There’s a small hotel . . .
Now it can be told: there was a time when I contemplated abandoning my two small children – only temporarily, you understand. The pressures of looking after a newborn and an infant while being ill myself brought on daydreams of simply walking out, checking into a hotel and taking to my bed, where my coughing would not wake a cherub I had just spent 40 minutes lulling to sleep.
A budding author who is also the mother of toddlers recently expressed her delight at being sent on a book signing tour. Her publishers, rather embarrassed at the bog standard budget hotels they were putting her up in, could not understand her enthusiasm. But for her it was going to be bliss to have whole nights in somewhere clean and tidy – the cleanliness and tidiness of which were not down to her. What’s more, there would be nobody following her into the loo!
As someone who has been lucky enough to have to travel for work, I share this fondness for hotels – of whatever sort. The splendour of an entire suite in an old-fashioned hotel in The Hague did not spoil me for the grittier charms of the station hotel in Crewe, complete with broken bottle on the stairs, where I could have abseiled onto the platform.
Going into a new hotel room is a bit like opening a Christmas present – hope mixed with apprehension. What you hope, of course, is that your basic needs will be fulfilled: is there a plug for the basin? Do the curtains meet in the middle? After that you can start getting picky: does the digital TV offer Radio 4? Is the smell of the smellies appealing or nauseating? Do they have biscuits as well as tea and coffee, and if so, are there any ginger ones?
There is an entire website devoted to hotel room hacks, showing you how to remedy various shortcomings in your accommodation, which I wish I’d come across before – like pegging skimpy curtains closed with the pegs in the coathangers. In Manchester I wondered why the fellow guest at reception insisted on a room at the front of the building. When I got to my room I found out why: all-night lights blazing in the office block opposite. Unaware of the peg trick, I rigged up a Heath-Robinsonesque contraption with chairs and the edges of the curtains to try to mitigate the in-room light pollution.
Breakfast is potentially another box of delights: will there be little shots of smoothie? Mini-doughnuts? Failing that, burnt white toast with masses of salted butter will do nicely.
I’ve had my fair share of rooms by the lift, where sleep is fitful; of drunks returning to the next room and turning on the porn channel; and of boiler failure, where I hugged the dying radiator for warmth and boiled a kettle for washing, but on balance I’m still a fan.
In fact, I feel my future is in hotels. I’m very tempted to follow in the footsteps of an elderly couple from Sheffield who’ve decided to live out their days in a Travelodge. It makes perfect sense in all respects: at a stroke you remove the need for home maintenance, cooking, cleaning and gardening. No more utility bills, TV licences or insurance premiums. Generous helpings from the breakfast buffet would mean that you’d barely need to eat for the rest of the day. I’d go for a budget hotel in a central location, from where I could totter off to museums, galleries and the theatre.
All this – and without the stigma and regimentation of an old people’s home! If I were Travelodge or Premier Inn, I’d be afraid, very afraid.