Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Day in the Life of the Coylet

Since some of you may wonder what it is I do at my job, I will now present a lengthy description of a day in the life of a Coylet Inn General Assistant.

The earliest shift starts at 8am. Breakfast is served only to hotel guests or "residents" as we call them. With usually two people to a room and only four rooms there's rarely more than 8 people for breakfast. The tables are set with cutlery, cups, side plates, jams and sugar the night before so all that has to be added in the morning is butter, jugs of milk and menus. I do this after walking around the hotel turning on all the lights, starting up the coffee machine and unlocking the doors.

While waiting for people to come down for breakfast I start by vacuuming the bar ("hoovering" as they call it over here) and mopping up the floor behind it. Then the public toilets have to be cleaned up and the vacuuming done everywhere else that's carpeted - the entryway and hall and the "lounge" which is the more casual part of the restaurant. Generally by this time I'm waiting on breakfast people, so some of those tasks have to wait until I finish. While doing breakfast I bring out crockery (coffee mugs, saucers, jugs and side plates) from the kitchen to the "little" kitchen that is used by us front staff for preparing tea and coffee, "sauces" ( i.e. condiments), etc. Then cutlery for the bar and for people who come to the restaurant without a booking has to be "rolled" - that is you pair together certain items, like a knife and a fork or a butter knife and a soup spoon and roll them up in a napkin. The fancy restaurant cutlery has to be polished as well in the morning. So those tasks are good to occupy me while I keep an eye on the breakfasters.

At 10am another person starts on the front staff, or on many days I start at that time myself. At that time one person finishes up whatever's left to do downstairs. The following are tasks that have to be done that I haven't mentioned so far. Fires have to be lit in the fireplaces (always in the bar and sometimes in the hall and restaurant fireplaces duing cold weather). What's interesting to me is that they burn coal primarily with some wood, and that burning coal is common in this country. Then the bar has to be stocked with soft drinks, juices, wines and bottled beers. The ice bucket has to be filled up and fruit cut up for drinks.

While one person finishes up downstairs the other can go upstairs to do the rooms once guests have checked out or left for the day. When everything downstairs is finished the second person can join the upstairs work and just keep an eye on the downstairs from time to time. Cleaning the rooms is fairly straightforward. If the people are staying another night you make up the bed, change and really wet towels, empty the garbage cans ("rubbish bins"), replace any dirty dishes from the tea tray and wipe out the bathtub, sink and toilet.

If the people are leaving then you strip down the bed and make it up again. Beds are made differently here than I am used to. A flat sheet is folded around the mattress the way that a fitted sheet would be back home. Then a duvet cover goes on the duvet and that's put on the bed with the end of it tucked under the foot of the mattress. Then there's a bedspread that gets called a "bed cover" over here, that's put no over the bed and pillows. That's it, there's no second sheet to lie under.

Then the rooms need a general dusting, the wood furniture a polishing, and all the towels need changing and fancy folding. The toliet paper has to have that triangular thing done to it and there needs to be a spare roll with it's end tucked in underneath it. There's shampoos for the bathroom and then there's the aforementioned tea tray that has to be stocked with cups, saucers, spoons, a teapot, a clean electric kettle, water glasses and packets of tea, coffee, hot chocolate, sugar, milk, and shortbread.

That process is repeated for all the rooms and then they're vacuumed at the end. The bed linens get bagged up to be sent out once a week. The towels are washed by us staff.

Lunch service starts at noon and goes until 2pm or 2:30pm depending on the day. It's pretty straight forward as well - taking people to tables, taking their orders, putting those orders into the computers to send them to the kitchen or the bar as necessary, setting the tables with cutlery and butter and sauces, bringing out food and then clearing it away. When the kitchen shuts down after lunch they make the staff lunches. If I'm working an 8am-4pm shift then I take a quick break from work to eat once it's not busy any more. If I started at 10am then I'm on what's called a split shif and I'm off at 2:30pm and then back on again at 6pm for supper time.

If I'm working until 4pm then I'd set tables for supper - tables for the residents plus any bookings, set with full cutlery for a three-course meal. Then it's often quiet until supper starts at 6pm so there's usually only one person on duty in the late afternoon, mostly minding the bar since that's all that's open.

When people start arriving for supper they often start with drinks in the bar if they've booked a table and they order their meals from there. The people working in the restaurant see the orders come up and we'll set tables for what food has been ordered and remove unnecessary cutlery from tables that are already set. When a table's food is about ready we bring them through from the bar and then bring out the food. Then it's just repeat that throughout the night. Last orders for meals are at 8:45pm and then we wait around while people have their desserts and tea and coffee. The coffee machine has to be cleaned nightly and the floors swept and mopped in the back areas. Once the restaurant is empty it can be set up for breakfast and that's if for the restaurant for the night. The staff suppers are ready by then so if I'm working a split shift I'm done by that point and can eat.

One person has to mind the bar until close, which is midnight on Friday and Saturday and 11pm otherwise, or earlier if no one's around. I haven't worked an afternoon until lock-up shift yet but I'm doing one today from 2pm onward. All that's new with it is counting up the money at the end and then locking the place up.

And that's a day at the Coylet.

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