We’ve been travelling around a lot these last few weeks, which is very unusual for us these days. We tend to be home birds nowadays. You’ll have seen the posting on the trip to Italy but either side of that we had trips to the Mumbles in South Wales and to Wilmslow in Cheshire to share 60th and 65th birthday do’s with some of our very oldest pals from Uni and Arnside. It still feels bloody odd to be invited to parties like this and know that we’re not going to one of our parents’ events but actually are peer guests.
Fact is we’re oldies, we’re mouldies, we’re slowly getting used to it. We had the best of times seeing our old friends L&P and V&R (and via them A&L) and in between squeezed in a visit to us from our great mates S&M from the US on the last leg of their European tour. It’s so nice to touch base with people you trust and love from 40 years+ of true relationship. It’s not necessary to spend every 5 minutes with them but even though catch ups are intermittent, they never let you down and remain giving. That’s the mark of true friendship.
Anyway this posting is about places not people because in travelling out west and up north we stayed in a couple of interesting local hotels. They weren’t especially cheap but they were…. interesting. By which I mean mostly rubbish. It staggers me how hoteliers get it wrong in this country. Do they not watch Four In A Bed or The Hotel Inspector and take notes? Our place in Wales purported to be quite distinctive and exclusive and it was cack. The in-room toilet/shower room was the strangest open-topped corner feature which meant that all sounds, smells and steaminess invaded the bedroom. Nice. The breakfast had to be seen to be believed – it consisted of the cheapest products fried in gallons of fat. It was literally dripping off the fried mushrooms and eggs. The bacon was watery and undercooked. The sausages were bright orange and tasted like radioactive carrot.
In the most recent hotel our ground floor view was of a 10′ wooden fence no more than 2′ from the window offering less than stunning views of Alderley Edge, and the bathroom was adapted for disabled use. So whilst the toilets had handy rails and things the sink and bath were both set 24” from the floor which made shaving challenging, and the bath shallow. The shower head sprang into life like a crazed snake when put on which meant we started the day with a swamped bathroom floor and soaked towels. Sigh.
There was no sign saying, not unreasonably, beware the shower head is wild and uncontrollable when switched on but there was a sign on the wall explaining how the bath plug worked. Eh…? It was one of those swivel plugs that acts like a valve. Press on one side and the valve opened to let the water out; press down again and the gap would be shut by the plug. Is it just me but why would anybody, even with a disability, need to have the workings of a plug explained? Isn’t it intuitive? Can they seriously have had loads of calls from frustrated guests asking reception to send up a man to demonstrate how the plug works? Really? In 2015? I just can’t believe it. Nor do I believe hotel managers ever actually spend time in their rooms checking out the experience.
We headed for the breakfast room. It was your traditional full English on the menu and we ordered it and both left the black pudding, as you do. It was actually rather good and nicely cooked. But it was interesting to hear the guy and his wife, who were very northern, on the next table order their breakfasts. I’ll have the full English he said boldly before rather meekly asking whether the chef could prepare it whilst possibly leaving off the hash brown, black pudding, beans, sausages, tomatoes, fried bread and mushrooms? So he didn’t want anything like the full monty. Basically he wanted just the bacon and eggs though he couldn’t make up his mind which type of eggs he wanted. Jeez, how hard can it be? Why not just specify bacon & eggs, done his favourite way? His wife did the same thing and just ended up with the bacon. Could she have some toast with that she asked. I guess she just wanted a bacon butty. There’s a machine for making toast the waiter said. Oh I’ll just leave it then she said. What, you couldn’t be bothered to put some bread in the toaster? I love my northern roots but there are times when I think my compatriots could be, well, more self-assured and original. Isn’t it just easier to say what you do want rather than what you don’t want? And maybe take some responsibility. Call me an old-fashioned nouveau southern revisionist.
Ah well. It was the start of a very long day as it turned out. We had to divert to Blackpool as my father had been taken into hospital overnight – he’d caught an infection and collapsed but is recovering well now, thankfully. We then went to Carol’s sister for a pre-planned visit and then spent 6 hours on 4 different motorways and 5 major A-roads whilst checking out the diverting views of Warrington, Nantwich, Stoke, St Albans and Hounslow in a vain attempt to avoid the traffic jams caused by vehicles spilling out of Silverstone, with its record crowds. There’s a biter sweet irony in listening on the radio to how fast Lewis Hamilton was going round Copse corner in his pursuit of Felipe Massa when you’re sat stationary in a 15 mile traffic jam caused by 140,000 of his fans queuing to get in and out of the most inaccessible of racing circuits. We got home at 8.30 pm. It’s days like this that make you secretly hate Bernie Ecclestone and his inability to tackle obvious issues. Was he ever a hotelier? I wish we’d stayed up north for one more of these delicacies….
Without the black pudding perhaps…..