Anyway, I had to stay overnight in a hotel last week, for a meeting the next morning. And within a couple of hours of arriving there – despite it being a reputable chain (though one of its heirs seems determined to sully that legacy if possible) – I could understand why Willy Loman and Alan Partridge alike loathed being away from home so much.
The setting and reception were pleasant enough, but when I checked into my room and dumped my bag on the bed and looked around, I felt a sinking feeling; there was a TV, an ironing board and iron, a selection of menus and other bits of information for guests, and (oh yes) a Corby trouser press. I had, I suddenly realised, become that cliché, the chap who stays away from home overnight for work. I was thankful I’d travelled there by train and taxi, rather than driven there in a car with a suit hanging in the back and ‘Top Gear Driving Anthems 2’ on the stereo, that would have made the picture unsettlingly complete.
Deciding to eschew the bar or restaurant, I instead ordered some room service food, and settled down to see what was on the TV, by way of a mental sorbet. The standard terrestrial channels were there, along with a number of on-screen adverts for the fact I could pay £8.50 to watch Beowulf in glorious normal-sized-TV-o-vision. I decided that I’d rather either see it at the cinema for that cost, or even buy a copy of it for slightly more, and instead opted to watch a Batman cartoon which was on (for reasons which elude me, they had the Cartoon Network in addition to the usual channels).
The food, for the record, was fine, and a bit later on I chatted to my beloved on the phone, which made things feel a bit less grim, but there was something strange about the overnight experience; I was reminded of the narrator in Fight Club talking about his apartment building being a filing cabinet, and the food on planes being single-serving. The hotel felt the same – the room was functional but not luxurious or welcoming, and the miniature toiletries were like a plastic soap-filled summation of the transient nature of it all.
I slept all right, but when I went to breakfast the next morning, there were a couple of chaps in shirts and ties sitting at a table already, eating breakfast and talking about their sales targets. Just overhearing them, I swear I could actually feel my soul shrivelling like a slug in a saltstorm.
I took my tray, and its single-serving breakfast, and sat in the furthest possible corner of the restaurant.