THE GIRL NEXT DOOR - PART 2
It was good to meet Marta’s parents; they were such opposites – her father sitting quietly – like a somnolent Picasso, and her mother- bright as a button, full of Irish charm, as she made the tea. She and I had a scatty conversation about the joys of living in London, with its ready access to that wonderful place - Brighton. After both of us had exhausted the charms of the old Prince Regent’s love nest, we discovered that neither of us had ever set foot in Brighton and dissolved into giggles.
It was obvious that Marta wanted to talk and I was whisked off to her room clutching my tea. She studied me carefully and then fired a barrage of questions about my hair, make-up, clothes – every possible detail about my personal appearance. Then the penny dropped: she couldn’t understand why I had got the audition instead of her, or indeed, any of the other lovelies. What was so ironic – just over a year ago - she had instructed me on all these details, and I hadn’t changed.
It took some time to convince her that I had been chosen for my very ordinariness and I told her the man behind the desk had said he wanted ‘the girl next door’. Marta had changed since I first met her. She was working in films and burning the candle at both ends. She had the sophistication and aplomb of a thirty year old but was still barely twenty. She was mixing with a very fast set and it wasn’t really benefiting her or her career. I realised that racing home to Epsom every night, as I usually did, saved me from a lot of inappropriate behaviour.
It was late when I got home and William was in bed asleep. In the morning when I told him about the Morecambe job, he was pleased for me and laughed when I told him who the famous person was, and a Yorkshire man to boot! We decided I shouldn’t mention the 'Wars of the Roses',* me being Lancastrian and all!
On the way up to Morecambe, Phil and Ben told me about the job: Wilfred was going to make the dream of an ordinary girl (me), come true - and be photographed doing it – rather in the style of an early ‘Jim’ll fix it’,* This would be a feature in the magazine. It sounded fun – it was always preferable to use one’s imagination or even a few brain cells rather than just exercising one’s facial muscles.
I liked the boys, as I called them - both older than me; Ben bespectacled and studious and Phil an attractive, family man. I loved the hotel - right beside the sea and it had been built in 1933 in the style of my favourite art-deco. The boys told me to settle in and they would go and arrange a schedule with Wilfred. I unpacked, wandered round the hotel and was just wondering if I had time to walk along the beach, when the boys returned,
As soon as I saw their faces I knew something was wrong. Phil suggested we went for tea but I said no, please tell me what’s wrong. He insisted we sat down and gradually I discovered what had happened. Mabel had been present, and straight away told them that they’d have to think again - no way was this ‘London glamour girl’ horning in on the act. Wilfred was, they said, drinking beer with whisky chasers.
It was a nasty shock for them but when they got their breath back they assured Mabel that I wasn’t a glamour girl and indeed, came from the north – Lancashire in fact. Mabel was immovable and so finally they left and returned to the hotel. After they had told me, I could feel myself getting really upset, so I excused myself and fled to my room.
I had a jolly good cry and then rinsed my face in cold water and tried to repair the damage. The phone went – it was Phil; he had phoned head office and they said that Phil and Ben should insist that Wilfred at least met me, and that is what they would arrange, if I were agreeable. I said yes because at least it wasn’t personal – how could it be when the Pickles hadn’t met me
Inside I was pretty angry but, for everybody’s sake, I wanted to do the job. When we got there it was just Wilfred – for which I was grateful. He had aged a bit and was puffy round the eyes but at least was civil, and when I told him where I had been born and bred, he said he remembered the Morris Dancing there. I wondered if he was confusing it with somewhere else as I didn't remember any Morris Dancing. He tried to be kind and pleasant, but there was no way he was going to go against what Mabel wanted.
After this, head office said we should lie low, and I should leave the next day - they were desperately sorry about my treatment but they would try to salvage the project, after I had left. Talk about feeling like a pariah. I went to my room and tried to phone William. He said all the right things and told me not to worry – just put it down to experience. When I went down to rejoin the boys, they were looking wretched and asked if there was anything they could do to make it up to me. It would be some time before I got over this knock- back but I felt cheered after speaking to William and with the resilience of youth, looked on the bright side.
Here I was in a delightful place with a spare evening, and two charming men, so I suggested we had a drink then, went out to dinner and then went dancing. They laughed and drew the line at dancing but we had a really good evening and I felt lucky that I wasn’t the one who would have to pick up the pieces the next day. I certainly planned to do a lot of thinking about my future.
• ‘The Wars of the Roses’ was a civil war in medieval England from 1455 to 1487 between the House of York and the House of Lancaster. The white rose was the emblem of York and the red rose that of Lancaster. (We won!)
• ‘Jim’ll fix it’ was a TV programme in the seventies where viewers wrote to Jimmy Savile to get him to make their dreams come true.