I HAD to go to London for A Thing and decided I would stay in Paddington, which is the part of London which is most Londony, that is to say the part which most looks like the London I have in my head when I think of London.
And I decided I would stay in a hotel I had stayed in before. It was not a great hotel, but it is close to the station, and it is cheap. I am not Sir David Frost.
I don’t know how far your memories go back, but it was quite warm last Wednesday. Men walked the streets of London without their vests on. Women walked the streets of London without their vests on. A camel asked me if I had a bottle of water.
I, myself, had developed my Hot Weather Shimmer, whereby I am entirely coated with a thin film of perspiration, refracting the light from my body, making me look larger or smaller depending on one’s vantage point. In motion I look like the paused image of a VHS tape.
And so I staggered into the reception, droplets of sweat flying off me, like an Old English sheepdog emerging from a pond. “Reservation for Bainbridge,” I gasped, dropping my bags and placing my cheek on the cool, cool marble of the counter.
The receptionist frowned and asked me to spell my name. I did so. It was an effort, to be honest. I lifted my head to see the receptionist consulting with her manager. The manager came to see me. “Do you have your booking letter?” she asked.
I scrabbled in my bag and proffered the document.
It turns out that there are two hotels from the same small chain, with virtually identical names, on the same long road in Paddington and I had booked the wrong one.
“Where… Where is it?” I pleaded. “That way,” she said, and she pointed vaguely outside.
“Please, no,” I thought. “Please don’t let the sort of thing that happens to me happen to me now. Please let this hotel be nearby. I need tea and a shower and another tea.”
I picked up my bags and shimmered out. I wandered up and down the road, vainly searching for my hotel. It was not there, obviously, and so I turned to phone-based technology, which is when I discovered that there were two roads of the same name in Paddington, about a five-minute walk from each other.
Unfortunately, that same phone-based technology gave me a 15-minute route, assuming, presumably, as a tourist I would prefer a route which would show me the “real” London. It was sorely mistaken.
Eventually, I staggered into the right hotel. I don’t know how I got there, the human body is a mysterious and resilient mechanism. I went to my room. It was quite a small room. I did not have a bedside cabinet, but that was absolutely fine as everything in the room was by the bedside. In many ways, it was nice to be able to draw the curtains while lying down on my bed.
An ironing board resting against the wall mocked me. There was no way that had ever been unfolded.
Perhaps, I thought, the room is so small because the shower is of a decent size.
I was as mistaken as a phone which thinks I want to see the real London. It was a very small shower. Many years ago I watched a contortionist on David Nixon’s magic show climbing into a tiny glass box, folding her limbs over themselves, and the memories came flooding back.
When I shower I have a three-stage routine. Without going into too much detail, I get wet. I step out of the flow and lather up. I step back into the flow and rinse off. In this shower I could not step out of the flow. I could not bend to wash my legs. I could not even turn around without putting my elbows through the glass. Janet Leigh had a better shower experience in Psycho.
I have never before had a shower which left me sweatier after the process. Well done, London. No wonder you bagged the Olympics.