Peter Rhodes on old English hotels, irritating language and Alastair Campbell's sacking

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Stamford, Lincolnshire

As I reported earlier, we came here to Lincolnshire to visit the cottage of the poet John Clare. It lies down a quiet lane. It is whitewashed. It has a thatched roof. And it has a sign reading: “Closed.” Dammit. Apparently it’s open three days a week but not on Wednesdays. So here are a few lines to mark our visit: “We went to the house of John Clare / But no-one was there.” Yes, it needs a bit of work.

ON the way here we stopped at a little tea shop in Rockingham, a beautiful honey-stone village that you’d think had been plucked from the Cotswolds. The pub bears the curious name of the Sondes Arms, or would do if someone had not removed the M from the sign.

WE are staying in a coaching inn in the middle of the ancient town of Stamford. I love old English hotels, from the easy, fathomless leather chairs in the creaky old bar to the vast hall with its vast mirrors where you fancy you might catch a glimpse of Mr Pickwick. The only problem in rambling old, corridor-ridden piles like this with staircases leading everywhere is my useless internal-navigation system which hears the command “upstairs and first left” but interprets it as “downstairs to the beer garden, out into the car park and second right after the Chinese takeaway.”

MRS Rhodes, on the other hand, if plonked anywhere on the Earth’s surface, can instantly find her way to Reception. However, she is not very good with electronic devices. So she may be able to find a hotel in seconds but if she even touched the room door swipe card she would set off burglar alarms and halt wind turbines. Hand over the card, lady. This is man’s work.

MEANWHILE, my dispute with an online holiday-booking company over this break was resolved when the money they took in error from my current account was repaid. How odd that they can take your loot in a nano-second but allow themselves between seven and 12 days to return it. Their language, too, is irritating. Their message began: "You recently reached out to us about a credit-card charge." I did not "reach out," I emailed them. The language of American TV drama gets everywhere. Harrumph.

AS we were unpacking in Stamford, the church bells began tolling slowly, the shops were decked with black ribbons and strong men in the street wept openly at the news that Alastair Campbell had been sacked from the Labour Party for voting Lib-Dem. Actually, none of the above happened. I still don’t see why somebody who was never a politician, never elected and who fell from grace more than 10 years ago is of the slightest interest to anyone.

AND so to lunch. While it’s good to see restaurants adventurously moving from meat-based menus, how many people actually order the Feta & Beetroot Pie? Sounds like it tastes of feet.

Peter Rhodes

By Peter Rhodes

Award-winning columnist and blogger. Keeping an eye on the tribulations and trivia of a fast-changing world

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