“Now I’ll just give you a quick demonstration – and I want you to watch very closely.” The brown overalled head cleaner at the Sussex hotel where I’d started work was showing me how to use a dustpan and brush and insisted on my proving to him that I too knew how to 'wield these implements'. 'I’d got away from it all' that year but decided to work on holiday rather than pay as a guest.
It was a large 'rambling' hotel on the south coast of England that catered for the family and made it quite unnecessary for the guests ever to go outside the hotel as all the entertainments were provided by the management. I had the post of assistant games room attendant. I never found out who the head games room attendant was but I suppose they’d given me that title so that I shouldn’t feel too important.
It didn’t take me long to discover that it wasn’t only the head cleaner and the other regular staff who 'took life seriously' but the guests themselves never really seemed to look particularly cheerful. As for me I was 'feeling in a holiday mood' even though I was working. But then the English are supposed to take their pleasures seriously. It was Mr. Hargreaves who was the classic example of what you might call the earnest holidaymaker. The games room where I was 'in charge', which really meant seeing that no one walked off with the billiard balls, was the meeting place for those taking part in the competitions. One morning it was raining hard and only Mr. Hargreaves turned up for the crazy gold competition. The games leader looked sorrowfully at the rain. “I’m afraid we’ll have to cancel the game today.” Mr. Hargreaves looked horrified. “But it says here in the brochure that if ...“ He went 'on and on' about his rights until the games leader was obliged to escort him round the pitch in the pouring rain. Drenched but satisfied, Mr. Hargreaves returned. He 'sidled up to' me and permitted himself the nearest I ever saw him get to a smile. “I won,” he said, holding up the Crazy Golf Champion’s Certificate for that year. That was the last time I saw Mr. Hargreaves attempt a smile. Mind you, he was very polite. He always raised a hand in salutation whenever we met. He never minded moving his chair as I swept the games room floor and never complained at the cloud of dust I made. But all the time I had the feeling he was missing something. He always 'peered' at people in a curious way as if he were 'checking up'. Sometimes 'I popped out' at lunch time for a quick bathe and invariably there sitting on the beach was Mr. Hargreaves doing his peering , this time at the stones and rocks, in the same strange way, looking as glum as ever. Still, I wasn’t going 'to be put off' by him. I even began 'to take quite a pride in' my games room. I started to enjoy the soothing therapy of watching other people trying very hard to enjoy themselves. And although I was there a fortnight it didn’t seem long before I handed out my last table tennis bat of the season. I’d thoroughly enjoyed myself, breathed in plenty of sea air and what’s more been paid for it too.
Before I went back home to London I decided to spend a day or two looking round the local shops. I had a successful morning buying up bargains and I was just going to look for somewhere to eat when I caught sight of a face I knew well. It was Mr. Hargreaves. He looked really happy. “Glad to be back at work?” I shouted. “Oh yes” he said “there’s nothing like work.” And off he went whistling on his way still peering in that ominous way. Now I realised why he’d been so upset on his holiday with nothing to do. I’d often wondered where chaps like that went for their holidays. Still I suppose even Traffic Wardens must take a break some day.
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