A Last Banana

I never cried when dad died. Not when I got the call, not at the funeral.

I remember mum dabbing at her eyes during the service in an ‘I can cope’ way, and my sister, red-eyed, keeping busy to get through the day.

My brother cried hardest. As the cortege passed through the cemetery gates, out of the solemn silence of our stately limousine came a deep wail, a pocket of grief broken free, cloaking us all. I still picture his anguished face and how mum put her arm round him, saying, ‘It’s all right, dear’ – like mums always do.

I thought that I too should be crying, and wondered if I didn’t care enough or whether others might think that. But in my heart I knew that not crying was okay. During his last years dad and I had learnt to laugh together, not weep. I could see him fading, and was sure that he too was reconciled. It wasn’t talked about much except by innuendo, but mum knew, and I knew, and with quiet dignity we all accepted what was happening.

I wanted more and more to greet him with a kiss, especially when he became sedentary then bed bound. He seemed to value this affection, pressing stubbled kisses along my cheek. His face would light up when I came in the room, and we’d chat easily, as much as you can with illness around you. Parting was never sad; we trusted how things were.

At the hospice one day, I found dad propped up neatly in bed. I held his hand and we talked a little, on and off, whatever came to mind. Suddenly he grabbed a banana from the table and peeled it with great deliberation. With a look that said, ‘Watch this, son!’ he gobbled it up in a few bites, as if to buy more time. He was eating very little by then, so it didn’t fool me. He lapsed into a misty state soon after, but we stayed looking into each other’s eyes in a way that would have felt awkward in ordinary times.

Before I left, I held his hand and kissed him tight on the forehead. As I drew back, his face lost its taut complexion, opening into a warm smile like an unexpected ray of evening sun. In silence, he gripped my hand tight as if to stop me leaving, and when finally he released me and I waved from the doorway, he still wore the same tender expression. That was the last time I saw him.

The hospice staff loved my dad and talked about him as though he was their only resident. He’d have liked that – pleasing those around him. I took a white rose for their scented garden; they invited me to come and see where it was planted, but I never went.

With the passing of time, mum is less sad. Photos of dad, from young soldier to wise old man, comfort her where she eats and sleeps. She keeps the grave tidy and gets on with life. Dealing with his loss.

As we all do – each in our own way.

Copyright Paul Costello © March 2014

www.paulcostello.me

IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO BECOME A FAMOUS WRITER

It’s a lonely occupation, writing.

Not a team effort, like Consequences where each person writes something and folds the paper before passing it on:

I’ve done a line – now you do one,’ and, ‘Wow, that’s a good story we’ve written together!’

Instead you isolate yourself in a small room, or on a park bench or some rocks looking out to sea, push people away and refuse to share what you’ve written until you are good and ready.

61-2So why do it when it seems so antisocial? All right, there’s a degree of self-indulgence, even obsession. But there’s also a need for introspection, a desire to dig out the perfect words and combinations of words that express your thoughts in the way you wish the reader to receive them, words with lasting value.

But having written these perfect words – what then? Who wants to read them and how will people know they exist? Does anyone know who you are or what you write, and if they do, what makes your writing so vital compared with others’? You write something you think witty and original, yet it’s only read by your brother and great-niece. You yearn for conversations at the bus stop like:

‘Hello there. Here’s a sample of my work. Look, great word - barnacle! And see how I string it together with ship’s hull and cling! Fabulous, eh?’

‘Awesome! How do you do that?’ the stranger would say. ‘It would never have occurred to me. If only I was a writer too – the joy you must have hour upon hour.’

‘Well, thanks. But if you’ll excuse me – I now have more writing to get on with.’

The problem of channelling creative work spans all art forms. A painting or sculpture comes from the artist’s imagination, a design or invention from a fertile mind. But do they have validity or purpose if no-one else sees or uses them? Is their creation only a part of the artistic process, which isn’t complete until seen and judged by a core number of people? Does the work need to be in the public domain to have any worth, or is its value solely in the eyes and mind of the creator?

I do get self-gratification from writing, but somehow it’s not enough. I also choose to believe that my work may eventually be praised more widely – that my blogs won’t go unfollowed, my plays will be performed, and bigger projects won’t be ignored or rejected by those who hold the power to ignore or reject.pc web 5

Perhaps it’s a question of time. Many so-called great artists, composers and writers were never recognised in their lifetimes, the value of their work only attributed years after death, and even then its value waxing and waning according to fashion or monetary moods. Authors like Charles Dickens and Jane Austen fade from time to time but resurface to catch the imagination of new readers; with each new Government, schools and colleges chop and change ideas about literary value; and colourful marketing ploys can paint eighty shades of what a book is really worth. There seems no right or wrong.

Perhaps I should trust that long after I’ve gone, my tales of far-off travel will be stumbled upon by someone who cares; my pot-pourri of life observations in cafes and pubs, on trains and planes will go down as masterpieces; my tales of characters whose lives I fleetingly enter will become literary gems; my plays will be performed in forty different languages; and University Libraries will point dedicated students of irony and general madness to the section marked C for Costello.

Biographers will queue to expose how in my high chair I was force-fed tapioca; how as a parka-clad Lambretta-Boy I threatened my dad with a crash helmet and forever lived with the memory; how I sweated in bed for three weeks after giving up sixty Marlborough a day; and how I wrote a book about Bed and Breakfast that posthumously became a landmark publication for the leisure industry.

Historians will use my life trajectory as the very model for writers who fail to get recognised when they most need it. Politicians will fashionably latch on, prefacing keynote statements with,

‘As Paul Costello would have said …’

And in the year 2076 a lucky researcher trawling through a crusty second-hand bookshop will discover personal musings tucked inside an early edition of Utterly Undiscovered – and think,

‘How did this man go forgotten for so long?’Ledbury sunset

As more and more comes to light, and even my autograph fetches a fortune in Sotheby’s Auction Rooms, the estate will benefit too, since royalty instructions come with everything I write.

Sat on my writing cloud at sunset, I’ll feel delighted that my work ultimately brought such joy – and know it was all worth it.

Please send royalties to:

Account Name:                     Paul Granville Costello                                                               Bank Name:                          Great Writers at Rest (GWR)                                                     Sort Code:                            Already sorted

Tip: If you have just discovered this article, you’re the first. Keep quiet and get it insured.

Paul Costello Copyright © March 2014

UTTERLY UNDISCOVERED by Paul Costello. Hilarious tales from a Shropshire Bed and Breakfast!

Available through bookshops (ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2) or direct from Fineleaf Editions

www.fineleaf.co.uk/titles/utterlyundiscove.html

www.paulcostello.me

Princess Ida – a Layman’s Guide

Dear Readers

In the tongue-in-cheek style that Gilbert and Sullivan musicals so richly deserve, here’s my take on the show I’m in at Hereford Courtyard Theatre, March 19th – 22nd.

I have to say that the music in Princess Ida is far better than any other G&S show I’ve performed in. It seems that by this stage in their partnership Sullivan, a serious composer, had grown tired of producing the fluffy music Gilbert’s lyrics usually called for, and sought a greater challenge. The resulting score has strong classical undertones – shades of Handel and Bach as well as grander operatic sections. The chorus lines are a joy to sing and the plaintive melodies in the principals’ songs wonderful to listen to. I hope you find the same.

Princess Ida Poster

 

 

And here’s a thing. For the first time in my life, at the tender age of 66, with cowboy legs  and a dodgy limp, I shall be wearing tights and Speedos – once I’ve found out what those are. If you’re a million miles away you’re safe! But if you live closer, you might just feel tempted to check it out!

So this is the storyline …

 

Act 1 – King Hildebrand’s Palace

Princess Ida and Prince Hilarion got married when she was one year old and he was two – as you do. The deal was that they’d get together properly twenty years later. That day has come, and Hilarion waits uneasily with his dad King Hildebrand and his mates Cyril and Florian for signs of Ida’s arrival in their kingdom.

Searching for Ida

Searching for Ida

Sadly, the only people who turn up are Ida’s dad King Gama and her three stupid brothers Arac, Guron and Scynthius. There’s obviously history between the two Kings – they’re like chalk and cheese and bicker a lot. Gama proudly announces that Ida won’t be coming because she’s dedicated to running a university called Castle Adamant – exclusively for girls. He tells Hilarion there might still be a chance if he went and asked Ida nicely, whereas Hildebrand demands that Ida come at once or he’ll send his men over to storm the Castle.

Hilarion and his pals are convinced they can entice Ida to come. With Cyril excited at the thought of a uni with a hundred girls, the three of them head off to do their best, while Hildebrand holds Gama and his sons hostage, threatening the worst if anything goes wrong with the mission.

Act 2 – Grounds of Castle Adamant

Lady Psyche shares with the girl graduates her knowledge of Classics and her disdain for men, while Lady Blanche administers the day’s punishments. They all rise in awe for Princess Ida, who theatrically rejoices in her calling. Lady Blanche doesn’t like Ida’s style, and thinks she should be running the place.

Behaving like overgrown schoolboys, Hilarion, Cyril and Florian sneak in unnoticed and happen across some women’s robes in which to disguise themselves.

They bump into Princess Ida, and find the disguise works well, though Cyril’s excitability is clearly putting the venture at risk. A greater threat arises when they happen across Lady Psyche whom Florian recognises as his sister.

They share their plan with her and also, unwittingly, with Melissa who overhears the conversation. Both are sworn to secrecy, but Lady Blanche wheedles the secret out of Melissa (her daughter), who persuades her mum to keep quiet by pointing out that if Princess Ida did leave with Hilarion, she could fulfil her ambition of running the uni.

Over lunch, Cyril has a bit too much Pinot Grigio and gives the game away. Ida goes berserk when she finds men have invaded her territory, but in the middle of a hissy fit falls off a bridge and has to be rescued from the river by Hilarion.

Ida shows no mercy

Ida shows no mercy

In any other story it might have ended there, happy ever after. But not for Ida. With no hint of gratitude, and in spite of Hilarion declaring his undying love for her, she has the three men bound and taken away.

Now she’s started something! Suddenly the castle walls are stormed by King Hildebrand and his soldiers, carrying in their train Ida’s three brothers, still in chains. He reiterates his demands, threatening to top the prisoners if she doesn’t release Hilarion and fulfil her obligation to love, honour and obey him as a wife. But Ida is defiant to the last and the story is left hanging on a very delicate thread indeed.

Act 3 – Courtyard of Castle Adamant

A fight seems inevitable, and the girl graduates take up arms. But they’re torn between their anti-men principles and softer womanly feelings. Ida is disappointed at the lack of support and scorns the girls, saying she’ll take the soldiers on by herself if necessary.

King Gama arrives, technically still a prisoner but sent by Hildebrand to say that Ida’s three brothers should fight Hilarion and his friends, with the outcome determining Ida’s future. Arac, Guron and Scynthius come in looking despondent and not at all fit to fight. Hilarion, Cyril and Florian, much to Gama’s delight, arrive looking even more unlikely in their girlie garb.Princess Ida Poster

A fight kicks off – and the girlie men have it! Ida is now stranded. With Lady Blanche waiting in the wings and Cyril and Florian clearly of more than passing interest to the girls, will the Princess fight on alone or does she fancy Prince Hilarion more than she’s been making out?

Paul Costello ©  February 2014 

 

 

UTTERLY UNDISCOVERED by Paul Costello. Hilarious tales from a Shropshire Bed and Breakfast!

cropped-paul-and-book-7-13-3.jpg

Available through bookshops (ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2) or direct from Fineleaf Editions

www.fineleaf.co.uk/titles/utterlyundiscove.html

www.paulcostello.me

2020 – Civil War

Mummy, Mrs Carpenter said I’ve got to think of some stories about the Civil War.

The Civil War? Those were hard times! There were people called Royalists who liked the King, fighting against groups called Roundheads who ––

No, not that Civil War! The one we’ve got now – with the Council.

O-oh, you mean the Civic War!

No, the Civil War, mummy.

It’s almost the same, darling. There are groups called ‘parties’ in charge of us, who shout loudly at each other and try to get people on their side. In a way it’s fighting. It started just before you were born.

Why do they fight, mummy?

Well, because they want to be the ones making important decisions.

What sort of decisions?

About what’s important for us and how much money to spend on those important things.

So, what stories shall I tell Mrs Carpenter?

Okay, you know the street up into town?

ChariotWith the chariots and horses?

That’s right. When you were little that used to be a road like the one that goes alongside the river past Waitrose and Morrison’s. But with the change in the weather – all the frost and rain – the holes in the road got very, very bad, and after a lot of shouting and nasty words the parties decided it wasn’t important enough to spend money fixing them. Eventually there were so many holes that they all joined together to make big, deep ruts, meaning cars couldn’t get along there any more. Just like the road crossing the little bridge over the forest.

So do they have to use chariots now instead of cars?Rutted road

No darling, the chariots are just for filming – to show on television. You see, the street is now a very good place for people who make films about the olden times, because it looks like it would have done back then. It saves them having to go a long, long way to old ruins like Pompeii – near the volcano you learnt about.

And is the forest for filming too?

Yes – films like Robin Hood and Tarzan. A pathway once went up to the town with lovely trees on each side. But the parties decided it wasn’t important enough, and let the trees grow across the path till it became a jungle. It’s the same with that new silver birch forest; children used to play there and people walked dogs, until the parties decided it wasn’t so important after all and said it could become forest again. And in another park children played on swings and skateboards with lots of flat grass to run around on. But that wasn’t important enough either, so they let it grow into a field with bushes and long grass full of rabbits and mice and weasels and curlews that nest there in the spring.

Are the forests and fields a good story?

Yes, you can tell Mrs Carpenter that the film people pay the parties a lot of money to borrow the forest and fields for their filming, and the parties can spend that money on what they think is important.

So, what is important, mummy?

Well, none of us are sure, darling. The people who do all the shouting don’t always agree what’s important and don’t always tell us why.

But why can’t they just do everything?

Everything costs money, dear, and they only have a certain amount of money for doing things.

How much money do they have?

BankersNot much. You see, in London there are bigger parties who send the money to our parties. But they stopped sending a lot of this money, so our parties had to decide what was most important with the money they still had left.

But why did they stop sending so much money?

Because the London parties got their money from the people in London who actually make it in the first place. And about the time the Civil War started some of those moneymakers lost a lot of their money and others decided to keep it for themselves rather than sending it to parties any more.

What are they called, the people who make the money?

They’re called bankers, dear. And they’re the most important people of all.

Are there any other stories?

Lots! Next to the curlew field was a building where young people met and played, rather than playing on the streets. But the parties closed it because they felt it wasn’t important enough. And just along from that was a Fire Station with two fire engines which could be taken out quickly if there was a fire. But since the parties thought they weren’t important enough to be in the middle of town, they made them find another Station many miles away, which wasn’t good if it took a long time to get to a fire.

AmbulanceLike ambulances, mummy. If someone was poorly, it wouldn’t be good if they had to come a long way either.

In fact they do, darling, because they were sent a long way away too. And the police.

Where were the ambulances before?

Right next to the fire engines – where Sainsbury’s is now. The swimming pool was there too, where the school used to take you every Thursday before the parties decided swimming wasn’t that important. That’s why you now go to the rain pool, where the water has collected naturally ever since the parties decided clearing the road drain wasn’t important. It’s very safe Outdoor poolbecause cars can’t get past any more, what with the water and the big ruts that have spread into that road too.

Is Sainsbury’s important, mummy?

The parties think so, darling. Just like they think Waitrose and Morrison’s are important, and the Asda being built by the new houses past the viaduct. It’s like the filming; each new supermarket has to give the parties a lot of money, so they try to get as many new ones as they can.Supermarket

Were things the same in the other Civil War, in the olden times?

Well, in a way yes. In the olden days the roads and forests would have been like they are now and swimming would probably have been outdoors. And those houses past the viaduct are very close together and stick out at the top the same as in olden times.

Why?

Because before our Civil War there were people called Planners and Building Inspectors and Environmental Health Officers who made sure the people building houses put lots of space and fresh air around them, so that everyone stayed nice and healthy. But the parties decided those people weren’t very important, meaning the men who built the houses were able to build them as close together as they liked without getting told off. That way they could build lots more houses and make lots more money when they sold them.

Tudor HouseBut why do they stick out at the top, mummy?

Well, because they look old, it makes them good for filming too. But it’s mainly so that the people who live there can reach out and drop their rubbish in the street, like in the olden days.

Why don’t they put it out for the rubbish men to take?

Because, darling, the rubbish men only call every six weeks, and if you keep rubbish that long, things like fish and rotting fruit get very smelly. It’s easier to drop it on the streets between the houses and let the rain wash it into the river. Before the Civil War the rubbish was collected every week, but when the parties decided rubbish men weren’t that important, people had to find another way of doing it. Do you understand?

I think so. Is it the same as people weeing in the street?

Well, kind of. Normally people wee in their own houses, but if they’re out for a long time or are old and need to wee a lot, they have to wee where they can, and let the rain wash it away. Once, there were proper toilets in the town which anyone could use, but since the parties decided weeing wasn’t important, people have to use the street sometimes. It’s easier for them in the evening of course, because they can hide once the street lights have gone off when it’s dark.

But don’t street lights come on when it’s dark?

No, the parties think they’re only important when it first gets dark. Once your eyes are used to it, they’re switched off. A bit like the olden days when there were no street lights at all.

What other stories have you got, mummy?

Well, let me think. You could tell Mrs Carpenter that you’re glad you’ve still got a library in the school with loads of lovely books, even though there’s no longer one in the town that everyone can use.

Was there one in the town that stopped being important?

You’ve got the idea, darling! Yes, and some towns also had museums, with lots of very old, interesting things to see. People loved browsing through books and chatting to each other and learning things, until it all became unimportant. And next to the library was a building called a Tourist Information Centre where people visiting the town could ask where to go and what to do. LIbraryBut the parties decided that was unimportant too, and made visitors go to a shop up the road where a man tried to help but didn’t really know how. It was a shame for people visiting our lovely town, although not many have come since the buses stopped running.

Why aren’t there buses any more?

Because the buses used to pick up older people living in the countryside to make it easier for them to do their shopping and meet friends, and the parties used to pay the bus people money to do this. But after a while they decided it wasn’t important enough.

Mummy, is there anything that is still important enough, apart from Sainsbury’s and Waitrose and Morrison’s and Asda?

Well, I do sometimes wonder, darling. I think people who need looking after are still important, say very old people and children like you.

So is my school important enough?

Yes it is, because the parties have said they won’t take any money away from your school, so you’ll still have all the teachers and books, and you’ll carry on learning a lot and doing all the exciting things you do now – even if it means the teachers do have to work twice as hard and the books get a bit raggedy and you have to stay on till the evening before I pick you up.

So tomorrow, when I tell Mrs Carpenter my stories about the Civil War, can I tell her that she’s still important enough?

Yes you can, dear.

Paul Costello © February 2014

UTTERLY UNDISCOVERED by Paul Costello

Hilarious tales from a Shropshire Bed and Breakfast!

cropped-paul-and-book-7-13-3.jpg

Available through bookshops (ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2) or direct from Fineleaf Editions

www.fineleaf.co.uk/titles/utterlyundiscove.html

www.paulcostello.me

Clogg’s Bag Tax

In a remarkable policy directive, Nick Clogg has announced a 5p tax on plastic bags in large supermarkets with effect from 2015. Stores will be asked to donate the proceeds to charity – on a voluntary basis. Oh, right!

What a body blow! For years I’ve taken their supply for granted. And I’ve acted responsibly – recycling them for shopping, lining waste bins and packing liquids in suitcases. Not until a bag is ruined do I discard it to landfill. Honestly!

To me the use of plastic bags is under control, not just through my valiant efforts but with new technology. Bags are being made with landfill in mind – the Co-op’s compostable ones even instruct you to send them there. Yet Cloggers is adamant that a Bag Tax should become the lasting record of his spell as Camshaft’s personal assistant. I don’t see why I should pay the price for this bureaucratic balderdash, so I’ve looked at the alternatives and made a plan.Plastic Bags

I considered getting a so-called Bag for Life made of thicker plastic. With care this would last longer. But in the end it too would need disposing of and wouldn’t break down as fast as a skinny one.

I thought about a wheelie bag – with a tartan design. Or a hessian bag or wicker basket, though I’d need four or five for a weekly shop. And these all have man-image problems. A wheeled suitcase was a possibility – to stir up interest with far-flung stories about my adventures in Manchuria and The Gabon.

I ruled out rummaging for bags in litter bins – not good in a small town – but did briefly toy with using cardboard boxes again. When I started running a B&B in Shropshire, I was obsessed with keeping costs down. In my memoir, Utterly Undiscovered, I show how I saved a fortune by avoiding parking charges, walking a mile every week laden with boxes. Here’s what happened:

Kwik Save doesn’t have plastic bags; empty boxes for customers to self-pack are in a large bin by the checkout. So every week I take a pleasant stroll across the park with a cardboard box.

After we get a second cat, I can easily buy enough to fill two boxes, peering round the carefully balanced duo to make sure I’m heading in the right direction. People turn to follow my progress across the park as if I’m a straggler in some sort of triathlon.

As spring turns to summer, business picks up and I need three boxes. No longer able to see round the tower, I follow the tarmac path below as best I can. Word has spread, and small groups gather in anticipation every Thursday, their smiles and cheers spurring me on.

In time, it becomes a continuous throng, two or three deep, lining the road much as they do The Mall when royalty is due to pass. From the park gates I can hear the hum of the waiting crowd – women with children, joggers, dog walkers and shop workers using lunch breaks to witness the shopping phenomenon. Council gardeners lean on their hoes, and the ice cream man has a perfect view from the raised window of his van.

As I stagger past, applause ripples down the rows like a Mexican wave. If I falter with a particularly heavy load, someone from the crowd steps alongside to steer me towards the squeaky bridge. A small girl darts from the front to retrieve a can of Felix that topples from the overfilled top box, and has fun looping it back in. What a story to tell her grandma!

That really was hard work, and it wasn’t long before I started shopping at Tesco’s, parking outside like everyone else.

With the Bag Tax only applying to stores of more than 250 employees, I wondered about shopping at a smaller supermarket or calling in to grab a handful of their bags on the way to a larger store. Bit unfair, I thought.

But I like plastic bags and want to stick with them. So here’s my plan. I’m acquiring bags literally for life. Given that I may live to 95, I’ll have 28 shopping years left after the tax comes in. I normally get through about 10 new plastic bags a week, so over 28 years I’ll need 14,560 plastic bags. Which means I need to stock up with 187 new bags a week in the remaining 78 tax-free weeks to avoid being stung for tax.

Plastic Bags

With stealth, a good deal of double-bagging and only one item per bag, I think I can do it. Okay, there’ll be a storage problem. Like most people’s understairs cupboards mine bulges with screwed-up bags, and 187 a week will make the door even harder to close, and probably break the lock. But it’ll be worth it to avoid Clogg’s Bag Tax.

And in case I don’t reach 95, I’ve provided in my will for the remaining stock to go to family. At 5p a bag there’s money under the stairs! The solicitor can sort out the inevitable dispute.

So here I am, three weeks into the New Year, with 561 bags already bowing the cupboard door. It’s going very well – I’m on target and determined!  I do wonder what state the country would be in if no-one attended to environmental issues seriously like this?

Paul Costello © January 2014

UTTERLY UNDISCOVERED by Paul Costello

Hilarious tales from a Shropshire Bed and Breakfast!

cropped-paul-and-book-7-13-3.jpg

Available through bookshops (ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2) or direct from Fineleaf Editions

www.fineleaf.co.uk/titles/utterlyundiscove.html

www.paulcostello.me

Postcard from Gatwick

Dear Uncle Harry

The Europa Hotel, Gatwick. I’m reluctant to run it down – it’s doing this pretty well by itself.

Part of the Britannia Hotels chain, it thrives on one-nighters flying to and from Gatwick Airport. Were it not for this assured trade and cheap prices, it might have fallen by the wayside some time ago – once the hotel inspector got stuck in, that is.

At £79 for a room, including 15 days parking, it stood out attractively in the online comparison sites. But the Europa’s shortfalls struck home within ten minutes of arriving. Despite my engaging manner, the polite but mechanical receptionist directed us to Room 1139 where we gratefully dropped cases and coats. My well-travelled joints were ready for respite as I lowered myself to the edge of the bed. But relief there was not. As if sitting on a blancmange, the mattress fell away to nothing, its springs bulged through the flimsy material and I was ejected bottom-first to the floor. A more thorough test confirmed we’d bought into a bouncy castle, and with me a restless sleeper and my friend having a bad cough, we were guaranteed a night of trampoline-like proportions.

Further inspection of 1139 showed that the bathroom, although fully functioning, had long lost its sparkle, the sanitary and chrome fittings retaining no semblance of shine and the whistling extractor fan hanging loose from its circular cut-out on the wall.

In the poorly lit bedroom the ancient, bulky TV offered the usual channels, but the remote control, whose missing back cover meant the batteries kept dropping out, would not connect to the Programme Guide or any function except volume control and channel switching.

But it was only for one night, and we were off to Gran Canaria. We could brave it! A drink at the hotel bar would sort it out. I diverted briefly to Reception to check if there might be another room available with something more closely resembling a mattress.

‘Hello, could you please tell me if you have rooms with firmer mattresses?’ I asked. ‘Only the one in 1139 is terribly soft and you can feel the springs,’ I continued, in the absence of a reply. ‘Or are they all the same?’ I said, resigning myself to a one-way conversation.

‘Oh no, they’re all the same!’ said the receptionist, sounding surprised.

Nothing for it but to head past the two non-functioning public computers, across the badly marked carpet, for a well-earned pint. Plonking myself on the comfy but flaking, stripped-leather-effect easy chair I tucked into my San Miguel, assuming it would clear as the froth subsided. It never did – and the taste matched the colour.

‘What do you want me to do?’ asked the young barperson, clearly as ill-equipped as the receptionist to deal with non-routine matters. Eventually a supervisor appeared and replaced the drink. We resisted the hotel food, much of which seemed already to have found its way onto the well-thumbed bar snack menu.

Next morning, I browsed the hotel brochure which proudly boasted conferences, banquets and weddings. Large display screens in the foyer told what joy there would be choosing the Europa for your wedding reception, though I sensed it would only appeal to the undiscerning or a mischievous groom-to-be on TV’s Don’t Tell the Bride.

The hotel reminded me of guest houses still occasionally found in the side streets of Victorian seaside towns that have seen better times; where implied criticism is usually passed off with: ‘Nobody has ever complained before’.

The Europa’s crowning glory was a paper notice roughly Sellotaped to the reception counter:

Payment by Debit Card – 50p

This alone told me all was not well.

See you soon,

Paul

Paul Costello © January 2014

 

UTTERLY UNDISCOVERED by Paul Costello

Hilarious tales from a Shropshire Bed and Breakfast!

cropped-paul-and-book-7-13-3.jpg

Available through bookshops (ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2) or direct from Fineleaf Editions

www.fineleaf.co.uk/titles/utterlyundiscove.html

www.paulcostello.me

The Commandments for Older People – Thou shalt …

Two Old PeopleThou shalt not wear chunky trainers with fluorescent flashes, nor shalt thou wear baseball caps, nor normal, nor sideways, nor back to front.

Thou shalt not wear miniskirts, nor speedos, nor socks with sandals.

Thou shalt not wear trousers with elasticated tops, nor cargo trousers lest thou shouldst overload the pockets of thine cargo trousers.

Thou shalt not blacken thine hair, nor black, nor any shade of black.

Thou shalt not over-comb thine hair, nor wear an ill-fitting hairpiece, nor a black hairpiece, nor a hairpiece not matching your hair.

Thou shalt not tell leery jokes, nor carry on telling these when thou art the only one laughing.

Thou shalt not flip thine hands at discos like a seal, nor shalt thou go up to do the Elvis karaoke.Two Old People

Thou shalt not use teen-speak, nor ‘cool’ nor ‘yo’ nor ‘ciao’.

Thou shalt not covet the young bargirl, nor young barman, nor their asses, nor their mates, nor anything you can’t follow through with.

Thou shalt share medical matters with thine neighbour, loudly, on the bus.

Thou shalt eyeball young people on the bus to get a seat.

Thou shalt raise thine stick at traffic to get across the road, even when thou dost not use a stick.

Thou shalt crunch loudly on Werther’s Original in quiet places.

Two Old PeopleThou shalt tell stories about thine life, without drawing breath lest people should interrupt.

Thou shalt speak thine mind as thine inhibitor cells break down, and allow thine deep-down prejudices to emerge, with no fear of castigation.

Paul Costello © November 2013

UTTERLY UNDISCOVERED by Paul Costello

Hilarious tales from a Shropshire Bed and Breakfast!

cropped-paul-and-book-7-13-3.jpg

Available through bookshops (ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2) or direct from Fineleaf Editions

www.fineleaf.co.uk/titles/utterlyundiscove.html

A fabulous Christmas gift!

www.paulcostello.me

@PaulCostello8