Cancer diagnosis prompts stroll down Eastbourne’s memory lane

Patrick Griffin began his days as a callow young trainee at The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne.

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 6:05 am
Patrick Griffin - late 60s

He tells his story in The Grand Life – Confessions of an Old School Hotelier in the Digital Age. Parts 1, 2 and 3, released by Australian Self Publishing Pty Ltd, are around £16 for all three; paperbacks vary, around £20 each.

As he says, the books recount his childhood in the “long ago 40s and 50s, then follow the adventures of my career in hotels around the world.”

Part I covers 1946-1967; Part II, 1967-1988; and Part III, 1988-2011 when he retired as regional managing director with Orient-Express Hotels, Trains & Cruises.

Patrick Griffin

The ebooks are available at www.patrickgriffin.info and the paperbacks at www.bookdepository.com.

Patrick, aged 75, now lives in Gosford, NSW, Australia.

“It has been a labour of love to record all the people and times that made me what I am today. I hope that this may both entertain people with stories of a time gone by, as well as help young people to navigate this crazy world with some humour and perspective.

“It’s a memoir in three parts: growing up in the post-war years of a gloomy Britain in the 40s and 50s, the story of my upbringing and then my career which spanned 50 years, and how I found the ability to make lemonade when given lemons. I had a childhood and public school years filled with adventures and hilarious mishaps, yet succeeded as a hotelier in Grand hotels across the UK, Europe and Australia.

“It’s a memoir full of humour, candour and genuine empathy for the common humanity that binds us all.

“For those who love nostalgia, it’s full of funny and sentimental tales of a time long gone, before TV, before mobile phones or the internet.”

Patrick recalls: “Eastbourne welcomed me fresh out of school to start as a trainee manager at The Grand Hotel in November 1964, and I left for Amsterdam in 1967. I returned as deputy manager at the Cavendish Hotel, 1969 to 1972.

“Eastbourne ‘64 was filled with elderly retirees who were barely starting to understand and accept the changes of the 1960s. It had the promotional tag of Sun Trap of the South but with rather stony beaches and few youthful attractions; it was not a magnet for the young. In a word, the tourists were old.

“A trade union had built a hotel for its retired members which sparked some interest amongst hoteliers, and the town soon boasted a Marks & Spencer. I recall going on a tour behind the scenes where staff food was prepared. There was no utensil larger than two-pint pots as they wanted to offer freshly cooked food. Mothercare then arrived – to everyone’s amazement – as there were not many young mothers about the place. It proved to be one of the company’s greatest successes as the elderly spent lavishly on their grandchildren.

“Major events took place at the new Congress Theatre, and in the summer it staged variety shows. The Black and White Minstrel Show was the favourite, which no doubt will be met with gasps, not applause, today. There was one Chinese restaurant, in Carlisle Road. Us youngsters headed for Finches coffee bar in Grove St or The Dolphin in South Street, for folk music on Sunday nights in the back room where they strummed anti-war songs.

“Tommy Steele got everyone excited while filming Half a Sixpence, as did Charlie Chaplin’s stay at The Grand. More notorious was Dr Bodkin-Adams, who trailed shocking gossip after him.

“And today? Eastbourne is unrecognisable! With its shops and traffic free areas, it’s a town of the twenty-first century.”

Writing the books followed a cancer diagnosis.

As Patrick explains: “When faced with a difficult prognosis following cancer and forced to face my mortality, I considered a bucket list. When I realised I had already done most of what I dreamed of doing, I found it a positive and cathartic experience to put pen to paper as to how very fortunate I had been with my life. I genuinely believe that it was this joy of reliving the past that sustained me and aided my recovery, not once but twice! I am sure it will again with another challenge I will need to face again this year.

“What inspired me were two things … the realisation of the extraordinary life I had led and the 1960s music played by the nurses as I lay in bed having chemo! Music revived so many, mostly, happy times and memories.”