In my line of work, I get the chance to really live high on the hog. Life is a bowl of cherries when you get to stay in some of the best hotels in the land.
Why, I am no stranger to the Holiday Inn Express chain, and I have even been known to grace a Travelodge. And only this week I was in Perth, in a hotel of age, reputation and two stars on its slightly battered sign.
It is fair to say that the hostelry had seen better days. In fact, I am sure I saw the name Mary Stuart in the guest book. Given the enthusiasm with which that particular monarch tended to lay her head in areas guaranteed to boost tourist traffic, that doesn’t surprise me. The name H Darnley was under it. In the comments he’d written “this place was a blast”. Bet she laughed her head off at that.
Anyway, the age is not important, nor even somewhat tired décor. What matters are two vital questions. One, is it clean? And two, do the staff treat you as if you have just wafted in from the street displaying evidence of an infectious disease, poor personal hygiene and an empty bank account, or do they greet you as a lovely old pal they just haven’t met yet?
In the case of this old warhorse of a hotel, the answers were most affirmative. You bet it was clean. The carpet was just a memory on some of the stairs, but by jings even those floorboards had been hoovered to championship standard.
And the staff were a cheery bunch, who were dealing with an elderly couple when I came in.
The two ladies behind the counter were of a certain age and tonnage. They were clad in extraordinarily tight blouses, which gave the alarming impression of being close to rendering asunder as these twin Valkyries of customer service thundered instructions about the lift, room location and breakfast times.
I thought perhaps the old folks were a bit deaf, or possibly non-English speaking, until I took my place before Fran ‘n’ Anna and realised they spoke to everyone that way.
I can still hear them.
Left without a scare in the world . .
It was a huge bedroom. It was very clean. The shower was baffling and avocado.
My phone doubles as my alarm clock, so I plugged it in at the only available power point, over on the other side of the room. It’s got a faint light, which I usually turn off at night, but the room was very large and the glow was comforting, so I left it on.
In the middle of a dream involving George Clooney, I became aware that the phone, rather annoyingly, had started to flash. My eyes flickered open sleepily.
Boys and girls, the phone did not flash. It was not the regular pulse of technology.
Something walked between me and my phone. Twice.
It was my own reaction that took me by surprise. It had been an extremely long day. I was extremely tired and extremely grumpy.
I won’t tell you the exact words I used, but one of them was “off”. Then I turned over and went back to George. I’m shocked thinking about it even now. I’m not normally that rude.
If it was an ethereal visitation, then there’s a miserable ghost out there worried about losing its touch. Perhaps it was that plonker Darnley. Or Jimmy Shand.
What a shower those hotels are
There is an immutable law of the universe which states that no two hotel showers can ever be operated in the same way.
There are walk-in glass cupboardy things with the controls so far away you can’t avoid being scalded, frozen or both.
There are sneaky ones with little chrome handles. Slippy.
Or you get the single dial with the two controls on it, bringing back memories of trying to get BBC Two on an old Bush telly. Just as you couldn’t quite hit the channel you wanted, you just never seem to get water right.
None of these situations are improved by the addition of shampoo/soap/conditioner in the eyes.
Why on earth is the European Commission not looking at this serious situation?
‘Milky’ muzac turns ’em sour
Perhaps the Queens of the reception desk were themselves a bit hard of hearing, having been driven deaf by the muzac.
Showers might be a riot of free expression and variable water pressures, but no hotel can operate without its tinkling tunes.
Of course, it’s not really music, it’s a soggy, bland, fat-free, low-sodium musical substitute. It is the acoustic version of those little pots of long-life milk.
The accordion features heavily, played at a frantic samba pace.
It sounds like the ghost of Jimmy Shand, above, trapped in a musical hell, eternally wheezing out endless Scottish-Spanish dance fusion over the rubber scrambled eggs at the breakfast buffet.