By / 22nd September, 2008 / Blog / No Comments

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In the catering industry, as you know we sometimes get weeks when Murphy’s law comes very much to the fore,  if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong, and usually at the most inconvenient times.

This has been just such a week, our problems really started last Sunday when we noticed that the drains were blocked, so that was a pleasant job for Isabel to accomplish, whilst I sorted out my work for Monday.

This week I had to finish the accounts for the dreaded VAT, which had to be in the VAT office by Friday. Well finish is perhaps too strong a word; start would better describe my indolence on the accounts front over the past three months. Of course, I had forgotten that before I could finish the accounts and produce the VAT return, I would also have to do the year-end accounts, which this time falls between the vat periods.

As my printer has been making a general nuisance of itself recently, I decided to splash out sixty-five quid, on a brand new model that would have the benefit of actually feeding the paper into the printing heads. Unfortunately, when I brought my brand new possession home plugged it in and installed the driver; I was dismayed to find that Sage, my accounts package, did not recognize the importance of the new printing device for its reports. The first P&L report was just a blank grey page. Knowing I did not have time to sort out this glitch; I rescued the old printer from the rubbish bin and plugged that in as well. Is it not strange when you have just purchased something commputerish the old thing which caused the purchases then starts to work perfectly?

I am not a great family man although I do own to two children, I do not see much of them, and have left their upbringing in the capable hands of my former wife. On Wednesday evening just as the first customers were arriving for what was going to be a busy night, James my assistant discovered that he had used all the cream!  I was just shooting out the door on a four-mile dash to the nearest open shop, when my daughter arrived in the company of her new boyfriend and dog. Of course, I did not want to be rude and abandon them all so soon after their arrival, so I piled them all into the car with me for the cream run. It all worked out in the end, as we waved them off at midnight, we did wonder what else could go wrong this week, of course I still had about two thirds of the accounts to wade through on Thursday.

On Thursday, everything went swimmingly; we have two very, very, good customers staying with us for the week, they are very good because, they are very nice, and  are very considerate, and very easy to get on with.

Everything went swimmingly, until that is, the other room booked for the evening turned up, now these were not of the same type of customer. These are the more demanding type, so we are running up and down stairs with trays of coffee then back up with milk instead of cream, and oh! would you mind my husband prefers a feather pillow, and by the way you do not have a different room do you because I have this problem of getting into bed. We do aim to please and do not mind accommodating those extra little wishes that differing customer bring.

I then returned to the accounts for an hour or so before I wrote the menu and started to organize for dinner, there being no James this evening I was flying single-handed and the phone has just gone with a further table of four.

No problem, got it all sorted, was just having a quick cup of coffee whilst waiting for the first order to arrive in the kitchen, at which point the combined burglar and fire alarm decided to go off with a resounding deafening siren.

Now this is an inherited system, I do not know how many have inherited it from how many, whom they were , or who originally had it installed, but it sort of gives us a discount on the insurance so it is worth being there, although we never use it as a burglar preventative system.

When it does go off, of course the first thing to do is to check that it has got a reason for going off, and is not just expressing its rights as an inanimate object to remind you of its existence. So we all rushed around the property looking for the fire which of course we did not find, next job turn the noise off, keyed in the turn off number… no response… by this time the smoke alarm in the hallway upstairs was adding its own high pitched voice to the general cacophony. It took us all including Our longer term guest complete with toilet tissue hanging out of his ears, twenty five minutes to stop the alarms sounding, this was accompanies with lots of rushing up and down stairs and fetching of ladders and screwdrivers even then we had really no idea how managed this accomplish this welcome feat of silence.

One of the other residents expressed the hope that the alarm would not go off in the middle of the night and the comment if it did we should chuck it in a bucket of water. I patently explained that as it was attached to the ceiling and also the mains it would be a very foolhardy thing to attempt.

All this time, Laura our young part- time waitress (full time Catherine is on holiday this week) has been steadily taking orders for food, from people who obviously seemed totally nonchalant about preparing to dine in a restaurant, which to all intents and purposes was in the processes of burning to the ground around them. There now`t so queer as folk!

The fire/burglar alarm is one of those, which has safety batteries built in and anti-tamper thingies, to stop the uninitiated disconnecting it. Therefore, although we had stopped it making a noise, we had not actually stopped it operating,

This salient fact, I was to discovery at twenty minutes to three in the morning, when I leapt out of bed to the resounding clamour of the fire alarm again, dreading the worst I quickly keyed in the wrong code to stop the damn thing before we were all doused with a bucket of water, I realised my mistake and keyed in the correct code and thankfully it stopped. In the ensuing silence and with my heart pounding in my head  I was then too nervous to go back to bed, so I sat on the stairs all night in the dark with my finger on the keypad ready to instantly respond should the need re-arise.

The good news is that as dawn lightened the surrounding gloom, I was in the perfect position to notice the water seeping out from under the kitchen door, of course someone had forgotten to turn off the tap to the dishwasher, which ordinarily would not matter, except in this case the inlet valve was leaking, and letting the water flow silently to add to the flood in the kitchen.

It was with great trepidation that we waited the arrival of our other guests, for breakfast, would we as we would normally, sing out a cherry “good morning I hoped you slept well”, thus leaving ourselves open to the expected onslaught of complaint about being woken in the night by the alarm, or should we fade into the background hope to evade any outburst.

In the event, they apparently slept though the nighttime commotion and were quite happy after a good nights sleep. Of course, the tiny rodent running around in the Breakfast, room did cause a bit of a stir for a moment, until a guest correctly identified it as a baby vole. The vole had apparently wandered in through the open garden door sniffed around a bit and then wandered out again.

So Friday started with a mopping operation and a vole masquerading as a mouse, after breakfast I returned to the already behind schedule accounts and finally completed the job in time to catch the last post, so when the VAT inspector opens his mail on Monday I hope on finding our cheque he will give us the benefit of the doubt.

The alarm repair man did arrive on Friday at about ten thirty pm, and did a passable imitation of a plumber when he saw the antiquated alarm system, with a quick sucking of a of air through his teeth, almost like a reverse sigh, he said “goodness me I haven’t seen one of these since I did my training” to which my equally quick response was “well should know how to fix the Bl **dy thing then” Of course he was not to know that I had been up most of the night nursing the thing, but I was extremely grateful that he had added this late night visit to his already extended day to sort out our problem for us.

He did fix it…. well disconnected it anyway and promised to return with some antiquated electrics after his holiday and do a proper job. Until then we will rely on the separate smoke alarms, and the two dogs are becoming quite adept at sorting out customers, who are allowed, from deliverymen and hopefully burglars who apparently are not.

On Saturday, we had decided to allow James his first Saturday night in charge of the kitchen, and I would be first, second and third commis and washer upper.

Isabel taken the dogs for a walk and had told me to take a bottle of Champagne up to Our long stay guests room, as a thank you for being such very good guests and their help with the alarm on Thursday.  James and I were just discussing his menu for the evening when the guests arrived back, I asked James to keep them occupied so that I would have chance to run upstairs with their Champagne. Which all worked out well, although the guests  were perhaps a little surprised by James leaning out of the kitchen window to ask them how their day had gone and where had they been!

Later, Isabel said “you did take the Champagne to the correct room didn’t you”?

“What no or Chr*st”!  I had of course not taken it to the correct room! I had taken it to anther guest’s room; these people were staying for just one night, for their wedding anniversary. They must have thought each other had ordered it, or that we give expensive bottles of Champagne to all our guest’s or worse still trying to increases our takings by adding un asked for Champagne to their bill.

Opps must go Isabel has just come in to tell me that a rabbit is in the garden eating the lettuce, unusual the contrary to beliefs they do not go for lettuce if there is plenty of other choice.

Just before I do go, James told me a customer at lunch had ordered a Lemon Turd Cart for pudding!


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