The race for a bed in the Adelphi Hotel Stakes

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What do you do when you get bombed? You get bombed, naturally enough. That, anyway, was the response of punters at the Grand National after the IRA had decided that their cause could be advanced by disrupting one of the few British institutions that is popular in the Republic. Disappointed racegoers returned in droves to their hotels in Liverpool, determined to party. And, as revealed in Hotel, BBC1's documentary about that venerable Merseyside monument, the Adelphi Hotel, party they did.

But, as any Cheltenham hotelier will confirm, catering for racegoers who unexpectedly find time on their hands can be a challenging exercise. At Festival time, Cotswold landlords remove delicate paintings and chandeliers from the public rooms, stock up the bar and ensure that lounges are adequately stocked with card tables. Faced with a superfluity of guests on Saturday night, the Adelphi management, with the commercial opportunism that has become a hallmark of their home city, decided that what was needed was mattresses, and plenty of them.

"We're going to play The War Years," general manager Eileen Downey announced. "We'll fit out our function rooms beautifully with brand new beds." Flunkeys were dispatched to the bowels of the great hotel to unearth mattresses which seemed far from brand-new - indeed, one of the first out of the pile seemed to have been the site of an unfortunate and rather wet accident some time in the last century.

But the guests were not feeling fussy. They wanted tea and sympathy and somewhere to lay their heads, and most of them got all three. Mrs Owens, the tea-room supremo, was used to dispensing perhaps 30 pots of an afternoon. During her 12-hour shift on the day of the race that never was, she sent out upwards of 400, refreshing jockeys, owners, trainers, punters and minor television celebrities. At least, Gail of Coronation Street was happy with tea: Richard Whiteley, the Countdown host, wanted "two bottles of white... oh, all right, one big one".

As the long night wore on, more guests came around to Whiteley's point of view. Some jockeys, still in breeches and boots, strutted their stuff in the disco; others doffed their kit and headed en masse for the hotel's sauna, where they combined the intake of calories in liquid form with their loss in vapour.

Back upstairs, Christine, the gigantically pregnant chief receptionist, was selling a room that had unexpectedly become vacant for well above the going rate. "What will you give me?" she demanded of a sleepy would-be guest. "pounds 200? All right, pounds 199."

Meanwhile, someone who thought he already was a guest leered drunkenly at the camera, unaware that it was his room that Christine was busy re- offering. The man's mistake had been to attempt to confirm his reservation at noon, before going off to the races. Having got doubly bombed, he was now having difficulty coming to terms with the fact that he would be sleeping on the streets. A smart-suited security man drove the message home by propelling the protesting unfortunate through the revolving doors at high speed.

He was not the only unwelcome visitor. Eileen, who was proving a tougher cookie than a fossilised Digestive, twice ejected a young lady whose morals she suspected. Her suspicions may, of course, have been quite groundless, but the girl's outfit - powder-blue miniskirt, black feather boa, skyscraper heels - suggested otherwise.

Eileen declared herself satisfied when the hotel had achieved the remarkable figure of 117 per cent occupancy. "If He shows up on his donkey," she declared, "we're still full." Unreasonable, given that she had already accommodated many less well-behaved horsemen.

The staff were rewarded for their unstinting efforts with meagre bonuses - Christine reckoned she would get pounds 7, after tax - but also with a day out at the rescheduled Grand National where, considering their opportunities for eavesdropping over the weekend, they should all have made a tidy profit. The hotel management hardly needed to bet to achieve that.

Liverpool was also the setting for a rare early clip from Match of the Day, included in Auntie - The Inside Story of the BBC (BBC1). "Welcome to Beatleville!" exclaimed Kenneth Wolstenholme, introducing excerpts of a Liverpool v Arsenal game. It was revealed that Match of the Day was conceived in order to train cameramen to follow the ball in time for the 1966 World Cup. By the time Moore & Co had triumphed at Wembley, MOTD was an established hit. This much was believable. But Wolstenholme a Beatles fan? Surely not.

They Think It's All Over (BBC1) lurched back for yet another series, cunningly scheduled straight after Men Behaving Badly. Indeed, so similar are the two in tone that it can't be long before a Birtian cost-cutter realises the potential of They Think It's All Behaving Badly, in which Lee Hurst tries to get off with Lesley Ash while David Gower and Martin Clunes share Chardonnay and minor public school jokes in the kitchen.

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