Hello, my name is Remington Trueblood, but please, call me Remi. It is a great pleasure to be here today as your host for this wonderful event. For those of you who may not know me, I currently reside in New York City in a lovely penthouse apartment that I share with a certain handsome detective. I am also the proprietor of The Purple Rose Tea House in Manhattan. Three years ago, in 1932, I departed for America from my family’s estate in London, and although there has been much hardship and heartache since, there has also been great success and happiness, with some adventure and dare I say, romance, along the way.
Ah, but I’m not here to talk to you about my life in New York, nor London for that matter. I’m here to chat a little about my birthplace, the market town of Wokingham. We didn’t live there long, but it still holds some of my fondest childhood memories.
Despite being born into a life of privilege, my childhood was not a carefree one. I am the oldest of three brothers, though that has not always been the case. As difficult as it had been, it became even more so with the loss of our oldest brother, Everett, to the war. My father had lost his heir and I was regarded as a very poor substitute. My mother took to having cocktails with breakfast, and my baby brother Chester–only two years old at the time, was left in our nanny’s care so often, he couldn’t understand why she insisted she wasn’t his mother.
When I think of my childhood, I think of the one person who made it all bearable, and at times even wonderful. My youngest brother Chester, or Chess as I have always called him, as he had a habit of wreaking havoc upon my chess sets and did his best to either ingest the pieces, hide them so that no living soul could ever find them again, or leave them in the most unfortunate of places, such as my food, in my shoes, or in my tea. I did attempt to teach him to play, but he refused to give up his pieces, and after I took his knight one day–resulting in him crying over the loss of his”‘horsey” for over an hour, I quickly decided it best to give up on that particular venture. After that, he always carried his “horsies” with him. Also, any set that entered the house was quickly relieved of its equestrian friends, much to my father’s frustration. He never did discover who was making away with them.
Chess and I were inseparable, and every night, he would sneak out of his bedroom and end up crawling into bed with me, usually under the guise of having seen a ghost or some such tale. I knew he simply felt lonely, and truth be told, having him close made me feel less lonely myself. Of course, it did result in my having to tell him a story before he would agree to so much as close his eyes, but I didn’t mind. And yes, my tale always had to include a horsey.
I remember very clearly the summers of my adolescence, where Chess and I would get up before the rest of the household and sneak out with whatever food we had managed to pilfer from the kitchen without anyone taking note, and head for Langborough Recreation Park. There we would have a grand picnic and pretend we were on a quest. After lunch, we would begin the arduous task of slaying dragons. Chess would scramble into the shrubbery to find us our swords and then we would embark on a great adventure. I–being older by five years, had the grand honor of being King Arthur. Chess would be my most valiant knight, Sir Lancelot. At least until Sir Lancelot’s feet began to ache and he started to get a bit cranky. Then I was demoted to the role of noble steed, forced to carry his lordship on my shoulders. I was fortunate that Chess had always been rather small for his age.
We would then make our way to Denmark Street, to the Teas and Refreshment shop which had been run by two lovely sisters at the time. They simply adored us, especially Chess with his cherub face. By the age of ten, the little scoundrel knew how to use those big blue eyes and pink cheeks to his advantage, scoring us tea trays filled with all manner of cakes and sweets. As my father did not approve of such frivolous nonsense, we looked forward to visiting with the sisters. My favorite was always scones with clotted cream and strawberry compote. Chess’ favorite was sticky toffee pudding and anything with chocolate. By the end I could barely sit still and Chess was bouncing off the furniture. It did give us the energy we needed to run down to The Wokingham Picture Palace–Wokingham’s first picture cinema, and where most of my fondest memories with Chess took place.
That was our favorite place to hide away from our family, especially on Saturday afternoons. We would pay sixpence each and sit in one of the middle rows, swept away by the funny little violinist and the pianist whose music would add drama to whatever picture we were watching. Usually it was a motion picture about a cowboy. Chess’ favorite. I had always been more partial to Sherlock Holmes myself. Chess especially enjoyed the walls of the auditorium which were painted with jungle scenes and monkeys. We would huddle together in awe of the screen and the moving picture.
We went so often that the staff knew who we were, and thanks to Chess, they would bring us treats. Sometimes, they would even let us stay and watch a film again, or stay for the next. They knew who we were, and unfortunately knew our father, which worked to our advantage actually, because they understood our reluctance to go home. So they let us stay and even played music for us.