Hotels always interested me

Tuesday, 9 August 2016  |  Admin

DANCING AT THE FOUNTAIN: CONVERSATIONS WITH WORLD-LEADING HOTELIERS / Conor Kenny

Hotels always interested Conor Kenny, author of DANCING AT THE FOUNTAIN. Here, he tells us why:

I was lucky to have a childhood where my mother and father understood the educational value of travel and of family, also recurring themes in each hotelier’s story. From an early age, I was travelling and it was always an adventure.

I must have been around seven or eight years old. My Dad, my brother, Dermot, and I were off to Derry in Northern Ireland. Business had taken us there.

At that age, staying in a hotel was very exciting. Lifts were a playground and the endless corridors were a real-life maze. Naturally, to the distress of sleeping guests, we ran everywhere, impatient to discover what lay beyond. Eventually, exhaustion and hunger forced us back to our third-floor perch. Together in the small twin-bedded room, separated by the obligatory mahogany bedside locker, we wondered how to drain the last of our adrenalin? Dad was immersed in meetings elsewhere. We had to do something.

In those days, telephones were like priceless Ming china; you daren’t touch them. But hunger and a sense of adventure were potent and intoxicating chemicals for two young boys. We stared at the huge white ceramic telephone and tested our little fingers into the big rhythmic dial. Imagining electric shocks, we’d beat a retreat only to summon up the courage and go again. Eventually, we lifted the phone, giggling nervously, our little hearts racing.

To our astonishment, a voice boomed down the line, “Can I help you?”. We looked at one another, mouths open, lost for words. But, it was an opportunity, an adventure. We’d gone this far. “Can we have two chicken sandwiches please?” Now we were in such deep water nothing else mattered. “Anything else?” came the anonymous voice. Our horizons had already been stretched, “Could we have two Coca Colas as well, please?”.

We lay on our beds exhausted from the stress of it all. What had we done? What trouble awaited us? We concluded we were doomed.

A loud confident knock came from the door. We froze. Nervously, four young eyes peered through the gap in the door at the man in the white jacket, his gleaming trolley matching his brilliant white smile. Theatrically, he wheeled in the finest trolley we had ever seen. He even called us “Mr. Kenny”. With ceremony and style, he poured the drinks and uncovered the chicken sandwiches from the polished dishes. We were hypnotised. He left and we fell in to the role of two dandies enjoying their supper.

Still laughing at our crime, reality started to bite. Who would pay for this? No money had changed hands. Oh my, we were in big trouble.

Just then, with the remnants of the delicious treats still visible, Dad came to the door. Before him, his two young sons sat surrounded by white linen, fine cutlery, crystal glass and uneaten crusts. He paused, took it all in and burst out laughing. Confused, we laughed too – and then both of us got sick. Our first step into hotels had been all too much.

Extracted from DANCING AT THE FOUNTAIN: CONVERSATION WITH WORLD-LEADING HOTELIERS by Conor Kenny.