May Day, 06 May 2013

On my way to my other job today I put on a 70s rain-mac I bought from a local Pilgrims Hospice in Herne Bay. It’s camel coloured, faux suede, probably quite fashionable at the time. The reason I mention it is because the label inside is Neuman Marcus, which is a department store on 57th Street between 6th and 7th Ave in New York so someone from Herne Bay all those years ago must have had a visit to Neuman Marcus and brought it back. That must have been quite a journey in the early seventies and probably not one that many people did back then so every time I wear that coat I think about the adventures of that raincoat and the person inside. Nostalgia, a pleasant word evoking the good times of the past and as I have mentioned previously in my diary something we British are renowned for, which takes me up to our latest gig.

We returned to The Grand Hotel in Folkestone for their annual Nostalgia Day with our Doris Day duo. It was the hottest day of the year so far so all and sundry were heading south to catch a rare glimpse of the sun. Unfortunately most of them wanted to spend the day on the beach and not looking around vintage stalls and listening to us but we had a constant stream of people who browsed and listened. There was Gypsy John and the Nostalgia Girls downstairs in the dining room jumping and jiving and a bevvy of 40s dressed men and women happy to have an occasion to wear their retro gear as was I. I wore my emerald green 50s dress from San Francisco and my 40s style shoes, a new (to me) 50s milky white glass, three strand necklace and other adornments. Simon looked his usual Mad Men –styled self with a fantastic 1974 Gibson guitar (our mic and amplification are of course very much this decade!)


The Grand is as its name suggests – grand, and we were in the main hall where they have just repaired the carpets which is a mix of greys, black and yellow – just lovely. There are so many original features such as the chequer board floor in the front, the wood paneling, artworks and choice furniture. Behind the green room is a 20s ballroom opened by the King at the time with an original 20s mural, a popular room with brides and would be a great place to have a Gatsby inspired wedding or party. At my writing group yesterday we talked about our weekends and I spoke of Folkestone and one lady Jan, who I admire greatly for her get-up-and-go for a lady in her 80s (an artist, writer and now I discover a pianist!), was telling us about her preparations for a 100th anniversary celebration of Kings Hall in Herne Bay. She will be playing the piano and songs from 1913 and was amazed at how many endure still today such as Oh Antonio… and she pondered on the thought of what songs will endure from today for the future. On Monday I sang songs from as early as the 20s and as people walked round I could see them singing along.

I think musicians and artists are drawn to the sea, it must be the inspiration so it was no surprise to meet other musicians that day. One was an antique dealer who told Simon of his instruments from years gone by, another one was learning to play himself and another was visiting from Spain, where he has now settled. He regaled us with tales of his musical past: Glen Miller band in South Africa, his group playing in France with a Sarah Vaughan stylist, his days of soul food and gumbo in St Louis and Bourbon Street Bar (he’s still playing in Spain with various local groups and visits Folkestone now and again to sort out domestic matters)…so many memories and that’s the power of music, it takes you straight back.

There are many nostalgia days and vintage fayres going on up and down the country as the modern realities of life take us back to an often imagined life when things seemed better, although in reality were probably much harder but almost certainly simpler life.

Thanks again to the lovely staff at The Grand especially to Nita. As usual the cream tea was fantastic as were the cheese and onion sandwiches. I’ve said it before and I will say it again the high teas are a bargain and for something extra special you can have a champagne high tea for four for a very reasonable price. I shall be back again soon.