Goodmans Hotel (Chapter 9, page 1 of 13)

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To bring in customers I placed adverts in the gay press for 'London's newest gay hotel', set up a site on the Internet, and sent nearly two hundred e-mails to gay organisations. When the momentous occasion came that the first ever guest stepped over the threshold, suppressing my excitement I pretended to check the hotel diary for the booking, took him up to his room, wished him a comfortable stay and told him that breakfast was available from seven in the morning. Alone in the kitchen afterwards I leapt up and waved my fists in the air. The hotel was in business at last.

About a month later my friendly welcome to those arriving was well rehearsed, and as people were leaving I would wish them a pleasant journey and say I hoped they would stay with me again the next time they came to London. A few guests hinted that the rooms were expensive, but others who visited London regularly on business were positive about booking again, and after a few months in business I would know if prices needed to be adjusted up or down.

Adapting to a situation in which everything not done by my part-time staff had to be done by me was not easy. If the cook was off, making the breakfasts, serving them, and preparing the morning's bills was almost unmanageable even with the hotel only half full, and I had to take on a student as a part-time waiter. When the cleaner was off, there were potentially twelve bedrooms to 'do', including twelve en suite lavatories, a taste of drudgery which may have been morally good for me but was something I loathed.

Encouragingly, bookings grew; one morning my contact in Housmans Hotel rang to warn me he had given my number to a group of six men from Newcastle. 'They're a bit rowdy,' he said. 'If you accept the booking put them close together, they're forever going in and out of each other's rooms. Make sure they know what time you want them out on the last day. Getting them to leave on time has not always been easy.'

Minutes later a man with a deep voice and a strong Geordie accent telephoned asking a series of quick fire questions: did I have three double rooms available, how far was the nearest Underground station, would they be able to get in easily late at night, and how much were the rooms? He reproachfully drew in his breath when he heard the cost.

'That's quite a bit more than we were paying at King's Cross.'

'The rooms are a good size, they're comfortable, they all have en suite facilities, and this area does cost a bit more. What time would you be leaving on Sunday?'

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