Tag Archives: B&B

Sleepless in Rotherham – Part 1


We were sat around the bar in the  pub nursing a beer each, exchanging glances then rolling our eyes back to the ceiling,  listening to the rumble of an argument going on above our heads.

It was just the start of the evening.

I have to admit, I hesitated about writing this one.  Not that it was a terrible situation. It was just that I was trying to work out how I could actually portray the whole set of circumstances. Sometimes, what is incredibly funny is difficult to get across. Part of this problem is actually capturing the mentality of the moment, not the smuttiness.

I instead try to share the ridiculous circumstances that we can find ourselves in, reflect back upon them and laugh. I hope, (I really do every time I write one  of these ) that I manage to get that across and not have someone sat reading it thinking,


In this case, waking up intermittently to find someone’s legs dangling over your shoulders, using your cheek to itch the itch on that persons sock clad instep was verging on the ridiculous but I’ll get to that.

I had been working on a nightclub refurbishment over in the Yorkshire town of Rotherham.  It was a typical shopfitting job – 12 hour, 7 day weeks – and I had been there some several weeks already, but the end was in sight. The job was drawing to a close and a group of the lads had decided to go on a night out, let off some steam after a fairly intensive work period.

We were staying in a pub B&B a short distance from the job. The digs we were staying in were quite tired looking. A pub that let out the upper rooms of the property. These were basic bedrooms, 3 – 4 to a room with one box like wardrobe taking up space, a tiny sink, a small table, a tiny kettle (no cups or brewing gear) and one window.

Jammed into this room were the beds.  The pub had maybe 4 rooms available, all quite similar. The lads staying here shared two toilets and one bathroom, all situated at the end of the corridor that ran in between the rooms. The bathroom had one of those doesn’t-quite-work-showers that has no real pressure behind the water.

It just spits intermittently at you. All you could do was  jump in at the end of the day and get clean as best  you could.

The landlord, it has to be said, like to imbibe with the patrons, so that come bed time there would be a slight sway to his movements. Then he would throw the light switch and worry about cleaning up in the morning. This lacks-a-daisy approach was highlighted to me in the middle of my first night.

I made the mistake of getting up to go to the toilet in the early hours, opening the door to head off down the corridor to relieve my bulging bladder. Only to find  this huge, donkey of a dog, illuminated by a faint night light on the other side as I opened it.

I managed to slam it shut as it launched itself at me, its meaty weight thudding against the door as I  landed in the open wardrobe behind me with a muffled Whinny.

My urgent need to pee retreated immediately.

Then the shock hit me and I needed to go even more.

I clawed my way out of the clothes and hangers, panting and whimpering in turn, with the urgent need to go now ten fold. I was fumbling around in the dark crossing my legs trying to decide where I could relieve myself, while listening to the beast snarling and scratching away at the door.

Mmmmmm. Whats going onnn?”

Came the muffled question from a room mate.

“There’s a dog! Its not a dog! There a fucking werewolf  outside the door!! I need to piss! I think some piss is coming out!!!”

I replied, a slight hysterical edge to my voice as I stood clutching myself, hopping from one foot to the other, wondering how much pee a  toy kettle could hold. I wondered frantically what every one else had done before me. I do remember coherently  thinking through my panic,

If I get through this, don’t ever brew up in the kettle



Nnnnnn. S’just the dog. Don’t go out. Piss out the window.”

I have to admit I actually stopped hopping around to momentarily  peer at the invisible person in the dark.


Mmmnnnn. S’window. Piss out the window.”

And the indistinct half asleep figure rolled over, burying himself in his duvet. I stared at him for a few moments then the urgency of my situation came pressing back.

Ah. Well. When in Rome…

It was a matter of moments to open the curtains slide the window up and – sweetbabyJesus – instant relief.

I had a quick moment of almost drying up again as the dog  – obviously feeling cheated – threw itself at the door briefly. But to be honest, nothing was interrupting that flow for long.

Eventually, the stream petered out, the relief indescribable. I climbed back into bed and took a deep, ragged breath and attempted to  settle back down. It took a while for the adrenaline slowly easing away.

The following morning after complaining to the landlord as he brought the breakfast through, and listening to his deep apologies, and knowing he wasn’t taken my near death seriously when he described his pet, saying,

“Aww, nay lad. He’s nobbut a big soft dog!”

I left the pub shaking my head, promising myself I wouldn’t get caught out again, only to see Dennis stood by his car, distracted, looking skywards then back to the vehicle, sniffing and  gingerly touching the roof and windscreen.

“Alright Den?’

I asked.

“Yeah. I think so. looks like someone’s poured something all over the car, Its all tacky…A bit sticky.

I had a moment where I gnawed a knuckle, thinking

Please God don’t  taste it,

but i’m happy to say  he managed to restrain himself from that next step.

The trouble with this kind of work is you tend to live out of a suitcase and never really settle. It becomes a blur of get up, go to work, back to digs, have your evening meal, beer and bed.  The real hard core would spend the  evening drinking which I never understood. You would literally be drinking away the money you were working away  to earn in the first place.

The accommodation was never the best either. Basic in the extreme and you always ended up sharing a room. This wasn’t so bad if you were there with a work mate you knew. But if you landed on a job as a new face, it was pot luck who you ended up sharing a bedroom with.

Initially it was four I didn’t know, a situation I hate, but more familiar faces appeared as the job progressed so that I ended up partnered with a good friend of mine, Tex. The room situation changed as the job progressed with people coming and going. The four sharing the room at this point were one guy I worked frequently with, (Tex) (See Tex, The Amazing Memory man and Fred West The Carpet Layer) one I knew (Gaz) and the other I didn’t very well (Dennis), who was the remainder of the four I started with in the room.

Due to the intensity of the work as the job neared its conclusion, the firm had sent extra lads up from the workshop to help give a final push. Two of these were Colin, an established bench hand joiner and Tommy the young 18 year old apprentice.

Tommy was a slight figure, a nervous quiet kid who hardly spoke. He wore the thickest, heaviest looking lenses I had ever seen on a young lad. He had that myopic way of tipping his head back to look down his nose through the glasses to really focus on something. It looked like he was trying to balance the glasses on his nose – which I wouldn’t be surprised about considering how heavy they  looked.

The overall impression left him looking at things with a slightly vacant expression, his mouth partly open each time he did it.

Every time I saw him he reminded me of the character Dustin Hoffman played in the film Papillon. papillon-1973--00

“Come on boys it our night out tonight!”

Shouted Gaz, throwing an arm around young Tommy’s shoulders and giving him an enthusiastic squeeze, as we made our way back to the digs to get ready. Gaz was enthusiastic about most things to be honest. His attention would flit from one thing to another in rapid succession.

It was hard keeping up at times.

Added to this was the site humour.  Which, was at times caustic even merciless. You just had to know how to handle it. Never show a reaction and if you did be damn sure you gave back a lot worse than was coming your way.

Gaz seemed to thrive on it.

He was quite ready to rib anyone he could. And Tommy, who I think  was just about getting through puberty – found himself fairly consistently in the firing line,  just because he didn’t know how to react.

And he was one of those kids that you just know, I mean really know, has spent most of his life being ribbed in one way or another and never been quite sure how to react to it. We all took turns to make sure he was ok. I mean a joke was a joke as long as it was funny but you didn’t want to make someone a victim.

Back at the digs and it was have something to eat, up stairs and wait for your turn for the shower, back to your room and dig something out of your case to wear and get your last pair of clean underpants out, handling them like they were the Holy Grail.

Quick spray of deodorant and it was down to the bar to wait for the others and a quick pint before heading out.

Which was where the evening began.

Lads began to filter into the vault, in good spirits looking forward to the night out. We scattered ourselves along the bar, a group of young couples at the other end of the room the only other people in the pub, friends of the landlords young girlfriend.

The land lord was a fifty-something big beer bellied chap. In complete contrast was his young twenty-something blond bimbo of a girlfriend.  In very trim shape if somewhat dizzy, it left you shaking your head  watching them together trying to understand the relationship.

The argument only became noticeable as the noise of it rose above our heads. As it became louder it became quieter in the bar as every one strained to listen in. I mean, you couldn’t actually hear anything. It was just the general undecipherable rumble of an obvious argument and punctuated by the heavy steps across the ceiling, slamming and banging of objects.

You only knew who was shouting by the change of octave as the young girl threw her obvious dissatisfaction  in.

The argument came to a final close with a solid THUD on the ceiling. Followed by the  stomp of steps away to one side and opening and slamming of a door.

We sat exchanging glances, laughing quietly. I think that’s another thing that we fail to admit at times. We do laugh at other peoples misfortune. Not necessarily in a nasty way but in a sniggering kind of observation.

It’s never as funny when your in the situation, but its always entertaining to watch someone else deal with it.

The young girl suddenly appeared amongst her friend, mascara runs on her cheeks and obviously unhappy. She was surrounded by her friends and whispered words of concern were expressed but all we could hear were her loud replies.

Ah only said, I didn’t agree! ‘E’s a bastard e is. Ah Bastard!”

(whisper whisper?)

Ah don’t care! Ah told ‘im! Ah’m no dolly bird! Ah’v a mind of ma own!”

Contrary to evidence.

(whisper whisper?)

‘E said ah was lucky to ‘av ‘im! The cheeky fat bastard! “E’s tha lucky one ah said!

(whisper whisper!)

Ah told ‘im – ah did! Ah said  -“A diet wouldn’t go amiss for tha’ likes of you!”

(whisper whisper?)

That’s when he smacked me right in tha’ kisser…”

We made our way into the night shortly after..

Take The High Road…Alfred


“Thank you SO much Alfred Wainwright…”

Was what I was thinking, as I faced the route before me. All those books he wrote religiously full of every rock and crevice of the Lake District. His passion, writing about all those walking routes, describing each one. The views, the climbs. The terrain that he lived and breathed.

I must admit as a teen I had spent a couple of years with friends, traipsing around the Lakes. Spending a week at a time walking from one Youth Hostel to the next one. Then in the evening going to the pub and making a valiant attempt with my friends of drinking it empty. Because it was a cheap holiday see?

The only reason I went was my friends couldn’t afford a holiday abroad being still at collage. And while I was working and earning, going alone didn’t appeal.. It was a distant prospect. The sun. On the beach. Warm.

Its a resounding memory of walking up hills, carrying everything with us to each destination. Trying to dry it out when we got there. Then going to the pub. Blisters. Lots of blisters. And finally, swimming in the lakes, getting covered in leeches and running round screaming when we realized. The scene was one of a group of frantically shivering lads using a dry stone wall like a sand paper rub in an effort to get the buggers off..Caddy was the worst. I seem to remember him screaming more than most..

So the abiding memory was one of long walks and reading what Wainwright had to say about the next route..

I just wished he drove once in a while and wrote about this one..

Seriously, you can’t beat the smell of burning rubber drifting through your nostrils to make you focus. Especially when its your brakes working overtime that are actually creating the smell.

There was a slight drift of smoke that kept appearing intermittently from below my bonnet accompanied by a finger breaking grip on the steering wheel. My eyes were fixed on the descent before me but there was nothing for it. I couldn’t go back – there wasn’t anywhere to turn around. And this was all downhill. And when I say downhill. I mean there wasn’t any leveling out till you negotiated this winding drop that disappeared from view some 400 foot below. And even then you were non the wiser whether or not it did even out, because the road was swallowed into a black hole that disappeared into a forested area below.

You daren’t take your eyes off what lay before you as you headed towards it.

And all the while the only thing I could think of were the tools, packed into the back of the van, the weighty presence behind me, and, what would remain of any of it and more importantly, ME if these brakes did fail…..

You don’t realize how tense you are until you reach the end of the ordeal. When you manage to break your death grip on the steering wheel and pour from your car on rubber legs and lie face down prone on the tarmac. Hugging the first inkling of level earth you reach. Its at this point you realize you could crack walnuts with your sphincter.

Pope John Paul ii must have been terrible with heights, because he did it every time he got off a plane. He was no sooner off than he was face down on the deck. At least I never kissed it. Well, maybe a little bit..

And walnuts? He must have been a world champion..

This situation was due to a hasty conversation at the breakfast table that morning with Graham, whose B&B I was staying at during the week. (See Ginger Delight)I had relayed to him the fact that the property I was currently working on was on the out-skirts of Egremont, surrounded by rolling pastures filled, mine field like, with lambs, with the sea just beyond the final hill at the back of the house.

It would mean a 50 minute drive back to, and through Keswick onto the M6, to turn South and head home. I was gambling on whether it would be quicker following the A595 coast road past Sellafield down, toward Barrow-in-Furness then swing away from the coast heading inland, entering the M6 some 30-odd miles south of where I would have originally joined it.

“You don’t want to drive all the way through Keswick! You’re right on the A595 where you are! Its a straight drive along the coast. If your lucky, the time you’ll leave you’ll miss the traffic at Sellafield and have a clear run to the motorway.”

Graham also worked as a tour guide around the lakes and knew what he was talking about.

“Oh aye. There’s a little road I know – just past the Brown Cow Inn – that’ll cut a big corner out of the journey. Straight over the top. Great view! Save you 30 minutes..”

I sat thinking it through, eating my poached eggs and the sublime locally sourced bacon (my god it had a taste and smell that brought back child-hood memories. When your mum bought real bacon from the butchers..)

30 minutes…

And the more he talked the better the idea sounded.

And he was right. The view was fantastic. There was a remoteness to the route. I found myself in the middle of no-where. Surrounded by a view that was absent of human occupation, which in this day and age, in this country, is a difficult thing to come by. There were odd vehicles travelling behind at distant points, and cars heading at intervals past me. But it was hills and with dry stone walls giving way to an expansive view of Cumbria to the North. Seriously breathtaking.

I had managed a quick journey down from Egremont, to find the turning by the Brown Cow Inn. I drove up into the hills thinking of the time I was saving.

“I’d be home in no time” I thought..

What I was faced with, as I turned off the A595 and labored up the hill, was a ribbon of a road. Barely wide enough for 2 vehicles to pass each other. Initially, it was narrow, yeah, fine. It had passing points. It was even reasonably level – if patched – and I felt quite confident driving along my merry way thinking,

“Saving 30 minutes here..”

And the view was immense. The route giving panoramic scenes of the valleys through the Lakes, where the sky seemed to go on forever and clouds scudded along above, casting fleeing shadows on the earth below. Flowing up and down hills as you took in the scene arrayed before you. It seriously was breathtaking and I’d challenge anyone not to be moved in some way by it.

I certainly was not long after, as the surface began to change. And what had been a reasonably flat -if narrow -road, was now forced to follow the contours of the land. It now began to wind up and down, in very short troughs and peaks. And bend in and out as it was forced to hug the hillside and overcome the variety of streams that swept off the hill and under the rough bridges built to contend with it. The result was that your view of oncoming traffic was severely limited. I couldn’t see what was before me, or which way the road twisted, until I rose to a crest or crept out of a bend.

What I began to worry about – so short and deep were the rise-and-falls of the road – was had the invisible person heading towards me seen me? Was something in front of me heading in my direction, but unseen, because he was falling into the troughs as I appeared on the crests and we were unknowingly heading towards each other blindly…

Each time I climbed out of a shallow dip in the road, it was to desperately grab a glimpse of the tarmac before me to see if anything was approaching in the opposite direction. If there was I was blindly hoping that he had seen me and was applying the brakes ready to edge round each other, half on and half off the road depending on the accommodating nature of the opposite driver. If either one of us were lucky, there would be a passing point to use. If not…

If your interested in driving it this road, and are heading south on the A595, turn left just after the Brown Cow Inn in Millom. The road will look like something you would squeeze a wide pony up, but it is navigable.

I guarantee the views will be spectacular on a sunny or cloudy day..

I highly recommend you stop to take them in when you reach the tops. If you can find anywhere wide enough to pull over. And, if you can prise your fingers from the steering wheel when you finally come to a halt. A brown paper bag to pant into, or a asthma inhaler might be necessary to help you calm down at this point.

Also leave the bastard in gear when you turn the car off. Gods knows where it’d end up if it starts rolling.

I’ll admit, I wouldn’t send my mother-in-law up there if the weather turned bad mind. Well, Maybe.

And if its snowing. You’d have to find it first then dig your way across if you did.

It made me realize as I finally reached the bottom on the other side. Its no wonder that Wainwright walked everywhere.

You don’t need to worry about changing your brake-pads after every descent when your strolling along smoking a bloody pipe…

And I made certain I went the long way round on the return trip.