Sunday, November 19, 2006

Random things: jackets, chilly receptions, formats

Word Count: 9,924

Now that I've written four chapters of the novel that I don't even know anyone wants (I know this is normal before you find a publisher, but it's slightly different when you need to find an idea that pleases your editor, so keep fingers crossed that my leap of faith will prove justified), I have decided to do other things for a bit, before editing those chapters.

If you read this blog regularly, you know I am a bit of a stickler for decent service. So here's a curate's egg weekend break for you.

On Friday, I met an old friend (she's not old, but we first met back in 1992 at the BBC in Bristol - and we don't see each other enough) at the delish Pain Quotidienne on the South Bank, where warm service made up for the fact that a 'tartine' of gruyere (a very skimpy open sandwich) cost £6.25.

I then headed off to Hampshire for a restorative break with the boyf. I shan't go into the reasons but we both deserved a bit of a treat and because we didn't book till late, there wasn't much around so we decided to go four star, and pay for some luxury.

So we arrived off the M3 in dark, Novemberish tea-time rainy gloom, and despite the pretty lights outside Tylney Hall at Hook, we had a very chilly reception from the surly, unsmiling woman who checked us in and seemed interested only in getting hold of our credit card. She really did look at us as though we were the worst kind of dirt trampled in on a pair of wellies. Not good, especially when we were paying top dollar in anticipation of a relaxing stay. This put us in a funny mood. We then traipsed through the grounds, it felt like we were halfway back to London before we arrived at our 'deluxe garden view room.' The porter rushed ahead with his umbrella while we got wet. To be fair he did offer to take our bags but we always feel a bit daft having stuff carried, so maybe it was our fault we were very slow...

The room reminded me of Coronation Street, as it was down a little 'terrace' of chalets: it even had one of those metal cages on the inside of the door for catching 'post' - right by the bed. Classy. Very old 'country scene' prints on the walls, and it was freezing because no-one had put the radiator on, and after the guy left, we realised there was no way to lock the 'back' door because the lock had been drilled out so you couldn't lock it: consquently, the carpet by the door was saturated.

I rang to query the security and was given the classic line 'no-one's complained before.' We were then offered a move to another room for 1 of the 2 nights we'd booked, with no explanation of what would happen on the 2nd night. By this point we were on the point of giving up and driving straight back to London.

We ended up saying we'd stay one night in the new room, which was a little better, though there was no cold water coming out of the tap (not ideal later when we'd had a few bevvies over dinner and wanted to do some advance hangover prevention by drinking a pint of water before bed), and in fact even the toilet cistern was as hot as a radiator. The showerhead hadn't seen descaler in years so the water went everywhere except where you aimed it, and we felt a bit depressed. So much for relaxation.

But there is a happy ending...ish. We then went for dinner and had a lovely time - good service, tasty dinner, nice atmosphere in the very grand dining room. The bed was comfy and Saturday was a stunning November day and we toured the grounds which are captivating. Brekky in the lovely light dining room was good and on check-out the (different) woman couldn't have been friendlier. Suddenly we felt this might even be somewhere we'd come back to, if we could get a good deal on a slightly better room.

The moral of the story is...if that sour-faced woman who 'greeted' us had been friendly, the whole experience would have been transformed: the dodgy room would have felt like a simple mistake, rather than a symptom of a badly-run place. And we probably would have stayed the 2 nights instead of 1.

Today I am combining gardening and Sunday papers with drafting a talk I am doing at the BBC about 'formatting' i.e. how to structure TV programme ideas.

In other news, I LOVE this jacket: don't you think it's cool? Something about the fact it's understated but sophisticated...

Bloody thing won't upload but the link is here.

Lovely Link of the Day:
Another good agent blog from Jennifer Jackson, linking into a wider discussion on when, if ever, one should contemplate giving up writing...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still think, even allowing for a better receptionist on Saturday, you were entitled to a decent room when paying top whack! I'm sure the dinner made up for it...and it does say on the website:

Your stay at Tylney Hall is guaranteed to be a memorable experience.

10:28 pm  
Blogger Alias Lucy Diamond said...

What a let down! I hope you filled in one of those Customer Satisfaction Questionnaires, ticking all the 'Very Dissatisfied' boxes, and grassing up the receptionist in the Any Other Comments area.

Can I just ask an author-y question? At what point will you show the new novel to your editor/agent? Will a few chapters and synopsis be enough for them to make you an offer, or would they expect you to write the whole thing first?
Hope this isn't too nosey, but I don't know how it works. I've just finished my two-book contract so I'm in the same boat, and curious...

1:04 pm  
Blogger kathrynoh said...

Sometimes you have to wonder why people work in a customer service role. Sure she could have been having a stinker of a day, but you don't know that and it really does create a terrible impression of the place.

12:38 am  
Blogger Kate said...

Thanks for the sympathies, folks. I did feel a bit moany posting it, but we had decided to splash out and it was annoying. Kathryn, you're right - I can accept anyone's having a rubbish day, but when I worked in a shop aged 17 I did find that the more I made an effort, the less grumpy I felt (well, except for the time with a monster hangover and someone moaning about Eternal Beau crockery, but that's another story...)

Lucy, oooh, interesting. Might blog about that at more length at some point. Broadly, I don't think they would expect the whole novel before an offer once you've got a couple under your belt. The timings don't work apart from anything else, in that they'll want to publish fairly soon I'd have thought. Last time I did a very detailed synopsis for book 4 (Self Preservation), with first person paragraphs worked in to give the mood of the book, and that was that. Now am on the second book of my deal so I will talk through ideas. I suspect I will show it to my editor and agent maybe 1/4 of the way in, to check it's what they're expecting and get early feedback, and then finish it before they see it again.

9:34 am  

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