Tuesday, 4 November 2008


We were saving very hard, but every now and then we would allow ourselves a special treat. Eating out was not something that we did very often, but there were affordable bargain meals available, even in the West End of London. For us to have a meal ‘up West’ was a real adventure and something we did perhaps every couple of months.
Our favourite eating-place was Lyon’s Corner House at Marble Arch. There were two fashionable restaurants in the Lyon ‘s complex. One was the egg-and-bacon bar; the other was the salad bowl. We would stand and watch the chefs resplendent in their tall white hats, cooking eggs and gammon bacon on huge griddles set behind plate glass windows. They flipped the eggs over with great panache. However, we never ate in the egg-and-bacon bar, as it was a set meal for a set price.
The salad bowl was a very different matter. There were two set meals one priced at two shillings and sixpence (12 ½ p), the other at three shillings and sixpence (17 ½ p). For the princely sum of half a crown (12½ p) you could help yourself to as much salad as you could pile on to a large plate, together with a roll and butter, and as many cups of coffee as you required. The latter was served by a waiter who appeared at your elbow, white napkin draped over his arm, and poured from a silver coffee pot, For an extra shilling (5p) you were entitled to add to this menu a bowl of soup and your choice from the sweet-trolley. I might add that this was no ordinary salad, but exotic things that I’d never seen anywhere else. Smoked salmon in little pastry boats, roll-mops, olives, things set in aspic. The meal was eaten with silver cutlery in the luxurious setting of deep pile carpet, intimate lighting, and soft music played by a real live pianist sitting at a grand piano! When you are seventeen years old, hard up and in love, what more could you ask for?
We once shared a table at the salad bar with a vicar complete with dog collar. He arrived at the table bearing a plate laden with the biggest salad that we had ever seen. He must have been either very poor or very greedy. His meal was carefully constructed, using little pastry cases filled with salmon as the foundation, and layered with vol-au-vents, roll mops, things set in aspic and every pasta, rice and potato salad available, Carefully woven in to this creation were all the normal salad ingredients such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber etc. The whole concoction stood some eight inches high! We watched, fascinated, as he ploughed through the meal, washing it down with several cups of coffee.
Another café we frequented was in Islington, where we occasionally ate Saturday lunch. It stood opposite the entrance to the Angel tube station. And served the most delicious egg and chips for half a crown, this included bread and butter and a cup of tea. Not as splendiferous as Lyons, but just as delicious.
Sometimes in the summer, we would hop on a bus in Harringay, and for two shillings and sixpence (12 ½ p) we could travel all the way to Southend–on-sea. It was a long ride and we really enjoyed the journey. As long as we could have a cup of tea, a bag of chips and a Rossi’s ice cream when we arrived, we were on cloud nine. We’d stroll along the front and the pier, hand in hand; me in my off the shoulder blouse and white sling back high heeled shoes, and Arthur in his shirt and slacks purchased by him in Italy. We thought we were ‘the goods’
Oh, that I could wave a magic wand and do it all again! Time rushes by so rapidly that you don’t notice that these are precious moments, let alone appreciate and treasure every second, as you should.
Writing these memoirs has enabled me to unlock so many forgotten moments of my life. Not necessary earth shattering moments, but silly. Heart-warming memories that I am so grateful not to have lost for all time.
Like coming out of the cinema as a very young teenager feeling that I was Betty Grable who had just taken her fourth curtain call on opening night, or Jean Crain after she realised that she really did love the studious guy with glasses, and not the cocky heartbreaker her took her to the High School prom.
Like buying my first78 rpm record of Benny Goodman’s ‘Slow Boat to China’, and feeling to important standing in the record booth at HMV. I listened, letting it play right through to the end before saying’ Yes, OK. I’ll take it,’ knowing from the onset that I fully intended to buy it.
Like watching my first-born join the other children on her first day at school, biting my lip to fight back the tears, realising this was the moment she started to be her own person and ceased to be ours alone.
This realisation was bought home to me even more so, some fourteen years later. Lynne had moved out of our house to share a flat with her then boyfriend John G. We received a late night phone call from John, saying that Lynne had been taken into hospital with mystery stomach pains. We dropped everything and rushed to the hospital to be greeted by Lynne, laid out on a hospital trolley, looking quite ill. I rushed to her side, intent on holding her hand and comforting her,
All she said was: Where’s John? I want John.’
That was the moment I knew that she was no longer our little girl, and that she now belonged to someone else. I felt completely devastated.


Babs (Beetle) said...

Oh they were the days eh? Those precious teenage years when we experience so many new things in life.

granny grimble said...

Life was so uncomplicated and innocent and we didn't appreciate how beautiful and precious it all was. Do you think today's teenagers will feel the same in 50 years time?

Croom said...

What wonderful memories Leeta, you awaken very similar ones in me of my young years with Dave .

I know that my friend would fully understand how you felt about Lynne, her beloved only Daughter had known her new husband for little over two years when they along with their new baby and there parents went on holiday to Australia. My friends Daughter had a brain haemorrhage on there arrival at the hotel. She was extremely ill and had a brain operation that was unsuccessful. They asked for her next to kin to discuss their options and there consequences. You can imagine how very devastate my friend must have been , she along with her hubby stepped up only to be told by the surgeon that her husband was her next to kin and he and he alone could decided on what option there where going to take. My friend argued but was dismissed. She said felt completely helpless and wish she could have turned the clock back a year to before her Daughter was married.

weechuff said...

his really had me choked up. What a lovely posting it is. I often sit alone, thinking back to my courting days when we were all young, fit and innocent. Lennie used to call for me at 9.00a.m. on a Sunday morning when we would either spend the day at the museums, (which were all free in London then)or at Petticoat Lane Market in the East End of London. It was very many years later when Lennie said he wouldn't have got up that early on a Sunday morning for anyone else in those days!!

Croom said...

Oh we were all so in love. It is so good that we can say with hand on heart that we are still in love with the same man (well three men actually :O)

granny grimble said...

That's s very sad story, I'm pleased to say that mine had a happy ending.

Yes we also did Petticoat Lane and the museums. We didn't seem to have any cares and the sun always shone on us. There wasn't any peer pressure to do anything or go anywhere you didn't want to. No binge drinking or drugs, no swearing or mugging. We lived in a lovely era didn't. We were so fortunate.

Croom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Croom said...

Yes it is so sad the way the world has gone. We had such simple fun. Today fun is getting drunk, falling over, being sick, and getting raped or waking in someone’s bed you do not know. What a great pity.

GoldAnne said...

My mummy took me to Lyons corner house used to adore the cakes it was super!!!!!