An earlier post on this weblog revealed my first summer working by the busy Bournemouth beach. To date I have worked as a seasonal seafront worker for Bournemouth Borough Council in three separate years: 2004, 2005 and 2006. This post I will concentrate on my return to the beach job in 2005. I returned to Best Break in April 2005, almost a year after I started working there during my first summer. I found it like a dream working by the beach and was clocking up loads of hours working in huts by the beach selling ice cream. When I started back in my second summer, Tom (Gareth Thomas), Nigel Halligan, Christian Matt (Matt James), John Vacher and Manager Matt (Matt Calkin) were are still there from the previous summer. It was like we had gone into hibernation in the winter! I had just completed my second attempt at first year on the Public Relations course at the university, and had been quite lazy the previous six months, by only working in Tesco (and Heathlands Hotel for a while), so now I was ready to work 60 hour weeks again, while enjoying myself of course!
One of the first days I started back was so hot and the beach was packed. As the summer season hadn’t started fully, we were quite low on staff, and the queues all day were rammed! I remember working with Julio Felipe, a quality Columbian guy who I want to meet again some day. That day we did nothing but serve serve serve. I think we had 7 members of staff on the whole seafront and took a lot more than £6,000 all in. Not that we would see any of the money apart from the usual 10 hours pay we would get from the shift. My housemate Jody Casey, also came back to work at the beach for the second summer, though this was to be Jody’s last on the beach, as he doesn’t tend to dwell on things like I do and he decided to move on, leaving Bournemouth for good in 2006. The job itself then, as in 2004, I was working mainly as an ice cream seller. A nice little job even on busy days. The official title was Seasonal Seafront Assistant and then Seasonal Seafront Supervisor.
By June 2005, we had many more new members of staff, plus some of the previous year’s hardcore party team were back in town, including Brazilian Renato (who would leave soon after). Those who returned from the previous year were Elena Machota, Javier Gonzalez, “Gary” Li Ning, Nacho Blanco, Roberto Rodriguez, Piotr Oczkowski and Francisco. We had some new English staff like Ben Paulley (rock star and Tottenham fan), Gary King (Bournemouth and Tottenham fan) and Charlie Messenger (a scummer [southampton fc] fan from Poole). It was good to have the same mix as the previous year, with nationalities from all over the world working in the “Best Break 2005 Team.”
On a typical day the seafront kiosks where we worked (the council owned quite a lot of them) would be open from 9 am until 9 pm during the summer. On wet days, we would close some of the places at 5 pm, or earlier. When there were special events on, this would vary with bikers days and race for life, we would open at 7 am, and on busy summer weekend nights, we started staying open till 4am as Bournemouth has a lively night life. Firework Fridays were also a dream. Bournemouth seafront would be rammed full on Friday nights and we would get madly busy in the main Best Break kiosk selling burgers, hot dogs and ice creams to the crowds awaiting the fireworks display, which I think were at 10 pm.
Having worked there the previous summer I was actually one of the “veterans” in the job and because of this I was promoted to Seasonal Supervisor for 6 weeks of the summer season. This meant more money which was great and a little bit of responsibility such as holding the key to the tills and closing down some of the kiosks at night. In such a job it was hard to remain popular amongst staff once you got promoted, but I managed this somehow. On busy hot days I used to sing songs in Best Break and tried to improve the English speaking within the Polish crowd, the songs don’t seem funny to an outsider but stuff such as “Alan Connell Alan”, “We need more rolls”, “We sell ice creams” became popular at work. Myself and Javier also prepared a special “Alan Connell Burger” button on the till which was actually just to open the till without having to put a payment through in the times where nobody had a key. All the international staff joined in the fun, and for a while it seemed that working life couldn’t get any better at that rate of pay, which was fairly underpaid for a busy beach based outlet in a popular resort in England.
So the banter was there and every single day was a pleasure. You could be talking communism with Chinese Gary in a busy mobile 2 beach outlet, you could be helping Ben Paulley to write another guitar drenched song for his rock band “The Waves”, you could be checking out the ladies with the enigmatic Massi, you could even flirt with the pretty Estonian shop assistant who worked on the pier (why she never properly wanted to date me, I’ll never know). Days were diverse. You would also be asked a ridiculous amount of lunatic questions by members of the public, of which current flat mate Mona states “Do you sell ice creams?” to be the epitomy of stupidity. For God’s Sake we work in an ice cream outlet by the beach!
It’s actually quite hard to put into words just how good the summer of 2005 in Best Break was. The days in work were inspired. The scenery looking out at the beach was great every day. Then there was the random football nights, I seem to remember one match at Kings Park Boscombe in June and one in Meyrick Park in August (a 2-2 draw in which I scored for the UK team v. Rest of World!). Then there were the nights out, the house parties, the dinner time pints, and the final beach party to top the summer off. Anyone that was there (and all those listed below) should know and remember how good it was to be a part of the beach team that year.
In Best Break I would normally perch myself on Till 4 shouting out orders to Burgers to Massi, Chips to Artur and Hot Dogs to Rafal. Rafal and Artur, two Polish lads took a while to grow on me, and once I got to know them, the craic was great. I have since been to visit them both in Warsaw. On busy days (and actually, most days in summer) we would also open Till 5 which would bang out yet more food orders. It was always a challenge to mix with all the different cultures, especially trying to get them all to understand not just English, but English in a Northern Irish accent. It would be like “here give us 2 burgers, 6 chips, 2 hot dogs. With onions, without cheese. The sauce is there. Who’s next?” If you bought a cheeseburger on Bournemouth beach in 2005, then 6 times out of 7 it was me who sold you it, or cooked it…
During the six month summer season (I actually worked from April – October, 7 months) I also moved house twice. At the start I was traipsing into work from the edge of town, at Wallisdown, in the middle I was sharing with Jody in Lansdowne and by the summer’s end I had moved into a new place at Ensbury Park, on the edge of town. The first house was like a mansion at Alton Road, we called it Alton Towers. Our farewell to that house was a massive beach staff house party where we invited everyone from Best Break, there must have been about 30 of us there at mine and Jody’s, where the beer, wine, cocktails and Polish Zubrowka flowed.
The previous summer had seen a different crowd in Best Break enjoy some summer romances, such as Jody and Sally, Carlos and Christine, Monika and Barry. This summer continued this sort of fashion, with Gary King and Ania, Charlie and Kamila (some kind of Royal link in there, we thought) and no doubt some other in-flirting amongst the staff. I was never that lucky, either that or I didn’t want to date or sleep with any one at work. Well maybe I did like Sahra and she wouldn’t have me. She was married, mind you…
There were a lot of Polish staff in 2005, Poland had just entered the EU I recall, and the job opportunities were there for the people to come to England, and Bournemouth was a popular place for them. Then there was the delightful young Yosmer. A Venezuelean girl with that whole Latino look, the obvious charm, Latino dancing and a great sense of humour and understanding of English. Most of these people come and go out of our lives, as everybody moves on. I haven’t seemed to move on yet. I’m still in Bournemouth, I still go down to the beach and twice this year I have had the offer of going back to Best Break to work again. As recently as yesterday I could have been back in my old place of work. I had called into Best Break (or the “Number One Stores” which is the offices for Best Break) with Mona, who is back working in Best Break now, back from Germany for the summer and living with me. I first met Mona in Best Break in 2004. Life goes full circle sometimes.
So if working there was so good, and so much fun, how come I didn’t go back? Well I did in 2006, before I moved to London, then in 2007 I went travelling in the summer so missed the opportunity and right now I work in the Pavilion Theatre and for Wightlink on ferry boats, so my hands are tied as it is. I don’t rule out a return to those days. Dreaming ourselves away together on a Bournemouth beach and selling 99s, which were only called that because it was the 99th variety of Cadbury’s. They were never 99p, that’s just a myth. In 2005 they were priced as follows:
Small cone – 70 p
Small cone and flake – 90 p
Large cone – £1.10
Large cone and flake – £1.30 (a 99″)
I started off shit at pulling the old Mr. Softee’s in 2004 to becoming the king of them by 2005. I could hold 8 in one hand, and at one point I served a customer 16 in one go (8 on each hand). I could also make the highest Mr. Softee in Best Break. We often had competitions and I always won. You’ll see examples of some of my Mr. Softee’s on the photos on here, but they don’t do it justice. I could mix up big ones, the key was in how you build the base. I could easily make a Mr. Softee one metre high. Sometimes I got arrogant and did this in front of kids, they loved it!
The summer of 2005 came and went in a blink of an eye, and I’m really proud to say that I still keep in touch with a load of those people I worked with. Three of the Polish guys I have met in Warsaw and invited to Belfast in 2009 (Piotr, Artur and Rafal). Four of the English lads I am meeting up with soon for a pinting session, and I still work with Nigel, Remek and Ania at the Pavilion Theatre. The others will be hanging around somewhere. They were great times. If you were there, get in touch with me or put a comment up…
The Best Break Team, Class of 2005:
England – Matt Calkin (Manager Matt), Nigel Halligan, Matt James (Christian Matt), Gary King, Charlie Messenger, John Vacher, Ben Paulley, Jody Casey.
Wales – Tom.
Angola – Roberto Monteiro.
Venezuela – Yosmer Velazquez.
Brazil – Renato, Sahra Fernanda, Alessandra Vollrath, Lucas.
China – “Danny” Li Ting, “Chinese Gary” Li Ning, “William” Wei Chen.
Poland – Rafal Kowalczyk, Artur Gorecki, Peter Kay, Piotr Oczkowski, Lucas, Polish Tom, Marta Milczarek, Ania K, Kamila Piorowska, Remek, Zuzia, Robert and Magdalena Malinowska.
Spain – Nacho Blanco, Roberto Rodriguez, Elena Machota, Javier Gonzalez, Rueben, Francisco.
Belgium – Massi.
Colombia – Julio Fillippe.
Northern Ireland – Jonny Blair.
(Apologies to those I’ve left out)
Nights out we had:
Bowling in Branksome, then Walkabout
House Party at Mine and Jodys in Alton Road
House Party at Kamilas in town centre
Beach party at the summer’s end on the main beach
Jobs I Did – Seasonal Supervisor, Pier cafe tidier, seafront assistant, ice cream seller, hot food vendor, tea and coffee seller.
Places I Worked – Best Break (main building by beach), Mobile 2, Mobile 3, Mobile 4 (Beach kiosks), The Trailer, The Buggy, West Beach Kiosk (Also known as “Mona Beach”, inspired by my friend Mona who loved working there!), The Pier Cafe.
Duration of Job – April – October 2005.