The Best & Worst of Times: You will love it there, she said: Willy Bauer talks to Danny Danziger

I had worked in Geneva and Lausanne, and was getting on extremely well, but I never wanted to be just a little chap somewhere in a little town on the Continent. I realised you needed to speak English if you wanted to get on. And I met a lady who said: 'I know the manager of the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne, he will find you a job, and Eastbourne is wonderful.' She assured me: 'Sunny Eastbourne, you would love it there.'

And so eventually a job was sorted out, and I arrived at Heathrow in February. It was absolutely horrific weather, the worst weather I had ever seen.

But I thought, well, it doesn't matter because I'm going to sunny Eastbourne - south of England, south of France, it will be lovely. And I sat on that train for an hour and a half, and I thought, only 20 minutes to go, where's the sun? And I arrived in Eastbourne, and it could not have been worse.

Anyway, I took a taxi to the Grand Hotel, and the porters greeted me and took my luggage to reception, who couldn't find my name on the arrival list. So I gave them my letter of appointment . . . and I then had to take my luggage out myself, and go all the way around the building to the staff entrance.

They had found a room for me in the basement. We went through long, dark, horrible corridors where the works department was situated, past the carpenters' and the plumbers' shops, and there was a little room with a broken window, very cold - the wind was howling inside, and they said, 'That is your room.' It was dreadful, really, and I felt sure there must be rats around.

I was a commis waiter, Hoovering the floors, filling the salts and peppers, cleaning silver and bringing the food from the kitchen, all the real menial jobs. I was paid pounds 3.2s. 6d a week.

But whatever they asked of me I did not mind doing because I wanted to learn the language, and I knew I wasn't going to be a waiter for the rest of my life.

I loved Eastbourne. Everything was so nice and clean, the gardens along the seafront looked fantastic. The Promenade - from the Cumberland Hotel up past the Cavendish and the Grand, and then up to Beachy Head - was fantastic, wonderful.

I had not seen the sea before I came to England. It made a tremendous impression on me, I would watch it for hours.

In those days the Grand was a great five-star hotel. It was enormously busy, 400 or 500 people would come for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it was overwhelming. I was terribly proud to work there.

There was a dinner dance every Saturday night, and people arrived in their big Rolls-Royces, dressed up in dinner jackets and beautiful dresses. You could see a certain class of person at Eastbourne then, and you knew you were dealing with the best.

I was approached by the Cavendish, also a five-star hotel, and they employed me, and I became head wine butler within a month, and my salary went up to pounds 7 a week.

In my spare time I studied English with a retired colonel, until I met the person who managed to achieve more than anyone else - my girlfriend, who became my wife. I became very friendly with her family - except at first her father, who didn't want his daughter going out with a waiter, but he then came round as well.

And I became very fond of them, and, in fact, when my mother died, their home became like my second home.

My mother had been ill long before, she had badly damaged kidneys, and her life was full of pain. I wanted to be there for my mother, and look after her, I wanted to do that, my mother was everything to me. But I fell in love with a woman, and her family was very nice, so I had a family over here.

When I think back now, I can remember the look in my mother's eyes when she took me to the airport in Stuttgart, and I left for England, because I was her favourite son. And I left her, despite the fact I knew she was ill. It's unbelievable how cruel children can be.

I see today I was very selfish to go away.

Willy Bauer, former managing director of the Savoy, is chief executive of the Wentworth Club.

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

    £13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

    Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

    £19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

    £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

    Recruitment Genius: Developer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future