19 MAY 1961, Page 33

COhtiUmin interest

Clubs for Climbers

By LESLIE ADRIAN There are other practical advantages, too. Members have first call on the use of mountain huts, as well as on their bedrooms (which can mean a comfortable night in a bed instead of a kip on the floor of a dormitory); and for a hire fee of 2s. 6d. a week members can borrow a master key to the unattended refuges. There are also detailed mountain maps to be bad, and advice on the hiring of guides.

The clubs in all the Alpine countries have arranged that their members can enjoy each other's facilities. Relations above the tree line seem to be less nationalistic than at sea level.

The Austrian Alpine Club is the easiest and cheapest for English people to join. Membership (1 guinea a year for new members, with reduc- tions for wives, children and students) can be arranged through the Ramblers' Association Ser- vices (48 Park Road, NW1; AM Bassador 1001), or Harold Ingham (26 Old Bond Street, WI; MAYfair 9885).

There are, however, special advantages in join- ing the club of the country, of belonging, say, to the Swiss Alpine Club in Switzerland. These are worth the consideration of anyone certain cf confining his rambles to the Alps of one country. The London tourist offices of Germany, Italy, France and Switzerland will put inquirers in touch with the appropriate Alpine club.

Mountaineering guide books are hard to come by in London. The best source is Thomas J. Gaston (14 Bishop's Court, WC2; CHAncery • - - 'Guaranteed untouched by human foot.' 2787), who have sixty-five different guidebooks in stock, some of them rather rare. A'complets list can he obtained in return for a stamped addressed envelope. The only Alpine moun- taineering guide published in English is Edward Wrangham's Selected Climbs in the Range of Mont Blanc (1957).

Alpine walkers (ramblers and scramblers with- out ropes and ice-axes) should try to get hold of Hubert Walker's Walking in the Alps. Written with the novice in mind, although not for him exclusively, it includes detailed descriptions of walking routes graded according to difficulty, and related to the location of convenient inns and mountain huts. Ranges are precisely described and clearly charted, and all distances are given in walking time as well as kilometres. Unfor- tunately there is no paper-back rucksack edition.

'Apologies for the lateness of this message but nevertheless heartfelt congratulations upon the first anniversary of my order accepted by you but as yet unconsummated for one OTTOMAN (ref. F 4292 of 14 April, 1960; your delivery date there given as sixteen weeks from order).' This is the beginning of a correspondent's letter to Hille, the furniture manufacturers, who had supplied him with a chair but not with the matching ottoman (their word for a footstool) —and a chair of which the arm had begun to fall off after three months. The letter obviously appealed to Hille's sense of humour, for it brought results as no previous appeal had done, and the poor man has at last got what be ordered. Or nearly what he ordered. He seems now content with the new chair and ottoman with which they have supplied him, but one phrase in their reply strikes me as being very sinister indeed. His chair, and the ottoman ordered, were made of black PVC. However, . . . 'as we have now received from America the charcoal naugahyde which we shall be using in place of this [black PVC] in future, we are proposing to deliver to you a new reclining chair together with the ottoman. . . . We have made and supplied no ottomans in black PVC to date, as we have been awaiting the arrival of the charcoal naugahyde.' The italics are mine: throughout his year waiting they were making no effort at all to make the thing for which they had taken his order. Suppose he didn't want charcoal naugahyde? If the chair they originally supplied him with had not collapsed, would he have been forced to take a non- matching ottoman or none at all? It is in- credible that people can get away with this sort of thing.

I travelled to Swansea last week for the open- ing of a new hotel, the Dragon, right at the centre of the city's reconstruction scheme. The Dragon is run by Trust Houses, the largest chain of hotels in this country. There is a certain, rather English, mediocrity about some of the medium and small Trust Houses, whose pro- prietors don't, for example, go to any great lengths to accommodate the traveller who wants a late lunch or dinner. The Dragon may well serve as an example to them. Every room has a bath and a shower and the bath towels are the largest I have seen in any hotel. Plugs are supplied for electric shavers- 110 and 230 volts—and they have been sensibly placed in the bedroom rather than the bathroom, where you might conceivably give yourself an electric shock. All rooms are wired for television and you only have to ask at the desk to have one installed. The bedroom mirror is not full length, but is ingeniously placed and designed so that you can easily see yourself full length in it have been imagining the harrowing dis- cussions that must have gone on at the mock-up stage on the subject of toilet paper: it's obvious that very strong views were held by two factions, neither of whom could convince the other. The result is the best possible one. Guests have a choice of rolls, one hard paper and one soft paper.

A good deal of thought has gone into the hotel's services, too. Laundry can be done over- night if you are really in a hurry. The central heating automatically comes on when the tem- perature drops below 65°, but if you're still cold you can have an electric fire. Meals in the restaurant are at the usual times, but there is also a buttery offering meals continuously through the day. Early breakfast is from 7 a.m. and other meals are cooked to order at any time through to 11.30 p.m.

The best indication of how guests at this hotel are likely to be looked after is the quality of the staff quarters. Nearly every hotel proprietor in the trade will tell you in a hopeless sort of way that he can't do anything about the staff problem. The best one I know, however, once told me that 'you only have to pay them well and treat them well for them to treat guests well.' I saw the rooms for the living-in staff at the Dragon. Relatively speaking, they're as good as the guests' rooms.


Last autumn 1 mentioned a book called New York on $5 a Day. I was then fool enough to lend it to someone who was going off to live in New York who disappeared across the Atlantic without trace, leaving me with no record of the publisher, and those who wrote in were sent empty away. Now another book has come in—Mexico on $5 a Day—in the same series, and I can say that both are published by Crown Publishers Inc., 419 Park Avenue, South New York, 16. It might even be worth the while of anyone heading off in either direction to order these from America.