Work & Play – a new non-fiction piece by Bill Keeth

It began as a disagreement – well, a misunderstanding, let’s say. My lad had been in hospital for a good twelve months or so during which time his flat had accumulated every dead spider, fly and dust mote available to the residents of Rhodes Village, Middleton. So his pad was in need of a deep clean plus a gloss/matt emulsion repaint from top to bottom. Lucky was I, then, that my good friend Tony Auton, who is more widely-known as a gifted singer and guitarist (check out YouTube for Tony’s epic rendition of the Buddy Waters-penned ‘Rich Man’s Woman’) was up for the job. Because Tony is also a good painter and decorator like Chuck Berry before him. Better still, Tony reckoned it would take him just 4-5 days.

So, all that remained to be done was for me to arrange for my lad to be housed somewhere else for those 4-5 days lest his interminable to-ing and fro-ing, smoking, boozing and insouciant over-indulgence in a multitude of other bodily and extraneous functions should interfere unduly with the task at hand. A coach trip to Scotland with Travelstyle seemed to be the ideal solution since the lad would be gone for the requisite four to five days, with (MacHeaven on earth!) a free bar available to him of an evening. (Travelstyle advertises holiday deals in the local press, of which many are last minute bargains like this).

Hence the misunderstanding. Because methought I’d booked mi-laddoh in for 5 days with a free bar, whereas what I had actually coughed up for was (get this!) 5 days with NO FREE BAR costing £60 more than Travelstyle would have billed me for an identical holiday via the very same coach to the very same destination on the very same day.

You just bet I was when I found out – sick as one, and spitting Polly’s feathers out, too!

Naturally, I pursued Travelstyle for a £60 refund, three letters of complaint being necessary to bring the firm to heel.

Still, Travelstyle eventually came up with an offer of £60 discount on any future booking I might care to make. So, acting on the premise that nobody other than the likes of Elton John can afford to go to Court for a pocketful of spare change, I took Travelstyle up on its offer. That is to say, I booked a 6-day trip to the Isle of Wight, discounted at £120 each.

A bargain, I can tell you! Particularly since we were already on the look-out for a week away somewhere where the dodgy Euro wouldn’t byte, and where I might get on with reading, feet up, as many thrillers by George Pelecanos as six days will allow.

Check it out, if you will: the Seagrove Hotel, Sandown (Pelecanos’s bibliography, too, should you care to do so) . . . Coach travel included thereto and therefrom; half-board accommodation throughout; room with sea view; free entertainment each night; three mid-week outings by coach. Plus, I kid you not, the most consistent pint of lager (Kronenburg, as it happens) I have enjoyed for many a long day – the £2.80 I was billed for it hardly being the rip-off price that’s closing so many pubs up north.

So what was the down side? Because there’s got to be one, given the cost of the holiday. Well, to be perfectly frank, though our accommodation boasted all mod cons – teasmaid, shower, TV etc. there was a sort of time-warped reality to it all, said mod cons being 1950’s-styled at best. Also, the variously-patterned hall, stairs and dining-room carpets veered towards Axminster or worse, with a suggestion of “end of roll” and “fitted by the night porter on his day off” about them. Worse still, there was no lift. So luggage was a chore unless you recognised this as one of the rainy days you’d been saving up for and opted, as did I, to tip he night porter for taking your cases to and from your room. (Another bargain: £2 each way.)

‘You get what you pay for,’ was the general consensus, a wise addendum to this being: ‘Be more expensive if the rooms were better.’ Because the main things to bear in mind are that our hotel was clean, the food was fine and the staff was notably friendly.

True, some of the same staff enjoyed an incredible streak of good luck playing bingo with the guests/losers, thereby causing me to be selective with any  tips I gave out. Meanwhile, “Neil Diamond” and “Elvis” were brought to life on successive nights, courtesy of the ubiquitous night porter who undertook these star roles in the face of crippling disadvantage, both vocal and visual.

Still, my final word on t’ subject is this: Yeah, I’d use Travelstyle again. (Shearings and National Holidays, too.) Maybe have a bash, come my birthday in November. Hang about: it’s November already. So either I have already gone away again or I haven’t.

I shall ignore readers’ unkind suggestion to the effect that, in either event, I didn’t have far to go.

November 2011


Bill Keeth’s books, Every Street in Manchester ISBN 1859880649 & Write It Self-Publish It Sell It ISBN 97809558863 are available from Amazon and all good book shops. Bill can also be contacted via his website, http://www.novelnovella.com.

Click here to return to the index of stories for W I S P


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