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 Post subject: Fiasco!
PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2016 9:36 am 
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Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2005 6:46 pm
Posts: 1282
Location: Masterton New Zealand
Another one for U3A!

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The Phyllis Court Fiasco
After two years working and learning in London, with only occasional outings to see the country it became time to see some parts of Britain with my new found girlfriend. Her parents were from Brighton and we stayed with them for a few weeks, taking in the world famous Brighton Pier, the pebbly beach and the occasional clash between the ‘Mods’ and the ‘Rockers’. The ‘Mods’ on their Vespa scooters, wearing flat hats and colourful clothes and the ‘Rockers’ on their Norton and BSA motorbikes, in full motorcycle gear. They would stand shouting obscenities at each other and very occasionally resorting to fisticuffs.
We then began our trip down the coast in our Wolseley 6/90 , which I had purchased while I was in London, in the direction of Cornwall, stopping here and there for a day or two . When we arrived in Torquay , the town made famous by Basil Fawlty, we were attending a little tea shop consuming Devonshire Tea, with it’s little creamy cakes and upper crusty porcelain crockery, we got into conversation with a gentleman who owned a hotel called ‘Phyllis Court’ along the sea front. In the course of the conversation it seemed that he was short of staff and we were certainly open to staying in Torquay for a month or two until the end of the visitor season.
Before we knew it Teresa was a waitress and general tidy up person and I was the night porter. My duties began about 8pm, as I helped wash up the dishes from dinner, then to ensuring the place was locked up about midnight after everybody had gone to bed and then relaxing with little to do until 5am when my first duty of the day was to turn on the kitchen’s very efficient gas toaster. This machine could toast about 30 slices of bread in about 30 seconds but it needed about two hours to get warmed up.
The long hours in between could become very boring so I undertook some little self amusing projects. The hotel worked on the principle of no tipping but a 10% service charge added to the bill. The hotel was full and I soon worked out the total income with all the rooms full. I then asked everyone what they had received , which, surprisingly, they were happy to tell me, only to find that only about half of the 10% was being distributed to the staff. It seems that the manager was pocketing the rest! This was brought to the notice of Commander Bond, the owner of the hotel and it wasn’t long before we had a new manager and double the tip allocation! As a result of this I was very popular with all the staff.
Commander Bond was also a very enthusiastic numismatist and there were many coin operated machines dispensing chocolates, drinks and magazines, around the hotel. He then examined every coin under a microscope for any faults and then marked with a red greaseproof pencil to indicate the completion of his examination. As a result of this we were paid much our wages in coins. Much to the disgust of the local bank where we deposited our pay!
The fiasco proper relates to the gas toaster though. One morning I dutifully lit the toaster and then relaxed in the foyer on the very plush sofa and fell asleep. The next thing I heard was a frantic banging on the front door and the milkman shouting “Your kitchens on fire”! I rushed into the kitchen to find the room full of acrid smoke which was emitting from the toaster. I ran to unfurl the fire blanket, threw it over the flames and extinguished the heap of burning wood on top of the toaster. It seems that, for reasons unknown, the chef had decided to put all his wooden spatulas on top of the toaster!
The flames had now gone but the stench lingered as I threw open all the windows and cleaned up the black smoky mess, hoping that no one would appear too early. An hour later at about 6:30, the first of the kitchen staff arrived and commented that somebody next door must have had a bonfire going. Apart from a little ‘next door bonfire’ smell nobody noticed the lack of wooden spatulas but for the next few days the chef was looking in drawers and under furniture. The hardest part had been getting the fire blanket back in it’s metal tube.
Many years later in 2008, my wife and I visited Torquay as we drove around in our rental car and out of curiosity I called in at the hotel, now re-owned and renamed “Corbyn Head” . I walked into the foyer that I had once fallen asleep in and was approached by the manager to whom I explained my nostalgia. He was much amused and said he was glad the hotel had not burned to the ground or he might not have a job now.

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 Post subject: Re: Fiasco!
PostPosted: Wed Aug 17, 2016 12:28 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 11:42 pm
Posts: 1973
Location: Devon, England
Great memory Michael, thanks for sharing. Thank goodness the milkman woke you!
I was going to post photos (the ones I put on facebook), of Phyllis Court now as Corbyn Head Hotel, and what it looked like when you worked there Michael, but I don't have them stored anywhere else online to share them. What year did you work there? Apparently the singer Donovan worked there for a time in the 60s. I only found out recently why they changed the name from Phyllis Court - it used to be written in huge letters on the front wall, apparently someone wrote "SY" in front of it :shock: :lol:

PS linny, Phyllis Court made me think of Phyllix x


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 Post subject: Re: Fiasco!
PostPosted: Wed Aug 17, 2016 9:14 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2005 6:46 pm
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Location: Masterton New Zealand
I was there in 1965.
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 Post subject: Re: Fiasco!
PostPosted: Thu Aug 18, 2016 12:36 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 11:56 pm
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Location: Solihull, UK
Lovely story, Michael. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Fiasco!
PostPosted: Thu Aug 18, 2016 6:09 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 11:42 pm
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Location: Devon, England
Donovan worked there in '64 :)


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 Post subject: Re: Fiasco!
PostPosted: Thu Aug 18, 2016 9:18 pm 
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:D I laughed over the "SY" bit Lynn! :D
I often wondered what happened to 'Commander Bond'. He certainly wasn't James Bond but was an ex naval chap. He didn't have much to do with running the hotel- just turned up to collect the coins. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Fiasco!
PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2016 2:46 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jul 30, 2010 12:49 am
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Oh how lovely, all around!!! I love Donovan so much as well. What a beautiful way to start this morning!!! Laffing so hard about Phyllix, for she truly "held court." I would love to visit Torquay someday....and it's nice to "see" it through the lens of your lives. Thanx and love to you all here on HH.


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 Post subject: Re: Fiasco!
PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2016 9:23 pm 
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I was at a folk club in London in '64 when someone stole Donovan's boots & he had to go home in his socks!


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 Post subject: Re: Fiasco!
PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2016 2:55 pm 
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OMGAWDS that's a wonderful experience!!! :lol: You know, it's so funny, because I just realized that it mayn't happen today, because entertainers aren't folksy balladeers that would take off their boots while performing.

Very cool Helen. Thank you.


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