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Rob Davis Remembers Two Tough Weeks as a Redcoat at Cliftonville in 1976 Back

Being desperate for a job in early 1976 I applied to be a Redcoat, undoubtedly the most unsuitable person in the entire known Universe for selection as such but the selection board evidently had some compassion because instead of being catapulted into one of the "regular" camps I was posted to the Grand Hotel at Cliftonville.

I hated it from the very first day and longed only to survive the necessary three weeks so I could claim back my expenses and return home. I look back now with amusement and a wry smile, but at the time it was utter torture. Trying to keep smiling to hotel guests, many of who treated the staff as, at best servants and at worst, slaves, was well beyond my capacity. This being an exceptionally hot summer, the rooms were stuffy and I survived just a fortnight, leaving within an hour of one of the male kitchen staff threating me with serious violence for some imagined crime - I never did find out what I was supposed to have done.

With another newcomer, Jimmy, we were billeted in rooms not quite opposite the Grand Hotel. Chiefly I remember how totally exhausted I was after 8 or 10 hours on my feet and how he and some girl - different every night - were noisily occupied in the other bed. He was a natural comedian and an instant hit at the Friday Redcoat Show, and I wonder what became of him because once onstage he was extremely good at making the audience laugh. Instead of the usual Redcoat whistle, I obtained a 'whizzer' which didn't go down very well.

The only day off I had in the two weeks I was there was a day trip on the hovercraft to France, with a girl Redcoat whose name I can't remember. I'm afraid I don't recall any of the other names either - I wasn't there long enough for them to stick - but I think the chief Redcoat was someone called Cathy, whose evening strategy was that any Redcoat who had to buy his own drinks was a failure. I always had to buy my own drinks except for one evening when an above averagely friendly family took pity on me. That was the day before I left.

All the same it was an experience, if only to find what I really could not do.

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