Saturday, 1 February 2014
HIGHS AND LOWS AT THE HILTON
BY JIM BLACK
HE’S 26, tall and very presentable. He also happens to be one of Britain’s most successful golfers.
Perhaps I should quickly add that Cameron McDiarmid has only ten percent vision in his right eye and none at all in his left.
Cameron, you see, is a leading member of the Scottish Blind Golf Society and the reigning Blind Open champion, playing off a handicap of 14.
Our paths crossed the other month at a function in Glasgow. We met by chance when I surrendered to age and aching bones.
Desperately in need of a seat and spying an empty berth nearby I flopped down and breathed a sigh of relief.
But after several moments I became aware of a figure hovering over me and the thought immediately occurred to me that I had just planted my rear in someone else’s seat.
The usual Glasgow response to such cheek is either a sharp comment or a sore face but in the event I escaped unscathed.
Indeed, when I apologised for my lack of manners, the young man insisted on me remaining where I was.
I admit that I couldn’t help noticing that my new acquaintance was visually impaired.
Soon we were chatting freely and as we had clearly both attended the annual PGA lunch I assumed that he had some involvement in golf.
Introductions made, the next 45 minutes turned out to be utterly fascinating as I listened to Cameron explain what it’s like to be a blind golfer.
But it wasn’t Cameron’s many and quite remarkable achievements as a golfer that impressed me most.
It was his humility, positivity and humbleness which struck me.
Not a hint of bitterness at falling victim to cancer at the age of just 18 months old and the subsequent consequences of that hellish disease.
Not the least suggestion of self-pity or anger. “What would be the point in becoming bitter?” he asked. “That would only impinge on the things I can do.”
There were times when I felt a lump in my throat and also a sense of shame that I fly off the handle at the least provocation, for no matter what further advances are made in medicine, Cameron is resigned to never having his sight restored.
We’ve arranged to meet up soon when I plan to interview Cameron in greater detail.
Meantime, thanks Cameron for helping to at least partially restore my faith in human nature and for also helping me appreciate a little more the importance of being blessed with normal vision.
How ironic then that out meeting took place at the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow’s William Street where two years ago almost exactly to the day I was the victim of an incident that involved a member of the waiting staff spilling an entire plate of food over me at the same event.
This resulted in the ruination of my suit, shirt, silk tie and dress handkerchief at a cost of several hundred pounds. It also utterly ruined the day as I was forced to leave early rather than make a complete spectacle of myself sitting in soiled clothing for the remainder of the lunch.
A member of staff had made a half-hearted attempt to remove the grease stains, but when my jacket was returned to me it was in a worse state than when it left my keeping!
The incident, I should add, was witnessed by no fewer than nine fellow journalists. Yet, when I duly billed the perpetrators – the Hilton as it was a member of that hotel’s staff who was responsible – for the items of clothing plus a dry-cleaning bill I was reimbursed only for the latter charge.
The general manager of the establishment explained by return that while he regretted my inconvenience and apologised for the incident, he was unable to reimburse me for the ruined article of clothing.
He also explained that accidents do happen and rather arrogantly suggested I seek advice from my own insurer.
I met with the same response when I pursued the matter with that gentleman’s successor at a later date.
Yet when I sought the guidance of two associates who hold senior positions in the hotel industry in Glasgow both assured me that they would not have hesitated in accepting liability had the incident occurred at either of their establishments.
It seems reasonable to speculate therefore that while there appears to be no need to fear being “trashed” without being forced to resort to legal process by the city’s finer, more welcoming establishments, it is advisable to take a change of clothing should you be planning on dining at the Hilton.
In reply, Mr Craig Gardner, the then general manager, closed by adding insult to injury by saying: “I do hope that this unfortunate incident will not inhibit your future use of our hotel and I do hope to welcome you back in the not too distant future.”
Sir, hell will freeze over before I visit any establishment in the Hilton group at my own expense - other than as a guest at a function to which I am invited.