COLUMN: April 11, 2013

I WENT back to the hotel in which I stayed a couple of weeks ago. I am clearly a glutton for very, very mild punishment.

“And you’ve stayed here before” the receptionist half asked me as I checked in. “Oh, yes,” I said. I felt a little like James Bond arriving at the Ritz.

I gave her a look which showed I wasn’t some hayseed who was easily impressed by a breakfast buffet or wet room and she gave me my key card.

She placed me in the room next door to the one where I slept last time, presumably as some sort of psychological experiment. Everything in the room was identical, except that the layout was a mirror image of the previous room.

This was extremely disorientating at first. This must have been how Alice had felt. But I settled in fairly quickly, and the only mishap directly brought about by the topsy-turvy design of the room was a minor kettle spill caused by my getting out of bed the wrong side in the middle of the night. It could have happened to anybody, I mused as I wrung out the socks which I had discarded on the wrong side of the bed.

I took my laptop with me, partly for work, and partly so I would have something to keep me occupied in the evening. I thought perhaps I might have a go on that new Twitter thing they have these days, but hotel wi-fi was 11p a minute and nothing I have to say is worth that amount of money.

I switched on the television, but the only programmes on were documentaries about that woman who died a few days ago. I didn’t particularly enjoy living through the events as they happened, so I was not keen to revisit them.

Luckily I had brought a couple of Blu-ray films with me. I have a Blu-ray drive in my laptop and it was about time I gave it a go. This was going to be exciting. There is nothing like watching a blockbuster movie in perfect detail on a screen the size of a copy of Take A Break magazine.

I couldn’t decide which of the two films to watch, and resorted to the “Dip dip dip/My blue ship” of my childhood.

I probably would not have done that in public, but how a man conducts himself in a hotel room is his own business. “O-U-T spells Out,” I said, jabbing my finger against one of the movies. It was a shame as that was the one I really wanted to watch, but you cannot buck the Dip.

I slipped the other into the disc drive and closed it, and waited for the machine to wheeze into life. A little message appeared on the screen: “The key has expired. Please download a new one.”


I was incensed by the injustice, and found a way to hook up my phone to the computer. I was going to get this key if it killed me.

I clicked on the link offered by my useless Blu-ray player program, and waited. But the page did not come up.

Instead an entirely different page appeared, one which said that the site which I was trying to access had been classified as an “adult site” – perhaps it thought Blue Ray was the name of an actor – and that my phone provider was happy to let me have a look at it as long as I proved I was an adult by giving it a look at my credit card details.

Apparently that is the only proof of adulthood. I have grey hairs, a mortgage, plantar fasciitis, and an inability to tell you which record is number one in the charts. I am definitely an adult and have been for some time. What I do not have, and never have had, is a credit card. If I wanted one, I could have one. I don’t want one.

My only other option was to phone the providers directly and ask them to lift the block. “Hello,” I would have to say, “I am alone in a hotel room and I would like to watch a film. Please give me access to adult sites.” I decided against it.

I own the films, I own the laptop, I own the phone, and I pay for my internet service.

These all belong to me, but I could not use them for a legitimate purpose because the vendors do not trust grown-ups to make decisions.

That woman might have rolled back the nanny state, but she has let in a nanny private sector to replace it. And we can’t vote them out.

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