Who would believe that we are on the cusp of another year? Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were worried about the new millennium messing with our computers and our lives in general?! Now we have little to worry about save for Trump, fuel prices, food prices, elections, land reform, Saudi executions, Zumaphobia, Guptaphobia, “hysteriosis” et al. What a ‘jol’!
I am not normally in the habit of ‘dedicating’ what I write to anyone, since I have no delusions of grandeur. Somebody told me that doing that would be pretentious. I said “what, moi”…(you have to be a Pom with an eye on the fearful French just across the Channel to get that!). I am no Norman Mailer (bet few can remember who he was), but you do know who Bernard Shaw was and for that matter, Oscar Wilde! Anyway, I am none of them! But, I would like to dedicate this little ‘expose’, for whatever its literary worth to Molly my wife whose foot in my rear keeps me afloat, and whose kind words keeps me ‘in’ sane. There is a second person to whom I dedicate this – an old friend, a professional confident, a great hotelier in her own right as well as with her late husband Andre, and that is Linda Kapp who was the singular most successful lessee of Royal Natal National Park Hotel for years and unquestionably made it into one of the most sought-after hotels in the Berg – she also happens to be my greatest literary fan – how is that possible?? I’ll have her ‘stuffed and mounted’.
HOTELIERS ARE NOT MADE – THEY ARE BORN.
Running a hotel, it could be argued, is like running a large home that is almost constantly filled with a plethora of demanding relatives. Well in a way that’s true, except for the last bit. Relatives no matter how you may like to think, are way more demanding than hotel guests, including my Uncle Jack who used to leave his shoes outside his door every night when he visited us, with the expectation of having them shined and returned in the morning. That ended when the cat used one of them as a litter box. It was a long time back, so come to think of it, it might have ended when he died of a whisky overdose because he had a smile on his face post mortem!
But to some extent, a hotel is an overgrown house, though hotels often, in their adverts, say weird things like, ‘stay with us, we’ll make you feel right at home.’ That’s the last thing I want when I am paying a fortune – feel at home! I want to feel spoilt. I don’t get endless towels, chokkies on my pillow, a big fluffie robe in the closet not covered with cat hair, a dram of complimentary sherry, funny looking ‘throw away slippers’ that are basically good only for the dog to chew and so on when I get home. I don’t want ‘home’, I want ‘INCREDIBLE’! But it is like an overgrown home albeit on steroids. INCREDIBLE needn’t have all those things mentioned, but I do want to feel spoilt, and be ‘someone’.
For a start, a hotel never rests. Long after the guests have gone to sleep, cleaners, security staff, night clerks et al slip into their regular routines preparing for a new day. The Hotel Manager can be seen as the Stage Coach driver. ….the coach being the hotel, and the horses being the elements that make it happen. His job is to get them horses working together, in step and in the same direction. He may assist his task (the Stage Coach Driver, not the Hotelier) with an aid of a whip which, if you are really observant, never actually touches the horses but ‘flicks’ about their ears as a guiding hand as it were. Hoteliers use more humane methods….sometimes! Most times!
It is a worn out old adage that men cannot multi-task. As Franklin Roosevelt said, “Tell that to the Marines”. Hoteliers are born and bred multi-taskers, especially the country hotelier who has nobody to call on but himself. I have had to give instructions to the Chef about his Pommes Gratinoise, with the chemical rep lined up for his turn, and the receptionist blasting in my ear over my cell phone about an obnoxious ‘would be’ guest who wants to rent a room by the hour, whilst having my entire arm up the ‘fundamental aperture’ of a horse suffering from a ‘foreign object’ lodged in his gut that needed eradicating. Tell me that’s not multi-tasking?! And, when this tireless fellow is finished with that, he will make a turn passed room 46 to see to the blocked toilet, while on his way to the liquor store (hotel cellar) in order to complete an issue of grog to the bar, not before stopping by the kitchen to taste the ratatouille, oh, and not to mention attending to Mrs. Sagging-Badly with her complaint about the ‘strange’ noises in her ceiling! (I asked her if it sounded like clanking chains).
The life of a hotelier is for the most part varied and always eventful. For many of us, that long cold G&T or two at the end of the day is probably his just reward, but in truth, the real reward is mixing with his satisfied guests most of whom he has made his business to come to know. But again, there is another oft-neglected part of the country hotelier that perhaps deserves more credit than him. That’s his wife. The poor woman listens to the stories every single day, seemingly one more horrific than the other and most certainly far more dramatized than reality, and she must give the equivalent of a ‘there, there, you’ll be alright’ and get often times an impatient answer, ‘ I won’t be alright’. She is the hotel ‘fireman’. She puts out the fires her dear hubby starts or refuses to deal with. From the tearful receptionist who ‘thinks’ she’s pregnant by that pesky travelling liquor salesman, to the waiter what just got a ‘bolloking’ by ‘you know who’ for bringing the wrong order. There is the real power, without the glory, behind that affable fellow we call ‘The Country Hotelier’.
So when next you are at The Nest, spare a kind thought for ‘The Lady of the House’, she, after all, makes sure it all happens. See you next time.
Conor – tributor.