Tuesday, 25 January 2005

The Way We Were - Holiday!

Both my brothers were stationed in Germany during their stint of National Service, and consequently came back being able to speak a smattering of the language. I was keen to learn all they knew, and would proudly show off my knowledge to my school friends lol! We didn’t have languages as part of the curriculum then. I was keen to expand my bit of knowledge and tried to teach myself more with the aid of phrase books - big mistake!

Once I’d decided I was going to spread my wings and travel, I arranged to go to the Berlitz School of Languages in Oxford Street, just across the road from Stratters, to learn German properly. It cost a £1 for 55mins of tuition. The Berlitz School was run on a very tight budget, the reason we only got 55mins, was that 5mins was allowed for the ‘teachers’ to get to the next classroom to take their next lesson lol! I say ‘teachers’ because in fact they were foreign students, here to get hands-on knowledge of English. The rule was that once inside the building, we were not allowed to speak anything except the language we were learning - which could be pretty difficult when you didn’t know very much! In fact it irritated me no end, because I wasn’t able to ask for explanations - it struck me as a pretty crazy way of learning a language. Also, I got a different ‘teacher’ each time, and some could not speak much English anyway and it would end up with us both teaching each other our own language!! Then I got a young lady who COULD speak reasonable English, unfortunately, she used her knowledge to tell me all her troubles - I didn’t get much learning done, but unwilling to complain about her, I simply gave up and left. Consequently, I had just enough knowledge of the German language to get me into trouble!

Mum and I are going on our first package holiday and my first time abroad! We are going with Cosmos - departure date 11th September 1963. Amazingly, I still have the original itinerary that Cosmos provided. Eastern Coaches take us down to Southend Airport where we catch the plane to Ostend. We only get a cursory view of Brussels as we drive through the City Centre on the way to Arlon, the capital town of Luxenbourg where we stay for our first night. Interestingly, the blurb in the itinerary tells us that the present Regent is Grand Duchess Charlotte and she is also the Head of the Government, her husband is Prince Felix of Bourbon-Palma.We're up early the next morning to board the coach which will take us through Luxenbourg, Strasbourg, The Black Forest, The Rhine Falls and finally close to our ultimate destination - Obsteig, near Feldkirch in Austria. This is where a coach trip comes into its own, just sit back and enjoy the wonderful views! The Rhein Falls at Schaffhausen are a sight to behold. We stop at Stein am Rhein, a truly beautiful place where the buildings are covered in the most attractive paintings and intricate pargeting. We stay overnight at Feldkirch then continue our coach journey to Obsteig the next day, arriving mid-morning, but first we have to negotiate the Arlberg Pass, which is not for those who do not like heights!!!!! It was pretty scary I can tell you! =:0

We arrive in Obsteig, in the Tyrol, in time for lunch. Obsteig is ideally located for excursions into Bavaria, the Italian Dolomites and Innsbruck is only 25 miles awayOur typically Tyrolean hotel is family owned, and we had many wonderful evenings of entertainment. Tyrolean music, yodelling, folk dancing and films showing the wonderful scenery around us. The hotel was set in it?s own lovely gardens and we had a private swimming pool. The locals were allowed into the hotel in the evenings for the dances, and I made friends with some lads of my own age who came in most evenings. We went on many sightseeing excursions during our 6 day stay, but the ones involving going over the Arlberg pass were pretty hairy. We went in small buses, and the young drivers thought it pretty funny to drive in a reckless manner, there were a few occasions when the buses had to stop to allow the passengers to be sick. Mum became quite ill during one excursion, partly due to the altitude, but also because of the silly driving along the narrow winding roads - I was pretty scared myself!

I enjoyed my stay at the family Granbichler?s hotel so much, that I asked if there was any chance of getting a job there during the next holiday season. I was told that there was indeed, but in the meantime I should concentrate on improving my knowledge of German and then write to them early next year, if I was still interested.

Eventually it was time to say goodbye, and the locals who had been regulars at the dances came to say goodbye, including the young lads I?d made friends with, one of them, Karl, asked me to write to him and we quickly exchanged addresses. Karl and his friends got on their motor bikes and followed the coach for a while waving at us until eventually we were out of sight.

On the journey back home, we went through pretty much the same places as on the way here, except that we stopped at Vaduz in the Principality of Leichtenstein. We made for the nearest café and indulged ourselves in the wonderful tortes and gateaux that we?d been getting used to over the last few days! Then we move on to Switzerland, passing through beautiful countryside (I fell in love with Switzerland at first sight!) of Wildhaus, Unterwasser, Wattwil and Rapperswil. We travel along the northern shore of the Zurichsee to Zurich, staying at Wittengen, just outside the town. As soon as we?d booked into our room, I rang the phone number that Eugen had given me. I fully expected to hear his husky tones, but instead his mother answered the phone. Problems! She didn?t speak a word of English and I?m sure she didn?t understand my poor attempt at German, she recognised that it was me calling but Switzerdeutch is virtually impossible to understand! Nevertheless, I recognised the word ?schwester? (sister) and guessed that Eugen was visiting his sister who lived in St Gallen, not too far from the family home. It was quite late in the evening by now, so mum and I decided to have a look around Wittengen, which had many lovely shops. When we got back, the receptionist handed me a note saying that Eugen had phoned and giving me a different number to call, it was after 11pm by now and I couldn?t decide if it was too late to call or wait until morning, except that I knew there would be no hanging around and there may not be enough time. So I rang him straight back. It turned out that he was visiting his older sister, Sylvie, who lived in Zurich - he was only 20 miles away! Aw - if only we?d known earlier in the evening, we could have met up, but now it was too late, and an early start in the morning :-(

to be continued

We will be covering 300miles today. We soon reach Basle and cross into France, then on to Mulhouse in Alsace Lorraine, then right across north eastern France via Epinal, Nancy and Metz and over the border into the Principality of Luxenbourg. One of the fun things about this trip has been collecting the border pass stamps in my passport, and having a bit of fun with the border guards. Our tour guide collects all the passports for stamping and then gives them all back to us - sometimes! Occasionally, the guards will hold back the passports of the young females then get onto the coach themselves, looking for the owners, then giving the passports back personally, with a cheeky grin or a wink. It was pretty scary the first time it happened, as being my first time abroad, border guards, with their foreign uniforms seemed a little sinister to me - thoughts of the film ?Maltese Falcon? lol!

The weather has been really good on the whole, we only had a couple of rainy days, so all in all it has been a most enjoyable holiday. I love the food - especially the wonderful gateaux! There has been a fair mix of travellers - young couples, middle aged couples, young single girls - but no single males :-( I have made friends with two girls of my own age, but mostly we are friends as a whole group. Tonight we are stopping at Marche for the night, we had a very nice evening meal, one of the waiters kept giving me the eye, later we met in the hallway and he asked me in broken English if I would like to go out for a drink. We had a good time at first, but Phillipe had a little too much to drink and things got a little uncomfortable. I ended up leaving him to find my own way back to the hotel - not too many people around at 1o'clock in the morning, let alone any that spoke English - I?d learned a few French phrases, but if anyone had spoken back to me, I would have had a hard job understanding! The streets seemed pretty empty and it was a bit scary wandering the streets in a foreign town, but somehow I managed to get back ok. But no sooner had I got back to the room I was sharing with Mum, than Phillipe was banging on the door and refusing to go away - Mum got up to give him a few choice words and this seemed to do the trick. I dragged myself out of bed the next morning to continue our journey homeward, arriving in Brussels where the coach driver took us on a tour of the city before resuming our journey to Ostend to catch our plane to Southend.

I noticed in a publication this weekend (30/1/05) a similar ten day tour by train, costing £739 - ours cost £29 lol!

We went straight back to Ashley Court to drop off my luggage and pick up my mail - Eugen has sent me a card from Switzerland - bless him! Then we went home to Sheffield for a few days - I could just sleep and sleep!

I received my first letter from Karl within the first week of returning from holiday. He has written to me mostly in German, with just a few words of English, so I asked Eugen to translate for me. He laughs as he reads the letter and his face goes a little pink - so did mine when he told me that Karl had said how much he enjoyed kissing me lol!

Eugen and I compose a letter together to send back to Karl, but I add some private bits in English - he told me later that he got his old school teacher to help translate - ha ha - this gets more and more bizarre!

I got a Teach Yourself German book out of the library so that I could attempt to translate Karl?s letters without the help of Eugen, but I couldn?t write any in German so I wrote in English - bearing in mind who was going to do the translating! I was soon back into the mad mayhem of London life and found myself losing interest in writing to Karl - there was only so much we could talk about anyway and our holiday friendship went the way that most of them do eventually.

But I am fired up from my holiday and can?t settle, I long to go and work abroad, I told Eugen of my thoughts, and he says he?ll write to his family to see if they can find a job for me in Switzerland. Before we left Obsteig, the Granbichlers told us about a dinner dance they hold every year in London for all the holidaymakers who have ever stayed at their hotel. I?m hoping Eugen will come with me - I?d love to show him off to my fellow holiday makers! Of course the 2 invites that I eventually received were for me and Mum, and I knew that not only would she like to be re-acquainted with her holiday friends, but also enjoy a weekend in London. I asked it would be possible to get an extra invite, but I was told that it would depend on how many people accepted their invitations, as space was limited, even though the re-union was being held a large west end hotel. I knew the invite belonged to mum - I didn?t really have a choice......sigh........

To be continued.....

Tuesday, 11 January 2005

The Way We were - Leaving

Saturday 12th - Eugen is back from his holiday, and I am dying to see him - just how long ago was it that he departed these shores - a month? Six months? What - only ten days? It seems like a lifetime - and I have to wait until Sunday before I can see him again

Silly, I know, but felt a bit awkward seeing himagain, it's very busy and we barely have time to say more than a brief hello, and the porters are not helping the situation with their constant teasing. It seems that his landlord has told Eugen that he has to find temporary accommodation whilst the flats are being refurbished. Knowing how difficult it is to find accommodation, especially at such short notice, I have told him that he might be able to get a room in Ashley Court, but he is not showing much interest. I feel snubbed, and my attitude is well, suit yourself, mate - you won't get any better for the rent we pay, and it's such a great place to live, I find it hard to understand his attitude.

(Of course, looking back, I can see his point of view all too clearly. You need to be quite a gregarious sort of person to live in what is pretty much a goldfish bowl, and Eugen is such a private person, Ashley Court would not have suited him at all!)

On early shift with Eugen, he showed me that he is wearing the tiny gold St Christopher I bought him for Christmas on a silver chain around his neck, so after work, I popped into the jewellers to buy a matching gold chain. said I was mad, when I gave him the gold chain for his St Christopher! He took the silver one off and gave it to me in exchange for the gold one. I fixed them together and fastened it around his neck, I could feel the warmth of his skin against my fingers and the temptation to put my arms around his neck and hug him, was enormous, but somehow I managed to restrain myself!

I'm happy to find that me'n Eugen are on the same shift, we didn't manage to have breakfast together, but later he rang me from where he was working in the restaurant to ask what I time I finished, but wouldn't tell me why - infuriating man!

Met him on the way up to the canteen, asked me to wait there for him. Finally came in canteen with presents for me that he'd brought back from Switzerland! I'm so surprised and delighted that I quite forget my inhibitions and throw my arms around him! As we are both off duty now, we decide to go for a walk. It's jolly cold and Eugen tucks my arm in his and we cuddle up close, giggling like a pair of teenagers.

We decide to warm ourselves up with a cup of hot coffee, after which, Eugen says he has to deliver a parcel to a Mr. and Mrs. Newbury who live in the very posh Albion Court block of flats, but there is no one in, so we leave a message to say we have been.

As we approach the News Theatre at Marble Arch, Eugen suggests we go in, we had a good giggle feeding each other chocolate Poppets. (Romantic, huh?) Afterwards we decide to go back to Ashley Court, we played records and danced - he's actually quite good at doing the twist! Shared best part of a bottle of gin, showed him how my portable tape recorder works by recording our somewhat inebriated banter... Then I put on my George Shearing LP, we do a little bit of smoochy dancing - and wow!

No! Not that kind of wow!

It was late evening before I showed Eugen off the premises, and just as I opened the main door to let him out, Ann was coming in - I don't know who was the most surprised! We went up to her room for a chat, she's pleased that things are progressing between me'n Eugen, but I'm sorry to learn that she is leaving on Saturday - things just won't be the same without the ebullient Ann around!

On late shift, but went in early, Eugen already on duty, so rang him to come up to the canteen and to my surprise he appeared almost immediately! He says he feels peculiar........Trying to persuade him to come to the party at Ashley Court tonight, but he's most reluctant. Mr. Newbury rang to speak to Eugen about the note we had left him, I tell him that Eugen has now gone off duty, but as I went with him to deliver the parcel, I could pass on a message. He says would we both like to go over tomorrow night for drinks? Mmmmm, being invited out as a couple, now that does sound like a nice idea! I rang Eugen and told him about the phone call and the invitation from Mr. Newberry. Says he can't make it for tomorrow night and not sure about tonight... (Oh Eugen - just give me a straight no!) I managed to get off at 10.30pm, great party, but my eyes were constantly on the look out for Eugen, hoping he might come...(Oh silly, silly girl!)

Eugen rang just before I went off duty to say that we wouldn't be able to go round to the Newbury's tonight, but perhaps Monday. I'm pretty peeved about this, because it is such an excellent opportunity for us to go out together, and I rather like the idea of visiting people as a couple, and we can't keep putting it off, it's looks as though we don't really care about taking up their kind invitation.

Sunday,working til 5.0pm today and the morning stretches interminably, waiting for Eugen to come on duty, but he came in early and popped into the switchroom to chat for a while, then we went up to the canteen for a cuppa. It was nice being on our own for a while, then others started coming in and teasing us.

It seems that Eugen didn't ring Mr. Newbury - so I did. Spoke to Mrs. Newbury, she says she will have a word with her husband and ring back tomorrow. It's not at all busy this evening, so as soon as Eugen is up to date with his work, he spends most of the evening chatting with me in the switchroom. If that wasn't enough, we both managed to have supper together, whilst the porters looked after both reception and the switchboard - they really can be quite accommodating at times!! In fact so besotted am I with the man, that I stay over until almost 9.0pm! He tells me that they are expecting a party of guests arriving in the early hours of the morning, so he has to stay in the hotel overnight - well I wouldn't mind lending a hand...

Room 812 is the smallest hotel room at Stratters, and is always the last one to be let, mostly, it's used by the assistant manager when he's on weekend duty, or if any of the receptionists have to stay overnight, I rang just to see if Eugen had indeed stayed over, he was there ok, arranged to meet in the canteen for breakfast. He seems to be in such good spirits that even Paul, the steward, noticed, Eugen said it was because I was there! (Can you believe this man?) He wanted to know if Mr. Newbury had rung (as if he cared!) I saidhe hadn't, and personally I have given up totally on this situation. Consequently, we never did get to meet the Newbury's.

We finished pretty much at the same time today, so we went round to his old flat in Marylebone High Street to pick up his mail, then in and out of shops. Don't know what Eugen is looking for, but he likes the small exclusive men's boutiques, highlighting the difference between us - Eugen goes for quality whereas I go for quantity! It has to be said that he has excellent taste in clothes, and although he earns little more than I do, his clothes appear to be expensive, whereas mine have very much the high street look to them! We came back together on the bus, cuddling up on the upstairs backseat. He asked me for my phone number, don't know why - cos he never used it!

continuing Leaving

Eugen came into the switchroom for a chat and tells me that he’s bored, he says he’s going to the American Embassy this afternoon to see if his visa’s come though. An icy hand seemed to grip at my heart, I thought he’d said he was going home for his holiday this year (we only got 2 weeks). When I question him further, he says he’s been waiting for months to get a visa that would enable him to work in America. I can’t believe I’m hearing this, I knew he’d already worked in several other countries but he’d never mentioned any plans about going to work in the US.....

This news has really depressed me, I cannot imagine life without Eugen, mind you, I was beginning to wonder how on earth he’d managed to stay as long as he had at Stratters, it looked to be quite a large hotel from the outside, but it was quite insignificant on the inside and I often wondered how anyone ever found it, as the entrance was down a side street. Everything about Stratters was pokey - the front hall was really quite small and decoratively uninspiring. Everyone tripped over each other because of lack of space behind the reception desk, the Porter’s desk occupied a very small corner by the entrance and the telephone room - well! The two person switchboard just fitted into the width of the room, and there was only just room to stand up behind our chairs. We had a large sliding door which we kept open most of the time. Many a prospective telephonist had taken one look at the switch room and declined the job on the grounds of claustrophobia lol! Still, it made our garrett room seemed quite large by comparison, although in fact it too, was rather small for two people to share, just as well Kathy, my fellow telephonist and I got on well together. For a long time we worked the same shifts, but then for some reason Angie decided to move us all around so that we worked on opposite shifts, and then we only seemed to pass on the stairs - all five flights!

I was really disappointed when Kathy told me she leaving - first Ann, now Kathy, but like so many who work in the hotel industry, she wants to travel and is going to work for P & O as a telephone operator on one of the luxury Liners. She paints an interesting picture and tells me I should apply - we might even end up on the same ship lol! I’m not mad about water, and dislike dockyards even less, but like the idea of a job that will take me to lots of exciting places. And if Eugen is planning on going to America, I’m not staying behind to mope. I’m still feeling miffed by his sudden news, so I lose no time in telling him that Kathy is leaving and that I’m planning on leaving too, in fact I get my application off without delay. Stratters may be unexciting in many ways, but as long as Eugen is here, it’ll do me just fine - it’s obvious tho’ that Eugen is bored to the back teeth. Sigh....

Eugen is not enthusiastic about my plans, he says just because Kathy likes the idea of going to sea, it doesn’t mean to say that I will, hah! I suspect he’s now feeling as miffed as I was at his intention to leave.

I now have the choice of having a new room mate at Ashley Court or going into a single room. I choose the single room, it will cost me £2.10.0d (£2.50) per week compared to £2 for the shared room, but I have the added luxury of a balcony overlooking the front of Queensgate. I shall quite miss the view of the rooftops and backs of other buildings that we had in the garrett, the room, with it’s one round window, it was quite dark but on opening the window we could hear all the concerts from the Royal Albert Hall. We could also see the back of The Royal College of Art and were privy to all their parties - they had almost as many as we did at Ashley Court lol, although their’s were much grander, the students would either bein evening dress or fancy costumes and their music was very loud indeed!

Mum rang, she sounded a bit down, mum loved her holidays abroad and has found one of those whistle stop coach holidays that takes in about 10 Countries in 10 days lol! But dad doesn’t fancy it so would I like to go with her? She tells me all the countries we will get to see and when I hear Switzerland mentioned, I’m all for it! Kathy told me that it could take up to 6months before I might actually get on to a ship, so I tell mum to go ahead and book the holiday. When I tell Eugen about it, he says he will be on holiday at the same time and that we should try and meet up when I get to Switzerland.

It took about 2 months for P & O to respond to my application, but an interview has been arranged for next month, so at least things are progressing. I’m not entirely sure this is the way I want to go, but I can’t stagnate, I have to make plans!





Saturday, 8 January 2005

continuation of The Way We Were

Used up my 25,000 words lol!

ok - fast forward to Christmas 1962

22nd December - the day started off well, Eugen and I managed to have breakfast together for a full half hour, without either of us being called back early - a quite rare event.

He seems to be in a bit of a devilish mood, hiding behind the door and then jumping out on me, he had me up against the door and was threatening to bite me, when Mitch, the head porter forced his way through. I think he got a bit of a shock, catching the two of us at that point - knowing how reserved Eugen normally is, he wouldn't understand that, with Eugen, it's all 'horseplay'. Although his 'horseplay' even surprises me at times!

Well - this day has to go down in history!! This is the day that goes down in my diary as Kiss Day - circled! Eugen kisses me for the very first (but, happily, not the last) time! Of course it had to be the mistletoe - there was no way I was going to pass up a chance like this, and I came into work armed to the teeth with the stuff - some holly too, I didn't want to make it look that obvious lol! Udo, who works in Control, couldn't wait to put it to good use - not that he ever needed an excuse, but it set the tone for every one else to let go of their inhibitions. Just as I was beginning to think everybody but Eugen, had made use of the mistletoe, Vince, one of the porters, pushed me into the back room where all the luggage is stored, slammed the door and held it fast, In the darkness I was aware of someone reaching out for me - and was greatly relieved to find that it was Eugen. We spent what seemed like very long moments, under that mistletoe, and no one seemed to be in a hurry to fetch us out of there. The barriers were well and truly down now, Eugen could not leave me alone, we spent the rest of the evening kissing and cuddling. Everyone seemed to be in a jolly mood, even Emilio, the new assistant manager, joined in by bringing us all a round of drinks. At 11.0pm we walked over to the bus stop, for a moment, I thought he was going to get off the bus at my stop, it seemed as though he did not want the evening to end.......

Got back to Ashley Court to find the lights had fused, but the party that was in full swing in the bar, did not falter, despite not having any music. In fact a party by candlelight is to be highly recommended!

I thought I felt a cold coming on, and today I am sure of it. Strangely, Eugen has the sniffles too - a fact that does not get past the eagle eyes of the porters, and there is a great deal of rude innuendo... Eugen's mood is not quite what I would have hoped for, there is a lot of good humoured banter, and Udo is determined to take every advantage of the mistletoe season - but Eugen is being very suggestive one minute, sarcastic and hurtful the next. I do not like any of this, and I'm relieved that the crew from El-Al airlines are in to keep us all busy. Rafi Shaul, who is good looking and good fun, but a bit of a rogue with the ladies, has asked me out again.

I quite like his round, cheerful face, the sultana-brown eyes, even the chipped front tooth adds to his rakish charm, it’s very difficult getting him to accept a no. He's in and out of the switchroom, cajoling, until I agree to go out for a coffee with him. But before leaving at the end of my shift, I leave a note for Rafi, cancelling our date. He rings me at Ashley Court, trying to persuade me but I tell him I have other arrangements, it's then that he tells me that one of the stewardesses tried to commit suicide this morning - Stratter's have been trying to hush it up, but it seems that Rafi is involved in some way. Now I feel guilty, perhaps he wanted to talk about it...

My friend Ann came up to the garrett, had long, in depth talk, and decided to cheer ourselves up by opening all our Christmas presents. When Kathy, my room mate, came in later, I told her I had done something I shouldn't. "What - with Eugen???" was her immediate reaction, lol!

On early shift,  first thing - Rafi came in switchroom and said how nice I looked, I was surprised that he was still talking to me. Lenny and Gerry, who bus the crew in from the airport, came in for a chat, Rafi came back and sent them out, then he grabbed me - kissed me hard, and disappeared again! I think he's forgiven me.... Things have not improved between myself and Eugen, we don't seem to be able to speak civilly to each other for more than five minutes.

During the morning we were invited into the manager's suite to have a Christmas drink, it all seemed rather strained. Alasdair Fraser, the manager, is not the most gregarious of men. The housekeeper, Emilio, Eugen and myself stand around awkwardly, making small talk, it’s a relief to escape back to work!

Christmas Day - Somehow managed to arrive early for work, so walked around for a while, it makes a change to have Oxford Street all to myself. Mr Fraser has invited all the staff to have lunch in the restaurant with him. It was a lovely meal, but if it hadn't been for Mrs. Thomas, the housekeeper, being so jolly (thanks to the martinis), it could have been disastrous. We all feel very much out of place, and Mr. Fraser manages to keep the lid on any Christmas frivolity that might surface. Mrs. Thomas is happily impervious lol!

Afterwards, Eugen gets down to some work, and just as I'm thinking that he doesn't want to have any fun, he came in the switchroom and - surprise, surprise, gave me some beautifully wrapped Christmas presents! Since he started wearing his lovely, warm, brown overcoat, I nicknamed him 'Teddy Bear', and so he has given me the record of Elvis Presley singing 'Won't you be my Teddy Bear' (Yes please!) and a toy bear!

He's back in a happy mood now, and even pulled me onto his knee, happily hugging and kissing. Maisy, the assistant housekeeper, invited us back to her room at Ashley Court, for a party, but still couldn't persuade Eugen to come. Larry, one of the receptionists, is going, so the three of us walked arm in arm down Oxford Street, until Larry hails a passing taxi, I say a hurried goodbye to Eugen and the taxi whisks us off to Ashley Court. It's a very lively party, but I can only think of Eugen.

Boxing Day - Had to get a taxi to work, myself and a strange young man, both seemed to think we had stopped the taxi, so we agree to share it, then some else asks if they can share it too - there does not seem to be too many taxis around and soon I find myself sharing with a host of strangers! I am dropped off first and told that the rest of them will share the cost between them. What gentlemen!!

Paul, our steward, is off all over Christmas, so we have to fetch our meals from the kitchen ourselves, happily, Eugen takes on this task and runs around after me, seeing to my every need. There is very little to do, the hotel is practically empty, talking to telephonists in other hotels, and the Cable & Wireless Operators, is the best way of passing the time. Mrs. Brown, one of the Housekeepers, says I can have one of the rooms and watch T.V. if I like, so after I have finished work, Eugen gives me a key to one of the rooms, and says, teasingly, that if I want to take a bath, he will come and scrub my back! (Yes, Eugen, I think we've heard all this before...) I might just as well make myself at home and take advantage of having a rather nice suite for the afternoon and happily splash around in the bath for a while. Whilst I'm sitting there clad only in a bath towel, I hear a key in the door, clutching my bathtowel tightly around me in alarm  - I find Eugen standing there.........

I'm afraid to make a dash for the bathroom in case I lose my towel, so we are sitting there on the bed, and I'm wondering what on earth I am going to do if he makes a move on me. Dreaming is all very well - reality is something else altogether - and I’m in a very vulnerable position lol. I’m just dying with embarrassment, but he sits there chatting away, finally I tell him that I am not getting dressed until he’s gone - which he refuses to do. There's nothing for it but to grab my clothes and head for the bathroom - he offers to dry me down but I tell him I can manage, thank you!

When I’m ready to go, we walk to the bus stop, it's snowing and slippery underfoot, so I hang tightly on to his arm. We decide to go for a cup of coffee, before we catch the bus. Then we go our separate ways. The mood between us had a been a tad strained, I think it was the old, old story of a women wanting one thing out of a relationship and the man wanting something else......

Eugen's in a frivolous mood - he greeted me with "hello darling" in front of the guests and staff - this is not the Eugen I once knew .....Had our dinner together, just he and I, looking after me again - fetching our food up from the kitchen. He said he'd been thinking about me since yesterday (wonders will never cease!), told me all about his home in Switzerland - makes me yearn to see Switzerland all the more...

As I hadn't given him anything for Christmas, I went out and bought him a tiny St. Christopher that I thought he might attach to his watch, but he says he's going to wear it next to his heart! Being very lovey-dovey, putting our arms around each other and joking about me keeping him warm in bed. ( I’m shocked!) If I had ever wondered what I would do when the joking stopped - and reality began, I knew now, as my diary entry says - " he really did want me to go back to his flat with him - but I just couldn't". It must seem very strange in this day and age - even to me, that when I'm apparently offered what I've been hankering after - I turn it down. But then, I don't know exactly what Eugen had in mind at that point, I got the impression that he may have wanted more than I was prepared to give - that naughty word 'sex' was not part of my vocabulary - nor my way of life. Nice girls simply 'didn't do it'. This may have been the ‘Swinging Sixties’ - but ‘swinging; referred to the music - not the way of life lol! Believe me, we were not the free loving souls that so much has been written about. Sex was still taboo and ‘the pill’ was not freely available. You had to be married to get it on prescription, if you were engaged you might be able to persuade your doctor to let you have it. Generally speaking, sex was not usually part of a casual relationship, we had a lovely period called ‘courting’, something that today’s young people know nothing about - ah, so much has been lost in the scramble for ‘equality’ and ‘ sexual freedom’. Women not only had the choice to say no, but it was usually expected lol! Of course, they all tried it on, oh the promising relationships that suddenly ended - can’t think why....... :-/

I wasn’t looking for a sexual, relationship with Eugen - well not specifically, I just wanted to get it on to a proper footing. I never knew where I was with him. I’d never known a relationship like it and it was driving me crazy. The funny thing was - everyone else at Stratters thought we were in a full blown relationship - I doubt if they’d have believed the truth. Despite all the promising signs, we were really not that much closer, in his private life, Eugen remained distanced from the rest of us.

There was always so much fun to be had, we were mostly young, single people and nobody ever needed an excuse to have a party lol! Grand Met. were very good, and arranged some great parties for the staff. Ashley Court had it’s own ballroom, with a long balcony running the length of it, and every so often they’d organise a ‘do’ for all the employees , so we got to meet the staff from other hotels in the Group that didn’t live in Ashley Court. Consequently we were always meeting new people, just as well really, because although Eugen was constantly on my mind, I still managed to have a lot of fun.

I have lots of packing to do - I’m spending a long weekend at home, I invited Eugen to come with me - but he declined. Derby tomorrow, Sheffield Sunday, and Manchester Monday. Eugen finally told me that the nickname he and John H have for me is 'Lorelei', as they think I look like the little mermaid who looks out over the bay in Stockholm. I told him that they both had very vivid imaginations - bearing in mind that she's naked!! Never the less I feel very flattered - better Lorelei than Attila!

Poor Eugen is feeling very ill, he has a really bad sore throat, and looked very flushed and vulnerable. We share the big chair in the canteen, and ignore the ribald comments from everyone. He says how can I leave him at a time like this! (Look mate, we've not even got a proper relationship going yet - don't start getting all possessive!) I have written him a letter, goodness knows what mawkish rubbish I put in it, he seemed a little taken aback when I gave it to him (apparently he thought it was a 'goodbye, I'm not coming back' letter - as if!).

Richard Beymer is here! Just my luck that one of my favourite film stars should arrive, just as I'm away for a few days! I saw him in ‘Woman of Summer’ with Joanne Woodward and thought he was just gorgeous. Not being backwards at coming forwards, when he comes on the phone, I tell him, without being too sycophantic, how pleased I am that he's staying here, but how disappointed I am, that I won't be here during his stay, he assures me that he will still be here when I get back - and that perhaps we can go out sometime - what!! Can I have that in writing please?? Later, we meet in the lounge, and he comes over to talk to me, it's only afterwards that I wonder how on earth he knew it was me - we had only spoken on the phone!

Eugen goes to Switzerland today, and I go to Derby, I miss him so much - I barely give the astonishingly handsome Richard Beymer, a second thought (from this distance in time, I find that almost unbelievable!) It is very cold in Derby, but brave the winter winds to go round the shops. Maurice and Jan, (bruv & s-i-l) both being in catering, are excellent cooks, so the food is just wonderful. Eugen enjoys good food, and I keep thinking how much he would enjoy their cooking.

It's nice to have a lie-in and not be nursing a sore head from the night before, or trying to rememberif I'm due to do any over-time - just to be able to relax, with the day stretching ahead. This really does not happen often enough - I'll be old before my time! My first thoughts are of Eugen - I wonder if he is having a lie-in too, at home in Switzerland. Had wonderful lunch again, then set off for Sheffield, mum surprised to see us all, but disappointed that Eugen didn't come - aren't we all!

It was nice to get some belated Christmas presents, a black and pink baby doll nightie from mum and a pretty bed jacket from my sister.

Monday 31st - Stayed in bed until 10.30am then went round the sales. Mum bought me some nice warm gloves and a pair of smart leather boots. I bought myself a capacious leather bag - big enough to fit all my knitting inside! After watching T.V. in the evening, I was ready for an early night, but I know how much mum likes to go to the Watchnight Service - I remember how it used to be my favourite night of the whole year, but that seems like another lifetime now. Once upon a time, the church would be filled to capacity, now it is heartrendingly empty, met only one of my friends from the old, church-going days.

The village streets are quite empty, just the occasional reveller, making themselves heard in the quiet of the morning. Once upon a time, the streets would be filled with churchgoers, and only the sounds of people calling out "Happy New Year" would be heard.

New Years Day 1963 - and it's a quiet one. Not many people around, it's cold and miserable and everyone's staying by their fireside! Mum and me decide to be brave and venture into town; I've heard a lot about a new film going around called 'West Side Story' - great dancing and great songs, sounds like my kind of film!! So me'n Mum decide to go and see it - and what a surprise I got! I didn't know Richard Beymer was in it - he was fantastic! Can't wait to get back to Stratters to see him.

December 2004 - 41 years on and West Side Story is on Channel 4. Richard looks so young, his face had filled out and he looked more ruggedly handsome by the time he came to stay at Stratters in 1962. Where are you now Richard??? On seeing West Side Story again, I think I may have to pronounce it my all time favourite musical - it has everything, great songs, amazingdance routines and three gorgeous men - Russ Tamblyn, George Chakiris and, of course, Richard Beymer!

Wednesday 2nd - Going back to London today - awful journey, had to change trains, then it did not go all the way to St Pancras Station, had to get off at Kentish Town and get a tube the rest of the way to Bond Street. I can do without all this hassle when I have to work until 11pm... Went straight to Stratters - and there in the front hall is Richard! Said hullo and welcomed me back, asked if I'd had a good weekend. Then wished me Happy New Year and planted a kiss on my cheek - I'll never wash again! Emilio teasing me about 'hob-nobbing' with the Stars! Feel better now, Richard and his friend David are on the phone quite a lot so there's plenty of teasing going on between us. Richard is a really lovely guy, very friendly and appears to be totally unaffected by his success.

Don't mind being on the early shift when there is a gorgeous looking feller staying here! Richard and David are having coffee in the lounge on the mezzanine floor, and they wave as I go past on my way to the ladies but have gone by the time I come out - hey, I wasn't that long! a waiter hands me a pack of American cigarettes that's been left behind, and asks me if I would like to pass them on to 'my friends' (!!) My pleasure - not that I need to be handed an excuse to talk to Richard - I'll find some reason!

Found them both in the front hall, so gave Richard the cigarettes and stayed chatting till the taxi they had ordered, arrived. (I guess someone is on the switchboard...) They offered me a lift, but unfortunately it's not yet time for me to leave - pity...

El-Al crew are in and Aaron and Rafi lose no time in asking me out, but we are having a bit of a belated New Year party at Ashley Court, neither are best pleased and I just pray no one mentions 'party' to them otherwise things could get rather complicated...

We are having the party in one of the larger rooms, the ones that are shared by three people are really huge with very high ceilings, when the beds are pushed right back against the walls - to be used as seating - there's loads of room for dancing. I left my dansette record player (remember them lol!) behind the desk in the reception at Ashley Court for someone to pick up and take to the party room, but it disappeared!!! We are frantic - you can't have a party without music! Eventually it’s discovered that 'mad John' (odd job man at AC) has taken it - for safekeeping! I expect he will not hand it back until he's invited to the party...all he's interested in is the drink - so hopefully a few beers will keep him at bay.

We have a great time, there are loads of gatecrashers, but then there always are, you can't keep a party quiet in Ashley Court. Still, they are dispatched to the nearest beer-off - all contributions gratefully received... As things calm down and revellers prop themselves against the nearest obstacle, the music becomes more MJQ (Modern Jazz Quartet) than rock'n roll, and as no one is prepared to go along to the milk machine on Ken High, it will be black coffee all round, when that runs out someone goes to fetch some more from their own stock, but it turns out to be that syrupy sweet bottled stuff - ugh! Black coffee is just about palatable, but black Camp coffee is another thing altogether!

Friday - I had agreed to meet Aaron for lunch today, but I am not feeling like eating anything, or hauling myself out of bed any earlier than I have to, so, typical of my arrogant, thoughtless youth, I simply don't turn up. I could hear the phone on the landing just outside my bedroom ringing away, but my solution is to simply not answer it. (Manners? Consideration? - hmmm, these I have yet to learn...)

I'm pleased to see that Richard and David are still here; I heard rumours that they were leaving, although the little green demons rise when I see there is a girl with them. But flush with pleasure when Richard calls out "Hiya, sweetheart"! He is on the phone quite a lot again, and in between the calls we have a good laugh - he has a crazy sense of humour - and says if I have the time, to give him a ring and we'll have a chat, naturally I could not pass up an invitation like that... He tells me that he did not sing in West Side Story, and, despite its great success, it is not his favourite film. He advises me to see The Longest Day, which he recommends highly, but I am into frothy comedies and musicals, nevertheless, I show some enthusiasm, and assure him that I will. In the meantime Aaron and Rafi are in and out of the switchroom - Aaron demanding explanations (I did not make a note of my excuses - thinking things up on the spur of the moment is all too familiar to me - selfish bitch that I was) But I am forgiven and another date is made.

Rafi wants to know why I am willing to go out with Aaron, but not with him. It's a tricky one, but Rafi's reputation is not a good one, and I see little point in spoiling the fun, lighthearted relationship that we have at present - but Rafi will not take no for an answer, so eventually I came straight back to Ashley Court, thinking it wiser not to go out with either of them! Never mind Rafi, soon you will find your little place in history lol!

Thursday, 6 January 2005

The Way We Were


Photos 1.View of Queensgate from Ashley Court

           2. Freda on Stratters' switchboard

           3. Stratford Court Hotel

           4.  A very young Eugen lol

           5.  The Beachcomber

July 1962

As I walked into The Stratford Court Hotel, just off Oxford Street. I knew I had to get this job.  It was Friday, and I'd spent a whole week in a fruitless search for both a job and accomodation.  Sleeping on a friend's floor, even dossing down for the night at St Pancras Station, just to save a few pounds.  Now, I had just my train fare home, if I didn't get this job I would just have to go back home to Sheffield - not a happy thought.  I'd had such high expections - London in the 'Swinging Sixties had always seemed such an exciting place to be, in fact I'd found it pretty lonesome.

I walked up to the reception desk to announce my arrival, as the tall, young man turned round my heart did a somersault.  The golden tan, the sunstreaked brown wavy hair and above all - the most incredible green eyes I'd ever seen all served to make every nerve tingle.  He was the most immaculately turned out young man I'd seen outside a Tailor's shop.  "Absolutely gorgeous" was my instant verdict!  "Good Morning", he said quietly, in a tantalisingly husky accent. He blushed, smiling shyly when I said I'd come for an interview for the telephonist vacancy.  He didn't say  a word, just pointed in the direction of the tiny office situated next to the reception desk.  I'd already made my mind up - I'd take this job, no matter what!

I was in luck, not only did they need me desperately, but they were offering accomodation too!  And that wasn't the end of it, although the room turned out to be a shabby little garrett at the top of the building known as Ashley Court, it was situated in the very best part of town - in Kensington's Queensgate, just a few steps from the cool green plush of  Kensington Gardens.  Work was a mere 6d bus ride away, or a half hour walk through The Parks on fine summer days.  I moved in that afternoon and then had the whole weekend to explore, before starting work on Monday. Never had I been so keen to get to work - desperate to see again that gorgeous young man.  And thus the scene was set for three of the most frustrating ( tho' undeniably enjoyable) years of my life.

It  took literally weeks to find out that his first name was Eugen as everyone called each other very formally 'Mr' (all males on the reception lol!)  He was an incredibly shy Swiss-German and no one knew anything about him.  Yorkshire people are well known for their open friendliness and to find someone so inaccessible, especially someone I was so keen to get to know, had me practically tearing my hair out in frustration.  But very, very slowly but surely little bits of information filtered through to me.  I had a great ally in my Supervisor who had taken me under her wing and became my '2nd Mum'.  She did everything she could to get us together, making sure we took our breaks at the same time, even allowing me to change shifts so that me'n Eugen could work together.  I absolutely hated it when we were on opposite shifts, I would rush to work early just to have a few words with him, or joy! have a cup of coffee together in the staff room.  I often wonder if we would ever have become friends if it hadn't been for my dogged determination!

When we were both working on the late shift, he got into the habit of coming into my office to have his tea & biscuits.  It was during these few minutes together that I would be able to glean a few scraps of information about him and his family back home in Switzerland.  He told me he was 26, he laughed and said I was just a baby, when I said I was 21. I was most suprised when he told me that his mother was also called Freida and so was his sister, who was known as Friedel (little Frieda) therefore I would be Friedeli (littlest Frieda) lol.  Eugen didn't seem to find it to be of any particular significance, whereas I was over the moon - 'everything happens in threes' I was once told.  I'd already made up my mind that Eugen was the man for me! The hard part was not letting him know this, when I was so impatient to get a proper relationship going between us. I tried every trick in the book to spend some time with him outside working hours.

I couldn't persuade him to come to any of the social events organised by the Hotel Group, Grand Metropolitan.  Where I lived, we had a bar, sportsroom, and party room, the social life was pretty good there, and although I enjoyed it to the full, without Eugen I was never really happy.

For a while, Eugen lived in Marylebone High Street, just a short walking distance from 'Stratters'.  Then he found it necessary to find another place to live, and as luck would have it, his new abode was just off  Kensington High Street - not only just 10 mins. away from me, but it meant that at going home time, we would catch the same bus home!  This became a particulary significant part of our relationship, as now we often went home together, and after we'd been on the early shift, we'd find a nice cafe and indulge ourselves with gooey cream cakes, then walk all the way home, laughing and giggling like a pair of kids!

I'll never forget the first time he invited me back to his flat, because I felt so very honoured.  He was a very private person, and to be allowed into his domain was really something.  He loved cooking, and boasted that he made the best cheese omelette ever, and offered to cook one for me.  I bought an apple pie and fresh cream for dessert.  I was impressed by the way he'd organised his living room, a lamp placed on the floor behind a settee gave it a warm, cosy glow.  We spent a most pleasant evening together- and he was right about the omelette, I'd never had a 'souffle omelette' before, and it was truly gorgeous! Although I was slightly puzzled by the fact that he kept the door to his flat wide open the whole time, so that any  passing flat dweller could see right in. Was he afraid that I was going to 'jump' him???

He walked me to the bus stop and waited with me until my bus came.  I planted a light kiss on his cheek (saucy minx)  and as I jumped on the bus, felt a slight tug on my arm.  But it was too late for him to reciprocate - I was already on the bus.

Our friendship was creeping along at a steady rate, even though Eugen and I had never been out on a proper 'date'. And when that day eventually arrived - oh dear.........

to be continued.......

......Things began to take off when, noticing how much knitting I did during the quiet evening shifts, he asked if I would be able to knit him a jumper - wouldn’t I just!!!

I went straight out and chose several patterns and samples of wool for him to decide on what it was he wanted. To my surprise he told me to choose - as he thought that whatever I decided would be ok by him. I was in my element! I was also a bit surprised that he didn’t seem to mind everyone else knowing that I was knitting him a jumper. Consequently, we both came in for a lot of teasing and jokes about ‘favouritism’ from the rest of the staff.

Eventually the jumper was finished, and he loved it. He said that in return he would like to take me out to dinner - at last, a real date! My excitement was uncontainable, unfortunately the evening he suggested, I was working. But Angie, my supervisor, came to the rescue - for a date with Eugen, nothing was impossible! When I told him that I was able to make that evening after all, he said he’d made other arrangements.....

Although Eugen had become the cynosure of my life, I wasn’t blind to every other male. I was 21 and full of the joys of life. I was keen to sample London’s night life - with or without Eugen. My friend Bernie, one of the housekeepers, the other telephonists, and the receptionists - all male lol! were keen to visit all the new clubs opening up at that time - Le Chat Che Peche, Le Kilt, Annabelle’s etc. etc.and we were perfectly happy to dance all night, even after having just finished an eight hour shift and knowing that we’d have to be up for the early morning shift, soon after we’d got to bed!

And then there were the hotel guests. Of course we were not allowed to go out with the hotel guests (yeah right!) But they were the only ones who could afford to take us to all those wonderfully expensive places in London. The London Hilton was full of exotic sounding bars - I loved the 007 bar on the top floor, where drinks cost a £1 a time - and 12 would have cost me a weeks wages lol!

My favourite place in those far off days was The Beachcomber at the Mayfair Hotel. Sitting at the bar on those high stools sipping at extravagantly decorated cocktails out of coconut shells, I would feel as though I had really crossed to the other side of the tracks!

Mr. King, one of our regular guests, had asked me out. "You can go anywhere you like", he offered generously, and he promptly booked a table at The Beachcomber. Then Eugen suggested another evening for our date - the same evening as my date with Stan King. Eugen versus The Beachcomber - what a choice! But Eugen won. Mr King seemed disappointed, but took the young assistant housekeeper instead!

The evening ofour date arrived, I spent ages trying to decide what to wear, but when Eugen turned up looking as though he’d just stepped out of a menswear magazine ( a very expensive menswear magazine) I just wanted to die, I felt so frumpy. He looked so absolutely over the top gorgeous that I totally lost my appetite. I cannot remember where we went or what I ate. I just felt that we were worlds apart. It had rained, and my wet hair hung dismally around my shoulders, drops of moisture slid down my face, doing heaven knows what to my eye makeup. I was afraid to catch a glimpse of myself in the restaurant window. Eugen was charming, but I felt thoroughly miserable. I’d waited a long time for this.

Afterwards we got a taxi back, even though it was only a short walk to Queensgate. As we stood on the steps of Ashley Court, he took my hand and shook it warmly, thanking me for a nice evening, then he jumped into the waiting taxi and was gone. It was the first time in my life that anyone had ever shook my hand after a date. I’m happy to say it was the last!

More tomorrow.....

Despite the dismal date, our friendship grew, though not fast enough for me. It didn’t follow the usual pattern of conventional dating, we’d leave work together, walk arm in arm down Oxford Street for all the world like your average couple. But we weren’t a couple, we were just friends, and it drove me mad because I wanted more. We’d stop to look in the shop windows, then on coming to the cinema he’d say " hey, let’s go in", as if on a sudden whim. I don’t think we ever planned a date in advance, but we were getting closer - literally........

As the nights grew colder, Eugen began to wear a very smart, cosy looking overcoat, it was because of this soft, brown coat that I nick-named him ‘teddy bear’. As we waited at the bus stop for our bus home, he unbuttoned his overcoat and wrapped it round me, the only way we could both take advantage of its warmth, was to cuddle up very closely inside the coat - heaven! When the bus eventually came, we’d rush upstairs hoping to get on the back seat, where we’d cuddle up together, the other passengers would turn round and laugh as we argued over paying the fare, Eugen always insisted on paying, and I didn’t think this was fair.

And then there were the hotel managers. Of course we weren’t allowed to go out with the hotel managers. ;-) Each hotel had a main manager and two assistants, and there was a great gulf between the ‘lower’ staff and the managerial, in fact egos abound. The Head Porter thought he was the most important, the Restaurant Manager, thought it was him and the Head Chef!!!! well, he ruled supreme over all - nobody told him what to do. Therefore we plebs were necessary to make everyone else feel important lol!

I disliked Paul Phillips, one of Stratter’s assistant managers, intensely, he was just so-oo full of himself, but Bob Thorburn , the other a.m. was really nice, in a laid back sort of way. He was usually standing by the porter’s desk by the main doors, at the end of my shift and he always said ‘au voir’, his eyes, I felt had an unfathomable depth. Because of my obsession with Eugen, Bob only hovered on the edge of my radar. Nevertheless, I was quite disappointed when I heard that he was going to work at Head Office, with immediate effect. Before finishing my shift that evening, I rang Bob in his office to say cheerio and wish him the best of luck at H.O. He seemed surprised, but pleased that ‘I cared enough’ and invited me up to his office for a quick chat. We chatted at some length, until looking at my watch, I realised how late it was and that I’d missed my last bus, Bob rang the porter’s desk and asked them to get me a taxi, then he gave me the money to pay for it, apologising for having kept me so late. He walked me to the top of the stairs, then asked quietly, " If I rang to ask you out, what would you say?" This took me by surprise but I managed to say "I’d say yes". " I thought you had something going on with one of the receptionists?" he said. "We’re just friends" I told him, trying not to sigh with frustration at our plodding relationship.

Bob and I decided to keep a very low profile, and gave each other code names. When he rang Stratters to speak to me, he would be ‘Mr. MacDonald’, when I rang H.O. I would be ‘Mr. MacDonald’s secretary’ lol. Unfortunately, Angie was on very friendly terms with Bob, and if she picked up his call, she recognised his voice immediately, so he had to pretend he’d rung her for a chat. She told me some time later, that she had, in fact, rumbled us!

My first date with Bob very nearly became a date with Eugen. On the day of my date with Bob, Eugen and I came home from work together, and it was almost as though he suspected something, as he invited himself back to Ashley Court. I told him I had a date, but he waited around whilst I got ready. It was obvious he had a greatcuriosity to know who I was going out with and insisted on walking with me to the pub where I was meeting Bob, even offering to take me out if my date didn’t turn up - aaargh !! Why did he have to do this to me?

Bob did turn up, and so began a rather nice relationship, and tho’ I became quite fond of him, it was Eugen who held my heart and I would rather have gone out with him than anyone else. But I wasn’t going to stay in moping, there was far too much fun to be had! And I certainly had no shortage of offers - not with the crew of El-Al Airlines descending on the hotel at regular intervals. As soon as they arrived, it was pandemonium. They were desperate to get their social lives organised - and the female staff were first in the firing line, I don’t know about the other girls, but I refused to go out with any of them, their reputation with the ladies was not good, and I had no intention of becoming a notch on anyone’s bedpost! But what a good humoured lot they were, and Rafi Shaul (who later married *Mandy Rice Davies)  was one of my favourites, he’d bring us huge fresh oranges direct from the orchards of Jaffa. What a character! I’d have to give him 10 out 10 for perseverance lol!

We girls were fair game for any guest looking for a date, and it could get quite awkward trying to be firm but polite in refusing. On one such occasion, Eugen came to my rescue quite unexpectedly by referring to me as 'his wife’. The guest apologised profusely, saying he hadn’t realised I was married - but then, neither had I! From that moment on he referred to me constantly as ‘his wife’ and always came to the rescue if any of the guests came on too strong. But it was all an act - it was all shadow and no substance. But then came Christmas.......whoohoo!

* From the internet:-

It was 1963 which was one of the most exciting years in the Swinging Sixties. It reminds me of Carnaby Street and the start of the Beatles. Another scandal, about that time, was a slum landlord called Peter Rachman.

The Profumo scandal broke and was of special interest to us as we were reaching the age of sexual awareness. It made Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice Davis into household names, which I will never forget.

.....and they came to stay at Stratters lol!