But back then in the late 1970s, there was sufficient of the old Bournemouth left out of season for its residual elegance to come through, even at times for the thing that had first attracted Tregonwell, the natural beauty of the place, to come through. On a cold clear winter morning, you could actually see the line ofBournemouth Bay. This huge natural harbour was a perfect curve of land. At beach level it was possible to see the long shore drift shapes of the sand at low tide, try and imagine the shape of the beach without the groans, wonder which hotels would have come down the cliff by now without human intervention. The beach was definitely a piece of scenery created by the local council. Every few years an enormous dredger would be deposited in the bay and this would force sand from several miles out to shore up the sand deposits held in place by he stone and metal groans. This ensured the claim of miles of golden sandy beaches remained true for a few more years. At these moments of the year it was possible to walk or cycle from Southbourne to Boscombe and only meet two other people who were out walking their dogs or taking a run. In winter storms you could stand on the prom and holding the rail tightly be buffeted by the wind and soaked by the waves.Bournemouthin winter was a great place to go through the late teens. Filled with adolescence angst, fuelled by a misreading of my tattered penguin special editions of Sartre and Camus, clothed in my overcoat, I would walk along the front uniquely understanding the elemental forces of nature around me. Or crouch beside a beach hut trying to light a cigarette as the wind blew in hard on stormy nights. It was essential to walk, read and smoke all at the same time and even in the driving rain.
When I was younger than this Bournemouthwas also a great place to be because of the simple fun of the beach, the proximity of the New Forest and the sense of safety. Much of this quality of life has disappeared from the town now. Drug, crime, drink infested, Bournemouth in the summer resembles one of the cheap resorts of Southern Spain and seems to have been encouraged as a matter of policy to do so. In the heyday of Annette’s Patisserie it remained the kind of town you would choose to bring a family up in. After our first few shops were opened, the business grew rapidly. We opened more of our own shops and increased our number of wholesale customers. Eventually we outgrew Kimberley Road and moved into a purpose built unit on an industrial estate called Elliot Road. At its peak the area covered by the customers of Annette’s Patisseries and its associated companies stretched from Rufus’s Stone outside Ringwood in Hampshire in the East to Wareham in Dorset in the west – with some bigger clients further afield.
The pressure of running the business was great. The economy of the area that the bakery served was based on the money spent by people taking holidays at the beach and camping in theNew Forest. There was some light industry around Poole and a growing number of corporate headquarters in Bournemouth and the surrounding area. But overall, tourism remained, as it had been since 1860s, the heart of the local economy. Feeding this rapidly expanding and broadly prosperous area of outstanding natural beauty required considerable nerve because the income streams were so uneven over the year and it was anyway a struggle to get by on the tight margins that baked goods offered. The three rich seasons were nicely spaced across the year but depressingly short. Christmas and Easter were busy in all bakeries but the third season was the summer and that only happened at the seaside.
The fact that the bakery was at the seaside obviously made a difference to its character and not just the commercial rhythm of the year. The summer season was basically the six weeks of the school summer holidays, in particular the two weeks in August when the factories in the north of England traditionally closed and entire work forces came to the seaside. Though the rise of the foreign package holiday had undoubtedly hit trade, a good proportion of these workers were still, in 1970s and early 1980s, visiting the coastal resorts ofEngland.Bournemouthwas a top destination, still a little bit posher than the resorts in the North and East of England. For these six weeks of the summer the population of the area increased massively and the holiday parks – huge encampments of tents and caravans – filled to over flowing. Being a baker on the coast was, for this short space of time, a licence to print money.