Can I go back to a time when elegance permeated through a class of individuals that required pampering from such splendour when it was first built? There was, no doubt poverty we can’t imagine in the time of Dickens, he has described it in a way that has made his stories popular to millions over the years, leaving the reader of his books a clear picture of a time in our history of inequality and hardship for the many that was ignored by politicians and the upper class. I sometimes think that things haven’t changed much when I watch what our elected representatives get up to, bickering like children over who did what instead of getting together and trying to better our lovely country. No chance of that!
An article that I read in ‘The Granville News’ from way back at the turn of the last century, describes the luxury of that sumptuous lifestyle the few took for granted. We can only imagine what it was like.For me, a half-century later or so from those times, that hostelry being what it was then, was I realise now, the foundation to a life that has been so full of lovely memories.
So, to answer a lot of questions, the following is how it all started.
The Granville and how it was back then.
In the very beginning, from a day so long ago, that changed my life.
I have been asked about the Granville Ballroom and how it was that I went to dancing class so young, some not believing to some extent how grand it all was back in my time there. I have tried to think of a comparison to the interior of that beautiful building, but can’t. I have travelled extensively throughout my life, being privileged to visit and be surrounded by luxury that can only be described as extravagant in the extreme, but nothing has ever compared to those first impressions of the young boy that I was, walking into a different world so long ago now.
I often considered how unfair certain reprimands were when I was young, and I am sure I wasn’t on my own in this respect, but as I started typing away this morning trying to remember how it all started, I smiled and marvelled at the consequences of that morning, now, well over six decades later, of one such chastisement. Could my mother ever, in her wildest thoughts, imagine what the outcome to a simple flash of desperation on her part would be? I don’t think so; in fact I am absolutely certain she couldn’t have done.
If I remember rightly I was being a pest, like we all are at that age, under mum’s feet one Saturday morning, and she turned to my elder sister, who was getting ready to go out, and told her to take me with her;
She was going to dancing class!
I was about 9 years old;
The thought of me, the oldest at that time, of the street gang going to dancing class evoked all kinds of unjust feelings, then anger, and then sheer disbelief that mum was serious. Girls were meant to dance, I had visions of tutu’s and tights and all kinds of feminine attire. Boys were meant to rule, have punch ups, get dirty, go race the dreaded hill with the latest banana box Ferrari down Woodford Ave., not go dancing. I’d definitely be drummed out the regiment we all belonged to, banned forever from the gang. The thoughts that rushed through my tiny mind even to this day were terrifying. But I went, because that’s what you did in those days. You didn’t argue with your parents, mum said go; that was the end of it, you went.
I do remember walking down to the bus stop that morning with sis, I was praying as hard as I had ever done that none of my mates would see me, because everyone knew that my sister went to dancing class on a Saturday morning, and caught the number 71 bus at 10:30 from the Derby Arms. Would I ever forgive my mum?
The classes were held at a very grand hotel up on the cliff, and as we walked through the revolving door into the foyer the smell of a lavish luxury with highly polished furniture even to someone so young took me by surprise. If class had any meaning to me in those days this made an immediate impression, I was, I remember, bewildered, I was entering a world I had not dreamed of or known about, the high ceiling and marble columns, plush seats covered in a deep red velvet fabric that, I thought, you surely were not supposed to, or allowed to sit in, were all round that foyer. Highly polished tables that you could see yourself in reflected the wonder on my face. I can remember thinking, ‘who lives in a palace like this? Kings and Queens? The fear of the unknown soon evaporated, and my boyish inquisitive mind began to visually investigate where I was, my feet sank into a deep red carpet that covered every inch of the floor, all thought of giggling girls and ridicule at school from my pals lost all its meaning. I swear to this day that I grew a good couple of inches and walked a little taller that morning.
What you didn’t do, (being a boy, you understand) was hold your sisters hand, not the done thing unless you were a whimp or a bit of a sissy. I gripped my sister’s hand as if my life depended on it that morning; all cares of who was watching went right out the window.
As we moved along the corridor we passed a great big room that later became known to me as the banqueting hall, there were tables with pristine white tablecloths, shiny knives and forks and bunches of flowers on each table that seemed fit for the king to sit at, there were very smartly dressed men arranging and laying out these tables. I stared and stared at this spectacle but was soon pulled away with a jerk by sis’ who didn’t seem to mind me gripping her hand so tightly, but hadn’t time to waste it seemed.
What was to come as we walked through that hotel surpassed anything that had gone before as my sister pushed open the double doors at the top of a sloping corridor lined with photographs of men and women holding big silver trophies dressed in fine gowns and bow ties and tailed suits. I was walking into another world, a world where the floor was so highly polished it mirrored my dirty knees, in fact the reflection of the ornate ceiling up above was so clear you wouldn’t believe. Crystal chandeliers hung from this ceiling, which were all lit up making the reflection dance around the floor in a thousand tiny specs of light. There were those chairs again, all covered in that posh fabric, and the big tall windows on either side were curtains of the same red velvet, and then my eyes looked round at the walls, the pattern of the paper was raised and also covered in velvet, I was transfixed and couldn’t move until I had taken it all in, I just stood there rooted to the spot, marvelling at the splendour, the grandeur of it all.
That morning I took my first steps onto a dance floor; the beautiful polished Maple floorboards of the Grandville Ballroom became ‘my home from home’. What I was to learn over the years that followed, was a confidence that has stood me in good stead through my life, being able many times to stand by the side of dignitaries of a station in life far above mine and my humble start, I was never in awe of their position. Finding they would want to listen and put into practice the knowledge I had gained in my work over the years.
This is what my dear mum gave to me that day, so desperate for a bit of peace and quiet so she could, no doubt, carry on with her daily chores of keeping the house clean from the clutter and half the wreck dirt I brought home with me.
Thanks again for stopping by.