Hello, I’ve come to do a talk

That’s what I find myself saying as I enter the various church halls, community halls and meeting venues throughout the area. Recently, I’ve really been around, as they say. I’ve arrived to apparently deserted halls in the middle of nowhere only to find large gatherings of lively ladies all chatting away and ready to listen to their bemused speaker. Larger gatherings in prestigious locations seem peopled by the same sorts of ladies.

The world of ladies’ clubs and associations seems huge; infinitely varied and yet with so much good will, friendliness and old fashioned charm. Hospitality seems a common denominator and refreshments are always on offer. The catering can linger in the memory for a long time. Who could forget the lemon cream sponge at Westfield SWI or the delicious lunch at the Royal Scots Club?

I don’t know whether I prefer larger gatherings with people sitting in serried rows or smaller groups sitting in a semi-circle around me. It’s perhaps easier for audience members to speak out at the smaller events but, even with audiences of 100+, there are people brave enough to ask interesting questions or share fascinating reminiscences. I’ve learned so much in this way.

These talks are genuinely a two way thing for me. I can only hope that people enjoy the talks as much as I enjoy going around carrying them out.

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More tales from the old shops

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As I continue my  talks to various groups around the Lothians I continue to hear fascinating stories from previous staff members and customers of the old department stores.  The illustration above is of Maule’s en gala for the coronation of George V and Queen Mary (I think!) This was the original company which build the shop at the West End of Princes Street. It became Binns in 1943 then was taken over by House of Fraser in 1953 and renamed Fraser’s in 1976. Sadly, its rebuilt version was  closed this week. Last night I heard from an ex staff member that staff had their pay compulsorily docked to contribute to a wedding gift for Hugh Fraser.

Over to Jenners. Also with a large question mark over its future. I gathered from one proud parent that her son, then a student, was a delivery driver for Jenners.  Allegedly this young man was instructed to drive via only the ‘nicest’ areas of town even if this meant long unnecessary detours. Possibly an early form of mobile advertising?

The famous Sir Will Y Darling the politician and owner of Darling’s in Princes St informed the mother of one lady present last night that one must always change the buttons of a new coat. Despite not quite understanding why this was somehow important, the lady always did this! He must have known something that we don’t!

Almost my favourite story, heard from an audience member, relates to RW Forsyths. I gather that the commissionaire always knew the customers, always looked after their umbrellas on arrival and, without fail, always returned exactly the right umbrella to the right lady.  Customer service indeed. Those were the days.