I always wanted to know, why and why and why? I had little chance of an expensive education but the school of hard knocks is free and very educational.
I hate to not know something. I have a need to learn. When I was fifteen I dated a college student. He had a group of friends that delighted my life. I sat and listened to them organise and change the world wishing I could be a part of their world.
One evening we went to a fancy restaurant. Now you need to understand I grew up in dire poverty. Fancy restaurants were not a part of my life. I was so impressed I couldn’t stand it. The waiter brought the wine list. As one of the two females and a new member of this large group I was given the honour of choosing the wine. Well, it could have been brought to our table in a teapot with steam coming from the spout and I wouldn’t have known the difference. I got out of that one.
Then the menu, it was in French, I froze. I listened as the others blithely spat out their orders, they all ordered the same thing. Beefsteak, with an accent, petit pois and pomme de terre. I was impressed out of my mind. I croaked out I’d have the same having no idea what I was about to eat. Imagine my disappointment when our meal arrived, steak, peas and chips. Yuck. I determined right then and there that I was going to learn to speak french and learn about wines.
Years later I got in touch with these same friends. I couldn’t wait to see them again, to catch up on what I imagined would be the most amazing lives. After all, they had come from from a background of silver spoons and I imagined them conquering the world. The charming, intense young man I’d been dating had married a French woman and was living in Sligo. It was arranged we would all gather there. My most abiding memory is of the cold. The B and B we stayed in was a bloomin’ freezer.
Anyway…I was thrilled and delighted to meet up with this crowd again. Nothing much had changed and I slipped back into my roll of audience and silent admirer. I noticed the French-in-Laws, who happened to be visiting at the same time were struggling to follow the English conversation and suggested we switch to speaking French…I was stared at as if I came from another planet. They could…none of them…speak French. I almost choked laughing. I don’t know if I ever explained why I cracked up. Every time I tried to explain I just collapsed. When I’d settled down I impressed the heck out of them by carrying on a delightful conversation in fluent French with the bewildered in-laws.
Those friends and other people that I met and situations that occurred gave me a hunger to travel, to explore, to learn. One of my favorite things is still waking up not knowing where I am. I love the adventure of it all.
I left home on the first leg of my journey when I was seventeen. I wanted to see what was out there. Home for me has always been Dublin, Ireland. My earliest memories are of my mother taking all seven of her children to see the boats leave the Dublin harbour every Sunday. She’d make up exciting stories about the boats final destination, creating a word picture of fabulous worlds. Then was astonished when all seven of her children turned into Nomads.
Through all of my travels I wanted to learn. Not in a determined, planned way, but out of curiosity. I got work in a fancy restaurant because I wanted to learn about food. I spent hours in kitchens learning from chefs, what was what. It cracks me up these days to note that crubeens are now considered a high-falutin menu item. I grew up eating pigs feet because they were cheap and added flavor to the cabbage. I couldn’t eat one today if you paid me.
ENGLAND, was my first stop. It was nearest to Ireland and cheapest to get to.
We were three grass green Irish girls taking the cattle boat from Dublin to Liverpool. The excitement of it all, the sheer adventure. It was breath-taking.The crossing was similar to a fairground ride. The waves seemed to be a mile high. I had an elderly lady cling to me screaming “We’re going to die,” for what felt like hours. I finally reassured her we’d go down together and that seemed to calm her. I can’t imagine why.
We stayed in a women’s hostel run by the nuns in Chiswick. We had to be in bed by 10 o’clock. The meals were pieces of pasta (which we had never seen before) floating in a runny stock. After my Mom’s great cooking this was a shock to my system. My two companions had mother’s who couldn’t cook and they thought this was great grub. The first of many differences.
I hate to admit I lied when I filled out employment forms. I added three years to my age. I’d found out this would increase my take home pay and that was all important. So, instead of being 17 years old, just…I was now a mature 20.
We started looking for flats. In the name of God. We must have been wearing a sign that said “idiots…please take advantage!” We found a place in Kensington that cost a small fortune. It was one room with two single beds. We pushed the beds together and drew straws daily to see who would sleep on the crack. We thought it was a great adventure.
It’s unbelievable how very young and naive we were. Throughout all of my travels I truly believe that dumb ignorance or innocence if we want to be polite…saved me from a lot of trouble.
It was an era when…if you didn’t like one job, you walked out and got another one that same day. I continued to do this in my first weeks in London. Everything was such a shock to me…I’d thought myself so mature.
I got a job with Lyons of Cadby Hall. A huge honour if I did but know it…I was on the ladder to success and didn’t know it. In my years being educated by the nuns, we weren’t encouraged to plan our future. I was poor and therefore destined to marry young and produce a slew of snot nosed children who would be raised in poverty. I wasn’t encouraged to look outside that fate. But that is the old head talking…the young one that I was was completely unaware of her place in society.
I was on the first step of my big adventure. I was planning travel…not my pension.
I was part of the ‘office staff’ at Lyons of Cadby Hall. In the general scheme of things…I was posh. Hah. I was taken on a tour of the factory. Lyons, produces, tea, cakes, biscuits, cookies to Americans and many other products. In the factory I saw a group of older women…they were probably in their 30’s!!, sitting at a production line. They were sitting on either side of a moving line putting the dimple in doughnuts with their thumbs. I was shocked rigid. My entire life…very short at that point…flashed before my eyes.
I couldn’t imagine the horror of doing something so mindless, day in…day out. It reinforced my need to travel and learn.
I’M POPPING IN AND OUT ADDING AS I GO. I’VE MORE TO ADD HERE. LATER.
I came in here to add more little snippets of memory and found myself blushing and wondering if I should really be as honest as I’d planned to be. I’m reviewing the situation…
I became an au-pair to study French. I never forgot my ignorance when surrounded by people from a more privileged background than I. I went to work for a family in Belgium. The lady of the house was a famous artist and her husband an architect. They refused to speak English to me. I love to talk. I learned to make myself understood in French in weeks. It might have been pigeon French but it worked.
In time I explained to Madame et Monsieur why I had decided to become an au-pair. They jumped to. No disrespect intended to my parents but when you are one of seven you get lost in the shuffle. You certainly receive no special attention. Gisele, the lady of the house took me in hand. She took care of my emotional and social education. I can still remember poor Philippe, the man of the house, standing over me explaining about fine wines while I held my nose and forced his most excellent wine down my ignorant gullet. I’ve never apoligised to him for that, I don’t think. I still keep in touch with them after 40 years. I think Gisele believes me to be one of her creations, and to a large extent she is right. That family changed my life…for the better.
I’M NOT PUTTING THIS IN THE CORRECT ORDER.
but I have no idea how to move text around on here. I don’t want to rub out what I’ve already written here. Devon was directly after London and before Brussels.
I then went to work in Devon for a famous TV chef who shall mercifully remain nameless, mainly because I can’t remember his name, anyway, I made a small fortune in tips waitressing at his restaurant. The diners were the who’s who of the entertainment scene at that time. Tony Blackburn, Terry Wogan, Fluff Freeman, they all came to dine in the thatched cottage restaurant. Little did they know that on our regular chefs nights off, the complaints came thick and fast. The ‘celebrity’ chef was in the kitchen on those nights.
That’s enough for the moment. I’ve had a long and exciting life. I couldn’t possibly sit and write it all in one session. So let us just say…to be continued.
So, to be continued.
A BIT MORE ABOUT ME!
As a Family we have just gotten together to build a FB page around my parents. We have, as individuals, been pulling out photographs of our lives. Most of the pictures are taken by “the man on the bridge” a photographer who stood on O’Connell Bridge in Dublin and snapped everyone who passed. You paid for the photo sight unseen and he mailed it to your home address. In the days I grew up in the people of my world couldn’t afford a camera. They did borrow camera’s from time to time but unfortunately frequently couldn’t afford to have the pictures developed.
The stroll down memory lane with these old pictures has been fascinating. I’ve been trying to download some of these pictures onto this page but I’m having problems. I’ll keep trying.
Bear with me, I’m still learning how to present things on here in the fashion I’d prefer. The photograph’s I tried to download here went into the file Memories of Old, check it out if you have the time.