I have just read that a power station site I worked on in Ireland in the early 1980s is getting an environmental retrofit. Retrofit? It only seems like yesterday that I was flying into Shannon Airport, hiring a car and driving the forty miles to Kilrush. The station was to be built on rock, and the firm I worked for was doing the ground investigations for the foundations.
Though I visited the site every few weeks, I can’t remember much about the project (except an incident involving the Irish police, explosives and cows). What I remember more than the technical stuff is the hotel I was booked into each time I went there. At least Basil Fawlty took an interest in the day-to-day running of his hotel, whereas the staff at this Kilrush place seemed to stumble along completely unsupervised. My colleague, a civil engineer, was given a bedroom with a window whose pane of glass had been cut half an inch too short. The window-width gap between the frame and the pane had been packed with tightly folded tissues, presumably not by the staff but by a previous occupant. Kilrush is close to the estuary of the River Shannon and the winds there can be awesome, straight off the North Atlantic. During the night my colleague woke when a gale got up and the tissues blew out. It wasn’t only the wind that got in. He told me next morning that he swung out of bed and placed his feet on a soaking wet rug. ‘It’s for the ventilation, Sor,’ was, in his opinion, an inadequate explanation.
The hotel was full, about twenty people. They were all eating breakfast in the dining room when a guest at one of the tables complained to the waitress about his meal. The argument that followed was straight out of Faulty, with neither party giving way. The waitress stomped off and didn’t come back. The guests waited for a good ten minutes before one of them got up and went to find out what had happened to the breakfast he’d ordered. Except he couldn’t, because the waitress had locked us all in the room and gone home.