Chapter Number 13
Another Bank Holiday weekend arrived and this time I was ready for it. All the bedrooms were prepared, and all the new crockery and cutlery set out ready for breakfast in the dining room. During the morning Tristan and Julian called in to thank me for visiting them with my advice. They had taken it on board about the cookery and pottery classes, and the possible mess that this could make in their beautiful place, and instead decided to advertise special “Spank Holiday Weekends” which they could do at any time.
They were thinking of advertising it as a place where all the smart-arses could come for a paddle. I wasn’t too sure about it myself, but they were insistent they had hit on a winning formula and were quite excited about it, even demanding I should attend their first event. I don’t think so, somehow.
A steady trickle of telephone bookings came in during the week and by Thursday afternoon I was fully booked for the Saturday, but just for the Saturday. They were all only for the one night, and it soon dawned on me that having accepted all these one night bookings I had lost out on any following calls that might be for two or more nights. Never mind, I thought, at least I was full for a night and that might just about cover my loan repayments and other outgoings for the week.
I wasn’t over-enthusiastic about the booking for the group of fourteen girls, and I wondered how they would fit in. Would my place be of the right quality and style for them? I did explain to the woman making the booking that there was no bar. She had sounded very refined, replying it would not be a problem as the young ladies may well have a drink out. It was one of the girl's birthday, and she was also getting married the following week.
The woman, who had sounded very sweet - almost apologetic for disturbing me, divulged that all the young ladies worked together at a financial institution in the City of London. How nice, I thought. It would be brill to have some quality guests in.
A few more gay and straight couples and a group of guys coming for the football match were booked in the rest of the rooms, so I was looking forward to taking some real money that Saturday. Lance rushed around in the morning, vacuuming and dusting the rooms before changing out of his dress prior to the first ones arriving. It was the various couples who arrived first and they all seemed happy with their rooms and soon settled in. The gay guys commented on what a nice job I had made of the place, as they went out to visit the bars. They turned out to be a group as well, but had all booked separately.
Then the group of girls arrived and it was great to see this long line of eager chattering young females queuing outside the door waiting as one by one I took their payments, issued them with their keys, and Lance showed them to their rooms.
The eleventh one to book in said, “Sorry, darling. Three of us couldn't make it.”
“Who’s paying for their room?” I asked.
“Well, we are all paying individually. It was the mother of one of those not coming who made the bookings, so I don’t know, darling.”
Damn! I could have let that room if I had known. Perhaps I should get one of those credit card machines that all the other hoteliers had, then I could take a deposit when someone books, I thought.
The group of guys here for the football match arrived in a mini-bus and I watched with some trepidation as they spewed out of it. Clearly they had all had one or two too many sherbets on the way here. It was a very noisy check in, and I had to remind them about not disturbing the young ladies in the house. But at that it got even noisier, and some very ribald and course remarks became part of their banter.
Two of the said ladies then chose that moment to appear at the top of the stairs, and it seemed they were more than happy to join in with the exchanges of some very suggestive remarks, even proposing they all met up later that evening. It was a arrangement that rallied a loud cheer from the guys.
During the rest of the afternoon I could hear them all coming and going, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves and getting along noisily with each other - even the gay and straight couples in house - so I decided to try and relax whilst joyously counting the money I had taken. It really was a strange feeling to suddenly have my house almost full with all these people, and I hoped I would be able to cope with it, especially the many breakfasts.
Strangely, by 10pm the house was deserted, and I sat wondering what time everyone would be coming back. Even Lance had gone out to experience the local transvestite club for the first time - and alone. He took a holdall with him as he was he was intending to change in the club's loo. Very brave, I thought.
I decided to stay up and wait for everyone to return, being much too hesitant to go to bed. Lance was the first one back, and couldn’t stop talking - marvelling at all the people he had met and how fabulous they looked. He was definitely going back again sometime, he said, although he wasn’t too happy about having to fend off so many invites and roving hands.
Around 2.30am the bulk of the guests returned, almost as one enormous group. The guys and the girls all appeared to be intertwined, the girls in nurses' outfits with huge false boobs and fishnet stockings, the guys, mostly with no tops on, in shorts and huge black fuzzy wigs.
Save for a few, they were all amazingly drunk . A couple were retching, and spewing up onto the pavement the kebabs they had eaten on the way back to the amusement of the rest of the rabble. At one point I had to insist that the no entry sign, complete with its post suggesting it had been pulled out of the ground, was left outside.
I then spent the next hour or so dashing upstairs, every few minutes it seemed, to remind them about the noise. The corridors were alive with the comings and goings as both the girls and the boys went from room to room, letting the doors slam shut behind them. I came to suspect there was a certain amount of hanky-panky going on. However by 4am the house became silent again, and the last group of gay guys returning went quietly to their rooms. It was off to bed for myself and Lance then, him up to his own room, but not before promising to be down again by 7.30am to help me with the breakfasts.
Of course with all the excitement I could not sleep at all well that night. I was really quite relieved when 7am arrived and finally I could get up to prepare for all those breakfasts. It wasn’t long before I had ten tins of baked beans and ten tins of tomatoes gently simmering on the cooker. A mountain of eggs stood ready, and the bacon and sausages were slowly grilling. Four loaves of bread were by the three toasters, and four electric kettles on standby - I resolved to get myself a water boiler very soon. With the huge pile of plates gently warming in the cooker, I was soon all prepared in the kitchen.
The dining room, Lance said, was fun to set with all my new individual jams and marmalades, packet sugars, salt, pepper, and sachets of brown and red sauces. Six cartons of orange juice and six litres of milk had been opened and poured into jugs, a selection of six different breakfast cereals opened up ready for the guests to help themselves, and flowers from earlier in the week placed around to decorate every table. Once the new music centre had been tuned to fill the room with radio one at a discreet level, Lance went off upstairs to knock on every door to remind the occupants that breakfast was being served in the next fifteen minutes. In retrospect I suspect this perhaps wasn’t one of his best ideas.
Before long I could hear toilets flushing, doors being opened and closed, people calling to each other, and then a steady stream of people came down into the dining room, all avidly talking and laughing about the previous night. Some, I might add, were very scantily dressed. With Lance telling me how many as they arrived, I popped down the toasters, broke the right number of eggs into the frying pans, and filled enough tea and coffee pots almost at the same time. I frequently burnt my hands getting the plates out of the oven, but I was too panic-stricken by then to bother about it.
With the plates lined up on the work surface, I dished out a ladle-full of beans and tomatoes onto each one, a couple of sausages, some bacon, and then rushed to fill the kettles again, whilst at the same time trying to save the eggs from burning. During all this Lance was busy bringing back the dirty cereal bowls, and squeezing past me to refill milk and orange juice jugs, not to mention several times rescuing the toast before it caught alight.
To say it was bedlam is an under-statement. The sink area soon disappeared beneath a mountain of dirty crockery, with the floor becoming a skating rink from spilt oil, tomato juice, and the baked bean sauce that had dribbled from the serving ladle. The waste bin was overflowing with half-eaten toast, egg shells, and the remains of uneaten breakfasts scraped off the plates, whilst everywhere the surfaces were covered in bread crumbs and half-empty cartons of milk and orange juice.
In the middle of all this chaos the fire alarm went off, much to the amusement of the diners. It seems the frying pans beginning to smoke on the seriously oil-splattered cooker had set it off. Damn the toast, I had to stop everything whilst I ran to get the instruction book to learn how to silence it. Meanwhile Lance was reassuring everyone there was nothing to worry about, telling them it was only due to the chef setting light to his underwear in his rush to serve everyone. The Tart!
It was whilst amidst this theatre of mayhem that someone decided it would be a good time to enquire about an ironing board and iron, and another couple appeared at the desk wanting to check out. The phone had started to ring, and just wouldn't stop, and suddenly I couldn’t even remember what day it was anymore. Then blow me down if the doorbell didn't ring too! It was a guy who introduced himself as Raymond. I recognised him as coming from the hotel a few doors along the road - the one with private parking and a staggering front garden and patio.
Until now I had just acknowledged his friendly wave. He had called in to ask if he could borrow an egg as he was one short for his guests. Very kindly he suggested I should pay him a visit the following day for an afternoon drink. Now that was indeed kind of him, I thought, and eager to accept I gave him two eggs, just in case he dropped one on the way back.
Suffice to say, it came with great relief when the last diner had finished eating and left to go upstairs again, leaving the dining room looking as if a bomb has gone off in it. Gradually, as we set about clearing everything up, the guests began to leave, all of them saying what a great time they had had, and telling how they would be returning again soon. I don’t think so, I thought to myself. From now on it is definitely no groups, and no one-night bookings on Bank Holidays or Saturdays!
Lance had to leave in order to help Dave the builder who had a job that required finishing, even though it was a Sunday, and so I was left to sort out all the rooms on my own. Almost every room looked as if it had hosted the second world war, with the bedding scrunched up, some of it on the floor, and empty bottles and cans strewn around. The carpets were covered in glitter and feathers from the fancy hats bought on the promenade, the drawers half-open, and food wrappers lay around everywhere.
Glasses could be found under beds or by the toilets, some still half-full of drink, and the curtains were either half-closed or tied up in knots. Many of the toilets had not been flushed, several lights had been left on, and the stains on the furniture, presumably from drink, were hardly camouflaged by the full to overflowing ashtrays.
It took three sacks to clear away all the rubbish, and on every corridor a huge pile of laundry appeared as I stripped the beds, but in spite of the disarray in every room I soon had them cleaned up and put straight again. Thank God, there had been no permanent damage. By the evening I had managed to make all the beds, in between loading the washing machine, emptying it into the dryer, and putting yet another load in to wash. Six loads it took before all the washing was done.
Naturally the ironing the next day took nearly all day. Afterwards I decided to visit Raymond for a respite and a chat on his front patio. I found it a pleasant change to simply sit in the sun, peering through the foliage of his front borders, and just watch life go by. Raymond had been in Southtrend-On-Sea for very many years and was gay himself, although you would never guess. He had a rather austere countenance on first meeting, but it soon became apparent he was really rather soft, gentle and caring, in spite of his great age. Clearly in his day he must have been a real Adonis - you know, the sort that banged that big gong at the start of the Rank films.
Anyway, he seemed to know everything there was to know about the town, it’s residents, and the many gay businesses. He was a mine of information on how to run a guest house and soon advised me on how to get a “Pretty Damn Quick” machine (otherwise known as a PDQ terminal) for processing credit cards. We got on like a house on fire, even more so when he showed me his Rolls Royce in the garage at the back of his property.
I enthused over the advance and retard levers on the steering wheel, the huge electrical control box under the dash, and the separate switches to start it up. This was clearly his pride and joy, and he has promised to take me out for a spin in it one day.
It was such a welcome break, and a real chance to share experiences. Raymond had been a deep sea diver, a coal miner, and for a short spell, when circuses still had live animals, a lion tamer - until being gored one day in the leg. He showed me the scars that are still very evident. After that he had done some plate-spinning as a side act, but this soon wore away some of his hair so he gave it up to become a prizefighter at a fun fair.
When that lost him some of his front teeth, he gave that up too and decided to settle down with his own guest house. That was over 20 years ago. He did just briefly try his hand at farming, but found he could not keep up with the speed of the cows when trying to catch them to bring them back to the cowshed in the evenings.
The guest house he had now was a modest establishment, but the rooms which he showed me round were spotless and furnished amply without any unnecessary frills or adornments. His guests were for the most part, he said, old and young regulars that came several times a year, every year. Clearly there was a lot to learn from this guy.
So it has transpired
that our social soirées have now become a regular daily activity once the
work is done.
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