crabwall manor hotel …..

Even after a hefty night of mixed drinking there were no hangover problems in the morning.  I woke around 9am, took the dogs for their morning walk and returned to drink hot water and fresh lemon.  It’s a wonderful thing to not have to contend with the hangover and i put my ability for this avoidance down to the fact i made a disciplined effort with my general health and well-being from an early age.  At 18 i began swimming regularly and continued this for 13 years and at the age of 24 i found Yoga and i know it’s this combination (along with 30 years of dog walking) that have given me the opportunity to enjoy drinking without the shitty next morning syndrome, well for some, it can last more than a couple of days to recover after a boozy night.  Anyway, check out Yoga and the art of breathing (Pranayama), it’s crucially amazing.  So, my Sunday starts positively and, it being the eve of my 43rd birthday i decide to book myself into a hotel/spa in Chester.

A bit of surfing of the net leads me to find Crabwall Manor Hotel. The photographs look stunning and i can’t help but be steered toward the ‘Junior Suite’.  That’s it, decision made. Booking.com and it’s sorted.

Check in time is 3pm. I leave my friend’s house at just after midday and stop en route to give the dogs yet another walk.  Nice little park, sun is out, trees are green, brown, red and gold as is the floor at their base. The air is crisp and my world feels calm and sparkly, and the two dogs, well, they’re in their element.

So we gets to the Manor Hotel (right next door to the Crabwall Residential Home) and the drive in is welcoming and looks quite awe-inspiring. Loads of trees and autumnal colours. I park up and head for reception.

A two night stay in the ‘Junior Suite’ is a little over two hundred bucks so when i got inside i was a wee bit surprised at the welcoming desk and the woman sat behind.  Maybe it’s me being horrid but she looked a bit flustered and windswept!  and there was no dress code (i.e uniform or smart suit etc).  She did however smile at me in welcome and i gave her my details. She recognised my name and said she’d put me in room 6 and that it was a nice room.  It became apparent soon after that there was a bit of a to do going on as another member of staff wafted in with walky talky and the woman had to make a call to inform a the gentleman at the end of the line that his girlfriend had not handed their door key back, it seems that he then hung up. In between this i asked if the room had wi-fi and she said, ‘yeah probably’.  Probably is not a word i warm to, unless of course it’s used in conjunction with a rather tepid beer. Anyway, that didn’t instill confidence in me. Plus, i know i was trying to get in my room before 3pm check in but she was having none of it. Instead, she got me to fill in a form with my details, morning call time preferred and profers a cheap and nasty biro that has the end missing from it.  Then she smiled again and steered me toward the Spa. So, i thought okay, i’ll go with this and grab the opportunity for a steam, sauna and swim – lovely!

Aha! within just ten minutes a bit of a u-turn – not so lovely! apart from one of the fitness instructors (who was very easy on the eye) – well, i’d gone up to the desk and said i’d like to swim and steam etc etc and i had to sign in and it was then i was handed a towel – i took it in hand and felt it’s age at the same time as seeing its threadbare demeanour, i actually felt sorry for it, that it still had to work at such a late age in its lifespan.

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I made my way to the changing room. I felt impending gloom and i got changed wishing i hadn’t chosen this venue to spend my birthday in. I wanted to go to the loo.

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I tiptoed to the shower and got myself a bit wet, in preparation for the steam room.  I was totally disappointed as soon as i stepped into the (small cubicle sized) room, feeling that there was definitely more steam coming off my mate’s kettle than there was in this space. I gave it 7 minutes and hadn’t broken a bead of sweat so i thought ok, i’ve still got the sauna to try. I go into that (small cubicle sized) room and sit down and then i lay down, knowing, this is going to take some time.  Fifteen minutes on and i have a thin-film of glossy perspiration on me. Resigned to the fact that this is as good as it’s gonna get i think to myself, at least there’s the jacuzzi. Now this was the funniest one for me because i reckon there’d have been more bubbles if i’d have farted in the damn thing. I made do with a twenty-minute swim (the photographer had made the pool look amaaaaazing on the website) – it was okay in reality.

So i dry my swimsuit as best i can with the hairdryer and then give myself the once over because i’m still feeling sorry for the towel. That done i head back to the desk to sign out. I consider complaining but decide against it – i must be running a temperature cos that’s not like me to not air my disappointment.

Back at reception the lady is still looking a bit askew.  I’ve got 10 minutes to wait until 3pm because she is adamant in not letting me into a room/suite before the given time.  The chap from earlier (with his walky talky) returns and i ask him if Room 6 has wi-fi, he gives me the same response as she, ‘probably’ and i return with the point that it was stated on the booking form that wi-fi was available in all rooms.  They look at each other, look at me and then by the time it’s 3.05pm they’re putting me in room 10. Walky Talky guy leads the way, whilst telling me there’s a bit of a problem with Room 10 in that the kitchen fan gives off a buzzing noise : constantly (well he said it stops when the kitchen closes but i found that to be untrue as it didn’t stop at all for the duration of my stay – but it was kind of comforting in a low down buzzy type of way). Anyway, he unlocks the door and invites me in.   Wow! bingo! I like it.

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and the green phone! well how smart is that (but it didn’t work) as i found out the next morning when there was no wake up call and then i see it’s 9.30am and breakfast ends at 9.30am so i jump up, throw on my track suit and cap, no wash of face, no early morning stretch, no brushing of hair or sweeping away of eye grits. Go to reception where another smiling face (and better dressed and groomed) lady greets me and i ask where the morning call was? and she apologises and says she’ll make sure i get a breakfast so i race out to the dogs (who spent the night in the boogie bus) and get them sorted with a nice little twenty-minute walk in the pissing down rain – and we’re all happy!  Luckily i’d spotted the rain and kitted myself out with cagool and Wellington boots so it wasn’t that bad.

Well anyway, back in the room and i strip off to my morning knickers and vest cos i just want to chill on my birthday morning.

I had enjoyed my birthday eve, just sitting off on a big fat couch with plumped up cushions watching comedy tv and writing and surfing the net and speaking with friends via text and instant messaging and drinking tea and eating biscuits, yeah it was nice … would have preferred to not have to jump up in the morning like a wild’un.

Then there’s a knock at the door and its breakfast, served by the receptionist!

ooooh, there’s a silver lid on my plate … i’m high on anticipation

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Breakfast Cost = £10

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and thankfully, it came with a very small eyelash on the edge of the plate – nowhere near the food.

I’m still sitting in my cartoon print knickers and star print vest when there’s another knock at the door, i’d almost finished my brekkie (remembering i leave the sausages for the canines!) .. so i answer the door, opening it just a smidgen so my state of undress remains hidden – it’s an engineer?!  i’m like, ‘i’m eating breakfast’ and i shut the door.

It’s only later that i go down to reception, see the same guy and he asks if he can get in the room to check the phone lines – that’s when it becomes clear as to why i didn’t get the wake up call, there’s me thinking it’s because of the changeover of rooms, cos i was supposed to be in 6 and then i ended up in 10.

Well i’ve had a bit of enough now and decide to complain and i speak to the receptionist and tell her that i’ll show her the photos i took in the Spa to prove it wasn’t the best experience.  She apologises profusely and offers me to talk with the Spa manager – ‘what can he do’ I say, ‘i can’t use the facilities today because they weren’t good yesterday’.  But it turns out she sends him up to my room anyway and it turns out the manager happens to be the eye candy instructor i’d spotted first thing on entering the Spa.  So we have a chat about what happened and i show him the photographs and he offers me a complimentary half hour back and neck massage (cost £40) – ok, nice, thanks.  Massage turns out to be okay, the therapist (Sarah) was absolutely lovely and really amiable and professional (but i’ve had many a massage and have been spoilt by the creme de la creme of experts!) so i’d probably give her a 6.8 out of 10, no disrespect to her effort, i’ve just had much better.  And, because i smelt wax in the air of the therapy room, it reminded me of my underarm situation, so, back at the Spa desk i ask if there’s room to fit me in for a quick hair removal. I’m led back to the treatment room and i say to Sarah, ‘i’ll have to pop back up to the room after to get my card to pay’ and she turns and says, ‘we’ll give it complimentary cos i’ve heard you’ve had a bit of a time of it so far’ …. So, underarm hair removal = £10.

I spend the day pretty much same as the day before, chilling out, typing, writing, checking all my birthday messages – 8 texts, 1 phone call, 17 facebook messages and 168 (and counting) facebook timeline posts.  I got 3 cards (but i have no fixed abode and have taken myself out of the social scene for the last three days).

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Just another quick addition, i opened one of the windows in my room – had to jump up to sit on window sill, looked out and saw this ….

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and there were some massive Koi Carp swimming about in there …. (this is the Caldwell Residential Care Home)

I’ve got a couple of hours left here in my ‘Junior Suite’ so i’ll sign off.  An early start is set for tomorrow as am heading further North to Leeds for some filming on Emmerdale.  I will be playing the role of a ‘Talent Contest Audience Member’.

 

http://www.crabwallmanorhotelandspa.com/home

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the chester fields ……….

For the first time in possibly about nine days, i put on some make-up. My mate was dressed up and ready to go. My fashion styling right now has taken a turn into the realms of ‘alternative strange’ because it really is a test to one’s ability to ‘dress out of a suitcase from the back of a van’ on a day-to-day basis. Anyway, my friend said i looked okay and i can trust her on that one because she is a smart dresser herself and i know she’s not a ‘yes person’ just for the sake of it.

She drove me ten minutes up the road to her ‘semi-regular’ haunt of a ‘high-end’ restaurant/bar. Half past seven and already it was pretty busy. We sat off in the bar area for pre-drinks, mine a bombay sapphire and soda, hers a gordons and tonic. Then comes the time to get our table. Once seated i take a look around and there is some great quirky artwork, trinkets and china dog ornaments (one of which had his photograph taken with another diner).

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We ordered Rioja (purportedly with hint of vanilla and coconut!) from Spain – could grasp the vanilla but unsure as to whether the coconut was there or lucidly longed for because it had been mentioned.  My friend went for the beef, i chose lamb shank .. and we didn’t have to wait too long for our dishes to arrive. Absolutely beautiful food. I had mashed spinach, broccoli spears and green beans too… all of which were cooked to a superb standard and worth the £16.50 price tag.

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With dinner done we returned to the bar to carry on with our drinking. The bottle of wine having been happily swigged and opened the taste buds for some further glugging.

My next choice was a ‘Countryside Old Fashioned’ a deep bourbon with a spoonful of sugar (a special blended sugar of cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg and some other secret spices) and plenty of ice, which, the very chatty and knowledgeable Gareth (our bartender) whizzed round and round with his long-handled spoon, the result of which was an amazing tasting ‘cocktail’.

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My friend played it safe to be honest and stayed on the Clavijo Rioja (@ £7.95 per 250ml glass!) …  My next choice was a regular glass of ‘safe’ Prosecco…

and then Gareth, seeing that we were having a good time, edged us toward trying a favourite of his (and easy to make he stated) .. The Hazel Espresso, and yes, it was the perfect ‘cold coffee liquor’ (without the mound of fresh cream that can leave a heavy floating feeling in the belly), instead, it was a concoction of sweet strong smooth easy (far too easy) drinking cocktail.

I’ll have another thank you very much.

Then i tottered off to the little girl’s room.

Five minutes later i’m back sat at the bar.  Gareth made his way round and was heading through the thinning crowd, and me being the jester that i am, said ‘oh you needn’t have bothered’…. cos he was carrying what looked like a cake for someone …  turns out it was for me, my friend had quickly pleaded them to do something toward a birthday gesture for me …..

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Continuing with the wonderful hazel espresso, i was bought another by a regular (Phil), who, by this time had started conversation with my friend and kept up being part of our late evening at the bar (right til the end in fact as we were the last to leave).

My nightcap at the bar was an Evan Williams Honey which absolutely laughed all over the JD Honey which has recently hit the supermarket shelves. My well-informed bartender imparted the fact that the Evan Williams was a lot harder to purchase – else you go to Amazon where you can find it in plenty.

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Me and my friend changed out of our kitten heels into our snugg boots and walked the B road curbside back home.

I chose to sleep on her plush cream sofa for the first couple of hours until realising that i was bent double, internal thermometer rising, and having very strange dreams about being bitten on the arse by a dog whom i knew was going to bite me and which i was a bit fearful of but my love of dogs had made me less able to move away from it…  and then there were other vicious dogs too but who turned out to be harmless … and there was a big house with a room in which when i touched a tap on the wall, the plaster all fell away and crumpled into a neat pile to the right of where i was standing. After which, several men, some of whom i thought i knew, some i didn’t, all begin to congregate in the house.

I sat upright, picked up the high tog duvet (must have been that causing my hotness) and snuck upstairs to grab another couple of fitful hours on a ‘princess’ mattress size bed.

becoming a nomad ….

On Tuesday 1st October my life changed in a subtle way. With just twenty days to go before i reach the mature age of 43 i became homeless. My house that i had lived in for 9 years exchanged for a less than princely sum to be ‘tinned up’ and placed on ‘housing death row’ (one of 4 remaining) in the Edge Hill Redevelopment scheme.

There was nothing i could do, i couldn’t hold out any longer – it had taken all my strength and dignity to get to where i was on that upsetting day.  I was born on a Tuesday.  I lost one of my dogs on a Tuesday.  I lost a lover on a Tuesday.  Tuesdays are always a great day for me.

Hence, I left Winifred Street forever and prepared myself (well, thought i had) to a life on the road.

I’m still adjusting.

I’m pretty much free as can be though.

And i’ve decided to document as much of it as i can with a view to  A.  becoming a travel writer / columnist  and B.  remembering my tentative steps into Nomad’s Land.

Thus, the first night was particularly distressing and disorienting and yet liberating and ending up as a party at a friends’ house, well, my fellow futurejack band member’s home to be precise.  Me and the dogs (for those of you who don’t know me, i have two dogs, a bitch and a boy and they’re pretty darn well as full of character as a four-legged friend can be), anyway, we were welcomed with warmth and cheer and offered shelter for our first two nights.

Then i was given a reprieve and offered an outer city flat to ‘guard’ whilst a friend was away in Scotland (The Isle of Skye) planting trees.  8 days grace! me and the dogs were pretty lucky, the flat, although a wee bit cold, was gorgeous – had a massive back garden (although there were poison pellets placed around the vegetation and flower beds to stop the slugs and i think it was this that caused my little Lhasa Apso to have a very dodgy eye for 48 hours) but he recovered and we had a lovely time with a beautiful wild park two minutes down the lane and over the road!  In these early days of acclimatizing to nomadic wanderings i drank quite a bit, smoked more than i have in a good long while and found myself to be lacking in patience and being irked by ‘small talk’ from anyone who was asking after my welfare.  There were also grumblings of anger and aggression welling up in me.  Hmmmmm i could recognise these traits that i had not seen in more than a decade. Dangerous ground for me.  And all of these days took me up to Tuesday 15th October where, after rehearsing with my band, i decided to kip in the van with the dogs and then get off on my own thereafter for a few days, maybe til after my birthday on the 21st.  too many friends have been asking what I’m doing for my birthday – offering me parties and drinks and socializing – but i have done that all year and I’m feeling like i want to be alone.

So on Wednesday 16th i drove to Shropshire to look at a motorhome.  I’d been watching it for some time on e-bay – you see it’s my choice now to live on the road for a while, go visit cities across the UK, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and then on to Europe, and hopefully take the band with me on occasion as to when we’re gigging and/or touring … always keeping Liverpool as a base, cos it does hold some splendid memories for me.  Well the motorhome i looked at, hmmmm, not really impressed and the thing that told me most not to purchase from this person was that they hadn’t even made the effort to clean the interior and when i went to have a closer look at the memory foam mattress sleeping area, there on top of the crumpled duvet was an even more crumpled pair of male boxer shorts … urgggggg – absolutely the last thing that would entice one to buy … there were old biscuit wrappers on the dashboard, some leaking in the shower room (which the guy said was down to the window being left open, a blatant lie, my detective skills told me it was something worse because the leaking water was coloured brown) and on top of this there were a couple more tell-tale signs that this seller didn’t have the same standards as I when it comes to a parting of ways with your assets.  So i left the guy with a firm handshake and told him I’d think about it.

After that i was tired. I had been driving a lot and not sleeping as well as usual and i just wanted a reprieve, to get a shower and clean of my grime and also to be able to rest my head in a comfy bed for the night.  I stopped at a Travel Lodge near the M54 Telford. I was hoping for a good start to my journeys but the guy behind the desk was crap. Without compassion, he said they didn’t allow dogs unless another £20 per dog was paid on top of the room rate and that they wouldn’t have them in this particular night anyway because of the workmen on site and the painting going on and when i said ok I’d leave them in the van he said ‘no, don’t do that, the police will be called’ – so, i spun on my Wellington boot heel and retreated (still in need of a pee – but luckily my pelvic floors kick in when i ask of them).