I spent my first night in an Oxfordshire hotel last night. It was an eery time, especially in the imposing manor that would be my home for 4 days. Sunday nights in hotels are apparently the quietest time, according to the receptionist and as I looked around, taking in the huge ornate drawing room and dark wood of the reception’s balcony, I hoped that I would find something to occupy my mind.
As it happens, I didn’t find anything remotely interesting, so I trundled off to the restaurant for my evening meal. It was pleasant enough, but once again the place was deserted – my only company was a couple of old age pensioners and a rather underworked waiter. The high point came during my main course, when, from the kitchen, the chef enjoyed possibly the largest sneeze I have ever heard, followed by an anguished cry: “Oh Christ, has anyone got a tissue?” I thanked god that my main meal was already on the table, and pitied the poor sods next to me as their meal came out seconds later.
As I watched the latest bombing on Iraq after I’d returned to my room, I began to feel a little isolated. My particular room block was as far as possible away from the main building, and I felt a little vulnerable, being one of only 5 residents in the hotel. As a particularly loud and devasting bomb was filmed landing in Baghdad, the lights suddenly went out. My entire room was in darkness, and it took a full five seconds for me to assume the worst – the Iraqi army had arrived in Oxfordshire. I scrambled to get my shoes on, and bumped my way out of the room. The whole place was in darkness, and as I reached reception, I found bunker mentality had already set in – the old dears were discussing the war, their entire lives, and demanding milk for their tea, which must have been luke warm at best. The manager informed us that this was the first test for the backup generator. It dawned on us that it had blatently failed. The imposing architecture of the building’s interior just looked plain scary, and for the next 30 minutes, we huddled in darkness. Finally, after one old girl regailed us with a ‘hilarious’ tale, the lights turned on again, and we tottered back.
And that was only my first day…