The Clerembeax Palace Hotel and Spa – The Glorious 12th
The beautiful Downshire village of Clerembeax St Giles was situated to the west of Abbeyvale located between Grace Hill and Bushy Down and on the outskirts was the Clerembeax Palace Hotel and Spa.
It was once the home the Clerembeax’s, who arrived in Downshire following the Norman conquests and stayed for a thousand years before the name died out following the death of the reclusive Marcus Clerembeax at the age of 96.
The current owner was Yvonne Labuschagne, who decided to open it as a Hotel and Spa.
The Spa was a good attraction, but it was crucial for them to maintain a high occupancy rate, however things were tough in the Hotel trade with the success of Travelodge, Premier Inn and Holiday Inn Express and so places like the Palace needed to offer something extra to attract the guests, apart from the Spa.
So, they put on novelty weekends, such as “Murder Mysteries” and in addition, they had a sizable Ballroom which was used for special occasions, high days and holidays, which boosted occupancy and Spa numbers at the same time.
But it was necessary to offer guests as wide a range of activities as possible during their stay, to attract them in the first place, and hopefully to come back, which was why they bought and stabled horses up at Stevens Farm, in order to offer riding.
The Stevens farm bordered the Clerembeax Estate, so it was a natural choice and it was a large farm which had at its centre a large farmhouse, parts of which dated back six centuries, which had been added to over the years to accommodate the changing needs of the family.
There were also a significant number of out buildings, including a stable block.
The farm was run by Russ Stevens and his three sisters, Mary, Rose and Muriel.
However, they had plenty of farm work to keep them busy, so they had little or nothing to do with the horses, so Hotel Manager Hannah Morgan employed the Storey Brothers, Adam and Craig to do the job.
Russ Stevens was the oldest of the Stevens clan and was tall muscular, rugged and bald and nothing like the Stevens girls, who were all good looking, with red hair and striking Celtic green eyes.
He had taken the reins at the farm after his father’s death which was also the point he gave up on his choice of career and a personal life as he had to raise his sisters as well as run the farm.
So, his hopes of being a Chef were dashed and because he didn’t have a minute spare in his life he had no significant other.
But now the girls either all had someone in their lives, or someone in their sights, he was left feeling lonely, he loved his sisters dearly, and they him, but that wasn’t the same as having someone to snuggle up to at the end of the day, someone to share the mundane minutiae of the day.
But he couldn’t think of himself, not when he had the girls to raise and had to be strong for them.
It was 10.00am on a glorious July morning and Russ was sat in the yard taking a well-deserved coffee break and he was in melancholic mood as he had just seen Rosie and Phil pass by and although they had only been together for a relatively short while it was oblivious even to a blind man that they were in love.
They looked so happy that he found he was quite envious, which made him feel very guilty, and it made him feel lonelier than ever.
However, he chastised himself for his selfishness and consoled himself with the fact that he at least had more mouths to feed and more opportunities to show off in the kitchen.
After the investment that the Hotel had made, Hotel Manager Hannah Morgan, was anxious to see the fruits of that investments, so early one morning she drove up to the farm on the way to work.
The Storey brothers, Adam and Craig, had worked hard to get the riding stables up and running, and as they walked across the yard towards the farmhouse, Hannah’s car pulled into the yard and she called out the window.
“Hannah?” Adam said, “is that you?”
“What are you doing out in the real world?”
“I’ve come to see what you’ve both been up to” she replied
“Come on then we’ll give you the tour” Craig said
“You’ve done a lot” Hannah said after being shown around
“Well if your satisfied, come and get breakfast” Adam said
“No, I won’t stop” she replied
“Just come in for a coffee then” Craig added
“No, I wouldn’t want to impose” she insisted
“Russ won’t be happy” Adam said “He’s very big on hospitality”
“Oh ok, just a coffee”
Adam pushed open the door and stepped in and said
“Morning Russ, we’ve brought you another victim”
“Oh good, the more the merrier” he retorted, and then he looked at the lovely dark-haired woman
“This is Hannah”
“Ah I’ve heard a lot about you” Russ said and shook her hand, and
“All good I hope” Hannah said
“Absolutely not” Adam replied “And she’s turned her nose up at your breakfast”
“That’s ok, sit down” he said amiably “Can I get you a tea or coffee?”
When breakfast was first mentioned, she was expecting it to be the usual greasy full English, but the aromas in the kitchen got her taste buds going, devilled kidneys, kedgeree, masala eggs and fresh baked rolls so she said.
“I may have been a little hasty”
“Well there are other attractions” Adam said as the door opened and two of the Stevens girls walked in
“So, I see” Hannah re-joined and smiled at Russ
It was a long leisurely breakfast with good conversation and great banter.
“My God that was good” Hannah said after clearing her second plate “No wonder you two enjoy it up here so much”
“He’s good, isn’t he?” Muriel said
“Oh yes” she replied, but she wasn’t entirely referring to the cooking.
Over the following few weeks Hannah made several more visits to the stables, always around meal times, but Muriel was sure that her interest in the farm wasn’t restricted to the status of the stable’s or Russ’s culinary skills.
She had also noticed how her bothers demeanour changed whenever Hannah walked in, however knowing her brother as she did she also knew that nothing would progress between them without an intervention from her and her sisters, Mary and Rosie.
Mary wasn’t entirely convinced by Muriel’s assertion and was the only one of the Stephens family who hadn’t met Hannah before.
So, Muriel suggested she should be in the kitchen when she arrived to witness her brother’s reaction for herself, and when she did her chin almost hit the floor.
“My God, its true” she whispered to Muriel
“I told you so” she retorted
“So, you’re the Hotel manager?” Mary said
“Well Muriel is very grateful to you for sending the Storeys” Mary said and giggled
“So, have you given Hannah her invitation?” Muriel said
“Invitation?” Hannah asked
“Yes, its Russ’s birthday next week, and we’re having a big celebration dinner” Mary said
“Oh…er… yes” Russ stammered
“So, you must come” Muriel insisted
“I would really like that but, I can’t do next week, my sister Charlotte is visiting” she said in reply to Muriel, while looking at Russ, and he looked visibly deflated until Mary suggested
“Bring her along”
Hannah and Charlotte left the Hotel together, both wearing summer dresses and made up to the nines and they both looked stunning with the sun shining on their raven black hair, as it was such a pleasant August evening they decided to walk up to Stevens Farm, which was a gentle walk that Hannah had made many times before.
It was obvious even to the casual observer that they were sisters, Charlotte was just a curvier version of her older sibling.
“Are you sure we needed to dress up?” Charlotte asked
“Of course, I am” Hannah replied
“After all, how often do we get the chance to dress up?”
“But why couldn’t I just wear jeans?”
“Because it would have looked like I was trying to hard” Hannah replied
“Why do you have to make life so complicated?” Charlotte asked and laughed
Russ Stevens was, under normal circumstances, a confident and unshakeable cook, but that night he was a bag of nerves, and the girls all tried to calm things down by lightening the mood but were only partially successful.
As they approached the farm house Hannah suddenly stopped and said in alarm
“Do I look ok?”
“Yes” Charlotte replied
“Really?” she asked, “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure, you look gorgeous, the same as always” Charlotte retorted
“Ok” she said doubtfully and exhaled a long slow breath and then when they reached the door Hannah knocked lightly on it and then went straight in
“Hello” she called, and Muriel was the first to appear
“Wow you two look stunning” she said and kissed Hannah’s cheek and then Hannah introduced her to Charlotte and then she in turn introduced her to the rest of the family and their partners.
“Where’s the birthday boy?” Hannah asked “I have a gift for him”
“He’s in the kitchen and he’s unusually flustered” Mary explained “Why don’t you go in and settle his nerves”
“Oh, I think you over estimate my influence” she said rather superciliously
“And I think you underestimate it” Muriel said “Go on, in you go, we’ll look after Charlotte”
When she walked in, Russ had his back to her, so she said tentatively
“Hello” and made him jump
“Oh hello” he said suddenly feeling even more flustered and she smiled at the sudden realisation that Muriel had been right
“Happy Birthday!” she said and handed him an envelope
“There’s a little gift in there, or at least the promise of a gift,
An IOU if you like, in lieu of the actual gift”
“You shouldn’t have really” he replied as he opened the envelope and read the inscription “Wow”
“Well as it’s the Glorious 12th, and you like to cook, I thought a brace of Grouse would be quite appropriate or is the plural grouses or Grice or ….”
She was prevented from rambling on any further because he was kissing her.
The remaining guest were assembled on the patio enjoying pre-dinner drinks.
“I hope it won’t be long” Rosie said “I’m starving”
“I’ll go and see” Mary said and there was a murmur of approval
But she was only gone for a minute and as she reappeared Muriel asked
“How is it going in there?”
“Ok, but dinner may be a little delayed” Rosie replied
“Not the food” Muriel said, “how is it going?”
“Oh, I see” Rosie said “Well they’re kissing so I suppose it’s going quite well”
“What exactly do you mean by kissing?” Mary asked, “was it a peck on the cheek or a “thank for the birthday card” kiss or was it something else?”
“Something else I’d say” Rosie said “They’re snogging”