Z’s homes – the hotel

Well, unsurprisingly, I have written about our move here. I’ve written about most things. Here you are http://razorbladeoflife.co.uk/uncategorized/30-years-on/.

As I said, I’ve lived here more than half my life, but I have lived in five other places, though I hardly remember the first.

I know I have written before about my parents’ hotel just outside Weymouth. It’s gone downhill, I’m afraid. It was bought by Fred Pontin and run as a holiday camp for many years, then sold on a couple of times – I’ve just looked up reviews and they aren’t great. But the hotel itself is spectacular, and here’s a link to the Wiki photo of it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riviera_Hotel,_Weymouth#/media/File:Uk_dor_bowleaze.JPG

Isn’t that an amazing example of Art Deco? My mother used to say that the ballroom was the biggest unsupported (by pillars or walls) of any room in the country at that time. I don’t remember it, though. I was a small child when we left. I remember the drive outside, which was gravelled and I got my tricycle stuck. I pedalled away, and the trike didn’t move.

Most of what I know has been told to me. Like the 1947 floods, when a lot of holidaymakers in caravans on the hill behind the hotel were flooded out. They took refuge in the hotel, where my parents looked after them. It was the off season; March, and there was still rationing and stocks were low, but they gave everyone a room and food, though the hotel itself was flooded too. Afterwards, everyone was very grateful, but no one was asked for any money. They received two letters of thanks afterwards, one enclosing a cheque, though they’d looked after hundreds of people.

My father wasn’t really cut out to be a hotelier. He was much better as a host. My mother said that she’d done every job in the hotel except barmaid and he’d done every job except clean the rooms. It wasn’t unknown, after licensing hours, when he could no longer charge for any drinks – giving them away was fine, of course – for him to pile the stalwarts down to the kitchen to carve slices of ham and make midnight sandwiches.

They were both acutely interested in food and cookery and great fans of Elizabeth David, whose first book was published in 1950. All my childhood, we were the first to try any “new” food – which includes such standards (nowadays) as aubergine, avocado and muesli, but also dishes such as jambalaya and gumbo, pad Thai and ceviche. It was a family hotel, which didn’t stop them doing quite adventurous food, for its time. My father bought my mother a sewing machine once. She wanted a basic Singer, but he loved a good gadget and bought one that did embroidery and all sorts of things. He used those gizmos; she made straightforward clothes and curtains. Once, they were doing an elaborate Chinese meal and he obtained a bolt of cream-coloured silk. He looked up the Mandarin characters for ‘bon appétit’ and cut up the silk, hemmed them and embroidered the characters in red. We only had a few of these napkins left when I was a child, though he’d made 100 of them, and I haven’t any of them now, to my regret. I couldn’t find any after my mother died.

My father had a motorbike, when there was petrol rationing, though he once came a cropper along the half-mile drive from the road to the hotel, and broke his arm quite badly. My mother had tried to ride it, in the huge ballroom, but couldn’t get the hang of the handlebar controls and crashed into a pile of chairs at the end of the room. No harm done, but she never tried again. She always claimed to be hopeless with anything mechanical, though she acknowledged that she chose to be unable to cope with a job she really didn’t want to get stuck with forever.

My parents didn’t take a salary, just their board and lodging. In theory, they took the profits, but in fact, though they made good money in the summer months, they lost it in the winter with the unavoidable overheads. They kept on their best staff, though only had occasional events to be catered for, and they were fairly naive about business.

I’ve always been a bit hazy about my age when we left, I was either three or four. My sister was left behind to start with, as she was settled and happy at school, but eventually she joined us at my father’s family home in Oulton Broad.

5 comments on “Z’s homes – the hotel

  1. Glenda

    That hotel looks so grand!! Your father sounds like a very interesting fellow. So awful for you all that he went so young.

    Reply
  2. Blue Witch

    I love your stories of yesteryear.

    And I now can place the hotel! Such a magnificent building. It has great potential, but maybe not with the present owners. The hotel on Burgh Island in South Devon is of a similar era, and shows what could be done.

    Reply
  3. PixieMum

    Am puzzled how your sister could just be left behind in Weymouth? Presumably there were other relations or perhaps friends to care for her? Thanks for all your reminisces, it is fascinating to read about a life so amazingly different from mine, that’s why I like reading blogs and am continuing with mine, aware it has become very domestic and yarn based.

    Reply
  4. Z Post author

    Thank you, Glenda. He was and it was.

    It is spectacular but it was down a long, unmade-up road and maybe that’s always told against it. And it’s pretty windy there on top of the cliff too.

    I wasn’t very clear, was I – I’d better put that right! Just cooking dinner now, back later!

    Reply
  5. allotmentqueen

    That hotel looks massive! And test-riding a motorcycle in the dining room – wow! I love these stories. English eccentrics through and through!

    Reply

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