Welcome to the current series of Posts from Your Archives in 2020 and if you would like to participate with two of your posts from 2019, you will find all the details in this post: New series of Posts from Your Archives 2020
This is the second post from regular contributor Joy Lennick. This week Joy shares more adventures from her time of running a hotel with her husband Eric…
‘Fire!’ and separate tables! – Or the everyday life of a hotelier…
We were still wondering about our quirky guest, nicknamed “Dr.Strangeglove,” but gradually life showed us a more mundane face, and as it was then winter, and a little more peaceful than usual, we had more time to update and renovate .
Fortunately my ‘Gordon Blue’ – who had been an excellent cabinet-maker in his time – capable of fitting out kitchens and bedrooms, etc., and a dab hand at DIY, decided, as he wasn’t ready, time-wise, to refit the kitchen then, would place a large “splash-back” behind the cooker and bought a panel of Formica (all the rage then) to temporarily fit the need.
Measurements were carefully made, and doors and window opened to dilute any aromas around. Our few paying guests were out and it was an ideal slot for the job. Or so we/he thought…
Carefully applying the necessary glue to one surface of the Formica, GB climbed on a small ladder, armed with said panel, leant over the stove when WHOOSH! The panel he was holding became a flaming shield…Fortunately, he acted with sensible speed, dropped it on the floor, and did what could only be described as a demented flamenco dance and put out the flames. HE HAD FORGOTTEN ABOUT THE STOVE’S PILOT LIGHT!! WHOOPS… Luckily, he only singed a few hairs and had very mild burns on his hands, and I, being at the extreme end of the kitchen was OK but aghast at the scene which played out before me. You had to be there…
Assuring me he was ‘All right!’ my relief turned to despair as a million – no exaggeration – particles of burnt Formica formed a “black snow-storm” swirling around the dining-room. The beautiful snow-white spotted muslin curtains covering six windows (put up that morning) were covered in black blemishes, as were all the clothed tables (ready for dinner later!!).
Surprisingly, I didn’t cry as I realized time was of the essence as they say… Unbelievably, I was able to shake most of the black smuts off the curtains in the garden, so only had to replace a few fresh ones, luckily available! Luck was also on my side as we had recently bought ‘over-cloths’ made of a wipe-able material, soft to the touch, although slightly plasticised, which protected our white damask ones underneath. Of course, the vacuum had to be employed, the duster used vigorously and the kitchen floor washed, but all things considered, we managed OK. GB had thrust his hands in cold water and later smeared them in Vaseline. I shuddered. It could have been so much worse!!
We only had four guests for dinner that night, which was served, surprisingly, on time. Little did they know, as I smiled and made small-talk, of the drama which unfolded just a few hours earlier!
There followed a brief, fairly quiet interlude, until our new paying guest arrived that is…
Ms Groves approached me in the lounge: ‘I have a good friend called Mrs. Solomons and she’s looking for somewhere to stay for a few months before she goes to paint in the South of France. Have you a room available?’
I had, she inspected it; was happy with the terms and so, later, moved in, with a few other belongings and her clothes.
Mrs S, a widow, was a sweet, untidy but friendly lady, who always looked a little “un-ironed” and her hair-bun kept losing its clips. She was also a little unaware of the time, whereas Ms. Groves was a stickler for appearing and being ‘ON THE DOT!’ as she reminded me if we were ever late serving her afternoon tea… (with a little smile of course!) Anyway, you get the picture…
On Mrs S’s first day with us, I moved a slightly larger table in place, picked some flowers from our garden and made a small arrangement to greet her and called Ms. Groves to approve before she arrived. Well… she stepped back, her face like thunder and her hands started shaking.
‘I have never shared a table with anyone, ever!’ she declared, as if a crime had been committed. And so, with a shrug, I laid two tables and they conversed in loud voices for the duration of Mrs S’s stay.
I relayed the scene to GB and we said in unison ‘Shades of Separate Tables.’ (I wouldn’t have been surprised to see David Niven walk through the door… )
And so life continued, with Ms. Groves seated for dinner by six o’clock and Mrs. S always hurrying in at five or ten minutes past, while Ms. Groves frowned, tutted and visibly checked her watch.
It wasn’t long after Mrs. S’s arrival, that my father had a heart attack, and, as we were in Bournemouth and he in Essex, made hurried plans to visit him in hospital. We had no other guests booked in for two days, so laid a table in the dining room with kettle, toaster, various foodstuffs and a flask of stewed steak and vegetables, with fruit to follow. We only planned being away one night, and, thankfully, Dad hadn’t had a heart attack, but had pulled a muscle underneath his heart.
What a kerfuffle when we arrived back at the hotel… Ms. Groves burnt the toast at breakfast-time which set off the fire alarm… The Fire Brigade arrived and the Chief said we had been totally negligent leaving two elderly people alone in the hotel!! (Both fit as proverbial fiddles). Further, the Chief didn’t know that we had alerted the owner of the adjacent hotel that we had to leave for the night.
‘And,’ Ms. Groves informed us, pointing at several crumbs adorning the carpet between their two tables, ‘by the way, those crumbs are HERS!’
We went right off Ms. Groves after that!
©Joy Lennick 2019
About Joy Lennick
Having worn several hats in my life: wife, mum, secretary, shop-keeper, hotelier; my favourite is the multi-coloured author’s creation. I am an eclectic writer: diary, articles, poetry, short stories and five books. Two books were factual, the third as biographer: HURRICANE HALSEY (a true sea adventure), fourth my Memoir MY GENTLE WAR and the most recent fiction novel is THE CATALYST. Plenty more simmering…
A selection of books by Joy Lennick
A recent reviews for My Gentle War
My Gentle War is a delightful memoir about the life on a little girl, aged seven years old when war was declared in 1939, and her family as they navigated the changing landscape of everyday life in war time Britain. Joyce’s family lived a middle class life in Dagenham, London when the war started and her father and his brother, Bernard, signed up with the Royal Air Force to go and fight. Joyce’s parents decide that it will be safer for her mother, two younger brothers and herself to go and live with her family in Merthyr Tydfil in Wales. The book describes in great detail the difference between her father’s beautifully cultivated garden filled with gorgeous flowers in Dagenham and the wild and lonely beauty of life in the Welsh mountains. Her father’s sadness at having to ruin his garden by building a bomb shelter in the middle of it is the first insight the reader has of the changes that are going to come.
The second insight comes when the author describes the chaos of Paddington Station when her father leaves to go and fight in France and the rest of the family depart for Wales. It is not that easy for an evacuee to fit into life in a rural village, but Joyce and her brothers are young enough to do so without to many problems and, other than one incident when Joyce has a broken glass bottle thrown at her, they all settle into their new life and school. The hard life in Wales is detailed through the memories of the little girl who sees the poverty and learns about the hardship inflicted by the depression prior to the war, on this mining town. The risks of mining are also described through the chronic lung disease suffered by her uncle and the death of a young cousin in the coal mine. The joys of life for children are also expressed with the town arranging concerts staring the children, a picnic and other forms of entertainment. During the early part of the, the bombs do not reach Wales and the food shortages have not as yet bitten.
Throughout the war, Joyce’s family go between places of refuge, initially Wales, and their London home which they return to when her father is home on leave and intermittently while her mother is doing war work in London.
For the last part of the war, Joyce and her brothers become real evacuees are are sent to live with strangers away from London and the buzz bombs. This particular part of this memoir made me realise how fortunate my own mother was during her days growing up in the war. Her family never had to leave their home town of Bungay and were able to stay on their farm throughout the war.
I really enjoyed this memoir which reads like a conversation and tells of life for Joyce and her mother and siblings in Britain and also tells of some of her father’s experiences of the war in France, including the lead up to the evacuation of Dunkirk, through extracts of his diary and letters home. For people who are interested in World War II and particularly every day life for people during this terrible time, this is a wonderful and eye opening book.
Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon UK
And on Amazon US: Amazon US
Find all the books, read other reviews and follow Joy on : Goodreads
Connect to Joy
My thanks to Joy for sharing another entertaining episode of the joys of running small hotel and I know she would love to hear from you… thanks Sally.