Monday, October 23, 2017

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Post 1622. Monday October 23






The Stage Door Bistro and Wine Bar in Carlisle Road Eastbourne sat just off the seafront and opposite the town's thriving theatres. By gaining a late licence and advertising in the theatre dressing rooms I was assured a steady stream of thespians, musicians and other assorted entertainers.

Within days of opening, I had Shirley Anne Field clearing tables, and the following week the charming Edward Hardwicke (Dr Watson to Jeremy Brett's Holmes) captivated us with tales from his film stage and television career. Other eaters in the early days included Van der Valk in the form of Barry Foster, Christopher Casanove of Dynasty fame, and Linda Baron. Arkwright is not the only one to have snuggled up to nurse Gladys's ample bosom!

Simon Ward was a quiet sort of a chap, but not so his daughter Sophie who was always the life and soul of the party whenever she visited us. Talking of daughters of famous fathers, Deborah Moore - offspring of Roger - spent a week with us on one her first tours away from home. She seemed a little shy and insecure and preferred to eat perched on a bar stool where she could engage in conversation with my waitresses. Imagine lifting the phone to hear James Bond on the other end asking to speak to his Debbie! Another Moore was Patrick Moore who enjoyed a bottle of my finest Bordeaux before taking the stage at the Congress for his travelling rendition of the Sky at Night.

I always got my celebs to sign their names on the posters advertising their endeavours. Most included a complimentary line or two. Christopher Timothy wrote 'the steak was ace'. Ainsley Harriot scrawled 'To Keith - keep it moist and sticky' and John Challis, best known as Boysie, simply recommended my customers to 'Eat at Joes'. When he wanted another drink he stood and shouted 'Marlene!'

My favourite scribble, however, was from Dr Who Colin Baker who wrote 'Now that's what I call a Stage Door'.

Most of the stars were friendly, some overwhelmingly so, others not. Nicolas Smith, Mr Rumbold from Are You Being Served, refused to sign his poster on the basis that he didn't believe we'd put it on display! And then there was Ronnie Corbett. Mmmm! But who were my favourites? The late Trevor Bannister came on two tours and was just as delightful as he was when he played Mr Lucas, in Are You Being Served. I'll never forget Ami MacDonald's' squeaky voice nor Sue Hodge who demonstrated her famous cart-wheels last seen in the Cafe Renee on 'ello' ello where she played Mimi. Her 'boss' Renee, Gordon Kaye, came to us with his partner Barry Howard, the ballroom dancer Barry from Hi de Hi. We sat up most the night talking. A true method actor, Gordon, reverted to his French accent whenever he spoke about his role in that classic sitcom. Also from Hi de Hi was Jeffery Holland, Spike, and Ruth Madoc who was exactly like her alter-ego Gladys Pugh. David Griffin who played the Entertainments Manager on the same show, and Hyacinth Bucket's long-suffering next door neighbour, regularly turned up in lots of Summer productions, always bringing his son with him who we saw grow from nine years old to a young man over the years.

Then there was Frazer Hynes, ex Emmerdale Farm, and his former wife Gemma Craven, though thankfully not at the same time as they had recently undergone a very public and somewhat acrimonious divorce. She came back the following year in the same production with co-star Peter Duncan who is best known for his skills with producing things from Fairy Liquid bottles.

Susan Penhaligon who, though having advanced a few years, was alluring as ever she was in Bouquet of Barbed Wire. She came on about three tours and always made us her first port of call. Frank Finlay from the same production also ate with us on many occasion and was the epitome of charm and good manners. There was a time when George Sewell was never off our screens. Remember his long-suffering Police Inspector in the Detectives? He was another of our favourites and on his frequent visits over the years always ate his supper at the bar rather than with his colleagues at a table. One of his blundering DC's in that series was another regular eater Robert Powell. Strange as it may seem I'll never forget his eyes! And it's not every day you have Jesus in your bar!

Then there was Lorraine Chase who took me out for a meal and Sandra Dickinson who didn't. Jill Greenacre from Brittas and Lewis Collins from a TV drama the name of which escapes me. Tim Brooke Taylor, Hannah Gordon and Brian Murphy. The list goes on! Roger Lloyd Pack, sadly didn’t bring Trigger’s famous broom with him!

Wendy Craig was fabulous. She spent ages one evening with one of my waitresses who was too young to remember Butterflies, and took through her career. Another of my girls got to sing the World Song with Luke Goss. When she left me I gave her his signed poster as a memento of one of the greatest moments of her life. Other visiting musicians included the legendary Humphrey Littleton and singer Helen Shapiro.

Then there was the star we nearly met! The restaurant was packed. It usually was late at night when a big name was in town because there was a good chance you'd get your programme signed and see your idol at close quarters. Anyway, this night a burly minder came into the bistro to request a table for his charge and my daughter Penny explained that we were full. She had actually turned away Bill Wyman of the Stones! Well, she didn't know who he was. It didn't exactly go down well with the expectant crowd I can tell you!

Eastbourne hosts a major tennis tournament each year just across the road from the Stage Door. A young Venus Williams graced our establishment on more than one occasion as did most of the other international tennis stars including Martina Navratilova. One year she had just launched her autobiography and the newsagent over the road had a life-size cardboard cutout of her in the street advertising her book. Within seconds of it being put out, it was descended upon by stampede of somewhat 'butch' ladies who proceeded to tear it limb from limb each taking with them a piece of their disembodied heroin!

I'm a bit of an Archers fan so when a number of the cast rolled into to town to perform their readings of rural poetry, I looked forward to providing them with sustenance. I got to talk to Edward Kelsey who's clipped accent sounds nothing like Joe Grundy and Rosalind Adams - Clarrie, who does! Felicity Finch thankfully does not have Ruth's awful brogue, but Nigel Pargitter in the form of Graham Seed sounds exactly like his character. Tamsin Gregg, better known as Debbie Aldridge, was fab and just like the character she played in the Green Wing.

One year the Lib Dems held their conference over the road, and Ming Campbell was a daily visitor as was Shirley Williams and other assorted politicos. In their wake came Michael Brunson of ITN (what a misery) and Tom Bradby.

Eastbourne Theatres always have a Summer Season and one year it was Scissor Happy - an audience-participating farce starring Lionel Blair and many of the personalities mentioned earlier. While most stars prefer a quiet corner when off duty, Lionel was ever the true professional and loved nothing more than meeting his fans. Most days - sometimes twice a day, he would take up his position at the table facing the door and treat everyone he met like an old friend. I can honestly say that by the end of the six-week run I was able to count him amongst my friends! On the last night, he and the cast invited my daughter and me to join them at the Buccaneer for a meal. Not long ago I got a message from him saying how disappointed he was to find the Stage Door closed.

Not all memories were happy. One night Dennis Waterman came in with Patrick Mower. They had spent some considerable time in The Cavalier beforehand. I'll leave the rest to your imagination, but needless to say, they weren't welcome back!

The Stage Door Bistro and Wine bar is no more. I sold it and the new owners got it badly wrong. It was probably the worst decision of my life. But it still lives on in the memories of all who visited it and worked there.


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Sunday, October 22, 2017

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Post 1621. Sunday October 22


As I'm pushed for time today I've taken the unprecedented step of revamping a story I wrote a couple of years ago which received just very few hits!


Just two minutes more and I would have caught that bus. I would have made it to the shop before it closed. I'd have bought some delicious wine, a microwave meal and some yummy chocolate then caught the bus home again. Right now I’d be enjoying my feast whilst watching the six-o-clock news.

As it is I’m drinking tepid skimmed milk and eating a tasteless curled up sandwich whilst watching the eight-o-clock news about someone who was running, tripped, fell in front of a bus and ended up in hospital.

Nurse, a bedpan, please!



Word count 101

The RV1 Hybrid bus from Tower Gateway Station to Covent Garden - I used it recently. I'm yet to float down the Thames on the Duck Tours amphibious bus though! 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

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Post 1620. Thursday October 19






Reginald Fletcher, Retch to the locals, always took part in the annual Yard of Ale contest at the Runt in Tun public-house,  every time coming last; the contest just wouldn't be the same if he came anywhere else!

He’s passed on to the great pub in the sky now but they still talk about the last time he took part.

Picture the scene; Retch hoisted the lengthy vessel to his mouth and with a slow gulp gulp gulp began to drink it’s frothing contents.

Sixty-eight seconds later he finished, and he let out a massive ‘huff’ the force of which sent his false teeth barreling down the glass tube, becoming jammed partway down.

Despite the best efforts of his friends, Retch’s gnashers refused to budge and they remain there to this day.

This evening before this year's contest takes place, they will be raising their glasses to the yard of ale horn complete with Retch’s teeth on the shelf above the bar.


This week's cue at Six Sentence Stories is Yard.


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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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Post1618. Wednesday October 18

It's raining, thank you for sheltering me. I climbed you as a kid, remember? I fell once and broke my arm! I always tell you my secrets, they’re are safe with you. My first love and I carved our initials in your bark; look, they’re still there.

In summer, you shade me. In autumn, you roll out a golden carpet and in winter you stand naked and proud, you old show off! Then it’s spring again and you turn bright green.

You were there for those before me; you’ll be there for those who follow. But today it’s me you shelter.





Thanks to Rochelle for hosting, and to Sandra Crook for the photo.




 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

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Post 1617. Tuesday October 17




I should have seen the writing on the wall. He’s no good they said. Look what he did to her they said. That was their own fault said I. He loves me. How wrong I was.

You’re safe now they said. A safe house, he can’t trouble you now. But they lied. They bloody lied because he’s here. I can see him through the crack in the closet doors. He's over there, see? There, wandering to and fro, fro and to, a crowbar clenched in his white-knuckled fist.  He’s going from one room to another, up the stairs and down again. Room to room, room to room, this way and that, that way and...this.  My heart is beating, he’s getting closer, my heart is throbbing, he's snarling, I’m dizzy, he’s reaching for the door, I’m..I’m..I’m….

It’s a safe house they said. You're safe now they lied.

121 words.


This week's photo is by Gant-Sud.



Sunday, October 15, 2017

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Post 1616. Sunday October 15


Between 1788 and 1868, approximately 162,000 convicts were transported from England to Australia by the British government. Many were deported for petty crimes; others were political prisoners. Most stayed in Australia with some rising to prominent positions in Australian society. Approximately twenty percent of modern Australians are descended from transported convicts.


It is the fifteenth day of October, in the year of our Lord eighteen seventeen. I am shackled below deck, just one of two hundred and eighty other pitiful souls. Through a gap in a hatch, I gaze at billowing sails as the wind of change transports me to a new life.  I see black clouds change to white; they no longer threaten me. My wretched existence thus far lays dead in the water. I am hungry for a future where the sins and wicked deeds of my past are left behind. A convict, yes, but a spirit freed.

Regrets? Yes. But I will never forget, for my memories will serve as a constant reminder of what is important to me in the years to come. 

A new day, a new life, a new me.



As you may have observed I have wound back the clock on this week's photo prompt at Sunday Photo Fiction!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

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Post 1615. Thursday October 12



She lives alone in a little wooden shack nestled deep in the middle of the forest, isolated from the frenzied existence of townsfolk and at one with nature and the creatures of the undergrowth.

In this place, everything she needs and all she desires surrounds her, and she covets the silence; no need to speak for there's no one to hear.

One misty moist morn she stands in her doorway, entranced by droplets of dew sparkling on slender blades of grass and dancing upon quivering cobwebs.  

Her eyes are drawn to a hazy apparition rippling midst the aged oaks; a spirit perhaps for spirits are said to dwell among these trees.

Mesmerised, she drifts outside, barefoot, head held high, arms outstretched then glances over her shoulder before fading away into the hoary miasma.

The end, a new beginning, who knows?




This week's cue at Six Sentence Stories is Spirit

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