Once every month Tony writes a short story for a local Hove magazine based on the many years of running the hotel. These short stories are a taster for an up and coming book about life in the hotel and all the crazy goings on. There has been lots of interest in the stories from the community and guests alike so we have decided to start publishing them here on our website, check back at the beginning of each month for a new instalment.
In our 25 years at The Adastral we have encountered many characters, this is the story of one of the most memorable.
A couple visited us for several years running, he was an ancient French mariner, his main claim to fame was that he had navigated a square rigger around Cape Horn. His Wife who seemed to spend her life trying to keep him under control was a secretary to the E.C. in Brussels
They would arrive in a battered old Mercedes estate that he had hand painted bright green. In the boot of the car could be found an enormous box kite that he had been working on for the last year. They would spend the first two days of their holiday at the Devils Dyke flying the kite where he would assess its performance and write copious notes and drawings for the following years work on modifications, prior to repeating the performance next year.
He usually wore corduroy trousers (splashed with bright green paint) and a very old fisherman’s jersey, but one evening they appeared in their best attire with him sporting a row of medals on his jacket. When asked about the origin of the medals he explained that as a navigator his expertise was sought after by the constructors of the road system in Morocco. Most of the roads were planned to cross the featureless desert hence the need for his navigating skills.
As the road construction gang moved through a small village they came under attack by several rebel aircraft that dropped some bombs on the village. One of these failed to explode and landed in the school playground, Le Capitaine picked it up and carried it to the outskirts of the village. He explained his actions by saying ”When you are 25 years of age you do stupid things”, hence the medals.
One morning at breakfast we noticed he was reading a copy of the RNLI magazine .Sensing an interesting story we asked him as he was French, why the interest in the RNLI? It appears that he was captain of a large cargo ship that ran into a storm in the English Channel. Eventually the cargo shifted and the vessel developed a serious list causing a loss of control and some flooding. He decided to make for Dover harbour but ran aground on some rocks. For the next few hours with the ship breaking up under them the crew clung to the wreckage being battered by wind and spray. They had given up any hope of being rescued then they saw the lifeboat “Being rowed towards us by men clad in waistcoats of cork” .Le Capitaine said it was the most courageous act he had ever witnessed, only one crew member died the other 10 were saved. That was the reason why he had an alliance with the RNLI, he owed his life to them.
One day as they were checking out he presented us with his old peaked cap that he wore all the time. It was a faded blue colour, battered and filthy dirty. On the front of the cap was an embroidered badge similar to the fowled anchor motif of the Royal Navy. The badge was sewn onto the cap along the bottom and the two sides forming a small pocket that was open at the top. When enquired as to the function of the pocket he replied mischievously and much to the embarrassment of his wife, ”Le paquet de trois”. For a man of 86 years of age we wondered if this was wishful thinking or a product of his exceptional memory. Whatever it was he still retained a wonderful sense of fun.
The cap is still in our possession and is at present adorning the bar at the hotel.
A story of geriatric love.
This is a story of a love affair, but no ordinary affair as the two participants were in their eighties.
When we purchased the hotel in 1986 then called the Adastral Guest House we were introduced to a couple that had been coming every Saturday afternoon for five years.
They were very interested in dancing and attended The King Alfred Leisure Centre.
John was a very distinguished looking man, tall and very well dressed and Joan was a very glamorous blond lady who usually wore a smart two piece outfit, or if they were in a competition, a ball gown.
After attending the morning session of old time dancing at the Leisure Centre they would then arrive at the hotel for lunch and a “rest” in the afternoon before leaving in the early evening to again go to the Leisure Centre where they were attending classes to gain a gold medal in ballroom dancing.
After his lunch John would smoke a foul smelling cigar that would necessitate us changing all the linen in the room to be ready for the night’s occupants.
It was on one of these occasions late on Saturday evening that we discovered a box of pills on the bedside cabinet, and knowing that John had a problem with his heart were concerned that he could need them urgently.
We were then presented with a dilemma, we did not know John’s surname, telephone number, or his address. After much thought we noticed that his surname was on the box of pills together with the name and address of the pharmacy. Assuming that he lived close to the pharmacy we phoned directory enquiries only to find that his number was ex directory. After an anxious half hour trying to convince the operator that she should give us the number we eventually persuaded her of the potential urgency of the situation and she gave us the number. After further consideration of the situation we phoned his home number.
As we expected the phone was not answered by Joan but by an elderly woman who confirmed she was the wife of John. We explained that we had found some pills and how we had obtained John’s phone number and offered to employ a courier to deliver the pills if necessary. She thanked us and said not to worry as he had plenty of spares at home and enquired where we had found them, we said we were only passers- by and had found them on the pavement. She thanked us and we thankfully ended the conversation.
Two days later we had a phone call from John saying “That was the most diplomatic thing I had ever heard of, now I will tell you the truth about our relationship”.
He related that they had been lovers for 20 years and had met while they pursued their hobby of dancing. He explained that he and his wife were Catholics and could not divorce, while Joan had a disabled husband who needed constant care and would not leave him. He said the only time they could get together was when they were visiting us at the hotel.
About a year after this incident John told us that Joan’s husband had died and soon after Joan went into a rest home. Their visits became more sporadic until they ceased completely some 10 years ago.
We still wonder if they ever did achieve their gold medal, we certainly hope so.
Paddy the Irish Labourer and the irrigation system.
Paddy stayed with us for almost 18 months with a gang working on the Brighton by-pass, the A27.
He was a typical Irish ganger boasting he could drive anything from a road roller to a dumper truck and typically, drink anybody under the table. He was a rough diamond, very generous and always impeccably dressed when going out.
He would join us in the bar every evening but Thursday night was his big night out, after being paid and decked out in his best suit and his shoes shining he would start at the casino in Brighton, then working his way back “home” as he called the hotel, visiting a variety of drinking houses on the way.
After a little while we understood his routine, and with Paddy having trouble finding his keys the night porter would sleep with one ear open in order to greet him in the early hours. We insisted that he carried one of our cards with him as he always had trouble remembering the name of the hotel and more than once saved embarrassment by presenting the card to a taxi driver saying “Take me home”.
We have an automatic irrigation system to water the flower troughs and baskets in front of the hotel, being programmed to switch on at 3am and off at 3.05am.One Thursday night after a successful visit to the casino and completely overdoing the celebrations on the way “home ” he eventually arrived on the doorstep at almost 3am to begin the farce of attempting entry.
Apparently he found his keys but could not insert them in the front door lock and promptly dropped them. While searching on his hands and knees the watering system switched on and Paddy started to get very wet very quickly.
The night porter eventually arrived to see Paddy on all fours, soaked to the skin and wallowing in the contents of a flower basket he had managed to dislodge .On helping him to his feet Paddy insisted he related the night’s events ending by exclaiming “B’Jesus tis rainin n’ all”
One Thursday night Paddy “Was down on me luck” and squandered the housekeeping at the casino. We all entered into the conspiracy of keeping his wife at bay while he made up his losses by taking on the extra hours as the site night watchman as well as his regular job during the day.It was a measure of his popularity among the other members of the gang as they rallied round to lend him some money to allow him to pay the weeks housekeeping until payday.
Mr Jinx the hotel cat.
Mr Jinx was born with three siblings to a wild cat who took refuge on top of the toilet block in our engineering factory. His mother had an unfortunate encounter with a delivery lorry and we were left with four orphans.
Mr Jinx was the only one of the group who was remotely civilised and also the most attractive, being a mixture of every colour imaginable.
When we moved from engineering into the hospitality industry he came with us and settled in well by securing a favourite seat in the bar where he could be admired by all. He became quite a celebrity always being introduced as Mr Jinx, when a guest had known him for a little while he would respond to being called Jinx and when known for a longer period, Jinxy!
He had a habit of sitting in the most bizarre places, sometimes blocking a doorway or on the stairs. It took us a little while to realise that he had found the floor areas where a heating pipe ran underneath and was merely warming his butt!
We had a male chamberperson called Mark who pulled a set of sheets and pillow cases from a high shelf in the laundry only to receive a flying cat full in the face. We tried to reconcile the two but Jinx had made an enemy for life and Mark refused to go into the laundry unaccompanied.
On one occasion we asked a potential customer if he would like to see the room he was about to book. On opening the door we were treated to the sight of Mr Jinx laying in the middle of the double bed, all feet in the air and snoring!
The receptionist apologised and suggested we show the customer another room, but he laughed and said”If it is good enough for Mr Jinx it is good enough for me”!
Mr Jinx lived to the ripe old age of 15 years and is still remembered today by some of our long term guests.