More kippers sir?

by Richard English

This story is part of our 'Funniest hotel experiences' series, featuring tales from luxury hotel guests which were sent in for our recent travel writing competition. Photo by Misocrazy.


It was Thursday; it was the St James's Hotel in Edinburgh; it was breakfast time and I had decided to have some kippers - which duly arrived, complete with the parsley garnish without which chefs seem to consider kippers to be somewhat indecently underdressed.

Setting the parsley undergarments to one side I set to and tucked in with pleasure - hotel kippers always being a better bet than the semi-warm "full English" that typically simmers away at the buffet. Sadly, on this occasion the chef had been rather more quick than careful and as I got towards the middle of the second kipper found that, deep inside, it was still cold. A quick wave to the waiter and a request that it be given a little more time in the oven's warming sunshine, and I sat back to read my newspaper.

My breakfast plate soon arrived back but, instead of its containing my original but re-warmed kipper, it bore the unmistakeable presence of a brace of new and untouched kippers – complete, of course, with some fresh parsley. Being one who doesn't like waste, I tucked in again and was about 95% through my fourth kipper when there sounded the unmistakeable tintinnabulation of the fire alarm!

"Everyone follow me" commanded the waiter, in a tone that rather belied his obsequious and previously mild-mannered comportment and a tone that, furthermore, brooked no argument at all. Down the stairs, out of the door and across to the other side of Princes Street, there to contemplate, in more or less equal measure, the shenanigans of Edinburgh's fire department as they put out the modest kitchen conflagration and the discomfiture of those who had been evicted from their rooms in states of varying déshabille. After 20 minutes thus pleasantly occupied, we involuntary hotel émigrés went back to our seats in the restaurant, where we were promised tea and coffee to quieten nerves jangled by the alarm or the déshabille.

The coffee drunk I began to ready myself for departure, off to the conference room in the hotel where I was booked to run a sales training course. Then, in came the waiter carrying a salver and, with a flourish, he removed its cover and proudly presented me with - another plate of kippers!

It would have been churlish after such fine customer service to have refused the offering and so I stayed for another ten minutes, devouring the kippers which, it must be said, had slightly lost their novelty value by this stage. But finish them I did and, significantly more belly-laden than I am accustomed to being after breakfast, I strolled, rather more quickly than I would have done without the morning’s multifarious delays, to the training room to meet my group, hoping that my delivery would not be unduly affected by the presence, in my digestive system, of a significant proportion of the North Sea’s piscatorial fauna.

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