Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Here we go again

Back in hotels.

Checking in, the lady on the desk considerately mentions that there is an Xmas party in the hotel tonight and that she will try to find me a quiet room.

Tap tap tappity tap.



Looks up

I have a room on the other side of the hotel which will be quieter.....

.... it's a (yes, you guessed it)


It is at this point that I did something so uncharacteristic, so un-ENGLISH, that I worry I am in fact someone else, an Alien in Harlequin form.

I said no.

I may not even have said "no THANK YOU".

I just did a Mrs Reagan and just said "no"

I think this is why my room echos to the sounds of knocking hot water pipes. Why I have the only room number not displayed on signs and why my kettle just gave me an electric shock.

Do I care?

Do I heck.

I have a BATH, not a huge tiled room with floor rails.

True, when I brush my teeth, I virtually need to STAND in said bath, but a bath I have, nonetheless.

I'm very proud of myself.

Just a pity that the hotel has a health club, with 3 Jacuzzis, a steam room and sauna, so I don't need to use the bath.

But that's not the point.

Is it?

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

The dichotomy of hotel rooms

I remember, when I was a child, going on holiday with my parents. Typically, I'd share a room with my elder brother and we'd have an interconnecting door with my parents room, which would be open or at least ajar.

Sorry Mum and Dad.

A couple of years ago, we were talking about holidays and my Mum mentioned how, sometimes, she'd suggest we all go and have a nap, so that we could stay up later that night.

She also told me why.

There are SOME things about your parents that, even if you know intellectually, you need to NOT know emotionally.


Some of my earliest memories and indeed, some of my best, are of hotel rooms in various parts of the world and I can still remember the thrill, the excitement of being given a key and running into what would be our new home for a week or two. Even the mundane - the phone between my brother's bed and mine. Hotel stationery, embossed with a pseudo-crest like some D-Lister playing on a name not his own. I never did have anyone to write to, let alone someone who'd be impressed by the Hotel (silent H) de Charcuterie. Even wardrobes were thrilling.

Nowadays, I seem to spend a huge part of my life in hotel rooms. I have woken in hotels in far-flung parts of the world and only known where I was when I turned on the TV. Oddly, I still find a slight thrill as I stand on the threshold of my new temporary home, wondering, but today the only thrill seems to come when I find that, for a change, I haven't been given a disabled room.


I don't know what it is, but I seem to constantly get a disabled room. Recently I walked in my bedroom in Manchester, to find that my bathroom was twice the size of my bedroom. I'd opened the main door and been a little surprised at how small the bedroom was but hey, it was only for a couple of nights. I then opened the bathroom door and it was like a tiled Narnia. An entire ceramic world lay on the other side of that door. A veritable wet-room, although I fail to see the benefit of being able to shower from the comfort of your wheelchair. Would you want to spend the day on a wet seat?

I don't know whether someone at the agents thinks it's funny, or whether by some mysterious electronic glitch my constant demand for a non-smoking room has been registered as something more difficult to deal with, but the fact remains, hotels the length and breadth of the country think I am fulfilling a quota for them.

Oh, smoking rooms. We now have a ban on smoking in public places. You're not even allowed to smoke in a company vehicle, as a non-smoker may get in. So how come last month I was told all the non-smoking rooms had gone and they'd given me a smoking room?

And yes.

It was disabled.

Well, the room wasn't (although the remote control for the TV was), but you know what I mean.

So, as I sit here, I wonder how I can get the thrill back? I mean, for many people, staying in a hotel is still exciting, still something new. The problem, is that so many things that were special then, are mundane in the extreme now.

When I was a child, the idea of having a phone, an actual phone, that you could make calls on or buzz your parents and ruin their sex lives, in your bedroom, was amazing. Now you can make international calls, send media files and surf the Internet on something smaller than the silver case my Dad kept his cigarettes in, when you were allowed to smoke in hotel room.... oh.

Sometimes, in the room, was Television. I proper one, with actual programs. Heck, I remember when I first encountered a remote control. What a high. Now of course, you can get streaming video on said phone in your pocket. TVs in the home are becoming the size of cinema screens from my childhood, yet all anyone wants to do is peer myopically at the palm of their hand whilst simultaneously cooing like a gaggle of maiden aunts over a new-born and congratulating each other over how 'on it' they are.

Sorry to burst your bubble guys, but being 'on it' should surely take more than the ability to be approved for an 18 month phone contract? Or maybe not. Maybe fashion ratings and credit ratings are more closely aligned than I thought? Perhaps, somewhere, there is a fashion-rating bureau.

  • Equifax does your credit rating
  • Equifash does your credibility rating

(I realise that those of you who may read this outside the UK probably don't know who Equifax are, but then, you probably didn't know the collective noun for Maiden Aunts was 'Gaggle', so you've learned something, which is always good).

And finally, room service. I've just stuck the tray outside my door, having eaten food I didn't really want, didn't enjoy and am already regretting. A few years ago, room service was SO exciting. Even a couple of years ago, I remember my kids excitement when we ordered it on one of our trips. Now? With so many ready meals, TV dinners, instant-gratification-and-regret-in-a-plastic-tray lifestyle aids, having dinner, in your bedroom(!) in front of the TV(!) whilst ignoring the phone(!) by your bed for all except an early morning call(!!), room service is just bland, uninteresting and instantly forgettable. And that's before we talk about the food.

So, I'll put the tray outside the door for someone else to collect, so they can wash the dishes. Go and have a shower and leave the towels on the floor to be replaced with clean ones in the morning and get into my bed, freshly made by someone else and muse on the disappointment of hote.... hold on a minute.

Dishes taken and washed.

Towels taken and replaced

Bed made.

I LIKE hotels.

Monday, 10 December 2007


Like most people I suspect, I have mused on occasions on the question:

"If you had to lose ONE sense, which would it be?"

I remember being asked this question in a class once and I remember that my answer "Common" did NOT go down well with the teacher, although my peers loved it.

Looking back, I think that was the start of something.

However, the reason for this post is actually not about that, but about being blind.

I am not blind and although I had a friend who was, can have no concept of what it would be like. I do know however that it would be devastating. I would miss so much, so many many things, including movies.

I'm at home this morning, packing as I'm away on business for the week and on the TV (for only the 32nd time this month) is "Where Eagles Dare".

This is a movie I wouldn't miss.

Not because I don't think it's good - ok, a bit corny, but even so - but because this is a movie I could STILL enjoy without sight.

Next time it's on, close your eyes and listen:

The sound of the wind, which chills you with imaginary snow down the back of your neck. You hear it in the background whistling past the embrasures in the castle walls. You hear the silence echoing off the walls and stone floors.

The wonderful timbre of Richard Burton's voice "Broadsword calling Danny Boy" and even Clint, being, well, Clint.

And most of all, the music. From the opening drums, through the building tension, the action crescendos to the closing scene in the plane, the whole score just builds a complete picture in the mind.

Ok, so the film is corny and jingoistic.

But if I ever lose my sight, I'll send the dog out to buy me a copy.

Tempus Fugitive

Last night I was at a 40th Wedding party.

The tables were adorned with pictures, mostly from cruising holidays, that the happy couple and their sons have taken over the years, together with their wedding album.

Initially, this seemed like a good idea, allowing their assembled friends and family to laugh and joke about how young they looked, about the fashions, hairstyles and generally be happy about how much better such things are now.

Then reality bit, as it has a tendency to do.

Fashions come and go and, in truth, those of us still capable of breathing will no doubt laugh at what we wore last night, at some point in the future. Glasses (specs that is) in particular seem to give rise to hilarity more quickly than most things.

However, the thing that dampened the general enthusiasm for the past was, quite simply, the number of people absent. Pictures of our past can be a source of happiness, reawakening memories of times that seem, almost exclusively, better. Perhaps this is because we tend not to take pictures of times and things that make us sad?

The absence of so many people who had been there for the original celebration however, serves to remind us that time is not kind to things other than fashion. So many faces, smiling out of the yellowed pages of an album, oblivious of the gulf that now lay between them looking out and us looking in. So maybe the pictures taken last night, a stream of ones and zeros uploaded into the ether rather than glued into a scrapbook, will engender the same emotions in others and, it's to be hoped in us, some time in the future?

This week, my Aunt had a stroke. As I write, she lies in a hospital bed, being given the best our wonderful Health Service can offer - except the unit she needs has been closed and she's too ill to be moved. I hope and pray she will pull through, not only for herself, but for my Mother and in a truly selfish way, for myself. Losing a relative is always painful, but it's more the implication of what it means in relation to my Mother and what the loss of her Sister, (GF) would do to her.

For me, the implications are different. It reinforces the realisation that I'm no longer a child. As our parents age, the relationship we have with them is reversed - we become the parent and they the child. But in truth, this isn't complete and we never lose that irrational, almost primeval belief in their permanence. Each event, each loss, erodes that like the sea undermining a cliff, until finally it collapses under it's own mass. When that happens, we finally, irrevocably, grow up.

And I'm not ready.