Saturday, 3 November 2018

Bleak House

We are staying at Bleak House in Broadstairs, after stopping via the Leather Bottle at Cobham – an ancient inn also used by Dickens, with many of his memorabilia including a strand of his hair and his chair. It features in the Pickwick Papers – but this is not a distinguishing feature, as so many pubs in England seem to share this touch of fame.
Ann outside the Leather Bottle

Bleak House was Dickens' home for many years, with rooms named after his characters.  Last time, we had Fagan, but this time we have moved upmarket with the Copperfield Bridal Suite – a glorious, large airy room with full dressing room, en-suite  bathroom with bath big enough to swim in, and a balcony overlooking the tiny harbour and the town.

On the balcony at Bleak House

Dickens' Study at Bleak House
Dickens' study – where he wrote David Copperfield, overlooking the wild North Sea and the treacherous Goodwin sands – is open to visitors, and wonderfully atmospheric, for folk who enjoy treading the nostalgic path of history. The place is run by Lee, a gaunt, wiry old man with thin round glasses and a grizzly grey beard, who sleeps in whatever room is vacant, or – as last night – the bar when the hotel is full, which he seems quite happy with. He wears a thin flowery top that makes him look as though he rushed to get up and is still in pyjamas. He appears to do everything: receptionist, porter, barman, waiter, carpark attendant, and even chef and room cleaner if other people don't turn up. One guest said, "weren't you on duty last night?" He said, "no that was my identical twin brother!"  Tonight he said, "I've only had two cigarettes today. I'll just run out to get another pack. He reminds me in appearance and manner of my brother, Peter, except that Peter would roll his own, and use his special tobacco.

Last evening, I dozed on the bed after driving down, to be woken by a shouting match. Ann had already left the room to deal with it, telling the woman her husband has cancer and was sleeping, and she did not expect staff disputes to waken the guests. This morning, the factotum came into the breakfast room with fulsome apologies, kissing Ann's hand and clasping mine, appologising for the behaviour of his manager, who had been shouting at him for some minor thing. He said he had told her before about unprofessional behaviour in the hearing of the guests. Then he brought us a first class breakfast, before having to step over his bed behind the locked bar for a pint of coke for another guest's breakfast. Kent has always been a little quirky.

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