Another combination one this, involving a Four poster bed at a Grand Hotel.
It was Christmas either 1993 or 1994 (we were married and didn’t have a dog as we were able to do things like have unplanned holidays or weekends away at the drop of a hat).
This particular year, instead of the usual extended lunch hour, my department’s Christmas Dinner was held on a Saturday night at a rather Grand Hotel in Bournemouth, with the option of staying over on a B&B basis at a reduced rate. For an extra £5, we could sleep in a four poster bed.
Visions of Alastair Sim as Scrooge in a Christmas Carol came immediately to mind,
and the thought of sleeping in a classy four poster really appealed to both of us, so we decided it would be our Christmas treat, our ‘Us present’.
At the time, meals in this particular hotel started at £20 per person for three set courses.
The Christmas menu was £25 per head but being a group of 20, we had to order our choice in advance. Also as it was a Corporate Booking, we were entitled to a 20% discount.
I was in the throes of weight watching (not at my heaviest but despite my efforts it was still going up) so I had shown willing with my pre-selected menu of a melon and star fruit starter, traditional Christmas dinner, and an ‘exotic fruit salad’ for dessert. Hubby went for the soup starter and Christmas dinner followed by Christmas Pudding.
This was to be finished off by mince pies, coffee and mints for everyone.
The rooms were normally £50 a night (we paid thirty), but that did include a full English breakfast.
We were both working then and earning good money, but that didn’t mean to say that this kind of expenditure was the norm. Far from it actually and we never did anything like it again!
When the day came, we were quite excited and looking forward to a pleasant evening (with entertainment) and not having the worry of driving home should we fancy a couple of drinks. I’d even bought a new outfit for the occasion.
We arrived in the afternoon and were shown to our en suite room with The Four Poster Bed.
We were both thinking of a romantic interlude amongst lots of pillows and drapes, and the opportunity of experiencing something ‘different’.
We had a four poster all right, but not exactly what we’d expected.
No curtains, no luxury quilt or counterpane, no extra pillows, no canopy.
When we actually sat on it (let alone do anything else), it creaked and groaned under protest. It wasn’t even a proper frame, just four pieces of painted batten screwed to the head and foot boards, with four more pieces joined on at the top.
Disappointment wasn’t just spelt with a capital D, it was in letters a mile high.
Oh well, never mind. It was different, just not in the way we’d anticipated.
In the evening, we met up with my work colleagues and when everyone had arrived were shown to our table in a large dining hall. This had the glitzy ballroom globe hanging from the ceiling with swirling lights rotating across the floor and walls, and a heavily decorated tree in the corner. There were about six other companies also having their ‘do’ that night and the evening’s entertainment was a
Karijokey Karaoke machine set up in the corner!
Our supervisor was providing the wine, two bottles each of house red and white. They tasted the same to us and were too dry (not that we’re wine people anyway) so we asked for a jug of water with plenty of ice and some lemon slices to go with our meal. It was replenished three times as several other couples helped themselves, but no-one thought to ask for their own jug and none were offered by the waiting staff.
Hubby enjoyed his soup but was disappointed in the peanut masquerading as a bread roll. My melon starter looked very pretty but lost on the plate with its garnish of fresh cranberries, half a strawberry and one slice of star fruit.
The main course consisted of all the usual things, although not very much of it as the three couples at one end thought the tray of potatoes and veg were just for them when in fact it was the twin of the second tray to serve all 20 of us. The turkey was also very regular in shape and processed to taste bootiful.
Come dessert, Hubby waited patiently for the rest when presented with a three inch rectangle in a sea of watery custard. It never came.
My ‘exotic fruit salad’ consisted of cranberries, melon and star fruit, topped with half a strawberry.
Two plates of 10 small latticed mince pies were placed on our table when they served the coffee and mints. This was little more than a thimble of brown gunge with a solitary chocolate thin (no wrapper, so that may not even have been the real McCoy) on the side.
Hubby and I ordered two Calypso coffees (tia maria liqueur) and paid for them ourselves.
We passed pleasantries with my workmates for a couple of hours, suffering the squawks, squeals and squeaks of the other parties’ drunken Z Factor auditions, and were glad to retire to our room just before 11pm, perfectly sober.
We were surprised to find a gold foiled chocolate on each of our pillows.
We had showers the following morning (squirreling away all of the freebee toiletries to take home) and went down to breakfast.
Three choices of cereal (cornflakes, sugar puffs, muesli), either grapefruit or orange fruit juice, and the cooked breakfast consisted of 1 rasher of bacon, a small sausage, 1 egg, and half a tomato, plus two pieces of toast each, 2 butter pats and a tiny dish of jam.
At least there was plenty of tea, and we drank it all.
It was certainly a memorable night, but not for the reasons we’d thought!