Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The day…..Of the Eclair

There may be something behind the theory that certain traits are passed on from one generation to another.
Back when my mother ran out of Demonstrating gigs, and before she worked for the Alston corset company fitting large ladies into the waistline of their dreams, she took on a temporary job at a teashop, as a waitress.
Mother was pretty good at many things – but co-ordination was not one of her strong points. As the youngest child of eight, there was a very short period of time my Grandfather considered her for a stage career. He had been a sometime music hall pantomimist, then a cyclist on a six-man-machine speed racing with a French indoor track team, and later a London taxi driver. He did not take Noel Coward’s advice to “Mrs. Worthington”, and two of my mother’s siblings actually made money as a sister act on the stage, for a while.
MY mother was in, and out, of a chorus line before you could say “Exit – Left”. She had the legs for the work, they just did not want to work in unison with the other girls. Between World Wars I and II, while the rest of the bob-cut girls did high-kicks with their Left foot – she opted for the Right foot. And vice-versa.
But she could talk, Talk, TALK without fear of being browbeaten. That ability led to her becoming a prized ‘demonstrator’ at the Ideal Homes Exhibitions, held at London's Earls Court, and on the road selling everything from an electronic ‘VitaPhone’ – a massive lump of machinery with dials, flashing buttons, and handles for the brave to hold onto to determine (sans doctor) whether the duped member of the public had a healthy heart, good blood flow and a chance of an active sex life – to lipsticks and perfumery.
When things were flush, financially, she would treat me and my school friends to a birthday bash at ‘Bondolfi’s’, a posh tearoom which specialized in sticky buns, cakes and éclairs. Half a century later, surviving friends still recall those parties.
What most of them don’t know is, during a financially dry period years later, when retailers no longer believed her claim to be ‘39-years-old’, she found a job at Bondolfi’s working as a waitress. It was short-lived career. She memorized the menu, and had the patter down straight, thanks to her theatrical background , but her co-ordination gene was missing.
The story goes, one day as her station filled up with blue-rinse ladies, and their pin-stripe-suited hubbies, Mother plonked the three-tier cake tray onto one of her tables, and an errant éclair slide off to kerplop into the lap of a gentleman with a large corporation.
Quick as a flash, with a mind to save her potential tip, Mother scooped the éclair from the gent’s lap. And vigorously began rubbing the spilled cream-filling from his trousers. The pink-faced gent, blushing to the crown of his bald pate, wriggled in great agitation. The squeals from his wife finally alerted Mother to the full picture.
There she was, in a crowded tearoom, down on her knees obliviously rubbing the poor man’s crotch to his great embarrassment, and the delight of all seated nearby.
It is probably just as well I recalled that incident when, as a boy serving in the Royal Navy, I spilled soup into the lap of First Sea Lord of the Admiralty - Lord Louis Mountbatten.
Mother may have saved me a spell in the brig


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