Meet Rita Cliffe, Human Resources Administrator and formerly

Housekeeper Superstar

Rita Cliffe's early career was spent in one of Central London's most impressive Victorian-Gothic buildings, The Hotel Russell. Its magnificent lobby is clad in marble and lit by crystal chandeliers. Little wonder then that she chose to move on to work in another ancient building steeped in historical significance – 3 De Havilland Road.

Rita worked at the hotel for nine years as a Housekeeper, progressing to the post of Deputy-Head Housekeeper. Rita served an apprenticeship under the formidable Mrs. Hassan, and this lady's rules became imprinted on Rita's brain:

"Every room must look identical to the one next door, down to the placement of the complimentary pencil and the decorative folding of the toilet paper."

"Every room must appear to the guest as if he is the first person to have ever stayed in it."

The job came with long hours and poor pay. But it was always varied, and often amusing...

There were many foreign guests, including Japanese. Apparently Japanese baths have an overflow reservoir running outside the top of the bath. The bather can refresh his bath water while allowing the dirty water to run away over the top of the bath (perhaps like your local swimming pool). Several times Rita or her colleagues had to burst in on Japanese guests peacefully enjoying their bath while flooding the rooms beneath…

Once a guest rang down to reception, saying that he couldn't find the door to get out of the room. He had found the wardrobe doors and the bathroom door, and next to this there was a door that he couldn't open because it had a sign on it saying "Do not Disturb". Rita gently explained that this was a sign for the guest's use, to place on the outside of that door…

Lost property items included several fur-lined handcuffs and whips, and once an artificial leg. It was never claimed – perhaps its owner couldn't remember where he'd left it. 

The work changed as Rita's career progressed. There was less room checking, more administration, and more work with people. Rita was eventually responsible for 40 staff, and found herself often helping them over personal difficulties. Her interest in personnel work was sparked.

I asked Rita how the job had influenced her work at BACS. She told me "Well, like at the hotel, every day here is different. I am using the organisational skills I learned there, and trying to achieve the same high standards that were demanded there".

Brian: "And how has it influenced your life outside?"

Rita: "Well, at home, the toilet paper is always folded beautifully."