I have entered a twilight world of sewing kits with thread but no scissors, plastic cups wrapped in clingfilm, random light-switch combinations always out of reach of the bed, dining tables for four inhabited by one and unopened Gideon Bibles. Yes, I am a solo traveller.
Needs must when employment is at a premium, so I’m working away from home half the week for six months. Of course I’ve taken it as an opportunity to carry out research to populate my blogs, starting with hotels.
I set some strict criteria on what would work for me including a good breakfast with plenty of fruit and fine coffee, preferably my favourite Espresso Reale, a blend of Arabica beans with a thick crema; powerful shower that would send me hurtling to the other end of the cubicle where I’d be cushioned by the deep-pile fluffy towels; tea-making kit with first flush Darjeeling leaf tea, china teapot, cup and a little cake with a cherry on top; a squishy sofa with plump cushions and multi-channel easy-to-operate TV where Top Gun is only ever a click away. I think I may have been a little over-optimistic, actually I was a lot optimistic, but aim high, that’s what I always say.
The first, on the university campus was, let’s say, adequate but rather soulless, all Builders’ Tea, ginger biscuits and plywood furniture. The second, in one of the little villages nearby, offered me the Full English, which my taciturn solo neighbours munched noisily, the sole newspaper was The Daily Telegraph. ‘Nuff said. The third, the rather splendid Campanile, part of a French chain with bi-lingual information panels and corporate green and white throughout was comme ci comme ça. I was beginning to fear I’d find nowhere to tick any of my boxes, and good grief, I hadn’t even had a decent coffee yet.
The fourth looked promising, Art Deco and its own aerodrome. Seriously. What’s not to like? My accommodation is a talking point among colleagues who are amused by my hotel-hopping. So when I announced the latest place to lay my head there was a sharp intake of breath. It was, I was told, a knocking shop of some repute and that didn’t mean a kind of carpentry emporium. I protested that I’d not been asked to pay by the hour and was comforted to hear that the new management had done away with that kind of thing when they came in a decade ago. Are you sure? I asked, I could see myself piling the 1920s-style furniture up against the door when I retired for the night after eating my sandwich in my room, avoiding the bar at all costs. Yes, I was assured, the shop had had its last knock many years ago.
And so it turned out to be, no knocks anywhere, not even the plumbing and The Aviator at Sywell became my hotel of choice. No decent espresso or Darjeeling but the sofas in the bar are pure art deco, the staff are friendly and chatty breakfast is as good as I’ve had, though English hotels really need to look across the Pond to the Americans who really do make the best breakfasts in the world. Sadly no cable TV and no Top Gun, though there is music piped into the bathroom which I’m not sure is a good thing. The traffic I can see and hear from my room is air traffic, if I close my eyes, I can hear Maverick asking for permission to fly by and being told, negative, the pattern is full. I think I’m going to like it here.