A break from the normal…

It’s been a long couple of weeks – far worse for my wife, Debbie, than for me. But anyhow… I’ve just written a rather long complaint to the really rather good hotel I stayed at last night (the MIC, currently being relaunched as the Wesley), and thought I’d share it here.

Hi,

For the longest time yesterday, I thought I’d found a new favourite London hotel. For the past two weeks I’ve been staying in a number of hotels in the Euston area, first for a few days and then extending my stay day by day as circumstances dictated. I stayed in modern chain hotels, town house hotels, budget hotels, and all had their quirks.

(Those circumstances are that my wife has been in hospital at UCLH, first for an operation and then with her stay extended due to complications. Not that that’s entirely relevant to this message, but hey.)

So, where were we?

Ah yes, yesterday. When my wife took a turn for the worse, I decided to stay another night, and so, sitting at her bedside, I used my lovely new iPhone (a pre-hospital gift from my wife, not that that’s relevant either, but she’s very nice) to search for hotels nearby. Funnily enough, one of the first to catch my eye was the Wesley, but TripAdvisor didn’t have any further details. So I looked further: MIC was interesting, affordable, and was only a couple of streets away. What’s more, it’s run on ethical principles which is important to me (I once stood for election for the Green Party; not that that’s entirely relevant either, come to think of it). Perfect.

I booked a room, and checked in an hour or so later.

The room was easily the best I’ve stayed in recently. Beautifully fitted out, clean, spacious, lots of nice touches. The staff were very friendly, as was the midnight vacuum-cleaner man (we’ll come to him in due course). And, thank goodness, it was quiet! London hotels are rarely peaceful – I get that; I’ve stayed in lots. Usually you have to be about nine storeys up and at the back of the building for a chance of a peaceful night. The previous night I’d been along the road at the Euston Travelodge, with traffic and sirens making a din outside the window at all hours. In delightful contrast, my room at MIC/Wesley was tucked away at the back, with a window overlooking the Atrium. After two stressful weeks at the hospital, and living out of a suitcase, I was more than ready for a good night’s sleep. If anything, I felt guilty: two streets away my wife was having an awful time of it, and here I was, feeling like I was spoiling myself.

After taking my bag to my room (and sneaking a brief lie down in the peace and quiet: my guilt clearly had limits – the bed was very comfortable, after all), I returned to the hospital for the evening, staying on until about 11pm.

By the time I returned to my room, I was more than ready for a quiet night. I settled down in bed, texting my wife and watching a bit of TV (Embarrassing Bodies, I think – there was a man having a very uncomfortable operation, as I recall; you’d think I’d had enough hospitals for the day, but apparently not).

I was just starting to think about going to sleep when… remember I mentioned all the sirens the night before? At least they were outside the hotel. This time, it was inside my room: the fire alarm siren and flashing light.

Fair enough. I’d far rather hotels had fire alarms than didn’t, after all. So I leapt out of bed, threw on some clothes and opened the door. Interestingly, I’ve never been in that “what would you grab in the event of a fire?” situation, so I learned something that night: it was my new phone that I grabbed. (Was that a sentimental thing, as my wife had recently given it to me, or simply that I liked my new toy?) So, wearing most of my clothes and with my phone in hand, I stopped in the corridor and realised that it was only the alarm in my room going off: there was nobody else rushing out into the corridors, no other alarms going off.

I returned to bed.

This time, I turned the lights out and settled down to sleep. I might have mentioned that I was ready for it, after a difficult two weeks, and this – as I had thought – quiet room was perfect for my not unreasonable needs. You know that thing where you’re asleep almost as soon as your head hits the pillow. It’s a bit of a cliche, but, well, that night I did slide straight into the sleep of the exhausted.

Until, after only a few minutes, the alarm went off again. It’s even more dramatic when the lights are out, and the only illumination is the flashing fire alarm. I’m a little deaf, but I can assure you that the alarm was loud enough, as well as bright enough, to serve its purpose. I think we can safely say that your fire alarm would wake even someone in a very heavy sleep. Indeed, it did. And then it did again, and again.

When I went down to reception to ask what was happening, the lady behind the desk said that there was a problem with the system and they would have to call the engineers (I believe only a handful of rooms were affected). There was also a very nice man with a vacuum cleaner, who came up to my room to see if he could see anything wrong, but he couldn’t. It was very nice of him, though. (See? I told you we’d get to him.)

Assured that the staff were on the case, I retreated to my room, went back to bed, did that thing where your head hits the pillow and… I think you can guess what’s coming, can’t you? After only a few more minutes’ sleep, the alarm went again.

This could get tedious and even more long-winded if I were to recount the details of every time this happened. Suffice to say that it did this eight times, between 11pm and 1.30am. I’m reminded of a game of pool I had as a student. My opponent had me down as a bit of a hustler, and said he’d only play me if I’d give him two gertchas. I didn’t know what he meant, but went along with it anyway. When I went to play my first shot, he reached round from behind me and tickled me (far too hard – it hurt more than tickled), saying “Gertcha!” This threw me off my game quite considerably, particularly as I realised that it wasn’t the first gertcha that mattered, it was that every time you went to play another shot you were waiting for the second one. I won the game, regardless, but that’s not the point. The point is that, even when the fire alarm had stopped misbehaving after that eighth time at around 1.30 in the morning, I spent the rest of the night waiting for the ninth gertcha.

I’m still not sure if I’ve found a new favourite London hotel. I’ll be back in London next week and will need to stay in the Euston area, but I’m really not sure that, nice as the hotel is, I’ll fully trust that I can get a full night’s sleep there.

Which is a shame, really.

Best wishes, from a very tired,

Keith Brooke

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About Keith Brooke and infinity plus

Keith Brooke is a writer of science fiction, fantasy and other strange stuff, and editor and reviewer of same. He is also the publisher at infinity plus, an independent imprint publishing books by leading genre fiction authors. View all posts by Keith Brooke and infinity plus

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