“Aha! You are the ones who are in the Gods!”
The lady who met us at the hotel reception seemed triumphant. We were bemused. The last time I recall being, “in the Gods,” was the time I went to Her Majesty’s Theatre, to see Phantom of the Opera, starring Michael Crawford. Our seats were so high up on the vertical incline of seats, that one had to hang onto the rail in front to avoid being sucked down into the abyss below us.
The hotel we now found ourselves in, bore no true resemblance to her Majesty’s Theatre although it was Olde Worlde with a plentiful supply of oak beams and old-fashioned furnishings.
We were not in London now, we were in Burnham On Crouch.
The lady standing before us noticed our puzzled looks and waved her hands dismissively,
“If you need to speak to the boss she will be in at 6.30pm,” she informed us, adding, as though we were going to be thrilled by the news,
“All your rooms have a river view,”
Dave had specifically requested a river view when booking three ‘Superior’ double rooms as shown on the website. Lisa and her mother had accompanied us to Essex for this Mother’s Day get together. It was Jane’s first trip to Essex.
I suppose we should have been forewarned of what was to come when the hotel manager phoned us the previous night and asked if we were on our way.
“No, we are booked in for tomorrow night,” corrected Dave.
The line fell silent for a bit. Dave flicked through his emails and uncovered the one confirming our booking made some time ago.
“Ah, my mother must have taken that booking, there’s been a mix up but don’t worry, we will sort,” the manager said brightly, “leave it with me,” if there was panic in her voice, she hid it well.
We had no option really.
A phone call made later that evening confirmed that we did have three rooms booked, we were not to worry.
A subsequent phone call from my mother, told us that her toilet was not flushing properly, maybe Dave could fix it. Dave assured her he would bring his tool box though he is not a plumber.
I wondered if someone was trying to tell us we should not go. Our rooms had been double booked and now mother’s only toilet was broken and we were eating lunch there both days. We laughed it off. What else could go wrong?
The following day, we headed to my mother’s house to have lunch with her. In case the toilet was not in use, we had stopped at the local supermarket first to make use of their facilities. After a two and a half hour drive, we were all in need of a comfort break.
The toilet seemed to be working, just. Dave could not fix it. We phoned a plumber. Monday would be the soonest he could pop round.
It was a very pleasant afternoon, it has to be said, consisting of a light lunch followed by Six Nations Rugby on television, a good catch up with my sister and the promise of a leisurely drive back to the hotel, stopping off to say hello to Dave’s Mum and sister on the way before meeting up with them at our hotel, for dinner in the evening. It was a good plan and so far, double booking and broken toilet not withstanding, was going well.
Now, standing in the hotel reception, we watched as the receptionist produced a set of keys.
“One room is on the first floor and the other two are on the second,” she told us, daring us to comment.
We followed her up the first staircase.
The first room was one of three we had booked. It boasted a good-sized en suite bathroom, with a bath, and the bedroom overlooked the River Crouch. We agreed that Jane should have this one, being our guest and the oldest of us all. We trekked onwards and upwards.
The next flight of stairs was very steep and split at the top as you can see in the photograph.
One side had no landing, the bedroom door opened onto the step. There was a landing on the other side leading to the bedroom Lisa was given. It had a small square bay window with a window seat, from which there was a bird’s eye view of the river.
Dave and I left her there and looked across at the dubious room on the step. Yep, that was to be our room.
The receptionist trod nimbly along the narrow ledge above the stairs. We took the safer path, down two steps and up two and unlocked the door to our room. Our hostess mumbled her excuses before making a speedy departure. To say the room was interesting would be kind. It did have a river view, if you could get to the small, single dormer window in the corner of the room to see out. We opened the door to the en-suite, set in the eaves. I should call it a cupboard really.
I have seen small bathrooms but the nearest to this would be found in a caravan.
Beyond the door was a small space, maybe two foot square, with a toilet and basin either side and a small shower in front. The best I can say about it is that the water was hot and the toilet flushed. It was neither comfortable nor appealing in any way.
At 6.30pm, the hotel manager spoke to us. She was lovely. She was most apologetic. They had had to give us different rooms after an error made by her mother who took the booking it seems. Apparently, they had had to move people around to get us these rooms. (We wondered who had resided in them before and where they were now.)
“My mother isn’t here now, I have sent her to Malta,” she explained.
Was this a punishment? It seemed not, it was a Mother’s Day gift. It made the box of chocolates and bunch of flowers I was giving my mum, look very mean.
“We understand but we are very disappointed…” we told her.
“But your rooms do all have river views,” she pointed out. I couldn’t argue with that but I’d rather have had a proper bathroom.
“A 5% discount on the rooms and a bottle of wine,” comprised her goodwill offer. I had to remark that I don’t drink but we accepted her apology and her offer of a conciliatory discount. There was nothing else to be done.
Glossing over the other drawbacks of the room, the lack of a duvet, the ancient blankets and the lethal stairway, we met Dave’s family for dinner in the restaurant.
The evening passed in a haze of good food and wine (no wine for me) although it was wise to keep sober in any case so we could negotiate the lethal staircase when we retired for the night.
Here is a photo of Dave negotiating the stairs the next morning as we crossed the landing to Lisa’s room which boasted the same tiny cupboard for a bathroom as ours but lacked the sloping ceilings.
Over breakfast, I wondered what Jane was thinking of her first visit to Essex but she said her room was comfortable and she had enjoyed a wonderful view of the river beyond.
The manager apologised once more for the mix up and hoped it would not put us off returning another time.
“Oh no,” we smiled, “Can’t be helped,” so British of us! In truth, I don’t think any of us have the slightest inclination to stay there again but never say never.
We were thankful to climb into the car and make our way to my mother’s house with its dodgy loo, for our official mother’s Day lunch. What else could possible go wrong?
A warning light that says, “Reduced Power,” denotes a problem with a car. When the manual says simply, “Consult your local dealer’s workshop,” one does not know how serious reduced power is. When the car motors along with less oomph than normal, it is worrying, especially with the prospect of a 130 mile journey to be made later in the afternoon.
We made it to my mother’s without mishap but I think we all knew how this was going to end. Dave made some phone calls but what garage would be open on a Sunday – Mother’s Day at that? We resigned ourselves to the inevitable, we cooked the pre-prepared lunch and Dave called the RAC.
Thus, just after 3pm, we climbed aboard the RAC breakdown Truck, our own car riding on the trailer. A photograph is obligatory.
Half an hour later we had to abandon this vehicle and transfer to a second, slightly smaller vehicle as the first driver had come to the limit of his day’s driving hours.
Another photo obligatory. Even with the change over at Brentwood Services, we were home by 6pm.
So ended Jane’s first trip to Essex. Not sure she will want to come again!
P.S. The plumber turned up on Monday and said something had become unhooked, easily fixed.
The car is still at the garage waiting for a part.
My mother says she had a lovely weekend and really enjoyed spending time with us all.
Well, it was all worth it then!