When I checked out of the Old Golf House Hotel, I said to the receptionist that I had enjoyed my short stay. I also confided in her that I had been anxious about my booking because of negative reviews I had later read on TripAdvisor. I promised to leave a pretty good review.
One of the harsh critics of the hotel had referred to "homeless people" staying there. I wondered what that was all about. At breakfast, I got some answers from one of those guests.
The fellow's name was Kevin and he was around fifty years old. He was short and thin with what I can only describe as a weaselly appearance. With some gentle coaxing I got to know quite a lot about him.
About his broken home, his violent father, his lack of educational achievement, his old drug habits, his run-ins with the police. Memorably he also told me that he had lived in a tent in some woods for the best part of ten years. There was winter cold to contend with, sleepless nights, the business of finding food and aggression from teenage louts.
I asked him if he had ever heard of Bear Grylls, Britain's Chief Scout and allegedly an expert in survival skills. Surprisingly, Kevin had heard of him and he laughed with mirth and a measure of pride when I told him that he undoubtedly knew more about real life survival than Bear Grylls would ever know. But where is the TV survival show that stars Kevin or someone like him? They may not know how to make rope from tree bark or fire from flint but they know how to make it through long winter nights, month after month.
Along with half a dozen other people with desperate housing problems, Kevin had been put in The Old Golf Course Hotel by his local council before being offered a permanent home - namely a flat on a council estate at Birstall south of Leeds. He was going to see it that very morning and was hoping for the best.
He was a gentle soul. Life had dealt him a shitty hand but he wasn't bitter and he was grateful for any help or kindness he had been given. He admitted that staying in the hotel had been like a lovely holiday for him. By the way, he has never been out of Yorkshire his entire life and he laughed when I said, "Well, why would you want to be anywhere else?"
I met him again very briefly when I returned to the hotel around two o'clock to pick up a thermos flask I had absentmindedly left in my room. He was sitting on a low stone wall smoking a cigarette, having returned from viewing the flat he had been offered in Birstall. He said he was pleased with it and thought it would be just right for him. I wished him all the best and said that I hoped he would be happy there. My wallet was also lighter though he never asked for a penny. I just liked the guy.