The Rail Holiday Maker
Confessions of a Hotel Inspector #2
“Oh….erm….are you sure you have definitely booked in for tonight?”
The hotel manager was flustered on the phone. This was Sunday, after all, and I normally stayed on Mondays. I was stood outside the hotel’s closed up reception with no sign of life inside. I won’t name the hotel as it still exists and despite its little, let’s say, idiosyncrasies, they are nice people and I enjoyed a prolonged period staying there one night a week during a long-term project.
It’s a grand looking building on the edge of town, an old manor house with a 1970s built annexe, pub and leisure club. After my former employer had initially plonked me at the cheapest B&B they could find, a mile away from any pub or eaterie, without including breakfast to save money (I suppose that makes it a B?), the following year’s success allowed me to go up in the world. With around thirty bedrooms and facilities on-site it had sounded perfect. And I would get breakfast too!
The first time I stayed there I rocked through the craters in the car park and rocked up to reception, only to find it closed. I found out that the hotel’s very few guests entered through the pub to check in at the bar. When I first went through to the pool, part of an efficient leisure club that had seen better days but mostly still functioned, the attendant was watching ‘The Hotel Inspector’ with the very watchable Alex Polizzi. The whole premise of the show is to rescue failing hotels from the brink. Having seen my room, only one of two occupied that night, with its 1980s patterned carpet, thin yellow curtains, dusty lampshade and singing plumbing in the bathroom, I had a little chuckle to myself at the irony.
But this wasn’t the first stay. God knows, despite its faults I must have loved that place so much that I stayed every week for nearly three years, often the only guest amidst all the unsold rooms and with a breakfast service seemingly just for me. No, this was a Sunday night though, a break from the norm which clearly had thrown into disarray the hotel’s schedule of mostly having one guest a week, but arriving on a Monday night. The manager looked perturbed when he arrived in person to open up.
“Which room do you want? Take your pick.”
I opted for my favourite room 21, a huge bedroom with creaky floorboards and a ceramic teddy bear toilet brush holder, but with the advantage of a fully working shower.
“I’m afraid the kitchen is closed on Sundays and so are the pool and gym. The pub is open though and we’ll be open until late. If you need anything, I’ll be on the bar. It’s just me here today. Oh……will you be needing breakfast tomorrow morning and, if so, what time?”
I could see him grimacing at this point and so asked whether, having run the bar until closing time, the manager would also be forced to get up for breakfast duty for his unexpected sole guest? When he nodded sheepishly I offered to make my own breakfast if he would show me where everything was in the hotel’s kitchen.
“Are you sure? Okay, go on then.”
So there you have it. I’ve stayed in hundreds of hotels over the years, checking them out for customers. This particular one, for very obvious reasons, I would only reserve for myself, but at 7am the following morning I trotted into a hotel kitchen to make some toast, cereal and a cup of coffee, sat down to eat it in the breakfast room, then dutifully returned to the kitchen to wash my pots. At that point the housekeeper arrived and caught me in the act with the tea towel.
“What the hell are you doing in here?! You’re a paying guest! This is a hotel! You shouldn’t have to make your own breakfast!”