Never let someone else make your travel arrangements.
This is a lesson I learned a long, long time ago. However, this week I needed a hotel in the UK for one night and didn’t have time to trawl the net for something decent. As time ran out, I called my head office and asked the travel desk to book me a room somewhere.
Now, I should have found time to do this myself, I should have created time to do this. I have enough experience of what the girls at the travel desk consider to be ‘quality accommodation’ to realise that this would be a shit hotel.
After all, these were the same people who had booked me into the Glasgow hotel that rented my room out by the hour during the day. That had booked me into the Newcastle hotel where the toilet in the en-suite overlooked, and was looked in at by the passengers on platform number 1 at Central Station.
They have booked me a flight to one airport with a car waiting for me at a different airport. Instead of a hotel in Charleroi, they booked a hotel on the rue de Charleroi in Brussels.
And their pièce de résistance? Well, once a colleague and I were travelling on the same day, but to different destinations. They managed to book us aeroplane tickets, car rental and hotel rooms for the right places, but all in the wrong names. I had been booked on his trip and he on mine. At the airport, when the error became evident, we simply shrugged, swapped work files and went off and did each others’ work for the day. Ridiculous.
So all this brings me to last night’s hotel. I’ll say this about the hotel – it embodied everything that is wrong about the British hospitality industry. The people were friendly, but the hotel was dirty, poorly maintained and decorated horribly.
I had to take down one of the pictures on the bedroom wall and turn it round, so offensively ugly was it.
And then, this morning, I was woken by my next door neighbour coughing. I say coughing, but it sounded like a tuberculosis ward from back in the days of Florence Nightingale. He stopped coughing and he walked to the bathroom. Yes, I could hear this amount of detail.
And then he farted. It was a long, loud, low, clatter of a fart. But it wasn’t just one. Over the course of the next few minutes, the farts next door came and went with alarming regularity. Each as loud as the last. Each as thunderously rumbling as the last.
A single match, and the hotel would have gone up in flames.
Fearing for my life (and my lungs) I jumped out of bed, raced through my morning beauty routine and got out of the room as quickly as humanly possible.
As I shut the door behind me, I heard the click of the next door neighbour’s key in the lock. We were both leaving at the same time. I would get to see the source of the coughing, the farting and the elephant steps.
I turned and there she was. Yes, ‘she’.
A petite blonde with a tailored suit and a fancy trolley bag.
I mean really. She didn’t look like she had it in her.
"Cold morning, isn't it?" she said, in a way-too-cheery-for-the-hour-of-the-day voice.
"Yes, very cold," I replied. "And a bit on the windy side too..."