A Dinner Party
The whole place is empty. Even after so long, I find it strange that the whole town stops for the winter. For half of the year! I found a lot strange at first. We don’t really have seaside towns like this back in the Netherlands. But most of it makes sense now. The beer for breakfast. They tell me that it is only a holiday thing. The donkeys on the beach. The crazy joke shops and silly t-shirts and buckets and spades and the deck chairs and even eating rock. But I don’t understand how the whole town is empty in the winter. All the places are designed for people. For queues and crowds and for families to eat and sleep. The cafes are empty. The beaches are empty. The arcades and the fairgrounds and the shops and the parks and the car parks are empty. And, yes, the hotels are empty too. The hotel back at home, we were never empty for six months. I keep it open here though. Because sometimes there are people. Not many, not like the summer. But there are people who come for conferences and stag nights and things like that.
And what else can I do? The town might close down for the winter but I am a person. I cannot close down for the winter, can I? I say that like it is a joke, but it is not funny.
This weekend there is no conference and there is no stag party. I keep the ‘vacancies’ sign lit because we are near the station and you never know, to be honest.
Instead, I will have a dinner party. It is good practice and I can give the food to the homeless place down the road and they are happy of it. And it is good to be busy. It stops me going crazy.
Mrs. Felton from room 3 is the first to arrive. She visited with her husband for a week in 2003 and never stopped complaining. Her husband I don’t remember. But I remember her all right. She complained that there were no tongs to take the toast from the toast rack. She complained that both the pillows were of the same consistency. Of course they bloody are. I tell her this as soon as she sits down, gathering her old fur coat across her chest. “Of course the pillows are the same consistency you stupid woman!” I say. “They came from the same shop!”
I seat Mrs. Felton next to Richard Marshall from room 16. In 2014, Richard ran away without paying and left the room in a terrible state. The curtains were torn down and there was blood in the toilet and on the bathroom floor. The room smelled really bad. It was the small single room at the top of the house - there was only really space for him, so I don’t think it could have been anyone else’s blood, to be honest. He left very early in the morning. I went to the police as you do. I had an address on the booking form. But by the time they had heard back from his landlady, Richard Marshall was dead. They didn’t say what happened, just that he was dead. It was very sad, and I tell him as he sits down that I am sorry that he had to live his life that way. He is mostly there to punish Mrs. Felton though as he still smells really bad.
At the good table by the window, I seat the Heaton hen party that stayed in August of 1996. I was younger then and they were lovely girls. They were flirty and funny and full of life, particularly Jennie Mostyn from room 12, who was the best friend of the lady getting married. I was too young though and my English wasn’t brilliant to be honest, so I couldn’t keep up with the flirting. They were very sweet though, and very pretty. I told them I was from Amsterdam as that is the only Dutch place that the English know. I used to tell people where I was really from and try to explain it, but then I realised that they were not really interested. So now I just say Amsterdam. I say a special hello to Jennie who smiles at me warmly. “Would you take a picture of us please Tom?” she asks me, and pulls a phone from her bag.
1996 - there were not many mobile phones. And none like this Apple phone, with the camera. The whole group disappear with a pouff! And a cloud of smoke. Very theatrical. But now I am left with empty chairs at a table laid with food. I turn, and Mrs. Felton and Richard Marshall have both gone also.
The place is empty.
I sigh, and begin to gather the food from the tables and wonder what time the homeless place closes.