‘Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat..’
This first line of the old English folk song is one that most people of my age remember from our childhood. These days when I hear it I think of the year we allowed an over ambitious Head Chef to insist on serving Roast Goose to all our Christmas Day diners with no option of Turkey for their traditional Christmas Day Lunch – this decision was made in spite of our frantic protests that this was a mistake, but chef was insistent that he knew best what people wanted to eat. The resultant furore of displeasure from our customers will be remembered by everyone who was unfortunate enough to be serving and hosting the Christmas Day festivities that year and taught us a valuable lesson! – I haven’t felt the same about eating Roast Goose ever since!
The bit about the ‘penny in the old man’s hat’ makes me think about how sad it is that Christmas these days must be the worse time of the year for anyone who is hard up and struggling for money – these days they are maybe not old men but struggling parents with children who watch TV and subsequently view Christmas as a time of exciting activity and lavish present giving and innocently send Santa a very long list of expensive requests.
I don’t know what a ‘traditional Christmas’ really means but we are not offering much in the way of ‘exciting activity’ to our Christmas guests and definitely not Roast Goose for Christmas Day lunch this year. Several days however have been happily spent decorating the Luttrell Arms in a ‘non minimalist’ way – we have hundreds of decorations collected over many years and we have managed to use most of them this year and the hotel has a very festive look already with still more to come as Christmas week approaches. We started to get the decorations our early this year – Monday 29th November - I had a variety of feedback from our customers – some people were horrified that it was ‘far to early’ to think about Christmas and others were excited and thrilled that the hotel was beginning to look festive whilst they were staying with is.
Christmas decorations are an ongoing process and it looks likely that we will still adding finishing touches to on Christmas Eve which some people think it the correct time to ‘deck the halls’. I always feel that this time of the year when the fires are roaring and candles lit, the salon offering a relaxing massage, relaxed chat in the bar over a drink, and chef preparing some warming seasonal food, the hotel is at its best and one can really appreciate the cosy atmosphere, especially after venturing outdoors exploring Exmoor, walking, or perhaps deer spotting and experiencing Exmoor in winter when at its wildest and most spectacular.
I don’t know how ‘jolly’ we are going to be allowed to be now due to the restrictions that are being reintroduced following the most recent Covid developments, but here at the Luttrell Arms, we are remaining optimistic whilst at the same time as being cautious and very aware of the huge responsibility that we have to our guests and staff whilst in our care. We have retained many of the precautionary measures that we had in place with the cleaning and sanitising procedures remaining a priority and most precautionary things that were advised to adopt now being accepted as a routine and common sense way of life. Thankfully some of the less sensible or effective measures have not been imposed on us again – the responsibility of making sure everyone either left the premises or ‘went to bed’ at 10pm was an example of something that was especially challenging – there was an occasion when a regular guest joking referred to me as ‘matron’ as he teasingly remarked that he had not be told to ‘go to his room’ since his boarding school days!
I think many lessons have been learnt and life will never be quite the same again after this pandemic and the chaos it has caused to our economy and daily lives. We have received a few cancellations from guests who are reluctant to travel away from home now that the situation has worsened but most people now feel that ‘life must go on’ – we have all lost a considerable amount of precious prime time and the risks have reduced now that most of us are ‘double jabbed’ and ‘boosted’ and everyone is familiar with the sensible precautions that we can take to protect ourselves and others without much effort. I have to say I have begun to feel quite ‘undressed’ without a mask in a shop although I confess to often having to be reminded when I am inside the hotel which always feels like being ‘at home’.
This next line of this seasonal song reminds me to tell you that we are taking a huge risk and deciding to break with the ancient tradition of burning the Ashen Faggot on Christmas Eve in the fireplace in the bar this year – this tradition is centuries old and there are dire consequences threatened to those breaking with the rather sinister operation – although Nigel thinks it was a marketing ploy dreamed up by Trust House Forte in the 1960s! I am quite superstitious by nature and am very worried about this decision, but Becca is insistent that having had chimney fires on several occasions and having to evacuate the building is a nuisance to our resident guests as well as an unnecessary fire risk that the insurance company with no longer tolerate and this together with the social distancing risks of a bar crammed with onlookers makes the whole procedure an unacceptable option.
Nigel is enjoying his semi-retired status and although still fully involved in both our hotels he has found the time to volunteer as a NHS steward and will be joining the local team at the weekend to help with Booster jabs – he is looking forward to being ‘useful’ – not giving injections to anyone thankfully but directing traffic etc!...
This past year has been very challenging for everyone and it looks like the problems with continue for some time. At both hotels we still have some staff shortages but have succeeded in recruitment and made some great new additions to our teams and we have had huge support from our customers and friends who have been absolutely fantastic and make it all worthwhile for us.
Merry Christmas and Happy and Healthy New Year – I know it is still early December as I write this, but by the time this communication reaches you – (having been checked and scrutinised by others in the family and team and eventually made it to the internet!) it will hopefully be on time!
We look forward to welcoming you to Exmoor very soon
With very best wishes,
Anne Way and family