Goodbye to School Hello to Work, Part Six

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

This time: Days off and the new kitchen porter.


I was up and about by 08.30 on my day off. The place was still full of the disinfectant smell from the major clean up yesterday. I pulled the sheets off my bed and with my towels I went over to the laundry. It wasn’t as noisy as the bedding hadn’t come across from the hotel yet. I asked Coleen if I could have clean bedding and another large towel as I was going swimming. “He was a dirty f*cker that Eck was, he never once changed his bed”. She picked out clean sheets and pillowcases and put three towels on the top. “All right if I bring my own stuff over later.” She smiled and nodded and turned back to what she had been doing. I dropped the clean stuff back in my room and went to get breakfast. Two bacon rolls, a couple of slices of toast and cups of coffee set me up nicely until lunchtime. Marian had just been leaving as I came in and she looked round and smiled as she went. “You’re in there,” said Vivian as she cleared the table. “She was asking where you were earlier on”. I said nothing and just smiled.

There was no one else off that day so I made up my bed, got my dirty clothes ready for the afternoon and walked down to the loch. There was nobody at the ski club as it was closed on Monday and Tuesday so I sat on the end of the jetty with my feet dangling just above the water. The ski boats were tied up to a buoy about thirty feet from the shore. It was peaceful, the road behind me was still quiet and the sun was shining. I had no idea of the time as I hadn’t brought my watch from home. I only had the alarm clock. I tried to judge the time from the position of the sun but by my best guess it could have been anywhere between 10.00 and 14.00. I could hear the occasional tourist coach on the road but for most of the time, I was lost in my thoughts.

I wondered how my attempts to improve my accent were going. I couldn’t tell if it was any better. I wished I had that lilting west coast accent, but I had what I had. I thought about my encounter with Vivian after the lock in and the complications I may have encountered if it had gone any further. The altercation yesterday morning, I had never seen anyone in such a rage before. I had seen the head waiter and the head chef shouting and swearing at each other when working at The Angus Hotel but once service was finished they would sit down and have a drink like they were best friends. Marian kept coming into my thoughts, what to do, I decided that I would just let things happen.

Some other people had parked up near the jetty and I could feel it move as they walked down. I turned and said “hello.” They were a couple in their thirties and wanted to know if there was any water skiing happening today. “Wednesday to Sunday only,” I replied. They looked disappointed. “We wanted to give it a try” the lady said. “We’re staying at the big white hotel at the end of the road. Do you know it?” “Yes, I work there, I’m on my day off and just getting some fresh air.” Thinking quickly I said that if they spoke to the receptionist they would be able to arrange lessons for the following day. Hopefully if I saw them later I may get a tip for the info.

I left them standing on the jetty and walked back up towards the hotel, I went to the shop and knew the time must be either before 12.30 or after 13.30 as the shop was open. I bought cigarettes, a box of Maltesers for the laundry and a bar of chocolate for myself. “That was a to-do up at the hotel yesterday wasn’t it” she said. I agreed with her but said nothing else. I think she would have liked more information but she wasn’t getting it from me.

It was before 12.30 and lunch was still available, uninspiring mince and potatoes. The apple pie and cream was better. In the afternoon I remade my bed, had a shower and took my laundry and the box of Maltesers over to Coleen. She smiled when she saw the chocolates and nodded for me to leave my stuff by one of the washers. Doug and Scott had finished and asked me if I wanted to play football in the squash court. I said yes and went and put a pair of shorts on. We tried to play it like squash, one touch each against the wall, there was no scoring and like darts, we took turns to play each other. We finished when we were all knackered. Walking back I asked what had happened yesterday. Doug said that Eck was blaming him for all the pots being piled up in the sink, Scott had tried to say that Miss Brown was doing the clearing up on Sunday night. Eck wasn’t having any of it and then he exploded. “That’s all there is”. I was sweating and had yet another shower. In the evening after my dinner I joined the chambermaids in the bar. There were about six of us and the chat was mostly about work and home. There wasn’t much I could contribute to the conversation and after a pint I left them. A couple more chambermaids were watching TV in the staff room and I sat with them watching “Z Cars”, it must have been filmed in the winter as it was snowing all the time on screen, even on the interior shots. The reception really was awful.

I was going to walk back down to the loch to see it in the moonlight but only got as far as the front of the hotel. “Enjoying your day off laddie” Gregor was standing just outside the front door, cigarette in one hand and there was a pint glass on a windowsill. “Yes, I’ve been down to the loch, played football this afternoon and now I was just going to have a walk down to see the loch in the moonlight.” I asked if Miss Brown was alright following yesterday morning. “She’s fine, she wants me to thank you for helping out.” “I didn’t do anything really”. “I know that, but she doesn’t”, was his reply. We stood together chatting for a while and then I said goodnight and turned back and went to bed.

I’m half way through my second week and now into the routine. Wednesday is a long day as I am working on my own, however the opportunity for tips is greater. By the time the day was over I had enough to buy a couple of pints and more cigarettes. The only out the ordinary occurrence was at 15.00 when I was sitting outside drinking a cup of coffee and Maggie from the stillroom had come looking for me. “Monica wants you at the desk.” I did up my tie and buttoned my waistcoat as I followed Maggie back into the hotel. The glazier had arrived to fix the broken window. “Can you show him what needs to be done, and let me know when he is finished?” “Follow me” I said as I led him to the kitchen. He took a tape measure out his pocket and measured up one of the other similar panes. “Can I get out the back from here”? I showed him where the door from the kitchen to the back of the hotel was and he went off to his van. He returned with a large cloth which he put under the window, He unscrewed the wood we had put in place on Monday and removed the rest of the glass and scraped away the frame until it was ready for the new glass. Back out to his van and he returned with a piece of glass and a tin of putty. With the glass in place he quickly had the putty round the frame. He smoothed it all off and then checked outside to see if it was ok. He tidied everything away, said goodbye and went off out the back door. I returned to reception and let Monica know the glazier had gone. The rest of the day passed off with nothing else out of the routine. Miss Brown let me go at 21.30, the same as the previous Wednesday. With my tips in my pocket, I had a quick pint and a game of darts, picked up a coffee in the stillroom and headed for bed.

Thursday, day off, water skiing. That was to be my schedule for the day. With no alarm set, it was after nine when I woke. I had a quick wash and hoped to get some breakfast. Vivian wasn’t there and I asked Maggie if I could have another packed lunch if there was anything left. “Come back after 11.00 and see”. Being late, there was only toast and coffee. I filled up on the toast and had a couple of cups of coffee. I called in to the laundry on my way back and again everything had been ironed for me.

I thought I better buy Maggie something for doing the packed lunch and bought a bar of chocolate from the shop. If she has done me a lunch I will give her the chocolate, if not, I will keep it for myself.

I duly handed over the chocolate when she pushed a bag across the table towards me. I passed her the bar saying “thanks” at the same time. It went straight into the pocket of her apron and she smiled a thank you back.

Just before 12.00 I got my trunks and a towel and walked down to the jetty. “Ready for another try” said Danny. I nodded. “Go and get changed and then we will let you know what we are going to do today.” I found the same wetsuit and pulled it on. Back outside, the engine of the boat was being fired up. Mick explained that last week I was just going along on a straight line. “Today you are going to learn to turn.” He explained that you move from side to side by adjusting your upper body position. Lean to the left and you will go left and vice versa. “You can try when we are towing you in the wake. Lean over just a bit and see what happens.” I jumped into the water and gasped at the cold, Danny passed me the skis. “Just watch and follow my arm”. A bit of fiddling about with the rope and I am ready to go. Two goes to get up and we are off. Danny has his arm held high in a vertical position. He leans it to the right and I do the same with my body. It works, I can feel myself moving towards the edge of the wake. He puts his arm vertical again and I move back to the centre of the wake. He again moves his arm to the right at the same time Mick starts to turn right just a gentle turn, but definitely a turn. Still turning Danny then moves his arm to the left at the same time as Mick starts to move the boat to the left. This carries on until I eventually lean too much and fall in. Mick pulls the boat up alongside me and says well done. You have just done a couple of figure of eights. What I want you to do next is to try to move over the edge of the wake onto the flat water. “It’s not easy, but if you do it quickly then you should make it.” It wasn’t easy and after three goes I was ready to pack it in. “Think of your knees and legs as shock absorbers as you go over the wake, they don’t need to work together let each leg work independently.” This did the trick and once out of the wake the smooth water made it much easier to ski. With me on flat water, Mick increased the speed. I found that if I leaned further then I went out even further from the wake. Danny signalled to me to move back into the wake and that we were heading for the jetty. I let go at what I hoped would be the right point. It was and I sank down about six feet from the shore. With the skis off I scrambled ashore and sank down on the edge of the jetty. Mick and Danny tied up the boat and said I had done well. I think I was too worn out to appreciate their praise and just nodded. I stood up to go and get changed and looking around I saw Vivian sitting where she had been last week. This time Marian was sitting beside her. I waved and went to get changed. I came back out and sat on the ground next to Mick and Danny who were by now on their sunbeds. “Thanks for all that, I really do appreciate the lessons.” “You’re doing great, we’ll make a skier out of you before the end of the season.” I thanked them again and moved over to where the girls were. “You were better today” said Vivian. “Thanks, have you been watching long?” “About half an hour, we came down after lunch. We both have today off.” I asked if they were going back up to the hotel. “I’m off to see a friend in another hotel for a bit, I’ll only be about half an hour. Are you going to wait or are you both walking back to the hotel.” Vivian looked at us both, I said that we would wait but would be a little further down the loch. Marian nodded and Vivian turned and went. I had a feeling that this had all been engineered to get the two of us on our own. I led Marian to where I had sat throwing stones into the loch the other night. We sat together and I asked what she had gone home for. “My sisters 21st birthday party and to see my family,” “not to see a boyfriend?” I interrupted. “No”, and she went on to say that she wasn’t sure if she would have seen me again after the party. “I didn’t know what to think when I saw you on Monday. What about you, why did you come to work here?” I told her that I liked the place and having seen Miss Brown I applied and got the job as a porter. “And I liked you” I added. She asked if I enjoyed being kissed by Vivian. “Did she tell you that!!!” “Yes,” she said laughing, “she was mad with herself in the morning.” “It was very enjoyable what I remember of it,” I said teasingly. “Not as good as you on the night of the party though”. She moved closer until she was sat right next to me. We sat chatting until Vivian came and found us. The three of us walked back up to the hotel. I had a wet towel in one hand and Marians hand in the other. Vivian walked in front.

We parted near the staffroom and I went to have a bath to soothe my aching legs and arms. Back in my room I looked in the bag that Maggie had made up for me. One chicken sandwich, two sausage rolls, an orange, a little packet of three digestive biscuits and a can of Coke. It all disappeared quickly and the Coke resulted in a large satisfying burp. I heard movement further down the corridor and went to look. I still had a towel round my waist and the two chambermaids just looked at me. “Sorry, I didn’t realise you were here. What are you doing?”. “We’re getting the room ready for the new kitchen porter.” “Is he coming today?”, “Don’t know” was all they said and with that I returned to my room.

After dinner that evening I went back to the staffroom to watch TV. Scott was sitting with a couple of chambermaids watching what may have been Top of the Pops. We could hear the tunes but not make out the picture. I sat on a sofa slightly further back and was joined by Marian a little while later. Once the program was finished Scott and the others got up and turned to us and asked if we were going for a drink. “I’ve just sat down” I said, “I will be across in a bit.” I asked her if she wanted to go for a drink, but she said no. She said she was on earlies tomorrow and had to be at work by 06.30. “I’m starting at 07.00”. I replied but she said no. I said I would see her tomorrow and we went our separate ways. A couple of drinks in the bar and I called it a day.

Friday morning, and by 07.45 I’ve done my jobs, had a cup of coffee and was outside when I saw Gregor walking up the road. The sun was shining and he looked about as happy as I had seen him. “Morning laddie” he called as I was brushing the windowsills. I headed back in and got to work cleaning the lounges before the list of rooms leaving was ready. Gregor passed me the list and I set to work. I stopped for breakfast and then finished the suitcases. One of the rooms was the couple who I had seen at the jetty on Tuesday. I asked them if they managed to get some skiing lessons. They had and they thanked me for it. Two fifty pence’s came my way before I had even carried their cases down.

Gregor and I were standing by reception about 11.30 when a man walked in carrying a suitcase. Too early to check in I thought. He was about five foot six, mid-thirties, had had black greasy hair slicked back and was quite slim. He almost looked smart. Sheila looked up and I heard him say that he had come to start work as the new kitchen porter. Gregor and I looked at each other. He didn’t look the kitchen porter type. Miss Brown was called and a discussion that I couldn’t hear was taking place. Gregor had moved closer so that he could hear. Miss Brown looked over and asked me to take Frank over to the accommodation block and show him round then bring him back here for her to take him to see Charles. I said to Frank to follow me. We were just going out the front door when Gregor called me back. I said to Frank to wait a minute and went back in. “Do you lock your room up laddie?” he asked. I said I didn’t and hadn’t since I arrived. “Do it now, and don’t leave it unlocked even when you are going to the toilet.” I looked at him with a puzzled look on my face. “Off you go now”. I picked up Frank again and we headed for the rooms. I asked him where he had come from and he said he had been working in a kitchen in Stirling but had wanted to move on and heard there was a job going here. “What happened to the last porter” he asked. “Oh he walked out on Monday” I said. “That’s what I had heard”. I thought that he must have walked out of his own job to be here so quickly. I showed him his room and he took the key Miss Brown had given him and unlocked the door and went in. “I’ll be back in a minute” I said and went to my room found the key and locked the door behind me. “Who else lives here” Frank wanted to know. I pointed to the rooms occupied by Scott and Doug and then my room as we walked back out. I showed him the toilets and showers, the staff room, where the laundry was and then in through the back door to the stillroom. He looked over into the kitchen and then I took him back to reception. Gregor was in the lodge with a pot of tea. It was 12.00 but I wanted to know what he meant by telling me to lock my door. “Did you lock your door laddie”? I nodded and asked him why. “There’s something not right about him, be very wary, I don’t know what it is but there is.” I nodded and drunk my tea. In the stillroom lunch was fish which I loathe so I had the chips and some cold ham I scrounged from Maggie. I could see Frank, Miss Brown and Charles in conversation.

I was off now and I had to remember to unlock my door rather than just go straight in. I had nothing of any value but I stuck by Gregor’s advice.

14.00 was pay time and Miss Brown was behind reception handing out wage packets. Once signed for, I took mine and looked at the bottom of the packet to see how much I had. It looked about what I thought it should be, and I walked out the front door and round to the Post Office. I wasn’t the only one; there were a few in front of me doing the same. I emptied the change into my pocket and counted the notes and put them inside my savings book. My turn and I pushed the book under the window. With the amount written up and the book returned I picked up some supplies but had to wait until everyone had paid in their money before I was served. I was sitting outside the staffroom in the sun reading a paper I found earlier when Frank came out of the block. He wanted to know what there was to do. I pointed across towards the bar, “not much else”. There is a TV in there and then the loch just down the road. “Does anyone play cards,” he asked. I thought I knew what he meant but replied that there was the occasional game of whist, or horsey horsey. “No, proper cards like pontoon, brag or poker”. “Sorry, but no.” I went over a bit earlier than usual to speak to Gregor before I started. I relayed the conversation I had. He smiled. “Just you take care laddie, I bet before the weekend is out he asks to borrow money from you.” I said that I work too bloody hard to lend anyone money.

That evening Frank started work and he looked like a person happy in his work, unlike Eck who had looked as if he hated every minute of his day.

When Gregor came back on at 20.00 he said not to repeat last week’s drinking session. I said I wouldn’t and I was true to my word. It was a lovely warm evening and I had other plans as well as a drink. I had a shower and got changed. The bar was fairly busy when I went in, mostly locals, a few guests and some of the chambermaids. One of the locals was playing darts and I asked if he wanted a game. We played a few games before he said he was off. By this time more of the staff were in and the place was full of laughter and noise. The chefs and Frank were at the bar, the first pint they had was to quench their thirst and the second one to enjoy. Frank was looking all around the bar, I guess to try to take in who was who. Watching him, he was now talking to one of the guests and before long he had another pint in his hand. I was more interested in the girls and sat at a long table with them, Marian was slightly further down the table.

I hadn’t noticed but in the corner near the bar was sitting one of the locals. Beside him was a large case which inside, we all found out later, was an accordion. He had been to a band practice earlier and was on his way home. From behind the bar, Angus had been encouraging him to take it out and to “make some music”. Eventually he gave in and the accordion came out to much cheering. After a few squeezes and a couple of scales up and down the keyboard the music started. There were all sorts of Scottish songs and there was much singing and some attempts to dance but the bar was much too busy for that. This must have lasted for nearly an hour before Angus went through the ritual of calling time. Once the bar door was locked, the music continued for around another half hour. The accordionist packed up and headed for home. About 00.30 Marion and I left along with some of the others, leaving about ten others still drinking. We hung back letting the others go in front, we then headed for the now dark staff room.

Next time: Frank the KP, much excitement amongst the girls and a skiing update.

© 10210ken 2023