I had two magical maiden aunts, Auntie Jo and Auntie Flo. When my grandparents died they decided to move to Devon and open a very high class gift shop, Variety Fayre in Middle Street, Brixham, South Devon.
They couldn't have done anything better for their one nephew John and two nieces Gillian and me. Brixham at that time was a small picturesque working fishing village in Torbay and was a magical place for any child. Children had much more freedom than they have today and the three of us were allowed more or less carte blanche to do whatever we wanted. It was very much Swallows and Amazons.
The shop was a treasure house of beautiful things, lovely jumpers which became my trade mark and helped me at auditions as they were so outstanding, oil paintings by local artists and an Aladdin's cave of costume and real jewelry. I still love these pretty things today.
At first we were not allowed to serve in the shop so for five years we had to help in the background. I loved organizing the jewelry and counting the takings at the end of the day. This took place late at night as the shop closed at 9 pm. The first time we took £100 Auntie Flo bought us all a strawberry milk shake. I used to do the banking too at the age of 13.
The shop had been a fisherman's cottage and was tiny. It was built into the side of a cliff and you could see the cliff face through the drawing room window.The kitchen was just a sink and a stove. My aunts did not go in for cooking. It was virtually falling down but it was magic to live in. The gas geyser in the bath room would burn eyebrows off whenever we needed a bath.
I spent every Easter and Summer holidays here and loved every minute. It was and still is my idea of heaven. Sometimes I went in October when Brixham was empty and the wind whistled down the street. I loved this empty time too.
|Janette Miller in garden Brixham 1959|
How my aunts put up with the three of us during this busy time I shall never know as the three of us could be difficult. They were such troopers and the most perfect maiden aunts ever.