Some friends hired a cottage in the Cotswolds to record some music of Sri Chinmoy. Rather than risk sleeping on a spare couch, I booked a nearby B&B. More expensive, but you can’t put a price on a good night’s sleep.
I was greeted at the door by a rather flustered old lady. I mentioned I had booked a room and with this, an even more flustered old man appeared from the kitchen. He said in greeting:
“O no, this is the last thing I need!”
I think he was talking to himself out loud, but maybe he was talking to me.
He proceeded to unload all his burdens and frustrations. His elderly mother had let five gentlemen stay – despite them not having any reservations. As a result, my room was already taken, and it was really a great inconvenience now that I had shown up. He continued:
“I’ve had a very bad day, we’ve had a flood, methane gas escaping from the boiler, the builders causing a problem and my mother overbooking. With you turning up it’s really put the cap on my bad day.”
He explained there was one spare room left – not en-suite like the one I booked – but the room which had experienced a small flood.
I didn’t know whether to feel guilty for turning up or lucky to be given a musty room which was damp despite having no bathroom.
I didn’t detect any ill feeling or unpleasantness – just a fellow human being struggling through life.
Secretly I found it quite amusing – a befuddled old mother and her son – Basil Fawlty reborn. Perhaps I even admired his non-politically correct attitude to consumer service. These days if your train is five minutes late, you will hear several tedious announcements.
“Virgin Trains would like to apologise for the late running of this train and any inconvenience this will cause…”
It would be more fun if they said.
“Virgin Trains was doing fine until passengers started turning up!”
I took the key and offered a polite thank you.
Since there was no chair for meditation, I took one from the dining room; I didn’t dare try find someone to ask.
In the morning, I thought I should explain the missing chair so, rather nervously, I waited for the flustered Mr Fawlty to come out of the kitchen.
When he finally understood I had just borrowed a chair, he looked relieved.
“O that’s OK, I was worried you wanted breakfast!”
I snuck out to find another place to start the day.
For the second night, I was moved out of the damp musty room, into another one which was cold and had no heating. So I kept boiling the kettle in my room to get a bit of heat.
The next day they both apologised for the problems and said to me: “It isn’t usually like this”. Somehow, I’m not sure this is their first mix up. They had good hearts and they later gave me a small discount to compensate. As I was leaving, Mr Fawlty also kindly explained to me his mother paid him a very low wage.
“I get paid more for feeding the cats and dogs!” he interjected
I can’t remember how the conversation got onto this subject. I just smiled and nodded. He said it all with a kind of expression which encompassed both a weary resignation and perhaps a hint he did actually enjoy working for the family business.
The incident reminded me of an aphorism by Sri Chinmoy
Be kind, be all sympathy,
For each and every human being
Is forced to fight against himself.
Sri Chinmoy