A Conversation With My Neighbour When Staying at the Beechwood Hotel, 24 to 26 May 2006

The following is a note I wrote up on my jotter while staying at the “hell hole” that was the Beechwood Hotel in Edgbaston for the Sri Lanka test match in May 2006, as written up comprehensively – click here.

The Beechwood Garden and Roller. With thanks to Charles Bartlett for this picture.
The Beechwood Garden and Roller.
With thanks to Charles Bartlett for this picture.

It relates to a conversation I had with my next door neighbour.

The door to the next room was wide open. At first I thought my neighbour was engaged in conversation with someone – perhaps in the room but unseen by me, perhaps on his mobile phone. As I put the key into the lock of my door, he yelled out, unmistakably at me, “hello young fella. We’re neighbours, mate”.

‘Young fella’ is an endearing moniker once you get to my age. (These days only stewards at Lord’s and front of house staff at the Wigmore Hall still seem to use it for me.)

I took a couple of steps back and greeted my neighbour. He was certainly alone in the room and as far as I could tell had not been talking to anyone other than himself before I arrived.

He was bare chested – a strange sight in an old Victorian house/hotel in that Midlands City in spring – indeed I was going to my room to get an extra layer for the evening. He was drinking a can of lager.

“Sorry mate, I’m a bit pissed”, he said. It was 18:30 – probably par for his course.

“No problem”, I replied, “why not? You enjoy yourself.”

“That’s the spirit”, said my neighbour, “you going out for the evening?”

“That’s right”, I said.

“Well you have a good time, mate”, said my neighbour.

“And you have a good evening too”, I replied.

“That’s the spirit, mate”, he hollered after me as I scuttled the few steps along the corridor, quickly opened up the door to my room, grabbed my jersey, locked up again and fled for the evening.

The Worst Place We Have Ever Stayed In For Cricket, England v Sri Lanka at Edgbaston, 25 & 26 May 2006

The Beechwood Garden and Roller. With thanks to Charles Bartlett for this picture.
The Beechwood Hotel Garden and Roller.
With thanks to Charles Bartlett for this picture.

How did our regular Edgbaston (and occasionally other grounds) visiting group, the Heavy Rollers, end up staying at possibly the worst hotel of all time? After all, we comprise a bunch of reasonably discerning, sensible people.

The very worst hotels only happen to stupid people, right?  Wrong.

But this event does needs some context and explanation in our defence before the exposition.

Context

For several years, our excursion was based around the Wadderton Conference Centre, which was the Children’s Society place in rural Worcestershire, just outside Birmingham. David Steed, who was one of our number in the Heavy Rollers, ran the place and lived on site. The Children’s Society was pleased for a bit of income from guests in the quiet summer period and it was mighty convenient and pleasant for us, with a suitable garden for pre-match cricket antics.

Reports on those pre-test-match games held in the Wadderton gardens will no doubt appear on Ogblog in the fullness of time.

Now David Steed, bless him, ran Wadderton wonderfully and was subsequently a superb host at his Birmingham house. But he possibly wasn’t the best judge of a hotel. Cheap and near the ground seemed sufficient criteria for him. His e-mail a few weeks before the match:

Accommodation is confirmed as previously written about and subsequent telephone chat at Beechwood Hotel on the Bristol Road approx. 200 yards from the main entrance at Edgbaston…

…No deposits required and as we have spoken – do people want to come early enough on the Wednesday to perform on our local green followed by supper at ours with a meal out locally or in Brum on the Thurs. night. Any thoughts ?

That “subsequent telephone chat” was not with me. Anyone dare to confess?

Of course, in a more modern era we might have looked at TripAdvisor or one of its competitor/predecessor sites to check the Beechwood Hotel, but back then those web sites didn’t exist, or barely existed.

The earliest reviews of the Beechwood Hotel on holidaywatchdog.com, for example, were in 2007. Let’s just say that I would not have dreamt of staying in a place described by one reviewer as:

“Hell hole”

…while another reviewer pleaded:

“DO NOT STAY THERE, you’d be better off in a cardboard box.”

Indeed, if you want a laugh, do look at those reviews in full on the above link to the Beechwood Hotel page on holidaywatchdog.com – indeed here is the link again.

The “gentleman” who held himself out to us as the owner/proprietor, I suppose must have been the infamous Tom mentioned in several of the reviews.

Exposition

Nigel recalls that the main light in Adam’s room didn’t work because the light bulb had blown. When Adam approached Tom for a replacement light bulb, he was told to fill in a form to apply for a replacement – the replacement was thus not forthcoming during our stay.

The place was presumably used in part as a sort-of social services half-way house for people who were having a multitude of difficulties. I shall post an aside presently based on my notes about my alarming next door neighbour – (update: now posted here).

Although David had promised us that the rooms came

“each with private bathroom”…

…I seem to recall having to toddle down the corridor to get to said bathroom. “Private”, I suppose, does not necessarily mean “en suite” in this Beechwood world. I also recall some very inappropriate jokes about Zyklon B from my companions during conversations about those ghastly showers.

But the most bizarre conversations were with Tom, who tended to sidle up to us in the bar/common parts areas of the hotel and bend our ears with tales of his roller-coaster and/or imagined past. I made some fragmented notes:

“I was a millionaire at 21…a multi-millionaire at 24…lost it all at 33. I’ve been out with Miss Jamaica, Miss Bromsgrove, the lot. I had an Aston Martin – would cost about £125,000 today. Do fast cars while you’re young, young man, you won’t fancy it once you are your dad’s age. I made a million when a million was real money. When a million was really a million…”

…you get the idea.

But Tom was not the owner/proprietor, if the little bit of Companies House due diligence I have done this weekend (another form of on-line check not readily available back then) is reliable. Tom must have been employed as some sort of manager by the owners; his name does not appear on any of the Companies House papers for the Company that owned the property, 199-201 Bristol Road, it was owned by members of a family, named, perhaps ironically, Kang.

A couple of years after our stay, the place was a squat for Earth First Social Justice Permaculture warriors, as evidenced by the following links:

The company that owned the property was only struck off a few months ago at the time of writing, December 2015, so I imagine the property is now in the hands of the Mortgage provider, Nat West, who surely could find some property developer somewhere who might adapt the premises into some jolly useful affordable housing in leafy Edgbaston.

Two Nights and Two Days of Cricket

Why were we there?  Oh yes, cricket.

We had a net at Edgbaston itself on the Wednesday evening. I’m not entirely sure how our evening panned out, but – having now also seen an e-mail from Nigel sent to us ahead of the trip – I suspect that the net was late afternoon – Nigel’s e-mail suggests 17:00 start – and that the game on David’s local green was therefore a that same evening at, say, 19:00.

I also suspect that my conversation with my Beechwood Hotel neighbour – click here- was also that same first evening, while I was popping back to the room to get an extra warm layer ahead of the evening activities.

Anyway, the muck-about game on David’s local green, the night before the test match started, did not go well for me, as evidenced by this page of my jotter.

2006 Muck About Cricket

Nigel “Father Barry” White and son did well, as did a local lad, Craig, who wandered along and asked if he could play with us.

Harish (Harsha Ghoble) also had a good go, although I do recall bowling him on one occasion with one of my moon balls which descended vertically onto the stumps. “How are you supposed to play a ball like that?”, complained Harish. Nigel then dispatched my next, similar ball for six. “Like that”, said Nigel.

I also recall lots of bites on my legs afterwards, although whether those were from the green or the hotel is a matter of some conjecture. Perhaps a bit of both.

Postscript March 2017 – the scorecard relic and narrative about the park muckabout game is  a false memory from 2006 – that happened in 2008 and the text is transposed to that piece, together with a link to Charles Bartlett’s wonderful 2008 photographs that helped me to disambiguate. It seemed a ridiculous idea, that we had a net AND a muckabout in the park the same evening…it was ridiculous – didn’t happen.

The dinner at David’s on the Wednesday evening was typically delicious and (equally typically) the wine flowed plentifully. We had a great evening, that Wednesday before the game.

Heavy Rollers 2006 With thanks to Charles Bartlett for this picture.
Heavy Rollers 2006
With thanks to Charles Bartlett for this picture.

I don’t remember all that much about the test match, but I do recall that England did well and here is a link to the scorecard which proves such.

Light Rollers 2006 With thanks to Charles Bartlett for this picture.
Light Rollers 2006
With thanks to Charles Bartlett for this picture.

I’m not 100% sure where we ate on the Thursday night, but I think it was that year we went to a local Indian place near Steed Towers. Others might recall better. I think I was in “Beechwood Hotel shock” by then. It really was not a place for the faint-hearted.

Or, as Charley the Gent Malloy would put it, “that hotel was no place for a wuss.”