Goodbye to School Hello to Work, Part Four

Lochearnhead Hotel by Elliott Simpson, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This time: A day off, my try at water-skiing and a lock in.

Thursday, my day off, no alarm set and I woke just before 09.00. I propped myself up in bed and lay there for another ten minutes before I swung my legs out and stood up on the cold lino flooring. Grabbing my towel and wash things I headed off to get ready for the day. Once dressed I walked over to the hotel to get some breakfast.  In the stillroom everything had been cleared away, I had missed breakfast. I said to Maggie that I slept in and ask if I can make a drink and a bit of toast. I look round the stillroom and see that she has someone different helping her today. “She’s not here today”, says Maggie as if reading my thoughts. “Help yourself but clear up afterwards and don’t get in our way”. I put four pieces of bread in the toaster and made a drink. There was a plate with a couple of sausages near to the sink and I asked if they were going spare. “They’re for my dog” was Maggie’s reply, so no sausages for me. Up popped the toast and with a cup of coffee, a dinner plate with butter and jam on I sat at the side of the large table away from the action going on around me. They were busy making up packed lunches for guests who would be out for the day. There were sandwiches, sausage rolls, fruit and a piece of cake being put into white carrier bags. Vacuum flasks were being filled with coffee and there was a box full of cans of Coke for those wanting a cold drink. It got me thinking that if I was going down to the loch for 12.00 then I was going to miss lunch. I asked Maggie if the staff could have a packed lunch. I explained that I was going down to the loch and wouldn’t be about when the staff lunch was served. “If there is anything left when we’ve done the lunches I’ll make one up for you. Come back at around 11.00.”

I had two more slices of toast and another cup of coffee before going over to the laundry to retrieve my washing. Coleen was hard at it with a load of sheets strewn across the floor. She and one of the girls were pulling them apart from a bundle that had come across from the hotel. She looked up, saw me and nodded towards a carrier bag by the door. There was too much noise to try to hold a conversation. I picked up the bag looked inside to make sure it was mine and shouted “Thank you” to her. When I got back and took the clothes out the bag, they had all been ironed. I hadn’t expected this and decided that I would buy them a bar of chocolate each as a thank you and hopefully a repeat for the next time. Clothes stowed away I thought I would do a bit of exploring, the receptionists had said to customers that the hotel had a squash court but I hadn’t found it. I wandered down to the road and along the side of the accommodation block, I saw a sign on a gate on the other side of the road. I crossed over to see what it read, “Squash Court” was painted in white on a wooden plaque. The paint was old, faded and barely visible. I opened the gate and followed the path which led to a large windowless building. The whole area was surrounded by trees and couldn’t be seen from the road. There was a wooden door in the corner of the building. Cobwebs were everywhere and it looked like it hadn’t been opened in a long time. I turned the handle and pushed the door open, it was dark inside and I fumbled round and found a light switch. This brought on a series of bulkhead lights all around the inside. There were also some lights on the ceiling and two skylights that let very little light in. This was the squash court. There was a white line painted along the far wall and a football. I kicked the ball against the wall a couple of times, switched out the lights and closed the door.

It was nearly 11.00 and I walked back to the stillroom. Maggie had made me a packed lunch and I thanked her for that. I took it back to my room and had a look inside the bag. There were two sausage rolls, a ham sandwich, two bits of cake, a packet of biscuits, and a can of coke. I quickly ate one of the sausage rolls and left the rest on my bedside table.

I was thinking about my impending water ski lesson and was starting to feel quite nervous, I hoped I wouldn’t make a fool of myself. Just before 12.00 I found my swimming trunks and wrapped them in a towel and made my way down towards the loch. I had just got out the block when Vivian called to me, “Where are you going”, “Just down to the loch”, I had told no one what I would be doing. “Are you going swimming” she asked. “Maybe”. “What about your lunch” she asked. By this time she was standing right beside me. “I got some bits from Maggie and I will have them when I come back. Got to go now, see you later.” Vivian then asked when I would be back and I said around 13.30. We went our separate ways, her into the hotel and me towards the loch and my fate.

Mick and Danny were both in one of the speedboats with the engine running, I went over and said hello and they both nodded back. I couldn’t remember which was which but I thought if I get the names wrong they will soon tell me. One said to head into the clubhouse and put on a wetsuit. “Find one that fits, you’ll know it fits when it’s tight to pull on.” In through the door and its males one side and females the other. On the male side the room had a rack of wetsuits hanging up. I pick one and held it up to me, “too big” I thought and then worked down the rack looking for a smaller one. I chose another and stripped off, put my trunks on and pulled the wet suit on. I couldn’t pull it past me knees so looked for a bigger one. Third time lucky and with the zip pulled up it is very tight but flexible. The wetsuit was a “shorty” one which leaves lots of leg and arm bare. I re-appear and walk towards the pair of them in the boat. “You’ll need a buoyancy aid” and I’m passed one from the boat. I put it on and Danny gets out to make sure it is fastened correctly. “Do I need to be able to swim” I ask. “No, just float and stand, that’s all.” On the jetty are a pair of skis and Danny gets me to stand in them and adjusts the binding to give a tight fit.

“You need to keep your arms straight and your knees bent and you’ll be up in no time.” With Mick driving, Danny asks me if I’m ready to go. “Yes” I say, my heart is thumping with a mixture of nerves and excitement. “Move to the edge of the jetty with the skis on and sit on the side”. Easier said than done with a pair of planks stuck on your feet but I managed it. “Now get into the water and lie on your back with the skis pointing up, you won’t sink as the buoyancy aid will keep you up.” I slip off into the loch and I shout out “f*ck me it’s cold”. Danny just smiles and says “You’ll get used to it”. “Now lie back with the skis pointing upwards and your knees bent.” He then passes me the rope which has a wooden handle with two grips on it. “Flick the rope over so that it is between the two skis.” “Ready?” he asks. I nod. “Mick will take up the slack and then when you are ready I will signal him and he will pull away, this is when you need to keep your arms straight. If you pull them in you will fall.” Mick takes up the slack and Danny waves to him to go. He accelerates at such a speed the rope is pulled out my hands. He comes around again in the boat and I grab the rope as it passes by. “Try again” says Danny. “This time you will know what to expect.” We go again, I’m expecting the strain on my arms and make it about six feet before I’m pulled over and hit the water face down. One of the skis has come off. I struggle to get it back on but manage after a couple of goes. Danny is full of praise. “You did well” he shouts “Try again”. The next time I land on my back side. “Try to keep the skis together as you get up and arms straight and knees bent.” It feels like my arms are being pulled out their sockets. After several more goes I finally manage to get up and ski for about twenty yards before I fall over. Mick pulls me back in towards the jetty and Danny gets in. “Now you can ski I will get in the boat as well.” He sits next to Mick however his seat faces backwards so he can watch what it happening and alert Mick when I fall over. Danny says to stay up as long as I can and keep in the wake of the boat. “We will head out in a straight line, no turns yet.” Off we go again and this time I must have managed about two hundred yards before I felt myself going and pulled on the handle bending my arms. Down I went at about thirty miles an hour. Water at that speed is very hard and it knocked the wind out of me. “One last try for today” Danny shouts. We head down the loch and this time I manage to stay up for what seems like ages. Danny is giving me the thumbs up from the boat. Then I fall over again. We are a good distance out from the loch side and Mick pulls the boat up alongside me. “We are going to head back to the jetty” Mick says, “When Danny lifts his arm let go of the rope and your speed will take you into shallow water.” Off we go again, the strain on my arm is immense and I will be aching for ages afterwards I thought. We are heading straight for the side of the loch at a fair speed and then Danny lifts his hand, I let go of the rope, Mick pulls the boat round and I glide in sinking about ten feet from the shore. I pull off the skis and push them shore wards, I swim behind them. I climb out the water and immediately feel worn out. I grab the skis and walk to the jetty where I sit on the edge. Mick and Danny tie up the boat and come along the jetty to where I am. “Well done” they both say. “Thanks” I say in a very tired voice. “Did I do OK”, I asked. “You did very well for someone who has never done it before. Come again next week and we’ll see if you can improve”.

I got up to go and get changed when I saw Vivian sitting further along. “I’ve been watching you, you did very well” she called. I asked her how she knew I would be here. “I guessed” was her reply. “Are you going back to the hotel now?” she wanted to know. “I’m going to the shop first. But first I’ve got to go and get changed out of this wetsuit.” I pulled off the wetsuit and saw how red my legs were from the cold water and pounding they had taken. I stripped off my trunks and sat on a chair drying myself. Once dressed I went back out with the wetsuit to hang it up to dry as Mick had said to do. Mick and Danny were now laid back on the sunbeds as I had seen them a couple of days ago. I thanked them once again and they said again that for a beginner, I had done very well. My legs ached as I started to the walk back. Vivian ran over from where she had been sitting to join me. “Have you done it before”, “No, first time” I said. We walked back up towards the hotel with Vivian doing most of the talking. Just opposite the hotel I said I was going to the shop as I had to buy some bits and send a postcard. “I’ll be in the staffroom “she said. Once in the shop which also had a Post Office counter, I bought three bars of chocolate for the laundry staff and a postcard of the loch. I asked to borrow a pen and sat outside on the step writing a post card to mum and dad saying everything was OK. I had already phoned them on the Sunday evening I arrived to let them know I had got here safely.

Back inside the shop, this time to buy a stamp, the lady said that she would take the postcard and put the stamp on. I pushed it under the glass with the money and the pen. She put a stamp on the card and then picked it up to read it. She read the whole of the card before pushing the change back to me. “Working at the hotel are you”. I nodded and headed out the door with my bars of chocolate. Walking back up past the hotel I went into the laundry and gave Coleen the three bars of chocolate. “Thanks for doing all my laundry” I said. She shook her head and led me outside. “What did you say”? I repeated my thanks for doing my laundry. Colleen said “Thanks for the chocolate” and disappeared back inside. Once back in my room I dumped my wet towel and trunks on the floor and sat on the side of my bed, opened up the white carrier bag and ate everything that was inside. I drunk most of the Coke and left the rest for later. I lay down on the bed and fell fast asleep almost immediately. I was woken around 16.30 by talking in the corridor. I got up and opened my door to see who was making the noise, it was Scott and Doug the two chefs. “You should come and join us” said Scott. He went on to say they had been playing football in the squash court. “Well, sort of like a mixture of football and squash, but we use the football and our feet instead of a racquet and ball. It’s great fun and knackering. We’ll let you know the next time we’re going.” “Can I ask you something” I said to both of them. Doug asked what I wanted to know. “The girl in the stillroom, Vivian, what’s she like”? “You’ll be lucky” said Doug, “we’ve both tried chatting her up and got nowhere”. Scott reckoned I’d have no chance. They both wanted to know why I asked. “Just been chatting to her and wondered if she was going out with anyone”. “No one, not since I’ve been here, not sure if she’s got someone back in the Hebrides though” Doug chipped in. I thanked them both for the info and went back into my room. I lay back on the bed pondering if she was just being friendly or if she was chatting me up.

Having missed breakfast and only having a packed lunch in the afternoon I was determined that I wouldn’t miss the evening meal. I got back up off the bed and picked up the towel from the floor. It was sopping wet. There was no way that was going to dry me after a shower. It was going to have to be the much smaller face towel I had. In the shower I rinsed out my trunks and left them together with the large towel draped over an old rail beside the showers. There were only the four of us, Scott, Doug, Eck and myself so if they went missing I would know who the suspects were.

At 18.00 I was in the stillroom ready for my food. Sausages, chips and beans with two large gateaux in the middle of the table for dessert. There was also a loaf of bread and a plate of butter. I piled my plate up and ate like I hadn’t seen food for a week. “Have you been water skiing today” asked one of the other girls at the table. I hadn’t said anything to anyone that I was going to give it a try. Only Vivian had seen me. I nodded and asked how they knew. “News travels fast” was the reply. I carried on eating and once I had finished I was straight on to the gateau. I was talking to the girls next to me and across the table. I hadn’t noticed Vivian arrive and she was sitting further down the table. When I saw her she was looking across at me. As soon I had finished I made a cup of coffee and instead of sitting at the table I headed outside to drink it in the fresh air. I thought about my choices for the evening, my room, the staffroom, the bar or go for a walk. As it was only 19.00 I decided to walk down to the loch and carry on past the ski club to see what else there was. With the loch on my right I passed the ski club and saw “The Achraw Hotel” and then “The Clachin Cottage Hotel” on the left. I found a spot by the loch and sat there throwing stones in the water. It was quiet and relaxing and I started to think if I wanted to stay. I had said on my first day that I would give it until Friday to see if I was going to want to stay until I was due to go to college. The job was alright, most of the staff were friendly, I was getting paid and having a good time. The clincher was the skiing. It was a whole new experience, something I could never afford and no one I knew had ever done anything like this before. The decision was that if tomorrow went ok at work then I would stay.

My legs still ached as I walked back up to the hotel. I had no idea of the time, it was starting to get dark and I popped into the bar for a quick drink. It was fairly quiet, there was no Eck sitting at the bar as he was still working. The only staff in the bar was a few of the chambermaids who I nodded to as I walked in. I got a pint and went over to join them. They wanted to know how I got on water skiing. I told them it was my first time and I wasn’t very good. “That’s not what we heard” said Shirley. I wanted to know who told them about it. All they would say was that I’d find out. Drink finished I said goodnight to them and went over to my room. I read the bits of the old newspaper I had missed and having had a wash I set the alarm and turned in.

The next day I was in the stillroom at 06.45, Vivian was there but no Maggie. It was her day off and one of the chambermaids was there in her place. “I never saw you after dinner last night”. “No, I wandered down to the loch to look at the water”. I made a cup of coffee and put it in its hiding place and headed to reception to get the key. It was Miss Brown on and I asked her for the key to the front door. I had already taken the brush out of the lodge and armed with the key I opened up and swept out the dust. Up the stairs to collect the shoes and then the papers, I had everything done well before Gregor was due to start. I asked Miss Brown If I could get her a drink. She thanked me but said no. Gregor arrived and was given the list of rooms to pick up the luggage from. He didn’t look at it and passed it directly to me. “On you go then laddie, you know what to do”. I took the list and worked my way through it whilst Gregor did what he did best, he talked. With my legs still sore from the previous day all the up and down on the stairs made them hurt even more. The rest of the morning passed off in the same way the others had done, suitcases out to the cars, cleaning the windowsills and then the lounges. By lunchtime I needed a break. Every time I was in the stillroom that morning it felt like Vivian was staring at me. I had my lunch and went off for my break. The first thing I did was to change my towels for clean ones. This done I did what I had done the previous afternoon and sat on a chair in the sun outside the staffroom, chatting to anyone who passed by. A quick wash and I was back on at 16.00. More suitcases up to the rooms and more cleaning in the lounges. Miss Brown was still on duty. I was standing opposite reception with her head just visible as she sat behind the desk. She looked up and across at me. “Did you enjoy your water skiing yesterday”? “How come everyone knows I was down at the loch yesterday” I asked. She just smiled and carried on doing what she had been doing. The rest of the day carried on as normal and once Gregor had returned I said cheerio to him and Miss Brown. “I’ll have a word with you tomorrow laddie” he said as I walked out the front door. A word about what, I thought as I walked up. Back in my room I got changed and headed for the bar, I had enough in tips to keep me going all evening. The bar was quite busy, there were locals, guests and plenty of staff. I guess there must have been around thirty people. Just after nine it got busier with the chefs and Eck arriving. Doug and Scott had changed but Eck was wearing the same clothes he had on at work. The staff were split into two groups. Lads and lasses. Some of the locals and guests had gone by the time last orders were called and I went to finish off the pint I had when Scott grabbed my arm and said not to bother. I looked at him and he said “lock in”. Sure enough Angus came round from the bar and asked anyone he didn’t recognise to drink up and go. As the last ones left, he locked the door and closed the curtains. There were locals and staff and the drinking carried on. We were playing darts most of the others were drinking and talking. Eck was sat on his stool not talking to anyone. Vivian who was with the chambermaids had come across to talk to me a couple of times but had been pulled back each time by some of the other girls. At about midnight I was heading to the bar to get another drink when I saw a policeman coming into the back of the bar from the staff side. “Sh*t” I thought we’ve had it now, but no, he took his cap off and Angus poured a whisky from a bottle for him. All this continued until Angus judged that we had all had enough and he called time again and this time he meant it. It was probably around 01.30 when we all started to go. Through the bar and out the staff door where it was now chilly and I was wearing only a thin shirt. It was also very dark, with only the corridor light in the staff block to guide us. Just outside I feel a tug on my arm, I look round and I see Vivian, she is pulling me to one side. She pulls me round to the side of the hotel and pushes me up against the wall. She says nothing and starts to kiss me. I don’t know how long this went on for but I went with it. I was fairly drunk and I’m sure she was as well. All of a sudden there was light. The policeman had come out of the bar by the back door and switched on his torch to see his way and caught us in its beam. That put a stop to the kissing and we walked up towards our rooms. Another kiss and we said goodnight. Back in my room I tried to work out what had just happened but a mixture of tiredness and alcohol sent me to sleep.

Next time: Fallout from the lock in and Eck’s sudden departure.

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