We reached Penzance and I went up to the hotel reception to check in. We had booked into a more expensive hotel for tonight, mostly due to a lack of availability on a Saturday night rather than a desire for a better hotel. The hotel was probably upmarket fifty years ago. The world has moved on since then but the hotel hasn’t seen the need. The decor was… how can I put this delicately… dated.
The receptionist looked me up and down and said “We had better put you in the wing… the furthest wing.”
She handed me a large iron key and I fetched the luggage and Madam.
We went slowly up to the first floor in a stuttering and clanking lift. Along a long corridor, around a bend and a up further corridor. Down some steps, around a bend and down some more steps. A short corridor then up some stairs, along a dark corridor and down some stairs. Another long corridor and more steps down. Through a gloomy subterranean tunnel, pushing aside cobwebs. Down alongside the sea, holding the luggage above the fast encroaching tide. Up some slippery stone steps, through a disused garage and along a carpeted corridor. Around another bend and up some steps. The floorboards creaked and sagged. The lights flickered. Water pipes wheezed and groaned. Down at the far end of another corridor was our room.
“How much was this room?” asked Madam.
“£162 a night my sweet.” I replied, “It was a special rate. I got a great deal with a coupon.”
She didn’t look impressed.
“Hello Grandma, we’re home!” she called as she entered the room, brushing off the last of the cobwebs.
It was decorated in the style much favoured by grandparents and furnished with the cheap mass-produced 1970’s furniture that Grandma bought after she sold all the old-fashioned quality Victorian stuff that had been passed down from her parents. The bed was probably older than Grandma.
I lay down on the bed and felt like I was sinking into the basement. There was a sudden ‘Twang!” from a spring in the mattress. I carefully and tentatively felt my nether regions in case their integrity had been breached.
“The ceilings are high” said Madam, trying to strike a positive note.
I looked up at the cracked ceiling and nodded.
I opened a drawer and found a part used tin of Altoids.
“Isn’t it sad when you look forward to staying in a Premier Inn?” she said.
She opened the wardrobe and found two well-used neck pillows.
I looked out of the window at the access road and bins.
“Time for dinner I think.” I said.
We walked further along the seafront to a fish and chip shop for an early dinner, then for a walk along the promenade. There was a large swimming pool at one end with a solitary swimmer. The water temperature was 16.8C. Notices around the pool were about how they were trying to raise money to heat the pool by geothermal energy which should raise the temperature to 35C. You might even tempt me into the water at those temperatures.
We walked up through a church yard into the town and back down through Morrab Gardens, a lovely three acre park featuring palm trees and Mediterranean plants. It is billed as sub-tropical but was distinctly chilly on this September evening.
We went back to the hotel and looked around the reception area. There was a Ladies Cloakroom, a women only area with comfy chairs where ladies could sit away from coarse men discussing politics and other weighty matters that women were not capable of understanding. I looked in vain for a billiards and smoking room where I might have a glass of port and a cigar away from the chatter of empty-headed women discussing knitting and babies.
Adjacent was a reading room, a large restaurant and separate bar. Incongruously, the bar had a large screen TV with a football match at full volume. A fruit machine sat opposite the bar.
We tried sitting in the bar for a drink but the mindless football chanting from the full volume television and shouting from one individual at the bar drove us out. I don’t follow football so I have no idea who was playing. I think it may have been Germany as the chap at the bar kept shouting the player names Dom Fokker and Fuchen Kant in a simultaneously both strident and dismissive tone.
We wandered the cavernous foyer and found a nice glass enclosed terrace overlooking the sea at the front of the hotel. Madam asked the receptionist if it was okay if we took our drinks out onto the terrace who confirmed that it would be fine. My thoughts were that for £162 I would bloody well sit where I wanted.
I’ve often walked past these old grand but faded seafront hotels and looked in at the old people sitting and eating or drinking on the veranda and thought “that looks nice, I wonder what it’s like.”
Now I know.