Posted by: Corri van de Stege | June 4, 2008

Wales and all that

I spent the last two days on the road, from Norfolk to Nottingham to Wales and back to Norfolk.   I wrote a lengthy piece on the joys of staying in a small (very small) hotel in Monmouth, and so here it goes

A night in Wales


This place I’m staying in is the weirdest place ever, it comes second to the hotel room I used for my short story submission – and that was a budget hotel in pre-revolutionary Iran. This one is not actually bad, it’s just so unexpectedly dismal.  I did not know places like this still existed.  I guess it’s a kind of guest house idea.


I’m staying over in Wales for the night.  Had a job in the East Midlands today and rather than driving all the way back and getting up early tomorrow morning to make the long track to Wales I decided to continue the journey and booked a last minute hotel through the internet.  The one that looked fine was fully booked and so I looked for one that was nearest to my appointment tomorrow morning.  This one is very close, only a couple of premises down the road.   It’s in Monmouth.  The drive down was smooth, only I was tired after today’s session and just wanted to get somewhere so  that I could flop down and enjoy the impersonal conveniences of a hotel, a chair, a desk, a telly that I could flick on to the latest news bulletin.  Where I am is clearly not it, and I now kick myself for not having chosen the out of town rural Wales spa hotel.  I did not.  This room has a (narrow) double bed, two bedside lamps, two upright chairs, a cupboard fronted with mirror doors that only half close, a hairdryer stuck to the wall in a strange fashion, a shelf with a kettle and a bowl with sachets of tea and coffee of unknown brand name.  And that’s it.  No desk, no comfortable chair, nothing but a tiny window that opens up to the back where the car park is.  It probably will be quiet sleeping overnight as there is no life at all anywhere. I feel curiously left out in nowhere and wonder what I’m doing here (who says ‘What Am I Doing Here?’).


The surprise is the restaurant downstairs, which is obviously what the business partner/owners are trading on in this town.  However bleak the rooms upstairs, the restaurant is genuine Italian cuisine, attracting the posh holidaymakers that visit Wales, if only for a day.  There’s the middle aged couple, both looking perky, she is tiny, slim and well groomed, he is a self assured Englishman, probably here on a quick business trip and then there are the two girls.  One seems to be a daughter of this marriage, the same fine features, outgoing, laughing and joking whereas the other is slightly older, blonde, much larger and with a look as if she is not quite part of this, but nevertheless she is.  The mother makes sure she is engaging her and is trying to draw her in.  The girl is reluctant, seventeen and awkward.  This is a story about stepdaughters and parents.  Then there is the young couple, eighteen at most?  It’s her birthday, she’s made up to the t, sparkling, her dress tight around her showing how young she is and how fleshy, he is young, a skinny lad who is happy because he is out with the girl of his dreams and they are having their party just between the two of them, sharing the bill at the end of it all.  Other couples drift in, all well to do, used to having meals out in restaurants, having chosen this one because of its cuisine, there are four men, who have booked a table for five but one did not turn up.  Are they hunting buddies?  They don’t exactly look like fishing buddies, maybe a reunion of some sort, without the wives and girlfriends.  Before I finish my meal another couple, who have not booked a table, drift in and get the prime seat near the window.  They’re here in Wales for a holiday, this is their night out on the town – there’s nowhere else to go.  Lots of stories here.


I sit quietly at my table, reading, appropriately, Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips.  Just as surreal. I have a lovely meal, two glasses of wine and feel quite cheered up now.  The service is excellent.  There’s the waiter who is young and well-trained, and takes it seriously, and there is the similarly young waitress behind the bar and between them they are in complete charge.  They attend to all their customers and run up and down, make sure that each and every customer is satisfied. 


A quick walk outside, and around the block, confirm my first impression of a curiously dilapidated town centre, which does not have much going for it.  Time for bed.



  1. What a fun post! I especially love your observations from the restaurant. Is there a short story in this? The entire setting seems rich with possibility. Thanks!

  2. fiona: there definitely is… am writing the follow up as we speak!

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