Gosh. This editing thing is hard! I have done some tweaks to chapter one inspired by you lovely people but am wondering if it would have been better to start with a blank page and rewrite? It's difficult changing your baby even when you know you have to. For what it's worth, here is version 2 of chapter 1. I'm sure I will have to do eleventy billion versions before it is ready but this is a start! Thanks in advance for your comments.
The Magic Beach Hut
Chapter one: Mrs Macaroon
Mrs Macaroon’s guest house was a tall, thin building with stone steps down to the basement and stone steps up to the front door. Inside was a long steep wooden staircase leading up to the bedrooms. Dad muttered something about the only things steeper than the stairs being the prices but I reckon nothing in the world was steeper except maybe Mount Everest. I didn’t count them all but I reckon there were a googol (that’s a one with a hundred noughts after it in case you wondered).
It was a last minute decision to come to Bodbury-on-Sea and the only vacant room was in Mrs Macaroon’s guest house.
“Not cheap,” Dad had said as he looked at the brochure, “but it is a ‘beautiful period building with a sea view’, let’s book it.”
So here we were lugging our cases up all those stairs to our room on the third floor.
Mrs Macaroon looked as unlike a macaroon as it was possible to look. She was tall and thin and angular and grey. Not just grey haired, but grey. Her leathery skin looked grey, her hair was grey, her eyes were grey, her teeth were grey and her flannel dress was grey.
She didn’t smile as Dad introduced himself.
“You’re late. You’ve missed dinner. Third floor, room thirty nine. Sign here.” She thrust a form under his nose and Dad signed it and took the key.
“Thank you,” he ventured. “What time is breakfast please?”
“Eight o’clock sharp,” she replied and disappeared down the hall.
We grinned nervously at each other. I wondered if she was a witch. Polly pulled a face and I could see she was thinking the same thing.
“I guess she’s had a long day,” said Mum hopefully. We lugged our cases up the stairs. We went past several bedrooms but all the doors were shut and there was the definite sound of silence from behind them.
“I guess everyone’s gone out for dinner,” said Dad.
“We should do the same,” said Mum, “and then get these guys to bed.”
“These guys” were me and my sister Polly. She’s seven. I’m Jake and I’m eleven. That’s why I had to carry a big bag up all those stairs while she only had to carry a string bag with a couple of beach towels in it.
We finally got to the top and Dad unlocked the door. Polly and I dropped our bags and ran to the tiny window.
“I can’t see the sea,” I moaned. “You said it had a sea view.”
“That’s what the brochure said,” replied Dad defensively. He came over and tried to peer through the window over our heads but it wasn’t really big enough so we had to move out of his way.
Meanwhile Mum was looking around our room. That didn’t take long. There was a double bed with its head against the right hand wall. There was just room to squeeze between its foot and the bunk beds which were along the left hand wall. In the far wall was the tiny window with a small chest of drawers under it. Next to the bunk beds was a door which didn’t close properly. This led to the ‘en-suite bathroom’ which contained a toilet, a tiny sink and a shower. If you sat on the toilet your knees were under the sink and if you had long legs like Dad your feet were in the shower tray.
“At least there’s some loo roll,” said Mum, ever practical.
We left our bags and let ourselves out, down all those stairs again.
“This’ll get us fit,” said Dad, attempting to sound cheerful.
As we left I felt sure that Mrs Macaroon was watching us. I looked around but I couldn’t see her. It was getting a bit breezy by this time but the sky was still bright and the seafront looked pretty with its row of coloured beach huts.
“It must be cool to have one of those,” said Polly.
We found a nice little café and sat in the window eating fish and chips and watching the sun go down over the cliffs. I had two sachets of ketchup and Polly said I was greedy.
“That is the most beautiful sunset,” Mum announced, ignoring our arguing. “I think we’re going to like it here.”
We all agreed. We felt a sense of relaxation and contentment. Our holiday had begun. Back at the guest house we climbed the three flights of stairs wearily and Polly and I clambered into bed, me on the top bunk of course. I had to lie very still because every time I moved it creaked and Polly moaned at me.
“Come on kids,” said Dad, “don’t bicker. Settle down to sleep. We’re on holiday.” He and Mum sat on their bed reading by the light of their little torches so that we could get to sleep.
Next morning I woke up to the sound of running water. I thought Dad was in the shower but then realised he was looking out of the window. Mum was rummaging through their suitcase. It must be Polly then. Just then Polly sat up and bumped her head on my bed. She exclaimed loudly.
“Oh, you’re awake then,” said Dad.
“Hard not to be with noisy Jake in the shower,” Polly retorted. I dangled my head over the side of the bed and made her jump.
“I’m up here actually.”
“Well who’s in our shower then?” she asked indignantly.
“Nobody,” said Mum. “It’s the room next door. It’s just the walls are a bit thin.”
“A bit?” Polly exclaimed.
“Yes,” said Mum so keep your voice down.”
We got ourselves washed and dressed. We gave the shower a miss because the water was cold. Dad ran it for ages but it didn’t get any warmer. We went down for breakfast. We were looking forward to our full English, it was one of those holiday treats. At home we just had a bowl of Cheerios.
There was an old couple sitting in the dining room who smiled at us nervously as we came in. A young couple were just leaving and seemed to want to avoid looking at us. Another couple came in just after us with a baby and strapped him in a highchair at a table in the corner. They sat down and smiled across at us. Polly waved at the baby and he grinned back.
Mrs Macaroon appeared at that moment.
“I said eight o’clock sharp,” she fumed. “I have things to do.”
“So sorry,” said Dad, looking at his watch. It was one minute past eight. “Could we have the full English please? Tea for my wife and I and orange juice for these two.” Mrs Macaroon didn’t even acknowledge this but stalked over to the other couple.
“Morning,” said the man cheerily. “One scrambled eggs on toast please, one bacon and mushroom bap and a porridge for the little man. One tea, one coffee and could we possibly have some hot water for warming his milk please?”
Again Mrs Macaroon did not appear to acknowledge him but turned on her heel and disappeared back into the kitchen.
“She’s full of the joys of spring,” said the man. His wife shushed him and looked nervously at the kitchen.
“Yes,” said Dad, “we’d better set our alarm a minute earlier tomorrow.”
“Could have been down ten minutes sooner,” said the man, “but I was hoping the water would warm up.”
“We had that problem,” said Dad. “Did you sleep well?”
“Not really,” the woman whispered. “The bed was really hard.”
“Ours was lumpy,” said Mum, “and the pillows were flat as pancakes. Hardly slept a wink.”
The woman gave a discreet little cough and rolled her eyes. Everyone went quiet as we realised Mrs Macaroon was in the room. The old couple got up.
“Thank you Mrs Macaroon,” muttered the old man, and they scurried out.
Mrs Macaroon plonked a tray on our table without a word, then went out and fetched another for the couple with the baby. We all looked at each other uncomfortably.
“Tuck in then,” said Mum, forcing a smile. The orange juice was watered down. The tea was cold. The eggs were solid and rubbery. The bacon was slimy with grease. The sausages were more like charcoal sticks and the toast was either black and charred or white and soggy. It was all cold. I tried putting lots of ketchup and brown sauce on but I couldn’t disguise the fact that this was the most disgusting full English I had ever tasted.
At the other table the couple were looking sadly at their plates. The baby cried when the first spoon of grey lumpy goo was offered. His mother did not persevere but instead tried to tempt him with the yellow lumpy goo that was on her toast. He pushed it away and cried again.
“Come on,” said the father, “we’ve got some rusks upstairs.” The family departed, leaving their food largely untouched.
We headed back to our room feeling a bit deflated. As Dad opened the door Mum shrieked. We followed her gaze and saw a little mouse jump off the bed and run under the chest of drawers.
“That is it!” Mum exclaimed. “We’re leaving!”
“It was only a mouse,” said Dad, trying to calm her down.
“It was not only a mouse,” said Mum. “It was a mouse after a horrid breakfast, after a cold wash, after a sleepless night in a lumpy bed!”
“OK, OK,” said Dad. “It’s just that everywhere else was booked up.”
“Well, now we know why this place wasn’t,” said Mum. We all had to agree. We packed our bags and struggled with them down the steep stairs. Polly whispered to me that it was probably a guest Mrs Macaroon didn’t like and had turned into a mouse. ”Shh,” said Mum, looking around her anxiously, “Stop being silly.”
Dad rang the bell nervously. We waited for what seemed like ages, then he rang it again. Mrs Macaroon appeared immediately.
“Don’t be so impatient,” she snapped.
“Sorry,” muttered Dad, looking at his feet. “We’d erm, like to check out please.”
“You’re booked in until Saturday,” Mrs Macaroon barked.
“Yes I know, I’m sorry but, erm, something came up.”
“I’ll have to charge you a supplement,” she said. “I can’t let that room to anyone else this week now.”
“Oh, of course,” said Dad.
“So that comes to one hundred and forty pounds and fifty seven pence,” said Mrs Macaroon.
“What?” exclaimed Dad. “We’ve only been here one night! Sixty pounds a night the brochure said.”
“There’s the early cancellation charge,” said Mrs Macaroon indignantly. “There’s the towel hire, you used FOUR towels!” She said this as if it were a serious crime.
“But surely use of towels is included,” said Dad.
“They don’t launder themselves,” the old lady huffed. “Then there’s the excess paper use.”
“Now I really have no idea what you are talking about,” said Dad.
“You used FOURTEEN sheets of toilet paper,” said Mrs Macaroon with that same indignation. “And of course breakfast.”
“Breakfast is definitely included in the sixty pounds,” Dad said confidently. “It’s very clear in your brochure. ‘Bed and breakfast’ it says.”
“It doesn’t say you can have ketchup AND brown sauce,” said Mrs Macaroon, and she pointed a bony finger at me accusingly. I shuddered and took a small step backwards.
“This is ridiculous,” said Mum, exasperated. “We found a mouse in our room. We could have you closed down.”
“You are a LIAR!” shrieked Mrs Macaroon. “You are trying to get out of paying your bill. I should call the police!”
Mum was about to respond but Dad didn’t like it when people caused a scene. He put his hand on Mum’s arm.
“It’s OK,” he said. “I’ll pay it. Then we can go.” He took out his cheque book.
“Cash,” said Mrs Macaroon.
“Sorry?” said Dad.
“Cash only. Didn’t you read the small print?”
“Clearly not,” said Dad. “Is there a cash point near here?”
“Leave your bags here until you’ve paid,” said the old woman. “I’m not having you do a runner.”
Dad sighed and we went out to find the cash point.
“Better get back quick,” he said, “or she’ll be charging us interest.”
“Or turning us into mice,” said Polly rolling her eyes.
“What a dragon!” said Mum.
Eventually we had paid Mrs Macaroon and loaded our bags into the car.
“May as well spend the rest of the day here,” said Dad. “It’s a shame but we’ll have to head home this evening kids. Sorry but there’s nowhere else to stay.” We were all upset.
“There must be somewhere,” Polly said. “Let’s look.”
Again I had the strange feeling that Mrs Macaroon was watching me. I looked up and I’m sure I saw the net curtains twitch.
“Let’s just get away from this place,” I said shivering slightly although it was warm.