‘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…

fawlty fireCarefully 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…

mrs richardsOn 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.

burnt-toast-in-toaster-with-clipping-path_40453-215What 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. GB. nearly hit the roof….‘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!
Look out for more posts about life in “Broughton Hotel”


© Joy Lennick 2019

Fawlty Towers images © Copyright BBC Television



36 thoughts on “‘Fire!’ and separate tables!

  1. calmkate 23/01/2019 / 4:24 pm

    lol oh the joys of eccentric characters 🙂

    • joylennick 24/01/2019 / 11:38 am

      Thank you for reading and commenting Calmkate. x

      • calmkate 24/01/2019 / 10:02 pm

        most welcome Joy, I really enjoyed it!

  2. Darlene 23/01/2019 / 7:21 pm

    Another amusing episode! Shades of Faulty Towers!!

    • joylennick 24/01/2019 / 11:41 am

      Appreciated, Sally.Counting to ten came in very handy! Hugs x

  3. willowdot21 23/01/2019 / 10:01 pm

    Oh! Life is just so interesting looking back. It all looks like great fun but it must of been very stressful 💜💜

    • joylennick 24/01/2019 / 11:44 am

      Thanks for reading and commenting.
      We needed a good sense of humour; all present and correct, thankfully!

      • willowdot21 24/01/2019 / 12:29 pm

        Yes indeed it keeps us going 💜

  4. Tandy | Lavender and Lime 24/01/2019 / 11:37 am

    This is so interesting. We live in a fire zone and I am so used to the soot. I have stopped washing my floors every day as I can never catch up. And, I don’t have curtains as they would need taking down too often to wash 🙂

  5. joylennick 24/01/2019 / 11:46 am

    Hi Tandy, Thanks, but how irritating for you! xx

  6. Jane Risdon 24/01/2019 / 1:28 pm

    enjoying your fab blog and tales, thanks x

  7. joylennick 24/01/2019 / 2:38 pm

    Many thanks, Jane. Have just been reading up on your writing and musical experiences. Can just imagine some of the tales you could tell! Cheers! x

  8. Mary Smith 24/01/2019 / 5:02 pm

    Great stories. I bet they are always funnier looking back than at the time, though!

  9. joyroses13 24/01/2019 / 6:42 pm

    What amusing stories! Life isn’t boring, is it! 🙂

  10. dgkaye 25/01/2019 / 4:42 pm

    Lol Joy, this story makes me think it should be one of those British comedy shows! Your hotel stories need to go in a book! Great visuals LOL. ❤ xx

  11. joylennick 25/01/2019 / 5:14 pm

    Thanks, Debby (I have some ‘Canadian Capers’ too…) Have fun. Hugs xx

  12. D. Wallace Peach 30/01/2019 / 5:55 pm

    Oh my gosh. What characters! I love the way you describe them, and their personalities come through with a flourish. The humor in the telling is delightful, Joy. A fun read. 🙂

  13. joylennick 30/01/2019 / 8:18 pm

    Thanks for reading, Diane. It was an interesting Chapter in my life and led to the writing of my first book. x

  14. Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections 06/02/2019 / 11:23 am

    So entertaining, Joy! I thought I was reading a script to Fawlty Towers. What stories you must have from all the characters you met through the years.

  15. joylennick 06/02/2019 / 11:30 am

    Thanks, Molly. There’s more to come…Words are like caged birds: so impatient to be released, aren’t they? But what else would we do with them?! Cheers. x

  16. Suzanne 20/02/2019 / 4:26 am

    This is great. I really enjoyed reading it. 🙂

    • joylennick 20/02/2019 / 11:24 am

      Hi Suzanne, Thank you! I’m using my memory more than my legs these days – getting ancient…. It’s great fun recalling so many adventures and interesting people Keeps me from rusting! x

      • Suzanne 21/02/2019 / 12:03 am

        Yes memories do come flooding back as the years pass.

  17. Jim Borden 03/08/2019 / 2:43 pm

    seems like never a dull moment! (came across your blog from Smorgasbord Magazine; look forward to reading more of your posts)

    • joylennick 03/08/2019 / 6:16 pm

      Thank you, Jim. Most kind. I’m a ‘techno nerd’ who, luckily, has three sons -one of whom helps me untangle the technological mess…(I just want to write…) Am ancient but like to keeping the cogs turning. You look and sound like a very nice man to correspond with. Cheers.

  18. jenanita01 17/09/2019 / 9:11 pm

    That did sound like a script from a comedy show!

    • joylennick 18/09/2019 / 7:57 am

      Thanks, Bette. Looking back, I certainly met a few! That’s what makes the journey so interesting…Hugs x

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