The Falcon Hotel was a solidly built, Grade II listed building. Constructed in 1841, it was, on first impressions, both imposing and impressive and the same time. The reception area was tastefully furnished with dark wooden panelling and impressive paintings depicting timeless scenes of rural farming on the dales and perhaps less tastefully were the stag and ram heads which headed the doorways leading out of the room. With staring out with cold, glass eyes they maintained little of the robust-horned magnificence they enjoyed in life. Despite this the country house seemed warm and friendly. Then I rang the little, golden bell on the desk.
A bulbous, shiny head appeared from underneath the desk. It was a man in his late forties with a light blue cotton shirt that was open at the neck. On his chest was a badge of some description, but as it hung at right angles to it's intended position, I could not make out what it said.
"Good afternoon sir, room is it?" the hotel manager introduced himself. He was a bustling and edgy chap, who gave me the impression that he was tormented by an endless list of vital things that must be done, immediately, if not sooner. The responsibility of management clearly hung heavily around this man's neck. This was exemplified by his reluctance to help me with my transport issues in the morning. Once I had explained my desire to be in Horton by 7:30am, he puffed his cheeks and tossed me train timetable. 'You'll have to get the 7:12am train, but you'll be up too early for breakfast. No one will be up'.
He clearly wanted to get on with the job of taking my details and sticking to procedure so I didn't pursue it further. He clicked furiously at some unseen mouse and monitor under the desk.
"Would you like a paper in the morning, Sir?"
"Will I get it before I leave?" I hazarded.
"No sir, no one will be up at that hour." he looked at me witheringly. I was certain that I heard the stag head above the door snigger.
"In that case, no thank you."
Click, click, click on the mouse.
"Would you like an like early morning call? Remember, no one will be up. " Now I was confused. There was a short, but uncomfortable pause.
"No, thank you." I conceded.
Clearly the right response.
Click, click, click.
"Now sir, your room is outside the main building, so I will give you a key to let yourself in, quietly, in the morning. Your breakfast will be on ice. " He'd glanced up to make eye contact on the word 'quietly'. I wasn't sure what a 'breakfast on ice' was, but he was about to make this clear.
"Now would you like Muesli or cereals?"
"Muesli, please", he smiled thinly, more frantic clicking.
"Oh, yes please,"
Click, click, click.
"Orange juice, grapefruit or apple?"
"Orange please." More smiling and more clicking. He was enjoying himself and I was playing my part it seemed.
"Piece of fruit? Apple, banana or pear?"
"Banana. " He seemed approving of my choices, so far, but that was about to change.
Now,I don't know why but, for me, it was an unexpected breakfast option.
"A muffin?" It was out before I could stop it, "for Breakfast?"
"Yes, yes, blueberry!"
I think he had already started clicking and now had to declick.
" No, thank you!"
His shiny head shot up and he was now looking at me straight in the eye. "Buebaerry". As if I hadn't heard him already.
"No, thank you!" I repeated, taken aback slightly at his over reaction.
"But... "he shook his head clicking several times more before reaching behind him for a key. He made a noise of exasperated, disbelief and slapped the key on the desk infont of me. He turned to leave, but I stopped him with a final question. It was clear that I had pissed on his chips, on the blubbery muffin front and nothing short of getting a blueberry muffin tattooed on my arse was going to win back his affections.
" Will I be able to get something to eat this evening?"
He looked seriously, put out again. Guests? Wanting food? How very dare they! "Well chef's upstairs and the moment, but if you come to the bar area in an hour, we will be serving food for a short while." Then he was off like a shot, to see to the next pressing emergency on his list, no doubt.
"I find the way to my room myself then," I feebly called after him.
The ram's head chortled as I passed under him. I looked up and gave him a reproachful glare and turned to give the stag 'a stern look' for good measure.