Hotel People

Our Easter plans didn’t really go to plan. That’s the joyful two fingers up of plans though isn’t it – try to rope life neatly in and she bucks and bolts. We had planned to go south, way, way south down the beach to where the muddy waters of the Ruvuma which boundary Tanzania meet with Mozambique and where the biggest, fattest fish are netted and dragged ashore. We almost got there, almost within finger touching distance but the rains came and took the road out and so that was that.

The children (can I still call them that? One is almost twenty, arrived from London wearing a blazer and promptly bought his dad a beer with his own money) were not overly impressed with their mother’s alternative budget accommodation option in Dar es Salaam. A fullfatfive is joyous. But it’s expensive, ‘you’ve only got to sleep in the bloody place’, I said, ‘how bad is that?’

Quite bad judging by the expressions that met my observation. One night of boarding school-skinny beds and an AC that hiccupped and coughed and spluttered but didn’t do much to lower the seething sweaty temperature in our rooms and Husband and I slunk next door to chichi Seacliff. I had dressed down for the occasion: if I look like I can’t afford to pay the full whack, I reasoned, perhaps I won’t have to? Getting caught in the rain en route helped perfect my yesterday shorts and t’shirt ensemble (I was wearing clean undies not, of course, that I was going to whip off overgarments to prove it: I was there to get a cheap room not get locked up.)  I shuffled through the glossy foyer taking cognisance of the fact that nobody in there was dressed like me, and I wondered when they’d last had a punter in here who’d haggled the rates?

Husband bore down on assistant manager Cecilia which all the confidence of a man who blags his way into hotels for an nth of the price all the time. He doesn’t. We are not, I tell my children as my mother used to tell us, ‘hotel people’. I hoped they might believe that was because they were above needing miniature bathroom accessories and enough dry towels so that nobody nagged about all the wet ones strewn across the floor. But they don’t: they know it’s because we can’t afford to holiday in hotels.

‘We have a company account here’, said my husband imperiously. Cecilia gave him a quick once over, in his chaplis and – yes – yesterday’s shorts, he didn’t look like he ought to be using ‘we’ and ‘company’ in the same sentence. ‘What are your best corporate rates?’  (because whilst I tell my children they are not Hotel People, my mother in law taught my Husband that if he did not ask, he would not get). Cecilia told us. They weren’t good enough. Surely, surely you can do better than that grinned husband. She could. A bit. Not much but enough that we could afford the little dark rooms at the back, where the bathroom miniatures aren’t as plentiful and the towels not as big but where, at least, the AC worked.

And where we could eat enormous breakfasts which were part of the package. My children have always been, I am mildly ashamed to say (because its proof of the fact I am both a faintly errant mother and a really lazy cook) urged, on the occasions that we do masquerade as Hotel People to Eat a Bloody Good Breakfast because I’m Not Feeding You Lunch. It is why they steal breadrolls and croissants from the breakfast buffet and secret them up sleeves and into bags. It’s why they pile plates obscenely high with bacon and sausages and garner a side order of cereal, fruit and a cupcake for good measure and then make their way precariously, like tight rope walkers, back to a table where – given that all three have been admonished similarly – space is at a premium. 

But my parenting (a verb now you note, no longer just a noun, such are the lofty heights that dragging up kids have scaled) tactics have backfired a bit over the years.  

We arrived in a lodge several years ago, after a long and hot drive and the children scrambled, relieved, from the car and raced inside to explore. I was mortified to discover – having checked us in – that they were eating the bread from the (empty) post lunch buffet table. ‘It’s a bit stale’ said a disappointed Ben.  I noticed, at dinner that evening, that the staff (who were too kind to say anything at the time, obviously taking enormous pity on a trio of kids that clearly belonged to a family so poor they couldn’t afford the standard safari wardrobe – Hat attired in Barbie Pink –  far less feed their children properly) had propped a neat little sign up beside the bread basket: For Display Purposes Only it said.

So they all eat as if they aren’t just at risk of missing the next meal, but missing the next week of meals and they also order stuff which absolutely doesn’t fit the description of breakfast. Ham and cheese and salami are fine – the continentals are good with deli food at breakfast time. But ice cream and waffles? Ice cream and waffles! Who the hell eats ice cream and waffles for breakfast I ask my girls who are both tucking in with gusto, splashing chocolate sauce and maple syrup across it all.

We do, they grinned, and anyway no lunch Mum! Remember? No lunch.

8 Responses to “Hotel People”

  1. R. Sherman Says:

    Who the hell eats ice cream and waffles for breakfast?

    Um, I’ve caught my two boys with vanilla ice cream on top of toaster waffles with chocolate syrup once or twice. Don’t feel bad.

    BTW, my kids always pack it in at the breakfast buffets when we’re on hiking holidays. They know that invariably they’ll be disappointed on the trail when I pull out the stale beef jerky and peanuts to satiate them for the next seven miles of the 18 miles we’re hiking that day.


  2. nappyvalleygirl Says:

    We always used to fill up with breakfast when staying at this kind of hotel – although I’ve never done it with the boys, and they’d probably still demand lunch anyway.

    We were once in a hotel in Norway with some friends who shamelessly stole food from the breakfast buffet for our lunchtime picnic – I say shamelessly because they sat there quite obviously making the sandwiches at the breakfast table!

  3. Rob Says:

    For display purposes only – best laugh I’ve had all day. Thanks!

  4. mapesburyMum Says:

    closest we got to hotel accomodation was breakfast at hunters lodge on the long drive to the coast – and boy did we stock up on that!!!

  5. Carol Says:

    Don’t you remember the night in hotel in Amsterdam en-route to UK and you and I filled our pockets, sun-glasses cases etc with minatuare jams, honeys (and biggest treat of all Nutella) at breakfast! Rob was so embarrassed watching us, his sisters, do such a thing. I’d just never seen all those condiments before! This post made me laugh – thanks!

  6. Ms Caroline Says:

    When we do stay in hotels, we always take advantage of the breakfast buffet, too. I figure the amount of food that my two sons consume at breakfast almost balances out the hotel bill….and yes, waffles and ice cream sound perfectly reasonable for breakfast!

  7. paula Says:

    Hi there, where do you stay way down south there where tzm meets mozam? we are thinking of taking a trip there later this year when the road has reappeared. Are there any lodges past Kilwa?

  8. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    am so sorry all, i have been away. paula, yes, look at 10 degrees south in mikindani near mtwara

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