It’s a Non From Me!

I’ve just cancelled myself on First Dates.

It’s not fair.  This is the second time this has happened.  The first was when I met Ben, just as Love In the Countryside was confirming that I would be in its first series on BBC2, hosted by my idol, Sara Cox.  That would have provided a six hour window for me to bang on about my books and B&B on national TV. Ben lasted five months, and I have been kicking myself ever since.

“Never again, whatever else is happening, I will never, ever cancel a TV appearance which could launch me as a successful author,” I promised myself.

And now I’ve just done it for a second time.  Based on less than a week’s acquaintance with the new Him.

I spoke to somebody from the programme called Lily, whose call I’d failed to follow up for 36hrs as I made my mind up what to do.

I had discussed the problem with the new Him at length. He had actually urged me to go ahead for business reasons – said He would enjoy watching and laughing at me on the telly. So we agreed that I would (I had actually rather hoped that He wouldn’t want me to).

Then I slept on our decision. Or more accurately didn’t sleep. And then I thought I wouldn’t like myself if I took part in the programme.  It wouldn’t be kind to Him, nor to the bloke they set me up with; it would be dissembling and dishonourable, all for a couple of oblique references to my businesses, and the fun experience of working with the TV, enjoying a free visit to London and a dead good meal – in short, the experience of a lifetime. Agh!

In the morning I WhatsApped Him, telling Him I had decided not to do it whatever He said.  I am too keen on liking myself.

And now I have just put the phone down on Lily.

“The producers absolutely love you,” she trilled. “All we care about is that you’re happy!”

“Nonsense.  All you care about is making good telly, and I can guarantee I would have helped you with that. You lot love a mad posh bird,” I snorted back at her.

So Lily and I agreed – if everything between us goes wrong, as it always has for the past 59 years, there will always be another opportunity.   Next time, with a bit of luck, a free holiday at First Dates Hotel.

I’m An Accountant!

My accountant said it would shave £250 off his bill if I sorted out my income/expenditure myself, instead of making him do it.

Well – if you think about it, that’s the equivalent of renting out one of my rooms for two nights.  So I decided to gird my loins, not be so lazy, and get on with it.

My pile of receipts is four inches high, each one stuffed into a plastic wallet every time I spend anything.

First I had to separate them out into what I could put against the B&B, and what is private expenditure.

Then I had to sort the first pile of receipts into spending that could be entirely set against tax, eg food bought for my guests; and the ones that I could set 55% against tax, eg room refurbishment and repairs.

It took me the entire day to go through them all – right down to itemising every bunch of grapes I’d bought over the year.  There would have been over fifty Tesco receipts, each one averaging around forty different B&B items mixed in with private purchases.

After hours and hours, I reached the grand total: £22,000. And then I looked at the dates again. April 2016-2017. The previous tax year.  Already completed.

First Dates

I’m going to be on it! Well probably anyway – they’re going to call at 11am today and I’ve got to Skype myself in my best gear going about my business in my home, so that they can get a handle on my personality and interests.

The first problem, as you can imagine, was getting the Skype app onto my stone-age devices. The programme-makers can also use Facetime (which I don’t think I’ve got either), but they can’t Whatsapp, which is the only one I can manage.

My mobile downloaded the app OK, but it got stuck after that. I yelled upstairs for Will to sort it out, while I departed for a slap-up dinner at Prince Hall, courtesy my great mate, Richard.

I had found myself with verbal diarrhea, speaking on the phone to the programme’s assistant producer, Jane.

“What sort of person would you like to meet?” she asked.

“I don’t know – someone who’s stronger than me, and good company?” I said.

“Would it matter how tall they were? Would 70 be OK?” she said.

Aghh – they’ve got some dwarf old grandpa in mind for me.

“Well they need to weigh more than I do, which is easier now I’ve lost nearly two stone,” I replied, “but they’d have to be really really charming and nice if they were that old.  Seventy-year-olds have wrinkly saggy boobs.”

I am most excited – the timing is fantastic.  This is coinciding with my ‘Meet the Author’ evening and will give me the chance to bang on about the most expensive B&B on Dartmoor and, even more importantly, my non-burgeoning career as an aspiring author.

Well, now I’ve nearly finished breakfast, I’d better put on a face and find some cleanish glad rags!  How terrifying! This could result in me getting publicly rejected in front of millions! Eeek!

Watchdog?

Is NOT a hotel – also haunted
Located on a country road with no signage. Impossibly creepy, like a horror film, and there is a man in the house roaming room to room.

One of the weirdest albeit most fun experiences I’ve had. However, the room is FILTHY; bugs everywhere, damp sheets, once we closed the curtains all hell broke loose as a thousand bugs appeared/emerged and crawled all over the place.

Truly scary weird place but at the same time an experience I will never forget. But this is not a hotel.

It’s a nightmare.

Awful
I would never recommend this place to anyone. Wasn’t signposted very well ended up going past it. When we pulled up we had to ring a number to be given a code for the for that door key. Got in and couldn’t find our room. There was 6 unattended children following and hanging around us making us feel very uncomfortable. One of the youngest children was spitting at my son so disgusting. Then the children were blocking my children from walking down the stairs as we were leaving as we were not staying in a place we didn’t feel comfortable In and that there was no one to ask about how to get to our room. Please anyone do not even book here. I never saw any adults around either.

Don’t go there

A warning to anyone looking at staying there, got given a code to get in it didn’t work once we did get in you couldn’t get though the next door we tried the main door that didn’t open eventually someone opened the door for us.
Once we got into the room it was disgusting the bathroom was dirty wallpaper hanging off the wall cobwebs hanging from the ceiling stains on the carpet and toilet brush was disgusting. The sheet didn’t fit the bed the quilt hanging out the duvet cover. They charged £75.00 a night we would never go there again

Don’t book.
Turned up and code we had been given was wrong to gain access to house keys. Then they didn’t work as was a key in the lock on the inside. Though turned out entry could be gained by any one of three unlocked back doors. Room then turned out to not be made up. Seems one of other guests had friends over and none of rooms are locked if not in use. 

took one look at the establishment and walked out
Drove into an untidy car park and the outside of the building gave me cause for concern. Walked into the bar area which was dirty with ripped carpets, asked to see the room and was shown up a badly decorated staircase to a tiny room. The twin beds were barely a foot apart and the beds looked like they had already been slept in.
The whole place made me creep and I decided to cancel my stay

Smellydelly
Dirty, Mouldy, Smelly, no hot water
The room was horrendous, it was dirty, mouldy, grubby, hair in the bed, no hot water, no shower only a filthy bath, just bleeuugghh. Booked 4 nights through but only stayed for 1 it was that bad then couldn’t get money back. Had to fork out again and book the rest of the stay at a different hotel down the road.

Room Tip: just don’t book for any reason

Totally ripped off….This place should be condemned…where are the hotel inspectors? Safety inspectors?

Absolutely disgusting hotel..The local people feel it shames the town…..I agree.
Filthy room,,,,,dust and litter under the bed and between furniture I found a magazine under the bed among the dust which was a month old..Don’t expect to hear the sound of a vacuum cleaner here…
Daily excuses as to why there was no hot water.,,,this apparently is par for the course at this horrible nasty hotel.
I bought a bucket and used the kettle to wash myself with a flannel.daily.
Please wipe your feet when leaving the building..

Room Tip: You will not find a clean room here..I’m speechless

Avoid discusting!
This hotel needs closing down! Mould, dirty, no hot water.made my skin crawl! Stayed one night, because couldn’t get anywhere else to stay at such short notice. Slept in my clothes as didn’t want to touch anything.discusting!

Terrible
Please do not enter – you will regret – as simple as that. I am surprised that it is still open. Only popped in for a drink, no beers (just lager) – it smelt and was simply gross. 

This is just a tiny handful of recent TripAdvisor reviews of some of the properties owned by the organisation that has taken over my erstwhile favourite pub.

According to Facebook there are various lawsuits pending, and in June they were  fined £thousands for refusing to comply with fire regulations. Across all the properties owned by this organisation, the average TripAdvisor blob-rating is just over two out of five.

Why on earth do they continue to add to their portfolio, and why do the agents continue to represent them, when it would appear that they don’t have a clue how to run their properties, causing such misery, frustration and disappointment to so many guests? It seems totally bonkers to me, and I would have thought that in due course a Watchdog TV programme will start an investigation.

After a flying start – exquisite food; cosy, characterful, welcoming, warm ambiance; friendly efficient service; all at a fair price (what more could anybody want?) – the chef and at least nine other staff (most of whom are my mates) have walked out over a period of less than two months.  Meanwhile another friend of mine, waiting for a reimbursement having booked a non-existent dinner for ten friends attending a funeral, got yelled at in the street, in front of the entire village!

The whole thing is tragic.  Everyday something new happens resulting in my jaw dropping closer and closer to the ground. I am increasingly astonished, and dismayed.

“Divide and rule, a sound motto. Unite and lead, a better one.” Goethe

“Whoopsadaisy!” yelled Matt, as the Honda CM 125 reared up in the dark, and described a perfect backward somersault.

“Perhaps Si should ride it back?” suggested Will.

“YIKES!” shouted Antony, flying over the handlebars of our new E-bike, and slithering down lane towards home.

I had just received one of the most joyous phone calls of my life – a dream come true after two decades of failure.

Will and his two mates – best friends since they first met at prep school over a decade ago – had been visiting The Forest Inn at the end of our lane, for a drink and a game of pool. Matt, wearing a bandeau, had gone there riding Will’s scrambler, and the other two were on the E-bikes. “We’ll be back about nine to cook you a steak!” they shouted merrily, as we passed each other in the lane, my horses remaining remarkably calm in the general milieu.

I was a bit worried that they might upset the locals and my B&Ber who was dining there, with their posh, loud, excited voices.

The call was from Will saying, “We’ve joined up with Si, Rob and Jez, and after a bit more pool we’ll all be coming back to the Bothy to chill.  So I’m afraid we won’t be doing your steak.”

It’s taken twenty years, but finally, unbelievably, at last, thanks to our jolly pub up the road, Will seems to have been accepted as part of the local community.

Doing a Katie Hopkins

Isn’t it surprising how many vegetarians are fat?  It’s probably all those flapjacks and carob-brownies masquerading as health foods in Holland & Barrett.

Over the past four years increasing numbers of my B&B guests let me know beforehand that they’re veggie, or even vegan, prompting me to buy Linda McCartney’s revolting cardboard cylindrical Cumberland quorn sausages, and one of the myriad choices of dairy-free milk substitutes – almond, soya, oat? How can you tell which one they’ll prefer? I also offer Bertolli spread, oat creme fraiche and dairy-free fruit yogurt, and actually all of this is almost no trouble at all. But, at the end of the day – let them eat eggs (oops, not the vegans – can’t even put butter on their toast!)

I always expect non-meat-eaters to be weak, white and wan.  I also worry about them clocking the hunting pictures which surround them in my dining room – their place-mats, coasters, and Lionel Edwards prints on the wall. Well I am now having to eat humble pie (a dish originally made from the innards of deer).

Last week a French mother-and-daughter couple proved our fittest couple yet.  The Mum was celebrating her 65th birthday, walking in some borrowed Dunlop wellies; and the daughter is the most beautiful creature I have ever seen. Six foot tall, willowy gazelle-like slender, like the Russian girls gathered in the loos at Annabel’s – a different breed of human.  Only this one is no dolly-bird – she’s developing a new kind of un-launderable money for the city.  She’s the best advertisement for veganism that you could possibly dream up.  Being French, highly intelligent and successful she doesn’t really do smiling, and knows exactly what she wants and likes, so she’s bloody scary, but over her stay, she thawed.

Anyhow – she has an app on her phone which proved that, crossing Dartmoor hills, bogs, rocks and gorse, this remarkable pair averaged 23km a day over four days. Phew.

Part Time Working Mummy (PTWM)

Have I gone nice? Perhaps I’ve just got sunstroke.

Passing through the foyer of our hotel in the Costa del Sol yesterday, I picked up a book left and forgotten by some previous guest,  called “Part Time Working Mummy“, because it looked a bit like the sort of thing I’m trying to do.

And it made me cry. Proper tears. Me. Who has never cried at a book since they took Boxer away in Animal Farm over forty years ago.

This book is published by something I’ve never heard of called ‘Trapeze’, and it’s written in even more childlike pros than mine, but maybe, just maybe – unless I’m suffering from holiday-weirdness – it’s changed the next chunk of my life.

Somehow I have found myself glued to it for the past 24hrs.  Why had it passed me by?

Well, now I know. ‘Part Time Working Mummy’ was only published a month ago, and it currently lies second in the Sunday Times Bestsellers List.

It’s written by somebody called Rachaele Hambleton who lives down the road from Dartmoor in the Brixham/Paignton area, who wrote a facebook page a couple of years ago about a Mum she’d observed going to work every day in Shaldon, which suddenly, out of the blue, received 20,000 likes.

Rachaele’s blog now commands 420,000 followers, and her simple little book, clearly written straight from the not particularly well-educated heart, is doing better than all the other books listed on Amazon of similar ilk, eg “Why Mummy Drinks”, “Why Mummy Swears”, and “The UnMumsy Mum” (also written by a Devon-based blogger mother).

Racheale’s story of neglect and abuse is, quite simply, harrowing. She and I come from opposite ends of the spectrum. And yet here we are, both blogging away our day-to-day stories of life as a mother of teenagers in Devon.  Racheale has turned her new-found profile into a force for good, her main causes being the abused and the bullied.  Well I have recently been discussing with Will the sort of charity that I should be contributing to, and I think this could just be it. I probably wouldn’t even notice £10 p/m, but somebody else might.

I’m also thinking of setting up some organisation whereby the abused might enjoy a moment’s luxuriating in left-over B&B toileteries, and possibly using their old bedding. Maybe some of my colleagues might offer half-price rooms during low-season or something. Maybe I should foster a child or two, once mine have completely fled the nest.

I think I should meet this Rachaele woman and see how I can help.  I am fascinated by her world and feel I am in a place now, where I could become involved. Or maybe it’s all simply summer holiday fantasy land.

Whatever – I could invite over her new husband, ‘Bird Nerd Josh’, a policeman who has clearly, immensely bravely, rescued Rachaele, and whose greatest passion is rising at 3am in order to spot some rare bird or other on Dartmoor. No.  I don’t understand the attraction either.  But I could at least offer him a spare bed.

Just as I did to Dartmoor-lover Sara Cox from Radio 2, who still hasn’t got back to me, and almost certainly never will.