A rescue mission originally thought of as lasting for a year or two turned into a 35 year lifetime love affair with a beautiful old building.
There were to be battles royal with neighbours not wanting their status quo to be altered, and with the local fire authority who sought to impose draconian new safety measures.
John Searancke came to the role of hotelkeeper almost accidentally, and most definitely with much reluctance. After his parents’ marriage fell apart, he was dragooned in, at the age of 22, to pick up the pieces of their new venture, a barely-trading country house hotel that had, frankly, seen better days. Not only was it posting an annual loss, but the fabric of the building was crumbling and there was no money left to make improvements.
Over the years, and with the steepest of learning curves, the grand old building was renovated and transformed to meet the requirements of the modern discerning traveller. Accolades for the hotel and its restaurant were won; together they became a well-regarded destination for a number of celebrities – and those that deemed themselves to be celebrities but were not. Stories abound featuring idiosyncratic guests, overbearing public bodies, fractured family life and animals of all shapes and sizes. The local fire station next door was demolished one foggy night, people were frightened by flying dogs and snakes in the long grass, and there were, as befits a country house, strange goings on in the night. Many were the guests who checked in who really should not have been seen together.
This is a tribute to all the people behind the scenes who helped to make the hard-won transformation into a great success.
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Meanwhile, for my part, I recalled the tale of how one morning, on the way to the new kitchen, and walking through what remained of the old original hotel kitchen, I thought that I had been transported into another lifetime, a cross between Dante’s Inferno and a Victorian Christmas. I had stopped dead in my tracks.
There at the far end of the room was an unrecognisable person covered almost entirely in feathers. Any feathers not attached to that person were swilling around the room like a cloud, all but obscuring the far doorway, before landing softly to form a light covering on the floor tiles, much as I imagine the interior of a duvet to be.
On closer inspection, the mystery person turned out to be my mother! What had got into her mind I do not know, but she had, unbeknownst to anyone else, decided that her contribution to that particular Christmas was going to be the plucking of all of the pheasants that had just been delivered. Swooping on the box of birds and snatching them away from the hapless potboy, she maneuvered herself into a spare space, which happened to be adjacent to the top of a chest freezer. Clearly, tidiness was not going to be her watchword during this process. Feathers were pulled out, legs and heads were chopped off with gay abandon, and finally, the right hand was plunged into the bloody interior, emerging clutching a large handful of intestines, slimy heaps of which adorned the top of the freezer. Cleaning up after her was a bit of a trial, but I was glad that she had made the effort. I suppose that she could identify that with long bygone times and tasks that she had undertaken all those years ago.
"The Reluctant Hotelkeeper by John Searancke is an engaging memoir that takes readers into the life of the author who ended up reluctantly being a hotelkeeper, and how his rescue mission ended up being a love affair with an old building. His parents had bought the place in the countryside to save their crumbling marriage, and the author was pulled into this venture when he was just 22. The role of a hotelkeeper is not as easy as many think because the reality of life in a hotel is very different, and the hours required to make it a success are punishing. The memoir is also a tribute to all the people who worked behind the scenes and helped in making this grand transformation a huge success.
The memoir is straightforward and honest, entertaining and insightful, and the author opens up about the difficulties he faced, and how he managed to keep his faith in long-term planning. There are a lot of interesting stories about eccentric guests, how many guests who checked in should not have been seen together at all, and how it ended up being one of the favored stops for a number of celebrities. The author goes through the entire process, speaking about transforming the hotel methodically and in detail, taking readers along with him and his experiences while getting the old building renovated to cater to the needs of a modern traveler. There is not one boring moment in this memoir and the positive narration and outlook make this memoir an encouraging and motivating read. The author's story and experiences are enriching, and the ups and downs of his life and the accolades he received for the hotel and its restaurant will encourage many readers out there to become hotelkeepers." - Readers' Favorite(Mamta Madhavan)
‘Many years after the deaths of my parents, my aunt handed me a box filled with letters that my father had written to my mother over the period from 1940 to 1945. This was the starting point of a journey for me to rediscover the father I had never really known...’
This is the story of John Searancke’s parents, told mostly from the side of his father, Eddie Searancke, from the time of his calling up in early 1940 to his release from a prisoner of war camp in Germany in 1945, thence his return to England to try to pick up the pieces of his old life. Nothing could ever be quite the same afterwards.
The letters take readers through five captivating years, telling of the ups and downs, the plots and counterplots, as Eddie rose through the ranks to end his war as a captain, elevated to that rank in the field as his troops faced the formidable might of the SS Panzers. The letters also reveal where his battle came to an abrupt end, in an orchard surrounded by the enemy and captured after a series of bloody skirmishes as the British army spearheaded its way from the beaches of Normandy. The journey as a prisoner across France and Germany in a truck, with comrades dying each day, may be as hard to read as it is to tell, particularly when a new life and new harsh rules had to be learned and rigidly enforced in a prison camp in northern Germany, the final destination.
This is written as part memoir, part fictionalised retelling and partly in letter format; John draws together all sources to recreate the five years of war and hardship that the letters span.
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On the brink of retirement, John and his wife Sally are determined to end a life at the grindstone in grimy and wet Lancashire. Together with their beloved Jack Russell/Staffie cross, Freddie, a rescue dog from the local RSPCA, they embark on the journey of a lifetime and relocate to the island of Tenerife.
Selling up, they make the move to the north of Tenerife, a part almost unknown to the casual tourist – their very own hidden paradise, a world away from the 'tourist trap' that is the south of the island. Relaxed and surrounded by stunning coastal views, life in their new home, set amidst orange groves and banana plantations, is very different indeed! The weather is fantastic, the temperature idyllic, the people so friendly and the cost of living outrageously low… what more could they ask for?
Adjusting to life abroad, and all of the costs that come with it, are explained in the book – from buying a new home and sorting out living taxes, to integrating into the local community and taking the dreaded Spanish driving test. Follow John and Sally as they learn a new language and take on a couple of new hobbies, while Freddie takes off on some unbelievable (but true!) exploits with his new canine friends.
With a colourful collection of characters, travelling anecdotes that stretch from the English Midlands and all the way through mainland Spain in an old classic car, and some not so perfect moments that bring us back down to earth from time to time, this is a series of adventures that you will not want to miss.
Dog Days In The Fortunate Islands is an ideal read for those contemplating retirement, moving to the Canary Islands or an extended trip through Spain. The book will also appeal to any dog lovers and holidaymakers who enjoy an interesting story.
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To learn more about John Searancke www.johnsearancke.com