Chapter 14 Chairman’s Choice part 3
It was about this time that I was diagnosed with Glaucoma; I first noticed it was driving the car and thinking that the windscreen was dirty just above my line of sight, the eye specialist that I saw put me on eye drops to reduce the pressure in my right eye.
Our guest numbers were building up and there was always a need for more of this and more of that we wanted more hot water we wanted more private bathrooms we wanted more rooms.
And then as our takings increased I got involved with VAT. I was always involved with national insurance and the payment of wages, so to make things easy I modified the keyboard of the apple 2E and arranged it with a remote access point in the kitchen so the staff could record their comings and goings, Alan wrote a program which we ran on the computer to calculate the stoppages and resultant wages.
About this time the Webbington country club was selling up and I managed to acquire in their sale six very nice cut glass chandeliers which I hung in the hotel dining room.
The elevator had been installed in the nineteen thirties and after nearly 50 years it was indeed of quite a lot of tender loving care to keep it running, the control gear consisted of banks of post office relays, the cam type selector mechanism was also worn out and the lift engineers were instructed to "look but don’t touch", there was a relay that made the lift go to the ground floor after use, this I had disabled by wedging a piece of wood to hold the points open, and the selector mechanism had a clothes peg holding one point in just the right position.
It was about this time that I decided that trade would be improved if we were to take in organized coach parties, the hotel in fact was very suitable for this sort of trade having quite a few small single rooms and in general being quite old fashioned.
One of the leases in the adjacent building to the hotel came up for sale so I decided as a policy to try to buy any of these that came up in the future, they were directly connected to the hotel and would readily serve as on-suite rooms.
At the same time I was busy making bathrooms out of any convenient space, in this way I was able improve the facilities.
We had some very pleasing family catherings
at the Hotel, I am the youngest of five siblings, Doris, Edna, Charlie, a ten year pause, Clifford then myself.
But we still needed more hot water so I decided to fit another hot water tank in the attic, this tank I had to maneuver up through the trap door from the store room below, I asked Alan to push from underneath the tank whilst I pulled on the rope from the attic, it wasn’t my fault that the rope broke but it was a little time before he forgave me.
I decided it was time we had a new gas boiler to put some central heating radiators in the lounge and ballroom, the big lounge was 20m long and very difficult to keep warm, but with the aid of a wood burning stove and some radiators it was tolerable.
I remember at this time there was a man working for me doing odd jobs and he helped me with a stainless steel liner for the chimney, one day I found him cutting up pieces of old lead pipe and he made the excuse that it was to pack out a door hinge, scrap lead was fetching a good price at the time: later on I caught him stealing food from the deep freeze and he departed forthwith.
I advertised for a chef and a very experienced middle aged man applied and took on the job, the first day he was excellent, knew all the little tricks to make it look appetizing, the second day he was a little drunk, and on the third day I had to terminate his employment because he was so drunk he couldn’t even do the job.
Then there was another man who said he’d been working as a chef for some years, he was a pleasant enough man and with a little help he managed to do the job, but it turned out his experience consisted of working for a holiday camp where his task was to load dozens of joints of meat into the ovens each day and removed when cooked, but I showed him how to I wanted the breakfast cooked and that was no problem.
We had a nice big old hot cupboard that would take all the plates and a few trays, you can cook the bacon early and do the fried bread in the deep fryer the bulk tomatoes or beans were easy, and I always insisted that the eggs were fried and then served directly, we had a big cooker and three very large frying pans that would take seven eggs at a time.
Very often during the afternoon I would prepare the desert, two big trays of a apple tart, rice pudding, bakewell tart to name but a few, and my steak and kidney pudding was legendary: the art of catering for a lot of people is in being prepared for emergency, i.e. always have a few small tins of boiled potatoes in the pantry so that if you run out while serving dinner in a couple of minutes you can boil up some more, this principle can be applied to most items.
The result was I was called upon quite often to fill in for the chef if he had a day off or for any other reason no chef was available, so I grew quite adept at cooking for 70 or 80 guests.