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The Wrong Room

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(cropped for new group)“Well, it looks like you’ve got a disabled room, sir.” The man behind the hotel reception desk in Nottingham gave a weak smile, and I could only imagine the internal jokes that were racing through his mind. “You don’t look disabled…”

Strangely, I was busy taking this as a compliment when, suddenly, his face brightened. ” Ah ha! Looks like we’ve had a cancellation on the top floor. That’s good news for you, sir, the disabled rooms aren’t good for normal users, and you would have had the worst one of the lot too, just by the main road and the reception area. Rubbish rooms, really. So, I’ll put you on the top floor. Hold on a sec.”
I held on. I was pleased at my room upgrade – they way he was talking about it, I had avoided an awful stay in a rubbish room.
And then… and then. The receptionist’s face slowly changed from pleasure to marked pain.
“Ummm…,” he uttered.
“Hmmm…,” he continued, looking increasingly red. “I may have made a mistake. The hotel’s fully booked. Other than, of course, that disabled room…”

And so it was that I started my stay in the very same room the receptionist had slagged off only seconds before. It turns out its not so bad at all – sure, the switches are low enough for leprechuans to have to stoop down for, and doors that you could fit a large fridge-freezer through. However, the bright side is that I have special pulleys at the side of the bed AND bath that can yank whenever I need anything.

Hmmm, I *am* feeling a bit peckish…

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A Trip To Leeds

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My work diary said it quite clearly. “Training in Leeds?!”, I exclaimed, hoping that a statement about the customary wet weather in that region had merely been misprinted. Nope, this was the real deal, and I dutifully trundled up there on Wednesday afternoon, eager to see what the city of Leeds had to offer.
Not a lot, I noted five hours later, as the aforementioned rain came swirling down past the Leeds football stadium. I veered off the M62 down towards the hotel, placed neatly between the motorway and a downtrodden and half-empty business park. Still, the staff seemed oblivious to their location, and emitted plenty of false smiles as they guided me up the labyrinthine stairs to my room.
My manager had warned me about their 12-table restaurant. I know I should have listened, but after 5 hours of motorway, I was in no fit state to drive around for an inviting place to eat. A full 15 minutes after I arrived, a waitress arrived to take my order. “I’d love to,” I replied, “just as soon as you manage to offer me a menu.” The rest of the meal was a comedy act, although the food was passable and the bar was exceedingly well stocked. I wandered up to my room, set my alarm and retired to bed.
As it turned out, there was no need for an alarm – the early morning fire alarm did just the job. After roll call, I decided a short walk to the office would do me good. I’d managed to get vague directions to the address – “Down the road, round the corner, it’s just about 300 yards away, easy to find”. So off I trotted.
A good 30 minutes later, I was most definitely lost. Even the local workers hadn’t heard of Royds Hall Road, and I desperately floundered against the growing flurry of rain. I upped the place.
The trouble, you see, was this. “Just down the road” takes on confusing proportions when you are met with two crossroads and a roundabout within 200 metres of your hotel – and as it turned out the correct road was the very last one I chose. I stormed in, 20 minutes late and soaked to the skin.
The rest of the day was filled with training, training and a bit more training. In fact, the following day was a spitting image, minus the extra mile of walking. The final night, in a moment of utter boredom, I took a trip to the local newsagent for something to munch and something to read. Being a little out of my way, I asked for directions. “Just down the road,” said the receptionist – I’d heard that before – “and it’s on the left, next to White Rose.” The White Rose, I pondered as I spooned myself into the car – a pub perhaps? Maybe a garage. I drove into the night.
After 5 minutes, I was sure I’d gone too far. A quick, slightly illegal u-turn, and I was travelling back. I passed Waitrose on my left. “Waitrose… Waitrose… I wonder…” And there it was. The small white newsagent sign flashed intermittently as the vagaries of the Leeds accent dawned on me. I was grinning all the way back. Little things, eh.
My trip back down was troubled by the usual M25 chaos, and I must admit I was glad to be home. The promised travelling in my role is beginning to take hold – and I must admit it all makes a pleasant change from the Guildford-Liss jaunt.

Will’s Wedding

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Ring ring.
“Morning Jac.”
“Whhhh?”
“It’s 7.30 in the morning.”
“Nggggh.”
“Is your smoke alarm beeping?”
“Whhhh…. no.”
“Right. Bye.”
“Bye.”
And so ended our stay in Fawlty Towers. It had begun so well. Michelle, Jac and I had been invited to Will‘s wedding in Raunds, Northamptonshire. It was an unusual invitation, as out of the three of us, I was the only one to have met him, and even then only twice. Still, we did manage to get the bride and groom together through the [email protected] internet dating website. Jac and I had each developed a spoof profile of ourselves, and I invited Will along for the ride. He, though, decided to do a real one (here it is), and promptly met his wife-to-be. We sensed a good time was in the offing, and accepted the invitation.

Will’s Wedding – Part 1, “The Build Up”
We set off from Jac’s house in Watford at 1.30 on Saturday afternoon, arriving at 3.15 in Rushden, well in time for the 4.30pm wedding. In our haste, we had discarded the idea of working out where the Rilton Hotel was, deciding that the area was probably only a small village and it would be easy enough to find.
Half an hour later, and with Jac’s expletives getting ever more forceful, we decided to stop at a local newsagents and ask directions. It turned out we had passed it twice in our search through the surprisingly large town. It was an impressive building, and as we swung into the car park, we noted the large sign outside – “Warm Welcome”, “Licensed Bar” and “Restaurant”. Jac, pleased at the reference to a bar, sped up the ramp.
The car park must have had over 70 spaces. Sadly, not one of them contained a car. “Ah.” muttered Jac, as it sunk in that the hotel may not be as popular as it claimed. After parking the car pointlessly neatly in the second space Jac chose, we wandered in to get the formalities done.
“Hello?” My voice echoed down the corridor. There seemed to be no-one around, and wrought-iron shutters blocked the entrance to the spirits bar and restaurant. We ventured down to the end of the corridor, where there appeared to be a reception area. That also had the shutters down. I went upstairs – not a soul. Michelle studied the reception board, and noted that there was a Bridal Suite. Jac’s eyes brightened. “Oh, thats kind,” he said, “I wonder what flavour?” His face slowly slumped as he revealed, “Oh, I thought you meant some kind of complimentary confectionary…” In an effort to redeem himself, he found a phone number taped to the reception area. He rang it. It turned out that the receptionist was at home, and asked if we could hang around for a couple of hours. We pointed out that the wedding was less than an hour away. “I’m on call, you see,” the receptionist said. We bartered. Finally, the best she could manage was 20 minutes. She turned up half an hour later.
In 10 minutes, we had changed into our finest clothes and were in the car, speeding down the motorway to the church.

Will’s Wedding – Part 2, “The Main Event”
The people of Northamptonshire are possibly the slowest drivers in the world. And Will’s wedding day was not the the best time to find that out. Constant cursing and more than a little swerving ensued for the next 15 minutes, before we somehow managed to find the designated car park, with 4 minutes to spare. As we parked up, I reached the last sentence on the sheet of directions: “This car park is approximately 5-10 minutes walk from the church.” More swearing. We ran to the church, and found the service already underway. Another curse passed Jac’s lips. As I opened the huge church door, the entire congregation turned round and stared at the naughty latecomers. I grinned inanely.
The wedding went smoothly, including the obigatory fainting of one of the bridesmaids. The hymns were well chosen, and Jac and I felt confident enough to barely glance at the words, recalling the full verses from our childhood church visits. On one hymn, we confidently finished the last verse on the page, put the songsheet down and looked around to see what would happen next. Much to our shock, the entire church carried on singing, and it took half a verse for Jac and I to find our place again.
After an hour, we wondered down to the reception. We had originally planned to make a dash for it after the ceremony, get changed, and be back in time for Will’s speech, which he promised would include a comical reference to Jac and I, at which point we would stand and curtsey. However, true to form, we completely missed that too. Our dash back to the hotel was at times a slow chug as Jac negotiated the infernally slow local drivers. Back at the reception, my initial huge disappointment was more than countered by 3 large bottles of pink champagne and two double Jack Daniels and cokes, which I was to rue the following day. Contrary to the previous events so far, the evening bash went very well, with Tom, the church usher and friend of 7 long years, providing much needed sordid information on the rest of the congregation. Jac made passing conversation with a rather well-endowed lady next to him. Half way through a particularly enlightening speech from him, the lady suddenly noticed the wedding cake being cut, and pieces being passed round. She yelled, “There’s cake!”. Sadly, Jac completely misheard, and started yelling for a person named Kate at the top of his voice. After we had stopped laughing at him, Jac made his excuses and left.
He finally found a particularly friendly girl towards the end of the night, who looked rather like Sinead O’Connor’s love child, but he fended her off. I managed to glean a taxi number off a Welsh lady at our table, and Michelle, being the only one still capable of speech (Jac: “Ah, a breash of freth air. Try saying THAT after five pints”), rang up. It turned out that it was a little old lady, who moonlighted as a taxi driver to make ends meet. During the whole of the first phonecall, she completely forgot to ask where we were going. When she phoned back and heard we were planning on going around 5 miles away, she took a deep breath and explained that it was further than she was willing to travel. I was frankly relieved. We finally managed to book a taxi, which we made Jac pay for while he was half asleep.

What we have learnt

  • Never assume that every town north of London is bound to be sparsely populated.
  • Always add 30 minutes to your driving time if you are due to be behind any driver from Northamptonshire.
  • When booking a hotel, always go with what you know. A Travelodge would in retrospect have been luxury, compared with the “warm welcome” we received at The Rilton.
  • Watford is the cheapest in the country for unleaded petrol.
  • Rilton Hotel sounds similar to the Hilton Hotel. That, however, is where the similarity ends.
  • There is nothing more annoying than an out-of-reach smoke alarm emitting a low battery warning every 30 seconds at 7.30 in the morning.
  • Drinking 3 bottles of pink champagne renders the drinker very ill for at least half of the following day.
  • There is something to be said for planning ahead.
  • Jac is incomprehensible before 8am.
  • Our snobbish theory that nothing works north of London turns out, in fact, to be correct.
  • There are more rivers named River Ouse in the United Kingdom that any other name.
  • Have I mentioned how slow they drive?

Finally, I’d like to thank Will, and congratulate him on his marriage. Even if we did miss the key moments…

First Day in a Hotel

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I spent my first night in an Oxfordshire hotel last night. It was an eery time, especially in the imposing manor that would be my home for 4 days. Sunday nights in hotels are apparently the quietest time, according to the receptionist and as I looked around, taking in the huge ornate drawing room and dark wood of the reception’s balcony, I hoped that I would find something to occupy my mind.
As it happens, I didn’t find anything remotely interesting, so I trundled off to the restaurant for my evening meal. It was pleasant enough, but once again the place was deserted – my only company was a couple of old age pensioners and a rather underworked waiter. The high point came during my main course, when, from the kitchen, the chef enjoyed possibly the largest sneeze I have ever heard, followed by an anguished cry: “Oh Christ, has anyone got a tissue?” I thanked god that my main meal was already on the table, and pitied the poor sods next to me as their meal came out seconds later.
As I watched the latest bombing on Iraq after I’d returned to my room, I began to feel a little isolated. My particular room block was as far as possible away from the main building, and I felt a little vulnerable, being one of only 5 residents in the hotel. As a particularly loud and devasting bomb was filmed landing in Baghdad, the lights suddenly went out. My entire room was in darkness, and it took a full five seconds for me to assume the worst – the Iraqi army had arrived in Oxfordshire. I scrambled to get my shoes on, and bumped my way out of the room. The whole place was in darkness, and as I reached reception, I found bunker mentality had already set in – the old dears were discussing the war, their entire lives, and demanding milk for their tea, which must have been luke warm at best. The manager informed us that this was the first test for the backup generator. It dawned on us that it had blatently failed. The imposing architecture of the building’s interior just looked plain scary, and for the next 30 minutes, we huddled in darkness. Finally, after one old girl regailed us with a ‘hilarious’ tale, the lights turned on again, and we tottered back.
And that was only my first day…