The Wedding Fire

When you are organising events and running a hotel, where anything and everything can go wrong, you have to be able to stay calm at least on the outside. The guests and staff are always looking to who is in charge and if that person exudes calm everything stays in the flow. When taking over the hotel I realised pretty quickly that I was able to stay calm in most situations. This did not mean that on the inside I was not freaking out at times, but in the interest of business and to make sure that I kept the staff, at least the capable ones, I had to “keep calm and carry on”. One of the toughest test to my ability to stay calm whilst under immense pressure happened at a wedding. Preparing for the brunch, the day after the wedding, on a beautiful sunny day in the early summer we realised that there were not enough sun beds around the pool. Luckily I had a stock of new ones in storage so I asked my handyman to assemble them as soon as possible. As the handyman’s tools were not sharp enough he decided to file them in his workshop. Unfortunately the workshop was filled with sawdust. What my handyman did not see was that the sparks from the filing of his tools fell into the sawdust. Twenty minutes later we heard as if there were fireworks in the workshop, located 50 meters from the main hotel buildings. We ran over to see massive flames, as high as 10-15 metres rising through the roof of the workshop, which soon collapsed. I was quick to call the firemen and then we just had to wait. My staff tried to use our fire extinguishers, but to no avail, the fire was too violent. My priority was to make sure that the wedding couple and their guests did not panic; luckily the brunch was to be held around the pool so I said to myself that they could always jump into the water should the fire spread. I was so concentrated on the guests that I forgot my youngest son who was in our house situated between the fire and the hotel. My Maitre d’hotel ran to get him out of the house.

Just about the same time as the fire erupted the wedding guests started to arrive for the brunch. I went out to the car park to reassure the guests upon their arrival, as the flames were high and there was definitely a smell of fire. I also made sure that they did not park anywhere close to the fire so as to a) allow the firemen access but also b) make sure that no car caught fire. Luckily there was no wind. With all the trees at le Manoir and the 500 year old oak tree just nearby we were definitely saved. Twenty-two minutes after my call the firemen showed up and within a few minutes the fire was put out and we could all breathe more easily. All the while the wedding guests had gathered  around the pool and the party was in full swing. Once the fire was put out and the firemen gone I went down to the party to increase the volume of the music. That was my way of showing, mostly to myself, that all was under control again. Yet another experience richer.