Pembroke: Book a bedroom before the dog does

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The Independent Online
Bob Payton, the avuncular American who gave us the Chicago Pizza Pie Factory and Henry J Bean bars is getting really carried away at Stapleford Park, his country house hotel in Leicestershire.

Only last week Mr Payton, a fully paid-up member of the school of whacky marketing, announced a special dogs weekend where canines qualify for special rates. Now he has unveiled plans for a new set of themed rooms. From August, punters will be able to pay pounds 200 a night to stay in the IBM room, the Coca-Cola room or the Range Rover suite.

IBM says the whole thing is very subtle. As you would expect from 'Big Blue' the room has a certain blue-ish hue though 'not the typical IBM colour,' says an IBM-er. 'It's a much more vibrant Mediterranean colour. It's sexy.' The decor is a play on the letters I, B and M. The wallpaper is a deep blue with bees on it. The lamps and other furnishings will have eyes printed on them. And the M? 'We haven't thought of anything for the Ms yet.'

The bedroom will feature a mini office complete with computer. 'The kind of people that come here run their own companies but most are computer-illiterate because they have some 22-year-old whizz kid at the office who does all that stuff,' says Mr Payton. 'Here they can twiddle away without feeling embarrassed about it.'

It's a winner, he says. 'People are queueing up already.'

I wonder what Peter Morgan, director-general of the Institute of Directors, made of an interview with him that appeared in the Yorkshire Post the other day. The article, headlined 'Morgan the Mouth talks hard business' described him as tonsured, officious and prosaic.

He might not be the only business leader a trifle disappointed with their description. The IoD is described as being 'widely more representative of the British business community than the rather higher-profile CBI.' I wonder what Howard Davies made of that?

Britain's budding choristers will soon be passing through new portals. Addington Palace, home to the Royal School of Church Music, has been put up for sale by its owners, the London Borough of Croydon. Offers in excess of pounds 850,000 are invited by 29 April for the 28-bedroom Grade II listed palace set in nearly four acres of grounds landscaped by Capability Brown.

A feared rent increase has forced the move. The RCSM has occupied the palace since the 1950s on a nominal rent of pounds 1,000 a year. 'We are a registered charity and any significant increase would have been crippling,' says its secretary, Charles King.

But the school has landed on its feet. Next year it will move to Cleveland Lodge, a country house in Dorking that was bequeathed to it by the late organist Susie Jeans. 'It needs a bit of work but we are launching an appeal for pounds 1.5m in June to fund refurbishments,' says Mr King.

Guardian, the insurance company that recently dropped the Royal Exchange bit of its name and adopted an owl as its logo, has parted company with one of its longest-serving directors. Donald Gordon, 63, is stepping down after 20 years on the board.

Mr Gordon, a square- shouldered, bullet-headed South African, is a big-hitter in the insurance world. Founder of South Africa's Liberty Life in 1958, he is also on the board of Transatlantic Holdings and Capital and Counties, the shopping centre developer.

Mr Gordon, who allegedly gets by on four or five hours' sleep a night, plans to devote more time to his South African activities.

I know the Easter weather was grim but the Association of British Insurers is surely going over the top by sending out details of its rain insurance. Pluvius insurance, which will pay out if a stipulated amount of rain falls during the duration of the policy, is aimed at organisers of outside events. 'It just seemed like a good idea at the time,' explains an association spokesman, limply.

(Photograph omitted)

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