Series 4 - No. 9, Torquay

The sign for the Number Nine hotel, Torquay

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Tue 11:10 2 Dec

Alex heads to Torquay, which was once home to Britain’s most notorious fictional hotel. The 12-room guesthouse Number Nine is no Fawlty Towers, but it is certainly faulty – losing both guests and money. Owner Rachel Roffe admits she is out of her depth. “A week after I moved here, I remember sitting in the garden, and I just burst into tears and thought, ‘Oh my God, what have I done?’” she recalls.

It transpires that Rachel bought her B&B in a fit of pique to plaster over the cracks in her life – but an empty hotel cannot fix a broken heart. Alex finds that Number Nine is cluttered, chintzy and too much of a reflection of Rachel’s personal life, making guests feel uncomfortable. She also realises that Rachel is not being straight about her finances and is in denial about several areas of the B&B that need attention. Rachel tells Alex that her dream is to open a guest house that has a 1950s theme, but Alex is unsure. Although she quickly warms to Rachel’s peculiar traits and infectious personality, Alex finds her ideas frustrating.

The second visit to Number Nine is emotionally exhausting for Alex. She is concerned that Rachel is living like a hermit, cut off from the real world, so she takes her to see some successful local guesthouses in the hope that she can learn from the competition. But the plan backfires when Rachel becomes downhearted by the sheer quality of her rivals. The visit also reinforces how lonely Rachel is. Over a meal, she reveals that the last four years have been a personal nightmare and that she has been suffering from depression. “I get so low,” she says. “You feel like crawling into bed, throwing the duvet over your head and not coming out for a week,” Alex sympathises.

The following day, Alex urges Rachel to stop living in the past and focus on the future. She also tells her that she must design her own guide to Torquay, which will force her out of the house and help her to get to know the area. With Rachel out, Alex de-clutters the lounge in a mini-makeover to show that less is more. Upon her return, Rachel is delighted with the results. For the first time there is a sense of hope that Number Nine might just work – and Alex is certain that Rachel is key to its success. “Your unique selling point at the hotel is you,” she says.

Alex returns for her final visit to find Rachel newly invigorated and Number Nine pleasingly de-cluttered. Alex organises a big makeover of the basement breakfast area and one of the bedrooms, delighting Rachel with her modern take on the 50s theme. Alex then reveals that Rachel has to show off the new Number Nine to fellow 50s enthusiasts for their seal of approval. A nervous Rachel takes them on a tour – and the new look is a big hit. A rejuvenated Rachel reflects on what Alex’s help has meant to her. “You’ve made me feel I’m worth something,” she says. “You’ve had faith in me – which is lovely – and it’s made me believe in myself as well.”

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