Back in the normal world. 1954
It was the summer holiday before Robin and I started our new jobs. He had got a post teaching art and music at Pixmore Secondary Modern school in Letchworth and I was going off to St Margarets, at least we were both in the same county, the county everyone wanted to teach in…Hertfordshire. In the meantime we needed desperately to earn money. We went to Robin’s hometown Bognor Regis. His family home was in Ellasdale Road, it was a three story Edwardian house falling into a state of decay. Robin’s seventy year old father was born in Chelsea in a very ordinary family, but somehow he came to own the greengrocery shop in Sloane Square, of course I am talking about well before the war. He then bought two hotels one in Bognor and one in Le Touquet, he was married with one daughter. His daughter from that marriage died of sun stroke in Le Touquet, we went to visit the grave when we made our first trip to France. One or both of his hotels were requisitioned in the war and for some reason he lost them. I believe his wife died and he remarried a younger woman when he was quite old, she was Robin’s mother, subsequently she had two other children Rosemary and Vivien, who were now teenagers. Robin’s mother died too, I’m not sure at what age. Robin’s father was not coping and it became clear that at some time we were going to have to solve the problem
There he was this old man with no money to speak of, trying to bring up two teenagers in this large house that was going to wrack and ruin. They were in a sad state. We both got holiday jobs, Robin became a seasonal conductor on the Southdown buses and I worked in the Esplanade cafe an offshoot of the Esplanade Repertory Theatre next to the pier. In the meantime I was learning how to weave of course, it wasn’t really my thing but I had to do it.!
The Esplanade Cafe
I hated working in that cafe,. the owner was a bully and a bit of a letch. He was always understaffed. My main task was to sell ice cream , Knickerbocker Glories and Banana Splits. The ingredients were terrible, often well past their sell by dates… consequently there were loads of complaints, and who had to field the complaints, not him he was rarely seen, but myself and if I was lucky another girl. Since that time I have always had sympathy for those in the firing line when it’s not their fault. There was one redeeming feature, the repertory luvvies used to come in and that was always fun. They did typical repertory classics, drawing room comedies and gentle whodunnit’s. It was exactly the type of repertory that the later playwrights rebelled against; I’m thinking Arnold Wesker, John Osborne, later Harold Pinter. Having said that a huge number of actors who later became famous learnt their trade in repertory.
The Esplanade theatre in the fifties. The cafe was on the left hand side opening out onto the promenade
A strange coincidence, the Regency houses that I most admired when I was in Bognor are very like the one I live in now.
In 2007 I went back to Bognor for the first time since the early fifties. No sign of the Eslanade Repertory Theatre or my cafe but there was a bouncy castle!