Left Out in the Cold When the Medieval Hotel That She Had Called Home for Twenty Years Closed, Hilary Is Befriended by a Compassionate Northumbrian
|Hilary on the Go|
"She's been a big part of the hotel and village for so long that we simply couldn't let her go hungry."
-- Kath Lennon
Guests and staffers came and went but for more than twenty years Hilary was the one constant that never changed at The Lord Crewe Arms Hotel in the tiny medieval village of Blanchard in Northumberland. She played in the garden, slept in the boiler room, and was fed by the employees.
The good times came to a screeching halt at the end of January when the twenty-one room establishment, which dates to 1165, closed its doors. That left Hilary with no place to go and nothing to eat.
"I was in the hotel bar on its last night before closure and asked what would happen to Hilary," Kath Lennon, who is one of Blanchard's one-hundred-forty permanent residents, told the Daily Mail on February 20th. (See "Give a Mog a Home: Villagers Rally Round to Shelter Twenty-Year-Old Cat after Hotel Where It Lived Is Closed.") "Everybody wanted to make sure she was all right and I volunteered to feed her."
Consequently, she now feeds Hilary twice a day and brings her milk. She also intervened in order to make sure that the hotel's boiler room remained open so that Hilary would have a place to live and not be forced to rough it in the elements, which can get rather nasty this far north in England.
Although the state of her health has not been disclosed, the rescue plan appears to be succeeding. "She's a hardy cat and certainly hasn't lost her appetite," Lennon observed.
It is not known, however, what kind of psychological impact the hotel's closing is having on her. On the one hand, she might miss all the hustle and bustle and social interaction with staffers and guests but, on the other hand, she might just as well consider her newfound peace and quiet to be a godsend.
With cats it is not always easy to decipher their preferences. For instance, some of them suffer from separation anxiety, just like dogs, if they become too closely attached to their human counterparts.
Unlike so many uncaring individuals who not only callously abandon cats to their own devices without so much as a second thought but also hand them over to shelters and veterinarians to kill with impunity, that never was an option as far as Lennon was concerned. "She's been a big part of the hotel and village for so long that we simply couldn't let her go hungry," she told the Daily Mail in the article cited supra.
|The Hotel's Exterior and Shingle|
That not only speaks volumes for her but it is considerably more than can be said for Garry Smith and his cronies at J&G Inns, which had been operating the hotel under a lease from The Lord Crewe Arms Charitable Trust. Even if compassion, common decency, and an attactment to auld lang syne were insufficient inducements in order to prompt them to make some provision for Hilary's continued care, bon sens alone should have dictated that she is one of the hotel's most valuable assets.
"Hilary is one of the village's best-known characters -- to both residents and visitors," Lennon declared to the Daily Mail. "People come around specially to say hello to her and visitors remember her."
As for the hotel itself, the Trust is in the process of finalizing a deal to lease it to Calcot Hotels. The two of them then are planning on renovating it to the tune of £1 million and reopening it in March of next year. (See Hexham Courant, May 14, 2012, "Million Pound Facelift Set to Revitalize Hotel.")
So far, the only particulars announced by Calcot are to reopen the front doors and to stock the hotel's bar with locally brewed ales. Beyond that it is difficult to imagine how many additional changes it is going to be able to make without spoiling the hotel's medieval motif which features, inter alia, stone fireplaces, ancient timber beams, and stone-flagged floors. As it is now constituted, it fits perfectly into the cityscape of Blanchard which has not changed all that much in the past two-hundred-fifty years.
Much more importantly, it is unknown what impact these and other renovations are destined to have on Hilary's situation. Hopefully, her needs and rights will be respected and she will be allowed to go on living there. Nevertheless, Lennon and her other supporters must remain vigilant.
As for Calcot and the Trust, neither of them have publicly commented on Hilary's status and that demonstrates not only a total lack of compassion and concern on their part but an absence of business acumen as well. She is a living, sentient being and therefore should count for far more than shekel accumulation.
It nevertheless is welcome news that the old hotel soon will be back in operation. Originally part of the Abbey of Blanchard, The Lord Crewe Arms boasts a history that is steeped in political intrigue. For example, monks used to hide out there where they no doubt also put the hotel's hidden stairways to good use.
During the 1715 Jacobite uprising, Northumbrian politician and landowner "General" Thomas Forster (1683-1738), concealed himself in the hotel's massive fireplace in order to elude his pursuers. To this very day local folklore maintains that the premises are haunted by his long-dead sister, Dorothy.
|The Hotel's Famous Fireplace|
In more modern times, poets W.H. Auden and Philip Larkin used to frequent the premises. It also has served as the setting for movies based on Dame Catherine Cookson's novels.
When it does reopen it is unlikely that Calcot will retain the establishment's old rack rates and reasonably priced food and booze. According to its web site, double rooms with breakfast for two could be had for as little as £75 during the winter months and a three-course lunch on a Sunday cost only £16.95 per person.
Hilary is indeed fortunate that she has Lennon to look after her because most innkeepers think and behave like J&G and therefore cannot be counted upon to show anything remotely resembling compassion to their resident felines. In addition to simply ignoring and abandoning them, some proprietors nakedly exploit them as a prelude to chucking them out in the street once they have outlived their usefulness.
One of the most egregious exploiters and abusers of cats in recent memory was the historic Anderson House Hotel, located one block removed from the banks of the muddy Mississippi in Wabasha, Minnesota. Beginning sometime in the 1970's and lasting until it went bankrupt and closed on March 19, 2009, the bed and breakfast employed dozens, if not indeed hundreds, of cats to spend the night in the rooms of guests.
Since cats are creatures of habit and belong more to places than to people, all of this bandying about and constantly being fobbed off on total strangers no doubt wreaked havoc with the orderly existence that they all so crave. More importantly, no one knows what sorts of abuse they were subjected to at the hands of both guests and management.
Their plight only came to light in 2008 when owner Teresa Smith went public in a crass attempt to pick up some new recruits on the cheap. In doing so, she let slip that she was giving the sack to a ten to twelve year old orange cat named Morris and a three-year-old black tom named Fred who had been on the job for only a year.
"I think he'd be happier somewhere else," she said of Morris. "He's a very loving cat but on his terms."
On the hotel's web site she was bit more forthcoming. "Morris is ready to retire -- can't handle the new kids on the block," she opined. "He loves attention but does not like to be picked up."
She alternately described Fred as a cat who "thinks he's a dog" and a "cool cat." She also maintained that he was "very loving and will be great for anyone." By that she quite obviously meant anyone except her and Anderson House.
|The Anderson House Hotel|
Various reports on the web maintain that some of Anderson House's castoffs were adopted by staffers and local residents but even if that is partially true it still does not account for the majority of them. Specifically, it never has been publicly disclosed what eventually happened to Morris and Fred and their co-workers Mini Morris, Ginger, Arnold, and Aloysius.
The hotel can say whatever it pleases but it is highly unlikely that very many of its overnight cats ever lived long enough in order to die of either old age or natural causes. Moreover, none of them ever received a pension, a room in an old cats' home, or so much as a simple thank you for their years of faithful service.
Almost as outrageous, no animal protection group ever intervened on their behalf. (See Cat Defender post of May 15, 2008 entitled "Predatory Capitalism Rears Its Ugly Head as Minnesota Bed and Breakfast Sacks 'Overnight' Cats, Morris and Fred.")
In November of last year, local residents Brian and Rachel Yenter purchased the bed and breakfast and plan on reopening sometime this year but without any cats. (See Wabasha-Kellogg Chamber of Commerce and Convention Visitors Bureau's press release of November 28, 2011, "Historic Anderson House Changes Hands.")
During the autumn of 2010, Hôtel Le Bristol, located just off the Champs Elysées in Paris, brought on board a handsome white Birman with beautiful blue eyes named Fa-raon in order to provide a source of amusement for the children of its upscale clientele. For the most part, however, he was not expected to spend his nights with guests.
There cannot be any denying, however, that he has been placed in a difficult situation and only time will tell how long he is going to be able to persevere and how he is treated by both management and guests. (See Cat Defender post of December 14, 2010 entitled "Hôtel Le Bristol Saddles Fa-raon with the Odious Task of Playing Nursemaid to the Spoiled Brats of the Rich.")
Of course, some establishments are prevented from being more hospitable toward cats because the local authorities stringently enforce health codes that bar them from premises where food is sold. For example, back in 2007 the Clipper Ship Inn in Salem, Massachusetts, lost its license to serve food because it kept cats. (See Cat Defender post of May 21, 2007 entitled "Salem, Massachusetts, Is Going After Cats Again Much Like It Did During 1692 Witch Trials.")
In late 2011, the Health Department in Manhattan ordered the Algonquin Hotel to keep its resident feline, Matilda III, out of all areas where food is prepared and served. (See Cat Defender post of December 5, 2011 entitled "The Algonquin Cruelly Responds to Threats Made by New York City by Trussing Up Matilda III and Bombarding Her with Shock Therapy.")
Since the New York City landmark has been closed since early January for renovations Matilda has been forced into exile at an undisclosed location in upstate New York. She is expected to return once the hotel reopens for business on May 24th but the same restrictions that made her previous tenure so onerous will still be in place.
In spite of that, the hotel is planning on exploiting her notoriety by offering a special "Matilda Package" that includes a room for two, continental breakfast (a thimbleful of orange juice and a donut at most venues), and cocktails for $329. Included in the deal are a stuffed replica of her, a mask, and a book about cats.
Instead of having the guts to stand up to Mayor Mike "Dirty Bloomers" Bloomberg and his administration's draconian anti-cat agenda, the Algonquin has elected to knuckle under and to suck the blood right out of Matilda's veins. (See The Financial of Tbilisi, April 12, 2012, "Algonquin Cat Returns to The Algonquin" and New York Post, May 16, 2012, "Matilda to Waltz Back In.")
The most common form of abuse meted out to cats by innkeepers is that of unconscionable neglect. For example, management at the D-Sands Condominium Motel in Lincoln, Oregon, allowed a cat named Marmalade to wander around its grounds for months back in 2007 with a prolapsed rectum.
The tom had been run down and injured by a hit-and-run motorist and then attacked by a raccoon that had killed his mate. More than likely, he would have died if Jennifer Spathis, a vacationer from Michigan, had not come to his aid.
"I think the amazing thing is he was in terrible shape for months and everyone commented on him, but it took one person sending out an e-mail to take care of the problem," Sharon Murphy of PAWS Animal Shelter in West Linn, which treated Marmalade, observed. As for him, the game plan called for Marmalade to be socialized and then put up for adoption. Failing that, he was to be made into a barn cat.
The superlative work done by Spathis and PAWS in no way excuses the motel's abhorrent neglect of this badly injured and grievously suffering cat. (See Cat Defender post of October 16, 2007 entitled "Tourists from Michigan Save the Life of a Critically Ill Oregon Cat Named Marmalade.")
Although it is difficult to gauge from afar how well a cat is being treated, it would appear from all the information available that a former stray named Roosevelt enjoys a rather happy and salubrious life at the Lake Quinault Lodge on the coast of Washington State. Not only has he been given free rein of the premises but he is allowed to accompany guests on hikes through surrounding Olympia National Park.
Plus, some employees think so much of him that they spend their breaks with him. "...he just loves it here," waitress Leslie Blain said in late 2007. "He's like a concierge. He goes on the deck and greets people. Everyone loves him." (See Cat Defender post of January 7, 2008 entitled "Roosevelt, Who Has Brightened the Lives of So Many Vacationers, Now Sets His Sights on Saving Other Homeless Cats and Dogs.")
Despite the value that all societies place on money, guns, and lies, life is really about values and choices and as far as cats are concerned that means respecting not only their inalienable right to live but their prerogatives as well. Through their words and deeds, Lennon, Spathis, and the Lake Quinault Lodge have demonstrated that they are on the right track; the same cannot be said, however, for either most individuals or the hospitality industry in general.
Photos: North News and the Daily Mail (Hilary), The Lord Crewe Arms Hotel (sign and fireplace), Minnesota Bed and Breakfasts (Anderson House), and News-Times of Newport, Oregon (Marmalade).