Sunday, 23 October 2016

Never stay in a Budget Ibis

The Ibis Budget hotel in Leeds has to be one of the worst I've ever stayed in. I spent the night grappling with its internet service which kept dropping off line. Every time it conked out, it took me twenty minutes to get back online again. All I wanted to do was watch something on iPlayer. I'll put up with a lot for the sake of staying in a budget hotel. No chair? Okay, I'll sit on the bed. TV won't go louder than a whisper? I'll close the window and listen carefully. No kettle? I'll drink water from the tap. No bath to relax in and shower cubical so small I can't really fit in? I'll make do, and out of a sense of propriety will mop up the water from the floor which has spilled out because the cubical isn't big enough to contain the spray from the shower nozzle - even with the door shut. The thing I struggle to deal with, however, is the promise of internet which is perpetually broken. I'd almost rather no internet at all because then I don't invest in the fantasy of enjoying a TV programme of my choice.

My trip down to the foyer yesterday morning told me everything I needed to know about the clientele of the hotel. The lift doors opened at the 6th floor to the sight of a hand towel encrusted with fecal matter lying on the carpet. It wasn't attached to anything or anyone, and, until a human being appeared from around the corner, I was beginning to wonder whether said towel was making a bid for freedom and had pressed the button for the lift itself! 

Turns out the lift had been called by a Scottish gentleman who was only wearing a pair of boxer shorts. I assumed he'd been locked out of his room in some sort of horrifying argument with his misses. He looked at me and immediately apologised. "I need to buy some water" he said. "Can't you drink the water from the tap in your room?" I asked. He looked at me as though I'd asked him to perform a lewd sex act. "You can't drink water from those taps." I wanted to say, "but you're okay going down to reception wearing nothing but a pair of boxer shorts?" But thought better of it. The poor bloke was plainly still drunk. The Ibis budget hotel is obviously where you stay when you're out on the lash with the lads. I've seldom felt so old. Next time I'll pay an extra tenner and stay in a Travelodge.

When I arrived at the train station I decided to eat breakfast in Upper Crust. I quite like the baguettes they make there. What I don't like is their ludicrous policy which instructs staff to respond to the question "can I have a tea please?" with "what size would you like? Medium or large?" There is, of course, the option of a small tea, which costs less, but you're deliberately not offered that. Cynical and money-grabbing in the extreme. The practice has been going on for years, and I've written about it in this blog in the past. I challenged the woman behind the counter. She giggled nervously. Rumbled.

I took the train from Leeds to Liverpool, and it was rammed with people. There were only three carriages and people were standing in the aisles. I'd booked a seat but ended up hemmed in by a woman who decided it was appropriate for her eight-year old son to sit on her lap which made me so claustrophobic I started to panic. I managed to lose myself in the glorious countryside outside. Those tall chimneys and dark mill buildings in towns like Hebden Bridge. The trees, just on the turn, glowing like rusty metal in the sunlight. The hillsides mauve with bracken and heather.

And then suddenly I was jolted back into realty by the sight of a globule of lime green snot hanging out of the girl's nose opposite. I mean, how does that happen? I was unable to stop myself from looking at it. It was like some sort of verdant road crash.

It was Nathan's Mum's actual 70th birthday yesterday, which is why I was traveling west. I met Nathan in Liverpool, where he's been working on a corporate show all week. We sat down for a quick dose of Italian food for lunch and that's when I realised I'd managed to leave Nathan's Mum's present on the train, having taken it all the way up to Leeds and worried over it for the past 24 hours. Ironically, I knew I was going to leave it somewhere. It wouldn't fit into my suitcase, so I was carrying it about in a Sainsbury's bag. I even texted Nathan on my way up to Leeds to tell him not to be angry with me if I lost it. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophesy!

We went back to the station, hoping against hope that someone might have handed it in, so imagine our shock and joy when we discovered it at the lost and found. It hadn't yet been processed, so the lovely man gave it to us without charging us a fee... (and yes, I was a bit surprised to find that it now costs £5 to pick up an item of lost property in a train station!)

We drove from Liverpool to Nathan's sister's in Cheshire where his family had gathered, not just to celebrate Celia's 70th, but also to celebrate her great-grand daughter's 4th birthday. There was a barbecue, cake, pasta salad and much laughter. Sam and Julius now have four chickens. Two camp fluffy ones and two normal-shaped but fancy-coloured specimens. Chickens are horrible, skittish things. I held one. It felt like wooden sticks which had been tarred and feathered by an angry mob. I hope they lay decent eggs.

I spent the afternoon trying to delete more emails from my phone but not managing to free up any space. It turns out there were 30,000 emails on my server. 30,000! Bonkers! I got rid of almost all of them, but kept the most recent ones from Arnold Wesker, which, as he got less steady had become shorter and pithier: "Happy New Year. Good luck with Brass - I'm in need of royalties from somewhere... anywhere!" "When you ask how V is, are you asking if she's still alive?" "I don't think I know Raymond Briggs. Are you sure he's not dead?"

We got home and watched Bake Off.

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