I’m often asked what happened to all the people who starred in The Hotel (see here). Well, with one exception* they are all still with me, three years after the filming, which is good going considering the high turnover of staff which some hotels experience. Wayne is still wooing the customers as the Damson Dene’s manager – the Tripadvisor ratings speak for themselves**. Amos, who was portrayed on TV as the bumbling Romanian new boy, now speaks perfect English, and has been joined by his lovely fiancee, Florina, who also works in the restaurant. Paul and Lavinia have been promoted to joint deputy managers and Lavinia took a short time off to have a baby, the lovely Paula. Yvonne and Jean are still frantically handling multiple calls on the Damson Dene reception desk, and George in the kitchen has got engaged to Ada in the restaurant.
And there is the unexpected announcement of another engagement – Marta is to marry her boyfriend Rafal. He proposed on Christmas Day morning, just before she came on duty for the breakfast shift. Marta is now the deputy manager at the Riverside, after accepting the move from the Damson Dene in a tearful denouement in the last episode of the series. It’s lovely to see her so happy and with such a beaming smile.
* The Head Chef’s days were numbered as soon as the series was broadcast.
** The Damson Dene has received more five star reviews from Tripadvisor than any other hotel in the Lake District over the Christmas period – and Wayne is name-checked in nearly all of them.
A letter of complaint from a guest used to cut me to the core. Then I read that Claridges, who are about as iconic as they get, employed someone whose sole job was to answer letters of complaint. That cheered me up no end. If Claridges, where everything is perfect, gets moaners perhaps I shouldn’t mind so much.
Nowadays no-one ever bothers to write in. If they’ve got something to moan about they just post something on TripAdvisor, for the world to see. But sometimes, when things have gone splendidly, they take the trouble to tell the world about that too. Wayne, at the Damson Dene Hotel is good at making things go splendidly. I was there every day over Christmas and New Year, but Wayne seemed to be there every hour, usually making someone laugh, with the help of his dog Fly. Because of the rapport which Wayne has with the guests he gets lots of 5 Star reviews on TripAdvisor and in an idle moment, I thought I’d check how he has fared against the competition. Not too badly as it turns out. Last year Damson Dene got 175 five star reviews. The iconic Claridges got only 145. When you think that Claridges has 200 bedrooms and 420 staff, whereas the Damson Dene has only 40 bedrooms and 23 staff, I think that’s pretty good going on the part of Wayne and his team. In fact I’ve yet to find a hotel that has beaten Damson Dene. They did better than all the other hotels in the Lake District, whatever the star rating (see link here).
I think it’s because it’s not just the staff who smile – the dog does too.
“Fiction was invented the day Jonah arrived home and told his wife that he was three days late because he had been swallowed by a whale”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The respected Lake District hotelier, and my keen business rival, Simon Berry, came to Christianity in a remarkable way. He was a non-believer and his wife was trying to convert him. Simon was having nothing of it but said “If I’m handed a bible, free, in the next seven days I’ll be convinced”. Six days later he was in a second hand book shop when the woman behind the counter took out a book and gave it to him. It was a bible. Simon asked “How much do you want for it?” to which she replied “Nothing”. “Thank you very much”, he said “you’ve changed my life”. He has been a committed Evangelist Christian ever since.
I wondered if I’d had my “Simon Berry” moment tonight. I was on my computer, reading through the dozens of emails from religious folk in the States (see yesterday’s post) criticising me for replacing the bible in the bedrooms at the Damson Dene with Fifty Shades of Grey, when I came across one which said that unless I repented my hotel would be destroyed by “flood, fire or pestilence”. A few minutes later I telephoned the hotel and the receptionist said “I can’t speak to you now, we’ve got a terrible flood”. When I called back later I found out that the flood had only destroyed two rooms, not the entire hotel. Clearly the Americans just aren’t praying hard enough. But perhaps we should be on the look out for fire or pestilence next.
I’m intrigued by the difference in the reaction in England and the States to the news that the Damson Dene Hotel has replaced the Gideon bible with Fifty Shades of Grey (see link to earlier blog). In England the response has been overwhelmingly favourable. Everyone to whom I’ve told the story has roared with laughter, whatever their religious beliefs. People have seen it as a bit of fun and almost no one has been offended. The only complaint we’ve had from a guest at the Damson Dene has been when their promised copy of Fifty Shades of Grey wasn’t there in their room, because the previous occupant had taken it home with them.
It’s been a different matter in the Sates. As soon as the story broke there we started to receive dozens of emails. Some of them were supportive, but many weren’t. I’ve looked through all the emails we received yesterday from the States and there were 85 that told us off for removing the bible. Of these, 32 admonished us pleasantly and courteously, but 42 weren’t at all nice. My favourite expression amongst many terms of abuse was one which called me “a puppet of Satan”. But it was the remaining 11 emails which tickled me most. In these the sender pretended that they had just been about to making a booking at the Damson Dene, but had changed their mind. One said “our company was going to have a major conference with you” another “we will not be returning” (they’ve never stayed). My favourite was the woman who wrote: “seven friends and I were about to reserve a month, perhaps six weeks in your hotel for next fall.” As the Damson Dene has only rarely had a visitor from the States we know these statements are false.
I don’t think for a minute that this very un-Christian combination of lies, threats and intimidation is in any way typical of the average American. A truer picture might be gleaned from the NBC website which, alongside the story, had a poll asking the question “Which book would you be more likely to pick up in your hotel room?” A whopping 31,648 people took part in the poll, and to my surprise Fifty Shades of Grey easily beat the bible. Fifty Shades got 42% of the vote, the bible 37%, with the remaining 21% preferring “another book”.
It’s been a fascinating glimpse into life in America. I love that country, but I have to say, I’m glad I’m here.
Tonight millions of women will be curling up in bed with a good book and you can bet your life it won’t be the Bible. More likely than not it will be Fifty Shades of Grey. I haven’t read the book yet – I’m not in the target audience – but I’m told it’s a ripping good yarn and everyone who’s in the target audience loves it. This made me wonder about the sense of providing a book, the Gideon Bible which no-one reads, and many dislike, in the bedside cabinet of our hotel bedrooms, instead of a book which everyone wants to read, such as Fifty Shades of Grey.
And so today, with the support of Wayne, my Manager (pictured) I substituted the Gideon Bibles with Fifty Shades of Grey in all the bedrooms at the Damson Dene Hotel. My decision has attracted quite a bit of media interest and we have spent much of the day talking to the press and TV about it (see here and here). In this secular age it seems distinctly odd that anyone would expect to find a religious book in a hotel bedroom. But I won’t be giving all our Gideon bibles to the Help The Aged charity shop – I’ll keep a couple behind the reception desk so that if any guest whose preferred bedtime reading happens to be the bible finds that they have forgotten to pack their copy, they’ll be pleased to read in the guest handbook that they can borrow a copy from the receptionist.
Wayne is loving it. Although this is his first time in a recording studio he’s completely relaxed. I popped in to say hello and wish him good luck and found him recording an original track written by Tim Riley, producer, song writer and music guru. The studio is at The Allen, in Kendal and Wayne is there to record his first album. He arrived with a clutch of his favourite songs, prepared to record an album of covers, but he’s enjoyed singing Tim’s composition so much that he’s asked for more of where that came from.
This video features Wayne singing Breaking Down These Walls, a song written and produced by Tim Riley.
"The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials"
About Slow Life
The idea of Slow Life is to take the principles of Slow Food, which are “good, clean and fair”, and extend them to life in general.
Here in the Lake District, the air is clean, the pace is slow and the atmosphere is calm. If we don’t grow food ourselves, we can buy it in friendly small shops, where you know the quality is going to be the best.
This blog is a celebration of the Slow Life, with forays into the world of design, music, the arts, gardens, and my particular weakness, Japan.