I couldn't quite place the accent ... but it turned out that Leon came from Groningen, the largest town in northern Holland. In the UK for six months, his day job as a student is to be working on some sadly neglected clay pits / or natural water area just north of the town on Ely - that's where I am writing from. They're catching up on a backlog of work where trees have become so lopsided that they're dangerous, encouraging other wildlife such as otters, which already live nearby, to extend their territory into the place, and put in a few moorings for visiting narrow boats.
But they have run into the NIMBYs, and the people who feel that conservation means "do nothing and leave it as it is". All the more heated as their place is an SSSI (Sight of Special Scientific Interest) with the only Kimmeridge Clay cliff in the area - a falling face with dinosaur bones being exposed that causes great interest.
There are always two sides to a story, and of course I only heard the one last night, seated at the bar of the quirky "Castle Lodge Hotel". But I can sympathise so much with Leon. It appears that the owner of the pits also owns the big marina in the town, and when asked to make a size estimate by the local press said "the space is the equivalent in size of a marina of 1000 boats". Which, alas, was read as meaning "We want to build a marina with 1000 boats ....". Leon assures me that actually they want to keep the place as is, and prevent
anyone else building a marina on that scale - but it seems that they haven't convinced their opposition who it seems can't even be bothered to come along and learn about the plans, and are basing their case that shows heavy use already on a 3 day survey they did just after the place had a lot of TV coverage, counting some chap who says he comes to fish twice a day as 730 visitors per year as they reach their 90,000.
You could tell me that for the guy to compare the size to "A Marina for 1000" was foolish, and you could tell me that it must have been in the back of his mind when he chose that particular measurement. Maybe - or maybe a comment was taken out of context, and that's simply the units he thinks of.
I was comparing Melksham to Ely a week or two back as I prepared my train talk for today; this is being written wirelessless so I don't know when it will be posted - but I wasn't surprised to find this other comparison last night. After all, human nature is human nature, and you've got a town of around 16000 (Ely) and a town of around 24000 (Melksham).
"How many cars can you park without them blocking each other?" asked our planning application for No. 404 - our HQ and also home. "Twelve" we answered because - well, it was the truth if we used the grassy area, and it had been stressed to us that the highways folks would be concerned at any plans which left cars parked in the street. We never - not in a month of Sundays - intended to use all that space for cars but somehow we got read as "We will regularly have 12 cars here". How little did the protesters, the people who raised a petition against our plans and obstructed us at even step, realise just how small our footprint would be. At the peak of training at 404 it was rare to see more that 4 vehicles there and indeed there's so much space that we were able to replace the grass with more formal gardens that you certainly can't park on without a second thought.
Funnily enough (a humorless sort of "funny" though - "funny peculiar") the main protagonist against us is now firmly on side with our activities - anywhere from "null" on the hotel to protesting on our side in the case of the train service. I'm flattered but only half happy, fearing any statistical distortions which are used in our name.
As one does around the bar as it approaches closing time, we moved on to other topics with Leon - to the ebb and flow of guests in and out of the bar as they need a smoke, and to comparisons with smokey bars in the Netherlands. An excellent host for the evening, turning a strange place in a strange town to a night we won't forget it a while. It's the staff who make the memories of a place, and the customers who treasure those memories (written 2007-11-04, updated 2007-11-05)
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articlesM400 - Well House Manor - The Hospitality Business 
Excellent Railfuture conference, but some setup lessons - (2013-11-03) 
On reading a new hotel review - (2013-03-24) 
Official Star ratings for hotels - still worth having? - (2013-03-07) 
Three cheers for the staff at Well House Manor - (2013-01-24) 
Every Customer Counts - (2012-11-01) 
Guest review - Well House Manor, Melksham - (2012-08-14) 
A busy day at Well House Manor - so come in and make it even busier! - (2012-08-10) 
Sunday - no longer a day of rest - (2012-05-28) 
A Pivotal Incident - learning how to welcome your guests - (2012-03-18) 
Tipping Policy - Well House Manor - (2011-05-29) 
Brown - or Mrs Sally Brown, accountant from Whitstable? - (2011-02-10) 
Hotel star ratings - towards a better system of review - (2011-01-25) 
The service that customers should receive - (2010-08-27) 
Night Porter and reception - 24 hours a day? - (2010-07-20) 
Escapee Grandparents welcome - Henfield and Melksham - (2010-04-15) 
Food and drink launch - (2010-01-21) 
Turning potential customers away - (2009-07-24) 
Everyone is in the customer relations business - (2009-07-12) 
Launch of Melksham Food and Drink Festival - (2009-01-24) 
Guests doing a bunk? - (2008-11-09) 
All the pieces fall into place - hotel and courses - (2008-09-10) 
An extra step - victory from defeat - (2008-04-25) 
Hotelympia - show report - the lighter side - (2008-02-21) 
Looking after you Christmas Customer Crowds - (2007-11-26) 
Wiltshire - speaker / after dinner talker offer - (2007-11-05) 
An update on the West Wilts show ... - (2007-07-30) 
How NOT to oversell a hotel - (2007-06-27) 
Conjugation - (2007-05-08) 
A contrast in room rates and facilities - (2007-04-25) 
Hotel - online feedback forms compared - (2007-03-30) 
Express service - (2007-03-14) 
Writing terms and conditions for conferences and other events - (2007-02-17) 
Getting rid of people - hotel techniques - (2007-01-21) 
Bounce, bounce, bounce - (2007-01-20) 
Meet the neighbours - (2006-12-20) 
You should think you're first in a hotel room - (2006-12-15) 
Staying at your own hotel - (2006-11-12) 
Drive time - (2006-10-02) 
Bed and Breakfast, or Hotel? - (2006-06-22)
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