Sunday Short Story – Sending Out An SOS

Nicholas felt like Winnie the Pooh after eating a whole jar of honey…though he was not stuck in Rabbit’s burrow, but in the window of the end cubicle of the Gent’s toilet. In one of his chaplit rom com novels this had always been an excellent way to escape embarrassing or dangerous situations. Now Nicholas had created his own dramatic scene.

His big mistake had been to keep one arm behind for manoeuvring, now this arm was firmly wedged between his stomach and the window frame. Nicholas looked down at the deserted alley below, at least no one could see his predicament.

The muted sound of music and lively chatter floated down the corridor to the hotel cloakrooms. Hopefully everyone’s attention was still focussed on the late arrival of the real Nigel Palmer at the Clacket Lane Junior School reunion. How long before they noticed that Nicholas the imposter Nigel Palmer had slipped out of the function room? The tough looking real Nigel with his beard, biceps and bionic legs was unlikely to have ended up in such a humiliating situation.

How long before someone sauntered into the Gents so Nicholas could yell for help, or preferably keep quiet. As he tried to stretch his outside arm he realised he could reach into his top pocket for his phone. Maybe the emergency services would rescue him before his old classmates found him; he would not tell them he was in trouble, he would report as an anonymous passerby.

There was shock for the Clacket Lane party as flashing lights and sirens were followed by all three emergency services bursting into the function room. It was a quiet night in the town and they were all glad to respond to confused 999 calls that could be a suicide, burglary or major terrorist incident.

Nigel’s plan worked, he was being rescued, or at least there was talk of equipment being fetched by the voices he could hear behind him. In the alleyway an ambulance lady tried to reassure him, while a police officer asked how many terrorists were in the hotel. He would have been further reassured if he could have seen his former class mates lying on the floor being checked for weapons.

All except Caroline Hepworth who had managed to slip away, determined to see who was ruining her well organised evening. When she heard someone say ’in the alleyway Sarge’ she crept out, one of the advantages of being a woman of a certain age, one was always invisible. Peering in the darkness she could see two figures in yellow jackets talking to a head sticking out of a window, when a torch beam moved she caught a glimpse of a face. Wedged in the window was the man who had been Nigel Palmer all evening until the appearance of the more exciting real Nigel Palmer.

‘Don’t let him go,’ she bellowed ‘he’s an imposter.’

‘Not much chance, he’s stuck fast.’

‘Oh dear, is it serious, I mean he might be real and the other chap an imposter.’

Thursday Thoughts

So what’s been happening to us all this week? Getting out and about, doing some gardening? Every country and every person seems to have different policies on Covid so let’s not even think about that. We could go to the beach ….

Whoops – it’s been so windy there’s no sand left on the beach. So we could go down to the river…

A ferry trip turned out to be like the old normal. No hand gel, no rules, no queues, no social distancing – well I was the only passenger – and pay cash, £1….

Perhaps we should go to the circus.

What I actually set out to do was go back to our writers’ group at the library for the first time in a year and a half. Almost normal, limited to six people so a bit of negotiating who is going to go each week. Kitchen and kettle out of bounds and library coffee machine a no go area. But the words of my off line writer friends are as witty and wise as ever. The other event of the day was to have coffee in Arcado Lounge, one of my favourite places, cheerful staff, relaxing atmosphere, more fun than Costa. Open at last, same as before, just more spaced out, luckily there is plenty of space….

In the meantime, back in the outside world life continues to be stranger than fiction and provides ideas for fiction. A burglar stole the gold rosary beads that Mary Queen of Scots took to her execution. They were taken from Arundel Castle and no one can figure how they got in or out. But anyone who enjoys horror stories will know that burglar will have more to worry about than being caught by the police – what mysterious powers will that rosary have, what spirits will be unleashed by this unholy act of theft?

Enjoy Your Stay

This week, at long last many of us might think, some arrivals at English airports are now required to go straight to a hotel to quarantine for ten days. I heard a manager for the Renaissance Hotel, Heathrow say on the radio they were aiming to make the experience as enjoyable as possible – by providing real cutlery and high street toiletries, what more could you ask for? High street toiletries… what sort did they provide before and by high street do they mean from the pound shop? Another perk they might offer is a great view of the northern runway from the back of this hotel. The Renaissance hotel spent the last four years of the twentieth century holding the longest ever public enquiry into the building of a fifth terminal at Heathrow. The hotel’s swimming pool was closed and never opened again, but Terminal 5 opened in 2008.

The Bath Road was once the main highway from London to Bath; a stagecoach service to Bath was advertised in a London newspaper in 1657 and the last London to Bath stagecoach ran in 1843, as the Great Western Railway came to prominence. Fifteen miles into your journey you would have passed by the agricultural fields of Heathrow Village and stayed overnight at a coaching inn.  Now this section of the Bath Road is lined with airport hotels. During our long years living near and very near Heathrow we probably visited all of them, without ever staying a single night. They were popular places ( the only places ) for Christmas dinner and dances and other ‘Dos’. For a brief period I did silver service waitressing at The Excelsior, a whole group of hard up mothers at the junior school did £10 a night casual waitressing if there was an event on. We could pick evenings when our husbands were early shift – everyone’s husband did shift work at the airport. It was a mixture of great laughs and horrendous experiences; the several banqueting suites had moveable walls, so not only did you have to remember which were the In and Out doors to the kitchen, you had to figure out where you were and how you got there.

The local hotels were also good for a meal out; there wasn’t anywhere else to go apart from MacDonalds, though a nice little restaurant did open at one stage, in a little parade of shops near the Bath Road. It was called Café Concorde and it was always an experience going there. The young staff were very friendly, but you never knew what was going to happen. The smoke alarm in the kitchen would go off frequently and you never knew if you would get what you ordered or when you would get it. Then sadly Concorde crashed; but the owners were not deterred by this omen and the café reopened as Le Basilica, though its Italian connections were tenuous.

The only photo I ever managed to take of Concorde

Our favourite place to eat was The Excelsior Carvery. By this time I had a job at the airport in the business class lounges; the company I worked for was continually being absorbed into larger companies, one of which was Granada. Our friend who repaired televisions also worked for them and we each had a 25 percent discount at the carvery, making us very popular with friends. It was a great carvery, never to be matched again. A delicious choice of starters with as many visits as you liked. One of our friends used to have at least three plates of seafood each time and still have room to pile the vegies on with his generous helping of meat, he may even have sneaked up for another helping of meat, it was a big place, nobody would notice. We took all our visitors there.

Warning: brief mention of Covid – happy days, oh to go to carveries and buffet bars again and enjoy breathing all over the food and touching everything.

We also frequented the health clubs at various hotels, usually moving on when management ignored our letters about the poor state of the changing rooms. Our last hotel experience before we moved away was the brand new Marriot. It was down the road from us and there was a bus stop outside if I was coming after work.  It also boasted a cash machine, so we no longer had to go over the other side of the M4 motorway into town or into one of the airport terminals when we needed money. The shiny new hotel had an elegant atrium with coffee shops and sofas everywhere, so we could relax with coffee and cake after a swim in the health club. While others were sitting with lap tops and brief cases having important looking meetings, we would be sitting there with our wet swimming stuff and wet hair.

In the steam room you would often meet chatty guests and other locals. One day a chap was telling us ‘You know that Heathrow documentary, my brother was in that.’

‘Which one was he?’ we asked, thinking of pilots or the control tower or those long suffering airline staff always trying to get their flights off on time.

‘He was the one in a coma.’

Most of those in the steam room were guests staying overnight before flying off somewhere exciting. One chap asked everyone where they were going and I said ‘Home, I live down the road.’

He was astonished and said ‘You mean people actually live around here?’

The last house we owned was nearest to the airport and friends and relatives did not need to book into a hotel as they could stay with us, we didn’t even charge them for parking their car on the driveway. A walk across the fields took us to the Bath Road and the free buses into the airport.

Have you ever stayed at Heathrow hotels, or perhaps you are staying at one right now, in quarantine…

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Wednesday 3rd February 2021 – #Greece Eat Dessert First, Mairzy Doats by Elizabeth Gauffreau, #FlashFiction Janet Gogerty

Today I was a guest at Sally’s Smorgasbord Blogger Daily. Pop over to read about other bloggers and enjoy some desserts.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

The first post today will require you sit with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and enjoy some history and some recipes from the fantastic team at Eat Dessert First in Greece.

To Ioannina, Arta, Preveza and Thesprotia with pies and histories

Epirus … the northwestern tip of our country, with ancient history and rich cultural tradition, from the areas that first cultivated the idea of the Modern Greek Enlightenment. The contribution of Epirus to the Greek Revolution of 1821 was enormous. Two of the three founding members of the Filiki Etairia (a secret organization aiming to overthrow the Ottoman rule) came from there, Nikolaos Skoufas from Arta and Athanasios Tsakalov from Ioannina. The people of Epirus actively participated in the liberation struggle. However, Epirus was not included inn the newly formed Greek state in 1830. The Arta region was annexed by the Treaty of Berlin in…

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Friday Flash Fiction – 700 – Bookshelves

Vivienne waved goodbye to her daughter’s family with relief, the sun shone on her front garden once more now their campervan was gone. Peace in her little road did not last long as a large white van pulled up outside her front gate. What on earth had her son ordered this time? Yesterday it was a big bag of clothes and a large box of books from Amazon, she had not realised James was so fashion conscious and intellectual. A skinny young chap was hefting a huge box from the back of the van, fortunately James appeared at the front door and rushed out onto the front path.

Can you make sure the front door stays open Mother?’

Vivienne wedged open the door then retreated upstairs to the sanctuary of her front bedroom and gazed out of the window in amusement at the two men’s body language. Customers were not supposed to help, but stay a safe distance; now the delivery driver was taking a picture of the box on the garden path as proof of delivery, he hadn’t made it as far as the front door. As she turned away from the window she noticed the ironing board was propped against her wardrobe and her sewing machine was stuck on top of the chest of drawers. It was bad enough having a divorced son in his forties taking over her sewing room as a bedroom, now he was throwing her stuff out.

There was banging and huffing coming from the landing as the box made it to the top of the stairs, followed by James.

‘I’ll have to unpack it on the landing, make sure all the bits are there.’

‘What on earth is it and where is it going?’

‘In my bedroom, so it won’t affect you. It’s a stylish bookcase.’

‘For all your new books? At least they won’t be cluttering up the living room… have you joined The Open University?’

‘I have already got a degree Mother, remember. I might even read them, but the main task is to get them ready for my television appearance tomorrow. Cassie and I will be on Breakfast Television as representatives of MPJ and important businesses in general.’

Television really, oh I must phone…’

NO, no, it might be only a brief clip, but they will probably replay it all day.’

‘So is Cassie coming here?’

‘No, it’s all remote television now, Cassie will be in her living room with the vivarium and her interesting plants as background. She’s going to talk about MPJ helping the homeless, while I discuss the challenges of getting people back to work versus encouraging them to work from home, with the added bonus of the homeless staying in redundant office buildings.’

‘Well that won’t work, I was just reading in The Big Issue that converting office blocks into totally unsuitable homes is not the way forward.’

‘Perhaps you could get the BBC to interview you… in the meantime I have to create a new aesthetic for my office and the right image for me.’

Vivienne retreated to the garden to inspect the damage done by the grandchildren. From upstairs came much banging and swearing. When that was over James appeared with a cup of tea for her.

‘Where’s that nice photo of the twins, the one in the brass frame?’

‘I thought you had seen enough of Justin and Jacintha this week?’

He laughed. ‘I have, but they would look good on the bookshelf and what about that unusual ornament you brought back from Greece and the Buddha your friend gave you?’

On Friday morning Vivienne was up early, sitting in the living room with a cup of tea; she had crept around, not daring to make a sound in case broadcasting had started upstairs. It was a few moments before she realised it was James talking; she did not recognize her back bedroom sewing room at all. ‘The Office’ had sophistication and character. James should have been a set designer and he himself looked very suave, she felt rather proud. She had no idea what he was talking about, but perhaps the presenters and other viewers would.