The chambermaid and the bucket of wee

Had a trippet down memory lane yesterday when I checked into a shabby hotel in Canterbury for a work meeting. I’d wrongly thought that booking a room on, two hours before arrival, meant a fab room hugely discounted.

My job involves a fair amount of experiencing mid to low range UK hotel fare but, as usual, there is always room for fresh lows. “This hotel”, said one Tripadvisor reviewer, “made Fawlty Towers look like the Ritz”. “Do not stay here”, cautioned another.

Anyway, cooped up in my stuffy, second floor garrett, on my plank of wood, grubby bed, avoiding the bathroom shared with “a 60 year old man who shouldn’t be any trouble” (according to the man on reception), I was transported back to my experiences as a chambermaid in a local, shabby hotel on the seafront in Southend.

The Roslin Hotel*.

Older sibbo, Tracey, worked there first, more than generously giving me and younger sibbo, Sammy Seal, fifty pence pocket money each week. Then, when I was old enough (around 14/15), I got a job there too, cleaning bedrooms on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Shudder. I can’t work out how much my experiences were coloured by being a Pig Pen type character completely unsuited to cleaning,  the misery of walking into rooms that were still ‘accidentally’ occupied by people, or just cleaning up other people’s detritus, dirty sheets and droppings.

Cleaning around ten or more double bedrooms and bathrooms, changing the beds, dragging an enormous old vaccum cleaner and box full of (toxic) cleaning products up and down narrow stairs, was a toughie. I can still remember getting the torn off sheet of paper with the number and location of the rooms to be cleaned, the smells, the grubbiness and the general enormity of the task ahead.

The worse rooms to clean were those of the residents. The people who lived in the hotel permanently. Who hadn’t cleared off, half an hour before, leaving scant reminders behind. The residents were people who had the resources to decamp to the hotel in the long haul, possibly instead of a nursing home. Possibly instead of living alone in their own home. Getting the residents’ rooms to clean was a heartsink moment.

I should think my ‘quality chambermaid’ card was marked from pretty early on, because of my shite cleaning skills.  But some months after starting there, I was sacked. For ‘cleaning’ a resident’s room and not noticing that he had peed in his rubbish bin.

This remains an enduring memory.  Sort of funny.

* The Roslin Beach Hotel is now a boutique hotel. Superficially unrecognisable.

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