One of my earliest memories of Seaview is the kitchen, or rather Mr Weavers the gardener having his morning coffee there. He spoke broad Lowestoft and I hardly understood a word that he said. Of course, my ear became attuned after a while, but very little Z was mystified. North Suffolk dialect is very different from coastal Dorset.
After a year or so, the cooking was moved into the scullery, because the kitchen was having a makeover, as we’d say now. My parents forwent a holiday for a couple of years to pay for it. This would have been about 1961. Honestly it was – as we’d say now (sorry) – state of the art.
Do you remember the Beverley Hillbillies? We all laughed, while actually being more in their situation than most Americans. We didn’t have the things they marvelled at and misused through ignorance. I didn’t know anyone else with a freezer or a dishwasher, but it was still rather over my head. But anyway, my mum designed her new kitchen. There was a big alcove where there had been a range cooker, and she had two hobs in there, plus a huge extractor fan. There was also a separate grill unit because my mother didn’t want to have to choose between grill and oven. The oven itself was between the hob alcove and the outside wall. It was set at eye level – before I had an Aga, I always had separate hob and oven because I didn’t see the point of an oven you had to bend down to – and it was amazing for its time. It had a built-in rotisserie – which we used hardly ever – and a timer. And that was a problem, as it turned out.
A few days after the kitchen was finished – I will describe it in more detail later – we all went out for pre-dinner drinks at the Yacht Club. So my mother set the timer to cook the food for when we arrived home again. However, the brand new timer and the thermostat failed and we got home to clouds of smoke. So the kitchen was back, almost, to square one. The manufacturers had to pay for a new oven, cleaning the room, redecorating it and everything. We never risked using the timer again, though.
Opposite the double hob and cooker was a peninsula unit – this was also unheard of. Next to the window was the sink, which had a waste disposal unit – also unheard of; truly this was the most modern kitchen anyone could have. My mother slipped up though, because there wasn’t a draining board. No doubt this was for aesthetic reasons, but it was inconvenient. Further along, there was a cavity with the built-in base for the liquidiser. Unheard of, as before.
Underneath the hob and the oven were cupboards for all the pots and pans and under the work surface were more cupboards for the other utensils. At the other side of the peninsula was space for people to work or to sit and watch or chat, and against the back wall was a big, dark oak Welsh dresser which held various items of china. On the wall opposite the window was another built-in dresser with cupboards and drawers, known as the white dresser because it was painted white. That had always been there, because there was a space in the middle that was the hatch through to the dining room. As a child, I often sat on the white dresser. I used to give a little bounce and then jump up, without needing to put a hand down. It was the height that a work surface is now, I don’t know how I did it. But I well remember the little bounce and jump.