Tune in, switch off - Service with a smile

14th August 2009 at 01:00

My wife describes the newly refurbished entrance to the hotel that houses our health club as now looking like: "a Parisian brothel". Well, of course, I would not know. But hang on. How does she? And she tells me that the purple, ultraviolet lights we can dimly make out in the corridors are a drug dealers' deterrent.

I think she's been watching too many episodes of Hotel Babylon (BBC One). This week it featured a royal wedding. Or should have done, until the bride ran off with an Eastern European equerry. Don't you just love the attention to detail?

There was also a philandering photo journalist, Gennaro Fazio, one shot away from paparazzi-dom; and a duped, teen-training Olympic swimmer, with parents from hell.

This was all in a day's work on the reception desk. For Hotel Babylon is a fast-paced, rat-raced drama with more sub-plots than a Barratt Homes development.

Its owner and manager can't afford to lose the money from a cancelled royal photo shoot so they plan the scam of a fake wedding. Well, the staff can play all the parts, can't they? Receptionists, Emily (Alexandra Moen) and Ben (Michael Obiora) star as the bride and groom. Reminded that the wedding isn't real, the bride swoons anyway: "It's the fake wedding of my dreams."

Disguised as an Austrian princess, she can even remember her GCSE German when challenged by the suspicious Fazio. For Ben, it's an opportunity to fondle his bride's bum. "Er, why are you doing that?" asks Emily. Even mid swoon, she's aware that pretence has its limits.

Five-star honest concierge, Tony (Dexter Fletcher), is uneasy about the scam. Wise and totally trustworthy, he really runs the hotel. Just like the caretakers at my school.

Tony could mediate any hostile group. He manages warring parents and teenagers as our Olympic swimmer in training finally revolts against her pressurising parents. I'd like him in my student reception, please. He even appears in dog collar, officiating at the wedding. Perhaps he could even do assemblies.

We knew it would end in leers as Fazio the pap tried to have his wicked way with Juliet, the manager: "In another time, in another place, I would take what I want," he told her. Some chat up line.

Even Aristotle would have applauded these script writers. For all the loose ends were neatly tucked in; everything fitted into place like one of Phil and Kirsty's well-designed kitchens.

But should it all seem unbelievable, you've never worked in a hotel. In my student days I did: feuds and tricks were common. The head waiter regularly blitzed the beautiful food creations sent up by the chef, hoping to get him sacked.

I wonder what Alex Polizzi, the award-winning hotelier who puts proprietors through their paces in The Hotel Inspector (Five), would have thought of Babylon. She would have sacked the manager of the Rose and Crown, that's for sure, in one recent episode. She expressed disbelief at the clutter clogging the communal areas. The boss used evasion tactics normally adopted by teenagers who won't get up in the morning. But its eventual refurbishment brought the locals in for coffee. And there wasn't a Parisian or purple light in sight.

  • Ray Tarleton is principal of South Dartmoor Community College in Ashburton, Devon.

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