To say The Workhouse was not busy last week would be an over-statement.
Its true, its a big hotel with huge public rooms and corridors, built on a grand scale in the gothic style in 1903 its like you’re staying in something from a Batman film and with 250 rooms its easy for a person to hide away somewhere and not be noticed.
But last week I think I was their only guest.
I know they weren’t busy because breakfast is usually a self-service affair, its the best bit of the stay there, every morning you get to heap a plate up with bacon, sausage, scrambled egg, mushrooms, tomato, hash browns and as many slices of toast as you care to put through the toast machine – last week the self service was replaced by a chef and a waiter who made your breakfast to order, a sensible solution when your hotel guest list contains just the one name.
The breakfast room must seat two to three hundred people, and its probably the smallest of the several other public rooms, so you can imagine that its probably fifty yards long (at least) with a ceiling that towers thirty or so feet above you, so a big room then.
On Tuesday morning I sat at a round table laid out for twelve at one end of the room and there at the far end of the room, almost beyond focus was a uniformed waiter who waited until I was seated and then approached to take my order, walked half a mile to the kitchen and then returned to stand to attention at the far end of the room again.
I liked the feeling of being the only guest in a huge gothic hotel where the staff would have been sent home if it weren’t for the fact that they have to serve you breakfast this morning, its like being the monarch of a small unheard of European principality, “JerryChicken, Earl of Digbeth”, if they’d given me a crown to wear the picture would have been complete.
I didn’t see another guest in the hotel until Thursday night when our Ned came to stay for one night, we sat in one of the lounges downstairs that night and watched as dozens and dozens of people mingled around, maybe hundreds of people and I complained that my palace had suddenly got very busy, who had invited all of these people to my pad ?
Friday morning at breakfast I told Ned to expect the breakfast room to be busy, what with all of the activity of the night before – it wasn’t, there were four people down for breakfast and waiter service rather than self-service was back.
Weird, where were all of those people from the night before, the night before that had resembled a New years Eve party ?
And then we both realised at the same instant – that scene from “The Shining” where Jack Nicholson is going batshit loony and every time he walks past the ballroom he sees it full of party-people on a New Years Eve but the barman is always able to serve him with his regular drink of choice, “Will it be the usual Mr Torrance ?”, “Why I don’t mind if I do Lloyd”.
I told you it was The Shining hotel …