Giving back: Ron finds himself on the receiving end

Although he’s a passionate believer in giving back to society by supporting people less fortunate than himself, Ron and his wife Lorna weren’t ready to be on the receiving end of Banks family generosity – which made the event all the more special…

“What do you mean, it’s been cancelled”, Ron had demanded of the receptionist at the front desk of the budget chain hotel. “Why would I turn up if I’d cancelled it? It must be an error in your computer. Look, I’ve brought the booking confirmation.”

Ron and Lorna had planned a weekend away. It was Lorna’s birthday, and they’d decided to spend the weekend in the north east of England, an area they’d somehow never got round to visiting before. But now it appeared to be going badly wrong, before Ron had lifted the suitcase from the car.

The receptionist was adamant. “No. it’s been cancelled, but there is a letter for you.” She held out a plain white envelope with their names printed on the front.

Ron took the envelope and exchanged a glance with his wife Lorna, who shrugged and nodded towards the envelope. “Probably best to open it, dear,” she said.

Ron ripped the envelope’s flap and pulled out a sheet of unheaded notepaper. “This had better be good,” he said, unfolding it. As he read, his expression changed to disbelief, and then pleasure, before going back to disbelief. He passed the paper to his wife as the receptionist spoke again. “The man who left that said it was only a couple of miles down the road,” she said, pulling a printed map onto the desk and drawing two circles on it; the first the hotel they were in; the second a much more expensive place. Ron knew it; they’d considered staying there, but discounted it because of the price, which they’d decided was too high. “This letter says we’re booked in there,” he said, pointlessly. Lorna had read it too, and the receptionist seemed to know. Perhaps the mysterious man who’d brought it had shared the information with her. She smiled at the couple and said: “Perhaps you are…”

With grudging disbelief Ron and Lorna went back to the car. Reversing from the parking space Ron said: “This had better not be some kind of hoax. If it is, I’ll… I’ll… I’ll think of something,” he muttered, darkly.

Lorna was more upbeat. “I’m sure it will be fine. Anyway, it’s a bit of an adventure, all this cloak and dagger stuff. Did the note say anything about meeting a man with a limp who’d be reading a copy of the Daily Telegraph up-side down?” He frowned at her. “You’ve been reading to many old-fashioned spy thrillers,” he said.

They passed the rest of the journey in silence, until they swung into the car park of the alternative hotel, a huge stone-built Victorian pile with a gravel drive in front of it and a massive Wisteria climbing the wall at one end.

“Swanky,” said Lorna. “Look, there’s a little girl who looks like Alice standing in the doorway.”

“And there’s a car that looks like Ollie’s” added Ron, as light began to dawn. “We’ve been had.”

It was Alice, and by now she was running across the car park towards them, towing her Dad Ollie by the hand. Lizzie was just behind, carrying baby Jack.

Ollie was the first to speak. “Hi Dad; Mum. You got here then?”

“Yes. What’s going on?” That was the ever-practical Ron.

“Well,” said Ollie, “We’ve been thinking about how much you help others, and how much you do for us all the time, and when mum said you were coming here for the weekend, we thought we’d come too, and put you up in this place.” He waved his arm in an expansive gesture, like a Lottery winner explaining that he’d just bought it. “It seemed like the right think to do. You don’t need to be bought ‘things’ any more, but there’s always room for a new experience, and for spending time together with nothing else to do but… spend time together.”

Ron had scooped Alice into his arms as he asked: “Isn’t it expensive?”

“Stoppit Dad. It might be expensive, but it’s not about the money, it’s about getting value from it. You know we’re better expense managers now we’re using Solo Expenses, and that means we’re able to focus our spending on things that actually ARE important, rather than frittering it away on things we only THINK are important. They’re not the same. Charity should begin at home, and we’re giving back something because of all you’ve given us.”

Ron smiled and winked, and drew his son into a hug with his free hand before turning to Lorna and asking: “Did you know about this?”

“Gotcha,” she said. “Let’s go in and see if we can’t get a cup of tea while we plan how we’re going to spend the weekend.”

“And cake,” said Alice.