and said "they’re still up there then?" Mmm, I answered, scribbling on my pad and trying to look busy, I had no intention of giving Jack any excuse to have a pop at Emilio. Eventually he got up to go, but then stopped at the doorway and looked back - "You know, then...." "Yep" I stopped whatever he was going to say and thankfully I had to answer a few calls on the switchboard.

I felt just stunned for the rest of the evening - of all the people in all the world why did Emilio have to be friends with - Andrew!! This was the guy who had been blanking me for the last three years - and I hadn’t a clue why. We had first met when I went to do overtime at The Grosvenor Court Hotel just across the road in Davies Street, Andrew had been on reception and I had expected him to be as friendly as all the other Grand Metites that I’d met whenever I did overtime. They were usually grateful that the board was being manned otherwise the reception or the porters would have to have covered the board, when they were short of telephonists. Also, the other staff liked to come and have a chat and ask which hotel you worked in and was it a good place to work - all the usual questions. But when I spoke to Andrew he just looked down his nose at me, and spoke briefly, but in the most patronising manner. He certainly had no intention of being friendly. We would often meet at the bus stop after a late shift, but he completely ignored me, even when, on one occasion, Theresa, one of the telephonists at The Grosvenor Court was also their, she chatted to me, and to Andrew and he responded to her, but he stood with his back half turned to me and totally ignored me. When I’d shared a room with Kathy in the garret, there were just two rooms at the top of the narrow winding stairs, and Andrew often visited the girl in the next room, sometimes I would meet him on the stairs but there was never any eye contact and I might as well not bother saying hello....... Then there was the time I met him on the bus going to work, I saw a familiar face and instinctively smiled hello, but he turned away to look stonily out of the window. I think after that I gave up, I accepted he didn’t like me - I just wished I knew why.

Just as I was leaving to go home, Emilio and Andrew were coming downstairs, they were in good spirits, it was good to see Emilio relaxed and genuinely cheerful, not just the usual nervous giggle. I had never seen Andrew like this before, he was a good looking fellow, and his now smiling face made him look very handsome indeed. And as he glanced in my direction the smile did not fade one iota. Emilio saw him to the glass doors, they shook hands and off he went. Emilio turned to me, still smiling "By the way, I have good news for you - there’s a single room at Ashley Court available to you, but I need a quick answer". "Oh great, I’ll go and see it tomorrow" I replied eagerly. "You want to look at it?" Emilio almost choked. "Do you want it - yes or no?" " Yes thank you" I said meekly, "Good, I went to a lot of trouble to get that for you - don’t you dare turn it down!" He scowled at me beneath his thick, dark brows and I thought aw - he’s so sweet when he scowls like that!

Well I did go to Ashley Court the next day to have a look at the room - and what a surprise I got! No pokey old garrett, no looking over the bins in the back yard, I didn’t even have to climb to the top floor. It was a single room on the front over looking Queensgate, on the second floor - and it had it’s own private balcony! It was a long narrow room, it had a sink built into a cupboard, a large Victorian wardrobe, dressing table and chest of drawers and a small cupboard next to the single bed pushed up into the corner of the room, but best of all - double French windows which opened onto the balcony. It was going to cost me £2.10.0 a week, but worth every penny lol! I knew that a single room with shared services in central London (but not as posh an address as this!) would cost at least £5 per week, and nothing provided. We had maid service, laundry service, breakfast and social facilities such as the bar, TV room and games room. There were small kitchens situated on every floor and more bathrooms than I managed to get through during my time at Ashley Court - and I did attempt to try them all out lol!

I was at the switchboard the next morning when I took a call and heard a soft voice say "Freda?" "Yes" I replied desperately trying to recognise the voice, "It’s Andrew, could I speak to Emilio please?" I nearly fell off my chair in surprise. They seemed to be on the phone for ages, but eventually Emilio came downstairs to give me a cheerful ‘good morning’. I was on with my supervisor ‘Angie’, and even she remarked on how cheerful Emilio seemed to be. Angie was in her late fifties and a wise old soul - everybody’s shoulder to cry on, and thankfully she did not seem to have a ‘down’ on Emilio. So, perhaps knowing he had ‘back-up’ in the switchroom, at least, he spent quite a lot of the morning talking to us. Angie was very happy that I was now going back to live in Ashley Court and pleased with Emilio for working so hard in getting the room for me. Unfortunately I could only give Pat & Dickie a week’s notice otherwise I would be paying for two lots of lodgings and I couldn’t afford that. I would miss their mad cap company, but not all the travelling!


Have to go and cut the grass - so sorry - no cliff hanger lol! ;-)

Sunday, 23 April 2006

New Year 1965

New Year 1965

Despite having done lots of overtime at the various hotels that belonged to Grand Metropolitan, I still hadn’t managed to get round them all, similarly, although I’d met many of my fellow ‘Grand Metites’- there were still many, many more that I hadn’t, and Emilio was one of them. I knew absolutely nothing about him when I went back to work at Stratters, other than that it was his first assistant managers job - a job that was the absolute pits. At least as a humble telephonist I knew where I was in the pecking order - the bottom. Whereas every head of department seemed to think they were the most important person - enormous egos made for lots of upsets amongst the staff. The assistant manager’s job was to make the manager’s job as easy as possible and keep the staff in order - and consequently take all the flack. It needed a calmer and more confident type of person than Emilio was, to succeed in this tricky position.

Maybe he and I got on ok because I had no reason not to respect him. I knew he would have earned his current position in no easy manner. Everyone on the 5 year training course would have had to work in the kitchen, restaurant, bar, control, reception, become head receptionist and then move on to assistant manager, where they would have to develop the hide of a rhinoceros and the wisdom of Solomon. Mitch, the head porter, treated Emilio with the utmost disdain, I found it painful to see and wished I could have advised Emilio to ignore him, unfortunately he would give vent to his Latin temper which, of course, only made matters worse. Also, I had come back from Switzerland with the intention of learning Italian - I much preferred the lilting, sing-song way of speaking to German. Emilio seemed pleased that I knew something of his language and was happy to help. He found it highly amusing to discover that I shared a flat with two fellers and teased me remorselessly - despite my protestations that they were more interested in each other than in me.

The bizarre thing was, when I wrote and told my mother that I was sharing a flat with friends of Jenny’s - a couple called Pat and Dickie - intending to give the impression that they were a married couple - my mother wrote back that she was glad I was settled, but mentioned her concern about ‘the couple’, " why do I think that they are two fellers?" she asked, and it was obvious that she could not quite believe what she was asking, nevertheless this was what she thought and wanted me to put her right. I was dumbfounded, I would have thought that anyone would automatically think ‘a couple called Pat & Dickie’ would be a male/female couple. I decided to come clean, even though I knew my mum, with her straightlaced attitude would disapprove, because I wanted to know how on earth she had come to that conclusion. She said she couldn’t explain it, it was just a feeling she had - scary! The last thing a daughter wants is for her mother to be able to see into her life with such accurate

I was happy to have Emilio back after his few days away, he makes me laugh with his rather self-conscious flirtyness. I wished I could have got to know him before he became part of the management, as the gulf between the ‘plebs’ and the management was one difficult to bridge (yes - I know I have mnaged it in the past.....) - especially during working hours........I liked him a lot and wished I could instil in him a little confidence, he didn’t appear to have any at all and seemed to veer from vulnerable to temper tantrum, with very little in between.

We had a belated Christmas/ New Year Party at The Londoner Hotel just further along Welbeck Street, I went there often to do overtime. The entrance hall was enormous and so was the restaurant, so it was an ideal place for the two hotels to have a bit of a do. Our pay was pretty dire and so was the food which we had on duty and was allegedly part of our pay - but when it came to celebrating, it seemed no expense was spared. There was lots of lovely food, party hats and streamers, plenty of booze - enough for us all to get a little sloshed, music and dancing. I was a bit miffed when Dottie claimed Emilio for a slow dance and I had the ‘pleasure’ of dancing with Alasdair Fraser - who had two left feet and a broom stuck up the back of his jacket. As soon as there was a break in the music I switched partners with Dottie and Emilio didn’t seem to mind at all - he held me very tightly - and I didn’t mind that at all ;-) I also managed to get him for the last dance, he held me tightly, his cheek pressed against mine. I even managed to get a kiss under the mistletoe - albeit a chaste kiss on the cheek! And as it was now so late, he said I could stay at Stratters tonight. There was much teasing for days afterwards about our ‘flirting’, which merely brought raised brows a deep, noisy sigh from Mitch.

9th January and the hotel is coming alive again - we have an American Pop Star called Johnny Thunder staying here. Johnny was a member of legendary Groups The Inkspots and The Drifters. He had a self-penned hit in 1963 of ‘Loop De Loop’. I confess to having got this information from his website, as back in 1965, I had never heard of him. He was here to appear on ‘Top of the Pops’ and ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’. He seemed quite alone, he spent much of his time in the front hall talking to the staff. I was happy to talk to him, he was a tall, handsome, cheerful guy and when he asked to take me out to lunch, I was happy to accompany him. There was a really nice cafĂ©/restaurant in Bond Street called ‘Sands’, it was the ‘in’ place to go, I loved sitting at one of the pavement tables sipping tall mugs of hot chocolate topped with swirls of thick cream and cinnamon, and hoping to catch a glimpse of 60's supermodels Jean Shrimpton or Celia Hammond as The Lucie Clayton School of Modelling was nearby, so was the very popular fashion store - Fenwicks. So this was the place I suggested we could go to. The place was crowded, but we managed to get a table downstairs, after perusing the menu, we both decided we liked the sound of the steak and salad served on wooden boards - well it seemed different - lol! But it turned out to be the most difficult meal I have ever attempted to eat, trying to eat off large blocks of wood on a small table was fraught with problems, the boards wobbled every time we tried to cut into the meat, and the salad went in all directions. It could have been very embarrassing, but Johnny had a fabulous sense of humour, he kept me and the rest of the diners in stitches, but in the end, I gave up and settled for a calorie laden dessert to fill the empty spaces.

We also have Film Star Dean Stockwell staying here. I’ve always thought he was one gorgeous guy, ever since I saw him as a child star in the film ‘The Boy with Green Hair. He has appeared in hundreds of films over the years and more recently, he was the star of ‘Quantum Leap’. He’s a very friendly feller and is happy to stop and give me his autograph and have a chat. The strange thing about him, and quite in contrast to his ordinariness, is the way he dresses - all in black, topped by an all enveloping long black cape. He sails through the front hall, his cape flowing behind him and out into the street, seemingly totally unaware of his, er rather unusual appearance. I had the temerity to ask him why he dressed that way and he said it was just his style, he felt comfortable with it. I wake him every morning and take his breakfast order when I am on the early shift and he usually cracks a joke or two - he reminds me very much of Gene in this respect - he’s such an easy going guy, no ‘starriness’ about him at all.

I take it that Gene Pitney is on his way here too, as already we are getting phone calls for him. Tony Hall rang to say he was coming in the hotel and would stop by to say hello. How long ago is it that I first spoke to Tony Hall? So much water seems to have passed under the bridge since then, and I feel that I have known him for ages and yet we have never met. He came in later accompanying The Righteous Brothers. I’m really quite surprised to find I have written this in my diary, as I have no recollection at all of having met The Righteous Brothers. I do remember meeting Tony Hall though, we shook hands and said the usual things. He was also accompanied by his assistant, a young man called Jimmy, who rang me the next day to ask if I would like to accompany him to see Ready Steady Go, but I’m working - sigh.......

And another party - at The St Ermine’s Hotel this time. Went back to Ashley Court with Dottie to get changed into our glad rags. Had most enjoyable time, a crowd of us went back to Ashley Court and into Lionel’s room for coffee, chatting until 5.30am. Dottie is on the early shift so had already gone to bed, rather than disturb her I accepted the loan of the floor in Alison’s room..........

Johnny Thunder has gone home and Gene has arrived! I heard his familiar voice out in reception - he got quite a surprise when I went out to say hello, not realising that I was back. He asked if that meant that my predecessor had gone, I assume he meant Rona, who, by all accounts had been using Stratters as a way to ‘drum up business’ ;-) he had found the ‘attentions’ of Rona not quite what he had been used to from the telephonists lol! We had always treated him with respect - as he had treated us. I would loved to have known all the juicy details, but, well, you can’t ask, can you? Suffice to say that Rona was now ‘persona non grata’, in fact no one even wanted to talk about her - bringing the hotel into disrepute and all that.

Mitch tells me, with some asperity, that Emilio is expecting a friend round for dinner this evening - nothing wrong with that, the assistant managers didn’t get much in the way of perks, but this was one of them. They would havetheir girl friends round or more often than not, an assistant manager from another hotel in the Group, where no doubt they would share their highs & lows of their chosen profession. Good for him, I thought, he needs someone to have a good natter with, and hopefully give a bit of a boost to his sagging confidence.

Emilio popped his head around the door of the switchroom and asked me to let him know when his friend arrived but then stayed talking to me. We were standing chatting by the switchroom door, he seemed in good spirits, suddenly his eyes brightened and a faint flush spread across his face as he looked past me and I guessed his friend had arrived. I turned to see who his guest was - and my jaw hit the floor as I found myself gazing into a pair of familiar blue eyes...........

Friday, 21 April 2006

Christmas 1964

I have agreed to work over Christmas and Emilio has arranged for those who are working to stay in the hotel, so hopefully we will have some fun......... even Emilio said it should be interesting.........sometimes he says things with such a naughty twinkle in his eye..........

The guests have been very generous to us girls and apart from money we have received nylons (lol still waiting for tights to come along) chocolates and Theatre tickets - not to mention invitations to dinner ;-)

Christmas Eve - I am working 12.0pm til 6.30pm. Met Jenny after work so went to do some later night shopping. From November the shops in the West End would stay open quite late to enable workers to do their Christmas shopping - 24 hour opening was still decades away..........sigh. Then went to Trafalgar Square to join in the Carol singing - it was a lovely sight with all the beautiful Christmas lights. Then met up with Bernie and some of the staff from Stratters and The Grosvenor Court Hotel at The Woodstock pub, which is just across the road from Stratters, for a few drinks. When Dottie, my fellow telephonist, finished work at 10.30pm we met in her room, the lads on reception finished at 11.0pm and then they joined us. Emilio knocked on the door and asked us to keep the noise down - but then gave us a couple of bottles of wine lol!

My room was comfortable, but I found it difficult to sleep. On at 8.0am Christmas Day - Emilio asked what time I had got to sleep - I think it was somewhere around 2.0am - he just raised his brow and gave me a knowing look :-/ Whatever was he thinking............?

We were all invited into the Restaurant for a very good Christmas lunch, so different from last year when Alasdair Fraser put the kibosh on any possible frivolity. Emilio kept giving me funny looks, but think he was feeling a bit out of his depth, he tends to giggle and pull funny faces when he’s feeling awkward (aw bless!) He bought us all drinks, and at 2.0pm I finished my shift and went over to Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair to work till 6.0pm and it was more drinking there.....Went back to Stratters to keep Dottie company whilst she worked the evening shift - we were feeling rather giggly by this time as what few guests we had in the hotel kept buying us drinks.....Emilio came in and spoke to us rather sternly, which rather knocked the Christmas spirit out of us, but then came back to apologise and bought us more drinks.......He fussed round us all evening asking if there was anything we wanted. The night porters didn’t turn up, so me’n Dottie stayed to cover the switchboard and the boys stayed on Reception until midnight then we all went to Dottie’s room again for another party.

Stayed in bed late then had a leisurely bath and breakfast in my room - ah this is the life ;-) We all had dinner in the restaurant again, Emilio said he could hear me giggling last night at our party..........Working 2.0pm til 8.30pm, met Pat & Dickie later at the Gresham Ballroom in Islington, had great fun, then singing all the way home in the snow - oh didn’t I mention it had been snowing?........Yep - it snowed at Christmas in those days ;-) Fell into bed 2.0am.

On late shift today, so cooked Christmas lunch with Pat & Dickie, Jenny came over too. Sorry that I had to leave them playing party games to go into work :-( Emilio in and out of the switch room all evening - nothing better to do, as the hotel is so quiet, eventually he said I could go home early. They were still partying at Pat & Dickie’s and I have the feeling that this is when we took the silly photographs........

By New Year’s Eve I was feeling pretty wobbly - I’d done a lot of over time over Christmas - we get double pay and very well looked after at other hotels, so have to earn a bit extra whilst we can - and too many late nights. Jenny has invited me to a party tonight and as it is New Year’s Eve, I feel I have to force myself to go - can’t stay in on the best night of the year. The party turned out to be at Cardew Robinson’s home. He was popularly know as ‘Cardew the Cad’ due to his part in the film ‘Fun at St Fanny’s’ circa 1956. He was on TV Saturday 1st April in ‘Carry On Up the Khyber’ playing the Kafir. A tall skinny fellow with a big boney nose, he was never a Star, but popped up all over the place in films and on TV. The house was bursting with partygoers, he seemed to be a very affable chap who didn’t mind all these strange people in his house. There was a large conservatory at the back of the house where there was plenty of food, drink and dancing. Didn’t leave until 3.15 am, went to Jenny’s, who lives out in Clapham, for a couple of hours sleep then on to work for the early shift.........I even managed to do an extra shift at The Green Park Hotel in the afternoon - talk about burning the candle at both ends :-/ Joined the boys in mulled wine and hot mince pies before falling into bed.......

I finally asked Emilio about finding me a room at Ashley Court, and a couple of days later he got back to say that there was a double room available. Well, I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, and I know rooms at Ashley Court are not easy to come by, but I really didn’t want to share. I’ve told him that I’d rather hold out for a single room. He sighed, raised his eyebrows and told me not to be so fussy - but he will make further enquiries.......

I have started knitting again, I’d seen this black mohair wool in Marshall & Snelgrove - a rather old fashioned and slightly posh store just next to Stratters. I used to go in there just to use the ladies toilets because they were so grand, very large and decorated in beautiful art deco tiles. Anyway, I noticed the wool was half price, and never one to resist a bargain, I looked around for a suitable pattern. I settled on a button up jacket, but as I got knitting, noticed the dye coming off on my hands! I took the wool back and they exchanged it for another batch, but the same thing happened. The assistant suggested washing the wool to see if that made a difference, but if I wanted to continue buying the wool, I could have it at a bargain price. I found that washing the wool did solve the problem of the dye coming off, so I took up the offer of buying the whole batch. With so much wool, I decided to turn the jacket into a coat. When it was finished I lined it with a leopard print silk lining . With some of the left over wool I knitted a matching bag, lined it with the same material and attached a long chain necklace in place of a strap.

As Emilio worked over Christmas and New Year, he is now having a few days off, and it’s not the same without him. I can understand to a certain extent why he is not very popular with the rest of the staff, poor Emilio - he’s his own worst enemy, but I can see the vulnerable side to him and for as long you treat him with a certain amount of respect - he’s just fine. Well apart from the sudden temperamental outbursts.........

But then, there was something I didn’t know about him that others did................