I am going to have a little moan here at other organisations and web sites, so forgive my negative input - as I would love to be able to work with other organisations and offer a wider range of services, yet over the years the incompompetance and slow method of working with others has driven me mad and I despair for people relying on the services of some organisations with staff who have zero interest or passion in what they are doing, or they are just so caught up in ego and wanting to be the star of the show it drives me nuts when this stops good work being undertaken because they cannot see beyond their own self all the time.
I bought Hamilton Hall for cash - with no mortgage - having worked hard for 15 years as a full time escort in London and saved my money and paid a mortgage on my Hammersmith home, bought 100% with escorting income - and I always declared my income and paid tax as a sex worker ( so what does that make the tax man - yes you've guessed it ... A PIMP. ) I then spent an aditional £100,000 on Hamilton Hall getting it furnished and recarpeted, re plumbed and totally re-done throughout in order to open. This was between March and July 2000.
I then ran out of money - I had over spent.
It then took 3 years before we started to get busy enough to start paying off some of the credit card debts I had run up paying for advertising this new venue, which I did get wrong and did place expensive adverts in magazines that were a complete and utter waste of time and money, and my overdraft was huge and worrying.
It took me - in all - 6 years to pay off those credit card bills and huge overdraft and we struggled BIG TIME - even though business picked up, the workshops were always busy and income was good.
Owning a venue is just the start of the outgoings and these are high, very high, as electricity and gas do not come cheap and we have many hidden costs which are only applied to businesses and some of these are crippling.
But even though the hard times, the times when I had to return many times to my old profession - escort work - in order to pay some of the bills around here, we still gave incredible value for money and still - always - offered free holiday periods to people with HIV and Aids and to elderly retired gay men who were short of funds, and always ran around helping, guiding and offering assistance to others wherever and whenever we could.
At times I have lost the plot, become a mad thing, angry and stressed and I have not been pleasant to be around and one staff member in particular, put up with a lot. When you are struggling financially and worrying about the overdraft, and the bills and the fear of loosing what you have worked so hard for and all the while you receive hate mail from embittered queens who envy and resent and who love to throw bile at you and who have absolutely no idea - and who actually themselves offer bugger all to anyone, and all they do is take take take, and that is hard. I also had a relationship 'in there' for a few years that turned me into a mad thing, and I was - a mad thing... angry. And all along I was watching my Mother - in her mid 80's - sliding into dementia and falling over and needing the ambulance all the time, and even breaking bones and ending up in a care home, and it was heart rendering at a time when I thought my emotions could take no more. It was hard to keep going. Hard to stay focused. Hard to cope - and with little support from friends I thought better of, I struggled. Thankfully, a whole new 'family' of friends manifested locally - mostly all customers of ours here who had moved to Bournemouth and became close, and with their help, their support and most of all, their love, I came out the other side and began to see clearly again, and with the help of a good staff, we came back on track and life is good again.
The credit crunch hit us hard and we again struggled but the TV programme '3 IN A BED ' really helped us to have the best year ( 2010 ) we have ever had and now the whole venue has been double glazed...
Any profit we have made, however small, has always been re-applied into the busines, - into this innovative venue that helps and shares with so many people, and we are able to keep our prices down while offering a far superior venue than is often found in smaller hotels such as this - in order to offer something a little nicer - more comfortable and intimate than you would find anywhere else. In order to be able to offer people who need a vacation but are less well off ;- to be able to experience and enjoy Hamiltoin Hall for free and in order to share this wonderous journey with no strings attached.
In 2010 we offered £1,400 worth of free holidays to guys with HIV & Aids through the Terrence Higgins Trust and after sending 3 e mails over a 3 week period, and then phoning several times, I was left feeling as if I had to BEG the T.H.T. to take our holidays - our FREE holidays - and even made to feel I had to beg to get any kind of professional response from them at all, I withdrew the offer. We were stunned and appalled at the incompetant service offered and the unprofessional manner in which we had been - first - COMPLETELY ignored - then second - TREATED AS A NUISANCE. The man was obnoxiously rude and condescending and kept tutting and sighing as if we were an absolute pain in the ass - a smell under his nose, an annoyance to be suffered.
So I took my offer to the Elton John Foundation - and guess what: - We got the same unprofessional and arrogant attitude from them as well, and again, the offer was withdrawn after some weeks of trying to get some kind of response from someone - somewhere - ANYWHERE - within the EJF. The guy I eventually spoke to had not read our e mails clearly and was keeping the holidays until the next fund raiser when
they would be auctioned off to the highest bidder and this was NOT what I had offered them for, and NOT AT ALL
what my covering e mails had indicated . The guy was rude and obtuse when I explained he had got it wrong and patronising in his manner towards us, and I was so angry at his attitude I told him to go fuck himself and again, withdrew the offer.
If this is typical of the level of professional aptitude offered by staff at these organisations towards someone offering something for free, then all I can say is that service users must find it bloody hard work and a real trial dealing with staff members with these kinds of unprofessional attitudes towards others. Are they in a job to offer the best they can for others - or for themselves ? Is there too much ego involved ?
We were all stunned here at Hamilton Hall. Truly stunned.
Now I know these organisations offer a service that is greatly respected and valued by many. I do hear from other organisations concerning how hard it is to do business with them and as I have experienced, it was at their loss - and I will never - ever - fund raise or work with either organisation again.
This reminds me - back in 2002 I approached Age Concern here in Bournemouth offering a free Christmas Party in early December for a group of elderly people, and it took me 6 months to get anyone from Age Concern to answer and visit, and then they spent the next 45 minutes here talking 'at me' offering every excuse they could think of why it would NOT work, why they could NOT bring people here for a free party and why they would NOT be taking it any further, and I was utterly disgusted.
Not one reason was legit except they couldn't damned well be bothered, they were too lazy and to hell with the fact that they may have been volunteers, - as why volunteer if you are NOT going to do what you are there to do ?
So:- Through my elderly Mother, I made one phone call to a friend of hers, and within 30 minutes had arranged a party for 20 elderely people to come for a Christmas Party and it was as easy as that - and we had a wonderful afternoon and everyone who attended was given a gift for Christmas - yet Age Concern simply couldn't be bothered.
( I should have done this in the first place, but stupidly assumed Age Concern would be a good organisation to approach - but how wrong was I ... )
Since the Channel 4's programme - '3 IN A BED' was broadcast in April 2010, we have been inundated with requests from various organisations who saw what we are offering on the telly and professionally wrote lovely letters explaining about some of their service users needs, and we were soon booked up for our free weekend and free week periods .
One guy sent by an Aids Charity told us how he had just bought himself a £3,500 new TV, which astounded us as I cannot afford a telly like this - so why was he here on a free holiday when he could perfectly well afford to pay for it himself if he has that kind of money to splash around on a telly.
Another charity sent someone who never turned up and the charity couldn't even be bothered to communicate with us, apologise, thank us and hope we would still offer them free space - we simply never heard and even when I complained about the lack of professional aptitude offered, they couldn't have given a fart.
Shame of the staff who so betray the ethos of what these organisations are all about..
In 2009 - 3 windows started falling out of the building with rot and great pieces of the frames were found laying in the garden. We did not dare clean the glass as it would have fallen out. This was at a time when the credit crunch was hitting hard, we were overdrawn at the bank ( as usual ) and I had to spend £1,500 on some root canal work on my teeth as I had been living in agony for 6 months trying hard not to have to pay for it to be done. The National Health dentist had buggered it all up and made the teeth worse - not better - and I had to go private to get it sorted - and I was facing an important choice.
1) Have the windows replaced and this meant having 2 big molars taken out - or
2) have the root canal work and not have the windows done, - but there was no question - the windows were a must - and it was an old friend and client from my escort days who stated that I MUST have my teeth done and I must NOT have them out at the expense of windows... so he offered and paid for the root canal work and I paid for the windows, so we were lucky enough to have both done... and
it is not every day you meet someone who is willing to prostitute himself
in order to keep a 'NOT FOR PROFIT VENUE' running
and who seriously considered having teeth out in order to keep
his venue open, and this is dedication.
We struggle financially because we offer great value for money - give away far too much to far too many and offer hours and hours of our time and effort sharing with those who often do not tip, do not contribute towards the cost and think it funny and clever to 'get something for nothing' when they could afford to pay and do not - somethies - even say thankyou. It is just expected. We have had to learn to be a little tougher in business and be selective who we offer anything to.
I get my studio at the top of Hamilton Hall, which I often take guests to, talking in my private space - and I have my food and so forth, but anything else I may want - always comes second or even third to new double glazing - new patio furniture - new paint or a new bedroom carpet, and everything is geared around this venue being decent, clean and a wonderful place to visit and to return to. It is not about me, and I often sit shivvering upstairs in my flat - so that the hotel side can be warmer and the bills just that tiny bit more affordable, and sometimes I think this is madness, as the property is worth a great deal and I am a wealthy man - but everything I have, everything I am, is in Hamilton Hall and Hamilton Hall is here for those who wish for something better out of life.
We offer the largest Diary of Events offered to gay men anywhere in Europe. More events. More functions. More workshops. More parties. More singles events and more for the older gay man than anywhere else, and yet we still struggle financially and we still keep offering more and more.
We still have a hard time with other groups - like Caffmos, which is an internet group for elderly guys, and the fear and arrogance offered - when they refused 16 events offered by me for their members,;- as NOT FOR PROFIT EVENTS, for a group with a completely empty Diary of Events for 2010 at the time, and this was utterly and completely disgraceful.
They threw me off as a member and even returned my membership fee - which I never received - and all because they were afraid of us - afraid someone was trying to 'take over' rather than simply offer some nice pleasant events for local older men - and used some really petty lame excuse to throw me off the group - and many other members were disgusted at John - who runs Caffmos, for his short sighted attitude and refusal to allow his members the choice of attending our events, or not, and taking it upon himself that no one would be allowed to offer an event unless he approved of it beforehand, which while I agree with this, HE HAD BUGGER ALL ON OFFER and I was offering Coffee Mornings - a Bridge Evening - Weekly Dinner Parties - Monthly Socials - all sorts of things which would have been wonderful for his members - as many are lonely and need something other than the usual gay scene - and yet his behaviour was one of fear - fearful of someone not in it for the money, the fame or anything else other than offering something nice. . It is not constructive. It is not supportive and it is not decent. It certainly is not what his members are paying for.
And all because some people cannot get their head around someone who is doing all this for no income personally, and every penny earned into Hamilton Hall goes back, in some way, to helping others.
Caffmos - - Shame on you.
Do not assume any of these organisations set up to help people will actually do what they are set up to do. Sometimes they may come through for you, but so many times they do not, and with paid members of staff and volunteers in place to help, it is disgraceful when they sometimes act so badly and offer so little and expect so much prasie and glory for doing bugger all.
I must say here, that maybe I am just unlucky. I am sure there are those who work hard and offer a very good service, whether paid or not, and I am sure a lot of the service users have been very helped over the years. It is unfortunate that from my expeience, this has not always been the case. I would dearly have loved to work with the THT or EJF or anyone who wants to offer a thing of beauty to others without egoes and attitude and finances being a problem, but unfortunately this has not been the case. So I continue on in my own way and with an 85% repeat clientelle and just under 7 million page hits to this web site last year ( 2012 ) I shall plod on doing my own thing, in my own way, and I shall concentrate on those worthy of my offerings.
So there you are. Not the usual story you read about a gay man who owns a venue aimed at the gay market, who drives a fast car, takes loads of expensive vacations a year and shows his wealth off in many ways. Not the usual 'me me me' attitude and certainly not what you would expect. Some question - which says more about them :- Some accept, which is wonderful : - Some take advantage - which is sad and some offer help and positive guidance and input - which is always valued and accepted.
If you'd like to comment or share with me, I always welcome constructive input.
If all you want to do is moan and find fault - then bugger off.