Londinian Ladies’ Fortnightly Hearthside Companion
“An Adventure in Keeping a Hotel in Scotia: A Diary”
by Mrs. Stanley Larper
published by exclusive arrangement
Dear Londinian Lady,
Whom I shall address henceforth as my Dear Reader. I beg you will kindly allow me to say, “Fawlcher!” (“Welcome!” in Gawlish) to you who have ventured, with curiosity, to turn the Pages of this esteemed magazine, to this, my modest literary effort at chronicling certain events of my life. I herewith begin to recount, as faithfully as I may, the several curious and quaint events and observations which I expect shall be made by myself, in the course of the discharge of my daily tasks. “Who,” you may ask, “is this Woman who invites me to share her life’s events, having no prior acquaintance, or even introduction by a mutual friend?”
Well, I claim only the right of “acquaintance”, in that this very “Hearthside Companion” is indeed that mutual friend, who now has taken the step of venturing to beg that you accept the introduction. I will naturally endeavour to be full worthy of your interest and trust, expressing myself in the most acceptable language, recounting only what events may be above the censorship of even the most exacting nicety of gentlewomen’s taste, and of course, holding only those opinions which will be agreed-upon throughout respectable society.
That said, I now shall presume upon your good nature, dear Reader, by detailing, briefly, who I am, and whence I come. I am, first and foremost, A Wife. A Daughter of Londinia by many ancestral generations, yet at present, ex-patriated (having but recently removed from the vicinity of Londinia – in fact, from that pleasant Borough north of the Thamessis River, called Gislandun – with my dear husband, Mr. Stanley Larper, to our astonishing new home, which also incorporates in its nature, our place of industrious employment, through now being our Own Masters.
You, dear Reader, may become curious as to the circumstance which did bring us to uproot ourselves from the pleasant scenes where we both were born and bred up, and to impose upon ourselves such a far-flung transplanting, as this wild place which has become our newly-adopted home, the westernmost tip of the Isle of Mewle, one of the Hebiudean Islands, itself west of the remote and mysterious northerly land of Scotia.
At the time of our marriage, we were, in the original instance, adequately settled in business, having inherited from my husband’s Uncle on his Mother’s side, a pleasant little establishment, the Gislandun Tea Roome, well-patronised by a steady, recurring and appreciative clientele. Of course, we were known for only serving and selling the most excellent tea varieties obtainable, from that renowned company, Barkingmede Ventures Ltd., Finest Tea Importers.
The Tea Roome came to Mr. Larper late in 1861. At that time we had been engaged for two-and-one-half years, and were hoping for some sort of economic Chance, which might enable us to wed and set up housekeeping. So, hearing of the death of his Uncle, whilst a sad occurrence in itself, did come very welcome when we heard he had made over the business to us, entire. Forthwith, we registered our marriage, took our vows, and entered upon the managing of the Tea Roome, and for some six years, conducted business there most faithfully, six days in every week (with Wednesdays off).
Then, in January 1768, another blow of good fortune struck, when Mr. Larper’s Great-Uncle on his Father’s side, was this time, the one to go to his reward, and left us a very generous bequest. To celebrate our luck, having had no actual honeymoon at the time we were wed, Mr. Larper generously agreed to take a three-days’ holiday to Aquasulia, a town of resort to which I had always dreamed of venturing. This excursion was to change our lives, with sudden inspiration.
The Hotel to which we repaired was the most elegant which Mr. Larper thought within our means, particularly on the mid-week special, “Please to Stay For Two Nights and Find That A Third Will Be Provided Gratis”. This was the prestigious Hotel Aphrodisia (the proprietress being the well-known socialite, the Marchioness Aphrodisia Huntlyside de la Roquefort).
The many amenities available at the Hotel Aphrodisia burst upon our mutual awareness, like a sudden display of Royal Fireworks over the Thamessis River. Mr. Larper and Myself did experience, for the first time, a Massage in the Far Eastern style, and a Sweating in the Scandilandian Sowna; the pleasant relaxation resulting from each one, proved mightily astonishing to both of us. Also, our Guest-Chamber was most luxuriously appointed, with towels and even bathing-robes provided. To “add icing to the Aquasulia Currant-Bun”, as they say, the hotel premises boasted a well-stocked Book and Gift Shoppe, an excellent Restaurant, and a fine Public-House with Ladies’ Saloon-Bar, all open for patrons’ convenience from dawn until midnight, daily, and saving the trouble of going out into the Town at all.
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Well, dear Reader, we returned from that delightful holiday, mutually Inspired with a Dream. Mr. Larper, of course, as a Man of Vision, was the first to bring forth the idea; but I being ever oriented by the North Star of his Husbandly guidance, fell in readily with his plan, and soon it was my own Dream, as well. We now applied ourselves to considering how, and where, we might, ourselves, venture to set up a similar “Resort Hotel and Spa”, and, as they say lately, begin to “Live the Dream”.
Having consulted with his Banker, and ascertained exactly how much we might realise by selling the Tea Roome, and then combining the profits of that, with the new-received bequest from Great-Uncle Ralph, Mr. Larper did set to making enquiries, of all those he knew, or chanced to encounter in conducting business, whether anyone knew of a promising property, in our Range. Less than two weeks after our Aquasulia Adventure, as we had dubbed it, Mr. Larper had an appointment down in the South, at the Morriconia business-office of Barkingmede Ventures Ltd., to sample the newest varieties of tea which that Company imports, and negotiate our standing order for the coming Year, with the estimable Mrs. Rudolpha Barkingmede herself.
Well, dear Reader! In one of those astonishing concurrences of Synchronicity and Serendipity, during their amiable chat over a tasting of the three newest tea-varieties (Nobly Elevated Tower Cha, and Surprising Potent Snake Cha, both OohLong varieties of the Farthest Orient, and Chai Mohabbatein, from the Bharatyan Uplands), Mr. Larper thought to bring forth the topic of our search for a suitable Hotel Property.
Imagine his surprise, when the worthy Mrs. Barkingmede acknowledged that she did, indeed, know of such a property, priced to sell, and which could, with reasonable effort (but not too much cash outlay, because local labour could be had Cheap) be transformed into a delightful Resort. Finding out from her, both the Name of the property, and the presumed Owner (a Scotian bank, it appeared), Mr. Larper, upon concluding the business of tea-ordering with Mrs. Barkingmede, made his prompt return to Londinia, and did proceed direct to his own Banker, to acquaint him with his desire to begin negotiations for that property, and also, to put the Tea-Roome “on the market”.
That property was duly acquired, in freehold, and turned out to be – as you, dear Reader, may have guessed – this very Resort Hotel from which I now inscribe to you, these Diary Entries. It is an unoccupied Castle (of venerable age, and some Historical note) on the Isle of Mewle. Of its unoccupied state, Mrs. Barkingmede happened to know, since it is quite direct upon her route to a remote, mysterious Isle of the Hebiudes. (Naturally, I cannot mention that particular Isle by name, since its existence is in the nature of a Trade Secret, being the source of a most unique line of Teas, the only ones to occur naturally in the Britannian Isles, or indeed, anywhere in Europa, and exclusively imported to Anglia, by Barkingmede Ventures Ltd.)
But, I digress. My effort in this First Entry, dear Reader, has been to acquaint you with the main particulars, of how myself and my worthy husband, Mr. Larper, happened to fall into the interesting Career of being Hotel Proprietors in the quaint, if backward, land of Scotia. In this, I believe, I have acquitted myself as expected.
From this point onwards, my Diary Entries will, as the Adventure unfolds, be a chronicle of all which passes under my observation here, on a daily basis, and which may incur your natural interest or curiosity. This may include Ghostly Tales, receipts for Local Specialties, accounts of Local History, quaint Customs and Traditions of the Peasants, observations upon the birds, shrubs, and other Natural History of the region, and interesting anecdotes of our Paying Guests. Of which latter, we naturally expect, many shall be celebrated personages, of either noble birth, political influence, or theatrical fame, our humble establishment being, in our estimation, quite the ideal sort of Retreat from the Eye
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of the Public, to which the Wealthy and Famous delight to repair, in order to “let their hair down” as they say, and “be themselves” (presupposing that, due to the need to satisfy the Public’s expectations, such folk are sadly obliged to nearly always be “someone else”). As of this writing, we are but a fortnight in possession of our own little Castle, and to be sure, there is yet much work to be done, to bring it up to the quality which Mr. Larper has envisioned, so that one day soon, we will be “Marked on the Map”, as they say. Our Envisioned Hopes for this new little Resort of ours, are perhaps ambitious, some may opine; yet, we believe, well within the capabilities of any hard-working Anglian husband and wife: Anglia being the acknowledged Native Home of Ambition, Innovation, Skill, Dedication, and Hard-Work.
To date, we have already taken on several worthy Locals to work here at “The Windswept Inn”. (Ah, I discover that I had, as yet, not told you, dear Reader, the Name of our new Establishment. Yes, that is “our” Castle’s official name, and, already, this place is becoming so naturally our “friend” as well as home, that we call it, as a form of nick-name, “The Windswept”. Now I shall let you in on a “wee” secret: this name upon which we’ve settled, is something in the nature of a “play on words”, it being quite true that where we are located, on a Point of rocky land, facing direct west into the Atlantic Ocean, the Wind does very often “Sweep In” upon us!)
To give you, dear Reader, just a “taste” of the intriguing documentation to come, I will add that our very first employees are a worthy Family of Brothers, hailing from, I believe, one of the nearby, smaller Islands. Their beards, and indeed, the locks of their heads, whilst varying in shade, are all decidedly in the colour-palette of “red”! Quaintly, all four have given names, which are also the names of a nearby group of islands.
Thus, we have “Canna”, our new barman, the eldest brother; “Rhum” and “Muck”, the two middle brothers, who are skilled builders (one in wood, one in stone), who shall, under Mr. Larper’s direction, be renovating both our guest-chambers and various public facilties, such as the Cheery Breakfast Room; and last, is that family’s “beardless youth”, Eigg, a smart young fellow who shall be assisting myself in a variety of tasks, including some office-work (since he reads and writes), also setting-up and clearing-away in breakfast-room and dining-room, and of course, “bellboy” as soon as we begin to take paying guests.
I anticipate that these four “local characters” alone, shall be productive of many entertaining anecdotes, as ideal representatives of the local Scotian type. Before I leave you for this time, allow me to assure you that “The Brothers” actually do wear the “great-kilt” as their every-day garb, whatever the weather, and whatever the task at hand, whether it be courageously climbing up to the Castle roof, in a near-gale, to repair some tiling; or riding, saddle-less, on one of the sturdy small local horses, into the nearest village (twenty miles off) to bring back supplies. Whatever else one may say about these Scotians, none can deny their hardiness.
So now, dear Reader, allow me to bid you a fond adieu, until the Next Time We Meet. My deep gratitude goes out to you, for deigning to read so far, in this, my first effort at chronicling my new, “Grand Adventure”. And, as “we” here in Scotia, always say, “Haste ye back!” and, if you should choose to return for my next “instalment”, be assured you shall receive “a hundred thousand welcomes”, as we also say here in the North.
Until next we meet within these Pages, I remain, yours faithfully,
Mrs. Stanley Larper
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