by Jackie Beadle
Ursula and I wanted an adventure; we wanted a change to our lives. At my suggestion we put an advert in The Lady which read something like this " Two young ladies seek posts together in the hospitality industry, one a bank cashier and the other a secretary." In response to this advert we were asked to be interviewed by the proprietor of a country club at a place called Ringmer near Lewes in Sussex. He had asked for photographs too. I suggested that before the interview we should just call in one evening and mingle with the crowds in the bar before admitting who we were. As we lived in North Staffordshire this meant taking the train to Lewes and staying overnight at the Royal Oak. We wanted to eat at a different place that evening so we decided to tour the town's hotels and restaurants to decide where we should have dinner. We started at one end of the main street at a rather sedate old fashioned type of establishment and looked at the menu outside but they did not show prices. After that we went into each place and asked to see the menu, carefully noticing the cost of a meal.
There was one hotel we particularly liked but the prices were too high. We therefore settled for the first one we had seen and later sat down at our table. I then noticed that their prices were the same as the hotel we preferred. I started to laugh. Laughter is infectious of course and we soon got the giggles so much so that the waiter stood there, hesitated and then said that he would come back later! We kept exploding at the table particularly as the couple sitting at the next one were discussing soup recipes as they tipped Consomme into their mouths. They obviously weren't married as the gentleman was trying to impress the lady with his culinary skills. He would say that first you put one ingredient in and then another and so on and the lady had an amusing way of responding which came out like "Hmm..yaas" by which time we were incapable of ordering anything!
We then set off to find a bus that would take us to Ringmer and asked the driver to drop us off at the right place. The bus stopped opposite the country club and as we entered the small court yard we noticed a red bikini hanging just outside the front door. To our amazement as it was time when the club should be in full swing the place was empty except for a bearded man behind the bar. Helga then joined him as Ursula and I asked for sherries, a popular aperitif in those days and sat in the corner to plan what we should say. We decided to give fictitious names when Professor Higgins came over for a chat. When we finally admitted who we really were he called over Helga, his assistant. After another sherry on the house we asked to be directed to the Powder Room. As we were mounting the stairs we heard the professor say " Vot is di time Helga?" " 9. 0'clock" " OK Helga, switch off si lights and locks si doors!" We had been directed upstairs to an elaborate bathroom and on the landing outside were some horrific sketches, one of which I remember was depicting a man with eyes bulging hanging from the ceiling from a chair where a cat was sitting looking up at him!
Whilst we were upstairs we heard cars arriving and when we came down again the bar was full and the gaming tables out. Gambling was against the law in those days and we were proudly told that there were a number of police officers from Brighton amongst the crowd. Ursula and I were greeted enthusiastically by the professor and introduced to two younger looking men who then plied us with drinks. Ursula asked Professor Higgins to call a taxi for us to return to our hotel but he declined saying " No, no si night's still young these nice men will look after you!" and later when Ursula persisted he said " You can stay si night, why not stay si night !" We were really alarmed at this stage as he was most insistent.
Finally the middle aged men we were with took pity on us and one of them kindly offered to take us back to our hotel. We trusted him and he did drive us back into Lewes but we were taking a chance getting into his car; we realised that. It was after midnight when we arrived at the Royal Oak and to our amazement and dismay we saw the proprietor putting our suitcases out on to the street. He was most annoyed with us and we had to really persuade him to let us back in through the front door. What a relief!
We had our adventure. The market town of Stone was not such a bad place it seemed.
© Copyright Jackie Beadle - THACS Writers Online 2021