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Back at Fawlty Towers

I was staying at Fawlty Towers overnight again last week. It’s about six months since I was last there, and it’s got a new General Manager in the meantime who seems to be something of a new broom sweeping clean. Several of the members of staff who were there last time have left, some in a bit of a huff from what I heard from my taxi driver, though the obsequious head waiter is still there and recognised me by name. The menu hasn’t changed in the restaurant, and the food is no better than it used to be, but still surprisingly popular with large noisy groups.

The chairs in Reception have been taken away, so there is nowhere to sit and wait for a taxi in the morning. My driver was running late, so I had to wait in the bar for him which felt a bit uncomfortable. I commented to the Receptionist who was so new that she didn’t even know that Reception used to have chairs.

Overall though, it still felt like the same old Fawlty Towers, especially at 07:30 in the morning. I was in the shower when the fire alarm went off. I got out of the shower straight away, dripping wet of course, and started frantically towelling myself dry whilst thinking what clothes I had with me which would best tolerate being jumped into for a rather damp emergency escape. Then the alarm turned off. I got back into the shower. The alarm started again. I got out. It turned off. I waited several minutes to see what would happen. Nothing. No sounds of a hurried evacuation. No one hammering on my door either to tell me to evacuate or to say it was a false alarm. So I got back into the shower and started washing my hair. Guess what? The alarm went off again, for just long enough for me to get out of the shower, by now in a thoroughly bad mood.

At breakfast I asked one of the waitresses what the fuss had been about. Turns out the person in the room next door but two to me had had a particularly long hot shower, and all the steam had set off the smoke detectors. So the staff knew pretty much immediately that it was a false alarm but hadn’t actually bothered to communicate that to their guests. When I went to check out there was a note up in Reception apologising for the inconvenience due to the fire alarm. I told the Receptionist that was completely inadequate – what they need are slick procedures to tell all the guests very quickly if it’s a false alarm, or conversely to make sure that everyone evacuates the hotel promptly in the event of a real emergency. I pointed out that this was the second time this had happened to me in that hotel, and they had handled it very badly last time too. It will be interesting to see whether the new management is receptive to changes on important things like fire safety, rather than just moving chairs around.