Having booked a little break to Bath for the upcoming weekend – PSA: don’t do that four days before the event; it’s not cheap! – I’ve started thinking about hotels. I have plenty of stories about staying in a hotel, in fact, whether it’s waiting, wanking or… I don’t know, some other word for having sex that starts with a W… but there are always more to tell.
This is entirely Robyn’s fault, anyway, because they are a terrible influence and I just can’t resist the call to write about something easy.
So here’s a hotel story.
We were on our way back from Eroticon when one of us – I think it must have been them – realised how dark it was. It was late – we both knew it would be late when we got back, but we couldn’t stay for another night this time. I had work on the Monday morning.
“I don’t really want this to end,” they said with some finality to it.
“Yeah, I know; it’s sad, isn’t it?” I replied. “But it’s okay. And we’ll get home after a while, and then you can have a cup of hot chocolate or something and…”
“No, I mean, I don’t want to go home. It’s too much…”
“…effort,” they finished. “Getting back to London is enough.”
There was a pause as I wrenched my exhausted brain into action. Words, images and sound all swirled around in my head as I scrambled for a solution. Ten seconds passed before an image clicked into my head… a tiny advert I’d seen once in the back of the Metro.
“There’s a hotel next to Paddington Station!” I ejaculated. “A really cheap one! It was advertised in the Metro! I bet they’d have a room!”
“Yes! Let’s go to that hotel!”
Once we’d pulled into Paddington, we were both quite excited about our little adventure.
It wasn’t overly difficult to find, although it was quite clear from the moment we arrived why it was so cheap. Carpets in the reception were worn; the concierge was behind a desk ventilated by an electric fan; lighting was restricted to traditional lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling. It was a million miles away from the high-end Radisson Blu around which Eroticon had traditionally been centred. That being said, though, it was clean, it was orderly, and it was affordable.
Bossman behind the desk gave a broad smile when we walked in, which indicated to me that, never mind the Metro ad, his hotel probably wasn’t very well patronised. Random couple walking through the door unannounced was probably a good indication.
“Uhm, hello,” I said. “I saw your ad in the Metro and we were wondering if you had a double room for tonight? You’re not full, are you?”
“Oh, we’re not full,” he said. “No, we’re never full. We always have rooms. I can get you a double. It’s – ” [here he named a price; I can’t remember, but it wasn’t much] ” – for the room, and you get hot and cold water, a TV, access to the bathroom, and there’s breakfast included; it’s in our bar.”
He indicated where the bar was. I hadn’t noticed it initially.
I agreed, dug around in my wallet, and paid with spare cash I had left over after Eroticon. He gave us a key (an actual key) with a chunky latex tag indicating a door number; we set off down the long, dimly-lit, dilapidated corridor to our room.
For how oppressive the hotel reception had been, our room was light and airy. Net curtains covered windows, outside which the London night continued apace. I sat on the bed, setting an early alarm so I could get up for breakfast and go to work the following morning. They tried the TV (a box CRT with an indoor aerial) and found a fuzzy version of Bruce Almighty (which I’ve never actually seen). All seemed okay.
A rickety table in the corner held a kettle and sachets of hot drink mix; I used some of the promised hot and cold water (from a little basin in the opposite corner) to make some hot chocolate. After a while, I decided I needed to check out the bathroom before doing anything else, so off I set, back down the corridor.
The bathroom was about the size of a broom cupboard; there was also very little light. A shower head was suspended directly above the toilet – if you wanted a shower, what would you do; straddle the loo seat? – but, like the rest of the hotel, it was clean.
On the way back, I reflected on how this place was clearly a labour of love. It was a budget hotel on a budget, in a building clearly not designed to be a hotel at all; it did, however, exactly as advertised. We had an okay room, a serviceable bed, a working TV, hot and cold water, a cramped but usable bathroom, and free drinks… with the promise of breakfast to come.
The room was cold, the bed wasn’t the most comfortable, there was a lot of noise outside, and some bloke in the next room was snoring so loud it was like living with a banshee.
It was the best night of sleep I ever had.
Compared to the rest of the hotel, the bar area was relatively spacious. I was its sole occupant, having left them snoozing in the room while I had to make my way to work. Breakfast was provided – a scant selection of cereals with orange juice and a slice of cold toast. I made myself a bowl of cornflakes, added milk and sugar, and munched my way through a meagre feast.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but maybe something more. Having said that, as I reasoned at the time, for the price, any food at all was a bonus. What I needed that morning was any food at all.
I worked in central London at the time, so getting to work was both easier and quicker than I was used to. As usual, my boss wasn’t there with the key, and I was early as it was, so I went into the McDonald’s next door and sat with a drink and hash brown to complement the breakfast I’d nominally had half an hour earlier.
And then I realised how I felt, and I cried.
I cried because I was tired. I cried because I had met loads of cool people and missed them all. I cried because I had had to leave my girlfriend in the bed and I wanted to cuddle them some more. I cried because, as much as I liked my job, I was simply in no mood.
But mostly, at that moment, I cried because I’d have been perfectly happy to stay where I was.
Because I really, really love hotels.