Chapter Number 25
At 8.30 Monday morning I was rushing around to ensure the three bedrooms and the dining room were ready for the lecturers and students from the local college when they arrive. There was nothing else much I could do really, as I didn’t know what it was that they actually wanted.
The first lecturer arrived at 9.45am and was not a bit like the real film director a few weeks ago. This one was a bearded dour man in his tweed coat, the type of coat with the leather patches on the elbows which when he took it off revealed his cardigan had similar patches, and he constantly mumbled to himself in between telling me that the other three lecturers would be following on at mid-day along with all the students and equipment.
He was a bit of a pain and wanted to know if I had flip chart boards, dry wipe boards, paper, pencils, and erasers etc. I told him I had none of those things and off he shot back to the college to return later with all the above and what seemed like mountains of books and manuals. Still mumbling and tutting to himself, and constantly moving a table or chair first this way and then that way, he then spent an hour carefully laying out notebooks and a pencil on every table in the dining room until it began to look like a lecture room.
Later he asked me to get rid of all the furniture in the three bedrooms, but to still have some items available should they require them, so that kept me busy until the rest of the students and lecturers actually arrived. I heaved and struggled to get all this kit into the adjoining rooms from where, if they needed any of it, they could get it themselves and decided there and then that was enough - I wasn’t going to be their porter for the duration.
Whilst they were all together in the dining room, now a lecture room, I hovered around outside the door listening to the schedule they were planning for the next four weeks. The students were being split into three groups and given a project, each very different. This first week was to be mostly classroom based on the theory of what they were undertaking (Oops, been there before!) with the second and third weeks used for the work projects assigned to them, so leaving the fourth week for reviewing the work achieved.
One group were to make a short kitchen sink drama, a second group a horror film, and the third a documentary on conflicts in the African sub-continent during the 1890’s. I can remember thinking: how they handle the latter one, to be made in a bedroom upstairs, should prove interesting!
The senior lecturer told me to just ignore them all, which suited me just fine, and everything went very well this first week. They just came and went, sometimes to be seen carrying African head dresses, stuffed animals, costumes, or even a couple of old tailor's dummies with knives poking out of their chests which sported great splodges of blood-red paint. Cynthia, next door, was relieved the youngsters seemed to be a better class of student than she usually came across in town.
She didn’t mind them a bit, especially as they all went home in the late afternoon and left the house empty again until the following morning. The occasional scream or banging of tom-toms from the rooms upstairs never lasted for too long anyway.
Wednesday evening saw Julian and Tristan paying me a visit, just to be nosey really. They were fascinated to see all the props and costumes in the bedrooms and, with my permission, rushed back home only to return straightaway with a digital camera so they could take turns in dressing up and photographing each other. At one stage Julian found the black greasepaint and after stripping promptly covered himself in it. He then put on a grass skirt, a huge black fuzzy wig, and a rubber bone (with protrusions to hold it in place) in his nostrils. These, with a necklace of imitation tiger teeth around his neck, when he held a spear made him look very much the part, especially with his portly frame, and he just could not resist swinging his hips back and forth to allow his pink manhood to peer through the grass skirt which had obviously seen better days.
Of course it was not long before Tristan stripped and adorned the white hunter's costume. The pair then had me photographing them in all sorts of poses, some a bit risqué I might add. I suggested to them that what they were doing was probably not how the first meeting between a white hunter and an African king went, but on second thoughts: perhaps it did! This carried on for some time, and indeed it was great fun, but with all of us laughing so much I was worried Cynthia next door might hear.
Julian wanted to wear his African outfit as long as possible, and he did make a dramatic, if slightly camp, spectacle sitting on the settee in my lounge with a gin and tonic in a plastic monkey’s skull in one hand and the spear in the other. His legs, the varicose veins hardly visible through the grease paint, stretched out in front of him to reveal everything he had through the grass skirt. It was soon after this that he went up stairs to use the loo, still clutching his spear. A sudden scream, followed by a loud thump as his frame hit the floor, had Tristan and I rushing upstairs to see what had happened him.
We found Julian passed out, cold, but fortunately he appeared not to be injured. He soon came round, with the help of Tristan rubbing him all sorts of areas to get his blood circulating again. It was a very unusual revival technique, one I could not recall ever watching on any of those hospital programs, but hey ho, it seemed to work.
It turned out that Julian, on opening the loo door and reaching in to put the light on, had in the gloom caught sight of one of the tailor’s dummies sitting on the pan, with the knifes sticking out its chest. Another one was hanging by its collar from the coat hook on the back of the door. The students had left them there, out of the way. Silly me, I should have warned him really.
Never mind, he soon recovered, and I then left them alone whilst they took off the costumes and spent an eternity in the shower together washing all the greasepaint off, or so I was told that was what they were doing. We did have a great evening, and in spite of them being absolute trollops I can’t help liking them. It was gone midnight before they eventually left, much the worse for wear.
Seeing the way the dining room had been set up to resemble a lecture/classroom earlier in the week, and the way in which the group had organized themselves, gave me an idea of how I might improve my turnover next season. It needed to improve, especially as up until now I had not taken many guests in, and certainly not enough to build up a repeat customer base. I thought: what if I ran a course for potential hoteliers? Those people looking to buying hotels and guest houses who were coming into the business for the first time knowing absolutely nothing, much as I had done. I could advertise and run my own course over (say) three or four days at £150 per couple per day, including accommodation and evening meals.
This led me to plan a course based on just having four couples at a time. That would be £1,800 minimum - nice! They would be split into four teams on arrival, and after an introductory talk and being shown their rooms along with the location of everything else in the place, I would then that first evening take them all out for a fish and chip supper and a drink in one of the quieter pubs to do the “get to know each other stuff”. I envisaged that the next first morning Team A would have to be up early to receive hands on training in preparing and serving breakfast for everyone, also learning how to clear down the kitchen, make up the rooms, vacuum and polish throughout, go to the shops to buy food for the lunches and the evening meals, and then, after cooking a light lunch and clearing down again, how to start preparing the evening meal.
Team B on their first day would have the task of dealing with minor maintenance issues like keeping the outside areas swept and clean, putting the laundry through the washing machine and dryers, doing the pressing, whilst at the same time dealing with arrivals and departures with the other two teams role-playing as difficult guests. Of course there was always the possibility of actually getting some real guests in to give them a realistic experience, especially as it will be them doing all the work for me. Obviously I would need to have an advertising campaign running to try and fill the place during the courses. For all the extra services that could be provided with such a plethora of staff, I should be able to charge the genuine guests a few pounds more per night.
Teams C and D would spend their first day in the classroom having talks on how to assess a property to buy, how to build relationships with accountants, solicitors, environmental health and planning departments, and the fire service etc. I could give them an exercise to do every hour or so, whilst I chased up and advised the other teams on the order and procedure of what they needed to accomplish. In the afternoon it would be based on how to manage accounts and advertising, followed by the legal requirements for health and safety. I could even get a nice glossy handbook printed for them to keep. That would be good, I thought, wondering if I could charge separately for it!
On the second day Teams A and B would swap with teams C and D, so by the third day they should all have a good idea of what is involved, and the amount of work needed, in running a guest house or hotel. So on that third and last full day they could all muck-in together and decide amongst themselves who would do what task. I will call this the management and leadership skills day.
On the fourth day all they would have to do, after packing their luggage, was put into practice one last time getting the place ready for letting again. Maybe I could produce a pretty certificate on the computer for them to take home, and perhaps for another £5 even put it in a gold-edged frame bought from Woolworth. I did need to work on how to spin it out though, if I was going to make it last over four days. Perhaps I should include running a bar. I don’t have one myself, so I would have to research this a bit first. Do you buy the license at the post office, or what? It can’t be that difficult pulling a pint and slapping a bag of crisps down on the counter, can it?
I might consider
asking Julian and Tristan to cover this bit for me, after all they do have
a bar, but we would have to forget using the harp to slice the lemons - it
would be much too heavy to carry up the road.
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