London. Odd place isn’t it?
Pouring Rain. Drinking with our suppliers. Availability of a hotel room. Groundhog day.
The last time this happened, I narrowly avoided career suicide through the inebriated yet inspired use of a lamppost. Lesson learned, I ducked outside the pub at 10 PM (appropriate verbage when considering the monsoon conditions) before alcohol robbed me of unaided vertical transport. This ensured a lucid conversation with the taxi driver who wasn’t required to carry me to reception. I felt strangely proud checking in without having three attempts to sign my name, and further sobriety was assured once I’d spied the room rate.
Having handed over half the firm’s equity for a room, I was staggered to find that breakfast wasn’t included. Not having the authority to mortgage one of the firm’s buildings, I declined their generous offer of twenty quid for a stale croissant come morning.
This is a contemporarily furnished hotel. I know this because everywhere you look, there’s marketing bollocks extolling the room design in the self congratulation style I’ve come to think of as “head up it’s own arse“. Although while the architect and interior designers may consider it the pinnacle of contemporianess, to the paying guest, it’s just bloody annoying.
Let me furnish you with a couple of illustrative examples. On opening what one expects to be a wardrobe, a cunningly hidden ironing board falls out in an attempt to brain you. The kettle is agonising visible yet totally inaccessible due to the thicket of drawers and random sliding panels which hem it in. This is clearly an inventive approach to ensure you must order room service or starve. It’s a shame that such an approach is hardly supported by hiding the menu under yet another contemporary – read stupid – design object; the mirrored panel. On reading the menu, I recognised nothing of edible value whatsoever – hints of this and noisettes of that, all on a bed of nonsense with a side order of pretentious bollocks. Growing exasperated, I navigated the stylish yet intuitively stunted phone to call reception and plead for a non ironically themed cheese sandwich. What arrived had cheese in it but was heavily disguised by fields of slimy salad and suspicious vegetables.
While attempting to find a recognisable diary product to eat, I browsed through the 57 TV channels with nothing on. In fact, nothing on describes the porn channel on which I lingered for about 30 seconds in the spirit of enquiry. Maybe it’s me, but it’s hard to see how anyone can get their rocks off on this sort of thing. After further disinterested button pushing (just to be clear, I’d moved away from the porn channel now), I found a DIY programme and fantasised over righteous power tools instead. Oh it is me then.
The following morning the all pervasive “C” thing seamlessly transferred itself to the shower controls. Two sleek silver dials, no visible markings. An arbitrary twirl of the dials eventually produced – to my childish delight – a head of water. Unfortunately, this indiscriminate setting resulted in the water being about one million degrees. My screams were far more authentic and longer lasting than those gracing the porn channel. That’ll have been the scalding pain then.
Having spent the firm’s entire profits on the room, I struck out on shank’s pony haughtily dismissing the need for a taxi. I had a more pressing need for a decent non contemporary breakfast festooned with burnt crunchy bits floating in a sea of greasy fat. My apparently random perambulation was in fact a hunt for a cluster of builders van’s and BT lorries. At the epicentre of this breathless junction of illegal parking was the gentlemen’s’ breakfasting nadir. An establishment which almost guaranteed heart failure in later (but not that much later) life, all for less than a fiver including a mug of builders tea you could stand a spoon in.
Gastronomically refreshed, I contentedly belched my way to the tube station parting with 3 quid to enter the labyrinthic world of the tube rat. Two stops were enough for me having been bruised, battered and abused by other’s people BO and spiky luggage. I am Amish in the tunnels – didn’t know where the lines went, couldn’t remember where the connection where, obeyed instructions to move down the carriage etc.
The only redeeming feature was to inform the bloke reading The Di Vinci Code: “It’s shit, don’t bother with it, and anyway Christ did it in the Manger with the Frankincense“. My boss and I are slightly at odds about this book; he thinks it’s a good read with a clever story line, my view is it’s a colour by numbers, incredulous, lowbrow thriller with laughable pseudo intellectual credentials patched together by hokum religious nonsense, plagiarised from a couple of aging hippies. And don’t get me started on the movie of the same name.
Back on the mean streets of London, it’s with a shock of recognition that I remember why being a pedestrian is so dreadful. There is absolutely zero courtesy from anyone, so wrapped up are they in jabbering on their phones or checking reflections in shop windows. The best you can hope for is to be kicked into the gutter if you do go down. Still it was way better than the tube, and my mastery of the dark art of “Courier Bag Kung Fu” ensured I at least held my own.
The seminar I’ve been trying to get to is at a hotel near Hyde Park. I ride past this every day and wondered what the reaction would have been, turning up in shorts and sweat. Lots of suits there, but no obvious sense of humour means I must try it next time.
Walking back through Green Park lets me forgive London some of its’ many horrors. The trees tamp down the traffic noise as I escape into its’ verdant if rather moist heart – I have it almost to myself and it’s 100% of great. St. James Park was less so. Early season tourists are washed out of their hotels so they could order overpriced bagels and be shit on by the pidgins. Still they seemed happy enough. That’s the pidgins, I can’t really speak for the tourists all of whom are from countries for which I hold no linguistic currency. What am I talking about, I know only two languages; one is heavily accented English and the other is heavily accented English at high volume accompanied by frenzied hand signals.
I’m happy not to be fighting with the traffic on the mall; it’s amazing what a bit of sunshine does, I wasn’t walking, I was strolling happily lost in the smell of the briny river. Re-emerging onto the strand brought an abrupt halt to that with it’s murderous intent and it was back into the uncaring crowds.
I don’t really like London much but I’m sort of getting used to it. I can’t decide if this is a good thing or not.
PS. On a totally unrelated note, I’ve decided to call in ACAS about the proposed Motorbike purchase – discussions have stalled at the “If you buy one, you’re both living in the barn”.