DOING PORRIDGE? NO, RUNNING A SMALL B&B

AS I juggle the eggs – one poached, two fried, one scrambled, all to be precision-delivered to four of our six hungry guests and under the watchful eye of the self-appointed head chef – I recall the words of the VisitBritain advisor. “You could make your own marmalade and jam. And bread. Or maybe granola, and kedgeree. People are looking for a more adventurous menu these days, you know.” Oh really?And I thought bed and breakfast meant putting a plate of bacon and egg in front of the occasional passing stranger. Later, the assessor himself comes to call. Incognito. Except if they gave you a build-your-own VisitBritain assessor kit and you did, this is what you would get. He’s polite and smart and measures the washbasins when we’re not looking (they’re 10 cm too small wouldn’t you know) and then when we come to the fireside chat tells us he’s employed by G4S. Just a minute: G4S? Isn’t that Group 4 Security, as was? (Blimey – that’s a difficult one to spot . . . ) Yes – the very same. The company that transfers prisoners between prisons, detains and transports illegal immigrants, operates crowd control at world events, and makes sure the tickets you bought to get there aren’t forged, has the contract for making sure my bacon and eggs are up to scratch. Quite a remit.

We treat him well. Tea and cake offered on arrival, nice room, friendly handshake: we think we must have done at least as well as Strangeways or Parkhurst (and our guests, like theirs, do manage to escape quite frequently). Only two minor problems: when he runs the bath the water’s stone cold, and the heating doesn’t come on in the morning. I’d woken Ian in the middle of the night and insisted he checked the timings on the boiler. He did – and switched off the entire system.

Oh well – we still got our Four Stars. It must have been my home-made granola. Though I thought he might have asked for porridge . . .

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