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Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The Honeymoon (Part 2)

As we drove into Gairloch, we could see our hotel coming into view. As I mentioned before, it was a large, traditional Victorian hotel, built from Granite, so it glistened in the evening sunshine. The sun was also reflected of the two large coaches parked at the side of the building, and off of the line of large black cars lined up at the front.

More on the coaches later, it was the black cars I was worried about. It was either a funeral reception or a wedding. As I could see no drunken bodies or broken windows, it probably wasn't a traditional Scottish wedding, but I've seen some funerals which exhibited similar behaviour. As we parked our Capri in the large car park at the front, I saw a large group of (mostly elderly) people coming out of the hotel. Black suits and black ties. No flowers in buttonholes. It was either a Mormon mass conversion training group or a funeral party.

No American accents were to be heard, just the gentle Western Isles lilting Scottish intonations.


We had started our married life in a hotel hosting a funeral. Not quite the ambience I had been hoping for.

As we walked into the very large front porch, my beloved gave me a nudge in the ribs, and indicated the ceiling.

What on earth was she on about now?

Looking up, all I could see was a traditional plaster ceiling, decorated in Victorian style, and obviously in need of a good dusting to get rid of all of the cobwebs.

"What is it?" I mumbled to her.

"Coffins" she whispered back.

Good Lord, she was right. The geometric lozenge pattern on the ceiling was not a normal rectangle or square, but coffin shaped.

Had we booked into the House of Death?

Not quite.

I should like to explain to any of my "younger" readers that this was in the 1970s. Before the Internet/Web. The only way to make a hotel reservation was by phone or (gasp) letter. There were no easily available reference books (yes, paper books) and many people used a travel agent, and trusted their opinion on hotels and places to visit.

The original Thomas Cook (not the person I saw.  I'm not that bloody old)

Just 2 years earlier I knew that I would be in Germany for a big BAOR (British Army of the Rhine) exercise, and when it was finished, I wanted to join an extended family trip from Norway to Finland to attend a cousin's wedding. All I had to do was to get a train from Hanover to Hamburg, and then fly to Bergen. To arrange all this detail, I had to go into Thomas Cook Esq. in Glasgow, and for about an hour I sat in front of a travel agent as he thumbed through various timetables, maps and calendars, scribbling furiously on a planning sheet, then phoning the airlines and Deutches Bahnhoff to check facts and eventually make the bookings. These were transcribed onto a typed itinerary, and a copy (remember carbon copies) was given to me. Believe me travel agents really earned their commission in those days.

I had booked this hotel myself (by letter), the only reference being an advert seen in the Glasgow Herald, so I had no real idea of what to expect.

I wasn't too sure about the big coaches outside either. Coach tours were/are a popular method of seeing the gorgeous Scottish countryside, but normally the coach companies used smaller hotels, hotels of less than average distinction. Cheap hotels. Oh dear.

The first thing which struck me as we walked into the reception area was the size of the counter, it was really small compared to the size of the hotel (about 200 rooms), and had only 1 receptionist, a spotty Gaelic youth who seemed not to speak English, and who didn't seem to understand my Glasgow (but educated) accent. (I later came to the conclusion he didn't understand Gaelic either, and was just incompetent, uncaring and as thick as a brick).

The second thing that struck me was the smell. It was a curious mixture of beeswax polish and embrocation. (Embrocation is a general term for the various lotions/creams etc. used by many of our aged citizens on aching limbs and joints, in a (vain) effort to escape from the nagging pain of arthritis and lumbago)

The third thing to strike me was my beloved's elbow.

I blame myself.

I had plenty of opportunity for re-training or avoidance therapy.

I could have said something.

I could have said "Would you stop hitting my ribs with your damned elbow"

I could have retaliated.

I could have launched an elbow attack of my own.

I could have swung my devastating right hook.

I didn't.

I was head over heels in love, and we were on our honeymoon.

I was in lust.

I said nothing.

I blame myself.

34 years of bruised and bashed ribs.

It's my fault.


Then I saw the zombies. I was brave; I didn't run or scream or even wet my pants. I just stared. A shambling tide of ancient and decrepit wrinklies were shuffling towards us.

It was the TOUR PARTY.

As we discovered, this hotel, situated in an admittedly gorgeous spot on the side of Loch Gairloch, was regularly used (twice a week in summer) by a bus touring company which specialised in the an elderly clientele. This was before SAGA was even a glimmer in an entrepreneur's eye.

I had booked our honeymoon in a place which seemed to specialise in Death and Dying.


Next episode. At last.

The Dangers Of Being Interrupted During Sexual Congress By A Bloody Stupid Chambermaid Who Wanted To Turn Down A Bed And Who Wouldn't Go Away.


  1. I'm hanging out for the final bit. I took Shelley to a jazz festival, I was playing at, for our honeymoon - she still reminds me of that from time to time.

  2. Our honeymoon was in Paris - in a very swanky hotel indeed. I was bowled over by the city and the hotel and then hubby admitted that he'd gone into the Travel Agents two days before we got married and asked the girl where she might like to go on honeymoon.

    So basically I got the honeymoon that she had wanted. It was really lovely, but I should have realised, at that point, that my hubby did not have a romantic bone in his body and was incapable of thinking of nice birthday or christmas presents....or Valentine's gifts.

    *sulky* didn't even get so much as an e-mail from him. He's up the road in Mexico having a HIGH old time and I'm sitting here nursing my sore tummy <-mega-bad mood :-)

    Ali x

  3. Great post - very funny. I sympathise and empathise about the sore ribs.
    Yes, pre-internet booking days were a bit of a lottery.
    Worst bookings I've had are:

    Barossa Valley Australia - hotel room with a bath - in the middle of the bedroom with no surrounding curtains and one gigantic shower head coming down from the ceiling and positioned over the centre of the bath.

    London - 'hot bed' hotel with paper thin walls. Constant traffic throughout the night 'coming' and goings on both sides with prostitutes bringing their 'Johns' through.

    Isle of Skye - B&B guesthouse with compulsory church service in the morning or no breakfast. Dampish candlewick bedspreads and lopsided wardrobe of which the door would creep and creak open in the middle of the night.

    Rotorua - motel with a spa pool in the bedroom. It was rank with god-knows-what specimens floating in it. It gurgled and bubbled all night which led one to expect the creature from the green lagoon to emerge in the middle of the night.

    York - hotel boasting as the oldest in England with 4 - poster bed. Any movement of the overhanging curtains brought down 600 years of dust and dirt. Toilet was outside the room (up a staircase and down another so I expect previous guests actually 'went' outside the room.

    London again - hotel with 'casino' underneath that looked like it belonged to the Cray brothers. Unusual and scary hammering in the middle of the night led us to believe the Crays were back and were nailing some poor sods head to the floor next door.

  4. AX: Paris is lovely (See my post
    You have to realise that there is no such thing as a naturaly romantic man. Some men learn to portray romantic attitudes out of sheer survival. Don't get me wrong, we care, just that we don't express it in silly fripperies.
    However getting the travel agent's honeymoon is a bit crass, even for us unromantic blokes. Hop your gallbladder calms down soon. Get thee to a doctor!

    TC: A bath in the middle of the room? That's a bit extreme even for the Aussies. Like the idea of the "Cray's Casino". Maybe we could club together and send second over there. Once he starts preaching, the hammer and nails come out.:=)

  5. Honeymoon is very important part of life. We should enjoy it at most.


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