THE LOST HOTEL


The former Sandringham Hotel at 25 Lancaster Gate. It and adjacent properties
are now some sort of corporate offices, while the Kingsley is still a hotel.
Coincidence? Probably. (photo Rob Hansen, 2012.)

Friday April 8, 1960

I had arranged with the hotel manager at which the Convention was to be held, that I would take the bookings from the fen and give them to him in a block. I'd told him to expect around 50 to sleep(!) with about the same number visiting the lounge we would be using for a Conhall. The hotel didn't have a licence for selling drinks but I was assured there were no objections to our bringing our own in provided they were kept to the bedrooms and our lounge; the hotel would even provide us with glasses! I figured it was best to be honest and told him that in all probability there would be very little actual sleep done over the weekend as we only had this one chance, annually, to meet up and exchange talk and the like. To this he was also agreeable. I suppose I should have been suspicious, because every demand I made on behalf of the Convention was met with the bland promise: "If we haven't got it we'll get for you." Things looked fine from where I Was sitting.

I phoned the hotel on Friday to let them know I'd be down that day with the bookings I had. A woman's voice said: "I'm the owner, the man you saw was my brother who was standing in for me for a couple of days." I thought more about it than that the least the brother could have done was to tell me it wasn't his hotel. He had assured me he'd be there himself over the holiday in order to help things run smoothly. As it turned out, he'd lied in his teeth.

When I arrived and had a cigarette well alight we got down to business. How many would we be? When was it for? For how long would we be there? What exactly were we? (alright chum, you try and answer that one!). It transpired that the hotel owner hadn't been advised on any of the detailed arangements made on her and the hotel's behalf by her brother. This meant that every time I told her about something else her brother had promised would be done or obtained for us she dashed over to the phone and called him to query it. From the expostulations at our end I gathered the brother was unrepentantly telling her: "Yes, that's right, I did say that." When the girl - she wasn't really much more than that - realised how far he'd gone in her name she did the honourable thing and agreed to accept the bookings. We had to make certain adjustments, such as some things she knew or couldn't afford to get in for us. She was anxious for the good name of her hotel to do her best for us and I was only too willing to compromise with her on what I thought the gang would stand for; reminding myself all the time that there was only a week to go before the Convention and we had to have this hotel, there just wasn't time to find another. My pride took an awful beating that day.

Tuesday April 12, 1960

I had an appointment with the hotel that day to give them the last of the bookings and to make sure all was as it should be.

When I got to the hotel the owner introduced me to her mother who looked as if she was on the point of leaving, she was putting on her hat. Instead of going out she pinned me with a hard look and remarked: "Miss Parker, I don't like the sound of this party you have arranged for Easter. I don't like it at all. If my daughter takes my advice she'll cancel the whole thing." To say I was dismayed would be to understate the case. I was aghast. I'd already done diplomatic battle with the daughter and we'd reached some sort of working agreement but I could see this old battle-axe wasn't going to be easily persuaded, indeed, she wasn't going to be persuaded in any way if she could help it. I don't know if my face showed that I recognised defeat even before I'd begun fighting, but in spite of all my pleas she stuck to her guns. I must be fair and say that the daughter was on the verge of a right battle royal with her mother, in order to honour her word that she would have us there. The old woman over-rode her on every point. I wondered if perhaps Bobbie Gray could effect some sort of compromise with the old haybag so I asked permission to use the phone and called her. As I wasn't on the BSFA committee I had to let her know what had happened anyway.

It was no go. We were out!

48 hours to the Convention and nowhere to go!

- Ella Parker, ORION #25 (June '60)

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