Apart from helping my mother fruit-picking as a child, the first paid work I did was as a waitress at the Cavendish Hotel, Gt Yarmouth during the summer I left school. The job involved living in digs for the season, and I remember the day my mum dropped me off in her little powder-blue Mini. I was quickly taken under the wings of a group of lovely Irish waitresses who had spent many summers in Yarmouth, followed by winters at the Bird's Eye packing plant in Lowestoft. They took me out for coffee, and I cried. They thought I was homesick. But I had been at boarding school for 6 years and had never cried over that, since it had been a relief to get away from my quarrelling parents. I just left those kind women under their misapprehension because it was easier than trying to explain what I barely understood myself. I guess it was the realisation that childhood was over, and I had to somehow make my own way in the world.
The work itself was quite physically demanding, working in the basement dining room and on your feet all day. I had some of my corners knocked off by jokey Northern holidaymakers and hard-bitten kitchen staff alike. But I made friends with a sweet girl whose father sold doughnuts on the seafront; I got to see 60s 'names' in the seaside shows – The Fortunes, The Hollies, Dave Berry; Mods on Lambrettas invaded the town one weekend; I dyed my hair red for a laugh; and I spent the summer under the 'assumed name' of Liz, since another waitress already bore the same name as me. Nevertheless I was glad when I managed to gain a position as a clerk at the East Anglian Trustee Savings Bank by that October, and was securely employed for the next 5 years.