Oxford, City of Learning and mistakes

I never make stupid mistakes.  Only very, very clever ones.  John Peel, British writer.

College in Oxford

I think this is Brasenose College but it was several years ago.

I read this post from Hallysan at Photographic Memories today and it brought back vivid memories of my last time in Oxford.

It was several years after my husband’s death.  I had been away the year before for some months and spent time with an elderly widow as her companion.

The second time I went back to be with her, the United Kingdom had introduced many new rules for companions and caring to fit in with the requirements of the European Union which they had just joined.  So we had to have some training.  The organization through which I worked was based in Oxford and  insisted that we go to Oxford for 2 days for this training.  Very basic food handling, people handling etc.

On the phone from Oxford, the woman at the office told me that most people stayed at the Y.  My thoughts on this, although never having stayed at a Y, were not good so I decided to source accommodation elsewhere.

Bed and Breakfast

I thought I had found a treasure and so booked for a couple of nights.  But horrors, what I found when I arrived very late in the afternoon was a far cry from what had been depicted in the advertising.

It was really late in the day, and as it was mid summer in Oxford (July) all the accommodation was taken.  So after trudging around the city I decided that I would stay for the night and hopefully find somewhere better for the next night.

Obviously I didn’t stay for breakfast.  One look at the dining room and through to the kitchen convinced me that this was not a place to eat.

The next day when I arrived at the office I told the people of my disappointment.  Apparently it was well-known that the place I had chosen was a disaster and it had been the subject of many complaints and had even featured in a documentary about bad places to stay.

To add insult to injury, one of the other women had stayed at the Y and loudly sang its praises.  What do they say – Pride comes before a fall.  I should have listened to Mother.

If you are English (and as old as me) you may remember a series called Rising Damp.  This ran from 1974-1978 and was set in a terrible house with a ghastly landlord.  My guy was Reggie Perrin incarnate.

The format for Rising Damp was sold to the USA where it was completely re-written as 27 Joy Street.  Unfortunately the pilot didn’t impress CBS and it never made it to the screen.

They did manage to find me another place for the second night which was more what I had expected and they insisted that I make a complaint about the standard of the first place.  When I said that I wouldn’t be staying and told the proprietor why, he became very agitated saying nobody had ever complained before.  As I had already paid in advance for the two nights I had to forfeit the second night’s cost, but it was well worth it to get away from that place.

That was the first time that I booked anything via the internet on the other side of the world.  And I learned a lesson.

“Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.”
So said The Queen in Alice in Wonderland.


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20 responses to “Oxford, City of Learning and mistakes

  1. Thanks for the mention, sounds like you had quite a time of it.
    My other half books hotels etc for weekends away and always reads loads of reviews online before he chooses somewhere to stay, after reading your post for today, I’m glad he does 🙂

  2. You are such an adventurous woman! Though I would have decided as you did and not chosen the Y!

  3. My family was invited to a Halloween party out of state one time. Instead of trying to drive the hour ride home very late at night, I decided to book a room with two double beds for just a night. It was right down the road and AAA (same as your AA) rated. If it was AAA rated, what could possibly be wrong with it you would think, right?

    It smelled like stale cigarettes, the blankets were old and had burn holes in them and the bathroom sink was dingy and rust in some spots. I told everyone to sleep in their clothes and on top of the blankets. At least the room had some heat.

    We left at first light. I dropped the key into the slot that was in the front entrance door. That hour drive didn’t seem so long now.

    I tried to make make a complaint to AAA, but not sure if it ever went through. The place is still there, but I’m not sure if it’s under the same ownership. It was just disgusting!

    I remember that show that CBS tried to air. Never watched it, but I remember commercials and ads for it.

    • I felt such a fool for falling for the ad on the internet. The bathroom, that I didn’t mention had been made by taking a corner of the room and it was tiny!
      Never mind, it makes a good story. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  4. In India, the Ys, both the YMCA and the YWCA have excellent guest houses at Delhi, Mumbai and other places. I have often arranged for guests to stay at either and have heard nothing but praise from them. So, it surprises me that the one at Oxford was so bad.

  5. Since you mentioned TV shows, maybe you can help me. I’m trying to remember the name of a show I saw here in the US on Public Television, probably in the late 70’s. It took place in World War II. The oldest boy, David, joined the RAF – he was the “black sheep” of the family, pre-war. A lot of time was spent around the brown betty teapot at the family table. I almost thought the title might have been something like “homefromt”, but that isn’t exactly it.
    I remember they may have been Welsh, though I’m not sure. One line the father gave, responding to David’s question about work was something like, “The first man who dies, you can have his shoes”. I’d never heard that before.
    Not finding anyone who recalls the show drives me nuts!!

  6. I think it might have been the series A Family at War set in Liverpool. The son was David and the father was Edwin. Here is a Youtube link – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2x-46rLRDk.
    I never saw the show but hope this is the one you want.
    Judith:)

  7. I’m glad you can laugh about it now…though it has taken quite some time, hasn’t it? 🙂 I guess we’ve all learned a lesson or two about booking places we’ve never set eyes upon.

  8. jacquelincangro

    It sounds like it must have been a real God-awful place to make you lose your 2nd night deposit. I staying in a place like that once. I still shudder everytime I think about it. There was not one redeeming aspect about it. It was quite simply the worst hotel I ever stayed in, and I have stayed in some questionable places during my college years.

    • Hi Jacquelin. I couldn’t even find anything funny to laugh about. It was really as you say, a God-awful place. I have stayed in some other strange places since my husband died (he would only stay in 4 or 5 star hotels) but have lived to right humorous things about them. But this one…UGH!

  9. I hope you added your voice to any online reviews on the place… It is an important public service to do so… Also, I can’t believe the proprietor had the gall to claim no one had complained before when it had been documented… wish you had pointed it out to him too.. Pity businesses like that are allowed thrive; ripping people off. It sounds like the taxi service I used for an airport pick up in Paris… they were beyond awful! 😦

    • O yes Elizabeth. I have learned over the years that it is not enough to just walk away from truly awful service/experiences. I most certainly do voice my dissatisfaction to the proper places.

  10. Learning through travel mistakes can be painful and sometimes expensive. Glad you were able to keep your chin up!

  11. Hotel horror stories! They are definitely awful! 😦

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