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Coconut Grove

Firstly, sorry for the delay in this next instalment!

Ok, so I ended the last blog with death, so I will start this one with the depressing stuff and hopefully move on to something more light-hearted.

As I mention last time, I spent a great deal of time with my Grandparent’s. They took care of me most Saturday nights while my parents would work in the restaurant. One of the last memories I have of them is watching a pirate copy of ET, I must have been 7 or 8 at the time and I remember crying inconsolably pretty much the whole way through! It was not long after when my Grandma passed away from a stroke. I remember it was a Sunday afternoon and my mum got a call from my Granddad, I remember going to their house and the undertaker being there. All the curtains were still drawn in the living room, it was a very sombre moment. A few day later my Granddad had a fall in the kitchen and had a nasty cut to his head and was taken to hospital by ambulance. I recall going to visit him in the ward at Chappel Allerton Hospital. He was very frail and had not been eating since loosing his wife. A few days later he passed away, I do not recall there was anything specific that caused his death, and everyone said he had died of a broken heart. I cannot imagine what this was like for my mum, losing bother parents within two weeks of each other, a very sad moment in time that is for sure.

It was around this time when my parents started looking for a new location for their next restaurant / nightclub venture. Now a little older I have many more memories from this particular location. The spot they chose was in the Grand Arcade and Lower Merrion Street. It was previously Blacks Camping store and it was massive. It was a kid’s playground heaven and an excellent spot for hide and seek. I helped with the building work, taking out rubbish to the tip, hammering in nails (badly) and painting walls. I recall standing of some wood in the skip with a nail sticking up that went straight in my foot, this required a hospital trip and a tetanus injection!

I absolutely loved this place; it was called Coconut Grove. Once the renovations were complete it looked amazing. There were 3 levels with a coffee shop in the arcade side of the building, a restaurant in the main ground floor area then upstairs was a function area with a balcony that overlooked the restaurant. That balcony became an iconic location for many clubbers a few years later but I will get to that another time. Then in the basement was Ricky’s nightclub, yet another place for me to practice my new moves. I had become obsessed with body popping and break dancing and having the whole dance floor to my self every day was fantastic. My dad had brought Steve Luigi over to the new club to be the DJ.

I had so many jobs in the restaurant, I worked in the coffee shop on a Saturday then on an evening I would either waitress or work in the kitchen on starters or pizzas. I had my own miniature uniforms depending on the job, even had a little chef’s jacket and hat. I feel unbelievably lucky to have all these experiences.

The restaurant was very successful, and my parents decided after almost 10 years of living at Marlborough Grange they would buy their own place. We moved into an apartment at Lakeview Court in Roundhay Park. These were quiet swanky apartments right on the edge of the park overlooking the lake at the bottom of the hill. It turned out the Jimmy Savile lived in the block and we would often see him as we were coming and going, and he would stop for a chat. I was petrified of him, this big, larger than life character with his gold chains and cigars. And it turned out I had good reason to be petrified of him, though thankfully not from any personal experiences! There were wire mesh storage cages under the apartments and I kept my BMX in ours. I could see in Jimmy’s cage and he had a huge portrait of himself in there, it was the creepiest thing and I would run past it when getting my bike.

My mum was now expecting child number 2! My days of being an only child were coming to an end and I was so excited about getting a baby brother or sister.

I had taken up dance classes, break dancing and body popping classes that is, at Step Up Studios on Street Lane. I would go every Saturday and wait in the entrance with all the girls getting ready for their jazz class in legwarmers and leotards then I’d walk through with the boys to the little studio at the back learning how to perfect the windmill, back spins, caterpillar etc. I have always been a tomboy, and nothing changes really as I go through life, you will see every job (well almost) I’ve had is in male dominated industries. After Dance class I would head to the restaurant to do a few hours in the café before heading to Tiffanies nightclub in the Merrion Centre for the Saturday afternoon under 18s disco. Here I would show off my new break dancing skills!

Around the same time, I began piano lessons. I had these in the function area of the restaurant, upstairs. My piano teacher loved coming there as it was the only lesson she had where the student had a grand piano.

My parents put on some amazing artists at Coconut Grove, mainly in the Jazz space. I was fortunate enough to see people like Acker Bilk and George Melly play but the best by far was Ronnie Scott. It was Sunday September 29 1985, I know exactly what the date was as it was the night my brother was born! We were all ready to go for the show and on the way to the restaurant my mum went into labour. They dropped my off at the restaurant and headed to the hospital. I sat and enjoyed a lovely meal (aged 10) while watching Ronnie Scott play and desperately awaiting news on the baby’s arrival. The show finished and there was still no news. I was sat on the little stage at the piano with Ronnie showing me how to play a tune, I will never forget that moment. I was still there with Ronnie when news of my baby brother’s arrival came. What an amazing night that was!

Top - me with Alan the doorman, I'm wearing my little waiters outfit and in the background is Sailor the restaurant Parrot!

Middle - my baby brother in a car I made for him from a cardboard box

Bottom - me with my dad and our Jeep

Last - me outside Coconut Grove

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