Chaos At Christmas – Episode 06

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But then she remembered the message she was bringing and her excitement drained away. “I’m afraid I have some bad news.” She told him about Franklyn Boscoby’s demand.

Geraint gazed at her in disbelief. “He wants us to replace a tree of that size this close to Christmas?”

Ferelith grimaced. “I’m sorry.”

She could see that he was struggling not to give vent to his feelings. But in the end, he just made a sound somewhere between a sigh and a groan. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Ferelith felt grateful; she had expected him to make more of a fuss. But that made the next bit of news even more difficult to pass on. “There is something else as well.”

Geraint’s eyes narrowed. “What?”

“He’s also planning to have the grounds of the hotel covered with artificial snow.”

“I don’t see the problem. I emailed you the details of how the dining room is to be organised.” Franklyn Boscoby sounded terse. Ferelith suspected that he didn’t much like having his instructions queried.

“I just wanted to be clear about Mr Cranford’s wishes,” she said in her most emollient tones. “He would like separate tables for breakfast…”

“With plenty of room between them. People aren’t necessarily in the mood for chat and jollity first thing.”

“Then at lunchtime, the guests are to sit in tables of eight…”

“Mr Cranford believes that people interact most effectively in groups that size. The arrangement should make lunchtime a convivial occasion for all concerned.”

“Ri-ight.” Ferelith wasn’t entirely convinced but she didn’t intend to get involved in a discussion on the matter. “And for dinner…”

The tables should be in a large circle with the guests facing inwards. Then if someone wishes to address the whole group, they can do so from the centre.

That someone being Lyle Cranford no doubt, Ferelith thought. “Thank you, Mr Boscoby, that’s very clear. I do appreciate…” But he had already turned to leave. She gave a faint sigh. The dining room staff were about to have a great big problem dumped in their laps.

Madame Pomfret gazed at the proposed table arrangements, her expression giving no hint at all as to her feelings. “I may keep these?” she said, indicating the printouts.

“Of course, Madame.” Ferelith felt rather intimidated. Madame Pomfret ruled the dining room with immense authority and the standards she set for both herself and those around her were of the very highest. “I realise that reorganising the dining room for every meal will mean a lot of extra work for your staff but…”

But Madame Pomfret had lifted a finger. “It is not a problem. If it is what Monsieur Cranford wants…”

“…then it is what Monsieur Cranford gets,” Ferelith retorted with an uncertain smile. “But how will you manage things at dinner? The tables aren’t designed to fit in a circle.”

Madame Pomfret’s shoulders gave the faintest of shrugs. “I will deal with it.” She spoke as if the problem hadn’t yet been invented which she couldn’t solve.

“Thank you, Madame. Thank you so much.”

“Good day, Mademoiselle Ferelith.”

Ferelith felt relieved as she left the dining-room. The encounter hadn’t been as bad as she had feared. She hurried back to her temporary office in the security room. Her father had asked her to sort out the cleaning rota and she was finding it a tricky task. With the hotel being full, all kinds of demands were going to be made on the cleaners. However, many of them had young families themselves and had asked for some time off over Christmas.

She brought up the spreadsheet on the laptop. But just as she began to study it, the phone at her side rang. It was her father.

“Sorry, Ferelith, but could you pop down to the exercise suite? Konrad has some sort of problem with the Christmas arrangements for the pool.”

“OK, Dad. I’m on my way.” She closed the spreadsheet again with a sigh and got to her feet.

The hotel’s exercise suite included a gym, sauna facilities and an extensive pool area. It was overseen by Konrad Schuster, a cheerful titan who had once been a member of the German Olympic bobsleigh team.

“My total apologies, Ferelith, but I just do not know what to do.” He held out a set of printouts and Ferelith’s heart sank. She recognised the FastChat logo. “I have received many instructions from a Herr Boscoby…”

Ferelith nodded. “Lyle Cranford’s assistant.”

“It seem that Herr Cranford wish for blow-up desert island in swimming pool for the children to play on. I think such a thing impossible but, to my surprise, I manage to hire one so that is okey-dokey. He also want supply of special water-gun to be available. In normal time, this is absolutely against the rule in our pool. But since we are having private party in the hotel I agree to their use. However, I must buy these water-gun at much expense.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Ferelith assured him. “The bill will be passed on to Mr Cranford.”

“However, my true difficulty is with him third requirement. Herr Cranford wish for sand pit in pool area to make castles and so on.” Konrad held out his hands. “Look around. We have exercise pool, play pool, spa pool, paddling pool. There no room for sand pit.”

Ferelith gazed about. He was right. On the other hand, the hotel had its reputation to uphold. Her eyes suddenly narrowed. Konrad spotted it and he pointed at her with a grin. “You have think of something. I see it!”

Ferelith nodded towards the small circular spa pool. “What about closing that temporarily and filling it with sand instead?”

Konrad thought for a moment, his lips pursed. “Ye-es, that might work. I could fit rubber liner to protect spa pool.” He grimaced. “Of course, the sand will get everywhere. And it will be devil of job to clear up once Herr Cranford’s guests have leave the hotel.” He stood with his hands on his hips, thinking. But then he nodded. “But yes, I believe that will do the task.” He grabbed Ferelith’s hand and shook it enthusiastically. “Good work, Ferelith. Problem solved. I think you definitely you father’s daughter.”

Ferelith was soon in front of the laptop again and opening up the cleaning spreadsheet. But before she even had a chance to look at it, her phone was vibrating. She groaned; she just knew that it would be another problem involving Franklyn Boscoby. She lifted the phone to her ear. “Hi Dad.”

“Could I see you, Ferelith? Something has come up.”

Franklyn Boscoby was waiting impatiently in her father’s office. “Mr Cranford has contacted me to say that he will be arriving this afternoon.”

“That’s what we expected, isn’t it?”

“And he’ll be coming by reindeer sleigh.” Ferelith’s mouth sagged open.

He’ll be bringing pre-Christmas presents for all his guests and he would like everyone assembled on the front lawn to greet him. However, he wants to make sure that the grounds are covered with the artificial snow before his arrival.

Ferelith was still struggling to grasp the concept of ‘pre-Christmas presents’. But she pushed that to the back of her mind. “About the artificial snow,” she began.

“A special effects company will be arriving…” Franklyn glanced at his watch. “…some time in the next hour to deliver it. Of course, the snow is made from biodegradable paper and is 100% environmentally friendly.”

“But the grounds are looking so beautiful,”

He shrugged carelessly. “And they’ll look even more beautiful covered in snow.”

His phone began to chirrup and, without another word, he turned and strode away.

To be continued…

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