Down But not Out !

By: Graham Baylis

Dennis is distraught. Two weeks ago, the family-run firm for which he had worked for the best part of forty years had to tell him, very reluctantly, that his job was redundant. To be fair, they made it clear that they hated to see him go. Dennis had served his apprenticeship there, fresh out of school, had been a loyal and hardworking employee and was extremely well thought of by his colleagues but the business had taken a down-turn and there was no alternative but to make cuts. Dennis understands all of this, but the facts remain; at the age of just 55, he feels cast aside, unwanted, washed-up and useless.

Dennis isn't ready for the pipe and slippers routine just yet. Fearing he'll be condemned to spend the rest of his days as a couch potato, growing fatter by the day watching breakfast TV, he's looking around the house constantly for jobs to do but, really, is achieving little more than getting under Hazel's feet.

Hazel doesn't know what to do about Dennis. She hates to see him so tense and down at heart. She tries her best to reassure him that this is just a temporary setback and that all will be well again, but Dennis is far from convinced. Hazel knows that Dennis needs to unwind and relax. As she ponders, a thought comes to her... of course! A little while later, she has the answer. 'Come on', she says to Dennis as she prises the vacuum cleaner from his hands. 'Get your case packed. We're going away for the weekend!'

The following morning, they're making their way to a Grade II listed historic stately home set in 45 acres of beautiful landscaped grounds in the most peaceful surroundings at the gateway of the Yorkshire Dales, just a couple of miles outside Harrogate. As they make their approach to the graceful and imposing baronial-style mansion, they're struck immediately by an air of serenity and tranquillity. Already, the trials and tribulations of the last couple of weeks seem a world away. They are given the warmest of welcomes at reception by a very friendly lady who tells them proudly that parts of the house date back to the 14th Century, and that this was where King Edward VIII was said to have first met Mrs Wallis Simpson. Dennis is fascinated; he loves history, and this hotel is just steeped in it.

Being shown to their room, as they ascend the sweeping staircase with its stunning carvings and cornices, Dennis and Hazel are amazed how all the character of a bygone age has been so lovingly preserved. Their room is breathtaking; very spacious, beautifully and tastefully decorated and well appointed with en-suite bathroom (complete with complimentary bathrobes and luxury toiletries), tea and coffee making facilities, flat screen TV with radio, direct dial telephone, DVD/CD player, decadently oversized four poster king bed and mini bar. There's even a separate lounge area and the view from the window of the grounds and parkland is truly spectacular. To make them feel right at home, a bottle of wine, fresh fruit and a box of chocolates have been placed on the dressing table. It seems that the proprietors will go to any lengths to ensure that their stay at this fabulous hotel is an unforgettable experience.

After taking just a few minutes to unpack, Dennis and Hazel head for one of the hotel's bars comfortable bars, to partake of a hearty ploughman's lunch and a glass of chilled beer. Arm in arm, fortified by their meal, they take a leisurely stroll around the intricate network of paths that wind around the extensive gardens, stopping to look at the boats on a blue lake which sparkles and shimmers like a million diamonds in the summer sun.

Back at the hotel, it's time to prepare for the evening. Recharged by an invigorating shower, the two set off to the elegant oak panelled restaurant, which used to be the billiard room in Victorian times. Their traditional British meal is a real treat; delicious and perfectly presented, served by friendly and attentive but unobtrusive staff. Enjoying the convivial atmosphere in the bar later, Dennis and Hazel plan their evening's entertainment. It seems the hotel has a lively cabaret room and tonight a jazz band will be performing, followed by a stand-up comedian and a disco. That should be perfect ' other than the disco, maybe...

Dennis and Hazel are thoroughly entertained by the cabaret and to their surprise, find themselves dancing into the early hours of the morning. It's been many a year since they've done that and as they climb the stairs to bed, they agree that it's been a lot of fun.

In the morning, Dennis and Hazel find that the fresh Yorkshire is great for working up an appetite. Hazel decides on a continental breakfast and Dennis opts for the full English. As they eat, they strike up an immediate rapport with the couple at the next table, Cyril and Audrey who, it turns out, live just a few miles away from Dennis and Hazel. After breakfast, it's time to enjoy some of the many other facilities the hotel has to offer. Dennis and Cyril stride off together for a round of golf, whilst Hazel and Audrey have a revitalising swim in the splendid, heated indoor pool, followed by a rejuvenating sauna.

Later, as they put their cases in the car, Hazel notices something about Dennis. No more furrowed brow, he seems happy and relaxed, just like his old self. As they travel back home, Dennis tells Hazel what a stroke of luck it was to have met Cyril. As well as being a really good chap, he owns his own building firm, is crying out for qualified and experienced electricians and is certain that he can offer Dennis a good job. Well, it seems that every cloud has a silver lining...

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