Father and daughter bond at the E&O
JULY 9 — Working at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel reminded me of why I joined the industry in the first place. It’s a luxury hotel with glamour, romance and intrigue, but most of all it has what many other hotels are unable to offer and that is the fact that it is 127 years old.
The walls of the E&O are steeped in history, many repeat visitors have personal fond memories they can share whilst staying at the hotel.
I had only been here for a few months when one day, as I was walking through the lobby on the way back to my office, I saw a young woman standing under the grand dome holding a small shiny vase.
She looked a little perturbed, so I slowly made my way in her direction to ask if she needed any assistance. She introduced herself as Caroline and informed me that her father used to serve with the Armed Forces here many, many years ago and he used to always come to the E&O to eat and to go ballroom dancing.
She went on to inform me that the E&O was one of his most favourite places in the whole world. She held on to the vase tightly and went on to say that her beloved father had recently died and had requested that his ashes be scattered on the hotel grounds.
As she was telling me this, I realised that her father’s ashes were in the vase she was holding on to so tightly. I was taken aback by the request she was making yet could not help but be awe inspired by the way Caroline was holding herself together during such an emotional moment.
I told her that it would be an honour for us if she scattered her father’s ashes in our garden and off she went to do so on the flowers and plants close to the wall.
After she was finished I watched her slowly walk through the front door on the way out, wiping away a few tears whilst holding on to the empty vase. I could not help but tear up with the thought of what was going through her mind.
About three weeks later, I saw her sitting on the wall having a glass of wine whilst talking to herself, so I went over to enquire if she was all right. Caroline informed me that she would come over here at least twice a month to have a glass of wine, sit in the very same spot where she had scattered the ashes and talk to her father.
I left her alone so she could enjoy her very private moment with her dad and she did this every couple of weeks for over two years until it was time for her and her family to move onto their next posting.
Two years later as I was arriving at the hotel and shaking the hands of my staff, there was an elderly chap standing under the same copper dome, leaning rather gingerly on a walking stick.
After wishing him a very good morning, he introduced himself as Mr Johnson and told me that he also served here over 50 years ago as a young soldier and was already savouring the memories after just arriving on a 14-hour flight.
He said that he had many, many wonderful memories of his evenings and dances at the hotel and as his bottom lip started to tremble whilst re-living his history, he managed to compose himself and went on to explain that there used to be an old lift somewhere that he used to sneak up to see his old girlfriend.
When I informed him that the same original lift was still here and most importantly still in working order, he was extremely surprised to say the very least. When I asked him if he would like to go for a ride, his legs wobbled a little, making it apparent that the walking stick had enabled him to stay on his feet.
We entered the lift for a short three-floor ride to the top and back down again. The entire ride took no more than two to three minutes, but was sufficient time to have this wonderful gentleman in tears.
He started off out of the lift and across the lobby before turning around to face me for a second and as he turned around he told me that he would now go to his grave a happy man and this was a day he would surely never forget.
I stood there speechless after hearing what he had just said to me and instantly tried to grapple with the importance a ride in a lift could have possibly meant to him.
There is something I know for certain and that is that after I left the E&O Hotel, I will never be able to work in another hotel like that for as long as I live.
Hotels are either 127 years old or they are not, it’s that simple and that special; you can’t buy heritage. This is why I held on to the position of the general manager there as long as I could and prayed that the owners kept me there until I was unable to carry on due to old age.
Oh and before I forget, did I tell you that Caroline called me last week? She informed me that the whole family was going there to visit the E&O in December for a couple of weeks. She told me that she wants to sit on the wall, have a glass of wine and wish her father a Merry Christmas.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.