Hote­liers, take my ad­vice

Country Life Every Week - - My Week - Ysenda Max­tone Gra­ham is the au­thor of Terms & Con­di­tions: Life in Girls’ Board­ing-schools, 1939–1979 (Slightly Foxed). She lives in Lon­don

I’ve been stay­ing at the Par­adise on earth that is Cob­blers Cove in Bar­ba­dos, a fam­ily-owned ho­tel dec­o­rated by the nov­el­ist and de­signer Sam An­gus: a place in which ev­ery sin­gle thing is beau­ti­ful. We lived the mirac­u­lous day on which you take a train from Clapham Junc­tion in the morn­ing and are swim­ming in the Caribbean by teatime. Now, home again, I need to look at the pho­to­graphs to con­vince my­self it wasn’t a dream.

Of course, we lapped up and rel­ished the lux­ury of it all, lolling on chaise longues on our ve­ran­dahs with views over the ocean, eat­ing de­li­cious food and drink­ing rum punches and sor­bet-like fruit punches to re­fresh body and soul. I kept try­ing to find ex­cuses to ‘ask at re­cep­tion’ be­cause it gave an ex­cuse to walk through the thickly lush, ex­quis­ite gar­den, which was just as mag­i­cal when the path was lit by flares.

It wasn’t only the lux­ury that made it so heav­enly; it was the small touches—things that don’t cost a great deal to pro­vide, but make all the dif­fer­ence to the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing a guest. Here’s my 10 tiny things I wish some of our dreary ho­tels in Bri­tain and europe could em­u­late.

Look­ing pleased to see you when you ar­rive. Our ar­rival was greeted with rap­ture, a scented cold flan­nel and drinks, ful­fill­ing the hu­man need to feel loved on ar­rival and in marked con­trast to so many ho­tel lob­bies, where the per­son be­hind the desk hardly looks up and just asks you to ‘sign here’.

No Tvs on wall brack­ets. I didn’t even no­tice the ab­sence of tele­vi­sions un­til the man­ager, Will Oak­ley, pointed it out to me. Of course! No Big Brother, which is just what those op­pres­sive Tvs feel like. No back­ground noise of CNN. I now long to go into ev­ery ho­tel room in Bri­tain and wrench the hideous things off the walls.

A small shelf of books in each bed­room, which gives a lovely stay­ing-with-friends feel­ing.

Keys rather than plas­tic cards. How I hate cards, which never seem to go from red to green, whichever way you in­sert or swipe them.

Rooms with names rather than num­bers. The 42 suites at Cob­blers Cove are all named af­ter places in Bar­ba­dos: ours were Ban­natyne and Bosco­belle. So friendly com­pared with the dead­en­ing 529.

A three-hour win­dow for break­fast—much nicer than hav­ing a woman with a spat­ula look­ing cross if you come down sheep­ishly at 8.55am.

Break­fast cooked in­di­vid­u­ally for you, rather than mum­mi­fied mush­rooms laid out un­der lights. I see that this is ex­pen­sive to pro­vide, but I’d rather have a small menu cooked es­pe­cially for me than a vast ar­ray of items cooked an hour ago.

Com­pli­men­tary af­ter­noon tea. A lovely small touch that as­suages any homesick­ness.

enough large tow­els. Who was the mis­er­able hote­lier who started the con­ven­tion that tow­els are al­lowed to be a pa­thetic size? I’ve been known to use the bath­mat in des­per­a­tion. Here, you get two long, wide ones in the bath­room, plus two candy-striped swim­ming tow­els and as many more as you like from the cup­board by the sea.

A check­out time of noon. This is a kind touch that makes the usual 10am de­par­ture rule seem bru­tal. We were in de­nial on our last morn­ing, dread­ing ex­pul­sion from this Gar­den of eden, but at least we could have a lei- surely break­fast and an ex­tended swim be­fore pack­ing.

Is there a world record for the long­est time be­tween the be­gin­ning of eucharist to sur­sum corda? At St Peter’s, Speight­stown, Bar­ba­dos, it was a stag­ger­ing one hour and 43 min­utes. When that ‘Lift up your hearts’ mo­ment came at last, it merely sig­nalled the be­gin­ning of the ac­tual Holy Com­mu­nion part of the ser­vice—at least an­other half-hour still to go.

I didn’t mind, as the ser­vice was a de­light­ful feast of vig­or­ous vic­to­rian hymn-singing. There are too many padded-out Church of eng­land ser­vices when I start look­ing at my watch as the prayers drone on for 10 min­utes and the vicar reads out all the no­tices that are al­ready on the leaflet: ‘On Wed­nes­day at 10.30, the moth­ers and tod­dlers group will meet in the church hall.’ Get on with it!

I applaud sea­soned Catholics, who get a whole Mass done and dusted in 22 min­utes.

Next week Kit Hes­keth-har­vey

‘More large tow­els: I’ve been known to use the bath­mat in des­per­a­tion

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