Jeanette MacDonald goes to Broadstairs
This little article is another attempt, on my behalf, to explain my origins, and what it is that makes me the unique person that I am.
You're going to love this little anecdote, or part of my family history. Well, I hope you do, or else you won’t read it; or suggest it to anybody else to read and then I will become more and more depressed and most probably do something dramatic to myself.
Let me hasten to add, at this juncture, that dramatic as my course of action might be, there will be no messiness involved. However, if you don’t want to learn that I have done something ghastly to myself, albeit scrupulously hygienically and cleanly, then read on:
Preamble, to be ignored if you wish to cut to the chase.
My parents met in about 1937, when my mother was a Nanny to a rather rich Polish family living in Ivor, Buckinghamshire. As part of her duties, she would travel to a local private school to collect the little girl in her charge, Anne Zinzinanix… I'm sure that's not the correct spelling but I'm not Polish. I most probably left out several “c”s and a couple more “z”s; the Polish language seems to have more than its fair share of those letters… But, as I have already pointed out, I am not Polish and do not speak the language; much less do I write it. In fact, I must be about the only white person who isn't Polish in Norbury-sur-Mer.
There is an English lady who lives up the road from here. She rescues cats, but that isn’t really relevant to this story, so I shan’t elaborate on the Cat Lady.
So my mother would be taken to the school in the family chauffeur driven car, and there wait for little Anne; then bundle the child into the car, and return with her to the family home.
My father, also, would go there; to the same school, to pick up his daughter; his daughter from his first marriage. My parents, although they were not to know that that stage that they were to become my parents, met in the playground and decided to make a go of it. Not immediately, let me hasten to add. It looks as if I am trying to give the impression that they met in the playground and then went away to live happily ever after in Broadstairs.
Well it wasn’t instantaneous; I’m sure they must have waited for at least a couple of days before they got down to it, but the ultimate geographical location was correct. Very soon they moved to the seaside town of Broadstairs, in Kent, where they lived together… Unmarried…
So they decided to take up residence in a Small Hotel or Bed and Breakfast, as these establishments have come to be known. For some reason that I am unaware of, the landlady, who was perhaps the manager of this particular Small Hotel establishment, took it into her head that my mother was Jeanette MacDonald, of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy fame; the American Lady and Gentleman stars of ‘The Merry Widow’, ‘Rose Marie’ and several other blockbusters of the American movie screen of the Thirties.
After deciding to “make a go of it”, as was the term employed at that time, they very soon realised that they needed somewhere to “make a go of it” at, or in. In other words; if they were going to live together, they had to decide where.
My father, who was a Captain in the British India Army, was on leave in England, as his family home was in Colchester.
My mother was from a little village, Crynant, Glamorganshire, in Wales; a little village noted for its Welshness, at the time. (For “Welshness” read "Prudery”)
It wouldn’t have been too practical to live either in Crynant or in Colchester, so Mother and Father decided that they would like to live for a while in the county of Kent, and chose Broadstairs.
When my parents had first turned up at the Hotel in Broadstairs, they had registered as Captain Clark and Mrs Clark. A little manipulation of the truth, one must admit, but after all, this was 1937. However, regardless of my parents signing in as Clark, E F and Clark, A, the owner-landlady had immediately decided that my Mater was Jeanette MacDonald. She had decided that my mother not only looked like, but was Jeanette MacDonald herself. She, the landlady, had flustered around doing the usual: “Would you give me your autograph, Miss MacDonald?” and all the other things one does when presented with celebrity.
Whereupon my father, apparently, took pains to tell the Old Dear that my Ma wasn't Nelson Eddy's chum; but to no avail.
And then they would go on to try to explain to the Deluded Old Female that my mother (eventually to be) was not La MacDonald. And then the old dear would smile, and she would agree and “see the error of her ways”.
But at breakfast time the next morning, she would address La Clark as "Miss MacDonald".
"Good Morning Miss MacDonald"…
“Fried eggs or scrambled, this morning, Miss MacDonald?”
And at luncheon it would, be:
“Lovely lamb cutlets today, Miss MacDonald,” or the like.
The poor Old Dear should have asked my dear Mama to sing. That would have dispelled any doubts. Apart from the fact that my mother most probably had a Welsh accent at that time and had sprung, fully armed from the Land of Song (Wales), she nonetheless seemed to be incapable of singing a note. I wonder if she could have warbled her way through "Ah Sweet Mystery of Life".
I wonder, but I very much doubt it.
And where the misguided landlady could have thought the “Miss MacDonald” had found my Pa, I can't imagine. She no doubt thought he was a bit of Military Rough that Miss MacDonald had dragged into Broadstairs while Nelson Eddy had his back turned in America somewhere.
And all he (my Pappy) could have sung was a collection of British India ballads… “Trumpeter, What Art Thou Calling Now”, being one of them and perhaps the odd Pathan battle cry:
"There's a Boy across the River, with a Bottom like a Peach”.
This was a little ditty of which he was particularly fond, and would sing it at the drop of a hat, in the original Pashtun.
In later years, whereas the usual run of the mill child would say to his esteemed father or mother, “Tell me what you did in the War, Daddy (or Mummy if that were the parent in question),” I would be more likely to ask to be told the tale of the Small Hotel in Broadstairs.
So they would take little Ian on their collective, or separate, knees and regale him with tales of how they would sit the Old Dear down on a regular basis and explain that my mother to be was my father's wife (Ha!), hence the title, Mrs and the surname, Clark.
So I have a great affection for Broadstairs. It would be nice to locate the exact site of the Small Hotel, because I am sure that I could persuade someone who is responsible for that sort of thing to have a “Blue Plaque” put up on the wall there, or at the front gate or somewhere easily read by the passing day trippers and so forth. The plaque would state quite simply that I, (name to be furnished at a later date) possibly Poet Laureate or something terribly literary or something artistic or whatever, was conceived here in early 1939.
Then again, perhaps not.
Then again, I could be persuaded to agree to this, below, which was created by a very good friend at no mean expense and many hours working over a hot kiln.
Courtesy of my dear friend Nellie Anna http://hubpages.com/profile/Nellieanna
This is a hub relating to me and where I come from; both geographically and emotionally. If you liked it, perhaps you would like the others here included.
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