THE BROOM GRANGE
There was a small but upmarket hotel close to our home called the Broom Grange Hotel. As far as I recall, there were around 30 rooms at the property, which were usually fully booked during the week by businessmen visiting the area.
There was also a very nice bar and restaurant, and these were frequented by local people going out for a drink or a nice dinner.
The restaurant had a baby grand piano, and, aged fifteen, I secured my first ever regular paid gig as a pianist.
I’d play on a Saturday evening 20:00 – 23:00, stay at the hotel overnight in a guest room, and then play again on Sunday lunchtimes 12:00 – 14:30.
For this, I used to get a very nice dinner on Saturday and a guest breakfast on Sunday morning, along with £40.00. This was in 1987. In today’s terms, that represents a purchasing power of £103.00, a staggering amount for a fifteen year old with a weekend job.
To further put that into perspective, my school chums would also have their Saturday jobs such as stacking supermarket shelves, and the going rate was £1.00 per hour. Therefore, they’d go home after a back breaking eight hour shift, aching and tired with £8.00 in their pockets. I’d go home after 5.5 hours work with £40.00 in mine.
It was during this period that I decided the prospect of playing professionally didn’t seem like such a bad idea!
The general manager was Edward Moss, who was around 60 years old. Mr Moss was very well spoken, refined and highly educated; what one would call, I suppose, the quintessential British gentleman.
As I’ve spent time writing this account of my memories, I’ve been trying to recall a single instance where either of my parents sat down with me and helped me with my school homework. So far, I’ve drawn a blank.
Mr Moss became my teacher outside of school hours. I’m not talking about algebra, or the year that Vladimir Lenin decided that it was time for Alexander Kerensky to take an extended break from politics, I’m talking about life itself.
Even though I was just fifteen, he taught me the difference between dry and sweet wine; pink and white champagne; how to tie a Windsor knot. He introduced me to regular customers and taught me how to talk with them and how to shake their hands. One thing I’d learn from Mr Moss about hand shaking was that it didn’t involve squeezing as hard as possible, as my Dad had once explained to me. While a firm handshake is important, over doing it doesn’t make you look like Rambo, it just makes you look like a prat.
Mr Moss was the person who introduced me to working in hotels, and was the person who made me want to do much more of it.
It’s no exaggeration to say that he was not only a wonderfully kind man and a worthy mentor, but Mr Moss was the reason that I’d go on to forging a career as a pianist, and I’ll be forever in his debt for every place I’ve ever seen, and every wonderful memory of life that I have.