Shallowfield sat on the southern edge of the Finchbottom Vale and was bordered on the other side by the Dancingdean forest and the town’s fortunes had always relied largely upon forestry and agriculture for its survival.
In the post war years with rationing and a shortage of work a lot of people moved away from the area and it only just survived and the community around Teardrop Lake fared even worse.
Only a few of the houses around the Lake were thriving, a lot of the houses had been rented out and those that hadn’t were in a poor state of repair, some too such an extent they were little more than ruins.
But by the 70s however things were beginning to change, thanks mainly to tourism as a result of an increase in leisure time.
This trend was reflected by the fact that the previously derelict Shallowfield Lodge, which had been inherited by a young couple from Lincolnshire, Rob and Sheryl Brown, was being turned into a Hotel.
From then on Shallowfield went from strength to strength which was echoed by the fortunes of the Claremont Hotel.
It was once the home of a wealthy Downshire family but like so many similar great houses in the county it fell into disuse as the fortunes of the owners suffered after the Great War.
It had had many reincarnations since then, particularly in the years between the wars and had been used for many things over the post war years but it wasn’t until the 60s that it became The Claremont Hotel.
However things had got tough in the Hotel trade with the success of Travelodge, Premier Inn and Holiday Inn Express and so places like the Claremont needed to offer something extra to attract the guests.
In the early summer a new manager was appointed, Matthew Millward, and he was an instant hit with the locals because he was young, tall, dark and handsome, physically fit, well-toned and had a reputation as a fair minded guy, which had very much preceded him.
He was 28 years old and his father owned the Millward Manor chain of hotels and he was grooming him to one day take over the reins of his worldwide hotel empire, the problem was that Matt had no head for business and he felt that he was more of an artistic soul.
Which could possibly have been ignored but for the fact that he had broken off his engagement with the granddaughter of his father’s oldest friend.
However that in itself wasn’t what had him exiled, it was Elaine’s attempted suicide, not that his action had caused her mental meltdown, it was rather more her mental instability being the deciding factor that forced him to end the engagement.
So it was decided to send Matt to the Claremont Hotel where he could do no real harm until the dust settled.
When he first found out he was being sent to Shallowfield, Matt was very unhappy, he was a city boy, born and bred, and he viewed being sent to the country as purgatory, but no one was more surprised than he was when he found that he actually loved it, it was a beautiful place, it was quiet and the air was clean and he felt immediately at home.
When he first found out he was being sent to Shallowfield Matt was very unhappy, he was a city boy, born and bred, and he viewed being sent to the country as purgatory, but no one was more surprised than he was when he found that he actually loved it, it was a beautiful place, it was quiet and the air was clean and he felt immediately at home.
After the broken engagement and the resulting fall out Matthew Millward decided that he would not under any circumstances get himself romantically entangled while he was on punishment duty.
But there is a very apt saying which goes “never on your own doorstep” which he had clearly never heard because on his first day he fell head over heels for the Hospitality Manager, Sarah Poole, although in his defence the feeling was mutual.
Although apart from two very passionate kisses, the first initiated by her and the second by him, and the fact they were hopelessly in love with each other nothing else happened.
She was five foot eight with short red hair, in a pixie cut, mesmerizing green eyes and a cute figure with curves in all the right places and long slender legs.
Sarah was 26 years old and wasn’t looking for a relationship either because she was married, albeit to an alcoholic who hadn’t had shown her any marital attention for two years but she was still married to him nonetheless.
Sarah had worked at the hotel for since she left school, five years in housekeeping, five more in hospitality, and for two of those as Manager and she loved her job.
Despite the fact that Matthew was sent to the Claremont as a punishment and possessed no head for business he surprised his father as well as himself by doing a very acceptable job of managing the hotel and had grown the corporate side of the business and it was becoming a very popular venue for functions.
This was as a result in no small measure to his decision to promote the former Hospitality Manager Sarah Poole.
This was after Martin Tyrer tendered his resignation, he had been a loyal employee of the Millward Manor group for ten years and had been the Assistant Manager at the Claremont for 5 of those and when the Manager’s vacancy came up he believed he was a shoe in for the job.
So when Matthew Millward was parachuted in over his head it was just too much for him to take.
It left Matthew in a very difficult position as he needed someone who knew the place inside out and Sarah Poole was the only person that really fitted the bill so he offered her the job.
Matthews father was particularly pleased with him, there had been no reported mishaps and he had turned around the fortunes of the hotel, and so he invited him up to Abbottsford for the weekend for a celebratory meal but as he was conscious that his success was due more to Sarah Poole’s efforts than his own he dragged her along as well.
The following weekend he went on his own, the meal was very good and it was nice to see his parents but he didn’t stay the whole weekend as he was missing the quiet of Claremont.
And in truth he was a little embarrassed taking all the credit for the success at the Claremont plus he rather missed Sarah.
Matthew felt very pleased with himself for persuading Sarah to take the assistant Managers job although it was for purely selfish reasons.
Having Sarah as assistant manager, who was not only hard working and diligent but could also handle the guests very well, meant he could comfortably leave her in charge while he was doing what he did best, letting other people get on with it.
Sarah Poole was five foot eight with long shapely legs, but in his leather chair she looked quite small, almost childlike, her head, with her pixie cut red hair was turned to the side and she had an angelic look on her face.
It was a pretty face that he was very familiar with, he saw it every day at work and every night in his dreams.
Matthew Millward’s arrival at the hotel had a massive impact on Sarah Poole, and not just the fact that she fell in love with him at first sight and the relationship that had developed between them after she had stolen a kiss on his first day.
She had been promoted from Hospitality Manager into the assistant manager’s position and she had been able to leave her alcoholic husband because she was living in the Gate Lodge.
And Matthew had decided that because she had done such a wonderful job, to such an extent that she was making him look good, coupled with the fact that he was in love with her, he decided she deserved a reward, and he knew just the thing, her own office.
Which he surprised her with in November after Sarah had a week off to move the remainder of her possessions from her former marital home in the village to her new home at the Gate Lodge and she was thrilled with it.
Although Sarah was living in the gate lodge and had started the process of divorcing her alcoholic husband, and had completely lost her heart to her boss, they had not progressed from sharing the occasional spine-tingling kiss.
She knew though that he was just being the gentleman and was waiting until she was ready, well by December she was.
It was on Christmas Eve when Sarah was sitting in her office opening the mail and she had a rather large parcel addressed to her personally, she opened it and found a gift wrapped present inside but she didn’t open it, she just read the card instead
“Have a very Merry Christmas Sarah, with love from a very grateful Guest”
“Well that’s lovely” she said to herself and then she remembered that she had a present to deliver as well.
After she had finished opening the mail she ordered what sounded like a very interesting sandwich from the kitchen which turned out to be rather boring so she drank the cup of tea that came with it and decided to go and deliver a present of her own.
Sarah stood in the hall holding a Christmas package when she knocked on the door of his suite.
When the door opened she found Matthew Millward standing there wearing a dressing gown.
“Happy Christmas Matthew” she said beaming a big smile and holding out the package.
“Wow Happy Christmas Sarah” he responded, “come in”
“Ok” she said still smiling broadly “but no impropriety”
“No impropriety” he agreed and Sarah stepped inside
“You didn’t have to get me a gift,” he said to her as she sat down on the sofa.
“I think I did though because last Christmas Ken was drunk for ten days in a row, we had no decorations, because he ripped them all down in a drunken rage, no tree for the same reason, no Christmas dinner because he spent all the housekeeping money on booze and there were no presents” she said and tears were beginning to form in her eyes
“This year, I have a new job, which I love, I have somewhere I can call home, which I love, I have my own office, which I also love, I have money in the bank and a bright future ahead and it’s all thanks to you”
He tried to interrupt but Sarah continued
“If you hadn’t helped me, believed in me, I wouldn’t be here now having the best Christmas I’ve ever had since I was child, and I will always be grateful for that, and the other things of course” she added and blushed as she stood up and produced a sprig of mistletoe.
“Doesn’t that constitute “impropriety”?” he asked
“No this doesn’t count” she explained
“We have to kiss, it’s the law”
“What law?” he asked
“Christmas law” Sarah replied
“Oh ok then” he conceded and they kissed and afterwards she said
“I don’t want to have to use mistletoe like this again”
“Ok I’ll try and remember for next year”
“No that’s not what I mean” She said and smiled “I want to be able to kiss you at any time I want, wherever I want, no matter who might be looking”
“Are you sure?” he asked
“Absolutely, it’s time for me to be happy” she replied and kissed him again.
After satisfying the Christmas ritual and establishing the new status of their relationship, she left his suite.
Matthew was leaving to spend Christmas in Abbottsford with his parents while she was on duty.
She had volunteered to give people with family the time off, but they would be spending New Year’s Eve together and the New Year would be their new beginning.
“Happy Christmas to me, I’ve got a boyfriend” she said as she walked down the hall smiling broadly.