A few scrappy recollections to wind this part of the story up…
The roadway to the hotel was about half a mile long and unpaved, so it was quite bumpy. My father came off his motorbike one day and broke his arm in several places. By this time, the National Health Service had been founded, giving free-at-the-point-of-service health care for all. Jane, you may remember, had been Weymouth Hospital’s Almoner’s Assistant a few years before, and one of her duties was taking care of the payment arrangements for the patients. She said that it worked very well, everyone paid a small amount into an insurance policy and, in practice, paid little or nothing for treatment. She and the almoner ran it all themselves and she was the receptionist as well.
When they returned to Out-Patients, they found things had changed somewhat. Instead of two people in the reception area, there were several. The receptionist, unsmiling, barked “Name?” and ticked Malcolm off on her list. They returned weekly for a couple of months or more. The last time, the same receptionist who had dealt with them throughout barked “Name?”.
The hotel pastrychef, Mr Dyke, was nearing retirement age and was a particularly valued member of staff. It was normal, in the old-fashioned paternalistic society that my father belonged to, and which no longer exists, to provide for the future of your staff, and so a guest house was bought for him, given to him outright. He ran it for years and we often stayed with him when we went back to visit Grandad. He also took one of our dogs.
We had three dogs, Bobby, more formally known as Robert John after one of the waiters, who had belonged to my mother before she married. He was a fox terrier and a keen hunter. I only remember him in old age, by which time he was blind. He lost the sight of one eye when he cornered a cat and, with more fierceness than sense, did not turn away whistling cheerily until the danger was past; and the other when he chased a rabbit through a thicket of brambles.
The second dog was a bull terrier called Shoolie. She looked immensely belligerent, but was sweet-natured and adored me and my sister. I was unafraid of dogs, for I’d no reason to be anything else. My mother once heard me, as a 2-year-old, screaming angrily “Give it back! Give it back!” She discovered that Shoolie had taken my biscuit and I was yelling at her and trying to prise open her jaws.
Goggie (“Oh, what a lovely goggie,” said my sister when the pup first appeared on the scene) was smallish and black. She looked not unlike Tilly now. Short smooth hair, a bit of terrier, a bit of who knows what – bit like me, really, except for the colour hair.
When we were planning to move, it was decided that uprooting all three dogs was a bit much. Mr Dyke took Goggie, another member of staff took Shoolie and we had Bobby. He lived to be 16 or more, and died when I was 5.
I don’t remember much about living at the hotel. We often visited, afterwards, an old couple who lived in the row of houses opposite the hotel entrance. He was Mr Carter (Tom) and I called her Auntie Carter. She had, as a child, lived near Thomas Hardy and sometimes met him in the lanes, walking with her mother. She was a tall child, and Thomas Hardy always had the same joke “You’re a bad, disrespectful daughter, looking down on your mother like that.” Mr Carter was a retired policeman and they had, on the wall, a print of the picture “Nine Pints of the Law” by Lawson Wood.
I remember trying to ride my tricycle outside the main entrance and finding that the wheels spun on the large gravel stones. I remember walking down a passageway and seeing my parents’ four-poster bed being taken apart, which was intriguing as I had never imagined that such a thing could happen. But, considering that I was four years old when we left, I must have been an unobservant child even then, because they are the only specific memories I have. I remember the first book I could read by myself “The Farm”, a Ladybird book, because it was the most exciting thing I had ever achieved, but I’m not sure whether that was before or after we moved.
My sister says, for I can’t remember, that we moved in the summer of 1958, when I was 4 and she was 10. I’m not sure why, nor is she, but she stayed on for the next school term, living with friends with three daughters, the oldest the same age as she was, during the school week and with Grandad at weekends.
That reminds me that my sister was born in 1948, the same year as Prince Charles. At this time, rationing and restrictions were still very much in operation and it wasn’t easy to get all the clothes and paraphernalia you want for a baby. The other family’s daughter, Roseanne, had the great good fortune to be born on the very same day as Prince Charles. All babies born on that day were sent, by the King and Queen, a full layette of beautiful clothes and other necessities in celebration of the birth of their grandson.